Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gliding, Climbing and Calling

By: Jen Pollock Michel

“I love riding downhill. I just hate having to go back up.” Camille Michel, age 8

If my daughter, Camille, has said something we all know to be true about bike riding, she has also said something true about Christian calling. In whatever capacity God has called us to steward our gifts and resources, we face two dimensions of that call. One is the downhill glide; the other, the uphill climb. One is easy- one, grueling. One is exhilarating, the other punishing . 

On the downhill glide, the beauty of the landscape blurs by and the wind whips through our hair. At this moment, we are fully alive! The downhill of calling is the sum total of our responsibilities that feel easy, natural, fun. We are barely pedaling through the work and obligations. For me, for example, this is the actual writing that I do. Not much muscle is required for the hours that stretch endlessly before me at a keyboard. If calling were only downhill glides, you and I would surely be meeting our days with fresh-faced enthusiasm.

Only we don’t. If you’re like me, you’re pulling the covers over your head in the morning, afraid to face the day’s demands. Or you’re waking in the middle of the night, restless with the thought of the responsibilities that are yours to shoulder. Ahead, there are mountains of impossible scale. Are your skeleton legs and bike meant to get you to the top? If I had considered the writing of a book fun, the demands of selling of a book makes me want to slink away for a nap.

Here’s where you and I want to do our giving up, concluding that we have neither the muscle nor the will to do what God has asked of us. The good news is this: this is precisely where God means to meet us and make an invitation we cannot refuse. 

Throw down that rusty bike of self-confidence.

Measure the mountain and all of these impossibilities.

Now, get back up, back on- and pedal with new energy.

“For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses . . . [and the uphill climb]. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Calling is fueled both by the exhilaration of the downhill as well as the self-defeat of the climbs. On the downhill, we discover the sheer thrill of surrendering ourselves to God for work that well-suits us. “I love riding downhill!” At the same time, we cannot give up when it’s time to climb. Calling requires we accept both, rejoicing when the landscape blurs past and the pedals move themselves- and sticking with it when they don’t.

Jen writes for Today in the Word, a monthly devotional published by The Moody Bible Institute. She blogs at and is currently working on a book manuscript entitled, Found Wanting: Learning the Language of Desire for the Life of Faith.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

She Gave What She Could

By Sharla Langston

Women by nature are givers. We give care to those we love, and time to the people and causes that mean a lot to us. For most women, we give too much, often leaving us exhausted and frayed. Many of us operate at the outer limits of our energy and resources and end up marginalizing the time we give to ourselves and to God.

So what if we gave more intentionally and made a greater impact? Elisa Morgan’s book She Did What She Could is a great encouragement for us to make the most of our time, our resources—including our financial blessings—our circumstances and our identity.

She Gave What She Could.

God had purposeful and pivotal roles for women from the beginning of time. Eve to bring the first newborn into the world. Deborah to deliver justice. Bathsheba to mother a great King. Rahab and Esther to save God’s people from peril. Mary to give birth to our Savior. Dorcus and Priscilla to help start the early Church and Mary of Bethany to be the first to see Jesus after his resurrection. God remains purposeful in His plans for women in the Kingdom. Could it be that God is resourcing women so that through their hearts and through their hands the world will experience a wave of generosity in His name?

As Elisa shows us in Chapter 2, we are called to action. Action puts our passions into play. Mary of Bethany used the gift of expensive perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus. Extravagant? Yes. Unusual? Yes. As Pastor Tim Keller says, it was an act of “promiscuous generosity.” When is the last time you gave in an uninhibited, unrestrained way? What can you do that is extravagant for our Savior?

Mary gave nard – a gift calculated to be worth almost a year’s salary in her times. What is your nard? Is it a tithe? More? Could it be a bonus at work, or passing up purchasing a new car for a slightly used one? What about forgoing a vacation for the opportunity to go on a mission trip? Or simply skipping that next latte or new blouse to support a child in school? What is the last sacrifice you made for God’s Kingdom?

You cannot give someone else’s gift. God is calling you to give from your own pocket, your own family, and your own unique passion for serving the Lord. Giving is a sweet intimacy you share with Jesus and is your grateful response to the One who gave all. How has God blessed you so that you can bless another?

In Chapter 10 Elisa asks, “How has God redeemed who you are in such a way that it can be invested, all of it, for His purposes?” He gives you a discerning heart and shows you many great needs. Are you choosing to align your giving with the passions God has developed in your heart? What would it look like to give intentionally to make a greater impact?

