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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 makes you okay?

11458138_sMany of us feel okay by setting a standard and meeting that standard. What do you use to make yourself feel okay?

Some people define themselves by

  • Family relationships
  • Knowing and obeying all the rules
  • Our mistakes and failures

In John 8 Jesus and the Pharisees face off about how we define ourselves.

Jesus suggests that we be defined by our relationship with God. Not by our failures, our lack of resources, our rules for life, who our family is, what they did or didn’t do, or our connections.

What do you define yourself by?

The woman caught in adultery not only defined herself, but was defined by the society she was in.

Are you defined by those who know you?

Jesus looked at the woman and told her she had a choice. She could repeat her behavior and end up in the same place, or she could chart a new course.

Jesus challenged the Pharisees that their relationship with God should shape how they thought of others.

Every day, you find yourself at the feet of Jesus.

Will you shout your okay-ness like the Pharisees?

Will you continue the life that got you to today?

Will you let Jesus redefine you as the person you were created to be?

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?

 

The Hardest Words I’ve Ever Said

Did I say that?Some people hate to say

  • “I’m sorry” or
  • “I was wrong”

Those aren’t my thing. It is easy for me to admit fault in those ways.

However, even typing this next sentence is emotionally trying. I hate to say “I don’t know.”

And, I’m married to a very inquisitive man. He asks questions – usually until he hits the bottom of the barrel with me. For years, he put me in a panic. I hated to say those dreaded words so much that I’d cause a fight just to avoid saying them.

You might know that panic – your blood races, your brain feels like someone turned on the AM static, and your chest feels like something is trying to crawl out of it. No matter what I did, when I could sense that final question coming – the one I couldn’t answer – the panic would start, and panic gives rise to adrenaline, which fuels our fight or flight response.

Some would say it is a pride thing. It probably is. We all have them. Some women don’t want to be caught without makeup, some of us can’t stand to admit we were  wrong, or own up to the damage we’ve done in others. My panic was as personal to me as yours is to you.

Then I discovered a work around. In recent months, I’ve expanded my abilities. Today you might hear me say:

  • “I don’t have anymore information on that”
  • “You have reached the end of my knowledge on the topic”
  • “That’s all I’ve got” and even
  • “I’ve got nothin'”

People are important. If our failure to say those very hard words means something to them, it should mean something to us. If we have phrases that send our adrenaline into an instant polka routine, then we need to face our fears and find a better approach.

What is it that you hate to say? Would it help to find some workarounds?\

 

God is up to something new

Something is in the air. You can sense it on Sunday, you can sense it in the workplace. Even the vast drop in church attendance in the last decade is evidence.

We can look at what is changing (technology, split families, recession) and find reasons why things shouldn’t change, or we can look for what God is up to. God has not abandoned the human race yet, and we have transitioned through many points of history. We have become worse and better than our former selves. So, we can spend our time fighting change, or we can enjoy the new opportunity.

I was waiting. History shows a renewal of God’s activity at key points. If feels like we are at a key point.

Can you feel it?

Education often precedes a new work.

In the early 1900’s, He renewed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Prior to that, there was a new understanding of the Holiness movement – and D.L. Moody brought Sunday School to life.

The education that preceded this new move felt like an attack on everything we’ve known. The U.S. Christian sphere is very myopic by nature. We like to make ourselves safe by creating a spiritual standard based on our societal norm. In other words, if we value two bedroom houses with one bathroom, then everyone who has a two bedroom house with one bathroom is somehow closer to God.

Then our “melting pot” got bigger, we stopped using the Bible as the standard in our schools, and our politics changed what Americans who no longer went to church saw as the social norm. In other words, we expanded as a nation to include people from other backgrounds (instead of assuming that immigrants would become ‘like us’) and we expanded as a nation to not hold people to Judeo-Christian norms.

Yup – that felt like an attack on everything we believe.

However, I’m beginning to believe that this was the education before the wave of God’s renewed activity. As we expand our minds to accept people who weren’t like us in the workplace, we start to see that our Christianity is a form of religion, not a relationship.

If someone who doesn’t value our social structure can’t understand God as we know Him, then we might have a wrong view of God. After all, God is the same in Iran, Uzbekistan, Sudan, and a gay bar in Seattle as He is in the baptistry of the local church. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t love people less or more based on their cultural or even personal understanding of Him.

When the Judeo-Christian ethic was the cultural norm, then to accept Christ, to become part of a church community, moved you closer to the cultural norm. You felt like you were more engaged with society, and your ‘okayness’ factors went up.

We based our okayness on our ability to fit into that social norm.

