All posts by Heather


I prepared our Epiphany feast while I listened to news reports of terrorist storming a seat of power. I made a feast to honor the King of Kings before whom all the rulers of the world will bow down while violent insurrectionist who deal in lies tried to steal honor. 

Wisemen — Kings and rulers — bowed before the God-toddler. 

Power is not ours to grab. 

Let us deal in truth and walk in humility before the King of Kings. 


It’s the week between Christmas and New Year, and I’m not sure what day it is. Time becomes nebulous as we wait for the turn of the year. Like many people, I’ve begun thinking about the year ahead and what I want it to look like. I wasn’t planning on making and New Year’s Resolution, but without really meaning to, I’ve come up with ideas.

Part of that is be just because of cultural norms. But I’m beginning to think that it also has to do with how I slow down this week. 

There are many memes joking about this nether week, where we’re either not sure what to do with ourselves, or we do a puzzle. Those seem like the only two options the internet offers. I can relate to that. I’m somewhere in between those two. 

In that down time, I can hear my own thoughts, and begin to discern my own desires. What good would I like to cultivate for myself, my family, my church, my community this year? It turns out I do have answers to that question. I just had to slow down enough to sense them. 

Which of course indicates that one of the goods I need to cultivate is the ability to slow down. Even in this year of COVID, when our social calendars are empty, I’ve found things — noise really — to fill my hours: podcasts and social media, Netflix. All the normal things. I know there’s a place for those things, especially when I can’t see friends in person. But if I use them to quiet my thoughts then I twist my own desires and drown them out.

But what would it look like to cultivate space for silence, stillness, rest? The Lord commands us to rest, yet I fill up my Sabbath with distractions. I don’t have definitive answers. And I assume the answers may change as circumstances change, but I’m aim to learn to rest on purpose this year. 

Solistice LIght

On winter solstice’s night, our many of our neighbors lit lanterns and candles, and the neighborhood glowed with firelight on the snow. I know many people in my little town attribute religious or spiritual meaning to the solstice. But for me, walking through our neighborhood on this darkest night, it felt like people were holding out a light for each other as if to say “Hang on a little longer. Day will come.”

It did my heart good. Winters have been hard for me since I moved to Upstate New York. I’m accustomed to the Texas sun: big, bright, and always plenty of it. Here in the north, I can go days without seeing the sun come from behind the clouds.

Saturn and Jupiter aligned on the solstice, but we couldn’t see the moonlight behind those clouds. The “Christmas Star” only happens every 800 years and we missed it because of the same old clouds we get nearly every day. I can’t think of a better analogy for the monotony of winter, of this year. 

And what a year it has been. For many, eventful with the worst kind of events. For me and my family, it has been a crushing sameness. Home, all day, every day. No ventures the Library or playgrounds, no Science Center play museum, no meeting up with friends to watch trains. We stay home, and on Saturdays we go for hikes. 

On this longest night, the darkness of this year pressed in on me. The lights I saw were not ones from heavens, the miracle of rare events, but the ordinary kindness of neighbors.

God is in the heavens, even when I don’t see him acting, I know that he is there full of love and grace. Though I cannot see the light of his face, I can praise him for the ordinary graces in the dark.

To White American Christians: We need to Repent

My almost toddler has taken to using me as a climbing apparatus. He clambers up me while I’m sitting in a chair so he can see out a window or just for the fun of it. Oftentimes, I get a tiny hand or foot to the throat in the process. When that happens, I cough and splutter trying to get him safely off my throat. I hate the sensation. Even a tiny bit of pressure creates such a sense of urgency to clear this happy little climber off my throat. This week that physical sense of urgency has been followed by waves of grief. 

8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Words cannot express grief, the horror of the murder of George Floyd. A white officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. He knelt on his neck when George Floyd said over and over “I can’t breathe.” He knelt on his neck while this made in the image of God man called out for his dead Mama. When Floyd became unresponsive, that officer kept kneeling on his neck. When the paramedics showed up, he kept kneeling. 

We watched a murder on our Newsfeed, and now our nation is on fire.

