DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

It’s in the Bones

Written by: on October 18, 2018

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s in the bones” or that heard that you might feel something “deep in your bones”? Essentially, it means that when you learn or understand something so deeply that it becomes a part of you. “While bones frequently evoke images of death, they also may evoke resilient images of life, vitality, and regeneration”[1].


In my life, I’ve learned a few truths that I now hold in my bones. The first, is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[2] God formed my flesh and my bones amidst many trials that started in my mothers womb, and it’s a miracle I am alive. God loves me. It’s in my bones. As a mother, that reality was cemented more so during the pregnancy of each of my two children. I thought often about the tumultuous start I had in the womb and prayed over my children has God was knitting Eli and Boaz together in my own.


The second truth I hold in my bones is that I am continually needing to make space for the tension being a leader and being a follower. I believe I was born to lead. It’s in my bones. I come from a family of strong women who exhibited leadership in so many areas of their life, both inside and (mostly) outside the Church. As I look back over my journey, I see many areas where God has uniquely gifted me with leadership. But I’ve also been blessed to be a follower. I’ll be honest, being a follower doesn’t always come easy for me. Submission and followership aren’t words I regularly use in my vocabulary. But I’m practicing to continually submit my leadership to the Lord, and I have found that when I follow more closely, I lead more strongly.


This weeks reading helped me understand another truth. I am a learner. It’s in my bones. Rowntree reminded me that deep learning, the kind that settles in your bones, comes by way of developing our understandings of new learnings, and “to get plenty of practice in applying it to whatever situations or problems it is supposed to relate to.”[3]


As I think about what I’m hoping to learn through writing my dissertation, I feel like I might be articulating things that I already know in my bones. I’ve moved beyond the surface learning of faith, vocation, and service, and I’m moving towards voicing my deep learnings. “Knowledge is not a commodity to be picked up ready-made, as if from a supermarket shelf. Instead, you need to be involved in the making of your knowledge.”[4] Even as I’ve been working on my annotated bibliography, I’ve realized that the texts I’ve picked have been exactly as Rowntree mentioned. In essence, I’m being “bombarded with new ideas, new perspectives on ideas you already have, new connections between ideas, ideas that conflict with or transform your existing ideas – together with a whole new vocabulary with which to talk about them.”[5]


Folks like Rowntree, Adler, and Bayard have helped me in this season of deep learning. But I know I’m right at the start and it’s all so new. I’m still holding in tension my leadership and my followership in this program. Daily I’m reminding myself that I can do this work because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Honestly, it’s hard to remember these truths at time. It’s all so new; it’s only just begun. But it’s going to be good. I can tell. I feel it in my bones.




*Completely unrelated to the content of this post, but these books kicked my butt in the citation department. I hope I did these right. This is why this post is late. I read nearly the entire Turabian Book to figure these out. This Turabian book will hopefully soon be in my bones too.

[1] Elaine Lux, “Narrative Bones: Amy Tan’s Bonesetter’s Daughter and Hugh Cook’s Homecoming Man” in The Gift of Story: Narrating Hope in a Postmoderd World, eds. Emily Griesinger and Mark Eaton (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2006), 119

[2] Psalm 139:14 (New Revised Standard Version)

[3] Derek Rowntree, “Studying and Learning,” in Learn How to Study: A Virtual Tour with Derek Rowntree (n.p.: printed by the author, 2016)

[4] ibid.

[5] Derek Rowntree, “The art of reading critically (1),” in Learn How to Study: A Virtual Tour with Derek Rowntree (n.p.: printed by the author, 2016)


About the Author


Karen Rouggly

Karen Rouggly is the Director for Mobilization in the Center for Student Action at Azusa Pacific University. She develops transformational experiences for students serving locally, nationally, and internationally. She completed an MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about community development, transformational service and helping students understand vocation and service. Karen is also an active member at the Vineyard Church Glendora where she is a small group leader and serves on the teaching team. She is also a mom to two sweet boys, wife to an amazing guy, and loves being a friend to many.

12 responses to “It’s in the Bones”

  1. Mario Hood says:

    I love this concept of “in the bones.” I’m doing a lot of research and thinking about embodied leadership, meaning leadership is more about who we are and not what we do, and this flows right into that thinking.

    On that note, one thing I have been wrestling with is the same concept or definitions of leaders and followers. Yes, those that lead are leading something or someone, but at the same time, I think a good leader is always following someone/something also. Paul says follow me AS I follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) and Jesus himself said, “I do nothing except what I see the Father doing” (John 5:19).

    I think in our Western logic we have to be one or the other (if not always that at certain times) and so I guess the question becomes is it either or OR both/and? Thanks for the stirring post!

    • mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

      Generally I do not like sports analogies, but anyone who has ever played a team sport (at a relatively competitive level) has to experience the difference between leading and following. There are so may different roles to fill and teammates can lead in different areas but must follow in others.

      The center most likely can’t lead like the point guard . . . and vice versa.

      The hockey goalie cant lead like the left forward . . . and vice versa.

      The corner back is going to lead differently than the running back.

      I have a hard time describing this but I have experienced it throughout my playing days.

