Sam Holland 0:04
You’re listening to the Created For podcast. We believe that everyone was created to make a unique impact in the world. Created For is a podcast to explore ideas around purpose, calling and discovering how God is inviting you to influence the world in your own way, right now. I’m your host, Sam Holland.
Jo Saxton is an author, speaker, podcast host and leadership coach. She has dedicated her career to growing leadership teams around the world and empowering women to find their purpose in their personal lives and in leadership.
In her Created For talk, Jo exhorted us to step into our influence by being Holy Spirit empowered, kingdom witnesses, during disorienting times.
Jo, so as a Nigerian who grew up in a Nigerian community in the U.K., and then in the past 15 years, you’ve lived all over the U.S. all different cities–
Jo Saxton 1:13
Sam Holland 1:13
Tell me what perspective that has given you about Christian subcultures.
Jo Saxton 1:17
[Laughter] That is not where I thought the question was going.
Sam Holland 1:21
We’re diving right in.
Jo Saxton 1:26
That was not where I thought that was going at all. I don’t know what I thought– “Tell me what you thought about– ? What you learned– ?” Anyhow, um, what is my perspective on Christian subcultures? Wow.
Sam Holland 1:39
You’ve lived in so many cultures – do you consider yourself a triculture– ? I mean – do you think about that?
Jo Saxton 1:47
i do sometimes – yeah. I do feel like– sometimes when I leave a place, I realize how connected to a place I was. So I know that there are aspects of British culture – and Nigerian culture – that I missed because i’m not immersed in it and that was my norm.
In terms of Christian subcultures, I think more that I don’t know whether people realize quite how pronounced it is. And how powerful it is. And it has norms and habits and expectations that are cultural – that is subculture more than it is Christian. Um, do you know what I mean? They’re not automatically the same thing. They may be your norm – they may be normative, but that doesn’t necessarily make it Christian. It does make it a subculture, though.
I think that – and to your question – I think living in those places where you are looking in, means that you see things, like anybody would. Like when you’re looking in on something, there may be things that you would spot, that others may take for granted or just not even think is different, because that’s what they’ve always been.
Sam Holland 2:56
Yeah. How has that part of your story influenced your Bible interpretation and teaching?
Jo Saxton 3:03
Well, it’s helped me always want to listen to multiple voices. To multiple voices because, like, my Nigerian culture is a more collective culture, for example. The West is – way – more individualistic. I cannot emphasize that enough. Do you know what I mean? – In terms of European culture and its descendants. It’s just a different view, and there are different experiences.
And so I think it helps me remember that all our theology books are contextual. All of them. It’s not just the ones that are in Africa that are contextual, or the ones that are in South America that are contextual. They’re all contextual. But I think there’s a rich– I don’t think we need to be threatened by that.
I think there’s a richness in learning from different voices because they bring different flavors. They bring different perspective, experience – which is embodied in their journey. And that can be challenging, but I think difference is good challenging – you know? I think it helps us learn.
Sam Holland 4:10
Jo Saxton 4:11
I just think it’s really important that we learn.
Sam Holland 4:15
Yeah, I totally agree I – I grew up in really white spaces on the West Coast of the United States and it wasn’t until I was probably 40-years-old, that I realized the power and the richness of listening to people who weren’t white majority culture, like me, interpret the Bible. And the things that they would draw out of it because of who they were and their story, that God had written for them.
We had a Created For speaker – Chris Ghubril – and he’s Lebanese American – 100% Arab, both of his parents and he was telling us about Moses and how Moses’s identity is as a tricultural Individual, and how when God called him out of the burning bush, Moses was saying, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh?” Like, his identity as a tricultural person is wrapped up in that. And I thought, “I have never heard that.” And I’ve been very biblically literate.
Jo Saxton 5:17
Sam Holland 5:17
For all the years of my life. But until I heard Chris interpret that for me, I just– and now there’s a dimension to that passage, into Moses’s life, that I never could have known.
Jo Saxton 5:30
Absolutely. Wow. That’s so good.
