Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Bag of Stones

Written by: on September 5, 2021

“Do not be afraid”, the Angels, and well more importantly, Jesus, proclaim over and over.  However, I am afraid; I’m afraid of reading too slow, of taking too much time on notes, and writing with an academic voice.  I wonder how I have made it this far academically with so many weaknesses. The truth is I didn’t enter into the Doctorate program with an academic mindset.  This choice was tethered to a hunger to grow in my abilities to think theologically, because in the past twenty years of ministry I have recognized a regression. I have missed the collegial dialogue that pushes me to think broader and deeper.   But the first year of this program revealed my naivete of what would be expected of me as a critical thinker and academic writer.  Our weeks readings illuminated my fears like a sole spotlight on a dark theatre stage.

Despite the Goliath sized fears I have I also am tenaciously holding onto the bigger goal of developing more confidence in my reading, writing and thinking.  Adler’s book has provided some hand holds/foot holes to begin climbing the reading mountain with purpose. He writes, “Whether you mange to keep awake or fall asleep depends in large part on your goal of reading.”  When I read this I connected it to what I have been preaching a lot about lately…what is our goal in our relationship with God?  Do we have a goal of deepening our connection with God?  I have had a resistant spirit to reading academically.  My goal needs to permeate my mindset of reading.  Just like I do not want to fall asleep in my relationship with God I must not be so dismissive to what is offered in reading. It will require more thoughtfulness and intention on my part.  I surprised myself when I sat with Paul and Elder to hear their offerings in The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking. They wrote about Three Types of Character, and my first thought was, “WOW, this is definitely an issue today. It’s clear these characters are in play today for it seems these types of thinking exacerbates the anxiety state that Freidman talks about.”  Excitement began. Excitement because I was able to utilize lessons from Adler and put A Failure of Nerve in conversation with the Miniature Guide!

I will attempt to not be afraid…or at least not completely afraid.  According to Paul and Elder, I am a “beginner thinker” but I am hungry to grow, not only in my theological process but in my critical thinking.  And I am now more aware of the importance of reading to curate that space.  Writing academically may be more of a challenge, but I am hoping for grace. The Goliath is still big but I feel I have several good stones in my bag.  I hope the stones will help me read faster with purpose, to approach note taking with organization, to practice critical thinking with deftness and fairmindedness, and find my own voice in academic writing

About the Author


Nicole Richardson

PC(USA) pastor serving a church in Kansas City. In my spare time I teach yoga and scuba diving

6 responses to “A Bag of Stones”

  1. Elmarie Parker says:

    Hey Nicole. Thank you for your vulnerable reflection. I love the way you integrate your reflections on our readings with your preaching focus right now. What you wrote about sensing a regressing in theological thinking and a desire to engage with peers again on this level are both things that also drew me into this program. I also really enjoyed your inclusion of what surprised you about yourself as you were engaging the readings! What a great self awareness. It encourages me to be alert to this for myself. Thank you.

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Elmarie thank you. I am so very excited about having an opportunity to be challenged and stretched by you! I believe your experience will offer so much to learn from!

  2. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Hi Nicole. I resonate so much with your identification of needing to switch from reading to complete an assignment for the program, to reading with intention and for your own growth. I have also felt challenged in ensuring that I’m constantly calibrating myself to the larger ‘why’ of pursuing this degree to help mitigate unintentional disconnection. What I have seen from you over this last year being in your peer group has been a sincere wrestling with your topic and this doctoral pursuit which has allowed you to walk through and lean into the various challenges. I have no doubt that your endurance and perseverance on a daily basis will produce magnificent fruit for you and those around you.

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Kayli I am just so honored to be in your group! Your empathy and life experience are going to be ongoing gifts I get to unwrap 🙂 We have different contexts but I think we have a few common struggles that make our bond strong.

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    I can relate about your hungering for theological and collegial discussion with others. I think we are in the right place and in the right program. We can’t help but to find our voice in the critical writings we will be doing. Best of luck to you…

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