By Elaine Vitikainen
“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 wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Isaiah 43:18-19 is a very popular verse in the New Year. It’s in social media, as a part of church sermons, in devotions and even on greeting cards. Many people equate this verse with the beginning of the year where God brings in new things with great provision and prosperity.
But what does Isaiah 43:18-19 really means? Bible commentaries look back at Israel’s past. It talks about how Isaiah saw God’s new manifestation of redemption through the birth of Jesus Christ. This to me talks about the reaffirming of my faith in Christ and my relationship with God. It is an assurance of hope and peace in the amidst of the turbulent world that I live in. It does not promise of financial gains and prosperity. It speaks to me about spiritual gains where Christ is the centre.
As the New Year begins, let’s listen prayerfully about what 2020 means for our relationship with God. In what areas does our relationship need to deepen and change? Where do we need refreshment, strength and determination?
Have a blessed New Year.
By Elaine Vitikainen
A few years ago, I facilitated a reflection exercise with an organisation to look back
at its life over the last 15 years. We recalled the events and accomplishments in the organisation. We also looked at the high points and the low points on the journey and how people felt during those times. Participants shared their memories. At the end, I asked them to think about who they are and what has characterised how they have worked together over the years. It was a good session. The participants were encouraged and inspired. It reawakened people’s commitment to actively engage in the day-to- day work.
This exercise reminded me of Joshua’s final speech. During Joshua’s farewell, he looked back at all that God has done during his leadership. In Joshua 24: 31, it says “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua”. Joshua emphasised that God is the only source of their success.
It is immensely valuable every now and then to look back as an organisation, to contemplate the journey and recognise how God has been with you all the way.
Plan time with your team (however short) to stop and reflect. Look back and ask yourselves how things have gone, what you have learned, and where did you sense God’s presence this year. Create space to reconnect with why you do what you do.
If you haven’t emailed us yet on how Space for Grace will shape itself in 2020, please do so as we are looking forward to hear from you. If you have Weekly Thoughts to share to the Space for Grace network, please get in touch with us. Here, you can find some helpful tips in Writing Weekly Thoughts. You can also download the Weekly Thought booklets for the coming year.
Space for Grace wishes you a blessed Christmas. The next Weekly Thought will be published on Monday, the 13th of January 2020.
By Elaine Vitikainen
The renewed Space for Grace website is now on its third year with 7,856 visits. Visitors have benefitted from the rich resources that Space for Grace has to offer. But what is Space for Grace? How did it start? What do we do?
Here you can read the short chronology of Space for Grace. This very early conversation led to the publishing of ‘Creating Space for Grace’ in 2004. It was through this booklet that I first encountered Space for Grace. This booklet was shared to the organisation I worked with in Cambodia. We also have published a Sketchnote which explains why we exist and what we do.
But how did we serve you? Where are we going? Please send us an email to share your thoughts on how Space for Grace will shape itself in 2020. We are looking forward to hear from you.
By Elaine Vitikainen
December is a busy month. We are submitting urgent reports, plans and budgets for next year. We are trying to tie up uncooperative loose ends. December can be stressful as we try to pack so many urgent activities in a short time.
But just as God called us to our work, I also believe that God calls us away from it. Amidst the hectic schedule, God calls us away to a place of rest. In John 4, we meet Jesus sitting by Jacob’s Well. He was resting as he was tired from the journey. I’m reassured that, like us, Jesus got tired.
Just as Jesus sat by the well, we too need to allow ourselves to rest. We should not fear empty spaces but instead be thankful for those moments of rest. God is calling us to rest in him. We rest in the knowledge that God is working with us. Our real achievements this past year have not come from our own strength, but only in as much as we have allowed God to work through us.
May God provide rest for our bodies and souls during this busy time. May God renew our joy and give us peace as we prepare for the coming year.
By William Ogara
What most people call mentorship is actually mostly about building people’s confidence. In one week alone, I have received the following requests:
“I am a member of an international board and we have just appointed a CEO who would like mentorship support from a fellow Christian. Can you assist him grow in his job?”
“I am keenly interested in pursuing a Doctorate, but I need your help to decide the area to specialise in”.
“We haven’t spoken for quite a long time… By the way, are you in a position to be my mentor?”
As I followed-up with each one, it turned out that people were primarily looking to build their confidence. It is about accompanying our fellow workers in achieving their assigned tasks in challenging situations. This reminded me of growing up in the village and learning to ride a bicycle with a large box of dried fish on the back. Initially I hid in the bush, hoping my father would not find me. But as I gradually understood how we needed this income for school fees and as I got more confident wobbling along the track, I began to enjoy it more and more. My father sometimes held my hands, sometimes let go, sometimes encouraged, at other times even punished. But he was always patient. It is like Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to pass on whatever he had witnessed to those who are ready in turn to share with others.
Who are we accompanying in their tasks? How can we build their confidence?
By Elaine Vitikainen
In the blog post, What is Space for Grace , we were reminded that Space for Grace is a way of working and a theology of change. As we strive for professional excellence, following the good organisational development practice, we believe that the change process involves a spiritual dimension.
