Be Transparent & Get Naked

be transparent and get naked[Guest post by Alicia Gill: I’m usually one to be pretty direct and honest; I have trouble holding in sour emotions. In this post, Alicia’s Sunday school student gives a great example of being transparent, letting it out, and “getting naked.”]

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 (NIV)

A few years ago, I taught a very sweet high school Sunday school class. The girls in there had such a love for the Lord, it was beautiful. Halfway through the year, we had a new girl join the class. To say that this new girl did not want to be there would be an understatement.

It’s not that she didn’t have a heart for the Lord, she did; it was about the fact that her family had just moved churches and she was not happy with that. She did not want to leave her previous church. She did not want to be in our class. She wanted to be back with the friends she loved and was comfortable with at her old church.

One Sunday morning, we had an opportunity to share with one another our feelings, worries, happiness; anything that was going on in our lives. The sweet new girl who never really talked much in class, really gave us an earful that morning. She let us know how unhappy she was, how she was sad about leaving her church, how she felt the girls in our church were just one big click that she was never going to fit in with, and if she could, she would go right back to where she came from.

She let it all out, or, as her sweet momma would call it, she “got naked.”

I felt terrible for how the new girl was feeling, it hurt my heart to know that she didn’t think she would fit in and that she didn’t want to give the other girls a chance at friendship. I was also worried about how hurt the other girls would be to be called a clique. Before class let out, I let the new girl know just how glad we were she was with us; That we loved her being a part of the class and that I hoped she would give us a chance to show her just how much we could love on her.

Being so transparent was risky. The new girl showed us her insecurities and vulnerabilities by opening up in such a raw way. But, you know what? Beautiful relationships were formed from it. The other girls had thought the new girl didn’t want to be friends; that she just didn’t want to have anything to do with them. Opening up like that let them know that they were all feeling the same way. It gave them an opportunity to love on her and show her that they did want to have meaningful relationships with her. It gave her an opportunity to take a chance on new friendships. To this day, they are all very close.

“Getting naked” about who we are is a risk.

But, it is that risk that can help us to establish real, intimate friendships. Friendship is a beautiful thing. The Lord gave us the gift of being able to develop friendships because He knew we would need each other to get through this life. But the only way to really develop those lasting, intimate friendships is to get naked and open ourselves up to taking a risk at forming lifelong bonds. It gives us the freedom to be who we are without having to explain ourselves or hide away any part we are afraid to let others see.

Take the risk: Get naked. Being transparent can be an open door to creating intimate friendships that last a lifetime.

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (NIV)

 

alicia gill on devotional divaAlicia Gill. Type A wife, mom and home manager. I’m learning to see life through God’s eyes as I strive to know Him better and share what I learn with the others. When I’m not blogging, I enjoy running, cake decorating (the reason I run), photography, endurance challenges with my husband & 3 boys, all the while depending on His unending grace, love & forgiveness.

photo credit: flavio.leone via photopin cc

 

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The 3 People You Need to Meet

people you need to meet

[Maggie is on vacation so I thought I’d jump on and encourage you all with the three people you need to meet to achieve your dreams. My newest book, Dream Devotional, just released this month. Pick up a copy on Amazon for only $2.99!]

Dreaming together is important because we are designed, commanded, and encouraged into a loving relationship with God and each other.

I’ll never forget the day I was sitting at the front desk as the office receptionist when a woman walked in for an interview. She thought I was pregnant–say what??–and asked me when I was due.

I was completely shocked and mortified. She felt really bad too when she found out that I was in fact, not pregnant. My boss and I joked that she probably wouldn’t get the job because of her comments, but I’m so glad she did because it wasn’t until after she got the job that I found out she was a Christian and had heard a word from the Lord for me on why she thought I was preggers.

She told me, “God wants to birth a ministry through you — if you’ll let him, not to say that your future husband isn’t important.”

Ouch.

Anyone who knew me when I was single, knew how important my future husband was to me. I desperately wanted to be married, and for whatever reason God prolonged that dream until I was almost 30.

God knew the plans and purposes He created specifically for me. He knew if He brought my future husband into my life too soon — I wouldn’t have risked so many dreams with Him.

Friends, God created you for an individual and unique purpose as well. You have a divine destiny that only you can fulfill.

