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Time to Stop Worrying

Its about who God is, not who we are

The sensational displays of God's power described in the Bible may seem to us as though they happened all the time, because they are collected and familiar. But like us, most people throughout history, even ancient history, never saw such faith-bolstering events. They believed based on the stories they knew and on their own experience of God in the mundane. The people whose stories are told in our Scriptures had plenty of reasons for worry, but God called them to be countercultural in living through trust in him. He calls us to do the same.

In many ways, we can relate to what these ancient sisters and brothers experienced. But in other ways, we can't imagine how difficult their lives were—just as they would not have been able to imagine the complexity of our world. In the face of such hardship, God told them to turn away from fear and worry and to trust him instead. It is not unreasonable to believe he wants us to do so as well. God cares as much about our faith and worry as he did about theirs. Worry is a tremendous obstacle to the bold and sacrificial life he has called us to. Like all sin, it offends God and impairs our relationship with him.

We, who are among the most comfortable Christians in history, have no business embracing fear and letting worry drain us of the strength God gives. It's time for us to repent of worry, recognize we can make a different choice, and pursue the frightening freedom and baffling peace of trust in God.

This is not about simply "handing our worries over to God"; it's about understanding how incredibly powerful and trustworthy God is, how much higher his ways are than ours, how ridiculous it is for us to cling to the illusion of control and the fear ...

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Thu, 20 November 2014 08:00:00 CST
Study Reveals Missing Influence of Women among Nonprofit Leaders

An interview with researchers Dr. Janel Curry and Dr. Amy Reynolds

The Women in Leadership National Study, funded by the Imago Dei Fund of Boston, has completed two phases of a three-part study that examines institutional leadership among evangelical nonprofit organizations. Researchers have studied a number of organizations that include World Vision US, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Christianity Today, American Bible Society, and others.

On behalf of Gifted for Leadership, Margot Starbuck spoke with Dr. Janel Curry and Dr. Amy Reynolds, professors at Gordon College and Wheaton College respectively, who shared what they’re learning from the study.

GFL: I know the study was inspired, in part, by the absence of data about women’s leadership in the Christian sector outside the church. I’m curious about what you each brought to the study personally.

Janel: I would say for me personally, I was looking for a way to help organizations that wanted to move forward—I am always looking for data that helps you know how to be successful. This is of most interest to me: helping organizations move forward.

Amy: For me personally, one of the reasons I was interested in this project was because of my interactions with female students at my own college. I saw the tensions some faced as parents, or home churches, or peers, encouraged them not to be too career-driven. I encountered students who were a bit surprised to see me combining my role as a mother with my role as a professor and Christian, often seeking advice since they had seen few models of women combining careers and family in their own lives. Even for those students who believed God did not restrict them because they were women, they were dealing with baggage ...

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Mon, 17 November 2014 08:00:00 CST
Did Jesus Say to Welcome Only the Documented Stranger?

I am firmly convinced that I am obligated to love

When my former boss sent a link to preview the new film The Stranger, I grabbed a pen and a journal, ready to take notes. I was so eager to learn more about immigration from a Christian worldview. I desired to become more educated about immigration reform, so I couldn’t wait to download the film. As I began to become engrossed in the picture, I had no idea it would hit so close to home. When I was grabbing my pen and paper, I should have been grabbing a box of tissues instead.

I cried as I listened to the stories in the film. I wept because I could feel their pain. In fact, it was my own pain too! They told my story. The documentary highlighted families who have been torn apart by our flawed immigration system. It introduced a mother who woke up a married woman and went to bed a single mother, a mother who felt the agony of an unknown future. The film also shared the story of an abandoned college student and a family living in fear every day of their lives.

I saw myself in each one of their stories. My father was deported when I was a baby. He left behind two fatherless children and a mother without a husband. I spent my entire childhood naively waiting for my father to return, not knowing that it would not happen. My longing heart had no idea that it would be nearly impossible for my father to return.

As I watched the film, I thought about all the major life events my father missed. I thought about the birthday parties, the graduations, senior homecoming court (fathers escorted their daughters), school award programs, and all the painful days when I just wanted to run home into his arms.

I also remembered the many times I had to explain why my father wasn’t around. It wasn’t until recently I ...

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Thu, 13 November 2014 08:00:00 CST
What Ive learned from Working with Young Immigrants

Children often feel as if they are straddling two worlds

She was petite, with softly colored brown skin, brown eyes, and long brown hair. This tenderhearted young Latina of 15 was weeping, torn between obeying her father, full of machismo, or blending in with the American culture of her adolescence. Straddling two worlds, she sought me out for help. As a school therapist for at-risk adolescent girls in Southwest Florida, this was not the first time I’d heard stories of struggles. We have a large number of immigrants, both legal and illegal, in our community.

