Archive for the ‘Leadership Development’ Category

20130201-053410.jpg

Stubbornness. It is a word that is laden with meaning that is unique to each person. Most of the time when we describe someone as stubborn, there is a negative connotation to it. Tenacity is the more positive counterpart to stubbornness. I’ll venture to guess that many great leaders throughout history have been described as stubborn by their opponents and tenacious by their proponents.

I have been called both stubborn and tenacious and I have wondered what it means, what to do with this information about myself. I have also known other leader-type people who struggled with this sense of stubbornness/tenacity, like me, not knowing quite what to do with themselves. So, I wanted to explore the difference between the obstinate type of stubborn and the good tenacious brand of stubbornness. When is it good to hang on and when is it good to let go? Especially in the realm of leadership, and especially we who are women in leadership, we need to know the difference. We cannot allow even well meaning people to keep us down, but we cannot be pigheaded and set in our ways, or we will be stunted in our personal growth.

One key to navigating this stuff is first in knowing where your personal power/influence begins and ends. We have to be willing to allow another person to affect us. Bad stubbornness builds an impenetrable wall to protect ourselves from being affected by people. Obstinate people shut down when they don’t win, rather than opening up and learning something from the whole experience. They use the silent treatment; they resort to punishing others. Obstinate people think that they can exert unearned, illegitimate power over others. So often they do not even recognize the state that they are in. That is why if you respectfully disagree with an obstinate person, they may only accuse you of being stubborn.

When we dig our heels in on issues where we have no or very little clarity of thought and are unwilling to explore the issue further, those are also seeds of obstinance. Sometimes we don’t know why we do this. If we are constantly drawing a line in the sand and vowing never to change even though we have no reasoning to back it up, we need to take a look at some of the deeper causes of our behaviors. Are we acting this way because of how we were made to feel as a kid or because we feel powerless and frightened inside? What are the underlying fears that cause us to behave the way that we do?

Tenacious people stick to their convictions, but they know the limits to how they can exercise these convictions within their spheres of influence. They are willing to reap the consequences of the decisions that they make. This trait is valuable to a leader because they can patiently stick with something they believe in and forge the path ahead of them with confidence. Their principles are in line with the way that they behave. It helps to be able to articulate these principles for others so that they can decide if this is the type of leadership they will be willing to follow.

Part of the reason we perceive people stubborn or tenacious is the fact that we all have different issues we think are important. We can label someone stubborn about something because an issue close to their heart is not something we think is worth fighting for. This is where I think we have to be careful about the stubborn label. A passionate person cannot impose his or her passion on another, but he or she has every right to express that passion respectfully and peacefully.

I cannot decide for you which issues are negligible and which mountains you should be willing to die on. I can try to influence you one way or another, but in the end it’s your life, your choices. Some people are born to give their lives to a cause, a belief, a way of life. Those people will display tenacity in areas where you may not.

How do you show tenacity? And how do you know the difference between tenacity and obstinance in your life?

Advertisements

20121210-223129.jpg

Here is an excerpt from a teaching at Resonate Church, Anchorage Alaska.

There are a lot of nice people in this world. These people have the ultimate goal of being nice in every situation. These people are not bad, but they can be unhealthy. no one would know it to look at them. They don’t have enemies. But one day a person like this will quit a job for no apparent reason, give up on a marriage, get mysterious diseases, or even commit suicide, literally dying from a disease called “Fear of Conflict.” I am not talking about a personality type. I am taking about a behavior that stems from something inside.

Being a peacemaker is different from being afraid of conflict. Being a peacemaker is actually a very courageous thing to do. Being a peacemaker is the act of reconciling two parties who were formerly enemies. Being a peacemaker is wisely helping people see common ground. Peacemakers thrive in the midst of conflict. In the midst of conflict is where their peacemaking skills can really shine. When we are afraid of conflict, we think we are keeping the peace, but it is really only peaceful on the surface. There could be a lethal storm brewing underneath. We are really just putting a bandaid on cancerous cells.

If you grew up in an abusive home, maybe the only thing you know is negative conflict, so you run as far from conflict as you can. Avoidance is your safety mechanism. But healthy families know how to argue, how to disagree, and how to come out on the other side with a deeper and more loving relationship than ever before.

I’m told there is a line in Jerry Maguire where Jerry says, “You think we’re arguing, I say we’re finally talking!”