Don’t believe me? Just read the Scriptures full of men and women of faith who entrusted their lives to God in the most courageous circumstances. Sometimes, we don’t see until afterwards why God gives us the dreams and visions He does because He doesn’t want to scare us or hinder us from fulfilling our mission.

for such a time as thisIt wasn’t until afterwards that Joseph realized why he so arrogantly shared his dreams to all 12 of his brothers…after he was thrown in prison (not once but twice)…and after he was summoned into the courts of Pharaoh — did he see why God placed him in his prison cell for such a time as this.

Friends, you may be the catalyst for someone else’s dreams. If it wasn’t for the many brave women in my life — I wouldn’t be where I am today!

If you are currently experiencing the death of a vision or a dream — I encourage you to partner up with people who believe in you. Seek out trusted partners and ministry relationships to foster the dreams God has placed on your heart because they are strong enough to save not only your souls, but the lives of many others (James 1:21).

If you are wondering what kind of relationships I am talking about, I want to encourage you to connect with three different kinds of relationships to accomplish your BIG dreams:

1. A Mentor in the business — someone who has been there, done that, and can help guide you through the obstacles to become a expert person of business and integrity.

2. A Life or Dream Coach — someone who believes in you even if others including your family does not believe in you. Someone who will stand by you and lift your arms up like Moses when the battle becomes too weary.

3. Prayer partners — someone who can pray for you when you can’t pray for yourself. I never endeavor to write any books or speak at any function without asking for prayer covering. Prayer is the most powerful form we have against spiritual attack, so use it (James 5:16!

I feel like I am at a point in my life right now where I can look back and see God’s hand and His many answered prayers.

Question: Who cheerleads your dreams? Who’s dreams are you currently cheerleading?

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Why I Chose to Marry Young

 

Why I chose to marry young

I chose to marry young — at 19, to be exact.

As some of you may know, I am still pretty young – 22, to be exact.

There’s that Taylor Swift song “22,” but I don’t relate to it at all because I’m married and have been for 2 and a half years. I don’t know if you’ve heard that song, but here are a couple quick quotes:

Everything will be alright
If we just keep dancing like we’re 22

 

And

 

It feels like one of those nights
We won’t be sleeping

Nope, does not describe my life at 22 at all.

I do not dance anywhere, except I did dance at my wedding.

And YES, I will be sleeping because I have things to do tomorrow! Every day I have things to do!

I’m not complaing in any way. I love my life! I just think it’s comical how different my life is from this Taylor Swift song and actually, most of my peers’ lives.

When I wrote about How God Changed the Course of My life Completely, I told you about how supportive my now-husband Brandon was (and still is) and how we met.

But what I didn’t tell you then was how big of a role following my heart played.

Brandon and I have a fairy tale love story – with some major kinks thrown in.

We had a lot of opposition going up against us the whole time we were dating.

For one, I was in a horrible place mentally and physically in the beginning. I talked about this in that post I mentioned, but it really was a struggle. My mom knew that Brandon was the one for me because of how he stuck by me through it all.

I mean, I was in the mental health unit at the hospital (more than once) and he stayed with me. He supported me. He showed me love. I know that I was not able to show him the same kind of love at that time, just because I was going through so much.

And it was a shock to everyone around us when we started dating because Brandon is 7 and a half years older than me.

But we got through all that stuff. I got better. Things were going great, and we were happy.

Then Brandon decided to join the Navy.

At first, we didn’t even consider getting married before his boot camp. But as we went through his recruitment process, marriage actually seemed like a pretty good idea.

I knew I loved Brandon and wanted to be with him forever. He said he always knew that I was “the one.”

It soon became clear that we did want to get married before Brandon would leave for basic training.

But I was so nervous about what my parents would say.

I felt like they would disapprove, because I was only 19 after all. Now-a-days, that is young.

It wasn’t like getting married so young was in their (or my) plans for my future.

I worked up the courage to talk to my mom about it first, and she eased my dad into the idea. They were accepting, more than I thought they would be. They supported us.

Brandon formally asked my dad for my hand in marriage in June, and a few days later he proposed to me. In November, we said our vows at my childhood church.

My mom said she felt the presence of Jesus so strongly during the ceremony.

We’ve been married 2 and a half years now, and things are working out for us. We’re happy. I see how God had these plans for me, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I was always supposed to be with Brandon.

I followed my heart and ended up with a great man. But getting married at a young age is not for everyone. Honestly, everyone’s situation will be different. When you find your mate is up to God.

I still get surprised reactions when people find out I’m 22 and married, let alone that I have been married for almost 3 years now. That’s okay, but I wish there wasn’t so much judgment.

It’s not just people who marry young – I know those who wait until their later 20’s or 30’s are judged too.

