07 Jun

Lessons the Ladies Have Taught Me

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It will end as quietly as it began. In a small Bible study in our home.

For most people the day will be unremarkable, but for me, even the square on the calendar is already full of memories, lessons and an unbelievable cast of characters.

Next week, I’ll teach my last women’s Bible study, putting a period at the end of one of the most beautifully life-changing seasons of my life…serving in women’s ministry. 

I got into women’s ministry, because I thought women needed a safe place to exhale and allow Jesus to love them….and I thought God was going to allow me to help Him love on them. And while, I’d like to think, that is what happened along the way, the truth is women’s ministry changed me, taught me, molded me. This Jesus girl needed to learn how to love and be loved and there were some lessons I had to learn along the way.

Lesson #1 – Where there are women, there is food

Be it a Bible study, a movie night, a retreat or anything else Jesus girls can bring some vittles now. Tables, counters, and plates piled high with deliciousness prepared and served with a whole lotta love and good bit of laughter.

 

Lesson #2 – We all need a place to just be women

Wife. Mother. Sister. Daughter. Granddaughter Friend. Ministry Leader. Executive. Teacher. Bookkeeper. Hostess. Maid. Neighbor. Servant. Helper. Driver. And SOOOOOOO many more. Women wear so many hats and take on so many roles everyday that it is often difficult to just set everything down and exhale.

And the truth is, most of us, don’t create space to exhale in our lives. We push and rush. We forgo sleep and beat deadlines. And we are tired and hurting. Unfulfilled and overworked.

This is where women’s ministry comes in — it gives us a space and place to allow women to just sit — to worship, to pray, to breathe, to feel God. A woman grounded in Jesus blooms in ways that people cannot miss. When women are refreshed and healing. When they are filled to overflow with the sweet truth of Jesus they pour out.

As women ministry leaders and teams it our responsibility to give women a safe place to immerse in the Word, find discipleship opportunities, and receive the love of Jesus from their eternal sisters.

 

Lesson #3 – We have got to get real

In the beginning I wanted women’s ministry to be pretty. Cute little parties. Music. Flowers. Decorations. Prizes. Pretty. But I soon found that life isn’t pretty. And ministry isn’t speakers, programs, or budgets. Ministry is life….it is a couple of Jesus girls looking for answers…for Him.

We need to stop entertaining people and start engaging. We need to be bold and brave, and take on topics like domestic violence, food addiction, parenting. We need to dig into the Word and help women make sense of it, apply it…GET it!! We need to turn off the movies, disconnect the sound system, and get women talking to each other…ministering to each other.

We need to put on our Jesus girl t-shirts and lay ourselves bare. Share our struggles, speak up about what we don’t understand, and pray for each other. No more prayer request gossip line sessions where we write it down and promise to pray later. Grasp hands, ugly cry if you need to, intercession for each other.

We need to learn to pray, laugh, learn and talk with unabashed honesty and be real with each other.

 

Lesson #4 – It is like herding cats

Somehow it doesn’t matter if there are 5 women in the room or 150, women are hard to lead. God harnessed incredible power and put it in women — passion, love, excitement, drive — and wrapped up in beauty, hormones and emotions. Then we wrap it all up our latest Kohl’s super-cheap, wicked-cute sale find.

You have to have the finesse of a well-seasoned politician; the moves of a Super Bowl receiver; the sense of humor of Betty White; the thick, tough skin of John Wayne and the wisdom of Solomon all wrapped up in one broken and flawed girl who is just trying to follow God. Cuz, us Jesus girls, we can have opinions (that we don’t mind sharing), and drama (Steel Magnolias ain’t got nothing on us), and comfort zones (and if you change something or move us out of it you WILL hear about it), and we have IMPOSSIBLE standards (how the church used to do it or how the church the down road did or how it looked on Pinterest).

It’s like herding cats — they go where they want, with claws and a sometimes a bit of hissing.

 

Lesson #5 – If it is not about Jesus, we have failed

 

I don’t care what the topic is. I don’t care what the point of the gathering is. I don’t care why the church/ministry/Bible study/group has decided to do it. If it isn’t about the Gospel — living it, teaching it, breathing it, learning it, sharing it….it isn’t important.

We don’t have to make Jesus flashy or fancy. There need be no entertainment or show. People need Jesus. They need us…the church…the leaders…the Jesus’ people…to live like Jesus works and help them find His Truth for their lives (in Word and in deed).

