Can we chat?

For many years, I have been blessed to stay home with my kids and contribute to my local church and community as a full time volunteer.

What is a full time volunteer? This is someone who is essentially providing a 40 hour work week for no pay. Shows up every week to do their work. For me, this included serving in my local church, my work with Women’s Ministry Council, and serving with other community based ministries and NPOs.

In the last few years, as our family dynamics shifted (my youngest is entering high school, the other two are already graduated), my sights were set on vocational ministry. I had been preparing for this day for many years. First, through education. I completed a ministry degree. Second, through ongoing trainings via conferences, workshops, reading, and the like. Third, I put these two things into practice within the ministries in which I served.

This included writing my book, creating content for this blog, and building up the needed social media platforms to add to my credentials. Eventually expanding to include writing articles or being interviewed by other authors, major magazines/newspapers, podcasts, etc.

For me, this was never about building the big public platform, but actually building up my credibility for when the day would come that I would send out those resumes and seek ministry employment.

The reality is, that I would have been content spending the rest of my life as a Women’s Ministry Leader (or similar position) on staff at a church. I could put the writing aside. I could stop platform building for myself and instead focus on the church and community I was serving. I never wanted to build my own kingdom, but work towards the Kingdom.

Many of my closest counsel were just as confused as I was, every time my attempt for employment was rejected. Of all resumes sent (related to ministry), I have had only 1 official interview. Despite 20 years of dedicated service, a degree, and all the things people told me I needed… it wasn’t enough.

My husband didn’t get it either. He would say things like, “They probably already had someone lined up, and listing the job was just a formality”. Maybe.

As a woman, I realized that there are NOT a lot of jobs open to women in ministry. But there are a LOT of women who are vying for those positions. Too many fish, in too small a pond.

Then an opportunity opened up. I’ll liken it to an internship. I would be educated in the ways of the overall ministry, serving at their events, etc. It was a commitment to two years of prep, without any guarantee that at the end of the term there would be a job, or that if there was a job it would even be full time.

So, I went to someone for advice. I laid out all of the opportunities presented before me, including this one (to which she was part of this ministry).

The first bit of counsel she gave me, I readily received. She said, “What can you say yes to now?” In other words, while there are all of these various things I could be doing in the coming months…. what things could I commit to today?

The second thing she said to me, still stings a bit. “Gena, I don’t think you’ll be satisfied in vocational ministry in the church.” This was the thing I had always desired. This was my goal. Here she was telling me that she didn’t think I would be happy there. She was essentially talking me out of their internship program. Instead, pointing me toward starting up my own ministry in the community to follow my passions.

It was just another ministry rejection. But, for some reason… this really stung.

A volleying of emotions. Feeling either that I was too much or not enough to be in vocational ministry. That all the work, dedication, investment, etc. was literally for nothing. If within this place, that I called home, and served happily… I could be pushed out the doors…. then who else would want me?

It was a really low time period for me. I then made the decision that I would no longer apply to ministries, churches, or NPOs for employment. Instead, I would go back to my roots.

Two immediate interviews. One hired me on the spot. Three weeks later, they were already talking about future advancement within 6 months. Being told that my resume was “impressive” and that I am “much more than this job”.

For the first time in over twenty years, I was being seen and valued for my contributions. Having one of the upper levels asking me if I was happy working there, expressing concern that I might leave.

Also knowing that where ever I go, ministry comes with me. Meaning that the Lord would create opportunities for me to live out my calling where He would lead me… in the church or out. I show up each day, with joy for the work ahead. I’m content.

Yet, I still grieve over what I could have offered to vocational ministry. She was wrong. I could have been more than happy serving in vocational ministry. I would have done that for the rest of my life, in gladness. But, vocational ministry (the church) didn’t want me. Maybe there is a lesson to the church in that.

Or, perhaps God didn’t want me there b/c the lesson was that ministry isn’t a place but a lifestyle. I don’t work IN ministry, I AM ministry.

But, it still hurts a bit.

So, I keep pressing forward.

I love the Lord.

I will serve the people.

I write the words.

I’ll publish the books.

I’m still speaking the message.

He call’s me out.

