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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

...yeah, but is he a spiritual leader? (part 2)

(Hello, my  beautiful, strong sistahs! Welcome back for part two of spiritual leadership qualities to look for in a MWWF. Missed part one? You can find it here. I really want to hear what you all have to say about these things, so please, feel free to leave a comment below.  It's a big, tough, humble pill to swallow, and these lessons are still very much a mystery to me.)

When I was a little girl, and when I wasn't reading Cinderella or Harriet the Spy, one of my favorite books was Harold and the Purple Crayon. He was this adorable little bald-headed baby who would have adventures with a trusty companion---his purple crayon---always by his side. 

(Do y'all say "cray-on" or "crown?")

Whenever he would get himself into scrapes, he'd point his crayon into the void and draw his way out of something. He'd create doors to walk through. Or make himself scuba gear if he suddenly found himself under water.

Right now, I sort of wish that my left hand was smudged with the remnants of a purple crayon. Because I'd really like to draw myself out of this post; just create a little window in the virtual world, open it and flee the scene

But a few days ago, I wrote about stepping closer to people. And I think an important part of sisterhood comes with wading into subjects within our lives that are difficult. And as Glennon Doyle Melton says in her new book, Carry On Warrior (loved, loved, loved this read), "We can do hard things."

So, ladies, let's take a step closer, here. I asked my Naval Officer friend, my go-to expert in leadership (when in doubt, ask a military man, right? Anchors aweigh!) to jot down a few thoughts on spiritual leadership.

I asked him to help because if we, as single Christian women, don't know what it is we're looking for, how can we expect to enter these healthy, "equally-yoked" relationships--absent of control or manipulation--that our youth pastors, pastors and Christian lady conferences keep talking about? 

Go ahead, find that needle in a haystack without knowing what-the-crap a needle looks like. 

So, Naval Officer says that most men and women see the role of a "spiritual leader" as more of a "spiritual manager." Someone who concerns himself (or herself) with getting the "boxes checked." Someone who ensures their children are praying, their family attends church, someone who advocates for involvement in the church.

Maybe even grills a few hot dogs for the youth group every now and again.

Now, I feel like I need to tread carefully here: these things aren't in and of themselves bad. (I mean, it's Memorial Day...who doesn't love a good, burnt to the crisp hot dog?).

But, if we're going to concern ourselves with that pesky verse in Ephesians (5:22) that tells wives to "submit to [their] husbands," (which gave me cause enough to think for a while that maybe that was to much to ask for. And that, perhaps, I would never ever ever ever ever get married, because that sounds, frankly, like a bunch of...you know what) then we must also look at the flip side of that verse...

The part of the verse that says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the Church. 

And I somehow think that we got off the hook rather easily.

Naval officer explained that spiritual leadership looks more like servant leadership. It means getting in the fray of difficulties. Leading from the inside out, rather than dictating from the outside in. Leadership is relational. And if we want a good example, we should just get to know Jesus a little bit better.

He also says it's important to keep an eye out for a man who:

-Prays and fasts.
-Participates and engages in relationships within his church.
-Lives a simple life, devoid of vices and extravagance.
-Is compassionate and forgiving.
-Is honest, and trustworthy in everything he does.

It's a simple notion, really. But I know so many women who have made compromises and thinks her man is a "spiritual, Godly man" simply because he prays before meals.

But, does he embody Christ in his actions? Does he speak with love and truth? Does he honor and respect you, your soul, your body, your dreams, your pursuits?

Ladies, I think we should also tread very carefully. I don't believe it was ever God's intention for us to bend or eventually break under the will of a mere man.

For instance, I had an old boyfriend told me once that his mother really loved me. Of course, being the girl I was then--and being a little too curious---I egged him on.  

He told me that she favored me because I was a total "sweetheart" and I would definitely be a "submissive wife" one day.

Oh my gosh, how do I even articulate how hard and fast my blood boiled? 

You see, this ex-beaux was just a man. He wasn't a Godly man. And he certainly wasn't leading me anywhere I wanted to go. In fact, he took me in quite the opposite direction; and introduced a lot of hurt into my life that I am still (apparently) recovering from.

