Sunday, October 30, 2011

From Hip Hop to Gethsemane

Elisa Morgan, President Mission: Momentum, Publisher FullFill™

It was going on 11am and I sat -- still in my pj’s -- in a slant of sunlight, my slipper-socked feet tucked up underneath me. I was on an annual retreat with women I’ve known for years, catching up on all the layers of our lives.

One friend from Houston was mid-story about a church plant where she and her husband had committed themselves to invest. Since she’s fluent in Spanish and he’s brilliant with money and people, it seemed to make sense for them to venture out from the big, gorgeous, stained-glass cathedral of their upbringing to the multi-purpose facility miles away in an eclectic suburb. I can - with work - wrap my mind around their stunning immersion in a world so different from their “first culture.” I listened along until my friend uttered a sentence that suddenly garbled the context and tipped over my world.

“There’s a Hip Hop group in the Canterbury Hall at Gethsemane (the suburban building) that Jasmine leads and Umberto and Miguel are her favorite students.”


Hip Hop. Canterbury Hall. Gethsemane. Jasmine, Umberto, Miguel.

Wha. . .? How could such words be uttered in a single sentence? My mind reeled. What - and where - was she talking about?

Read them again: Hip Hop. Canterbury Hall. Gethsemane. Jasmine, Umberto, Miguel.

My mind left the sunlit room of my very familiar friends and roamed around such a curious collection of nationalities, origins, cultures and contexts. I wondered at the global reality of my world. The world I live in every day. I don’t speak Spanish - well at least not fluently. Sure, I travel a lot but am I really called to such a varied context? I mulled it over.

And BOOM. I saw it for myself: My friend in Houston who volunteers in her church and plays golf with her husband. Another woman I met in Ireland this summer who signs off her emails, “love and bubbles from your wee Irish chum.” My dear Kenyan dinner-mate who wept openly about not knowing if she would be “enough” for the TV show in Africa that God had opened up before her. My world, too, is braided with people who seemingly come from very different worlds and yet are not so different at all.

Canterbury, Umberto, Jasmine. Hip Hop.Words that have never before seemed to go together are now stacked sensibly alongside each other. Lives that would never have touched just five or ten years before, sit side by side and delve into the daily together.

Yesterday I stood at the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in DC and read the quotes surrounding the only African American individual sculpted on our nation’s mall. “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation. And this means we must develop a world perspective.”

The apostle Paul said something similar that surely Dr. King recalled. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:28

Hip Hop. Canterbury Hall. Gethsemane. Jasmine. Umberto. Miguel. All are in my world. Not far away down in another neighborhood or across an ocean a postcard away but here. And here to stay. My context is multi.

I shifted my legs underneath my pjs, returned to the room of ruminating and listened anew.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pay Attention to What Makes You Cry: Expanding Our Influence in Midlife

By Jennifer Grant

I’ve seen it now so often that I can’t keep track. I see it in women whose fridges no longer exhibit works of art in finger paint. They’re the ones who are beginning to see a little gray at their temples. These women have figured out, for better and worse, the shape and scope of their adult lives. They look at the trade-offs they have made – career for family, or vice versa – and begin to re-think them. They feel a growing desire to bring something new into the world, and that something usually doesn’t require a diaper bag. They get flashes of insight – “Hey, I could do that?” or “I always wanted to….” or “Remember how I was so good at…” These thoughts energize and frighten them. They are women in midlife.

A few years ago, I was negotiating the cramped shoe aisles at a department store when my cell phone rang. It was my closest friend, in tears, spilling over with a story. She had just finished reading Richard Stearns’ The Hole in Our Gospel and for the first time in her life, she felt compelled to engage with people who are affected by the AIDS pandemic in Africa, especially children.

“I just never knew the scope of it,” she said.

I sat on one of the little stools in the shoe section as other shoppers picked through the boxes of snow boots and sneakers around me. “What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Something.”

Since then, she has done something. She’s been to Ethiopia. She’s brought formula and other supplies to orphanages, educated herself about HIV/AIDS, and has addressed local women’s groups. In a few months, she and her husband will adopt a toddler daughter from Ethiopia who was orphaned by AIDS. My friend’s life has changed in midlife, her realm of influence has expanded from that of a woman focused on raising her family and pursuing artistic endeavors to being a voice for those who do not have the opportunity to speak for themselves. Her family portrait – quite literally – will reflect this change.

And it all started because she took note of what made her cry in midlife. Do you find yourself restless and even sometimes in tears?

