Monday, April 29, 2013

Unlikely Leaders

By Caryn Rivadeneira

The first time someone called me a leader, I nearly fell off my chair. Although I was in my late twenties and had achieved a dream magazine-editing title and managed an actual staff, I had never considered myself a leader.

More than a decade later, after I've chaired boards and committees, led organizations and run my own business, it astounds me that I couldn't see myself as a leader. And yet, I understand why it was hard to see. Although I grew up among the second wave of feminism and girls-can-do-anything-boys-can-do-better-ism, I still fell for the cultural ideal of what leaders look like. And let's face it: our male- and serious-centric image of leaders doesn't look much like me.

And yet, I've come to see myself as a leader, not because I match up to culture's image of what a leader is, but because I believe I match up with what God's image of one is. In that, God picks weird people to lead. And apparently, one of those weird people is me. Another is you.

God's odd choice of leaders can be seen in the stories from Moses to Naomi, from Mary to Paul and everyone in between, before and after. But while rereading the book of Psalms as I wrote my most recent book, I saw my weird mix of qualities in the writings of David. Though in most ways I'm nothing like King David (obviously), like him, I mess up all the time. Like him, I love God, but let God have it every once in a while. And like David, I seek to follow God's leading and his way, but sometimes my own way seems much better. But mostly, like David, I know I can bring my messes, my frustration, my confusion and my anger along with my praise to God in what I write. And that God accepts this.

In Psalm 51: 17, David writes, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heartyou, God, will not despise."

For those of us who lead or who seek to be women of influence, this is perhaps the best thing we can know. We may never look like the world's view of leaders, but when God puts us in a position to lead and influence, we must.

Of course, in this position, we'll also mess up. A million times over. To know that God's okay with that and that he welcomes our words of contrition and brokenness as offerings before we start again, makes us one of God's great big weird mix of leaders.

Caryn Rivadeneira leads in a variety of ways in her spheres of influence as writer, speaker, editor, mom, wife and worship planner. She is the author of the recently released book,Known and Loved: 52 Devotions from the Psalms.Connect with her at

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Symphony of Prayer

By Gail Dudley

Think about how a symphony orchestra functions. The most important person in an orchestra is the conductor. The conductor does not play an instrument at all. His job, at its most basic level, is to indicate the beat of the music. With each movement of the baton, the conductor is instructing with imaginary points that indicate the beat in the bar the orchestra is playing.

Relate this to prayer and imagine that you are in the orchestra and Jesus is the conductor. When you start following his beat, then your heartbeat begins to line up with his heartbeat, and you will find yourself praying what he is praying. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done….” You find that when you pray under his direction you are focused on his thoughts, his will, and find that your thoughts are no longer as important as before. Your mind is now focused on Jesus.

So often people will ask, "How shall I pray"? The conductor will prepare you. The conductor’s role in the orchestra is to be responsible for the preparation, the rehearsal, and for making interpretative decisions, such as whether a certain passage should be slow, fast, soft, loud, smooth, aggressive, and so forth. He will speak to you boldly, compassionately, through a whisper, and you just have to follow - to be obedient. Through the reading of his Word, you will know to wait patiently, move swiftly, to be still, and so on.

A conductor of an orchestra communicates decisions both verbally during the rehearsal and during the performance, using different movements, gestures, and expressions. During prayer, you will know what Jesus is communicating with you because you have spent time with him.

Once you understand how to follow the conductor, then you can participate in the symphony. There are usually four movements to a symphony. With a typical symphony, the first movement is a fairly fast movement, weighty in content and feeling.

The second movement of a symphony will be slow and solemn in character. As we pray, we may find a time when we are quieter, slower. The pounding of the heart slows down. There’s room for silence—you may no longer be in a hurry. You have decided to take your time and watch and pray.

The third movement of a symphony can be interchanged with the second movement. When we pray, we may find ourselves in a hurry in the beginning but, later, get with God and slow down because we are finally resting in his arms.

The fourth movement in a symphony creates the finale. The finale is made up of a variation where the theme is elaborated, developed, and transformed. Although a symphony may seem difficult in our natural hearing, it’s easy to understand for those who are a part of the orchestra.

With Christ, we may think this journey of prayer and worship is difficult, but it’s a beautiful journey once we get in rhythm with Christ.

With her husband, Gail Dudley pastors at The Church at North Pointe in Columbus, OH. She is the author of Ready to Pray available in the FullFill store.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Still Learning

By Carla Foote

Apparently when Michelangelo (painter, sculptor, architect, poet – original Renaissance man) was 87 years old he said, “Ancora imparo” – I am still learning.

