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Posts Tagged ‘Christian mentoring’

Jo 12One morning around two years ago, I spoke to a group of women at a church on the other side of town. Afterwards, I was introduced to a lady who I discovered had really come to catch up with friends before heading home to Sweden a couple of days later. However, having heard me speak, she told me she was particularly interested in my book Soul Friend and in the whole concept of mentoring or being a spiritual companion. She then shared her desire to set up a program in her church to equip people to mentor others, so I offered to send her some material on the subject.

The next day, I emailed her a basic mentoring course a friend had written and I had edited, after checking that he was happy for it to be shared in this way. Then I thought no more about it—until last week, when an email arrived from this lady. In it, she wrote:

Hi Jo-Anne,

You may not remember me but I attended a meeting at Miranda Congregational church in April 2017 where you were speaking and selling your books. I spoke to you afterwards and mentioned my interest for Christian mentoring in Sweden where I live. You very kindly emailed me your manual.

This was the encouragement I needed to start a course in Christian mentoring in my church, the Lutheran church of Sweden in my area Stockholm. I gathered a team of four people including myself and we organised a one day course for those who would like to be mentors or have a mentor … One of our team members is a skilled translator and translated your manual into clear simple Swedish. We gave each of the 18 participants a print copy of the manual at the end of the course. 

The team then matched up mentors and mentorees during the months that followed … The result was very exciting with the present number of mentors being 11 and mentorees around 15. … Our team will meet again in September to decide if we will run the course again in January 2020 and widen the participants to the three other Lutheran churches in our parish and 5 other denominations.

So, I just wanted to express my thanks to you for being so generous in sharing the manual and for your books …

Isn’t God amazing? As soon as I read this, I thought of the little parable Jesus told about the mustard seed:

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the bird of the air come and perch in its branches. Matthew 13:32.

God builds the kingdom using our faltering efforts with such grace, don’t you think? Surely, as we plant whatever little seeds we have, which are a gift from God anyway, God will step in, watch over them well and enable them to bear fruit just at the right time.

Who would have thought that brief, ‘accidental’ contact with this lady would have resulted in our little mentoring course blessing folk in faraway Sweden? But that’s just like God, isn’t it!

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One morning recently, I turned on my computer and noticed someone had left a Skype message for me. I proceeded to investigate and, as I had suspected it might be, it was my friend who lives on the other side of the world, sending me a chirpy, little message.

Hi!  You’re on the computer nice and early in the morning!  I haven’t even gone to bed yet on the day before!

We then proceeded to have a brief, written ‘chat’ before she closed down for the night.

Not long after, I received an email from another friend who I knew was currently overseas. She was emailing from Dubai Airport via her Ipad in the middle of an eighteen hour wait for her flight home! Her travel plans had been disrupted because of the extreme winter weather in Europe. But on top of that, she felt distinctly fluey and was asking us to pray she would be okay during the rest of her waiting period and then on the flight home.

Later that day, I began to realise how readily I had taken for granted the fact that these two friends could contact me so easily. Yet how amazing that someone on the other side of the world would notice me online and be able to say a quick hi! And how amazing my friend could immediately gather together the prayer support she needed as she sat in a strange airport!

A few days ago, I opened my computer to find that a reader had contacted me via my website to say she had just re-read my first four novels and enjoyed them so much yet again. She had written especially to encourage me. Yet I did not stop to enjoy the moment, take in her words fully and thank God for them. Then I noticed someone had sent me a message via Facebook, telling me how she had given some copies of my non-fiction book Soul Friend away at Christmas and how one girl she mentors had devoured the book and gained so much from it. ‘Oh, that’s nice!’, I thought to myself—and went blithely on with whatever I was doing.

But then that voice inside me pulled me up short. Here I was, taking for granted these lovely messages from my readers. Here was I, so full of my own concerns, almost missing the gentle ways God was using others to encourage me in my writing journey.

Have you been so wrapped up lately in all the big and urgent issues of life that you have almost ignored that prompting inside you, urging you to stop and enjoy the moment, to be thankful for the blessings right before your eyes that you take for granted? Could God be trying to get your attention, too?

This week, I read a familiar verse, Psalm 46:10, that I am sure was another little prompt from God:

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I don’t want to take God for granted. Each day, I want to be still and acknowledge God’s greatness, tuning my ears in more and more readily to the Holy Spirit’s voice and seeing God’s hand in every part of my life.

