Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Life-Giving Leader Knows that Pain is Part of Leadership



     A life-giving woman knows that pain is part of leadership, and she understands the necessity of guarding her heart. Proverbs 4:23, says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. “ A position of leadership puts you out front for all to see, watch, and judge. I enjoy horse racing, and used to attend the races at Keeneland in Kentucky. When a horse would come out of the shoot, my eye would always follow the horse that was out front and in the lead. John Maxwell, the guru of leadership books, writes, “When you get kicked in the rear, you know you’re out front.” p. 39, Leadership Gold.
     A life-giving leader knows that she doesn’t have the luxury of “closing up shop and going home” just because she gets, “kicked in the rear,” her feelings get hurt or she gets criticized. The challenge is to resist quitting the race but also to resist hardening your heart. The tendency is to give up and stop engaging life. We want to put our jammies on, curl up in a blanket and eat chocolate when we are struggling and defeated, but the life-giving leader presses into love, takes another risk, and embraces another relationship. 
     One of my pastor friends experienced a great deal of relational pain when several of the members of the church where he served, became critical of the church and left. When I was talking with him about how he was handling the heartbreak of several members leaving, he said to me that although it was very painful for him personally, he would not stop loving others and engaging in people‘s lives. In other words, he didn’t take himself out of the game.  He pressed into love, and continued on with his race.
     The greatest tactic of the enemy is to get you to stop loving others, stop ministering to others, and to retreat to where it is safe…out of commission, and out of life! John Eldredge writes in Desire, “Do we form no friendships because our friends might be taken from us? Do we refuse to love because we may be hurt? Do we forsake our dreams because hope has been deferred? To desire is to open our hearts to the possibility of pain; to shut down our hearts is to die altogether.” p. 24.
     In order to keep your heart soft and life-giving, you must maintain a forgiving heart toward others. Jesus said in Mark 11:24-25, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you hold a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” (NIV). The writer of Hebrews warns us, “Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you for as it springs up among you it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” Hebrews 12:15 (LB).  “Express. Don’t hold it in. Talk about it. Because if you don’t get it dealt with now, if you let it begin to boil, it will be harder to deal with later.  Emotional anger unexpressed will lead to sinful bitterness.“ [Joe Champion, Rocked, pg. 27]. Remember, no matter your circumstances, the state of your heart will determine the direction of your life and your leadership. Guard your heart!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

PASSION vs CAPABILITY



     Sitting around the conference table was a group of capable women leaders each with tremendous responsibility: family responsibilities, work responsibilities, and ministry responsibilities. The agenda for the meeting had been completed and each was eager to move forward with their day.

     And then the Holy Spirit “interrupted” their schedule and showed up at the meeting as only He can.

     Just as the meeting was about to close, the facilitator asked each woman about her passion…what makes her heart jump…what does she pray for in her quiet moments…what spurs her on. 

     One by one, each woman began to weep as she shared the dream of her heart. The facilitator observed the tears and wondered what had touched each woman so deeply to evoke such an emotional reaction.  And then it occurred to her, she had touched upon that which was most precious to each woman – passion.  Each woman in this group was a great leader not because of her capability but because of her passionate love of Christ!

     A woman that is fulfilling the call of God on her life and living in the passion zone is a woman that is most fulfilled. Some of these women were living in the passion zone and some were awaiting the dream to come to fruition.

     Leadership skills can be taught, but passion is ambiguous and intangible.  It is a beautiful commodity that resides in a person and creates enthusiasm that can spread like wild fire.  Peter was a man filled with passion which at times got him into tremendous trouble with Christ.  Up until the book of Acts, the reader sees Peter in blunder after blunder after blunder which culminates with denying Jesus three times. BUT Jesus loved Peter and after His resurrection fully restored him to full fellowship (John 21:1-23). In Acts from Pentecost on Peter is a leader. All the passion he had for Christ was channeled into leadership that impacted the world and continues until this day.

     So the question becomes, what is your passion? What evokes tears within you? What spurs you on?  
   

