Chronicling 40: Day 74 of 365

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Whenever the topic of women in church leadership (either leading a ministry, sitting as a deacon/elder, or as Pastor) comes up… Deborah and Jezebel are part of the conversation.  For those who support women in leadership positions (either fully or limited to certain positions) Deborah is their heroine.  For those who oppose it, Jezebel is their chief evidence against it.

When we came toward the end of our journey with Deborah, I shared why I believe that is within God’s character to raise up women to lead, and the circumstances that surround doing so.  Now, let’s explore Jezebel in the same way.

Just as much as we should embrace a true Deborah, we should be wise in discerning the presence of a Jezebel and fully aware of what she can unleash.  In the book of Revelation, Chapter 2, we meet another “Jezebel”.

Jezzy

Bible experts seem to stand in agreement that this is not actually a woman who is also named Jezebel, but a woman who is reminiscent of Jezebel from 1&2 Kings.

A few things stick right out to me:

  • NT Jezebel was tolerated.  OT Jezebel was invited in by Ahab, NT Jezebel was allowed in by the people or if she came in by force they didn’t try and stop her (ultimately allowing her presence).
  • NT Jezebel called herself a Prophet.  Anyone can call themselves anything, but that doesn’t mean they are.  A true prophet is anointed by God into that position, it is not one that they take on themselves.  The fact that this exact word is used tell us that Jezebel assumed the position herself.  (emphasis intentional and will be revisited). 
  • NT Jezebel had “her teaching” not God’s.  Very clearly we are told that Jezebel was not teaching the word of God, but her own teaching.  Whether this was a totally separate teaching or a corruption of God’s word, Jezebel was not teaching Truth.
  • NT Jezebel’s teachings contradicted God’s Word.
  • NT Jezebel was given the opportunity to repent and was unwilling.  NT Jezebel is not a leader who is teachable, or correctable.  Unwillingness to repent exposes pride, vanity, and a few other character flaws. 

As we look at the NT Jezebel we can see the correlations to the OT Jezebel, and we can also recognize that NT Jezebel isn’t even close to being a Deborah.

We are right to be cautious of a Jezebel entering into leadership in our church or ministry.  However we must be careful that we are not casting aside our Deborahs because we fear the Jezebel.

There has been a long standing “ideal” of what a woman looks like.  Gentle, meek, quiet, submissive, etc.  For many of us today, we envision the housewives of the 1950’s and earlier.  Thus, whenever a woman is more bold, assertive, confident, out spoken, etc. she is very quickly labeled as a Jezebel.  We don’t know what to do with these “break the mold” women, so instantly they are cast in a negative light.   Within the last year there have been several articles on the subject.  Essentially they all expose that when men and women share the same characteristics, the men are cast favorably (confident, assertive, leader) and women are cast less favorably (aggressive, bossy, controlling).

All of this is what led to the start of this series… Don’t confuse a Deborah with a Jezebel.  If we understand what a true godly woman leader looks like, and we can recognize the signs of an ungoldly woman leader, then we start off at a great advantage.

A Deborah is appointed by God, a Jezebel appoints herself.  It’s not their femininity that disqualifies them from leadership.  What disqualifies is the condition of the heart.  Ester was “called by God for such a time as this”.  Jezebel took advantage of the time she was given by the people.  Ester even broke the rules by going before the King uninvited, but she was successful because she was submitting to God versus seeking her own desires.

How Do We Not Confuse a Deborah with a Jezebel?

  1.  Know the Word.  You must know what the Scriptures say about leadership characteristics and qualifications, and what godly people should look/behave like in order to discern the wheat from the chaff.
  2. Don’t Assume.  Just because she is a woman, doesn’t automatically make her a Jezebel.  Take the time to investigate her leadership qualities and experience.  For example, 100% of my leadership skills in the workplace were developed by men who invested into my training. Therefore, my style tends to be more direct and assertive than most women… but that doesn’t make me a Jezebel.  When you get to know me, you see my heart for God and serving women well.

But what about Paul?  He said no way to the ladies teaching men.

This is a big topic, and I’m not going to address the pulpit yet.  That is a series unto itself.  Let’s just talk about leadership and teaching in general. What do the scriptures reveal?

