A Post for Women Warriors

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted a ban on women in combat yesterday. When doing so, he said that it was “the responsibility of every citizen to protect the nation.”

Whoa.

Feminists are wildly cheering. Conservative Christians are freaking out. And everybody in between is taking one very big deep breath. Everyone except the bloggers, of which I am one. We’re verbal processing.

I don’t know exactly what to do with the changes in the military. I don’t know what to do because natural realities reflect supernatural ones. And I wrestle with the idea of women in spiritual warfare all the time.

I turn this idea over and over in my head because I want to believe in that age old role. The one in which I’m just to be loving and kind and gracious, and in doing so, the enemy will be turned back. But on a regular basis, God calls me to fight for others. And those fights are long, hard, tedious, dangerous, and gritty. They do require me to be loving and gracious…towards those I’m trying to protect or rescue (under the leadership of Christ). But those battles also require me to stand up and speak out. To declare statements like “this far and no farther.” To be on guard, looking for the enemies’ attack plan and to stop him. To be resolute and firm; unwavering and merciless. To push past exhaustion and fight for life in others’ lives.

I tend to want to be the princess in the castle, administering hospitality, but God calls me to be Zena, warrior princess far too often.

At some point in all this wrestling over my role, I just had to be encouraged by the stunning strength of women in scripture. When I read the bible, I see women courageously choosing to fight for what’s right, even when death for doing so is on the line (reference Esther & Rahab, as well as new testament woman martyrs. You didn’t really think that the Romans only captured men of “the way,” did you?)

When I reflected on the women in God’s word, I had to own up to the fact that Deborah really did lead a nation, and she was still a good wife. Jael really did save the nation by cunningly killing the enemy king (with a tent  spike through the head). Hannah really wasn’t some meek and mild quiet gal. She gave up her most precious gift to God because she was fulfilling her word. (You better believe that took guts.) Mary really did commit a faux pas by sitting at the feet of Jesus to learn, assuming also to teach what she learned. And Jesus really did encourage it!  Priscilla (f) and Aquila (m) really did teach the basics of faith to Apollos. And Priscilla was primary in that teaching.

These women were not looking for power. (No one likes or respects the woman who goes in demanding to lead.) They were women who saw that the ones they loved needed someone to protect and provide, and they were the person who could offer that protection and provision.

Too many women have been fighting the battle behind the scenes for too long, feeling guilty for doing so.

I don’t know how I feel about women in combat. As a woman who fights against human trafficking and gender violence, I’m scared for those women for sure. I am terrified for what will happen to them if they are captured. (…among a host of other things.)

But, as a woman who’s been on the front lines of spiritual battles for far too long, I would love it if some of my fellow ladies would cheer on the idea of women fighting the good fight a bit more. Perhaps, by starting with themselves. I would love if they would pick up a weapon, preferably the one God’s gifted them with, and use the opportunities they’ve been given to fight the battles before us. I wish they would give up their dreams of being Betty Crocker, and step into the mud of another woman’s life.

And to those who are fighting… The ones that I stand shoulder to should with…. I say Hoorah!

Let’s battle this thing until we too, like Paul, can say….”I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7)

Cause if you’re not fighting at this point….what are you doing?

A Post for those in Hiding

All week last week, Jesus kept drawing me into the gospel story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. By Saturday, I was kind of frustrated about it.

What am I missing? I wondered. I prayed for wisdom and revelation and finished washing the dishes, turning the story over in my mind again.

Well, I got to church on Sunday, and guess what the sermon was on? You guessed it. The Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Although the guest preacher did a wonderful job bringing insights, I didn’t hear much of what he said. While he was speaking, God finally let me see this text for what I feel it really is. Allow me to share.

The passage says that the woman is there at the sixth hour (roughly about noon). The guest speaker had commented that you should ask yourself the question: who goes to a well in the desert heat at high noon? Nobody. This women was going to the well at noon because she knew that nobody would be there.

The Samaritan woman is a rejected woman. A woman purposely hiding from others. 

That’s why when Jesus tells her that He can offer living water, and then also declared that He can give water that will never make her thirsty again, that she is so desperate in her reply. Hear her voice pleading with him,

“Sir (oh please!), give me this water so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

She wants to never have to come to this place again. She just wants to sit in her house, safely away from people who can hurt her. Dragging the water in the heat wasn’t so bad for her. The fear of running into someone from the town is what takes the toll on her spirit. She has to always be careful in guarding herself. And she’s exhausted from hiding like that.

This is a woman ruled by fear. It controls every thing she does.

