Chronicling 40: Day 89 of 365

awakenReally excited to start off a new devotion, and to do this along with some other local ladies.

It’s been a while since I’ve led or participated this kind of a group, as I’ve been busy leading other projects.

We must feed our soul, nourish ourselves with the Word and in fellowship with other believers.

If you are a leader, you can sometimes forget to feed yourself.  Sometimes, as a leader, we need to be a part of a group instead of leading it.  It helps us remember what it is like to be a participate and gives us a glimpse of a perspective we may have lost over all the years of leading.  Sometimes it feels good to be just “one of the girls” instead of the lady in charge.

So, instead of leading an official study group, we’ve come together for “Conversations and Coffee” where we are going to share how the devotion is impacting us, how these words each day are driving us to a deeper relationship with the God who speaks.

Chronicling 40: Day 73 of 365

DebVsJez

 

Deborah vs. Jezebel

Women, Women of Influence

Both Deborah and Jezebel were women.  Both, were women of influence.  Deborah was a woman who worshiped God.  Jezebel was a woman who worshipped Baal.  Deborah’s influence, was godly.  She was considered wise, she judged over disputes, and brought peace among her people.  Jezebel was harsh and manipulative, she was divisive, and sewed discord and chaos among her people.

Wives and Mothers

We know with certainty that Jezebel was both married and a mother.  Deborah, we can assume was at least married (as she is called wife of Lapidoth) and possibly a mother as well (culturally, that would make sense but she is called “mother of the sons of Israel).  Either way, both women had a responsibility to their household that would outweigh any of their own calling (Deborah) or ambitions (Jezebel).

Scripture wise, we already discussed the requirements to be a godly leader.  Which means that we know for Deborah to have been risen up as a leader over Israel, she too had to fulfill those requirements.  Deborah would have been a woman above reproach, who took care of her home (husband, children) well.  She would have been submissive to God, led by His will over her own. 

Jezebel, however, didn’t meet these leadership requirements.  Jezebel was disrespectful of her husband, she was audacious and outspoken.  She had ambitions that outweighed morals.  (Please note that one can be a godly women with ambitions, being ambitious in and of itself is not wrong… it’s the heart behind the ambition that is key).  She was vain and more concerned about herself than others. 

Prophetess and Prophet Killer

Deborah was a Prophetess, meaning that the Lord had gifted her with prophecy and she used her gift to deliver God’s word to His people who would listen.  Jezebel, she was a Prophet killer.  She didn’t deliver God’s word but instead attempted to silence it by killing off those who did.  Deborah had awe and reverence for God, where Jezebel had contempt.

Leader, Anointed & Usurped

Deborah was a leader of the sons of Israel, those who were still listening to the Word of God.  Deborah was placed into this position by God, and moved in accordance to his directions.  Jezebel, was a woman who married into Israel via Ahab… a man who was doing evil in God’s sight (and in fact considered the most evil).  A corrupted husband, married a corrupting wife.  Deborah was anointed by God, Jezebel was chosen by Ahab.  Deborah was called to lead, Jezebel controlled and manipulated into leadership.  Deborah led from a position that was given to her, Jezebel led from a position that she took.

Deborah lived a life of honor, among her people.  Jezebel instilled an environment of fear.  Deborah lived a long life of peace.  Jezebel did not, and ultimately fell to her death pushed by her own servants.  Deborah was honored.  Jezebel was consumed by the dogs to the point she was unrecognizable.  Deborah is spoke of today in high regard, Jezebel as a warning and in dishonor.

Caught

CAUGHT

“The Lord will be your confidence and keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:26

In the movies, during an action sequence, there is a go to moment that helps heighten the excitement.  The woman in high heels.  Running across train tracks… her heel gets caught.  Running along a pier… her heel gets caught between the planks.  Running across the street… caught in a manhole lid.  Running down the sidewalk… caught in a great or crack.

I’ve never been running for my life, but I have gotten my heel caught.  Once, at a bridal shower, my heel got caught multiple times.  At the hostess’ home there was a beautiful deck and my heel kept getting caught in between the wood planks.  The first time, I laughed it off.  The second time, I almost dropped my plate.  The third time, it brought me to a sudden stop and I almost created a three woman pile up.  I was embarrassed that I kept allowing this to happen.  I could have paid more attention where I stepped.

In life, there are a lot of times where I could stand to pay a bit more attention to what is happening around me.  Perhaps I could have been a bit wiser, or exercised a bit more caution.  I could have learned from my mistakes, instead of repeating them.  When others shared their wisdom with me, I could have heeded their warnings instead of digging in my heels and thinking I could do things my own way.

