My blog has a new home

Friends, my blog has moved to its new home at www.womanonamission.net.  We recently redesigned our website, and it now includes my blog. You can also listen to audio downloads of Woman on a Mission sessions, and read testimonials. Please bookmark the new site, and visit often!

Woman on a Mission -> http://www.womanonamission.net

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My mission is to empower people find and pursue their personal mission–the good works that God prepared for them to walk in and, in doing so, to experience abundant life. It’s based in part on Ephesians 2:10.  Paraphrasing:

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ for good works
that God prepared beforehand for us to walk in.

My book, Woman on a Mission, is an effort to help women find and pursue the work that God ordained for them to do.  I believe –and teach–that abundant life is found in that pursuit.  That when we find our God-ordained, gifts-based work, the work with our name on it, we will experience stunning joy, rich satisfaction, and deep meaning in life as never before. Larry Crabb once said, “Meaning in life comes by participating in God’s purposes.”

But, I’ve found that’s not good enough–just to find and pursue the work that God has given you and that aligns with His specific purposes.  In fact, it can actually lead you to to a dead end.  Away from LIFE.  How?  Let me ‘splain:

Because we’re capable, gifted and resourceful and, unfortunately, human, we can do the God-work just like we’ve been doing everything since we first learned to do anything–to walk or talk or do a math problem–on our own steam.  Doing something well gives us joy:  weeding the flower garden, we’re  proud and satisfied with the outcome.  Sitting and crying with a friend in need makes us feel useful, significant.  Serving the homeless at the soup kitchen, we know our time has been better spent than watching tv for another two hours.  Life is more satisfying, sweeter, richer.  But meaningful work does not equal abundant life, not the life Jesus came to give, what Paul calls life indeed.

Abundant Life of John 10:10 is found in Jesus–satisfying, sweet, rich relationship.  And when we in obedience pursue the work He’s ordained for us, intimacy with Jesus goes deep.  Why?  Because that pursuit is so eternally important that we must completely cling to Him, perhaps as never before, to get it done.  We become desperate for Jesus.  And He comes through.  Fruit is born.  Jesus glorifies Himself by using us!  There is no sweeter joy.  Abundant. Life.

Remember Jimmy by Lynda Elliott

On Sundays for the last 3 years, I have noticed Jimmy sitting by himself, a few rows in front of us on the aisle for the handicapped at St. Andrews.  He’s most noticeable because he sings praises to God with such gusto.  Leaning on his metal walker, he raises his hands heavenward.  Seemingly unaware of anyone except Jesus, I could tell that he truly was worshiping the One who saved him.  Sometimes Jimmy would begin to joyfully clap his hands, causing a ripple of praise all around him as others would join in.

At communion time, everyone could hear the sound of his walker as he made his way to the altar.  Clunk, clunk, clunk came the sound as he slowly proceeded forward among the crowds to be blessed with the bread and wine.

A few weeks ago, I realized I’d not seen Jimmy at church in a long time.  I called the church office to get his phone number or even his last name, but it seemed there was no record of Jimmy at all.  I wondered if he’d been sick or perhaps even died without anyone knowing.

Then in early December, there he was again in his regular spot quietly reading his Bible before the service, his walker resting by the pew.  Glad to see him, I gave him a hug and asked, “Jimmy, where have you been?”  Smiling, he told me he’d been sick and in the VA hospital.  This dear man had fought for our country but now he seemed nearly lost in the crowd and ignored at this time in his life.  I invited him to come to the prayer room after communion so that our team could pray for his health, and he nodded, promising that he’d be there.

Then I asked for his phone number.  Lowering his head, Jimmy said, “Mam, I’ve had a few financial setbacks lately.  I’ll give you my number but you won’t be able to reach me until I pay my bill.  Then you can call me anytime.”

Returning to my seat beside my husband, I asked him if he had any cash that we could give Jimmy to pay his phone bill.  Wayne gladly gave me a sufficient bill.

