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Category: Change (page 1 of 4)

When panic hits

Lately, I have a question rolling through my head way too regularly – sometimes several times a day:

“Do you really think God is that small?”

Here is how it started: I read (the first half) of a book that wrecked me Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. In the first chapter of this book, Jeff lays out a fact that has been a faith challenge to me all summer:

When I say we are all unbelievers, I mean we still have places in our lives where we don’t believe God. There are spaces where we don’t trust his word and don’t believe that what he accomplished in Jesus Christ is enough to deal with our past or what we are facing in this moment or the next. We don’t believe his word is true or his work is sufficient. We don’t believe. We are unbelievers. 1

This is so true!!! I start worrying about…well, you name it…and then I hear “do you really think God is that small?” This one little sentence is helping me to live what I technically believe. You see, many of us believe with our mind, but not with our heart. We believe God is real and rewards those who earnestly seek Him (See Heb 6), but then we get hit with something – bills, people, young adult children, our own futures – and we stop looking at God and start trying to figure out how to fix things.

That is when my heart whispers “Do you really think God is that small?”

Messy is Not a Sin

I’m in the middle of transitions. All three of my younger kids are on the cusp of adulthood, which means I have NO control, and really shouldn’t – but I still have the mommy-panic-button that goes off way too regularly.

I am about to finish my doctorate but have no idea of what God has for me next. I am in my early 50’s, which means I am starting on the most productive years of my life… and I want them to count. And if I start down the panicky trail of trying to make my life count, I will soon find myself disconnected from God and those who mean the most to me.

Then I hear the whisper:

“Do you really think God is that small?”

You see, God is in charge of the universe and He put me here for a reason. I won’t step out of His will unless I purposefully do so. He isn’t going to make my path so vague that I could accidentally step off a cliff. He also has a plan for my kids, and although I know the impact that bad decisions can have, let’s look at a couple bad situations in the bible – two caused by a bad decision and one caused by, well, God’s development.

Bad decisions:

Sarah and Abraham decided to make their future (that God had promised) through means that seemed reasonable to them.

Result: Ishmael and the battle in the middle east to this day. However, God’s results were not circumnavigated. Neither was his timing. God was no less in charge, and He still brought about Isaac and his progeny. God was not shocked, nor was he thwarted by Abraham and Sarah’s mistake.

Bad decision #2: Israelites chose not to go into Canaan when they had the chance. Result: That generation didn’t go in, but the next one did. God was not thwarted by Israel’s mistake. His plans still came about.

Result: That generation didn’t go in, but the next one did. God was not thwarted by Israel’s mistake. His plans still came about.

In both situations, the participants willingly went against what God told them. They chose to walk in unbelief.

PANIC: Even as I describe those situations part of me wants to panic. Afterall, there were bad results. I don’t like bad results and want to be good enough to avoid them. Yet, that still small voice whispers – “do you think God is not aware that humans are fallible? Could it be that He uses the bad situations to mold and shape people to be more like Him, and to have His wisdomr?” 

Bad situation: Joseph – first in slavery, then in prison. Anyone who reads this story needs to hear Joseph’s faith – he never stopped trusting God, even when the dream he had been given looked impossible. He still believed that God gives dreams (see his conversation with the cupbearer and cook). God used that very bad decade or more (12 years, I think) to develop Joseph into someone who could manage all the resources of Egypt and save millions (my guess) from famine.

Being in a middle space means that you are learning to maintain your balance in what feels like a precarious situation. You have memory of the past, and a hopeful eye on the horizon, looking for firm ground. It is normal to feel out of balance and a bit “off” during transitions. But, we can live in belief. We can choose to stop the panic and walk in the faith that God is in charge. He is bigger than other people, He is bigger than circumstances, He is really in control and will cover my inadvertent errors. Even when I purposefully go against His direction, He will bring about His will for my life. I can trust in that.

