Dry Bones

DRYBONES

I love going to women’s events, conferences, and brunches and listening to speakers.  Whether the speaker is a famous author, Pastor, or the woman who sits in the third pew.  For me, I never walk away from these experiences empty handed.  I learn something and gain from the gift of their words.

At the event from this weekend, there were two speakers.  I shared my thoughts/notes from the first speaker, Julie Mullins, last post.  The second speaker was Pastor Charlotte Gambill who Co-Pastors with her husband at Life Church across the pond in the UK.  I’ve never had an opportunity to hear Pastor Gambill before, and it was an absolute treat.

This is a mixture of direct words from her and my response to it written in my notes…

Do you feel like you are in the dry places? The desert of your life?

But you feel knocked down, worn out, planted into the stones and yet you want to uproot and run… but you can’t because you are breathless.

The sun is beating on your back, you are parched with thirst, your lungs feel as if there is no air left.

You feel like you are dying.
Your dreams are dying.
Your marriage is dying.
Your relationship with your child is dying.

… and God seems so far away…

God will put breath back into your lungs & resurrect the dry places, but first you must stop carrying the load that He doesn’t want you to bear in order to go to the place He is taking you.  ~Pastor Charlotte Gambill

You are carrying the dry bones of your past that you thought you buried away. Past pain and hurt, confusion and frustration, anger and guilt. The enemy wants us to bury these bones and hide them, so that we don’t face them and others can’t see. God says NO! In order to bring life to those dry old bones, we must face them head on.

He is the God who resurrects and restores.

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Ezekiel 37:1-14
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
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God will drop you into the valley of dry bones because He has a question for you, because sometimes God’s answer to you is wrapped in your answer to Him.

~Pastor Charlotte Gambill

God asked Ezekiel “can these bones live” and Ezekiel avoided the question, he didn’t want to answer. When we avoid facing the questions we can’t find healing, have or joy restored, or our life returned. We are hiding in the desert places.

God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, giving power to the Word of God… not the words of friends, not the words of family members, not the words of people who do not care for you… that may cause you to lay down your life and dreams and hopes prematurely.

But, God can’t work if you are living in the past. Facing the bones is not the same as living with them. If you are choosing the live in the bones of the past (of what was, or what you longed for and gave up)… you will be stuck.

When Ezekiel prophesied over the bones, they rose and assembled themselves and flesh covered them… but there was no life in them. It’s not enough to just assemble the bones, but we must ask God to breathe new life into them. To breathe new life into our dreams, breath new life into our relationships, breath new life into our world.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, fast forward he’s now in charge of the Pharoah’s household and serves as his right hand man. Everything was seemingly perfect for Joseph, but he still had bones he was carrying.

You can still bloom in the desert places, but you must deal with the bones for the super bloom. God will bring them right to you, bumping you into them. The woman who hurt you, shows up at the same retreat you are at. The person you need to apologize to keeps showing up in the random places. You can’t seem to escape it, because He needs you to face it.

Joseph carried a lot of bones in his life, he had every reason to be angry and hurt. Yet we never see him protesting, trying to prove himself to others, etc. Instead he spent time trying to improve himself. He didn’t worry about others blessings or failures, he concerned himself with his own stuff. This allowed Joseph’s heart to be open for restoration verses revenge.

The emotional cost of carrying a heavy bag of bones is that you will be breathless.

In Gen 42, Joseph faces his brothers… the ones who began His plight. He had to face those bones.

1. His pain was revisited. We don’t have to pretend the pain didn’t happen. The pain is real, but if we hold it in … the pain becomes toxic. We must exhale the pain, and inhale His breathe of new life.

2. He had to remember. It will cost you a lot to keep replaying the past. Remember it, but do not linger, move forward.

3. He had to be a silent witness as they recalled the events. Sometimes we have to witness those who hurt us reckon with their actions before we can release it. But, these silent tears are not in vain they are washing away the past.

“You can use your tears to water weeds or to sprout new life.”

“You can not get back the years of your past, but God can replace them with better years to come.”  ~Pastor Charlotte Gambill

4. He had to grieve what was lost. Joseph’s youngest brother had nothing to do with what happened to him, he was just a child of 4 years. The actions of his brothers cost him years of relationship with his brother Benjamin. Joseph mourned what Benjamin didn’t even know about. Instead of bringing Benjamin into the pain, Joseph grieved this in private and then cleaned himself up and got a grip on himself.