But the truth is our nation has always been on fire. It’s been on fire since before it was a nation. It was on fire when the first enslaved African people were kidnapped and sold to the colonizers. It was on fire when the Founding Fathers went to war over taxes while profiting off the scarred backs of the made in the image of God humans they owned. It was on fire when the constitution was written to protect the freedoms of white, land owning men. It was on fire when Southern states committed treason rather than reduce their profits by admitting the people in their fields were indeed people and not property. It was on fire when slavery was outlawed, except in the case of imprisoned people. It was on fire when the war on drugs was manufactured as an excuse to lock up as many Black people as possible. Its on fire now when cellphone cameras are showing us how Black people have always been treated by cops. 

Those fires in the streets are the 400 year old volcano that was always going to burn this whole thing to the ground.

A lot of white folks, especially White Evangelicals got mad when Colin Kapernick knelt during the anthem. They got defensive when people started chanting Black Lives Matter. They’re real concerned about the looting, the fires, the destruction. But it took looting for them to start talking about a Black man being murdered by cops. We’re still more concerned about property than the lives of people.

White Christians, we must do better, but to doing better starts with acknowledging our sin, confessing and repenting. This is hard work but necessary. Educating ourselves on the systems of racism in our country is necessary, but all the education in the world isn’t going to change our hearts. We have to lay our sin and the sins of our nation at the cross of Christ and mourn and repent for the death we have sown. We need to learn how to lament by doing the work of lamenting. We need to see our sin for what it is, call it by its name, and repent.

And yes, we must educate ourselves. We can coast through our lives never seeing the systems of racism at play because those systems actually prop our lives instead of tearing them down. So we have to do the work of learning, especially of learning things that are hard for us to swallow. 

The Bible is for Community

The various authors of the Bible wrote to groups of people. Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament to the entire congregation of Israel. In fact, the whole Old Testament was written for the people of Israel that they may know their history, their origins, their faith, and most importantly their God. The New Testament was largely written to whole churches. 

The Bible was Written for Community 

As Westerners who love our independence and individualism, we have a habit of reading the Bible as if it were written to individuals. This influences the way we interpret the text and limits our understanding of what God is saying through his word.

For much of church history, the people of God gathered together to hear the Scriptures read aloud. People could not read and study the Bible on their own at home because it was not easy to own a copy of the text. However, in the modern day, we take private Bible reading with our personal copy of the text for granted, as if it has been the norm throughout history.  

Praise God for the printing press! We can now immerse ourselves in the scripture on our own. However, other than gathering for a sermon or maybe a Bible discussion, we have largely forgotten that scripture is for a community, not just individuals. Because of this, we tend to interpret and apply the Bible through the lens of individualism. We struggle to see the community emphasis because of the blinders of our culture.

For example, 1 Corinthians 6:19 is commonly applied to refer to taking care of our physical bodies because they are temples of the Lord. However as is explained in Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, we misunderstand the plurals in that passage. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Cor 6:19). You is plural, while temple is singular. The community of believers all together are the temple of God. While we must steward our physical bodies as gifts from the Lord, this passage speaks to how we should love the body of Christ. Rather Paul tells the Corinthian believers to care for and respect their local church body. Knowing this makes for very different applications from this passage. Rather than eating healthier or getting more sleep, it should lead us to reconcile with our brothers and sisters in Christ and care those who are hurting. 

We Need Community

In order to study the Bible well, we need community. I can study a passage for hours and then take part in a group discussion thinking I have really come to know this passage well. I’ll even have read several commentaries to get further insight. Then I sit in a group with a handful of other believers and without fail, at least one of them will point out something that leaves me speechless. I sit back thinking, “Wait! Has that been there the whole time? How did I miss that?” All of my hours of study were helpful and fruitful to both me and the group, but nothing could replace the gathered believers exploring and discussing the Word of God together. 

Christ said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” (Matthew 18:20 ESV) The Lord can and does give insight into his Word to individuals studying on their own, but there is a special synthesis that happens in the gathered body of believers. We learn from each other, but we also learn together from the Spirit of Christ among us. As Richards and O’Brien put it: “So why go to church? Why worship with a group? Because, in some way we may not fully understand, the Spirit indwells the group in a way the Spirit does not indwell the individual. We are all built together to become one, whole building: a single dwelling for his Spirit. Like it or not, we need each other” (Misreading Scripture, 109).

