Saturday, March 25, 2017

Remaining Teachable

I do love to learn new things and stretch myself, and I know how important it is to choose to remain teachable in life. Being teachable means that there will be ups and downs - because I don't know it all. I am naturally curious, and I particularly love to understand how things work. But, I do have my limits. There are moments and times when try as I might I just don’t "get it," and I've come to terms with that reality. The conclusion: I'll just ask the expert if needed! 

We may be intrigued with the idea of learning new things, but not think it’s worth the time, effort or money to take a class, enjoy a seminar or even consider the possibility of attending a conference just for fun! Who really has the brain power, after keeping up with the basic week’s calendar of activities, to actually enjoy learning something new? And, if we did get ourselves to a class or seminar what’s the probability that we could even stay awake. Ahhh…but that’s what lattes are for, my friend!

My challenge this week is to get you to start dreaming. 

  • What interests you - cooking, gardening, writing, photography? 
  • Would you rather attend something related to work or to your outside interests? 
  • Online or on-sight?  
  • Do you have access to any continuing education funds? 

How can you keep your mind growing, your interactions with others stretched a bit and your life a humble work in progress? What does God have around the corner for you? When is the last time you dared to dream about the future – or just get a good, solid dose of encouragement for the now?

Take time to ask God how teachable you are? It may just be in your relationships. It may be more academic. The point is, are you growing? Are you getting fed?

...and most importantly, are you growing in your knowledge of the Lord? Here are some great verses that help to remind me to stay teachable and to trust God’s timing in life. I trust that you will find some encouragement in the challenges He gives us to become wise in Godly things and to work hard at having a humble – and teachable – heart!

Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 9:9 – “Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.”

Proverbs 13:18 – “Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.”

Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Wherever you are headed in life right now, ask God to help you to remain teachable and sensitive to His Spirit at work in your mind and heart.

...and if you think you might want to try an online or onsight conference this year, here’s a few I’ve attended or have dreamed of attending. Perhaps one of them might intrigue you – for now or in the future. One is even online and accessible with the click of a mouse!

Just One
Online Conference @ http://leadingandlovingit.com/equip/justone
This is a free 10-day conference for pastors' wives and women in ministry that features a variety of speakers and topics - and it is currently on Day 5 in this cycle! You can view it by email or app, anytime and anywhere! After the conference is over, you can access all the video clips from the current year for leadership training or personal encouragement. Plus, past years are accessible now at http://leadingandlovingit.com/equip/resources/other-resources
A ministry of Leading & Loving It
(This online resource I have enjoyed for several years - including this year!)

She Speaks
Annual Speaker/Writer Conference @ http://shespeaksconference.com
Held near Charlotte, North Carolina, each July.
This year it will be held from July 20-22 which is a Thursday-Saturday.
Note: More pricey than most ministry-related conferences, but worth the money if you’re headed into a possible future of writing or speaking.
A ministry of Proverbs 31
(This conference I attended about 3-4 years ago. I highly recommend it as well.)

Just Between Us
Conference for Pastors’ Wife and Women in Ministry
Monday-Wednesday, October 3-5, 2017
Held this year at a camp/conference center near Waukesha, Wisconsin
https://www.forestsprings.us/events/specialty-retreats/just-between-us-womens-conference
A ministry associated with Jill Briscoe
(This conference I've dreamed of attending for years, but my schedule never matched up with there's. I'm still hopeful as I love their ministry!)

Re:Treat 2017
An annual conference for Pastors’ Wives and Women in Ministry
It is held mid-week. This year from October 24-26 in Las Vegas (well, actually it’s held at a church in Henderson, Nevada) 
http://leadingandlovingit.com/connect/retreat
(This is a fairly new conference, and I keep watching the dates. I'm hopeful to possibly attend this year!)




Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bright Ideas

Have you ever had a bright idea that you shared with a friend or with your husband that just didn’t seem to get the reaction you were hoping for? I sure have, and it is a true let down. How could that awesome idea have landed so flat? Did I just not explain it well? Did they even hear what I said?

