Thursday, December 27, 2012

On Shepherding Women in Pain

Have a heart for shepherding women?  How does the relational nature of women make another woman's counsel especially helpful?  What is the meaning of the admonition in Titus for older women to teach the younger women?  Here is a link for a great book that addresses those questions and for those who want to minister to women in pain.  For a limited time the first 200 can receive a free book!  Check it out!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Magnify Your Calling

One of our great ladies gave me a copy of this poem by Reva Henretty (1908-1955) and the encouragement of which is speaks is as needed today as when it was written.  As we near a New Year it brings to mind some questions.   What is your calling?  Do you have a clear idea of the work the Lord would have you do, or is the whole concept of calling like a cloudy thought?  In what ways has God gifted you?  What brings your heart joy?  When can you sense God's smile on your life?  Here's the poem:

Magnify Your Calling

Heeding your calling, O my children,
There are tasks for each of you;
Work that falls within your talents,
There is much that you can do.

It may be in lowly places
I have greatest need for you;
Do not hesitate to work there.
You'll be blessed if you do.

Cast aside the things of darkness,
Follow ways of truth and light;
Look tell me for daily guidance,
I will keep you in my sight.

Search for me among the highlands,
I'll be waiting for you there;
Bet you might have greater wisdom,
Seek divinity, in prayer.

Always work with courage, smiling;
Ever reach beyond your grasp,
Climbing higher, higher daily;
I can lighten every task.

When at last your work is ended up,
and I meet you face to face;
I will find you in my haven,
blesses and saved by Jesus' grace.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Some years ago I injured my back.  Now , it was no big thing…I’m all better now.  But I did a dumb thing at the time and tried to pick up something too heavy during a week when I had a major event coming up.  I was running behind on this major event because sometimes the “all church needs” and the “women’s ministry needs” clash.  I work in both arenas, and sometimes things just crunch all together.  I was faced with the decision of canceling the event, or continuing to work the long hours I knew I would need to do to have the event go as planned.  The long hours and activities I knew I would need to participate in to prepare the event would certainly prolong my back injury.  Even though I was disappointed and felt like a flake, I knew after counsel with my husband that canceling was the right thing to do.  What I did not anticipate was the response.  A lot of people were planning to attend the event, but time and time again what I heard was, “I’m so sorry you hurt your back, and I was planning to attend, but honestly, I’m kind of relieved.  I have so many things I have to do this weekend.”  

In a very insightful book called, “What Women Wish Pastors Knew” author Denise George writes the following admonition to those who either pastor or lead in women’s ministry; “Pastor, I’m Tired.” Women come to church for many reasons:  They love the Lord. They want to support you, your family, and your ministry.  They want to see lost people led to Christ; the sin-guilty forgiven, the sick healed, and the loveless loved. They want to work hard for God and to leave an eternal legacy for those who follow them.  But, Pastor, you should know:  today’s Christian woman is tired.  Women listed exhaustion as their number one issues.  Why do Christian women want you to know this?  Do they want your sympathy?...The answer is no.  They want you to understand that their attendance and church involvement often come at great personal sacrifice….George Barna reports that “While women represent the lion’s share of Christians and the majority of participants in religious activities, many women appear to be burning out from their intense levels of involvement.” 

I am well aware when I ask women to participate in a challenging Bible study with 45 minutes of homework 5 days a week, or ask them to give up a Saturday morning for Cup of Encouragement or a weekend for a retreat, on top of their regular church attendance, I am asking them to give up something to participate.  Usually that “something” is very important, and it is a personal sacrifice.  It may be time alone with her husband, or nurturing time with her children, or time with a friend or family member who needs her care.  Our lives are busy and stretched and in ministry I really have to weigh the positives with the negatives in asking for women’s participation.
That injured back during that time and the response I received sent a signal to me that was very clear:  women’s ministry needs to be focused and strategic in the use of women’s time.  We need to be extra respectful of the many life roles that women play.  We want to help marriages, not add to their stress.  We desire to encourage good biblical parenting skills, not take more time away from the family.  We want to help women prioritize time and energy on godly values, but we do not want to have women serving so much that they miss the joy of giving.

And so a value in our women's ministry is to be strategic and focused.  Toward that end I would appreciate your response in the area of need for Bible Studies and events.  Is it family relationships where you would appreciate some encouragement?  What is entailed in your season of life?  What are the stressors that bring you to your knees in prayer?  What is helpful to you in your journey with Christ?  You are invited to respond on this blog.   

