Let’s Play Pretend - Part I

As a child, I loved to create stories in my mind. I was typically the main character running the plot, the story always ending on my side as the heroine. 

They say pretend play is one of the best ways a child can learn. After having three children go through different preschool environments, I would have to say that the play-based classroom had the most long-term impact.

My children create the most elaborate pretend games and stories. Anything from superheroes, puppies, family, cops and robbers, “city” (not sure what that is), and more. In fact, they pretend play more than they ever play with actual “hands-on” toys.

As a child, it is cute, a sign of intelligence and creativity. There is a point, though, when pretend play is no longer cute and it’s time to grow up.

We live in a world of pretenders. We all can find ourselves at fault of pretending. In a world where social media has become a prominent way of communicating and connecting, editing out what we would rather not others see - it seems to make a bit of sense that we would become so good at pretending.

The truth is, we can blame social media, but the desire to wear a mask, live a divided life of pretense started at the fall when this broken world was created. We have been battling the lure of division since the beginning of time.

As leaders, we are terribly susceptible. I believe the enemy specializes in the deceptive nature of pretense and divided leaders. For it is in the division of a leaders life that integrity is most at stake and usually broken.

We talk a lot about integrity in leadership. I often hear it referenced or defined in relation to external behavior or honorable actions. Making good behavioral choices, avoiding temptation, and making effort to live honest lives are all incredibly important to our integrity as a leader. And, yet, I think we are still missing it when we talk integrity as a leader.

I have adopted and began studying this concept of integrity defined by Peter Scazzero- “Integrity is when who I am on-stage is the same as who I am backstage. It is when there is no separation between what is going on inside of me and what I am expressing outside of me. There is no separation of my inner and outer life.”

Ouch. That is much easier said than done. And we have to truly reflect on what that really means. I think it means that it goes much farther than behavior modification or external action. It goes farther than simply how we act or perform on stage, in relationships with others, and in ministry.

You and I both know that there can be a war going on in our soul, a fight for survival - and we will continue along with a smile on our face - preaching joy all the while. And, if that is the case, is what’s happening on the outside congruent with what’s inside?

Parker Palmer says it like this: “As we become more obsessed with succeeding, or at least surviving, in that world, we lose touch with our souls and disappear into our roles.”

We focus our efforts on the external both personally and in leadership activity so much that we ignore we might be losing our souls in the process. If we are burnt out, harboring unforgiveness and resentment, if we are angry and scared, wrestling with doubt and confusion...if we pretend to go along to get along...if we keep believing the end justifies the means...if we harm and hurt others through manipulation and passive aggression because we don’t want to face what’s hard and uncomfortable...if we avoid and ignore...if we talk about Jesus and never spend time with Jesus...when we preach things that don’t even align with our own beliefs or expression of faith...the list goes on.

The greatest ways we pretend can often be found in our temperament. I remember in my early years as a young leader. I thought my introverted and melancholy ways would be unacceptable, so I insisted on creating an extroverted self which would please others. Unfortunately, this created more anxiety within me. Something as simple as a church potluck could set me on edge and leave me feeling shame if I spoke with just a few people rather than hopping around the crowd - connecting with every individual. That anxiety and shame would then turn to resentment or even anger towards those under my leadership. It was misdirected and misguided and yet, it influenced my attitude and decisions as a leader. It took multiple years of counseling and self-discovery to learn who I was - was not only acceptable but purposeful in how God called me. It was necessary that I no longer pretend for God to use me the way He desired.

It’s not simply temperament or personality, though. We can be experiencing struggles in mental or physical health, grief, loss, pain of any kind and when we refuse to share even a bit of that vulnerability - we lose a beautiful moment where our community sees us as human and in need of grace and love just as they are. And, when that occurs, Jesus moves beautifully to bind community together.

We are living divided lives. Our efforts to pretend, whether intentional or unintentional, not only disrupts Christ work in us - we inevitably harm others in our leadership.

