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“God knows that women can reach women like no one else can.  He knows that women can nurture and disciple women in such a way that they will get it.  God knows that women can lead women and that they can do it through the local church.  Le’ts get back to what God’s intention was in the beginning.  There is no better way.”  

~~  Jaye Martin, “Women Leading Women”.

For the past several months, I have been sharing my journey of Leadership in Women’s Ministry. It’s a journey that the Lord has walked me through, and I wasn’t ready to share what He taught me until I was a good distance on the other side. Some of the best life lessons are learned not through perfect journeys, but somewhat scarred and marred ones. You see, if we never experience the battles, we will never understand and appreciate the victories. And we won’t have the real life wisdom that comes from being in the trenches, walking out our faith and our calling.

I did a Beth Moore CD study on Leadership a few years ago, and as she was describing in detail what it means to dress ourselves in the Armor of God every day, she so beautifully described the Shield of Faith, which protects us from the fiery darts of the enemy. She said (I’m paraphrasing), “Caesar awarded his soldiers after battle, some with shields full of darts. We don’t want the darts, but the beauty of a shield full of darts is not that you didn’t take a hit–the darts are the point. The beauty of it is we held up our shields.”  God protects and preserves us for His good work when we trust Him and hold up our shield of faith.

To recap, here are a few reminders as we continue to walk out our leadership journey together as women!

** Sometimes our God Dreams are derailed, discarded, and delayed. We can sometimes be blindsided by relational issues that can undermine the ministry and take it off course.  We need to learn how to navigate strong personalities and develop environments that lead to open, honest communication, and healthy accountability.  We must remember that healthy relationships are vital to effective leadership. We must let go of what entangles us and keeps us from running the race God has set before us.

** Sometimes God takes us to the place of Something Else. Usually because He has something else for us to learn. What the Lord had to teach me had to be learned in the Place of Something Else, because the ultimate work He had for me required testing that could not be learned in the Place of Same. When God takes us to the place of Something Else, we must understand that the work He is doing there is on His timetable, and we learn to rest in that peace.

** We can learn much from Jesus’ encounters with women and from the Women of the Resurrection about our role as women who lead in the church.
Women who lead biblically and boldly:
– Can expect to be criticized.
– Are committed to walk, stay, watch, and wait.
– Are entrusted with proclaiming truth and the radical good news of Jesus to a world that desperately needs to hear it.
– Stay true to God’s purpose for their part in the story.
God has given us a message and a mission and we mustn’t relinquish our part in the story! He has charged us with completing our mission and there is no place for fear, or for remaining comfortable and secure in our religious havens. We must be Resurrection Women!

** As women who lead, we will make mistakes. But if we pay attention, adequately prepare ourselves, and plan well, we can avoid making costly ones. Nehemiah gives us such a great example of leadership, and we would do well to study his life and the story of how God led Him to lead the people to rebuild the wall, and to re-introduce God’s Word to the people of Jerusalem once again. In a nutshell, we see that
1) God had a work for Nehemiah to do for the benefit of His people, and Nehemiah followed God.
2) Satan has a plan to thwart the work of the Lord and often uses the influence of powerful and persuasive people to accomplish his plan.
Nehemiah consistently goes to the Lord immediately in each situation. He is not drawn into relational issues and conflicts that would wrongly influence his direction and take him away from God’s task. He made decisions time and again that reinforced his commitment to the work and courageously led the people to rebuild the wall in 52 days!! He did not allow the wrong people to influence his decision making and God prevailed among His people.

As leaders, we must be ready to expect attacks. If we are to be effective in our leadership as women in the church, we must soak ourselves in the Spirit, through prayer and scripture. We must be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power so that we can stand firm. Not because we want to be in charge, but because we have yielded all power of our own to the All Powerful God. I began this blog series with the title, “Leadership, Women’s Ministry, and What I Discovered When I Stopped Being in Charge.”   I discovered real freedom, real strength, real beauty, and real purpose!  And hey — I’m still learning:)  The Lord has so much for us to do on this earth in His name — let’s come together and help one another accomplish His work together!

