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Forces of Influence

This blog is about women – who women are – what women have done and what women can do. I believe that most women sell themselves short. We often don’t have high expectations for ourselves. We use words like,”I’m just a________” or I’m only a_________” Men, it seems to me, don’t typically say that. They just tell you they are a CPA or a carpenter or an electrician. But they don’t use the word “just” as an adjective to describe what they do. Men typically define themselves by what they do. They are a carpenter or a lawyer. Their job or profession defines them. That’s why men often have serious emotional issues when they lose a job. They’ve lost what defines them.

I know I’m generalizing and there are always exceptions, but for women, it’s different. When a woman tells someone she’s a a teacher, a lawyer, mom or a sales clerk it doesn’t define her. I believe, (and I don’t know that I can back this up with research) but I do believe that women often define themselves by how they impact others. Women want to know that they have made a difference in someone else’s life. We want to know that we have helped, encouraged, redirected, inspired or rescued someone.

I belong to the Assistance League of Kansas City, which is a non-profit, volunteer organization that makes a difference in our community. This year we hosted several lunch and learn events that focused on the influence women have had on our country. At the last luncheon a local photographer spoke to us about the impact that influential women in the Kansas City area have had on our community since its founding. It was very informative and eye opening. I’ve live in Kansas City for more than 25 years and did not know about the women behind some  very important qualities of our city. But it was the following statement he made at the beginning of his presentation that really stuck with me. I knew I wanted to remember those words so, I contacted him and requested he send me this quote:

“As I was putting together my first four books, I realized that nothing of a socially redeeming value has been accomplished in Kansas City without the leadership of women…the ladies of the early part of the 20th century who championed women’s rights, civil rights and education and so on…its hard to argue with. Us guys who think that men have made this city a better place to live are only kidding ourselves. Kansas City, and I think most cities, would be nothing without the leadership of women. Men go out and do things, but it is the women who bring the moral compass to bear on the livability of any community.” B. Mathews

That quote really inspired me. I’d been thinking about starting this blog for quite a while and that quote was the trigger to just do it.

This blog is not intended to bash men…I like men (most of the time)…but this blog isn’t about men. This blog is intended to encourage women to think about the ways in which we have influence on those around us, whether its our families, our neighborhoods, our community or our country. We have a role to play. We have influence and we need to give serious thought to the ways in which we can influence those around us for good. We need to think big. We need to believe in ourselves. We need to take action…and we need to do it now.

One of the things you can do right now is to comment on this blog. My goal is for this blog to be engaging and interactive. I’m hoping this blog will cause you to think about new ideas and ways in which you can be influential and ultimately stir you to action. There is no expectation that we will always agree with each other, but there is an expectation that when we disagree we will do it respectfully and with the intent to inform or offer another viewpoint.

So, who are the “Wise Women”  whose wisdom has influenced your life? I’d love to hear about them!

 

 

I just Checked a BIG, BIG Item Off My Bucket List8

I have said for years that I wanted to write a book. In my twenties, I started a romance novel…that didn’t get very far! After my kids were grown, I started writing a parenting book. I finished it but it was never officially published.

In January of this year, I started another book. This time I was determined to finish it and publish it. I completed the rough draft by the end of April, and by the first of August I published my first book on Amazon!

It’s a nonfiction book designed to raise awareness of the damage that all of the incivility we are exposed to every day is doing to our families, our communities and our society. You can find it on Amazon in kindle version or in paperback.

The title is: Taking Civility Out of the Box: The Insanity of Incivility and What Can Be Done About It by Barbara Mason Condra.

Are you wondering what made the difference this time? Why was I able to get the book written this time and get it published? Well the difference is that I didn’t try to do it all by myself. This time I had a writing coach and lots of information about how to go about putting the book together. I found a company that was great to work with and provided me the right guidance to get the job done.