“There is a time limit on tears. Stop crying about what was or was supposed to be. Exhale the past, it is gone. Inhale your purpose for now.”

5. He recognized God was behind it. The sorrow Joseph experienced due to his brothers was not wasted, God used it for purpose. A seed was removed from one place and planted for a greater future.

When Ezekiel followed the Lord’s instructions, the bones came together. It was better, but not full. Don’t just stop because things seem better… keep going. Because the fullness comes when God breathes new life into your dreams. New life into your marriage. New life into your relationships. New life into your prodigal. New life into your career.

New breath means you will not just stand but you will LIVE!

God didn’t just raise one set of bones in the desert that day with Ezekiel. He raised an army.

That God is calling to you… will you face your dry bones? Will you settle for better? Or will you command new life into the dry weary bones?

As each of us surrender to God our dry bones, and He breathes new life into our trials… and we are holding on for not just better but best… He is raising a King’s Army in us.

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Reflecting on #Amazing18

Happy

This weekend, I attended the #Amazing18 event at Christ Fellowship, hosted by CF Sisterhood.  The event theme was Flourish.  In addition to an amazing Worship team, ballet performance, and just an overwhelmingly welcoming environment… there were two great speakers that really spoke to my heart.

Just that morning, I was praying on my way to the event.  “Lord, give me a Word at this event.”  I was struggling through something, and I needed God’s guidance because I had no idea what to do next … what decisions to make.  Apparently I needed more than 1 good word, I needed many.

The first speaker, Julie Mullins (of Christ Fellowship) opened up the event and introduced the theme “Flourish” through an illustration of the 2016 Death Valley Super Bloom.

In 2016, Death Valley experienced a Super Bloom. This is the hottest desert in the US. For most years it is barren and desolate. Yet, beneath the dry rocky soil, lay millions of seeds just waiting to bring new life. California experienced a series of incredible weather that year. Driest summer. Coldest winter. Wettest spring. As a result of the volume of water that spring, these seeds sprouted into not just a bloom… but a super bloom.

It was as if this dry, rocky, arid place was covered in a blanket of flowers. Some of which are only found in Death Valley and only when a super bloom happens. According to most, a super bloom may happen only once in a decade. For many seeing it is a once in a lifetime experience.

* The word flourish means to grow vigorously as a result of favorable conditions. We often think that favorable means easy, wonderful, perfect… but in the case of the Super Bloom the favorable conditions were actually a result of a series of difficult seasons.

* There were millions of seeds below the surface. [ My own notation: All of the affirmations that have been spoken to you, all of the words of wisdom, the Scripture you have read, the prayers others pray over you, etc. are all seeds just under your surface. You can’t see them, but they are there… waiting.]

* Isaiah 35:1-2 — The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

Isaiah 35:6-7 — Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

When I arrived home, I knew I wanted to write about this, but I also wanted to understand more about the super bloom.  I dug into some reading and videos on the topic.  After doing so, and unpacking Julie’s words, here is where I’ve landed:

Do you feel like you are in a season of dry, rocky ground? Where you a desperately thirsty and it seems like you can’t find water anywhere. You feel as if you are drying up?

There are some who say that nothing can ever survive in the valley, but in an instant the Valley of Death becomes the Valley of Life.

Why?

1. The seeds that are underground were designed by God to endure the harshest droughts. They have a special coating on them that keeps them from blooming when only short and shallow rains fall.

2. It will take the greatest storms to crack through that coating.

Even though you may feel like you are in the dry valley, the valley of death… inside of you are seeds that are waiting for the RIGHT moment to germinate and come through the surface. But for some of us, it is going to take an extraordinary set of circumstances to cause those seeds to break through. And the result will be a sudden burst of new life, beauty like anything unseen. Some of us need extra storms, extra trials… double the rain…. a series of extreme situations to unlock what is coming.

What seemed like a sudden burst of life to those who witnessed it, took a decade or more of preparation. The result was beyond any expectation.

But, know what you are up against!

