Chronicling 40: Day 62 of 365

ambitiouswoman

A friend of mine posed the question “what is a godly, Christian, ambitious woman?”.  My answer:

“A woman, with Kingdom sized dreams even with mustard seed sized faith; who runs the race the Lord has laid.  She endures the journey, even with a thorn in her side, as she pursues His Will; all the while giving the Glory to God.”

~Gena McCown

Ambition is not always talked about kindly, especially when it comes to women… and even more so in the church.  However, there is a difference between “selfish ambition” and “godly ambition”.

What Does the Scripture Say:

In the Scriptures we learn of a business owner who makes goods and sells them to the merchants in the town.  With the earnings from this business, a vineyard is purchased.  As we read the description of this business owner, we learn that this is a person of very noble character, worthy of being praised, and valued more than rubies.  We are reading about the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Ambition is not always bad, in fact in and of it’s self … what really is ambition but to get from one place to another.  It is the heart that is really what determines the type of ambition.

Selfish Ambition in Rooted in Sin

Selfish ambition is all about me, what I can get, what I can achieve, and pretty much at any cost.  Selfish ambition is rooted in sin.  When my ambitions are motivated by pride, greed, jealousy, etc. then I know I am out of alignment with God’s will.  I am doing this for myself and my own gains.  Regardless of how successful I am in this pursuit, I will never get the full blessing and I will never find peace in what I have attained.  In fact, most who have selfish ambition continue to push for more.  Nothing is ever enough.

Selfish ambition is a usurping ambition, it takes what doesn’t belong to it (yet, or if ever).  It relies on self.  My achievements are done in my time, in my strength, in my way or the highway.  Selfish ambition doesn’t care who gets hurt along the way, and sometimes causes pain intentionally.  Selfish ambition puts my wants and desires above all else.

Godly Ambition is Rooted in My Father’s Business

Godly ambition is where our hearts are revealing the Fruit of the Spirit.  What drives my ambitions is my Father’s business.  The Proverbs 31 Woman wasn’t just selling her goods and buying a vineyard just so she could have more.  No, this was a woman of character.  She tended to her family and home, taking care of their needs.  She was a woman who employed others to work for her, providing them income and possibly shelter and hot meals each day under her care.  She was a good steward of the blessings the Lord gave her, and she opened her arms to the poor in spirit.  She spoke with wisdom and reverence of the Lord. 

Godly ambition is not usurping but life giving.  It is not taking away from others, but giving more to the world.  The Proverbs 31 Woman was a woman who was taking care of her Father’s business, she was a Kingdom worker.  Her ambitions were not motivated by sin, but instead by God’s will.

How Do I Know the Difference?

If you are wondering if your ambitions are driven by “selfishness” or “godliness”, ask the following questions of yourself:

  1. Is any part of my dream or goal in direct conflict with the Scriptures?
  2. Does pursuing my dream or goal cause me to compromise myself, or cause my sister to stumble, in order to achieve that next step?
  3. Do I have trusted counsel to hold me accountable, and speak the Truth into my actions… even if it is hard to hear.
  4. Am I bathing my ambition in prayer, and do I have others praying for/with me to keep in God’s will as I pursue my calling?
  5. Do my ambitions produce good, lost lasting, beneficial fruit or is my fruit temporary and tainted with pride, greed, jealousy, etc.?
  6.  Am I willing to walk away from this dream/goal should the Lord ask me to give it all up and follow Him on a new path?

How you answer these questions will reveal where your ambition has it’s foundation.  At the root of a sinful heart, or at the base of a righteous cross.

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Chronicling 40: Day 61 of 365

stamped

A few months ago, and recently making the rounds again, was an article that specifically addressed Christian women in the blog universe.  It questioned who was overseeing these women, who were they accountable to, and why this was important.  The concerns, in a nutshell, were that many of these writers don’t have any theological training, no one who does have such training ensuring what they post is theologically correct, and no one to essentially keep them in line with what I’ll label as core Christian beliefs.

This meant these writers could (and some do) go rogue and no one is there to put them in check.  Opponents of the piece questioned if what was good for the goose, was good for the gander?  Do we hold men in the blog universe to the same standards?   Do they have any theological training/education, is there someone who holds them accountable and keeps male writers from going rogue.  And of course, me being me, we have to question if this is all just an assumption.  Maybe these bloggers DO have someone overseeing their material?

This brought me to a recent conversation about serving in the church, where my friend Tracy Page asked:  “Why do you need the church’s permission to start a Bible Study”.  This put my mind on a course of considering a lot of different factors.  As a person who coaches Women’s Ministry leaders, I often speak to the value of vetting our Small Group leaders and materials.