Monday, November 26, 2012

What is Your Season?

Our happy summer time diversion from our normal routine is in the form of a vegetable garden this year.  Other summers have included the likes of making a winding cobble stone path through our back yard, a cement square patio and planting many fruit bushes and trees.  We figure if it is taking up room, energy and the infamous Fortuna summertime water bill, it might as well be producing something of value besides being ornamental.      

As I pull up weeds in our vegetable garden, harvest the snow peas and pluck fat blueberries off the bush my mind races with many parallels to the life of faith.  No wonder we read of many comparisons between the agricultural life and our spiritual lives in the Bible!  And, making the parallels more concrete is the fact that I am no expert gardener.  Some people say they have a green thumb and some a black.  I’d have to say I have a very dark green thumb – somewhere in between.  My great gardening ideas don’t always work out.  Did I mention that this is actually our second garden this year?  No, you well know that Fortuna does not have a long season in which to have a double harvest.  Our first garden froze…despite my habitual mother-hen care.  We started over after our particularly wet cold Spring and are now reaping the benefits of our second (or in some cases third) plantings.  Expensive vegetables they may well be, but they come from our yard and there is some kind of feeling of triumph when the veggies come to full maturity when I carry them into the kitchen.  Oh!  Spiritual parallels all over the place, and me with a dark green thumb!
How about you? How is the garden of your life right now?  Is it a season of planting – waiting in faith for prayers to be answered without visible results?  Are you watering – just nurturing those entrusted to your care and attending to their growth?  How about the “miracle grow” season – some area of life has lost its nutrients and it is time to fertilize and add to the soil so it may someday produce a bountiful crop.  Is it a time of weeding – unearthing those energy consuming distractions that would drain life away from that which is most important?  Are you going after the gophers?  Are there persistent irritating issues in life that need to be dealt with and you have declared - the time is now!  Is it a time of harvest for you?  You have planted in faith, and consistently shared the love of Christ with someone and now you are able to see the visible rewards of your labors?  There has been fruit – someone you care about has come to Christ and is growing in the faith!  It is a season of rejoicing!

 The Bible says, “there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1). 
Whatever season we may be in we can be sure that if we are seeking the Lord with an open heart to His Word and listening for His still small voice, the word "growth" will be a part of our season!   

Monday, November 5, 2012

Boyfriend Refuses to Come to Church

My boyfriend refuses to come to church.  I really like him a lot.  What do I do?
Searching for an Answer

Dear Searching,

Your question infers two things.  One is that you are a believer and understand the significance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a church family.  The second is that your question implies  that your boyfriend is either not a believer or is maybe someone who says he is a Christian, but is not obeying what the Bible clearly tells Christians to do:

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing  near”.  Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)         

Since you really care about your boyfriend you rightly should be concerned for his spiritual welfare.  Two words in this verse jump out to me:  encourage and warn.  Encourage him to come to a worship service or a youth event that the two of you can enjoy together.  Pray for him.  Even express your concern that he is missing out on something that would be tremendously beneficial to him.

However, for you it sounds like there may be a deeper issue here.  Have you read
II Corinthians 6:14-15a?  (Message)

Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong?  That’s not partnership;  that’s war.  Is light best friends with dark?

These are strong words, but God’s Word is always for our benefit.  Wrapped around a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship are powerful emotions.  And if Jesus Christ is the most important person in your life, and your boyfriend is not a believer (or even a weak believer) you are in radically different places in your life experience, and chances are that there will be difficult times ahead. 
The best thing I can share with you is to decide ahead of time to only date strong believers – a Christian young man who has a fire in his heart for God.  Your boyfriend will either draw you closer to God, or farther away.  Which will it be?  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Parent's Self-Examination

Pastor Mike preached an excellent series from God’s Word called ‘Walker to Walker’. Over the past couple weeks he has focused on the parenting years, which reminds me…I recently received an e-mail from one of my four brothers.  He said, “I used to know a lot about parenting…of course that was before I had children.  Now it’s all by trial and error, mostly error.” 

Don’t we all feel that way as parents sometimes?  The nurture, care and responsibility to raise children in this time and culture is certainly not a job for the faint of heart.  As I listen to the joys and challenges other parents face, and as I am a fellow struggler in the parenting years, I have concluded that God allows us to be parents that we might understand His heart in a deeper way. 

