Following In Christ’s Future

We are women.

Somewhere in our time, we acknowledge God’s love for us and accept the life God hopes for us. We are baptized women.

Spirit speaks loudly and we share what we see – share the vision our relationship with Jesus creates…challenge our community to be what it is meant to be. We are prophetic women.

From deep within, Spirit stills the flow of our days and we remember the gift God offers us. We work to build bridges where reconciliation to God can take place.  We are priestly women.

Engaging our lives, our community, our environment in the direction of God’s justice, we show God’s ability to heal and restore. We are royal women.

Global Women Connecting exists for all women. We join in fellowship, prayer, study, and service, to share the gospel and cooperate with Christians everywhere toward the unity of the church. We unite, inform, and connect Stone Campbell movement women from around the world by –

  • Offering mission emphasis through the four-year service project that all participating countries can support.
  • Hosting a meeting and women’s retreat timed with World Convention’s Global Gathering to highlight fellowship and networking.
  • Providing news to GWC Friends in order to share prayers, reflections and information of events and concerns from around the world.

We are moving toward the 19th World Convention Global Gathering in New Delhi, India, January 12-15, 2017. As a woman living and sharing in Christ’s love, please share your insight and vision of ways Global Women Connecting can be helpful to you by answering the following short survey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Breaks the Walls

Once there was a Human who learned to build a wall. It was constructed carefully, for it was to be a shelter for Human. Becoming skilled in the art, Human built walls until all the world was outside and Human was inside. Human stayed inside the walls a long, long time.

God saw Human inside the walls, fearful, hungry, alone and was sad. “This is not good,” thought God. “I did not intend for Humans to exist like this. I want them to understand love.” And so, God caused Human to think about the beauty of the world outside and to recall stories of the ancestors. Then, God caused Others outside the walls to wonder about the Human inside.

Food became necessary. Motivated now by need, Human climbed, wedging fingers and toes into the spaces where the walls’ sticks and stones did not touch. The climb was difficult and challenged Human’s strength and resolve. Unable to get over the wall alone, Human called out hoping there were Others on the outside who could help. The Others were interested in the possibility of a new friend and knew that like God, Human and Others needed relationship. Together they worked to open the wall.

Once outside, Human could see walls Others had built. From the rubble of each broken wall was a bridge to the next place where a Human had built walls out of fear or shame or misunderstanding. Using tools of compassion and respect, Friends were able to help build a new way of life.

This is how God’s love works. When we separate, God creates a longing to reunite, then provides the tools and motivation to build bridges. Piece by piece God urges us to move stones so a structure built on Christian unity can take shape. When walls come down God’s gifts of hope, joy, love and peace can be shared.

Build upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In Christ the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. Ephesians 2:20-21

We begin the year 2016 preparing to come together in New Delhi for the 19th Global Gathering. Let this be a year to explore the walls we’ve built, accept the hunger for Christ’s life-giving fellowship, and surrender to God’s loving plan to use our lives as bridge-building stones.

 

 

Love in the Call

Scripture cards 10-15 resizeAbout two years ago, a friend and mentor of mine gave me a set of cards. On the cards were verses of scripture – one for every day. Each card included my name as the object of God’s love. Many of the verses were familiar, and I recall thinking that this was a “sweet” gift and set them on my dresser as recommended where I could see and read them daily.

I did not anticipate the power in my friend’s gift. As it happened, I was also experiencing a confusing personal time.

My spirit needed a reminder of God’s Spirit. I needed to hear the stories of Jesus’ charity in living amongst his disciples. I needed to hear my name as one who was also loved. Day by day God spoke through this expression of friendship, calling me closer.

I began to see God’s active labor more clearly than before… Outdoors as the wind gently re-arranged my hair… The release of poisoned thought when I opened up to grief… Shifts in reality during times of honest reflection…Courage when meeting challenges head-on… Growth in the experience of Christ-shared prayer.

