In the Right Time

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One of the difficult things about announcing that my book was picked up by a publisher is the “why me and not her” thoughts.  At She Speaks I met a lot of amazing women, who are writing amazing things.  I know that the doorway into publishing is small.  I am still feeling an incredible sense of “why me”, almost a month later.

Writing a book is an incredibly personal thing, and you set it before eyes to judge it’s worthiness.  So rejection stings deep.  Truth be told, this very book was rejected years ago.  This was not a new creation of mine, but something built up over time.  About 4 years ago, I submitted it to one publishing house.  They didn’t want it.  And so, I tucked it away.

With the encouragement of my husband, and several friends, 2018 was the year to try again.  In fact, my husband was so behind it… he said “if we have to, we will publish it ourselves”.   It was this encouragement that led me to She Speaks, where I would have the opportunity to pitch the book in person to publishing houses.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that it is not wise to rush blessings.  The Lord is orchestrating so many things that we never even see, preparing ways, setting the stage for things that need to happen.  Some things take time.

In twenty years of ministry leadership (and probably 25 in leadership in general), the Lord was preparing me for this day.  I had no idea the first time I stepped up to lead anything, that down the road I would end up signing a book contract.  It was not even on my radar.

I needed 25 years of lessons.  The ones we learn easy, the ones we learn the hard way.  I needed to go through some things, as a leader, in order to understand the complexity of leadership from various angles.  I needed to be led.  I needed to lead.  I needed to be hindered.  I needed to be stopped.  I also needed to be encouraged, trusted, and allowed to serve in the fullness of my gifting.

Even as I set out to prepare the book for the proposals that I would share with the publishing houses, I was finessing the sample chapters.  In the years since I mailed that first proposal, I’ve learned even more.

In Esther 4:14, Mordecai speaks to Esther these words:

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Ecclesiastes 3 imparts to us that there is a time and a season for everything.

For whatever the reason, 4 years ago was not the right time for this book.  Perhaps because I had more to learn.  Or, perhaps the people who need to read the words were not ready to receive.  I can’t say, may not ever know on this side of heaven.

What I do know is that God does not show up early or late, but always on time.  And, when He does show up things move in ways we can’t even fathom.

If I was to remain silent, and squirrel these words away in a drawer, the Lord would get them out there through someone else or in some other way.  Who knows but that I have come to this point in my life… for such a time as this.

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A quiet reason….

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It’s been a bit quiet here, and there is a reason for that.

Previously, I wrote about my experience attending the She Speaks Conference.  At the conference I was able to pitch my book on Women’s Ministry to several publishers.

I am happy to finally, and officially announce, that I have a contract on my desk from a publishing house for me to sign.  I’m reading through it now… exciting and surreal.

I do not have any hard fast dates, yet, on when this book is expected to hit shelves.  I’ll let you know as soon as I do.  We are just beginning the process.

Also, in the interim, I’ve signed 2 additional contracts with Chicken Soup for the Soul.  My contributions will be included in an edition about the best advice ever received, and in an edition about holiday traditions.    Best Advice, I’m waiting for the release date.  Holiday Tradition, will be in the 2019 edition… so you’ll have to wait for a bit.

With this news comes a lot of work.  There is editing and formatting to do, conference calls, viewing mocks ups of book covers, etc.  Whew.

I am excited.

But, mostly… I am humbled by this.

I pray that my words on these pages glorify God, and land in the hands of those who can benefit from it.

Tension

Tension

Tension is an amazing concept.  When running cables, you need tension.  But, not too much tension or too little.  If you have too much tension, the cable will snap.  Too little tension, and the cable will sag.  When you have just the right amount of tension, you will have strength and support.

Right now, if you are paying even the slightest attention, we are in a political diatribe that is full of tension.  Some sides are giving too much slack, other sides are pulling too taught of a line.  When you give too much slack on a topic, your arguments appear weak and unsubstantiated.  But, when you are too tight and taught, your argument isn’t going to hold under the pressure and will snap.

The truth is that whether you are sagging or too taught… you are being irresponsible.  If a team building a suspension bridge leaves too much sag, the bridge is not safe to cross.  If a person tightens the cables too much, the weight of the cars and pedestrians will cause it to snap and give way.  It’s not just irresponsible, it is dangerous.

When you are irresponsible and dangerous with your words, you are no longer credible.

So what is the RIGHT tension for conversation?  Especially on controversial subjects?

Someone once told me that compromise is when you come to an agreement and no one leaves happy.  I believe the right tension in conversation, especially about hot button topics, is when we don’t let emotions bring us to over react nor let defensiveness lead us to down play.  We look at facts as they are, and then have a good discourse on what the right options or actions would be.

However, our political climate as of late (and I’m talking the last several elections) has put us on extremes.  Everyone is quick to defend their candidate (almost at any cost),  quick to lambast the opponent (almost with reckless abandon).  One is sagged and lacking any tension, the other too taught.  Neither can support the weight of the real issue, and it becomes irresponsible dialogue.  You lose your credibility when you are unwilling to call a spade a spade and can’t admit wrongdoing.  You lose your credibility when you become so critical that a person can literally do nothing right without you finding a way to spin fault.   Without credibility, who is going to listen to you?  How are you going to make headway?

Since 1995, I’ve been a third party voter.  Every election I have voted outside the R & D lines.  I have yet to ever see one of my candidates in office.  Yet, I make a choice to have integrity in political conversations.  I choose to recognize the good, when it happens.  I choose to point out the bad, when it happens.  I can celebrate a POTUS’ actions, even when I didn’t vote for him, just as much as I can condemn them when necessary.

