Archive for Wise Women In Ministry

Getting Help {Ministry Wives Series}

We’re continuing our Ministry Wives (MW) series where I try to answer your questions about ministry life. Last week we talked about difficult friendships. This week, we’re answering a frequent question: “Where do I go for help? Who’ll mentor me when I struggle?”

I’ll tell you what I’ve done and hopefully it will give you some ideas.

It’s pretty much a universal truth that none of us feels like we completely know what we are doing. When we struggle with sin, embarrassment can keep us from getting help. See, we know the right answers, but sin has a way of deceiving and entangling everyone. We can either fake it and take the bull by the horns not knowing the damage to us or others, or we can admit we don’t know and ask for help.

finding help

We are all just all sinners at different stages of sanctification. Pretending to have all the answers or living like we are “above” getting help is not only proud, but it puts people off—the same people who can see clearly that you don’t have all the answers and the same people you try to encourage to get accountability for their struggles. Integrity and truth are your bff’s in ministry.

We are all just beggars at God’s grace table along with everyone else. We’re all dependent creatures, held together and breathing the air of our Sustainer God. Any time we take ourselves out from under that place of dependence, and place ourselves in a position where we believe we have no need, or worse, where we think we have it all together, we are in trouble.

Here’s what I’ve seen and heard from the MWs I talk to. We avoid going to people who could judge us for help. We head to self-help books or commentaries, our spouse, or our mother. Although these all have their place and can be good things, I do think they have drawbacks.

  1. Books allow us to hide. They never look you in the eye and ask heart-probing questions about our sin or blind spots. A book doesn’t gently tell you that your attitude is wrong and your spirit, sour. Books let us skirt the issues reading what we think we need. There’s no uncomfortable confrontation with a book.
  2. Spouse. Until death do us part. For better or for worse. Our spouse is safe and isn’t going anywhere and we know this, so we ask him. Our spouse is resigned to our quirks–sometimes even our sin. He may, for the sake of peace, avoid confrontation and just listen to you vent. It’s almost hard to gauge whether he can see clearly through the situation because he’s so close to it.
  3. Mother. “Mother love” blinds us to our own kids’ bad behavior, therefore, when we need help with a struggle against sin, Mother is probably going to be too soft with us.

Taking advantage of a variety of counselors helps us to see our potential, and brings us face to face with our failures so we can deal with them. Though painful, it’s good because we don’t want our testimony to be a stumbling block to others.

One of the biggest challenges is finding “the woman” to mentor us.

It’s like we’re looking for superwoman–the one person who has it all together in all areas of life. Mary Poppins would be nice. Obviously, that person doesn’t exist.

Instead, look around and notice excellence. I look for a woman who has ONE excellent quality that I want to emulate. If she also has the character qualities I mentioned in the last post, namely the ability to keep her mouth shut…keep her counsel and not gossip, I’ll ask her to help me out. :)

I’ve sought counsel for writing, bible study, counseling, organization, health, parenting, marriage, etc…

Most recently I asked for help for weight loss.

A few months back I had a physical and the doctor told me I had gained 15 pounds in the last 8 years. Disturbed, I called my friend, Toni, who is a health coach. You might remember her from this post, Missionary Wives Speak: Have We Lost Something?

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In her sweet, unassuming way, she asked me a battery of questions about my eating, sleeping, and exercise habits and I have to tell you, my eyes were opened to several glaring problems with my weight loss struggles. For one thing, I don’t get enough sleep. I also skip meals when I am busy with the kids, reeking havoc to my metabolism. Just these probing questions were enough to help me correct several issues. (If you want to contact her, her email is tonihealthcoach@gmail.com . She’s super helpful and just a lovely person!)

All this to say, don’t be afraid to ask help from the people who really can help you and won’t be too soft on you.

Side note:

I think it’s very interesting that “Life Coaching” is an exploding, trendy industry in 2016. If you’ve not heard of life coaching, it’s a wonderful blend of consulting, mentoring, and therapy that focuses on practical, everyday stuff.  The Harvard Business Review reports that Life Coaching is a $1 Billion/year industry. The three most popular reasons people hired a life coach:

  1. to develop higher potential in their personal life
  2. for a sounding board
  3. address their negative behavior/habits

In our isolated world where a blue screen frequently replaces face to face friendship and interaction, people are going back to what they know works: mentoring and discipleship in all areas of life.

This is exactly what Titus 2 prescribes! Women, helping women. The older, helping the younger. The more experienced and excellent helping those who want to learn. Walking life with others. Isn’t it great that God knows exactly what we need and tells us how we work best? Life Coaching is a Biblical concept that works!

I know you’ve probably had bad experiences with people who shared your struggles or who talked about you behind your back. Don’t let that stop you from getting help to better yourself, and don’t let a negative experience push you into a life of isolation and fear. We really need to let go of the fear of man, and instead live for an Audience of One who calls us to a holy lifestyle. Maybe your humble desire to grow and change will be the catayst for change and growth in your church? Maybe your life will encourage others to seek God more passionately.