What about you? What pushes your panic buttons, and how do you maintain the perspective that God is in charge? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

1 Vanderstelt, Jeff (2017-02-14). Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life (p. 20). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Afraid? Here’s hope

Violence seems to be on an increase in the US. Not just violence, but random violence. There have been plenty of times in history where the world has been more unpredictable, but this new onslaught is surprising many. Riots, shootings, and now crazy clowns. Then a couple of friends have huge health events and another loses her job.

Then, there is the problem of leadership. It feels unstable – downright crazy actually – when both political candidates that are in the running have unfavorability ratings so high. For someone who likes stability, this feels we are at sea in a storm. Seasick anyone?

What if you could handle the storms like this:

You can. When you accept Jesus into your life, He lives inside of you. You are not alone!

Read Colossians 1:15-17

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus lives in you. He not only holds everything outside of you together, but He will hold you together as well. There is a reason that you are living in this time of insanity. Could it be because God wants to bring hope to the environment in which you spend your days? Wouldn’t you love it if He used you?

Here’s help:

  1. Spend time with God until you hear His voice. It might be a sense of peace or an actual sensing Him speaking to you, but seriously, get with God and don’t give up. Keep seeking Him until you sense/hear Him.
  2. Throughout the day, tap into that sense of presence. When pressure builds, ask yourself “does God care about this?” If your answer is ‘no’, then go back to the beginning. God cares about it all – He might just have a different perspective than you. He might be up to something much greater.
  3. Share your peace. Most of us live in a space where we will not be thanked for talking about God. However, we can share His peace easily. No preaching required.

The storms of life are inevitable. You can spend them with your head in a bucket, or you can jump on and go for the ride. Jesus really is in control. When the world goes crazy, He has an end game. You can trust that He isn’t dethroned, but instead is working a much deeper move that you haven’t figured out yet.

 

What is your ministry?

ministryI started reading Scatter this morning and almost didn’t put it down. Seriously, I read 18% of the book before I left for work.  Andrew Scott gets ministry.

Here are a couple of quotes:

“A new paradigm is needed – one in which we recognize that all of life is where every believer gets to be a “full-time” follower of Jesus.”

 

“This generation has learned to worship in the church but seems unwilling to worship in the world.”

 

“A good measurement of true compassion is resulting action.”

For a while now, I’ve seen what many consider “ministries” – like greeting, ushering, etc., not as ministries, but as things you do because you belong – much like setting and clearing the table at a family gathering – not a chore or your purpose in the family, but something you do because you are part of a family.

Your ministry is how you make a difference in a world that doesn’t know Jesus. What is your ministry? Are you satisfied?

Messy is not sin

messy “Messy is not sin.” This is the quote from 40 Days of Decrease, my devotion for Lent.

The sentence keeps rolling around in my head today. I like clean lines. I like smooth emotions. I like life to not be messy – because messy hurts. Messy is a bit like pruning (or a destruction derby, depending on the day).

The question is – do I love the people around me enough to let them be messy?

In order to be better at letting people be messy, we have to be better at crucial conversations and creative problem solving. People are important. The growth we get from working through issues is worth the mess.

We all have different ways of dealing with stress – fight, flight or freeze. On my best days, I freeze. Most of the time, I flee – fast. On rare occasion, I have been known to step in front of the teenage freight train (I have several of them) and actually fight – because that is what the child needed.

While there are healthy ways to approach each of these tendencies, each approach has a downside. Freezing can miss critical moments. Fleeing might squash people’s emotions instead of helping them work through it. Fighting without boundaries can squash people and debilitate them. Embracing messy gives us the freedom to work through things slowly enough that freezing means listening, fleeing means regrouping to approach a situation with grace and wisdom, and fighting means having a critical conversation about what really matters.

I am very tempted right now to go back and make this a nice linear blog post that explains my conclusions – but messy is not sin, and messy can be helpful – so I will leave you with this:

What is messy about your life that you need to embrace?

Are you afraid you stink?

