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Every time I post a blog about something that is close to my heart, I get a little nervous, a little hesitant. But it is usually those that tend to get noticed, and it is those blog posts that tend to affect people the most. I wanted to tackle the subject of women in leadership or women in ministry for quite some time, but was unsure of how to go about it. I know that this issue could be explored from lots of different angles, but I am going to begin with my heart and my own personal experience, maybe opening up many more blog topics to come. I just hope this opens up some honest discussion on the topic in your homes, in your churches, with your daughters and your sons.

I am a woman. I now can finally admit that I am a woman with leadership gifts. My journey to this discovery has been a long one and is still being unearthed in my life. As a young girl, I always wanted to do the right thing. I was extremely sensitive to the cues of others, and still am. I have always craved significance, the chance to make a difference in the world. When I was 5, I wanted to become an actress. That was the most significant job I could imagine because millions would see you on screen. I scoffed at my best friend who wanted to become a teacher. I thought, why would you become a teacher when you could become an actress? Ironically, I later became a teacher.

When I took the DISC profile in high school it didn’t make sense to me. I tested as a person with a little of each personality. This result made me feel hopelessly confused. I secretly envied people who could be “D’s” or driven people and get away with it, Later, I realized I was indeed a “D” but was hiding it under layers of what I thought I should be.

I would have loved to have majored in philosophy and religion in college, but I reasoned, what good would that do me? Unless I specifically planned to marry a pastor, what would I possibly do with a philosophy and religion degree? At that point, I didn’t even know if I would ever marry. I needed something practical that would make an income for me on my own. The only thing I knew was the classroom and the church. I preferred the church, but found greater opportunities in the classroom. The highest calling I could practically see for myself was as a school administrator, maybe even a school planter, planting schools across the country. I knew that I had too much vision for just one school.

Even in college, I was still not sure where I stood on the question of whether women could have unlimited leadership roles in the church. Still, as I found myself growing up, I found that unless I completely masked the person I was becoming, I needed it to be okay for women to lead in the church. I was becoming such a leader and it was a bit scary. I was not being drawn away from the church, but toward the church.

When you are called to be a leader you sense a burden that you cannot push aside. You sense this burden whether or not you have a husband who is a leader. You have a kind of creative energy that you cannot quench. You need to find an outlet or you feel like shriveling up. As the prophet Jeremiah said, it is like a fire shut up in your bones. Even as I describe it now, I think of the other women that must be out there, like me, trying to contain their fire because it just doesn’t seem appropriate to their surroundings.

A lot of assumptions are made according to gender– so many that we don’t even notice. Who do we ask to run sound at church? A man. Who do we ask to watch kids? A woman. Who do we assume is the church gossip? A woman. Who do we assume is the church visionary? A man. Women box women in as much as men do. It is our culture, it’s how we were taught. Therefore, a woman with a strong leadership gifting thinks that she must be losing her mind or have some kind of Jezebel spirit. Isn’t it interesting that the Jezebel spirit is so much more popularly identified than the Absalom spirit, which is really the same kind of thing? It’s just that we tend to view women with more skepticism, especially those with leadership abilities.

All I want to do here is to raise your awareness, men, of the obstacles that women have to overcome in order to lead. Not all women desire this, but the ones that do have many obstacles indeed, though they are becoming fewer as time marches on. I also want to raise awareness in women that you may be holding back parts of yourself only because you were brought up to believe it could not be so.

You see, everyone expected my husband to become a leader, so he ran the other way for a while. (That’s a topic for another day.) No one expected me to become a leader, at least not as significant as I wanted to be, and certainly not a leader of that type in the church. Therefore, it took me a long time to figure out that it was okay to have those kinds of desires. Thank God I have a husband who could encourage me through all this!

I know some wonderful gentlemen that believe in their heads that women should not have leadership roles in the church. They see it more as an intellectual discussion, not one that really affects the women they know and love. I honestly don’t think you realize what you are doing to us. You don’t realize how many “would be” leaders are in your midst. Even for men who do believe in women as church leaders, I think you honestly don’t see the roadblocks that are often set against female leaders, all because it’s our culture. It’s what comes naturally.

