Jane Johnson Struck

Jane Johnson Struck
The percolations of a coffee-guzzling wife, mom, grandma, writer, and editor

Drink This In

"Coffee, according to the women of Denmark, is to the body what the Word of the Lord is to the soul."
Isak Dinesen
"Coffee makes us severe, and grave, and philosophical."
Jonathan Swift

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

True Somebodies

Today I sit in the generic-looking lobby of an orthopedic physicians' practice, scanning a paperback while I wait for my church friend Gerry. Gerry was in an auto accident last week, totaled his car, and broke his wrist. When he needed a ride to the doctor, I was available.

Gerry reemerges through the automatic sliding doors nearly an hour later, waving a neon-green cast. I flash Gerry a thumbs up. “Yea!” I say brightly. “Gerry, you did it! You got your Irish-green cast!” We'd joked on the trip over to the medical complex that if he was given the opportunity, he should opt for a wild plaster color so nobody at church could ignore his cast. Gerry definitely accomplished this objective.

Then we head to the parking lot. I retrieve my car and swing around to pick up Gerry. Once we're buckled in, we head toward the next destination—a medical office on the other side of town where Gerry will have a blood draw.

Before I know it, my day is over. Tomorrow or the next, I plan on visiting a few other church friends, too: Alice at one convalescent home, John at another.

These days my “calling” differs dramatically from what it was only 16 months ago. Then I managed a successful Christian women's magazine that motivated spiritual growth in thousands of readers; I enjoyed being a “somebody” in the publishing world. Today my profile's definitely lower, off the radar, even. Ironically, this season feels like a kingdom promotion. Now I'm available to provide rides to nursing homes and physician appointments, to visit people recovering from surgery, or to bring flowers and cards to those in rehab. Through my attempts to comfort and encourage those in physical or emotional distress (or both) often seem bumbling, I know I'm tangibly, personally offering the gift of God's presence. I feel so blessed!

For years I allowed my perspective on spiritual significance to be skewed by a Christian subculture consumed by the same things as our culture at large: the current, the clever, the cutting edge, the sexy. For Christian industries and ministries, “sexy” doesn't mean scantily clad women or suggestive content. Our sexy is an ephemeral blend of intellect, physical appeal, and spiritual sizzle mixed with timeliness and pathos that enhances a person or product's marketability.

But there's nothing sexy about bed pans and wheelchairs and walkers. Or about measuring out life in an assisted living facility or a hospital room, or facing disease or depression or disability while clinging tooth and nail to faith in a good God. Pain and loneliness, desperate need or discouragement, become living sacrifices to a holy God.

Thankfully, God doesn't need "sexy" when it comes to me--or you. This past year, he's reminded me that even when I'm tempted to be impressed by Christian thought leaders, cultural hipsters, or the theological elite, he's not. The popular, the accomplished, the sophisticated, and the articulate don't woo him, even when they do me. No, God's Spirit cuts through the trappings of charm and intellect, strength and beauty, curriculum vitae and resume, popularity and marketability, sinew and marrow, straight to our hearts. God strips them bare before him. And only hearts truly devoted to him can stand his piercing gaze.

I'm beginning to suspect that one day those I encounter in convalescent homes or rehab hospitals may be far greater in God's kingdom than I or the many big-name Christian personalities with whom I've brushed shoulders. In the grand scheme of kingdom things, the nobodies of this world—the unrecognized yet quietly faithful; the ridiculed yet righteous; the physically frail yet spiritually strong--will be revealed as the true somebodies. The faithful prayer warriors. The secret givers. The desperate clingers to God. The quiet, invisible servants who never graced a magazine cover or spoke before an audience or wrote a book or sung to the acclaim of adoring fans, yet who lived sacrificial lives that pleased God mightily.

Certainly God's Spirit changes and challenges many through Christian products, authors, speakers, and recording artists because nothing stops him when he elects to move. “'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). I'm grateful for the two decades I spent watching God work through the pages of a magazine--because he chose to. But I'm also grateful for this season of ministry where I can see and touch and comfort those the world may consider nothing special.

To those who feel invisible in their toil for the kingdom—and to those who feel their existence is invisible—I say, no part of the Body is more important than another (1 Corinthians 12:21-26 ). Those who clean bed pans—and those who have to use them—are as valuable to God as those whose marketable gifts provide them platform visibility. I sense the time spent with Alice, who's in rehab for almost two months, or Gerry, who's recovering from his accident, has as much significance—perhaps even more—in their lives and mine as whatever I may have accomplished in a higher-visibility ministry role.

No matter how invisible we feel in this world, we are never invisible to God. God sees, God knows, and God extends both judgment and grace according to his good will. Jesus tells us, “'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'” (Matthew 25:40).

So in this season of life, instead of plotting out content or determining which cover personality might impact readers and boost subscription rates, I sit in waiting rooms and pray or chat with friends who need someone who cares. I walk down sterile hospital halls and knock timidly on closed doors, waiting for that faint invitation to enter. And enter I do, into a different experience and a different kind of ministry. As I bring Jesus into these places with me, I know that when I look into the faces of my fellow "nobodies," I'll see Jesus looking back at me as well.