Talking is healthy, sometimes even loud talking. A team, whether a church team, a family unit, a workplace team, a sports team, or a marriage is not a truly functional team unless it is able to embrace conflict.

For someone who has rarely or never experienced conflict in a healthy way, doing it can be scary. It can feel unnatural and even wrong. However, conflict can strengthen a relationship: in a marriage, a job, a church, almost anywhere.

Have you ever been really nervous about dealing with a conflict? Or have you ever expressed yourself honestly and then got the cold shoulder as a result? We all have. That is why we fear conflict. We aren’t the only ones. Some of our biblical heroes in the bible also ran from conflict.

Abraham feared conflict when he told the kings his wife was his sister. He was afraid that the kings would kill him to have her for themselves.

Aaron operated from a fear of conflict when he gave into the Israelites when they asked for an idol to worship, the golden calf. He didn’t have Moses strong leadership and he caved to the pressure of the complaining crowd.

Many kings listed in the Bible worshipped The Lord themselves, but they refused to eradicate the worship of false gods in their land. They feared that someone would be mad at them if they took a stand. Most probably, they too feared conflict.

In the New Testament, we find Peter running from conflict when he denies his association with Jesus. He was afraid they would crucify him right along with Jesus. This is the man who so confidently stated that even if everyone else deserted Jesus, surely he would not. He was wrong. The fear of conflict got the best of him.

Fear puts our imagination to work in a negative way. If we have experienced punishment for being honest, we will fear being honest again. I want you to walk away today turning your imagination toward conflict in a positive sense. Imagine conflict as a key to a door. It unlocks the door and on the other side of the door you can find new understanding of another person, new understanding of yourself, and new bonds of relationship forming. You cannot control how the other person will always react, but you can control how you treat them. You can experience the love of Jesus for another human being in a new way.

There were those heroes of our faith who were tempted to fear conflict like Esther and Gideon. Thankfully, these people did not linger in their fears, but they acted with courage. Each of them took a step toward the door of conflict, turned the key, and opened it. When they opened that door, scary though it was, they liberated themselves along with their entire nation. You never fully know how God is planning on using you. Don’t let a little conflict scare you away.

To deal with conflict we must believe core things. We must have these presuppositions about ourselves and about others.

1a: My thoughts and feelings are valid.
1b: The thoughts and feelings of my team member are valid.

I love this one scene from the TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond. It illustrates this point so well.

RAY BARONE : What? No! It was all fun. Come on, I told you, people thought that we did it on purpose.

DEBRA BARONE : I felt humiliated.

RAY BARONE : Don’t feel humiliated.

DEBRA BARONE : Don’t tell me how to feel.

RAY BARONE : But you’re wrong.

DEBRA BARONE : There’s no right or wrong, this is how I feel. You can not tell me not be humiliated, I just am.

RAY BARONE : Okay, all right, feel humiliated.

DEBRA BARONE : I don’t anymore.

RAY BARONE : Okay, all right…

DEBRA BARONE : Now I’m just angry. I mean I can’t believe – I can’t believe you – It’s bad enough what you did to me tonight, but you don’t even care how I feel about it. All you care about is how well you did, you laugh-whore

RAY BARONE : Maybe you should… go back to being humiliated.

Think about the Book of Psalms. God considered the feelings of the authors of those Psalms valid enough to put in the Bible. Some of those feelings were not nice. It’s okay. There is a gigantic book placed right in the middle of the Bible that tells us that feelings are okay to have. Some of you need permission to feel what you feel. It’s okay, God can be God and we can be people. People who have feelings.

2a: I have some knowledge or perspective that my teammate may need.
2b: My teammate has knowledge or perspective that I may need.

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22 NIV)

3: People can change.

Not only can people be transformed by Jesus, but people can change their perspective in any number of ways.

4: Engaging in conflict has the power to strengthen and improve our team performance.

Why do we risk engaging in conflict with those we love? Isn’t it because we believe that it will benefit our relationship? It is worth the effort to us. If we can just extend that circle out a bit and be willing to conflict with people in church instead of just leaving a church whenever conflict arises or just resorting to gossip, lets let it pull us together as a stronger, more productive unit.

5: After discussion, if we still disagree, it won’t ruin the relationship.
(In other words, I am confident that no one is seeking to destroy me. I am safe here.)

The reason conflict is so dreaded is that so few of us are really good at it. Let’s talk about bad conflict, what it looks like. Let’s use this description to distinguish from bad conflict.

