Why consent isn’t all there is to it

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As demoralizing as it has been to see the continual surfacing of one public figure after another accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse, assault and, in various cases, rape, it also comes with a sigh of relief to many exhaling the words, “It’s about time.” Most women and, tragically, even many teenage girls were already well acquainted with the depth and breadth of a problem that desperately needed to be publicly exposed. I do not claim in this article to speak for every woman or girl who has been abused, assaulted or harassed but I’d like, if I could, to speak from what I have experienced, seen. heard and learned, not only as a victim but also as a servant to women for 35 years.

I wish to make only one primary point in hopes that it will stick and to make it succinct enough for this article to be read in full. As solutions are being sought and these vital matters are being discussed, the word “consent” is, understandably and appropriately, the word in the forefront. The line to be drawn in the sand. While determining whether or not there has been consent may be enough for settling legalities and forming policies, it is unfortunately not enough to insure that an individual has not been victimized.

Countless women and girls (and boys) consent to sexual advances they do not welcome or want and that scar them for a lifetime. Or sometimes they consent to one thing and get something completely and disturbingly different. They do so for the same reason I did. They feel enormously pressured, extremely unprotected, overpowered and, at times, utterly powerless. I well remember feeling something akin to paralysis. The word “no” was not even in my vocabulary. The boundaries around my life were bulldozed early and by a bully, I might add, because, while not all bullies are sexual predators, all sexual predators are, in one way or another, bullies. There was no manual within my reach about how to rebuild those crumbled boundaries.

I did, however, learn as God raised me up in strength and dignity and restored me. He accomplished these works through making me a student of His Word and of His gracious ways and through godly counsel and by making me a woman of fiery faith and ferocious prayer and confidence in Christ. All of these are unabashed graces of God and to His glory alone. Part of my work has been to help facilitate that process for others and it remains one of the greatest privileges of my life.

And here is one of the most important concepts I can teach them: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY NO TO UNWANTED SEXUAL ADVANCES. EXERCISE IT. Not a meek little whispery wispy “uh uh” but a full volume, confident, steel-strong “NO.” It’s not too late, no matter how old you are.

Parents, your part here is titanic. As you raise your children and teach them about the boundaries they get to draw around their lives, train them up with the confidence to use one of the most vital words in their entire vocabulary. And also teach them about how we can feel so pressured and overpowered, we feel like we can’t say no and how we can muster up the courage to get that reluctant term to bounce out of our mouths. This part is really really important: if and when you learn that harmful sexual advances were made on your child or loved one then come to find out there was “consent,” do not automatically assume consent is synonymous with welcome. Whatever you do, do not shame them. Help them. There won’t be a do-over on your initial reactions to their detrimental sexual experience. It will be hard for them to talk about so try to read what they are telling you by their behaviors and create a safe environment for them to communicate. Believe them as they slowly open up to you about what happened and show compassion and strength and facilitate whatever further help they may need. If there was legitimate welcome and consent, for crying out loud, still love your child and work through the complications. Don’t withhold physical affection from them like they’ve become a pariah unless they, for a while, don’t want you to touch them. Assure them over and over how loved and valued they are and teach them the life-giving concept of grace. You’re the adult. Don’t make your child parent you.

I wish tools like understanding (and expecting) pressures to give consent and like learning how to exercise the right to say no would solve everything. While these tools can have a strong impact in situations of harassment and less forceful unwanted sexual advances, they are often little to no help in a rape or assault. If you or someone you love suffer (or have suffered) such a torrential crime, please know there is help out there. There is healing to be had in Christ and much esteem, dignity and strength to be regained in Him.  Boundaries can indeed be rebuilt around your life healthily that do not become a prison to your heart, perpetuating your pain and isolation.

I’ll conclude with this. Five minutes of stunningly selfish sexual pleasure can cost a victim a lifetime of suffering. Little can be more demoralizing and infuriating than the shoulder shrugging of victimizers and their sympathizers. “It wasn’t that bad.” Sometimes all we who have been victimized have left to say are the words of Christ from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And sometimes that can be enough because, make no mistake. Nothing is more empowering than calling wrongdoing wrong, calling yourself loved of God and valued and, by the power invested in you as His child, forgiving those who don’t have a clue how much they hurt you.