Unfortunately, we may have difficulty engaging the Bible as a community and studying together.When we get together for Bible study, often we float on the surface of the text rather than doing the hard work of mining the text as a community. Granted, the entire group must develop this skill. It takes practice and vulnerability with each other. But when we can successfully study together in order to develop a deeper understanding of the text, we get the joy of learning from perspectives other than our own.

Scripture Shapes Communities

Scripture was written to communities and intended to shape communities. A commonly quoted and much loved passage has a layer of meaning that is easily missed by Christians within individualistic cultures. Our cultural blinders keep us from seeing the full weight of the text, and we must work hard to take them off. 

The second person pronouns in Romans 12:2 are plural. English doesn’t have a formal second person pronoun, but we might read the verse as “Y’all do not be conformed to this world, but y’all be transformed by the renewal of the mind (singular), that by testing y’all may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We read these as singular pronouns, but they were written to the church. Remember this letter was being read to the gathered body of believers. Imagine being in a gathering having this letter read to the group. You know it’s an important letter, and everyone is hanging on every word. Y’all have read through the bulk of the letter by now, and it’s all focused on the Gospel. Now it seems to have shifted. This is our response to the Gospel. 

Imagine how you would hear this passage differently in that context. Your whole spiritual life happens deeply embedded into community. All of your spiritual disciplines and spiritual growth happen with the people in the room with you now. You can’t imagine the Christian life apart from the Body. No one has ever asked you to. Now hear those plural “you”s: 

“This community should not be conformed to this world, but this community should be transformed by the renewal of the mind of this community, that by testing, this community may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Even modern day readers can get a hint of this understanding by reading verses 3-7. Paul immediately jumps into specifics of how spiritual gifts should be used within the church. He doesn’t transition to what Church life should look. He is already talking about it. 

For Christians within individualistic cultures, this reading of the passage might break a lot of our boxes. In an effort to understand what the Bible is saying, we need to make the effort to understand what the original audience would have heard. Their culture was very different from our own so the assumptions they brought to the text and the context within which they read it means that they understood it differently than we do. 

Should we still seek to be individually transformed by the renewing of our individual minds. Of course! We should pursue holiness in whatever way we can! However, the witness of Scripture seems to say that transformation happens not only—and maybe not even primarily—on the individual level but within the Body of Christ.

While we should still be jumping for joy that we can hold a copy of the Bible in our own hands (or phones), we need to remember to read and study within community. We need to challenge our individualist mindset and ask God how the passage we are reading should shape and form our community. If we fail to do this, we will miss part of what the Lord communicates to us through his word, thereby missing opportunities to obey and worship him.

I Need Thee Every Hour

Tonight I rocked my frantic newborn to sleep with the song “I Need Thee Every Hour”. Actually I sang the only two lines from the chorus I could remember. I recently learned that a homemaker wrote the song. Since I have felt a kindred spirit with her, though she has long since past to glory. She has walked these trenches I now tread. And she sang out to the Lord Jesus whose name I plead over diapers, toddler tantrums, and colic. Though we did not inhabit the earth at the same time, she is my sister-in-arms and I stand grateful for the prayer she penned for the times my soul has only pleading.

The baby fell asleep, and then I was stuck. A too-early transfer out of my arms will send us back to square one. And square one is purple faced cries. Wikipedia kept me company while my baby snored into my shirt. 

Annie Hawks was a poet whose pastor recognized her gifting and encouraged her toward hymn writing. He set her hymns to music. He saw her gifts and encouraged her to disciple the church through hymns. He was a pastor and hymn writer himself so he knew the discipling power of song. One does not walk out of the church humming the sermon. You leave with the songs still in your heart. 

This thirty something mom of two cried over my newborn’s tears with a song I sang from that old blue Baptist Hymnal of my childhood. The only two lines I could recall still discipling me toward Christ when I had nothing left to give and two children who need me to keep giving. 

Don’t ask me what my childhood pastor preached. I’ve no idea.