Before we were blessed with our youngest daughter, we lived in a big elegant Victorian home.  I remember an artist friend questioning why in the world I would want to have children.  She said, “but you have such a nice life!”.  It’s funny what people sometimes value – isn’t it?  I would give up that “nice life” over and over again for the joy my daughter has brought me.  No material possession even compares to the privilege of being a parent.     

God created the universe.  In some ways, we could say that before He created Adam and Eve, God “had a nice life.”  There was eternal oneness, unity and fellowship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 1:1).  God made a pristine, beautiful world (Genesis 1:1-25)…and this section of Scripture ends with “And God saw that it was good.”  The Psalm 103 speaks about angels that sing God’s praises, and Psalm 104 describes God as being “clothed with splendor and majesty” – being all-powerful as He set the heavens and earth into place.  It would seem that God really did “have a nice life”, yet He desired children.  It was God’s desire to be a Heavenly Father to many.  He above all others could forsee the obstacles and heart aches that parenting can bring.  But He still chose to create us, love us, send a Savior for us, and embrace us as the objects of His lavish affection. 

When parenting is difficult and even heart rendering, I am reminded of what God goes through as He lovingly parents us.  As older adults we can identify with the turmoil our children go through growing up, because we were there once.  As Pastor Mike says, “we were never their age in this age” which is so true, but certainly our hearts can remember just how hard it is to grow up. Sometimes – the mind games and temptations that can battle in a young person’s soul are fierce.  As believers we know with every fiber of our being that if our children took strides in their spiritual lives, it would make their road so much better.  We long for them to embrace their spiritual heritage, to fall in love with God’s Word, to place high value on Christian friends and fellowship, and to come to understand, by personal experience, the wonder and power of prayer.  We long for our children to know these things by their own experience. 

Then, with the shoe on the other foot I ponder, now how does the Heavenly Father long for me, as His child, to grow and understand His truth in a deeper way?  Do I take the time often enough to recall my spiritual heritage, and to appreciate those who have made God’s Word come alive to me at different points in my life?  How am I doing in the area of delighting in God’s Word as being “sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm119:103)?  Do I place enough value on Christian friendship – not just visiting and having fun together (even though that is important), am I having true fellowship with my Christian brothers and sisters and sharing the deep things of the faith?  Do I understand how much I need the support of my Church family to be strong in this world?  Do I daily participate in more than superficial prayer?  When is the last time I cried over my sin, or danced before the Lord in joy and thanksgiving?  

As we long for our children to mature spiritually, I am reminded that we need to show them how to grow not only in word, but by example.  God loved us enough to send His Son to live and walk among us and show us “how it’s done.”   

Lord, thank you for privilege of being a parent and for the opportunity to know your heart better.  May we learn to treasure our children, as you treasure each one of us. 


Mother’s Day is not in the Bible, but we often celebrate this holiday within the context of the church.  What is it that makes a good mother?  Is it how their kids turn out?  You know a good cook by the way turns out.  Is it the same?  Well, there was one perfect parent – and His kids didn’t fare all that well.  In fact, by the second generation there was a murder.  So, what’s the mark of a good mother? 

Certainly there are God-given attributes built into a mother’s heart.  She nurtures, protects and sacrifices for her child(ren).  It’s an amazing transformation that takes place – the forming of a “mother’s heart.”  I remember a particular moment when my child was about two weeks old.  The experts have a lot to say about “bonding” but I can tell you without reservation that I was bonded to my adopted child before her birth.  When she finally born, it was love at first sight.  One midnight feeding found me in a rocking chair out in our kitchen (it was the only room heated by a wood stove).  It had been two solid weeks of barely sleeping, diaper changes, crying and feeding, and the inevitable worries that a new mother carries.  As I tried to comfort my fussy infant and fed her a bottle, she burped up a bit.  Then her diaper started to leak, and there we are all a mess with sour milk and a wet nightgown thinking, “I love this baby, I love this baby, I would do anything in the world for this baby, I would even die for this baby.”  There is nothing quite like a mother’s love.   