Well-manored minority ethnic people try not to talk about the impact of the ethnic differences that affect them because they do not want to make every conversation about these differences. They want to hope for the best. They want to assume that they were not chosen because someone else was more qualified. Women do the same thing. We don’t say anything because we are happy for the men in our lives who get promoted over us. We don’t want to be the squeaky wheel if he gets paid more. We are asked to serve in children’s ministry, so we do, even if we want to do more.

Even in mere everyday conversations, we downplay ourselves. We downplay our own abilities. We ask too many questions. We make too few confident statements. We need help finding our voice. Men, we need you to see us for who we are. We need you to draw us out. We have been operating with a handicap that you have not. We are on your teams, in your offices, in your homes and we cannot seem to unlock our fullest potential. Do not fear us– we are your friends. If you can help awaken this potential in us, we may become your most powerful allies. Coach us, make time for us, tell us what you see. Don’t allow us to hide behind your backs. Don’t allow us to perceive that manipulation is our only source of power. Challenge us to challenge you.

Together we can become better as a whole. Men and women are necessary to make the world go round. Businesses are discovering it, governments are waking up to it. The church cannot afford to waste time in developing our young girls and women for the advancement of the kingdom cause!

In my next blog (part 2), I will briefly address some of the Biblical basis for the equality of men and women.



Can men and women really sustain meaningful, but unromantic, friendships?

This is a complex cultural question that has evolved quite a bit over the years. I used to answer this question with an abrupt, “no.” My experience told me that each time I attempted this, something went awry. But as we know, experience can be a contradictory teacher. When I intellectually consider this question, it brings to mind a number of quasi-cultural questions of morality such as, “Can people drink alcohol without getting drunk?” For an alcoholic, the answer may be no. For others the answer may be yes. I believe that some people are able to handle such relationships, keeping in mind that we are all capable of stumbling in any way.

It used to be that women were not as educated as men and that they did not hold similar occupations. There used to be very little reason for men and women to interact because their positions were not shared or equal. Things are quite different now. Women are now more likely to hold college degrees and have just as much access to knowledge and expertise as men. They are able to hold more and more positions of authority. Therefore, friendships between men and women become not only more and more acceptable, but more and more necessary. They become necessary for team building, for healthy communication, and for personal emotional stability.

As usual, the church as a whole can be reluctant to change longstanding cultural traditions that say we should not develop opposite sex friendships. People who develop healthy platonic friendships can be accused of having wrong motives or engaging in questionable activity.

I think that much of our fears stem from the way we are taught by our culture to engage in relationship with members of the opposite sex. From the time kids are young, they are conditioned to become preoccupied with finding a mate. Subtle and not so subtle media messages reinforce the idea that the main reason to hang with someone of the opposite sex is to find out whether or not we are “in love.” We have not been taught how to treat our brothers and sisters, which make up the majority of our real, everyday relationships. Yes, we know we are supposed to love them, but just how? Are we supposed to love them in an ethereal general sense, like I love all the people of the world? Love has to work in a real, everyday sense, or it’s just a concept. It has to play out in the real world with real people we know. This is why, for many of us, we fight an uphill battle of the pre-programming of our culture to consider something like this.

Our culture can make such a big deal of our sexual urges that people build their entire lives around them. Just because they find themselves attracted to someone sexually, even for a moment, so many people treat that feeling like the holy grail. They immediately think, “I guess I must be in love.” Or a person has such a feeling for someone of the same sex and suddenly conclude, “I must be homosexual.” We get all freaked out about our own physiology. It’s as ludicrous as thinking, “Man, my head hurts and I have no idea why. I guess I may as well put a bullet in it because it probably won’t go away.” Sexual urges do go away if they are not entertained. Their existence is no license to screw up your life.

On the flip side, we get married on that feeling of attraction and then later in life we say, “I just don’t love you anymore.” That statement is a complete oxymoron. If you really love someone unconditionally, you don’t simply stop loving them. Such statements prove the error in the way we think about romantic relationships. You can choose to love. You can choose to think of someone in romantic way or to think of someone in a friendly way. The emotions come as a result of such choices. Emotions that come as a result of choice are just as real as those that seem to be stumbled upon. It is just that when you love by choice, the choice makes sense. The choice is tempered by wisdom, therefore it stands the test of time. The choice can be made at any point in a relationship and it can transform a relationship.