We’d be missing out if we stay in a narrow lens. And it’s not to say that narrow lens isn’t good. It’s um – who was it? It’s Chimamanda Adichie, the author, she gave a TED talk about the danger of a single story. And she was talking about stereotypes. And she said, “The thing is, it’s not just that they’re inaccurate. They’re incomplete.” And I think when we are only learning from one country, from one cultural context, one ethnic context, it’s incomplete. It’s incomplete.
Sam Holland 6:11
Because if we’re all image bearers, and we’re all reflecting God to one another, I can’t just live in only white reflections – white majority culture reflections of God. It’s not the fullness being reflected to me.
Well, Jo, I’d love to hear more about you living out your calling and doing your work. What are the ways that you – you know – daily or weekly, just rhythms that you have built into your life to stay connected with God, in order to live out your calling? And do the work you’re called to do?
Jo Saxton 6:46
Yeah, um, I think one of the primary ways is I pray with a friend on the phone three mornings a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday. And we’ve done that for a number of years now. And it has been this buffer – this safe place, this grounding. We both happened to be early risers – that’s just us naturally. So it’s this start of the day where we read from– well, when I remember, she always reads – I don’t always do the reading.
We read from the Moravian Lectionary. So it’s like a Psalm, a New Testament passage, an Old Testament passage, and you’re just going through the Bible. And then we pray for each other, our families, whatever work things we’ve got on – whatever’s happening. And it’s been a valuable part of our walk with the Lord. It’s been a valuable, grounding in our faith – grounding and accountability. That’s not the only person I’m accountable to. But that’s one of those places that you keep on returning to, to pray. So that’s one of the key things – that’s one of the practices that what whatever’s happening, pandemic or not, traveling or not, whatever my job is, whatever my role is, whatever my family is doing, that’s consistent.
Sam Holland 8:07
You’ve continued doing that for the last year during the global pandemic. I bet that’s been such a lifeline.
Jo Saxton 8:12
Well, yeah, we started it about seven years ago. So it’s been going for a few years now. But one thing I did though – in the pandemic – the length of time doubled.
Sam Holland 8:25
You’re more available?
Jo Saxton 8:26
Yeah. Nothing else to do, and lots more crisis. Do you know what I mean? I think that’s just it. I mean, that’s just what happened.
Sam Holland 8:35
Okay, what’s the Moravian Lectionary? I don’t know.
Jo Saxton 8:39
The Moravians were a movement, I think European, who– they were praying. They kind of had this community that prayed for years and years – they were praying for revival or whatever. And they were instrumental in the conversion of John Wesley, back in the day.
But the Lectionary is basically organized Bible readings, that’s all it is. So if you read it, if you go with its daily readings, you read through the Psalms every year, the New Testament every year, and the Old Testament every two years. So it’s this ongoing– and it has a reflection and a prayer. It’s an app now. I think there are lots of these traditions that different cultures and different communities have, which were their gathering point for God’s people, that they would all be on the same page.
Sam Holland 9:36
Yeah, I’m gonna look it up. That sounds awesome.
Jo, let’s talk about your Created For talk. So in February, we had the Created For event and in your talk you taught out of Acts 1. And you focused a bit on how the Holy Spirit empowers Jesus followers, not in a geographical kingdom, but to something bigger as members of God’s kingdom. So what are other Scripture passages that help you focus yourself and others that you’re teaching, on just on how to live out our calling in the bigger kingdom – in God’s global kingdom?
Jo Saxton 10:17
I find that the Sermon on the Mount, so Matthew 5-7, has been really instrumental, because Jesus– and actually the gospels, because Jesus talks and says you know that, in Mark 1, He says, “The time has come the kingdom of God is near.” And that’s kind of – “within reach” is some translations and it’s, “Repent and believe the good news.” And so He comes with this vision for a different kingdom. The people had their own idea of a king – they have their own idea of a hero, but He has this upside down set of values.
