Monday, June 30, 2008

Behind Those Eyes

You may have noticed a new title in my "Books Beside my Bed" sidebar lately. A few weeks ago the author of today's P31 devotion "Secret Places" sent me a copy of her latest book Behind Those Eyes: What's Really Going on Inside the Souls of Women - and I'm loving it! Lisa Whittle talks about the different ways that women cover over their insecurities and heart aches ... like hiding it with fake smiles, or fashionable clothes, or an air of manufactured confidence, or even our spiritually. I know you will see yourself somewhere in this book.

Lisa calls us to take off our masks, insisting that we are all "perfectly imperfect," and come into the light of community. My own pastor sometimes says it this way, "Everybody's crazy, so let's just start from that and skip all the pretending." I think the best part of her new book is that Lisa ends with a call for authenticity and section that shows us who we really are in Christ. And she includes a short study section at the back. So if you struggle with insecurity, jealousy, loneliness or fear (and who doesn't to some degree - I sure do), then this woman is writing to you.

God knows, our souls long to know and live in truth, and stop trading in images and charades. In fact, Lisa opens the book with this scripture from the Message:

"What you're after is truth from the inside out." ~ Psalm 51:6

Pop over and meet this author today on her blog if you want, she's got some probing posts there. And if you're willing to "get real" a minute with me here on my blog, I'd love to hear what you struggle with the most ... insecurity? ... unforgiveness? ... perfectionism? ... jealousy? ... loneliness?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Best She Speaks Moment

If you asked me what my favorite She Speaks 2008 moment was, I'd have to say praying for Wendy. And it almost didn't happen.

On Saturday evening during the main session, I was meeting with my publisher for my book "God's Purpose for Every Woman." We didn't intend to meet during the session, but her schedule was running late so it turned out that way. After a terrific time talking in the restaurant over some hot spinach and artichoke dip, it felt very late to me as I rode with her in the elevator up to the floor where she was retiring for the evening.

I was ready to chill alone in my own room for the first time all day when I noticed it was only a little after 9:oo PM. I checked my schedule and saw the main session was still going on. Caught up in enjoyable conversation, I'd forgotten about it - and I was suppose to be up front at the cross to pray with the women.

After a moment of consideration, I hustled to the ballroom. As I carefully entered the back of the dim room, I could see P31 team members had gone up front minutes before, as planned, and women were starting to come forward to the crosses. Multiple team members were already at each of the crosses. Plus, I'd missed the message and wasn't quite feeling "in the groove" of what was happening, so I thought briefly about sitting this one out.

But I knew I'd been specifically assigned to be at one of the crosses and I'm not one to shirk my assignments. I couldn't remember which cross I was to go to, so I just headed to one. I prayed with several women while there, and it was truly my honor and blessing to do so. I was very glad at that point that I'd come.

Next, a woman came to me from the other side of the room and asked if I was Rachel. I indicated yes. She hardly got a few words out before she was overcome with tears. I'm going to let her tell you the rest of the story of what God did for her. Pop over to her blog here to read the rest of the story from her perspective. Please do that before you finish reading my post.

Reading Wendy's post moves my heart. But I don't want you to walk away from this post thinking, "That Rachel is so super spiritual. When she prayed, major things happened." Because it's not about me at all. When Wendy told me she felt God telling her to have me pray for her, I honestly didn't understand why. She doesn't remember exactly what I prayed (I did pray for a long time), but I remember what my first words were: "Lord, I don't know why it's important that I be the one to pray for Wendy but You do. So give me the words, and have Your way." I just went on from there.

My point is, God often creates "divine appointments" for us and we just have to be sensitive to His leading and willing to go along when He calls. Living under the power of the Holy Spirit is an adventure like no other.

For some reason, I was allowed to stand in the middle of this encounter with Wendy and the God who loves her. I got to see how obedient hearts, surrendered to Him, bring about great breakthroughs. I got to experience God lifting her up, and feel the moment that strongholds were broken and God reigned down over her. And I'm grateful.

Maybe Wendy is the unknown-to-me-at-the-time reason that I fasted the week before. Or maybe God allowed me to be the one to witness this encounter just to encourage me. Or perhaps, it was so that I could encourage you today with her story. I don't know all the reasons or repercussions, but I know that I'm grateful to have stood in that moment in eternity, praying for a sister in Christ.

So that's why this moment - despite all the fun moments I had, despite all the well-known people I met, despite all the talented speakers I heard, and despite all the influential publishers I talked with - was my absolute favorite She Speaks moment of 2008.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More She Speaks Moments

Well, I've since had several full meals - including some chocolate and some Starbucks. But today (June 25) I am fasting with 5,000+ other people and Compassion International for a breakthrough in the global food crisis. Perhaps you will join us?