Bottom line is that everyone has a different path; Let’s get over expectations.

→M

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Practice Patience with Your Spouse

practice patience

[Guest Post by Ashleigh Slater – I always appreciate returning the favor when a fellow author lets me share about my book on her blog. This is Ashleigh’s first book entitled Team Us. I appreciate her sharing wisdom on 4 steps to practice patience with your spouse’s old habits. Enjoy and be encouraged!] 

In the weeks that led up to our wedding, my husband Ted informed our friends, family, and anyone who would listen of his impending death.

“Death?” you ask.

Yep, death. Death, that is, to his single self.

The self that could buy a new Nord Electro on a whim. Or stay up until two in the morning on a regular basis. That guy who worked late into the evening because he didn’t have a wife waiting at home.

Sure, death isn’t the most romantic thing to broadcast prior to one’s nuptials, but Ted was right. Marriage doesn’t jibe well with many of the single habits brought to it. What I don’t think he anticipated, though, was that the death of old patterns takes a while.

In the last eleven years of our marriage, here are four practical ways we’ve learned to practice patience for the old habits as we work together toward the new. You may find them helpful too.

1. We Pick Our Battles

I’ve come to realize that not all of Ted’s old habits are necessarily sinful. Now, before I address a behavior of his, I first stop and categorize it.

Sin means to “miss the mark.” So I ask myself: Is Ted missing God’s mark? Or is he simply missing mine? Is it a quirk I find grating, or is it offensive to God and hurtful to our relationship? If it’s a matter of annoyance, not destructiveness, then maybe I—and not Ted—am the one who needs to change.

Sometimes the bothersome things simply aren’t worth the battle. Often when I choose to move a bothersome thing to the conversational front burner, it doesn’t improve my marriage, it simply feeds my need to have things a certain way. The majority of the time it’s better for me to apply the wisdom of Proverbs 19:11 here, which says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

2. We Have a Realistic View of Ourselves

Sometimes my habits don’t seem as bad as Ted’s do. There are instances when I’m inclined to give myself a break, but not so quick to give him one too.

The problem is, though, drawing comparisons between our habits masks the reality that I’m no better than he is. While, yes, some behaviors are more destructive than others, we can both use growth. When I put my own behavior into perspective, it gives me more patience for Ted in the areas he struggles.

tedsays013. We Sandwich Our Criticism

Ted and I both earned master’s degrees in communication. One of our favorite techniques we picked up in our studies is what’s termed the “communication sandwich.” For those of you unfamiliar with this, it basically boils down to using praise and affirmation to sandwich criticism.

What I love about this approach is that it doesn’t put Ted on the defensive. When I use it, not only do I speak well of him, pointing out the ways I recognize and appreciate him, but I’ve also made it about me. I’ve focused on a “this is how I feel,” rather than a “you did this” approach.

4. We Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

Nowadays, Ted doesn’t buy a Nord Electro on a whim. He also doesn’t stay up until two in the morning on a regular basis. But time management is still an area under construction that could easily leave me frustrated.

But I’ve determined not to focus on his failings, rather on his successes. When frustration sets in, I stop myself and focus on all the ways Ted has grown and improved in this area over the years. It’s hard to be angry when I realize just how far he’s come.

At times, it has seemed inconceivable that some of those pesky single behaviors Ted and I both brought to our marriage would change. But we’re finding that we can kill old habits with time. Ted’s not where he was ten years ago, and I know he won’t be where he is now in another decade. He can say the same for me.

Ashleigh SlaterAshleigh Slater is the author of Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). With almost twenty years of writing experience, she loves to unite the power of a good story with practical application to encourage others. Ashleigh and her family reside in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com or find her on Facebook.

(Parts of this article have been excerpted from Team Us by Ashleigh Slater. Used with permission from Moody Publishers © 2014).

Win a copy of Team Us by Ashleigh Slater by leaving a comment below. A winner will be chosen at random.

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A Different Kind of Stress

different kind of stress

[Guest Post by Bonnie Gray – I was surprised to find the answers I was looking for in her new book Finding Spiritual Whitespace. I think all of us at some point in our life think we just have to try or pray harder. Do more. I love, love, love her story. If you’re stressed out today, I know you’ll be encouraged by Bonnie’s fresh word!]

Can we ever be free from stress? Stress seems to be so embedded in our modern lives, we’ve come to breathe it like oxygen.

Emails, Twitter, doctor appointments, and a to-do list filled with growing unchecked boxes are all part of my reality.