  1.  Paul referred to other women as co-laborers with him in sharing the Gospel.  So clearly some women were teaching.  It can be argued that the women were teaching other women, or that the women were teaching alongside their husbands as a couple which meant that the woman was teaching men directly.  In either case, this clearly demonstrates that “women not teaching” was not a blanketed command for every city, every woman, every time period.
  2. Paul’s letter to Timothy addressed a non permittance of women teaching and usurping authority over men.  The first thing to note is the use of the word “usurp”.  Usurping authority is taking authority by force, it was not given to you… you were not elected… you were not appointed.  Jezebels are usurpers, who seek to take an authority not appointed to them.  Deborahs lead with an authority that is appointed or anointed upon them.
  3. Why would Paul write this in his letter to Timothy, if he also refers to women later as “co-laborers”?  For that, we need to understand what was happening in Ephesus at the time.  Historically we learn that Ephesus was a city full of Jezebels.  In the pagan religions, it was most common for women to be the chief priestess.  When Christianity came to town, these priestesses wanted to keep their position and assumed authority over the men in the early church.  They were not students of the Word, and therefore they would go about saying things they should not.   (Remember, Jezebels mislead and twist the scriptures).

Paul’s warning to Timothy about the women was the recognition that these women were not equipped leaders, called leaders, or appointed leaders.  Therefore he did not permit them to teach anyone.  They needed to be quiet, students of the Word, in full submission.  When you read through his letter to Timothy, there is no clear indication that it is ok for these women to teach even other women.

Scripture can not contradict itself.  We can’t have a blanket statement from Paul that women can’t teach, then by his own words refer to other women as co-laborers in the mission field of sharing the Gospel.  We can’t have Paul’s restriction at the same time as Titus 2:3-5 which compels women to teach other women, or Proverbs 31 that tells us that “wise instruction” was on the Wife of Noble Character’s tongue.  What the scriptures reveal by sharing with us Deborah, Phoebe, Priscilla, etc. and even Jezebel is that there are some who are godly leaders to be embraced and celebrated; and then there are those who are not.

But what about Eve, she was easily deceived.

After Paul tells Timothy women can’t teach, he continues in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 blames it all on Eve.  He says she was the deceived, she became a sinner.  Some translate this to essentially mean:  Eve was created second, and a woman, who was inferior and more susceptible to the Devil’s schemes.  Therefore she sinned, and then caused Adam to sin.  If Eve can be deceived, so can any woman.

From a logical standpoint, I have a problem with this interpretation.  First, because Adam was commanded by God not to eat this fruit, and he did it anyway.  He knew better.  Second, because once caught in his sin Adam’s first instincts were not to own his mistake but to blame Eve.  Adam even blames God as he hurls out the phrase “the woman you gave me”.  As a parent, in jest, when one of my kids has misbehaved… I have said to my husband “That child of yours…”.  When we speak in this way we are indirectly blaming the behavior on the other parent.  So was Adam in his word about Eve.  I highly doubt Paul was writing this sentence with the implication that Adam was without fault, and Eve was totally to blame.

And, I’m not alone in that belief.  Biblical scholars have also suggested that the reason Paul included this in his letter was to right a wrong.  The gnostic teachings in Ephesus at the time had been incorrectly teaching that Eve was created first and that Adam was the first to be deceived.  Not only do I agree that Paul was correcting misinformation, I contend it was an example to Timothy of why he was not permitting the women of Ephesus to teach.

Ultimately we can not elevate a few pieces of scripture from 1 Timothy above the rest of Paul’s writing about women, nor the rest of the New Testament.  Context is key here.  Which always brings me to the question of… If not here, then where? 

The Scriptures, in my belief, do support at least in general terms that women can be leaders with in the church and ministries.  What exact positions or offices can be held by women is another conversation.  Which women are right for leadership can be determined by testing them against the Word, identifying if she is a Deborah or a Jezebel.

Tomorrow, we are going to move forward in this conversation on leadership by looking at the term “Helpmeet” used to describe the woman’s role in the marital relationship.  What exactly does that mean, how was it defined then versus now.  We may even explore the topic of Co-Laborers tomorrow or the day after.  Then I’m taking a break to rest my mind for a few days and write on other topics.  During this time, I’ll be in prayer over whether or not we return to this series to further discuss women’s roles in the church or if it is time to move on. 

