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It Only Takes A Spark
My husband and I saw the movie Jesus Revolution a few weeks ago. The movie tells the story of the nascent Jesus Movement during the summer of 1969, focusing on the spiritual collision course between a struggling teen, Greg Laurie, traditional pastor Chuck Smith, and hippie preacher Lonnie Frisbee. I came to faith in Christ in early 1974. I am a daughter of the revival that swept across the country during those heady years. The words to the once-popular Christian campfire chorus were true: it only took a spark to get a fire going.
The movie did a good job capturing the vibe of the cultural and religious conflict of the era, as well as the explosive growth in the church that reached far beyond the four walls of Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel. But the movie reminded me of something else about that time. For many of us, the only mentors in the faith we had were other brand new believers. Older Christians didn’t always welcome the unconventional dress, rock and roll music, or “worldly” baggage many young Jesus Freaks were carrying. And many of us Jesus Freaks had absorbed the Generation Gap messaging from the prevailing youth culture of the day that told us we’d be idiots to trust anyone over thirty.
That generational disconnect did some serious harm to both young and seasoned believers. Some of our elders closed their hearts and missed God-gifted opportunities to share their experience and pass on their wisdom. And without mentoring, our youthful faith could be both fiery and foolish. . . sometimes simultaneously.
If you’re a Bible reader, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is likely familiar to you. This passage prescribes the organic ways in which one generation passes on their faith to the next, and the next generation inspires their elders to live that faith fully and meaningfully. A healthy mentoring relationship is always a two-way street. Otherwise, the “mentee” becomes a project instead of a whole person.
Thankfully, the last couple of decades have seen a hopeful corrective to the disconnect that existed between generations during the Jesus Movement era. In this month’s newsletter, we’re talking about mentoring. Carole Duff shares her rich insights below, and we have some links to other pieces on the subject of mentoring immediately following her piece. This issue of the newsletter also includes our team’s monthly media picks, a link to a very worthwhile half-hour conversation about failure (and flourishing!) with Sage Forum contributor Sharla Fritz, and more.
We’d love to hear from you! Have you had a positive experience being mentored? Mentoring someone else? What wisdom do you have to share? Any good resources that have helped you? We may pass on your thoughts in next month’s newsletter.
Remember, it only takes a spark to get a fire going, Sister Sages!
Michelle Van Loon for TheSageForum.com team
Mentoring in the Second Half of Life
by Carole Duff
While working at an all-girls secondary school in Dallas in the 90s, I designed and implemented a women-mentoring-women summer internship program. The program offered opportunities for rising seniors to explore careers through real-world, on-the-job experience before heading to college. I’d been given opportunities to teach during my student years and was blessed with wonderful mentors throughout my career. So, administering the internship program felt like giving back. As the program expanded online, students in grades 9-12 interacted with mentors who encouraged them to grow and learn from their successes and failures.
Research studies have repeatedly shown that girls have a disproportionate tendency for perfectionism and avoiding risk out of fear of failure. Also, adolescence is a critical period for self-discovery and the development of self-esteem.
In the first decade of the 21st century, I moved to Baltimore and served as the curriculum technologist at another all-girls secondary school. There I fostered the concept of mentoring through faculty tech mentors and student technology advisors, the STARs. Then I left my career and entered the second half of life. How to foster mentoring now? I wondered.
Mentoring is at least as old as the ancient Greeks and can take many forms: one-on-one, distance, or group. Usually, it involves a sustained relationship between a seasoned mentor coaching a younger mentee to help build skills and knowledge that will be useful for getting and keeping a job, earning a living, and progressing in one’s chosen profession. The focus of mentoring in the first half of life tends to be on work.
The focus in the second half of life shifts from acquiring wealth, success, and prominence through work to valuing relationships, service to others, and the inner journey. Sounds like a welcome change, doesn’t it? But the common markers of the end of the first half of life—the empty nest and retirement—can be unsettling, disconcerting, even depressing or distressing. Some resist this change out of fear. But those who brave the transition are uniquely qualified to mentor others on their spiritual life journeys.
Spiritual mentoring is defined as, “a relationship between mentor, mentee and the Holy Spirit. Through this relationship, the mentee seeks to discover what God is already doing in his or her life, and thereby grow in friendship with God, identity in God, and awareness of God's call.” (From The Sharpen Guide to Spiritual Mentoring)
Of course, spiritual mentoring can happen at any age. But those in the liminality between the first and second stages of life, like the adolescent transitioning from student to work life or a woman first becoming a mother, are at a critically important time for self-discovery, the less-me and more-Jesus kind.
