Time Passes Quickly

time

It feels like it was not that long ago that I was registering my first child for preschool.  Now, she is in her second year of college.

My middle one?  She’s in her second year of middle school.

The baby?  Middle school.

Lord, in so many ways I wish we could slow time down. Enjoy more time with one another as kids.

Yet, I am also excited about this half of our parenting journey.  There are so many things that were off limits for years.  Why?  Someone was not old enough.  Or, someone was not tall enough.  Now, there are really few limitations (time, money) that could keep us from doing whatever we want as a family.

Each part of the journey has it’s struggles, and it’s blessings.

It’s a beautiful struggle and an emotional blessing.

But it is ours.

Praise God for it.

Don’t forget to register for #LeadHer2018 on October 6 in Hobe Sound Florida!  Click on the graphic for more information.

Add _God is within her, she will not fall._Psalm 46_5(89)

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God Does Not Settle

God Does Not Settle

I very rarely feel a “rant” is due.  But, today, I’ve got a big one on my heart.  I can’t even let it go until I say something.

I’m pretty much over the argument that God called Deborah into leadership because there were no men that were able/willing.  That God settled on Deborah because of what was available, she was the best option.

Sit with me as I explain why I struggle with this thought process.

Let’s start before we meet Deborah.  Israel had this habit of going wayward, getting themselves into trouble, then crying out for God to save them from their peril.  Repeatedly.  So in Judges, we see this pattern repeated and as an answer God raised up a Judge to lead them.  As soon as the Judge would die, Israel would fall off track again, a new judge would be raised. 

This is where we meet Deborah, in Judges 4.  In a nutshell, it is said that she was leading Israel, and held court under the Palm of Deborah.  Israelites would go to her to settle their disputes.  At this time Israelites were once again doing evil in the eyes of the Lord, and had been handed over to Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor.  For twenty years they were under his oppression, and they cried out for the Lord to deliver them.  God answered through Deborah, as she called Barak son of Abinoam and delivered the following message:

“The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”  Judges 4:6-7

Barak, who knew the Lord’s favor was on Deborah, basically responded that he would only go if Deborah went with him.  Because of Barak’s lack of faith/doubting ways, Deborah told him that she would go with him, but the Lord would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.  The honor would not go to Barak.  And by the end of Judges 4, this is exactly what happened.

It is pretty clear here that Deborah is a leading force for God among his people.  She was speaking for God before Barak refused to go without her accompanying him.  Yet, when people refer to Deborah as a leader the implication is that she was leading because there were no men available or at least willing to do it.  Based on Judges 4, we can see how one could come to that conclusion… when Barak refuses to go unless Deborah goes with him.

In Judges 5, there is another reason this argument takes hold, which is found in verse 7.  In the Song of Deborah, she and Barak indicate that the roads were abandoned and villagers refused to fight until she arose.

However, if we leave our argument there… we are ignoring that throughout Judges we are told that God called up or rose up new leaders, when Israel cried out.  We ignore Judges 5:8 that indicates that God chose new leaders.  Deborah was a leader because God chose her for the task.  He did not settle on her.

To indicate that God called her up, rose her up, chose her because no men were available basically means that God settled for what He had available to Him at the time.  I can not reconcile that action as part of God’s character or against the rest of Scripture.  In fact, to even suggest that God has to settle would mean that God’s power is limited.  Which there is nothing in the scriptures to support that His power has limitations, nor that He has ever settled for second best.  Stay with me through these next four points.

In the beginning when God created Adam, he realized it was not good for man to be alone.  He created Eve from Adam’s rib to be his ezer, helper.  God is a CREATOR.  If God needed a man to be present at the time of Judges 4 to lead His people, he didn’t need to settle on Deborah.  He could could have created man.  Either by ensuring a woman birthed the right man, or by creating a new man out of the dust.  God didn’t need to settle for someone else, when He could create a better option.

When God appeared to Moses with the call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses immediately tried to dodge the call.  He questioned if he was the right guy for the job, and God set him straight.  God doesn’t accept NO for an answer.  We not only see this with Moses, but consider Jonah.  He not only refused God, but actually ran from God.  Where did he end up?  By way of the belly of a whale, Jonah ended up right where God wanted him to go.  If there was a man available during Judges 4, that was a better option than Deborah, God would not have accepted no as an answer. 

Sometimes, when God needs a thing done… the person who is called is not present.  When God called Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem, for the rebuilding, he was currently serving under the king.  Nehemiah had to travel from one place to another.  Esther is another example of a person who was in one place and had to be positioned into another to do God’s work.  Our God can command the waves and storms with his very voice.  If He can move mountains, He can move people.  If God felt that Deborah was a second best choice, but there was a man who was better fit to lead, He would have moved that man into place.  He could have brought any man, from any distance, and at any time to be there for the right moment to lead.