Countless individuals are harmed and even abused by leaders who live divided lives. The reality is all that lies within us that doesn’t align with what’s on the outside, in whatever way it exposes itself, it will push through our carefully planned portrayal of something else. What lies beneath will lurk around, leak out and potentially - at any point - completely boil over.

Another complexity and severely harmful occurrence that is prevalent today is a lack of vulnerability and transparency as a leader and it not only disrupts accountability. It sets leaders up as heroes, saviors of the world. Inadvertently, a hero complex is developed and we have somehow found ourselves first when we're meant to be second.

Leaders (pastors included) were never meant to be the total authority in a person’s life and we were never meant to save. When we don’t allow others to see our humanity, we set up an environment of pretense for the communities we lead in.

Living with intentional Christ-like vulnerability becomes so important as a leader and in community. Yes, it takes risk and intentionality, but it is vital for healthy leadership and communities.

Living a whole life, undivided, real and authentic is countercultural in many ways due to the risks present. I believe this is what Jesus calls us to as leaders and this is what creates a healthy and safe community. 

Living an undivided life as a leader creates accountability. It tells others this is a safe place, one where you can true to who you are and I will true to who I am and we will experience Christ’s transformation together. It encourages truth and honesty. It builds true community. It is one of the best representations and expressions of Christ’s vulnerable and sacrificial love.

It takes work, risk, effort, and sacrifice. Are we willing as leaders? And, if so, what steps will we take to intentionally seek an undivided life?

 ...written by Christan Causey

...written by Christan Causey

Rest and Vision

Rest and Vision

These are two words that are so very important in any community, organization, or ministry. And, yet, seeing those two words may give us pause - even feels slightly awkward. Often strong vision correlates with busyness, lots of activity, and great big plans. Rarely, do I think, we consider rest and vision to go hand in hand.

And, yet, here we are. Since the beginning of the year, as director of Women of Influence - I sensed God telling me to tread carefully and sensitively through this year. Efforts for solitude, reflection, prayer, and studying beckoned me. God had more clarity and wisdom to offer related to vision and mission.

In some ways, although we knew God had called Women of Influence to have an online community across the region - we felt divided. It is not our desire to replace or be another “women’s ministry” for those in the Southern New England region or Assemblies of God ministry network. We are called to encourage, empower, and equip - not for the purpose of a region-wide women’s ministry - but for the purpose of caring for women who lead - and women’s leaders in the local church. This is our desire as Women of Influence, and the desire of the ministry network we are a part of - Southern New England Ministry Network. To do that, we needed to narrow our focus and content.

He called me to a season of rest both personally and in ministry. Out of this season, God has begun to speak, lead, and teach. The leadership training I had personally longed for came directly from the heart of God, then leading me to discover other resources and study regarding leadership.

So, as you may have noticed, Women of Influence has taken a bit of hiatus in our social media community. In the meantime, we have taken the effort to give attention specifically to the women’s leaders of local church women’s ministries through the Assemblies of God.

As we move out of this contemplative and restful season of seeking God’s heart, I believe wholeheartedly that He clearly laid out vision and purpose for the next season of Women of Influence.

The vision is simply this: In everything we do as “Women of Influence”, we will pour resource and care into the women’s leaders of this region. Many of our efforts will focus on women’s ministry leaders, and yet we do believe there is a wider call of encouraging those of you leading in your homes, communities, and workplaces - not just church ministry. We also believe God has led us to champion women in their leadership and vocational callings - whatever that looks like. Whether it be in the home, the church, the workplace, and personally.

Therefore, most of the content and community will be centered on what it means to be a woman who leads and influences others in a challenging culture. Part of this vision is to equip women to lead in a way that is wholehearted. (we have a whole conference coming in November specifically focused on what it means to be and live wholehearted). Soul, gut-level leading of others.

