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equipping

community, equipping, love, trust

To my sisters: Lady lessons on the battlefield

August 28, 2016
She's not the competition but the contributor to your victory.

Peaking through the needles and scant branches of the pine, my heart pounded a little faster. The sting of the last hit to the neck accelerated my adrenaline enough to acknowledge I was determined to apprehend our flag, but I needed help. As one sister took offense, snapped the band on her sling and catapulted her ammo, the other took to defending me. I lunged ahead for the flag, grabbed it and ran. My sisters had me covered. It wasn’t a typical day of ministry for the three of us: a women’s ministry leader and two female pastors; yet our strategy as women should be.

Our leadership team gathered this weekend for its annual “Advance”, a time set apart for deacons, directors and pastoral team to reflect on the past year, celebrate God’s hand on it, and seek His direction and guidance for what’s ahead. Worship, prayer, praise, laughter, a few tears, coffee, and the words “I love you” weaved through our days and evenings. A bit of planned down-time did too, and that’s when I found myself bouncing on the back of a pickup truck riding across a field to our destination: a battlefield, for a few friendly games of wrist rocket paintball. Three men against three women: prepped and ready to fiercely protect, encourage, and cheer one another…as if our lives depended on it.

Because our lives should.

But women, we see each other as competition and we fight against each other instead of with each other. Why is that? Do we believe deep down there’s only one open chair at the table? We measure and mark, compare and contrast each other as if another woman is going to pull back the sling and snap us in the neck, instead of seeing her as a contributor and cheerleader towards our victories. Ephesians 2:6 says, God “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places…”

There’s room for every woman to sit at the table, so Jesus can share His riches with us together. Instead of jealousy and judgment, self-doubt and scarcity, we need to celebrate the successes of each other, defend one another and appreciate all the seats in the heavenly places. Yes, historically there’s been less room in business, and far fewer doors open or chairs available in ministry for women, but we have to link arms with each other and confidently get out there and play strategically, with love.

Pull up your seat my friends and please, join me at this great table.

 

And by the way? The women lost a few battles on the paintball field, but we ended up winning the war.

equipping, leadership, soul care, strength, trust

Do you really need a title?

March 10, 2016

A title isn't needed to lead. Leadership is a posture not a position.

Clever quotes from leaders about leadership abound; my personal favorite is John Maxwell’s:

“Leadership is influence.”

It doesn’t matter where your ‘position’ is, and you don’t need a title. You might be brand new to a team, in your first week on a job, maybe a college student, or simply attending a connect group…God’s positioned you for leadership. But it begins with your posture. If your mind is bent on title and recognition, your influence will not get very far. But if your heart is set on seeing present and potential growth in others, and yourself, your influence will lead you higher and higher.

The first person to influence and lead is You. Paul boldly wrote, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16)

  • Are you a leader worth following? Would you follow you?
  • Are you allowing people to invest in you? It’s especially important to have people who are willing to invest in you one-on-one and face-to-face, and second to that, also important that you are allowing people to invest in you in other ways…phone, email, books or blogs.
  • Are you open to the influence of wise counsel around you…or do you tend to ‘drop’ people who don’t buy into your influence, to replace them with yes-people, those who will agree with you?
  • Who are you accountable to? Who has permission to ask you any question, any time, about any area of your life?
  • Are you intentional about building good character, making good pre-decisions, and have personal values that you’ve committed to sticking to?
  • Can you be counted on?

The disciple Paul was not arrogant when he said with confidence: imitate me. He ran strong and courageously after Christ, and his assurance came because he was pressing hard to lead well by following Jesus’ example. Leadership requires character, integrity and studying/imitating Jesus…and that takes personal work. There is effort in becoming a leader, and more effort in becoming a leader worth following.

After you lead yourself well, your next step to leading is ‘sideways’ out of integrity and positive influence. Leadership is not telling people what to do, nor holding them at a distance, nor withholding information for power. I was in a business meeting this past week for the purpose of strategically developing an environment (and hopefully a culture), where it’s “safe” to speak up. Those environments are somewhat rare. The person facilitating the meeting happened to say, “You can’t manage a secret.” Brilliant insight! At that moment it occurred to me: Far too many in leadership and ‘influence’ use secrets, or withhold information simply to gain personal power. And many positional leaders shut meetings and teams down, unwilling to allow different perspectives or problems to rise to the surface for dialoging, out of insecurity or offense. Whether leading ‘sideways’, ‘up’, or ‘down’, influence is best gained by seeing the validity and potential in others around us, creating culture that provide others’ voices to be heard, and creating impact out of an individual’s own confidence in Christ.

