Weekly Thoughts

Leading with hope

This visual is a simplified version adapted from a webinar that Space for Grace facilitated on the 22nd of January 2021 for leaders of Swedish agencies supported by SMC – Faith in Development.

Maintaining your sleepers

By Stanley Arumugam

I am continually impressed with the creativity and rigour of engineering. Railways, for example, provide a critical backbone infrastructure to moving freight in many countries and also passengers in some. The hundreds and thousands of kilometres of railway track are precisely ‘tied’ together with heavy support structures underneath called ‘sleepers’. These rectangular blocks are laid perpendicular to the rails and serve critical purposes:

  • transferring the energy/load to the rail tracks;
  • holding the rails upright and steady;
  • keeping the tracks correctly spaced to the right gauge;
  • in case of derailment, if they have been properly maintained, sleepers can keep the wheels running preventing massive damage.

The distance and durability of railway lines depend on the strength of sleepers.  Railway sleepers need regular checking and maintenance.

This week I ask myself:

  • What are the sleepers in my life?
  • How could I check on my sleepers this week and give them some maintenance?

Start to Finish

By Stanley Arumugam

Today is my grandniece’s first day at big school. This week was a new start for many children – a new grade, a new school and a new way of being in school. At the start of the year, parents and family have big dreams for their children – seeing the finishing line already in their minds. For their children, especially the little ones – getting through the day is a big enough challenge. 

In a world of work consumed with results, deliverables and outcomes, we can easily be fixated on the end product and lose the joy of the moment. As a manager myself, I am socialised to look out for milestones, progress reports and board submissions—the measure of my work and sometimes my worth tied up in my place at the finish line.  

Finish lines are essential as a destination point, as a beacon of direction providing a sense of purpose. But getting to the finish line first, as if life was a sprint, is foolish. It steals the joy of being in the present. One of my trauma clients reminded me that the Covid-related death of both her parents, within a month, has slowed her down. Now she is being intentional about stopping and smelling the roses that her parents planted in her garden.

  • What roses are you missing when you are so focused on the finish line? 

He has overcome the world

By Rick James

2021 has started badly. As I write COVID-19 is ripping its way through Southern Africa for the first time. A very close friend has just died. Jesus’ words in John 16 “In this world you will have trouble… ” feels all too true. At hard times like this I know I have to allow Jesus to finish his sentence for me “… but take heart for I have overcome the world.”

Hope does not arise from things looking positive, nor wishful thinking, nor superficial optimism. Hope starts byacknowledging the deep pain, confusion and frustrations of the current realities. Yet it does not languish there. Hope discerns and then works towards a goal. Hope is a motivation to persevere towards that goal even when we are not sure of the outcome. Hope is a virtue, not a personality type. It is a mindset that helps us to stay in the game in the face of significant adversity. 

That mindset is based, not on circumstances, but on our faith in Jesus. Faith and hope (and love) are inextricably linked. It matters where we put our faith. 

If I really knew, deep down, that Jesus has overcome the world:

• What difference would this make to the way I see my week ahead?

• What would I do differently in the light of this knowledge?

Hope

By Elaine Vitikainen

A week ago, Space for Grace facilitated a webinar for leaders of Swedish mission agencies supported by SMC. We asked everyone to bring an object from home that symbolizes hope. Without second thoughts, I brought an orchid plant that I bought many years ago. Growing up in the tropics, the plant itself is nothing special for me. I was expecting it to last for only a few months. But over the years, it keeps producing flowers. The plant looks very fragile. Many times, it seems like it’s almost dying. But again it sprouts new stems and produces more flowers. 

This plant became a symbol of hope for me as I navigate through these uncertain times. I know that the plant’s growth is made possible because of the nutrients provided by the soil. This made me reflect on where do I get my motivation to persevere? Where does my hope comes from?

Jeremiah 29:1 says, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

False positivity is an easy trap to fall into. However, I cannot face my circumstances through mere positivity and misleading assurance that everything will be alright. I believe that where I put my hope matters. I know that it is easier said that done. However, reflecting back on what God has done in my life allows me to look forward to what God is doing each day and to God’s promise for tomorrow. 