God created women as influencers - as leaders. He is calling us forward and giving us a voice. God believes in and delights in the women He creates. There is a level of brokenness and burden that women in leadership have had to carry. I truly believe God is calling us to shed that brokenness and burden - to release the yoke and weight of others and to take on His yoke which is light and restful. He calls us to freedom - a leadership without fight, competition, or need for recognition. God is calling us to lead in the full uniqueness of how He created us, the ways He has gifted us, and full of the Spirit inside of us.

There are always obstacles, hindrances, and more. For generations, it has not been entirely simple for women both within and outside of the church. But that has been slowly changing for some time, and God continues to bring freedom. For example, the #metoo and #churchtoo movement and conversations are a moment that Christian leadership author and speaker, Ruth Hailey Barton, stated: “we must pay attention to what is a “burning bush moment” for all of us. God is doing something, speaking something the midst - we are to learn from and in many of these public conversations regarding women and women in leadership. Healing and restoration are on the horizon, but we must be willing to participate in the conversation. Accept the challenge and even tension - learning to be who God has called us to be - both men and women. The current public conversations regarding women are just one reason why we believe God is calling us to encourage, empower, equip - to “shore” up each other as women and women who lead.

And, yet, that speaks to the necessity of community. Building one another up, championing each other to be ALL that God has made them to be.

We want to invite all of you to continue and engage in this community of women who lead.

With all of that said, we are excited and will continue to be led by the Spirit of God! You will see content and resource coming from our online forums - but we hope to hear from you as well and the struggles you may face in leading in your community. We also want to invite you to share your own stories through our blog and social media outlets. Email me, the current Women of Influence director, at christan@snemn.com.

And don’t forget to sign up for the conference coming in November!

Christan Causey
Women of Influence Director
Southern New England Ministry Network - Women's Ministries

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Finding Quiet

Ahh...Spring. We thought you were here. But, alas, not quite yet. 

Can you believe this weather we are experiencing in New England? This Oklahoma girl certainly cannot, and as anxious as I am to get into the beautiful spring and summer days - I remember something.

The sleepy days of winter often turn into crazy, busy days of Spring. Finishing the school year, starting spring sports, running errands, fun activities, church calendar amps up, and things can quickly turn very hectic.

Take a moment and prepare yourself. If we work preventably, maybe it won't catch us by surprise and run us down. 

Learning the art of regular silence and solitude can help us regulate our schedules, move towards wholeness and peace. 

So try this. Close your eyes. Turn off all noise and set the phone aside. Be alone. Then make a guess how long you sat there. 2 minutes, 5 minutes? I can guarantee you it was more like 30 seconds that felt like 2 minutes.

Silence and solitude are two spiritual disciplines that bring vitality and life to our relationship with God. Much fruit can be born from these disciplines, yet they are probably some of the most neglected in Christian faith.

Our spirits are suffering from too much noise and not enough rest, moreover, our souls are literally crushed under the weight of our inability to stop and be silent.

We don’t like to be still and what do they say about silence? Right, it’s deafening.

There is a definition of silence and solitude found in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero that fits the context of these two things as spiritual disciplines.

Solitude is the practice of being absent from people and things to attend to God.

Silence is the practice of quieting every inner and outer voice to attend to God.

I began awhile back  incorporating these disciplines into my week and schedule, and I am still working to incorporate them regularly into each of days. I am getting better. However, it is super hard. I sat at the park this morning and had such a difficulty focusing. My thoughts kept leading me astray. I finally turned my music off, closed my eyes, and finally a few minutes later I  was able to shut everything out. And I began to find my way. The way to Him - my God who offers sweet peace to our frazzled minds.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, Is. 30:15

I know there have been many times I was simply unwillingly. And it wasn't too long ago that I could barely stand to sit still or quiet unless I was sleeping or reading. To sit completely still with nothing in my hands, it's difficult. To turn off all noise until the "silence is deafening" is not a simple task. Yet, I don't want to miss out on the salvation and strength of my God.

There are a great many benefits in these disciplines of silence and solitude.

