Category Archives for Girls

The Struggle is Real

 

This week, I was invited to three women’s events.

As a missionary-minded Christian, interested in relieving oppression, I went.

Call me a burgeoning feminist.

But the events weren’t quite what I had hoped for.

At a forum on women’s leadership (which was quite good), we ended with a male institutional leader joking that we might get “bossy.” He actually said this, about a young female co-leader, after he interrupted her and did not allow her to give her closing remarks.
He thought it was funny.

I didn’t.
I have yet to hear a man called “bossy.”
It is an intensely female word.
Usually indicating leadership. Or ambition.
When discussing men, we say “strong leader.” “ Ambitious.”
Not women. The word itself signifies that there is something inappropriate about feminine leadership.

I have known bossy men.
Inappropriately so.
When I brought it up I was told, “oh, don’t mind Joe. That’s just how he is.
It’s part of being a strong leader.”

Huh?

At another event for female leadership, I heard a prestigious woman refuse to take credit for her achievements, a corporate leader (first in her position) say that we needed to be very careful assuming that anything was sexist, and a Hispanic leader proudly relate that her family never calls her by her name.
She is “doll” to the people who love her best. And proud of it.
I left bewildered, but grateful.
At least someone called for the meeting.

And then I went to a church event.
It wasn’t billed as female only, but my husband and the sound guy were the only men in the room.
I heard the founder of a spiritual network that builds real relationship and close community insist that “we are not a church,” and “I am not a pastor.”
During her teaching time.

And I wondered, what is a church?
Because a gathering of people, in community, around the Scriptures, sort of fits my definition.
I guess the fact that we were women is what negates it.

As I looked for the event, which was centered on Christian yoga, we ended up at the wrong campus of a very large church.
I talked to two preschool teachers, coming in for a meeting.
Then I asked a group of men leaving their Bible study.

“Have you seen any yoga people?” I queried.
“Oh, yeah, there were some women over there,” one said.
The preschool group.
Facepalm.

“Were they yoga people, or just female?”
I didn’t let him off the hook.
“Oh, females,” he said, sheepishly.

Ok.

Church, there are reasons millennials are staying away.
In large numbers.

We have a long way to go, baby.
Sigh.

Not OK. How I learned to say it.

It was a cringe-worthy moment.
I am ashamed to remember it.
It was the last night of a large, border-medicine mission trip.

Where I mentored ~40 medical students, in how to care for folks in a low-resource environment.  How to use your faith, and Christian love, with your medical training.  How to lead someone to Jesus in a makeshift exam room, without coercing them (even gently) because you are the doctor.  Never abuse your power.
And ten of these students were with me, all day every day.  I mentored them even more closely.

We had amazing experiences. And heard horrifying stories.

The abuse of the Juarez drug cartels.  People fleeing for their lives.  People using their faith to survive kidnapping, attempted murder, the destruction of their businesses.  Some of it by the official police.  The complex world of illegal immigration, in that context.
And, as doctors do, we coped.  With humor.  Sometimes inappropriate humor.

And I passed on a very inappropriate inside joke, from American labor and delivery and obstetrics.

It was called “hispanicus hystericus,” and referred to a Latina woman who panics during labor.

I had no idea how hurtful this was; I knew it was inappropriate.  And I meant it to be kept private, like a lot of inappropriate things.  I would never have admitted that it was BOTH racist and sexist.  Not even to myself.

But the Bible doesn’t promise to cover our sins.

Luke 12:3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. 

Yeah.  Thanks a lot, Jesus.
And so it was that my occasional, inappropriate, both-racist-and-sexist joke, that was mean to stay just between us, got repeated on testimony night.  Out loud.

I love humor, but this wasn’t as good as I had thought it was.

I asked one of my star students, who had led several broken and grateful people to Jesus, and eternal salvation, that week–with great love and compassion, what he had learned.
“Um, Hispanic Woman Syndrome?” He queried, nervously.

Face palm.

What followed changed my life forever.
In the uncomfortable silence, a voice rang out.

Jackie Velasquez was a second-year resident who had come along to help teach the students.

She never came back.
But into that embarrassing moment, her clarion call to right burned itself into my brain.

Into the tortured social constraints of an ethnically diverse church and mission field testimony service, it resonated.
“Not OK.”

Clear and loud.

Nothing else.
Just…

“Not OK.”
I apologized.

I told her it was my fault.

She didn’t believe me.

She never forgave him.
And I learned something that night.

The hard way.

Years before, I had voluntarily joined an oppressive church.

Because it was so energetic. So invigorating.

And because I was fully hooked and committed before the pastor began to teach about sex roles.

Women at home.

Needing to be excellent in their housework.  Because if they weren’t, they were just lazy.

How women needed men to protect them from their natural instinct to be foolish.

How every personal decision needed to be informed by the principles taught by the apostle. 

That got really weird, eventually.

And after the suicide-deaths of two Jesus-loving, people-pleasing young women, my world was shattered.

I eventually left.

And then freaked out.

It took years of counseling and personal growth–after all, I had left the apostle.

And therefore, the Word of God.

Um…not so much.

But it took time.

And beginning these mission trips was part of my tip-toeing back into the Church, after many years away.

And that night, in her indignation and (truly) righteous anger, a second-year Hispanic resident handed me a gift.
I have learned to say, simply:  “Not OK.”
When things happen around me.  “Not OK.”

When folks I like and work with make racist, or sexist, remarks.  “Not OK.”
It is a powerful tool.

I only regret that I took my own (inadvertently?) racist and sexist words for me to learn it.

I repent.
And thank God, I am learning.

Proverbs 31:8 Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable. 

Stepping out of the Shadows

“To the outcast on her knees, you were the God who really sees…

And by your might, you set your children free.” (Michael Card, “El Shaddai,” as recorded by Amy Grant)

 

Growing up in church, I can remember meeting many beautiful women.

As a little girl in rural and suburban Texas, there were so many ladies that you just wished you could be.

Not all of them, though!

Most of the church ladies were…just moms. Overweight, dumpy moms.

(I had no idea, then, that I had already internalized so much sexism).

 

But every now and then, you would sit next to a truly beautiful lady.

Blonde, with blue eyes. And pretty clothes. And she would be so nice to you.

And you would go home, feeling like you met Cinderella. And wish that you could be her.

And, over many years, in many churches, I accumulated a lot of these role models.
My role models were, of course, culturally determined.

The more someone looked and acted like Cinderella or Grace Kelly, the more I admired them.
And it’s cool to be beautiful. And kind.

But I think, looking into the Scripture, that something has been lost here.

Because the Bible didn’t leave us any portraits.

Not of hairstyle. Or eye color.

And God could have emphasized anything he wanted to.

What he chose to record were acts of courage and faithfulness.

That were potentially costly. And reflect real leadership.
So God chose courage, faithfulness and leadership.

And while we certainly value those things, and I have heard a lot on faithfulness, I haven’t heard much on courage and leaderhip taught, very often, in Southern women’s meetings.

