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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Pastor's Wife and a Dirty Little Secret

I was at a conference a year ago and I met a pastor. We talked about ministry and the subject of women married to pastors came up. He was very quiet as he listened to me talk about the subject. There was a sadness in his eyes and a quietness in his voice as he said, "My wife isn't involved much at the church anymore... I think she was just hurt one to many times." I told him I was sorry that she was hurt, and we talked and I prayed for her later that night.

A few days ago I was at Loews and I ran into some friends. The husband preaches at another church in town, and they are newly married. His wife said it has been interesting (that is code for foreign being a pastor's wife and hard at times) to fit into the pastor's wife "role". We all had a good talk, and the husband thanked me for encouraging her to be strong and to live her faith months ago.

Here we have two women who, in my opinion, represent a pretty healthy group of pastor's wives. You have wives who are involved in ministry and some that aren't. There are various types of involvement, and I think God leads where and when someone should serve. However, I want to caution you about a dirty little secret that we don't always talk about.

Sometimes wives are just busy. They are working a full time job, or meeting various needs that have them for a time serving light at church. Unfortunately, there are some that quit serving all together because someone(s) or something(s) seemed too painful. It was a real I'll take my toys and go home moment for the wife.I would like to say a sympathetic "I feel ya dog" at this juncture. 19 years in wedded bliss and blisters and I understand that sometimes in the body of Christ you don't feel like and eye or a hand, but a bruise that people keep poking. In fact your hiatus may even be in the name of your husband because you can't stand "those people" (those people usually meaning less than five) treating him like that.

So what's the dirty little secret? Sadly, it is that some pastor's wives quit serving their Lord and Savior because they have been hurt. The pastor wife stays away and nurses those hurts, and amazingly church goes on even though others wonder where she is. She is stuck in her hurts and life moves on, except for her. I believe that isn't even the worst secret. Compassionately I say the worst is that she just allowed others to squelch what she was made for (ministry). She is making a choice to say I will base my ministry on the opinion of others.

I know that sounds harsh. People were mean to her and I want her to stay? You know this isn't just pastor's wives. Throughout the years I've seen good people... great people have ministries and at the point that it became rough they fled to either another church or into a nothingness that wrote their time with God somewhere between trying line dancing and taking up a hobby. It is a dirty secret because it is a lie from Satan that stops God's leaders from succeeding.

Look, I am never going to say you have to be abused emotionally, but I am always going to say YOUR MINISTRY IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR! Perhaps these five tips might help you when you feel like opening up the exit door and sliding onto the tarmac and walking away.

1- You are a child of The Most High. Don't you ever for one second think you are any less. When people have gossiped about me, and they have, it has hurt. Mainly, I think, "Who cares?!" I'll tell you what, if they are reaching the lost, and loving everyone (including me) like they should then perhaps I should worry. Until then there is only one I need to please; my Father in heaven. His agenda is usually met with question marks and concern by those who are not able to understand that God's boundaries have no end. For a time my husband felt led to have a worship time at night in a bar for college kids. People were saved and those who came from that type of lifestyle were excited to be a part. Imagine my surprise when I went to a local coffee house and heard two strangers at a table next to me saying, "I get what he wants to do but church in a bar... he has gone too far!" These men didn't go to my church. I said, "I don't know it isn't so bad." They replied. Really... why?" I said, "Well Jesus went to places like a tax collector's home and a well shared by Samaritans (woman even) to share the love of God. But if you want to know more you should really ask my husband... he is THE PASTOR OF THAT CHURCH (smile)." They turned pale and left. There is more to that "funny now" story, but the bottom line is this WE ARE HERE TO PLEASE GOD ... PERIOD! Are you ministering? Good! Then keep it up, it is not for man but God to lead.

 2- The old saying is true, "WE ARE ONE GENERATION AWAY FROM CHRISTIANITY BECOMING EXTINCT IF WE DO NOT SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST." What is one more soul anyway? I mean you've done your part and no one said thank you. Besides, what and who does baby watching, toilet cleaning, and all day 'Sundaying' really help? Everyone else is busy. Hey you are busy! So, let someone else do it! You are done being thanklessly taken for granted! Gently I say it isn't just baby watching! It is loving on a family by allowing new parents to be still for 45 minutes and really hear from God. It is potentially rewriting a child's future through 1 hour of service. It isn't just toilet cleaning. It is making sure God's house says HELLO and not WHO CARES SO WHY SHOULD YOU to new visitors. And it isn't all day 'Sundaying'. It is a personal stand for Christ that says, "for me and my house, we will serve the Lord     (Joshua 24:15)." And by the way God doesn't rely on you he replies through you. What is one more soul anyway? ANSWER: Everything to that one more soul.

3- VISION IS DANGEROUS. You aren't there to please others. I know that sounds crazy and yes "a gentle answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1)." So I'm not saying up their nose with a rubber hose. I am saying faith is personal. My experience is ten times out of ten God will ask more of you than you can do yourself. When people tell me crazy stuff like I want to start a ministry for dog owners who make their own dog snacks. I try really hard not to process their Holy Spirit moment through my own filter. My filter says, "That will never work." But God's filter says, "I am already working through that person to whom I gave the vision." Don't let anyone steal or make fun of where God is leading.