God wants our okayness to be based on our relationship with Him. This is the rock solid foundation that we need to build on to stand the storms of life in a world that does not base their values on His revelations.

God is on the move. He is definitely up to something.

What shift do you see that God is using to bring people closer to Himself? How is He changing the way we do church?

A church full of missionaries

Wouldn’t it be great if your community knew that your church is the place that people get help? If your congregants were known on the job and in the neighborhoods as people to go to when you need help?

What if your computer genius was known for finding creative solutions to programs that made a difference? If your executive was known as a mentor throughout the business community?

What if your entire congregation thought of themselves as missionaries – and lived their lives accordingly?

I have friends that are missionaries. Many of them work in a secular job on the mission field and just love people as they are. They share their faith in a community that doesn’t know Jesus. They share their mental and emotional resources to be Christ’s hand to those who have only known judgement.

I think the answer starts on the pastoral team. I think that when we see our people as those we have to please, they become consumers. I think when we see them as missionaries, they become missional. It will change how we talk, how we preach, how we disciple and how we lead.

Most of us serve in older churches that don’t turn overnight. We think that change comes through changing programs, changing traditions. The real change comes inside us. What do our people need us to do to make them the best missionaries they can be?

The fresh wind of the Spirit doesn’t mean we have to upturn the apple cart – a lot of times, it just means that we look at the apple cart differently. Your (local) missionaries need a place to connect with each other. They need discipleship to build strong families and strong marriages. They need equipping so that they use their talents, personalities and strengths to make a difference in the world. They need to know God’s voice and His character.

There have been times when I saw the bottom line of my effectiveness in how many people were in the seats on Sundays. I still find value in knowing how many lives are touched – but the truth is that every body who comes on Sunday will touch a lot more people during the week. Those are the people on my heart. How can we reach them? How can we help our church attenders see themselves as missionaries?

I have a couple of ideas, but I am sure you can add many more:

  1. Change our language. Assume that every Christian has a ministry and talk about that from the pulpit. Instead of talking about being Christ’s representative (a very democratic word, I think) talk about finding out what God is doing in people’s lives and shining a light on it.
  2. Draw a parallel between missionaries on the field and missionaries at home. This might really be fun. What if we had a missionary that we support do a google hangout with our congregation on Sunday and talk about what daily life is like for them? How does setting up a household in a foreign land and setting up a household in our city parallel?

Now it is your turn. What are ways that you help your congregants love people who don’t know Jesus?

What will you risk?

Would you risk more if your view of God expanded and changed?

I woke up Sunday morning with the song below going through my head. So, all week, in my quiet moments, I’ve been contemplating – what does it mean to me that God is I AM? I know what it meant to the Israelites in slavery, or Elijah as he waited for a cloud, for Peter as he walked on the water, but what does I AM mean today – in my daily life?

It is easy to think of Jesus as the advocate for the underdog as in the first part of John 8, but in the rest of the chapter, he just made everyone uncomfortable (and angry). He told them that their focus was so much on being right that they were missing God.

He challenged them to risk – to trust – that there was more to God than they imagined.

Challenge

When we think about “I AM” we think about God the Father – but as you contemplate I AM, think about God the Father, Jesus (your advocate with God and others) and the Holy Spirit (who will teach, guide and correct you along the way) – 3 in 1 – holding onto you.

Can you see all three, with lead ropes, anchoring you and keeping you safe while you live to your strengths and put everything on the line to fulfill the purpose God placed in you?

What will you risk?

Guest Post: Taking a Leap?

2014-08-25 12.45.27Today, our guest post is from Brian Setaro. Brian is taking a leap to fulfill the dreams God put on his heart. What a treat to walk with him and learn from his adventure. Enjoy his guest post:

I am embarking on what’s sure to be a wild journey.  I’m a father of 2 boys (both under two) and a loving husband.  Until recently, I was also the sole income provider for my household. I climbed the corporate ladder at a relatively decent pace and I was making good money.

The one thing I didn’t have though was what mattered most….happiness.  I decided to roll the dice and take a large risk.  I made a bet on myself (a rather big one).

With the support of my family, I quit my job and started my own company.  This new adventure allows me to see my kids grow up, and use my creative skills to make a real difference in our digital world making religious mobile apps.  No more 4 hours a day commute!

This isn’t the first time I took a gamble in my life and it isn’t the first time I’ve put a lot of stock in myself, it also won’t be the last. These two critical characteristics are necessary to accomplish your dreams: believe in yourself and set the bar high.

What does it take to achieve the unachievable?