When Jesus confronts her sin, He doesn’t have to tell her she’s a sinner. She’s already in self-condemnation mode. When He presses further, she becomes fearful that He will hurt her. After all, according to the law, He could stone her. She relies on a hiding technique. Instead of arguing for herself, she relies on her cultural identity. He would have the right to kill her, but if she makes it about their tribes, and He insults her tribe, they would fight, and it just might save her life. She’s a crafty one. She knows how to hide behind other things in order to survive.

But Jesus doesn’t insult her tribe. He goes to the heart and addresses worship. Worship is the thing you love. The thing you love so much you’re willing to give your life or death to. She’s worshiping fear based control. She’s believing what fear tells her. She’s wasting away her life in fear. And instead, through this conversation, Jesus systematically breaks that all down, and in essence says:

You are not your sin.

You are not your neighborhood.

And finally,

You are not what you’ve learned or what you know.

But He doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just reveal the false worship. He gives her something to actually worship. Because right then, Jesus does something amazing. He reveals His identity to her. (She is actually the first person that we see Him revealing Himself to.) While she is stuck not knowing who she is, reacting to who others say she is, Jesus says:

This is who I am. Now, who are you?

We often glance over the last part of this story. The part where she goes back to the town. But this may be the second most important part. Because when she goes to the town, she’s already been transformed. She’s no longer a person in hiding. She’s a person risking exposure. That’s why the people of the town come out to see Jesus. They know this woman wouldn’t dare speak up and face them if it wasn’t real.

She becomes someone who pushes past her sin and her fears in order to point to Jesus.

I’m breathless at this point. Are you? And I see myself in her. Do you?

Truth to be told, when I’m hiding, I don’t need to be reminded who I am or what I’m gifted in. I need to be reminded who He is. And He is “the Lord, the Lord, gracious and slow to anger. Abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6)

And as my dear friend Jill reminded me today…belief in His kindness is the only way we come before the throne of grace, confident that we’ll find mercy there. (Hebrews 4:16)

That’s something I’ll worship over.

Peace,

Pam

 

 

 

 

Prayer 101

I am a church traveler. I’m not a church shopper. I believe in staying with one church family and loving and serving them well. But, I believe that you should be able to recommend a church to a friend or seeker in any area near you.  And so, I travel around, visiting churches, getting to know their strengths and weaknesses.

One of the weaknesses for a lot of churches is prayer. Dry, horizontal, routine, formulaic prayers are extraordinarily common. Congregants who feel like they don’t know how to pray are also common. It’s no surprise, therefore,  that workshops on prayer tend to be highly attended events in church bodies. Everyone feels like they’re doing it wrong, and almost everyone feels like there’s something more that they’re missing out on. For those who are gifted in intercession, this draw to prayer, and feeling of insufficiency, is even greater.

Enter Prayer 101.

At a church my husband and I once attended, there was a class called Prayer 101. This class was wonderfully helpful to both of us. It was just an entry point to learning how to pray, but it was a great foundation. Here’s some of the most helpful ideas they shared with us:

1) Know Why You Pray: You pray to call on the power and presence of the most High God. This is no piddly thing. We don’t just offer God some simple little words from our hearts. Prayer is a time for people to connect and to respond to a God who is working in their life.

2) Know What Prayer Should Do: Prayer should cultivate intimate relationship with God. Period. If people don’t connect with the God that loves them, then we’re not praying. We are counseling or guiding them under the guise of prayer. That’s not okay. That’s not right.

3) Prayer is to Minister to the Whole Person: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people ask for prayer for something specific (finances, health, relationships), and the prayer minister (for lack of a better title) would repeat back whatever the petition is and then just send them on their way. DON’T DO THAT! Prayer is a time for God to interrupt us a bit. The person may be asking for help with finances, but God doesn’t just want to respond to the immediate need. He wants to go to the root of the problem. Be open to praying for something different than what they are asking for in that moment. If you are praying for yourself, let God talk to you and go deep with you. Remember, God convicts; Satan condemns. You don’t need to fear that God will make you feel ashamed.If it’s God, and He’s calling you out on sin, He will do it lovingly and give you a courageous spirit to correct that sin pattern.

4) People Should Feel Loved: If prayer is communication with God, and God is love, than you, or people you are praying for, should walk away feeling loved, encouraged, built up, and more desiring of time with Him. We/Others should not feel “slimed,” condemned, shut down, powerless, or confused. You should always seek to protect the dignity of the one you are praying for. If you are praying about sin in others lives, remember that Galatians 5 commands you to restore the person in a spirit of gentleness, humbly acknowledging that YOU too can fall to that same sin. Remember always that Jesus was motivated by compassion (Matthew 9, Mark 1). If you don’t have compassion for the person, maybe you shouldn’t be the one praying for them.

