I haven’t lost my sense of humor…

Untitled design(5)

I have a wicked sense of humor.   However, I don’t laugh as much as I used to.  It isn’t because I lost my sense of humor, but instead that life has taught me that some things are just not funny anymore.  Actually, they never were.  I’m sorry over things that I once laughed about, now that I am a bit older and wise.

If you sit with me long enough, you will be laughing with tears streaming down your face.  My family has often commented that we would make for a hysterical reality series.  We are an odd group of people here, that do weird things, and love deeply.  We are not always tied down by social graces and conventions.

But, when you have worked in ministry for a time… you begin to meet a lot of people.  You hear their stories.  You walk through the land minds with them.  You learn the truth about things you wish you could have kept a blind eye to, but now see the reality of the world we live in.

I’ve not lost my sense of humor.  I think, I have actually improved it.

I laugh at myself.  Trust me… I provide plenty of material to work with.

Musings for Thanksgiving Week

Untitled design(43)

Two things have had my attention over the last week.

First, I was working on a new book proposal for a topic that I’ve been holding on to for quite some time.  It still falls in the leadership category, but it shares some of my own personal struggles and leadership experiences while serving over the last twenty plus years.  When speaking with a friend about it, she asked how I felt.  I told her that this was less about how I felt and more about being obedient.  In some ways, I’m not sure I’m ready to share this story.  Not yet.  Maybe, it’s just too soon.  Or, maybe my wounds are still a little tender.

Second, I was observing an online smear campaign directed at someone whom I have recently befriended.  She is a professional, an author, and someone I’ve held in high esteem for quite some time.  When I finally met her in person, I learned that we shared quite a bit in common.  Part of the same denomination, share similar convictions, etc.  I watch her closely to see how she navigates her calling, as a woman of the church.

As the smear campaign has continued to drudge on for almost a week now, I’ve continued my observations.  Here, is where I am at today:

I have never noticed the sheer volume of criticism lumped out at a secular author from their target audience as I do with Christian writers.

A secular author need only worry about whether or not their audience enjoys reading their material.  Good writing coupled with a compelling story, and you have a winning combination. Fail at one or the other, you may still have some success but you are going to be called out for where you fall short.

In the Christian writing sphere, there is more than just good writing and a compelling story.  We tackle theology and doctrine.  Exegesis and eisegesis play a role in how we craft our works.  You will be heralded as a driving force for the gospel by some, and a heretic by others over the same piece of work.  Forever held under the weight of your body of work, as if we as Christians do not grow and mature over time.

Instead of worrying about whether you are a competent writer or if your message is worth hearing, today’s Christian author must also worry about whether or not you are going to be picked apart and labeled a false teacher, leading the flock astray.  Secular writers do not feel as under the microscope, all of the time, and from so many different directions.

If a secular author becomes a better technical writer or storyteller, they are praised for their growth.  If a Christian author grows in theological maturity, he or she will still be discounted as a voice today for words they may have spoken 20 years or more ago.

So, as I sit here working on words put to page … I can’t move forward without thinking about the shots being taken at other Christian authors and speakers.

I pray for those who walked before me.  I pray for my words to be nothing short or more than what God would want me to say.  I pray for those who will follow the call to write.

Lord, help us to be far more gracious to each other.

Cataract Surgery & Penne Pasta

My mother underwent cataract surgery this year.  The second one happened to fall this past week.  I had volunteered to take hUntitled design(39)er for this round.  As with most surgeries, she had a cut off point at which she could not longer eat or drink anything until after the surgery.

While the procedure was in progress, I happened to glance across the street.  One of my favorite restaurants was beckoning me.  Out of solidarity for my mom, I too had forgone any food.  I had spent the evening prior at her home, and the idea of fixing myself breakfast when she was unable to partake seemed just wrong.   As I peered at the restaurant, I began to wonder what time it opened, if I called in an order would it be ready to pick up on our way home.

When I was given the word that she was in recovery, I popped back there and the thought of that restaurant left my mind entirely.  There was my mama, all bandaged up, coming out of her sedation, and it was just a moment I had yet to experience with her. We packed her up in the car, I swung by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription that was waiting for her.  As I walked back from the pharmacy toward my car, I had to pass this little restaurant that I had always loved when I lived in the area.

I figured I would pop in to buy us lunch, but considering I hadn’t eaten since the night before… I was starving and it all looked so good.