That company was Self-Publishing School and if you are seriously considering writing a book, I highly recommend them. You can check them out using the following links:

Link #1 – Https://self-publishingschool.com/how-to-write-a-book/

Link #2 https://selfpublishing.com/self-publishing

If you have questions about the company, please feel free to contact me.

Lessons Learned from NOT Taking it Slowly

All  my life I have walked fast, moved fast and talked fast. That’s just who I am and how I’m wired. I’ve always told people I only have two gears: OFF and FAST. There is no in-between.

I know other people don’t always appreciate that. I remember when I was in college, I worked part-time in the office of my dorm putting up mail and other minor chores. One day the dorm Mom and I were putting the mail in residents’ boxes, when all of a sudden she yelled, “STOP!” When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “You’ve got to slow down. You’re going so fast it’s making me nervous.” (Oops! I tried to go slower but it wasn’t easy.)

However, this past week I had three lessons about the importance of slowing down. I think they are worth sharing.

The first lesson happened last Saturday when I broke my little toe! I was barefoot and walking quickly across the living room when I caught my toe on the wooden leg of the footstool. I knew instantly that I had broken my toe. It was definitely bending in a direction it wasn’t suppose to go.

So, I taped it and iced it and now I’m limited to certain shoes I can actually walk in. And, yes, I’m walking more slowly. “Why was I barefoot? I don’t know, because I seldom ever walk around barefoot. But that’s not the lesson.”

The lesson is that there really is no need to walk that fast just to pick up something I’ve left in the other room. If I miss a phone call they’ll either call me back or I can call them back. I just have to learn to walk, NOT run!

Lesson number two comes from a video of Sheila Heen, a speaker at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit this summer. I wasn’t able to go this year but I did see a video of her presentation at another meeting on Saturday.

Near the end of her presentation she told the story of a study that was done on a college campus recently. A group of students were told that they were to present a speech at a meeting across campus, and they had only had five minutes to prepare. As they were going to the other building they passed a person who was in need of help. (I’m not sure if they were hurt or upset, but their need was obvious and “Yes” they had been deliberately placed there.)

Wanna guess how many of those students stopped to help? Only 10%. They did this a second time with another group but told them they had 20 minutes to prepare and get to the lecture hall. This time 50% stopped to help.

The lesson is this. When we are in too much of a hurry we often aren’t aware of the needs that are right around us. But, if we slow down and take a little more time, we are more likely to recognize the needs around us and act on them.

And, finally, lesson three. Earlier last week I was reading J. I. Packer’s book “Keep in Step with the Spirit.” We are studying the Holy Spirit in our Community Group this fall and Packer has some very insightful things to say about the Holy Spirit.

One of the things he says in the introduction is that our society, which includes our churches, has high expectations for people to be very active. Lots of activity is often seen as a demonstration of our commitment to a cause. For Christians, we often equate our activity level as indicative of our closely we are following the “leading of the Spirit.” Packer believes, and I agree with him, that focusing on activity is not a barometer of how close we are to the Holy Spirit. In fact, it usually prevents us from being aware of His presence. We are just too busy to listen and we don’t see what He is trying to tell us.

That connection came to me this morning as I was telling a very good friend of mine the story of the college students. The rest of that story is that these weren’t just any college students. They were students who were studying theology as they prepared for the ministry. And the 5 minute talk they were to give was on “The Good Samaritan.”

Hmmm? Makes you think, doesn’t it.

SOAP BOX TALK – #2 Civil Discourse

In simple terms civil discourse is the engagement in discourse intended to enhance understanding. Civil discourse can only occur when each side demonstrates respect for the other’s right to their opinion; listens to understand, and doesn’t assume that their side is right and the other side is wrong.

I believe that our country is sadly lacking in Civil Discourse. Discourse intended to enhance understanding seldom happens and when it does it is generally not civil.

Raise your hand if you can honestly say you have observed or been a part of a discussion where two people who have opposing opinions on a political or social issue have been able to have an honest but reasonable conversation without getting angry or raising their voices.