Ugly Conflict:

Accusing
Controlling
Ordering
Focus on Impenetrable Differences
Belittling another’s value

Beautiful Conflict:

Admitting (“I” Statements)
Empowering (Letting the person have feelings and thoughts of their own.)
Asking (Drawing the other person out. Asking for clarification. Repeating what you hear.)
Focus on Common Ground (Coming up with creative solutions together.)
Reiterating the value of another (Telling or showing the person that your relationship with them matters to you.)

The point of conflict is not always that we agree.
The point of some conflict is that we are heard.

Made in the image of God, we are innately powerful. We have the power to affect others in a drastic way.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:5, 6 NIV)

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. (Proverbs 24:26 NIV)

I once had a situation in Church where I was co-leading a bible study with Jake and a young lady in our class made a comment about marriage. I was thinking about how to wrap up the discussion and made some more closing comments after she made hers. The comments I made had nothing to do with what she had just said, but she thought that I was implying something about her relationship with her husband. I was so happy when she came to me later admitting that the comments hurt her. When I explained that I had not intended the comments to be directed toward her in any way she was relieved. Most people would not have done this. They would have held it against me all because of a silly misunderstanding.

Our relationship is like a pearl inside a clam. The more that sand is irritated, the more conflict we are able to engage in and come through, the stronger our relationship becomes.

But when we conflict, we strive to engage in beautiful conflict. You cannot control another person’s reaction, but you can control your own. You can follow the rules of healthy conflict and watch your relationships flourish, watch your life and your team become more successful than you ever imagined!

Engage!

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Leadership Development, Spiritual Growth

20121126-131230.jpg

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and getting some input. I went to a conference, watched a documentary on people who are obsessed with Star Trek…. So I am trying to put all these thoughts together, to make sense of humankind– what we want and what we need as people.

About 5 years ago, I visited Alaska from Missouri and met Pastor David Pepper from Church on the Rock. After talking with us, he gave Jake and I a book called “Living Your Strengths.” In it is a code to take a test to tell you more about you. It is not the typical personality test, but rather it gives you your top 5 strengths (not your weaknesses, only your strengths) out of a list of 34 strengths. To give you an idea of some of the strengths, mine came out as: Maximizer, Strategic, Ideation, Activator, and Achiever. To know more about the individual strengths you can read the book or buy me lunch and I’ll tell you all about you.

Anyway, this test and the book proved slowly revolutionary for me. Our church leaders give this book out to almost everyone in our church, but I am amazed at the large numbers of people I meet who take the test and then promptly forget their strengths. Granted, maybe the fact that I am a Strategic Maximizer causes me to care more than the average person, I’ll give you that. But I am still convinced that all of us could be more in tune with who we are and how we work best.

The revolutionary premise of all this strengths stuff is this: God has designed you so uniquely that the chances of someone having the same strengths as you in the same order is 1 in 33 million. The chance of someone having the same strengths, experiences, DNA, and personality as you? Incalculable. We all know in our minds that we are amazingly unique, that we don’t have the same fingerprints, blah, blah, blah… We ask ourselves, “So what?” We still don’t get it. We go and live out our lives as though we were identical. We measure ourselves next to people who are wired completely differently from us. In our jobs, homes, and relationships, we try to be “well balanced,” which is often code for, “miserable.” We also don’t get other people. We don’t even see who they are, let alone value them.

Many believers are slowly learning that God doesn’t need us to live in abject poverty to prove that we are faithful. We are slowly learning that he is a God who longs to give us the desires of our hearts. What I’m wondering now is if we can have the faith to believe that God really gives us permission to focus on who he’s made us to be, rather than the “ideal” person he did not make us to be.

Back to the Star Trek documentary I watched. There is a group of people in our society who are obsessed with Star Trek. You have heard they are out there. Maybe you are one of them. Some people feel the kinship of it and others simply marvel at the others who spend their time, money, and energy going to conventions, creating costumes, and living vicariously through Star Trek. Maybe some “Trekkies” or “Trekkers” marvel at others who spend time and money on their favorite sport. As I watched the documentary, I noticed that these people felt a sense of significance watching Star Trek and going to the conventions. They felt that they were part of something larger than themselves. They felt that they could freely enter this world and create their own identity, even their own reality through it. In this world, they could let out some creative energy and find connection and meaning for themselves. In this world, people valued them for the gifts that they had lurking underneath the surface. In Star Trek, they found a way to “engage.” Pun intended.