  1. I loved every single thing about this post. Praise God for you, Jane--a true somebody to me and to our Savior! I think the sexy paragraph spoke to me most.

    Thank you for these words and thank you for the way you are loving HIS people!
    ~ Wendy

  2. Jane, what a well-constructed and moving blog post! I'm so glad you're still sharing your wonderful talent of writing as you minister in these additional new ways.

  3. Oh Jane...this is powerful. This is significant on oh so many levels. This is truth, my friend. I feel like you have dug into the prophetic within you. It is an indictment straight from God--but his indictments are strong but loving corrections for his children. This is Jane at her best--the writing, and the ministry. Having been on the receiving end of that caring ministry after my knee replacement surgery, I say "Thank you, my kingdom-builder friend. I love you."


  4. Jane,
    I so resonate with you! "Been there, done that." I'm just now catching glimpses of what the Kingdom of Christ is all about. It's personally challenging, sometimes exhausting. But real and deep and true. And joyful!
    Nancie Carmichael

  5. Sweet Jane---You wrote:
    "So in this season instead of plotting content...I sit in..." and you mentioned all the seemingly "invisible" things you're doing. You forgot one thing: You're writing the absolutely BEST STUFF of your life! THIS particular blog was the shining example as you perfectly expressed my thoughts, my feelings, as I go through my own "invisible" days after also stepping down willingly from the ministry of magazine and book writing. I'm forwarding its message to all my fellow writers! Big hugs and some Hot Flashes from Heaven for YOU! Ronna Snyder

  6. It's all part of the upside down world of Christianity! But just an fyi: you're not off the radar for me. ~Suzanne Woods Fisher

  7. Another Jane. How fun to read your words...

    I was touched and convicted by your post. Thank you. Though I'm still in the middle of the writer's world, God has been pulling me away from my desk more and more so that I might care less about my words and more about my neighbor. It's a better journey than the one I was on before and reminders like what you put before us here will help yet again to get me out the door! Blessings

  8. Now THIS is how we truly do not miss our life: we find God's power and kindness everywhere we sit, stand or walk. I'm sharing this on my FB page because ... I can, and I must. WRITE ON! DRIVE ON! TALK ON! HUG ON! "Bloom where you are planted," you sexy thaaaang.

  9. Going through this cancer journey, I've been touched by the "invisible" things friends, acquaintances, and family have done for me. The small things aren't invisible to the ones receiving the help. I've been humbled by the touch of a hand, a spoken word, a card, an embrace -- more than any stellar article I've read in a magazine, although those have their place too. Jane, those things aren't invisible to God either, as you said in your blog. Thank you for the "invisible" things you're doing for the least of these. Blessings, my friend.

  10. My friend Ronna Snyder forwarded this blog entry to me. Wow! Powerful. We writer/journalist types need to hear this. I'm a journalist and owner of an online magazine for women motorcyclists -- and a subscriber of TCW. I'm glad to see there is a fulfilling life after one voluntarily steps down from the helm of a public profile gig. I'm at the precipice of entering your type of world/existence Jane knowing it will bring me a different kind and much needed type of fulfullment, but right now navigating how to actually first step back, and eventually step down from what is a never ending technologic swirl of latest, greatest, and keeping up for the endless task of attracting more unique visitors. Ugh! I'm tired, exhausted. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

  11. Dearest Jane, For all the reasons you mentioned, I took an almost 10-year hiatus between my 3rd book and the July 7th latest. Having just signed at ICRS, and discerning bits of what you've described, I'm alerted to keep the balance between the visible author/speaker and the invisible ministries to family and "neighbors" in need. This blog was eloquently expressed. Niki Anderson

  12. THANKS! I've copied your entire post into my journal. I, too, after years of being an "award-winning" author and editor (and even writing a couple pieces for CTW) and "international" speaker, have reached the "invisible" stage of my career. THANKS for putting everything in perspective. We're now at the TOP of this upside down Kingdom. 3 John 2, Jim

  13. Well stated J! More importantly, well done. Too often we spend our time talking about serving others but little time doing it. Understanding our "calling" is critical for all of us. I appreciate your faithfulness.

  14. Your insight is truly a blessing to me as I pray about "finishing well" from God's perspective. Thank you! Cyndy Salzmann

  15. Ronna Snyder sent me over here... beautiful. Thank you for the reminder that God is building His kingdom when we care for one another.

  16. It's an amazing thing to be in the trenches and doing what God's called you to and not what man thinks you should be doing. It's hard at times but well worth it in His kingdom plans for us. Thanks for the post. And thanks Ronna for recommending it.

  17. Latayne Scott sent me! Thanks for your honest and thoughtful entry. With the needs of aging parents and friends, I've caught myself saying, "This loving your neighbor thing could be a full time job!" That's exactly what Jesus intended. Like Nikki, I just signed another two-book contract, and I worry that the task will consume me from loving and being available because to write I need quiet blocks of time each day. But this I know: Love comes first. Yes, love comes first.

