"Sharpening Moments" (Women's Leadership Institute - 2020)


Every day is filled with them.   Opportunities to encourage and challenge someone or to be encouraged and challenged by someone else.  Sometimes both happen at the same time.  Kind of a mutual sharpening.  Those are my favorite kind.  Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” 

There I stood at my resource table on "Friendship Sunday".  I was the musical guest at a neighboring church, and had just led fairly rousing congregation hymns, energetic kids choruses, and a sweet rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" all centered on the theme of 'sharing our faith'.   The gentlemen approached  me with a smile and kind compliments to my voice.   We began a friendly conversation.  He attended church here every week,  sang in the choir, and worked downtown at a stressful job.  His biggest obstacle was having a good attitude towards his co-workers.   When I asked if his job challenges might be a way to share his faith, he quickly dismissed the thought  replying, "Oh, I don't really talk about my faith."  I verbally wondered why.  Mark's reason:  He was shy and expected his actions would speak enough for others to see his faith.     

Ok.  Yes, actions are good.  They can speak louder than words and people take notice. Yet, words are pretty important and in many cases, they're powerful - even essential.   The spoken word last years in our memories, and echo long in our minds.  Often, words are more meaningful than actions.  Finally,  words are scriptural, and a means that God wants us to use.  King David wrote in Psalms 145:3-7: "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.  One generation commends Your works to another; They tell of Your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty— and I will meditate on Your wonderful works.  They tell of the power of Your awesome works and I will proclaim Your great deeds.  They celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness."    How could we tell, speak of, proclaim and sing without words?  One of my favorites - kind of a life focus - is I Peter 3:15  "But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you for the reason for the hope you have;  But do this with gentleness and respect."   How often do we examine our reasons for NOT speaking when an opportunity is before us.  If we dig deep and look honestly, might we discover  fear at the heart of our silence?    

I mused to Mark that he had just been having a pretty good conversation with a virtual stranger for the past 10 minutes.  I followed up with some encouragement, ending with an action for him:  "Try mentioning something spiritual to someone at work this week.  Maybe a small comment like:  "I will pray for you;  God bless you;  or Jesus is with you" to shine just a little more obviously - and see what happens?"   

He was about to respond when a woman nearby suddenly entered the conversation by inserting "Mark is a great guy!" He replied, "Thanks, Irene." then turned to me "I sing in the choir with Irene."  Ooooh,  I see a sharpening opportunity!   I let Irene in on the 'action challenge',  suggesting she try the same thing this week, then follow up with Mark about how it went at their next choir practice.  They both smiled at their shared secret, and we circled up for prayer.  It was a sweet moment indeed, emulating a tasty little verse in Proverbs 27  "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."     

Isn't it a blessing to have the incredible resource of relationship within our church families!  There, God brings us together with others who walk alongside us as we live out our faith daily.  There, the Holy Spirit empowers us through His word and sacrament to be bold and courageous, stepping past our fears. There, we are spiritually fed, able to express worship and praise, and find a safe - and hopefully - receptive place to celebrate the Lord's faithfulness and spur each other on.  Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the Day approaching."    

Moments are waiting.  Get your words ready! 

Published / posted on-line through WLI on June 11, 2020