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Prov. 11:14

“A wise man will hear and will increase learning. And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” Prov. 1:5

“Without counsel purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Prov. 15:22

“Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Ps. 119:24

If you are still struggling to find help, pray. I’d be happy to pray for you, too. Ask God to guide you. I know He’ll guide you to the people and resources you need.

Seeking Friendship {Ministry Wives Edition}

For the next few posts I’ll be answering a few ministry related questions I’ve received over the last few months. Hopefully, by reading someone else’s perspective, it’ll help you make sense of your situation. I know every ministry situation is different and has its own nuances. Please feel free to take what helps and leave what doesn’t. Okay, then?

friendship

I frequently get asked about friendships in ministry–specifically the lack of forming close friendships in your own congregation.

It’s no secret that friendships in ministry can be tricky.

No matter where you serve,

whether full-time, part-time, or layman, missionary, youth pastor’s wife, musician, or church planter’s wife, we all need someone to love us enough to speak truth into our lives. But we all know that sometimes transparency backfires in a leadership position. This is certainly the ministry wife’s catch-22.

“Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.” Although this saying from Rachel Lynde is laughable, there’s wisdom in realizing that we are all just people walking through various stages of life at different stages of sanctification. Since we are flawed people serving with other flawed people, wisdom is necessary when sharing our heart.

You don’t share your heart with someone who gossips about others.

You don’t share your heart to someone who is critical or outspoken about every little thing.

And repeat after me:”Transparency is not spilling your gut and sharing every thought. That’s venting.”

You simply don’t share with people who have proved themselves untrustworthy.

  • I know of one friend who was co-laboring with another couple and who shared some deep troubles they were having in their marriage, desperate for help, and they were basically disciplined out of the church after a slow death of the relationship, and told they would not be recommended for another ministry because of their marriage issues. (For the record, their marriage is thriving.)
  • In another instance, a ministry friend was punished by a bitter pastor’s wife after sharing concerns about ministry practice to her.
  • In yet another instance, a pastor’s wife and family were raked over the coals for asking, through a broken heart, for prayer for a struggling teen.

So what do you do about forming close friendships as a ministry wife?

Well, the Lord initiates friendship with us and the Bible warns about how vulnerable the “loner” is, and how there is strength in numbers, so we know avoiding friendship is not the answer.

The pat answer seems to be to have friends in other ministries because sometimes you do need to “talk shop.”

There’s a problem with this, though. Friends in other ministries don’t know our “blind spots” and we’re certainly not going to tell them because–wait for it–we are completely blind to them, so our version of the “truth” might be skewed and we might not get the help we need.

And God does PUT us with people to humble us and chisel away our ungodly characteristics, so total avoidance is really short changing yourself.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my limited experience:

Be in your Bible.  God’s word is there to convict you and change you. Go into each reading assuming that God wants to humble you in some area. Then read to change. God also offers you friendship and only when you love God supremely will you actually have the ability to love others well, warts and all.

Know your church culture. If you’re in a church culture where truth is valued and transparency is safe, then by all means, feel free to share with your fellow leadership wives or trusted friends. If you’re not sure about the culture, listen, listen, listen to the way people talk about others when they fail. You can tell a lot about the humility of a leader by how well or ill they speak of others.

Accept what God gives you. You might really want a close friend and deep conversations but God keeps giving you younger moms who are really needy for advice and play dates. God always gives us what we need. He promises to. Perhaps our desire is stronger than it should be and God wants us to serve others at a play date at the park or beach.

Keep friendship in perspective. We sometimes imagine that there is that one person out there who will always be there for us, be completely loyal, never let us down, always know just what to say. There is only one person who can do all this and it’s God. That kind of pressure on any friend will kill it from the start. Friendships are good gifts, but not the ultimate thing: God is!

Pray for a wise woman. She doesn’t have to be in your congregation, but pray for an older woman to talk to. You don’t have to bear your soul. You might just really listen and learn as she talks about God’s faithfulness through years of marriage and child raising and widowhood.

Look for a woman who has these qualities:

  1. She doesn’t feel the need to gossip to gain acceptance or to seem like she’s in the know. This quality assures you she’ll keep your confidence.
  2. She speaks well of others.
  3. She’s self-controlled in her life and emotions.
  4. She’s Word-filled. Enough said.
  5. She’s faithful. Her yes means yes and her no means no.

Realize that God appoints your place and time and makes no mistakes. You don’t have to be best friends with someone in order to work with them. Your personalities don’t even have to mesh. Because in the end, love for God will smooth the way.

 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.