Ouch.

And I don’t mean to be a critic; I have loved my church life and all of the leaders, teachers and other men and women I have worked with.

What do we value, in women, as a culture? Passivity. Personal appearance. People pleasing.

None of these meets the Biblical test; God simply doesn’t emphasize them. And being passive or a pleaser actually cuts across the grain of the Biblical accounts of godly womanhood.  And the teachings of Scripture.
I recently taught a series of local Bible studies on Biblical women. Abigail. Ruth. Deborah.

When I got to Deborah, I found something very interesting.

The woman in my Sunday night gathering, at a local yoga studio, had never heard a sermon on her. They represented four different local churches.
Deborah was a mother in Israel.

She was a judge, like Samuel. That means (and we like to sugarcoat, or ignore, this fact) that she was anointed by God to lead the nation.

Just like Samuel.

I heard a sermon once where the preacher said that this was because Israel was so evil, in those days, that God couldn’t find a man to lead them.

Interesting thought, but, um…the Bible doesn’t actually say that. Like, anywhere.
The history of Christianity parallels the history of western science. Fascinating, actually.

After a time of great learning, science was lost.

Because much of it had been learned in Eastern and Middle Eastern nations, and Europe didn’t trust it.

And after an initial flare of glory in the first three centuries, Christianity was muffled. By institutionalized and politicized religion.

Now, I don’t blame the Catholic Church for the Dark Ages. They were the only church around.

I think any of us could have done it.

In a zeal to keep knowledge pure, they banned science.

In an effort to avoid doctrinal error and cult-like practices, they took the Bible away from the people.

Only the priests could read and teach it.

And we got the Dark Ages.
We have similar veins in Christian culture today, Protestant or Catholic.

And, if we’re not careful, we think it’s automatically spiritual to reject science. And education.

To mistrust those from different backgrounds.

To centralize authority and interpretation of the Scriptures in a few trusted male leaders.

And to keep women in their place.
But God had an answer for the Dark Ages.

Light.
It started with Martin Luther, we are told.

I theorize that it probably started before that, with prayer by faithful witnesses whose names we will only know in Heaven.

But it started. And God mightily used Father Luther.

“The just shall live by faith.” It was a revelation.

The light came on.

And out of that came the Reformation.

Followed, and paralleled by, the Enlightenment. Education was back. In a big way.

Western science took off, and became the model for the whole world.

And God has progressively revealed science and technology to mankind ever since.
And, spiritually, that “justification by faith” lightning bolt started a fire.

Followed by others, over the centuries.

Until, in the 20th century, we again saw miracles on a large scale.

The move of the Holy Spirit.

The Missionary movement of the 19th century.

The Word of God, preached through every possible technology, every available voice.

And spiritual knowledge has expanded and grown.

We keep taking steps into the Light.
But, it seems to me, that someone has been left behind.

Half in shadow.

The woman.

Christian women, in my lifetime, have been taught a set of values that are more Victorian than Biblical.

Taught that, while US law holds us accountable for our decisions, actions and finances, the Bible says our husbands should actually make our decisions for us.

That we are to be quiet. Always.

That having a voice of authority, and using it, are….questionable.
In Genesis 16, God spoke to a woman.

Her name was Hagar.

And she had been bought and sold, and used for sex and breeding.

By, um, God’s man of the hour. Abraham. With his wife’s participation.

And then she had been treated harshly by her owner.

To the point that, while pregnant, she ran away.

Into the desert.
And there, alone and destitute, with no means of survival, God spoke to her.

Genesis 16:7-11 The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael which means ‘God hears’, for the Lord has heard your cry of distress.

God hears.
Abraham and Sarah’s actions weren’t without consequence…

Genesis 16:12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

Ishmael would go on to become the father of most of Israel’s modern day enemies, including the Arab peoples.

It would be to a band of “Ishmaelites” that Joseph would be sold into slavery.

And it would be Ismael’s descendants with whom Israel would struggle in the future.

But God, knowing all of that, thought that justice for this one abused woman…was worth it.
He heard her.
But, wait…there’s more.

Genesis 16:13-14 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi which means “well of the Living One who sees me”. It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.

Hagar had not been truly seen as a human being by her owners, her forced “family.”

She had, apparently, not been seen in her childhood, to the point that she ended up as a victim of human trafficking.
But God…saw her.
Psychologists say that to be known, really known, by another, is the thing humans crave more than anything.

Intimacy.

It drives us into inappropriate sexual relationships.

Damaging friendships.

Dysfunctional families.

It underlies our fantasy-wish for fame.
The answer to that hunger is….

God sees you.

He knows you.

And He can create springs in the desert of your life.

And get the message you need right to where you are.

And even bring blessing out of the evil that’s been done to you.
Abigail…recognized that her husband was a fool and confronted a King who was about to commit a hot-headed sin. Read about her; God honored her for it.

Ruth…was a stranger, of another ethnic group, who worked, and loved, out of loyalty to one old, financially broken woman. She took the initiative to find a job,and went out with boldness and consistency. Read about her; God honored her for it.

Deborah…led a nation legally and in battle. And was a prophetess, who led them spiritually. She was bold and courageous, and brought deliverance to her people. Read about her; God blessed her for it.
And, if it seems to you that the current evangelical church might not put these woman on a “Top Ten Godly Woman List” if they weren’t already in the Bible…you may be right.

The Christian woman still stands in the shadows of our sexist Greek and Roman heritage.
But God sees.

It’s time to step into the light of Biblical truth.

Courage, compassion and leadership.

And maybe, just maybe, we can claim our inheritance among our brothers…and still be beautiful.

Job’s daughters did.

Job 42:12-15 So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning….And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.

Shaking in my shoes.  On anxiety, and achievement.

Anxiety.

What is it about life that makes us spend most of our days with our fists and teeth half-clenched, instead of living as if we’re laying back in a hammock, swinging?
Check yourself.
Right now.
Are your muscles tight?

Is your lower face and jaw tense?

Are your thoughts…racing?

Or are you sitting in the (imaginary) sun, taking a deep breath of…heaven?
What is it that makes us anxious?
What, on earth, are we…So.

Worried.

About.
And, on a related note, do we ever feel “good” enough?
When I was in high school, our Drill Team (women’s halftime dance team, for those not from the South) put on a performance for a few hundred young children.  And we dressed up like clowns.  It was so much fun.

And I borrowed my Dad’s high-school basketball high tops to wear with my navy blue baggy pants.

It was a great costume.  And a fun day.

But my Dad had been a size 15.  Men’s. And, while I have big feet for a woman (anywhere from 9 to 11, depending on the shoe), I couldn’t touch that.  (A men’s 15 would be a Women’s 17, I’m told.  Or something like that).  I had to stuff the toes.
And, I wonder, if sometimes I try to fit into my “heavenly” Father’s shoes.  You see, He’s quite a visionary.  And the “shoes” he gives me to wear, so often feel like they’re..Just. Way. Too. Big.
Big vision.

