Book Look: Incisive Q&A with author Leslie Leyland Fields #CrossingtheWaters

Book Look: Incisive Q&A with author Leslie Leyland Fields #CrossingtheWaters

Don't miss this incisive Q&A with author and fisherwoman Leslie Leyland Fields, as she talks about discipleship, this crazy election cycle, and what frees her to write hard truths in the Kingdom of God. #CrossingtheWaters

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Come to me, all who suffer burnout

I am surrounded by the broken, the bedraggled, the burned out.

Aren't you?

We are all just a step or two away from exhaustion. Some are closer to collapse than others; those who seem to have it all together are often the ones who are disintegrating slowly on the inside.

But enough of all this good news, right? Every day or two someone shares their story of weariness and I look for the presence of Jesus in their pain. Sometimes I just listen. Other times I am the one sharing about my slow recovery from a health crisis, about this or that struggle that threatens to consume my light and my peace, of my longing for spiritual rest.

We are all of us, every last one, looking for a resting place. A place of shalom—the Hebrew concept in the Old Testament that conveys a a meaning of being "complete or whole," of "being sound." We are talking about a wholeness of life or body, as well as a rightness of relationship, a prosperity or flourishing. When used as an adjective, it describes a warm feeling of peace and safety (biblestudytools.com).

I have yet to mean a human being of any age, stage, place, or mindset who isn't ultimately craving shalom, this place of peace. For no matter our disposition and the details of our life, every day is a search for wholeness leading into all manner of trial and error: workaholism, addictive behaviors, isolation, looking for payoff without pain, control and manipulation.

When Jesus said "Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," I know he said this because he knew that this was our need. Our soul's cry. A reminder of the cry of a baby longing to be held, to be assured that they are OK and well and whole and complete. This longing answered by a gentle touch, gentle words, a soothing connection of presence and protection.

But if I had to ask Jesus to make one thing concise and clear-as-mud for all of us who are somewhat deaf from the chaos of our worlds, I would ask him to say it this way exactly:

"Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you PATHWAYS to peace."

Before you accuse me of revising Scripture, hear me out. When Jesus says to take his way of life and learning on us, he is inviting us to actually do something. The Message Bible paraphrases his conclusion this way: Come to me...[and] learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Jesus is inviting us to come to him and to do what he did, to employ the spiritual practices that caused him to abide in, stay connected to, his Abba-Father who loved him. To pray. To practice 24-hour Sabbath rest one day a week or as many hours as we can to start. To go away in silence, stillness and solitude. To study and meditate on the Scripture. To practice love of God and neighbor while he changes our heart to resemble his own more each day.

To reflect on and internalize his love until the voice of love and shalom, and the very realness of it, becomes louder than our shame, our busyness, our self-obsessiveness. Until we realize that all is well in Christ, that we are held.

Here is where shalom rustles in, quietly, almost imperceptibly, yet tangibly. These are the pathways to peace we so desperately need. But they mean making the hardest of choices. Saying no all the time to less than the best. Saying yes to the voice of Christ and inviting conversation and communion with him in stillness.

Come to me, all who suffer burnout, and I will give you rest, he says, with a smile in his eyes. Choose these unforced rhythms of grace. We are invited to actually do something, to be coworkers with God in pursuing a life of wholeness and peace.

For excellent resources on this topic, I recommend two resources that are impacting me these days:
Hearing God through the Year: a 365-day Devotional by Dallas Willard
• The Emotionally Health Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World by Peter Scazzero

Your turn: Are you burned out? Recovering? Pursuing a pathway of peace? Share your story here and encourage someone else.

The singular power of my spiritual intention

This is the truth as I know it: we are so loved.

There isn't a day that I don't testify to the love of Christ for the ones he has created. I realize pastors are supposed to do this, but I also believe people who have received the love of Jesus are supposed to do it. I know from experience that Jesus can give us Spirit-directed eyes to see his love for the crustiest of folks. 

But here is my truth: I don't always believe Jesus loves me without reservation. 

It is so much easier for me to have relationship with others and to visibly be moved by Jesus' love for them than to believe that he is crazy about me. I realize this indicates something is broken in me, that healing is needed, and I so I have plunged into the deep end this summer. I have begun to receive spiritual direction.

Right from the beginning, my spiritual director asked me to consider writing a spiritual intention on an index card. This was so helpful for this first-born people pleaser and doer, because it was an action I could take. I wrote out this little mantra, stuck it in my journal or on my bedside table, a little intention filled with all I know about God's furious love for me. 

