The cover of the latest (October 2012) Christianity Today is covered with 1 ½” photos of twenty-five women. The headline reads: Fifty Women to Watch: Those Most Shaping the Church and Culture.
My reactive thoughts immediately had me asking can we put any more pressure on these women. Can we make the fish bowl any larger or set it at any more of a visible angle? Why do we do this? Why must we turn everyone into a celebrity? These women are servants, and many of them deal with their own issues. Now they have to add being watched. It’s enough to become a hermit! Or to fight the ugly dragon of hubris (awful pride) mentioned often by Madeleine L’Engle.
Yet, the muted cover with its female symbol stopped me. The photos of the women’s faces stopped my stickering and preparing this magazine for the shelf. I recognized several of the faces. Many of these women have been tools the Lord has used to speak to me. Their words have often pierced me, inspired me, angered me, impassioned me, coaxed me and redirected me.
Ann Voskamp. Beth Moore. Margaret Feinberg. Joni Eareckson Tada. Household names. Their books are on my book shelves. My Bible and journals are peppered with insights I have found in their studies. They are now familiar faces and even more familiar voices. We recognize them and their style—their place in the kingdom.
I thank God for Beth and Ann and all the others. Regardless of anybody and everybody’s opinion these women have been doing kingdom work and sometimes they take intense heat for it. Beth and Ann and many others, however, have been revisiting and revising and reinventing a woman’s place in God’s kingdom.
But as I thought about these women I considered others. Ones whose faces weren’t on the cover of the nation’s most well known Christian publication. They didn’t make the cover and they weren’t one of the fifty mentions inside the pages.
I thought about these women. Women you may never meet, you may never hear their voices, or see their faces. Women you may never recognize at a conference or on the back of a book. Women whose influence you may never be able to trace. I hesitate somewhat here. I don’t want the recognition they receive here from me to be their reward. My thoughts about and for them are simply not enough. So, I hesitate.
But I write anyway.
Why do we hesitate to say the good? Why are we reluctant to allow good words, kind words, uplifting words to whistle through our lips? Yet, ugliness and harshness blows past before we even think.
We wait too long, we hesitate too often to encourage and exhort. We hold back our words of affirmation for fear they have a feel of flattery. We are reluctant with our intuition and encouragement because we feel we will be the fool if we misread a situation or a particular look on someone’s face. We are afraid. Deep down we worry that the acknowledgement of someone else’s contributions and gifts will cause us to be accountable for our own. Blessing someone else often makes us feel vulnerable. We become transparent because we become brave enough to allow someone else to know we see into their lives. We see them.
Women scare us. We’re afraid of comparisons and falling short. We are afraid to share our victories because then we feel we must confess our failures. (I do this constantly. I am forever pointing out my own faults and failures. Attempting to make sure that I am real with others. But our gifts are what make us real too. And they need to be acknowledged.)
Women can be hard and exacting creatures. But the lesson for me in recent months has been don’t wait to say something good or encouraging to someone. Don’t wait to be kind. Don’t hesitate to tell a woman that she is lovely—and it is not just about her clothes or the ability to accessorize. Don’t be reluctant to, out of the blue, look at someone and say I appreciate the way you…
Paul tells us that we are to spur one another on to good deeds. We are to encourage one another daily (Hebrews 10:25). We are also afraid to do this because what if someone doesn’t do or offer it back? What if others disagree with us? What if no one looks at us and pats us on the back? What then? In the words of Martina McBride: Do It Anyway . This You Tube clip is worth watching!
(Mother Teresa’s poem Mother Teresa's poemseemed to have inspired this song.
Today, I am doing just that. I am tired of being afraid to bless the Body of Christ. I am weary of worrying how my words will be received. I am slightly exasperated with our reluctance to bless instead of criticize.
There are some women in or around my world who are quietly living in the valley, diligently doing what has been given to their hands to do, embracing the place they are and blessing many within their realm of influence. They are doing many things anyway. They need to know that this life in the valley will be worth it. It will be of value. It does and will have purpose.
My list is not fifty women long—although it could have been.
Meet some of the women of my world.
Terri Smith—read the post Quarter of a Century
Amy Scalf—our minister’s wife. My good friend. She is not a typical minister’s wife. In Amy there’s very little sugar, but there’s plenty of spice. Six adopted children call her mama. She lost a precious son when he was barely three years old, and she bears the scars from the battle, but they have empowered her to minister to others who have lost a child. Many people teach, but Amy is a teacher. And, yes, there is a difference. She has a strong gift of administration and wields it deftly. Amy knows the truth; she tells it like it is and straightens out the messes. She weeps silently, hurting for the deep things that often others don’t see.