Is it realistic to expect a stress-free life?

I’ve lived a lot of my life hiding from my heart, reducing everything to a minimum. I did do less. But paring down to the bare essentials made me lose a sense of wonder.

Introverts or extroverts, we were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, renewed by a sense of adventure, engaged with community, and soul-fed.

Without these elements of creativity, adventure, community, and soul care, we experience a different kind of stress.

Soul stress.

I don’t want to make a reentry into striving a stream of new endeavors either, like stepping into the California rivers for whitewater rafting. Everything looks calm on the outside, but the underlying currents threaten to pull me under.

Are we left to choose only between inactivity or overactivity? As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress.

We pursue the opposite.
We pursue rest.

After PTSD entered my life, I couldn’t socialize with people like I used to or do life like I once did. I could hardly keep track of my car keys.

I look out from my post-PTSD life and all I see is desert. I see nothing.

What do I do with my life? What do I do with these empty spaces? You’d think the concept of whitespace came through some inspiring moment walking through a field of wildflowers. But “feeding my soul” sounded too right-brain. Too touchy-feely. So God prompted my first steps through what was initially most accessible:

my left brain.

God knew this about my personality: my desire to pursue. So he put me on the journey to rest by pointing me to a new ambition. It’s ironic. The idea of spiritual whitespace came to me while reading a blog on business strategies and innovation.

I was reading an article written by Matthew May called “Break Through by Taking Breaks.” It offered scientific evidence that down time is required for creativity and new thinking. Archimedes discovered volume displacement while taking a bath. Einstein’s theory of special relativity came while he was daydreaming, and author J. K. Rowling sat traveling on a train when the Harry Potter character “flashed in her mind.”1

Ever wonder why our best ideas come when we’re in the shower, driving, daydreaming, or sleeping?

When you look deeper into these brilliant flashes of insight you can see they came at strange times and in random locations. They didn’t occur while actually working on the problem but after an intense, prolonged struggle with it followed by a break. A change of scene and time away played a part.2

It was fascinating to learn that “putting pressure on ourselves to try and work harder, more intensely, or more quickly may only slow down our ability to arrive at new insights.”3

If this is true in the worlds of art and science, what would be the implications for our relationships with God—in spirituality and faith? The biggest lightbulb moment struck me. I had been desperately trying to connect with God by doing the same things. I thought I needed to try harder.

What’s wrong with me?

Nothing. I needed something different.

I typed in rest into my computer to do a word search in the Bible. What I found stunned me to the core.

Rest. It sounds inactive, doesn’t it?

I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. The other two are preaching the gospel and pleasing God.4

We urge you, brethren,  to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet [restful] life. (1 Thess. 4:10–11)

Turns out hesuchazo—the Greek word used for quiet and rest— is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God. The more I’m able to enjoy rest, the more others will see God’s life in me. When my soul is at rest, I am free to please God right where I am.

I was intrigued. I had always centered my thinking on pleasing God and preaching the gospel through what I did. But now, suddenly God put a big spotlight on hesuchazo. God was asking me to excel—“still more”—by making it my ambition to lead a quiet and restful life.

My heart skipped a beat. This is what has been missing. Rest.

Hesuchazo became the match that ignited the fire of the Holy Spirit in spiritual whitespace.

We were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, engaged with community, and renewed by a sense of adventure.

As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress. We pursue the opposite. We pursue rest.

Our ambition is spiritual rest.

Bonnie GrayBonnie Gray is the founder of Faith Barista, a contributor to Crosswalk.com, and a featured writer for DaySpring’s popular (in)courage blog. Her writing is nationally syndicated and has been spotlighted in Christianity Today and McClatchy-Tribune News Services. She has served as a missionary, a ministry entrepreneur, and worked in high tech as an engineering and marketing program manager. A passionate speaker who inspires audiences to find God in everyday life, Bonnie lives in Silicon Valley with her husband, Eric, and their two sons. Learn more at www.faithbarista.com.

[Excerpt taken from Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray, published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2012. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.]

[photo credit: Camil Tulcan via photopin cc]

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Choose Joy in a World of Sorrow

joy

[Guest Post by Kay Warren – When I attended the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church, I was inspired by Kay’s story. She has learned to choose joy through sorrowful circumstances. If, like Kay, you find yourself in mourning or grief — I hope you are encouraged today because of Jesus!]

Sisters, Jesus was a man of joy. He was a man of joy!

