When in the Sandbox…

I’ve been “blog quiet” for such a long time now.  I’ve been pondering so very many things this past year.  But one analogy I keep circling around to again and again is this feeling that I’ve been relegated in life to a sandbox.  An out-of-the-way place where I can’t cause too much trouble.  It sounds a little bitter when I read it, but what’s funny is I’ve kind of put myself there.

Kind of.

I think a lot of you can probably relate.

You know, for years my greatest wish has been to be in full-time ministry.  I’ve tried going to college on no less than three separate occasions.  One in ministry really must have that critical seminary degree (tongue in cheek). I’ve smacked my face hard so many times against that particular wall.  When it wasn’t school it was gender.  A woman shouldn’t have too much authority.  She should be quiet and meek.  Problem is, there’s a bit too much lioness in me.  Half of the time I’m not sure where my place is and the other half of the time I’m fairly certain no one knows what to do with me.

And so I find myself playing in the sandbox where it’s safe, and I know the rules, and the boundaries are clear, and I can’t get myself into too much trouble.  Or get my heart too broken.

Boundaries.  Limits. Walls.

For all of us there are limitations – a lack somewhere of something, be it money, time, energy, education, health…

We resent our sandboxes and bust our hearts against their invisible bars. We wonder when God is going to do that thing we used to really believe so hard that He was going to do.  We wither.  We diminish.  The more hemmed in we feel the more we hunker down.

For a while that sandbox can be a really fun place to hang out.  We can play there.  We can pretend.  We can create.  We can skate by in life content with the sand we can scoop in our hands and the castles we can build.  But all along there is this persistent whisper inside that screams against the walls of our hearts, “I was made for something bigger than this!”

And then that sandbox becomes our prison and we become a performer going through the motions.

I’ve had cause this past year to ponder my sandbox.  I’ve wondered if I should fight against those barriers or accept them with humility?  I’m all the way certain that if and when God wants to do something in this life of mine and take me out of this sandbox, He absolutely will.  So surrender in patient humility, or let the lioness loose and fight?

No doubt you’ve asked yourself similar questions at times.

I can’t answer those questions for you.  Sometimes a battle needs fought and a lioness must be called forth.  Sometimes, that’s the path.  Sometimes, the whole point of the sandbox is to prepare you to fight back.  And, then, sometimes humble surrender is the path God leads us down as He teaches us to trust Him and place every bit of our hope in Him.

We must ask of ourselves What has He called me to? Did He call you to be the one to fight?  Or did He call you elsewhere?

For me, the inclination to fight is ever beneath the surface.  But the true calling is investing in people. To love them as he loves – with fierceness, and loyalty, faithfulness, and protection. To open my life, my heart, and my home to others.  To put His Word into practice and show others how to walk in that same wisdom.  To teach, and pray, and love, and share.

When I remember this, I’m able to see this sandbox with new eyes.  Instead of pounding my face against those boundaries in an effort to seize the plow and set off to till distant fields beyond my reach, I can grab a shovel and dig.

The lesson?

When life hems you in, start digging.

Dig deep. Dig deeper.  Deeper still.

It’s back-breaking work.  It’s heartrending work.  Sometimes, it feels like small work.  It’s not easy going deeper with God.  It’s easy to play at church and easy to dig in the sand with our little toy shovels.  It’s harder to grab that big girl shovel and heave with all our might – faces to the ground as we cry out in prayer, sweaty noses in the pages of our Bibles as we raise them to God and remind Him… remind ourselves – of His faithfulness, His promises, His provision, His supernatural strength, His ability to work miracles.  It’s hard work to set aside the games and invest in the people God has placed alongside us in our sandboxes.  It hurts to dig past the sand to the rich fertile soil beneath – blisters form and bleed as they burst, muscles bunch up in agony, the sun beats on us.  It’s hard to make ourselves shut off our televisions, our phones, and our radios and turn hungry hearts to the only One who can really satisfy.

It’s scary to stop letting that sandbox define us and instead begin to define our sandbox.

We’re all longing to do something in this life that really matters, that changes something in a forever sort of way.  The problem is, so many of us are trying to offer this world something we ourselves don’t have.

Because you can’t take people deeper than you yourself have been.  You can’t give what you don’t have.  You can’t explain what you don’t know.

Only God can take us deep enough.  Only Jesus can give what we don’t have.  Only the Holy Spirit can reveal what we don’t know.

This year is coming to a close.  I know I need to dig deeper – in my own heart and in the lives of others.  It’s the only way I’ll go farther.  It’s the only way I’m leaving this sandbox.  Will you join me in grabbing your shovels, shoving them in the sand, stomping them down, and hauling the sand away?


Women In Authority: Boxed In

Woman on the stage --- Image by © Steve Nagy/Design Pics/Corbis

Woman on the stage — Image by © Steve Nagy/Design Pics/Corbis

I’ve taken some time off from my promised series Women In Authority. Forgive me for being lax in my posting. I’ve heard from some you wondering if I’m still blogging. Yes, I am! Like so many of you, I’m a busy woman; I run a business with my husband, homeschool my children (Summer? What summer?), work part-time, research and write, and oversee various other ministry endeavors. Thanks for bearing with me this year!

