Fallen Leaders

I took this photograph years ago. I had this beautiful resin angel that sat in my garden for years. It moved with us from home to home. To this day, I’m not exactly sure what happened to it. One day, I found it in the garden in many pieces. There were some chunks missing that prevented me from putting it back together. I kept the wings. It was a reminder to me that angels can fall, angels can be broken.

Today’s news about Ravi Zacharias is troubling, at the very… very… least. I was not aware of the accusations that were made against RZ quite some time ago, but became aware prior to the formal investigation that revealed it’s findings report today. For many, today’s news is their first hearing of these accusations. It is a lot to take in. This is hard news. Eye opening news.

Also, it’s not really “new” either. RZ is not the first leader we have witnessed fall.

How do we wrestle with this news? Why do leaders fall? How do we respond?

How Do We Wrestle with News of a Fallen Leader:

First, we are allowed to sit in our shock and dismay. It is OK to not want to believe the news. That’s our natural inclination when accusations and even proven wrongdoing related to people who we esteem becomes public knowledge. We don’t want it to be true. You are a human being, and it is completely normal to react this way. HOWEVER, in these moments that we are processing such revelations we CAN NOT open our mouths in defense of the accused without taking the time to understand the accusations, read the documentation, rest in the findings, and work our own minds through the grief we are now processing.

Second, we must be thankful… even if it is hard… that the truth is being revealed (as in the case of RZ). In cases of other accusations we must pray that truth is revealed, undeniable truth. We must desire for what is done in secret to be revealed so that there is accountability and repentance. Even more so, we must desire for these things to be revealed so that they can be stopped immediately before more damage is done.

Third, we mourn with those who mourn. We mourn with the victims who bravely step forward to expose truth. We mourn with the families of the accused who may have just had their worlds obliterated. We mourn for those who the leader impacted, because we know these failures can create a wake that washes far beyond the immediate circle. These types of things have kingdom wide impact. So, we mourn.

Fourth, we speak what only needs to be spoken. That doesn’t mean a lack of acknowledgement of what occurred or sweeping it under the carpet to be forgotten. It means that we speak only what is good and beneficial. We don’t write about these fallen leaders to prop up our own platform. We don’t gossip about them among our friends. We speak honest truth TO those leaders. We can address the issue among our own platforms with responsibility.

You can share facts without sharing your opinion. You can share resources or links for other victims to seek help. You can speak to the issue without leaning on the person as the crux of your conversation. This is not the time (as if there ever is a time) to shame victims for waiting to speak up. This is not the time to thrust your prideful chest claiming you always knew that person was a problem. Be mindful that your voice into the world is not contributing to the revictimization of those who were harmed, nor to the other extreme offering any sort of justification or downplay to what occurred.

Why Do Leaders Fall?

This is a complex question, that I don’t believe I can full answer. However some general insight from fallen leaders of the past suggest:

  • Lack of maturity, particularly for the position they have attained.
  • No oversight or accountability, a lack of measures/policies in place to protect.
  • Creating an atmosphere that inhibits questioning, surrounding themselves with yes men.
  • Idolizing the leader to the point that you loose your objectiveness to accusations or an ability to see the signs.
  • Forgetting that even the best of leaders are still fallible human beings.
  • Disregarding the change of temptations that come with elevated leadership.
  • Intentionally surrounding themselves with people who don’t object, question, or would protect at all costs
  • Pride going unchecked that allows them to believe they CAN do these things, without retribution.

How Do We Respond:

  • Read the documentation. What are the accusations, who has made them, is there a basis of truth, has there been an investigation?
  • Pray for the victims. Starting with the actual direct victims, but also remember there are other victims in the wake including their families, their church flock or ministry supporters, etc.
  • Learn from the situation. Assess how this could have happened, and then develop systems/protocol to put in place within your own ministry/organization. Determine what red flags might have been present and overlooked. Seek experts who can help you recognize red flags in your organization that may go unnoticed.
  • Pray for your leaders (including yourself if you are in leadership). Pray that that temptation would be removed, that you would have conviction over wrong doing and a desire to repent, etc. Pray for your leaders to be protected not just from those whom would tempt them, but also from their own hearts and desires of the flesh. Pray that the Lord would open your eyes to leaders within your own sphere who may be in sin, and give you the courage to address it.

