Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The "Must-Know" Prayer for Women Leaders

The “Must-Know” Prayer for Women Leaders  
MaryKate Morse, Guest Blogger 

A little while ago during a meeting, I had pressed a point that I thought was important. I came back to it a couple of times because I could see that my colleagues did not get it. Others were angry that I had brought it up, so I thought they didn’t understand. After the meeting I received an email from my boss taking me to task for causing problems. He put me in my “place.”  As I sat at my desk reading the email a deep sigh escaped me. I was and am weary of my contributions as a leader being perceived as “inappropriate.” I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and a woman who has leadership gifts. How do I lead as a woman called and released by God even when resistance is common?

Social research has shown that women’s identity gets constructed through relationships while men’s identity comes through accomplishments. So, people want women to be nice and play nice. If they are accomplished or show strength, their femininity is questioned.  If men speak up about an issue, they are “passionate.” When a woman speaks up she is often labeled a “control freak.” People are uncomfortable when a woman is strong. What bothered me most about my situation wasn’t the email censure, but rather knowing that men in these meetings who act passionately about a point and press it did not get emails from the boss putting them in their place.

So, what do I do? Women leaders face unique challenges throughout their lives as wives, mothers, aunts and sisters. Not just here in the United States but around the world. Women are 70 percent of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth. One in three women suffers some form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by men during her lifetime. And yet we lead. We want to make a difference for Christ. We want to be obedient to God’s mission to go and make disciples. So how do persevere emotionally and spiritually?  What do we do as women who love Jesus and lead?

We begin with prayer, and I have found one that helps me a lot. When Jesus was facing his greatest challenge – his betrayal, torture, and crucifixion – he went to his Father in prayer. Jesus suffered injustice and pain, yet he prayed. He was misunderstood, ridiculed, de-valued, yet he prayed. In the Garden with even his closest friends unable to be present with him, he poured out his heart to his Father who loved him completely. Jesus prayed for himself with intensity and deep emotion. His prayer was raw and honest. He prayed three times for God to take this cup from him. Three times is a Biblical literary device to mean completeness. In other words, Jesus prayed his way through from his despair to fully entrusting himself to God. He said each time, “Your will be done,” until it was deeply settled in his heart. Jesus modeled for us the first steps on a difficult journey.

So, I do what my Lord did. When I feel misunderstood, frustrated, and weary on this leadership journey as a woman, I tell my Father all about it. I bring a vulnerable honest self to God. I tell God what I want and what I’m feeling, but then I give it all back to God. I pray, “Your will be done.” I do this over and over again until I am back settled in my Father’s arms and released from my weariness and sadness. I entrust myself to God who loves me completely and who watches over me.

The mystery of this prayer is the peace and resilience I have to go back and lead again. Instead of dreading the next time we had a meeting, I arrived feeling clear emotionally. Instead of avoiding my boss, I asked him about his family and day. I knew the struggle was not ultimately mine, but God’s. I felt God’s favor to be myself and trust the Spirit for the outcomes. Nothing really changed for this situation, but I was okay. Though a word of caution as one woman leader to another, sometimes after the prayer of relinquishment, the Holy Spirit will guide you to leave a toxic environment, or help you discern how to confront the person or issue, or help you mature into a better leader. The relinquishment prayer is a first step, not the next step. On our own we cannot change this world, but when we are fully submitted to God, God does watch over us and use us.   

MaryKate Morse
Author Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space, & Influence and A Guidebook to Prayer: 24 Ways to Walk with God

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nothing Better: Eat, Drink and Be Satisfied

Nothing in our culture encourages us to enjoy God by loving the bodies He gave us.  Body care and weight management is an art and a skill that can be meaningful.  I was asked to speak about the spiritual aspects of weight management recently and I found myself remembering a very difficult season in my life when I was in a pit of unhealthy body issues.

It's not easy for me to reflect on that time but as God lifted me out of the slime, He demonstrated to me how my body was created in wonder--I was wonderfully and fearfully made.

Do you look at your body and believe it was created in wonder?

Glancing quickly at research on this issue, I discovered how 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at sometime in their lives.  For many reasons, people struggle with body dissatisfaction.  By age six, girls can start to express concern about their bodies.  This breaks my heart.

