Identity

Let's Play Pretend - Part II

A little while back, I wrote the first part to this article of Let’s Play Pretend. In this particular article, I want to take a closer look at how we prevent living divided lives as leaders. Revisit Let’s Play Pretend - Part I.

It’s never our desire to harm others. Rarely does a leader intentionally hurt or offend. It can often be attributed to any of the following:

  1. Overworked schedules, and striving for success.

  2. Unending conflict within the church.

  3. Over-identifying with the needs of those they lead.

  4. Lack of accountability or unwillingness to admit failure.

  5. Pride and an unwillingness to submit to regular self-examination led by the Spirit.

  6. Unawareness of the impact of family of origin.

  7. Lack of boundaries and healthy stewardship of power.

  8. Doing more for God than being with God.

  9. Self-protection in the form of severely private lives and lack of close community.

  10. Need to please others, unwilling to deal with conflict, etc.

  11. Misunderstanding of temperament and self-care accordingly.

This list is truly not exhaustive. It’s symptoms I have seen in my own life, in others, and in research as I have studied what it means to lead wholeheartedly.

Whatever the cause, the result remains in a harm that is extended to self and others.

Behavior modification would never be enough - simply because we are powerless to lead with integrity and wholeness on our own. We must have the Spirit of God within that leads us to inward transformation - the overflow of life that truly bears lasting fruit. The fullness of the Spirit in the life of a believer calls for regular self-examination as the Psalmist cried - Search me Oh God, and see if there be any anxious way in me. It calls for transformation from the inside out, a willingness to consistently allow Christ all the way in and invite the Spirit of God into the deepest recesses of our soul.

For example, take the spiritual and religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Divided lives were the way of the Pharisee’s, the religious leaders in Christ’s day. And the harm they did to those around them in their communities was devastating. Christ never held back from calling them out. In one common occurrence when Jesus is teaching to the crowds, - Jesus states directly to the religious leaders and those speaking out against him:

“Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”” John 7:21-24 NLT

In essence, Jesus is saying “check your own actions, motives, and heart”. You look good on the outside but it’s not lining up with what’s beneath the surface on the inside”. 

As leaders, we often spend more time dealing with the external rather than the internal. We deal with others behavior, we call out others motives, and we fix systems and activities. Rarely taking the extended time to examine, call out and hear from God for ourselves.

“Do right” all you want, but if your motives and heart is not pure or in alignment-it falls flat and harms.

We see this again in Matthew 23:25-27 - Jesus is rebuking the spiritual leaders for the divided lives the lead. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.”

Dr. Alicia Britt Chole posted this thought just a few days ago, and it speaks so much to the harm of a divided leader.

“Positional authority without personal integrity will inevitably become abusive.”

In Part I of this post, we used Peter Scazzero’s definition of integrity…“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.”

This includes hidden and secret sin, but it goes much deeper than that. It’s becoming aware of who we are in Christ, and allowing ourselves to express that fully. It’s realizing that it’s okay not to be okay, and we surround ourselves with a community that we can be vulnerable and transparent with in the ups and downs of this life. We reach beyond ourselves to counselors, coaches, mentors, and pastors. We allow those that we lead to see that we are not perfect, and that we are just as human and in need of grace as they are.
We seek to discover the impact of our family origin, and the ways we self-protect to keep people out.

There is no true perfect solution to this - but there is grace-filled surrender. As we surrender wholeheartedly to Christ, we invite Him all the way in to full transform us from the inside out.

Here are a few simple steps to begin giving space to this transformation: 

1. Lead self-aware. You gain self awareness by hearing the voice of the Spirit through intentional times of self examination and repentance. Here are just a few ways to practice this regularly: receive insight from assessments, invite in a counselor to help you unpack your past and family of origin, learn from skilled authors and teachers that can guide you, find a coach or spiritual director, etc.

2. Establishing regular spiritual practices of silence, solitude, and slowing down to be with Jesus so that you can discern His voice in the midst of daily life. 

3. Invite accountability and a close community that you will allow to know you inside and out-failures, temptations, and all. Make an intentional choice to be vulnerable.  

4. Invite Jesus beyond the surface and into the depths. Challenge your own perceptions of Scripture and the world around you - and then invite the Spirit to speak.  

5. Journal the process.

These are just a few steps! I am learning regularly that this process is an ongoing journey of transformation that we must acknowledge and intentionally invite into our lives as people, but especially as leaders. If we want to love and live wholeheartedly - loving God and others with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind - we must make intentional effort to seek after integrity and wholeness. The Spirit of God will empower the transformation if we give the invitation!

…written by Christan Causey

…written by Christan Causey

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

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

Bold Enough to Show Up

A few days ago on March 8 it was International Women's Day. And, I must be honest that until yesterday I didn't know it was a thing. Yet as I scrolled through my newsfeed and saw all of these wonderful posts making sweet declarations affirming womanhood, I immediately felt insane pressure. 

What's wrong with me, I thought? Here I am a newly appointed director of a ministry and network for women, and I have failed to acknowledge THE day to recognize women. 

