Newsletter

01Jul '15
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Co-Workers

July 1, 2015

“Am I the only Christian in my office?”

A question a lot of us, myself included, have asked from time to time at the workplace. Actually, I ask myself that question a lot, especially since I serve in a management capacity at my company for three-and-a-half years. Even though I lead a team of four and work in a 20-employee organization, I have actively shared my faith maybe twice that I can remember. We don’t have a policy on whether or not discussions on religion are allowed and I’ve never looked too closely.

My subordinates know I’m a Christian and go to church, which I field questions on from time to time but only on a “Yes, No, I don’t know” basis. They ask occasionally about the church I go to, who I worship and fellowship with, the kinds of activities our Primetime young adult ministry does and other aspects of social interaction within our community.

They never ask me about the reasons why I attend church or why I attend Primetime, nor the content of the teachings I take in on a given Sunday morning or Wednesday night. Each conversation probably falls under the category of “small talk,” which is ironic because I wouldn’t consider Christianity to be a “small” part of my life at all.

Other times when I’m working independently, the office is occasionally filled with topics and language that I would rather do without listening to. I would like to break in and try to change the subject, but it’s too easy to sit back and let them have at it without actively trying to be different. It’s safer to not put in the effort, be comfortable and not show our faith in an awkward setting.

Different: it’s exactly what God calls us to be. He also calls us to be missionaries in our everyday social situations, where we should take our different faith and set of values to a culture that is different from the ones we have in a church or other Christian setting. My father always taught me that actions speak louder than words and that many people learn a lot about your faith by watching how you behave more so than from your words.

A co-worker’s mere witness of how I act towards others with kindness, gentleness, patience or other Spiritual Fruits can present opportunities for me to explain why and how I act.

Vulnerability is another key component of authentic Christianity in the workplace. I don’t have to pretend in front of my co-workers that I don’t have any problems or struggles of my own. No one should have to smile when they’re sad on a practical level.

On a much deeper level, I shouldn’t be shy to share when I go through difficult times and question whether God really had our backs.  That conversation may lead me to striking up a conversation with a co-worker and sharing how God was there for me. Don’t ever underestimate the power of one’s testimony.

Truth be told, being a Christian doesn’t make us all that different from non-Christians because we still face the same struggles and have the same emotions as those who do not believe in Jesus. We have to come to our non-believing co-workers as we are and as they are for authentic fellowship with them.

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25Apr '15
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Siblings

April 25, 2015

My younger brother and I have always been very close. It’s one of those situations where there was a mess up in the birth order and he should have been born at the same time as me, as my twin. One time, when our family split up while traveling for an international vacation, my brother and I missed the plane because we were too busy talking and didn’t hear the boarding call. We proceeded to wander London overnight and squat over lamps for warmth, with the homeless. 

We are ridiculously proud of each other. I wrote about him in my college application essays. He has a spoken word poem about me that he’s used in competitions. I speak about him in unconscious hyperboles. He is the cutest kid, the most caring and justice-driven human being, and the most innovative, driven, sensitive, talented brother in the whole wide world! 

We have a million inside jokes, “remember when” moments, and other marks of a life closely lived together. We can seamlessly transition from cracking each other up to sharing our deepest secrets and mingling tears. He’s someone I’m wholly myself around because we love, trust, and try our darnedest to protect each other. 

Is this what biblical “brotherhood” is supposed to look like? Am I at a place with any person in God’s family where we are constantly encouraging, being vulnerable in sharing, and eager to live life together? Maybe, maybe not. I think that’s the goal, but we’re held back by our pride and insecurity. We fear people, because unlike blood relatives, they aren’t stuck with us forever. They can walk away. They don’t have to accept us. 

A book I’ve been reading recently, When People Are Big and God is Small, talks about humans as flawed love cups. We want love from other people so badly, but because of a crack, it just keeps flowing out and can’t ever be filled. What God does is break and remold our cup, and repurpose it for His glory. He pours his love on us, and our cup overflows. It stops being about how much we need love, and starts being about how much we can love others. When the focus is turned away from ourselves, we are able to share and love, fearless in our identity in Christ. Isn’t that a beautiful concept? 

Sometimes, when I think about my little brother, I feel a surge of love. It’s not based on anything he’s done for me, or because of his worth as a person. It’s just because of who he is, because he is my brother! I want that in my relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ- an unflinching, incalculable love that comes from our identity in Him. 

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19Apr '15
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Mother and Daughter

April 19, 2015

When I was a child, I remember running into my mother’s closet with my sister and rifling through all of her hanging dresses. I remember thinking that everything my mother did was the right thing and that, even when she worked hard, she still smelled so wonderful. I wanted to be just like her - right down to her happy, but sometimes extremely tired smile. She was what I believed every woman should be - strong, fun, Bible-centered, and always feeding everyone.