It contains Scriptural truth, reasoning, experience, and is informed by everything I have ever witnessed about our Jesus and his heart toward us. Behind the words there have been years of struggle, depression, physical disability and brokenness, faulty ideas about God, and the rubble of dashed dreams mixed in with the glorious hope of the resurrection.

And, my, how it heals to put the truth in front of your eyeballs consistently. 

It has been 1 1/2 months now. My heart is growing lighter. There are days when I see good happening around me, movement in people and beauty, and I want to say to people I meet, "Did you know Jesus is making all things new?" But in order for this thing that I know so well to be my truth, I also need to be able to say:

"Did you know Jesus is making me new?"

I imagine myself doing it with a bit of a laugh and a twinkle in my eye.

Neither childlessness nor a real struggle to be a woman in ministry nor church loss nor relational losses nor physical disability can have the last word. The story is not over. Jesus lives. He will do what he said he will do in setting things right again. And wonder of wonders, he is already doing it. In me!

Words on paper are only a singular step in our healing journeys. But they are an important one, I think. So feel free to steal mine to start. Or better yet, let my words inspire you to write on your own little index card. And keep it close. Along the way, I believe you will start believing it, too. 

Your Turn: What are a few things your spiritual intention might say and why?

Revisiting #ReclaimingEve: Cara Strickland's story

cara

Personal Note and update: The book Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God and the Small Group DVD continue to stimulate discussion and impact both individual lives and the Church as a whole. Cara's story was posted over a year ago, but for some reason my new squarespace blog removed it. Her story touched me, because gender reconciliation has been and is such a huge area of first pain and now healing in my own story. Read an update to her ongoing story here.

The whole series of can be found here. And many thanks to Cara, who shines light today on those aha moments that lead us to go about reclaiming Adam even as we are reclaiming Eve. Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know. Come say hi to her on Twitter. She likes making new friends.

What would it take for me to believe that men are the beloved of God?

When I started reading Reclaiming Eve, I didn’t expect to be confronted with complicated feelings about the Eden story. I’ve always felt a certain compassion for Eve, and I clad myself in these feelings as I flipped through the pages. There was only one problem. I might not have a problem with Eve, but I do have a problem with Adam. 

I’ve been through a long journey, through many kinds of churches and theologies. I was uncomfortable with female leadership in church until late in my college career before slowly picking up pieces of the beautiful heart God has for women, and finding freedom in how I saw myself and other daughters. But though I had started attending a church whose senior pastor is a woman, and begun to find healing from many hurtful ways of thinking I’d gleaned in my youth, I still hadn’t forgiven Adam.

In those churches from my formative years, I was taught that men were there to protect and defend women. I learned that women were weaker and smaller and slightly less important. But in Eden, I saw no sign of that sort of man in Adam. He didn’t even seem to be the main character in the story of the fall, and he certainly wasn’t looking out for Eve.

I read about the ezers on an airplanethe Hebrew word used for Eve indicating she is a strong power—and as I did so, I wept. Step one, for me, has been learning that women are beloved by God. Step two seems to be learning that men are, too.

My father is not a terrible man, but he learned to parent from imperfect people. As a result, I learned from a very early age that I am too much or not enough. For a time, my father was also my pastor, further confusing my young mind about how God felt about me.

Over the years, I have dated people who were a lot like my impression of Adam: not quite the main character of the story. I have looked and hoped for a wonderful man to partner with in marriage, and have been disappointed many times. As I read about the way adams and ezers are meant to ally, I realized that I haven’t believed that this was possible. I have given God credit for making the daughters of Eve full of potential and Image, but not for doing the same with the sons of Adam.

I’ve spent many dark nights crying out to God, wondering why I’m single still, after all this time hoping. I’m beginning to think that the hurt I felt as I read this story again might be why.

I have spent time frustrated by my feelings of being on the outside as a single, childless woman. Those panes of glass often exist, of course, but the wives and mothers are not always putting them up by themselves. After all, they have chosen to love and partner with people that I have difficulty trusting. That makes it hard to trust those women, as well.

This all leads back to God, as everything does, sooner or later. I don’t know what to think of a God to whom I attribute the creation of the sort of Adam I imagine. I cry out for a lovely man to partner with, but I haven’t believed that one exists. This is the tragedy of the fall. Not only did sin alter the way the sons of Adam thought about and treated the daughters of Eve, but it changed the daughter’s of Eve’s perception of the sons of Adam, standing in the way of the partnership God intended, trickling all the way down to me, so many years later.

