Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Peace Factor

picture by Selaphotography
 I know she meant it as a compliment. After the service, a woman in the foyer said, “I love to hear you play your clarinet. It’s so relaxing I could fall asleep.” I preferred it when a friend called me the Kenny G of worship music. I’m definitely a fan.

Her remark, though, reminded me of a radio spot I did a few years ago for my book Peace Within Your Borders. “The title of your book fits you,” the interviewer commented. “Your voice is so soft and peaceful you almost lulled me to sleep.” Not exactly the effect I was aiming for. Instead of putting people to sleep, it was supposed to make people want to run out and buy my book!

I do want my music and writing to inspire and comfort, but there’s a fire in my heart that cannot be quenched. Apparently, my soft delivery sneaks up on people, though. I believe it’s because from the moment I asked Jesus to be Master of my life, I have sought His peace. Those who know me best realize I can be anything but quiet and peaceful.

I chose to title the women’s newsletter I wrote for six years, “The Quiet Spirit,” because that was what I needed. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4). That kind of beauty can only come from a soul at rest in Him. I still want that.

If people relax when I play or speak, I hope it’s not because my delivery is so mousy they’re bored into napping. Rather, I’d like to believe that the peace of God’s message, which quiets from within, settles on their hearts like a warm blanket. I choose to play songs that exude peace, because it seems that’s what all of us need most. I’m passionately in love with the God I write about, but often speak with a soft voice. His presence and His Word calm the raging storms of my heart; His mighty power is best displayed in changed lives and answered prayer. I am grateful for and dependant on His peace in every tumultuous situation.

So, if you haven’t fallen asleep yet, I want to say with a LOUD, EXUBERANT voice how much I love the Lord! He has done and is doing great things that are definitely worth staying awake for.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Bouquet of Sharpened Pencils

I love the budding Internet romance in You’ve Got Mail when Joe writes to Kathleen, “Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” I'm a romantic when it comes to fall too. Even though I'm now a Grandma, September still symbolizes fresh starts and new beginnings.

I get the itch to select spiral notebooks, colorful pencils, construction paper, and new books. I love the weight in my hand as I riffle through the pages, the smell of newly sharpened pencils, and crisp fall mornings.

Each of us can claim this season of new beginnings, whether a student, young adult, parent, single adult, or grandparent. January may be our official New Year, but I also claim September as a time to start again. Miss Stacy encourages Anne with these words, in Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery, “Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” No matter what we’ve done or not done in the past, in this new season, we can begin again. We can make better choices; we can look to God for every decision and word.

Whether that means cleaning house (mentally or physically), getting back to healthy habits, making amends for wrongs, or starting each day in conversation with God – we each get a fresh start in the newness of fall. If we will take hold of it.

God says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

So, even though I don’t know you personally, I would like to send you a bouquet of sharpened pencils to wish you a Happy Fall! If I could, I would have them delivered to your door with this message of hope: Whatever your need, God can fill it. Whatever wrongs you have done, He can and will forgive if you ask. However dry and desolate things appear at the moment, He can pour out streams of Living Water on your soul to revive your strength. He loves you no matter how many times you have failed or rejected Him and wants to make you new. Don’t you love our God of new beginnings?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What is Mentoring?

Friendship Mentoring
Since I am involved in mentoring relationships with three different women, I get asked these questions fairly frequently:
• What is mentoring?
• How did you start?
• Are you trained for that?
• What do you talk about?

I am always excited to answer, because mentoring is such a rich experience and I highly recommend it. Mentoring is just a fancy word for teaching. A mentor may be older, more knowledgeable, or possess skills that someone else wants to learn.

How did I get started? I asked God how He wanted me to serve in my new community and started getting involved. Pretty soon a woman asked if I would be willing to meet with her regularly. Later, a leader from church asked if I would be open to another mentoring relationship with a woman going through a painful transition. Recently, a young woman asked if we could get together occasionally so she could pick my brain about parenting, marriage, and Bible study. I love it!

It may sound like a new concept, but it’s actually very old. All throughout the Bible we see God-followers teaching others what they know.

Paul told Titus how and why we do:

Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around. Titus 2:1-8, Message (emphasis mine)

Unfortunately, most of us believe we have to be perfect in order to teach anyone else. When I was in my twenties, I asked five different women I admired to mentor me and was turned down each time. Even though I have wonderful, godly parents, I also wanted to learn from women outside my family. But they said, “I’m not qualified,” “I don’t have time for anyone outside my family.”

In frustration, I wrote an article, “Who Will Be There For Us?” (Virtue, May/June 1993). Virtue received a flood of letters from women just like me. Brenda Hunter, Ph.D. quoted it in her book, In the Company of Women, so did Elisa Morgan and Carol Kuykendall in What Every Mom Needs. We all hunger for mentors. The Bible doesn’t say it’s only for trained counselors, ministers, or people with time on their hands; it’s for everyone.

I see four kinds of mentor relationships:

• Discipleship
• Life Skills
• Friendship

An apprentice might be someone you train to take over your business or ministry. You teach them wisdom and experience you’ve gained over time. Like Moses passed on the torch of leadership to Joshua.

A handy pocket friend
A disciple is someone who wants to deepen their spiritual knowledge. They might be younger, a new believer, or derailed by a crisis the mentor has previously navigated. It’s not a piggyback ride to heaven, but a living example of faith in all circumstances.

A life skills mentor might give tips on parenting, marriage, friendship, home and car repair, or an infinite number of things. As a young woman, I sought out women with the skills I specifically wanted to develop.

Friends might not think of themselves as mentors, but much of what we learn comes from them. My sisters, friends, and I share our lives with each other - lessons from the Word and how God is developing patience, self-control, and gratitude, as we mature in Him. We even learn from each others’ mistakes and heartbreak in this informal classroom of life.

Who needs to be a mentor? Every believer has something to offer. It doesn’t have to be regimented, but it does need to be intentional, and appropriate to the relationship. Mentoring can be simple - a walk in the park or a cup of coffee. It can be a project you work on together, or sitting down with Bibles and notebooks.

When I mentor, I try to let the other woman lead with her concerns, questions, and hurts. I want to respond with God’s wisdom and not my own opinion, so I pray in between meetings over each issue we discuss. We read the Bible; we pray; but mostly, we just talk. We laugh, cry, and focus on the hope Christ brings.

Who needs to be mentored? Every believer. We’re never so old or wise or experienced that we can’t learn more. If we’re going through a season of extreme emotion or stress, a mentor can be a solid source of strength.

I encourage you to consider mentoring. This intentional involvement with other believers will help you grow, enrich your prayer life, and energize your faith. Choose your mentors carefully, prayerfully. And when others seek you out for help or advice, look to the Source of all wisdom and encourage others in His name.