  18. Oh Jane! Amen and Amen. I think of the words of St. John the Baptist. "I must decrease; He must increase." As someone with feet in both worlds, I can tell you the tension is sometimes horrific, but the Spirit speaks in the quiet moments when I want to choose between "doing justice" and writing books, and tells me I'm where I am supposed to be.

    And in the giving, we receive far more, no?

    Blessings on your head!

  19. Amen--and thank you for writing this.

    You are bathing others in His grace and giving them an up-close and personal encounter with His love.

  20. Well said...and something to think about when I'm moaning about some of my daily drudgeries!

  21. Jane, this post reminded me of the lines from the great hymn "Lead on , O King Eternal". It is from a different day and age, but the same timeless truth, wouldn't you and the other readers agree?

    For not with swords' loud clashing,
    Nor roll of stirring drums,
    With deeds of love and mercy,
    The heavenly Kingdom comes.

    And the greatest reward is coming!
    "Well done,good and faithful servant."

  22. Jane, thank you for your profound encouragement. My spirit is uplifted and my soul is blessed as I head into another day of full time motherhood. You mentioned your "availibility"... Oh, that I might keep my priorities straight today and when I feel invisible, that I will remember not to seek after the "sexy" but instead stay focused on the tangible ministry at hand.

    And thanks to Ronna Snyder for sending me over here! --Sharon Olson

  23. Oh wow. Your words have left me speechless. And hopeful.

  24. Hi. My name is Julie. And I too am a recovering Christian Sexy-holic. Oh, Jane, God is at work (as always) and compelling those who will respond to a life far removed from the past 15 years of CBA/ICRS/HOOGABOOGA marketability and ambition and striving. I've ceased striving and your words proclaim the very same. Oh that He would find favor and delight in our spirit/heart/will which is surrendered fully to His work.

    Love you, girl! This is the REAL deal I always longed to read more of in that former periodical. *smile*

  25. These are very wise words and thank you for sharing them here, and for spending more time helping folks.
    Yes, you are more available to tend to people now, after your career changed so dramatically.
    I just found the time to become a volunteer "book buddy" to an older lady who can no longer drive. This program is set up by the public library.
    Each little thing we do adds up to big things, collectively.

  26. Word came as Flesh.... and now He calls us to enflesh His Word...

    The words that matter most are not the ones we write, but the ones we live...

    This was deeply moving, Jane...
    Thank you for living the words...

    All's grace,

  27. i found your post through the aforementioned, Ann Voskamp. oh my, i'm so glad i clicked on her link.

    tears here....conviction, too. now, will i live it? invisible, sacrificial for Him?

    thank you,

  28. Thanks to Ann V for sharing her blog space with a link to this one.

    Parents with special needs children who require their attention every moment--who find moments alone more precious than rubies. and yet somehow are alone most of the time; these know of the abbey of the heart. When we can't spread our wings and fly, we can close our wings and pray. The wind is still in our faces and the thrill of flight enlarges out of self and into the holiest places of service and awe-filled worship. This is "the meaning of life", isn't it? All the world is looking for it. Thanks for speaking it.

    A fellow nobody
    Tamara Willey

  29. I also found you through Ann. This is my life as my mom is in a care center and I am there nearly every day for several hours. I once lamented to a friend, "I just would like a check with my name on it." My friend, now retired, but successful in the business world, said, "Bah! What matters is that your name is in the Book of Life." Thank you so much for validating me and many, many more anonymous folks.

  30. "You have vindicated me, You have endorsed my work, declaring from Your throne that it is good." Psalm 9:4

    In the publishing world, endorsements seem so important. You remind us all that there is only one endorsement worth seeking. The Lord Jesus will say to the faithful servant from His throne "That is good. You did what I wanted. You spoke the words I wanted you to speak. You touched a heart with kindness. You smiled away dark shadows from a lonely soul. You did just what I planned for you to do. Good job."

    Thank you for sharing your heart. It touched mine. Bobbie Wolgemuth

  31. Thank you for your words and time. You cannot imagine how timely they are. May you always be a blessing.

  32. Thank you for your words, as a hospital chaplain I often wonder if what I do matters to anyone. Thank you for confirming that what I do,during this season of my life, is important to someone.
    Cheryl, hospital chaplain

  33. I am humbled and blessed.
    I am running a race that isn't His race. You have caused me to stop and look, really look at who I am serving and what my hearts motive is.
    Thank you.
    (so very thankful also for the link from Holy Experience)

  34. jane, anne V sent me here. Iam a nurse and the bedpans are my thing..in the world where u give a backrub when yr own hurts, etc etc..I have come to realize as I stand and touch hold a hand or smile an encouraging word from His heart in mine Iam building His Kingdom visibly in a world where status of the purse is more valued than that of a soul..i venture out to try my best at looking beyond the physical and lend a hand couageously to the weak and the lost. I have connfirmed that time and effort spent for God are never ever wasted.
    U have brought refreshing hugs to my soul.Vinaka ana

  35. In Belgium people love much coffee as drink
    Hello from Belgium
    Louisette+2 golden
    Have a nice summer.