At the Leveraging Your Strengths conference I attended, I learned that only 30 percent of people are actively engaged in their lives. They are living from a place of strength. They are doing the things that they would do all day long even if they were not getting paid. They know how to live according to the things they do well, and they are not obsessed with their weaknesses. They are the most effective people on planet earth. Often, they are the people most honored, valued, and rewarded for what they do. They have found significance in it. They refuse to believe that God is going to say no to all the things that they enjoy.

If Star Trek marketers have found a way for people to find significance, acceptance and engagement in what they do, why can’t we do the same in the church? Why can’t we teach people to find a life of meaning and abundance now, even before they make it to heaven? I know that we can. But we have to believe that God knows how we are designed, that he pays attention to our internal flame, that he knows what makes us come alive. Rather than ignore us or nitpick at our weaknesses, he calls the best out of us.

I want to be a life “Trekker” so fully alive and engaged in my life that I am supremely effective in the work that I do. I want to know what it is to live life, and live it to the max. Jesus had a word for it: the abundant life. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I will say this: (Trekkers, you will appreciate it.) God is the captain of your ship, and he is pointing his finger at you. He gives the command by saying, “Engage!” What are you waiting for?

20121001-142016.jpg

A great leadership principle is this: “The skills and habits that got you to the place that you are right now, won’t take you where you need to go.” I am not sure who first said this, but it is so true! If you are frustrated on any level of not being able to get to the next place in your life, it is probably because you have been operating by a set of attitudes and behaviors which are keeping you from making the next leap in your journey. If you are happy at your current job, current life situation and don’t feel the yearning for a change, hey, no problem! This article may not be for you. But if you are one of those who never seems to be content unless there is another challenge on the horizon, if you are a visionary, listen up!

Here are some common roadblocks I have found among frustrated visionaries.

1. An inability to adjust to new situations.

Leading is an art, not so much a science. What works in one scenario may not work in another. Leaders of growing organizations must be willing to change their methods and consider new options for each situation and at each new stage of growth. A purposeful kind of flexibility is needed to consider what traditions or old mindsets need to be ditched in favor of the new.

2. An unwillingness to risk at a higher level.

It can be scary when you start going from talking about hundreds or thousands of dollars to tens of thousands or even millions of dollars. This fear eliminates many leaders from the game. Knowing that your risk could affect hundreds or thousands of people rather than just a few can also be too much for some. I think that all leaders need a healthy dose of measured optimism to pull off the job. If you don’t believe you can, neither will others.

3. An inability to see or utilize others.

It’s easy to be a one man or one woman show when you start out, but it is impossible to pull off in the big leagues. Something I constantly hear from leaders of large organizations is the willingness to mobilize people with remarkably little training and remarkably few hoops to jump through. It is usually on the job training that people need, when they need the training to survive. Circumstances will never be ideal, so we have to make do with the people we have. There will always be people who are under qualified, but it is our job as leaders to see the best in them, to believe in them, and to pull out the gold. Finding people and training takes time and energy. It is work that may take a while to pay off, but avoiding the work of training can cost you your next level of growth.

4. An unwillingness to grow from constructive criticism.

Leaders who move toward their critics are ones you need to watch. They are able to extract the meat from the bones. Beware of those who scoff at every criticism that comes their way. How can we be wise when we do not have a balanced view of our weaknesses as well as our strengths? Criticism should be taken as an educational tool, not as a reason to roll over in defeat. If we can see criticism with an objective eye, it can be a powerful educator.

5. An undersized vision.

You will only grow to the level of your vision. If your vision is all about you, you can only grow to the level of the people you are personally able to attract or to the level of your own skills or talent. If your vision is too small, you will not adjust to new situations, you will not risk at a higher level, you will not see and utilize others, and you will not grow from criticism. With bigger vision comes the natural willingness to be responsible for that vision, to sacrifice for that vision. Only you carry the responsibility for making that vision a reality.

Open your eyes and look around. Become a lifelong student, an observer of people, of other successful leaders, of your own challenges. Higher goals and higher levels require higher skill and higher insight. Don’t allow yourself to be frustrated by things that are within your power to change. Remember that in 360 degree leadership, 50 percent of your time should be spent leading yourself. Need some adjustments in your thinking? Make steps toward that change so it can begin to happen today. Every step you make toward changing your thinking is a step you make toward increasing the success of the vision you have.