As a believer, I can learn a lot of practical wisdom in the pages of the Scriptures.  The more I commit myself to the Lord, dig into the Scriptures to understand His character, and dedicate myself to following His commands the more I walk in confidence, God Confidence.  I am confident in who He is, I am confident in His promises, I am confident in His direction.  When I am walking with God Confidence, I don’t have to worry about my heel getting caught.

The Struggle of Being Pruned

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to join a community garden.  My purpose was to learn about growing my own edibles at home.  Joining the community garden would give me access to workshops, learn how to tend to my plot throughout the seasons, treat any pest issues naturally, and keep a healthy garden.  It was a tremendous success.  During that process, I began setting up my home container garden space.  Since I was growing plenty of veggies in the community garden, I decided that my home garden would start with herbs.

I set up the various pots, planted seeds for some items and starter plants for others.  I took all the knowledge that I learned and ended up with a gorgeous garden that produced enough herbs for myself and to share.   A year passed and I knew that I would need to amend or replace the soil in the pots to restore the nutrients that the plants had fed off of.  I prepared the new soil, removed plants, removed some of the old soil, replaced it with new soil, returned the plant to the soil, and pruned it back.  Anticipating the plants would experience shock, I was careful to water them frequently and remove anything that died off so that the healthy parts would grow.

Two weeks later, my entire garden was dead.  I was absolutely stunned and headed off to the community garden I once belonged to.  It was time to talk to the experts.  I walked through all of the steps, nods of affirmation assured me that I was doing things correctly.  The owner asked me a few clarifying questions.  “What type of soil did you use?” , “Where did you get your compost from”…. and I answered satisfactorily until the final question.

Did you prune the top of the plants and the roots?

That would be a big NO.  I sure didn’t.  I didn’t know that I needed to.

You see in the community garden, at the end of the season, everything goes.  You harvest what is left and all the remains of your plants are chopped up and tilled back into your garden bed and new fresh amended soil is added in to restore the soil for planting.  In the fall, you start fresh.  New seeds and new starters that you had prepared during the end of summer.

I was returning my plants to their original (or bigger) pots, I was transplanting.  This is different than pruning the plants that are in the ground around my home, where cutting back the top of the plant encourages new and healthy growth.   In transplanting, the gardener must not only trim back the top of the plant but also the roots.  Even if you are putting the plant into a larger pot, the roots still need to be pruned.

I started to reflect on things in my own life, where it seemed like the Lord was pruning me for transplant into something new.  I realized that indeed the Lord wasn’t just pruning the stuff I could see, and tangibly feel, from my life.  He was also working at the roots.  He was pruning away the roots that I had allowed to grow into unhealthy soil.  Some of this pruning would even send me into shock (just like plants).  It was sudden, and I had no time to prepare for it  Or, it hurt deeply and I didn’t understand why it had to happen in such a way  It may even have been an area I was quite comfortable in but it wasn’t where I was going to flourish.

When I prune back plants, I cut them back to a point where they are often unrecognizable to the average person.  Very little of what they once were remains, yet I wait in anticipation because I know that what is coming is far more beautiful or abundant than previously experienced.  The Lord knows this about us, too.  He knows what the outcome will be, despite the heavy pruning.  He knows that He is continuing a good work in you that was started the day your heart turned toward him.  Each time He prunes our lives, He does so because it is GOOD FOR US and the outcome will be GOOD FOR OTHERS.

The healthiest plants provide food for the most people.

Being pruned is hard.  It is a struggle.  It hurts.  It is confusing.  It is sudden.  It can be extreme.

But it is a very good thing, when it is done by a Loving God.

Book Tour! Day 8 – Leadership Promises

Welcome to my 10 Day Book Tour.  I love to read, and I am often given books to read for review.  Over the last year, I determined that I didn’t want to turn my blog into a book review site.  However, I can’t help that I LOVE books.  I truly do.  They add so much value to my life, because I learn from them and glean new perspectives from the authors who put their hearts to the page.  So, I’ve decided that each quarter, I’m going to do a 10 Day Book Tour.  What have I been reading, what do I honestly think about the book, and to whom I would recommend it.  Each day, for ten days, you will get a peak into my bookshelf.