I’ve seen much debate on the role of women in the church and the home. But I cherish the example of Annie Hawks and her pastor Rev. Dr. Robert Lowry: a pastor encouraged a woman to walk in her gifting for the good of the church and then partnered with her in that work. 

I need Thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine,
Can peace afford.
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour,
Stay Thou near by;
Temptations lose their power,
When Thou art nigh.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

Removing Cultural Blinders to Interpret Scripture

This post is a part of a four part series. If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2, then this post won’t make as much sense.

Knowing that the Bible was written to a specific audience in a specific time and place, and that we are different from that original audience changes how we do the work of interpretation. We can’t be lazy when it comes to interpreting scripture. We must acknowledge the cultural and temporal barriers we face in understanding the word of God. This does not mean that Scripture is not accessible to the average reader. Not at all. I will never stop reminding people that a deep knowledge of scripture really is possible for the average Joe or Jane in the pew. 

In order to grow in our knowledge of the Bible, we must know how to do it. Part of this is recognizing that our initial understanding will differ from the original reader’s understanding of scripture. So how do we bridge that cultural divide? How do we read scripture with an eye toward understanding it the way the original audience would have? 

Identify our Own Assumptions

We must question the way we have always read the passage. If you are like me and grew up hearing the Bible taught and preached, then this may be hard for you. I find it nearly impossible for me to read one of the more commonly known passages of scripture without bringing a certain lens to the text. Almost invariably, that lens is more shaped by Southern, White, Conservative, Middle-Class, Baptist, Texan culture than by the content of the passage. And because of the culture and church I grew up in, the overwhelming majority of the teaching I heard came from men. So I can have rather a narrow lens through which I view the most commonly taught passages. To be fair, frequently it’s not an inaccurate lens; it’s just limited. 

However, when I’ve been able to step back from that and try to get a wider angle on a passage, I’ve been blessed to see more of God and what he communicates to his people. This begins with reading the text closely with a willingness to be surprised. For instance, I am familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and can give a rough retelling with little effort. However, a few months ago I was surprised when I reread it. The sin the Sodomites are condemned for is not only sodomy, but also being unwelcoming to the foreigner. But I had never seen it because of the lens through which I’ve always heard it taught. 

Let Scripture Interpret Scripture

We must use scripture to interpret scripture. This applies to both a passage’s immediate context as well as the broader context of the rest of scripture. The story of Christ killing the fig tree has long baffled me. But when read in the context of the surrounding narratives it becomes clear that Christ is addressing hypocrisy within the way that people worship. Likewise, many parts of the Old Testament are only fully understood in light of the New Testament. We can know that God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt and that God is a rescuer. But the New Testament reveals that even the Exodus was a foreshadowing of the ultimate rescue through the cross of Christ. Scripture can remove some of our cultural blinders when we let it interpret itself.

Assume Scripture Makes Sense

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard in studying scripture is to assume that the writer is smarter than myself. When I come from that assumption, I ask different questions and tend to look harder for the answers to things I don’t understand. 

If something in scripture seems utterly nonsensical, assume it’s not. Scripture makes sense, but sometimes we don’t have all the information we need to make sense of scripture. That is the time to do some digging. For example, a literal reading of Revelation will only serve to confuse or confound. As modern readers, we need to learn some of the background knowledge that the original audience had. A good study Bible will help us get started. Revelation began to be illuminated to me when I learned that it was written in the form of Jewish prophetic literature. Reading the introduction to my study Bible taught me some of the literary devices of that genre. With that base of knowledge careful reading along with books, sermons and commentaries help shed light on scripture. All of these tools help us to make sense of scripture despite the cultural distance we face in understanding it. 

Interpreting scripture outside of our own cultural assumptions takes work, but its work worth doing. When we peel off our own cultural lenses and challenge our own assumptions, we get to know God more. That is the best work we can do.

Who is the Bible For?

The Bible is God’s word to His people in all times and places. I want to affirm that wholeheartedly. However, by understanding more clearly who the Bible was written to, we can read and interpret it more accurately.  