StinkDo you hide the stinky parts of life because they are just too much? We can learn from John 11.

Jesus and his disciples were doing their thing and a messenger came from Mary and Martha. Come quick! Lazarus is sick. Jesus sent the messenger on his way and went back to eating.

Jesus didn’t show up!

After a day or two, he finally decided to go to Bethany to be with his friends. As he and his disciples walked into town, Martha greeted them “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

So, Jesus and his friends trudged up to the cemetery.

This scene is played out in private lives today. “Jesus, if you had been there, the problems I have wouldn’t have happened. But even now I know you can heal me.”

So Jesus told them to roll the stone away and Martha panicked.

“Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!”

Often times, when Jesus wants to heal our deep wounds, he first has to roll back the stone – dig up the past and expose it to sunlight.

Our response is often:

  • No one will understand. They will think I’m dredging up the past – and people will get hurt!
    • “Master, by this time there’s a stench.”
  • That will cause so much pain. I just can’t go there.
    • “Lord, by this time there is a bad odor”
  • I should have dealt with this years ago. No one wants to hear it now.
    • “Lord, by this time he stinketh.”

When Jesus and the disciples first took off for Bethany, Jesus said to them “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.”

Is it possible that God knew all along about those areas of your life that needed healing, and when He is ready, He will roll back the stone? Will you let Him?

Reality Check

rejectionSometimes God is kind to us and gives us a serious reality check. Today was one of those days.

I came out of the restroom, and saw a beautiful woman with perfect hair standing there. Next to her, I felt dowdy. It is not uncommon for me to blurt what is on my mind, and this was no exception.

I looked at her beautiful red hair and announced “I am having a bad hair day.”

She looked at me oddly, then announced in return “Yesterday I shaved my head bald… you see, I’m having cancer treatments.”

This woman gave me such a gift today. Her wig was gorgeous. I compared myself to her – and failed to see what was really going on. She could have given me a superficial answer and walked away, but instead she opened up and told me the truth.

When I shared this story with my youngest daughter, she quoted her youth pastor. “Pastor Shaun says that we often compare our worst to other people’s best.”

Are you comparing yourselves to others?

You might be missing an opportunity to minister – and you might not be seeing reality.

What is God trying to show you today?

Why we need each other

21168240_sI’ve written extensively this year on the role of church. One of the foundations that sits in the background, but has not yet been expressed is the need for women in church leadership. The doctoral program that I am in has worked extensively on understanding the theology of women in ministry. Today I’d like to look at the practical aspects of this discussion.

I walk into this discussion with deep humility. I am well aware that the issue is complex, and many highly respected men and women do not agree with my viewpoint.

However, as a recent article in Leadership Journal points out, our femaleness and maleness both demonstrate parts of God’s nature, and “the core divide in humanity is across the genders. If the way that we’re manifesting the gospel within our churches is not addressing this primary divide, we’re not truly reflecting what the gospel asks us to do—bring reconciliation to the world.”

So in this article, we will address some of the basic aspects of what it is to be male and female through the lens of brain science.*

Guarding the Organization

How do men and women approach life and leadership differently? And why should any leadership team be comprised of both sexes?**

First,  let’s consider the way that men and women guard an organization. Men, whose brain chemistry moves toward action under stress, tend to be systems protectors. Women, whose brain chemistry focuses toward conversation under stress, tend to be process protectors. One can easily visualize how these two stress responses work in tandem to help a church.

Many churches have started a large change campaign only to find a good portion of their membership has jumped ship part way through the process. The system was being protect by change, but the process did not ensure that the people stuck with the system.

Other churches face the painful transitions caused by pastoral moral failures.

Personally, I believe that men need women at the table as colleagues in order to avoid this sort of devastation. Women colleagues can help a leadership team move forward with integrity. Women will tend to bring a different view. In general, men focus on the goal, women focus on how we get there. When women are given an equal voice at the table, they will be able to help steer an organization to avoid pitfalls, and provide new insights to avoid failures.