The Affirmations

“This is going to be hard.” I said, to my husband. He reminded me that God calls me to hard things.

“Some people are not going to like what I have to say.” I said, to my best friend. She suggested that perhaps this was the very reason I was in this moment. Exactly where God needed me to be.

“It’s kind of depressing. I don’t want to do this.” I said, in exasperation. A friend lovingly rebukes me.

A friend I hadn’t spoken to in some time called. “I need your help. I am trying to find someone who can walk me through this situation I am in.” – It happened to be the very thing I was writing about, and could speak truth to her.

“I’m proud of you mom. You are working hard at this, even though a publisher might not want it.” She said, as tears welled up in my eyes.

“I think when you get to heaven, God is going to call you one of the most faithful.”, said by my 17yo … not knowing I was swimming in doubt.

“I’ve not heard you speak with this excitement and energy since you were editing your last book.” , said the wise observer.

And these are just the instances that are easy to convey via a blog post.

There were the sleepless nights that preceded my obedience to the call, and then immediately nights of peaceful rest that followed once a surrendered.

How seemingly I have more time in my day, wading through resources and materials.

Journal entries and experiences from a year or more ago that made no sense at the time, but complete sense now. A preparation for days to come.

I feel it. The fire that burns. The energy that keeps me pushing through one more page, one more book, one more search.

I start to understand the “why me”.

I cried out to the Lord one day: “Lord, I must know that this is of you! So, I’m putting it all at the feet of the cross. I will not chase it, but you will supply it. You will keep me moving. You will put the information in front of me. Your thoughts are my thoughts. Your will is what I desire. If you set it before me, I will walk in that path. But, I will not carve a path of my own.”

And He did.

Opportunity.

Support.

Financial Provision.

Encouragement.

Reason.

Resources.

Energy.

Time.

Don’t forget,o that I still have a chronic illness. Things like this should steal my energy, should wipe me out. Yet, I have the strength to endure. To keep running.

I press forward. Consumed by the work. Much like Noah toward the Ark, or Nehemiah toward the wall. Building. Shaping. Testing. Strengthening.

Trusting.

The Call to Write

The call began many, many months ago. I just didn’t know it.

By happens chance, I came across a used book online that caught my attention. So, on a whim I bought it. When it arrived, I dug right in. I didn’t make it through the introduction before I was staring in the face of frustration. I set the book down. Picked it up a few months later. Frustration. I set it down.

I wasn’t frustrated with the book itself, but rather what the book meant to me. The emotions it was triggering. I pushed it aside. When we moved, I packed it into a box until it would be housed on my bookshelf. For a brief moment, I considered getting rid of it. But, I couldn’t let it go.

Then some things happened. The details are best saved for another time. That night the book came to mind. I brushed it aside. I needed encouragement, not frustration. But, the Lord kept tugging at me. It got to the point that I couldn’t sleep. As if my disobedience was causing insomnia. Night after night, I fought it. I didn’t want to read it. I didn’t want to go there.

(Call me Jonah)

Finally, in sheer exhaustion, I leapt out of bed and headed toward the bookshelf. I grabbed the book harshly, and slammed it on my night stand. “What are you doing?”, my husband asked being awoken by the sound. I apologized for waking him, and said I needed to handle something that was nagging at me.

In the morning the alarm sounded, it was time to wake my youngest for school. I grabbed the book from my nightstand and brought it to the dining table (where I never read books). But, there was a stirring that said I was not to read this book but instead dissect it. God was calling me to something more than just “reading”.

I returned to my office and grabbed some supplies. Pens. A stack of Post It Notes. Several legal pads. Highlighter. Bookmark.

I dropped my youngest off at school, returned home, filled my cup with coffee and grabbed a tall water, and sat down to start. I didn’t leave that chair for 4 hours. Each page marked up with notes. Notes scrawled on my legal pad.