Notice that Paul doesn’t give relationship strategies or personality profiles to help fix whatever was troubling Euodia and Synthche, two New Testament women who seemed to clash. He tells them to recognize their place “in the Lord.” He emphasizes their mutual submission to the Lord. He was saying, “Hey, girls, it’s not all about you! It’s all about the Lord!”

Realizing that we are “in the Lord” does eliminate any temptation for one-upmanship or insisting on your own way. This brings humility. Serving in unity rises and falls on our willingness to see ourselves in Him.

Initiate friendships. If God brings someone to mind, you initiate. If you’re lonely, they might be, too. Make the first call. Invite them over. Ask to meet for coffee. Contact them online. Tell them you’d like to get to know them better. This is always a blessing.

Don’t demand that friendship look a certain way. Maybe for a season, your friendships will be with older women or with women walking through a sorrowful season. You be the friend that you’d want to have.

Don’t waste your loneliness. Read good books. Do an online Bible study. Encourage others. Visit a nursing home. Babysit for a younger mom. When one of my girls struggled with loneliness in her teens, I told her that maybe God was preparing her to depend heavily on Him for some mission work in her future or season of isolation.

“Be not weary in well doing. For in due season, you will reap if you faint not.”

I’ve learned that God uses every trial to direct and lead me. When I’ve lacked close friendship, He’s used unpleasant circumstances to lead me to the people and the opportunities where He wants me to minister. And in obedience and joy, there’s so much hopeful anticipation about what God is doing and how He’ll provide for each of our needs, just like He’s promised He will.

 

 

 

 

Are You Already Divorced Emotionally?

Studies say that half of Christian marriages will end in divorce. Half.

After being married for 22 years, I wish I could tell my own daughters and young Christian women that marriage is a piece of cake, that you figure it out as time goes on, that it gets easier, and if you just do X,Y and Z, you can avoid the pitfalls that other people fall into.

divorce-bride-groom

I wish I could say that but it’s not true. Even in the best of marriages people struggle, sin being what it is.

We are sinful women married to sinful men. Our flesh wants its own way. We all want our own way, and we’ll fight to get it on the worst of days. That’s the landscape of every Christian marriage.

Marriage isn’t necessarily about making me happy. God did not put me into marriage with Peter to make me happy. Marriage is designed to make me holy. Like Christ my Savior. Yes, think sanctification. And sanctification does not happen in a vacuum. For me, the sanctification process starts when trouble comes and I make a choice: do right, or please myself. Demand my way or do life God’s way.

About 7 years into marriage you figure out that love is not like that glossy covered Amish book you read when you were a kid. The bonnet ripper. No, it’s really not.

Sometimes people are not heroic, and love does not swell up like an emotional tidal wave ready to carry you to the ends of the earth. And doubt sets in and we begin to entertain the thoughts:

  • Did I marry the wrong person?
  • Would I have been happier with so and so?
  • Are we not compatible? Why aren’t we on the same page?
  • He’ll never understand me.

And those thoughts are tucked quietly into the corner of our hearts, taking root,  strengthening without our even realizing.

Divorce doesn’t just happen one fine day. It starts in the seat of our inner man, our mind. We believe the lie that we’d be happier somewhere else with someone else. We begin detaching emotionally, creating walls, barriers, and hardness of heart. An emotional divorce.

Actions are always preceded by thought. What you dwell on is who you become.

A good marriage is tough, because loving someone more than you love yourself is tough. It’s even tougher when our view of love is skewed or hollywood-esque.

Christian women need to realize that

Sometimes love looks like working 15 hours a day just to pay the bills, coming home exhausted with nothing left to give. Guys show love by doing their duty to provide for their families.

So, before you judge him too harshly and complain that he doesn’t take you out to eat or bring you home roses, or that your love life doesn’t seem connected or emotional right now,

before you put mental energy into a thought pattern that will lead you somewhere…

think about all that he does do and love him for it. Find the one thing he does really well and dwell on that. 

Your man was never meant to meet all your emotional needs. Only God can fill that void for us. He was never meant to be your savior.

Love him first. Do good to him first. And keep doing it, even if he has nothing left to give you right now. And don’t compare your love life to the cover of a harlequin romance novel, or even to the more wholesome dreamy Amish love novels. Comparison, in any area of life, breeds discontentment. 

Discontentment is such an ugly sin. It’s the opposite of thankfulness. An ungrateful heart believes they deserve more than what they have. Always something more. It’s like a poison, ruining current happiness. It can never see the good right in front of them.

A grateful person is a loving person who seeks to gratify and bless others, while an ungrateful person is bent on gratifying himself.

