How to Find a Mentor, or Two

mentoring "We All Need a Few Good Mentors" read a headline in today's opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. It's a sentiment I share, based on my own experience of having been poured into by older, wiser women, professors, and married couples over the past 27 years. In the article, Fay Vincent, formerly CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries, executive vice president of Coca-Cola, and commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1989-92, recalls the importance of mentors in his life. He describes them as "vital." Reminiscing on their role leads him to feel "enormous gratitude."

The imperative of mentoring Like Vincent, I have looked back on What My Mentors Taught Me and marveled at the debt of gratitude I owe them. If someone as gifted and successful as Vincent benefitted from mentors, how much more the rest of us? It's not just my experience or his affirmation, however, that leads me to vigorously promote mentoring. Someone further down the road helping you on your way is much older than the Wall Street Journal and corporate America. As I prepare to teach a Bible study on Titus 2 this fall, mentoring looms large. Titus, an ancient letter written by the apostle Paul in the first century A.D. to one of his protégés, writes:

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:1-8)

The older teaching the younger is of supreme importance in the church. Its purpose far surpasses obtaining an advanced degree or securing an enviable promotion. The purpose of mentoring is "so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior," or as the NIV puts it, "make the teaching about God our Savior attractive."

The Mechanics of Mentoring Vincent rightly notes "mentoring is an art and it requires both time and energy," time and energy that people aren't always able to give. How then can you go about seeking the input and counsel of an older believer? I hear this question a lot. I've answered it, and other related mentoring questions at over the years. Everything from How to Ask Someone to Mentor You, to How to Be Mentored once someone has said yes, to How to Find a Good Marriage Mentor. Here's a snippet from that last one:

The point of mentoring is to find someone with godly character in the area you're hoping to work on. If you're trying to make big decisions about education or career, you look for someone who has wisdom in those areas. And if you're hoping to find encouragement toward marriage, you need to look for someone who esteems it as well as models a healthy relationship with her own husband. ...

Being mentored means being vulnerable enough to allow someone to speak into your life. An essential precursor is trust — trust that the woman giving you feedback and advice is solid in her own faith and understanding of God's Word.

If you are intimidated by the idea of having a mentor, or the person you want to mentor you can't see themselves being a mentor, the article Mentoring Myths, may help you. Sometimes a person is mentoring you without really realizing it. My favorite college professor is a great example. I was telling a friend about him recently and realized as I was describing him that "he was my mentor." Though I never formally asked him to be my mentor, that's what he was doing in the course of those conversations about campus life and what to do after graduation. He had a lot of influence at that point in my life, steering me in a good direction. I didn't realize just how much till much later.

Look around at the people you go to for advice. Who's your favorite sounding board? They're likely mentoring you, even if neither of you calls it that. And because those people do have such a big influence, it's important to make sure they're a good influence. Are they living a life you admire, following Christ, bearing good fruit? If so, they're likely a source to keep seeking out. If not, look around you, especially in your church, for input that not only will help you in the day-to-day, but  will prove vital, eternally so.



Isn't it Ironic?

Here lately, Candice and I have been singing lines from "Ironic"--the Alanis Morissette song that was popular when we were in grad school. We've had two waves of inspiration for singing this song:

First Wave

We're trying to sell our house. A family we know has been working with the same realtor we have told us at church that they held an open house alongside a garage sale and it generated activity on their house. A few days later, their house sold.

We called our agent the next day and asked if we could add an open house alongside the garage sale we had planned. She agreed to arrange an open house for 9-to-noon on Saturday. For the first time ever, we decided to have a two-day garage sale, starting on Friday. The traffic on Friday was brisk--people were waiting curb-side when we opened our doors at 7:30 AM. That traffic motivated our kids to set up a coffee and lemonade stand on Saturday (with some help from our entrepreneurial neighbor).

Early Saturday morning, we set up for day-two of our garage sale and worked hard to stage everything for our open house. We opened the garage door with gusto, ready to get to work. But no one came. We waited for more than an hour--an eternity in garage sale time. Eventually a trickle of people came through, but hardly any wanted lemonade or coffee--and no one showed for the open house.

At noon, we moved everything back into the garage and closed the door. We apologized to the guy who was manning the open house and went inside to get lunch and put our little guys to bed. In the process, Candice noticed there was a message on our voice mail. Someone wanted to see our house in 30 minutes. We scrambled to make a lunch to-go and spent an hour at the park.

Second Wave

We were a two-car family for a long time, but we sold our Jeep on Craigslist a few weeks ago as part of our "clear the decks" mission. We're now down to our minivan. Because we plan to travel cross-country soon, we asked a mechanic we've been working with for years to give the van a tune up. (Ironically, he was working on the van when we got a call requesting a showing on our house. We ended up borrowing car seats from our neighbors to put into the mechanic's 1980-something conversion van and drove off ruffled and unshowered so that we could get everyone out of the house).

Our mechanic did the tune up and made a couple of minor replacements. "If you haven't changed your timing belt, I would have that done," he added. We thought he'd already done that so we looked through our paperwork in the glove box. We couldn't find anything and his records weren't turning up anything.

We made an appointment to have the timing belt replaced and prepared to come up with the $600 or so it would cost. Then we made a more intensive search through our paperwork to see if we could find a record of the work being done. We looked through binders of paperwork for each of the past ten years. We couldn't find a couple of those years but reviewed enough to assume the work just hadn't been done.