Meanwhile, I'm sharing more highlights (at least from my perspective) from this weekend's conference. We'll get back to Bible study the first week of July.

At the start of the conference on Friday afternoon I saw a familiar face walking up to me. It was Pamela, who I had met there last year. I'm not going to retype the whole story so you'll have to pop over to Zoe's blog a minute to read the story.

Me, Pamela, and Zoe in 2007

As Pamela approached me this year, I noticed right away she appeared stronger than the summer before and there was a new twinkle in her eye. She asked if I remembered her, and proceeded to tell me how that encounter had changed her life. She was more surrendered now, and more adventurous. She'd begun a teaching job this year. Her entire life, she claimed, was radically different. Just because Zoe insisted she try on her shoes ... and I insisted she stand in them with our help ... and God insisted nothing is impossible with Him ... and Wendy took the picture to prove it.

I always knew a great pair of shoes could change your life - with the help of a GREAT GOD.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

She Speaks Moments

Glynnis, Carrie (in back of me), Me, Lysa, Luann, Holly, Aimy S. (in back), Amy C. (in back), Melissa, Melanie (in back), & Renee

After a very long day of thinking, talking, planning and training (which unfortunately will result in me needing to work some this summer rather than just lie by the pool reading books as I'd hoped), the gals and I left the hotel premises long enough to grab some dinner on Thursday.

Same crew, only you can see Carrie beside me now
and Micca in the middle instead of Luann

Notice I'm holding the other half of the manicotti I ordered but couldn't finish. I brought it back to the hotel, stuck it in the fridge, only to be smacked in the face with a pungent garlic smell every morning as I opened it to get out my Snapple Green Tea for breakfast. Garlic smell at 6:15 AM - Mmmm. That part I didn't cherish, but the chance to hang out, eat and chat with girlfriends rocked.

PS. I have no idea what Melissa, Aimy and Amy are carrying on about in the back of this pic. There are a few rebels in every crowd!

PSS. Our Bible study of NT women will resume here the first week of July.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Back from She Speaks

Hi Friends. Thanks for all your sweet notes and emails saying you've been missing me. (big smiles) I've just returned from a week out of town for the She Speaks conference, so that's why I've been MIA for awhile.

This is the same conference I was fasting about in my previous post. Thanks for praying for me during that time. The fast was not as difficult as I'd first feared, and it was definitely worth while. I think more fasting is in my near future. And I challenge you to be open to the idea of fasting next time you face a big challenge, or the next time you hear God asking you to press hard into Him.

Each year before the weekend conference begins, the P31 crew gathers to set up at the conference hotel and prepare for the event. Since this is the only time of the year the speaker team is all in one place, we also do a lot of ministry updating and team training. And since its the only time of the year we're all together, we stay up way too late talking in our jammies and getting caught up on one another's lives.

It's a good thing I began adjusting to little food with my pre-conference fast because my schedule was so busy the last several days that I rarely got to finish a meal during the week. I think I've operated this last week on an average of 5.5 hours of sleep per night and 1.5 meals a day. But I wouldn't trade a minute of it for all the Starbucks, chocolate and fluffy pillows in the world.

Here is the P31 speaker team and staff. This photo was taken on Thursday. (I'm on the inside side of the rock on the far left.)

Each year I'm left speechless as I watch what God does in the lives of His daughters through this little band of women at Proverbs 31 Ministries. God breaks shackles, confirms callings, and brings dreams to fruition as He woos women's hearts closer to His. It's such a privilege and a thrill to play a part.

I got to meet some of our fellow bloggy friends while there! Several women came up and introduced themselves and said "I love reading your blog" or "I've learned so much from the online bible study we've done on your blog." That was terrific. I'm hoping some of them will post a comment and tell us about their conference experience - or blog about it and leave us the link in a comment below.

I'll be back later to tell you more about it myself, but for now I'm off to actually finish a meal and to snuggle with my kids. It's good to be home, and to be back in touch with you all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Who let the pig out?

This morning I committed to a couple friends to fast tomorrow for the She Speaks conference happening next week. This is an annual conference that trains women to lead women's ministries in their churches, and trains others to write and speak God's messages of grace and love. As you might imagine, that causes some stirring unrest in the spiritual realm.

Every year the P31 team faces a lot in the final weeks of preparation, and this year has been no different. And every year the participants do too as they start to doubt their decision or worthiness to attend. So I decided to fast and to pray over this for a day.

Here's the thing ... it was right after breakfast that I decided I would fast tomorrow - that's the day we agreed to do this together. And 15 minutes later I felt like I was starving. I ate some more. Twenty minutes later, still hungry. All day today I've had an insatiable appetite. I keep grazing and grazing, and still I feel unfulfilled.