When the Super Bloom happened, all of these flowers and plants also brought an influx of other new lives into the valley. Bugs, insects… they began to thrive. The beauty that rose up out of the dry lands created provision for the creatures. It also brought predators, the lizards who eat the insects and the birds who eat the lizards. In the moments of beauty, there will be predators who take advantage of what it brings.

Lord, let the rains fall and fill our dry valleys. Let your living waters seep deep into our bodies and reach those seeds that have been waiting for so long, so that we may flourish and thrive. Give us patience and confidence as we endure the trials knowing we are waiting for our super bloom moment. In your time, not ours. Amen.

The Father of the Prodigal Son

He Ran toHis Son

What I love about the Scripture of the Prodigal Son was that the father didn’t wait for his son to be “perfect” before giving him the inheritance that he asked for. There was no expectation that the son had to be in line to get anything. He was given his fair share.
 
The older brother didn’t think this was ok, since he had done all the “right things”. He was upset that the father was celebrating the sons return despite squandering the father’s wealth.
 
And finally, I love that the father didn’t withhold himself from his son.  The father didn’t wait for the son to humble himself, knocking on the door, apologizing, etc.   It says that he saw his son a “long way off”.   The father didn’t know why his son was heading into the town, he just knew that He needed to run TO his son.
When we read the story of the prodigal son, as parents, we read it from the perception that one day our wayward children will come back home and return to our authority/wisdom/guidance.  For our children who left the church, we read it with the hope that one day our children will return to the fold.
The problem with these interpretations is that they having us waiting for our children to come to us.  To humble themselves before us.  To admit they are wrong, to turn back the right way, etc.  We want to be told we were right.  We want our children to do what we say, how we say to do it, and when we say to do it.  We want obedience.  And, in some cases, it has more to do with our own pride (of how others will perceive us) than how our children may have strayed.
Scripture shows a father who didn’t withhold from his child (even when he was not making the right decisions)… and a father who didn’t wait to hear how right he was, but instead RAN TO his child in the distance.
Perhaps the real lesson is that instead of sitting in our houses waiting for our children to admit they were wrong and we were right… we are supposed to be running toward the opportunity to embrace them, to reconcile and celebrate.
Who was won to Christ by being shunned for their sin?  The Samaritan woman, is a great example.  Jesus went well out of His way to encounter this one woman.  She didn’t turn from her ways because the people of her community turned their back on her.  She turned from her sin because Jesus came TO HER.  Jesus showed love, kindness, compassion, and grace when others avoided her.
Who was won to Christ by being judged for their sin?  The woman caught in adultery.  While others stood with stones in hand to throw at her, Christ climbed into the pit with her.  When others were ready to destroy her, Christ gave her life.
Perhaps it’s time we stop shunning people and throwing stones of judgement at those who simply sin differently than we do.

The Theory of Spoons

SPOONS

 

If you have never heard of the Spoon Theory, a very brief explanation is the use of spoons to illustrate the amount of energy a person has on a given day.  Each activity of the day takes away a spoon.  So, in theory, the average person has 12 spoons for the day.   When she gets ready for work, that costs a spoon.  Work itself may be another 1 or 2 spoons.  Tending to the kids, another spoon.  Her spouse, another spoon.  Cleaning up the house, a spoon.   Spoons for meals.  Spoons for chores.  Spoons for the gym.  Spoons for appointments.  Etc. Each night when she goes to bed, her spoons are replenished and she begins her new day with 12 spoons ready to go.

Now imagine you have the same number of spoons, but you have an illness or a child who is ill?  We all know that if mom is down with the flu, all her spoons are spent on being trying to get better.  She may even crash in bed for a few days, take her medication, and do very little.  It literally will take all of her spoons (energy) just to get through the basics of each day.  We all know that once mom feels better, there is usually a few days of catch up that must happen.  Mom may exhaust her spoons in this process, however, she will be able to rest up and her spoons will be replenished.  Eventually, she is back on her cycle of 12 spoon days and an evening of sleep to replenish for the next day.