Since I read them, these words have been continuing to resonate in my mind: “For him [Jesus] if something were to be perfect, it would fulfill the purpose for which it was created.” (87) I let out a deep breath at that, reaching all the way to the bottom of my perfectionist soul. For so long, I’ve been trying to do the right thing, to check all of the boxes. It is easy to think that it is the failure to do these things which stands in the way of the life or relationships I want. It is not so great a leap to think that those imperfections are keeping me from my vocation, from my purpose. If only I always said lovely and affirming things, then I might be considered worthy to be a wife. If only I were more traditional, or nurturing, or soft-spoken.

But I have a few ideas about the purpose for which I am created, and it looks a lot like the easy yoke Jesus describes in Matthew. I sighed because though I’ve read similar things over the years, they haven’t ever struck me like this. The freedom to be exactly who I am, turns out to be exactly what I need to remind me that God dreams of that freedom for everyone, woman and man.

On #

ReclaimingEve

: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author,

Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece.

Order here

.

Easter Monday maintenance

The other day someone in my church office said I was a very organized person, and I didn't take the time to tell her: sister, I am not all that good at maintaining things.

Instead, I am telling the whole world through my blog. Go figure.

I have google calendar, and I have a paper planner, and I have file folders, yes. But I also have way too many pictures and file folders on my macbook. And some stacks of books on my office floor. I have a business to-do list on my home office wall that is taking too long to get to. I bought an ebook on Evernote (the program that saves your articles & notes & stuff) and have been planning to read it for 4-5 months. 

In January, I made my list of intentions for the year: 

Live loved.
Practice rhythms of rest.
Create.

As far as maintaining those goes, it's funny:

Jesus keeps me broken enough that I'm always listening for his voice of love. As a pastor, anytime I preach or teach or serve Communion to someone at the hospital, I am always pointing back to our Belovedness. I simply cannot live without this realignment, thank God.

Rhythm? Rest? For a month or more, I was working 6-7 days a week, without a real Sabbath Day. I knew this had to end, that I had to grab a few hours when I could to connect with God, and so this crazy season is now ending and opening up into the next one. I am longing for my rhythms; I am leaning into what my new spiritual director calls "noticing God with you" as you do all of the things that make up your days: loving, teaching, preaching, exercising, serving communion four times during Holy Week (!), writing, cooking, cleaning, calling your mother, biking with your husband and your French-teenager, texting a friend when you really, really want to call but have no margin at all. Yet. Oh, how gracious Abba-God is to bring us a bit of rest even when life feels like too much. 

Create. The word stares back at me from the list on the wall and I sigh, and I wonder why I was given this word this year in this season. Create now? Father, you have directed me to this word, but I do not think it means what I think it means. In all seriousness, I have come close to crossing out the word multiple times, telling myself it would be easier to replace it with "Delight." Delight I could handle. And yet. Out of the rubble of so many dashed dreams, new words and ideas are springing forth. Some come out in sermons and Bible studies; some are shared on a podcast; others rise up over the dinner table with my husband and the 16-year-old exchange student; and then there were the three book ideas that I wrote down within the space of a week—right in the middle of working 6-7 days a week.

I tell myself that I can only create when I can get away to a secluded place. That I can only make something good when I have hours to allow God to speak to my mind and heart, to make sense of all that is happening. I have used the excuse that I don't have enough time to read, so how could i write intelligently? I am waiting for just the right clarity to dawn. 

Except that I am not waiting anymore at all. The other night I was wrapping up our church's Reclaiming Eve Bible study—the one where 30 women showed up, desperate to commune with each other and to grow in their walk with Christ.

A week ago, I looked out over their faces. I listened to their testimonies of going from "I am not worthwhile" to "I am gaining so much strength by realizing how much God values his daughters" and "I now see Eve and women in a different light," several of us ended up in tears, and I read Ephesians 2 out of The Message Bible over them.

I am part of creating a home in which God himself can dwell. I was reminded of this as I read Paul's words in paraphrase, those beautiful words that reminded the church in Ephesus that BOTH Jews and Gentiles were in on the action, that the dividing wall of hostility between all of us was torn down in Jesus, that something beautiful is being built through us:

 "That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home."

Brick by brick, stone by stone. You and I, the Jesus-followers, are watching it take shape each day. We are part of this creating. And so, somehow, out of the overflow of the abundance of the Kingdom, I create.