John Piper states: One benefit of silence is simply searching the depths of our own souls, asking what our blind spots have become in the rush of everyday life. In the busyness, is there anything important I’m neglecting or repressing? How am I doing in my various roles? What needs refocusing?

Yet, these are the very questions that tend to be the reason we don’t. It is quite difficult for many of us to be still, let alone be silent. If and when we finally do stop and sit still, we need music, we even need the noise of our racing thoughts.

There was a time in my life long ago (much before kids), I would turn on the TV simply for the noise of it. I think sometimes we are afraid if it is too silent then we will no longer be able to drown out our fears, disappointments, and worries. Those things we most want to avoid will become a deafening noise to our ears. Our instinctive response is to protect ourselves by shutting it out and shutting it down. And how best to do this by avoiding solitude and silence? Yet, we need to run headlong into these difficult things. Acknowledge them and bring them to Christ, because that is where healing begins.

Before I begin to implement this discipline, I was often never alone. I had three children, a husband, ministry responsibilities and more. And, although, it can be wonderful to be surrounded by people all of the time - it is not healthy and does nothing to help you grow. We all need moments, several moments, throughout our days where we - like Christ - pull away from the crowd and pray.

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. Luke 5:16

Many of us are not willing to stop long enough for God to speak. He longs to cut through the noise of our lives. We need to just stop. Put the phones down, set the laptops aside, let the home projects be for a bit, walk away from the people, and STOP. Step away, be replenished and find rest.

After many years of working to implement this discipline, I suffer greatly if I neglect it. I have been in a longer season of recent months where I neglected this time, and I saw an increase in my anxiety and ongoing feelings of disconnect and chaos. I am working to get back in this rhythm. 

Most importantly, when silence and solitude are incorporated disciplines that are centered on our Father - deep intimacy is formed with Christ and our lives bear much fruit when regularly abiding in Him. We become rooted, established in Him. Which offers the sustaining grace we so desperately need to love God and others well.

We should approach the disciplines of silence and solitude as rhythms in our day, rather a specific formulaic moment we carve out. These rhythms should be a soft balance of intentionality paired with creativity. A rhythm insinuates a depth of feeling, pattern, and consistency. In the rhythms of silence and solitude, the intentionality offers consistency and discipline - while creativity allows us to approach God in regular moments throughout our day rather than “getting our fill” at one time - just hoping it will last through the day. If we are walking deeply in Christ, we have intentional and planned moments with Christ - then there are these beautiful spontaneous moments throughout the day when we stop and feel the rhythm of His heartbeat. We sense we just need a moment with our Creator. We rest and we are quiet.

The disciplines of silence and solitude cannot and should not replace our regular times of focused and centered prayer. Or the regular study and meditation of His Word. They act in supplement to these ever important disciplines that should be a regular part of our week.

May it become a natural rhythm that flows out of a deep desire to know God more, to hear more from Him, and to bare more of our soul to Him. 

It cannot be a matter of adding another item on our to do list or a ritual we factor into our schedules. The very act of solitude and silence speaks to surrender. It declares a longing to abide with the Father, to stop all actions and noise and listen and be WITH God. Therefore, it must be an overflow of the inner work of Christ in one’s life. The more He works in me, the more space he fills in my heart, and the more I want and need to be with Him.

How do we practically implement this into our day? Peter Scazzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality discusses these disciplines, and offers great suggestions. Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline is another good one. There are many resources out there, but ultimately you must pray and ask God to give you wisdom in how He will lead you. He made you, created you - He knows what will speak most to you, what will be the most life-giving. It will change with the seasons, it will founded in who you are and what God knows is best for you. But, He will be faithful to give you your own road map.

And remember, as Scazzero states, “The purpose of these disciplines is to remember God and commune with him all through our days.”

How can I be filled with more of God - more of His Spirit? Simple, by making more room in my heart for Him to dwell. Centering my life around Him, regularly surrendering my soul, setting my mind upon Him, inviting Him into each part of my day - this makes room for Him to dwell in me.

