You’re Accountable

1448178195_5780cfd315_oI’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. Some of my favorites have been from the Catalyst Podcast. Each one opens with a series of quotes by conference speakers. The last one always lands on me like a foghorn wake-up call. It’s the voice of Andy Stanley saying, “Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary. And YOU’RE accountable!”
Boom. Like the Holy Spirit is looking me straight in the eyes, brows raised.
See, I have been waiting for this season for several years. I’ve longed to step out and pursue this calling of speaking and writing. But I’ve always sensed the reigns pulling me back. God saying, “Not yet.” Along with it has come an inexplicable peace, because “yet” implies what will be.
Several months ago, I realized the reigns were gone. The light turned green. To look at my life’s circumstances, the timing doesn’t make a lot of sense. Still, it’s undeniably go-time. And I couldn’t be more excited!
However, this excitement came with an old foe: fear. Not so much of the unknown, but the known reactions that will come as result of stepping outside the box of expectation. You’d think I’d be used to this, but, honestly, it’s frustrating.
There are a lot of people in my life that would be so much more comfortable with my husband and I serving on staff at a church. It fits their mold of ministry for us. This is a valiant and amazing calling, to be sure. But it isn’t our calling. God has led us to the unconventional: we are chaplains to endurance athletes while coaching ministers with their health. Both ministries do not exist anywhere else in the form we are taking them. We’d like to say we’re pioneers in the ministry. Others would call us floundering idiots.
So this is just another opportunity to invite criticism. And I’ve already felt it. Some aren’t outright critics, but their silence speaks loud and clear. And that silence is so painful. That said, “Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary. And YOU’RE accountable.”
I’m not alone here. Thus, the reason for this post. I believe their are men and women serving in positions trying with all their might to measure up to the expectations around them. All the while, they’re longing for it to be different. Maybe it’s not where they’re serving that’s the issue, but HOW they’re serving. They’re sitting reading this post and they’re heart is welling up inside knowing exactly what I’m talking about. God has given them the green light, but the expectations of man are keeping them confined to their little spot.
It’s scary. It’s complicated. It’s messy. It’s not even safe. But, “Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary. And YOU’RE accountable.”
Here’s what I know: when I’ve exhausted myself pleasing people, I’m left depleted and empty. But when I’ve exhausted myself pleasing God, I’m left fulfilled and recharged. God has called us and gifted us for specific purposes. We MUST step out. We MUST follow His call. We are ABSOLUTELY accountable to it.

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I’m Not Just “The Wife”

sad-brideI’m writing this for one reason only: my daughter.  I want the world she grows up in to be better than the one in which I did.

That’s not to say mine was all that bad.  My parents loved and cared for me beautifully.  I went to the same church, under the same pastor, my entire upbringing.  My dad was a deacon.  We were highly, no, extremely involved and I loved it all.  But there was a void I never knew existed until recently.  You see, I didn’t have anyone ever say, “Women can’t preach/lead/teach/pastor/whatever…”  No one even whispered under their breath, “A woman’s place is not speaking behind a pulpit.”  In fact, I was raised under a doctrine that supports all of that.  Still, I heard these messages loud and clear.

Here’s where all the women were growing up: directing women’s ministries (my concept of it was a home decorating party that made women feel obligated to buy stuff), leading children’s church, teaching Sunday School, cooking for all the major church meals, and singing.  I can recall one woman speaking behind the pulpit.  I think she was a missionary sharing her testimony.  That’s it.

And here I was.  I knew God was calling me to a life of ministry.  I can remember saying often that I was going to be a preacher’s wife.  There was man who would always say, “No, Amy, you’re gonna make someone a preacher’s husband.”  I always laughed, because it didn’t fit the mold I was given.  I could sing.  That was the obvious choice.

And sing I did.  I loved it, and even earned a degree in it.  So I led worship in whatever church we were on staff at.  There’s nothing altogether wrong about this.  However, it took me years to discover a greater call in me to speak.  I was single when I graduated college, and a few mentors encouraged me to get as many letters behind my name as possible.  I was gonna need it in this highly masculine world called church. So I made sure to get my license to be a minister.  After I got married, I went on to becoming ordained.

In the last few years, I sort of figured this whole speaking thing was something new about myself; as though God had placed an entirely new gift in me.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  When I sit and think about it, I can remember nightly sermons I would preach to myself in front of my dresser mirror in my bedroom.  And boy, I could drive a point home!  Getting ready for school, I would have messages burning in my heart to say to nobody but my hairbrush and curling iron.  And what about the man who always talked about my preacher’s husband?  Why did I never recognize this glaringly obvious call to speak?  Because there were no examples in my world.  None.

That brings me to today.  When my new ministers card comes in the mail each year, it’s addressed to me, then “Mrs R M” (my husband’s initials).  When I go to a minister’s meeting, oftentimes my name badge says “spouse”.  Listen, I’m not trying to get up in a tissy over little things people are probably doing unintentionally.  This isn’t me being some kind of uber-feminist coming in with my elbows swinging trying knock down the men.  No, this is me saying I’ve been set back from my calling for decades because what we SAY is acceptable is a far cry from what we DO.

Pastor, if you don’t have a woman on your speaking schedule this year, you are overlooking an awesome opportunity to let a highly qualified and anointed voice bring the Word to your congregation.  Denominational leader, if your name badges/addressing systems for mail aren’t recognizing women for who they are on their own two feet, you are diminishing a divinely appointed call on a life.  Young lady, if you feel a message always stirring in your spirit to speak, don’t wait for a mold to open up for you, break that mold and preach it!

Changes need to be made within our churches.  I don’t want this just for myself.  I want it for my little girl.

I’m Not Listening

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Let’s have a talk about communication. I write. I speak. I live and breath. I am constantly communicating something. And you are too. The question is, do you want anyone to listen? What about that burning topic you’re so passionate about and you’re dying for people to just “get it”?
I’ve read blogs and status updates. I’ve listened to sermons and political speeches. So many opinions. So many truths. So much not getting heard. I just want to stand up shout, “I’m never going to listen to a thing you say when you talk to me like that!”
Examples: “Stop killing yourself with that awful processed junk some people call ‘food’!” “I’m not allowing my children to be brainwashed in this public school system!!” “Who here voted for that idiot anyway?!”
These are not direct quotes, but sadly, they’re pretty close. I just want to put my fingers in my ears and say, “Lalalalala!!!” Don’t you? Somewhere in all 3 of these statements, there may be nuggets of something good that might actually need to be heard or even adhered to. However, unless the listener already agrees with you, you’re getting completely shut out.
Here’s the problem: when we find ourselves taking the high road, we better make sure it’s not on a high horse. In other words, it’s great to have found something good to do in our lives. But if we want people to follow our lead, we’ve got to lose the tone of judgment, fear, and meanness. Communicate in a way that even you’re biggest critic will listen.
Colossians 4:6 (NIV) says it best: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Note, it doesn’t say to sugar coat it. It says to “season” your words in a way that makes it palatable. This isn’t easy, especially when you have strong emotions wrapped up in it. But it is possible. And it is necessary if you want to be truly heard.
I pray I have successfully done that here.

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