Now, raise your hand if the only conversations about political or social issues you have are with people whom you already know are in agreement with you?

Most of us don’t engage in any civil discourse because our previous experiences have taught us that it will just result in an argument and sometimes can even result in the loss of a friendship.

If we do engage in discourse about an issue, it is not because we want to enhance our understanding but rather our intent is to affirm what we already believe by talking with the people whom we already know agree with us.

It is alarming to me that in a country that has “free speech” as one of it fundamental principles, it is almost impossible for us to exercise that right without being yelled at or condemned for our viewpoints by those who disagree with us.

A democracy needs Civil Discourse in order to thrive, grow and change. The honest exchange of ideas between individuals or groups with different opinions and strategies is a part of the strength of this country and democracy.

We are facing many important problems in our country: immigration issues, safety within our communities, racism, poverty, sex trafficking, and more. These are complicated issues. No one person or group has “THE” right answer, but if we got together and participated in Civic Discourse through a Civic Dialogue process about these issues over time we could come up with solutions that could be accepted by all.

As I was researching some sites about “civil discourse” I came across the Bill of Rights Institute. This organization promotes education of young adults about the Bill of Rights and the process of Civil Discourse. I’ve pasted the link to YouTube that shows a two-minute video about the definition and importance of Civil Discourse. I found it both enlightening and encouraging. I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to hear your thoughts about it as well as your opinions about what I’ve stated in this blog.

Paste the following URL into your browser to view a 2 minute video produced by Bill of Rights Institute:

https://youtu.be/go5pjCDE          (If this url does not work, then go to You Tube and search for Bill of Rights Institute and you should come up with their video on what civil discourse means.) I tried this URL earlier today and it took me right to it but when I tried it after I posted it I got an error message.

Definitions of Civic Discourse Civic discourse is when people talk about issues in the “worlds” around them to begin a discussion where people communicate with one another about political, social, cultural or economic issues that are faced by their community.

Definition of Civic Dialogue This is a structured format for public dialogue that provides a tool to build bridges across the chasm of public viewpoints. Civil dialogue helps people communicate in vigil and productive ways especially when they face “hot topics” and need to employ “cool heads.”

 

Being Bold

Yesterday I shared the story of Achsah who asked boldly for what she needed.  And I also told you about the life of Martha Sperry, who founded a college in Georgia and who once received a donation from Henry Ford for a million dollars because she asked for it.

Today I want to tell you about Freda Lindsay, the child of poor Russian immigrants. Freda learned to work at a very young age and learned to pray for God’s help as a college student who was never sure how she was going to pay her tuition fees. Freda, who had studied theology, married a young minister and the two of them began a ministry together. In 1970, they formed the Christ For The Nations Institute designed to train young ministers.

However, in 1973, Gordon Lindsay died following a massive heart attack. Freda was suddenly on her own and thrust into the role of leading a national ministry with huge obligations. She was also confronted by some of her ministry supporters who demanded that she resign because she was female.

However, Freda knew to ask God boldly for what she needed. Within 11 months supporters had given her $83,000 to pay off the loan on the headquarters building. Freda continued with this ministry, for many years. She oversaw the building of several dormitories, a chapel and an athletic field.  She stayed in this role until 1994 when, at the age of 79, she turned the leadership over to their son.

How did Freda do all of this? She accomplished great things because she had faith in God, faith in the ministry she had chosen and she had learned to approach God boldly and ask for what she needed.

Like Achsah she didn’t just ask for land; she asked for land and a spring. “She grabbed hold of her Father and did not let go until He blessed her with a double portion.” (Fearless Daughters of the Bible.” p. 76 by J. Lee Grady)

Is it possible that there’s an adventure waiting for you but you have been fearful of the challenge? Have you asked boldly for direction and for support? Could God do similar things through you? Is there an issue you have a passionate concern about; like feeding hungry children, sex trafficking, abused women, mentoring troubled kids, or providing water for African villages?