In John 17: 13-23, there is a call in Jesus’ prayer. At the end of his earthly life Christ asks Our Creator to be “one in heart and mind with us” so that the “world might believe.” I think Jesus is also asking us to become declarations of God’s love through this unity.

The Message by Eugene H. Peterson says the prayer like this –

13-19“Now I’m returning to you.
I’m saying these things in the world’s hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn’t join the world’s ways,
Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways.
I’m not asking that you take them out of the world
But that you guard them from the Evil One.
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
I’m consecrating myself for their sakes
So they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission.

20-23 I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.

Jesus tells us in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”

 My friend declared God’s love through her gift. May we be fruit-bearing branches, too.

We thank You, God of Peace, for the life and sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ. May the love You give through Your Son change our inner world, so that with humility, we can be examples of Your love to the world outside our selves. Amen.

To Live Well

What does it mean to be healthy? A sound mind? A sturdy body? A flourishing spirit? What if you did not have the right to minimal health? Many in our world have been denied exactly that.

Prompted by initiatives planned for the October, 2015 ICOM (International Conference On Missions) in Richmond, Virginia, put forth by the women’s Common Ground event and women’s workshop tracks, I’ve been reading articles concerned with women’s health and reproductive justice. Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, recently renamed Forward Together [www.forwardtogether.org], defines the concept as follows –

“Reproductive Justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality, and reproduction for ourselves, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives.”

Following are a few web locations dealing with inequalities suffered in women’s health care. –

Those of us who have relatively healthy life opportunities may be the evangelists for living a better life to the rest of the world.

What can that mean?

  • We take the time to learn about the issues in our own communities.
  • We share the information with others, locally and globally.
  • We work with others to effect change for all women, everywhere.

Commitment is not enough. It takes discipleship. I think 1 Kings 8:59-61says it well. “And let these words that I’ve prayed in the presence of God be always right there before him, day and night, so that he’ll do what is right for me, to guarantee justice for his people Israel day after day after day. Then all the people on earth will know God is the true God; there is no other God. And you, your lives must be totally obedient to God, our personal God, following the life path he has cleared, alert and attentive to everything he has made plain this day.”

 

 

 

 

Connecting with Mary Nelson of Mission Bible Class

Mary Nelson is the friend of a friend of World Convention. We haven’t met face-to-face yet, but because Doug and Linda Foster have shared their friend and her work with me, I can share her Christian mission in children’s education with you. I hope you enjoy her story and her website, www.MissionBibleClass.org

Julia Keith: How did you become interested in children’s Christian education?
Mary Nelson: The church I attended as a child did not have a Sunday School but every summer my aunt would take my younger brother and me along to the VBS at the church where she was a member. I thought that was an amazing and wonderful experience. I had my first opportunity to teach a children’s Bible class when I was a teenager. I’ve been teaching children ever since.

Julia: I appreciate the encouraging support you offer your site visitors and the wealth of information available. How long has it taken you to bring MissionBibleClass.org to what we can see today?
Mary: The short answer is “over 20 years”. The longer answer…

As the new “preacher’s wife” in the late 1980’s I was asked to clean out and organise a teacher’s supply room that, over many years, had become a graveyard for all sorts of old Sunday School material. Seeing all those stacks of good teaching materials that had only ever been used once and then discarded made me very sad for the waste. That was when I first began a chronological Bible story filing system that would help me retain good teaching ideas in a way that allowed me to put my finger on them the next time I taught the same story.

When my husband and I moved to New Zealand in 1997 another missionary and I decided to build a curriculum for the church we were with. We began by using the lessons that I had in my filing system. She collected visual aids and I wrote the actual lessons. That major project took us about 5 years but we produced a curriculum for our church that covered the Old and New Testaments.