From the start of any relationship, we can teach ourselves to think more of the needs of the other above our own. That is a great place to start. You cannot engage in lust if you are truly loving another person. As I explained in my blog on passion vs. lust, lust by definition is a selfish activity that begins in the mind. I am treating my spouse in a loving way if I direct my romantic feelings toward him. I am treating a friend in a loving way if I refrain from doing so. Both actions preserve the quality of each type of relationship.

There is no need to fear opposite sex friendships, which can be quite rewarding. However, if you’re going to engage in such relationships, you must make some choices. You and your friend must have a clear mutual understanding of the nature of your relationship. It cannot work if the waters are muddy in this regard. Safeguards and guidelines may be necessary. Each person and relationship will be different.

I am not saying that male/female friendships are always a necessity. Generations and cultures have got along fine without them. But I do know that that male/female friendships do exist in heaven as they do on earth. We may as well attempt to learn to love well while we’re doing time on earth. Maybe the question we will ask in heaven is not, “Can we be friends?” but, “Why couldn’t we?” Anything we do from a heart of unconditional love, regardless of gender, is something that will count forever.

On my recent trip to California, I was talking with a friend, Byron Easterling, and something he said stuck with me. (By the way, check out his insightful book, “Dream Big, Dream Often.”) We were talking about artists and leaders and he commented about the possibility that there is a new breed of artists coming that are also called to be leaders. It got me thinking about how leadership and artistry always used to be portrayed at polar opposites. The values of the artist and the leader were on opposite ends of the spectrum. There seemed to be constant frustration between the two. But it seems that nowadays the kind of leadership that is being sought and rewarded is the type of leadership that is creative in nature, that is true artistry. Maybe we should replace the value laden term “artist” and use something like “designer.” Regardless of the terminology, it seems that there are more and more leaders seeking creative abilities and that there are more and more creators seeking leadership skills.

My husband and I are prime examples of this. Most of his life my husband, a missionary/pastor’s kid, has been expected to be a leader, particularly a leader in the church. Leadership skills were engrained in him so much that he often took them for granted. (On a side note, you ever noticed how many pastor’s kids end up becoming musicians?) I, on the other hand, a recording engineer/producer/musician’s daughter and valley girl from LA, have been expected to be an artist, a performer, a creator. I took the arts for granted, along with all the creative training I received. So naturally, my husband has sought out opportunities to be creative, and I have sought out opportunities to lead. After years of thinking that we are hopelessly confused, we are coming to realize we can have both– that we can be both leaders and artists in the same breath. We are designers. But we lead differently, not better or worse, just differently. We lead by design, even using our artistic expressions as a leadership tool. And I know that there are many others like us out there. You may be one too.

I believe that God is raising up more and more “designers” or “artist-leaders” in the church. I’ll refer to it as a Solomon anointing. I have heard Bill Johnson prophesy that in coming days we will see a rise in interest over the life of Solomon. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived but, as Johnson points out, his wisdom was not a heady type of wisdom, void of passion and emotion. Rather, he expressed his wisdom through amazing arts and craftsmanship. He was uniquely equipped to guide and communicate effectively with other artists as well as with other leaders. He had an artistic vision and knew how to inspire and collaborate with others to make amazing things happen. So much so, that the Queen of Sheba was blown away by how he set the table!

Back to 2012, have you noticed that this is the greatest year of opportunity yet for artists? Current technology has allowed us greater and greater opportunities to express ourselves. The days when you can be an artist and avoid being an entrepreneur are coming to a close. These days, you’ve got to have great strategy and great business sense as well as amazing work. Because everyone now has more opportunity, there is just too much of a competitive edge for you to skimp on leadership skills. Conversely, in our pluralistic society, there is more and more of a need for leaders who understand culture, the arts, and how to speak the language of our arts-driven, opinionated, and technologically sophisticated society. Gone are the days when your message will get through without employing some amazingly creative tactics. Gone are the days when title and position is enough.