If there is something that just hurts your heart, then do something. That “something” can be as simple as talking to God about it and asking for direction. If He has something for you, He will show you what it is and He will provide what you need.

Claiming an Abundant Life

In my last post I introduced you to Achsah, daughter of Caleb, who claimed the blessing God had given Caleb when she asked her father for a piece of the land and springs of water to make it profitable. Achsah saw God’s abundance given to her father and she believed that God intended that gift to be passed on to his heirs, which included her.

The key here is that Achsah was bold and ASKED for the blessing. She knew her father would want her to have it and that he could give it to her. But she needed to ask for it because it demonstrated her belief in both her father’s love and God’s provision. That concept is still true today. We are blessed bountifully when we ask for blessings which are needed.

This is not the same thing as “a prosperity gospel.” God has not promised that all we have to do is ask and we will receive great wealth. That’s not biblical.

What God has promised us is an abundant life, which is more about our quality of life than how much money is in our bank account. When God blesses us it is usually in a way that these blessings can overflow into the lives of others. The more we are willing to share His blessings with others, the more He is willing to heap those blessings on us. Let’s take a look at a couple of modern-day Achsahs.

Martha Berry was a prominent woman in Georgia in the early 1900’s. She inherited a huge estate from her father located in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. She could have sold the land for a large sum of money but instead  she built a school for the underprivileged, illiterate mountain children. She also formed a Sunday school in a country church hear her home and taught Sunday school for them. She became known as the “Sunday lady of Possum Trot.” (Doesn”t that name just make you smile?)

In 1902, she opened a live-in school for boys and deeded her 83-acre homestead to build “The Boys Industrial School.” This later became Berry College which has approximately 2200 enrolled today and is considered one of the premier liberal arts schools in the South. It sits on 27 acres and generously shares that beautiful acreage with residents in the area.

When Martha needed additional funds she was not ashamed to ask for it. She requested and received support from Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie and Ellen Louse Wilson, wife of Woodrow Wilson.

She also asked Henry Ford for money. He gave her a small sum to see how she would handle it. She immediately put the money to work and increased it. He then gave her a gift of $1 million, which she used to build a huge gothic-style dormitory complex which has become an icon on the Berry campus.

Martha’s motto for the school was “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”

When Martha asked for blessings they were granted. But these blessings weren’t intended for her own use. They were to be used to support her life  mission. She asked for blessings so she could bless others.

But first she had to ask for the blessings. 

Tomorrow I’ll have another story of a modern-day woman who wasn’t afraid to ask for blessings.

Legacy of Faith

I am always amazed when I find something I’ve known about for a long time and suddenly realize that there’s a part of it that I didn’t know.  I’ve heard sermons and read in Numbers about the spies that Moses sent to check out the “Promised Land.” When they came back all but two of them said the cities were too well-fortified and the people too big and fierce for the Israelites to fight them. But Caleb, along with Joshua, spoke up and said they could take it. He believed God was with them and they’d be able to overcome their army.

Unfortunately, the Israelite people didn’t listen to Caleb and Joshua. God punished the spies severely, but He did not punish Joshua and Caleb. They saw the potential of the land and because of their faith, they believed they would be successful. Which, eventually they were.

Later in the Book of Joshua, Caleb made a speech about how good God had been to him throughout his life and how God had rewarded him with the land that he had seen with the other spies because he had believed that God was faithful. (Joshua 14:7,10-11)

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of leaving a legacy and Caleb certainly did that. So here’s the part I  didn’t know.  Caleb had three sons and one daughter. We don’t know anything about Caleb’s sons, but we do know some things about the daughter, Achsah.

When it came time for Achsah to marry, Caleb put out a challenge to the men of the region. He offered his daughter in marriage to the first man who would attack and capture the enemy stronghold of Kiriathsepher (Joshua 15:16). Caleb didn’t want his daughter to marry just anyone. He wanted her to marry a brave man-a champion.

