Here is a list of a few things I’ve learned along the way in ministry and leadership. I have much to learn and have none of this perfected.
Pray. There is no substitute for prayer. No program, no articulate communication, no counseling session, no planning meeting, no motivating message that will ever go further or be more effective than a person on their knees asking the Lord to do what no man can.
There is a big difference between challenging the process and having a critical spirit. Good intentions can easily turn into a destructive rhetoric. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Redemption should always be at the heart of every process challenged. A critical spirit will always distort that work. James 1:19
Faithfulness over flashiness every time… The qualification for leadership shouldn’t come from an external checklist or from being persuaded with sparkly words but should come from observing faithfulness in action. Give someone time and space to let their words resemble their actions. Faithfulness leads people where charisma cannot.
Having patience, extending grace and fighting for…. unity with brothers and sisters is of FAR greater importance than being right. Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it this way, “It must be a decisive rule of every Christian fellowship that each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him.” I certainly do not have this one mastered, but undoubtedly see the life-bringing power of a tongue submitted to the Lord. Proverbs 19:11
Perfection is something you have to let go of… both the expectations from yourself and from those around you. There is a difference between the pursuit of holiness and the pursuit of perfection. One produces humility, confession, and righteousness while the other debilitates. Leaders do hold themselves to a higher standard - however, there is a slippery slope of this turning into a standard of perfection. If not kept in submission to Christ this will become crushing.
We love because he first loved us. We as leaders are daily in need of the redemptive work of the cross just as much as any human soul that walks through the doors of our church or sphere of influence. We lead not from the assertion of strong-armed leadership but from the humble place of “I once was dead in my own sin and because of Christ, I’ve gone from death to life - no good works of my own.” We lead from this posture both publicly and privately.
Before you ask for strength and skill ask for fear and reverence. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…Proverbs 1:7. This runs like a thread in all we do. The advice the world offers is often in opposition to the wisdom that comes only from the Lord.
Be on guard: As competence rises often our dependence lowers. We can do nothing, absolutely nothing, apart from the Spirit of the Living God. John 15:5
Teach the Word …especially if you are a woman! Women, when you gather, teach the Word and teach other women how to teach the Word. Women’s ministries have a growing tendency to rally around symptoms of sin and struggle but rarely learn the discipline and delight of uprooting the sickness. We so often ask for flimsy inspiration and relegate the long-suffering of an expositional study of the Scriptures to our men. Emotional inspiration is temporary, but raising women to study and treasure the fullness of Scripture has generational and eternal significance. Matthew 4:4, Hebrews 4:12
Don't sub out Christ by inserting yourself. You can't be what everyone needs. People will want you to be what they need....but...Christ can only be what they need. This one leads into the next one...
Go to sleep at night - lay your head on your pillow and trust that while your frail body rests God’s endless might never ceases. Resting is trusting. Psalms 127: 1-2
I’ve done some “not so smart things” in my life and I’ve looked back on them and felt the stinging knot of regret swell up in my stomach. Then there are those times where I feel like I’m really trying to do what’s right, but still feel I am coming up short. Have you been there - are you currently there? These next few months I am going to be walking through the book of Proverbs… If you are up for it, join me. Bottom line - there is no wisdom apart from knowing God and the wild thing is He wants us to know Him.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth--
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
“To know wisdom and instruction.” This pretty much sums up the first 6 verses of Proverbs. This quest is noble and the pursuit is central.
The first six verses alone are packed full with words listed like prized treasure to be found:
Where is this precious treasure uncovered?
Cue verse 7…
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
The answer In short (but in full) is ….the fear of the Lord. This is where it all begins.
Not fear of what people think. Not fear of failing. Not fear of pleasing others. Not fear of self. BUT the FEAR of the Lord.
The quest for wisdom and knowledge is found in knowing who God is and in all humility submitting ourselves to Him. Notice the use of the name “the Lord” as to the use of “God” in verse 7. The title “the Lord” is referring to the name of the covenant keeping God of Israel. Proverbs is not calling us to submit ourselves to a generic God, but it is a call of submission to the One whose name is Faithful, Almighty, Father, Healer, Provider, Everlasting. It’s a call to the One who, before the foundations of the earth knew you by name. The beginning of knowledge is not found in begrudging submission to a distant, arcane God, but to a God whose love is shown in blood. We fear out of a heart that has miraculously been changed from stone to flesh. Not a fear of being holy hammered from heaven - we fear because in Him alone our souls are safe.
Throughout Proverbs we see the close tie between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is the understanding of oneself in light of who God is while wisdom is the skill of applying that understanding into Godly living. The alternative to this, simply put, is to be a fool.
We can’t have one without the other. To simple “know” but not “do” is not knowing at all and to only “do” and not “know” is vain doing. If we endeavor to know God; we endeavor to live for Him. These are inseparable certainties.
Do you feel the tension of knowing and not doing? Do you feel the disappointment of doubt or the sorrow of self-rule instead of a surrendered posture of heart? Typically, my first response to this tension is to self-deprecate or crumble at my own feebleness. Paul himself pens the words in Romans 7:19 “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” This is Paul talking. The bulk writer of the New testament struggled with this tension.