Let’s keep this truth ever before us in these days of ever-surfacing evil: God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. God has no dark side.

 

 

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LPM Holiday Gift Guide!

Hi friends! This Christmas, we’ve put together something extra special for you! 

We’ve rounded up some of the LPM staff’s favorite resources and compiled a fun holiday gift guide – perfect for finding the right bit of encouragement for each of your people…

 

1. For the adventure-seeker: The Quest

2. And for the TEEN adventure-seeker (NEW!): The Quest for Teen Girls

3. For the fiction-lover: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

4. For the commuter: Digital Downloads for an on-the-go message

5. For the one who wants to ramp up their effectiveness: Entrusted Bible Study

6. For the one who wants to grow their faith: Believing God

7. For the one who REALLY loves Christmas: A Christmas Collection

8. For the one who needs a daily reminder of God’s love: Twitter Talk Flip Calendar

9. For the one in a hard place: Get Out of that Pit

10. For moms of all ages: Feathers from my Nest

11. For the one new to life in Christ: Jesus the One and Only

12. For YOU! Free Downloads 

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The Quest For Teen Girls!

Here’s something fun we got at the ministry today in case it can help with Christmas shopping! Don’t panic if you have to leave a message. Let us know how to reach you, and we’ll call you back! 1-888-700-1999

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SSMT 2017: Verse 23!

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SSMT 2017: Verse 22!

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SSMT Celebration Reminder!

Can you believe it? We’ve almost completed our 2017 Scripture memory challenge! Here are some fun facts and reminders…

FUN FACTS:

  • 88 are signed up for the SSMT celebration plus LPL.
  • 94 are signed up for the SSMT celebration only.
  • Siestas are traveling from 30 states for the SSMT celebration in Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin!
  • We began with 11,548 and still have 999 with us! (and YOU are one in 999 still knocking it out of the park!)

REMINDERS:

  • 6 days remaining to register for SSMT celebration plus LPL (optional) discount. Click here to register by November 15!
  • The deadline to register for SSMT celebration only (free of charge) is January 15. Click here to register!
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Waking and Responding to an Unwanted Era

Several weeks after 9/11 I went with a team of leaders gathered by the American Association of Christian Counselors to New York City to minister to pastors, their spouses, their fellow church leaders and various ministry leaders who’d served their city and congregations after a tidal wave of terror hit their shore. I can still picture their faces. Some of them had not yet wept. Others had not ceased to weep. We’ve come to speak often, with appropriate awe and appreciation, of the first responders among civil servants in outbreaks of violence or tragedy. The leaders who’d gathered in that sanctuary to be served and comforted after 9/11 were first responders among church servants.

Many of the pastors who met with us that day had done what their seminary training could hardly have prepared them for. They’d conducted a mind-numbing succession of memorial services for members of their churches. “With no bodies,” one pastor murmured, his face almost as pale as death, his eyes hollow. We do not normally think of a casket as a tangible mercy in our grief but we realized that day with horror that cold metal can be warm comfort in terrible times. There was a pause, a giving way to the silence, a pleading for the Holy Spirit to plunge to the depths where no man can go, to intercede and bring a comfort not of this world to His very own servants. That day was a day for speaking the unspeakable. They could say anything they wanted or needed. They could voice feelings they were fighting that could not responsibly be uttered in such raw form to their congregations. Those of us serving them did our best to speak when speaking was appropriate. We held in our arms the ones who wanted holding. We sat near those who did not want to be touched.

As we search for words for what has befallen us, maybe 9/11 is the closest we can come to marking the birth of a different era, one distinguished by, of all horrific things, terror. Birth by stillbirth. Life in what we called a civilized world with a fire-breathing dragon of death coming out of hibernation. Terror from without and within. Global. Domestic. Evil. Environmental. We are not nearly as scared of death as we are of being scared in death. These things are unthinkable yet we must think of them. They are unspeakable and yet we must speak.