By the time I left, I had 2 complete lunches and 2 dinners in a to go bag.  For our lunch, we ate a little of this and a little of that.  It was heavenly.  Then all of the left overs we packed away in her fridge to provide some food for her over the course of the next few days.  My siblings would be checking in on her, but at least I knew that she had food.

Maybe she would tire of eating off the left overs.  Like the Israelites, munching away on their daily mana, longing for something else besides what became the same old, same old.  Or, perhaps she took solace in the fact that for the next few days she didn’t need to concern herself with having to cook meals or even think about what to eat.

I sat with her on the couch, and noticed after some time she was beginning to doze off.  I sent her to bed and readied myself for the long drive home.  Before leaving the drive way, I sent my siblings a quick update.   She would have some restrictions and we needed to figure out who would do what.

As I drove home, I pondered over the difference between the love shown in sparse grand gestures versus the love shown in the small daily moments.

The promise land was pretty epic, but the mana wasn’t that shabby either.

Thankful for a God who comes through in the big, and the little.

Free Resource with Purchase!

Untitled design(97)

Did you know that if you purchased a copy of Women’s Ministry with Purpose that you would also receive Praying for Your Women’s Ministry for free?  In order to claim your free download of this prayer guide:

Join our Behind the Scenes Group!

You will receive the Praying for Your Women’s Ministry Guide as well as other freebies including a curated Spotify Playlist, screen & lock screen images, and opportunities to win some awesome swag.

Rumors and Gossip

Untitled design(111)

I was having a conversation with a woman who has been a prominent figure in my life.  She was quite upset because she had been accused of gossiping.  She asked me for my opinion, and unfortunately I had to share with her that I agreed with the accusation.

“But, it was true!” she countered.

Somewhere along the way, we forgot exactly what a rumor or what gossip actually is.  We began to hold to a definition that cleared us of wrong doing so long as we were telling the truth.

Rumors and gossip can be truth.  What defines something as a rumor or gossip has nothing to do with it’s truth or accuracy.  Rumors and gossip are stories that we tell that do not belong to us.

When someone shares in confidence with us, we do not have permission to share those details with anyone else unless they give us permission.  When someone shares something personal with us, and they do not swear us to secrecy that doesn’t automatically give us permission to share the information with others.  We still need to ask the person for permission to not only share the story but also to clarify with whom we may share.

It may be okay with the person to share with your spouse, but they may not want the information repeated at your women’s bible study group.

Another myth about rumors and gossip is about the type of news.  It is easy to assume that rumors and gossip is bad news, something negative that has happened, tragedy, or scandal.  That is not always the case.  Sometimes the news is good news, worthy of celebration, and even something you want to shout from the mountain tops.  Unless you have permission to share it, the news is not yours to share.  Again, not only asking permission to share it but also with whom you may share is key.

Finally, there is one point to be made.  Sometimes we share the news, and it can be hard to contain.  For example, there are times when our spouse or children may get good news that is also exciting for us.  A new job.  Engaged.  Pregnant.  Adoption.  College acceptance.  Scholarship.  Recognition.  Their accomplishment is directly connected to us as their spouse or parent, and is our news too.  However, it is indirectly ours.  First, it is their news… and when they are ready to publicly share it… then so may we.  Until then, even though it involves us, it is still not our news to break.

As we are tempted to share tidbits of information consider:

  • is this information true?
  • is this my story to share?
  • do I have permission to share this?
  • who can I share this with?

It is worth holding in your excitement for a few days or weeks, in order to preserve your relationships and trust within those relationship.  When the time comes that you can share the good news, the only people who will know that you waited are the ones it will mean the most to.  The rest of your friends and family will be so focused on the good news they won’t even question how long you have known for.

Careful to Accuse

checkwreck

Every so often, I will talk about the importance of exegesis.  In order to interpret scripture accurately, we have to look at it in the context that it was written.  This includes how it fits in the particular book of the Bible it was written in, and in the scope of the entirety of the Scriptures.  We need to understand the history surrounding it, the people and culture, the original language (the actual words used), and the definition of those words at the time they were written.   In other words, we need to make sure we are not using modern definitions to words that had an entirely different meaning at the time the Scriptures were written.

Today, I want to talk about applying Exegesis to non-Scripture texts or texts that use Scripture (in part, or as the foundation) of their content.  I’m also going to  speak directly to our responsibility in this as leaders and voices in the public sphere.