Yesterday morning I drove the van to the repair shop to get the work started. Around mid-morning, I felt motivated to start cleaning out our storage room. It was there, in the midst of old photos and memorabilia. Piled in a Whole Foods bag with some stray papers was a binder for the year 2007. A few papers in, I found an invoice from our mechanic, along with a record of our timing belt being replaced December 6, 2007.

I called the guy who was replacing our timing belt, but got his voice mail. I left a message asking him to stop the work. He called back later to say he would stop but that he was already a third of the way into the complicated repair and that we'd have to pay for the work he's already done. He ended up giving us something of a break, but we still had to pay $180 with nothing to show for it.

These ironies hurt a little more when we're already feeling vulnerable in a time of transition. And yet we trust God's goodness and provision. Something tells us we're going to look back on these challenges some day and laugh at how this transition chapter unfolded.

EARLY Will I Seek You


"During this morning's quiet time, it dawned on me -- well before dawn -- that I've become dependent on time alone with God. And the only way I can get it is to get up early. Of course in Colorado, rising before the sun often brings the benefit of actually seeing the "purple mountains majesty." But that stunning view of Pike's Peak alone isn't enough to wake me. It's what happens when I miss that window that motivates me to roll out of bed."


I wrote that in 2006. And it's still true. Today I had to roll out of bed on Steve's side of the bed because our three-year-old was camping out on the floor beside mine, and mercifully, still asleep. He wakes up earlier than any of the other littles. 5:30 isn't unheard of.

Usually he joins me for coffee, preferring to drink the sips I've forgotten, once they're cooled. (Truth be told, it's Steve who gets up even earlier than me, and brews a pot of coffee. Not sure I'd be able to get up early without him!) He's also taken to grabbing the journal I keep for him, along with a sharpie, and scribbling on the empty pages. By now, nearly every page is full; half with my prayers for his present and future, half with his doodles. I think the doodles will mean more to me someday than any words I've written.

"Nothing gets me off to a worse start than oversleeping only to wake to the sound of kids already up and raring to go. No quiet. No alone time. And no peace. I need the daily direction I get when I spend time reading the Bible. The Psalms and Proverbs are especially helpful during this demanding season of rearing small children. Having uninterrupted time for listening for God's voice -- specifically asking Him what the priorities for the day should be -- and meditating on what He's already said to me in his Word, has become the most important thing I do each day. When I don't, I feel like a ship without a rudder and a car with no gasoline. I lack both direction and power."

I need this reminder. It seems I'm motivated to get quiet and listen in seasons. But never do I not need it. I just forget. Or get too busy. Lord, remind me.

"It really does make a difference.

"Feeding Your Soul by Jean Fleming talks about how to have a quiet time. It's a very practical handbook that ends with a prayer that includes the line, "Make me what You had in mind when You created me ..." I love that image of a blueprint for my life; of a master designer drawing up plans for what my life should be. That's not to say I always conform to the plan. And often what should be is not what is."

I love that line even more, now that we have children. I want so much for them to become the people God had in mind when He created them. There's nothing I want more.

And so I get up early again. Today and tomorrow and the next day. There's just something about early.

O God, You are my God;

Early will I seek You;

My soul thirsts for You;

My flesh longs for You

In a dry and thirsty land

Where there is no water.

So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,

To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,

My lips shall praise You (Psalm 63:1-3).

Dear Overweight Woman

And you are dear. I’ve been overweight and I’ve been the ideal weight, and I know the frustration and discouragement and agony that attends the former. But do not despair. There is hope. The overweight believer has just as much reason to hope for marriage as does the physically ideal one. Why? Because God is able. And marriage is a gift from Him; not a reward for those who manage to fit the current ideal of beauty.

Your worth and value come not from a number on the scale, or even from your ability to cut calories and get yourself to a gym to shed unwanted pounds — and believe me when I say I understand how unwanted they are! Regardless of your girth, you are precious. You are valued. You are worthy, because you are the crown of creation (1 Peter 3:18). You are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). And yet you are utterly unworthy. Apart from Christ we are all unworthy (Romans 3:23Luke 17:10). And we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). Your sin is painfully visible. But it is not insurmountable.

You have the same access to the Risen Lord; to the One who said, “Your sins are forgiven, now go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

It won’t be easy. But the desire to please God — to honor Him with your body (1 Corinthians 6:20) — is a powerful motivator. And He will send the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to help you (John 14:16). It is possible to overcome obesity. But the goal should never be to turn a head or even snag a mate. The ultimate goal and the one that has the power to change you, is God’s glory.

I love what David Platt writes in his book, Radical, in his chapter about the disciples. What a rag-tag group they were with little to recommend them as the right men to spread the Gospel through all the earth. Yet, he writes, “This is the design of God among his people. He is giving unlikely people his power so it is clear who deserves the glory for the success that takes place.”

Is it harder to attract a man when you’re morbidly obese? Yes. Is it impossible? No. Is it just too difficult to imagine that you could lose weight and get fit? With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). And the more difficult your situation, the more glory God stands to receive when you are victorious through Him. (Two Christian women: Mandisa and Chantel Hobbs come to mind as good role models for the journey.)

Ask God to be glorified in your story. Even as you long and pray for a husband. Ask Him to help you lose weight, to guide you to people and plans that can help you develop a healthy lifestyle. And ask Him to write the story of your life in such a way that when you tell it, you will be able to make much of Him! I am praying for you.