Here's a brief story of how God rescued me.

When I was 21-years-old, a senior in college, I realized I had an issue with eating.  From all appearances, I was a successful student, I was in good physical shape (I even taught aerobics), my friendships were strong and I was working to help pay for school.  To deal with the stress, I started to restrict myself from certain foods.  Something was wrong, though, as I knew I was restricting myself from something deeper. But what?  I remember the day I was in our little apartment standing in the kitchen when I devoured a pan of cinnamon rolls in minutes.  It happened before I even knew it.  As I looked up from the dark pit, I asked God, "Why did I just do that?"  Soon after, I heard, "It's an intimacy issue. Your goal is to enjoy me forever and not fill up on anything else."  ( Don't think sexual intimacy here - think emotional connection).

It didn't take me long to let my women friends in on my struggle.  Just telling them, brought both my feet out of the pit.

 What was I so hungry for? 

The preacher in Ecclesiastes 2:11 says, "When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless  . . ."  Several verses later he concludes that a woman or a man can do nothing better than "to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.  This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or drink or find enjoyment?" (24-25).

I was hungry for satisfaction and here's what I learned through the years about enjoying God through seeing my body as a wonder of His creation:

  • Body care or weight management is a daily craft: a little bit everyday is enough
  • Body care is not just physical: Psalm 139 says we were knit together and fearfully made
  • Body care is meaningful: it's wise to please God by feeding ourselves with plenty of healthy foods
  • Body care is not about being in control but practicing self-control
  • Body care is not about conforming but being transformed

How are you encouraging the younger women around you to see their bodies as a wonder of creation?  I'm asking myself this as I spend my hours with three teenage daughters.

Let's share our lessons with one another in transparency and awe of God's creation.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thoughts From Manhattan

Two weeks ago, I was in Manhattan sitting with 200 women inside the American Bible Society building.  Ten presenters, all assigned to a topic, spoke for 18 minutes at the first Q conference for women: vocation and calling.  With eager expectation, I listened as each woman (and one man) spoke from a place of vulnerability. Each one let me glimpse their precious relationship with God which renewed a vision for my own calling. 

Here are some quotes from the day I want to pass along as you eagerly desire the one thing that is most needed:  A relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Calling is when talents and burdens collide.”
“What are your burdens?  Burdens makes you weep.”
“Vocation means ‘voice or vocal.’ Quite literally, caleo.”
“Vocation is complex, is present, rooted in our grief, friendships, hobbies, children.  It feels complex because it is!”
~Kate Harris

“Ambition is bigger and better than building a tower in our own name.”
“Ambition is knowing your focus.  Choose the better thing.”  (Speaker was referring to Mary/Martha)
“It is true.  God calls us to a work that heals our soul.”
~Kathy Khang

“Whatever you do, do it with valor.”
~Rachel Held Evans

“When women fail to take their lives seriously, nobody wins.”
“Logistical challenges of raising small children should not fall on one person.”
~Shauna Niequist

“The glory of God is a human fully alive.”
“Students have an appalling level of fear for their future.” (Important for us as we nurture the next generation)
Bobbette Buster

“If there’s a call, there must be a caller.”
“God’s call is a demand that I live by design.”  (Speaker was referring to God creating our gender)
“Our call has one elemental core—a reflection of the image of God in our engendered humanity.”
~Kathy Keller   (These quotes are some of my favorites)

“Rest! Be Whole! God is for you”
~Deidre Riggs

What quote speaks to you?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dear Readers, last week I posted the following question from a younger woman friend:

What does it really mean to have an identity in Christ when everything around me wants to be my identity?

I decided to let your answers be the article for now.  May we just sit with these responses and soak them into our souls.