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Chronicling 40: Day 73 of 365

 

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.

Chronicling 40: Day 38 of 365

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James 3:13-18

How do you show wisdom?

  • a good life
  • deeds done in humility
  • not envious
  • not having selfish ambition
  • pure
  • peace-loving
  • considerate
  • submissive
  • full of mercy
  • good fruit bearing
  • impartial
  • sincerity
  • peacemaking

#BeAPeacemaker

 

Chronicling 40: Day 30 of 365

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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 27 of 365

I really wish these were better pictures, sorry Faith!  However this was too great a meeting not to share.  Faith had no idea as she was speaking to us about branding, that she was going to have such a major impact on my activities for today.

 

For those who don’t know Faith James, she is a Branding Expert… with incredible credentials.  I’ve been attending her lunch workshops as our ministry has entered it’s next phase, which includes national expansion.

A few workshops ago, we were instructed to score our brand based on her index.  I turned this index into a to-do list, which has grown quite a bit.  One of the things in the index was to volunteer to serve on the board of an organization.  Well, I checked that off and will be serving officially on the board for YouMom, a ministry that serves women facing unplanned pregnancy.

Yesterday, at the lunch, Faith was extraordinary as always.  But, there were a few key points that was so important to the work in store for me today.

  1.  Everything you put out into the world needs to reflect the core of your brand.
  2.  It must be consistent and clear.  It is our job to make sure our clients get it.
  3.  Articulate the why behind your brand, as well as why you are the right choice.

But also, she shared her heart.  How much she enjoys what she does, serving others, helping others.

Today, I was with the founder of YouMom serving the ministry by helping launch a new website, full of content, pictures, etc.  It was such a joy to work with Aimee today, and help her vision come to life.  To take the knowledge that Faith was gifting me yesterday and pass it on to Aimee’s ministry is beautiful.  When we do not hold on to our gifts and talents but instead share them; we get to watch it reach further than we could ever imagine!

So, there I was today… basking in the joy of helping others with my gifts and talents… which were fined tuned by Faith’s wisdom and experience.

That, is a good day.

I say all of this not to toot my own horn… but for two important reasons…

  1.  Thankfulness.  I am thankful beyond measure for God’s intersection of my path and Faith.
  2.  Affirmation.  Those who gift of their hearts, skills, and treasure don’t always get to see how it is used.  I want Faith to know that her investment in me is not wasted, but fruitful.

I encourage those of you who have someone investing in your life, helping you to bear fruit…

Do not just give a passing thanks, but instead show them the fruit of their labor.  Let them see what they have sewn into fertile soil.  Let them know that you have not hoarded their gift for yourself, but graciously shared it with the world, investing into others.

This brings to mind the parable of the talents.  Do not bury in the ground that which you can multiply.  Use your gifts, share your talents, and spread the wealth that is love, compassion, encouragement, and equipping!

Chronicling 40: Day 18 of 365

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If you haven’t noticed, there is a link at the top of my site for Hashimotos Awareness.  This link is there for a few reasons:

  • Several family members, including myself, have been diagnosed with this disease.
  • It is incredibly common in women, and many won’t realize they have it as the 300+ possible symptoms can easily be dismissed as age catching up with us and any number of potential ailments of varying severity.
  • I know how long it took me to feel the way I feel today, and I wanted to share my path with others who are trying to navigate their way toward health.

Today’s post is not going to revisit everything that I put on that page, but as a reflection of what it is like to live with a chronic illness for those who don’t have one.  First let me start with a story, from when I was first diagnosed.

By this point I had three children, and certainly I was no spring chicken any longer.  However, I could sense something was not right.  I was not recovering from this last child like I had the previous two pregnancies.  I was exhausted, all of the time.  I mean literally all of the time.  Physically, mentally exhausted.  I couldn’t seem to function like I once had.  My energy was gone.  My brain was clouded in fog most of the time.  My memory was a fragment of what it once was.  No matter how much I watched my diet or exercised, the weight was packing on.

