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I learned a lot about manhood from the men I grew up with. From my observations, being a man was all about power and authority. It was about taking charge and getting ahead, staking your claim and then making it happen.

Men, it seemed, were supposed to keep things close to their breast pockets and not let too much in lest they be taken advantage of.

I used to think it was indigenous to my ethnic background, until I was older and discovered that men in other cultures and nationalities modeled similar behavior. It's all about pecking order and dominance, who's going to be in charge and whose opinions carry the most weight. I learned at an unconscious level how to do my best to be in charge and have my way.

The irony of all that male bonding was that very little bonding actually took place in terms of truly connecting to other men. Instead, it seemed we learned how to model the behavior of the most effective guy in the pack. We would then go out and try to find our own crowd to lead--that is, if we had the urge to be leaders.

I learned how to be suspicious, how not to play my hand and how to bury my feelings. But along the way I also lost touch with genuine authenticity and intimacy. I fell for the illusion that I could make it on my own.

I have since learned that not only can we not make it on our own, but to be on our own is to be alone! Someone much wiser than any man or woman made the statement that it was not good for man to be alone, long before man ever had the chance to prove otherwise (see Gen. 2:18).

Lydia and Rosa The birth of rising inflation in our era has forced many families to have two sources of income in order to survive. Over the years the traditional role of women as homemakers and men as their family's sole breadwinner has radically shifted. I can clearly remember even in my growing-up days watching my mom and dad deal with the need for both of them to work.

A challenge of a different sort also emerged: While the economy demanded that both men and women have a place in the work force, women were not considered equal to men. They were not equally compensated for the work they did.

Unfortunately, some who chose to distort truth and keep women under used the Bible to justify their failure to relate to the opposite sex in an equitable way when decisions were made and finances were involved. There was an unspoken rule--at least in the neighborhood in which I grew up--that a woman had to keep her place and that place was in the home.

Certainly there is great merit to having a secure home front and a strong maternal love for the family you are raising. No one can take the place of the nurturing influence of a woman, wife and mother.

Yet I wonder how Lydia, the Philippian entrepreneur involved in the textile industry, would have fared in today's post-modern age of Western civilization. What might she have said about a woman's place? (See Acts 16:11-15.)

I find it intriguing that because of Lydia, Paul was led in the strategy of the Spirit to establish a base of operations for a move of God in the Macedonia region.

This was not the Jewish world of the synagogue, in which the study of the scrolls was for men only. This was a Gentile world in which the rules were different, the culture was different, the climate was different and the opportunities were different. Paul recognized that Lydia was a woman of influence.

There is a great deal of difference between power and influence. Power has little to do with leadership, while influence has everything to do with it.

Even authority has very little to do with leadership. You can lose your authority and still be a leader. You can be denied power and still have influence.

African American Rosa Parks knew she didn't have any authority when she got on the bus that morning just prior to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement and refused to sit in the back. However, she did have influence.

She was the reason the flames of hope burned brightly in the face of the flames of racial discrimination and hatred. Her influence paved the way for Martin Luther King Jr. to speak out against the inequality he saw in this nation.

There is no question that King had a major impact on how we view equality and justice at the end of the 20th century, yet the collaboration of King and Parks changed the outcome exponentially.

The Feminine Voice In many corridors of today's church there are those who still do not know how to resolve the woman issue. Every time I think we are regaining the glory of Paul's declaration that in Christ there is neither male nor female, some voice rises to condemn the place of women in significantly influencing our world.

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