The Value & Responsibility of Oversight

There is value to oversight to ensure the materials we are presenting to our women are theological sound and in line with the doctrine of our church.  I’ve also spoken to the fact that we need to be discipling our women to lead studies that are more in depth, and not having Small Group leaders that are merely there to press play on the DVD.  I’ve even questioned blind allegiance to particular authors and publishers, assuming that just because the materials come from them they must be sound without first previewing the materials.  Really, who hasn’t changed their thoughts on a particular topic over the last 5, 10, 20 years?  It is possible that someone you once agreed with has changed course and may be going in a direction you can’t support.

And so the struggle begins.  On the one hand, as a leader I represent my church.  Thus, the things that I present to the women in the church and also in my life are in many ways under the umbrella of my church.  Even if I don’t outright say it, many would assume that if it comes out of my mouth… and I’ve been a part of a church for any length of time… that my church probably shares that same view/opinion.

On the other hand, within the church we know that not all of us agree 100% across the board on every issue.  Our political atmosphere gives us away.  Democrats and Republicans share the pews.  Pro-Life members are sharing the same space as Pro-Choice members.  Members who affirm certain positions on any given controversies are serving along side those who condemn those positions.  If a person wants to lead a Bible Study in their home, not in the church building, who is to say they can not?

Oversight, Obedience, and Authority

That is where it gets a bit tougher to navigate.  If I sit under the authority of a Pastor, and I ask to lead a particular study in the church, and the Pastor refuses citing issues with the material… what if I move ahead with the study anyway?  Is that respecting my Pastor?  Is that disobedience to the one God has set to Shepherd our church?  If I approach the Pastor wanting to start a ministry that serves a particular need in our community, and the Pastor declines the ministry because there isn’t funds/space… could I then go forward and start the ministry on my own?  Can I lead a ministry in the community without oversight, accountability, and under only my own authority?

Is this any different than the blog universe? Especially for women…

Does the Blog Universe Need Accountability and Authority?

First and foremost, we know that anyone who is leading, teaching, or writing a blog is going to be held accountable to God for their words.  So, let’s not pretend that accountability is off the table.  There is always accountability at the Kingdom level.

Also, we have learned over the years that the blog universe… social media… whatever you want to call it is not free of oversight and criticism.  Someone is going to read your words, and someone is going to hold you accountable for them.  When you publish into this very public forum, the critics will surely correct you quickly.  They won’t hold back their tongue.  I’d also imagine that a connected Shepherd knows what his flock is up to, and if he sees something amiss on a blog it will be addressed.  Right?

Who Has the Time?

Everyone and their grandmother is blogging now a days.  In a church of 3,000 how can the Pastor vet every single Bible Study Leader, every single Bible Study curriculum, and read every single blog posted by his congregation?  It’s impossible!

Yes, it is.

This is why, if you are going to have a strong Small Group/Bible Study platform you must have someone who oversees JUST THAT.  This is not something to be added to your Worship Pastor’s job description either.  A “Small Group Pastor” or “Discipleship Leader” is needed.  Someone with good theology, who has the JOB of vetting the materials.  Or, perhaps instead of allowing the body to choose whatever they want, this Pastor provides a menu of pre-approved options.  Better yet, this Pastor or Leader has developed a strategic discipleship PLAN for the church.  Which, by the way, also includes TRAINING our small group leaders.

As for the blog universe, we know that the majority of the bloggers are women.  This is a great JOB for your Women’s Ministry Director, Pastor of Women, whatever you want to call this PAID staff position.  She can either directly, or through appointments on her team, take the time to keep up with the women in the church who are blogging on faith issues.   Better yet, she can harness in this creative energy and create a Women’s Blog for the church.  Where these women are given a platform UNDER THE AUTHORITY and oversight of the church.

I bet that the majority of these women wanted to lead/teach/write under the authority of their church and were not given the platform to do so.  Then in obedience to their calling, not in defiance of their church, they found a space where they could.  I would bet that the majority of them would LOVE to be discipled by someone in their church as part of this platform, versus going it alone.

Create room.  Create space.

If you want to kno why there is an arena of people leading, teaching, and speaking without any oversight, authority, or accountability; how could this happen… ask yourself:

Did I make space in our church/ministry for those gifted in this area to use their gifts here under our oversight? 

When I think of my friend Tracy’s question, “why do we need permission to…”, I’ve come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t have to ask permission in the first place.  We need to have an environment in our churches and ministries where those who have a gift/calling can bring it to our leadership.  An environment where those gifts/callings are not discounted but embraced.  An environment where we work together to find out how this fits into our existing vision or a willingness to see how that vision can be expanded.