“Yes Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for You.  Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.”  ~~  Isaiah 26:8

Women-who-leadAs Women of the Resurrection, we must be true to our part in the story:  “… And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead … remember what I have told you.  Don’t be afraid!  Go tell my brothers … ” the account of Matthew.

I have spent the last few weeks reading along with the IF: Equip Easter study passages.  Along the way I have been particularly impressed to note the women in the story.  The women who followed Jesus at a time when it was certainly unconventional, if not heretical, for to be included in the company or under the teaching of a religious leader, a man designated as “Rabbi”.  But oh how this Rabbi turned everything around!

“When referring to the earliest followers of Jesus, the Gospel writers often speak of two groups of disciples: the Twelve and the Women. The Twelve refer to the twelve Jewish men chosen by Jesus to be his closest companions and first apostles, symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Women refer to an unspecified number of female disciples who also followed Jesus, welcoming him into their homes, financing his ministry, and often teaching the Twelve through their acts of faithfulness and love. Just as Jesus predicted, most of the Twelve abandoned him at his death (John 16:32). But the women remained by his side—through his death, burial, and resurrection.”  ~~ Rachel Held Evans.

Among the stories of women sprinkled throughout the pages of the Bible, it is in the radical account of the Resurrection that we see how Jesus valued women in His ultimate redemption story.  And we can find some notable nuggets of biblical leadership principles for women.

1.  Women who lead biblically and boldly can expect to be criticized — especially by people who misunderstand our motives and devotion.  It comes with the territory.  However, we cannot let the criticism of others dissuade us from doing what the Lord has impressed upon us to do in His name and for His glory. Notice the woman who anointed Jesus with precious oil, pouring out an alabaster jar, and demonstrating through this ceremonial act of worship her devotion and perhaps acknowledgement of Jesus’ coming death. Jesus says of this woman, after the others condemn this act, “Leave her alone.  Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me?  I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached … this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”  Mark 14.  Jesus upheld and defended this woman and her bold act of devotion.

2.  Women who lead biblically are committed to walk, stay, watch, and wait.  All the gospels consistently mention specific women, and others who remain nameless, but who had been following Jesus throughout his ministry.  Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James and Joseph, Salome, mother of James and John, (a.k.a. as “the sons of Zebedee”), and Joanna, a Jewish woman of means, are all mentioned in varying gospel accounts of women who stuck with Jesus.  They had walked along with Jesus and heard His teaching, they stayed and watched as the tomb was covered.  They went out after Sabbath was over and purchased burial spices so he would be properly anointed for burial.  They were always thinking about how to serve this Savior — this man — who had revolutionized their lives.  Their hearts never left Him and while they waited, their devotion never wavered.  It is glaringly obvious that the men are not mentioned in these scenes, and we trust it is because they were afraid for their lives.  Women who lead must be ready to walk, to stay, to watch, and to wait.  Yes. It was Friday.  Then Saturday.  But SUNDAY CHANGED EVERYTHING!

3.  Women who lead biblically are entrusted with proclaiming truth and the radical good news of Jesus’ victory over death to a world that desperately needs to hear it!  The redeeming of Eve and her daughters has finally come. Far from being easily deceived, women were the first to make the connection between Christ’s teachings from Scripture and his resurrection, and the first to believe these teachings when they mattered the most.  That Christ ushered in this new era of life and liberation in the presence of women, and that he sent them out as the first witnesses of the complete gospel story, is perhaps the boldest, most overt affirmation of their equality in his kingdom that Jesus ever delivered.” ~~ Rachel Held Evans.   The beloved disciple John records this account: “Mary!” Jesus said, “… go find my brothers and tell them … Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I Have Seen the Lord!”  Then she gave them His message.”  Jesus calls us by name, he gives us a task, and he charges us to complete the task.