Nothing is off limits to God.  God could have created a man, not accepted unwillingness as an answer, or moved a man into leadership.  He could have also resurrected anyone from history to lead.  He could have raised from the dead any number of people who served Him well to lead or at least provide guidance to a leader during this time.   He is a God of resurrection.  He could have resurrected a previous judge, prophet, etc.  The options that God had for leading Israel in Judges 4 were not limited, but were actually limitless.

God didn’t need Deborah to lead because there were not other suitable options.  God chose Deborah to lead because it was part of His call on her life since before she was born.  Her leadership was part of His plan.  Barak’s response didn’t surprise God.  He had already prepared the way so that Jael would be there too. 

Scripture tells us that He knew us before we were in our mother’s wombs, the number of our days, the hairs on our head.  Deborah, like Esther, was raised up and called for such a time as this. 

None of this piece is intended to discount male leadership.  Not at all.  Instead, however, it is to bring light to the fact that it is within God’s character to call up Deborahs.  We should not be quick to dismiss a woman with leadership skills, who feels called to leadership (there are various ways women can lead).  Instead, we need to meet with them.  Listen to what they have to say and offer.  Use discernment about their position within your church. 

But don’t discount her, or her gifting.  You never know when the Lord will deliver another Deborah for such a time as this…

… in your ministry.

… in your church.

… in your community.

My Time at She Speaks Conference

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At the end of July, I spent several days attending a Christian conference for writers, speakers, and leaders called She Speaks.  She Speaks is hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  This was the first time I have ever attended this conference and I fell in love.

1.  Attention to Details – She Speaks paid careful attention to the details that made this conference one of excellence, where you felt like they cared about your experience while there. 

2.  Accessible and Welcoming – The staff, volunteers, and speakers were incredibly accessible.  I’ve never seen such accessibility at an event before.  From the moment you enter the space you feel welcomed and wanted.

3.  Overwhelming Presence – You could physically feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in this place.  There was the peaceful solitude of the Prayer Room, the morning and evening prayer session, the faithfulness to the Word, the worship experience, and ultimately the encounters of the women in attendance.  Throughout the weekend I witnessed (and experienced) strangers praying for strangers. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of.  But, the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit flooded the entire building.

4.  Peace and Pace – I want to point out that even though the conference had a packed schedule, I never felt rushed from place to place.  Nor did I feel like I had to attend everything I signed up for.  This is a first, for me, because I’m usually one of those who has to do all the things because I paid money to be there.  This time, I ducked out of 2 workshops and didn’t even bat an eye because I needed to take some time in the prayer room or by myself up in my hotel room. 

5.  No Spirit of Competition – With so many women, in one place, you’d think there would be a spirit of jealousy or comparison.  Nope.  Not a drop.  With so many women, meeting with publishers, you’d think there would be a spirit of competition.  Nope.  Not a hint.  In this place, everyone was so kind and supportive.  Sharing tips for publisher appointments.  Women praying over women who were waiting outside of their appointment location.  Women praying with women who didn’t have a great report after their appointment.  Encouraging each other to keep trying, not to give up, etc.  It was absolutely fantastic to be among so many reaching for their dreams and the calling the Lord put on their hearts and feeling so much love and support.

6.  It Didn’t End – After the conference was over, you would expect that we would all return home and go about our daily lives until we encounter one another again at a future conference.  Not a chance.  I’ve been in touch with one or more women from the conference every single day since I’ve returned home.  Praying for one another.  Encouraging one another.  Sharing tools and resources with one another. 

As a ministry leader, I sit back and think about the events that I coordinate.  One thing I know, I want any woman who attends an event I host to walk away feeling the same way.  I want them to enter our spaces and feel the presence of God there, enveloped in peace and encouragement.  I want to engage them into the Word and cover them in prayer, while they pray for one another.  I want women to reflect on the experience and feel that they were considered and cared for, planned for with great detail, welcome and wanted.  I desire that the women would feel like they had access to our leadership team, and a place at the table.  It would be my hope that they would want to return to our events in the future because they know that we are excited to have them in our company, and that when the event is over… the relationship is just beginning.

An Empty Well

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As leaders, we are constantly pouring into others.  So much so, that if we are not careful, we can run our well dry.  You can’t lead from an empty well.  Instead, you need to look for ways to replenish your well.

Imagine if you were pouring out of a pitcher into cups throughout a room.  Eventually your pitcher will be emptied.  There has to be somewhere to go and refill that pitcher.  Otherwise you will fail to serve the people any further, you will have nothing left to give.  If leaders don’t replenish their well, eventually you will run out of the energy needed to continue leading well.