That, to me, breaking under the wrong man's beck and call, was what I thought the definition of submission was. And I never intended to feel that way again.

Even to this day, restaurant servers, my friends and family, and even complete strangers will call me "sweetheart." And I cringe, because it makes me feel weak. It makes me feel like I'm the type of woman who wants to simply just draw her way out of a tough spot.

It makes me feel inconsequential. I want to be the warrior, the writer, like Glennon, who does hard things.

I want to be the woman, the sister who steps closer. I want to love madly, and live freely. I want adventure. I want to be strong.

And the fact that a man and his mother saw something in me that seemed meek or quiet was simultaneously maddening and paralyzing.

See? This is why I wanted to be packing heat with a purple crayon hoisted by my side as I wrote this week. I'd be willing to call "foul," and drop a yellow flag on any man who would demand submission from a woman who wasn't his wife.

Further, I'd be willing to say "run for your life!" to a man who wasn't fulfilling or even acknowledging the second part of the chapter that calls men to "love [their] wives, just as Christ loved the church. 

Something about that strength, something about that sort of leadership is something that I could get on board with having in my life. As fun and empowering as being independent is, I think we need others---as people, not just as women---to lead us closer to Christ. 

We can do hard things together


Saturday, May 25, 2013

if netflix were a boyfriend...

...He'd totally win points for paying attention to preferences. 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

james bond and panning for gold: what to look for in a spiritual leader (part 1)

It's a summery Saturday here at in Mechanicsville, Virginia. When I was growing up, these vibrant green days always ended with a favored pastime in the Wilson family home. True to our backyard roots, the five of us, Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother and I would recline in beach chairs in the back yard. Cup-holders full of icy-cold, fizzly root beer, of course. 

Dad and all of his technological savviness would project all of the great adventure movie classics onto the back wall of our little white tool shed. Obviously, one of our favorites film heroes to watch wat the effervescent James Bond. There's this great scene in Goldfinger where M. asks Bond what it is he really knows about gold.

Bond coyly replies, "I know it when I see it."

I felt like I had entered this fictitious realm of the silver screen when friend recently asked me something akin to M's question a few days ago...

He asked if the ladies who were like me, waiting for a "man worth writing for" would really know a good man or a spiritual leader if he was standing in front of them?

The truth is, throughout the past couple of years or so---the years I spent waiting for a man worth writing for---I've only been looking out for the red flags. The deal-breakers. I've been keeping my eyes wide open for flaws: for hints of abuse, or control. 

And if you're like most totally normal women and you've been burned a few times in relationships, you learn really quickly from what and from whom to back away from:

The guys who want the milk, the whole milk, and nothing but the milk without even so much as looking at leasing options for the cow. (Uh...Moo?)

Or the guys who have lots of sweet, beautiful, compassionate, emotionally-available girlfriends, but no guy friends. The guys who text you at 11 p.m. and ask you to come over to their houses, offer you drinks, and puffs of their dirty, flickering cigarettes.

No thank you. Move along. Not good. Not gold. James-Bond-wannabes need not apply.

So, then on the flip side, we Christian ladies in our Christian culture are taught to look out for the spiritual leaders. And if you're like me, you're thinking:

"Great. Swell. Peachy. Go ahead, boy. Spiritually lead me. Whatever. Just don't hurt me. And also, don't tell me what to do. Because it won't gain my respect. It won't make me want to follow you anywhere."

(I'm a very stubborn, independent cow.)

And then the word submission gets tossed in there, too. Bah-dah-bing!  Submit, submit, submit, like delightful little croutons sprinkled on top of this ambiguous spiritual leadership salad that everyone keeps talking about; but no know one actually knows what they're saying.

I asked my friend---the man who turned over these stones, these questions in my heart and head and found a little battle of crazy crawling underneath---to help. To explain what all of this really meant. As a member of the Navy, and a recent graduate of Business and Leadership, I trusted that he knew something about leadership.

Turns out, he totally does. He immediately got to work and wrote three pages worth of thoughts on the matter. 