      Musically too, this has been a field where different intruments have different roles to play, but different ones lead in different ways.

      The keyboards can lead differently than the bass player.

      The bassoon leads differently than the flute.

      Many people say the drums are always in the lead . . . but not always the case. Just check out a Phish concert.

      The definitions of “leadership and followership’ always interest me too and I often feel like society has looked so negatively on being a follower that the people who are the best followers do not get the praise and accolades they deserve.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Mario – YES. This is so good. I think in the way that all good leaders have certain identifying characteristics, one of them should be that they are leading AND following. If you aren’t following anyone, how can you expect anyone to follow you? If you’re asking your people to do hard things, but you yourself aren’t being asked to do hard things, does that make you a hypocrite? We all know how Jesus felt about hypocrites. I think followership is just as important as leadership.

  2. mm Rhonda Davis says:

    I love your post, Karen. It seems we are all on unique paths to discovery. I resonate with your phrase, “I feel like I might be articulating things that I already know in my bones.” I know this research process will require a lot of discipline (I am strengthening that muscle), but I am grateful to be researching some areas I have had intuitive knowledge of. I am excited to add to my “inner library” through the dissertation process. I am sure we will all learn so much from the process! How are you able to find the intersection between leading and learning? What does that look like in your context?

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      Thanks for the kind words, friend! And yes – I think one of the things I love most about this program is the space to articulate things that we already feel like we know to be true.

      In my context, the line between learning and leading is pretty thin. I feel like at most Higher Ed institutions, it’s the case for mine anyway, that learners are valued as leaders. As I am learning more about the intersections between faith, vocation, and service (my topic), I am able to put these things into practice, with those I lead. I always appreciate learning things that are directly applicable to what I am leading in.

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    I love the word picture of “deep in your bones.” It evokes a deep internalized truth derived from years of walking with God through the leadership of his Spirit. I am thankful for what you are learning both of content and yourself. I believe Rowntree calls the latter learning for personal development. While I shouldn’t be surprised, I can see for myself how I am changing as I move forward through this doctoral process. My post reflects how I am moving from self-serving interests to global opportunities for service. I appreciate your stated dilemma between leadership and followership. Honestly, I believe every called leader wrestles with this dilemma, especially when the leader we are following is not “easy” to follow (I finally have a local leader who is easy to follow!) I pray the Holy Spirit will continue to lead you through learning and studying, following and leading. Thanks so much for your reflective insights, H

  4. mm John Muhanji says:

    I am inspired, Karen with your post. Your post encourages me that all is well on this journey. But I would love to get more explanation on what you mean by “I feel like I might be articulating things that I already know in my bones.” You inspire me with confidence you bring to the class.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      John, I am glad you find my confidence inspiring, because I often feel like I am lacking so much in the confidence department. Ultimately, I feel like in my dissertation, I am looking for connections in things I already know to be true. I’m specifically looking at the intersections of faith, vocation, and service. From my own personal experiences, as well as the experiences of the people around me, I believe that there are deep connections in service, faith, and vocation, so my dissertation is really helping me unpack and give voice to those connections.

  5. Thank you Karen for bringing out the issue of Leadership and following, I agree with you and assert that you cannot be a good leader without being a good follower. I believe there is learning that takes place as you follow other leaders which makes you a better leader. As you follow other leaders you learn from what and how they do as leaders and they can also train and coach you to be a better leader. None is self sufficient of ourselves, as Scipture says in Proverbs 27: , “Iron sharpens Iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. The scripture here emphasises the nature of the relationship that exists between the leader and follower as close or as friendship in order to be more impactful and I have found that to be true. Those of the leaders that sharpened me more profoundly, are those that I have established a close relationship that gives them permission to impact on them and gives me permission to learn of them.

  6. mm Sean Dean says:

    Experts know the rules, masters know how to break the rules. Whether it’s Picasso or Charles Ives, it’s the masters of their craft that both confound and inspire their onlookers. I wonder if the process of going from expert to master is not only about learning how to break the rules but also to move beyond what we know in our bones. Foundational truths are important, but they also need to be tended – much like our own bones that need a constant infusion of calcium to remain strong. In the process of tending those truths we need to allow our understanding of them to change and to change us.

  7. “It’s in the bones.” I’m going to start using that phrase Karen. Thanks for introducing that to me. Just like you, I feel like God has put us on earth to accomplish a particular purpose. It’s taken me awhile but I feel like what I’m pursuing in my dissertation topic is part of who I am — I can’t deny that it’s in my bones; and like you said, it becomes part of life. That life, whether we like it or not, will come out and influence others. As a parent, you know full well that this is a privilege and yet also a burden. What if we fail those we care about? What if we end up influencing others for the worse? Heaven forbid.

    I sure hope and pray that what’s “in my bones” will come out in a life that glorifies God and points others to Christ.

  8. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Excellent, Karen. You speak my language! I talk about “knowing in my knower” it’s the same idea as having it “in my bones.” I was struck by your quote about application and your conundrum with leading and following which is such a good tension. If we stay committed to application, practicing the new knowledge we gain, we actually are taking the posture of following, practicing new disciplines which makes your statement right on, “I have found that when I follow more closely, I lead more strongly.” So true.

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