Friday, December 1, 2017

Me too!

I was 27, a small town girl living in the city. I had known nothing other than a simple life without drama. Married for 7 years and enjoying a career where I was excelling.

He sat down at my desk and told me I was very smart and would go far in my career. I blushed, smiled and said "thank you."

Weeks passed and he told me I was beautiful. I squirmed, blushed, smiled and said "thank you."

Weeks later he invited me to go out after work for drinks. I squirmed uncomfortably, blushed, smiled and said "no, thank you."

And so it continued. He spent more and more time at my desk. He eventually told me he loved me. He invited me to hotels.

I couldn't hide from him. I couldn't avoid him. The workplace became a stress-place. Compliments became a dreaded enemy.

I never told anyone. Why? I was embarrassed. I internalized it all. "It must be my fault. I must have encouraged him. I was too friendly." I should have put a stop to friendly conversation early on. But it was so gradual.

He was married to a wonderful woman and had 3 small children. I couldn't ruin his family by squealing. And who would believe me anyway?

He was my boss. It would be his word against mine. Who would take my word over his? His boss was a man. And his boss' superior was a man. And so the chain of command continued up a male ladder. They were all men.

I didn't even tell my husband, Keith, for years. For one, what if he asked me to walk away from my career and I had to start all over again. Or even worse, what if he struggled with the same question I was asking myself. "Did I encourage this man?" Would Keith continue to trust me? 

Of course, I underestimated Keith. When I finally told him, he could not have been more kind and compassionate. And he has continued to be a champion for women's rights of dignity.

I felt trapped and alone. I was just a little girl handling life as best as I knew how.

I join with thousands and thousands of women who whisper "me too."

The abuse of power is real. It preys on the vulnerable and naive. No one wins.

All of the publicity over the past year, where powerful men are accused of abusing their power for sexual gain, is difficult for the "me toos."  Men in power are getting a lot of attention but what about the women? My story is nothing compared to the stories we are hearing. But for many like me, we are reliving our old nightmares. We are asking ourselves the question again, "What should I have done differently?" We come up with answers but remind ourselves that it was a different time. We remember that we were young and felt helpless.

It's hard going back to those memories. Every time a story hit the headlines this year I would ache for the women involved. And then stuff my emotions. But it has only gotten worse. More and more nightmares are being revealed.

I don't have answers. I know it is part of mankind's sin nature. It's why we desperately need a Savior. It's why we need Jesus. 

I think one of the reasons why I fell so hard in love with Jesus is because of the dignity he brought to the women of His day. He elevated their status. He first revealed Himself as Messiah to a woman. He first revealed Himself as the Resurrection to a woman. He first revealed Himself as the One who conquered death to a woman. He values women.

I wish we lived in a world where people respect one another. I wish families and marriages were honored and placed before selfish desires. I wish people desired integrity.

I know nothing of the man who once held his power over me. I was able to keep him at arms length. And so I thought that was success. True success would have been bringing his wrong behavior into the light. I can only hope he never tried his antics on another woman.

He moved on and I got a promotion - his job. The first woman to break into the man's world in my company.

And then I moved on. A little broken. A little wiser. Stronger. And with a heart of compassion for women. My experience probably had a lot to do with why I became an advocate for women, why I spent 20 years dedicated to speaking truth into women's lives.

I didn't want to write this. I, like others, will tell you that it's hard to experience but it's also hard to disclose. I write my story in hopes that you can see a bit of the struggle that so many women are experiencing today. Maybe you might understand the outrage. Maybe you might see why women can be slow to trust any organization that is heavy in male leadership. Maybe you get a glimpse of their cries, "Enough!"

It is time. Time for the nightmares to be brought into the light so healing can begin. Individual healing. Corporate healing. We all need Jesus right now!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The story is beautiful but...

The Christmas story is beautiful!

As I decorated our Christmas tree with silver and gold crosses, I pondered the irony. 

I'm celebrating the birth of a baby who was born to die for me.

I'm celebrating the long awaited Savior who came as a helpless baby and lived a short life ending on a cross.

I'm celebrating God leaving eternity to step into His creation, reaching out to sinners who mock Him.

As a believer, I join with others who want to share the beauty of this story. I join with those who desire for Jesus to be known and loved. For some strange reason, I want to share my most precious gift.

Too many have tried to persuade people to follow Christ with promises of a comfortable, happy life filled with good health and abundance. 

Not true! Jesus said this world is filled with trouble. His promise is that He will be by our side, providing the grace we need to overcome the ugliness that confronts us.

We should be telling people that following Jesus is not for the faint of heart! 

It requires recognition of our brokenness and our utter helplessness to do anything about it.

It means we give our lives away. We can no longer live for ourselves. We can no longer live as our flesh desires. We must allow God to change us from the inside out.