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Fragrance of Influence

The Fragrance of Influence
     Residing in each one of us is something so powerful that it can shape the destiny of our lives as well as the lives of others.  That something is influence.  Influence as a noun means an effect of one person or thing on another, and as a verb it means to persuade or induce. 
     While everyone has influence, women wield their influence differently than men.  A woman has influence with her husband. Perhaps this is why the enemy targeted Eve. He knew she had influence. It is in our DNA to use our influence to connect, network, and gather people together. Twitter and Facebook have nothing on us! We seek to give to others and find joy in advancing a cause. That is why there are more women leading non-profits than men.  Christ-followers live our lives to advance the cause of Christ in our families, the market place, communities and in ministry.
     We can wield influence for good or for bad. Take Herodias in Mark 6.  Not only was she married to Herod but also to his brother, Phillip. John the Baptist told Herod it was not lawful for him to be married to his brother’s wife so Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted him executed but she had no power to get this accomplished. However, she did have influence over her daughter who eventually asked Herod for John’s head, and Herod had him executed. Just think what could have happened had Herodias been under the influence of Heaven!
     Influence is like a fragrance – it lingers when we pass by. What does our fragrance leave: bitterness, envy, strife, and anger?  Or does it leave peace, joy, grace, and mercy?  What fragrance are we carrying into our kitchens, our work place, and churches?  By cultivating a relationship with Jesus through reading the Word, praying, and staying in fellowship, we can ensure a life-giving fragrance as we seek to influence others for Christ.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Where is Your Samaritan Woman?



     Jesus is in the business of changing lives!  And you know what? We are too!  We change lives by creating life-giving environments where women have the opportunity to connect with God and with others.  Whether you serve on worship teams, small group ministries, outreach ministries, children’s ministries, admin positions, hospitality ministries, wherever you serve, you impact others for Jesus!
     Jesus is in the business of changing men, women, children, teenagers, the elderly…anyone that calls upon the name of the Lord will be changed. In this blog post, we are going to focus on women because that is the sphere of influence where most of us lead.
     Did you know that Jesus was the GREATEST ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN? There is one particular story that makes me fall in love with Jesus all over again and that is the story of the Samaritan woman. Before we look at that story, let’s look at Jesus genealogy.  Knowing Jesus’ genealogy helps us to relate to Him in a whole new way. His genealogy had several broken women in it – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. This list brings into Jesus’ history such things as incest, prostitution, interracial marriage (thankfully, this isn’t an issue anymore, but it was forbidden in that culture), and adultery.
      Perhaps this is why Jesus could relate to the woman at the well.  Here was a woman who had been married 5 times and was now living with a man. She comes to the well to get water in her jar and who does she find there? The Son of God! He meets her where she is at…I love it!  He shares with her that the water she is seeking will run dry and she will thirst again, but the water He is offering will never run dry. He “reads her mail” and speaks to the area that women care most about and causes us the most pain…and that is the area of relationships. He reveals that He knows that she has been married 5 times and is currently living with a man. He then reveals to her that He is the Christ. The fact that He revealed this to her is astounding not only because she is a woman but because she is a Samaritan woman! Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they were considered heretics. 
     The Samaritan woman is so impacted and changed by her encounter with Jesus that she goes back to her town and shares with the men about her encounter with Jesus.  The men are so curious that they go and hang out with Jesus for a few days, and then they become believers too! And this all happened because Jesus met the woman at the well.
     You see Jesus is still in the business of changing lives, but here’s the thing: Jesus is not here anymore! Scripture says that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and He sent the Holy Spirit as our Helper. WE ARE HERE. WE ARE HIS HANDS AND FEET.  Jesus is still in the business of changing lives, that has not changed, but what has changed is that now He does that through us. 
     So how do we do that? How do we minister to that Samaritan woman? The Samaritan woman is still here. She may not be at the well anymore, but she may be at the water cooler or in front of us in line at Wal-Mart, or at the gym, or our kids’ sports games. I had a friend that started a small group in her home and she not only had women from her church but also women from her neighborhood. As they met together on a weekly basis for Bible study, something beautiful began to happen. They began to pray together for their marriages, and they developed loving supportive friendships. My friend was so excited because right there in her own living room, women were experiencing the passionate love of Christ and their lives were being changed! And there are hundreds of stories just like this happening in each of our communities. 
     What is your story? How will you minister to the Samaritan woman in your community? Most of us reading this blog have experienced the passionate love of Jesus but there are thousands of women in our communities that have yet to know His grace and mercy. There are even women coming through our church doors that need to experience His love! Maybe it is the woman who just had a fight with her husband right before coming to church and she is trying to figure out how to “do marriage” as a Christian. Maybe a woman has just dropped her teenager off at the high school ministry and he is using drugs, and she needs someone to come along side her to love, pray, and support her. There are women INSIDE and OUTSIDE of the church who need to experience the passionate love of Jesus. Let us remember to be the hands and feet of Jesus and reach out to the Samaritan woman in our spheres of influence!