A phone call interrupted my session. I returned to my seat and leaned back to assess what was before me. My best friend sends me a text, asking if I was free to talk. Yes, I was.

It was in this conversation, where I began to spill the beans about everything I was reading and thinking that I said something intuitive: “I haven’t felt like this since I wrote my book.”

She encouraged me with an Esther 4:14 cheer…. “who knows….”

(Call me Esther)

As I pondered the call, I went back to my reading. More notes. Scribbles. A list of questions. Bible verses being noted. Reminders. “Look up that article on….”, “Verify this Scripture….”.

Two days of non-stop reading and writing. I finished the book. Looked at it with frustration and a weird sense of determination. I started taking my notes from the book and cataloging them. I built a list of every scripture quoted, and the ones that came to mind as I read it.

My husband commented, “That book has really gotten to you.” I began riddling him with questions, seeking his male perspective.

Heading to bed that night, I said…

“I think this is my next book. I think I am supposed to write a response to this. It’s going to be really hard. I don’t want to do it. There has to be someone better qualified. Who would listen to me?”

(Call me Moses)

In the morning, I began printing up the chapters of the quoted Bible verses. Context matters.

By nightfall, I said to my husband: “Perhaps this is why I’ve not been able to get a ministry job these past years. I needed nothing to lose.”

He said, “Maybe.”

Next thing I knew, my ebay cart was filled with used books. I had built a stack of books on the table from my own bookshelf. Books I had already read or had intended to, but not gotten around to yet. My husband called from work, “Those books in your ebay cart, order them today.”

So I did.

As I pressed forward in my research, the weight became very heavy. This is hard. Surely not me. Surely not now. I prayed, “Lord… if this is of your will, I’m going to need you to confirm it. This is hard, and I only want to do it … if you are telling me to.”

(Call me Gideon)

Phone calls, text messages, and words came pouring in. From my best friend, whom I speak with daily. From a friend I had not spoken to in years. From the mouth of one of my children, who had no idea the burden I was carrying and the work I was doing. Saying just the right thing, at the right time. My child rose up and called me blessed.

(Call me the Proverbs 31 Woman)

I kept reading. Kept researching. I’ve not even written one word of the text yet, as I navigate through resource materials. I want to approach this unbiased. I want to seek the truth. I read materials from people on all sides of the spectrum on the topic. People who agree with one another. Those who disagree. The ones who will call others false teachers. The accusers of the brethern for improper interpretation.

I prayed, “Lord, let me get this right. This can’t be of me, but of you. I need to know that I am handling the Word of Truth responsibly. I know that I can’t avoid people being critical of it… but I need to KNOW in the depths of my soul that I did the due diligence. I tested it.”

(Call me a Berean)

This load is heavy.

This load is mine to bear.

But, I do not bear it alone.

For He is with me.

He holds my arms at the ready.

I am given supernatural endurance to keep running forward.

I’ve not set eyes on the finish line just yet…

But take just one more step forward.

One more step.

The Writing Journey

I had not planned to write a book in 2021. What I mean by that is having a few ideas that I’ve already fleshed out in to sample chapters, and pitched… I was pretty much waiting to see if anyone bit & then I would have those books to finish up for publication. A whole, brand new, project was not on my agenda. Certainly not one of great magnitude… as this one appears to be.

In 2018, when I first signed my publishing contract I began posting via the blog the process of publishing and what I was learning along the way.

Since I am in the throws of a brand new, from scratch, idea… I figured it was worthwhile to share with you all my process for writing.

Maybe you are called to write a book, and would like to see how others go about it. Or, perhaps you’re just curious about that actually looks like … writing a non-fiction Christian book.

So, if you are ready to journey with me… follow the blog, because I’m going to take you through the nitty gritty work….

Writing a New Book

What is amazing to me is how the Lord will come down like a deluge, a flood, into our lives when we are stepping into what He is calling us to do.

Since releasing Women’s Ministry with Purpose, I’ve worked on several book ideas that I’ve pitched. But, nothing has really taken any steam. That can be disappointing and discouraging, but it’s also par for the course. I’m a new author, still proving myself in the world of publishing.