Pay attention to what makes you cry.

In his book Beyond Words, Frederick Buechner wrote “Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where…you should go next."

· Take heart that this new part of life is about more than you.

If you feel like a new endeavor, journey, or vocation is ahead but fear failure, remember that you are being led into a new area of influence on behalf of God and others. It’s not just about you, and you aren’t alone.

· Pray for guidance and keep your eyes open to the way God answers your prayers.

That uncomfortable restlessness and that lump in your throat are painful. You likely want the answers, sent immediately via email or text message. You are willing to do whatever’s required, but can’t stand waiting to know what it is. Making a transition takes time; see how God is sustaining you in this process.

· Take risks.

For my friend to adopt a child is a risk. To go back to work – or quit your job - write a book, start a new business, leave what is familiar to engage with those who are marginalized – these are all risks, but so is every single act of love.

May we all have clarity and faith as we approach whatever is the next chapter in our lives and expand our influence.

Jennifer Grant is a freelance writer and the author of the memoir Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter (Thomas Nelson, 2011). She is currently at work on her second book, also about family, to be published by Worthy Publishing in summer 2012. Find her online at

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ten "D's" for Effective Leadership

By Lettie Kirkpatrick Burress

  1. Delegating is key. An effective leader does the tough thing by releasing control of many aspects of ministry to other gifted partners. While guiding by example and by position, one must also learn to share responsibility with those they serve.
  1. Discerning the giftedness of those we minister to is a priceless part of the process of plugging others in and allowing them to experience the joy (and benefits) of service. As we observe the Body of Christ, we must ask God to show us where others fit and what they do well. Then we help them nurture those gifts.
  1. Don’t rush. Very often, leadership comes on board with visions, goals, and plans they are anxious to see in place. Remember, though, it takes time to build relationships, and draw others into our plans while earning trust and respect as a leader. Be willing to move at the pace required for that to happen.
  1. The Destination is unity. When ministry partners move toward a goal in a united way, the success of a project is assured. While there may always be some naysayers, a general consensus is necessary to work together, enjoying the fellowship and growth of a common pursuit.
  1. Disciple, don’t parent. When focused on a ministry goal, it can be frustrating when others don’t see its importance or don’t follow through on their commitments. But, grown-ups don’t need pressure, guilt trips, or someone doing their job. One ministry had a fun newsletter that everyone enjoyed. But it required a group effort of contributions, computer skills, and meeting deadlines. When it became obvious those things were not going to happen, the choice was made to discontinue the newsletter.
  1. Do what works. When setting goals and planning programs, recognize the differences in people, programs, and even spiritual maturity. For instance, one women’s ministry offered intensive 12 week studies that were attended by only a small number of women. When they tried a different type of six week study, they were able to reach a much larger group of women.
  1. Define events. People enjoy being able to call something by name. Try to give an upcoming event a title that describes it and conveys a sense of glad expectation. The topic of lifestyle evangelism becomes “Telling your Story”, and a trip to an unnamed location is a “Mystery Morning”. The naming of events also helps tremendously with verbal and visual announcements.
  1. Distribute accolades. Be generous with appreciation, acknowledgement, and encouragement. Expressing thanks, both privately and publicly, to those who have contributed to ministry (or who just need to be recognized) should be considered a regular part of a leader’s responsibilities.
  1. Deflect both praise and criticism. Just as many complaints and much murmuring can be unfounded and unworthy of response, so praise is pleasant, but only to be acknowledged and released. With an open heart and willing spirit, ask God if the criticism has any merit at all and respond accordingly. When praise comes, remember where glory goes and Who is the source of all we are and accomplish.
  1. Determine to let God lead the leader. It is easy to get caught up in the pace of activity and leadership and forget Who is in charge. Nothing of any worth is accomplished without the power, direction, and wisdom of the One who we serve. his grace, his mercy, and his love will accomplish his purposes in us, in the hearts of those we serve, and in the church and lives we hope to impact.

Lettie Kirkpatrick Burress is a freelance writer and conference speaker. Her newest book release is Taking Back Christmas and Other Family Celebrations, available at . Lettie loves clip-on earrings, outside cafes, and hiking the trails in her TN mountains.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Digging Deeper

By Melinda Schmidt

Digging deeper is always worthwhile: looking in the sofa one more time for the missing car keys, going through the recipe box again to find that holiday favorite, planting the flower bulbs deep enough so the chippies don’t snag them. Well, I guess that last one isn’t guaranteed!