Not You

The Bible was not written to you. Yes it is God’s word for the Church today, but we are not the original audience. Because of God’s sovereignty and the clear inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the writing and preservation of Scripture, we can be assured that we are included in the intended audience by God. But we are not the original audience. Moreover, the human authors of Scripture were writing to a specific people who were not us

Written in a time and place

Just like any piece of writing, the time and place in which each book of the Bible was written influences the way it was written. The Bible has several books that are considered histories, but they are not written like modern histories because the norms and expectations for histories were different in Biblical times. The Bible was written in languages other than English, so when we read our thin-line editions, we have to remember that we are reading translations. While the translators have worked hard to stay true to the meaning of the original text, we must approach even our favorite translation with humility, seeking to further illuminate it by other translations.

Written to People Different than Ourselves

The Bible was written to an audience very different from ourselves. Because the original readers of the text had a culture and a body of background knowledge that differ vastly from the one we bring to the text, they would have understood things that we miss entirely. In order to read the Bible well, we must work hard to understand what the original audience would have. This means that we must to admit that we have been wrong for a long time. Like any learner we must be more enthusiastic about learning and growing than we are attached to the ideas we’ve already learned, especially when they are challenged by better information and understanding. 

Not Written to Individuals

For the most part the Bible was not written to individuals. (Link to community post) It was written to and read by groups of people who interpreted and applied it together. Since the invention of the printing press, the text of the Bible has become more accessible to the average believer. We no longer have to gather together to read scripture because the church owned the only copy in town. We can read it in our homes. While this is good, it can obfuscate scripture. We tend to read it as if it is written to a single person rather than the whole Body of Christ. 

For All of God’s People

However, the Bible is also written and preserved for the people in all times and places. This is not just an set of ancient texts that we seek to understand because we find it interesting or gives us insight about humanity in the ancient world. We do not just gain knowledge from scripture. We must obey it. Because of our cultural distance from the original audience, it will take more work for us to understand it, but that cultural distance does not let us off the hook for obeying God as he has revealed himself to us in the scripture. We can rejoice that we have been included in the intended audience by the grace of God. But we must know that this ancient set of texts bears weight on our day to day, moment to moment life today. 

What is the Bible?

The Bible is such a common book that we rarely stop to think about what it actually is. Many Christians hold the Bible as the most important book in our lives, as well we should. But in order for us to understand and obey God’s word, we have to first know clearly what it is.

The Bible is a book about God

We cannot accurately understanding, interpret, or apply the Bible if we do not first know it is a book about God. This may seem obvious, but often we read the Bible as if it is a book about ourselves. It does mention humans quite a bit, but the Bible primarily intends to teach us who God is, what He has done, and how we are to relate to Him. 

The Bible is an Account of God’s Actions in the World

The main actor in the Bible is God. He is the center of the story that scripture tells. He is the protagonist. The story begins with God creating the world and all that is in it, and concludes with God making all things new and restoring everything to how it should be. In between, humans tend to just mess things up. God rescues, redeems, restores, and renews. 

The Bible is Literature

While the Bible is Word of God spoken to his people in all times and places, the it is also literature. But that spoken word takes the form of various types of literature. In modern day writing, we know to read poetry differently than we would read a medical journal. The rules and expectations are different, and we intuitively know to read them differently. In Biblical times, there were various types of literature. We have to understand the rules of the literature we are reading in order to understand what it says. If we try to read Psalms the same way we read Leviticus or interpret Daniel the same way we do Romans, we will create confusion and misunderstanding for ourselves.  We should not value one over the other, but that we approach them each according to their own literary conventions.

The Bible is Made of Words

Again, this may seem obvious, but its implications are significant. God chose to speak to his people through written words. He could have spoken to us through collective visions or pictures in the stars or some other means of communication. But he used the modality of communication most natural to humans: language. And he had people write it down so that we, even thousands of years later, might know what was said. 

Thus, the words chosen are important and worth close study. They are not the flippant words thrown onto social media (or a blog). They are carefully chosen by the God of the Universe through the prompting of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of specific persons that he chose to write them down. They are worth careful examination and study. 