Big purpose.

Massive calling.

HUGE dreams.

Speaking of spiritual fathers…

I once had a pastor who preached love and faith.  It was awesome.  Really.

But, if you talked with him, or worked side-by-side with him, any given day, you realized you…weren’t good enough.  Pretty quickly.

And staying in church there was an exercise in anxiety.

The disconnect between the pulpit and the personal was… huge.

Insurmountable.

A chasm that made you feel you needed a rope swing, and all of Tarzan’s skills, to begin to measure up.

And, if you were a girl, you might as well just forget it.

(No upper body strength–yeah, we know.

Or substitute whatever masculine trait you deem necessary for excellence here…)

And it rubbed off, inevitably, on my relationship with God.

How I saw Him.
Because, (and I seem to say this a lot), God just isn’t like that.

But I didn’t end up there, with that fiercely disapproving spiritual father,  because I was anxiety-free, coming in.

A high-achieving little girl, fierce in her determination to finish her calling, I knew I was supposed to be a missionary doctor.

And when your high-expectations, strong-disciplinarian  natural father abandons your family right as you enter puberty, it can mess you up.  We had to dig those high-top basketball shoes out of storage, because Dad wasn’t around to help us find them.

Because, no matter what else Dad ever said about our family’s divorce, one thing was clear.

I wasn’t enough, for him to stay for.

I don’t blame my Dad.  Not anymore.

Or my mom, or anybody else involved.

But I talk about it.  Because so many people have been through this.

And it affects us.  Even though we pretend it doesn’t.
But God.

The Ultimate Father.

You know what?  He stayed.

He even died.  For me.

I . Was. Enough.

For that.

And he doesn’t criticize.  Doesn’t condemn.  Doesn’t abandon.

And I have a game-changer for you.

You’re good enough.  Great, even.

For Him.
Because (and only because) Jesus has already made you perfect. Righteous.  Clean in His eyes.

Unbelievable?

Believe it.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 

You.

Are new.

And the shoes God gives you to fill are way beyond your capability.

Even on a good day.

So, it’s time to lay back in the hammock of Grace and the Miraculous.

In an every-day way.

And let the wind of the Spirit blow it, gently.
Unclench your fists.  Your jaw.

Still the voice in your head that questions everything.  Even yourself.

And let go.

Let God.

And put on those big, big shoes.

And dance your heart out for the kids.

Because he really is able–to make you able.

And your feet are just fine.

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,that publisheth peace;that bringeth good tidings of good,that publisheth salvation;that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Quit trying to be good enough.

You never were.

And live the miracle.

You are.  Now.  Because of Him.

Peace out.

On Seeing Clearly.  And Shooting Straight. (Or “Why I am a Sexist, Even Though I Don’t Want to Be”)

I didn’t date a lot in high school. I was in a couple of great youth groups that taught the difference between dating and courtship. And, honesty, the trauma of my own parents’ divorce probably made me hesitant, too. So I committed my life to Jesus, and didn’t really…date.
Until the summer after I graduated high school.
My best friend, at the time, was a truly amazing, gifted, humble, kind, positive young man named Peter. He happened to be Hispanic; I hadn’t noticed. We shared together, for years, in a ministry team at a Christian camp, (and during the school year, church) kitchen. We had SO MUCH FUN. I can remember rolling down giant hills of grass, only to rush in just in time from our breaks and greet a suspicious supervisor with innocent smiles. I remember water fights while cleaning the bathrooms. Flipping canoes on purpose, just to give the lifeguards something to do.
Camp is a great place to go. And serve. And meet lifelong friends.

And, that last summer of our high school years, “Pete” asked me to go steady. For the summer.
So we did.

And it was a little awkward. And sweet.
I decided to go to an intensive Bible school, next door to the camp, before college.

And I would come out from all-day ministry curriculum to find a bag of warm cookies from the camp kitchen tied to the antenna of my Volkswagen bug.
I dearly loved this boy, but I wasn’t in love with him.

So, at the end of the summer, we headed off to different universities.

And I “broke up” with him.

And in doing so, I lost a friend. One of the regrets in my life.
But on its heels, I had another shock.

My estranged Dad, picking me up at camp for one of our frequent, though awkward, visits, dropped a bombshell on me.
“I’m so glad you broke up with that Mexican boy.”
What? Did I hear that right?

My open-minded, Spanish-speaking father, who never met a stranger?

The man who took me to Puerto Rico for part of my childhood, and raised me in two cultures?

Was…racist?
He must have seen the shock on my face, and shrugged his shoulders sheepishly.
And, while I rarely confronted by Dad, because of the precarious nature of our relationship, I was incensed for my friend. And I said,

“Dad, I didn’t know you were prejudiced.”
And what he said next both disappointed and impressed me.

He said, “I am. I don’t think I can help it. It’s part of how and where I was raised.
But, Karen, I didn’t raise you to be.”



I had to give it to him. At eighteen years old, and close with my father, this was the first inkling I ever had of it.

And, while I could be (and was) disappointed that he didn’t work on himself, I was impressed that he wanted something better for the next generation.
So I have watched myself, over the course of my life. I am now about ten years older than he was the day he dropped that bombshell. And he has gone to his heavenly reward.
And I have to admit that I am a sexist.

Oh, I don’t want to be.

And that I’m probably a racist. (God, I hope not). Thought I actively work not to be.
Because prejudice, in this day and time, isn’t something obvious.

Prejudice, and its brother, discrimination, are very, very subtle.

But real.
My father told me a story once.

He and my mother got married while he was working in another state. Michigan.  And every time he called for an apartment, it was “already rented.”He was so confused.nd a co-worker told him, “Jim, you have a deep voice. And a very southern accent. The landlords think you’re black. I bet if you go in person, they will rent to you.”

The first apartment he visited in person was available. Because he was white.

And when he would tell the story, I could tell that he was not OK with that. Even in the 60’s.
When I was in school, in the 70’s and 80’s, we were taught that prejudice and sexism had been conquered. That they were gone. The Civil Rights movement had triumphed, and opportunity was now equal for all. And my (few) black friends in our upper-middle-class suburb seemed to prove that this was true. And I didn’t believe in the glass ceiling. (Until I later hit my head on it 3 times, but that’s another story).
So I went off to college. A white one. But I didn’t realize that. The “black school,” PrairieView A&M, was a few miles down the road in another town. Oh, we had diversity. Just not much.
But, as I began to study education, I was challenged by my professors. To explore my own behavior. Did I cringe when a casually dressed black male got on the elevator with me? Hmm.