Wise, responsive action must be taken in coming days. There are outcries for legislation that need to be heard and reasonable measures to be taken for church security but this is an outcry for the fortification of the souls of our people. This is a plea for an awakening to the demands for responsible discipleship in the generation that has been entrusted to us, for training up and equipping strong, able Jesus-followers, sturdy living stones, tenderized by the love of Jesus, strengthened by His divine power.

I’ve thought over and over in the last five years, “we’re unprepared for what has befallen us.” Our discipleship, generally speaking, is not matching the demand of our violent, unstable days. We who follow Jesus were timed for this exact era on earth. God thought we were capable of serving it or He would not have planted us in this bloody soil at this moment in history. He’s a strategist. We leaders and teachers and mentors and communicators can either embrace what has been entrusted to us or answer for it when we see Him. We have churches doing no discipleship at all which would have completely flummoxed first century church planters and begged the question “Why bother?” Few of us have the patience or time to address for the millionth time all the ways we’ve flung our church doors open to the pandemic narcissism of our culture. Show them a good time. Do not dare call out sin or call for service or sacrifice or, God forbid, actual commitment. 

Those are tired discussions and I’m not in the mood to have them this morning. The discussion I’m in the mood to have is about revisiting the paradigm for discipleship in the early church where Jesus-followers were equipped to both suffer and rejoice. Not one or the other. Both. Take a look back at Matthew 10 and Luke 10 where Jesus sent out His followers and warned them what kinds of conditions they’d encounter. Look back at Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. They were taught to serve one another in extreme hardship and that it would not finish them. Rather, it would flourish them. If it killed them, well, they’d be in the presence of the Lord. They were equipped for the inevitability of affliction and not just how to survive it but how to abound in it. This is the heritage of the saints. New Testament believers were trained – not just told but trained – to weep together and laugh together. To remember Christ’s death together. To live out authentic resurrection life that could not be explained in natural terms. They were taught to battle demonic powers and principalities. They were taught how to grieve with hope. They were taught how to repent and be restored. How to turn from the sin that was hemorrhaging their witness and their tenacity in Christ. They were trained in prayer and taught how to keep the faith. They were taught to anticipate with great joy the vivid life awaiting them in Christ on the other side of death and that these are mere shadows compared to the substance to come.

The church in America is dying for this kind of discipleship, for the real, live fly-in-your-face thing that results in lives that matter greatly in their communities. I’m not pounding on something that I’m unwilling to put to practice. I have a long way to go and a lot to learn but I’ve made increasingly strong adjustments in Bible study curriculum in recent years. I hope the call to steadfastness, sacrifice, strength, love, faith and defiant joy in times of extreme duress and distress is blatant in the studies on James, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 2 Timothy and, most recently, The Quest. I want to be like Paul described Epaphras who was “always struggling” on behalf of those he served, that they might “stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” (Col.4:12)

There is so much good news. Such a fresh embodiment of the increasingly disembodied Body of Christ. I’ve watched a slack-jawing awakening of service and sacrifice in churches in my own city in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. I have no doubt Floridians would say the same. I marveled yesterday as our pastor told us what our next phases of ministry would be. It included things like dropping off new mattresses in homes where beds were destroyed and families were sleeping on floors, hanging sheet rock, helping people fill out insurance claims. Serving in Houston has looked more like rebuilding a community after a war than the church of my young adulthood. What is this world we’ve awakened to???

It is our world. The only one we have for now. I’m the furthest thing from a pessimist but I don’t think it’s going to get better. I think we may get reprieves of mercy but I fear we have entered a travail we will not soon escape and that it will intensify. Here’s where my optimism comes in handy: I may not think our conditions are going to get better but I think the church is. Jesus-followers have what it takes to serve this world. We have the Holy Spirit. Now we need the training on how to allow Him to work effectively and fruitfully among us. We need discipleship fit for our days. We need the Scriptures. We need to be taught in our churches not only how to deal with our personal suffering but how to deal with our community suffering as a people.  We need to be taught our right to joy and how it flourishes most beautifully and colorfully in a landscape of difficulty.