What's worse, nothing in my kitchen seems to "hit the spot." Not my beloved Chocolate-Mint Zone bars, not my Quaker Simple Harvest dark chocolate chunk granola bars, and not even those Eskimo Pie Nestle Crunch pops in my freezer. Yes mam, that's right, I've eaten all three of those in the last six hours - in addition to lunch. Actually, I had two of the Nestle Crunch Popsicles. (Told you I love chocolate). Fortunately or unfortunately (however you want to look at it), I'm out of that Starbucks chocolate I last posted about.

I finally stopped putting food into my mouth long enough to ask, "Lord, what is going on here?! Who let this pig out?"

Slowly I realized Satan does not want me to fast tomorrow, so he's trying to get me to think there is no way I can possibly do it. I can't fast. I'll never make it. I'll be too hungry. It'll make me miserable. I'll fail. And then I realized I'm feeling exactly how the She Speaks attendees are feeling right about now: I can't speak/lead/write. I'll never make it. I'll fail.

And that was all I needed to decide to start my fast today, right now, instead of waiting until tomorrow. Because I can do it, and I will. And all of you nervous, doubting She Speaks attendees can do it too - and you will.

I realized the pig in this scenario is not me at all, it is Satan.

So despite my affinity for chocolate and coffee, no more for me until Friday while I focus in on God and take up the mantle of prayer. I tell you all of this because maybe you too have been thinking yourself a pig, or thinking that you can't try because you will surely fail. Well, I think you are wrong. And I have it on good authority that you are more than a conqueror in Christ! (Romans 8:37)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Oh my Stars!

Or shall I say, "Oh my Starbucks!" Those of you who've been hanging with me here for more than a few months know about my affinity for Starbucks. Those people know how to make a seriously good cup of coffee. You probably also know about my affection for dark chocolate if you've read my bio page. It turns out those Starbucks people make some seriously good chocolate too - it's coffee-licious chocolate!

I am a bit of a chocolate aficionado. Not a chocolate snob, mind you, I'll still eat the average stuff ... in a pinch. But I stock my cocoa stash with the likes of Dagoba Dark, Green & Black, and Ghirardelli. Hey, I drive a mini-van and shop at Target - a girl's gotta have a few nice things in life.

Here is the new kid on the chocolate block, and I've got a serious crush:

Called Mocha Dark, this chocolate is big time in a small wrapper. And one bar lasts me a long time - for me, about a week - because with really good dark chocolate I take small bites and savor the flavor. The flavor here is smooth dark chocolate, followed by top notch coffee with hints of citrus. It also has a surprising texture: melt-in-your-mouth chocolate with tiny, slightly crunchy granules of Guatemala Casi Cielo coffee spread throughout. UMMMMM!

The wrapper says, "When coffee dreams, it dreams of chocolate." What else can I say, these Starbucks people really get me. I just had to let you know ... leave a rant or a rave if you try it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Discussing Joanna

What does it say about Joanna that she was following Jesus around and supporting His ministry and disciples financially?

As many of you have said and the biblical text noted, Jesus had brought a significant measure of deliverance to her life. It may have been healing from a disease or physical handicap, or it may have been deliverance from spiritual oppression. We read that with Mary, it was demonic deliverance, but no specifics are offered for Joanna and Susanna. Its clear Jesus had met a need of Joanna’s that no one else had been able to meet … and she was grateful.

Nonetheless, it is an odd thing for the wife of Herod’s steward to be following Jesus around, giving Him and his other men money. In our culture, it is common for wives to make financial decisions and even to do the majority of the purchasing and spending, but that was not so in Jesus’ time. Men (fathers, husbands) were the economic supporters of women and the controllers of wealth in this era. In fact, when a man died his assets did not automatically go to his wife as they do today. Instead, they would be transferred to his sons, and his sons were expected to take care of their widowed mother. Also, a woman could make money through her own business ventures, but that money would be under her husband’s control. There were no separate his and hers bank accounts. While it was typical for rabbis to be supported by the people’s tithes and gifts to God. It wasn’t exactly normal that Joanna and the other women were supporting Jesus and His disciples.

It was also rather radical for Joanna to be traveling with Jesus and the others. It’s common for rabbis to have followers but women were not taken by rabbis as disciples, only men. Women were expected to stay with and under the care of their fathers or husbands, and to care for any children they have. Furthermore, a woman of Joanna’s social class would not be expected to travel about with the likes of fishermen, carpenters, and former prostitutes. Therefore, Joanna is breaking with that cultural rule as well.

We know Joanna’s husband was a steward for Herod. That means he may have been a thug who collected the king’s taxes from the Jews. Or, he may have overseen the management of Herod’s vast estate. Either way Chuza would not have been a pushover and he would’ve been money-minded. So, it’s doubtful that he was unaware of Joanna’s actions. The text doesn’t mention that Chuza was also a believer in Jesus, so how was Joanna able to follow and give money to Jesus? It’s not certain but it’s possible that Chuza had divorced her – perhaps because she was sick, or demonically possessed, or maybe barren.