We videotaped ourselves teaching. And we had to count the number and type of questions we asked different students. And look for patterns of prejudice. Do you ask more math questions to boys? More complex questions to white students? It was eye-opening. Because these behaviors are so deep in the unconscious that we really don’t mean to be prejudiced. We just are. All of us. About somebody.
I have an amazing daughter. She is the athlete I don’t think I ever could be. A genius at math. And science. And a fiercely defensive personality. An ideal sweeper, or defender. And, one day, in an elite teen soccer training, I overheard her coach talking to a team dad. “You know, girls don’t have the spatial reasoning guys do. You have to coach them differently. They just can’t read the field.”
I was too shocked to say a word. I am not a stage mom. Not a helicopter parent. But it troubled me that this young man believed that. Because, if he didn’t believe they could do it, he would never teach them to do it. Self-fulfilling prophecy, because then they…wouldn’t be able to do it.
And I once made a perfect score on a national achievement test–in spatial reasoning. As a 16-year-old girl. And her father is an engineer. And Barbara was, actually, excellent at reading the field. So I screwed up my courage and walked over to this precious young coach.
“Coach, did you say that girls can’t read the field?”

“That’s right,” he said. “They just don’t have the spatial reasoning.” This was in the 21st century.

I looked him, gently but firmly, in the eyes.

“Barbara can.”
The words hung in the air.

To his credit, he thought about it.

And then he said, “You know, she can. I hadn’t thought about it before. But she’s the exception.”
And maybe she was.

But I don’t know if she was the exception because her parents are both excellent spatial reasoners, or because she was raised to believe she could be. The lines get blurry.
But it was my oldest daughter who busted through my own prejudices.

You see, there are things you don’t know about yourself.

I didn’t know I had a temper…until I got married.

I didn’t know I could be prone to anxiety…until I became a mother.

And I didn’t know I was sexist. Until I had a little girl.
Joanna, or “Joey,” wasn’t an extrovert. She was happier in her bassinet than she was snuggling with me. And that rocked my world. Not in a good way.

She is beautiful, articulate and kind. But she wasn’t the type to dress in pink and make polite conversation over tea.

And I had to confront my own ideas of what a girl should be.

Funny how I never had to do that with my sons. I didn’t have as many preconceived ideas where they were concerned. It didn’t occur to me that that was sexism. But it was.

My amazing, beautiful, communicative Joanna now works for Google. As an engineer.

Because we learned how to let her…be her.

The way God made her.

And I had to learn, before I unintentionally harmed her, to confront and release my prejudiced expectations.

And so it was, that when I came to medical school, I came to Parkland Hospital.

Inner-city Dallas.

And learned that, while black lives definitely matter, they were very different from the life I had lived. I saw people treated with unbelievable rudeness, discourtesy, and even disregard.

By white male doctors. Who were “too tired to be nice” that day.

I once saw a surgery resident cancel a clinic. Because he felt like it.

And I had to look in the eyes of a Hispanic grandmother that had been waiting for him, in a hard plastic chair, for six hours. Really.
Carrying it forward,  when I entered residency, I asked to be placed in the clinic no one wanted.

In the “black” neighborhood.

And I learned more than I ever imagined I would. Policy matters.

Welfare is a trap.

And people can’t help being black.  Duh. And they’re aren’t always at fault for being poor.

Or even pregnant.  (I could tell you stories…)
Poverty is a killer. And it affects people of color disproportionately.

I don’t know why.

But I’m not sure it’s all their fault.
But the biggest lesson I learned in trying to learn how to communicate to urban black people in a lower income neighborhood…was that they weren’t as different from me as I thought. All they asked for was honesty, and a little respect.  What works in the suburbs…works in the ‘hood.  We are all people.
I could tell you so many stories, over the course of my medical career.

About speaking truth to power.

About losing jobs and committee assignments for pointing out that our policies were uneven toward men and women, whites and minorities.
But the story I want to tell gives me hope.

My oldest son is a West Point grad. (I like to mention that).

And, when he got there, one of the first things they learned was to respect diversity.

And manage their own prejudices.
Once, while he was home on leave, I took him to see the race-themed movie, The Help.

And I warned him it would make him angry.

But in the first fifteen minutes, when a white suburban housewife begins to go on about “darkies” needing separate toilets because they have “different diseases,” he came out of his chair.
His fist were doubled.

His jaw was clenched.

His body was taut.
And I had to remind him to sit down.

And finish the movie, because, really, it gets better.

And he did. And it did.
And I realized something.

He was way ahead in his understanding of racial injustice than I had been, at his age.
And, I think, that unintentionally I have done what my father did.

Raised my children to be better people, and less prejudiced, than I was. Am.
Jesus, help us.
In The Help a dark-skinned nanny helps a little white girl overcome low self-esteem.

Because she isn’t as pretty and social as her mother wanted; not what she thought a little girl should be.

“You is smart. You is kind. You is important,” she repeats with her, over and over.

And it’s true.
But I want to leave you with a powerful thought from a much more traditional female heroine.

Incredibly, my favorite advice for dealing with racism, sexism, and other discrimination, comes from…Cinderella. Sigh.
(The live-action version).

Where her dying mother’s advice is, “Have courage. And be kind.”
Have courage.  Sometimes you have to point out discriminatory patterns.
And be kind.  Because the people you’re confronting…Probably.  Don’t. Know. They’re . Prejudiced.  And they will be defensive.  And hurt.
It is a great formula for promoting social justice. Confronting, gently, while loving.

Speaking the truth in love.  Educating.  Raising awareness.

Another famous mother once gave great advice, to a son.

Proverbs 31:1 The sayings of King Lemuel contain this message, which his mother taught him……

Proverbs 31:8-9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

The Bible isn’t liberal. Or conservative.

It’s just true.
And we are charged to bring justice for those who have no voice.

If we have any voice at all.
And the first place to confront prejudice, of any sort, is with ourselves.

Peace out.

Goodness. Gracious. Me.

One of the things in my life I hesitate to tell people is that I once spent seven years as an agnostic.

For a girl born and raised in church, saved and called to the mission field at 7 years old, and currently in the ministry, it is an awkward thing to bring up.

But it happened.

And this is how.

After years of breathless waiting, impatient to “grow up” and leave home, I found myself in college.

Still waiting…

Impatiently.

To grow up and start the life God had called me to as a small child.  Champing at the bit to get going, and hating the seemingly-stalled Plan Of God for me.  And, into that void, stepped a very energetic, talented and very demanding/critical preacher.

I was thrilled.  Finally, someone who understood the magnitude of the contribution that I could make.  Someone with high expectations.  Someone who treated me like a grown-up.

And, so it was that I fell into the hands of a cult leader.  (Probably the other thing in my life that I truly hesitate to discuss).

I quit college . (Such a sense of exhilaration and freedom!). I dedicated my days to helping at the church. (Finally, a meaningful life.). And, to top it all off, I married the pastor’s favorite (yes, we played favorites in that church) protégée, and up-and-coming, gifted young preacher who absolutely loved me.

Being an honor student and all-around overachiever, I decided to overachieve as a wife and mother.

I had five children. Naturally. (And I do mean “naturally.”)

In a seven year period.

During which I tried to work, at least half-time, at the church. No kidding.

(And was rejected and criticized, publicly, by the pastor, for not being as dedicated as I had been previously).