The goal of this article is to authentically share with you a few things I have learned after years of working with this population. My observations and interactions mostly occurred among immigrants from Mexico. I don’t claim to know all the political arguments of the immigration issue. Rather, I want to reveal to you a world that few of us outsiders get to experience firsthand.

I am a white, educated, middle-class woman. For 10 years I worked as a therapist with a population of girls who were unlike any I had grown up with. I had not the slightest inkling of their world until I had the privilege of working in a school for at-risk adolescent girls—many of whom were Hispanic. Working with these girls day in and day out, I slowly built relationships with them, which was difficult given the fact that they had a general distrust of people outside their families.

These are some of the revelations I had as I worked with these young girls. Please note, these are generalities. Certainly, not all immigrants face these same issues. As I mentioned earlier, my experiences have been with Mexican immigrants living in poverty.

• Many of the children are in the States through no choice of their own. Brought ...

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Mon, 10 November 2014 08:00:00 CST
5 Good Ways to Welcome Strangers

Its not illegal to care for immigrants, whatever their status

Like many congregations, my church struggles with how to welcome strangers into our midst. We have visitor cards and welcome badges and the greeters at every door, but we stop short of translating information into another language or specifically serving the large immigrant population in our city.

There are obstacles churches face when trying to find effective ways to welcome the stranger. During a recent discussion about immigration in an adult Sunday school class, one man stated passionately, “I don’t want this church doing anything illegal or becoming one of those churches that harbors fugitives from the law.”

While this man might have been more outspoken than most, he reflects the concerns and conflicted feelings many have about specifically reaching out to immigrants. After explaining that most immigrants are in this country legally (see sidebar), I also assured the man that U.S. law does not hold a church responsible for determining or reporting the immigration or visa status of anyone.

I suggested we simply consider ways to make our church more welcoming in general to the diverse population of our city. Here are five things any church can do:

1. Encourage members of the congregation to highlight their ethnic origin.

Make your church a place where people take pride in their heritage and share it. It’s a way to get to know one another. Next time there’s a potluck dinner, invite everyone to bring a dish that reflects their own nationality. Have each person include a place card that names the dish, country of origin along with their name. If there is time, have people briefly tell about their dish and their family story.

In your Bible study or small group, ask each person to share ...

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Thu, 6 November 2014 08:00:00 CST
Mentoring with Intention

Its more than just hanging out

It’s easy to confuse mentoring and friendship. Friendships are essential connections important to our sense of well-being. Women need friends. Times with friends bring laughter, listening ears, and encouragement. As friends browse the sale racks, their conversation may lead to an important question and an opportunity for biblical guidance. But the conversation often goes no deeper than bargains and the latest with kids. Friendly advice may be offered, but rarely are friends intentional about moving us toward maturity in Christ.

A pitfall with an organic approach is that mentoring relationships can get stuck on the friendship level. The women spend time together, tell each other about their lives, and encourage each other, but there is no spiritual movement. We mentioned previously that young women learn best through sharing life experiences, but mentoring is more than telling someone about your life. Mentoring is a relationship with a purpose. Without purpose the relationship can meander aimlessly, becoming little more than friends “hanging out.”

Mentoring is more than friendship or giving advice. Our purpose is to help young women follow Christ and be transformed into His image. Intentionality in the relationship allows us to move in this direction.

Listen with a Purpose

Mentoring that appeals to postmodern women starts with careful listening. Her world of connection-through-technology creates hunger for a patient, wise listener. When busy schedules rule the day, listening may seem like a waste of time. On the contrary, listening is a powerful mentoring tool. When you listen carefully to your mentee, trust is built and she feels accepted, valued, and understood. You begin to see her, and her heart ...

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Mon, 3 November 2014 08:00:00 CST
The Sacred Gift of Listening

Are you missing opportunities to love?

“It might be cancer.” When those words were spoken, it wasn’t clear who was more stunned—Michael or me. He was our beloved small group pastor. A true people person, Michael was the lubricant which kept staff friction to a minimum. Quick to laugh, he loved good steak, good wine, and good conversation.

We sat less than a foot apart in the small dining room, surrounded by 20 other church leaders. He was grooming me to teach them how to listen well. Everyone paired off and took turns sharing something personal for 10 minutes. The listener’s role was to take everything in without interrupting and then incisively mirror back what we had heard. But when the word cancer came out of his mouth, the game plan changed. I leaned in and asked, “Wait! What did you just say?” He repeated himself and when the enormity dropped in, we looked at each other and both started to cry. The previous day, Michael had visited a specialist in the hope of discovering the cause for his ongoing abdominal pain. He received the diagnosis of stage four colon cancer the following week and died 20 months later at age 36.