Sharon Wright—Spiritual Formation Director and marriage counselor at a large church. She is a woman of seriously profound wisdom. Sharon’s influence and spiritual direction and words still guide me today. Sharon is soft-spoken and gentle, but she has a power within her that is mighty to see. The Spirit has gifted her with the ability to rightly divide not only the Word, but people. She sees through to the real crux of the issue and speaks truth right to the center of it.
JoAnn Embs—a servant. One of the most beautiful and gentle spirits I have ever seen in a woman. JoAnn washes tables as if they were in the banquet halls of heaven. She is drawn to the hurting and the sad and to the least of these. She works, unseen, in her little corner of the world and has no idea what her words to me every Sunday morning mean. She has no idea of how much impact they have. I want to be like her when I grow up.
Christy Witt--An extraordinary single mom. Christy has an incredibly generous spirit. She gives and gives and gives. And she gives cheerfully. She pays attention to detail and her blessings flow out of those observations. She is loyal--a friend you would want with you in a crisis. A friend you would want in the midst of suffering--in the midst of pain.
Angela Turner—one of my dearest and longest friends. We often teasingly call her Sarge. She has a strong gifting of administration—and can see in a linear fashion that astounds me. She has the ability to see consequences and cause and effect a long way down the road. I have benefited quite often from this gift. What many people don’t see are the quiet things she does for others or how her heart bleeds. Angela puts her hand to the plow and does not look back. She is one of the lionesses in the Kingdom—fiercely loyal and deeply committed.
Dianna Harmon—this woman has one of the most beautiful and encouraging spirits I have ever known. She has endured life-threatening surgeries with a gentle and faithful resolve that has floored me. She is a prayer warrior and the enemy probably chuckled when they saw her approaching, but I guarantee they didn’t laugh for long. And she has loved me like a daughter. She has prayed and interceded for me and mine too many times to count.
Donna Vaughan—my sister-in-love. One of the wisest, most intelligent, gifted women I have ever known. Donna reminds me of Deborah and her tree. Her husband is a minister and she takes and fulfills her role with great grace and profound beauty. She has learned to say no; she has disciplined herself to resist peer pressure—not allowing herself to be pushed into a mold of someone else’s expectations. She has raised two godly sons who will no doubt praise her at the city gates. And her husband, I know, counts her as one of the most tremendous gifts God has ever given him.
Sherry Mohr—one of the most alive women in my life. She is the mother of five incredible children I love deeply. Her grasp of Scripture and its daily applications is extraordinary. She is intelligent and witty and one of the hardest workers I have ever met in my life. She reminds me of Abigail and her discernment and wisdom in the mess with David, but she is certainly NOT married to Nabal. Actually, it is because of her marriage that I began to watch her; honestly good marriages are rare, and so I noticed hers.
Pam Finley—a woman I would want in my corner. A prayer warrior I would request on my flank. She wields the Sword of Truth with a dexterity that is astounding, but she also loves the Word and is passionate about the truths and principles found in its depths. She is a minister’s wife. Astute and strong. She is a no-nonsense kind of woman. Pam ministers to her flock; she feeds and leads them to green pastures. Like Priscilla, I believe she could hold her own with Paul.
The last four women are my daughters:
and read her blog : Unforced Rhythms
And read her blog: The Whole Kat and Kaboodle
My four girls tell me that I see good things in them just because I am their mama. My answer to that is truth is truth. I admire my daughters more than almost anyone in the world. Each one of them has changed me and spurred me on to be a better woman. In twenty years there’s a great possibility that if Christianity Today (or a publication like it) discusses the influential women of the time my daughters’ names will be on the list. Is this just a mother’s bias and hope? Perhaps, but there’s truth in my bias and a foundation of hope in my dreams.
These are women who are doing it anyway. Women who are influencing the world God has put them in right now and right here.
Please go today and encourage someone in your world. Point out something good and right in them. Shine a light on their gifts. Tell them you appreciate them. Let them know you see the Spirit at work in them.
Don’t hesitate to bless.
You never know you may be the blessing God uses to exhort someone to fulfill their calling and shape and mold their culture. You may be the catalyst God uses to help someone step into their gifts.
Please go today.
Don’t wait to say something kind.
Please do it anyway.