And found myself in the pit of depression and despair.  And, of course, unable to admit it.  “Spiritual” people don’t get help for depression.  Do they?  My pastor told my husband how “concerned” he was. (He never said a word to me.)

And I felt more and more alone.

And then a friend and church member…committed suicide.  By driving in front of a train. (If it bothers you to hear true stories of how the church can fail people, stop reading now.  This gets worse.). She was on her way home from cleaning the pastor’s home and helping his wife with their 6 children.

Then another friend started doubting her salvation.  I talked her into not leaving the church.  (A well-intentioned decision I will always regret).  The pastor “suggested” to a young male church member that he marry her.  On her wedding night, her hand-picked husband told her that he didn’t believe in everything our pastor said.  She spent her wedding night having a mental breakdown…in a closet.  She soon left town, still very emotionally unbalanced.

Her family, sweet and devout Catholics, got her into “deprogramming” and therapy.  One day, she called our pastor to ask him if she had lost her salvation.  After a long moment of intense silence, he hung up on her.

The next day she drove her car off of a bridge.

Now minus two friends, I tried even harder to be a pleaser.  But I never seemed to be able to make my pastor happy.

And then all hell broke loose.

My amazing, faithful husband (still a church leader) began to question our leader’s approach.  In private, he asked him to go easier on the people, and not to order their personal lives.  I think he thought he would be received because of their longstanding relationship, his history of service, and the discreet way he went about it.

For the next two years, every sermon would include a reference to “Satan is working in our church elders.”  Because, of course, Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” and my husband had dared to bring up a possible pastoral shortcoming.

The other “elder,” in his late twenties, left the church after about a year of this.  Taking my best friend, (his wife), and their five children effectively out of my life.

It would take George two years to leave.

It took me another year after that.

We got professional help.  We rebuilt our marriage.  Re-tooled how we raised our kids.  Began to go to the (gasp) doctor.  And I slowly began to beat depression.

I finished college.  God, in His goodness, arranged a Master’s degree for me.  One that was really useful for the mission field.  (Education, with studies in bilingual and ESL approaches).  And then, I went to medical school.  At one of the finest scientific institutions in the world.

But I wasn’t done processing the hurt, confusion, and the pain.  OR the losses.

So I made a decision.  I would not call myself a Christian until I saw some real love, coming out of me.

And, on its heels, another one.  I would not believe in God until He proved His existence to me.

I was so confused.  So tired of religion.  So absolutely unwilling to ever be part of anything again that could hurt so many people.  But, I had no idea which parts of my belief system were valid.  So I decided to start at Square One.  With God.  Himself.

And I became an agnostic.

My Christian friends in med school didn’t understand this.  And, honestly, it wasn’t any of their business.

But they followed me around anyway.  And tried to “re-convert” me.  And they probably prayed for me.  I truly appreciate that.

But the sermons didn’t help.

And one day, exasperated, I turned around to a young Asian man who was a dear teammate and said, “Look.  You’re using Evangelism explosion outline #2 right now.  I’ve taught that class.  Leave me alone!”

You see, God, Himself, didn’t do that.

He quietly took up my challenge.

And loved me more than I had ever been loved.

And He blessed me.  It was as if He said, “Well, if you don’t want the blessings of faith and spirituality, how about something else?”

I found myself blessed.

In my family.

In my finances.

In the community.

In relationships.

With my children, who are, incidentally, also blessed.

And this approach, showing me who He really is, eventually brought me back to church, and back into the ministry.

Where I am currently very happy.  And blessed.
The Bible says,

Romans 2:4 Or do you have no regard for the wealth of His kindness and tolerance and patience in withholding His wrath? Are you actually unaware or ignorant of the fact that God’s kindness leads you to repentance that is, to change your inner self, your old way of thinking—seek His purpose for your life?

Maybe we need to rethink some of our evangelism strategies.

God’s kindness.

His tolerance.

Not His judgment and condemnation.

His Goodness.   Was all for me.

His Graciousness.  Was all for me.

I certainly didn’t deserve it.

But, then, I never did.

And that’s the Gospel.

Goodness.

Gracious.

All for me.  No. Matter. What.

Peace out.

Mentoring, Mothering, and Multiplicity…

Multiplicity.

I heard this word this week. In a church service.

One pastor, encouraging another pastor not to be afraid of the multiplicity of things God had for him to do.  It was a lovely, challenging, mentoring moment, and I thought about…

Mothers.
Of course I did.

We all have so many things to do.  Modern society is full of roles to take and hats to change in and out of.  For men and women.  Young and old.  (I even remember reading about preschool stress syndrome once).  Now we get work emails on our phones, nights and weekends, too. But when it comes to multi-tasking, no one has the strain young mothers do.  (And I’ve been through med school AND residency, just for comparison).  Maybe my oldest, during boot camp and then Special Forces training, approached this level of unforgiving intensity.  But it was limited to 2 or 3 months.

But, Dr. Karen, you say, you had 5 children.  All at once.  Surely it isn’t that hard for mothers with 1 or 2.

One child rocked my world.  Some people never recover.

And two?  Two is where I went quietly insane.

Just kidding, but some days it felt like it.  And it cured me of perfectionism.  Forever.

After the second child, numbers 3, 4 and 5 were cake.  But maybe it was me that had changed.

(I’m told it goes to another level at the sixth; I never felt led to try it out.)

And, I know that some of you reading still long for a marriage or a child.  Don’t despair. You are not forgotten.  And this article is for you, too.

Because God stretches us all.

This senior pastor, ministering to a pastor from another nation, quietly said, “Don’t be afraid of the multiplicity of things God has for you do.”

Such a simple statement.

And it struck me to my core.

Why?

Because I’m entering another busy season.

With Christian yoga workshops, teaching womens’ conferences, out-of-town women’s classes, ESL outreaches, and regular weekly ministry to young urban women.  While also working full time.   Oh, yeah, and I’m writing a book on the side.  And, just to make it fun, in April I am due to retake my Boards.  It’s been 10 years.  And the American Board of Family Medicine sent me a lovely newsletter yesterday.  They’re probably getting rid of the test.  In 2017. Sigh. This year, those who are scheduled get to take it.  Smile.  They politely recommended studying 10-15 hours per week, graciously admitting that the test doesn’t match real-life practice very well. (Some years, 1/3 of practicing, experienced docs don’t pass.)

So I’m busy.
And I know I’m following the Lord in these things.  Not just busy because I didn’t pay attention and took on too much. (Been there.  I don’t like it.) This is a holy busy.

This happened to me once before.  When I first came to Eagle mountain Church, I was a new-to-practice doctor. With five active, involved teens. And the Lord had me show up nearly every time the doors opened, because I needed it.  And others …needed me. I joined the choir.  Our choir director at the time was raised in the golden era of Black Gospel music in Chicago. And it was nothing like the “spirituals” I had learned from a very white high school choir director.    This was a lovely, multi-racial church, and my fellow choir members didn’t have my Methodist/Baptist background.  They were raised COGIC.  (Pronounced “Kojik”)

I thought COGIC was a cop with a lollipop. (Kojak, anyone?)  It isn’t.  It stands for Church of God in Christ, and people from this church know Gospel music.