I mentioned this to my obgyn, who did a blood test for thyroid disorder because she herself had a thyroid disorder and recognized some of the symptoms.  Nothing alarming came back.  We figured I just needed a bit more time, being older… three kids… made sense.  A year later, I felt worse and this time the thyroid blood tests indicated I should see a specialist.  Within just a couple of weeks I had my diagnosis of Hashimotos Thyroiditis.

I remember feeling such relief that I had a name for it, and a treatment plan.  A treatment plan, which according to my doctor at the time, would run the rest of my life.  Over time my dosage of medications would be adjusted to compensate, as my body actively works to destroy my thyroid.  Hashimotos is an auto-immune disease in which my body attacks the thyroid as if it is a foreign invader.

I was excited to see how my life was going to improve with this treatment plan.  I remember sitting at a coffee shop with a friend and as I started to explain my symptoms and my diagnosis… she cut me off.

“You are just getting old.”, she said with a laugh.

This would not be the last time someone would try to dismiss or normalize the symptoms of my disease.

“You do have three kids now, of course you are tired.”

“You are just making excuses.”

“You need to exercise more, and eat less.”

“Sometimes, when someone begins exercising more frequently they think they can cheat more often on their diet.”

“You don’t even know what tired is, I have…. “

“But you look fine.”

It is so infuriating to have an illness which can literally control your day to day living and have someone else dismiss as nothing.  I once spoke with a woman who has Hashimotos and she told me:

“I wish I had cancer.  At least then people would believe that I am sick.”

Think about that for a second.  When have you ever heard someone wish they had cancer?  But, I knew all too well what she meant.  When you have a chronic illness, it’s also usually called an “invisible illness” because regardless of how you feel you look just fine.  Not only do people get tired of hearing about your illness, you get tired of talking about it too.  Eventually you stop, and just respond with a cordial “fine” when someone inquires about how you are feeling or doing.

You don’t want to hear another audible sigh, or watch another set of eye rolls from those you call family and friends.  You don’t want to hear your symptoms dismissed because of your age or growing family, when you know your own body and this is not how it works.  Nor do you want someone to tell you that you are going to have to accept this as your new normal.

I remember working out 5-6 days per week.  Yoga.  Zumba.  Gym membership.  Curves.  Personal Trainer.  High Impact Training.  Body Combat.  Walking.  Biking.  Weights.  Running.  I remember working with nutrionists and trainers on my diet.  Protein shakes.  Energy boosters.  Fat blockers.  Keto.  Paleo.  Atkins.  Weight lifting diets.  Custom diets removing certain foods.  In one blood draw trip I gave nearly 20 vials of blood to test my thyroid levels, hormone levels, food allergies, vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

Yet, I wasn’t feeling better.  I kept feeling worse.

Imagine sleeping a full night and never feeling rested, but instead exhausted.

Imagine your skin hurting to the slightest touch that it would feel like serrated knives being drug across your skin just putting on your pants.

Imagine having your body ache like you had an amazing gym day the day before, and the reality is that you physically haven’t been able to get to the gym in weeks.

Imagine that just taking a hot shower will wear you out to the point that you need an hour nap afterwards.

Imagine that despite all your efforts to work out, watch your diet, and take your medications result in your weight going up, your body swelling, your hair falling out, your skin drying out, and so many other little things.

Imagine forgetting important dates, even when you right them down.  Losing everything because you really can’t remember where you set it down.  Telling the same story over and over again because you truly don’t remember telling it the first time.

Not getting better, getting worse, and everyone just dismissing it because of age.  I was thirty three.

As someone who has battled this for 7 years, let me key you into a few things.

I am as annoyed and inconvenienced as anyone by my disease, more so in fact.  I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  I don’t want to blame my illness for my lack either.  But, more importantly than that the things I needed the very most was for people to simply BELIEVE me.  Believe me when I say that I have an illness that I have no control over.  An illness with no cure, only management and that is only partially effective.

