Sunday, December 30, 2012


By Elisa Morgan

Did you get your invitation? The one from God for 2013?

We are about to enter a new year: 2013. What will it bring? A new job? A new spouse? A new child? Surprises? Concerns? Blessings? What invitation will God send to you this year – and how will you respond?

In Scripture we find many portraits of people God invited to join his work – along with their responses to his invitation. Take Mary, Jesus’ mom. God’s invitation was to a surprise party of sorts. He entered her life through a stunning messenger and offered her a role in the history of the universe – in the here and in the beyond.

She was a normal woman who faced a life filled with choices and challenges, just as we face. Whether in private or in public, she put one foot in front of another and walked steadily toward God’s desires. In one astonishing moment of surrender, and then throughout her days on the planet, we see a woman who rsvp’d to God and said “yes!”

What was her secret?

Twice in the space of just a few chapters, Luke underlines what I believe is the key to Mary’s legacy.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 And then again in Luke 2:1, “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”  

To treasure means to store up. To ponder means to thread together.

Here’s my take: Mary’s “yeses” were not blind submission and they certainly were not her only response. I think she likely said yes while also saying What? And yes while also saying Why? And yes while simultaneously saying How? Hers was not an easy journey. She wasn’t gifted with unconditional trust or instantaneous understanding. Rather, Scripture reveals in Mary a layered learning, which begins with a terror-struck yielding and then progresses into a gradual comprehension as she strings her “yeses” together into a lifetime of agreement with the purposes of God.

When I was sixteen, I said yes to Jesus. At twenty-two I said yes to Seminary. A year later I said yes to marriage with Evan. A year later, I said yes to teaching in a Bible College, when I had no idea I could speak before others. Several years later I said yes to adopting first my daughter, Eva and then my son, Ethan. When they were toddlers I said yes to MOPS and in so doing, I said yes to leading. When my daughter became pregnant as a teenager, I said yes to grandmothering. In the years since, I’ve said yes to the joy that my grandson brings. When it was clear to me that the time had come for the next generation of leadership at MOPS, I said yes to leaving. Today I say yes to publishing FullFill in order to mobilize more women to live out their influence.

What was Mary’s secret in saying yes to God? Layering. Responding to God with one “yes” at a time, Mary threaded each yes into a legacy of influence that today serves as a tapestry template for women all over the world. She was an unsuspecting servant who agreed with God’s purpose in one season and watched him provide over her lifetime all that she would need to fulfill it.

What is God inviting you to in 2013? Will you say yes?

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Quiet Influence

By Elisabeth K. Corcoran

This holy season comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it?

This year, Advent has looked particularly different for me than in years past. As a woman who has walked through the grief and healing that comes with an ending of a marriage, this Advent — this waiting season – has been quieter and slower. My influence has intentionally been more pulled in.  I’ve allowed myself to not go all out. I’ve allowed myself to focus on fewer people and less activities. The shopping is finished. No baking has been done.  E-cards were sent. 

My fireplace has been lit often. I have drunk tea and apple cider and hot chocolate. I have sat on my couch with a blanket and a book and looked out the window at the swirling snow.  I have prayed and waited for Jesus in ways I haven’t done before, out of a desperation and longing I’m not used to. 

This year, I taught my children that quiet is worth pursuing. We made new traditions. We snatched moments here and there, and cherished them. I captured many mental pictures, not only because time is sparse, but because so much in these pictures is changing. In just a few years, they will be on their own. 

This year, I needed Jesus. I needed him to show up in new ways.  I needed to experience his presence and the peace that he promises. I needed to feel him at my side, the shadow at my right hand.  I needed to see him not just as a baby but as the Savior, the one who saves me over and over again in little splinters and morsels throughout each day.

And my children needed to see me needing him, my vulnerability guiding them on how to wait for him and on him. They needed to see my dependence. They needed to see me quiet and still in the middle of still-hard times. They needed to see me reach out for God. 

Only I can teach them these things. Only I can teach them, truly, how to wait for Christ to come.

And now Christ has come.
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2: 8-14 NRSV)

Elisabeth Corcoran is the author of several books including At the Corner of Broken & Love and Renewal for a Mother’s Heart. Visit her website at, follow her on Twitter at ekcorcoran or friend her on Facebook.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Constructive Response

By Mary Byers, Managing Editor, FullFill

I had lunch recently with a friend who is a pastor. As we walked the halls of his church, I admired the hand-painted, modern artwork in the hallway.

“Our former youth pastor did that,” he said. 

“Former?” I asked.

“Yes. Former. But he’s still with us.”

“Former…and still with you” I asked. “There must be a story there.”

“After he joined us we found out he really wasn’t very good with youth. But I liked him so I decided to see if we could figure out his strengths and find a way to put them to work. He’s now the director of arts and creative communication. It’s been great. He does art outreach and we do an art camp every summer. He painted this series of pictures to illustrate a sermon series I did.”

I looked at my friend. We had been immature high schoolers when we met. Yet his response was wise, mature, and compassionate. Perhaps it’s because of his profession. Maybe he realizes good staff members are hard to find. Probably it’s a combination. Regardless, I wish my response to disappointments caused by other people was as constructive as his.

My response is much less wise and compassionate. When someone on a team I’m leading isn’t really good at something or isn’t working up to my standards, my first response is to complain to my husband. (Poor guy!) I often stomp around my house as I try to figure out how to handle the problem. I know that I sigh a lot. And feel angry. And roll my eyes. Frankly, it makes me feel better. But it doesn’t change anything.

I’ve thought a lot about my friend’s response. He worked to figure out the youth pastor’s strengths. How often am I patient enough to do that? Usually I’m so worked up about the situation that all I can see is weaknesses. In the face of disappointment, I’ve never even thought to look for someone’s strengths. Until now.