I reflected on keeping a learning posture last week, when I was at the pool locker room, suiting up for my lap swim. I was chatting with a woman just a few years younger than me; she was getting ready for her final lifeguarding class. Wow – a class with a bunch of teenagers and one woman who was close to 50 years old! That is a learning posture.

I thought about her while I went back and forth, back and forth, doing my laps. I thought about all the reasons some of us stop learning when we get over (fill in the blank for age). And then I thought about all the reasons to keep on learning.

Reasons to stop learning (most of us won’t articulate these, but they are in the back of our minds when we step back rather than forward towards a learning opportunity):
·         Fear – of what others will think, of looking stupid, of being wrong, of not being able to accomplish whatever we want to learn
·         Time – to accomplish something new, we need to set aside time, make it a priority and stop doing activities that are less meaningful
·         Settling – the comfort and safety of the known can cause us to settle for staying stuck, rather than trying new things
·         Lack of imagination – we have never pictured ourselves doing the new thing – being a lifeguard, writing a book, climbing a mountain, speaking in front of a crowd, telling our story

Reasons to keep on learning:
·         Stretching – it’s as good for our minds as it is for our muscles
·         Stewarding – we have gifts and influence we can invest for the kingdom, in every season of life
·         Serving – the lifeguard learns so she can save a life – I learn so I can serve my community in some way

I want to keep learning this month, this year, this decade, and for as many decades as I have life and breath. Sometimes I lack focus, because I want to learn so many things and I don’t have time for all of them. Then I go back to stewardship – understanding my unique season of life and my unique gifts, so I can decide where to focus my learning for now and the next that God calls me toward. Right now I’m thinking about working on my Spanish, since my daughter will be in Mexico again next year, and I’d like to be able to communicate when I visit her. Not to mention how useful it will be in my hometown.

“Ancora imparo” – I want to keep learning, stretching, stewarding and serving.

Carla Foote has recently become the blog manager for Weekly ReFill. In addition, she does freelance editing through and is Executive Editor for MomSense magazine (

Monday, April 1, 2013

Watching and Wondering

By Margot Starbuck

A few years ago, I was attending a ministry conference in the Northwest that was being keynoted by a Big-Name speaker. (Feel free to imagine whichever Big-Name speaker you most enjoy.) At lunch time, when we all gathered in a college cafeteria to eat, I felt the rumblings of my inner-middle-schooler as I searched for a place to sit. If I sat alone, perhaps no one would join me. If I sidled up to the cool kids - uh, I mean adults - they might not talk to me. Dropping my tray near some friends I already knew, I saw Big Speaker join the line of folks gathering their meals.

I kept an eye on this guy, sort of dreaming of how great it would feel if he came and sat next to me. (Yes, I'm that girl.) Of course, I naturally expected him to sit with the other Biggish Names who were also in attendance. But he didn't. He didn't choose an empty table, either. Rather, he bee-lined for the random person, eating alone, whom I would have pegged as the most unlikely character. To be blunt, she looked as though she was used to sitting alone. I watched as he asked for the pleasure of her company. I sneak-peeked glances as he engaged her. From his face and gestures, he appeared really quite delighted for the opportunity to know her.

Though sometimes I feel like the only one petty enough to behave this way, I feel certain that mine were not the only eyes on this guy. Attendees rubbing elbows with him at the salad bar and starstruck wallflowers like me had all been a little curious about where he would land. Our eyes were on him.

As leaders, there are eyes watching us. They notice who we sit next to at the church potluck. They wait to see how we'll respond to the beggar outside the church as we walk to our cars. They wonder how we'll greet the person on the street - tattooed skater or shrunken Grandpa - who is radically other than we are.

They watch in the same way that the religious and the notably irreligious kept an eye on those with whom Jesus engaged. (For what it's worth, those watching Jesus got surprised a lot.) His disciples were sort of shocked when they got back from the grocery store and he was chatting up a Samaritan woman - wrong race, wrong religion, wrong gender. Crowds were baffled when he made a lunch date with Zacchaeus - wrong profession, known sinner. You'd think that, eventually, they'd stop being shocked, but Jesus just kept pushing the religious envelope.

Even though you or I do not live our lives for the eyes of others, those whom we lead are watching. Will any of them be surprised by the ones toward whom we are moving and receiving in love?

Margot Starbuck noodles on how to engage with sinners in her new book, Permission Granted. Get to know Margot at