Tag Archives: missional living

Meet My Friend . . . Helen Lee

I’m so excited to introduce you to Helen Lee — a fellow author whose ideas I strongly resonate with. Helen is the author of The Missional Mom and here she shares her thoughts about missional living and hospitality. How can you live out your mission? Keep reading to be challenged and inspired!

Helen, so glad to introduce you to my “friends.” Can you tell them a bit about yourself?

Kelli, I’m honored to be interviewed on your blog! As for an introduction, I am a homeschooling mom of three boys 9 years old and under; wife to classical pianist Brian Lee, and co-founder of Redbud Writers Guild and Best Christian Workplaces Institute. Not all at the same time, of course. =)

You’ve written a book called The Missional Mom. Where did the idea for this book begin for you?

To understand my motivation for writing the book, we have to go back nine years, back to when I was a new mom with the first of my three boys. When I became a mother, as much as I loved and treasured my new baby boy, I have to confess that I found the transition to motherhood very challenging. It wasn’t just the physical changes that you go through as a mother, but it was also an internal struggle for me. I found myself wrestling with so many questions about what my life was supposed to be like now that I was a mom. Such as:

• Was motherhood supposed to be my only calling in life?

• What was I supposed to do with my experiences and education that God had given me before I was a mom?

• Why did the idea that I was supposed to completely immerse myself in motherhood and nothing else feel uncomfortable to me?

And the very process of asking these questions brought feelings of guilt, that I was a bad mother to be even asking these questions! So it was a very confusing time. As a writer I knew that to work through these questions, I’d need to write about it.

How would you define the term “missional”? What does it mean to live with a missional mind-set?

There has been so much written about this word that it’s daunting to try to encapsulate it into a few sentences! But for me, being missional means to embrace your calling as God’s missionary in whatever context he has placed you, and embracing his mission for you as your primary calling in life. For the Christian mother, who often mistakenly assumes that once she becomes a mom that motherhood is supposed to be her primary calling in life, I feel as though the missional perspective offers a great corrective.

Once you become a mom, your mission does not change! You are still primarily called to be God’s witness (locally and globally) and disciple-maker, and of course your home is a big context in which that happens. But by no means is it intended to be the only one. Embracing a missional perspective as a mother means that you understand your primary calling as God’s ambassador in this world, and you integrate motherhood into that calling.

And, as Scot McKnight explains so succinctly in the book, being missional is about asking a simple question: “How can I help you?” Mothers have so many opportunities to ask that question in their daily walks of life. In their neighborhoods, in their children’s school, in their workplaces–asking the question means you are taking a proactive posture and initiating in people’s lives rather than retreating into one’s own home life and ignoring the needs around you. Being a missional mom means the opposite of only focusing on one’s family; it means embracing God’s call to have an impact on the world around us, and helping our families to also be a vehicle God uses to help, serve, and love others.

Who’s somebody (or more than one person) who’s a “hero” to you when it comes to missional living? How or why does this person’s example inspire you?

My book is a collection of the stories of so many “heroes” who inspire me towards missional living. Women such as Arloa Sutter, founder and executive director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries, who started the ministry out of a desire to be obedient to God’s call to love those who are poor, and whose obedience God used to build a ministry that now touches thousands of people in Chicago. The thing is, Arloa did not know when she first began that her initial steps of reaching out to others would result in a ministry the size and scope that Breakthrough is today. But she embraced the calling that God had given her, step by step, day by day, and now she can look back and see how God has used her offerings of time, talent, and treasure in tremendous ways.

I’m not just inspired by women like Arloa who have built a tangible ministry, however; any time I hear about a mom in particular who demonstrates an obedience to the call of God to be His witness and disciplemaker, I feel a sense of awe and wonder.

In your own experience, how does missional living relate to hospitality?

Hospitality is clearly a missional value, in my mind. However, by “hospitality” I don’t just mean that we have pristine, guest-ready houses offering gourmet meals. Hospitality in the missional sense means that you are taking initiative in other people’s lives, that you are willingly embracing discomfort to build relationships with those who are different from you, that you are recognizing that all our possessions are not ours in the end, but the Lord’s to be used for the purpose of connecting with others. Hospitality ultimately means welcoming the stranger, and even bringing them into your family, such as in adoption. I think it is very difficult to live missional lives without reflecting hospitality in some way in and through our families.

 How can a woman, whether or not she’s a mom, begin to see each day differently — through a “missional” lens?

In my mind, living missionally is all about having an outward orientation in our lives, as opposed to continually being focused on our own lives, homes and families. As Rick Warren so famously says in The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” And how right he is. But we so easily get caught up in the fallacy that it is about us, or our kids, or our spouses. Christians, however, are a called people, called to God and to his mission in the world. Living a missional life is all about claiming–or reclaiming–the basic essence of who God has made us to be.

Thanks, Helen! You can learn more about Helen at her site www.themissionalmom.com and you can join in the conversation at the Missional Mom facebook page.

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Meet My Friend . . . Emily Cetola

To wrap up June’s focus on the discipline of evangelism (I realize June ended yesterday…sorry I’m late!), I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Emily Cetola. I knew she’d have good things to say, but to be honest, I must say that her answers to my questions have floored me. Wow! Wonderful insights — both inspiring and challenging to me personally. Keep reading if you, too, desire to grow in the area of sharing your faith . . . 