I was writing because, I’d love to have a career writing. I’m not vying for platform or trying to build up to a NYT Best Seller. I just feel, in my depths, that I have more say that is of value. Whether it falls into the pages of my own writings or something I contribute to another’s work is of little difference to me. I’ll post the blog, give the interview, send ideas, etc.

Last week something happened, the Lord brought me round to something I had been avoiding.

I purchased a book a year ago, and I kept starting it and putting it down. Over and over again. Not able to get beyond the preface and first two chapters. It was not because the book wasn’t interesting or intriguing, but rather it was hard. It was a topic I was experiencing frustration in, presently despite the book being written almost 40 years ago.

One evening, the Lord brought it to mind and wouldn’t let me rest. Finally, I got out of bed, took the book from the shelf and set it on my nightstand. I would start reading it the next day.

Very quickly through a series of affirmations I realized that this was the launching of my next book. Not the next book project to work on, but my next book that would be published. There is a certainty here that I’ve not felt since my first book.

Not only a certainty, but a craftsmanship that is happening that comes when I am in “the zone”, “the sweet spot”, and doing what I have been called for.

I sit with my computer to one side, my Bible to the other. In front of me are legal pads full of notes, and a stack of pens so that I do not need to hunt for a new one when the current one runs dry. I’ve exhausted numerous post it note pads already, and more are to come. I’ve printed articles and requested archived pieces from churches many states away. Lists of questions are being built for an eventual survey to be shared with other leaders to compute data.

I have already purchased four additional books from ebay, and my cart is already filled with several more. I’m pulling books from my bookshelves that I had not started yet, but I instantly see why God brought them into my library. I grabbed a stack of pages that were omitted from my previous book. Pages that I easily cut, when needing to reduce my word count. I recall, just now as writing this, even telling my Publisher (when he questioned their removal) that they would be better suited for a future book.

My niece called and reminded me of an order I placed with her, at the time these were items for a different purpose that never came to be. Now I see that they were not for what I had planned, but to have on hand for what God had planned for the future.

I type fervorously. If you have seen the musical Hamilton, the lyrics… “why do you write like you are running out of time, write day and night like you are running out of time” … seem so applicable to my life. I have a fire that burns to keep the words pouring out of my hands on to pages of notes, research, quotes, and I’ve yet to place a single word on the page of a “manuscript” yet.

This is what it is like to write on a project that you are called to write.

And the thing is… I am absolutely terrified.

It’s an important topic. I want to write with reverence, and respect.

But, like Moses in Exodus Chapter 4…. I’m asking God… are you sure? Are you sure I am the one? Surely there is someone better to do this?

It is in these moments when I am surrendering to the doubt and fear that I know it is not being done i my own strength (gifts, talents, will) but rather in His. Because, if left up to me, I’d rather let someone else do this work.

I’m not intimidated by the amount of work. I am terrified at the work itself, when so much is riding on it.

And, on that note… I step away from this reprieve (coveting your prayers over the project)…. and grab another legal pad… pick up my pen… there is more work to be done.

Gena’s Favorite Things: January 2021

My November Favorite Things posts were a hit, so I decided I would revisit that idea once a month. I have three products that I purchased toward the end of 2020 that I’m absolutely loving.

Microfiber Face Cloths for Make Up Removalthese cloths literally glide across your face when wet, so no tugging or pulling at the skin. They are not rough on the skin either like terrycloth washcloths can be. Machine washable. I’ve been using for a couple of months now and they are holding up perfectly.

Command Strip Adjustables I have been using these little gizmos for a ton of things. We have some by bedroom doors for holding our masks, used them for hanging holiday lights and light decorations, and I even hung some in my closet to hold my old conference badges (I just can’t toss them!).

Clear Framed Reading Glasses These sit so lightly on my face, and I’m just in love with the clear frames. I’m pretty much due for regular glasses at this point, and these guys have sold me on clear frames for my new glasses too!

I’d love to know what your favorites are right now! What should I absolutely put in my amazon cart?