This is the condition of the human heart. Until we realize there is no innate wisdom within us, we will not be able to see the beautiful and gracious gift of a life lived surrendered to God. His wisdom is fully for our good and His glory. It quenches or wrestling heart with purpose and peace. It frees us from the bondage of our own destructive ways and allows us to live in indisputable freedom.
In light of recent events, a common phrase you will read or hear is “Praying for Dallas” or “Praying for….“ fill in the blank. It’s a phrase that far to often ends with being said and not done. I truly believe it’s not because we don’t want to pray; it’s simply because we struggle with knowing what to pray. I am keeping this post very simple and to the point. If you struggle with what to pray, first and foremost be honest. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b
Below are a few prayers that can be used to aid us in putting words to our struggle of knowing what to pray.
(These have been pulled from a Book of Common Prayers)
Prayer for the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Peace and Unity
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, who is Jesus Chirst, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and forever.
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for the Church
Gracious Father, we pray for the Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.
Secondly, pray the Scriptures. Open the Psalms, read through Lamentations, follow the order of the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) Whatever you do …don’t not pray. Prayer is powerful. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes US. Let’s not just say we will pray. Let’s actually do it.
Oh, Lord teach us to pray.
I’m buying a dangerous sports car and getting a fire-spitting dragon tattoo! Well maybe not…
Maybe in your mind when you think of “identity crisis” this is what you picture - a drastic move masking an internal struggle... and perhaps that’s somewhat accurate. But the type of identity crisis that seems to be far more common is the one where you find yourself quietly drudging through confusing waters of an unexpected season - a job was lost, you still haven’t found “the one”, or someone dear to you tragically passed away. Maybe even more common - you find yourself in a secluded place, fighting through the disappointment of how life is turning out. Your marriage isn’t as strong as you’d hoped it would be, you feel like you’re failing as a parent, you haven’t hit the level of success that was promised… and the list goes on. All of these swelling unknowns have left you in a place questioning …Is this really who I am?
The idea of identity, on the surface, seems as if it should be simple and concrete. So, what makes it so difficult to stand firm in? Is it just elusive and ever changing?
When I came into my own as a woman growing up, out from under my parent’s roof there was nothing I couldn’t do. I had a green level of responsibility that gave me the sense of full arrival into adulthood – I was Tessa the adult. Shortly there after I met my love, my one and only - my husband, Kyle. I was Tessa the adult, married to Kyle. Plans for the future ensued as we stepped into new roles of ministry and leadership. I then became Tessa the adult, married to Kyle, the devoted pastor’s wife. A few years later I took on a massive new identity - I became a mother. So now I was Tessa the adult, married to Kyle, devoted Pastor’s wife, mother of one… no wait, mother of two! I even began to try on a few “a la carte” identities such as homemaker, stylist, baby whisperer, designer, chef extraordinaire, health enthusiast, etc. As the list grew all my mounting identities began to clash with one another. I was Tessa the adult, married to Kyle, wishing I could devote more time to being a pastor’s wife, descent homemaker, drive-thru chef, guilt ridden mother of two, below average health enthusiast, baby-whisperer-wanna-be, and toddler puke covered stylist.
(…deep breath!) Is this really who I am? Not exactly the vision of beauty and grace I’d hoped for.
Different expectations pulling and prodding, forcing themselves into the driver’s seat… From one transition to the next my identity was forced to modify…And being jerked onto the crazy train of identity isn’t my idea of a fun ride!
Falsely, these are the slots the world tells us to place our identity in – and this couldn’t be further from where it belongs. Here’s the crazy thing…. When searching for true identity we won’t actually find the answer to the quest by asking “Who am I?” This question will merely leave us with lingering hearts of emptiness and hands filled beyond capacity.
So here it is… We will only find the answer of identity by asking God who HE is.
It’s in this realization that our eyes can be lifted off of ourselves and onto Jesus. It’s here in this question that our hearts find rest... completeness, purpose, clear distinct identity fully uncovered in His presence. Like rushing water washing over us; His answer calls out through His Word … And then like a stake driven into deep earth we see, in fullness, who we are….the restless wonder fully satisfied in an all-embracing understanding. Breathing in and breathing out identity. We are His.
This reality doesn’t change even when our seasons of life do. Who we are in light of who HE IS remains throughout it all.
But yet…. we are so easily swayed by the voices of the world telling us who we need to be. Those voices will never truthfully reveal our identity.
There is only One Voice that holds that knowledge. It is the Voice that spoke and breath entered our lungs (Gen 1:27). It’s the Voice that calms the raging seas (Matt 8:26). It’s the Voice that calls the lame to walk, blind to see and dead to rise (Matt 11:5). It is the Voice that declared “It is finished” as He absorbed all of our failures, short-comings, and guilt on the Cross (John 19:30). It is the Voice that looks upon you and me, wretched sinners and proclaims us righteous children of God (Gal 3:26). This is the Voice that brings clarity to who we really are – a chosen people adopted in as sons and daughters.