 ...written by Christan Causey

...written by Christan Causey

The Art of Wholehearted

The battle lies in the division of who we are privately and who we are publically. As much as we desire to be wholly undivided, most of humanity will be drawn into division. It's part of our nature. Yet, in Christ - fragmentation, this brokenness can be mended into a beautiful wholeness. It's only possible with Christ in us.

Wholehearted. What does it mean to be wholehearted?

Merriam-Webster would define this term as “completely and sincerely devoted, determined, or enthusiastic…marked by complete and earnest commitment…free from all reserve or hesitation.”

Over the last several years, I have learned and studied wholeheartedness. I have looked at it from the perspective of qualified authors, Spirit-led counseling, and - mostly importantly - from the Word of God and trying to learn the heart of our Father.

I like Merriam-Webster’s definition, but I feel it’s missing the context of Scripture. Scriptures come to mind such as Luke 10:27 - “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength - love your neighbor as yourself” and 1 These. 5:23 - “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Scriptures like these give us a glimpse of what biblical wholeheartedness could look like.

Sincere devotion is just simply devotion when not integrated with authenticity. Free from all reserve and hesitation is not possible without inward transformation. Is it? It’s as though, it’s a “this must proceed that”. To live wholeheartedly, we must be wholehearted. Rather to live and be wholehearted, we must welcome and invite the transformation of becoming wholehearted.

I think of people like Paul, Naomi, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Peter, Moses, Abraham, and David. And so, so many more. Men and women who lived their lives fully devoted to Christ, not through perfection, but rather through brokenness and mess. These people were a hot mess. Much like you and me. 

But in all of their hot mess, they devoted everything to Christ and the people around them - in vulnerability and in passion. 

God calls us to community and impact. Yet, we certainly cannot make a fully loving impact when we are withholding and withdrawing from others. Whether it be out of fear or insecurity, whether we are fully convinced we are not good enough - or simply uncertain about our purpose. I truly believe God calls us to live vulnerably and authentically as we passionately live out our purpose for Him and through Him. We do this in community with God and others. 

To be wholehearted, to live wholehearted - we must be made whole. Don’t misunderstand, by no means do I mean we must be perfect. Perfection is not our aim. Scripture states in Matthew 5:48, "be Holy as I am Holy" or "be perfect as I am perfect". Can we really achieve the holiness or perfection of God? No. If we look at the context and meaning of this word “perfect” - the original word is “teleioi” in the Greek which translates as “completeness (fully grown)” in your understanding or in your thinking. Be made whole or undivided.  

God is made up of three parts, Father, Son, Holy Spirit - yet operates as a whole; much the same, according to scripture, we are made up of three parts - body, soul, spirit. 

And, God calls us to wholeness. How can that be expressed, lived out?

For our specific purposes, we are looking at the question of how can I be made whole - how can I live out wholeheartedness? How can I be transformed wholly and completely in Christ?

So often, we allow transformation in the external parts of our lives. We change our habits, we adjust our schedules and diets, we talk better, act better, perform better. Nonetheless, we feel broken - fragmented. Pieces of ourselves remain hidden and unseen both to the community around us, but most sadly to the God who created us. 

We live fragmented lives. We withdraw and protect - and it is not just from community. We do this from God, himself.

It seems silly, I know. How do you hide and withdraw from God who knows and sees all? It’s the beautiful and yet, treacherous act of free will and choice. He will not force himself on us, but He waits patiently for us to open our WHOLE heart to Him - to allow Him to transform us completely and wholly - and to surrender wholeheartedly in our journey with HIm. IF we were to do this, it would change us from the inside out - and as we are changed from the inside out the overflow will be to live fully and authentically with God AND with OTHERS. Living wholeheartedly in community with God and others. 

What would happen in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and workplace if we were to allow wholehearted transformation that flows into wholehearted community?