Picking back up on Women in Authority, if you need to catch up on the previous posts follow these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I know many women feel called to various ministry roles. Some of us have struggled quietly in the background, trying not rock the boat; some of us have gone a little nuts demanding that the world give us our due; some of us have given up; and a few of us have found a way to successfully navigate the rough waters.

In our struggle to step into our purpose, and in the church’s struggle to deal with this issue tranquilly, we’ve often succeeded in drawing a box around powerful women and giving them free reign – within the box. We split hairs as women try to pacify their churches and as churches try to pacify women leaders. We’ll say it’s okay for a woman to teach and men just happen to be in the room, as long as she’s not addressing the men; as long as she’s really teaching other women or children. Some will go so far as to say that if a man chooses to put himself under her authority as she teaches, then that’s okay, too.

Sometimes it’s like teaching without acknowledging the “elephant” – a.k.a. the men – in the room. Teach your heart out. But be careful not to address the men. It seems arbitrary and gets confusing. The lines are blurry and different churches and organizations have different rules and women leaders are continually stubbing their toes as they try to figure out where the box’s boundaries lie.

I want to briefly speculate on the issue of authority. On the one hand, whatever authority we have is given to us by God. No one can take away that authority. Likewise, no one can wrestle away more authority than is ordained by God. Whenever I face this issue of women having authority over men, I kind of shake my head because I wonder how I can possibly have authority over someone who refuses to receive that authority. I can exercise authority over my children – and right now they are young enough that I can scare them into submitting if need be – but the day will come when they will choose of their own accord whether or not to submit. In reality, though God has given me authority over them, I don’t in practicality have any power over them if they choose to rebel. If they rebel, they will face God and the consequences of their rebellion. This is true in every avenue of life: a boss has as much authority over his employees as they are willing to submit; a pastor has as much authority over his flock as they are willing to acknowledge. Where ministry is concerned, I might find myself in a position of authority, but that does not mean, in practice, that I have authority over anyone who won’t submit to it.

Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to one another. There are no qualifiers for this, no gender, age, or race differentiation. The Greek word for submit in this verse is a military term; but in non-military context it implies a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden (The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon). It isn’t about who has authority over who; rather it is about who has the strength of character and the humility to voluntarily cooperate. Galatians 3:28 reminds us that we are all one in Christ – neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. We’re all one.

So, why then does Paul admonish Timothy about women in authority over men? Stay tuned…

Kenya, That’s A Wrap

On safari!

Thank you for reading along these two weeks. I’ve been caught off guard by the number of people following along. Thank you for putting up with the time difference, the unreliable connection, and the mistakes I made trying to post from my phone. 

All told, we saw 104 people come to the Lord for the first time!

We spent our final day in Kenya dealing with car troubles and so hung around the hotel instead of going to our final scheduled school. This worked out okay, though, as most of us were pretty tired and one or two of us was feeling under the weather. We enjoyed a day of rest and got packed up for home. 

We spent the day yesterday shopping, etc. in Nairobi before heading to the airport to wait on an 11pm flight. Currently, I am sitting in London’s Heathrow Airport waiting for our last flight home to Houston. I gotta say I miss my husband and babies and I’m ready for my own bed.

What can I say about my time in Kenya?  Well, I suppose I’ve said it all in these blog posts. I don’t know if I can say that it’s changed me or changed my worldview. But it has definitely reminded me of God’s deep love for all peoples, even those that rarely cross my insulated American radar. I have seen, and smelled, and even tasted things television cannot fully communicate, if indeed we stay on those channels long enough to watch. It’s real. It’s present. It’s my problem. It’s your problem. God’s love can span an ocean, a continent, a world. I pray I remember this. I pray you remember this. 

Before closing out I have to give a shout out to my amazing team. 

Blake (left) and Buddy

These two men led us well. Blake gave directions, corralled us as needed, laid out expectations, and showed us love in action. Buddy has been my walking Kenya encyclopedia. He loves this land and these people deeply and much of the information I’ve been able to share with you has come from him.   They led with knowledge, confidence, laughter, and compassion. And they were protectors in some uncomfortable situations, intimidating enough to have no need of the proverbial Big Stick. 

Four amazing young people!

These four crazies won my heart. They love the Lord so truly and brought such laughter, silliness, and joy to our time in Kenya. They were amazing with the children, which was so important considering we spent the bulk of our time and energies ministering to young ones. They also spoke boldly and confidently when called upon to do so. I was proud to have them with us. They were truly the life our team. 

Then there’s this young man, my amazing son, Michael.

To say I am proud of him is such an understatement. He gave this trip his all. And he allowed God to change his heart forever. He handled himself with such maturity and grace. He looked out for his mom. He jumped in to help solve problems. He engaged not only the children, but made fast friends with everyone whose path he crossed and showed love and generosity every chance he got. I know him in a way I didn’t before and my heart is incredibly full for the knowledge. He might only be 12, but he’s God’s man all the way. 

Praise God for His wonderful works!