One of the most common end results of ingratitude is the sin of moral impurity. The man or woman who is not thankful for the way God has met his or her needs easily begins to falsely accuse and find fault with our good God. In rejecting the provision God has already made, the ungrateful person is only one small step away from seeking to get his needs met in illegitimate ways. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

The bottom line is that we choose to be content in marriage. We choose joy where we are. Love is a choice. It is. I know the world says it’s a feeling and that if you don’t feel that way with one person you should move on until you are happy. But that’s not what Biblical marriage looks like.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church–>Christ giving sacrificially even when the “bride”/church is undeserving and bride responds in loving allegiance and respect.

It’s a choice.

So, today, choose

  • To love first, most and longest.
  • To build up your house and not tear it down.
  • To use your words with wisdom. Proverbs says that a wise woman’s words are like a fountain of water in a dry desert. Refreshing!
  • Choose a soft answer. Remember, Lady Folly is LOUD(!!) and in your face.
  • To guard your heart with all diligence! You you aren’t immune because you claim a certain Christian creed.*
  • To do good, especially to your husband.
  • Choose thankfulness. Don’t compare.
  • Saturate yourself in God’s word. Only He can fill the void in your heart.
  • Don’t allow yourself to envision life “divorced.” Don’t go there.

And remember that our thoughts always have consequences. They’ll take you on a ride. But you can choose which ride to get on and which ride to get off.

 

 

*I realize that marriage is a two way street and that you are not responsible for the sins of others. This article is written so that Christian women can evaluate their own lives. We can only worry about doing right ourselves. I realize that this does not guarantee that your husband won’t sin and hurt you.

 

Are You Dead? Check Your Tongue.

We spend a lot of time and effort to make sure our physical bodies are healthy. We are taught to know our bodies and to be self aware when it comes to what our symptoms are telling us.

Our words can tell us a lot about our spiritual health: whether we are dead or thriving. And we should routinely self check our words to see how our heart is doing.

Words. We speak an abundance of them every day. James warns us that our tongue, left unchecked, has potential for great harm.

The tongue is the only thing that cannot fully be tamed. It is full of restless evil and deadly poison. It is a forest fire that leaves destruction in its path. Destruction that cannot easily be restored.

A hostile tongue has several companions that will also rear their ugly heads: (James 3:14)

  • bitter jealousy,
  • selfish ambition,
  • boasting,
  • lies,
  • disorder
  • and every vile practice.

James gives us his take:

If you think you are religious
you claim it… by your words…
but you do not bridle your tongue…
you flatter some…you curse others…you blurt venom and hurt those made in God’s image…

You are self deceived…

you believe one thing about yourself, but are dead wrong

Your religion is worthless.
worth nothing…zero.

We speak a lot. We like to be heard. And we usually think we have the right to be heard. After all, what I have to say is important.  And yet God tells us that the truly wise person should show his wisdom:

  1. not by his words
  2. but by his good conduct, his works,
  3. the works done in meekness of wisdom.

The opposite of a brash, offensive, proud “double speak” tongue is

meekness. Humbleness.

And the way to get this type of tongue– and heart–is to submit yourself to God. (James 4:7)

You ask, how does an unruly tongue show that I am not submissive to God?

  1. Because it is a law breaker. God’s laws–namely the second great commandment and the golden rule. It believes it can “say” and get away with it.
  2. It shows that you are unhappy where God has put you, so you fight for your own advancement or for justice.
  3. You have this desire for something more:more control, more respect, more appreciation or understanding, and you fight and brawl to get it.

Our desires—->become our demands——> become our life dominating sins.

So God tells us that our desires must be held loosely realizing that HE IS IN CONTROL and will give us what we need.

The only way to live a victorious life and to get His grace is listed in James 4:6

  • Humble yourself. (Verses the proud position you were in. Not sure if you are proud? See this excellent resource.)
  • Submit yourself to God.
  • Resist the devil.
  • Draw near to God.
  • Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts.

It staggers my mind how quickly I can go from humble before God, to proud and demanding. Christianity is about daily death to self, so  that you can live unto God.  Each day, when you wake, thank God that He is in control of your already crucified flesh and then check to see that your old man is laying in that casket.

Do you need to put your old man back into the casket? Do a self check on your tongue–your words.

 

Where Are The Titus 2 Women? – Part 2

For whatever reason, Titus 2 mentoring brings a mix of emotions.  Fear and insecurity, on the part of the older women, and frustration on the part of the younger women, who are wondering why all of the older women are MIA.

I received a lot of feedback on my article “Where Are The Titus 2 Women” and I am hoping to answer some of the questions that seem to be plaguing you.

So, several thoughts.

You are older than someone. Think of it in terms of young children. Your eight year old learns to tie their shoe and in turn teaches your five year old the same skill. They don’t know much but they teach what they know.