I believe identity in Christ is similar to being female: When God creates our gender in the womb, we spend the rest of our lives either enhancing that femininity or trying to change it.  When we are born again in Christ, our choice is to either enhance that new identity or continue doing things that don't allow it to blossom and grow.  No matter who or what pulls at us--being a woman, or being Christ's child, it is up to us to choose (and deny) things that prohibit the growth and full development of all God has planned for us.   ~ Toni

The only way for me to know my position in the battle is to know my identity in Christ.  ~ CS

I know to whom I belong and who's perspective of me matters most. It's none of my business what people think of me, but I am consumed in what God thinks of me.  ~ Vida

It means freedom.  Finding my identity in things outside of Christ (my accomplishments, my abilities, my kids, my appearance, my home, etc.) becomes slavery for me.  I have to meet a certain standard to feel good about myself, or I get down if i feel I am failing in an area.  That feels like slavery to me, and it's also very self-centered.  Finding my identity in Christ means my motives matter more than my accomplishments, and the way I make others feel matters more than how much I impress them.  

~ Susan 

When people who know you refrain from cursing and using God's name in vain, you have established an identity in Christ. All else about you becomes secondary.  ~ Sandy

The light of God shining in me ~ Melva

When we accept Christ in our heart, he becomes an important part of our everyday life thus like Jesus, we think of others, not just ME.  ~ Carlena

To me, having an identity in Christ means letting go of every ideal I see all around me and instead focusing on Jesus Christ and asking Him and trusting Him to define me, to affirm me, to love me, to make me into the person He had in mind when He created me.  This isn't easy because a lot of time I feel that I'm swimming upstream but the more I trust Him with who I am, then the stronger I become and the more I realize I really am His daughter.  ~ Beth

It requires spending regular time looking into my soul in the presence of God.  ~ Sheri

For me my identity is ALWAYS in something other than Christ it seems.  I'm The mom of my kids and to their friends; Mrs. Sheffield, I'm a doctor's wife . . . and this is somehow a comfort to friends who are sick. I'm a Bible study teacher and a great friend and a mentor. . . this summer I was a house building project manager and a wedding coordinator and even a moving company! But EVERY hour of every day I had to ask myself was I being a representative of Christ?  For ME...that's MY identity . . .not mom or Mrs., teacher, friend or mentor.  Frankly they all meant nothing if I was not being Christ's representative.  Because if I am being His representative then my words speak actions show would identify me as one of HIS!…not Mrs. Sheffield…not The Bible study teacher that you heard an awesome lecture from (or a sucky one from) last week…but someone who others say, "You look different than last time I saw you!" And your response could be, "Oh, this? It's just my identity in Christ spreading!" That is MY hope for what my identity in Christ really means. ~ Laurie Sheffield

For me, it meant that this morning, when my mind was whirling with all that needs to be accomplished in the next few days—the work assignments, the wedding to attend, the potluck dish to prepare, the schoolwork to track down, the friend I need to call—I could pause, take a deep breath, and pray, “You are God alone. Help me remember that everything does not depend on me. You are at work, even when I can’t see it. You have it all under control. You love me even when I fall short. And your kingdom is all that matters.”  ~ Laura

Romans 14:22 “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”
So far in my life, I have found that being able to say and do from a place of agreement with myself, and making my yes "yes" and my no "no," solidifies His identity in me more than an identity based on what others think.  That agreement comes most naturally when I am in a place of daily communion with Him.  ~ Angela

My identity is based on the fact that I am: deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing, powerfully equipped, totally accepted, and complete in Christ according to His Words. My responsibility is to meditate on this Truth; replace the lies/idols in my head with His Words; and let His character be my character. (Romans 8:38-39; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:5; II Timothy 1:7; I Peter 2:9; John 10:27-28) 
~ Morna Gilbert, author of Identity Theft: a Crises in Character

It is all about making choices between need and want. Sometimes we must be prepared to stand alone in our choices because they show our identities.  ~ Lynelle

I have always been intrigued by the word IN with the expression IN CHRIST used 22 times in Ephesians.  Greek dictionaries say IN means a FIXED POSITION.  Everything else that tries to define my identify MOVES. Nothing is as solid as Christ.  ~ Christie Miller

Freedom. Freedom to be me, not who others want me to be. Free to be my very best and that's what God has for me when I find my identity in Him.  ~ Joy Roberts

Your identity in Christ is like a HUGS candy!  The dark chocolate (you) swirled together with the white chocolate (Christ in God), cannot be separated no matter the knife or the teeth.  God's steadfast love in Christ bound you to him forever--nothing can break it, not even you!  The externals of life--your mind, your body, your clothes, your relationships and role(s), your job, your hobbies, your circumstances, etc.--do not define you.  Your identity is bound to his, and THAT is even sweeter than a HUGS!  (Psalms 36:5 and 86:5; Romans 8:38-39)  ~ Michelle

