Monday, June 25, 2012

All Good Things, But..

By Carla Foote

All day Wednesday and all day Friday loom large with possibilities. I have voluntarily dropped my work responsibilities from a very full-time leadership position to a 20-hour-a- week job. The theory behind this change was to have time and space to focus on my physical, mental and spiritual health, and to focus my work on the very best use of my skills. I also want to be more available to new ways that God might use me in this season. All great thoughts as I have planned this transition for several months.

As of a few weeks ago, I have moved from theory to reality.

Now I need to decide what to do every Wednesday and Friday.

There is no shortage of ways to fill this time. I could certainly make a concerted effort to clean out 15 years of junk from my house (no, I'm not a hoarder, but there are definitely items in the house that are never used). I could paint some rooms that haven't seen a paint brush in more than 10 years. I could give all the surfaces a good cleaning. All good things.

I could pray more, exercise more, and connect in friendships that I have neglected in recent years due to time pressure. All good things.

I could volunteer for any number of good organizations. Or I could take up Spanish classes again. I could read more books or write more articles. All good things.

I have been observing some of my friends who do freelance work, wondering how best to structure my days. But then I recognize the importance of listening to my own calling and desires-which may be different from how others spend their time.

In the end, I've decided I want to implement enough structure-exercise first thing in the morning, take time for prayer every day, work at freelance writing and teaching opportunities at a measured pace-to  feel like I'm investing my time well, and enough flexibility to not feel scattered and overcommitted.

Beyond these time investments, I want to leave room for developing my own rhythm and having soul space. I know the temptation to fill more will be strong, but I am determined to pause and evaluate opportunities, so I can invest myself in the best way. I don't want to move from a too-full work life to a frenzied activity life. Undoubtedly I'll need to revisit my priorities regularly, as I'm unlikely to find the perfect balance - so I'll need grace in this season, just like in all my past seasons of life.

Carla Foote is the Publishing Manager and Executive Editor for MOPS International ( She also enjoys gardening and blogs at

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mind Reading

By Mary Byers

I recently listened as a friend expressed her frustration about someone she worked with in ministry. As the litany of complaints grew, I wondered why she endured the frustration. So I asked, "Have you talked to him about this? He's not a mind reader."

"No," she replied. "He'd never change."

"How do you know?"

"I just do." And that was the end of the conversation, which I've thought about many times since.

Why is it that we expect others to know what we're thinking? I've fallen into this trap myself many, many times. Frustrated in a working relationship with someone, I opt to complain and live in that frustration rather than approach the source. But what if leaders took a different tack? What if we looked at a conversation as "research" instead of "confrontation?" And what if the reason for the research was simply to find out if someone was receptive to what we were saying and whether or not they were able and willing to change? Is it possible that a different approach-rather than living frustrated-could change what leadership and ministry looks like in the areas where it's not working well for us?

Here's a conversational tool that I've found particularly helpful when having a tough dialogue:
I feel _________(emotion)

Let's say you're working with someone in ministry who is always late to team meetings. Here's how this might sound in real life:

"I feel frustrated when we are not able to start our meetings on time because not everyone is punctual."

(Notice that that word "you" never appears in the sentence. That's to keep the person you're talking with from feeling defensive and it's also recognition that the only person we can control is our self. The power in this is to remember to always use the word "I" and never "you.")

Susie: "What are you saying?"

You: "I've been holding up the meetings until you arrive but I'd be more comfortable if we started on time. I just want to make sure it's okay."

Susie: "It's not okay. I'm an important part of this team, too, and I don't want any decisions being made without me."

You: "Is there something I don't know about what's holding you up on meeting nights?"

Susie: "No. I just have an unpredictable job and don't always get out on time."

You: "That must be frustrating and I understand your desire not to miss any of the meeting. Next time, we'll start with what's least important or something that doesn't directly involve you. That way I can be sensitive to your wishes and courteous regarding other people's time."

Now that Susie knows you're frustrated-and what you plan to do about it-she can make an informed decision about how she'll respond. Chances are, now that you've gently called this to her attention, she'll be more prompt in the future.

Problem solved (hopefully!) and no mind reading was necessary.

Mary Byers is the author of How to Say No...And Live to Tell About It and is the managing editor of FullFill.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sacred Siblings- A Pipe Dream?

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan immortalized the popular (mis)understanding of male/female relationships in the hit movie When Harry Met Sally. When Harry makes a pass at Sally, his fellow co-ed, she turns him down with the familiar words, “No, Harry...we are just going to be friends, OK?”Harry responds: “Friends? You realize, of course, that we could never be friends.”
Why not?

What I’m saying, and this is not a come-on in any way, shape, or form, is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.