So, for the first time ever, sweet sisters, I'm going to let a guy weigh in on all this stuff this week. It's tricky stuff to grapple with, and I didn't want to just blog-vomit these thoughts and Biblical references up here without saying something like, "I know how you feel" about it first. 

I'll say this: I think it just takes as much faith and trust as we can muster. And I think when it's done well, it's beautiful. 

I know so many wild, beautiful, independent, Godly women who are married. And I certainly don't think of the word submissive when I look at them. I want to know how they have healthy, happy relationships. They're led. They follow. And I want to know what kind of man makes them want to do this.

I want to know gold when I see it. (And I want y'all to, too).

Happy Saturday!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

closer steps: my mom and the other kinds of people that I love

Love; it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free.

Getting to know someone is like walking into the ocean. You don't realize how how close you've come to its deepest part until you look up and suddenly realize you're in far into the fray, surrounded by nothing but a garden of blue.

The ground is flooded and the sky is the sea. The sun that first kissed the top of the water barely casts a shadow on your slow-moving feet. 

A lot of times, it's on the floor of the deep, wide ocean is where honesty is born in friendships. A word is spoken, a hurt in the past is revealed.

It's there that you can make a choice:

You can either power-blast outta there, Iron Man-style (seeyah!). Pop out of the ocean like a missile and ride the next wave into town. Hang out in the shallow end.


You can take closer steps. You can take a deep breath, look your people square in the eye and listen to their hurts and struggles. You can cry with them. You can hold them. You can bobble along on the floor of the ocean while holding their hands so hard your knuckles are white and spongy.

We're doing David Platt's Radical study in Sunday school, and today's discussion asked us what makes us feel compassionate toward people. 

A young lady, a new friend I've only just met, talked about a homeless man named Leroy who she bumps into from time to time. She shows him love by listening to his story. She knows what bench at what street corner he sleeps on, and what kind of bag he carries on his back. That's love. 

She takes closer steps toward a sort of man that the rest of the world would leave the ocean for.

Jesus did that, too. He sought out people who were hurting and struggling. What's more he touched them. He healed them. He didn't have a love language. He just did love. 

He took closer steps. 

A while back, about a year ago, a good friend shared some news with me. It was more of a confession. It was very hard to hear, and a little scary. 

My mom was sitting beside me when I heard. She let me hang my head and cry for a moment.  I thought the news meant that our friendship was over. I thought she was going to encourage me to dismember my relationship with this person. To skyrocket the heck out of that deep part of the ocean of knowing someone without taking one forlorn look back.

But. That's not the kind of mother she is. And that's not the way she loves. 

Thank goodness. 

She taught me that day that our God can redeem anything. And that if we really believe that, we have to decide to step closer to people. Even if it's scary. Even if it means getting uncomfortable and spongy while dwelling in the deep end for a while. Even if it's inconvenient, and people tell us it's not a good idea to do it. 

That was the day that I learned my mom has love like an ocean in her soul. She loves others by taking closer steps toward them. She doesn't flee and fail to look when things get tough. And I know this because she has loved me like this since the day I was born.

When it was hard to love me, she stepped closer. When I went through my terrible pre-teen years, she stepped closer. When I had to be at ballet rehearsal at reckless times of morning, she stepped closer. When I was sick, when I spoke a word that was unkind, or was heartbroken, or ugly, or confused...

She stepped closer.

That's how I want to love people. I want to step closer toward them.

Happy Mother's day. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

buckets full of desert dust: why I'm really the samaritan woman

For a spell of my life, I stood faithfully by a well full of sand. The wrong well. 

Though the well was fraudulent, it was my oasis in the desert. A landmark of feigned hope in a dead, dry place.

That's what happens when you stubbornly to pursue something--a relationship, money, status, talents, [insert hangup here]--wholeheartedly. When you step out of the realm of faith and strive on your own, when you're determined to make God's promises happen on your own. You think you're standing by a place of redemption and fulfillment.

You may not even realize it at the time. I know I didn't. Because it seems that even the wrong wells run deep.