How about you? Stop for a moment. Look around you. Listen for God’s gentle whisper. Be still, and know that God is there.

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There’s something about the Christmas season, isn’t there, that makes us want to catch up with friends over coffee or a meal. In some cases, it’s about finding out how each other has travelled during the past year. At other times, I find it’s more about letting that person know I value their friendship and am grateful for their presence in my life.

Recently I thought about this a lot as I prepared for my final speaking engagement of the year. In keeping with the theme of my new non-fiction book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, I decided to look at the Apostle Paul’s relationship with Timothy. And all over again, I discovered how many good reminders there are in 2 Timothy 1 alone about what is involved in a strong mentoring relationship or spiritual friendship.

Firstly, it’s obvious how much sincere love and concern Paul has for Timothy. Straight up, he calls him his ‘dear son’ and goes on to declare: Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy (1:4). There needs to be love and mutual respect in any good friendship, don’t you agree?

Secondly, Paul prays for Timothy with all his heart. I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers (1:3). What a gift to give to someone else—to pray for him or her constantly, night and day!

Thirdly, Paul obviously believes in Timothy and affirms him for the strengths he sees in him. He affirms his sincere faith and the gift of God at work in his young friend (1:5-6), urging him to keep fanning these into flame and not let the good that has been deposited in his life be wasted. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you …  (1:13) In my own life, I know how important it has been to hear positive affirmation at times, particularly in my writing journey. It still is.

Fourthly, Paul is not backward in challenging Timothy to hang in there till the end, as he himself is doing. He urges him on, at times perhaps sounding as if he is telling him what to do. Yet it is coming from a heart full of love for Timothy, a heart that knows God will enable and will strengthen him to finish the race.

Finally, Paul writes all this to Timothy with complete honesty and integrity. There is no pretence—his conscience is clear before God and men (1:3).  In 1 Cor 4:16-17, Paul is bold enough to write to them: Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. With Paul, there is no discord between what he says and how he lives—and that’s how I want to live too.

So as you catch up with friends and family this Christmas, remember to show them you value them and to thank God for their input into your life. After all, it could mean the difference between someone achieving all God has for them to achieve or letting those sparks and embers die out altogether.

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This week it was brought home to me again how much our lives can impact others. As a writer, I always hope my books will spread far and wide and encourage those who read them in some way. To me it is a wonderful privilege to be given this opportunity. But what about our more personal, one on one relationships? Often these can have a much deeper and far reaching impact than we realise or could ever imagine.

This past Sunday, we held the launch of my non-fiction book Soul Friend here in Sydney. Soul Friend is the story of my journey with my mentor or spiritual friend Joy, now in her eighties, and the close relationship that developed between us during our fifteen years of meeting together. I believe God brought Joy into my life just at the right time when I needed someone to walk closely with me as I returned to study, then headed into local church ministry and from there into writing. At the launch, I was able to interview Joy briefly and highlight how her input into my life has strengthened me to do what I believe God wants me to do. Joy has passed on to me so many beautiful insights from God through a variety of means—and I am grateful for them all.

But at my launch, I also interviewed a younger woman whom I myself have mentored for around fifteen years. She is based overseas, and I find it a great privilege that she still welcomes me to be part of her life in such a role. In the process of that interview, we talked briefly about how she herself mentors others in the country where she serves God and how that can be a difficult task at times in a place that is by and large hostile to the gospel.

As I went to move on with our book launch program, this same friend was suddenly impacted with an insight, I believe from God, about our respective mentoring roles and shared it with us all. She drew our attention to the fact that while Joy had walked with me and helped me grow in my faith, so I had then functioned in the same way with my friend. She in turn has now done the same with one new believer in particular where she is based, journeying with her through many struggles and helping her draw closer to Jesus. Now this same believer is learning to be a true spiritual friend with even younger believers herself, modelling what it means to be a woman of God to them, just as my friend has done for her.

And so it goes on, stretching not only across the world but also across the generations. It is a special ‘chain of grace’ I feel so privileged to be part of. How great is our God that, as we invest ourselves in others’ lives and share the wisdom and insights we have been given, our small acts of obedience are multiplied in this way?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph 3:20-21

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I have to confess I don’t like hearing or seeing a recording of myself in any shape or form! I don’t even like reading my own writing out loud, as I have had to on occasions. And despite owning my first three novels in audio book format, professionally narrated and recorded by the Christian Blind Mission for people with visual impairment, I have never listened to them myself. I know I would cringe and want to edit severely. I would rather remain in blissful ignorance!