5) The Bible helps. A Lot.  Some strictly conservative Christians are worried about interactive prayer with God because they believe it invites a eastern mysticism into prayer. More specifically, they worry that it opens us up to a spiritual realm that we can be deceived by. But, if you are person who knows God, and knows God’s word, then you should be able to confirm or reject the words you want to say by asking the question: Does this statement line up with the Word of God? If it doesn’t line up, then you shouldn’t be speaking it. Some will ask, why not just stick to speaking bible verses over people then? I would say that there’s nothing wrong with that. But I would also lovingly suggest that not trusting yourself and your God to be able to speak freely is a form of fear. We don’t see the apostle Paul just repeating the words of scripture exclusively. We see him interacting with people, in their native languages and within their cultures. (Acts 17:16-32  is a great example of this interaction.)

So, there you go. This really is just prayer 101. Please feel free to ask questions for further clarification. And as always, let me know if I can pray for you.

Don’t Give Them Ammo (A post for the self-condemning)

We had some friends that we really care about over for dinner last week. Both are amazingly gifted in discernment and counsel. So, while we didn’t want to cause them to shift into “ministry mode,” it was difficult not to let them speak into the massive messiness that it our life right now. During that conversation, the husband asked what my husband’s leadership looked like, and how he was making decisions. I burst in and said something like, “he’s just sick of my nagging.”

My husband was pretty upset about this, for many reasons. But the biggest one was that it wasn’t true. He reminded me (later) of how submissive and gentle I had been in the past year. He also reminded me that this behavior, this self-condemnation, is common for me. I put myself down and then reel in the hurt that eventually becomes character attacks against me.

Don’t give them ammo! He said. (Them being people that would belittle me, not our dear friends.)

Reflecting on that statement is really helpful.

If you are a self-condemner, I invite you to reflect on it with me. Why do we give them ammo? It’s dishonest, it’s unhelpful, and it’s unhealthy. I think we view it as a safe way of expressing emotion. Namely, we think that if we just take full and utter responsibility then they’ll just stop judging us. It never happens. It’s not even reasonable to think it would happen.

I’m challenged by the words in Isaiah 54:17. God says: “But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD; their vindication will come from me. I, the LORD, have spoken!”

While I never want to silence conviction or a wound from a friend calling out my sin, I wonder if there’s some of us that wouldn’t benefit from learning the words “SHUT UP” when it comes to our accusers, and to our biggest accuser, ourselves.

Self-condemnation blocks one of God’s greatest gifts: grace. In condemning ourselves, we’re pleading for mercy from other people…but they can’t offer it. The only one that can offer it is God, who offers us something so much more than an opportunity to say “I suck.”

Persisting in self condemnation blocks us from the conviction of His Love….the loving kindness that leads to repentance. To a hope to be different. Or even to accept that He really has changed us. Freedom from that past that haunts us so diligently.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to shut down the armory of my accusers. Pray for me to shut my mouth when tempted to give them ammo. I’ll pray for you too.

Love,

Pam

Wrestling With Grief

A couple of years ago, I was meditating on the stories of Abraham and Job. While these men lived four generations apart, their stories are similar in the reality that God stripped down both of them to a place where they had nothing BUT God left. For Abraham, that meant God commanding him to give up his one and only son. For Job, it meant the death of all of his children and his wife; the loss of his health, position, friends, and wealth; and, ultimately a crisis of faith itself. I knew God blessed both of these men more in the end because of these tests, but I wondered:

How do you have a friendship with God after such tragedy?

How do you trust God and want to serve God after He’s taken everything? How do you want to be near him? It seems almost cruel. Like God is a US Marines commander, taking these men apart and putting them back together again. I had a tough time reconciling the God who is “abounding in love” with the image of Him allowing Satan to touch anything Job had, sparing only his life. I had even more difficulty accepting God’s invitation to friendship if it meant that I could be used as a pawn in some chess match between evil and a God who could just smite that evil instead of wasting the lives of people. How is that loving?

It takes walking through such a tragedy to realize why someone can still want to follow God and believe Him and submit to Him. While most bible believing Christians will gain comfort from thinking of God as some almighty commander (He can do what He wants to do! He is God and I am dirt), my hope is that you will go deeper.

He is not rude. He is not self-seeking. This isn’t a glory game for Him. He really is love.

When you start from that place, and you walk with God that way, you realize that loss and grief invite a greater truth. Namely, that you really only have God to begin with anyway.

When you get to the end of the grieving the losses in your life, you discover that God is the only one that is faithful to you anyway. That, while He can seem absent in the feeling a loss of protection, He is found in the stillness of grief. He’s found in the knowledge that while everything, or at the least someone or something very dear, is lost…, you’re still alive, waking up every morning, and that’s because He’s still with you.  He is found in that frustrating hope of a tomorrow without grief. There is a struggle in that. A struggle that He understands and is willing to bear us through.