I was thinking that to have my identity truly be in Christ means that I am totally living in humility to Him.   I am not performing and doing my daily jobs to be noticed and seen and loved and appreciated by those around me, rather I am (trying) to do these daily tasks for the Lord.   When I truly try to do all things for the Lord then I find that my identity is in Him, and it is not in myself, and that is when I find true joy and ability to focus on those around me, and not my concern only being self.  ~ Amy

Our identity in Christ is inward, fixed, eternal and independent of circumstances.   Every other identity is more like a hat that may be worn for a season, but is subject to the fluctuations of time and situation.  Christ is central to our soul, everything else just explains outer experiences and actions.  As the branch cannot bear fruit apart from abiding in the vine, apart from Christ, we can do nothing.   ~ Melissa

I think truly what our heart desires is an identity that never changes--that is secure. When "everything around me" shifts and changes, knowing that my identity in Christ is secure and unchanging brings a peace that nothing else can.  ~ JS

When Jesus said that we are to "die to self", He meant that we are no longer alive with the world's 'draw': its passions and pleasures. We are alive in Christ, part of His family and new creations in Him. "The old has gone, the new has come!."
  Our identity becomes heirs with God and joint-heirs with Christ. We should have a family resemblance.
 On the" flip" side, when the world tries to seek, hurt, destroy us, we should not "feel" it if we are truly dead to the works and alive in Christ.

   ~ Diane

To have my identity in Jesus in the middle of so many temptations to place my identity and value in something or someone else is critical to the process of renewing my mind daily.  I cannot count how many times over the years I have had to remind myself, as a part of renewing my mind, by saying over and over again, “Abba, I belong to you!”  It’s like a reset button that helps me go back to my foundation and approach whatever is going on in my life from there.  Needless to say, I “renew my mind” frequently.  ~ Sally

Thursday, September 5, 2013

To Christian Women Under 40: We’re Sorry
It’s time for women of faith to make amends.
 for Her.menuetics

I’ve watched one young woman after another pour out her heart, expressing deep emotion about the messages they heard from other generations:
“You feel un-relatable to me and not transparent.”
“I feel like my mom is under a sworn oath to not tell me everything.”
“I need more answers!  Why keep things from me?”
“Your idea of a godly woman feels threatening to me.”
“When you do talk to me about spiritual things, your language is patronizing.”
“The sense I get from older women is they want to fix in my life what was wrong in theirs.”

This breakthrough came at a recent event called Shaping Her Faith, part of my research on relationships between Christian women. Women aged 22 to 77 talked openly about the messages we send to one another and how they impact our spiritual lives. 

I suddenly knew I was witnessing something sacred. Their young, open voices created a safe haven as we all leaned in, listening to what felt like a mystery finally resolved.

I watched the older generations receive the remarks from women in their 20s and 30s with grace and intentional thought; they each began to ask forgiveness of the younger women. Seasoned women confessed to sometimes not listening, not being relatable, using patronizing spiritual language, and trying to fix their own problems.
Beyond the event, I heard about these women gathering together. One told me, “Pam, I didn’t realize how quickly we could get down to the spiritual issues—they are already there!”

In sociologist Christian Smith’s book, Lost in Transition, Smith and his collaborators investigated the difficulties young people face. The researchers point out that it’s not just their problem but our problem—the struggles of emerging adults have much deeper roots in mainstream American culture. Smith finds that much of our youth’s pain and confusion lies with those who’ve gone before. So my message to Christian women in their 20s and 30s: I’m sorry, too. It’s time to mend our generational wounds and deepen our relationships as women of faith.

Part of the solution, I believe is to stop blaming either generation. Instead I want to call you to follow Smith’s simple advice to help avert the gap: Intentionally stay in relationship with mature adults outside your age group.
In our public conversation, one mature woman admitted she only met with younger women if they contacted her. Even though older friends, relatives, and mentors should initiate, when young women show a desire to sustain and strengthen a relationship, both people benefit. Here’s how you—as women in your 20s and 30s—can help us make amends, to come together for the sake of the church and God’s kingdom:

Give us a chance at authenticity.