Monday, September 19, 2011

Creepy Crawlers: Enemies of the Heart!

     There it was crawling up the wall in the classroom, big and black with lots of legs. It definitely chose the wrong wall to climb. The wall was in a classroom filled with adolescent girls. One girl spotted the bug on the wall, let out a scream, and the entire group moved into flight or fright mode. Some were on desks, some ran into the hall, but some girls were ready to kill - and kill they did! The creepy crawler was pulverized in seconds with an empty folder.  Peace and order were restored in the classroom with one swat!
     Like these girls, I don't like creepy crawlers; especially the creepy crawlers of the heart: jealousy, rivalry, and envy. These insidious creepers rob me of joy and peace. If I want to exterminate these heart bugs, then I have to apply the three-part creepy crawler killer which consists of repentance, confession, and forgiveness. First, I spray repentance over my jealous, competitive, and envious thoughts. Then I confess to God, and maybe a friend, pastor, or counselor. Finally, I seek forgiveness from God. And if I want to keep these creepy crawlers away, I must use the best selling, fast-acting repellent which is humility!  1 Peter 5:5-7 says, "...clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Your Thought Life Determines the Direction of Your Life

          As a life-giving woman, you must first know how to lead yourself before you can lead others, but how is this done? This is done by monitoring your thoughts; you lead yourself by monitoring your thoughts and being aware of your inner life. Everything in the external world begins in the internal world. A life-giving woman knows the importance of self-reflection, and the art of self-reflection includes being able to monitor your thought life.Your thought life determines the direction of your life. This is so important to understand that I am going to write it one more time. YOUR THOUGHT LIFE DETERMINES THE DIRECTION OF YOUR LIFE! Proverbs 23:7 says, “For a man thinks WITHIN himself, so he is.” What you think becomes your reality. What you think about determines what you feel, determines what you do. In other words, thoughts lead to feelings which lead to actions. This is why it is so important to monitor your thought life.
     Here is a priceless truth: thoughts are just thoughts. They have no impact on you unless you allow it. If you have negative thoughts about yourself, then you will feel negatively about yourself, and you will act negatively by making poor choices or not engaging in a new opportunity because you don’t think you are worthy of something good happening to you. I have seen this a million times in the counseling room, and I have experienced this myself. Therefore, you must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NAS).
     Another way to explain this is to BOSS YOUR BRAIN! Yes, you have a choice about what you think about. When a thought jumps in your mind you can choose whether to ponder the thought or take it captive, boss it, manage it, throw it out or let it IMAPCT you. Scripture says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” (Phillipians 4:8 NAS).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Vice of Nice

     How many times can you remember your mother telling you to, "be nice," or "play nice, " or how many times have you heard, "She's such a nice girl." I have said it to my own daughter, "Caroline, be nice to your brother!" Implementing "niceness" is certainly appropriate when you are waiting in line at the grocery store or when you are driving on the highway or when you are teaching your children to share their toys. However, the other day, I was DONE with "nice!" 
     When it comes to prayer, niceness hinders us from thriving in the life that God has provided for us.  Let me explain. My friend's mom is suffering is suffering from a debilitating disease. My friend asked her mom who is a Christ-follower if she prayed and asked God to intervene in her situation. Her mom was surprised by the question. She made the faulty assumption that God has more important issues to deal with.  Her mom was being nice; she didn't want to bother God!
     On the same day, I had another conversation with a friend of mine who has cancer.  She shared with me that she doesn't pray for herself but only for others - again, she was being "nice." 
     Niceness is robbing us from taking all that God has for us.  After all, Jesus died on the cross for us (and not in a very "nice" way) so that we GET to have abundant life! John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." 
     Niceness inhibits us from taking what He has provided for us! Personally, I run to the Father because I want to receive everything He has for me. I seek Him for everyone in my sphere of responsibility and for those that are not in my sphere of responsibility, and I ask Him for everything that I need. Scripture says to come BOLDLY...not nicely...to the throne to receive grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). 
     I would encourage you to bring everything to the Father because He loves you and desires a relationship with you.  Reserve "nice" for the grocery store or when you are driving but be BOLD in prayer!