Now I’m thinking about how I can offer a word of encouragement or be a catalyst to helping other people realize their strengths. I’m thinking about taking more time to notice the people around me and how I can invite them into leadership with me, rather than being so focused on surrounding myself with competent people who I know will get the job done the way I want them to. I’m wondering who has hidden talents I don’t even know about. And I’m thinking about all the volunteer projects I’ve tackled in areas that weren’t my strength—and how frustrating that must have been for the volunteers around me. 

Figuring out strengths and putting them to work. Isn’t that what the best leaders are all about?

Mary Byers is managing editor of FullFill and the author of six books, including How to Say No…And Live to Tell About It.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Incompetent and Yet Called

By Jennifer Grant

Every month, on a Tuesday night, we gather at church. One of us has felt a divine call to ordained ministry; the other five are walking through a discernment process with him. We sit in a messy circle, and we pray together. We follow a procedure stipulated by our denomination that draws out details about his professional and personal life. We ask him to share his weaknesses and failings, and we confess some of our own.

Last night, after the meeting had adjourned, one of the committee members said he had one last thing to say. We all settled back into our chairs.

“This process is nothing like other such interviews,” he said, gesturing at the discerner. “We’re not determining your competence, but learning whether you know your own incompetence.” He went on to say that if our discerner felt incompetent to the task ahead when our process concluded, we should recommend that he seek ordination.

I was puzzled. If our discerner felt incompetent, we should endorse him? But my confusion soon stepped aside as I reflected on how – over and over again – God uses “incompetent” people. I was reminded of one of these people a few weeks ago when I taught my fifth grade Sunday School class the story of Gideon.

Do a quick Google search on Gideon and you’ll learn – if you didn’t already know it – that his name means “destroyer” and “feller of trees.” Wikipedia notes that in Hebrews, Gideon is revered as a “man of faith.” With a nickname like “Feller of Trees” he was likely not only competent, but more like one of the Avengers, right?

But, in the book of Judges, when we meet Gideon, his response to being visited by the angel of the Lord is almost laughable. When the angel proclaims that the Lord is with him and calls him “mighty warrior,” Gideon rejects the message. He very politely argues with the angel. Beginning his sentences with “Pardon me, but…” he explains that he feels abandoned by God, that his clan is weak, and that he’s really and truly the weakest of them all. (Not me! Not me! Don’t choose me, Lord!)

God persists and tells Gideon that he will save his people. (God is patient with human timidity - remember when Moses said he couldn’t free the Israelites from bondage in Egypt because of his fear of public speaking?)

Gideon, insecure and frightened, asks God a number of times to give him a sign that it’s really God speaking to him and not some “undigested bit of beef, blot of mustard, or fragment of an underdone potato,” if you’ll allow the allusion to Ebenezer Scrooge. (The fleece was dry; the fleece was wet -- God keeps proving it’s really God.)

This doubting, cringing, crouching person is a mighty warrior? A “destroyer”? An esteemed man of faith? But, then, with a little pack of men and only lamps and trumpets in his arsenal, Gideon defeats a powerful army. Or, rather, God takes a frightened weakling, almost ridiculous munitions, and a tiny militia and does something miraculous.

Do you ever find yourself praying “Not I! Not I! Don’t choose me, Lord!”?

May we – scared and weak and uncertain as we are – learn to be still and listen for God’s leading. And let us remember that God has the strength and inventiveness (think trumpets and clay lamps) do great things through us.


Jennifer Grant is the author of two books about family: Love You More and MOMumental. She is a regular contributor to her.meneutics, Christianity Today’s blog for women and God’s Politics, Sojourners magazine’s blog. Find her online at and on Twitter @jennifercgrant.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Real Talk

By Shayne Moore

In the book Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice and Mind, four female authors explore the world of women, knowledge and identity. Originally published in 1969, it was a ground-breaking work encouraging new ways to think about what constitutes knowledge and therefore about the aims of education and communication for both women and men.

I was born in 1970, and although reading this book for the first time in my thirties, and a generation removed from the authors, my experience and revelations were no less poignant than for the original audience.

The authors explore the idea of “Real Talk.” As I have journeyed my own awakening to my voice, identity and self I found this section riveting. All the years I worked in academia to receive my Master of Arts in Theology, and the years I spent on various not-for-profit boards, I was immersed in the company and culture of men.

I often found myself following their scripts on how one achieves influence and “gets things done.” So much so, that I lost my own voice and spiraled into depression. What was missing, beyond the given reality that women are not valued as highly as men in certain settings, was this idea of Real Talk.

The authors explain, “Women intuitively make the distinction between “really talking” and what they consider “didactic” talk in which the speaker’s intention is to hold forth rather than to share ideas. In didactic talk, each participant may report experience, but there is no attempt among participants to join together at some new understanding.”

Women understand that “really talking” - or to frame it another way, real influence with one another - is not being talked at. Rather it is authentic conversation and relationship that includes give-and-take discourse, exploration, respect, talking and listening, questioning, speculation, sharing and dreaming.

My journey into understanding this need for real talk and authentic influence has brought me into some wonderful feminine communities. I am honored to be in Redbud Writers Guild, a group of women who use real talk, authentic voice, and their own grounded identities to write and speak and change the world. It is a “room of our own” where ideas are nurtured, individuals are celebrated, truth is confronted and accepted, and meaning and influence is real.

Shayne Moore is the author of FullFill’s “Worldly Women” column, Global Soccer Mom and the soon-to-be-released Refuse to Do Nothing with co-author Kimbery Yim. You can find out more at