Older women recognize that as young Christians, you desire authenticity. Sadly, we need your help in honoring what that means to you. Ask us questions about our past, probe into the durability of our faith, break beneath the surface of our veneer so we don’t stay superficial with you. We long to tell the truth about ourselves. Do you believe God can speak to you through us?  That’s really the nagging question mature women need answered. 

Once when I was speaking at a women’s conference, a woman in her early 20s approached me and said, “I can’t believe how you are just yourself up there.” That simple statement encouraged me, in mid-life with all its surprising insecurities, to keep on doing the only thing I know how to do! See yourself reaching across generational lines as bringing health to our nation. A strong society is dependent upon numerous interpersonal relationships and deep feelings of commitment. 

Don’t worry about doing things differently.

It’s okay to remind us that we’re not just like you. Christian Smith observes how American adults seem more interested in projecting their hopes and ideals for what they think young people today should be like than in actually understanding what they are like.  At times, we look at young women as if you are a “blank screen” onto which we project images of our own desires. 

For example, younger women talk about being less tied to “seasons” of life—they want it all at once. We need to talk openly about this concern without projecting on you the way we lived our “seasons.” There’s nothing biblical about formulaic answers to life.  The wisdom you can receive, however, from women who love Jesus through the years is worth more than gold. 

Reminding us that we’re not like you is a humble way of seeing our relationship as a benefit to society, the church, family, community, and the future. We can learn from each other. Be confident about the differences that are not moral absolutes. Let mature women know how much you love being busy and don’t feel guilty about it.  Create extraordinary change by embracing better relationships with these resourceful women—don’t be afraid to try.

Lead a grace-giving life. 

I was encouraged by the way we ended our conversation that day.  In the end, we all agreed women must give more and more grace to one another. 
By lowering our expectations, letting go of our agendas, and maybe even disappointing someone—we create change by leading a “grace-giving” life.  We’ve forgiven one another across the generations, I believe now it’s time to give grace.  And that’s not just your call or their call but ours.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

 "But encourage one another daily"
 Accessible and Tender

One of the downsides of living in such an image driven society is that as women, we tend to get out of the habit of everyday vulnerability.  We forget that our deepest needs are gifts and we can find ourselves moving through each day less and less vulnerable.

This is not a good way to live.

The poor habits of not living with vulnerability can slowly take over our lives—sometimes we are not even aware.  It manifests itself in subtle ways like the feeling of frustration when the doctor looks carefully at our chart during a visit but ignores why we really came.

It grows in us as we believe the thoughts in our minds and messages from media: “I can do this on my own” and “I only want to give to people, not receive.”

Eventually, this unhealthy habit takes root and suddenly, when crisis mode hits, it becomes explosive and the very relationships we desperately need become sources of stress.

Remembering to be Vulnerable    
When we start practicing habits of being vulnerable in the routine of daily life, we can more easily express it in stressful times.

Encouragement and calling are all around us; we just need ears to hear them.  And the way we start hearing words of deep encouragement is by opening a shut door or two of our hearts—even when it feels risky.

That’s not to say people won’t hurt or disappoint because they will.  One definition of vulnerability is, “to wound.” This doesn’t mean we walk around being fragile or needy.  It just means we can be accessible, even tender.  When we’re in the daily habit of being vulnerable we begin to feel less alone, less burdened, and certainly more encouraged in the deeper places.

How we show our needs in the daily of life determines our support in the crises of life.

One reason we practice being vulnerable in the everyday of life is it reminds us of how much we need Jesus.  We learn sweet dependence and break chains of independence that our culture and our reasoning bind us with each day.

Here’s Our Challenge

Today, try practicing vulnerability with other people. 

·      Say what you need.  Say, “I need  ______________.  Be vulnerable for the needs you cannot meet, the ones where someone else’s help would cause you to shake your head and say, “I couldn’t have made it without you.”

·      Say it to God and pay attention to how encouraged you feel in the deeper places when you turn to Him.

·      See if someone is trying to say it to you today.

“See to it, sisters and brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the Living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today.  So that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Hebrews 3:12