And so when I look at the Sermon on the Mount, it reminds me not just of the work of the kingdom, but the way of the kingdom as well. The values are different to the world around them, whether in terms of who’s blessed, who’s got a good life, how you deal with anger and forgiveness and judgment and money and all of these key things which are part of the fabric of people’s lives, are addressed there. But also then whenever you see Jesus healing or preaching a message of salvation or casting out demons, it’s an expression of the kingdom of God.
When God is ruling, things change. When God is ruling, societal norms get disrupted. When God is ruling, justice is an integral part of what’s happening and when God is ruling, there is this message of salvation which concerns the whole of life, that redefines everything. And so for me, when I lose my way or when I lose my sense of what’s important I have to come back to, in the life of Jesus we see the words of the kingdom of God, the way of the kingdom of God and the work of the kingdom of God. And when it needs to get simple, that’s what I’m thinking of.
Because He invites us to follow Him. He invites – He says, “Behold i’m making all things new” – and everything, and He invites us to join Him in His mission. So if I’ve lost my way on my mission, then I need to make sure that I’m aligning myself fully to what His mission looked like on earth.
Sam Holland 12:21
Can you think of specific times in your life when that happened? When you lost your way, or you lost the path, you thought, “Wait this isn’t going where I thought it was gonna go,” and you had to reorient reorient yourself to your calling?
Jo Saxton 12:35
Oh yeah, multiple times. They’re not even all bad ones. Like, I have two children – with every child, at the birth of every child it was like, “Okay, what does it look like now?” There’s some real practical factors on that. When we’ve moved because of a job, it’s like, “Okay.”
So I think it’s a regular question to ask. I think there have been times when it’s been out of wounding or burnout, when that has been the thing, like, “I’m done. I’m done.” Because I have become about the task and broken relationships or difficulties or challenges have just exhausted, and even when you don’t lose sight of the simplicity of it, just, life happens. Doesn’t it? Life happens. And so that causes you to have to recalibrate.
And, 2020 certainly did it. I think that took everybody’s plans, threw them up in the air and then set fire to them as they came down. And so I think again–
Sam Holland 13:31
Jo Saxton 13:33
It made me ask the question, “What does it look like to– ? If you’re the king, and I’m assuming you’re still extending your kingdom even though nearly all the pathways I thought you were doing that have been disrupted and aren’t even visible, but if you’re still doing this, if you’re still making all things new, then the best thing I can do is to keep on aligning myself with you. Putting into practice the things I see in your life and applying them in mine and waiting for clarity along the way.”
Sam Holland 14:06
I’m so glad you brought up burnout because of course we never think about Jo Saxton struggling with burnout. I mean – I don’t know – but you say it happens.
Jo Saxton 14:18
Oh gosh, yes.
Sam Holland 14:19
So one of my friends who read your book, “Ready to Rise,” and loved it and was so inspired by it, she messaged me because she knew I was going to interview you for this podcast, she said, “Ask Jo how do you avoid burnout?” When you’re ready to rise – you know – but you have two little kids and you’re still trying to lean into these things. Because you are – you’re ready to rise, but burnout is a real threat isn’t it?
Yeah, I think there are a number of things I would encourage us to do. One is, what does rest look like for you, in this season of your life? The Bible gives us this call to Sabbath as our design specifications, and you can only violate that design specification for so long.
Jo Saxton 15:07
So my first thing is, what does rest look like for you? If you want to avoid burnout, what does support and community look like for you? Sometimes we burn out by doing too much, sometimes we burn out by doing non life giving things and or given too many “yeses” when there should have been some “nos” in there. And I’m not saying that everything that we do is meant to make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Some things are just boring. Some things are just mundane.
That’s what I’m encouraging us to reflect on, though, is when we look at all the things we’ve said “yes” to, were they things God called us to? Are they things that God called us to a few years ago that you’re just carrying on because you don’t know what else to do? Is it about our insecurity? Is it because we couldn’t say “no”? Is it because we’ve got something to prove? Having something to prove and needing to please people – that will definitely burn you out, because it’s like a voracious appetite that will never get met. So I would encourage us to think about some of those things.