There was a practice during this time called “ketubba.” This would be written into a marriage contract and it would cause the husband to have to give his wife a certain sum of money – sometimes the return of the entire bride price – if he chose to divorce her. This sum of money was thought to help her attract another husband. It is possible Joanna was using her ketubba payment to support her heavenly husband, Jesus.

To me the most precious part of this story is how Joanna and the other women continued to support and care for Jesus, even after the disciples had scattered or fled. Joanna would’ve been there praying for, grieving for, and supporting Jesus during his crucifixion. Afterward she went to his tomb to give Him a proper burial by anointing His body with spices. And she was blessed by God to see the angles that announced His resurrection!

It seems that Joanna’s story may not end with our assigned passages. This morning I learned that some bible scholars have concluded that the disciple Joanna is the same woman as the Christian Junia mentioned by Paul in the book of Romans. Check out the following I read:

“Joanna’s name occurs again in the form of ‘Junia’ in Rom. 16:7: “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives [i.e. fellow Jews] and fellow prisoners, who are prominent among the apostles and were in Christ before me.” Junia was a common Roman woman’s name, the equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Joanna’. The Latin pronunciation of ‘Junia’ and the Hebrew ‘Yohannah’ would have been very close indeed. It would seem, therefore, that Joanna moved to Rome, changed her name to a Latin form, and married Andronicus, a Jewish apostle, who like her was an early convert “in Christ” before Paul’s conversion. Given her background in the Roman court at Tiberias, Joanna would have been an ideal missionary to Rome; and thus she went, and was imprisoned. It could well be that ‘Junia’ was the Latin name by which she would have been known even in Tiberias. Note how there were other missionaries who changed their Hebrew names into the Latin forms when they went on mission work into the Roman world: Silas became Silvanus, Saul became Paulus, Joseph Barsabbas became Justus (Acts 1:23); and hence we read of “John, whose other [Latin] name was Mark” (Acts 12:12,25).”

Joanna was a devoted follower who used what she had to bless and support Christ. She was willing to break with tradition in order to follow her Deliverer. She was also honored to announce the Good News and possibly to also reach the Romans with the gospel. I'd love to write more about Joanna, but I’ve got a meeting to make in an hour and I haven’t gotten in the shower yet. Be sure and read the other’s comments on the Reading Joanna post if you haven’t yet because I saw a lot of really good insights there!

Chow for now ...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Reading Joanna

Welcome if this is your first time visiting me. We're reading through women of the Bible together - feel free to jump in with us anytime.

How's the scripture memorizing going? Ann from Indiana posted about an online tool to help us. Check out if you want to try it. You can choose which verses you want to learn.

Next we are going to read about Joanna. She is found in the book of Luke, immediately following the sinful woman's story we just read. Joanna's story is in Luke 8:1-3 and 23:55-56 and 24:1-12 . It is linked here for online reading.

Once you've read, consider these questions:

- What does it say about Jesus that he and his disciples would travel with women?

- Why do you think Joanna was following Jesus, and helping foot the bills for His ministry?

Post your "I read it" here, and we'll begin discussing her mid-week.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Prayer needed for the Grieving

Hey Gals. So what did you think of the questions format for studying the Sinful Woman? Many of you who posted commented that you liked it - but I noticed that less of you posted, so perhaps some of you did not. I realize others did it in a notebook rather than online, which is terrific.

Friends, I've been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster lately so I've been a little quiet here. In the last two weeks we very nearly bought a house that was in foreclosure - but was beat out by an investor who paid cash for it. I loved that house ... it had a gorgeous custom kitchen and it sat on a small lake. In my heart, I had already moved in. So I really grieved the loss. Then, my daughter's friend's father died in a boating accident on Monday evening. And I grieved heavily for her and her family. The poor girl - her name is Maddie and she is in the 4th grade - wound up with a burst appendix and had to have surgery on Thursday evening. She did come through the surgery fine. But please pray for the Drake family.

This is the time of year (May) when I lost my mom when I was a teenager. Also, about this time last year we lost my father-in-law, whom I adored. So Maddie's loss hooked into my own losses and I grieved them all over again.

Also, Vickie from Nigeria posted yesterday to tell us that her 14 year-old son died May 29 after a short illness. Please read her precious post if you have time, and definitely pray for her and her family. Loss is hard and it is tempting to blame God in these circumstances rather than to turn to Him. But He is the Father of Compassion and the God of All Comfort, and He can be trusted.

In John 14:8 Jesus declares, "I will not leave you comfortless."
We'll start reading next woman of the Bible in a day or so.