I’ve run out of writing time and I’m sure you’ve more than run out of reading time. I’ve got no great ending to this post. Just earnestness. We wish things were different. They’re not. But we can be different. We can be disciples. Real ones. Trained ones. Tenderhearted ones. Fortified ones. Effective ones. Strong ones. Joyful ones. Courageous ones. Compassionate ones. And the world will be the better for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SSMT 2017: Verse 21!

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A Ministry Staff Sample Questionnaire

Hey, you guys! This post is really narrow in its focus but I’m throwing it out here anyway. It’s for anyone who happens to be in a similar position of leadership over a ministry or staff of similar size. Every Fall I start thinking about vision casting for the new year and what changes we need to make or new initiatives we want to implement. Last week I decided to create and send my 14 Living Proof employees (ages 21 through early 70s) an informal questionnaire that I hoped would allow me to gather some insight toward casting vision for 2018. I gave them several days to return it, printed out all their responses, put them in a notebook then started combing through them. My eyes got wider and wider. That notebook was a goldmine. Not only did they get a chance to speak to me confidentially about any frustrations or unfulfilled expectations. They got to tell me the dreams and visions for ministry residing in their own hearts. Mind you, we spend many lunch hours together and have ongoing discussions of all kinds. We’re a small staff and I hold none of them at arm’s distance yet I learned volumes from their responses. Among other things, I got to see some potential in each of those 14 people that I’d never have known to tap.  We had one of the best team meetings of our ministry existence today as I shared with them my general findings and opened the floor for discussion. Trust me when I tell you, we have some fun plans for 2018.

There’s nothing special about this questionnaire. I put it together quickly and didn’t stress over professional jargon. I plainly and simply asked them what I wished to know. I’m just sharing it with you in case it encourages you to create one of your own with the group of believers you oversee. I’m a teacher at heart and that means, among other things, that I can’t keep anything I find helpful to myself. Their answers were invaluable to me. So, here it is in full, including my introductory paragraphs, in case any part of it is useful. I sent it to them in a word document so they could modify the space between each question according to the length of their answers. Hope it encourages somebody. Leading is no easy task.

It’s an honor to serve you guys!

 

Autumn 2017 LPM Staff Questionnaire

I deeply appreciate the privilege of serving with you and highly esteem your insights. Your responses to these questions will be so helpful, particularly as I pore over each one then sit back from them all and ask God to help me perceive where overlapping passions exist and how God wants to maximize our effectiveness in the great work of Christ’s gospel. This is a season of significant transition and every change, I believe and trust, will be toward becoming more fruitful but this I know: it’s going to require fresh fiery faith. Egos have to diminish for vision to replenish. Let’s all become game for change, not in job description in most cases but in vision, motivation, mission and goal-setting. Good days are ahead.

Please feel completely free to express yourself, including your hopes and dreams and disappointments. I know you love me and you know I love you. This is not personal. This is missional. We can’t walk by faith into the future on our tiptoes so step into this questionnaire with boldness. Everything (personal) you share will be held in confidential trust between God and me and treated with prayer and meditation and petition for much wisdom. I have only one desire greater at LPM than for each person to thrive in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is for the locomotion of all our individual thriving to be harnessed one direction on a train track that carries bona fide supernatural freight into the future to exalt God’s great name and spread the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Name: ___________________________________________________

 

How long have you been on staff at LPM? __________________________

 

What was your hope for your job when you were hired?

 

Was that hope fulfilled?

 

In what areas have you felt unfulfilled?

 

Do you feel free to speak and heard when you speak?

 

If you’ve been at LPM long enough for this to apply, how has your holy passion changed over time?

 

What do you wish you could do that you don’t have – or have not yet had – an opportunity to do?

 

In an ideal world where you had time to do volunteer work and you could take your pick of any kind, what nature of volunteer work would you do? In some respects I’m asking the question to get at an answer to this: What would you do for free? Better yet, what would you practically pay to do? That’s where you’ll find your truest present passion.

 

Anything else pertaining to this subject matter that you’d like to add?

 

That was it! 

 

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SSMT 2017: Verse 20!

 

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