And COGIC people sing by ear.  And I’m an alto.  That means I was singing harmony.  By ear.  And I had to listen to the women around me for my part, watch the director, and try to keep my heart focused on the Lord.   It was tough, but I could do it.  And then, one day, in rehearsals, the director politely informed us that he wanted us to sway.  In time.  Together.

And, silly as it sounds, this is the point where I had to make a decision.  I could’ve said, “This is too hard.  I can’t do it.”  I could have said, “I’m too busy”.   “This isn’t my style of music.”  I could have walked away from a team I was called to be part of, out of fear or embarrassment, or, even worse, a sense of inadequacy.

Or.

Or I could respond in faith.  If I know I’m called to be here, and the director asks something of me, I can reach out to God for ability.  Even if I don’t have it.

And I did.  And, in those years, I learned to have a lot of fun worshipping God with music I had been unfamiliar with, swaying, smiling, singing and worshiping.  In tune, while watching the director.  And we made good music.

And, as I said above, I was involved in So. Many. Things. In those years.  At home. In our schools. At work.  In the community. At the church.   And, one day, while we were rehearsing, and I was enjoying the musical challenges, the Lord spoke to me.

“This is not an accident.  That you’re here, in choir,  being stretched.”  And He went on.  “I want you to take this as a life lesson.  Right now you have a lot of things to keep your mind on.  But always watch me, like you would a choir director.  I’ll cue you. And use your faith when it seems like too much to do.”  So I did.

And I loved my life.

There have been other seasons.  Seasons of rest.  Seasons of healing.

The Bible says,

Psalm 31:14-15 But I trusted in thee, O Lord:I said, Thou art my God.

My times are in thy hand.

There are a seasons for everything.  And I enjoyed them.  Especially rest.

But now, I have come full circle , again.  To a seasons of busy, varied productivity.

A season of multiplicity.

And I realized something.

The same God who made Adam and Eve, who Blessed them, who commanded them to be fruitful, said,

“MULTIPLY.”

It’s a commandment.

And, just maybe…

MULTIPLICITY= MULTIPLY, in the CITY

So, in the years, when He challenges me with a multiplicity of things to do, in the city I’m currently called to serve in, I’m being very Scriptural.

Peace out.

Of Jingle Bells and Redeeming the Pirates

Warmth and light filled the room, while snowflakes danced in flurries at the windows.

To the right of the platform, a giant Christmas tree twinkled hundreds of golden lights from its branches.

The twin video monitors scrolled matching electronic snowflurries and encouragement.

Christmas had come to CityChurch.

I sat near the front in the nearly empty auditorium while George prepared to play the keyboard, watching 4 or 5 adults move around the room getting ready for the service.  High-energy updated Christmas carols fill the speakers, worshipful in their intensity.

Later that afternoon I would find myself across the street in a massive dilapidated warehouse, boxing hundreds of books, toys and clothes for kids who live…downtown.  Without a lot of resources.

Behind me, the pastor’s wife walked in with 2 of her young daughters.  Warm and secure in their winter finery, they giggled and laughed while a teenager teased them about crushing on boys.  She happens to be white; her daughters black.  No one notices, in this culture of love, service and frequent adoption.  Many of the kids adopted by CityChurch families were once kids on our bike food routes and in our Bible club programs.  When life falls apart, it seems like God taps someone on the shoulder to step in and help.  We adopt kids we know.  No one plans it; it just happens.

Next troops in the adult Sunday school class, fresh from meeting in the cafeteria.  A CityChurch mix of skin tones, with clothes ranging from suburban to ghetto.  Some faces ravaged by life; others serene.  After class, they all look calm and peaceful.  An older Hispanic woman is crying; she takes the seat next to me.  The second row where I sit fills in with black and brown faces, mostly women and children.  We hug each other.

At the back of the church I see a 13 year old black ballerina.  Oh, she’s dressed for church, but in a bun and full stage makeup.  A former dance mom always knows.  Her brand-new sweatshirt reads “The Nutcracker.”  Today, while I am boxing books and toys, she will be pirouetting before hundreds.  Her mother doesn’t share her skin tone or genetic makeup either, but I have never known a more loyal dance mom.  (And I’ve known a few).  Our ballerina was probably once a kid on someone’s van route.  I don’t know her story’s beginning, but I believe it will end gloriously.

Suddenly a wave of small children come in from preschool Sunday school, laughing and talking.  Playing with each other without regard to height, gender or skin tone.  By now the auditorium is almost full.  Across the way, a white face and brown face, belonging to 2 of our female teenage church musicians, enter the sanctuary arm in arm.

The state of the art video cameras begin to roll behind me.

In the corner, our AV guy, the pastor’s brother , is DJ-ing with headphones on.  Unaware of anyone else, he dances to the beat.  He is middle-aged, balding and white, but the music is spot-on.

As the service starts, the pastor takes his seat…at the drums.  Today he is shaking his official sleigh bells radically; two Hispanic preschoolers in the row in front of me shake the jingle bells on their Sunday school candycanes in time with him.

Later, he will take the pulpit and talk about how God sent the Christmas angels to…shepherds.  Not middle-class, suburban, cartoon-character shepherds. But the down-and dirty, the pirates and construction-workers of their day.  Making the point, without words, that God’s priority is the loner, the outcast, the desperate.  The not-so-well-dressed, not-so-respected.

It is a message that resonates here.

Everyone in the room is a believer, or considering becoming one.

Trusting God is something we work on.  Trusting people is harder.

But if we can be together as a community through the ups and downs of life, it gets a little easier.

And if we can address isues of race and poverty and crime and jail and marriage and sexuality and pain with love and wisdom, we are stronger together.

Our wisdom comes from the Bible.

Our love comes from the Holy Spirit.

Our identity comes from Jesus.

Everything else is negotiable.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

Of Gratitude and Grapevine.  For Generations.

It’s funny how someone’s social media post can get you to thinking.  One old preacher I used to listen to a lot, regarding thinking, says that “you can start off on an old shoe and end up in China.”  Pretty much.

So, today, I saw a post about my children’s high school.  This is  a place I love.  While each of my children spent several years there, I spent a decade.  From Jeremy’s freshman entrance in 2003, to Molly’s grand exit in 2013.    The five Smith kids, and the Smith clan, definitely made their mark on Grapevine High School.  But GHS left a handprint on our hearts, as well.

During Molly’s Senior year, everything seemed to touch a chord in me.  I realized, as she didn’t, that it was not just HER last Homecoming parade, or costume Pep rally, or competition trip, but that all of us, as a group, were coming to the end of an era.  Molly would roll her eyes and say, “You’re not going to cry again, are you, Mom?  It’s MY senior year.”  And I would smile and promise not to cry.  And turn my head away as the tears flowed.