As a teenager, I don’t think that view changed, but things began to change. She and I didn’t always agree on everything and I began to find it difficult to communicate with her in her limited English. I discovered that we were very different people - but that I still felt my childhood desire of being exactly like her. It became a point of friction for me, because I could feel the way that God was shaping me as a person and feeling like somehow I was betraying my mom for becoming so different from her.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Hwa Young Johnson, one of the mothers from ABC who had given a seminar talk at the Women’s Retreat, for some tea and dessert. She shed some helpful light on the difficulties of being a mother and offered a more gracious perspective for me to look at both my mom and myself. When talking about recognizing the shortcomings of a parent, Hwa Young said, “You have to look at their failings through God’s eyes. They were doing their best and I think I only really understood that when I became a [mother].” She helped me to understand that even though mothers are not able to teach their children everything because of the realities of limited time and resources, they do get to share what they care deeply about. As I reflect on Hwa Young’s words, I think about the things my mother was able to share with me: a love for scripture and home-cooking, an excitement and gusto for life, and the desire to be good to and generous with other people. She may not have given me as much of her time as I wanted and though we didn’t have as many conversations as I thought we should as I’ve grown up, I realize that what she could not communicate in words, she demonstrated in her treatment of me and other people. Like every mother does, my mom was doing her best to share with me her passions and values - and it’s only now that I understand that she has really succeeded. I am thankful that she is the mother that God has blessed me to have and I thank God for the many mothers that have been a blessing to the life and culture at Ambassador Bible Church.

Something that I have been hearing repeatedly among the mature women at church is an interest and a fear of being a mentor to another woman. I have been so encouraged to hear from these women about the way God has been challenging them and the way they are praying and opening their hearts to the idea of mentorship. I believe that God was speaking through Tracie Nall at the Women’s Retreat when she said that “…not all women are called to be mothers, but all women are called to be spiritual mothers.” I hope that this is a calling that the women of ABC continue to be faithful to in ever increasing numbers!

Titus 2:3-5 “Older women…teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

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26Mar '15
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Cross-Generational Friendships

March 26, 2015

I’ve never been comfortable around adults. Now that I’m an “adult” myself, that statement sounds silly. One could say that the cause is an ingrained fear of authority, but it’s more probable that I still feel as fragile and flawed as a child.

Older women scare me. Even as a teacher, I cringe and bear it during parent-teacher conferences because I don’t feel as though I have the wisdom and authority bestowed upon by age. At church, I take a similar stance. Older women in that “married with children” stage have conversations about their children that I can’t relate to because in my mind, I am still a child myself!

Consequently, I spend most of my church time in conversation with and reach out to people in my life stage– young, unmarried professionals. It’s as though ABC is divided neatly into sections: youth, Primetime, younger married folks and older married folks. To cross the sections and befriend someone in a different life stage is to invite chaos.

My mindset changed when I attended Women’s Retreat. I carpooled with some older women and we arrived late. The three of us tried to sneak in, single file, but when the first crossed the threshold, the speaker stopped mid-sentence and said “welcome!” As the entire room of women turned around, the woman in front of me stepped back and shut the door. The two of us huddled against the outside of the door and laughed silently, like teenagers who had just pulled a prank. I thought to myself- are they really that different from me after all?

That was just the start of it. Small discussion groups were oddly led by the youngest members this year. I felt ill-equipped in a group of women who were all wiser than me, but I quickly learned that they struggled to give things up to God too. Slowly, I was no longer intimidated by their wisdom, and started to feel blessed by it instead. I began to realize that these older women weren’t a different species that would look down on me for my lack of experience.

They were eager to not just slather on the advice, but also care for and earnestly pray for me and each other. I marveled at the discovery: becoming an adult doesn’t mean you stop making mistakes and become responsible and capable overnight. Sanctification is a process that takes your entire life.

On a certain level, I felt that married people were being purified and matured in Christ at a level far beyond my experience. That can’t be true though, because not everyone is called to be married, while everyone is called to be sanctified. Not long ago, JP mentioned in a sermon that both singleness and marriage are equal gifts from God. At a McLean Bible Church study I attended recently, speaker Enoch Haven mentioned in a talk on singleness and said:

“There are the same requirements for living out a godly marriage as there are for living out a single life. We all need to learn how to sacrifice for the good of others, let go of sin and selfishness, and develop a wholehearted devotion to God.”

He said we should leverage our singleness for God’s glory, and take the initiative in seeking out relationships that would push us to grow in those same areas. Another interesting point is made in Matthew 22:30: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

I was struck by how natural marriage or family won’t last in eternity. These silly walls we put up based on life stage, singleness or not, won’t matter someday. In fact, if we use eternal perspective, as we should be, isn’t the church the only family that will last into eternity?

If our church slogan is “ABC: A place to call home” shouldn’t we build relationships now and prioritize our spiritual family?

Yes, married women lead incredibly busy lives, but as a member of my  group at the retreat said: “It’s all about intentionality and making time for someone you want to keep as a friend.“ This goes for both sides of the friendship.

There’s been a push for cross-generational mentorship recently with many younger women in search of mentors and not as many older women that are willing to be mentors. I don’t know what the solution to that problem is, but this idea has taken root in my mind. Let’s think beyond mentorship and just address friendship. It is more than possible to befriend someone who is not in your life stage.

I think the questions are not about what is possible in friendships but whether we want to have those friendships. Is it worth the time to be intentional with someone you have to take effort to befriend? Is it worth the effort to love a member of the church who hasn’t sought you out first?

I think we know the answers to those questions. It’s just a matter of whether or not we want to take action.

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