No, you don’t.

Yes, I do.

No, you don’t.

Yes, I do.

You only think you do.

Are you saying that I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?

No, I’m saying they all want to have sex with you.
Poor Sally! What a choice when it comes to men-romance or nothing. Why not “just” friends? Is a pure, non-romantic relationship really impossible between a man and a woman, or is Harry right? More specifically, how does Harry’s theory relate to men and women who follow Christ? I believe that Christians, indwelt by the Spirit, will prove Harry to be wrong. Men and women really can be friends. In Christ, they can be more than friends-they can be sacred siblings, and the implications for ministry are enormous!
What blinds us from seeing one another as sacred siblings? The answer is different for each of us. But even more than the role of women, sexual temptation is the hyper-charged factor we cannot ignore-for both men and women, especially in our over-sexed culture. It’s almost impossible not to be influenced by women with bare bellies and breasts, and muscular men sporting steely pecs and abs. God asks each of us to take charge of our hearts and hormones and submit them to Christ for the glory of God and building up of His Kingdom.
Does the Bible weigh in? The Bible tells us straight up. Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity (1 Timothy 5:1, 2). Paul indicates that in the community of faith we are called to honor older, mature men and women as if they were godly parents and male and female peers as if they were our brothers and sisters. Paul insists that we see the opposite sex as family members first, not as sexual objects. God considers lust between a biological brother and sister to be abhorrent. Just as sinful is lust between any man and woman, according to Jesus (Matt. 5:28). Shouldn’t it be unthinkable to lust after a spiritual brother or sister? Followers of Jesus are to consider one another as family, as sacred siblings. Is this mission impossible? Are we able to see one another this way in the family of faith? Yes, he enables us through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts and minds. How might our churches be changed if men and women caught this vision and lived it out?
I wrote Mixed Ministry with a team of friends to explore answers to these questions but I'd love your input. Can men and women in Christ really be friends?

Dr. Sue Edwards specializes in ministry to women as Assistant Professor of Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary. Her books include Leading Women Who Wound, Mixed Ministry: Working Together as Brothers and Sisters in a Damaged Society.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What could Beth possibly bring to the table?

By Caryn Rivadeneira

Though her question alarmed me, I knew where she was coming from. After all, “Beth” (I changed her name) had just been named head of an organization filled with seemingly more qualified people-men and women with advanced degrees, with years of experience, working their way up, hand following hand on the long corporate ladder.

Surely, any of those people would’ve been a better choice than Beth, right? After all, Beth had spent years at homequietly running a home-based business while she raised a couple of kids and offered emotional support to her busy husband. On paper, this didn’t seem like much of a match to the other candidates.

But clearly, my friend didn’t see and didn’t know what so many of the rest of us did in and about Beth. Beth was a gifted leader-and she proved that leadership training grounds don’t only exist in business schools, in corporate board rooms or in Jim Collins’ books.

And yet, this is something our culture doesn’t widely recognize. As a result, women especially, can run up against leadership barriers time and again. Others have a hard time valuing our experience or our abilities if we’ve traded corporate life for home-business life or passed over business school so we could be there to drop off at preschool or be fully present from three to five p.m.

Even the most capable women get overlooked as soon as we “opt out” because somehow along the way, we have forgotten that leaders can be-and are-made just about anywhere. Leadership is more that sporting the right degrees, the right experience or knowing the right lingo. Leadership is about knowing what our gifts are and using them-fearlessly-and knowing who God made us to be and living that out-fearlessly. Leadership is a willingness to step out when others huddle back. And if we do it well, if we lead well, we inspire others to follow-or to take their own steps into God’s calling.

Christians need to look no further than the scriptures for confirmation of this. God rarely called the most qualified person. More often than not, it seems he called the least qualified! At least, least qualified according to normal, human standards.

More than one person in history has looked at someone God called to lead and asked “What could she possibly bring to the table?”

I’m going to venture a guess that if you’re in any sort of position of leadership (and really, aren’t we all?), you’ve asked yourself this very same thing. About yourself!

I know that “What do I possibly bring to the table?” has zipped through my brain more times than I can count. But it’s a terrible question-especially when God is calling us forward or when others are affirming our gifts.

I hope that we women, especially, can stop asking this question of one another and of ourselves. Instead of wondering why someone shouldn’t be leading or can’t be leading or isn’t qualified to lead, let’s focus on the reasons someone-no matter how unlikely-is leading. And let’s celebrate every time a less-than-likely person is tapped.

We’re all aware of our own weakness and failings. Let’s help one another celebrate our strengths and potential.

Caryn Rivadeneira is a founding member of the Redbud Writers’ Guild and the author of Grumble Hallelujah. You can connect with her at