  • Some of the items in my Favorite Things posts are affiliate links, where I make a small commission if you purchase. However, every item featured was purchased with my own money & not gifted or sponsored. My opinions are my own and not biased, these are items I am using in my every day life that I feel are worth sharing.

Recent Announcements – Update

In December, I made 2 important announcements. The first was about my podcast that would begin in January, and the second was a new video teaching series I was going to begin Tea in the Testaments.

Both of these projects are moving forward, but I have chosen to delay until February.

As a US citizen, much is happening in our country at this moment and in the coming days as we continue the transition from one president to another.

In the wake of what has happened today, and in the near future, I know there are two things I do not want…

  1. I do not want this exciting time, of launching something new and encouraging, to be lost during a season on strife and discord.
  2. I do not feel my voice should usurp the strong, Christian leaders, who should be heard.

We, my friends, have time.

Blessings,

Gena

What We Can’t Know

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A few years ago, I was witnessing a good friend of mine head into a very exciting new opportunity.   I remember having a moment of wishing something like that for myself and my family.  Not so much coveting, just dreaming.  Wouldn’t it be nice?

Within about a year, I was attending a workshop where in one of the exercises we were asked to close our eyes and envision our future.  If money, or time, or responsibilities were not a hindrance and we could do/be anything what would it look like?  I thought of my friends opportunity.  Yes, that would be nice.

Then we were tasked to take a look at our day to day schedule and identify what things we were doing that would support that goal, and what was keeping us from that goal.

In very short order, I realized that some things in my life had changed.  This dream that once seemed so far away wasn’t really all that unreasonable.  I came home and began to do some research.  What would that cost?   Running the numbers, the math added up.  We could do it.  Not necessarily that year, but once we got on the other side of some expenses… reasonable.

I was excited.  Then life was interrupted.  We went through a season that brought with it unexpected expenses, unexpected demands of our time, unexpected demands on our energy, and frankly a season of recovery for the family.  The dream was placed to the back burner.  A little disappointed, but moving on.

Fast forward to this week.

I am watching my friend walk through the unimaginable.  That dream turned into a nightmare.  But here is the thing, my friend is in a position that she can recover from that nightmare.  The turn of events didn’t destroy her family, their financial stability, etc.  It is still just awful and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

However, I was made keenly aware that had I taken the jump back then… if we moved things around and made that dream a reality…. it would be very, very different for us.  For my family, this would have been unrecoverable for us.

One of my mentors often reminds me that we must be not just thankful for what God does in our lives, but also how He saves us from what we can’t know.

There was a quote from John Piper, I wish I could recall it’s origins, where he basically states God may be working out hundreds of things in the background for our good and we may be only keenly aware of two or three.

We feel the wounds from the arrows the enemy slings that hit us, and that pain keeps us from counting the arrows that zing by never even grazing us.

I am thankful I didn’t pursue that opportunity.  I am sorry for my friend who lost so much, and I have seen how God has grown her through her circumstance.

Yet, I also find peace in knowing that despite how hard things seem, how much weight it feels like we are carrying… that there has been so much we have been spared.  We may never know how much.  I’m not even sure once we get on the other side of glory God will reveal those things to us.  Would we even care at that point?

But, I will hold on to knowing that we have been spared.

Spared from what we don’t deserve, and spared from what we do.

Standing Stones

One of the things that I love in the Old Testament is how people would set up standing stones, they were a pile of stones that stood as a remembrance of how God did something amazing there. I have a box where I keep mementos of things where God showed up and did something amazing in my life. My own personal standing stones.

Even though 2020 has been a rough year, I would bet that there are some areas where God showed up. Maybe it was an unexpected financial blessing in a time of financial stress, or even a debt that was forgiven or paused until the economy recovered. It could have been that this year brought a new job opportunity, or the ability to work from home that you had been lobbying for over the last few years.

As we head toward exiting 2020 and entering into 2021, I’m challenging you to reflect back on this year and find those places to put the standing stones of your life. We have no idea what 2021 will look like, but if we can look back to this year and still see where God was working things out… perhaps, just perhaps, it will be easier to make it through what ever 2021 has in store.