This is the RIGHT tension.

Empty Halls

Empty Halls

I have found myself on more than one occasion meandering through empty halls and empty buildings.  When I was in high school, I had a summer job working at a public school that was preparing to open in the fall.  I assisted the principal by taking documents from other schools and rewriting them with the information for the new school.  I would walk with him among the empty corridors as he listed off notes for me to take.  His voice would echo in the emptiness of the school, void of students.  Not only did it feel cold and empty, but the school seemed enormous.  In just a few months it would be teeming with life, as middle school students filled these empty halls and classrooms with energy and excitement. 

A few years later, I was assigned to help open up a brand new flagship store for the company I worked for.  This massive building set in an vast empty parking lot, was a blank slate.  White walls, white floor tiles, white shelves.  It was new, clean, and almost antiseptic feeling.  You could smell the fumes of the fresh paint and the cleaners we used to wipe down the surfaces.   Voices carried across the building only stopped by the few walls that portioned off the management offices, restroom, and breakroom.  In a matter of weeks, this building was filled with color and movement.  New employees being trained and prepared for opening day, products filling the shelves, and boxes of employee shirts being distributed brought color and vibrancy to the static white walls.  Opening day would unleash a tidal wave of customers ready to undo all of our hard work as they filled their carts with merchandise.

When our second daughter was born, our church was in the midst of a building project.  We had outgrown the small chapel on the church grounds and it was time to build a new sanctuary.  As a member of the ministry leadership, I had the opportunity to tour the building throughout the process.  A brilliant new stage, gorgeous stadium seating, warm inviting colors, and an architecturally beautiful building were just the by-product of the building’s purpose.  For years we had broken our body into four services to fit everyone and yet we were still growing.  We needed the space.  But, even more so, it was the desire of the Pastors to bring the body back into ONE congregation.  Spanning four services in a single morning, we found that few people from the first service knew the people from fourth service.  We were a church family that could only know one fourth of it’s members.  It was time to unite the body.  As leadership, we would walk through that building filled with hope.

We hoped that the new children’s ministry rooms would be able to hold all of the babies that were being born into our church.  We prayed that the classrooms would serve our study groups well.  We talked about new ministry opportunities that the building would allow us to meet.  We dreamed about the future of this seventy five year old church, and the new generations that would call it home and family.  Our dreams were that of a church so indwelled in our community, that our church would be like a home to the orphan, the widow, the poor, and the stranger.  Providing more seats at the table, and doors that welcomed them in to become part of our church family. 

I remember lunches on the church lawn after service, fall festivals, Christmas musicals, and Easter egg hunts on the grounds.  We offered our old chapel to a local Haitian Church, and occasionally they would invite our church to fellowship meals after their services.  Family dinners, Women’s brunches, Men’s breakfasts, recovery groups, youth group nights, Awanas, etc. filled our church calendar.  We built a wonderful community that has left a pivotal mark on my mind and heart on what a church should be and should feel like.  In fact, when we moved it became the litmus to my heart. 

This is what church family is, this is what our hearts long for when we come together and corporately worship.  Not a fast food injection of a momentary handshake, quick side hug, or kind words shared at the coffee station.  Rather, deep conversations over a dinner table while breaking bread.  Laughter and tears shed, as we gathered for studies and fellowship with our family of faith.  There is something in our bodies that craves the community of the early church that has been lost as we pop in and out for our quick nibble off the Bread of Life.  We show up on Sunday morning, take in the Word, and head home for our football games and midday nap sessions.  Quick to rush home versus taking the time to linger and chat.  However, there are times were we attempt to linger but are ushered out of the doors as the lights are turned off and the doors locked.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

I’ve witnessed people standing in the heat of the Florida summer sun, talking in the parking lot long after the church doors have been locked.  They are having a conversation that should be able to happen in the safe space of the church.  Too fragile of a conversation to be moved to the local coffee shop or lunch spot.  Instead, when the heat finally overcomes them, they slip into a car and put on the air conditioner to finish out their thoughts.  Why is this so?  Why have we locked our doors so quickly?  Why do we flip over the welcome mat at the front doors, and put up the closed for business signs on our doors?

I’ve watched movies, where in big cities, people would pour into the neighborhood church at all hours.  It could be one in the morning, and the doors were open for the wayward and the lost.  Welcome.  You are safe here.  How can we serve you?  We don’t tend to our sheep like that anymore.  Sure, you can call the Pastor at his home, or someone from the prayer chain… but will they answer?  I remember once struggling in the middle the of the night, and I wanted nothing more than to walk into a church and just sit in the sanctuary… in His house.  But, the doors were locked.  No one was home.  Our churches have business hours, you’ll need to make an appointment.

I’ve been told to cancel a small group because enough participants didn’t sign up to make it worth opening up the church.  Jesus went out of his way for the one, and we can’t open the doors for the five.   I’ve been told that we can’t have “too many” activities on the calendar.  What is “too many” activities for a body that craves community, and desires to spend time with one another?  I’ve driven by churches that sit empty 4-5 days of the week, and wondered is this how we are supposed to be stewarding the House of the Lord?  Are the doors supposed to be locked?  We put so much money into huge beautiful buildings that are never used to their fullest capacity, and I admit I wrestle with why.

Should it not be erupting with the squeals and giggles of children?  Echoing with the sobs of the broken?  Shaking with the songs of those who praise Him?  Rooms filled with men and women studying the Scriptures?  Testimonies and healing in rooms full of those who are recovering?  The hushed murmuring from the prayers of our warriors going to battle on their knees?  A building full of life versus desolate, empty halls…