Even after the project was done I continued to work on the material and gather more ideas. In 2011 I extracted my original writing and moved 170 Bible story lessons onto a free WordPress site I called www.missionbibleclass.org . I published it “as is” and have continued to write and complete the lessons. I keep telling myself I’m ALMOST there!

Julia: MissionBibleClass.org has a large and varied following. What do you think has contributed most to building this community of Christian teachers?
Mary: “Mission Bible Class” has been created with a heart for missions. My observation is that most people around the world who are sharing God’s Word with children are not necessarily professional educators or theologians. They love children and want them to learn but they often just don’t know where to start. Keeping that “target audience” in mind I’ve kept the website basic and try to choose teaching tools that are effective yet easy to do.

I also attempt to steer away from brand names, worksheets and too many purchased items for crafts. My intent is that someone without resources and money should never be excluded from sharing Christ with a child. Hopefully, getting away from a scripted and paper-based teaching attitude better equips Christians to teach in a way that fits their own cultural setting.

I think teachers use the site because it is Biblically based and they can find what they need very quickly. I have streamlined the lessons so that it only takes a short amount of time to read the pertinent Scripture and basic background information and then choose from a list of learning activities. That makes it adaptable to any number of teaching situations. It is a place to begin for some and for others it is an additional resource to supplement curriculum they are already using.

Julia: Are there other insights God has given that you would like to share?
Mary: I’ve learned so much about myself and others through this ministry but I’ll just share a couple.

Firstly, older teachers have a lot to offer new teachers. Any idea is a new one if you haven’t heard about it before. Good methods and learning activities are really worth sharing with others. Once you release that knowledge people will use it in ways you never imagined or dreamed possible. Nothing I have provided on www.missionbibleclass.org is, of itself, particularly cutting edge or revolutionary. But equipping people to share the Word of God with the next generation is simply freeing them to do the very thing that God is calling them to do.

Secondly, hearing from other teachers around the world provides encouragement and a kind of natural fellowship. We all have so much in common. Put us in a room together and we immediately begin speaking the same language. The challenge is that we are hardly ever in a room together. We are in churches with only a few children or in churches with more children than we can handle. We pray fervently for children living in a world full of spiritual danger and often in families struggling to cope (families that have too little or families that have too much). We are sharing God with people at the time in their lives when they are most open to Him. They are open but they are young so we are often taken for granted or seen as child care providers while adults are doing the “important stuff”. Yet, we continue because we are convicted by God and energised by the hope we feel when we help a child take steps forward in an eternal journey.

There’s A Family Resemblance

Reunion. Homecoming. Events designed to explore the history of the community we come from, to share the truth of current circumstance, to challenge ourselves into a positive future. This can also be described as a reuniting with family, organization or institution.

Occasions rise that warrant coming together to re-identify with a clan and re-establish somewhat neglected relationships. For my family, this season began with life changes for a cousin and a photograph of my grandfather’s bed.

Papa's bedDownsizing their home, Betty Jo began looking for a new home for this well-worn family artifact and reminded far-flung relatives that we have a common history.

 

 

 

A social media reunion has begun. Beverly, Kent, Pam, and Annette have tossed fading photographs onto the “stack of memory”. We recall the years gone by and the relatives’ stories we long to hear. We marvel at images of people we’ve never seen before and wonder how their lives have impacted ours. We search for our likeness in the eyes, the smiles, the physique. We develop monumental insight from insignificant details. Why did Dad hold Mom’s picture over his heart while his rifle was balanced over his opposing arm? Is he a romantic? A dedicated defender?

I catch the occasional posting, but my days have been filled with other artifacts. Faces and conversations with my global family. Other women and men whose God-inspired groundwork continues to create life in Christian unity. Conventions, assemblies, and lectures help bring us home. Pictures, articles, phone calls, emails and web sites link one story to another and help cement the bond. Scripture and prayer, songs and laughter, challenge and grace help us see our resemblance in the family of God. There are messages in the artifacts and images we hold. Love, justice, protection for the poor and weak.

