Beliefnet
Almost three decades ago, I was an unknown preacher in West Virginia, serving God in a storefront church, where my wife and I acted as pastors, worship leaders, counselors and janitors. We wanted to serve God regardless of our circumstances. The church did not seem to be flourishing; however, we knew that we had to give God all that we had in face of adversity.

This is the walk of faith that most Christians have to face these days; yet, back in West Virginia, it was not that easy - as it often is not now. Time and again, I would hear women's plaintive confessions of mistreatment, addictions and self-hate. Stirred by their emotional bondage, I would seek the Lord and begin to teach about dealing with those issues. Eventually, I made this into a series that was taught during Sunday school. This was the inception of "Woman, Thou Art Loosed!" Now, my wife and I are part of a chain of events ignited from this lesson, which has yet to peak.

"Woman, Thou Art Loosed!" became a series, then a seminar that quickly outgrew the church. Later, I felt inspired to pen the thoughts I received in my prayer closet into a self-published book with the same name. Today, it has sold over two million copies. Obviously, this was an issue that God needed to tap into-- strategically and carefully. To this day, we still have the same common goal - outreach to women so that they can release themselves from the chains that bind them and reach for the ideas that inspire them.

At the next "Woman, Thou Art Loosed!" conference, another stadium will be packed with thousands of women gathered for a common goal - to reach out to a loving God and restore their lives in His grace. These women come from different backgrounds, races, creeds and colors, and a large portion of them are middle-aged.

During this moment in a woman's life, decisions need to be made. The most important is: does life begin or end at this point? Do I see a sunset looking bleak on the horizon, or a sunrise full of new chances and opportunities? This phase in life will affect any person, whether they warm a pew or an office chair. As our walk of faith lengthens into years, we must set our face like a flint and determine that just because we are getting older, does not mean we are not getting better. Valleys still need to be crossed and peaks still need to be climbed, despite gray hairs, wrinkles or even age.

At 44, I am nearing that mountaintop of middle age. I choose not to believe the sweeping indictment that it's all downhill from here, and I surely do not think that middle-aged women should, either.

Many women have accomplished their greatest achievements later in life. Perhaps the most famous story of this era is of Anna Mary Robertson, otherwise known as "Grandma Moses." She was an American primitive painter who, at the age of76, without ever having had an art lesson, began painting realistic scenes of rural life that were critically acclaimed and made her famous. She lived 101 years and created 1,600 masterpieces. In 1869, Susan B. Anthony and her friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founded the National Women's Suffrage Association. They would be instrumental in passing the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. They were 49 and 54 years old, respectively.

Most historians date the beginning of the modern American civil rights movement to December 1, 1955. That was the day when an unknown seamstress in Montgomery, Ala., refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This brave woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but her lonely act of defiance began a movement that ended legal segregation in America and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere. She was 41 years old. Mary McCloud Bethune was the 15th of 17 children, born on a rice and cotton farm in South Carolina. Despite this menial beginning, she became fully active in politics: shortly after women were given the right to vote, Bethune, a teacher, helped 100 black people pass the literacy test to vote. Eventually, she would use her influence through the National Urban League and other organizations to establish the National Council of Negro Women, the chief foundation to help black women achieve a full life with all the rights that God intended them to have. Upon this culmination, she was 55.

In a book called "The Age Of Success", there is a quote that would chime clearly to women. "By the time a man notices that he is no longer young, his youth has long since left him." Youth will leave your mortal soul when you allow it to. [Not sure I understand: Nothing can escape you just because you found a gray hair or you discovered an obvious wrinkle.] The Bible declares in Psalms 39:5, "Behold, thou hast made my days [as] an handbreadth; and mine age [is] as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state [is] altogether vanity." Time is nothing to God's eternity, much less our share of time. Therefore, if this is true, then why not maximize the moments that God has granted you to have. The first half of your life, you climbed one mountain to solely begin a voyage up another summit, and that one you will conquer as well.

None of these pillars of female history would have ever accomplished anything if they only believed the image reflected in the mirror was who they really were. These matriarchs of our society understood that they were loosed to greatness based upon a reflection that they did not have. They sped off to reach for their destiny like a prize-winning lot of thoroughbreds en route to history. They were loosed like a ship launched from shore on its maiden voyage into the horizon. Ultimately, they should be encouraged to grasp hold of the reigns of another sunrise and vibrantly live, braving to look at the dawn of a new day.
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