20120918-041533.jpg

Dreamers, innovators, those of you who are full to the brim with ideas… You there. Yes, I am talking to you. I know how it feels. When I was 9 years old, I was ready to change the world. I was going to write a book by the time I was in sixth grade. I was going to have at least three different careers when I grew up. I was going to make a difference.

How many times have you had a great idea and it seemed to die and you don’t know what went wrong? I want to submit to you that so much of it is timing. There are different reasons that our ideas work or don’t work and so little of it has to do with the merit of the idea itself. Some ideas float and others sink like rocks.

Other than the fact that your idea may just stink, here are some reasons your idea may fail:

1. The idea is not as fully developed as it could be.

Einstein once said that he was not necessarily smarter than other people, it was just that he stuck with problems longer. We so often miss this key to success. You may have to sit on your idea and rework it for 20 years before anything happens. Maybe you will meet someone down the road who has the missing piece to your idea, the piece that will solve everything.

2. The venue or people with whom you’re trying the idea just don’t fit.

I have had this happen many times. I have had a vision for something that I thought would be really cool and no one really got it no matter how hard I tried to communicate it. Then I would see something similar happening with different people in a different venue. I was encouraged to find that my idea did work somewhere, it just did not work in the location where I was. If you are coming up against a brick wall, you may find that waiting for the right place, the right people, and the right time, will accelerate everything.

3. You don’t have the power or skills to make it happen.

If you are part of a church, business, or organization in which you are not the leader, you may find that your idea is too big for your level of influence. While some leaders are insightful enough to use great ideas that are not theirs, many will not have such wisdom. If the leader of the organization does not see the value of your idea like you do, your idea may be doomed before it ever takes flight. Some ideas are too big to try without the authority to back them up. Someday you may have this authority. Someday it may actually work.

My mother taught me to write everything down. Thanks for that, Mom. I have ideas that have been locked away for years. Who knows if they will ever take flight? But pieces of them are all valuable to me and I would not be a good steward of them if I forgot them or tossed them away. There may be a day when I need that idea, or a piece of that idea for something I am doing. It will be fully developed, in the right venue, and I will have the power to make it happen. Until then, don’t stop dreaming! Your ideas are precious. They hold more power than you might dare to think.

20120903-184656.jpg

I just finished watching an inspiring documentary called “Still Bill” on one of the greatest songwriters of our day, Mr. Bill Withers. If you’re young and somewhat ignorant like me and the name Bill Withers does not ring any bells, maybe the names of these songs will: Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean on Me, Just the Two of Us… Now is it ringing any bells? Are you singing yet?

Funny thing is I actually met Bill years ago at his home in California as I was about 13 years old, not having the slightest idea who he was, other than the fact that he was someone famous and important. My mom was hired to help them with a party and I was hanging around trying to help, trying not to get in the way. Bill just kept telling me to relax while his wife kept giving me things to do. They were genuine. They were real. They loved people. It was apparent that they enjoyed life and that they had a kind of wise perspective on life that few knew.

I believe that Bill is someone who has “gained the whole world” but has not “forfeited his soul.” As I watched this documentary of his life, it became clear to me why he had not lost his soul in his meteoric rise from obscurity to stardom. He was rooted and grounded in faith by his mother and grandmother. He was taught the value of work by his father. He fought the hurt inflicted by the loss of his father at 13 and a speech impediment in his childhood. The people he encountered who refused to believe he’d accomplish anything noteworthy at all. At the age of thirty three he was a mechanic who installed toilets on airplanes. He had a few songs that he thought may be worth something, so he let some people hear them. His songs hit the charts and he flushed his toilet job for life as a full time musician.

However, after meeting his wife and starting a family, the fame he found was just not worth it to him anymore. Rather, he was content to raise a family and make music in the privacy of his home. People wonder why he stopped “chasing the dream.” He had gone there and back and found it lacking.

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll know that I’m all for a healthy dose of ambition and drive. It is intolerable to me when people celebrate mediocrity by throwing away their own gifts and not using what God gave them all in the name of modesty. However, in the pursuit of our dreams, we need to ask ourselves, what are we really after in this life? Is it money, security, notoriety, validation from others? Are we seeking something for ourselves, or are we spending ourselves for the benefit of others? Bill is convinced that as we get older, we turn our attention more and more to the concerns of others. That is an optimistic outlook… I sure hope we do.