When it was time for communion, I slipped in beside Jimmy and placed the bill in his had.  When he saw what it was, his mouth fell open, tears sprang to his eyes and he looked almost shocked.  I made my way to the alter thinking that Jimmy may indeed be often forgotten.

As the service came to a close, Jimmy entered the prayer room with the familiar clunk, clunk, clunk.  As he approached my friend and me, we asked him how we could pray for him.  A big smile broke across his face and he exclaimed, “I don’t need a thing!  I just came back here to get someone to thank the Lord with me for meeting my needs!”  As tears rolled down his face, Jimmy said, “After all these years, I almost lost my faith a few weeks ago.  I was sick.  I felt like Jesus didn’t hear me anymore, like He’d forgotten me.  This morning Jesus showed me that He did hear my prayers.  I know today that Jesus remembers Jimmy.”

We laid hands on him, joined him in thanksgiving, and prayed for his health.  As Jimmy left the prayer room, his tears rolled across a big  smile as he made his way back to his seat.

Our Lord can do great things with even the small things we give in His name.  No only may we meet a need, we may even have the chance to see Him do far more–restore the faith of someone who feels forgotten.

I Peter 5: 6, 10:  Therefore, humble yourselves, lower yourselves in your estimation under the shadow of Almighty God, that in due time, He may exalt you.  Casting all your anxieties on Him, all your worries and concerns–once and for all–upon Him who cares for you watchfully.  After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace–Who imparts blessing and favor —will complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, strengthen and settle you.

Friends, let us be alert to the Jimmys in our path–and sensitive to the Spirit who loves them with the greatest love of all. 

My dear friend, Lynda Elliott is an author, life coach, speaker, and, most importantly, NOTa forgetful hearer, but a faithful doer, of the Word.

Strange Blessing

A week ago I came home from work early with the worst migraine of my life.  Thinking I shouldn’t drive, I called my husband to pick me up. Wise choice.  As soon as I got home, I began throwing up and later passed out cold on the bathroom floor, fracturing several bones in my face.  A trip to the ER by ambulance–a first for me–and test after test, I was sent home after determining it was “just” a migraine and not something worse.

Pain has a sobering effect on the soul.  Unexpected blessing is found in having the time to reflect, pray and read.  I have a renewed determination to live the motto my friend Bob Buford introduced me to a while back:  Go bold or go home.” To live unafraid for Jesus, unconcerned with people-pleasing and materialistic trivial pursuits.  To be about the work God prepared beforehand for me to do, without fear-driven hesitancy.  Ordinary insecurities still plague me far too much.  God wants me–us–free.

My head–it hurts something awful but my heart is full and happy.

Our Smiling God

No question about it —the Woman on a Mission Celebration Dinner for 60 DCC residents of the Pine Bluff center topped every previous celebration.  I  confess, every one of these gives me a major case of  jitters.  It’s far worse than when I am lecturing; at least then I have some control over what happens.  Not so with a program dependent on the participants’ sharing. They are the program.

Their assignment:  share what God has taught you.  The stated goal for the evening:  glorify God.  Make Him smile.

The tension was heightened all the more since for the first time in six years of leading WOM classes we invited  guests to join us– among them the leaders’ husbands; Dr. Hooker, program developer for the state-wide “modified therapeutic community;” the events coordinator and chaplain at the prison and my overseer.

That morning I confessed my high anxiety to my husband. “It’s so totally out of my control!  I just have to trust God and rest in Him!”  My tone belied the desperation I felt.  Dave’s response helped bring me back down to earth, “Yeah, I hate it when that happens. You have to trust God. How awful for you.”

The sharing was amazing. It was deep, vulnerable, awash with  tears and excited applause, with over-the-top appreciation for all God had done.  It was the most touching evening I have ever experienced.  And then one of the residents sang a song a cappella. It was a Susan Boyle moment times two. Not a dry eye in the house.  Oh my. Taking a mental picture of her, I will not forget that moment.  All 80 of us were aware that we were standing on holy ground.