You don’t have to teach everything. Nobody expects you to be a walking Biblical encyclopedia or the next Martha Stewart. But you can teach them something. Whether it is to rely on Christ and point them to Him, or to  teach them to pray. When you are going through hard times, just watching a Biblical response to trials and fear is the best lesson you can pass along.  Domestically, you can teach whatever you are good at: baking, crafting, floral arranging, etc…

Teach them that God is sovereign over their life, even if it looks different than yours.  I have two teenage daughters and I am training them that God is sovereign. I am not training them to be “mommys”, or to be a wife, although those things are important. There are no guarantees that they will marry, or be able to have children. Training them to this “lesser” goal is doing them a disservice. I am training them to do whatever God puts in their path  for and to His glory and with the goal of furthering His Kingdom.  I think it is short sighted to train with any other goal in mind, and that you could actually set your child up for disappointment by training for something that is not a guarantee in this life. When I wake up in the morning, before I climb out of bed, I pray and thank God that he is in control and welcome whatever He brings into my life this day, good or bad.

Teach them what scripture teaches, and no more.  The best lesson you can teach your sister is to trust in God and to seek wisdom from Him on areas that are  “indifferent” in scripture.  Teach her to balance her liberty in Christ with self denial. What you may be able to practice without indulging your flesh (keeping your flesh at bay/self denial), your younger sister may not be able to practice.

We cannot go beyond what Titus 2 teaches, and add our own rules.  Scripture teaches that young women should to keep their homes, but it does not say by word or in example that they can never work outside the home. I have seen two opposite extremes of this view played out: on one hand to neglect your homes and to never care for it, and on the other hand to proclaim that women are “queens of their home” and that this is where they should always be.

We are to train them to be the best help that they can be to their husbands. Sometimes this involves working to help with finances, or working to help a husband get through seminary.  It means that we care well for our family, as unto the Lord, like everything else we are to do in life,  so that God’s word will not be evil spoken of. (Examples in scripture would be Ruth, Lydia and the Prov. 31 women.)

But for the most part, just being an encouragement and listening ear is a great place to start.

If you are lacking older Christian women, pray and then start by get advice from books. (see my Titus 2 resources)

If you are looking for a younger woman to encourage, begin by asking her to come to lunch or by offering to watch her children so she can get some errands done. Be helpful and start by building a relationship. God will bless your efforts to bless her!

Where Are The Titus 2 Women?

Last night I spoke to a sweet group of home schooling moms about the topic of Keeping Your Devotional Life devotional. I was so encouraged by their desire to teach their children God’s word. We sat and chatted afterwards and as we spoke, the “topic” came up. Titus 2 mentoring. These young women are raising families and they are looking for flesh and blood women who have “been there, done that” to walk beside them and give them guidance. Unfortunately, they are coming up short.

Titus 2 mentoring is not optional. Ladies, this is part of our calling.

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It does not need to take place in a classroom. It can take place in your home, in the car, as you grab a coffee or run an errand. You just need to be available, and willing to answer questions and offer suggestions when asked. This is not rocket science. And there is a reason that this needs to be done: so that God’s word will not be maligned. Maligning someone is saying something evil about them–not necessarily a lie, just something wicked.

What do you need to be a mentor?

1. The desire to be obedient.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.

 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands,

so that no one will malign the word of God.

2. A good testimony reverent in the way they live- this means you take seriously the commands of scripture and you live in a way that is Christ-like. You aren’t perfect, but you are sold out to Christ, dedicated and striving to do right. You are literally his servant, doing His will and not your own. (and by the way, when you blow it, you make restoration, for the sake of your own testimony and for the sake of Christ.)

3. Time- it takes time. Just do it.

4. Grace, humility, meekness- You don’t have all the answers and maybe you have done things wrong. Be honest and transparent with your sisters in Christ. Apart from grace, you would be nothing. And without humility, you are nothing, and God resists you. You received with meekness the engrafted word which was able to save your souls, and now you teach with meekness and instruct from the posture of humility.

Older ladies, don’t be afraid.

If God puts a younger mother in your path, help her!

For extra reading on the subject of Titus Two mentoring, may I suggest these that I have found the most helpful?

Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women by Susan Hunt.

Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney

Part Two:Where Are The Titus 2 Women? 

We Are All Stinky Sheep

Today, I am excited to have my friend Crystal Joos guest posting. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Crystal a few weeks back while we were on vacation, and we had an enjoyable chat about children, homeschooling, and ministry. I know you’ll be blessed!

Crystal and her husband Taigen

The twins

 

Stinky Sheep

This past week our children attended the Vacation Bible School that our church was hosting. It was a busy but wonderful week. During the closing assembly one day, I noticed that my daughter looked like she had been crying. I probed her about it when we got home and it came out that she had been struggling in her heart towards another child who was visiting that week. Apparently over the course of the first few days his actions had frustrated her. As I talked with her, trying to guide her in thinking biblically, she asked me, “What do you do with someone like that?”