So when my publisher suggested I make a book trailer to promote my new non-fiction book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, you can imagine I was a little underwhelmed, to say the least. Besides, it all seemed too hard and too much trouble. I hadn’t done anything like that for my five novels—did I really need such a thing for my new non-fiction book?

However, as I thought about it and viewed other promotional trailers, some ideas began to form as to what I could include in my own. Of course my mentor Joy would be involved, since my book Soul Friend is about her part in my spiritual journey of the last fifteen years. I could also ask someone I have mentored for many years to give her perspective on the topic. And I myself would need to explain various aspects of the book. Throw in a few book endorsements—and I felt that maybe we could come up with a book trailer after all!

It was a challenge at first finding someone to film us and an even greater one getting us all together on the same day, but eventually it happened. And when we later viewed what had been filmed, we were all happy. But as I sent our efforts off to be edited in Brisbane, I was still a little wary. Would the whole concept really come together? What would be edited out? Would it flow as I envisaged and look and sound professional enough?

But I am delighted with the end product—or products—which arrived this past week. You see, I have ended up with a both a long and a short version, which will be very useful in different situations. Please click here to view the short version on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br2eAB1ojDE&feature=youtu.be.

To find the longer interview, please click on the following link to my new website:

http://www.soulfriend.com.au/watch-the-soul-friend-book-trailer.html

This whole experience has highlighted two things for me yet again. Firstly, God is so utterly faithful.

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Psalm 117:1-2

Where I was so faithless and doubting mine and others’ abilities to produce these trailers, God faithfully unfolded the whole process and showed me it could be done.

Secondly, I saw again how the Body of Christ is meant to work together, each gladly and graciously doing his or her part (1 Corinthians 12), as exemplified by my publisher, Rochelle Manners at Even Before Publishing, my video man Daniel Fewchuk, my film editor at Highshots, my endorsers, and my friends Joy and Alison. Thank you all for enabling this little project to come together so well.

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I wonder if you can remember a time when you expected God’s guidance to come in a particular way, only to discover it snuck up on you in quite another. Did you perhaps discount it at first? Did you, like me, not ‘get’ it until a little later?

Recently I found myself having to choose between two options, each of which I felt would be useful for different areas of my life. One was a short editing course at the NSW Writers’ Centre and the other a three day Christian Mentoring Forum. I felt the editing course would be a good refresher for me, but I wanted to hear the main speaker at the Mentoring Forum and also take time to reflect on where I am at in my writing. And because I mentor a small number of women, I also wanted to ensure I was giving them the best possible help.

In the end, I chose the Mentoring Forum. I thought that would give God maximum opportunity to speak to me through the input of others, both formal and informal, and through time alone in a beautiful setting. As it turned out, I did value the input and the interaction with those present. And I enjoyed my moments of solitude as well. Yet God did not speak so much through them as through little whispered ‘asides’ that reached into my spirit and brought quite shattering insight at times.

I was not prepared, for instance, for the impact that my own words ‘I am a writer’ would have on me as we introduced ourselves in our very first session together. It was as if God were saying somewhat urgently to me, ‘Listen to that, Jo! Remember it!’ Then in a brief reflective time during a session on ‘Soul Care’, I felt God almost pleading, ‘Get back to writing with me!’ This made perfect sense from my perspective. Many times when writing my novels, I have stopped to sense God’s presence around me. I have even been known to ask God questions out loud like ‘Is this how you want me to write this? Is this the way you want the story to go?’!

But I find myself still rather easily swayed by self-doubt at times, especially when I hear the other wonderful things Christian leaders are doing in their ministries. As I listen, I ask myself yet again if I should be undertaking a more ‘conventional’ type of ministry—if I should put aside my writing and engage in mentoring and caring for others in a more structured way. Yet even as these thoughts course through my brain, I hear the speaker sharing from her own story how she realised she was not to be running a race marked out for somebody else. And like a sharp arrow, her words pierce my soul. I am not to be overawed by the achievements of others. I am definitely not to turn back the clock and hanker after past ministry roles. God has shown me my path for this stage of my life—and my role is to walk it well, in company with the Author of all things.

So as I write this, I am filled again with love for and awe of our God who knows us so intimately and loves us with such a fierce, all-encompassing love—who says to each of us the same as to Israel so long ago:

I have loved you with an everlasting love: I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jer 31:3b)

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