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Don't Be That Woman

Culture wants to caricaturize women leaders. But God sees us in a different light.

Recently a man told me I should stop interfering.

I didn’t take it well.

Soon after that interaction, I came across a collection of anti-suffragette postcards featured on The Huffington Post. One postcard shows a room full of buck-toothed, bug-eyed women with the text: “At the suffragette meetings you can hear some plain things—and see them too!” The message: If you agree with women’s right to vote, you’re an unattractive woman.

Another postcard features the face of an anguished child, tears streaming down his face with the words: “Mummy’s a Suffragette.” Here the message is: If you’re a woman who wants the right to vote, you’re a bad mother.

A third postcard shows a shapely woman in a red dress and heels, kissing a man who seems thrown off by her passion. Underneath is written: “Suffragette vote-getting the easiest way.” In other words, if you’re a woman who is having any success as a suffragette, it’s because you’re a minx.

These troubling postcards are artifacts of a less enlightened time. I know such messages wouldn’t be tolerated today. And yet, these tactics remain in less obvious ways. Their subtlety today actually makes them more dangerous, and they continue to have real effects on women and men.

Which brings me back to my difficult interaction. When I took time to reflect on why the words “Stop interfering” caused such a strong reaction in me, I realized that I heard: “Stop being the kind of woman who is meddlesome and manipulative.” Regardless of what he was trying to communicate, I felt like I’d been caricatured.

Unfair Caricatures of Women

Our culture has created caricatures of women. And ...

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Thu, 22 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
Preaching Grace Rather Than To-Do Lists

When we share five ways to be a better parent, what are we communicating about the gospel?

I once had a seminary student say to me, “I can’t wait to start preaching so I can tell people what to do!” That’s the popular conception of preaching: someone standing in front telling other people what to do. The assumption of inadequacy is built into that understanding of the word preach: “You are not living the way I (or maybe God) want you to live, so I need to tell you all the ways you are disappointing me (and maybe God) and give you ways to improve.” We can picture the furrowed brow and wagging finger.

Who would want to listen to that?

But so often this is exactly what we do when we preach. We are subtle, most of us. We don’t usually wag our fingers at our congregants and tell them all of the ways they are messing up. But how often do our sermons end with ways our people can improve?

  • If your relationship with God is important to you, you will make a commitment to talk to him every day.
  • If you want to take your discipleship to the next level, you will start incorporating service into your life.
  • Our children deserve the best this church can give them. What can you do to invest in the lives of our children?
  • Isn’t it time for your money to be invested in eternity?

Too often, we make following Jesus sound burdensome.

A student plunked down in the chair next to me. “My boyfriend broke up with me,” she began. “It wasn’t a good relationship, and now that it’s over I realized how far I am from God. I really want to get close to God again.”

I consoled her over the breakup and commended her desire to grow closer to God. “Tell me,” I asked her, “what do people usually do to get close to God?” She was easily able to list the usual ...

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Mon, 19 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
Trusting God When the Future Is Unknown

Will we enter Gods Promised Land for us in full faith?

Editor’s Note: National Hispanic Heritage Month begins today, running through October 15. To kick off the month, we’re featuring a gifted, wise, and talented Hispanic woman leader. To read more from Bianca Juárez Olthoff, click here.

The Israelite spies stood at the edge of their promise. They could see the journey ahead of them. They were chosen to inherit a land that was promised to them. And now 12 men—one from each tribe of Israel—were selected to check out the land and return with a report (Numbers 13). These men had undoubtedly witnessed miracles. The parting of the Red Sea, manna falling from heaven, deliverance from slavery—they had witnessed firsthand the certainty of God’s provision. But instead of feeling excitement that they would finally inherit the promise God had given them, they were filled with terror, paralyzed by what was before them.

The spies came back from their reconnaissance mission with two things: fruit and fear. In their hands were symbols of the goodness of the land that was promised to them. But in their hearts was the impossibility of fortified walls, giants, and intimidating opponents. Waves of doubt covered God’s children and clouded their memory of all the Lord had done for them since they left Egypt.

Although they were double-fisting—fruit in one hand and fear in the other—I couldn’t begin to pass judgment here. I feel you, dear Israelites! Even now, after all I’ve seen, I hate to admit that I sometimes hold the fruit of the faithfulness of God while simultaneously gripping the fear he might not act again.

Only 2 of the 12 spies, Joshua and Caleb, believed they could take the land. They trusted it was theirs to inherit. ...

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Thu, 15 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
I Dont Fit the Senior Pastor Mold

But Im leading in the way God has gifted me.

I felt a lump in my throat as I looked out across the sanctuary of the 1,900 member congregation—the church where I had been senior pastor for nine weeks. It was the same sort of lump I had when my son, Caleb Daniel Leach, was placed into my arms for the very first time.