Sharla Bickley Langston is a Partner with Women Doing Well ( You can reach her at

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Stop Taking Things So Personally

So there I was, sitting in church, doodling on the back of a bulletin announcement, when the pastor said something specifically directed at me.  I snapped my head up, looked straight at him.  We made eye contact, and he smiled.  My blood pressure rose.

Perhaps someone tipped him off and told him my struggle.  Or maybe he snuck into our home and spied on us for sermon content.  But I was certain, almost certain, what he said was specifically about me, for me, spoken in front of 800 people to put me in my place.  

Hello, my name is Karen and I personalize.  On insecure days, I read into things that simply aren’t true.  She just sucker- punched me—on Twitter!  I’m positive her post on Facebook was about me.  I can’t believe he’d write his whole sermon to shame us.  

We are inherently self-centered, aren’t we?  

Not everything is about us.  In fact, most things have nothing to do with us.  I know this intellectually, but some days I lose sight. 

It’s possible that an interaction, an intriguing conversation or shared experience, might cause a pastor, writer friend, or fellow leader to publicly address a particular subject related to you in greater detail.  But chances are, she is not passive-aggressively writing or speaking with any one person in mind.  What is really going on is that you are personalizing.  You’re reading into things, allowing yourself to be led astray by a perception and not a fact. 

How do you really know the intentions behind anyone outside of yourself?  You can’t, unless of course, you muster up the courage and simply ask.  Would it hurt to clarify: What did you mean by that tweet?  Where did that idea for your article come from?  Or even to take it further, “Your sermon was so spot on, I felt like you wrote it with me in mind.”  Or even more direct: “When you addressed that particular [sin, weakness, issue, verse], were you specifically directing your comment at me?”  What you’ll likely find is that their intentions were pure, and they inadvertently sparked a wound or sensitivity of yours that probably needs more healing.  

Since I’ve started writing more, my ‘condition’ has greatly improved.  Today I personalize far less because I’ve realized what it’s like to be on the other end of the conversation.  I’m confident no communicator intentionally pokes at the very audience she wants to reach.  In fact, I suspect she spends countless hours agonizing over ways not to offend.  

These days when I catch myself personalizing what might not be true, I gather my insecurity and choose to give the benefit of the doubt.  I decide to hear precisely what is being said rather than speculating what might be meant.  And when I can’t let it slide, I take the brave step and investigate the motives.  Then I get back to my doodling.

Karen Yates lives in Orange County, CA and is a partial homeschooling mother of 3 children. With a BA in English from Westmont College, Karen has worked for 12 years in the Christian non-profit sector, is an adoption advocate, non-profit consultant, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She blogs at and tweets: @KarenYates11. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ready to Live to One Hundred?

By Sue Edwards

My husband and I recently attended a seminar on how to prepare for retirement. Neither of us wants to retire any time soon, but with economic conditions what they are, we hear over and over to sock money away for the future. What I remember most about the seminar was an astounding statistic. Our instructor told us that insurance tables predict that a healthy baby girl born today is projected to live as long as one hundred and twenty years!
My mind immediately turned to ministry with women. It's in my DNA. Are we preparing women to live that long? To take care of loved ones who live that long? Is the church aware of the tidal wave of change that an aging population will mean? I don't think so.
I decided to look for support of this outrageous claim. I learned that in 1900, less than five percent of Americans were over 65, but the percent of older adults has steadily increased. In 2009 they represented almost 13 percent and by 2030 the projection is almost 20 percent. In 2006, there were 73,674 persons 100 years old or older. That number is expected to mushroom in the decades ahead. Yes, we are heading toward a world where a centurion won't be that exceptional, and most of them will probably be women!
If patterns hold, women will be the largest group effected. Women are poorer. In 2006 the median income per month of a man 65 or older was $1958, but for women it was $1134. This means that half of the older women had an income of less than $1134 to live on. Women live longer. Women, by in large, are the caregivers of older folk. These changing demographics of the United States (as well as other places e.g. Europe, parts of Asia) will have dramatic effects on all facets of culture and society, but certainly more on women than any other group. How should the church prepare and respond?
First, I commit to talk and think about growing older differently. I commonly complain to younger women about the downside of "maturity", leaving a negative impression. I need to stop for their sake and mine. I tend to think of ministry years left, forgetting that Goethe finished Faust, Michelangelo completed the dome of St Peter's, and Cervantes wrote Don Quixote long after their 65th birthday. If we practice self-care now and later, most of us will be productive far into the golden years. I commit to stop worrying about being alone or sidelined, and adopt a positive mindset.
Second, I need to be more proactive in preparing myself and others. How can we help women live full years for Jesus even as centurions, or as long as our dear Savior might give us? Brainstorm with me about what kinds of ministries would accomplish that goal?