Tears of what? Gratitude.  I am not afraid of change.  Dear Lord, a quick glance across my life would show that.  I am not one to grieve for the past; I am usually too involved in the present.  And dreaming about the future.  But the past, and the present-that-is-rushing-to-quickly-become-a-memory, are treasures I savor.  So much joy.  So many precious people.  Experience on experience, happening so fast you just can’t seem to catalog them all for memory.  And I want to.

So I spent those years absorbing and cataloging.  Watching.  Letting my kids take the spotlight.  Me, as the mental videographer.  And this Facebook post brought back the memories.

It is, this week, the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Drill Team on which my youngest daughter was recently an officer.  And, if that doesn’t sound very spiritual to you, let me tell you how it happened.

In 5th grade, Molly was at church camp.  A really good one.  Learning about faith.  She was tall, and big for her age like women in my family can be.  She was outgoing, talkative and still hadn’t learned how to tame her curly hair.  (Like most of us, in my family, at that age).  And she came home with a God-given vision.

“Mom, I want to be a cheerleader.”

Be still, my heart.  Molly, please forgive me now, but at first I didn’t see it.   She wasn’t popular.  She was too tall.  Too muscular.  With braces and frizzy hair.  And, in our upper-middle-class Texas neighborhood, you didn’t just try out for cheerleader.  Molly knew this.  So she proposed that she quit a lifetime of ballet training and requested…private cheerleading lessons.

If you’re not from upper-middle-class Texas, that probably seems ridiculous.  These lessons are expensive.  And absoutely, positively necessary, if you are to have a chance.  She would be competing against girls who had been training, competing and winning medals for years.

And the first thought that tried to enter my mind was…fear.  I don’t want my little girl hurt by these people.  See, I still considered myself an outsider to the  upper-middle class, if not to Texas.  And on its heels, fear.  Again.  I don’t want my precious, compassionate daughter to become a shallow trophy-wife sort of woman.  BUT GOD.  (Isn’t that a great line?)  But God helped me.  You see, the children’s pastor had been teaching the kids to dream big.  To believe God for His vision for their lives.  Even if it seemed impossible. And she came up with this impossible vision at church camp. And I closed the door to fear ASAP and said, “Honey, I’m OK with that. Let’s use our faith together.”

She became a cheerleader.  She became popular.  Beautiful.  In high school she became a dancer again.  And from 7th grade cheer to Senior drill team officer tryouts, we used our faith every year.  There were setbacks.  But she flourished.  And she used her gifts to help others.  To be a leader in Young Life. Student body president.

There’s more to the story.  You see, this wasn’t my first middle-class Texas rodeo.  When I was in high school, as a frizzy-headed, braces-wearing science nerd, the Holy Spirit spoke to me.  “Try out for the drill team.”  What????  The drill team with short skirts, suggestive dance moves, and secular music???  Yes.  The peaceful, gentle leading of the Holy Spirit was crystal clear.  So I did.  And found that, by the grace of God,  I was the favorite, the first Girl-of-the Day, the likeliest to take the #1 spot.  Wow.  But, on the day of tryouts, I felt awkard.  Afraid and uncomfortable.  And, through a series of unimaginable setbacks, took place #29 instead.  First alternate.

And had to use my faith to complete the project.

I prayed in faith, and left it in God’s hands. Waiting, for what I now knew He was working out.

In August of 1982, I got the phone call.  A friend had moved away with her father’s job transition; my spot was open.  Did I still want to dance?  Oh, yes.  And that year, my public high school saw a miniature spiritual renewal.  A lot of it centered around the dance team.  We broke through cliques.  We openly served Jesus.  And the favor and social positions God had chosen to place us in helped us to do it.

So, this video doesn’t just bring back memories of generations of pom-poms and dance routines. Not even just sisterhood and friendship.  These are the situations of daily life in high-school Texas where my daughter and I learned to Use. Our. Faith.  Like a tool.

And, now I find that I want to thank…my mother.

High-school cheerleader, college drill teamer, and lover of Jesus.  In the 50’s and 60’s.

Maybe the greatest compliment I can give her is to know that I raised my children just like she raised me.

In the fear of The Lord.  AND USING OUR FAITH FOR THE TIME AND PLACE WHERE WE FOUND OURSELVES, TO HIS GLORY.
The God that helped David kill the bear and the lion, helped him slay Goliath.

The God that helped us take on the BayCity Black Cats, Humble Wildcats and Grapevine Mustangs, with success and excellence, will help me build my medical and missionary ministry.

It’s the little things.

And the big things.

And I’m grateful.

Wow.  Hold on for the ride; here we go again.

God Likes Girls.  And He Loves Them, Too.

One of my favorite points to make about the Bible is that, before the Fall,  God gave men and women BOTH dominion.  (One of my other favorite points to make is that the book on miracles, Acts, was written by a physician.  But that’s beside the point.)

But it took years for me to realize that, in the Garden, Eve had dominion.  Not over Adam, but…Over.  Everything. Else.

And that God reached inside Himself to create man, and then reached inside man to find woman.  As a woman who has given birth 5 times and as a doctor who has delivered hundreds of babies, that resonates with me.  God has reached inside of me to find people, too.  And I have reached inside of others (literally) to bring someone out.

But what really blows my mind is this.  If Eve was “in” Adam, (bear with me), and if Adam was “in” God, then…..

wasn’t Eve in God, too?

She had to be, if Adam was made in his likeness, and then Eve taken out of his side.  Wow.

The Jews say that Eve was created last, because God finally got it right.  I like that.

But the crowning moment of creation actually wasn’t Eve.  And it wasn’t Adam.  Or the stars.  Or the planets, blue whales, dinosaurs, or cuddly panda bears.

It was The Blessing.

Now, God is a blesser.  He is an affirmer par excellence.  Every day, every step along the way, He said, “It is good.”  And it was.

But when it was all over, and all the dust had settled, God took Adam and Eve, the crown of His creation, and..

God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

So, I want to talk today, about what is means to be Blessed by God.  As a woman.  Hear me out.

1. God’s Girl

The deepest wellspring of our identity can’t be our appearance, or our grades, or our profession, or our intelligence, or even our character.  Here’s a newsflash:  the source of our identity has to come from outside ourselves.  If it doesn’t, we can’t be renewed.

So God is a well we can tap into.  Our deepest relationship, and the very deepest source of who we are.  Like Jamie Grace says, “I’m a God girl, that’s who I be / from the top of my head to the soles of my feet…”

She got that right.  Knowning who we are stabilizes us.  And stability is SO important.  For service to others.  To go the distance.  And for the storms.  Trees with the longest taproots do better in hurricanes.  Think about it.
2.  Offer yourself.

This is a challenege.  But it’s only in offering yourself, willingly, to your destiny, that you find peace and fulfillment.  When I was a freshman (freshwoman?) in college, I bought a book.  It was called something like How to Find God’s Will For Your Life.  And I wanted to.  Gee, how I wanted to.