If this is happening, I bet there are less people blogging about faith matters… because they are teaching it in their local church.  I bet we don’t have to question if there is accountability or oversight, because it will be obvious as it is done under their umbrella of their church.  And, with proper discipleship, the quality of what is out there in the blog universe will be top notch… so much so, that those who go rogue will be easy to spot.

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 43 of 365

WeWantYou

The Women’s Ministry Council is looking for a few leading ladies who would like to start up a Women’s Ministry Council in their area.  Check out the website for more about this ministry and prayerfully consider starting up a group.

Currently, looking for about 5 women who are interested in starting up Beta Groups, which is the first phase of the national roll out.  You will help the Women’s Ministry Council build the launch materials for the program, as you set up your own local group.

There is no cost to start a Women’s Ministry Council group.

Chronicling 40: Day 30 of 365

letterfire

This picture serves as a reminder for me, it represents hurt and release.  It also reminds me to be proactive about protecting my own heart and mind.

It represents hurt, because it contains papers filled with things that cut deeply, probably one of the most hurtful moments of my life.

It represents release, because I knew that if I kept it around… I’d keep reading it.  Any forgiveness or progress toward reconciliation would be thwarted by these words lingering about.

Which is also why it reminds me to be proactive about protecting my heart and mind.  I need to discard anything that steals my peace, that makes me question my value, that causes me pain.

I can no longer read the words that are on those pages, burning away.  I can’t replay them in my mind.  I can’t dwell on them.  I have cast them away from me.

You might ask why keep the picture, doesn’t it bring up negative feelings?

On the contrary, it brings me so much peace knowing that I have the strength to let go and move on.

Chronicling 40: Day 22 of 365

laund

In my most wonderful of dreams… I’d have a basement laundry room.  On the one side would be a bank of washers, on the other side a bank of driers.  There would be a rack for hanging clothes on a third wall, with small baskets on the ground for tossing in folded paired socks.  Then down the middle would be a long folding station.

In other words I would like a laundromat in my house.  Not because I have a fondness for coin operated laundry centers, but because I absolutely LOATHE laundry.  Unless you are a family of nudists it is the one chore that is never done.  Someone is always wearing something.  There is always a rogue sock under the bed or behind a door.

Back to school not only means I will see an increase in laundry, but also means that there is an expectation that I will have all the things washed on some sort of schedule.

But I hate it.  I truly do.  This is the chore I would give up easily to anyone in the house, and yet it seems to be the one that evades being assigned away. Over the years I have tried many ways to get my head in check.

I read the books that told me to find joy in the laundry as it is a blessing to have a washing machine in the first place.  I gave the “pray for the person whose laundry you are folding as you fold it” perspective check.  I washed all one one day, I dedicated to doing a load a day.

But nope… it is 19 years into marriage… and I still loathe it.  My heart has not changed.  I dream of a financial windfall that allows me to throw away every article in the house buying all new clothing.  I’ve looked into the cost of dropping the loads off at a full service laundromat, or at least certain things at the local dry cleaner.  I’ve kept the total number of pieces of clothing small, which meant I had to wash more frequently and the clothes wore out faster. I’ve expanded the wardrobe, which did result in the clothes not wearing out as fast… but it is so easy to get behind on laundry.

I’ve climbed Mount Saint Laundry.  I have the bumper sticker.  The view isn’t pretty.

My eldest starting washing her own laundry.  Let’s bask in that for a moment.

Hold on, I’m not done basking.

But there are still 4 people that I’m washing for.  Le’sigh.

Once, I purposely waited until I had a free day to do all the wash.  A full catch up.  My plan was to fold it all, then call the family into my room.  I wanted them to witness the magnitude of the laundry chore.  I also wanted them to see the small percentage of laundry that was actually mine.

My husband, bless him, thought he was being helpful and had the kids put all of their laundry away while I ran out to the store.

There was no satisfaction that day.  None.  No one got to see the glory of Mount Saint Laundry chiseled away into the neatly defined piles of softly folded clothes.

I’ve been able to bring myself to try it again.  #NotTodayMountSaintLaundry

Why don’t you turn your pants inside out?

Stop leaving crayons in your pockets!

What do you mean you need this shirt TODAY?

Oh, these stiff necked people!  No matter how many times I ask them to follow my laundry statues, their heads are turned!

So grateful that the Lord has a greater love for me than I do this laundry that is always there to be dealt with.  So grateful that the Lord has more patience and grace than I offer up to the people I serve in my home.

I am tackling Mount Saint Laundry, but the Lord is tackling Mount Sin.

Washing us, making us clean.

I’ve smudged that bright white new shirt.

I’ve torn in sorrow at the covering He knit.

Lord, forgive me for my own stiff necked ways.