He showed it in his attitude; he drew crowds who couldn’t get enough of him. He showed it in his words; he was a master communicator who impacted those who listened to him in person two thousand years ago, and he impacts us today.

He showed joy in his actions; he treated people with good humor and patient understanding of their human foibles, and he was skillful in bringing them to the spiritual realizations they needed.

His joyful essence was evidenced particularly in the way he interacted with his disciples. He spent three years with them, day in and day out. He did not spend those three with them as a lecturer on the speaking circuit who used them to organize his comings and goings: “Okay, let’s go over the agenda. Who will be taking care of the donkey this afternoon? Oh, and make sure the people know that I’m coming.”

He didn’t relate as a distant professor who made them sit still while he instilled: “Now, I have three points I want to make today, and I’ll be testing you later. Is everybody writing down what I’m saying?”

No, Jesus lived his life with them.

They saw him when he was sweaty and stinky from a long walk from village to village. They knew when his stomach growled from hunger pains. They probably heard him pass gas and burp a few dozen times. I’m not saying that to be sensational; I really believe it.

Jesus spent nearly every waking—and sleeping hour—with  these twelve men for three years. How could they not really know each other? I’m sure Jesus and his friends shared many private jokes, funny stories, and poignant memories, which happens only when people spend intentional time together.

I am convinced they laughed till their sides hurt at every opportunity. He loved them and invested in their lives as individuals. I think he probably knew the names of their family members for a couple of generations back; he knew the beauty and dysfunction that created each one of them. He believed in them, ultimately entrusting them with his gospel message of a joyous relationship with God. As his time on earth drew to a close, they were the ones he wanted near him—these friends who had become brothers.

Why does it matter that Jesus was a man of joy?

It matters so much more than you might have ever realized! Some of you may need permission to seek a life of joy for yourself. The burden of grief that you carry, the health issues, the relational pain, the financial questions, the internal struggles and temptations no one else knows about—sometimes all of that weighs you down so much that you give up on the idea of joy.

At times I have felt I could identify with the title given to Jesus in Isaiah; I could call myself “Kay Warren, woman of sorrows.” Perhaps that title fits you today as well, and you could fill in your name too.

Many of us need permission to recognize sorrow but go beyond it and still choose a life of joy.

Yes, Jesus suffered, but we can’t stop there. We can’t let that truth dominate how we act and how we speak about him. There was a reason why Jesus chose to endure all that he did. There was a reason why he allowed himself to be bloodied and beaten and tortured.

Hebrews 12:2 gives us an insider, behind-the-scenes look at why Jesus allowed all of that to happen: “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.”

But what was the joy that was set before him?

What joy was so rich, so satisfying, so deep that he was willing to suffer such terrible abuse? You were the joy set before him! I was the joy set before him!

He suffered so he could be reconciled with you.
With me.

When people spat at him, his disciples left him, and everyone mocked him, he was thinking of the joy. When he was flogged, when that cruel crown of thorns was jammed on his head, and when he hung on the cross, he got through  it because he was holding on to the joy of presenting us to God.

Here she is, Father; I brought her back to you.

The joy of restoring the broken relationship, of living with me and you forever . . . that was the joy set before him, that was the joy that kept him nailed to the cross.

Jesus knew that for him to fulfill his God-given role here on earth, he would have to experience abandonment, betrayal, torture, and death. Yet knowing full well what was ahead of him, he chose to laugh, to tell jokes, to roll around on the ground with children, to build rich relationships, to have meaningful work, to experience joy.

Jesus’s life is an illustration of the two train tracks converging into one. He shows us how to see joy, a joy that sometimes comes in darkness. And for that joy he endured the greatest suffering anyone has known.

This is what Jesus’s life tells me: It is possible to experience enormous burdens, pain, and struggles—the weight of the world on our frail shoulders—and still experience joy.

Jesus’s life reminds me that joy is possible no matter what.

His life gives me permission to seek a life of joy for myself even in a world of sorrow.

Kay Warren Doorway (Proof Only)Kay Warren cofounded Saddleback Church with her husband Rick Warren in Lake Forest, California. She is a passionate Bible teacher and respected advocate for those infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as orphaned and vulnerable children. She founded Saddleback’s HIV/AIDS Initiative. Kay is the author of Say Yes to God and coauthor ofFoundations, the popular systematic theology course used by churches worldwide. She has three children and five grandchildren. Learn more at www.kaywarren.com and follow her on Facebook (Kay Warren) and Twitter (@KayWarren1).