I hope it doesn’t take all of us worldwide fame and riches to get a clue that such things will not answer the desperation of our souls. Maybe regular folks like us can find our satisfaction before we “get there” maybe on the way. By the time we “get there,” maybe the satisfaction of the goal will just be icing on the cake, the byproduct of an already fully satisfied life. Some of us may, for an unforeseen reason, be stopped just short of “getting there.” Life happens.

For us believers, we will have an eternity to create, to accomplish, to be all that we were created to be. If God wants you to live a life of accomplishment and fame, so be it. If “it” happens, you won’t find that you’ve suddenly turned into some kind of demigod. If it happens to me, I’ll still be me. If it happens to you, you’ll still be you, just like Bill Withers is “Still Bill.” You’ll still have the same annoying quirks, you’ll still need to have your socks and underwear washed just like everyone else. It’s not the big deal we make it. There is so much more waiting for us we cannot even imagine. It’s not what we have in this life, it’s what we do with what we have that will count. Don’t take my word for it; just wait and see. In the meantime, how about you be you and I’ll be me?

For far too long we have remained uneducated and uninformed on God’s gender views. I read a wonderfully articulate book recently called, “Why Not Women?” by YWAM co-founder, Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton. Honestly, I think it is a tragedy that I have spent my life in the church and have not before been taught how to interpret scripture with regards to God’s views of men and women. I have had so many questions and insufficient answers. I have been saddled with a call of God on my life along with leadership and teaching gifts, somehow always wondering if my ministry as a woman can and will be truly legitimate in the sight of God and in light of scripture. At times my skewed perceptions of myself and other women have caused me to be lazy in stewarding my gifts. Because of a few misunderstood scriptures, we as Christians can often put women in permanent “special Ed” making them ride the “short bus” all the way to church. So much wrong thinking is promulgated by people with the best of intentions, which is why I will refuse to point the finger. For I have been one of those well intentioned individuals from time to time.

There is no way that I can summarize the extensive research of Cunningham and Hamilton, but I will take a step back and try to show you how we should be viewing the scriptures in a more accurate way.

First of all, the Bible was not written in English. This is elementary, and I don’t mean to insult your intelligence. At least I hope you do not think that Paul spoke in the good ole King James. It was written in Hebrew and Greek, sometimes Aramaic. Modern translators are human. They made assumptions in the way that they chose to interpret the scriptures into English. Elements like punctuation, syntax, and context goes into the fine art of interpretation. Most of our translations use the word “man” whether the original word reflects the word used for both males and females or whether it is specifically intended for the male gender. This fact alone can create some confusion as to whom the author was intending to speak.

The thing we need to rely on is the original manuscripts we have. For example, there is a symbol in the Greek that is difficult to translate. It means something emphatic like, “What? No way! Nonsense!” By leaving that symbol untranslated, we are left without an important piece of the puzzle. Such is the case of 1 Corinthians 14:35 where Paul says something to seem to contradict the way he esteemed women. He says, “for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” This statement seems to be totally inconsistent with his previous instruction for all people (including women) to prophesy and pray aloud in an orderly fashion. But when you insert the uninterpreted Greek symbol after it, meaning “Nonesense!” you can see that he was only making reference to an absurd saying of the day. You see Greeks and Romans had all sorts of sayings that discouraged women from speaking at all. In his next words, Paul comes down on this type of thinking saying, “Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.” (1 Corinthians 14:36-38 NIV) He ends the chapter by encouraging “brothers and sisters” to prophesy and not to forbid the speaking in tongues.

Another example is the scripture about the meaning of the word “head” in the Greek. 1 Corinthians 11:3 speaks of the head of Christ and the head of woman, and the head of man. Head can mean authority, but with the particular word used, it most often means “source” or “origin.” Look at that scripture again in light of the word “source” or “origin.” “But I want you to realize that the source/origin of every man is Christ, and the source/origin of the woman is man, and the source/ of Christ is God.” Look at the context and it makes even more sense. Again, I cannot get into the intricacies of this scripture now. Suffice it to say that scripture emphasizes our interdependence and mutual submission, man and woman, Jesus and the Father. It was never Paul’s intent to pull out our differences, rather to unite us under some foundational principles intended for men and women of Christ.

Secondly, the world of Jesus and Paul, the Apostle, was much different than the world of today. Our lack of knowledge of the world of antiquity can cause us to misinterpret sayings and intents of the biblical authors. Women of Jesus and Paul’s day were grossly undervalued. This is not because of any Old Testament law, it was because of the sinfulness of mankind and the enmity that the enemy put between men and women after the Fall. This is the reason injustice has prevailed for hundreds of thousands of years.