We’re All Just Stinky Sheep

My husband and I weren’t in the ministry very long when we heard a quote that really helped us in how we look at people. Some wise person said, “If you don’t like the smell of sheep, then don’t become a shepherd.”  It was a good sound-bite for us to tuck away, but from that we came up with a phrase that we would often say to each other as a helpful reminder: “We’re all just stinky sheep.”

God’s Word compares us often to stinky sheep. Isaiah 53:6a is probably the most familiar of examples, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” Jeremiah 50:6 says that we are all “lost sheep.” I Peter 2:25a states, “For ye were as sheep going astray.” I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to call someone else a stinky sheep.  However, if I take another look at these passages, I see words like “all” or “everyone.” Those are all-inclusive words. I am not exempt.

Don’t Look Further Than the Mirror

When I am dealing with a particularly frustrating person, it is always good for me to take the mirror of God’s Word (James 1:22-25) and remind myself of my own “stinkiness.”  Do I really think I am less frustrating or irritating than someone else? Am I suddenly perfect? Romans 12: 3 says, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think [of himself] more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” No doubt, at different points in my life there have been people who have put up with my own fleshly stench.  And yet, they have been longsuffering, as Christ commanded in Ephesians 4:2, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” There is a reason why Jesus Christ is my Good Shepherd. It’s because I, myself, am a stinky sheep. I need Him now more than ever.

Sheep Need the Shepherd’s Guidance

While this helps me in dealing with my attitude towards others, I need to keep in mind that God is holy. My husband and I often tell our children that we love them too much to let them continue in sin. Just because we have two “stinky sheep” in our house (or maybe I should say four) doesn’t mean we let them continue pursuing sinful things just because we are sinful too (Rom. 6:1-2). There are times for confrontations. Those times happen often in ministry too, and are never easy. We are to be gently but firmly pointing others to God’s Word, and guiding them toward Christlikeness. Remember, Christ Himself was moved with compassion and began to teach the people (Mk.6:34) who were like sheep without a shepherd.

God has been ever so gracious to me.  I have failed Him so many times and yet He is always ready and willing to forgive. While it’s never easy to work with certain frustrating people that come along our path in life, what I reminded my daughter of this past week is something I need to remind myself of often: “Be patient. Be loving. After all, we’re ALL just stinky sheep in need of the help of the Good Shepherd.”

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Crystal Joos  grew up out west in Longmont, Colorado. She trusted Christ in junior  high school and acknowledged Him as her Lord and Savior. She and her husband Taigen have been in the ministry for eleven years in New England. They  co-labored with Ken & Judy Endean at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Scarborough, ME for seven years and have been serving at Heritage Baptist Church in Dover, NH for four. Crystal is a stay at home, home schooling mother to their seven year old twins, Marshall and Shaylen. She loves participating in the  church music program and ladies’ ministries. Her hobbies include listening to sacred and classical music, reading good books, crafting … all while drinking a good cup of coffee.

You can visit their church website  here: www.hbcdover.com

“New Apps”: New Appropriates for Women

Sarah Hudson is guest posting today. She is an “IRL” friend (in real life),  a missionary wife and fellow home schooling mother. (She is also one of the most hospitable people I know, and I am always amazed at how she serves others through hospitality.)

When the kids were little, we approached the topic of modesty with the term “appropriate.“  What a child wears to climb a tree would certainly be different from what she would wear to church on Sunday.  The difference is not mandated merely by “right” and “wrong” attire, but also by an over-riding principle of appropriateness.  Certainly, there are times that clothing choices could bump into the walls of “right” and “wrong,” but for the most part, our battles fell under the broader lines of appropriate dress.

As I have matured in my parenting and my personal walk with God, I have realized how much of our communication also falls into this description of appropriateness.  Certainly, God instructs us about “right” and “wrong” speech.  However, for the most part, our battles fall into the broader lines of appropriateness.

In my simplistic rather non-techy mind, I categorize speech patterns as “New Apps” for women of wisdom.   These are the new appropriates that direct our speech.

First, we must clarify that the Bible itself warns that no person can tame the tongue.  “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)  We can never meet God’s standards of appropriate speech through our self-determined efforts.  Only through the righteousness of Christ are we able to use our tongues in a Christ-pleasing, appropriate way.  He stands willing to forgive and also to enable us to have speech that is a life-giving well from those who draw from it (Prov.  10:11).

New Apps

As a mom, the tendency of my everyday speech is corrective, corrective, corrective.  I notice various areas in my children’s character that need change.  I am often magnetic to “corrective” speech.  Perhaps I even take time to speak encouragement when a problem area is improved.  However, my speech is often so focused on problem solving that I neglect the caring, loving exchange that offers a reminder of the sweet relationship I share with my children.  I can train our golden retriever with instructive words and praise, but that does not mean that our hearts connect on a relational level.  I would simply have a well-trained dog.  I can treat my children as well-trained robots, but miss the relationship because of my focus on law and behavior.  How different this is from the way my heavenly Father speaks to me.  He gently instructs my heart regarding change, but He speaks peace and love and security to me.  Appropriate speech is not merely focused on correction, but on a loving relationship.  This “new app” includes kindness, edification, gratitude and love (Eph. 4:29, 32; Prov. 15:4; Eph. 4:15)

My kids enjoy the iphone game app called “Angry Birds.”  Perhaps on a phone, this is great fun.  However, this is not an app that I recommend as part of our Christian speech.  It is not purely what we say, but when and how we say it, that marks appropriate and wise communication. 