I received a copy of Leadership Promises for Every Day, Daily Devotional by John C. Maxwell for the purpose of reviewing.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

DAY EIGHT:  LEADERSHIP PROMISES FOR EVERY DAY by John C. Maxwell

Leaders really do need to be encouraged.   Leaders, good ones, are constantly pouring out into others.  We can’t pour out of an empty vessel, so leaders need to have someone who is pouring into their lives.  This isn’t always easy though, especially if you happen to the be at the top of the ministry ladder.  I love this devotional, where John C. Maxwell pours a daily dose of scripture and leadership wisdom into my life.

I’ve enjoyed the book so much, I have in turn found myself giving it as a gift to other leaders.  I would have preferred a “Day 1”, “Day 2″… format over a calendar dated format.  But, that may be my OCD talking… because despite flipping through it… I literally waiting until January 1st to official start using it.

Additionally, I get a lot of great feedback from those who received it as a gift.  Which really spurs me on to continue gifting it, knowing that it’s not just me… but various leaders who are benefiting from these devotions. 

Recommendations:  Pastor Appreciation Gift,  Ministry Leader Birthday, Anniversary, or “Just Because” gift, Speaker Gifts, etc.

 

Women’s Ministry Resource – #Write31Days

If you are a Women’s Ministry Leader, or thinking of starting one at your church…  there is a great website that is full of resources that may be helpful and an online forum where you can ask questions.   For the next 2 weeks they are offering this free download ebook, with contributions from Women’s Ministry Leaders around the country.

Click on the cover below, and it will take your right to the page to register for the ebook.

wmnetpasotrs

I Am Found – #Write31Days

comeout

Talk about being behind.  It’s been a whirl wind summer of discovery for me, deep thinking, faith changing… just a big summer.  I’ve been challenged a lot.  I’m seeing things a bit differently.  This study had a helping hand in opening my eyes to those around me.  It’s only a 6 week study, but one that I feel about 6 months overdue in sharing with you.  Ok, maybe not that long.

I was given the opportunity to get a sneak peek at I am Found, when Moody Publishers selected me to be a part of a launch team.  The study is now available for sale, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Is this you?

Do you long for connection, but surround yourself with walls and a closed heart?

Do you battle shame, but long to be known and deeply loved by God?  By others?

Are you hesitant to show others the real you?  Do you fear rejection?

Do you desire to just been SEEN?  Do you feel invisible to God?  Are you hiding by choice?

iamfound2

I remember walking up to the counter at my Publix Deli.  It was SWAMPED.  The line was long, patience was wearing thing, the employees were doing their best.  When my number was called, I began placing my order with the manners in which my grandmother instilled in me.  Yes ma’am.  No ma’am.  Thank you ma’am.  The woman who was serving me was worn out, you could see it in her face.  It was tired, stressed, and the line after me was growing.  When she handed me the last of my packages, I took a glimpse at her name tag.  I said “Thank you, Linda.  Have a blessed day”.

Immediately her eyes lit up, a smile appeared on her face, she relaxed just a bit.  She responded with the normal “You’re welcome” and tacked on a “have a great day too”.  Her attitude had shifted.  I believe it was because someone recognized her.  Yes, she may have been running my face through her memory trying to place me.  Do we go to church together?  Does she shop here often?   Or, perhaps it was just as simple as being noticed in the sea of the hustle and bustle, the chaos and stress.

I believe we all have a deep desire to be seen by God, by others.  We want to know that we are valued, wanted, desired.  We hope that others will recognize our gifts and talent, our hard work and dedication.  It isn’t even about having accolades tossed our way, being promoted and given a raise.  Sometimes it is literally just wanting to know that someone sees us.  Or, when we suffer that someone cares about us.

There are instances where we have created that environment because we have been shackled by guilt and carry the burden of shame.  We build up walls around us so no one sees the real us, yet at the same time we scream out for people to see the false us.  It’s almost like slight of hand.  Look at the fake me, the perfect me, who as it all together… so that you don’t see the flawed me, the imperfect me, who is barely keeping it together.

There are times we hide because we have been hurt by others.  Afraid to let people in, yet desperate to not walk through life alone.  We constantly push and pull people, in and out of our lives.

Playing hide and seek with God, or others, is no longer enough.  We want to be found.  Seen. Known.

The I am Found study by Laura Dingman is a personal journey through the scriptures, biblical truths about how God sees us and Jesus loves us.  Each week begins with a bible based teaching, followed by daily reflection, opportunities to journal your thoughts; as you explore your life.  Your shame, your identity, God’s affection, relating to Him and others, and so much more.

This is a great study for personal use, small group, or ladies study.