Veteran second-half-of-lifers have more of the 3 A’s of mentorship: more availability, more time for active listening, and more experience to inform analysis for giving good feedback. While children and young adults might coach their elders on how to use new technologies, second-half-of-lifers provide perspective and the big picture, which can get lost when pursing success or forgotten if addicted to busyness.
I don’t think it’s too much to say that mentoring is essential to growing our Christian faith. Jesus mentored others to know him and represent his Father’s love in the world. He risked failure everywhere he went and in everything he did, and his work bore amazing fruit. We are all part of this big picture. So, while mentors in the first half of life are blessed to serve, those in the second half are called to a second work of grace.
More on mentoring
April Media Picks from Sage Forum Contributors
[VIDEO–Amazon Prime] Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. I admit, it’s a strange concept. Marcel and his grandmother are literally shells who live in a formerly enjoyable home turned into an Airbnb rental when the couple who used to live there separated. Members of Marcel’s family were accidentally taken with one of them, and Marcel misses them. Overall, it’s a good message on meaningful community and coping with change. This movie was heartfelt, clean (PG), and surprisingly, it worked. (JA)
[BOOK] Let There Be Art: The Pleasure and Purpose of Unleashing the Creativity Within You by Rachel Marie Kang. Creating art is in everything we do - making dinner, decorating a home, writing, painting, loving, laughing. Kang explains, "Our story first begins with the fold of darkness, not with the forbidden fruit and the inevitable fall. Our story begins when God creates boundaries to contain and control the darkness and the deep. . . God, in his infinite power, plans a partnership with man in this work of pushing back the darkness, long before he even breathes life into man's lungs." (p. 23) And creating art is how we do that. Kang is a talented author who brings her creativity, her art, to us in this book. (JA)
[BOOK] All My Knotted-Up Life by Beth Moore. Candid, vulnerable, and filled with Moore’s shoot-from-the-hip honesty, humor, and rock-bottom faith—plus her Nanny’s priceless quips. Moore tells her story and invites others to see theirs in hers. (CD) Sage Forum member Michelle Van Loon has an extended review of the book here.
[BOOK] Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. I can't say enough good things about this book! I appreciate the author's attention to detail and the curiosity that she brings to male-centric design. It's making me look at everything differently. I've had many AHA! moments: "Oh! My cameras/water bottle/mug were not designed by a woman which is why my hand hurts after holding it." (DG)
[BOOK] Sunrise by Susan May Warren. I enjoyed the carefully crafted Alaskan setting of this book, including the descriptions of dogs trained for the Iditarod. This setting, so full of weather-related struggle and great beauty, also describes the two rugged, unpredictable main characters and their messy journey with family, forgiveness, and each other. (AR)
[TV SERIES–Hallmark] The Way Home. This series captures the longing of many of our hearts: If only I could go back in time and fix some of the family pain that has engulfed me for so long. The first season of this series definitely does not follow the predictable Hallmark movie happy-ending formula but instead includes lots of twists and turns and sorrow and growth. Every show leaves me thinking and praying about my own family pain. (AR)
[VIDEO–Amazon Prime] Victoria and Abdul. Dame Judy Dench portrays an aging, profoundly lonely Queen Victoria in this 2017 film about an unlikely friendship between the monarch and a clerk from India tasked with delivering a gift to her. (MV)
Spiritual Practice for April: Ask a Resurrection Question
Those who are churchgoers may get swept up in the celebration of a sunrise service on Easter, which is April 9th this year. Others may enjoy a get-together with family or friends for a special meal.
Writer and activist Wendell Berry coined the phrase “Practice Resurrection”. Those arresting words are an invitation to those who do not yet follow Jesus to peer inside that empty tomb. They are a call to those who are followers of the risen Jesus to live in its reality.
What might it look like to practice resurrection on April 10th and beyond? Let Wendell Berry’s phrase settle into your soul and provoke prayer about this question. We’d love to hear what you discover!
Check out this conversation about failure and flourishing with Sage Forum contributor Sharla Fritz
Rightly understanding our perceived failures is one way we can grow in wisdom. Sharla wrote a helpful study of the subject called Measured by Grace: How God Defines Success. This topic is especially relevant to those of us in the second half of our lives. Michelle Van Loon and Sharla had a lively and life-giving thirty minute conversation about the topic. Please give it a listen and feel free to share the link from our brand-new YouTube channel with a friend!
Next month’s Sage Forum newsletter topic: Clothing, fashion, and appearance for our Wonder Years. From graying hair to a changing body, how can we think in a life-giving way about how we look now that we’re not Forever 21? Got favorite stores, resources, or websites to recommend? Shoot us an email!
Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. –Psalm 145:4 NLT