Seven years have passed since that morning in the church dining room, but I remember it vividly. Because we were focused on listening well, there was none of the normal half-tuned-in-half-tuned-out that I am guilty of far too often. It would have been so easy to miss the profound emotional connection that moment offered. In leadership situations, I’m often tempted to listen in a somewhat perfunctory “I’m listening so I can help you solve your problem” mode. But that morning, Michael needed me to be as vulnerable in my listening as he was in his sharing.

Research has confirmed ...

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Thu, 30 October 2014 08:00:00 CST
3 Questions to Ask Yourself before Letting Go

What keeps you hanging on?

“The sheer volume embarrasses me,” I admit to my husband while standing over piles of clothes on my bedroom floor. Coats, shoes, shirts, and pants pulled from my closet on a Saturday like leaves letting go of sturdy branches and falling in a heap. Outside, sun slants through a canopy of changing colors with invitation, but I’m choosing a shift in perspective on the inside.

This is more than a seasonal wardrobe change; we’re moving across the Atlantic without knowing any of the details about income, job placement, or residence.

All we know is that keeping a mountain of “what-if” is no longer an option. Soon we’ll be living in England without walk-in closets, a garage, or an attic. This new reality is redefining needs and wants. The underlined Scripture verse in my Bible “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21) is no longer a warning to ponder but a conviction that results in repentance.

As I make piles to give away, sell, and keep, I’m blushing, not about the extravagance of riches on hangers but what the excess illustrates. People refer to this move to England as brave, but my closet says I am fearful.

As the wife of a pastor, this is my ninth move in 24 years of marriage; we are experts in lengthy, uncomfortable transition. But our first international move reveals something different than the others.

At the core of my clothing insurance policy is the subtle question “What if Jesus isn’t enough?”

My what-if’s flow into my kitchen cabinets and pantries, underneath my bathroom sink, and into an overflowing garage and attic. In the subtlety of everyday choices, it seems I’ve ...

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Mon, 27 October 2014 08:00:00 CST
Faithful through the Ages

A case for intergenerational communities

Several years ago, we were invited to join a small group which met weekly on Friday nights. We arrived the first night with our young kids in tow, eager to connect with other couples in a similar age and stage. What we found was a much more blended group of couples, ranging in age from their thirties to their seventies. My first thought? Awkward! This is not what I expected. I’m not sure this is going to be a fit for us.

We decided to give it a try because we connected well with several of the couples. We have been part of this intergenerational community now for three years. Here is what I can say now about this experience, with a bit more perspective:

Intergenerational community is more complex and far more rewarding.

Stella* leaned in and grabbed my arm. “It’s Alzheimer’s Disease,” she confided. She wasn’t telling me anything I hadn’t already figured out. John’s behavior had been erratic for months. He couldn’t place us, although we’d been meeting together for two years. Sometimes his signature smile was gone and he seemed irritated or grouchy. Sometimes John remembered to give out the Werther’s candies to our kids, and sometimes they lay forgotten in his pocket these days.

“He started getting lost years ago when he was driving home from work. I’ve been trying to find a way to tell you all for weeks now because I know he is getting worse,” Stella whispered as tears welled in her blue eyes. I hugged my friend and thought about how our small group might support our eldest couple on the difficult road ahead.

Shepherding a group felt easier to me when everyone was at a similar age and stage. Sometimes in a homogenous group there ...

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Thu, 23 October 2014 08:00:00 CST
Can I Follow You As I Follow Christ?

People dont want to hear your words; they want to see your actions

It is a privilege to serve as a leader in the kingdom of God. It is an honor to be entrusted with the gift to teach and disciple the people of God. Yet with this gift, leaders are held to a higher standard. James 3:1 warns us, “Not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

It is important that we teach well, but we must be very careful that our lifestyles don’t let people down. Will we be perfect? No, we will not be perfect. Nevertheless, let us be the type of leaders who lead not only with our words, but also with our lives. Let us be able to say with confidence like the Apostle Paul, “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing” (Philippians 4:9, emphasis added).

For example, abortion is one of the most talked-about subjects in the evangelical church. It is the deciding factor in elections, the topic of many sermons, and the reason some choose to protest with pictures of unborn babies that would cause even the toughest man to squirm. The church is screaming “pro-life,” but I contend mainly in propaganda and not in action. What do I mean? It is easy to be pro-life or pro-anything behind a computer screen or in speech. However, the world needs to see consistency. It needs to watch our lives and say, “Yes. Yes, they truly do care about this issue.” As leaders, our followers need to see beyond our words and witness our actions. Are you that kind of leader?

I recently discovered that type of leader. I was talking to some friends recently about our mutual friend, Pastor Odai. We were discussing his love for the people in his congregation ...

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Mon, 20 October 2014 08:00:00 CST
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