The following principles distinguish a ‘Space for Grace’ approach from simply good OD. As Space for Grace facilitators, we hold ourselves accountable to these principles:
Discern how God is already at work and whether the timing is right.
Pray for your client and get others to intercede for them.
Listen to God and to the people involved.
Design the intervention based on a biblical process of change.
Facilitate with grace by seeking to understand, empathise, support and appreciate.
Create safe spaces for more trusting relationships to develop.
Create and hold spaces for God’s spirit to inspire change.
Walk alongside the client after any intervention.
Humbly recognise that we are only instruments in a change process.
Here, you can find a Sketchnote of the Space for Grace principles.
If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact Elaine Vitikainen (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Rick James (email@example.com).
By Lorentz Forsberg
A friend came to visit me in my office. She is newly employed as an administrator at the parish level of one of our Swedish churches. We talked about our children and things in general for a while. Then she said suddenly:
“It took me a while to figure out what was wrong with my new job. I have just realised that people around me look stuck. They do not expect results. They do not even want to develop and change. We are just supposed to do the things we do and that is it. What should I do? I want to change this!”
Now this is a healthy start, I thought. Someone eager to lift the curtains, get rid of the dust and open the window to change. But as I probed with some questions it became clearer that things were not that easy. The organisation is tired to their bones of top-down driven change-processes. I really started to feel for my friend, as she was now embarking on this wonderfully difficult journey of being an internal change agent. It will be exhausting as well as exciting.
So, what could I say to this? Well, I did not say much, mostly I listened. My only advice in the end was to try to establish new ways of doing things in the areas of work were she had control. To model a different practice, even in small ways, can be an example to the organisation and its management. It will take her time to build trust and grow into her mission. As we parted, we agreed to keep in touch on this. People trying to free organisations from their stuck situations need a lot of support.
How can you inspire change through the way you do the small things?
What can you do to encourage the internal change agents that you know?
By Sven-Erik Fjellström
Hope this email finds you well and not too busy.
I’ve recently been talking to some friends about that day when Jesus came to visit you (Luke 10:38-42). Things must have been very hectic indeed – and your sister Mary for one reason or another just decided to sit down to listen to Jesus.
Many of us share your frustration. I think we all have “both a Martha and a Mary in us”. The tricky thing is to find the balance. This applies to leadership too I suppose. But when thinking about leadership in hectic times, I worry about the artificial separation we make between the spiritual and worldly.
For me, periods of hectic leadership have sometimes been the most spiritual times in my life. Facing huge challenges forced me to pray like never before. I do understand your frustration about Mary. But I’m also inspired by you as a praying, meditating and reflecting person. The deep conversation you had with Jesus when your brother Lazarus died, as well as your confession that Jesus is the Messiah made me reevaluate my first impressions of you.
So, please, as soon as time allows, let me know what you think about the balance between the spiritual and worldly in our leadership.
Stay blessed, Sven-Erik
By Lorentz Forsberg
As soon as I clicked ‘Send’ I knew I had made a mistake. I knew that this message was not the sort to write and send in anger. At the same time I felt a rush of excitement. I thought: ‘Finally I’m showing some guts, I’m proving I’m no longer just a lap-dog’.
My email essentially accused a group of colleagues of being the root cause of the culture of criticism that I felt had come to permeate all our office interactions. In my brief moment of ‘righteous fury’ I was convinced that the blame was all but mine. In one blow, however uncharacteristic, I managed to jeopardise years of trust and (mostly) good relations.
The golden part of this story is how my colleagues reacted and how they acted towards me. Yes, there were some tears and awkward moments. But as I look back on the days that followed I can honestly say that they have become a precious memory for me. As I was trying to clean up the mess I had made, I encountered so much love and care. I soon saw a maturity in my colleagues, that previously I had been blind to. My contempt transformed into awe and appreciation.
I know I should not have sent that e-mail. But all the same I love the effect it had…
What e-mails should you not send? What can you do instead?
By Pieter Messelink
You might recognise the situation: you’re giving some input in a training or a meeting. You can see a mixed response. Some heads nodding, but others frowning, looking as if they want to burn down your ideas. I know I’m sensitive to negative feedback. To avoid the pain I tend to externalise blame. It must be someone else’s fault. This natural reaction is usually not the best ground for learning and development.
So whenever I get negative feedback I’ve started to ask myself three questions:
1. Where is the source of my identity?
If my identity comes from what I do or say, I’m in trouble. I remind myself that first and foremost I’m a child of God. Because of his amazing and borderless grace, I’m loved unconditionally. God is the source of life and wants the best for me.
2. What is God saying to me in this situation?
I take captive my own thoughts and re-align myself with my sense of calling. I seek to hear God’s perspective on the situation and then seek to respond. I do this whenever I’m preparing inputs for a training or a meeting. I remind myself: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
3. Am I willing to see those who criticise me as my coach?
God works through community. We are not meant to be lone or lonely rangers. A trusting team provides a solid base, helping me to distinguish the constructive feedback from the destructive.