Emily, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Iʼve been married for almost 12 years to a wonderful husband, who keeps life interesting with his storm chasing, study of world cultures, and reading passions. We have three kids, ages 6, 3, and 1. Right now I stay home with our kids, and much of my energy goes towards keeping our family rolling along, with all that entails. I love being creative and artistic, especially with music. Someday I would love to write worship songs in Italian. I dabble in all sorts of hobbies, such as reading, gardening, camping, water skiing, cooking, sewing, song writing — depending on the day!

You and your family are preparing to head to Italy as missionaries. That “title” comes with a lot of expectations. In what ways does this coming adventure excite you? challenge you?

This “calling” if you will has been brewing in me since I was a kid. As the time draws closer for our family to actually make the move overseas, Iʼm really excited to see it all come to fruition. Iʼm looking forward to introducing our kids to a new culture, pointing out each step of the way how God is the same no matter where we are in the world. Iʼve come to a point in this journey where I have realized that in many ways, God is leading me on this path to shape my own heart and character. Only in my personal transformation to be more like Jesus will I have any “usefulness” in the Great Commission. This is both exciting and challenging. There is a lot of self-examination that goes on in the process of saying goodbye to a life that is relatively comfortable and familiar. A lot of measuring priorities. Probably the hardest part is thinking through all these issues on behalf of our kids. There are a lot of fine lines between worry & responsibility, trust & wisdom. But thatʼs true of parenting whether it is here or there.

As you know, this month’s topic has been evangelism which is a tough one for me and for many others. What do you find personally challenging about evangelism?

To be totally honest, the hardest part of evangelism for me is having to address the questions in my own heart — do I really believe the gospel of Jesus is true? Have I really been personally transformed by it? What tangible, credible stories from my own life point to Jesus? Am I humble? If I am going to put it all out on the line, I want to be as authentic and vulnerable in evangelism as possible. Sliding into the “pat” answers is often easier and takes less emotional energy. But investing in the soul-searching is what makes evangelism authentic and much more natural.

On the flip side, which aspects of evangelism come naturally to you?

I think that compassion is a huge start to evangelism, and thatʼs something I feel strongly about. Every person on the planet has a sin problem, which means every person experiences pain to some extent. Whether itʼs our own sin, or the sin of another, or simply the fact that we live in a broken world, weʼve experienced the pain of sin. I canʼt think of a better place to start than coming alongside a person, learning his/her life story, and identifying with (not correcting!) whatever is “broken” in her life. While some people will open up at a deeper level than others, it rarely takes anyone very long to complain or grieve about something. The greater the trust youʼve cultivated in the relationship, the greater your opportunity to speak of the One who carried the pain of the world on His shoulders, and the healing He is longing to give to anyone who comes to Him.

I think perhaps one reason I feel reticent during some “evangelism” conversations is because I don’t want to come across as an “obnoxious Christian.” In other words, I want to overcome negative stereotypes others may have about Christians (as obnoxious, judgmental, egotistical, poor listeners, un-empathetic, etc.). What insights do you have about how we can share our faith with confidence while striving to overcome obstacles and stereotypes like these?

Hopefully Iʼve already started to answer this in the above questions. I can get pretty worked up when I think about examples of the negative stereotypes youʼve described, but then I have to check myself and determine if Iʼm letting pride eat up precious emotional energy that could otherwise be used on examining my own heart for authenticity. We live in a day and age when everyone is trying to market something. Itʼs an age of information overload. Itʼs a time when real, live face to face relationships are replaced by virtual social networks on our computers and phones. As Christians, we should embrace the opportunities these provide, but we should also take the time to get to know people, invite them into our homes, let them see how our lives are messy sometimes (or most of the time!) and give them the opportunity to see the difference that Jesus has made. And that because we love them, we long to introduce them to Jesus, too. A great place to start is simply offering to read the Bible with them (i.e. the book of John), and create a safe place to dialogue, ask questions, etc. without any fear of rejection.

How do evangelism & parenting intersect?

I love this question, because there are so many opportunities. Every time we discipline our kids (and be honest, some days it feels like thatʼs all we do), we have the chance to share the gospel. To show how it applies in every day life and pray with our kids. Even the youngest kids can begin to understand that they have a sin problem that deserves a punishment, but that they arenʼt left helpless in their problem. They can understand on simple terms that Jesus took the “biggest” punishment for them, so that they could have a right relationship with God and enter heaven. My kids love imagining about what heaven will be like — a great opportunity to encourage the hope and excitement they have about going there. We talk about the gospel a lot in our daily activities. We talk a lot about how God designed the world to work, and what happens when we make choices contrary to that plan. There are so many opportunities to get kids thinking about God and His salvation plan, and of course His love.

 As you continue to prepare to head overseas, how can we be praying for you?

Pray for our family, that we would have good time management, and extra load of patience and grace with each other during the stressful times, and that we would always keep sight of the reason for our obedience to this call. Pray for Godʼs provision from individuals and churches that will allow us to leave for Italy in the coming months. For our kids, that God would hold them close to His heart in the days of transition ahead. And for me personally, that I would have time to feed my own soul in the midst of caring for our family and ministry needs.

Thank you, Emily! Please join me in praying for the Cetolas as they continue raising support and get ready for their move. To learn more about their missions adventure, head to www.cetolafamily.com. To view the video on their site, enter “italy” as the password.