Women, Love and God

Today, 8 March, 2012, is International Women’s Day and so it is fitting for us to make a special note of the strides made and not made to bring about gender equality in our communities.  Though most of us can list extraordinary women who have had and continue to have a global impact, I want to focus on one particularly special women – my mother.

My father passed away when I was twelve and so I credit my mom for teaching me how to be the best man I could be.  Though I wasn’t always the best son (especially during those teenage years), my Mom’s enduring love for me never ceased.  She never gave me a reason to question her love for me.  Her ability to always find the good in my life and her never dying belief that I always had the imagination to pull through any situation gave me the assurance to step out and take risks.  All this while society kept telling her she was of the lessor gender and weaker without a husband to take care of her.  Even today Mom’s gentle encouragement to me, even while she is struggling daily with her own health woes, never ceases to amaze me.

As I reflect on Mom and her life and the life lessons she passed my way, her most important lesson to me is the reminder that God’s call to each of us to live a life of Love.  1 Corinthians 13 is a reminder of this love.  Thank you Mom for reflecting God’s love to me in ways only a mother can to her son.  And may I as a man find the strength and courage to pass on this love to my daughter, son & wife. – JM

Burning to Call Out Leaders

“God loves you…and Jeff has a wonderful plan for your life!”   

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that leaders must assist others into leadership roles and into God’s missional purpose.  Of course, the struggle is in trying to make sure that the invitation I’m extending to others is just that – an invitation, not an expectation. 

This is not an exact science.  There have been plenty of “oops!” moments over the years.  As I’ve invited others to lead I’ve been burned on occasion and I’ve accidently burned others. We all know being burned is painful. Nevertheless, I won’t quit. I can’t stop seeing the possibilities that emerge when someone yields their leadership potential to the transforming power of God.

I’m reminded of Moses, once a powerful member of Pharaoh’s household, now reduced to tending sheep for his father-in-law.  Moses is getting on in years and while he has married well and raised a family, his dreams have been unfulfilled.  Then, out of nowhere, God in the burning bush asks Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It is the act of letting go of those last vestiges of Moses’ self identity which allows Moses to become what God called him to be; a leader in Israel’s redemption.

God still has a mission – the redemption of everyone and everything.  God is still calling people to lead the effort for the redemption of everyone and everything.  Perhaps the voice doesn’t come from the burning bush but the voice is still very much there. Or maybe God needs us to be the burning bush calling a modern day Moses to lead. – Jeff

Love, Hope and Optimism

Jack Layton, the 61-year-old Canadian political leader, succumbed to cancer this week. He transformed the NDP, a gang of students, granola eating leftists, unionists and others into the Official Opposition in Canada.  And he did it while still being liked even by those who fought his agenda for social justice.  

In his last days Layton did something extraordinary.  He wrote a letter to Canadians. The letter is not full of sentimentality.  It is, in the best sense of the word, partisan – it has a clear bias, and a clear object of resistance.  The letter’s bias is toward a vision of a just society and the letter resists giving in to desolation. Layton’s final message to the people of the nation he loved reads, “My friends, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.  And we’ll change the world.”  http://www.ndp.ca/letter-to-canadians-from-jack-layton

Those of us engaged in aligning our lives with God’s mission of reconciliation through the church find that Layton’s words ring true.  In the midst of bureaucratic systems that can do us in, rather than invigorate us, love is better than anger.  In the midst of hard times when we are misunderstood, hope is better than fear.  In the midst of failures and ‘not-quites’, optimism is better than despair. 

Maybe it is ironic that a social democratic politician has a word for church leaders to hear. Perhaps irony is simply God’s truth told with humor and perspective.  Whatever it is, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair. 

So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic leaders and participate with a God who continues to heal this broken, beautiful creation. – JW