Why? What is it that causes us to feel pressure to measure up? Why do we insist on comparing notes? 

For generations, women have had to fight for a place at the table. Do a historical study of women and the role of women in society and family, and you will find our roots as women run deep in insecurity, inadequacy, comparison, performance, and so much more. Is it any wonder, as women, we most often struggle with the same things generations of women before us struggled with?

In the end, I decided not to post from the Women of Influence site. 

For those that were like me - here's a little background. This is a designated day for the world to recognize the power and value of women in history and present in our world. International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8 every year, and it commemorates the movement for women's rights, and honors the achievements of women. 

And while this day of celebration for women in our world has come and gone - I am regularly reflecting on what God says about women. I am thankful for the freedom and opportunities I now have in this country as a woman, but it fails in comparison to the true and full freedom I have as a woman in Christ. 

We must know as Christ followers, we no longer have to fight for our place at the table-we simply have to show up. Christ will do the work in us and through us, we simply have to make ourselves available. We have to say yes. Or hearts so desperately desire freedom and a full life. We want to do great things and we long to make an impact on our world. This isn't our idea, though. This was God's. His mission since the beginning of time was the redemption of humanity and He invites us in on the mission daily. This mission is the same for us as women as it is for the men. And, however He calls you to live out this mission-just say yes. 

I am scared out of my mind in my current endeavors, including this one as your leader! I regularly feel like I might fail at any given moment. And, then, I do fail in moments! I lean fully on His help and His grace. 

But here's the thing, we don't have to worry about measuring up or meeting the standard. We can stand confident that our identity is found in our Savior and Him alone, and He has already offered us a seat at the table. So just show up.

Vulnerably show up to what God has for you. He will open doors and set you on paths you never imagined. If you are willing, He will use you to be a part of His redemption in your family, your community, and your church. Step out, take risks, be courageous-allow His Spirit to work in you. 

From the beginning of time, God breathed life into woman and said it was good. From the beginning of time, women walked with strength and purpose, and changed the world. We can celebrate the beauty of God's creation of woman. And, we recognize the powerful role that women fill in the family, workplace, community, and church. 

Like all of humanity, women fall and fail. But we partake in the grace and mercy offered to us by our Creator. When we do fall, may we rise with dignity and humility. When we are broken and bruised, may we find restoration and redemption in the One who calls us good-the only One who truly makes us good. When we feel weak and without purpose, may we rise and lead in the grace given to us by the One who calls us to purpose. 

May we walk in the power not of ourselves, but of Christ our Savior. We fear God, and nothing else. In God's infinite wisdom, He knew women were of value and importance and set each of us on our course. And, with Christ in us, we will continuing changing history for every life we touch. 

All we have to do is show up and live it out loud in faith. 

Praying today you feel the boldness and confidence from Christ in you,

Christan

Written By : Christan Causey

Written By : Christan Causey

This Place is For You

What is your story? This is a question I actually regularly ask about you. I so long to know who you are. What are you about? What are your hopes and dreams? Have you known pain? Do you know joy? What do you love, what do you hate?

Is that weird? I don’t think so. At least I hope not!

There is a common phrase that I think best describes my questions. It is the desire to know and be known.  I want to know you, and I want you to know me. All of us long to belong. We have a God created innate need to be in community.

Well, I want to be the first to say welcome to this community of women. Women of Influence is simply that - a community. A place of belonging. It’s a home where you can be who you are - in fact - we want you for you. Not the role you fill, not the talents you have, not the successes or failures - just beautifully created you.

This is also a place of love. You will be encouraged here. When you are at the end of your rope, when you are about to lose hope - come here. You will hear from a diverse group of women skilled at giving life through pen on paper. Stories and experiences and wisdom will be shared from women in YOUR communities. In fact, if you so choose, you can even share your own story and experiences here.

This is a place of challenge. You will be empowered and equipped to lead and love well. Discipleship will happen, thus transformation taking place. We can’t accept anything less. Jesus has called us to grow, to transform. He has called us to live out of example. We can’t do it on our own. It’s through Christ in us that we bear the fruit of His name. And, yet, we also need each other. We need community to inspire us. Iron sharpens iron, and we will do just that.

Finally, this is a place of resource. We want to help you help others. We desire to see women living vulnerably in community - in their homes, workplace, schools, churches, and more. We want to give you resources and ideas of how you can create a faith community of women within your sphere of influence. The local church needs ministry to women, so whether that flows through the conduit of formal ministry groups or it is an organic path formed - we want to come alongside you.

This blog is the first of many ways Women of Influence wants to connect with you and hear your story. Will you join me in this effort? The blog will be led by a writer’s collective. A group of writers that are committed to this mission. You will get to know them in the near future, and we will add more info about them as we go. In addition, we will soon add a feature where you can have the opportunity to share your writings. So, keep an eye out for more info coming soon!

I hope you are as excited as I am. God’s hand is on this community of Southern New England women, and He has some incredible things in store.

With love and grace,

Christan Causey
Women of Influence Director
Southern New England Ministry Network