Monday, September 19, 2011


What are you striving for?
By Jennie Allen

“For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 (NKJV)

As depressing as this verse is, I relate. A lot of my striving only seems to make me more tired and empty. Even when I lay down at night after a day full of errands and phone calls and emails, my heart is still not resting. It’s often running more wild in the middle of the night.

Feeling overwhelmed is not new. This verse was written thousands of years ago. Humans strive. We always have. We fill our minutes and days with so many things. But those minutes equal the sum of our lives. What are we spending our minutes on? Will those things last?

God has an assignment for each one of us. He prepared in advance the good works we would do. We are to just simply walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) He doesn’t want us to have more to do. In fact, running around and doing every good thing is not what He wants from us. He is not pleased with random sacrificial service. He is pleased with obedience. It is better to obey than to sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22)

We are busy and some things must be done to live… like laundry and dishes and eating and diapers and so on. But what if we really looked to God for the things He wants us to set inside of our everyday lives, inside of the mundane – the things He has for us to do here that will last forever? The things that He planned for us before He made us? What would He say?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27 (NKJV)

For each one of us obedience will look different, but always begins in His Word.

Today I found this in His Word...

“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Colossians 1:28-29 (NKJV)

A reason to strive. A striving that is birthed by His power and rests in His power, a striving for things that will outlast my few minutes here. I want to build and live and strive for people, for Christ, in the midst of my everyday mundane. I want to strive for His glory, His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Maybe at night when my heart is restless it is because it wants and strives for all the wrong things.

What are you striving for?

Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher who is passionate about inspiring a new generation of women to encounter the invisible God. Raised in a Christian home, Jennie heard about God her entire life but not until high school did she see her need for Him. Since that time she has been teaching groups of girls and young women about her God. Her first Bible study, Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God Who Sets Us Free, will release in October 2011. To sample Stuck, visit For more on Jennie, visit

Monday, September 12, 2011

Unlikely Leaders

While my husband was in seminary, we attended a church in a very wealthy area.  Surprisingly, it had no women’s ministry.  Since I had a rich background of women’s ministry growing up – I consider myself a WMK (Women’s Ministry Kid) as my mom coordinated women’s ministry for over 20 years at our church – I was asked to start one.  I felt inadequate, but God reminded me that He had given me on-the-job training.  For years my mom dragged my sisters and me to women’s events to serve in whatever capacity was needed.  So, I rolled up my sleeves, took a deep breath, and trusted that God had given me this opportunity for a reason.

One advantage I had coming into that church was I didn’t have preconceived ideas about who could do what, what women had which gifts, or what baggage women carried with them.  Instead I was able to observe, asking God to raise up women for the leadership roles we were establishing. 

I’ll never forget the first time I met Pat.  She wasn’t this church’s typical member – wealthy, well dressed, perfectly coiffed, overflowing with social skills and confidence.  Instead, she appeared to be cowering on the sidelines, uncertain about where she fit in.  She was single, quiet, and appeared lonely.  Yet as I got to know her, God allowed me to see something more.

Our first women’s event was planned; it was going to be an overnight retreat to get to know each other.  Our small committee was excited; they had never had a women’s retreat before.  Many of them had never exercised their gifts or even knew they had any.  We were totally dependent on God, daring to ask Him to bring 65 women.  It was a gigantic leap of faith.  When the last registration was counted, exactly 65 women had signed up!  You should have seen the women’s faces when they heard the news.  You would have thought they had just witnessed the parting of the Red Sea!

All throughout the planning, I kept thinking about Pat.  No one knew her, and we had yet to discover her gifts.  God was telling me to pull her into the weekend program somehow.  Pat was an avid reader, so I asked her to present several reviews of the latest Christian books she had read.  At first, she was hesitant.  “You can do it,” I cheered her on.  She eventually said okay.

The weekend finally arrived and the place was brimming with chatter and excitement.  The time came for Pat’s presentation.  It was hilarious and insightful, and she came alive.  Afterwards, Pat was surrounded by women; and throughout the conference this unassuming, quiet woman was glowing with a smile that never left her face.  Now, everyone wanted to be her friend and she suddenly found herself fitting in – I think for the first time in her adult life.  We eventually brought her onto the coordinating team where she continued to grow and blossom.  To watch her transformation was one of my greatest ministry lessons and joys.

I wonder how many Pats are out there under our noses?  Women who will one day make incredible leaders and do great things for God – if only someone will notice.  It’s so easy to gravitate only to women like ourselves, to look for the natural leaders, to look for those who fit the image we have of a leader  women who are polished, look good, or speak well.  I have seen over and over again that some of the best leaders are the unlikely leaders, because they’re the women God chooses.  As women leaders, we need to pray that God will give us His eyes to see the women around us, to trust His choices, and to be willing to take risks with women like Pat.

Years later, Pat became the women’s ministry coordinator of that church.  God had selected her and He had prepared her.  Amazingly, it all started with a couple of book reviews that got Pat off the sidelines and into action.  God had taken Pat’s small step of faith and transformed it into something extraordinary, and an unlikely woman became an influential leader, discovering her gifts and finding her place of service in the church.  

In His service,

Shelly Esser 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Connecting Love and Fear

By Jennie Allen

Last night we were driving home from dinner with some friends. It was late and the houses glowed with lights and stories and lives. I knew each house held people whose existence was somewhat rooted in their little home.

As we drove up to our home, I was gripped with fear. The for-sale sign sat slanted on the edge of our yard. All our roots are feeling a little uprooted lately. We are only moving across town, but with a lot of other simultaneous changes in our life I have that feeling you get when everything is spinning and you can’t put your feet down. It’s a combination of worry, fear and insecurity.

We worry about the things we most love. I spin and I worry about the things that matter most to me.

I value connectedness with my people, building a home and memories for my kids, stability, and neighbors who feel like friends. When all those things feel jeopardized I start spinning inside.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV)

Something about that for-sale sign was a poignant reminder that I am not home and I am not even sure where home is going to be.

And the fears that I feel with that impending reality send me spinning. But those fears – our stuck places – are by their very design reminders of our need for God and our hope for a different home.

God moves into the spaces where everything feels undone and spinning, and he asks us, “Do you trust me? Do you trust me when your life is out of your control? Do you trust me when your husband loses his job? Do you trust me when your child is rebelling? Do you trust me when you are being misunderstood? Do you trust me when you are craving to be married and there is no boy in sight? Do you trust me when I ask you to risk your comfort, your security?”

We won’t be here forever; another kingdom is coming. And when it comes... when He comes, He wants us to be waiting for Him. But many of us will be holding things we value more. Those things we hold and spin over, they are idols. He is jealous for our affection and our trust, and rightly so. He is God, our Creator and our Redeemer. As we worry and spin, and pretend there is no God, He watches us. He sees us doubting His provision and plan.

No one ever told me before I signed up how insane Christianity is. No one told me it would cost me everything. But in surrendering everything, we find freedom.

What things do you love or fear more than God?

Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher who is passionate about inspiring a new generation of women to encounter the invisible God. Raised in a Christian home, Jennie heard about God her entire life but not until high school did she see her need for Him. Since that time she has been teaching groups of girls and young women about her God. Her first Bible study, Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God Who Sets Us Free, will release in October 2011. To sample Stuck, visit For more on Jennie, visit