Now take this illustration a step further, and think about the mom who has or cares for someone with a chronic illness.   For those of us who have a chronic illness or care for someone with a chronic illness, our life is all about borrowing spoons.  To get more done today, I may need to borrow spoons from tomorrow.  This means tomorrow, I won’t wake up with 12 spoons.  Instead, I may have 10… or 5.  And, because of my illness, I won’t always get a good night of sleep.  Which means I don’t always replenish to a full 12 spoons for the next day.  If I am having a good day, I can even get away with 1 spoon cost per activity.  Some days, however, are not all that great.  It may take more spoons to accomplish the same task because I’m so fatigued. 

In other words, people who have a chronic illness never get to really have true 12 spoon days.  We are always working in a deficit.  Even if I get 12 spoons of energy today, I’m going to pay for it tomorrow.  That is the reality.  That is every day.  That is the struggle of having a chronic illness or caring for someone who does.  Caretakers are not only spending their spoons on their own daily needs/tasks, but also spending extra spoons taking care of someone else. 

Do you know who else experiences this same spoon cost?  Single parents.  Because, there is no one there to lighten their load and divy up the chores.   Mental illness costs spoons too, because it may take more mental effort to complete tasks that are easier for others. Not to mention that mental illness can also be a physical and emotional drain on the body.

Today, I’m definitely on a limited supply of spoons.  It began with the fact that I was way behind in Spring Cleaning due to being sick earlier in the year.  I was still trying to play catch up on my every day things, Spring Cleaning was not even on my horizon.  Then once I did get into Spring Cleaning mode… that was pretty taxing.  Add in the completion of one of our large garden projects, and my body is physical spent.  My hands and joints hurt, my muscles hurt, I am physically exhausted and mentally spent.  This is not normal “you did a lot pain” .  I remember life when I wasn’t sick, what I could do and accomplish.  It’s really quite frustrating to not be able to live like that anymore. 

However, now, these physical pains from my hard labor are coupled with my every day pains and symptoms of my illness.  So, it’s just worse.  As simple as that.  My very skin hurts to be touched.  Imagine your worst sun burn ever, that pain is something I deal with fairly regularly.  Whether I say it or not.  If you wonder why I didn’t hug you today, it’s because it hurts today.  Tomorrow, may not be bad.  But today, it hurts. 

There are days where I can barely get myself ready because my muscles hurt as if I’ve gone on some sort of gym challenge that has left my body feeling like “leg day”, “arm day”, and “trunk day” happened all at the same time.   Yet, the day before I did nothing more than sweep the house and drive my kids around.  Grocery day literally takes everything out of me.  Sometimes I have to take a nap after taking a simple shower (Hashimotos people understand this completely). 

Why do I write this today?

Because I don’t look sick.  I don’t act sick.  This is part of my every day.  I don’t walk around with a sad look on my face, moaning and groaning over how hard each day is.  I just push through the best I can, and some days will come along where I can’t push any further.  So I must rest.  I try my best to not let my illness get the best of me and affect my life more negatively than it does.  Because of this, there are times where those around me forget that I’m sick.  It isn’t their fault, it doesn’t upset me that it slips their mind.  I just have to be willing to remind them every now and again.  

You may say… “But Gena, you do all of these things…”.   Let me just set that straight.  I really do nothing in my own strength.  What I accomplish in my family life and ministry work is 100% in the Lord’s strength.  Just like Paul’s thorn, I’ve asked the Lord to take this from me.  He hasn’t.  I will say there are some things that are better than they once were, but He hasn’t completely healed me though.  It’s not due to a lack of faith on my part, but rather because it keeps me humbled. 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

A Thought Revisited…

ContemplatingHopefulness

A piece from about a year ago, The Apology I Didn’t Know That I Needed, has come to mind today.  It began when I read Beth Moore’s open letter.   It brought back a lot of thoughts and emotions I’ve had in recent years.  Moore’s letter has been a reverberating conversation among women on and offline.  Some are still afraid to speak up because they fear the repercussions.  The fact that women are even hesitant to speak openly about their feelings should be an indicator of how much work we have to do in this area.

Then, when I read a response from Thabiti Anyabwile that took me right back to that moment last year when two men who had never personally slighted me apologized…

… and how that apology did and still brings me to sobbing tears.

I’m going to step out in a level of open transparency here, that I’ve never done.  Let the consequences be what they may.  If my “official days” in ministry end here, so be it.  The Lord has not fired me yet, and I cling to His promises that whatever may come my way is just another storm that I will have to lean into Him.