What makes you hopeful? Where does your hope comes from?

Walking by this week

By Nick Wright

I have been deeply challenged this week by an incident that happened to my colleague Jasmin in the Philippines. As she was getting off a minibus, she glimpsed a young boy trying to scrape an income guiding cars into parking spaces. The heat was overwhelming. The boy sat down exhausted, looking weak and unwell.

In the midst of COVID-lockdown, I’d have sensibly walked away. Instead, Jasmin walked over to him, spoke gently and reached out to touch his face. His skin was burning with a fever. She urged him to stay there while she rushed to find medicine, food and drink. When she returned with the supplies, she also gave him enough money to cover what he’d have earned in two weeks so that he could rest and recover. She helped him onto a minibus home. The boy looked up at her, a stranger. He couldn’t speak; he only cried.

When I asked Jasmin why she took such a risk, she said, quite simply, ‘I imagined how I would have felt if I was that teenager.’ She couldn’t bear to leave him alone, so very sick. She gave what little she had so that his family would not become destitute. To me, she lived out Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

This week, when we come across someone in need, let’s ask ourselves:

  • How are they feeling?
  • How can I help?

More stories about Jasmin in the Philippines by Nick Wright can be found here.

See, I am doing a new thing!

By Elaine Vitikainen

Every beginning of the year, Isaiah 43:19 speaks to me. Last year, I wrote a Weekly Thought about this verse too. However this year, this verse spoke to me very strongly. There is indeed a great longing inside of me for a real change to happen. I’m thankful that 2020 ended. 2020 didn’t perform as well as I expected. I realised during my review of the year that I was very much affected by the pandemic. It was a very frustrating year. I heard many distressing stories, not just from far away but from friends who were directly affected by COVID-19. 

Although, I can’t honestly say that I’m full of hope for 2021, that things will get back to normal, that we will take back our lives. However, there are things that I’m really looking forward to. I’m really looking forward to something new to spring up and becomes alive as God intended it. I would like to allow God to make a way for me in my present reality, and to quench my longings for a new beginning and a better year. There is hope and I’m actually looking forward to what 2021 will bring because I’ve come to realise that whatever good things that will happen in 2021 are founded on the experiences of 2020. All I went through last year will strengthen this year. And I’m thankful that amidst all the changes, my God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) I’m constantly reminded to take my eyes off COVID and fix my eyes on what God is doing. (Hebrews 12:2)

How was your year 2020? What are your hopes for 2021? 

Have a blessed New Year. 

Re-considering 2020 as ‘pure joy’? Seriously?

By Rick James

2020 has certainly been an awful year for many of us. How many times have I asked myself ‘When will we get out of this?’ or ‘How can I get out of this?’ Maybe these are the wrong questions. Perhaps I should be asking ‘What can I get out of 2020?’

I often wonder what those strange verses in James 1 mean. He exhorts us to:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

I don’t think this means I have to consider the trials themselves as pure joy, but if they produce perseverance and maturity then perhaps what comes out of them is net gain. Dealing with any suffering takes perseverance, preferably with the support of others around us. We may realise we cannot solve this problem, we cannot fix things. For many of us this is tough to take. And our response is almost passive, allowing God to “Let perseverance finish its good work in you”.

2020 hold the possibility of being a profound turning point in many ways. It could prove a transformational time in our personal relationship with God, in our relationships with others and in our leadership. Our dashed hopes this year may reveal what we actually put our hope in. As our idols come into the light we may be better able to let them go. 2020 can lead us to an appreciation of life, restored relations with those around us, recognising personal strengths we did not know we had and realisation of new possibilities. Such post-traumatic growth can be considered as pure joy.

Looking back on 2020 reflect on:
What has God been trying to do in me in 2020?
What is 2020 revealing about you? What idols or attachments have come into light?
What has God been trying to do through me?