As I held Caleb, tears streamed down my face and onto his precious cheeks. I was madly in love. He was beautiful. I studied his fingers, his tiny toes, his gigantic eyelashes, and his chubby cheeks. The more I studied him, the more in love I fell, and the more in awe I became. As I held him, I began to pray with that lump in my throat, “Lord, I am in awe that you have made something so beautiful and have now entrusted me to walk with, love, nurture, and lead this child.”

That Sunday morning as I looked across the congregation, similar emotions came over me. As I gave the benediction, I could hold it in no longer:

“May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make his face smile upon you

And be gracious to you.

May the Lord turn his face toward you

And give you peace.

First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena, I love you more than you know.”

After I said it, I thought to myself, Did I really just say that out loud? But I did, and I didn’t care. I was in love, and I needed to tell them. It’s only been a few months since I started serving this wonderful congregation, but as each day passes, I discover something new and beautiful about her. As I study the hands and feet of the Bride, I am in awe that God has entrusted me to walk with her, love her, nurture her, and lead her.

You’re the Senior Pastor?

I have always had a pastor’s heart, but moving from a staff pastor role to a senior pastor role is in so many ways ...

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Mon, 12 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
The Tenacity of Women Leaders

Being a woman leader is hard, yet so many of you courageously live out your calling—and Im thankful.

In research recently done by Susan R. Madsen of Utah Valley University, an interesting similarity among women leaders was found. Surveyed women said the reason they are leaders is because they had supportive family and friends—most notably their fathers—who helped them discover their voice and encouraged them to be leaders.

My family certainly played a role in encouraging me to be a leader, especially my father. While I was growing up, my dad always believed in me and held me to high standards, pushing me to do my best. Even as a child, he valued what I had to say, and he took interest in the things I was interested in. He’s still one of my biggest supporters today, and I have no doubt that this lifelong support helped give me the confidence to lead.

What’s often difficult for women, though, is when we leave the safe confines of our support systems and enter the world of leadership—whether in ministry, the workplace, or elsewhere. Women face unique challenges in leadership, including direct opposition. Despite this, “women now occupy almost every conceivable role in public life. They manage companies, build cities, and start civil-rights movements. They care for children, volunteer at schools, and lead worship. They practice medicine, create art, and run countries”—according to a recent article in The Atlantic. On the other hand, women make up less than 40 percent of managers in the workplace—despite making up over half the U.S. population—and they’re paid nearly $11,000 less than men.

Women Face Unique Challenges

Recently, we surveyed you, our readers, and we learned so many great things about you and what you face. For starters, nearly all of you minister on ...

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Thu, 8 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
Take Ownership of Your Development

Women are often overlooked for leadership development. Take matters into your own hands.

I was blessed in the early days of my career to work for some strong, incredibly competent leaders. Not only were they great at leading the organization I was part of, but they took a special interest in me. They were intentional and purposeful in creating opportunities for me to stretch and grow my leadership muscles. Whether it was giving me a chance to make a presentation at a business meeting or sending me to a conference for continued education, opportunities were extended to me before I knew to ask for them.

That gift of leadership development, however, became my expectation. I thought that I deserved intentional investment like that from my future leaders. Years later I collided with an unmet expectation. I believed that others would always be concerned about my leadership development. I found myself disappointed when other leaders didn’t provide growth opportunities for me. That unmet expectation would wake me up to some tough truths that I needed to face if I intended to grow as a leader.

Self-leadership doesn’t come without acknowledging some difficult realities. This part of leadership is not glamorous. It doesn’t get attention or affirmation. No one is singing your praises for leading yourself well, but I truly believe that if we can get this right, the rest of our leadership becomes an overflow.

Here are a few tough truths that we need to understand about self-leadership:

  • No one cares more about your personal development than you do.
  • No one is responsible for your leadership development.
  • You can’t wait for someone else to lead you.
  • No one owes you leadership.

These truths are tricky. We often don’t recognize that we have these expectations because most of our early lives these are healthy ...

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Thu, 1 September 2016 08:00:00 CST
We Are Free Indeed

Sojourner Truth used her God-given freedom to set others free—and we can too.

Powerhouse is not a word often used to describe women of the 19th century, but Sojourner Truth is not like most of our spiritual mothers. An itinerant preacher turned abolitionist, and an early voice in the fight for women’s rights, Truth poured out her life for the marginalized and the oppressed.

Born into slavery in 1797, Isabella Van Wagenen—as she was called at birth—was separated from her parents at nine years of age. She was sold on an auction block for $100, with six sheep thrown in to “sweeten the deal.” Over the years, she faced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse at the hands of her masters, but somehow persevered. Many saw her as the lowest of society—not only black, but also a woman—but she overcame unfathomable adversity. From birth, the cards were stacked against her, but she retained a steady faith in the God who sees and hears every single one of his children.