And here I remember. It is not we who are to be like each other, it is we who are to be like Jesus.

Holy God – How deeply You cherish us…how freely You give! Continue to inspire us to share our lives so the reality of Your kingdom will be known. Allow the sacrifice Jesus made for our souls bring us close to You. Amen.

 

 

Generosity Begets Generosity

I’ve been watching generosity in action this week. Our church is hosting M&M Camp for the children of this community. The “m’s” stand for Music and Mission, providing a framework for spiritual growth through a children’s musical and giving opportunities.

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way. Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us. 2 Corinthians 9:11

Apart from sharing the halls with more than the usual amount of energy, staff, volunteers and kids have been exploring new ways of relating to their resources and to each other. Time, snacks, music, artistry, and a huge supply of good-natured fun are just some of the things that are filling the reservoir. There’s a clothing drive, too. And vegetable plants for the fire-fighters down the street. We’re looking forward to a Sunday afternoon celebration sharing song, art projects, new discoveries and new friends. I’m reminded that ministry comes in all kinds of packages. This week has made us rich! Love and life has been poured into precious children – and they are pouring it all over us! God’s Kingdom is getting stronger and larger by the vision of love that has been shared!

Global Women Connecting has been given a vision, too. Since 1955 we have built friendships, encouraged prayers, and shared stories to promote Christian unity. God’s loving conversion has been revealed through the relationships we have become open to.

Henri Nouwen says it this way: “We belong together in our work because Jesus has brought us together, and our fruitfulness depends on staying connected with him. Jesus tells us: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)”

We connect through Jesus to work together. We work together and are fruitful. We give our fruits and help God build the Kingdom.

It is amazing when we open our lives and give to each other. It is a joy-filled experience when we open our hearts to receive. The children are showing us how this week. May we bless God and the expanding Kingdom by following the example.

 

 

 

God is Friendship

Sitting in front of the computer, I read two statements about God. One typed into the title blank says,God is friendship,” a quote from Aelred of Rievaulx. The other taped to a small piece of paper reminding me of the theme for the next Global Gathering in New Delhi – God Breaks Down Walls to Build Bridges. I make a logical leap, God = Friendship, and, “Voila!”  Friendship Breaks Down Walls to Build Bridges.
How about that. Like magic, a Global Women Connecting mission statement appears!
For the past several weeks I have been reviewing and scanning, and posting artifacts of  a 60 year history of women who have come together to create an organization who are all about God’s work. You will find links to these at the top of the page under World CWF/GWC History. Hover and click to view items on the timeline.
The organization formed and is nurtured through the development of annual prayer topics and special worship services and events like meetings at exhibits and assemblies, the World Convention Global Gatherings and the GWC birthdays on August 20. In addition, funds are raised specifically for the benefit of adopted service projects like Harvest View Academy in Kenya and Lar Esperança and Centro de Educação Esperança in Mozambique.  The work has been sponsored by volunteer women, regions or countries passionate about demonstrating God’s ways of loving us and our loving God back through the bonds of friendship.
There’s always room for one more. One more smile, one more hug, one more hand extended in peace. One more gathering somewhere in the world. That’s how we have grown. Coming together to weave a network of acquaintances who become friends, then taking that connection to the next One.
I plan to keep on collecting examples of the ways I discover this collection of global friends living and loving to share wherever I can – web site, Facebook, Twitter, email and especially face to face. Here’s one from Joy Rice, a member and serving secretary of CWF in the United Kingdom.
May the clouds of yesterday disappear in the sunshine of today.
May your days be full of sunbeams instead of hazy grey.
May God keep you and bless you and take away your fears.
May God comfort and embrace you and wipe away your tears.
May your heart be filled with courage instead of bleak despair.
Remember, God is there at the end of each and every prayer!
Please join in building God’s friendship bridges.

Isolated? Pray to be Reconciling.