Before I entered into ministry, I had a secular job.  In my company, some of my greatest assets and supporters were men.  They recognized my natural gifting for leadership, my gifts of administration, and they appreciated how my mind worked.  They took me through the ranks, taught me what they had learned over years of experience, and set me loose in our corporate world.  To this day, I still think back fondly of these men who fashioned me into a better leader than I could have ever imagined.

These guys, they didn’t need me to get a certain number of years of experience under my belt.  They recognized my potential and developed it, intentionally.  To this day, I remain the youngest person to ever be promoted to level in which I achieved (before leaving work to raise my daughters) and the fastest to promote through these levels.  My last promotion came when one of our Vice Presidents came into our location and decided to hold his conference call in my managers office.  He called in everyone of us who had promoted into middle management to sit in on the call.  When it was over, he asked for feedback on what we heard in the call.  He welcomed our ideas and criticisms.  I was one two women in the office among about 10 men.

When I spoke, he listened.  Not that he agreed with everything I had to say, but I could tell that this was more than just obligatory hearing of words.  He truly listened to what I had to say.  The meeting was concluded and we all went back to our departments. Thirty minutes later, I was called into the office.  I was offered an immediate promotion, significant salary increase, benefits, annual bonus, and so on.  I was only twenty years old.

In two weeks time, I moved to a new location for training.  By the end of my training, they asked me to stay on at that location and be responsible for training new managers coming into the position.  I was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory, daily sales, and a team of over 150 people under my management.  I’ve hired people, fired people, and developed future leaders in the company.  I’ve written training manuals for positions I have held with them.  In a field dominated by men, I could have never reached the level I did without their support, encouragement, and their investment in me.  I learned and gained more from my time there than I probably ever could repay.

The Lord took me on a new journey.  After having our children, I began to invest my time and gifts into ministry.  Over the years my involvement with ministry grew deeper and resulted in my returning to school for a Divinity degree.  I’m thankful that the Lord has always pressed me forward in ministry, made a path for me to take, and walked alongside me when the road was rough.

And ministry has been rough.

In twenty years of ministry service, I have never been paid a dime.  I’ve never been “on staff”, nor even invited to a ministry staff meeting despite leading a ministry in the church.  I’ve never led in a ministry that has significant financial support, and quite often had zero financial support.  If you have attended an event that I have planned, more than likely the money came out of my own pocket to cover the costs.  I counted it as an offering to the church, and gave gladly.  I’m not complaining, I’m just stating the facts.

What ministries have I led in, you might wonder?

The majority of the last twenty years has been serving in Women’s Ministry.  A ministry that aims to serve at least half (if not more) of the church.  If you know me, you’ll know that despite being a “volunteer” leader… I’m giving full time hours to the cause.  I’m reading articles, researching trends.  I attend conferences, buy books, invest in resources… all of which is at my own expense.

And despite my devotion and dedication to serving women, it has been nothing but a struggle.  A struggle for funding.  A struggle for using space.  A struggle to have the Women’s Ministry seen as equally valuable as Youth Ministry, College Ministry, Children’s Ministry, etc.   A struggle to lead without being micromanaged and mistrusted.  A struggle against worries of being accused of usurping or being a Jezebel.

I came from a place in the secular world, where as a leader I was trusted with so much… to a world of ministry where I felt like I would never be trusted with anything.  A secular world, where I could find a new job or move into new positions with ease… to a world of ministry where finding a job that would hire me as a woman was like finding a unicorn.  A secular world where those who were higher up were interested in my education, background, and experience… to a world of ministry where no one even cared to ask.

It is hard to move from a place where you are implicitly trusted to one where you feel for every one step forward you make you get pulled two steps behind.

The truth is, I’ve been hurt in ministry.  I just hadn’t realized how much so until that day last year when Hunter from Serge apologized to me, when Pastor Sandy Willson apologized to us as a group.  It is incredibly hard to be an educated, equipped, woman gifted for leadership in the world of ministry.  When you are constantly told from the pulpit how much value you have to the Lord and His kingdom work… so long as your calling is Children’s Ministry, Coffee/Bagel Ministry, VBS, and working in the nursery.