[Excerpt taken from Choose Joy by Kay Warren, published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2012. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.]

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Navigating Female Leadership

female leadership

[Guest Post by Elise Boggs – When I heard her share about women in leadership in person, I was blown away. I asked — no begged — Elise to share with all of you. It is tough to be a woman in leadership. I hope her story and three points encourage you to keep going. Pull up a chair. You are desperately needed!]

I have led teams internationally and state side, within small and large organizations, and in the safety of both the classroom and the jungle of life.

As a female, this meant saying “yes” to a narrow road, a road that traditional cultures attempt to restrict and boys clubs hang an invisible “no girls allowed” sign. In my years as both a theorist in the classroom and practitioner in the world, I have come to believe a simple truth about effective leadership.

Ultimately leadership is about influence and the unique influence of a woman must be experienced.

Women who have traveled this road know the challenges that lie ahead for those just beginning. There are times you will want to make a u-turn and question if the struggle is worth it. When these challenges came for me, there was not a woman ahead of me who could model or mentor me into effective female leadership. I felt like I was on a tightrope with no safety net and unable to see the platform symbolizing success within sight.

The women I did experience were either doormats or breaking down doors, neither of which fit who I wanted to be.

I saw women underutilizing their strengths or forcing them on others, both scenarios resulting in a loss of respect and opportunities. Movies, like Charlie’s Angels attempted to equalize women with men by showing that women could kick butt just like a man. The message appears to be equalizing, But there is a more subtle and disempowering message as well: that the innate strengths that females possess aren’t also valuable for “kicking butt.”

Strengths like collaboration (research supports the effectiveness of this leadership style), wisdom (the Bible personifies wisdom as a “she,”…just sayin!), and an ability to soften the rough edges of a cut throat world (see the story of how Abigail’s intelligence and diplomacy saved several men’s lives-I Samuel 25).

With an absence of mentors, what’s a girl to do if her strengths and call draw her towards platforms of influence?

Having led both men and women, there are some taxes I have paid through experience that I would like to pay for you. I have also asked those I have had the privilege of leading for their insights. There are men who want to pull out your chair, at the leadership table. You are desperately needed.

In the meantime, here are three things you can do now to keep moving down the path.

1. Identify your God given gifts and believe they are there for a specific purpose. In the early days of my career, I did not have the knowledge of my strengths and had little experience to draw from. It has been said that your purpose is where your talents and burdens collide. I began to recognize my gifts in communication and a burden for developing leaders. Despite getting glimpses of my purpose, the opportunities extended to me at that time were scarce. I had to hold tight, believing that if God gave me these specific passions and strengths, He would not let them go to waste.

2. Prepare so when opportunity knocks, you can walk through the door. Develop your strengths and create value for others. Get your education. Seek out different experiences. Read everything you can get your hands on. Ask for feedback. Volunteer. Keep a learning journal. One of my most memorable opportunities came unexpectedly my boss resigned and I led for a three year interim.  I had completed my Masters in Leadership just one month prior. Preparation met opportunity. When given the opportunity, succeed early and often. When a leader is a good, gender fades into the background.

3. You were created female on purpose. Gifted people are leaving their positions every day because of poor leadership. Those possessing the competencies associated with Emotional Intelligence (such as building bonds, teamwork, collaboration, and interpersonal effectiveness) are what separate exceptional leaders. Many females tend to have some natural aptitudes towards these competencies, so there is no reason to think you have to forego female characteristics to be a successful leader. In fact, the research supports these competencies are largely lacking in leaders.

In Genesis 5:2  we are reminded that God created them male and female.

He was intentional in creating two genders with their own strengths. There is a place and purpose for both at the leadership table. And ladies, be mindful of being so caught up in your own story that you don’t notice another’s unfolding before you. Pull up a chair — a future female leader will thank you for it.

Elise BoggsElise currently teaches at Chapman (Brandman) University in the MBA and Organizational Leadership programs. She also directs her own consulting practice specializing in leadership training, team and organizational development, and career and life coaching. Connect with Elise at {eliseboggsconsulting} at {gmail} dot {com}.

[photo credit: 1yen via photopin cc]

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When Church Hurts

when church hurts

[Guest Post by Lori Tisdale – We know each other through mutual friends nearby, and she asked me to share my story on her blog — I had to host her here! If any of you have stepped foot in the church, you’ll understand what it means to be hurt. But. It’s what we do with our hurt that matters. Please welcome Lori!]

I was the first born of a new pastor and his young bride. 