You may consider yourself an Artistic Leader, or you may be more of a Leading Artist. Together, we need the Solomon anointing of an unparalleled wisdom and understanding into many realms. We need to be skilled. We need to be inspiring. We need to recognize the treasure in others and to pull it out of them. Who knows where your following lies? Who knows the people who are searching for your leadership or your expression? You won’t know until after you step out to lead, to create. The wisdom you need is available now. All you need to do is ask. (James 1:5)

I have been a follower of Jesus for as long as I can remember. And I have always been mystified by pursuit of the “will of God” for my life. I would hear questions like, “Are you sure that you are in the will of God?” Then I would become paralyzed by every little detail of what God wants me to do every moment of every day. Should I wear this? Should I make those plans? It was as though I could accidentally be out of the will of God my entire life and not even know it. Then when I got to heaven, God would reveal his secret “perfect will” and I would be like a novice magician finally learning the tricks of the trade. I had this fear that I might be living some second-rate lifestyle instead of the life God truly intended for me to live.

Since then, I have come to wonder if God’s will isn’t more descriptive than it is prescriptive. If life is like a dance, God is not sitting up in heaven as the judge of the dance, taking notes and subtracting points for missteps. Instead, he is the dance partner, the one who is right there on the dance floor with us. When people watch a dance, they don’t come away from it inspired by merely the precision of the footwork. An excellent performance is achieved when people come away from it with the heart and soul of the music. The dancers demonstrate an expression of their who they are. They let their souls be revealed through the music. Two individuals come together and move as one, each bringing something different, something beautiful to the experience. I believe God cares more about what music we are dancing to and what partner we are dancing with, than each individual step we take.

Here are some hints God gives us throughout the Bible on his will for us, his children:

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:15 NIV)

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)

When I seek out the will of God, I consider his ways. I consider his Word. I consider his work in my life in the past. I consider his true nature, what I know to be true about him. With my life, I want to express who he is, but in a way that also takes into account who he created me to be. It is not his will for me to “disappear” on the dance floor, but to complement him, to express what is on his heart so that the world will see his glory displayed in me. So, discovering the specific will of God for my life looks more like a continual pursuit of who God really is.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)

We will have our minds transformed and then test and approve what God’s will is. As we walk with God, we will become so accustomed to who he is, that we will “try on” every decision to see if it fits with the character and nature of God. As our minds are renewed, nothing will make sense or feel quite right apart from the will of God.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20, 21 NIV)

This scripture states that he will “work in us what is pleasing to him.” The weight of the burden of figuring it all out is on the Lord. Only he knows our true destiny. Only he knows what he needs to do in us to accomplish it. What he asks of us is that we eagerly pursue a greater and deeper knowledge of who he is. His nature is not worry or fear, so why should we fret over having the will of God all figured out? To paraphrase Graham Cooke, our job is to take care of the relationship. It is his job is to take care of the results.

What is God trying to teach you about his nature right now?

One study of the biographies of 1004 eminent people found homosexual and bisexual people overrepresented (11 percent of the sample), especially among poets (24 percent), fiction writers (21 percent), and artists and musicians (15 percent) (Ludwig, 1995).

When I read this statistic, I was not surprised, but more impassioned than ever to my commitment to drawing and nurturing artists in the church. There is a small, but growing percentage of those who practice homosexuality in our society. It is easy to prove to Bible believing Christians that homosexuality is prohibited in scripture, but effecting our culture to curb the tide of homosexual practice is more complicated.

I remember when musician and worship songwriter, Dennis Jernigan, visited our college to share his testimony which included redemption from a perilous homosexual lifestyle. I can’t help but think his story is similar to many others who find themselves facing such temptations. Raised in a Christian home, his father was a very traditional masculine man who had very little understanding or appreciation for his son’s artistic bent and sensitive nature. Over time, unable to gain his father’s approval, as all children need from fathers, he rebelled from the very core of who his father was in an effort to find his identity. The bitterness was so great toward his father that he resented any heterosexual masculinity that remained in him, identifying with others who felt ostracized by society as he did: the homosexual culture. Thankfully, God has since freed him of this lifestyle to become a fully redeemed husband and father. I believe Dennis’ story is typical of many homosexual men. I have known a few Christian friends who have succumbed to the deception of homosexuality and their stories relay this similar kind of brokenness and confusion.