When she was 29, Sojourner’s life began to take a positive turn. Although she couldn’t read or write, Truth escaped slavery with her infant daughter in 1826. A year later, the New York State Emancipation Act declared her a free woman. She soon learned that her five-year-old son, Peter, had been illegally sold into slavery in Alabama; so, in 1828, with the help of the Quakers, she sued the owner and became the first black woman to win a case against a white man in court. Some say this series of events gave Truth the gumption to step further into the life she was meant to live.

Isn’t it the same for those of us whose hearts beat wildly for the marginalized and the oppressed? We have encountered the God of the underdog, and now we can’t help but fight for the same. So we teach the children ...

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Mon, 29 August 2016 08:00:00 CST
Tell a Good Story When You Preach

How to teach in a way that connects, compels, and builds trust.

My stepsons come barging in the door after seeing a movie with their dad. They are laughing and talking and quoting lines from the movie as they scour the cupboards for snacks.

“How was the movie?”

“It was really good! So funny.”

Then I ask this question: “What was it about?”

I usually get a play-by-play of the story line, with one of them talking over the other to clarify a point in the plot. They tell me about the actors and the cars and the funny parts. They tell me who won in the end and if this one was better than the other one that was kind of like this one but starred that other guy. All of this is said through mouthfuls of cheddar and sour cream potato chips, of course.

Never, in all the times they have told me about movies, has either one ever looked at me and said, “I can’t remember. There was this guy, and maybe he was a detective or something, and he had a car. Something blew up. I don’t know.”

They always know. The can always remember. They can always tell me. That’s the power of a story. We can remember a movie because someone is telling us a story. The story begins with people who need something, or something happens to them, or there is the promise of love, the threat of global extinction, or an epic battle between good and evil. The story unfolds as the characters respond to whatever comes their way. A good story draws us in because we want to know how it turns out: Did the accused commit the crime? Do the aliens wipe out life on earth? Does the girl find love? Find out this Christmas in a theater near you!

Our challenge as preachers is that almost everyone who listens to us knows how the story turns out. God is in the still, small voice. The boy ...

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Thu, 25 August 2016 08:00:00 CST
When Leadership Development Is a Bad Thing

I used to think I had to change to be a good leader. Now I see the strengths I had all along.

“How do you know?”

I can’t tell you know many times that question has stopped me cold. As a highly intuitive and introverted person, my favorite way of knowing is through my intuition. I naturally collect information without conscious reasoning, synthesize it behind the scenes, and come to a quick and convincing conclusion. The problem is intuition doesn’t come with hard evidence. When people challenged me to explain my conclusions, I often couldn’t do it.

Merriam-Webster’s simple definition of intuition is this: “a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence: a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why; something that is known or understood without proof or evidence.” This definition makes intuition sound a bit like magic, but it’s not based on pixie dust or hocus-pocus. It’s based on instinct, experience, knowledge, environmental input, and unconscious awareness of sensory stimuli.

Intuition is legitimate. And while relying on intuition is not always the best way to make a decision, sometimes it is.

After facing several challenges to my intuitive convictions in my professional life, I learned that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I had to back up my intuitive conclusions with empirical data. I had to use a slower process of logical reasoning—something I knew how to do, but didn’t always prefer. Ultimately this challenge was good for me, but the way I interpreted these incidents wasn’t.

I took professional challenges as signs of shortcomings, and I was determined to change my natural tendencies. This was just one more in a series of misunderstandings that ...

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Mon, 22 August 2016 08:00:00 CST
The Sound of My Voice

Discover the value of your unique voice.

Have you ever winced as you heard your own voice played back on a voicemail or video? Upon hearing the playback most people lament, “Do I really sound like that? Is that really me?” We grow up hearing our voices one way, as they come to us internally, echoing through our inner ear. As a result, you may experience your voice as deep and husky, yet in reality it may be high pitched or even shrill. It can be difficult, even disorienting, to discover how your voice sounds to others.

The term voice can mean the physical sound produced by your larynx. Yet when it comes to literature and life, voice takes a different meaning. In literature, voice is the form an author or narrator uses to tell a story, the way writers put themselves into words. Voice reveals the lens through which we experience a story. Consider Huckleberry Finn or Scout as they come to us via Mark Twain and Harper Lee.

While most of us naturally struggle to identify with our auditory voice, it can feel just as disconcerting to identify our narrative voice. Each of us has a narrative voice—the interpretation of and reaction to the events that shape us. The ability to reflect upon our lives and exercise voice is a divine gift everyone receives, and yet recognizing and using it can seem an insurmountable task. Your life is comprised of a set of circumstances and events unique to you. No one on the planet will ever live your beautiful, exhausting, tumultuous, grace-filled, or anxious life. Your narrative voice is the way you bring your experiences to a place that honors God by contributing to the lives of others. Narrative voice is a combination of three things:

1. An individual’s unique set of life experiences.

2. A person’s acceptance and ...

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Thu, 18 August 2016 08:00:00 CST
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