For the most part, I was a very well-behaved preacher’s kid — the teacher’s pet, a devout Missionnette (the church’s version of a Girl Scout). I led the on-campus High School Bible Study, taught years of Sunday School, went on missions trips, etc.

I vividly remember God’s call on my life, at a summer kid’s camp – I was 12 years old. He very clearly told me that He wanted me to use my hands to reach others for Christ. I was not your typical preacher’s kid — you know the kind, they are usually rebellious.

But I was not.
Until I was hurt. 

Nearly 25 years into my Dad’s ministry career, he was targeted by certain individuals in our church who felt they were hearing God’s voice and direction more clearly on certain issues. And for years they argued with my Dad, their pastor, about how he handled these issues. Until they eventually disagreed enough that they threatened my Dad to step down, or else.

These individuals were more than just people in our church. They were people we had vacationed with, shared holidays with, and had grown up with.

Their actions rocked our world.

I had been extremely hurt by quite a few people in our church family. 

I started to question the purpose of church altogether. Church didn’t feel like family anymore. And I certainly didn’t want to go to church, mostly for fear of being hurt again. Plus, finding a new church after you’ve listened to your Dad’s preaching all your life is rather difficult.

I used the excuse that church wasn’t a requirement to being a Christian, so long as I still had a relationship with God.   But in that decision I was turning away from God’s call to ministry.

Along came some new friends who were much less judgmental. After all, when you’re partying and drinking with them at the bar they don’t want to be judged either.

As a result of hurt and resentment and pain,  I completely stepped out of God’s will for my life. I was running from it, kicking and screaming. For a long time, I kicked and screamed.

It was ugly. 

Until I got it. I finally learned to accept God’s love for what it was, all I would ever need! My worth wasn’t found in the circumstances of my life, how bad my church hurt my family or me. My worth was found in His undying love, His mercy and grace, His forgiveness.

I finally learned how to forgive those who hurt me, who hurt my family. 

It took longer than I like to admit.
But I finally learned that painful lesson.

My journey kind of reminds me of Jonah’s:  God told Jonah His will for Jonah’s life, and due to a number of circumstances Jonah said “Nope! Not gonna do it!” and he ran from God’s will for his life.

But God said, “Oh yes, you are!”

With God’s help (and a lot of grace), Jonah faced his fears, and fell back in line with God’s will for his life. What’s even more amazing is the thought that even with all of Jonah’s running, God still wanted to use Jonah for His glory!

That’s amazing to me! 

So here I was, finally returning to church, returning to God’s call on my life, but so very fearful of being hurt again. 

And yet God reminded me of the plan He had for me. To use my life to bring Him glory. I can’t say I wasn’t hurt again.  But my perspective had changed. Despite my fears, I could rely on God to go before me, to protect me and be with me.

“There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives fear away” (1 John 4:18).

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Lori TisdaleRaised in church, as a “preacher’s kid”, Lori has a unique perspective of church, leadership and faith.  Lori loves sharing her personal faith journey and what it took to bring her back into a deep relationship with her Heavenly Father.  Having a passion for authentic living and connecting, Lori views her life as an open book and loves sharing that with others.  Lori’s faith and lifestyle blog explores various DIY/craft projects, kitchen successes (and failures), and God’s life-giving message as it pertains to His calling on our lives (and the life lived in between all of the rest).  Lori and her husband Lee and their dog Callie reside in San Diego County. Connect with Lori on her blog: http://mylifeaslori.wordpress.com.

[Photo credit: Johndel via CreationSwap]

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Hit the Start Button {of Your Faith}

the start button

[Guest Post by Nicole Unice – We go way back to before the days we were published authors. We met at Story Conference in Chicago, IL — and it’s my pleasure to spread the word about her newest book entitled Start Here: Beginning a Relationship With Jesus. May you be encouraged wherever you are on the journey, that it’s never too late to start, and restart!]

It was late on a Saturday night and we were sitting at a bar.

There were six of us crowded around, and conversation drifted, the men talking among themselves while the women turned to the normal topics, of marriage and mothering and work. And then she turned to me pointedly and told me about a recent conversation with her kids, about monkeys and people and evolution, and she confessed that she didn’t get it. And maybe it was because of the wine or the time of night, but she spit it out.

“If the museum display says we come from monkeys, then who the (bleep) are Adam and Eve?”