Othniel captured the land and Achsah became his wife. But that’s not the end of the story, it’s just the beginning. After the marriage, Achsah persuaded her new husband to ask her father to give them a section of land.  Achsah knew that the land she had been given would need access to water if they were to make it profitable. So, Achsah rode over to her father’s house and when Caleb asked what she wanted, she said, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me the land of the Negev, give me also springs of water.”

Caleb said yes and gave her both the upper and the lower springs. This was a double portion of water, which would assure her success. Caleb wasn’t just agreeing to her request, he was blessing her request with abundance.

Both the request and the gift were unusual in those days. Achsah must have been a brave, strong-willed girl. She had sat at Caleb’s table as a child and listened to the faith stories of his life and knew the goodness of God and the faithfulness of her father.

I can only imagine Achsah riding up on the donkey to her father’s house, as she is thinking about how best to ask her him for the blessing of the springs. And I can also see Caleb standing there watching her, smiling, and knowing she has something on her mind. (I would also guess that he was very proud of her for speaking up and asking him for this blessing.)

Caleb had left a legacy of faith for his daughter and knowledge of who God was and who she was in God’s eyes. Achsah, was able to be bold in her request, because she had caught the faith of Caleb and knew that it wasn’t a faith just for the boys in the family. She knew she could ask for a blessing and fully expected that her father would give it to her.

And he did.

 

 

Purpose Revisited

All blogs have a purpose of some kind. Some function as a journal telling the readers about events both large and small in the writer’s life. Some, have a specific purpose such as, a cooking blog, or a blog about good books to read. Some Blogs are technical and some offer opinions related to current events or issues.

When I started this blog I shared with you that my purpose was to encourage women to be influential. I’v copied a paragraph from that first blog which says:

“This blog is intended to encourage women to think about the ways in which we have influence on those around us, whether its our families, our neighborhoods, our community or our country. We have a role to play. We have influence and we need to give serious thought to the ways in which we can influence those around us for good. We need to think big. We need to believe in ourselves. We need to take action…and we need to do it now.” 

I’ve posted 19 blogs since I first launched this blog. Some of my followers joined me early in this process but several others joined later. I do think its important for readers to know the purpose behind a blog. So, I’m taking this opportunity to bring new followers up to speed with what I hope to accomplish with this blog.

I am very passionate about the issues we face today. I sincerely believe that we all need to take a more active role in addressing those issues. I don’t intend to promote specific actions on these issues but I do want to promote the need to take action. One of the ways I’m taking action is by trying to encourage you, today’s woman, to realize the power of your influence and to encourage you engage that influence.

If you have a real concern about a specific action it is probably something you need do something about.

In the past few days I’ve posted several blogs about women in the Bible. I’ve looked at Ruth, Esther, Jehosheba and and briefly mentioned Bathsheba, Rahab and Tamar. (There will be more about these last three women later). I’ve also posted about women who have lived a life of influence in modern times.

My purpose in posting about women of the Bible so that all of us understand the ways God has used women since the beginning to achieve his purposes. Biblical women weren’t just kept in the background, although that was the cultural expectation. God drew women into the forefront and gave them major leadership roles that were crucial to his plan.

So, if God saw and used the potential of women then, He probably still wants to do that today. When I share about women in modern times, it is intended to encourage you to see how many women there were in history who made important contributions to all facets of society. And to realize that we can make a difference, too.

I’ve always been a firm believer that if someone else could do something, then I probably could too. When a woman finds a cause that needs to be addressed she can accomplish amazing things. So, whatever it is that grabs your heart when you hear about it, you need to stop and think. “I wonder what I could do.”

My blogs will keep coming and I will keep urging you to consider taking action on things you care deeply about. I have a project I am about to start that is a result of these blogs. I’m not quite ready to share what it is with you yet, but hopefully I can do that in a few weeks.