This is what we hope to look at, focus on, and discover in 2018 with this community of women. Are you in? Are you “wholeheartedly” in? This means we will be committed to sharing our stories. It means we will be vulnerable and honest. And, we will work out our salvation through the gut-wrenching act of God reaching deep inside of us and revealing all of the ways we are broken and fragmented.

We will watch in awe as Christ works transformation in the deepest recesses of our soul and spirit, and reveals a beautiful outward life of wholehearted surrender and devotion. We will rejoice and celebrate as we journey towards the beautiful reward of a wholehearted life. We invite you to join us!

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...written by Christan Causey

Darkness into Light - Conference Thoughts

The leaves are falling, there is a slight chill in the air, and we are right about ONE MONTH away from our annual Women's Conference. I can hardly believe how this year has flown by.

In one month, we will have the opportunity to gather together in sisterhood from all over Southern New England even reaching into Northern New England.

Can you imagine hundreds of New England women gathered together in community under one name, Jesus Christ? It will be powerful. I have this growing anticipation. God has incredible plans. I know it deep down in my heart.

The fight has been real, though. Ironically enough, I have had identity battles this year like I haven't in a long time. I have been hit on every side of my insecurities and my weaknesses. The word "unraveled" runs through my mind like a bad song on repeat. 

God is unraveling me this year. String by string, I am coming undone. And it hurts. At times, it feels like my insides are being torn and stretched. I feel as though I have been shoved onto a stage - completely laid bare for all to see. It's uncomfortable, to say the least.

I have had to ask myself the question, "Who Am I?" and "Whose Am I?" over and over again. As I have prepared for the conference message, despite every obstacle that tries to detour, God is speaking powerfully.

Here is one thing I am sure of at this point. The Bible reminds us we have an enemy that has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Our Father came that we may have life and have it abundantly. The life abundantly part happens when our identity is founded and rooted in truth. Many of us know this. And, yet, we don't live like it. Or we strive for it in all the wrong ways, through all the wrong things.

I know, within my Spirit, God desires to break these walls of false identity, misconceptions, and broken truth. Lies and patterns of thought that have defined our identities for years. The confusion that colors our ability to declare confidently of who we are. Or, maybe, it's our own accomplishments and pride that better characterize our identity than Christ who graciously empowered us.

Whatever it is that confuses and discolors our identity and the roots of that identity, God longs to tenderly cut through the noise, tear down the walls, and lovingly unravel us so that we stand free and confident in Christ. Do you sense it? Do you believe it?

Oh, I do, there is a rising faith in my soul - a stirring in my Spirit. He is saying, I will do great things for you and among you.

It's essential that who we are - who God says we are - aligns with who we believe we are. If the enemy can destroy this truth - he can tear away the freedom and abundant life that is promised in Christ. 

In 1 Peter 2:9, it states that we are chosen. We are special. And we are His. That He so graciously pulled us from the pit of darkness into a marvelous light.

And, yet, it's not enough to simply declare positive statements of belief: I am Strong, I am Brave, I am Hopeful, etc. It requires a lifelong deep inner work of transformation where we allow Christ to reach into the darkness of our existence and shed light on mistruths, lies, pain, mistakes, and more. Often we desire to leave the light off. No one WANTS to face their own darkness - their pain. And, yet, we cannot value the light without the darkness. 

But why not? Why not stare our darkness in the face and allow the light of Jesus Christ to come flooding in. By the act of one man - freedom has been offered - grace has been offered. By the act of Jesus Christ - righteousness no longer has to be earned. We accept our imperfections knowing that we don't earn anything, but that we are justified by faith and by grace. And we can come out of hiding-come out of darkness into glorious light. If we live our lives through Christ, it is Christ living in us that gives us the strength and courage to live outside of the darkness and in the light. To live free, to transform, to grow, to bear fruit and impact a world for Him.

I can't wait to continue to explore these themes of identity with you. The Women of Influence team and the network leadership team is praying for you. And we hope you will come. I pray God will remove all obstacles for you to be there the weekend of the conference. We all need a good, strong reminder of WHO we are and WHOSE we are. I hope to see you there!