That conversation is just one of many I’ve had in my ministry life, over French fries with middle school girls, over coffee with college students, and even over the crowded noise of a bar. As human beings, we’ve all been wired to pursue purpose, to satisfy the inner ache in us that wants to find real, true, full life.

And I’ve become convinced that everyone has questions, no matter how far they may seem from finding God.

Even if you’ve been following Jesus for years, we can find ourselves asking some of the same questions—who are we?

How did we get here?
What gives life meaning?

It’s in these questions that we can find a common language with our friends who don’t yet know Jesus. It’s in the yearning of our own hearts that we find passion to help others find their way.

I have a friend who once taught that faith is like a treadmill. We all get on the treadmill and can be moving at different speeds and distances—but no matter where we are on the treadmill, at one point, we all have to hit the “start” button.

As believers in Christ, we’ve all hit the start button—crossed over from death to life.

Some of our friends might be standing on the treadmill but need to be encouraged to start. Hitting the start means going from nothing to something—even if we doubt, even if we have questions, even if we aren’t 100% sure—we can still hit “start”.

After Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman about the water—and life—she was thirsty for, she immediately went back to her town to tell everyone she knew about meeting Jesus.

Did she have it all figured out?
Would she have called herself a “Christian”?

I have no idea—but I do know what the Bible says—“many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39). Before she even knew what was happening, she had hit the start button, because she started talking to Jesus and started talking about Jesus.

We can encourage our friends that they don’t have to have it all figured out before they join our bible study, come to church, or start praying. They can just hit start and we can trust that Christ will meet them there.

My friend who wanted to talk evolution on that Saturday night is still seeking. And I hope I’ll be one who can help her press start, trusting that God is the author of our hearts and our faith, and He is always working to draw us to Himself.

Nicole UniceNicole Unice is on the ministry staff at Hope Church and co-author of Start Here: Beginning a Relationship with Jesus. Find out more at http://nicoleunice.com or http://StartHereBook.com.

[photo credit: stevendepolo via photopin cc]

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The Parenting Package

parenting

[Guest Post by Marci Seither – I met her at an event I hosted a writers event at my house last year. I am excited for her to share a parenting story with you today!]

I handed my daughter a new toothbrush and toothpaste to pack alongside of her bathing suit and flip-flops. 

“Do you need more sun screen or the little stick that you can swipe across your nose?” I asked. She continued folding clothes she would need, along with her journal and an assortment of pens.

“I think I’m fine,” she said, looking under her bed and retrieving a lost tennis shoe.

“Do you have batteries for your camera?” I asked.

I remembered the first time I dropped Emma off at camp. She was eight years old. I had a hard time getting back into the car and driving off without her. I remember the quiet car ride home and couldn’t wait until the week was over to pick her up.

The sunny days had freckled her nose and left light streaks in her brown, bobbed hair. She smelled like a mixture of fresh air, mosquito spray, and marshmallows. She had the time of her life.

For the first time, I realized that she was more than capable of surviving without me than I was of surviving without her.

But this wasn’t just a weeklong stay at Camp Joy.
This was six months on the other side of the world.

Emma had graduated a semester early from high school and opted to travel to Saipan to experience Island life before settling into the rigors of college. While I wanted her to trust the Lord with her plans and stay in His presence, I was having a difficult time not getting in the way and, at times, casting my own shadow.

“Mom,” she looked at me. “I am totally going to be fine.  Plus, I will be staying with Aunt Beth and Uncle Andy. Really. You don’t have to worry.”

But worrying tends to be part of the whole parenting package.

How odd it is when you find out you are expecting a child. You are sent home after your first ob/gyn visit with a small diaper bag full of coupons, samples for baby products you never knew existed, and a thick book titled “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

You have nine months to prepare to bring your bundle of joy into the world, yet very little time to prepare for when they begin to stretch their wings, lift off from the nest, and soar into the next chapter of their life without you.

This is a huge transition for kids, but also for parents. We assume that the Lord gives us kids so we can help them grow up. But in reality, I wonder how many times it is the other way around.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-10).

So pack your bags and be ready for the journey.

Because whether it is Camp Joy, Saipan, or somewhere in between, the Lord is with you and your kids.

Marci SeitherMarci Seither and her husband, John, live in California. They have six pretty awesome kids who have provided her with volumes of adventures, symphonies of laughter and loads of laundry. Her book “Empty Nest: Strategies to Help Your Kids Take Flight”  by Beacon Hill was just released this spring. It is available on Amazon.com or you can visit her website at www.marciseither.com.

[photo credit: FulgentKlutz via photopin cc]

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