Unified in Our Brokenness

MBA

This morning, I spent some time with a group of women who are leaders of women’s ministries, women’s discipleship, and other women’s organizations.   In January 2016, Authentic Intimacy will be holding a 1 day conference for women, related to what godly sexual intimacy looks like…. for married, and single, women.  This meeting was an informational meeting for women’s ministry & organization leaders to have a better understanding about Authentic Intimacy as a ministry, and ask questions about the conference.

In our group, we had a woman who was a missionary to Africa.   There were two women who work with pregnancy crisis centers in our area.  There was a woman who leads discipleship among women and speaks on Indian Reservations.  There were women who had their own experiences of sexual brokenness and those who are helping people heal their own.  It was a precious group of women, coming together because we see a need in our community & we want to support this conference.

What was interesting to me about this meeting is how united we are in our brokenness.  As the missionary shared the brokenness of the women in Africa, I could see those same stories in the faces of women that I personally know.  I know women who have been raped, and someone tried to blame them… being accused of doing something to encourage it.  Women who were sexually abused by their husband, doing their “wifely duty” against their will.  As I listened to the crisis pregnancy volunteers, I could see the faces of girls who were afraid to tell their parents they were pregnant.

I listened to story after story of dysfunction in relationships because the subject of sex has been too taboo to approach in homes and in the church.  Last year I served on a team of women who were responding to the Fifty Shades of Gray books, and many of the women shared that their Pastors and the Pastors wives didn’t think  it was “an issue in our church”.    We can’t stand in a place where simply saying “don’t do it” is the only correct response to sex, the only message we give our kids.

We need to be not only discussing what healthy Christians sexuality is NOT, but also what it IS.  We have children from broken homes getting married, who have no idea what a Christian marriage looks like.  They don’t have a resource of friends to speak to that can advise them of what healthy single life looks like either.

The enemy shames our women by mocking their choice of purity, making them embarrassed over the decision.  The world (including Christians) shames the ones who have not maintained their virginity.  We spend so much time telling girls to wait, that they are intimidated when they get married, and many are dealing with guilt because their purity has become an idol to them.  They are finding shame in even having sex with their husbands.  They have guilt over their past, uncomfortable with their present.

Yet, we brush it under the rug.  Because it’s not “an issue in our church”.  The church is more than the four walls we meet in each Sunday.  The body of believers is our church, and what affects others should affect us.

In her book For the Love, Jen Hatmaker states that if something we believe is not true for the single mom in impoverished Haiti… then it is not true.    Which means that if it is true for the single mom in impoverished Haiti, then it is true for us too.  Sex trafficking, rape, sexual abuse, marital sexual abuse, etc… it is true for women all over the globe, which makes it “an issue in our church”.

Church, let’s minister to the least of these….  because we are united in our brokenness.

The Big No.

MBA

No. Nope. Nada. No Thanks.

Do you know what really stinks?  Being told no over something you are passionate about, or a step you are ready to take.  Most people, when told no, will take it personally.  It will bother us that we are not being allowed to go somewhere or do something because someone else said so.

Kids don’t like it.  When they are told no, they feel like you don’t like them.

Teens don’t like it.  When they are told no, they feel like you are treating them like a child.

Adults don’t like it.  When they are told no, they feel that you are rejecting them or their contribution.

The hardest place to hear no, is in your church.  The place where you want to serve and someone is telling you that you can’t.  It is really, really hard.  How do you process that?  God lays something on your heart and someone is saying NO.  Now what?

Their intentions are usually good… even though they have said no.

I have attended a few churches over the span of my life due to relocating, and I have experienced an assortment of “no” situations.

I remember once volunteering for something, and I was told “No, you already have enough on your plate.”.  I didn’t understand how this person could make that decision for me.  That didn’t seem fair.

Then, there was the time I was given permission to lead a specific event.  I was so excited, spent a ton of time getting the ideas together, only to find out the leader changed her mind.  I was rejected before I even had a chance to prove myself.

Years ago, I volunteered to join a ministry team.  I asked for a specific position and was told that I would be better suited in another.  I scratched my head in confusion, how did this person know what I was good at and what I wasn’t?

I also recall many times in the course of leadership where I had to be the one to say, no.

Let me assure anyone who is reading this… is stinks to hear the words no.  But, it also isn’t exactly fun having to say it either.  No one wants to be the dream dasher.

I’ve had to say no because something wasn’t in the budget.  I had to break the news that someone’s idea for the ministry wasn’t going to happen.  I’ve had to tell someone that we didn’t need any extra volunteers.

What I have learned over the years is that it isn’t the word no that is the problem.  It is usually in our delivery.  It is also in our perception of what no means, if we are on the receiving end.