As American women, however, living at the surface, rather than digging deeper, is often more accepted. The dissatisfying ritual of superficiality is lived out too often in our conversations at coffee shops, playgroups, book clubs, church small groups. After enough time, superficiality and its good friend, inauthenticity, become the way of the tribe.

What we miss when that happens is the excitement of knowing that God’s Spirit has used us to introduce deeper, engaging thoughts into our friendships - thoughts that open up the mind and the soul of a woman.

I’ve seen this most recently in my workplace. On the radio show I host, a new segment models what Christian conversations can look like as they go deeper. Four of us discuss a variety of light-hearted as well as spiritually or topically deeper issues. Listening to us debate, laugh and share openly, other women see the possibility of deeper connections around them.

Three authors I know are using the internet to engage women more deeply. Either through a Bible study blog, through intentional spiritual friendships, or through connecting critical thinkers who are kindred spirits both via email. I’m working to engage the internet more intentionally, yet simply, as well. Recently I forwarded a “codependency fable” in an email blast. One friend responded, “I am in this exact position with someone. I am paying a very heavy price… and I need to let it go.” How can I enliven others spiritually through the internet? Jane said over dinner, “Thanks for those emails you send. I pass them along.”

Our influence fingers its way to places we may never know.

Sadly, many of us greatly underestimate our ability to be a thought leader among those in our circle of influence. Feeling inadequate, silenced or imperfect, we engage at the surface, yet long for the succulent fruits borne of deeper soil. We hang between what we desire and what we feel we can do. Yet, as we begin to refuse superficiality, we notice new opportunities to engage in meaningful thought and spirituality into others. An empty nester friend surprised me last week by declaring, “Why are we still talking about our kids? I’m so much more than my kids!” I was shocked when two other “together” friends, told me independently that they feel they have lost their way, themselves, while raising “successful” kids. These new vulnerabilities are spiritually renewing our journeys together.

During this season of “the harvest,” may we seek God’s Spirit to lead us, and find ourselves blessed to see what he will bring forth both into ourselves and others, as we courageously dig deeper into our relationships. Vaya con Dios! – go with God!

Bio: Melinda Schmidt is the co-host of Midday Connection,, a daily, one-hour talk show that encourages women toward spiritual and personal transformation, living fully into who God created them to be. She has co-authored the program’s two devotionals for women, Daily Seeds and Tending the Soul. Married to Dave and the mom of two young adults, she enjoys soul crafting, speaking on creative faith, conversations with friends and the community of the Redbud Writers Guild.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Influence Through Prayer

By Cheryl Lee Davis

She prayed for me for nine months. I didn't ask her to do this. I’m not even sure I wanted it. But God heard and he answered. My life was dramatically changed that summer —why? Because that summer – the one before my junior year in high school -- my sister prayed for me over and over and over again. She took my name and my attitudes and actions before the Lord and asked him to move on my behalf. And he answered.

At sixteen my life was transformed. A foundational benchmark was established as I committed to serve God fully.

Prayer is one monumental way that a woman influences.

Do you ever go to prayer as a last resort? Have you ever said, “All we can do is pray”? As leaders, if we are not careful, we might limit our influence to the gifts and abilities granted us. There’s no doubt that God created each one of us uniquely, with strengths and personalities and abilities to lead and influence well for his kingdom. But what if we viewed our influence differently? What if we built up our prayer muscles and relied on the strength of God before we applied our own strengths? What if we decided to pray first? What would that look like? What if our day started with prayer—even before brushing our teeth or turning on the coffee? What if we prayed about even the little things?

We might pray about the outfit we are going to wear, we might pray over every meeting, every decision, and even for the guy at Starbucks—or better yet—decide to take our coffee money and give it to a worthy cause. This could get exhausting, scary even, but would it make a difference? Could it make a world of difference?

Our lives are filled with multiple opportunities to influence others. Those opportunities often help us to discover, learn and grow into our calling, our assignment—and that is good. But prayer moves our influence to unimaginable levels. When we submit ourselves and others to God, something more significant happens. His influence in our lives is multiplied. Our influence is multiplied as well.

So . . . pray. Try it for thirty days. For one month completely change your leadership habits and pray about everything. Pray first. Pray before you do anything. Watch God move. Watch his influence change things around you.

Cheryl Lee Davis lives in Kansas City with her husband and two children. She serves as Vice President of Ministry Development at Stonecroft Ministries. You can read more from Cheryl on her blog at