4.  Women who lead biblically and boldly stay true to God’s purpose for their part in the story.  What if these women had stayed afraid?  Had cowered and hid out of fear?  Had kept the story to themselves? What if they hadn’t done exactly what Jesus told them to do?  Funny thing is, they did exactly what Jesus told them to do, and no one believed them!!  “And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead.  The women ran quickly from the tomb.  They were very frightened but also filled with GREAT JOY and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message.  And AS THEY WENT, Jesus met them and greeted them.  They ran to him and worshiped him.  Jesus said, “GO.  Tell my brothers … “  Matthew 28.  Mark and Luke both give accounts of the women telling the disciples exactly what Jesus told them to, and they didn’t believe them.  “But when she told the disciples Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.”  “The story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.”  But guess what.  The women didn’t let that keep them from obeying their Savior and following through on the mission He had specifically given them to do.  They did it anyway.  They didn’t let it sway them from their conviction and belief.

Like Mary, Salome, Joanna, and the women who followed wholeheartedly after Christ, we can expect to encounter criticism.  We must be committed to walk, to stay, to watch, and to wait.  We must receive the entrusting of His message of Good News and redemption and proclaim it boldly.  And we mustn’t relinquish our part in the story.  Jesus calls us by name.  He gives us a mission and a message. And He has charged us with completing our mission.  It doesn’t matter who believes us or not — there is no place for fear — for remaining comfortable and secure in our religious havens.  Yes — it really is up to us to change the world!!  As did the Marys, Joanna, Salome, and all the other women who radically lived out their part in the story, let us stand beside and challenge one another dear sisters, to live as Resurrection Women!!

nature-landscapes_hdwallpaper_oasis-in-the-libyan-desert_14062“Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.” ~~ (Hebrews 6:15, 17)

So there has been a span of about 4 weeks since my last post, which is indicative of God saying to me once again, “wait, my child.”  Wait – for His words instead of my own.  If I had stayed on the blog post timeline I had laid out myself, this post would most likely have a slightly different focus.   You see, in the waiting for His prompting, He has brought about the THING He has been doing when I first went to the “Place of Something Else.”  

At first, we don’t really want to go to the Place of Something Else because it’s not familiar.  It usually involves a lot of being alone, isolated, apart from what has been our normal routine, both relationally and spiritually.  This is especially foreign to those of us who thrive on people, relationships, and leading.  It is so opposite from our wiring that we find ourselves fighting it, and saying, “God, you can’t possibly be taking me here!”  It can often lead us to a place of desperation, which is really not where we like to be — we in our oh-so-comfortable-church-girl-life.  You see, what the Lord had to teach me had to be learned in the Place of Something Else, because the ultimate work He had for me required testing that could not be learned in the Place of Same.  A gifted speaker I recently heard shared about her journey in going through a wilderness time – a time apart – and I was reminded that when the Lord takes us to these places, it’s  because He wants us to go deeper with Him, and He knows we will go there.  And when we go there, what deep and hidden treasure we find.  What a wonderful work of refining, of preparing, of solidifying, of bringing about the Thing He has set in front of us.

The Place of Something Else also clarified and strengthened my perception of who God is to me and that He is who He says He is in my real life.  He is the Guardian of my heart, the Lifter of my head, and the Keeper of His promises to me.  I will be honest, during this time of being in the Place of Something Else, I felt incredibly isolated, I was hurt by friends I felt had betrayed me, I didn’t understand why these circumstances had come about, and all I knew to do was pray, cry out in desperation, soak in His word and let Him bind up my wounds.  A beautiful thing that happened over the course of time, was that He brought women into my life who had been through similar circumstances, and we were able to share together what this Place of Something Else feels like, because not every one gets to go there, you see.  As sort of a reminder of this treasure, I have kept a stack of writings, devotionals, sermon notes, a couple of individual bible studies I did on my own, and a copy of Streams in the Desert that truly was like a stream of life in my desert.  These were the faithful promises I would read over and over, as I walked with God in this time.

When God takes us to the Place of Something Else, we must understand that the work He is doing there is on His timetable, and we learn to rest in that peace.  We must learn to wait on and count on His promises.  It can be 2 years, 4 years, 6 years, or 10 or 20 years.  But sister, He will act on His Promises, and when He is ready, we can know that in His time, in His way, He will accomplish what He is doing.  The Place of Something Else is God’s ultimate training ground for leaders who are willing to go with God on the adventure of seeing seeing our faith truly tested, fortified, and refined!