5 Things to Help New Authors

  1. BUY THE BOOK – Even if your best friend gifts you a copy of the book, actually buy a copy too. Gift it to someone else or donate it to a library. But, even more specifically, if it is for sale online via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. buy the book through those retailers instead of directly from your author friend. When you purchase in this manner, it is recorded into a database that tracks sales. This is how an author can get a #1 status on a best sellers list or show future publishers that their books sell. Books that sell, help new authors get that second contract. In fact, you might not realize this, but getting a FIRST book contract is often easier than getting a SECOND. The first one is taking a risk, the second one is banking on loyalty sales.
  2. LEAVE A REVIEW- Almost every online retailer that you order books from will have an opportunity to review that purchase. Even if you don’t feel like writing out a detailed account of your experience with the book, simply opting to just select the stars or rating level is more than enough. This gives the author encouragement or feedback on their work, but also allows future publishers to see how readers respond to the authors work.
  3. TELL OTHERS – More people will purchase an item based on the personal recommendation of a friend verses on online advertisement or recommendation. Even going so far as providing the link to purchase can help spread the word about the book you are enjoying and the author you are supporting.
  4. SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA – Find your favorite author’s social media accounts (facebook, instagram, twitter, etc.) and follow their author account (not their personal, unless there is no author account). Once there, take a scroll through and look for promotional posts/tweets about their book, and share those to your account. This way your friends, family, and acquaintances can be introduced to the author and their work. If you have an option to recommend the author’s page to your friends (such as on Facebook) do so! Publishers are interested in the statistics related to authors social media accounts (followers, engagement, etc.).
  5. GIVE A TESTIMONIAL – If you are someone who has connected deeply with the text, let the author know. If you have means to contact them directly, great (email, direct messaging, etc). If not, you can post about it on your blog or social media accounts & tag the author. Not only do your words provide an encouragement to the author and are beneficial for future publishers to see the response to the work; your personal testimonial can help a skeptical buyer take a chance. Additionally, you are providing recommendations that the author can use when promoting their book.

It’s Been a Minute

We are saying goodbye to a strange season, of shut downs and being cut off from our lives that we would defined as normal. And, as we really just began to fully embrace and accept the new normal, things are shifting again. Personal responsibility is now at the forefront vs. government mandates for those of us in the US1.

Some are choosing to vaccinate, some not.

Some are choosing to continue wearing masks & maintain social distancing, some not.

There are so many different opinions, and I don’t want to get into that here. But rather, I want to address the shifting of our mindset.

As we walk away from our home office and back to the work place.. what are we returning to?

When our calendars begin to fill up with work obligations & social engagements… what are we inviting back in?

I want to challenge all of us to reflect on what we just experienced.

What things were you relieved to see fall from your schedule? What did you miss?

Were there meetings that have been just as effective being communicated as email/text? Were there certain people that you felt obligated to entertain but have felt relief since having to be distanced from their toxicity? Do you not miss running from one child’s activity to another all week long, and have enjoyed the time home together as a family? Do you miss traveling or conferences?

What has become part of your routine, that you might have to let go of… but perhaps you don’t want to?

Have you enjoyed a more flexible routine and you are not excited to return to a set 9-5 schedule? Lunching with your spouse and kids has been a highlight of your day, which you know will change as the world continues to open up? Has less traveling made your family feel more happy and secure, and you are not looking forward to getting back on the road for weeks at a time?

Maybe you have come to enjoy having more control of your schedule and life. Perhaps, being able to release your hour long commute every morning has brought better rest, or allowed you to make time for breakfast with the family or exercising in the mornings. You may have even noticed that you are more productive throughout your day than you were at the office.

Sit down and make a list of all the things you have been enjoying and all of the things you have missed. The evaluate what your options are. Schedule a meeting with your boss or ministry leader to discuss options and find some middle ground.

You might still need to return to the office, but the middle ground might include having a shift in your start time or allowing you to work from home 1-2 days during the week when you presence in the office is not necessarily needed. Come up with a plan for your traveling that allows you to service your customers more efficiently without having to travel as frequently, or plan your vacation time around your conferences so that your family can join you once the conference is over.

If you can provide stats on your increased productivity, and explain why those numbers improved, you’ll make far more headway with your requests.

It doesn’t begin here… at the keyboard.

In just about any movie you have ever seen about an author, the same imagery is used. S/he sits down at a small wooden desk, or lays their laptop at their dining room table. To one side you might find a legal pad with some scrawled notes. To the other is a cup of coffee and a scone, placed just so. The author sets out to write the great american novel, their memoirs, or the next non-fiction best seller. They type frantically. Words flowing from their genius. They are a wordsmith.

This is not what it looks like, as an author at all. Right now, I’m typing on my tablet. To the right is my iced coffee. I’m at the far edge of my dining room table. Directly in front of me you will find a stack of emails with some interview questions. To my immediate right, is my Bible, planner, and a stack of various survey results. Moving further to the right, of my 6 seated dining table, we have 41 different books that I have acquired for research. In front of those stacks, there are numerous pens, highlighters, legal pads, and pot it notes of assorted sizes (and purpose). Further to the right, you will find stacks of printed Bible chapters related directly to my research with notes scrawled (or to be scrawled) over them.

Two people could eat at this table. It’s been this way for nearly two months.

I’ve not written a single word of the manuscript yet.

I’m not even close to starting that part of the process.

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.