You can register here: snemnwomenofinfluence/events

 ...by Christan Causey

...by Christan Causey

The Art of Abiding

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.” - John 15:4-5

We recently got a new type of remote with the installation of our cable - the type of remote where you speak into it and it changes to the channel or media that you request. The funny thing is, I rarely use it. As convenient and advanced as it is - I prefer to navigate with the buttons and menus to my selection. In that same vein, I rarely use Siri on my iPhone. Why do I do extra work when something that is designed to make my life easier is also accessible to me?

Today, it struck me, I don't use these features that were designed to help me be more efficient and arguably more effective because I feel better about keeping the navigation in my hands - though it’s slower and more work.

That'll preach.

See, this is exactly what I do in my life. I’d rather navigate and manage my faith, life, and career on my own, rather than hand it over to a more capable, efficient, and effective God. I like to keep the navigation of life in my own hands - yes, even though it’s slower and more work. 

And, as we’ve made the BIG move to Newton, Mass. to activate a church with a BIG vision and a BIG heart for the City, I found myself in this place of tension - pulling on my own resources, wisdom, knowledge, and skill in order to help my family feel adjusted to this BIG move. I found myself taking God-delivered career opportunities and layering it with my own navigational *skills*. All the while, I should be releasing this BIG move for a BIG vision to a BIG God - I held it too tightly to myself. More work on me, but I felt better being the pseudo-captain of this ship rather than sit back and watch it unfold. 

The truth? My navigation is so inferior and it’s exhausting. My ability fits into a small piece of the larger vision - the only proper fit is to release and remain in a BIG God.

That’s exactly what John 15 speaks of - abiding in Christ. It’s the only way to “bear fruit” or to see *real* results.

Speak forth the promise of God, sit back, and let him work. 

Speak your need, sit back, and let his Body - his people - respond.

When he says, “remain in me” or “abide in me,” he is asking us to…exist…and stay connected to him, and he promises to stay connected to us. And, a part of staying connected to him is staying connected to his Body - his Church - his people.

God never designed us to do this alone - without the community of believers - without the support structure of the Body of Christ…his Church…his people. There is a very distinct reason why God said that we should not forsake the assembly or fellowship of the Body - because his Body is more capable, efficient, and effective than anything we can try our hand at alone. The results or “fruit” of my labor is limited, but it's infinite when I choose to abide and stay connected.

I'm terrible at asking for help - if you haven’t already discovered that! I can’t even ask Siri for help! But, part of remaining or abiding in Christ is to lean into the community of people that he’s placed around me. Releasing the navigational controls means placing it in his hands and the capable hands of his people. What is authentic community, if we can be the support that we all so desperately need?

So, if you have one takeaway from this post, hear this…exist. Just abide and stay connected to God and his Body. And, if you’re seeking the type of authentic community that makes life and facing its challenges more efficient and effective - send me an email - I'd love to introduce you to the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

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Guest Blog from Katie Scott via https://newcitychurch.cc/blog

Katie is a church planter with her husband, Devlin. Just moved to Newton, MA from Chicago, IL, we welcome them to the Southern New England family. To learn more about Katie, their family, and church planting endeavors, visit their website at newcitychurch.cc

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Scars and Trust

My trust in the Lord has always been, best put, complicated. I would be dishonest if I was to say it was consistent and constant. If anything, I have most identified with doubting Thomas. Most identified with the "wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." I long to be consistent, to be steady - immovable in my trust - and yet that typically isn't the case. 

The shock and resulting darkness of losing my parents in a short period of time and at such a young age left many scars. Scars, that although healed, still bears scar tissue. 

Our bodies have a natural way of healing through scars. The scar is a result of a wound in the body and the healing process of the body internally making an effort to heal that wound. Pain from scar tissue can actually occur long after the wound/surgical area has healed. All that needs to occur is a small amount of pressure, a squeezing of sorts internally or externally in and around the scar tissue and the nerves that are present there.