When do we speak the truth in love—-in an angry moment? 

How do we speak the truth—-in sarcasm?  

About a year ago, our family got a good laugh about the blond who went into a library and ordered a large fry and a cheeseburger.  When the librarian told her in a hushed voice that it was a library, she merely repeated her order in a whisper.  As women of wisdom, we must not only apply the appropriate “what” of our speech, but also the appropriate “how.” 

  • Sometimes we err quite easily on the “TMI” (too much information) side.
  • Sometimes we allow creeping overtones of bitterness or disappointment to crowd out edification.
  • Sometimes we speak with condemnation instead of grace.
  • Sometimes we succumb to the temptation to post proud comments on Facebook or cutting comments via texting.
  • Sometimes we sidestep clear Biblical instruction to be thankful and rejoice because we feel that we are the exception in our stressful circumstances (Phil. 4:4, 1 Thess. 5:16-18).

As people consider my speech, I hope I am known for my apps.

May I be known as a woman:

  • apt to encourage,
  • apt to praise the Lord,
  • apt to give thanks, and
  • apt to share the gospel.

May my speech be marked by appropriateness in correction and in confrontation.   The woman of wisdom will be equipped with “new apps” that may not make new connections on her cell phone, but will hopefully connect beautifully with those her life may touch.

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Sarah grew up in rural Ohio, where her family came to know Christ as Savior.  She and her husband Todd have served in Christian ministry in Des Moines, Iowa; Cameroon, West Africa; and Concord, NH.  They have spent the last 14 years planting a Bible church in Vienna, Austria.  Sarah invests her time home-schooling her 4 children, as well as teaching ladies Bible studies and children’s ministry.
Linked to Courtney

A Wise Woman is Word-Filled

Brrrring.

“Hello?”

“Hi. Do you have a minute? I just wanted to pick your brain about something I’ve been struggling with.”

When someone calls you for help, do you counsel from the Word?

Are you prepared to answer life’s questions biblically?

We have already addressed knowing when it is appropriate to offer advice here. My friend, Anne, just wrote today about offering a listening ear and just being there. here

But when someone comes to you specifically for advice, are you tempted to meet their “felt needs” instead of lovingly telling them what scripture says?

I had a situation like this this past week. A friend called specifically for some advice, and after listening, I told  her what I would do according to what scripture teaches. She called me knowing that I would tell her truthfully what I thought.  These are the friendships that matter. Where each person is teachable and dependent on the other to “set her straight in love” if she thinks she is going to do something that dishonors the Lord.

How can you be a word- filled friend/parent/ mentor?

Here are five ways:

1. Spend lots of time in the Word. 

Read it every day. Morning and evening. Psalm 119 tells us that the psalmist valued God’s law so highly that he delighted in it, (16) sought it with his whole heart (10) and stored it up in his heart (11).

Have you ever seen or heard of the TV show “Hoarders?” These people are practically buried and smothered under the junk that they value. The psalmist, on the other hand “stores up” or “hoards” God’s word in his heart. Why? So that he will not sin.

He delights in God’s word. What is delightful to you? What captures your attention?

2. Read the whole Bible.

Your view of God will be distorted if you do not read all of  scripture. For instance, if you only read the Psalms and Proverbs, and some of your favorite NT books,  and never read  a book like Leviticus, you may miss out on the focus of this book, which is the holiness of God. Your view of God will then be skewed, not knowing that God does care about how we worship and live.

3. Meditate on the Word.

Reading is great, but if it doesn’t change your life, it really is useless.

We read to DO. Obedience is really not optional for a child of God. We are his servants, doing His will, yet we sometimes think that we can pick and choose what we feel like doing. Not so. Meditating on God’s word can be as simple as writing what you have learned on a 3X5 card and carrying it with you until you master it. Are you struggling with lashing out at others with your tongue? Write out a verse as reminder, and carry it with you until it changes you. It could be a week. It could be a month, or longer. But meditating cements it into your mind. God says ______ about my unruly tongue. I must agree with God, and change.

Spurgeon noticed this problem in his day as well. In a sermon discussing the need for meditation on scripture and not just mere reading he wrote:

“The eye glances but the mind never rests. The soul does not light upon the truth and stay there. It flits over the landscape as a bird might do, but it builds no nest there, and finds no rest for the sole of its foot.