4- PRAY HARD because Big Girl Panties are better than diapers :)- "For God has not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, and of love, and of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7)." How many friends do you speak with from High School? Probably the answer is some to none. You don't base your life on the head cheerleader's thoughts anymore so why continue pleasing people in your present life if it means not pleasing God? Who are your life long friends? I have a lot of close friends. By a lot of life long friends I mean a handful plus a few more. These are friends I have met at various places and stages of my life. Why are they super close? They are my prayer warrior sisters in Christ. They have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and still call me friend (and I them). Big girl panties are meant for those who try. They are for those who understand that God has given them a spirit of power through him, and just as powerful love and the self control it takes to be strong even when it is hard. It is about seeing it through. Diapers are for those who make a mess and expect others to clean it up. Never allow yourself to be reduced in your ministry by anyone; especially those wearing spiritual diapers. My friends help me in times of my greatest needs. Sometimes I don't even feel I can go on but I know I should. Prayers put the power back into the hands of God. You need someone/ many praying for you. Make sure you bathe your life in prayer. It makes the phrase "nothing is impossible with God" possible.

5- Bottom Line, YOU MATTER! You are special, loved by God, washed in the blood of forgiveness through Christ's redeeming act of dying on the cross for your sin and rising again. He made a way where there seemed to be no way for you AND HE STILL DOES. He never promised that it would always be easy, but always promises to ease what is going on by having you take his yoke upon you (Matthew 20:11). GIRL! Why would you ever give anyone the power (including yourself) to exclude you from a life lived for God? And I hate to brake it to you, but ministry isn't just ministry. It is a spiritual act of worship that without it takes our love for Christ and reduces us to words. If you told your loved ones for one month you loved them, but didn't hug them or help them, what would they say about that love? You matter! A big part of who we are should always be a daily walk with God in every way. Let go and let God fully impact you even when "those mean people" hurt your feelings. You'll find when you make God's will a priority, other things just don't seem to phase you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you." (NASB)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When Tragedy Strikes

The town of Bastrop is about 50 miles from my house. Texas has had severe weather this summer. We have had over 50 plus days of temperatures in the 100's with no real rain (maybe a ten minute shower twice all summer).  Dry isn't even the word I would use. Even some of the cactus and the palm trees have turned brown in the weather. The lack of storms became the perfect storm for the fires that have broken out.

This is not the only fire. Additional fires in two other nearby towns also destroyed over 200 homes. Bastrop has over 500 homes destroyed with 5,000 people displaced at this time. Also, my friend who lives in The Woodlands (a town near Houston 100's of miles away) is also dealing with fire near her home. My 10 year old son asked me yesterday from the back seat of the car if I thought the fires would come to San Marcos? I told him I didn't think so, but even if they did we would make sure everyone in our family was safe. I said our family's safety was the most important thing.

 I don't know if you have ever had a tragedy in your life. I have. Some tragedies stem from natural occurrences. Some are man made, and they range from fire to horrific moments that make one rebuild  life in one way or another. When people have tragedies I believe there are three specific things we should do to help.

The first is pray. Who does not have all the answers?... that would be me. I've said it before but please allow me to say it one more time... welcome to this ain't heaven... population the human race. Our imperfection sees something like the fires and the hopelessness and it makes us overwhelmed. So take your burdens and prayer requests to God. And PLEASE don't pray a wimpy prayer like,  "well God if you could see fit make this a little better, please help anyway you can... uh amen... I hope." When I had tragedy strike, it struck without warning. My prayers were in the aftermath. My need was great at that point and I yearned to have God lead me out of a very dark place. Pray for the person in a tragedy. Those fervent prayers (for me) took a while. People in need - need prayers from you on their behalf because they frankly may not have the strength to pray with the conviction they should.

The second thing we can do is to be sympathetic. Job's friends had total "street cred" when for three long days they just sat with their friend... and then they opened their mouth! They said all sorts of stupid things which mainly posed the question, "What did you do Job to deserve this?" Hey guess what not in heaven people? Sometimes bad stuff just happens to everyday folks. In addition, yes, all things do work to the glory of God for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. It is just that after a tragedy someone has not walked out the other side to see that glory yet. A friend of mine said that after the death of his son, someone asked him a month later if he was finished grieving yet?! What do you say to such stupidity? Last month my brakes needed to be replaced. 300 dollars later I was on the road... until the next day when my 500 dollar fuel pump also had to be replaced. I must have looked upset because the man across from me at the repair shop said, "Don't look so sad. I always realize there is someone else who is always worse off than I am." I thought, "Yes and you are looking at her." :)  He was right. I got my car fixed and drove back to my home. Yet, in times of great tragedy a hug, or listening to or sitting with someone are much more important than an answer. If you do have to say something I believe the most powerful thing you can say is, "I'm sorry you are going through this, and I am here for you." Listening and sympathy help people on a road to recovery.

The final thing you can do is act. Today a friend of mine from church sent out a text that a lady and her ten month old need clothes. Her home was destroyed in the fire. Christians need to ask, "what can I do?" When the 9-11 tragedy hit, I did not go to New York. I did give blood. I did send money to the Red Cross. When Katrina hit, Bay Area Fellowship flew bottled water to New Orleans. When my friend had cancer, I picked her children up from school for a while. Needs can be overwhelming. You are not a messiah, but you are called by the Messiah to be a light. Ask God what to do, and the Holy Spirit will be happy to guide you toward how you can make a difference. I believe folks see God through our kindness.

Be a bridge in helping someone walk from hopelessness to healing by serving God through your compassion.  

Micha 6:8 "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.