How we view leadership

The second area to consider is how men and women view leadership. (I’ve spoken on this some in recent weeks.) Men tend to view leadership as boxes in a hierarchy. Women tend to see leadership in net-like (or web-like) structures. This may be is the physiological reason that men don’t connect with women in leadership – they can’t see them. In other words, when men look for a colleague, they look for a suitable box while women are working with nets. In fact, when I took this language to women co-laborers, they didn’t even want to talk about a web of multiple boxes. Instead they viewed themselves as wearing multiple hats. We are mom, wife, cook, pastor, writer, speaker, coach, etc. each as a different hat. When women are asked for their occupation, they may find it very hard to define one specific “box.”

Therefore, education of both sexes is vital. Men who understand the need for net-like support within the organization will look for net-builders; and women who understand the need to be clearly identified within a hierarchy will work to bring definition to their life and calling beyond the structure and nature of their relationships.

The dual approaches of men and women in leadership situations complement each other and enhance our work. An organization that raises up women to work alongside men in leadership will be stronger, more self-aware, and better protected – not just from the outside, but from the inside as well.

So what do you think? Please use the comments section below to add to the conversation.


*It is important to understand that the statements herein are generalizations and thus stated as absolutes. Individuals may place themselves closer to the center, as no two brains are wired exactly the same. In fact, Gurian and Annis suggest that women who have been trained to male leadership roles operate more as a third sex – a mix of both male and female leadership tendencies.

**(For more information on this, you can read the book Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business. by Gurian and Annis)

 

What box do you fit in?

11741263_sYesterday I talked about self-identity. I’m thinking through this for a reason.

I highly suspect that:

  1. Just as we tend to change careers every 7 years, we also tend to need to redefine our boxes (which means teens aren’t the only ones working on self-identity).
  2. When we are solely defined by what others think of us, that impedes this process.
  3. Men have an easier time of finding their box than women.

This last one deserves some explanation.

Men tend to lead in hierarchies. They think in boxes. In fact, when you move up the hierarchy, you just move your box up. When they leave work, they move to a different hierarchy, and switch hats to dad, or coach, or etc.

Women tend to lead in more of a web. We see the connectedness of things. We self-define through the lens of multiple relationships at a time. Therefore, we don’t have just one box at a time. Neither do we wear one hat at a time.

It is not unusual to plan dinner, create a check list for next week, and council a teen while working on an extensive spreadsheet for next year’s budget. Everything runs into each other, so it is a lot harder to define our ‘place.’

I’ve been talking with friends lately about the lack of women in leadership. I hear from some friends that men would love to have more women in leadership, but when they look for them, they aren’t there.

Where are all the women? They are sitting in 3 boxes, wearing 6 hats, hoping someone will notice the skill set they are so fantastically demonstrating – if anyone could see the whole picture at once. But, when they use their skill set to marshal the entire PTA to raise funds for kids’ field trips, people see the soccer mom or school volunteer. When they navigate medical terminology and negotiate home health care contracts for their family members, they see a dutiful daughter.

I highly suspect that because women self-define several things at once, it appears they don’t have the space to fill an open slot. There is a business adage of this: if you want something done, ask a busy person.

What are we missing?

What would you add to help further this conversation?


“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

What to do in a freakout

fearTonight, I get to share with the Calvary Christian Assembly women for the fifth week. We’ve been looking at the process of change (knowing what you are letting go of and letting go of it, redefining who you are without what you lost, and new direction) alongside Elijah’s life.

Tonight we hit 1 Kings 19 – which is perhaps the one scripture I return to more often than most.

Elijah was a superhero. He stood up to all the prophets of Baal and the prophetesses of Asherah, and he systematically dismantled the idol worship of a nation, refocusing hearts on God.

And then he fell apart.

If you are going to step out in faith, there will be that eventual moment when you realize that you are walking on air. The same thing happened to Peter when he stepped out of the boat. Solid step, solid step, what am I doing??? Freakout, sink – glug, glug, glug.