The ideas we read and take for granted in the Bible were actually quite revolutionary in their time. For example, when Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:12 ” I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet,” it was highly likely that he was speaking to one particular woman who was spreading false doctrine. This is evident from the clear change from the plural to the singular in the Greek. We are only seeing one side of the communication between Paul and Timothy. Timothy knew who he was talking about. He didn’t need to name names. Not only that, the fact that he said that this woman should learn from her husband at home was not a way to keep her down, it was a way to lift her up. It was a revolutionary concept of that day to educate a woman at all, let alone in serious matters of theology. In saying this, he was actually holding men responsible for the education of their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. These were radical, revolutionary ideas inspired by the Holy Spirit to propel women forward in the church and the pursuit of God.

This is a complex passage of scripture, but the gist of what Paul is saying is that we should all be silent and be in a stance of submission. Men are to lift up holy hands without anger or disputing, and women should remain in a posture ready to learn. In many of the pagan traditions of the day, the only way women could participate was to make loud noises, sound effects as the men would make the offerings. Paul was trying to counter this practice by advocating that women be elevated to the level of studious and serious learners along with the men.

Thirdly, we need to look at scripture in all of its entirety. Did you realize that nowhere in the Old Testament is it commanded for women to submit to men, or even for wives to submit to husbands? “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NIV) From the very beginning God clearly shows us his perfect intent is that we were both genders created in his image. No gender can express God fully without the other. Just as Jesus is not complete without the Father and the Holy Spirit, so we a not complete without each other.

I don’t even have time to delve into all the New Testament leaders of the church such as Pricilla, Phoebe, Junias (the apostle), and the groups of deaconesses that Paul mentions. Again, this can be a problem of versions. You see, some versions say “the deacons and their wives.” However, a much more accurate translation is “deacons and deaconesses.”

You may have wondered why Jesus, encountering such gender inequity, did not seem to do much to change the way things were for women of his day. Our general lack of understanding of the times blinds us to the ways he did radically promote the rights of women as human beings, equal with men. We also need to understand that Jesus did not have the time or calling to lead the march for women’s rights. Neither did he have time to eradicate slavery, abortion, or any other injustice of society. His mission in life was first to the lost sheep of Israel. In his death he was called to save the whole of humankind. Paul was called to reach the Gentiles, neither did he have time to eradicate prevailing ideas of male superiority of the day. But both Jesus and Paul did do their part to plant seeds of equality in the minds and hearts of people.

In later days, we have made great strides against the oppression of women, but I believe we still have much work left to do. We so easily forget that it was Christians who first paved the way for the suffrage movement. It was Christians who first decided to stand up and fight against the ideas that upheld the institution of slavery. We need to have the guts to move this issue to the front burner of our pulpits, our small groups, and our board rooms. We need men to care enough about this issue to bring it to light for others. There are people who keep the church at arms length because we portray a God who says he loves all people, but seems to put a on lid the potential of half the population. The churches that are growing and experiencing a move of God worldwide are being blessed because they are refusing to hold back their women. They are coming back to the way God originally intended from the Garden of Eden: men and women partners together, ruling and reigning together side by side.

I hope I have whet your appetite. Again, I highly recommend, “Why Not Women?” You can get it on Kindle for a very good price. Read for yourself, weigh the scriptures yourself and see if there is any Biblical evidence left to convict women to a life sentence of inequality, unfulfilled dreams, and unmet potential.

20120813-075803.jpg

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.

20120604-071755.jpg

“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.” Sound familiar? Powerful words. How clever of Walt Disney to realize and capitalize on the power of our wishes and desires! Perhaps he knew the power of our dreams firsthand, I think he had a few of his own… Soon enough we grow up and realize that it is not enough to simply wish on a star, that our actions help determine our future, our actions mixed with a little bit of faith, luck, providence, whatever term you prefer, is what we believe will fulfill the desires of our hearts.

If you can confidently say that you can see where you want to go and you are moving toward the dream that is in your heart, then you know that you are a dream pursuer. However, if you are like most of the world, there is something you want that you don’t yet have. Not only do you not yet have it, but you seem to be far from the road to getting there. You may not even know what that something is, but it is gnawing inside of you when you wake up and when you lie down. The greater visibility and significance of your dream, the more likely you are to feel this way, because you feel so far from where you feel you are meant to be. This is the plight of the dream sick.