That's the problem with the wrong wells. They're not dry. They're nearly full to the brim with heavy hopes. But when you dip your bucket down the channel, you'll only pull up buckets of desert dust.

And here I was, hoisting away at the ropes. My dry hands crackling and popping apart--splitting like the dead, hot floor of the desert. Blistered by pulling up these buckets and buckets of desert dust I thought would satisfy. I thought they'd rush over my chapped-red face, and maybe awaken my tongue that became nothing more than an edgy rock in my mouth.

But they didn't. So, in again, I'd dip my ladle into the hollow, hot hole in the ground. And up again--nothing but tiny shards of grainy grey powder.

I was standing alone by the well when the man came to me, I was busy submerging my palm in the bucket, expecting that perhaps this time, it was different.

Spoiler alert: it wasn't. 

There, in the desert, he asked why I was dipping into the well that would never satisfy.

I suppose I should have listened to him. Wasn’t he the same man who told his followers to cast their nets on the opposite side of their fishing boats? Hadn’t they been hoisting up sand from the ocean all day, too?

And didn't they heed his advice and hoist their nets, their palms blistered and bloodied just like mine, and finally find fish flopping and spluttering on the bow of their boat?
The man, Christ, told me to draw from another well. A well that quenches the thirsty and muddies the white sands by my feet. A well that blesses. A well that runs deeper than sand--a well that brings eternal life (John 4:13). 

There in the desert, he spoke to me. I left the wrong well. And I'm finally drawing water.

Happy Wednesday.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

frenching frogs: who I'd rather be writing for

Somewhere in the world, there is a birthday candle being lit marking--perhaps with a little too much fanfare--the 300th post of this little blog. 

This anniversary, however trite, has had me thinking this week about what I'm exactly it is I'm writing for. A "man worth writing for." I began this blog back in 2008 with (let's face it) brazen statements of singlehood. Absorbing the men I date into the blogging fray. 

Sorry, not sorry.

As my friend Kandea says, I was only attempting to "let my stubbornness work for me rather than against me." I was just going to write, and use my single-me-time productively until I met Mr. Right. 

I'm not saying there's no hope. But...within the last few years my girlfriends and I have been approached by two stand-out "gentlemen." One, clad in a red Santa Claus hat, (P.S. not even Christmastime) passing out business cards. His business, you ask? Bailouts. 

And not cute Monopoly bailouts, either. Actual-get-you-out-of-jail bail.

Then there was the time my roommate and I were approached by a man in a bar wearing a clown nose. I think he asked us to "patch-his-Adam." To this day, I'm still not completely sure what that means, but I'm pretty sure whatever it was, wasn't something either of us wanted to do. 

And maybe this is just a testament to the fact that men worth writing for are not found in bars. Duh, Brett. 

Sorry Santa and Patch, time to move on. 

(I feel like I need to be perfectly clear, there was nothing remotely involving even speaking the word "French" with these guys. Just to clear that up for the record...)

But, while searching for the "man worth writing for," I've been led down a road of Frenching frogs. Good frogs. Sometimes even Christian frogs.


I know there's an adage that says you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your prince. But, actually, you don't have to. Not even a little bit. My new friend Renee, at Devotional Diva talks about this in her ebook, Loves Me Not, that I can't wait for y'all to read (get excited, it comes out on May 6th). She's totally right, Frenching frogs is a waste of time, and a strain on your heart.

You can actually leave the frogs hopping on the ground for a while. Besides, who really wants to be in the business of Frenching frogs? (You know they use their tongues to catch flies, right?)

All of this to say: in the midst of Frenching frogs, why would I expect to find a man worth waiting for?

But, I'm finding that there is joy in writing for just the sake of writing. There's freedom in living for a God worth writing for. And as each day passes in this new season, I'm growing more comfortable with the idea of foregoing the chase for the MWWF.

Not surrendering. But, re-purposing my thoughts and words. Letting things like faith and art be the chase; not frogs or elusive men. Ladies, I want to do this Godfather style: leaving the frogs and taking the art.

Happy Thursday!
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