You and I might face different freakouts. Maybe the bills just hit like a wave, or the emotions of those we love send us in a tale spin, or we want to step out, but hit a wall of desperation, doom and despair.

Elijah shows us a very tangible process to deal with freakouts:

  1. Be honest. Don’t try to put on your best face with God. Be honest. If He can’t handle your honest emotions, then you haven’t seen Him as God yet –  just another person to please.

2. Take care of your body. The first thing God did was to send an angel to fix the physical part of the freakout. When you are depleted, your body chemicals respond, and amplify your situation. Sleep, eat right foods, exercise and drink water.

  1. Expect God to show up. Elijah ran from his situation, but he ran to the Mountain of God. He demanded that God show up. He hollered at God, asked real questions of God, was honest with God and expected God to show up.

No matter where you are at today, God is real and rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11). If you are in a freakout, even if you are sinking fast, focus your eyes on where you last saw God and expect Him to show up. He will.

I can’t do ministry – I have kids

21168240_sA few things have converged to bring this post about:

  1. I’ve heard an increased chatter on bivocational pastors – pastors who have a full time job, and a church.
  2. A friend and I had a discussion on how it is assumed that women with children don’t have the time or energy to do anything that remotely relates to leadership and sacrifice.
  3. I found myself buying into #2 for my personal circumstances, thinking that I can only do ministry (except the occasional teaching gig) if I work part time, or if I work in a church. Then my wonderful husband pointed out that we know someone (male) who has four small children and is planting a church while working full time at a secular job.

So, I start at the beginning – can women have a family, a job, and a ministry?

First, the emotional: If I put everything I have into doing what God has called me to, will I be looked at as a bad mom? Some women have been told that they can’t work full time because women who have kids will somehow let their kids down if they work full time. Who wants to be the “bad mom”?

This is baffling to me, and truthfully, I think it is a modern phenomenon coupled with a power-focused leadership style. After all, throughout history women have carried far heavier loads than we do today – while raising hoards of children,  not just our average 2.5 (or less).

So, as is my habit, I looked for a biblical example. I don’t have to look far – Deborah. Ah! Did you always picture Deborah and older, childless woman, sitting under her tree holding court? I know that is what the flannel graphs showed. However, Judges 5:7 says:

Villagers in Israel would not fight;
    they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
    until I arose, a mother in Israel.

I don’t think this language was figurative. It says that Deborah arose, a mother IN Israel, not a mother TO Israel. So, how does this whole story look different if you envision Deborah with a passel of kids – maybe toddler to teen tagging along? Do you think that if God could use Deborah with her whole family in tow, He might be able to use those of us who are similarly sleep deprived and hormonally challenged? Do you think He can provide the patience, wisdom and support that this lifestyle would need?

Then I look for more modern models:

One of my favorite missionaries is Rosalind Goforth. She was a missionary in China, and had hundreds of women through her house on a regular basis – and for much of that time, she had small children. She found a way to make it work – she fulfilled God’s call and loved her kids at the same time.

Women in areas where the gospel cannot be publicly proclaimed have full time ministries while leading full time lives outside of the ministry. Throughout the world, women pastor house churches while carrying on very full lives (this might be where one pastor got the idea that women “will never pastor a congregation over 75”).

There are some that believe that women can do any ministry except leadership over men. They believe that the story of Deborah exists because “no man” was willing to take the spot. I think there are male callings in the bible that show God using men whether they liked it or not, so “answering the call” isn’t always a prerequisite to being used by God. It is mighty arrogant to say that God needs a contingency plan.

Either way, the Western World is now post-Christian. (If you live in the bible belt of the US, it might not feel like it yet.) Obviously there aren’t enough people who will put their lives on the line for the gospel. Whether you are male or female, if God has called you, you should go – even if it means carrying along your whole household.

So, what do you think?

 

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