I had thought these experiences were unique to myself.  However in the last umpteen months I’ve learned that this is not the case.  I’ve listened to women share how they were dismissed from their volunteer position because the church could finally afford to pay someone to do that job and hired a man.  Do you have any idea how that feels to be told that you are only valued for the free work you do, but not enough to get paid to do the same job?  It doesn’t feel good.

You can’t imagine how I felt when a Pastor, at my suggestion of using women in the church to share the load of responsibilities that were overwhelming him, said to me:

“The greatest gift the women in my church can give me is to serve their husbands and children.”

What about the women who don’t have children or are not married?  What about the women who are capable of managing their homes and serving in ministry?  How dismissive.  What an assumption that women can’t lead in ministry and serve the Kingdom at the same time?  This may have been the first time I was speechless in my life.

I’ve known to many women accused of having a Jezebel spirit or being divisive for standing up for themselves (their calling) and their ministry.  I’ve known too many women who have had their gifts and callings dismissed.  I’ve known too many women who have sat quietly despite their experience and education, simply because they knew better than to speak up.  I’ve watched churches hire men from other states when there were women in the body who could not only do the work, but even needed the income the job would provide.

To come from a world where I was trusted to oversee so much and into a world where I seemingly can be trusted with anything (for no other reason than my gender), it is incredibly saddening… and frustrating.  Women with strong leadership skills are seen as difficult and controlling, yet men with those same leadership qualities would be considered assertive and driven.

And, I think what hit me so hard about Beth Moore’s open letter was this…

If Beth Moore feels silenced, what hope is there for me?  If Beth Moore is still fighting against all of these things, what hope is there for me?  If Beth Moore has been afraid to speak up, what hope is there for me?

If the few women in the world of ministry that actually do have any real significant influence are speaking this way… what can ever change for me?  For my churches?  For my community?  For the Women’s Ministry leaders whom I serve?

If they are not even willing to listen to Beth Moore, what hope will I ever have of getting Pastors to hear my heart for Women’s Ministry?  My deep desire to disciple women, intentionally?  My calling to do Women’s Ministry differently than the preconceived notions they have in the mind of days past?  Can they even hear that?  Do they even want to?  Is it possible?

I realized the number of times over the years I have had to defend myself to people because I support Women’s Ministry.  The number of times I have had to caveat a point I was making on leadership with a disclaimer that I don’t desire nor feel called to the pulpit.  Why should I have to give a disclaimer about myself in order to speak about ministry leadership?

Why?  For the very reasons Moore states in her open letter.  For the very things that Anyabwile apologizes for in his response.  Because this is the every day battle of a woman in ministry leadership.  Moore’s letter reminded me that the wounds of ministry leadership for women are still pretty raw (even if there is healing happening).  Anyabwile’s response was another apology from someone who never slighted me… but yet I needed to hear.

And, that is the hope for me.  The hope that as more people speak up, that more change can happen.  Hope that our 30% of seminary graduates that are women will have jobs in ministry.  Hope that when jobs open at local churches that they would not only welcome but seek applications from women.  Hope that Women’s Ministry would be seen as equally valuable as other ministries in the church.  Hope that our leaders and staff would recognize the gifts of women and intentionally develop and implement those gifts into their church.

For me to have such hope, it means that I too much be willing to speak on the subject.  I can’t let Beth Moore be the only chicken willing to be fried.  We can’t let a few voices speak up and take all the heat, but instead be willing to speak up as well.  In doing so we illustrate the real scope of the problem we need to address, the hurdles we must overcome.

The more I look into the broad picture of leadership in the Scriptures, the less exclusive it appears to be.   The deeper I dig, the more I learn about the women that God trusted … that Jesus taught… the disciples co-labored with.  We can’t toss aside the gifting and anointing of half the body, or try to force those gifts into a small segment of volunteer positions in the church that we have decided are “ok” for women.

There is so much work to be done, so many people to reach, so many to serve, why are we handicapping ourselves?