And I do think it’s harder in this moment. I do think it’s harder. I think when we are dealing with the realities of a pandemic – the ongoing realities and just the wearing down and the grief and all of those things, are part of our landscape now.
So I would ask people as well, what does it look like to grieve – to process the reality of what they’ve lost? What’s been harder, what’s been uncertain? To have chronic uncertainty, to experience chronic loss. To feel inadequate and inept for a year – how has that impacted you? Because those things will wear you out and wear you thin. And if we’re not processing pain and grief or confusion, it builds up within us and that’ll drain you too.
Sam Holland 17:04
Yeah, absolutely. What are the ways that you’re seeing God creating unique opportunities for you and others to step into during this time. Or daily – it just feels like there’s unanswered questions and uncertainty and so much grief and loss. And then we get hopeful one day, and then the next day we’re not sure when this is ever going to end. So it’s just like a daily waking up to a different reality with a different set of uncertainties.
Jo Saxton 17:37
Yeah. I think one of the things that I’ve had to sit with, is the reality, like the Bible says, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” And – man – has that meant more in this era. Because I didn’t realize how much I went by plan. How much I live by plan, and good intentions, and strategies and all of these things. And now it’s like, some days I don’t know. But I do know that if we’re walking by faith, some of it you guess. Some of it, you’re just like, “Well, what’s in front of me? What do I do with the life I already have? How can I be a blessing? How can I serve people?”
And when something is cut back, it is smaller. You know? I have less capacity than I did before. But I do ask, “What does it look like to be faithful in this space?” And, “What does it look like– how do I serve God in the confinement of our current realities?” Am I going to assume it’s any less? Any less significant? No, but it is harder.
It is harder because it’s not what you’re used to. It’s not what you planned for. So I think I would encourage us to have some grace– to give ourselves some grace in this as well. I think we want to do so right by God it’s like, “Okay, it may be terrible. It may be really hard. It may be really uncertain, but I’m going to be great and I’m gonna have a vision.” And God’s like, “You know what, you can just sit down and weep if you want. I’m good.” Do you know what I mean? He’s not insecure about this moment. But I think sometimes in our insecurity we want to perform as well as we did in other circumstances, and He never required a performance anyway.
Sam Holland 19:12
So true. Jo, let’s talk a little more about your book, “Ready to Rise,” which I read and loved, and is you inviting women to step into their unique calling. Can you tell us more about, why did you write this book, and why do women need this invitation?
Jo Saxton 19:35
I wrote the book because, at a number of events like conferences and churches and stuff, I would meet very gifted talented women. Very talented, passionate – you could almost see it in their eyes – teeming with ideas, but also conflictedness, about how to actually live out that calling. A friend of mine describes it as a mentor crisis. People not seeing any examples by which they could learn what they wanted to do. And what they felt God was calling them to.
And sometimes if I spoke at an event, and it was an event where there weren’t many women in the in the bathrooms during the break, I would meet lots of women who would– we’d be talking about stuff, and some would get really emotional about how to work out their calling, and, “What do you think about this?” And I just thought, “You know what, your questions are life defining and they’re worth more than a 10-minute bathroom break. And that if this is the only place we get to thrash out what God’s calling us to do, and how we work that out and family and life and how we work it out in our singleness, and all of these other sorts of things, and others” – I thought – “We’re not doing right by people. We’re not doing right by people.”
So I think it was that combination of things – of seeing people, seeing women in particular, and actually talking to some men who were like, “Where do I start?” that wanted me to at least create something. Which kind of put down the things I’ve learned along the way – I’m still learning – and give people something to work with.
Because when you’re in a vacuum, it can be quite disempowering.
So it’s like, “Okay, let’s start here.” Let’s start here and process what disempowerment has cost you. Let’s start here and talk about what the woundedness has done to you. Let’s start here and ask yourself, how confident you really are about naming and unwrapping your gifts. Let’s start here about when you lost your voice, and how you will own it again. And let’s start here about what it means to lead in community and build a village of leaders– a village around you so that you can move into your calling fully. And it kind of built from there.
Sam Holland 21:39
Yeah, what are practical things that men and women can do to create spaces where we are inviting women in, to step into their impact?