Leadership is maintaining a generous and loving posture towards others, desiring to see them succeed and reach their God-given potential. It’s also shepherding and giving them opportunity, or even protecting people like Jesus did when they’re hurt or broken. To lead well, from any ‘position’ gain your own ‘posture’ of:

  • LOVE: love God, love people, love yourself. (Matthew 22:36-40)
  • PRAYER: express your dependence on God, not yourself. (Ephesians 6:18)
  • LISTENING: communication is essential to leading, and listening is the key to communication. (James 1:19)
  • HUMILITY: safe teams, groups and environments are a result of humble leadership, which fosters truth, trust and creates healthy self-awareness. (Ephesians 4:2, Phil 2:3, Proverbs 11:2)
  • AUTHENTICITY: God created you as you, uniquely and beautifully made; be yourself and all He created you to be! (Psalm 139:13-14, 1 Peter 2:9, Psalm 119:73-74, Isaiah 64:8)
  • ENCOURAGEMENT: help people see themselves as God created them…as images of Himself. (Genesis 1:27, Romans 15:4, Ephesians 4:29)
  • CONSISTENCY: follow through on what you say, and your promises; consistency demonstrates integrity. (James 5:12, Matthew 5:37)

What’s your next step towards becoming a leader worth following?

equipping, hope, transformation

Moving Forward: Who are You?

December 31, 2015

God is Bigger and Greater

END OF YEAR REFLECTIONS…

assess the past, inventory the present and walk into the promises stored up and waiting for you.

Standing on the crest of a new chapter of your life, what do you hope for?
Is it love? Peace? Health? Faith? Influence? Patience? Trust? Rest?
Maybe just plain hope?

Grab hold of the fact that God is bigger and greater than anything you’ve believed Him to be last year. Take stock in your identity and figure out the areas of your life that you’ve boxed Him in, forcing Him to take on a smaller perspective in your life than He really is.

Figure out your purpose and God will surely grow larger, “exceedingly abundantly” beyond what you could ever ask or think. (Eph 3:20) And so will you.

  • Determine who you are (your identity/mission/calling/purpose) by tapping into Whose you are. To understand yourself, go to the Source who created you! You are made in His image, so, which reflections or characteristics of that Source are you reflecting into the world around you? Or how about this…determine a few characteristics of God that you most appreciate about Him. Those characteristics might be important to you because it’s part of His identity He embedded in you while He knit you together. So give it some thought…He’s patient, kind, unchanging, pure, merciful, all-knowing, gracious, gentle, creative, joyful, just, generous, compassionate, kind, loving, truthful…to name just a few. Pick two of your favorite to start.
    • How are you reflecting that character?
    • What steps can you take to mirror more of that character?
    • What triggers have set you off in the past that prevented you from echoing that character?
  • What have trustworthy people closest to you, past and present, said about you? Sometimes others can see our identities better than we can see them ourselves.
  • Think back to who you were as a child.
    • What sweet, joyous memories stand out?
    • What challenges did you face?
    • What did you dream about and pretend as a child?

Sometimes those dreams are the aspirations God stores inside us to be lived out in the future. Often, the experiences He provides along the way are tools to put in our tool belts for what we need in the journey.

  • Now, take inventory of who you are today. Clarity in your identity and calling is likely hidden just beneath the surface of these questions:
    • What brings you joy?
    • What makes you cry?
    • What makes you jealous?
    • What ‘things’ or issues do you notice all the time?
    • What stirs up justice in your heart?
    • Where do you see God working in any of those answers? Move in a little closer to that.
  • Do you have a life verse that God has given you? If not, pause now and pray. Go to the Scriptures and ask God to reveal it to you. Ask God who HE says you are through this verse or verses, and who HE says you’re not. Remove the pieces of stinking thinking that have lied to you and told you who you aren’t…and you’ll quickly learn to embrace who you are!

Live in His love, laugh in His favor, delight in His presence. Embrace who God’s created and called you to be in 2016. He is bigger than all you’ve believed Him to be last year.  #turningpoints

equipping, fortitude, strength, transformation, trust

Strong Women

November 27, 2015

A Strong Woman desires all God wants for her...even more than she fears it.

From a distance I marveled at my friend as she led her team through a voice of inner confidence that resonated with fortitude, poise and assurance. Tears misted over my perspective that few were privy to, for I knew the sting that remained on her skin from the insults, names and rumors hurled past her only 30 minutes prior.

My friend is a strong woman.

Strong. Woman.