So what has God given mothers that fills a unique place in the world – something that is worthy of honor?  Actually, it’s the same attributes that God gives to all women.  The fact that most women have children simply enhances these good attributes.  In Shepherding the Heart of Women, Beverly White Hislop tells us, “The female temperament “lends itself to nurturance, caring, sensitivity, tenderness and compassion.”  In a nutshell, women are life-bearers and nurtures.  These attributes compliment the great masculine qualities God has given to the men in our lives and together in God’s good plan, we are designed to be a team to parent children.

I came from a family of six children.  Yes, I was the baby (and yes, I act like it).  My mother usually won the “most children award” on Mother’s Day in our little church.  We always gave her breakfast in bed.  Mother’s Day was happy. 

However, I have three aunts with motherhood stories that are more painful in nature.  One aunt gave her first born up for adoption at age two.  The next aunt had one child, a baby boy.  He was still born.  She never had another child.  The third aunt and her husband had one son – their joy and delight, Jerry.  In 1959 in the small Texas town where they lived, this teenager went to the local A & W Rootbeer drive in with his car, of which he was proud.  A guy, in the parking lot hit his car.  Jerry jumped out and said, “you are going to have to pay for that!” And the man took out a gun and shot him and killed him.  Just like that. 

Now did these women, who had their mother’s hearts completely broken continue to be “life bearers and nurtures”?  Well, in the physical sense, two of them did not give birth to anymore children – but they continued to help bear life for others.  One of these aunts would pick up my mother, brother and I every Tuesday evening and deliver day-old bakery goods from her husband’s catering truck to some relatives who were barely making ends meet.  This aunt continued to help other mother’s bear life and nurture their children.   

The aunt that gave up her child for adoption did that loving act – allowing her child to be raised by a wonderful couple who could shower the child with love and attention that the birth mother could not give.  This same aunt was the one who took me to Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa when I was a teenager so I could hear preaching from Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie, among others.  This aunt helped breathe spiritual life into me and nurtured my young faith. 

The third aunt who lost her only son continued to help nurture other children and make life more bearable for them and their parents.  She took in a college age girl when things were tense in the young woman’s home and loved and affirmed her through a difficult year.  Life bearers and nurtures 

So on Mother’s Day, first we honor God who created this beautiful diversity in making men and women very different – but very complete in each other.  We recognize that God ordained marriage and created the precious gift of motherhood.  We honor mothers, especially Christian mothers who work hard to raise their children to be good responsible adults.  We honor the torch bearers of Christ to the next generation.  And, we honor womanhood and the special attributes God has given women to be life-bearers and nurtures.   

And what makes a good mother?  Proverbs 31:30-31 says it so well: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”            



Marriage and Dancing

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone;  I will make him a help meet for him.”  Genesis 2:18 (KJ).
In other versions of the Bible we read that God made woman as a “suitable helper” or “companion” for her husband.  I like the King James wording ‘help meet’ because it comes from two Hebrew words:  ezer  and neged.  Ezer means “help” or “helper” and neged means “corresponding to” or “fit for”.     Now when we think of helper, we commonly think of someone below the other – the helper has lower status, like an assistant.  But this is not what ‘help meet’ means.  In the Old Testament “ezer” never means a subordinate helper.  When the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 121:1-2 ‘I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?  My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth’ he used the same term ‘ezer’.  Someone who helps us is not necessarily beneath us.  The help meet God designed in a wife is someone who complements and completes her husband.  A wife is meant to be a person uniquely crafted to be a companion and teammate for her husband. 

Marriage reminds me of jitterbug dancing.  Dancing is a great partnership.  There are moves that only the man makes and steps where the woman responds, but then when the music heats up they move together as a dynamic team.  Two are needed – two make the dance come alive.   But make no mistake about it, the man is designed to be the leader of the two in marriage.  Unfortunetly there are special problems that interrupt that design at times.  When there is abuse or extreme selfishness of any kind ,God's beautiful design for relationships is disrupted and things have to be dealt with differently.  However, in the design for a healthy marriage there has to be a 'working with' a 'give and take' and there is certainly room for a great variety of communication and personality style in both husband and wife.  Some people by nature are direct and outspoken while others are more gentle or quiet or reserved - and both men and women share these personality types.  It is not a matter of personality but a  recognizition of what the Bible refers to as 'headship.'  I Corinthians 11:3: But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ". This "headship" is where the wife, as an act of her will and her trust in God, recognizes that the Lord has put her husband in leadership and our position as the wife is to respect him and honor him, even when we disagree.  Neither partner is more important than the other and the leadership our husbands have also carries with it great responsibility. 
The best marriage team will be one in which both partners are thoughtfully considerate of the others needs, and unselfishly work together to accomplish what neither one could on their own.  I know a husband who explained that his views his leadership in such a way that he deems it his duty as the family leader to see that his wife fully blossoms into all she can be for Christ.  That is called being unselfish.  And his wife responds with gratefulness.  As a seasoned saint once said, "it's easy to be submissive to someone who loves me like Christ loved the church."  