Jo Saxton 21:52
I think it has to be shouted from the rooftops, really. Because I think women hear a lot of voices about what they should not be. And I think often, the battle, if right to use that language – if it’s a battle for someone, it’s in their mind before anybody said a word.
And so I would encourage those of us who want to invest in women to step into their calling, you have to be really explicit. And just because you may say, “Come and talk to me anytime,” doesn’t mean somebody will. Honestly – it doesn’t mean somebody will, because there is so much, “Who do I think I am?” about this stuff, that people, sometimes women hope to be discovered.
I’m not saying that’s good, either. I’m just painting the picture, –do you know what I mean?– of what it can look like sometimes. Because people have tried and failed, people have tried and been pushed back, so they’re like, “You know what, I’m out. I just need God to do something.”
I would ask you to think of your context – church, community, and who, what do you celebrate? And how do you– what are seen as leadership roles and who populates them? Because the reality is, you’re already saying something. It’s whether you know what you’re saying. Do you know– and you may already perceive you’re communicating an openness, but if you’re speaking a different language to the person you’re trying to reach, then it’s going to be lost on him. So I would encourage you to look at those things.
And not I would say, who do you want to encourage? Encourage to step into some ways? For those of us in environments where we have the influence, it looks like giving people tangible opportunities. It looks like ongoing conversations. It looks like investment. It looks like access to learning, and permission to fail and grow. Those are all the pieces that are part of it.
And then looking at that person, not just the task you want them to fill, not just the role you want them to play, but what is God inviting them to do? And how can you support them to work that out in their life? If they have young kids, what does it mean for how we support that family, so that some of this can be done? And to be creative and innovative? Because one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to leadership development.
Sam Holland 24:07
Yeah. I think some of the most formative times in my own calling – my own life, were when women who were either my peers or my elders usually specifically reached out to me and said, “You know, I saw what you wrote, I heard you speak, I saw this project you worked on, and I just wanted you to know, I think it was wonderful, and I think you should keep doing that thing. And I think God is using you in this space.”
And – I mean – I can picture those in my head and how it was like God sent a messenger to just say, “Keep doing this. This is part of your calling. This is part of what you were created for.” How powerful that is.
Jo Saxton 24:54
Sam Holland 24:57
Well as we wrap up our time together, I’d love to know, Jo, if you had one invitation for followers of Jesus listening right now, who want to step into their calling, what would that one invitation be?
Jo Saxton 25:13
Sam Holland 25:16
Jo Saxton 25:18
A general invitation of something they could do? I’m kind of trying to work out my framework here.
Sam Holland 25:24
Yeah. Something practical and tangible that any of us listening could do.
Jo Saxton 25:30
Yeah. Okay. I would– it’s probably something in three parts.
Sam Holland 25:38
I love it.
Jo Saxton 25:39
I want you to talk to somebody you trust and feel safe with, about the ideas that you’ve put to one side. The dream or goal or, and it can be anything from, “I’ve always had this dream to start a nonprofit,” through to, “I feel I need to build community in my neighborhood.” This is not the Olympics of callings –do you know what I mean?– this is not the callings Olympics. We do not need to get weird. But so nothing’s too much. Nothing’s not enough. Just whatever’s on your mind. And I want you to think about what that is, and talk to somebody you trust about it and then say, “Okay, what’s my– what’s our next step?”
Sam Holland 26:20
Who’s someone you trust and feel safe with? Who you could talk to about your ideas?
Maybe like our episode with Elizabeth McKinney, you have ideas about your neighborhood. Or like Liz Bohannon, you have dreams of starting a business. Whatever your ideas are, take the next step. Find a friend or mentor to share them with today.
Created For is hosted and produced by Cru. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe, rate or review it wherever you listen. For more resources to continue your journey to living out your impact, check out the show notes on our website Cru.org/createdfor and follow us on Instagram at _createdfor.
Thanks for listening. We’ll catch you again on the next episode with Jocelyn Chung, where we’ll talk about how we’re made to create.