Independently, those two words speak positivity, life and affirmation.
Strung together, they can go either way. “Strong woman” connotes a woman of bravery. Proverbs 31 details the virtuous woman, “Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come.” (v.25). Yet there’s a flip side to the phrase “strong woman” too, that can stir up uneasiness in some. Whether it’s rooted in historical context, cultural context, or even isolation of Scripture without the progressive revelation of God’s purpose to call, equip and empower women, the words ‘strong woman’ together can also stir up a worldly batter of “b” words…bold, brazen, and more.

“STRONG WOMAN.”

One of our pastors once relayed a comment about the “strong women” we have in our own church. It was not said with positivity, delivered with a mild caution for awareness, relayed with uneasiness. I pondered over the hearts behind it with some heaviness, and even my own baggage, for the same demonstrated characteristics that are often celebrated in men, when packaged in a woman, become a b-word. However in that conversation with the pastor, God spoke clearly to me: “celebrate it”.

Celebrate the strong women.

I do. I truly do have strong women in my circle… women of courage, heroic, with spirit and spunk. They are stalwart and adventurous, gutsy and gallant. Their strength is not motivated though, in the outer voices and pep-talks that tell them they matter. The secret to the strength in those I know as “strong” is their inner humility. Each woman I celebrate is unpretentious and steady, nourished by the unnatural strength and power from Jesus to walk in a lifestyle of obedience to Christ when the world woos them to back down, back off, back away. They are not silenced when God says “speak”, but confident in Christ-minded action, and Christ-like in attitude. They are women who stay connected to the Vine; their reputations do not mute the inner Voice inside them, nor are they fortified or molded by media, striving for just the right selfie to post, nor by the naysayers and noises telling them who they are not, how they should look, and who they are.

Strong women are the ones fortified by their best friend, coach, trainer, counselor Jesus Christ, who pours into and invests in them day after day after day…and in turn His strength pours out. That is real strength no person can forge, fake, or fabricate on her own. Their identity, durability, stability and tenacity is rooted in the affirmation of Jesus Christ who declares them worthy, honored and beloved.

FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD RUN TO AND FRO THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH, TO SHOW HIMSELF STRONG ON BEHALF OF THOSE WHOSE HEART IS LOYAL TO HIM. ~2 Chronicles 16:9

I celebrate too, that I see a new generation of women rooted in Christ collectively becoming stronger in who we all are, knowing Whose we are. We are not afraid of having honest conversations with ourselves (vs “about” ourselves), allowing Jesus to fix the broken pieces, heal the wounds and restore us to a new strength.

Let’s all celebrate every woman who desires all God wants for her…even more than she fears it. That is a strong woman.

equipping, soul care, strength, transformation

love with strength?

December 1, 2014

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NLT

 

The same words are echoed throughout both the Old and New Testaments, found in Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30 and 33, Deuteronomy 30:6, Deuteronomy 10:12.

God’s serious about this.

So while I focus on Matthew 22:37-39 as an important verse for the discipleship movement in my church, it’s Deuteronomy 30:6 that resonates personally within me, “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

In transparency, I got to a place in my own walk and ministry when I realized that I didn’t know “how” to love God with all my strength… “strength” being a strong and hefty word for me. When I think of “strength” it connotes tightening every muscle, every grip I have, every effort inside me…and wow, I fell short. It wasn’t due to my will, at least I didn’t think so, because I “wanted” to, but it was really that in my own human effort, I fell short. So I prayed, and confessed, and repented and prayed more, one of the most simple prayers I’ve ever prayed, “Lord, show me how to love you in a way You deserve. I don’t know how.”

I wanted to love God with a love that He was worthy of. My love was conditional… dependent on emotions, circumstances, time of day, distractions, reactions… and it surfaced in how I loved others.

Deuteronomy 30:6 though, promised me…He circumcises our hearts so that I can love Him with all my heart and soul. It was His cutting of the heart, then cleaning, tremendous grace, and the Holy Spirit interceding for me, through which, when I brought my “heart problem” to the Throne, God changed me and showed me a whole new level of love that I never would have known if I tried to do it on my own in my strength. Surely I loved Him before all that, but not at the level HE deserved and others around me deserve too.

I still have to confess and repent this same prayer continually, it was not a one-time fix. But God showed me a different dimension of love. When I ask for it, I get it to give back to Him, and then He reciprocates tenfold. It’s become not just a love relationship but a fire I crave. He is the furnace that ignites it.

 

Here’s a thought to ponder:
Do you think sometimes our obedience issues could really just be a love issue… that if we learned how to love God more, we’d obey more?