What can you do to keep your well from becoming empty?

Maintain the Well

Take care of your body, mind, and spirit.  Eat well.  Rest.  Take care of your medical and mental health needs.  Dig into the Word daily, have an intentional daily prayer life.  Protect your relationships by ensuring you balance your time and energy.

If a well is cracked and falling apart, it won’t matter how much water is comes into the well… it can’t hold it.  The well must be in good condition or it will leak.  The well must be protected or the water can become contaminated.   We have to tend to the well, to make sure it is structurally sound and capable of handling the water it will hold.

Replenish the Well

Wells will fill with water in several different ways.  Ground water can gather up into the well.  Rain waters can fall directly into the well, or saturate the grounds nearby allowing more ground water to fill the well.  Or, wells can be connected to larger systems of water that provide additional water as needed.

As a leader, I replenish my well by sitting under other leaders, teachers, and theologians.  I also surround myself with a team of other leaders who pour from their experiences into me.  I read voraciously, sometimes it just an encouraging word from another Christian author and other times it is a book dedicated to deeper theological topics or Christian leadership.

I also replenish my well by attending church regularly, participating in a small group or Bible study, attending special events at other churches where I am a guest and not part of the committee.  It is healthy for a leader to have “off time” where she is part of the guest list vs. throwing the party. 

If you maintain your well, and continue to find ways to replenish the well… your well will never run dry.

Never forget the source of the best water, the Living Water that is Jesus.  You can access Him directly through the Word and in prayer, but by also being among your fellow sisters in Christ.

Gifts and Gifting

GIFTS

I believe I have always been in tuned to what my spiritual gifts are, even when I wasn’t certain how I was supposed to use them.  I know that I am good at, and what brings me joy and satisfaction. I’m also keenly aware of what gifts I don’t have, and what can happen when I try to serve out of my gifting.

Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with another church leader about our gifts.  For one of the first times in nearly twenty years of ministry leadership, I’m working with another leader who has a similar gifting as I do.  She is such an incredible blessing to me.  After one particular meeting, I came home and practically cried over how blessed I was to have her in my life.  I also recognized that after twenty years of doing it myself… I needed to learn how to let go and allow her to work in her gifting.  Not that I see her as a threat, but rather I’ve just never had this opportunity.  I have to teach my brain a new pathway so the old muscle memory doesn’t take hold.  I want to share this load with her. 

When we speak of our gifts and talents, it is usually in relations to what we know that we can do for the church or ministry that we serve.  It can still be very “I centered”.  I know what I’m good at, I know what I can do, I know where I excel, etc.  But, what if we tilted these thoughts on there axis and looked at it from a new perspective…

How can my gifts and talents be a blessing to others?  What part , of my talents can I gift to her cause… the ministry… the church… or our community?

Gifts are meant to be blessings.  It is not about being proud of what we can give, but generous about how we give. Gifts are meant to be gifted.

What holds you back from sharing your gifts? 

No Was Not Easy To Hear

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For the bulk of our marriage, my husband has not denied me much.  He may ask me to wait a little longer, or offer up a compromise.  In fact, we had been married for over fifteen years before I heard the word … no.  It was not easy to hear.

As an independent woman, who has always made her own decisions… no was a dagger.

I couldn’t wrap my head around why he would tell me no.  Clearly I knew what I was talking about, had done my research.  We had the means, and it wasn’t anything extreme.  Truth be told, I wasn’t even asking for his permission when I brought it up.  I was merely doing a courtesy by informing him of my plans.  No?  That was never part of my equation.

In the end, my husband was 100% correct.  No was the best answer. I just couldn’t see it at the moment.

Sometimes when we pray to God, we feel like He is not hearing our prayers because we don’t see an answer.  I wonder if that is because we are only listening for the answer that sounds like what we want to hear.  Are we willing to hear and receive His answer of no?

What Do You See

What DoYou See

Children love to look up at the sky and pick out images from the clouds.  The sky becomes like an ark of creatures, shifting from one shape to another as they move.

People have always looked the sky for signs and wonders.  The magi saw the star that led them to the baby Jesus.  The sky went dark when Jesus was crucified.  We are told to watch the skies for signs and wonders when the Son of Man returns.

During the summer, we set up an above ground pool for our children to play in.  I must admit that sometimes, I like to go in for some quiet time alone.  I will float around looking up at the sky.

In those moments, when the world is in chaos… when the stress on daily life… I look to the sky and I see peace.  I watch the clouds cross the place… just as they were made to do.  The sun shines brightly… just as it was made to do.  The wind blows.  The birds fly and sing.  It is a beautiful sight to watch something work in the way it was designed, uninterrupted, as it should be…

One day, no matter where we turn and look, we will see His design working according to design.  What a glorious day that will be.