I have been thinking about my introverted habit of “alone time” as a personal trait. The current road on my spiritual journey seems to encourage it, and the comfortable way of tuning in to God could be a better way to provide space for a holy relationship to grow. Or perhaps not. Because I ponder things over – and over, any revelations might seem to be quite sound – rational even. I might eventually determine that problems are solved and questions have been answered. Meditation and contemplative thought could produce something addictive and, well, quite isolating.

It is here, at the threshold of isolation that God starts stirring things up. I am reading Rowan Williams’ book, “Being Christian”. The first three chapters explain the Christian essentials of baptism, bible and eucharist offered in beautifully simple yet compelling explorations of primary faith activities. The fourth chapter offers insights to prayer.

Prayer is communion.

There is a need to grow in prayer.  “Growing in prayer,” says Williams, “is growing in Christian humanity.” As people begin to realize that it is because of Jesus Christ they can talk to God in a different way. This new way of talking to God then, is “work of the Spirit of Jesus.” If that is true, then surely “there are things we ought to be saying and believing about Jesus.” You can put yourself in the place of Jesus, letting Jesus pray in you. As Jesus says in John 17:21,  “Father, I pray that all who believe in me can be one. You are in me and I am in you. I pray that they can also be one in us.”

Prayer is community.

Williams’ study of Origen’s writings produce this thought on the question, ‘If God knows what we are going to ask, why bother to pray?’ Williams says, “God knows, of course what we are going to say and do, but God has decided that he will work out his purposes through what we decide to say and do. So, if it is God’s will to bring something about, some act of healing or reconciliation, some change for the better in the world, he has chosen that your prayer is going to be part of a set of causes that makes it happen.”

Prayer is commitment.

Prayer is God’s work in us. Williams tells us, “We are opening our minds and hearts and saying to the Father, ‘Here is your Son, praying in me through the Holy Spirit. Please listen to him because I want him to be working, acting and loving in me.” The more often we are present to God, the deeper his work in our lives and the lives of those around us. We are reconciled and are reconciling. Who we allow ourselves to become affects the world.

I’m thankful that introverted does not mean isolated. I am glad that God uses the regularity of separate space and time to bring together. And most of all, I’m grateful that God uses Jesus to teach us to pray.

 

 

Around the Table

2015 began with a few super-charged days in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with women from USA and Canada – the Disciples Women Leadership Council – that informed and encouraged my new year rejuvenation. Regional and constituency representatives of the International Disciples Women Ministries (IDWM) met to share and plan for this branch of Stone-Campbell women’s ministry in response to the call God continues to make known. Global Women Connecting was invited to participate in the possibilities, bringing a unique relationship and understanding from within the Restoration Movement family.

The resources DWLC made us aware of are abundant! To get an overview, just go to DisciplesWomen.org and begin to browse around. You’ll find the publication, Just Women, written by Disciples women, travel and mission opportunities through Woman to Woman Worldwide, information about Quadrennial Assembly and General Assembly, and the beautiful ministry of Blessing Box and Blessing Bag. These are just the appetizers! Dig into the Program Pages to get a real taste of what Disciples Women bring to Christ’s table! A deepening commitment to address the complex issues of human trafficking is discovered in Link by Link. Social Justice and Action resources are plentiful, and I’m sure you’ll be pleased to see that Global Women Connecting endeavors are also part of the offerings. To further ensure the nourishment of this group of nearly 50 women, DWLC supplied fuel for the future by bringing Minister of Reconciliation, April Johnson to share Pro-Reconciliation/Anti-Racism information, and Rev. Dr. Sharon Stanley-Rea who provided news and initiatives of Refugee & Immigration Ministries.

Complementing this feast of rich discussion and long drinks of reality was the sparkle of new relationship and the sweetness of reuniting with dear friends. I experienced the blessing of devoted women, dedicated to serving our God and our world. #DWSOAR

2015 DWLC