I may not create all that I want to or others think  I should. I may choose to create things of Kingdom-value which seem insignificant in the eyes of others. My productivity is not measured by the number of words typed, the number of articles or books written, or even the number of people I can love and disciple through our little church.

I am creating because God is building us into something bigger, the bigger story of the reconciliation of all things.

I am creating because I long for others to know the goodness and the abundance of the Kingdom of Jesus.

I am creating because I cannot be silent; I cannot leave the agency God gave me as his imagebearer unused and untested; I don't want to flicker out of this life without marking it with the goodness and glory of God. 

This is my Easter Monday maintenance. To recognize that all of the moments I offer to God are redeemed somehow. To circle back to those moments of rest. To count all of the moments as part of the process of creating; to rest in knowing for sure that I have been given all of the energy to do all that God has called me to do on this one day.

I may not be all that good at maintaining things. But the Risen Christ is with me; he goes before me and behind me. In him, all things hold together. Even my list of intentions. In this knowing, I can rest.

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for group studies! Order here.

 

Read my article on a Dutch couple who saved 60 Jews during the holocaust

This last week, my December 2015 feature in Christianity Today magazine went live on their website. So now there's no excuse: you can read Diet Eman's and Hein Sietsema's inspiring love story—a story that led them to stand up against the Nazis and rescue Jews during WWII all because of their devotion to Christ—right here.

On a personal note, it gives me great joy to see this story shared with thousands around the world. Just as Diet scrawled "Lo, I am with you always" into the wall of the Schevingen prison during the war, I have been challenged to acknowledge God's steady presence and help during the hardest of times in my life through meeting her. And now, I've been challenged by 95-year-old Eman to memorize Psalm 27, which sustained her during the war. She quoted part of it to me in early December, testifying to God's sure and steady help even today. Will you join me in memorizing this Psalm in 2016?

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?"

***

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

Your turn: How did Diet and Hein's story impact you?

Speaking to students at Taylor University on #ReclaimingEve

There are some moments you never forget. Speaking to 1,000 Christian university students about why women matter to God is one of them.

If that wasn't enough, the morning started off with a bang: my nephew, who is a freshman at Taylor, read Genesis 1:26-27 and part of Genesis 2, reading of God's intentions for men and women in the Creation narrative. #proudauntmoment

My husband was sitting to the left, throwing all of his support my way. My sister-in-law showed up with my other nephew and her brother. And my new friend Char, someone who is becoming a mentor to me, sat close by, praying all the way. Campus Pastor Jon Cavanagh got up to introduce me and spoke of the importance of reclaiming Eve. And then...

x

The chain my husband and my nephew and I began to form at the end, uniting with the praise band, symbolizes the essential and ideal team God desires to use—his daughters and his sons, side-by-side, building his Kingdom together.

After the talk, a young woman rushed from the bleachers, tears streaming down her face. I caught her hand, and I saw weight coming off her shoulders as she shared this was just what she needed that day, that God was doing something in her heart, that he was setting her free.

Things only got better from there as I engaged in honest conversation with students and faculty over lunch, mulling over the possibilities of God's ideal team of men and women working together everywhere.

Watch and imagine: what could God do if his church brought men and women together, leaning into the redeemed narrative in Christ? Then post your response below. I can't wait to read them.

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

My most life-giving interview on #ReclaimingEve

It's not every morning a girl gets to talk about the beauty of God's design for his daughters laid out in the Creation narrative.

A full hour of deep, provocative discussion on how God has designed women to work alongside men, how we are tempted to live up to the fall instead of the reconciliation Jesus ushers in, and why it matters. Don't miss this! (With Lynne Ford of The WBCL Radio Network.)

Interview here.

To begin you must end

Note: Don't miss this opportunity to sign up for my FIRST monthly enewsletter, The Journal, releasing October 5, by typing your email address in the box to the right.. You'll receive free writing tips, book and podcast recommendations, information on how to reclaim Eve, reflections on spiritual formation through story, and general happenings. I can't wait to get it into your hands...and your inbox! 

***

 

Generally, I don't like ending things. 

The end of a good movie is satisfying, but I am no longer anticipating a surprising, beautiful conclusion.

The end of a job or contract takes a load off your mind, but then you wonder what in the world you will do next.

The end of the adoption of a baby that was promised to you strikes a discordant note, leaving the musician hanging in mid-air, the composition and music unfinished.

But what if all these endings—and your endings, too—are beginnings in disguise? (Notice I didn't whisk them away by calling them "blessings in disguise." Yes, thank goodness for that.)