You know the list – and thousands of books are written on these principles: persistence, hardworking attitude, take no prisoners, intelligence, relentless…  Then there is the spiritual – accountability, time with God…

What people don’t talk about is what holds it all together. Aside from our relationship with God, the most important thing we need to be professionally successful AND personally happy is support in the home.

I have an incredible support team in my family.

  • My wife has supported me through several job transitions. When I am down in the dumps, and that feeling of uncertainty creeps in, she is there to pick me up, put a smile on my face and assure me that my talent will lead to great places.
  • The second part of my support system is my kids. We often think of kids as a distraction – but a 2 year old running into my office with yogurt on his face and an ice-pop in hand absolutely puts an ear-to-ear smile on your face.
  • The third part of my support system is friends and extended family – knowing you have a community that counts on you and believes in you gives you the fuel to go through uncertainty, push through adversity and walk the extra mile.

Support is such a powerful tool that often gets overlooked.  The people you surround yourself with and the environment you select to be in can lead you to great places.

Here’s an illustration – imagine you are sitting at your dining room table. What is the table?  What is the chair you’re sitting in?  Just wood.  What makes them able to achieve their purpose is the screws.  The screws, nails and glue that only cost a fraction of penny.  It is easy to look at the beautiful design in the table, the elegant lines of the chair and completely ignore what holds it together.

My wife and kids are these screws, and there’s no better hardware than that.  I know with them I’ll be able to make TheBibleAppProject.org a success even if I don’t raise enough money in my Kickstarter campaign.

The next time you want to chase your dreams or know you’ll be fighting an uphill battle be sure to have a great support team around you.  It’s an invaluable asset and tremendous motivator that will provide great benefits whether you win or lose your mission.

Today, think about your support system.

  1. Who is your glue? Surround yourself with great people and a great environment (both professionally and personally)
  2. Do you chase after meaning or stuff? God created you for a reason, and when you work to fulfill that purpose, you will find that place of deep contentment. What better example does your family need?
  3. Dig in! “Persistence is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely, and the likely definite.”
  4. Know when to take matters into your own hands.  Don’t leave your fate up to other people if you can take control. Put another way, do what only you can do.
  5. Patience. There will be days when the ice cream face just gets on your nerves – probably it is because things aren’t going so well. Those are the days when we choose to wait on God and practice patience.

Wouldn’t it be great if families enjoyed Bible Apps as much as they enjoy Subway Surfer? Brian’s mission at The Bible App Project is to make mobile applications more inspirational by creating apps that provide a mix of entertainment and education while also including messages from the Bible. Would you like to know more? Visit thebibleappproject.org.

When God doesn’t make sense

100_6578You might have noticed that these last few weeks, we are working our way through the book of John.  This week, we will look at John 7 & 8, and then next week we will start a series loosely based on my teaching series Making Sense of the Life God Gave You.

One of the things I love about going through a book of the Bible is that it forces us to face things we otherwise wouldn’t. Today, we face the fact that God isn’t linear and doesn’t always do what we expect. In John 7, there is a festival. Jesus’ brothers, being intelligent, business-minded men, point out what a great marketing opportunity the Festival is for Jesus:

Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (Verse 2-4)

Jesus reacts as we’ve come to expect him to. In essence, he says “that’s a bad idea, the timing is not right.”

Here’s the kicker – he goes anyway! He doesn’t go when his brothers do, but he goes to the Festival, teaches, and generally irritates everyone.

Mark Batterson wrote a book called Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God. This passage of scripture reminds me of Batterson’s book. God is unpredictable. Just when you think He is going right, he goes left. Even after Jesus says he isn’t going, he goes anyway.

When faced with this reality, we need to let ourselves be challenged:

  • The Christian life isn’t about looking for absolutes. When we are looking for absolutes (should I go or not?) we miss the subtle voice of the Holy Spirit who might close a door only to open it a few minutes later.
  • The Spirit is dynamic and dependable. I like to have structure in my life. It makes me feel safe. Yet, if I get too much structure, I disallow the one thing that makes this life worth living – the voice of the Holy Spirit. Instead, we need to put in place structures that will ensure that we have the mental and audio space to hear God’s voice.
  • My interpretations can be wrong. The Pharisees knew the Scripture. They knew is so much that they could say with certainty “Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” I don’t know for sure if they were speaking culturally or textually, but they were certain that Jesus, being from Galilee, couldn’t be a prophet. They were certain that He couldn’t be from God. If they could be so wrong, then I need to listen carefully to hear what God is saying – it might change my perspective. 

What do you do when God doesn’t make sense? Do you search for certainty, or are you able to surf the waves of God’s activity?

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