Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Kings or Pawns?


We’re coming up on the celebration of the Epiphany (January 6) in which we mark the spread of the message of Jesus’ birth to the Gentile “wise men” from the East. But the story of the wise men (traditionally referred to as “kings”) is all wrapped up with that nasty Herod.

The story is in Matthew 2 and there is a very, very dark side to it. Herod uses these “kings” as pawns in his attempt to destroy Jesus. When these wise men refuse to play Herod’s game, he puts the entire village of Bethlehem through the worst horror imaginable by slaying all their boy babies.

I had the occasion to preach on this “slaughter of innocents” story last Sunday. My central question was, whose side is God on when a power-hungry ruler gets out of control? I titled the sermon, Bethlehem and the Least of These and it is online now (click the title to read it).

I have been submitting a number of my recent sermons to my friend & publisher, David Housholder, for inclusion at his online magazine called Life & Liberty. These sermons and my other contributions to Hous’s site are some of my best work of the past year. I do hope you will visit Life & Liberty–my online home away from the blog–to see (and hear) my work over there.

Here’s the link to all of my work at Life & Liberty:

From Childhood Boredom to Profound Lesson

I’m sharing a story that I’ve carried with me for 30 years. It’s about the time I barred the doors of the Old North Church on Boston’s historic Freedom Trail.

I stood in the doorway and declared the church closed. I was just being silly, but my dad let me know that “welcome” in the church is serious.

You can hear the story and what I’ve learned from it over at Life & Liberty:

>>>Click here to listen to my unexpected lesson from the Freedom Trail.<<<

I’m a Jesus Feminist Because I Don’t Have to Be One

I'm a Jesus Feminist

My friend Sarah Bessey coined the term “Jesus Feminist” and recently published a book by that name. She has invited others to reflect on the ways they identify with this term. Here’s my take: I’m a Jesus Feminist because I don’t have to be one.

I grew up in a time and place and in a home where, as a young woman, I had every opportunity. This was so completely true that I took feminism for granted.

I even bought into many of the negative stereotypes of feminists. I could disparage feminism in my youth because of the rights and opportunities that past feminist movements afforded me.

I didn’t have to be a feminist because of all the hard work for women’s rights that had already been done.

While I never knew a woman pastor growing up, I was in a denomination where women were permitted to serve in every capacity in the church. But I became acquainted with other denominations where this was not the case.

My own first experience in which I felt I was treated differently because of being a woman wasn’t until college. A guest-lecturer utterly dismissed an insightful comment I made after class only to go right back to chatting away with the male student that was still in the room.

But this was only the beginning. Over time I began to learn more about the plight of women around the world and I realized that I was very fortunate to have the rights and opportunities that I have.

When it came time for me to have my son, I made the seemingly “backward” decision to be a stay-at-home mom–not because I had to but because I wanted to. By this time I recognized that making this decision was a privilege afforded me by the work of feminists ahead of me.

When my friend Sarah Bessey announced that she was writing Jesus Feminist and she talked about her interest in feminism being motivated by following Jesus, it resonated deeply with me. I didn’t want to be an angry, man-hating feminist, but I do care about women being treated as people! And my own personal study of scripture led me to believe that God highly values daughters and sons alike.

I think I took the long route to come to terms with my own feminist streak. But the long and the short of it is, I am a Jesus Feminist because I don’t have to be one.

This post is part of Sarah Bessey’s “In which we are Jesus feminists synchroblog.” >>>Click here to read other stories of how and why folks became Jesus feminists.<<<

I also had the opportunity to interview Sarah about the book for Life & Liberty! >>>Click here to listen to the interview.<<<

Order Jesus Feminist from my section at the Amazon store at Life & Liberty.

Disclaimer: Your purchase via this link will help support Life & Liberty, an online magazine where I am a Spirituality Editor.

Footwashing is Worse Than I Thought

20131109-083051.jpgFootwashing–in particular Jesus washing his disciples’ feet–is a centering symbol for my Deaconess community. I thought I understood the importance of this humble act of service that Jesus modeled but it is more important than I realized because it’s worse than I thought it was.

One of my favorite Biblical scholars is Kenneth E. Bailey. I even did one of my podcasts for Life & Liberty based on some Bailey wisdom. He is well-acquainted with Middle Eastern culture and brings powerful insights to bear on the Bible.