Exegesis is the critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture but not exclusively scripture.  Christian speakers, Pastors, and literature seem to be the primary people to use the term exegesis.  It’s principals however reach beyond that.  An example of a people who were prime in exegesis were the Bereans.  They were heralded because when they would they finished listening to the message of their Spiritual Leaders, they would test those messages against the Scriptures to ensure they were true.

This is the beautiful mechanism that God has given us in order to discern Biblical truth.  He didn’t just gift the Scriptures to certain people, but compelled the hearts of men to make Scripture available to everyone in a language they could understand.  It has also become the litmus we use when reading extrabiblical resources to ensure the teacher’s message is trustworthy and in alignment with the Scriptures.

Confession… I read a lot of books.  I probably don’t even comment on 2/3 of what I read.  Some of it has turned out to be complete trash, where right out the gate I see gaping holes in the exegesis.  I will usually toss the book in the trash and ne’re give it a second thought.  I will not finish the book, but instead move on about my way.  I also will not go out into the public square and sling accusations of heresy, false teaching, etc.

Why?

1.  I didn’t finish the book.  If I am going to make a public statement about a book, resource, or teacher, you better believe I am going to do my homework.  To make accusation or approach possible slander is a BIG DEAL which we shouldn’t take lightly… especially if we are people of influence.  I have watched people on the internet spew venom and call out “false teachers”, and when I look at their evidence it is lacking. A 2 minute clip from a 60 minute sermon… or a 2 sentence quote out of book of 60,000 words is their best proof.  And, in most cases it has been taken completely out of context.

Before I share that clip, article, or blog… you better believe that I am going to read the full text or watch the full sermon.  I’m going to research the accusations.  If I don’t have the the time to do FULL, COMPLETE, research… I don’t have the authority to speak for/against something.

2.  I have bias.   We all do.  We read material coming from our own lens of experience, education, and understanding.  Considering I am not all knowing, like God, I am prone to error.  Things I believed to be 100% gospel truth ten years ago no longer stand firmly on two legs, because I have grown in maturity, knowledge, and experience.  I know that it is possible for me to enter the “research” with a conclusion in mind.  When that happens I tend to read more into that which supports my bias and disregard that which challenges it.  In other words… I might be wrong.  I need to know with absolutely certainty that I am right before I lodge an accusation at anyone.

3. I have a responsibility.  I am responsible to God for any accusation that I make, especially when it is against a fellow believer.  Since I have a public voice, I am responsible for those who read my words or listen to me speak. If I lead someone astray, or into sin… because now they are casting judgement with me because of my opinions… that is a heavy responsibility to bear.  If I do not know with 100% certainty that my opinions are actually facts… I am better to hold my tongue than loose my venom.

But Gena, we can’t let people fall victim to false teachers and poor theology!

You are right.  We can’t.  What I will do is:

  1.  I will read the text.   If I am so compelled to expose something, and God can use those in the public sphere for this… I will read the text and do the research.  In full.  I will pray before hand that I come at it with a God’s view lens and not my own.
  2. I will test the text.   Are the Scripture references accurate, and in context?  Are the non Scriptural parts of the text supporting the Scripture, twisting Scripture, or in conflict with Scripture?
  3. I will test the writer.  I don’t want to examine just 1 work, but the body of work and the life of the author.  I want to know who influences them, what authors do they read and speakers do they listen to?  Who is their teachers/Pastor?  Give me the big picture.
  4. I will share concern.  I will never out right call a person a heretic or false teacher.  Instead, I’ll share the concerns that I have with the content/message and show support for why I have those concerns.  This will not be a drive by finger wagging and tongue lashing, but rather a well thought out and defended argument. (Remember that I said if I don’t have the time to do the work, I don’t have the authority to sling the accusation.)
  5.  I would rather teach people how to spot a false teacher for themselves than to just put another face on the bullseye or name on the blacklist.  I would rather teach on false principals than the people who teach them.
  6. I want false teachers to slip into ambiguity.  Instead of drawing more attention to those whom I don’t find trustworthy with the Word, and unintentionally giving them more influence… I’d rather cast light on the teachers who are being trustworthy and whom I would recommend.  Let those teachers get the attention, let me use my influence to point you toward their materials.  If someone is going to get their 15 minutes of fame, I’d rather it be 15 minutes on the people I am for versus the ones I can’t support.