People who are dream sick lead often perpetuate their own state and lead others down a similar path. You see, it is very hard to see possibilities in others when you doubt that there is anything worthwhile in yourself. When you are in a constant search for validation from others, you tend not to see and make room for others in their own search. Your greatest hope of getting out of this state is that your frustrations will cause you to be willing to take a risk, to get a strategy, and to make a change.

There is a secret that many successful people have realized. The path to their own happiness is found in the relentless search to make many other people happy. Now don’t stop reading here. The second part is equally important. They cannot make many other people happy unless they know who they are and can describe and pursue the greatest gift that they offer the world.

Knowing who we are and what we have to offer is no simple question to answer. It requires much soul searching, prayer, and even some divine intervention. It takes people along our paths to help get us there. When we realize that people are our path, we have to learn how to develop rapport with people, lots of people, in order to share who we are with them and so they can share who they are with us.

So often, we see people one dimensionally. When you see a person one dimensionally, you unconsciously say to yourself, “This person needs what I have,” without one thought that they may have something you need as well. On the other hand, you may see someone else in a one dimensional way by saying, “I need what this person has,” without the thought that you may also be able to contribute to the life of this person in some way. Relationship is, by definition, a process of give and take. Even if all you ever do is buy someone’s book, you are contributing to the life of an author in some way. A mutual give and take is the only healthy way to build a relationship, build a life, and build a dream. You may think that you give and take, but you may be grossly underestimating what you can take or what you can give, or maybe even both. Dream pursuers are learners, headed down the path of getting it right in this arena.

Part of my dream is helping others to realize their dreams, which is why I developed the Passion and Purpose Guide that you can find on this blog site. This guide helps people define who they are at this season of their life. However, defining who you are will mean nothing unless you can help others define who they are. Anything of value you bring to the world will help serve this purpose: whether it is creating your own line of handbags, selling ice cream, writing books, or parenting. When we interact with others we are helping them define what is important to them. Even the commercials you watch on TV are attempting to help you define who you are. By all means, get what you need to define who you are so that you can stop holding your gifts back from others. Then, when you are not holding back who you are, you’ll be less likely to hold someone else back from who they are.

I’d love to hear where you are on this journey!

To my email and blog subscribers, I just want to say thanks. Especially to those who have encouraged me… You keep me writing!

20120322-071929.jpg

I have always felt drawn to leadership ever since that first day in kindergarten when that little blonde girl was crying because she had never been away from her family before. I confidently asserted that I had gone to preschool and knew how this school thing worked. Summer and I were instant best friends. Throughout the year we decided to adopt another shy girl into our little circle until our circle grew and grew. To this day I’m not sure she ever spoke a word of English. But she needed a friend, so we extended all the protection our popularity afforded her.

From that first day in kindergarten, my confidence in leadership began to wane. It was the time I realized that leadership did not always make you popular. Indeed there were times when it cost you dearly. Throughout the years came the kids who didn’t appreciate originality or independence from groupthink, the librarian who didn’t appreciate my stand against certain books, the boss who called me “demanding,” the other boss who was convinced I was manipulative when I thought I was being proactive.

So many leaders, seeing the price tag, remain as window shoppers outside the doors of leadership opportunities. As in my blog on burnout, they would rather not take on the responsibility. I want to go out on a limb and say that if you have eyes to see the cost, you will most likely make an excellent leader. So many of history’s leaders were reluctant ones. They would have rather stayed in the comfort of their own homes with the ones they loved than call attention to themselves. They would have been content to follow. They pursued peaceful and quiet lives.

But the situations around them cried out for a leader and when they looked around, they saw no one else taking any action, or taking the wrong kind of action. They wish that there was a leader they could fully support, but because there was no one else with their message, their passion, or their commitment, they stepped up. They became the reluctant leaders. My point is that sometimes you don’t find leadership, sometimes leadership finds you. If and when it does I want to encourage you to count the cost, hold your breath and then take the plunge.

We have been so trained to think of ambition as a negative thing that we subconsciously think that to be a leader, you must push others out of the way. Perhaps our culture has too often rewarded such behavior. We sometimes forget that taking on authentic leadership is one of the most selfless things you can do. Too many good people are looking for your voice, your stand, your gifts. The minute it is within your power to supply a need within your reach, to speak into a situation within your influence, or to change a policy within your grasp, is the minute that opportunity turns into responsibility. The reluctant leader is still a leader. In retrospect, they are often listed among the best.