If we aren’t giving women the chance to learn about Jesus, equipping them to share Jesus in their lives, and loving on them like Jesus (through TRUTH and SERVICE) then we have failed.

“…one thing is needed….which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

 

Lesson #6 – God always shows up

No matter what we plan. It isn’t about us or our plans. It is about God and His girls. Year after year — church after church – event after event — woman after woman I have seen it. When we help women carve out time in their schedules to seek God — He shows up!!

He touches a hand lifted in worship.

He whispers to a weary heart surrendered in prayer.

He speaks in the testimony of His daughters.

He breaks through pain, He repairs friendships, He places the “right” person in our paths.

He is the comfort of a meal cooked for a hurting family.

He is in the laughter when His girls gather.

He is in the reflection of stain glass window when your knees are knocking as you speak.

He is in every detail….we need just look.

And that, really is, what I’ve come to know through this journey. That God is in every detail. That it isn’t our time or talent that make anything successful…it is the pure and holy love of our Savior wrapping around us.  He is reflected in every woman I have been blessed to laugh, cry, pray, talk, debate, learn, lead, follow, study, hike, play, serve, worship,  and love with over the years.

 

 

03 Sep

Thirsty? Jesus is the answer. (period)

thirsty

Ring.

The phone was ringing again and I began to wonder if it would ever stop. With a sigh and a quick prayer I answered it. On the other end was another woman wrestling with confusion, anger, hurt and questions. I had no answers or remedies to offer, just a heart devoted to Jesus and to her.

This was women’s ministry — no programs, no music, no speakers, no budgets. Two of Jesus’ girls looking for answers and comfort in Him.

I had no idea that God was using our church turmoil (and ultimately our leaving that church) to change my ministry…to change my life.

Without a church. Heart broken. Missing our friends and church family. Our family became part of a small house church and life group — through simple worship, back to basics Bible study and much prayer God would change me forever.

This new simple(r) approach to worship and discipleship coupled with new Bible study tools and methods awakened a hunger in me I pray is never satiated. More Jesus. More Bible. To know Him more!!

And I began to wonder, are we missing the mark? Do we as churches (as ministry leaders) work so hard to make everything a show — something to draw people in — that we forget that it is Jesus that brings them? There are so many books, theories, diagrams, and conferences on how to make church (ministry) more effective that I wonder if we haven’t lost sight of teaching people to read the Word…to understand the Word…to just come to Jesus.

Okay, before I get hate mail or angry readers let me pause and say: I think church is great. Life groups (small groups) have been an incredible part of my life. Women’s ministry is close to my heart, and needed. I like all those things, but I love Jesus.

And if it’s not about Jesus. We’ve failed.

If we aren’t teaching Jesus’ people how to find Him, draw near Him, live in Him. We’ve missed the mark.

Last year God called me out of my comfort zone into something that could only have been from Him. (Cuz I would never have woken up one day and said, “Gee, today, I think I will start doing something that scares me and stretches me like Gumby on a hot summer day!!)

Out of my own want for a women’s retreat God grew a ministry. A small, retreat (12 women) tucked in a little house in the mountains…Bibles, worship, prayer…oh, and, of course chocolate.

I’ve never experienced anything like that retreat. Verse by verse we worked our way through the book of Esther. We studied scripture and shared about our lives. We laughed so hard it hurt and did some ugly crying together. We came out of the mountains in love with God and a new sorority of His girls.

I’m now preparing for the third retreat like that one — different topics, different make up of women. But small, intimate (with both God and girls), amazing. This year I have led a Bible study in our home…verse by verse through the minor prophets. With fun and engaging topics like sin and rebellion I wasn’t sure we’d get much of a crowd; in truth I’m not sure we could fit any more in.

What I have learned from the smashing success of the retreats and the Bible studies has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with Jesus. People are thirsty for Him…to know the truth of Scripture…to find how Jesus works in their lives.

In the beginning was the Word…

John 4:1

…let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink…

John 7:37

Oh, do you see Jesus beckons us to Him — to fill up, to be refreshed, to find Truth, to know Love. And Jesus is the Word. The Word come flesh. The Truth born man. If we don’t start there as the church…we are missing the mark.

We don’t have to make Jesus flashy or fancy. There need be no entertainment or show. People need Jesus. They need us…the church…the leaders…the Jesus’ people…to live like Jesus works and help them find His Truth for their lives (in Word and in deed).