And when, like Job and Abraham, He restores everything that is lost — and He will restore everything. Every relationship. Every loss. Every injustice — we will value it, but we’ll be able to prize something greater more. Because the story of His faithfulness, His presence, His participation in our life is the true treasure.

That’s what Peter means when he says:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 6-9)

For all those who grieve, I grieve with you. And I also hope for myself and for you to hold to the hope of a faithful God who does reveal Himself to all those who are willing to wait silently for His time to do so. I hope I’ll stand with you, throwing my crown from enduring my sufferings on this Earth at His feet, praising Him, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, valuing His presence and friendship more than anything for an ETERNITY. The greatest desire without worry about any loss ever.

Blessings,

Pam

Victory Over Vengence (A post on spiritual warfare)

While it is said that that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (William Congreve), I beg to differ. If you’ve walked as a Christian for anytime at all, and if you’ve had impact for Christ, you know that “hell” has a great fury and a desire for vengeance against those who are victorious at winning back the souls of men and women to their great and glorious God.

Satan doesn’t like losing control or possession of what he sees as his. His army of darkness is the same. If you take back land and people for God, you better be prepared to battle. But, unlike our fleshly response, Godly, honorable battle requires that we know some things, or, we’re going to lose. Here’s 3 things you should know if you’re going to step out for Jesus:

1) Expect Opposition and Expect Satan to be a SOB — Jesus warns in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) that the seeds of the Kingdom of God are threatened almost as soon as they are exposed.  As soon as we receive truth, there is a number of ways for that truth to die. If you receive direct revelation from God, that is confirmed by His word, to step out for Him, and you are excited, you can be sure that Satan, or one of his minions, will try and stop you. While I’ve always held that Satan doesn’t fight fair, a friend illuminated something about this for me today. She told me that SOB in the medical world stands for Shortness Of Breath. Satan is a disseminator of SOB. He will try to steal your joy, your confidence, your faith, your fearlessness, and your conviction. Expect it, and have Godly people around you to remind you to what God has called you to do. And, if you continue to fight for what God has called you to, you can expect that the enemy will hit back even harder. When this fight become tiresome,  you must know that it is in Satan’s character to kick you while you are down. Retreating is not a form of defense against him. He will hunt you and try to finish your faith in yourself and your God. Never think that you will be able to battle him by yourself. You need a team of people around you (that’s why intimate small groups and accountability and loving church family are so important) and to know that it is really God who wins the battle, not us. Never get to the place that you stop asking Jesus to fight for you.

2) People, churches, and criticisms are not your enemy.  Paul is very clear in Ephesians 6:12 that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness. There will come a time when you think that you are on your own. That people are your enemy. Especially when you are tired. Don’t push off correction. Don’t push off help. Verbalize your feelings. Say to people, pastors, friends: Are you my enemy? Because I feel that you’re my enemy right now. If that’s too emotional for you, just call out the specifics For example: I shared with you yesterday that I was experiencing “x” and you responded with “y.”  Did you mean to imply this? If you feel your church is your enemy, walk through the Matthew 18 model (go to those that hurt you, go with a mediator, go to authority. If all fails, leave that place). Don’t feel sidelined or outcasted. He likes it when you’re alone. He likes it even more when you’re divided against your brothers because he knows what Jesus told us “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

3) Demons have no power that is not given to them. If the story of Job tells us anything, it’s that Satan has to ask permission before he does anything to us. The only thing that is greater than his destruction in our lives is God’s sovereignty. If you’re going into battle, you better have a good theology and experience of God’s sovereignty. You’re going to need it. When they hit you with fear, you respond with trust in the sovereignty of God. When they hit you with anger, you hit them with surrender to the sovereignty of God. When they hit you with foolishness, you choose to yield to the will and law of a God who loves you. When they hit with despair, you come back with gratitude for a good, gracious, all powerful, loving God. A belief that even if you don’t feel it. Even if you don’t see God working, that you know He is being sovereign and caring for you. These are all choices. And they are choices that will take everything you have. Make the right choice with what you have left in you.

Practice these disciplines in daily life. Practice them as you take thoughts captive. Practice because the day will come when it’s not practice anymore.

And above all, seek the Lord with all your heart. Never lose your love for Him. If your love is slipping for Him or His people, run back to Him as fast as you can.

With love and gratitude for a Father who taught me how to fight,

Pam

P.S. Implied in all of this is that you would pray and be in scripture. These are additional steps to those things. I assume those that are stepping out for God are practicing the spiritual disciplines.