When an end comes, it forces movement. Somehow, I must begin again.

And so, I do.

***

A few months ago, I posted on my friend Cara Meredith's blog on my ritual of saying no:

Saying no is one of the most important rituals I can practice if I am to start again with joy: a moving on, an open door, a new chapter. My mind clears, empty of the weight of less-than-best commitments, and I wonder, like a small child peeking around the corner, “What’s next?”

My eyes peeled, my heart opening, I am nearly ready for the “yes.”

At the time I wrote the piece, doors seemed to be closing EVERYWHERE. I was closing some of them myself, when I realized activities and prospects weren't leading to life anymore, but were keeping me from the best.

But to be completely honest, as I said no, over and over again, I wasn't yet sure what I was saying yes to. I was stripping down my life, as the clear inner voice of the Holy Spirit seemed to say "no more." Even one of my best friends said she wished she could fix the situation, the big adoption loss leading to something good, something better in our lives. But she said she couldn't. She said she felt I was being called to wait. This time of saying "no," "not now," and "that's not my focus anymore" was excruciating. 

I was the chrysalis struggling against the weight of the cocoon, yearning to break free and fly. To say yes to something. I was journaling, praying, listening. Repeat. In all honesty, I was asking God time and again if he loved us, something I had believed wholeheartedly for awhile now. My feelings betrayed my lack of trust. Oh, Jesus, am I Your Beloved? The one you love? The one you delight in? Still?

He is still loving me back to wholeness each day. There is plenty of time.

Meanwhile, all those endings, those blank spaces, those empty hours, led to some big yeses. Some of them wouldn't have happened had I not said "no" first:

  • I got an interview with an amazing woman and wrote a feature article that will soon tell her story, after trying to reach her for a year and a half. In a matter of weeks, everything slid into place after all my "trying-very-hard" efforts.
  • I started volunteering 10 hours a week at our beautiful church, Three Rivers Wesleyan, as the Pastor of Discipleship. This ushers in love, hope, a moving into my giftedness, and a place for all the weary ones. A blessing, indeed.
  • Perhaps the biggest yes of all came just a week or two before the adoption had been scheduled. A last-minute email about a slot for a foreign exchange student prompted me to ask my husband this question: Would bringing an exchange student into our home this year bring you joy? I was expecting a no, but I received a "yes." Two weeks later, a 16-year-old French teenager began to fill our home with love, laughter, and more fun than I could have imagined. The "planned nursery" became a bedroom that seemed like it was waiting for him all along. 

I still don't pretend to understand all of this. But I am learning to say no gladly. I am asking Jesus to show me how to do the next best thing, and then I am holding God's feet to the fire, so to speak. He promises to somehow work things for good. Somehow, somehow. Meanwhile, I am leaning forward, arms having broken through the chrysalis, flying into Yes!

Join me?

Your turn: What are you being called to say no to that you might make way for a yes? 

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

My Ritual: On Saying No to Say Yes (Cara Meredith's blog)

Hey friends: I'm in the middle of a new website rollout. And in the middle of all those digital details, I had the pleasure of posting on my friend Cara Meredith's blog. She's a fellow Redbud Writer, and she's been featuring a lovely little series on rituals, the grooves that give our lives meaning. Hope you'll catch the rest of the post over on her blog—and let us know what you're discovering about the importance of saying no. Cheers, Suzanne

***

“Moving on from ___________” read the subject line in my email.

You can do this, I assure myself.

Historically, I don’t like to quit things.

I am an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs personality scale—and let me tell you, we can get things done. Consider it a function of our sheer stick-to-itiveness when we feel passionate about something.

(Read: we can’t always let opportunities, things, jobs, or people go when the timing is right.)

(And also: it could be that rituals just might help us say no more effectively.)

So I sent the email. After several years, a recent statement on the organization’s values and beliefs helped me to realize our philosophies were no longer the same. I had become “not the best fit,” and I needed to move on. I mentioned how thankful I was for the opportunity.

Coincidentally, this morning a coauthor and I dropped—as in, ceased—a publishing project I’ve been working on for a year and a half. We ourselves received a lot of “nos” and then a “we’d like to change it to this” that just didn’t work. I cannot even count the hours and emotion that went into what appears to be a failure, but at the moment, is a clear redirection. It may resurrect itself in a different season, but for now, I am being called to put the lid on all that effort. I do so with a mixture of relief, sadness and anticipation.

Read more on Cara's blog