It’s all about Jesus. (period)

07 Jul

What’s in His Name?

If you ask someone to describe themselves or tell you something about themselves, usually they begin to tell you about themselves. For instance,” I’m married to a hunky man. I’m the homeschooling mom of two little people. I am an amateur photographer. I’m a blogger, Bible study teacher and ministry leader working to help women find God and encouragement in everyday life.”

How many things did you learn about me, just from the labels or names in my life…wife, mother, photographer, blogger, teacher, leader, Jesus’ girl? Quite a bit.

There is a lot in a name. Our relationships. Our values. Our life. All defined in what we call ourselves or what others call us.

Our modern English translations of the Bible leave out something that can change how you see God…how you come to God…what God is telling you. Many of us don’t realize the depth of God’s character or they way it is expressed in His names.

In most places my Bible refers to God as “God” or “Lord”.

I don’t read it as…

The Lord Who Sees Me

Consuming Fire

The Lord My Banner

God Almighty

The Lord Who Provides

…and so many others.

And the truth is. I want to. I want to read God’s Word and see ALL of who He is and who He reveals Himself to be. I want to learn to come to God…pray to Him with the names He’s laid out…the facets of His love, mercy, grace…HIM!

And as so often happens on this great journey God and I are on, I get the opportunity to share these discoveries!  This fall there will be a retreat. Filled with God — His names and character fleshed out so that His girls can come to a deeper, fuller understanding and fall deeper in love.

If you are local, please keep your eyes peeled for more information (mark your calendars for Sept. 21-23). Spaces are limited. More information will be available soon, and then registration will open!  Not local, keep coming back…you know I can’t wait to share my discoveries with you and tell you how God reveals Himself to me in the everydayness of life!

31 May

The Dusty Roads of Life

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The road rolled out in front of her. Hill after hill, mile after mile.

Loaded with all her worldly possessions she must have been tired.

Yet she never wavered.

As heavy as the load was on her body, the burden she carried in her heart was heavier.

Widow.

Barren.

Foreigner.

Woman.

Having pledged her love and obedience to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and to the God of Israel, Ruth trudged on. Because sometimes obedience can’t see the goal.

I’ve had the unbelievable pleasure of spending the last few weeks in the book of Ruth as God leads our small band of Thursday Bible study gals through this tale of empty to full and lost to redeemed. And as only God can do He has shown me lessons I’ve never seen (and I’ve visited these widows in their lil Bethlehem world before) and He’s shown me how many around me are in seasons of emptiness and carrying heavy loads.

I am aware of the need to keep trudging along those dusty roads where burdens are heavy. Where hearts beat out rhythms of loss and ache. Where obedience leads to perseverance. Where loss leads to gain. Where hurt leads to healing. Where empty leads to full. Where Jesus becomes real.

Heavy with grief, Ruth couldn’t lay in bed, pull the covers over her head and wait until she feels better. Real needs knocked. There was no man to provide. No visa. No drive thru. Someone had to work for their food…someone had to care for Naomi.

As mothers, wives, coworkers, daughters, sisters, women we go through seasons of life when the hits just keep on coming. When life doesn’t go how we’ve planned, but crumbling in grief and hiding under the covers isn’t an option. There are mouths to feed, there is work to be done, and the world doesn’t seem to want to stop turning no matter how badly our hearts are breaking.

In the past few months our family has walked down a rocky road…a road littered with heartbreak, illness, death, stress and difficulty. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed…just pull the covers up over my head, put my ear plugs in and sleep until this is all over. But there they stand at the foot of the bed in the morning, two sweet little peanuts who depend on me for so much more than breakfast — school, direction, love and consistency. I know the weariness of Ruth’s heart and the forces that pull her to feet in the morning as she diligently heads out to glean the fields. I know those dusty roads of obedience where  the weight of the world pushes down on your shoulders.

And because we know the end of Ruth’s story, we know that the hope of God met her in her emptiness. Met her on those dusty roads to Bethlehem. Met her in the fields outside of town. Met her in the eyes of her redeemer. Met her deep in her heart.

Isn’t that why we push through when times are hard? Because the hope of Christ promises that in our trials He is with us. That when the world empties us, He will fill us back up….to overflow.

No matter where you are today. No matter what the world throws at you or takes away, there is one who has never left you…whose plan for you included this moment.