I had three C-sections. I have three operations worth (technically four with an emergency post op procedure) of scar tissue and the more you have built up, the more after pain may occur. It's just more sensitive. As a result, I often experience pain internally for various reasons or if I exude a lot of physical labor or activity (running, lifting, etc). 

I explain all of this not to give you weird insight into my physical pain, I promise. :) I share it because it so perfectly exemplifies what occurs in our own lives. When we experience loss, trauma, painful circumstances, and more - our mind, soul, and spirit works to find healing. The hope is that we allow Christ to do His best work of restoration and healing. Yet, we must acknowledge that even when He does, scar tissue will remain. We live in a fallen, imperfect world - and no healing will be perfectly complete until eternity. 

The more we fight this, the more we will actually move away from God in distrust. We must recognize that, at times, there are events or situations that come along and "squeeze" or "put pressure" on the scar tissue of those old wounds. This causes a rush of pain, and as a result memories of the trauma and loss may occur. Or, at the very least, we find ourselves overwhelmed with uncertainty. We are reminded that sometimes things don't work out, and sometimes God just allows pain.

This. This right here. It pushes hard against the real desire within us to trust in our faithful God. We tell ourselves, I know He is faithful - why can't I just trust? Because at the depth of who we are, we do trust Him. We know emphatically that He is trustworthy. Oh, but that scar tissue is pushing back reminding us of the long nights, the darkness that covered, the fear that ensued, the stark disappointment. 

Grace. Give yourself grace, my dear friend. Because your sweet Father is - in those moments where your trust waivers - pouring out His mercy and grace to help you build your trust again. 

When I experience that pain from my c-sections it never is as intense as when it was fresh and it never lasts that long. In fact, the more time that occurs and I am removed from those operations the less it occurs. 

He reminds us the pain will release. It will pass, and we will find our trust again. We just must hold on. Dig in deep in those moments. Turn quickly towards Him, call out, hold on - and wait.

For He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds stay on Him because they trust Him (Is. 26:3). In those moments where the pain or uncertainty is greater and clouding your senses - remind yourself of His faithfulness. Call to mind the hope you have in Him. Call to mind the millions of ways He has rescued you over and over again. And keep your heart and mind stayed on Him. 

And, when the pain is released or you find yourself being able to catch your breath - you will be able to say with sweet confidence again - Yes. I trust you with ALL my heart. The peaceful places. The painful ones. I trust you emphatically. 

“Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalms 28:6-7 NLT

 ...by Christan Causey

...by Christan Causey

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Single Minded Focus

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

What are the things that fill your thoughts?

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

God’s word tells us we must go to war with our thoughts. Our mind loves to dwell on anything and everything, but God. When our minds dwell on something other than the Lord for an extended period we will become weary.

When we’re not focused on God mistakes happen.

God constantly tells His people to remember His words because our hearts are inclined to go their own way. When we are focused on the Lord we will be focused on His Word. When we start to lose focus, we stop making war with sin, our discernment will be off, then we are slow to do God’s will, becoming impatient, angry, worried…

So often we see Christians compromising, just a little because they take their focus off Jesus. Satan will try his best to tempt you, whispering softly in your ear, “Just do it one time, God doesn’t care, He’s is taking too long, it won’t hurt anyone…”

We must be on guard and be strong in the Lord, but how can we be strong in the Lord if our focus is not on Him? How can we know God’s instructions if we are not in His Word? Get into the Word daily and be a doer not a hearer.

I am learning that preaching the gospel to yourself is a terrific way to keep your mind on Christ. Sometimes we must take a moment to just praise Him and give thanks. A moment of genuine worship lasts a lifetime and brings Christ back into focus.

·       Let’s pray for help with keeping our mind focused on Christ.

·       Let’s pray that God helps us to notice when our mind drifts off to something else.

·       Let’s fight with our thoughts.

Remember, what consumes your mind controls your life.

  ... by Paulette Toews

... by Paulette Toews