It includes sacrifice but not dutiful sacrifice. Rather a joy filled sacrifice.

It recognizes that we cannot hold on to anything tightly. We have been given gifts to enjoy but are required to share.

It means we share in the sufferings of Christ. And He suffers over the poor and the broken-hearted, the oppressed and abused, the brokenness in the world, and mankind's desire to fill empty places in our souls with things instead of Him. 

It requires we give up the comfortable and go where He sends us.

It ask that we forgive those who hurt us and that we are kind to those who are downright mean.

Why would anyone want to follow Jesus? I understand that it seems foolish. Foolish to follow an unseen God. Foolish to claim a living relationship with Him. Foolish to believe that He made a way for us to stand in the presence of Holy God. Foolish!

Awww…There is so much mystery, but I believe! I believe the Christmas story is good news!

The reason I believe, the reason I follow the One born in a manger long ago:

Life. I've never been more alive. I recognize that the life I once thought was so rich was dead compared to the resurrected life I walk today.

Love. I've never known a love like this.

Peace. I have peace with God and peace with anything that should come my way. It's peace that transcends understanding.

Joy. I have unshakeable joy. It is not contingent on circumstances.

Hope. I have an assurance of what is to come.

Rest. I can rest in Him and His power to do what is impossible.

Confidence. Because of who He is, I now know who I was created to be. My life has value and purpose.

Faith. I am certain. Can't always explain it but I know that I know that I know.

Yes, I have been given much, but nothing compares to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him!

"In those days…" Luke 2:1-20

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Is anyone really listening?

     I had a psychology professor with an interesting reputation. The word was passed down from one class to the next. "Don't wear the color yellow. She hates that color." And "Every test is essay. If you want a passing grade on tests, you must find a way to add the phrase 'Every person needs to feel needed, necessary, important, accepted, loved and understood.' She loves it."
     I never wore yellow and evidently I used the phrase a lot because it is seared into my memory. I made an A in that course!
     Lately the phrase has popped into my thoughts a lot. As I observe what is taking place in our nation and what is constantly crossing social media, I'm burdened by all the anger I see. I ache when I witness people being hurt. I see people begging and sometimes demanding that others notice their worth and value. They are right. We should. And people are crying out that they want to be accepted and understood.
     I get that. I am no different. I want the same things.
     There seems to be one problem though. The art of listening appears to have fallen by the wayside. Lots of words are being spoken but no one is responding with questions so they can understand. No one is asking with sincerity, "Why do you believe this? What are personal life experiences that led you to feel this way?" No one is honestly saying, "Tell me more so I can learn more." 
     We can agree to disagree. But we need to do so with teachable spirits and kindness. And if the tables should turn, and someone should ask about our convictions, we need to be honest, raw and vulnerable. Not arrogant and self-righteous. 
     One more thought…we may have rights to our opinions. But if Jesus could lay down His rights as God and come to this earth to live with us, taking on the nature of a servant…if he could lay down His rights and humbly walk to the cross…(Philippians 2:5-8) then perhaps we can lay down our divisive comments. Perhaps we can lay down our opinions long enough to listen to others.
     One of the greatest joys we have in life is learning. But learning occurs through experiences and through listening. Conservatives need to listen to liberals. Liberals need to listen to conservatives. People of different races, ethnicities and genders need to listen to the struggles each face. 
     We can do better than we have been doing! Because behind every person's words and action lies a "little boy or girl" who just wants to know he is needed. She wants to know she is necessary and important. He wants to be accepted and loved. And she wants to be understood.

     Now…to practice what I have been preaching. I think mankind has another emotional need…and that is to feel safe. Maybe it is just a want but it feels like a need. I am confident that I am safe spiritually but I also want to feel physically safe and I want to feel emotionally safe with my loved ones. Perhaps this need is grounded in times when I found myself in dangerous circumstances or when I was hurt by people I thought were friends. Perhaps it resulted because of being ridiculed for expressing thoughts. 
     I can't imagine living in a perpetual state of fear. And even worse, fearing for the lives of my children. But I know that people do. When I rock my grandsons at bedtime, I think of the moms and dads around the world that are, at that very moment, frightened about the danger surrounding their little ones. They must crave safety. I don't know all the answers. Issues are far too complex and I have a limited amount of accessible facts but I do know the only true source of peace - even in the midst of danger - is Jesus. This is not a cheap platitude, it's truth. I know from experience. 
     I know that God doesn't promise there will not be danger in our lives but He does promise that He will walk with us in the midst of it. I believe that His grace is sufficient for every need we have. I believe it pours out in extra measure over those being persecuted for His name. I know that Jesus is the answer to our need for value, purpose, acceptance, love, understanding and safety.
      The mandate for those who follow Him and know His peace is to share this good news. Our world is desperate for peace!