Wait…read that last sentence again…God’s plan for you included this moment…it is not a surprise to Him. He knew it was coming. What is coming. And if you are in a season of emptying, know that He will use it to create new space in your life for blessings, strength and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Are you in a season of abundance? Where heartache doesn’t knock? Where there’s a wind at your back, your burden is light and there is a skip to your step? Perhaps this is your season to walk beside another. Look around, to the women you know, the families God has surrounded you with…are there people hurting? Can you join someone in their journey…through prayer or a phone call? Through encouragement or practical support (like a meal or a ride)?

The incredibly awesome, wonderful, cool thing about this journey God has us on is that He never meant for us to walk it alone. First, He gives us Christ — so that love, hope and grace become threads in our everyday tapestry of life. Then, He gives us His people…to love, support, “do life with”.  Heck, as the gender that takes trips to the bathroom together and shops in packs, we are made to walk the road of life together…to pray, to chatter, to laugh and cry. To carry each other’s burdens and be looking out for one another.

Today, no matter what season of life you find yourself in — empty, full, half-full or somewhere in between – know you are not alone. Christ is but a breath away…cry out for Him, lean into Him, find hope in Him. And I encourage you, reach out to someone else, with no fear of intruding or overstepping your bounds. With guard dropped and love your only intention, reach out…join another in her journey. Because the dusty roads of life were never meant to be walked alone, and at the end there is always HOPE. Always Jesus. (and the need to go shoe shopping to replace the dusty worn out pair you are walking in!)

03 May

….them…the women God sends us….

A huge daisy, 20+ inches across, sprouted out of a large bright blue tin pail. Tickets stacked up, clipboard out, pens at the ready and four women standing around the table…we were ready. As service ended and people walked into the cafeteria there were butterflies in my stomach. We were prepared for the stampede of women who couldn’t wait to purchase their tickets for women’s ministry launch event.

Well, what’s less than a stampede…a trickle?

Almost an house later as I carried the bright pink daisy and our other things out to our car I was doing my best to keep on a happy face. But inside there was a storm a-brewing!

I have been eating, sleeping, and dreaming about this launch — planning meetings, asking friends and merchants for donations of door prizes (and can I just tell you there are some awesome ones!!), and praying that we can bless the socks off the women God gives us. But yesterday I got caught up in my own ego and the numbers of it all. Won’t it be awesome if we sell out on the first day. And all sorts of other thoughts of how many tickets we’d sell.

As I laid in bed this morning I began to talk to God. Father, please help me get my heart right for these meetings today. I know you have placed two more opportunities in front me with your daughters in mind. Allow me to hear what you are bringing us to and say only that which needs to be planned or imparted. And, (sigh) what about these tickets Father?

And as I laid in bed watching the wind in the trees outside something occurred to me. I’ve been praying from the very first glimmer of an idea for this "launch" that we are able to bless the women God sends to us — great food, a warm friendship inspiring atmosphere, a dynamic speaker who will stir women’s hearts for God and their sisters and to have prizes that will surprise and delight them.

….them…the women God sends us….

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2:8 

I print that verse on the top of every planning meeting agenda so that we remember THAT is what we are here for as women’s ministry leaders. That through our planning we might create events that lead women to the feet of Christ; whether it is to come face to face with Him the first time or fall more in love with Him. And while we are kneeling their, together, it is our sincere prayer that women learn how to have real relationships – friendships discovered in worship, grown stronger in prayer and learning, peppered with wisdom and healthy boundaries and filled with laughter and love.

We loved you so much that we were delighted…with you.

With you! It wasn’t about the volume of women yesterday or the number of tickets. It was about the women. And I got so caught up in my own head I forgot to delight in the women I’ve been praying for! I forgot to smile at her and wonder — what piece of what we’re planning did God set up for her?

So here I sit getting ready to start my women’s ministry Monday with my ego bruised (the best way for an ego to be!) and my attitude in check.

Father, thank you for driving me to my knees this morning, for the tears and the embarrassment. Thank you for helping me to remember why You touched my heart for this ministry…for "them"…. Help me to stay in this place, Lord, as we walk these last couple of weeks toward the launch, that I might see their faces, pray for their hearts and strive to put all the pieces in place for You to bless them and meet them at those tables. Jesus thank you for walking those five women across the cafeteria yesterday to purchase their tickets. I ask you, Father, please be with them prepare their hearts for time with you that night — not as mom, coworker, wife, etc., but "just" as your daughter invited to the table by her sisters for a night of celebration of our beauty and growth in You.

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