In “The Leadership of the Sexes,” Michael Gurian spells out the fascinating science behind real brain differences between men and women. Contrary to some popular belief, there are real brain differences between the sexes. There is no “third sex” of any kind in the ways our brains are wired. However, there are those who think and behave differently from the usual male or female ways of thinking and behaving. There are kids who feel that something must be wrong with them because they don’t quite fit in with the other girls or the other boys. Our sex-crazed society has been quick to teach children to question their sexuality by exploring sexual options. As Christians we know that God finds sex between a husband and wife as the only “sexual option.” Science backs up the Judeo-Christian view with the dangerous physical and psychological risks that are associated with people who deviate from God’s one option. What Michael Gurian has found is that there is a distinctly “male brain” a distinctly “female brain,” but that there is also a whole range along the spectrum between where we fall on the male/female brain grid. There is the “bridge brain” which is either a male who has some more middle of the road tendencies (between the male and female brain) in his brain or a female who also has more middle of the road tendencies in her brain. The scientists are not saying that males ever convert to think totally like females or vice versa, just that there are those women who think less like the typical woman and men who think less like the typical man.

I will venture to hypothesize that it is these “bridge brained” people who tend to question their sexuality the most, especially when hurt or confused. Many of these types of people are artists of all types. The individualistic and non-conformist artist lifestyle lends itself well to being a little outside the norm. For example, women tend to have a more highly developed corpus collosum, or brain connector that helps each side of the brain talk back and forth. This connector is stronger in musicians so that you find men who are musicians better able to perform tasks that women typically dominate. A man who has a bridge brain may feel the need to express emotion more readily, which triggers uncomfortable stress hormones in the typical male brain. The bridge brained woman may excel at leadership or advanced technical thinking, and may feel ostracized by women who do not understand. These bridged brained women and men are not created homosexual. If they were, the homosexual lifestyle would pose no special health risks. Rather, they are made by God with unique gifts, challenges, and advantages that differ from those of their peers. The lifestyle of the artist tends to provide a culturally acceptable way for those who need to express their unique identity.

So what does this mean for those of us in the church? We must be a safe haven for those who are different from the norm. In our families, we must be careful not to operate out of fear of our children becoming gay, that we force them into an artificial gender mold we have created for them. My daughter should have the freedom to be as girly or as sporty or as intelligent or as bold as God has created her to be. Likewise, my sons should be allowed to pretend to shoot things as well as to freely express and discuss their feelings as much as they like. I, as a parent, refuse to mold my kids into my narrow view of what they should or should not be. I provide a compass of moral value laid out in scripture, but I allow them the room to interpret God’s purpose for their lives.

In our churches, we must do the same. We must open our arms wide to those we do not understand, seeking to see from their perspective, and even identify with their pain. We must father and mother those who were never taught that there is room in God’s plan for many various individual expressions of masculinity and femininity. We must be intentional in drawing and cultivating artistic talent from outside and from within. If these bridge brained people have a place to shine within church culture, they will not need to look outside the church for validation, to the world that lies to them about who they are. Homosexuals also tend to be very gifted, intelligent, and wealthy people. This means that if we do not grapple with the intelligent questions they ask, providing them with only trite answers, we will lose our brightest minds. We will even be losing out on the the potential of healthy families and the wonderful children that may result. We will lose some of them tragically to AIDS. If we can’t find a place for their expressions in the church, we will lose their bodies, their souls, and their spirit.

We need those who are currently lost to homosexuality back in the church. We need a vision of seeing these people actively creating, communicating, and expressing the gospel to those who need it most. Business leaders of our day are capitalizing on them. The culture of the day is winning their hearts. If all we do is call their lifestyle wrong, we are only widening the rift between us. First, we need to value them as real individuals, as people. With a spirit of love we pray to God for the wisdom to help them find the truth about the identity and purpose God has for them. This issue is only going to intensify in the days ahead and the sooner we take the time to look at the complexities of the issue, the better prepared we will be to reap the harvest of these precious ones.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30 NIV84)