The Bible is Not God’s Love Letter to Us

I’ve often heard this description of the Bible. The intent behind it is good. Whenever I hear this sentence, I think of a goateed youth-minister in the 90’s trying to convince a room full of teenagers in metal folding chairs to read their Bibles every day. But maybe that’s just my experience. Regardless, this is a inaccurate representation of Scripture. The Bible does convey God’s love for his people, but it does so in the context of focusing on God and his actions in the world. If it were just a love-letter, we could not know The One who loves us. But when we begin to see God’s character, his majesty and holiness, his glory and sovereignty, then to know that we are loved by him should brings us to our knees in worship. The primary focus in scripture is God. His love for us is a part of that, but it is not the whole of it. 

Each of these points should shift our perspective as we read scripture and enable us to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for this text we hold so dear. Reading the Bible with these principles in mind opens us up to the joy of knowing God more through his Word.

As this series continues, we will look at who the Bible is for and how this perspective changes our interpretation Scripture. Finally, we will walk through an example of putting this knowledge into practice. 

How to Grow in Bible Literacy, Part 2

Last week, I shared some of the tools and methods I’ve found helpful in growing in Bible literacy. This week, I’ve got a few more to share. Last week’s list focused on private study which we typically think about when we think of Bible study. However, this week is focused on learning the Bible in community, whether in a local group of Christians or learning from the universal church.

Use Tools

You’re not the first person to read the Bible. Other people have done this before. Believe it or not, some of those people were smarter that you and me. They’ve created helpful tools for studying. This can include commentaries, maps, Study Bibles, sermons, and even podcasts. If you’re reading along and the writer mentions a place, look it up on a map and find out what you can about it. The original readers would have known certain things about that place and to understand the meaning of the text, you need to as well. Use commentaries and references to help you along in your study. Don’t use them instead of studying, but use them as it helps.

Use Guides

I’ve learned a lot of Bible study skills through working through Bible study books. They also helped me to develop a discipline of regular Bible study. Find a good guided Bible study work book that helps you look closely at a passage or a book. Try to stay away from ones that don’t ask much of you. Instead, stretch and grow your study skills with the help of a supportive teacher, even if the teacher is someone you’ve never met. I highly recommend Jen Wilkin’s study on Genesis (and anything else she’s ever written) as well as the classes available through The Village Church. Also, Trillia Newbell has an excellent new study on Romans Chapter 8. Just one chapter, but it’s a six week study. Now that’s learning to study closely!

Talk with Others

As you’re learning, talk about it with others: your spouse, friends, roommates. Specifically share what you’re learning with other Christians. They will probably have questions and insights that will spur you on. Your own thoughts about the passage will become more clear as you work to express them to someone else. And who knows, maybe a group Bible study will come out of those conversations.

Study with Others

Study the Bible in community. You’ll never learn more than when you’re learning alongside others. You cannot possibly have every thought and insight into a passage on your own. We need community as we’re studying scripture. We need people’s insights, questions, and corrections. We need people who will hold us accountable to actually doing the work of knowing the Bible. We need community that we trust to correct us when we veer off course.

Apply with Others

Applying scripture is essential to Bible literacy. As you learn in the context of community, apply what you learn alongside the people you’re learning with. Remember, we can do more together than we can apart. We need not only accountability in our personal applications of scripture, we also need to apply it together. If as a result of your study, you want to find ways to serve people more consistently, do it as a group. You’re more likely to follow through and you can be more effective in your service. If the text makes you realize that you don’t tend to pray but rather lean on your own strength, then pray as a group. 

Teach What You’ve Learned

You don’t have to be a formal teacher, but there’s probably someone in your life that you could try to teach what you’ve learned. You can even tell them that you’d like to teach it because it’ll help you know it better and see any gaps in your knowledge. This is of course related to sharing with others, but it’s a little more intentional. If you have kids in your life, see if you can explain the things you’ve learned in a way that they can understand. If you can explain something simply, then you understand it. If not, you’ve still got more work to do. 

Personal Bible study is an important part of developing Bible literacy, but studying and growing as a community will be far more effective than personal study on its own. We can learn from people we haven’t met through study tools and guides, but we can also learn from and alongside the people God has placed in our lives through doing this work together.