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A Hand to Guide Me: The People Who Shaped Our Spiritual Lives Proposal

Posted on January 10, 2013

A Hand to Guide Me: The People Who Shaped Our Spiritual Lives

Proposal: Over the next month, collect and collate stories of people who have been spiritual mentors to people in our presbytery.  I will put together the stories of the spiritual guides in your lives and publish a Lenten Devotional. There will be one story each day of Lent, February 13 through Easter Sunday, March 31.

           Then giving full credit to the original idea and work of Denzel Washington I will publish for us a Lenten Devotional entitled: A Hand to Guide Me: The People Who Shaped Our Spiritual Lives.

Format: I would like each contributor to write about 500 words or less about a person who helped make them the Christian they are today.  It can be a person from childhood.  It can be a person from any season of life.  It can be a person who was or is intimately a part of your daily life.  It could even have been a person you met in an airplane, whose name you may have forgotten or never even known.

          I may change fonts or format of your contribution, I will not edit in any other way.

          Each day will have a Scripture verse attached and end with a prayer.  The writer is encouraged to include these, but I will be happy to do so when I am putting together the finished product.

Publication: This devotional will be published electronically.  By Friday, February 10, an email will be sent to each congregation of the presbytery that will attach the whole devotional.  It will also be posted on the blog page of the presbytery’s website.  How that will take place needs figuring out.

Now, let me tell you about this idea.

          I am a reader. So it is logical that on my Mondays off I usually spend a few minutes haunting around the library.  This last Monday I scanned through the history selves. I was surprised to see a book spine with white letters on a black background calling out the name Denzel Washington. 

          It took me a few moments to realize it was a book by Denzel Washington.  This begged the question: What kind of history book is Denzel Washington writing?

          I pulled it off the shelf and was struck by the curious title A Hand to Guide Me: Legends and Leaders Celebrate the People Who Shaped Their Lives.  Turning to the fly leaf I read:

Everyone needs a hand from time to time, a gentle nudge to get on track.  And you never know when the help you provide will lift someone toward a life of greatness.

A Hand to Guide Me showcases how the kindness of mentors has shaped the lives of people you know and respect.  In their own words, legendary personalities tell how people stepped up to guide them.  From Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali to Bob Woodward and James Worthy, the voices in this book may be household names now, but they credit their success to the guidance of others long ago.

Seventy-four stories in all, each one is a revelation about how important any one of us can be to the youth around us.

          Standing right there in the stacks, I was interested enough to read Denzel’s first chapter. His first words were from Scripture:

Let’s start with a verse from Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

          Denzel went on to write no matter who we are, he is betting there is someone who cheered us on and showed us the way.  As I read this, I muttered aloud, “Amen brother.”

          I needed to check out this book. At the front desk, I thanked the nice librarian, zipped up my hoodie, pulled on my stocking cap, and walked to my little red Ford Focus, “Zippy.”  The whole time I was having flashes of faces and names of people who have shaped and guided my life, most especially my spiritual life.  This idea began to germinate.

          While I may be interested and even moved by Olympian Jackie Joiner-Kersee telling the story of someone who guided her, I am much more interested in hearing from Christian people around me telling their stories of those who led and inspired and guided them into and through their faith journeys.  We need to tell each other these stories.

          I begin this project in the same place I was walking out of the library.  A great many people are flashing though my head.  It will be difficult for some of us to choose just one.  Others of us will know the person we want to write about in an instant.  I think it would be a good exercise for all of us to scroll through our own history.  Think of places and situations that have touched spiritually and remember who was around you and how they touched you.

          This brings me back to an exercise I did several years ago.  I listed all the people I could think of who have touched and shaped my spiritual life.  I ended up with about 700 names on index cards.  Now to choose for this project?!?

          Ultimately this isn’t a one time, one person project.  I believe it is an exercise in looking at our spiritual development and thanking the Lord for those people who have helped get us here.  Then using these inspirations to be constantly aware of and remember we shape others spiritual lives as well.

          I believe each of the stories we choose to share will inspire other faith believers – our brothers and sisters in Christ.  They will also help us continue to realize we do not live out our Christian faith in a vacuum.  We are shaped and affected by believers though out our lives and believe it or not, we shape others with our words, actions, prayers and just being who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.

          In the next week or so, please ask me any questions that come to mind and let me know if you are interested in contributing to this project.  You can send your questions and essay to my email: 

Thank you for your consideration,

Grace and Peace,
Steve Nofel

Source: Denzel Washington, A Hand to Guide Me: Legends and Leaders Celebrate the People Who Shaped Their Lives, Meredith Books, 1716 Locust St., Des Moines, Iowa, 50309-3023,, Copyright 2006 by The Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

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