So, I write this fully expecting to be added to the list of heretics and false teachers by the critics.  If you would have asked me twenty years ago if I expected this moment, I would tell you there was no way.  Yet, here I am.  Sharing the truth of my experiences (really a fraction of it), and a willingness to be part of change and growth.  For years I was in the camp of stay and pray.  I’ve prayed for change, I served outside of my calling in order to be supportive, and truly thought that this was the right pathway.

But today, after conversations and reflections… it’s a time to speak up.

We, the women who have been hurt, still love the church… local and global.  We still love our church leaders and church family.  We have been praying a long time.  We are still praying.  We will not stop praying.  Our hearts have not been bent from our mission and calling, we await the opportunity to use it in it’s fullness.

Live at Peace

Live at Peace

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18

I was just speaking with a new neighbor, and caught off guard.  I’ve lived in this neighborhood… a very culturally diverse one at that… for 13 years.  In this time, I’ve never experienced any sort of neighborhood drama.  We get along very well, as a community.  Or, so I thought.

I was watering my new plants, and the neighbor stopped over to introduce herself.  She then asked if they had been bothering us with any noise coming from their home.  I let her know that they were no problem at all.  Then she said “Well, someone in the neighborhood has been complaining to our landlord and code enforcement.”

I was shocked.

I’ve never seen or heard anything that was outside of normal neighborhood activity.  Nothing late at night or excessively noisy.  In fact, our new neighbors have brought me great joy as I listen to their kids giggling and playing… new life in our neighborhood.  They are race enthusiasts, which has my husband and I watching from afar as they work on their race car (now we’ve been invited over for closer inspection).  We have a common unity in that area, and I’m excited to get to know them better.  I was even impressed by her Matthew 18 conflict resolution skills, as she came right to me to address any concerns.

I’m a bit sad that there is someone in our neighborhood that is choosing to not live at peace with this family.  I can’t even begin to put a finger on why it would be happening, as this isn’t the first race car in our neighborhood or first family to have a rambunctious gathering during the day.   Someone though sees things different, and is creating drama that is unnecessary.

Romans 12:18 says “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” and I’ve tried my best to do that.  Over our 20 years of marriage and living in different neighborhoods, we’ve experienced our fair share of good and bad neighbors.  Yet, I’ve never found anything so terrible that I couldn’t live at peace with the person.  I’d rather be friends with my neighbor than enemies.  I like to extend grace and forgive them little inconveniences as I hope they would do the same for us.  I’m sure we are not always perfect neighbors either.

I would prefer not to pick fights or create discord among those who are part of my community.  I don’t even understand the mindset of those who do, why would not want to be a peacemaker?

While I do not know who in our neighborhood is being difficult, I do know what house will be loving and kind.  I know what house will embrace the loud laughter and squeals of little children.  I know which house will be praying over them as they head off to race their car.  I know that it will be our house that will extend hospitality and care across the fence.  They may not ever know who is complaining, but they will know us by our love.

Is Reciprocity a Necessity?

IsReciprocityANecessity_

Sometimes, navigating life is hard. I have spent the majority of my life telling other people … “you can”. I have spent the majority of my time in ministry helping others develop their platform.
 
I’d like to tell you that both have been reciprocated in my life. That others have returned the favor. In total honesty, it rarely happens. I won’t lie, there are times it has hurt. It hurts to invest in others, raise up and support others, etc. and then see yourself left behind in the dust. You may even question WHY BOTHER?
 
1. My calling has never been about raising myself up. It has always been about others. When I am left behind, it means that I’ve done my job.
 
2. Feeling hurt is a reminder of my humanity, my flesh. Over the years, I have learned when I am feeling hurt it means I’ve gotten myself out of whack. I’ve lost focus on my role, my calling.
 
3. I am called to work as if I am working for the Lord, not man. Man expects reciprocity. God blesses me because it is His pleasure to do so, for His glory. I serve God because it is my pleasure to do so, because of His mercy. His blessings do not require my doing anything, and my service doesn’t require Him to reward.
 
4. Clarity. While it has always been a part of my calling to encourage and raise up others, I also need to have wisdom and discernment on who the Lord would have me serve in such a way. As I serve a particular person or group, I learn more and more about it. There have been occasions where their actions have brought clarity that this is no longer something I should be associated with. Or, I have learned that I have done as much as I am called to do, and now it is time for someone else to step in and bring them further.