4. Read as if your life depends on it. It does. here

When trouble comes, you will stand or fall depending on how you view scripture.  It comes down to our obedience. Are we just casual  hearers? Or are we hearers and do-ers. Meaning, are we letting it go in one ear and out the other, or are we actually heeding it. Are we obedient? If not, why not?  John 14:15- If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

5. Memorize the Word.

Why? Because when you don’t know what to do, God’s word will ring through your memory guiding you. It will encourage you as you recall promise after promise given in scripture. It will correct your wrong thinking with the truth. When you are afraid, it will comfort you. When you are lonely, it will console you. The Psalmist memorized so that he would not sin against God.  He feared offending a holy God.

I used an object lesson last week in my teen girls class to help them learn to be word filled. Everyone’s favorite candy: m&m’s.

Yes, I brought in a big bag and held them up. I told them that each time they see or eat m&m’s they should think about these “m’s”

1. Memorize the passage.

2. Meditate on the passage.

3. Master the passage. Meaning meditate until it changes you.

Does this post seem just so basic? Sometimes the basics are what we really need.

What ways have you found helpful to fill your mind with God’s word?

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Linked to Courtney

A Wise Woman Is Approachable

We are talking about ways to effectively mentor the next generation of younger women. Many of you said that one reason you would not seek counsel from an older woman was if she was unfriendly or unapproachable. You mentioned that you tend to  shy away from women who are moody because you “never know what you are getting into.” I totally agree.

This is why we need to be approachable and consistently so.

Approachability is a social grace that includes gentle, wise speech, a calm, peaceful, caring demeanor and the ability to make another feel at ease.

The opposite would be a harshness with dealing with others, critical or unwise use of the tongue, and a too -busy “whirlwind” personality that left others feeling exhausted and frazzled by your disorganized, frantic presence.

Three ways to seem Unapproachable.

1. Appear to be always busy.

We are all busy. We have more modern conveniences than women in any other time period and yet we are still busy.

Taking time to mentor is a sacrifice of love and time. And if you are a mom of little ones, you know that despite your best attempts at organizing your day and being efficient in your routines, the bottom line is that sometimes your kids just need you right now! So you drop your well laid out plans and just tend to the needs of that one.

Jesus teaches his followers to be careful not to allow crowds, packed schedules and busyness to get in the way of people who truly need help. They are what’s important. You’ll always have something that needs immediate urgent attention. That’s life! But ask God to give you discernment so that you don’t ignore sincere cries for help. Ask Him, “How would You want me to treat this person.” – Elizabeth George

Hebrews 4:16 tells us that  we should come boldly before to the throne of grace , that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in our time of need. Our Lord is approachable. Even in Christ’s busy moments, he had time for the “one.” Remember when He was preaching to the crowd in a packed house, and just one more person wanted his help. So his friends tore into the roof and lowered the poor guy down for healing? Jesus, stopped and healed this man.

2. Be Moody

If you have ever had a moody person in your life, you know that the safest recourse is the old “quick wave and “hello,” and keep on walking”, because you really don’t have the time to deal with that kind of drama, nor do you want to hear an earful about their latest bee’s nest with someone else. You really don’t have time to decipher whether they are in a good mood or bad today, and after long dealings with a moody person, unfortunately you no longer care to know which mode they are in. You have bigger things to do.

When my kids were little, I would tell them that there are two kinds of people in the world: A “Here I Am” person or a “There You Are” person. The first is self centered; the second is others focused. A moody person cannot “see past the end of their own nose,” as my father use to say.

If people never know how you’ll be from day to day, they will not bother to get close to you. It is safer to be casual acquaintances.

On the other hand, a woman with a peaceful spirit, a contented and happy demeanor, and a predictably kind reputation makes a woman approachable.

 3. Keep an arms length distance from people of different races, economic classes or physical abilities.

Do people of all races, classes and economic backgrounds know that you will be kind and loving to them if they approach you?

Look around at your list of friends and see how diverse it is. Do you make those with physical handicaps feel welcome? Do you treat the rich differently than you treat the poor?

I have to tell you that I have never experienced discrimination in my whole life. It is hard to imagine that it does exists if you have never felt it’s pain. I have witnessed it, though, because of some of my friends.  My son’s best friend is black. When I take them out and about, people DO look at and treat his friend differently. Some of my best friends are black. We have handicapped friends and family. And we are intimately acquainted with the poor. I hope we judge people based on their character and not on their physical appearance.

We see many examples in scripture of Christ loving, talking to and touching the social outcasts of his day. He even touched a leper to heal him, an act that shows his compassion. He could have spoken the leprosy away. But perhaps that leper had been treated like a trash because of his disease and Jesus knew that his touch would not only heal his body but a part of his soul.

Words like “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” show the approachability and willingness to help anyone attitude of Christ.

What other qualities make women seem approachable to you?