??????????????????????????????What We Do When our God Dreams are Derailed, Discarded, and Delayed.

15 years ago, I had just had my 3rd son, who was 7 years younger than our 2nd boy.  I was hungry for fellowship with other moms, and my church didn’t have a moms group, so I started attending a moms group at Fellowship Bible in Little Rock.  It just so “happened” that their leadership team still needed a few small group co-leaders and a friend with whom I had served in leadership for several years in Bible Study Fellowship recommended me to serve alongside these dear women in ministry.  

It was during the 3 years I spent observing, listening, and walking alongside these wise Titus 2 women that God planted His dream in my heart and began to stir my soul to pursue this dream.  My calling wasn’t my own idea – my calling came while I was walking among these women, learning what it looks like to live a Titus 2 life.  

I had walked among other Titus 2 women, but these dear ladies gave me a clear example of what it can look like in a structured, God-focused, biblical environment.  My calling became clearer when their women’s ministry director noticed the desire in my heart to lead women in a biblical model and spoke a word over my life, that God had a work for me to do in my own church and community, along with women who desired to live the Titus 2 pattern.  I will never forget the wise teaching I received during this time, and mostly, the daily life example these seasoned, biblical women imprinted on my life.  

Fast forward to 15 years later!  Now – for the rest of the story … well maybe not ALL of it!  Suffice it to say at this point that I spent a good 10 years leading women in my own church, transitioning and establishing a new ministry, and 5 1/2 years ago, God led me out of that role.  More on that later.

I’d like to share an excerpt from the last column I wrote to the women in our church, which included the theme for that year and the heart of what we felt God wanted to see happen among His women.  The theme was “Pull Up a Chair” — it was my heart then and it remains my heart today for women who love the Lord and desire to live biblically as friends, moms, wives, and leaders.  

“PULL UP A CHAIR” (2009)

Many of you may remember the little song we learned in Sunday School, “Friends, friends, friends, . . . I love my friends and they love me, I help my friends and they help me . . . “ As a women’s ministry director, I have been increasingly intrigued in the past few years by the dynamics in the friendships of women. The friends who surround us not only every day, but also in times past, leave a lasting imprint in our lives, shaping and defining who we become. Having grown up with all brothers, their friends, and surrounded now by 3 sons (and their friends!) in my home, I think I appreciate even more, the good girlfriends God has brought into my life. Last week I enjoyed catching up with some dear college friends whom I hadn’t seen in years! The beauty is that our friendship has deepened and matured over time, because it was based in a common love for our Lord and His service. An interesting pastime for me is to consider and observe groups of women friendships around me, of which there are several. I have my own labels for them and a few come to mind, There’s the “fun” group, the “steady” group, the “young things”, the “50-somethings”, and a few more for which I have yet to come up with a name. The most common positive denominator I witness in these women is that they love the Lord and are there for each other. I love to hear stories from some of our “steady” group about the Baptist Women circles from years past, where women came together regularly to share life — before technology, busy-ness, and society’s demands, infiltrated and corrupted the simplicity of life.

As we begin a new year of opportunities to connect … I’d like to share the heart of our Leadership Team. I enjoy and appreciate serving with these great women, and we feel God is desperately drawing us back to relationship – to the patterns of the early church. God has led our team in a unified spirit to establish this year’s theme on the exhortation found in Acts 2:42-47, “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” “And day by day continuing with one mind . . . they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart”. In a small survey taken among a few women in our church, most said they long for a small group in which they could connect and find friendship, a place to belong.  Women – it’s time we all realized that none of us is perfect, we must give up our unrealistic assumptions and expectations and make time to get to know each other and grow each other. We don’t necessarily have it all together, but we know and love the One who holds it all together! And we want our lives to matter for here, for now, and for eternity – together. I invite you to the step out of your comfort zone, out of your lonely zone, seek God and some dear Christians sisters. How about we pull up a chair and sit a while?!? It’s time we got to know one another!”

I’d love to say that’s exactly what happened!  But it didn’t.  Next week, I’ll begin to share what God has been teaching me about women, leadership, but most importantly, what happened when I let go of my dream.

 

 

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