Amid tears and sniffles heard round the room, I envisioned God smiling on these precious, lovely women, His  daughters.

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Your thoughts?  When have you experienced a standing-on-holy-ground moment?

Ministry Potholes

Working with prisoners can be addictive.” Wise words spoken by Dr. Elizabeth Hooker, developer of the “modified therapeutic community,” a program used in 5 prisons in Arkansas’ Department of Community Corrections. She went on to say that when you work with prisoners you often see great changes very quickly and you can easily begin to take credit for their progress.  “Tell your leaders not to take credit.  The credit belongs to the women –the residents themselves.”

Spoken as if it were only moderately important, Dr. Hooker was sending me a significant message, one that I’d need to pass on to my team.  Our Woman on a Mission class in Pine Bluff is almost over and the danger she warns against, at its peak.

She said only that, nothing more, but Dr. Hooker got me thinking about this taking credit thing and the addiction that can come with such ministry, maybe even with all fruitful ministry.   Prisoners, called ‘residents’ in DCC units, are in a unique place of vulnerability and receptivity by virtue of their incarceration.  Losing their kids, rejected by their families, housed behind wire fences on a campus that looks like a 40-acre cage, in barracks with wall-to-wall women they don’t know or particularly like, told what to do almost every minute of the day, most have hit rock bottom.

As we begin to witness changes in them, through an insight they share, a slight change of attitude, a softening of their hearts, we will be tempted to think we did it.  Then when their appreciation for us is so intense –and it IS!–we’re faced with double temptation.  We’re not only tempted to take credit AWAY from them and away from God, we’re also tempted to get our needs met through ministry instead of through relationship with Christ.  Double trouble.  As we work with them, we feel significant–finally.  We made a difference in the life of someone else!

While God wants us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, we must think rightly about who we are–ambassadors for Christ, a conduit of His love and wisdom, empowered by His indwelling fire, dependent entirely on Him.

Addiction is addiction –not a good thing.  As leaders we must think about and pray about our inner responses to the rush of being used by God.  Am I falling into the trap of thinking I’m responsible for Angela’s progress? If I am–even in subtle ways–she will sense it and something will have been stolen from her.  Her dignity needs to be restored. She needs to believe she can find her own answers and learn to stand on her own two feet.  We mustn’t become a crutch that keeps another walking with a limp.

When Angela –or any one for that matter–asks us what she should do, we need to respond as Suzanne Patton did when asked that question:  “I can’t tell you what to do. Nor should I, even if I knew.  You need to get close to God and seek His will.  You and He can figure it out.  I’ll pray for you.”  We want them to learn to be whole, capable and responsible.  We want to point them to their inner strengths and teach them to rely on God  — and not on us.

A Beginning

Diana asked her small group of 6 women, inmates of Department of Community Corrections in Pine Bluff, “Have you experienced life change in yourself since starting this course?” Denisha*, a sharp, young African-American replied in a voice that implied her self-surprise, “Yes, I have!  A few weeks ago if I’d come to class without finishin’ my lesson, I woulda just lied.  I’da left my book in the unit and told you I’d forgotten it, but I finished my lesson!  I didn’t do that today.  I brought my book and told y’all the truth–I just didn’t get it done.”

Her demeanor suggested a new-found dignity in truth-telling.  And she knew what it represented—the beginning of significant change on the inside.  A willingness to be honest about simple, every day things.

Can we ever hope to be choose well in the big things if we’re unwilling to come clean in the small?  Her response indicates a minuscule shift in her approach to life and relationships.  Honesty.  Integrity.  Intentional tiny choices.  The taste of success.  The ball begins to roll in a new direction, leading her ever so slightly away from her past.  In time it could lead to a world far away from what she once knew, from what landed her in prison.

Matthew 25:21:  Well done, good and faithful servant!
You have been faithful with a few things;
I will put you in charge of many things.
Come and share your master’s happiness!