I was asked to speak with a neighboring women’s group about Deaconess ministry. I chose to lead them in a Bible study of John 13–the passage where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.

I could’ve just gone with what I know about it, but since I’ve discovered Bailey I wondered what new insights he would bring.

My husband found me this 16-minute video of Bailey teaching on this passage. I learned a few things from the video that painted footwashing as even more profound than I knew. Please take the time to watch and see what I mean:

A highlight for me was the insight that the radical nature of the act would form a bond between Jesus and his disciples if they chose to accept the act. The idea of the intimacy forged through Jesus’ self-giving really resonates with me.

And of course, Jesus was willing to go even further–and do something even worse–for the sake of not just those few disciples but to reconcile the whole world to himself.

Thanks be to God for the lengths to which he goes for us!

2 Powerful Lessons About Keeping a Group Together

My son and I were soaked to the bone from the Cub Scout hike, but still had a great time!

My son and I are getting ready to go home after our first Cub Scout hike together. Despite the nearly-constant rain on the hike we had a great time and we learned about leadership in the process.

Last month I had the privilege of going with my son a Cub Scout hike. On the hike, the Den Leader taught the boys two important lessons about how to keep a group together on a hike. I’d like to tell you about those lessons and how they tie in with some of my own thinking about decision making by consensus.

The First Lesson

The hike began with us walking down a stony path to a clearing. When we got to the clearing the Den Leader stopped the group and waited for everyone to catch up.

Then the Den Leader asked the group who was the slowest hiker. It seemed to me an awkward question–I mean, who wants to be known as the slow kid?

But the purpose of asking, the leader explained, was because “we don’t leave anyone behind.” Therefore the slowest hiker was called upon to lead the group, to set the pace.

I loved this so much because here all of suddenly the slowest hiker got a confidence boost by being in a leadership role!

The Second Lesson

Right after the lead hiker was chosen, the Den Leader instructed the lead hiker on a dialog to begin the hike. He was to ask the group, “Is anyone not ready?”

Of course this is very different than we’re used to. We usually ask it like “Are you ready?” or “Is everyone ready?”

It seems like the same question just asked a different way. But that different way of asking the question is actually much better at finding what you need to know!

Since it was already established that “we don’t leave anyone behind,” it is important to know if someone in the group is not ready to go forward. So the quickest way to find out is to ask directly if anyone is not ready!

The Den Leader explained that when you ask something like, “Is everyone ready?” instead, then the voices of those who are ready all-too-easily drown out the voices of the few who are not. This puts those who are not ready in jeopardy of being left behind.

Connections with Consensus Model

These two lessons–about having the slowest hiker be first and about checking on whoever is not ready–remind me a lot of what I have studied about the process of making decisions by consensus. I have mentioned my work with that on behalf of my Deaconess community in a previous post.

One of the essential aspects of my Deaconess community’s practice in decision making by consensus is the idea that we honor the input from everyone in the group–and especially those who are most vulnerable.

In consensus-based decision making, we’re not trying to carry on at all costs. We don’t want to leave anyone behind!

Just as in the Cub Scout hike the slow hiker was invited to lead, so in the consensus model the one who is most vulnerable is invited to teach the group a different perspective. New proposals can then be crafted that take this new perspective into account.

Another principle we are trying to put into practice in my Deaconess community’s use of the consensus model is the idea of asking questions the different way. When the group seems close to adopting a new proposal we are learning to ask, “Are there any concerns about this proposal?”

The momentum of the majority of the group toward a decision makes it easy to want to ask, “Do we have agreement?” But just like on the Cub Scout hike, the “yes” answers too easily drown out the voices of those who are “not ready” to move forward.

Taking the time to check for remaining concerns may sometimes be a mere formality when, in fact, everyone is actually ready. But in the times when someone is truly not ready to move on a decision, that is vital information for the group so that noone gets drowned out and left behind.

I love that my son is getting these lessons in scouts. I want him to be attuned to the vulnerable, to those at risk of being left behind. And these powerful lessons are valuable for us grown-ups too!

Note to regular readers: If you’re watching the “How Christian Community Helps Us Face Challenges” posts, you can expect a new one next week.

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