No, in MOST cases really means…. No, not right now.  But, we fail to express it in this way.  We also fail to receive it this way too.  Miscommunication is at the root of so many confrontations and obstacles in ministry… IT IS RIDICULOUS.

We can all make a better effort when it comes to the word NO, in how we use it and receive it.

We can go along way to clear up communication and avoid assumptions when we:

  • take a moment to explain our decision (even if that is simply acknowledging that you can’t share details, but you have a reason why the answer must be no).
  • instead of reacting, take a moment to respond with a question for clarification on the answer.
  • assume the best about the person delivering the “no”, not the worst.

Finally, for the person who is often in the decision maker… remember this….

If you keep saying no, eventually people stop asking.

This may result in their making decisions WITHOUT your input.  They will move to the “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” stance.  You don’t ever want to be in a place where you don’t know what is happening in your home, ministry, church, or organization.

It also may result in a person who is trying to actively be involved to stop volunteering.   If they keep getting shut down, why bother?  If you have to say no multiple times, you need to be transparent about why.  Is the person not ready to take that position yet?  Be honest, and come up with a plan to get them there.  Do you see a better place for the person?  Share that, explain why.  People want to feel valued and repetitive rejection affirms in their mind that they are not wanted or needed, that they have nothing worthy to contribute.

Also if you find yourself saying no too much, to too many different people, too many times… it may be a moment where you need to do some self evaluation.  Why are you saying no so much?  Are you being to controlling or micromanaging?  Or do you just have an abundance of people who are ready, willing, and able…. just waiting for the word to go.  In the first case, you need to begin to trust those who God has brought into your life and organization.  In the second case, if you have too many people with too many ideas… come up with a plan to deal with that.  Find a place for them to serve.  Put them together if they share common vision and ideas.  You may find what you really have is a team, not a group of individuals, who are ready to serve with your direction.

My husband once said, in response to a request from our daughter:

If we always say no, it loses it’s value.  We have to say yes to some things, even if we are not totally ok with it. That way, when we do have to say no… she knows there is a good reason and she’ll be more apt to accept it.  If we always say no, she won’t ask our opinion or permission anymore.

I have begun to view that parental tidbit as something valuable even in ministry service, and leadership.  If you want your no to have a stronger impact, then you must say YES more often.  This doesn’t mean that we allow everyone to do what they want, however they want.  We can put in boundaries and systems of checks/balances.  We can slow down the process to manageable steps and evaluate as we go.  We can guide and redirect as needed.

That’s good leadership.

 

Have You Been Summoned?

summoned

I just finished reading the book Summoned, by Daniel Allen Jr,  and it was really quite an unexpected read.  First and foremost, I didn’t realize that the book was intended for men.  I saw the title, and the description and thought:  THAT’S FOR ME!  Had I taken a few moments to look a bit further, like the second sentence on the back cover, it would have been blatantly obvious.

While the central theme of the book is recognizing the call of God to step into a greater role in life, and some of the practical steps in heeding the call; the author also shares very real difficulties and obstacles that come along the way.    I have to admit, I was able to get a perspective shift on how I see some of the men I have worked with in ministry.  Issues and difficulties that I thought were more common for women (like relationships), it turned out were also a problem for men.   I found we had more common ground that I expected, even though we also have very unique experiences as well.

People want to have an idea on how to recognize God’s calling, but they are not always certain of what action that is going to require on their part.  Nor, are they prepared for the things in their life they may have to change, or the challenges they are going to face in the process.  Something that really stood out to me, on a personal level, was the chapter on Baggage.  We sometimes carry a lot of baggage around, and we may not even realize how it is affecting us.  We can become blind to our own character faults, and they can wreak havoc in our lives and in our ministry work.

The chapter on Porn, was one that was clearly addressing a larger issue but in a more specified instance… but is part of what makes this book bent toward men.  This isn’t to say women can’t suffer from this same addiction.  But, as a woman, I skimmed this chapter.  He wasn’t vulgar, please understand that, but just in relation to my own sensibilities on the subject… it wasn’t for me.  I do recognize though the importance, particularly in relation to recent news headlines, that it couldn’t be more timely of an opportunity to address this problem within in leadership.

I’m not sure if I would recommend this to other women to read, but I would certainly recommend it to men in leadership in my own church.  I am also of the opinion that it would make a great book for a men’s small group.

#FCBlogger

*I was given the book Summoned by #FamilyChristian for the purpose of reviewing the title.   The opinions on this book are entirely my own.