…“Lovers who are thoughtful have a beautiful relationship.  Partners who are selfish tear a marriage to shreds.  Thoughtfulness carries its own splendor.
Selfishness is an ugly as an oyster,
No matter what other strengths we have going,
None will cover the stench of selfishness.
Thoughtfulness carries a beauty that begins
Inside and pushes to the surface”.

                                                       -William Coleman, Knit Together 


Special thanks – Ronald E. Hawkins  Strengthening Marital Intimacy

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Marks of a Great Leader

Are you a mother?  Then, you are a leader.  Are you a Christian who is mature in her faith (not necessarily chronological years)?  Then, according to Titus 2:3-5, you too, are a leader.  Are you the only Christian in your work, school, or leisure time activity environment?  Are you an influential friend?  Then, you are a leader.  Are you in a position of authority in your vocation?  You are a leader and this article applies to each of you.

 Leaders sometimes have the reputation of being quick, direct and tough.  They have that ‘bossy attitude’ going on – but according to the Bible that is not the kind of leadership that honors God. 

Joseph of the Old Testament was a great leader, but his rise to authority was tedious and slow.  In Genesis 37 we can read the account of Joseph as a youth who had big dreams and jealous siblings.  One thing leads to another and Joseph finds himself sold by his family, taken to a foreign land, presumed as dead, and begins a life of ups and downs until he finds himself in a prison for a crime he has never committed. Through it all, Joseph was a patient person with a great attitude; trusting in the Lord’s goodness even though life to this point had become entirely unfair.  In a twist of circumstances Pharaoh has a troubling dream and it is remembered that Joseph has the God-given ability to interpret dreams.  After giving the precise interpretation of the dream, Joseph also offers Pharaoh some wise strategy advice.  Pharaoh recognizes that the person who came up with the discerning plan to get his people through an extended drought would be the logical person to have the authority to carry out the plan.  So, Pharaoh puts Joseph into official leadership.  Joseph’s leadership skills were honed in the unlikely environment of prison – but those skills were those of a servant leader who patiently waited for God to reveal His plan for Joseph’s life. 

The world’s way of becoming a leader and God’s way are opposite of each other.  The world’s way is often about exalting oneself, obtaining power and manipulating people and situations to get one’s own way.  This can be as true in a relationship as it is in a large corporation.  God’s way of creating a leader involves patience and gentleness.  Psalm 18:28-29 says, “For You light my lamp;  The Lord my God illumines my darkness.  For by You I can run upon a troop;  and by my God I can leap over a wall.”  And in verses 34-35 we read, “He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.  You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me;  and Your gentleness makes me great.”  God values gentleness.  It doesn’t make us any less strong.  These words from the Psalms are hardly the words of weakness - they are words of strength.  Gentleness and patience are fruits of the Spirit and are marks of a great leader.

Patience and Gentleness will cause us to take a very different action that our normal human nature.  We may feel like we are at the end of our emotional rope with a rambunctious child, or rebellious adolescent.  Our natural self wants to lash back – to place a little fear over those we want to control.  It takes the Spirit of God working on our heart to respond to give a gentle answer to a snotty question.  It takes a godly patience to take the long view on someone’s immature behavior.  In relating to adults it takes gentleness to respond to someone who makes accusations without having all of the facts.  It takes patience to work “as unto the Lord” day after day and lead humbly, and yet be treated with disrespect.  Working and relating to people we either lead or influence will put pressures on us to respond in ways that tempt us to lose patience and speak with caustic words instead of gentle ones.  To be good leaders, whether it is with our children, a ministry to women, or a large organization, we find that we have to abandon our dependence on our own natural responses and become utterly dependant upon God to give us the patience and gentleness we need. 
Like the psalmist, we learn it’s not our own abilities that make us good, It’s God’s gentleness.  Like Joseph we learn that we don’t find our purpose in life by pushing our way to the top – we trust in God with patience;  for patience and gentleness are marks of a great leader.