Believe me when I say that how I feel is symptomatic of my disease, and not dismiss it away as an excuse or minimize it because I look normal.  Those with chronic health issues are doing their very best to just exist some days.  Treat them kindly, with compassion.  If you are a nurse or a doctor, believe me when I tell you that I am doing everything in my power to control my diet and exercising versus making excuses or lying.  Have a willingness to try out of the box treatments if what we are following today is not working.

We don’t want a “new normal”, we want to be “normal”.

It was just a couple of years ago that a friend from high school and I reconnected.  She had been diagnosed with Hashimotos too.  She was in remission.  No symptoms, off her meds.  I was never even told this was possible from the doctor I was with at the time.  So, understand that we are working with doctors who truly don’t understand our disease and how to treat it properly.  For my diagnosis, sadly, not all treatments work the same for all patients.  Lots of trial and error to find what works.  Be patient with your loved ones as they try to understand their disease and find the right treatment plan.  Take time to learn with them, go to a doctors appointment and hear it from the doctors mouth.  Understand the struggles they will face, and the options set before them.

A couple of years ago, I knew something was off.  I was swelling horribly.  I would mention it at doctors appointments, but not taken very seriously.  Someone else recommended that I start taking daily pictures of myself, so I could show the doctor what I meant.  I still have those photos in my phone, a reminder to myself that this was not all in my head.  I remember my doctor looking at the photos, confirming the dates they were taken, what seemed like millions of questions to try and determine what may have been causing the swelling.  It was the first time I was taken seriously about the swelling I was dealing with on a near daily basis.

When even our doctors don’t fully understand our diseases, those with chronic illnesses… invisible illnesses are even more in need of the support and understanding of their loved ones.  It is hard being sick in a way that only you can see and experience.  Please don’t discount those in your life with chronic illness, don’t forget that they are working extraordinarily hard to appear normal… something you may take for granted.

 

 

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 17 of 365

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2017 Collaboration Piece… painted by myself and my 10 year old daughter. 

Make art with your children.  I beg of you, do this.  You will not regret it.

Maybe you are not artistically inclined, if so… there are options for you.  There are those Sip & Paint style studios were you are directed on how to paint any number of subjects and styles.  Some are even classes designed for 2 people, where you each paint half of the finished product.  There are ceramic studios where you can paint precast ceramic pieces… work independently on a series that goes together or contribute equally to a larger piece.

Make art.  Make it often.  Display it proudly.

For several years, I’ve worked on art projects with my kids.  Most are hung up in my house, but some have been given as gifts to family members.  It brings me such joy to walk by these pieces that my kids have contributed to.

The picture at the top, that is part of this year’s project.  That was a collaborative piece with my 10 year old daughter.  Next week, my 14 year old and I begin our piece, seahorses.  We are working on a series, that will be hung in my house.  My 18 year old and I still need to figure out our piece.

If you were to come to my house, you would see a lot of art on the walls.  Almost like living in a gallery.  What you won’t know right away is that almost every single piece (minus 2 in the living room, and 2 in the bathroom) are made by members of our family.  I love being surrounded by the creative styles of my family members (on both my side of the family, and my husband’s side).

But, I am sure you are wondering how to do so in a way in which it flows with your decorating style… and that my friends is simply answered by controlled creativity.

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This was the family project from 3 years ago.

What do I mean by controlled creativity?  I mean that we approach every project with a plan.  Since the kids know it is for the house, they expect it is going to be coastal/beach/sealife related.  So, we discuss what each one wants to paint before we even begin.  I layout the color palette (pre-mixing if need be), give suggestions and guidance along the way.  This isn’t just about creating the final product, but also about teaching them color theory to technique.  We talk about how colors work together.  We talk about the rules, and then sometimes we break them.  It’s a lesson on patience, and a process.

I also allow them to complete a more personal project in the process.  This can be anything they want, and it will end up in their bedroom or they can gift it away.  It allows them to express their own sense of creativity beyond the project for the house.

I’m not just creating art, I’m creating memories.  I’m also encouraging their creativity, confidence, and sense of style.  I’m spending hours with my kids on a focused project, from concept to execution.  I love every second of it… even when the paint spills… and she wipes her messy hand on her brand new shirt.

I also help them break the bonds of perfection.  We embrace the oops… as Bob Ross would say, they are just happy little accidents.

Create with your kids, you will not regret it.