One of the interesting thiings about this book is that it had you list the 3 things you were afraid God would make you do if you surrendered your will to His.  And I wrote down, 1. Missionary, 2. Teacher.  3. Preacher’s Wife.

Know what?  Those things were exactly what I was called to do.  But I was not yet yielded to the will of God in my life.  Oh, I thought I was.  But I wasn’t.  And I have found my greatest joy in the last 32 years when I was doing something related to one of those 3 things.

Another way to offer yourself is prayer.  Spending time is an offering; time is the most valuable thing we have.  Because it’s the most limited.

And there is such peace in offering yourself back to the God who made you.  Whether it’s in time with Him, or in yielding to His plan for you.  It works.
3. Divine Strategies.

Knowing God’s will for your life is great and all, but how do you get there?

It takes step-by-step wisdom to birth a great vision.

And in spending time with God, you will find, that as you seek Him, you will find His answers and His direction.  Sometimes it will surprise you.  But trust His strategies.  They’re golden.

The prerequisite for divine strategies, that move you suddenly from Place A to Place B, is doing the step above.  Yield yourself.  Regularly.  In the small steps.  Being faithful.  When you dare to abandon yourself to His grace, He is free to plan.  Wild and crazy things.  More than you ever thought possible.  And, in time, He’ll show you His marvelous plan.

It will be more than you expect.  I promise.

4. Be Who You Are

America seems to be afflicted with an epidemic of people-pleasing.  And American women seem to be afflicted by it even more than their male counterparts.  And, what’s really a head-scratcher, women raised in church, CHRISTIAN women, have it worst of all.

Even though Paul clearly said, that if we are trying to please people, we are not serving God.

Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

So what’s a girl to do?  Raised in church to be “nice,”  (read: doing what other people want), it shreds us in pieces to say no.  But Jesus did it.  All the time.  Read the Gospels, looking at Jesus.  You’ll be shocked.  He wasn’t always “nice.”  Not by modern American church standards.   But he was our example of love.  And, oh, how He loved.

What’s the difference, then, between people-pleasing and real love?  Knowing who you are.

Every time Jesus said no, he said why.  He would say, in essence, “That’s not what I’m called to do.  That’s not WHO I AM.”

Jesus knew who He was.  God had shown him.  And, that same God, who loves us just as much as he loves Jesus, will show us who we are.  Ask.  And be faithful to what you know.  It may mean saying no sometimes.  That’s OK.  Just do it.  And think to yourself, “I’m being like Jesus right now.”  Smile.


5.  Like What You Do

The only safe place, the only fulfilled place, is right in the middle of God’s will for you.  OK, so let’s talk about it.  Small children.  Housework.  Older children.  Driving.  Running errands.  If you’re a mother, things can get monotonous.  Even though you love your children, it’s hard to like caring for them and their home day after day.  No inspiration.  No recognition.  No achievements.  No rewards. It can sometimes feel like you’d rather be any place else.

Maybe you’re not a mother.  Maybe you feel stuck in a dead-end job.  No hope.  No recognition.  No reward.

But…the Bible says, “Lift up your eyes.”  You have to see the end from the beginning, for the journey to be worth it.  I.  PROMISE.  that these days don’t last forever.  There are other gifts and callings in you.  Start dreaming.  Plan for what you will do as the kids need you less and less.  Maybe there are steps you can take, now, to prepare.

Take that class to prepare for a different job.  The one you always wanted.  I was 35 when I started medical school.  30 when I started planning for it.   I spent 10 years at home with small children first.  And, in retrospect, I’m so glad I did.  Plan and dream for the future.

And…start to like what you do.  Where you are.  See the hand of God in it.  Ask Him what your spiritual assignments are, right now, in that job, that house, that situation.  You’ll get so happy, right where you are, that others will wonder.  Take notice.  And that may just be the beginning of your larger ministry.
6.  Empower Others

Real leaders aren’t necessarily the ones with titles and corner offices.  Real leaders are the ones who impact the lives of others.  Just ask  John Maxwell.  He wrote a book about it.  It was called The 360 Degree Leader, and one of its main points was that leadership is influence, not position.  And the best way to influence is to help enable the gifts and callings in other people.  Whether it’s paid work or volunteer work, that private office or the PTA, learn to delegate responsibilities and recognition to other people.  If you’re a mother, do it with your children.  It’s not all about you; and it’s not all about control.

One of the most valuable activities in life is handing the ball off to someone else, and then watching them run.  If they score, you know you gave it to them.  Everyone else doesn’t have to.

When you have a chance at leadership or position, use it for the good of the team.  Watch them learn and grow.

Find the hurting, broken, or shy people.  Support them until they succeed.

You get points in Heaven for it.  Beside that, it’s fun.

And, if you ever get a change to study leadership formally, you’ll find that it is fundamental to any major undertaking.


7.  Serve
Serve.  No big surprise.  But if you put your heart into it, it is on the most fulfilling endeavors there is.

Where you are, with what you have, find ways to help and bless others.  Be faithful to your assigned duties.  Go the distance; stay the course.  Continue being excellent at what is set before you. Every day.  For a long, long time.

Doesn’t sound like fun, does it?

It is, if you have a vision.

“Lift up your eyes” is what God told Abraham, when nothing belonged to him.  Abraham was faithful; and soon the land was the nation of Israel.  And still is.

Serve with purpose.  Serve with vision.  Serve with excellence.

Serve with love.

You’ll be surprised at what can happen.
8.  Submit

In our culture, women rarely get to be top dog.  Whether in the boardroom, or doing the family budget, men seem to be in charge.  So what?  None of us were born to be in charge.

Newsflash: we’re all here to serve God.  He’s the only top dog.

And, every one of us, male or female, has someone to submit to.  Submission isn’t just for women.  It’s how we keep peace in the Body or Christ, and in society.  People have bosses, government, leaders.  Kids have parents and teachers. Churches have pastors, deacons, boards.  But the President answers to the people, and the CEO to the board.

What to do?  The Bible is really clear on this.

Submit.  To your own husband.  Your own pastor.  Your government representatives.  Your boss.

It’s amazing how God can use them.

And it’s amazing how doing so keeps. You. Safe.
9. Enjoy

Yeah.   I said it.  Enjoy this crazy, messed-up, sometimes painful mess we call life.

Enjoy your husband, if you’re married.

Enjoy your kids, if you have any.

Enjoy your job, if you have one.

And remember when you were asking for each of those things.

Enjoy your Lord; He’s actually a lot of fun to talk to.

Enjoy walking out your individual calling, in Him.  It takes faith; it’s a marvelous adventure.
10.  Do

With all your might.

Bob Goss has written a wonderful book called Love Does.  His simple message?

1. Love God.

2. Love People.

3. Do Stuff.
I couldn’t have said it better.

And, as you do, you’ll find God directing your steps.

And a little secret? The more you lay hold of faith, love and your dreams, that faster exciting things will come to you.  You will impact more people for the Kingdom than you ever thought possible.

Peace out.