This is who I am. In this reality my purpose is made clear; to pursue Christ to make him known and to bring glory to His name in all that I do.
In each changing season may the steadfastness of who the Lord is anchor our hearts and our minds.
So who am I really?
I am Tessa – His alone.
We so enjoyed putting our little guy's, buffalo inspired, simple and clean nursery, together. It really is so much fun making a house a home.
Photography by: www.cassieloreephotography.com
December 2, 2015 was quite the day. Our Macklin Andrew made his debut 3 weeks early. We barely made it to the hospital in time to deliver. My "grand" plans of an epidural went out the window after being stuck on Dallas North Tollway in bumper to bumper, rush hour traffic. I arrived at the hospital in full blown labor... and 30 minutes (of pure insanity) later our handsome man was born.
Our sweet friend, captured these precious moments of our daughter, Eelin, meeting her baby brother for the first time.
Photography by http://www.cassieloreephotography.com
I remember the day my dad took me to one of those fancy department stores in the mall. He grabbed my hand and led me up the escalator to the most beautiful section of Christmas dresses. I'd tried some of them on before, but only for fun never actually taking one home. I was so excited as he let me pick out dresses to try on - I felt like a princess. There was one dress in particular that was hanging on display that I didn’t dare suggest to even try on. It was long black velvet with white lace dancing on the edges. It had puffy shoulder sleeves just like the classic Cinderella dress and a velvet hat to match. It was perfection. As I was trying on dresses my dad had the sales lady take the dress from the display and had me try it on. I walked out of the dressing room and met eyes with my dad. He looked at me with a big grin and said, "you look beautiful." I smiled and twirled around as he grabbed my hand and said “let’s take it home!” I squealed with delight as the sales lady packaged it and sent it home with us. It was one of my favorite dresses and memories shared with my dad.
I share that story because it was a special moment and childhood memory. My parents loved me well and of course made sure we were clothed. But I assure you clothing and appearance were never central in our house. Hand-me-downs were just as much a part of my wardrobe as anything else - I even wore my brother’s old clothes on occasion…yikes. However, there was a type of clothing that was daily emphasized in our home. It was a type of clothing that my parents could never make or buy, but only point me towards. It was their aim, their labor, their toil and their joy to point me towards the most important clothing - the clothing of Christ.
Romans 13:14 “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ”
Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
We live in a different age. The age of Pinterest, fashion blogs, Facebook and Instagram. Which are not inherently bad, but the pressures of keeping up with the Jones’ is completely different… Years ago the trendy standard would only hit you if you walked down a mall hallway or cracked open the JCPenny catalog that was quarterly shipped to your home. Now, we have instant access to image after image of the trendy standard that’s ever changing. With every scroll on your phone or click of your mouse you’re faced with “my kid doesn’t have that… My kiddo needs to dress more like that...I gotta have that!” The problem is, that NEVER STOPS! The trendy standards and expectation change with every new post. It’s exhausting and spins our wheels on things that, quite frankly, do not matter in the scope of eternity.
Dressing our kids in new clothing and trendy gear is fun and not a bad thing! I get a huge kick out of it myself! That is not the point of this post. The point is this… the toil, labor and joy of our parenting should not be on the external things, but rather on the hidden things of the heart. This goes further and wider beyond clothing... maybe it's the anxiety of making sure your kids are in the top college preparatory school, working hard to get them on the best AAU basketball team, pushing them to hangout with the "popular kids" at school, or feeling guilty they don't speak Italian, Mandarin, and French.
The dangerous slippery slope is that this kind of striving can breed the belief that the children the Lord gives to us are “ours.” We can easily allow them to become a reflection of us rather than a reflection of the One who made them.
This is our aim: that we would stay on our knees asking the Lord to open the eyes of our children. That He alone would save them with His mighty hand and then work day-in and day-out to teach them how to clothe themselves in His perfect saving work on the cross.
And then may we show them how to clothe themselves with:
the belt of Truth,
with the breastplate of Righteousness,
and on their feet, how to put on the shoes of readiness given by the Gospel of peace.
It starts in our own hearts and in our own desires and then by example we get the honor of pointing them to these greater things. Let our hearts not forget the reason we are gifted with children. It is for His glory alone. May we never step into that place and claim the Glory due their Creator.
Fall is my favorite time of the year. I don't care how cliche it is... I love the changing weather, crunchy-colorful-falling leaves and yes.... pumpkin spice lattes. However, I don't always drink my pumpkin-spice while wearing leggings and a fall scarf.. I'm not THAT cliche....
Even though I love the changing season it always seems to sneak up on me... I find myself asking... How on earth is it already fall? Where did summer go and is Christmas really just right around the corner? Time moves fast. The changing season reminds me to slow down, be thankful for the day and pray wisdom in how to steward it well. I won't get today back. I won't get this day back being a mom, wife or friend. So today, I chose to enjoy right where I am - asking the Lord to help me slow down and to not rush this day... More thoughts on this to come...
Photography by http://www.cassieloreephotography.com
I am no expert on any topic. I am writing just to share in my journey of learning to abide in my Maker.