What is even more confusing – and sometimes infuriating – is when someone else shares that very same idea a few weeks later and it is received with excitement and accolades. Inside you hear that little voice saying “Why do they get the credit and not me?” It is a strange phenomenon that most of us have experienced from time to time.

So, what made the difference?
  • Perhaps, it was just the timing of the conversation.
  • Perhaps, the days or weeks between the idea sharing allowed some pondering to take place.
  • Perhaps, they really didn’t hear your idea – or really listen to it – because they were distracted, tired or just weren’t ready to process any more information at that time.

After you get over the initial disappointment of being looked over and underappreciated, there is a great silver lining that I don’t want you to miss. Yep! The exciting thing is that your husband (friend or coworker) has finally ‘seen the light’ and has embraced your idea – even if you don’t get the credit for it. After all, does it really matter whose idea it was? The point is – if you had a good idea and it is now being acted on – it’s a win for all involved!

When I learned this principle in life, I was able to let go of my personal disappointment (in not being heard) and jump on board with the plan. My team player mindset increased and that sneaky pest of pride was squelched before it blew things out of proportion. I was able to embrace humility and appreciate God’s timing and plan.
  • It is sweet when I feel heard.
  • It is refreshing when I feel appreciated.
  • It is rewarding when my ideas are acknowledged.

But, that isn't always reality.

What is scary to face is that when I have an idea that I am excited to share with others, I have no preconceived dreams of any praise that I may receive. I’m just excited about the idea - a possible solution to a problem. However, when I’m not heard or acknowledged, I can struggle with my emotions. Getting my "flesh" to get in line with my spirit takes a few minutes of contemplation and a reminder of the truths found in Philippians 2:3-4 which challenges us all to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” That says it all.

My idea, your idea, it really doesn’t matter. If it really is a good idea, it is very likely God’s idea...and He deserves all the praise!




Saturday, March 11, 2017

In Fear & Faith We Walk On

As with many well laid plans, a schedule kink rose to the surface when I was asked to serve as a substitute teacher one Sunday morning. I hesitated at first – and internally grumbled just a bit wondering why they didn’t think to ask me sooner. I now only had 48 hours to prepare! After a few moments, I was able to adjust my attitude and look at things from a totally different perspective.

How?

I saw God’s hand in the timing of things. I was free to teach that Sunday, and God had already given me a great lesson to share. Gideon! I’ll walk through the story of Gideon with the students!

Just that week some dear friends had named their baby boy, Gideon. Intrigued with the details surrounding the Biblical account of Gideon, I wanted a quick refresher of all the details. As I read Judges 6-7, the roller coaster ride of Gideon’s faith emerged before me. His story is filled with the fragile nature of our spiritual lives: self-doubt and fear, conformity and sin, faith and obedience.

I know that there are some that question the faith of Gideon and others that are extremely cautious of the 'fleece mentality' that can be carelessly exercised over trivial things. The children’s Sunday School version of Gideon usually focuses on the fleece story and sometimes stretches over to the water test. The part that usually is not taught to children is the story of the idols – the tearing down and the worshiping of. Gideon had shining moments in his obedience to God in destroying the idols, but later - likely unintentionally - he was linked to his community getting caught back up into idol worship. (see Judges 8)

It is easy to want to criticize Gideon for his weaker moments. But, isn’t that the story of the Israelites as they wandered in the desert and worked their way to the Promised Land? Isn’t that, all too often, the story of our lives as well?

The cycle of sin is common to all believers. We sin, we repent, we live in obedience, and then eventually we sin again. The obvious goal is to come to repentance quicker and quicker and to live longer and longer in the period of obedience. Ah, yes. That is the goal! Some days and weeks we do better at reaching that goal and living in a land of peace. (Judges 8:28)

Regardless of where we may find ourselves in this cycle of sin, repentance and obedience, we have only to call out to God – in fear or with faith – and ask Him for guidance and grace. Gideon had a much bigger foe to battle than I did this week. I simply needed to teach a Sunday School lesson and serve with a joyful heart. I’m grateful for God’s guiding presence in the big and little things that come my way. How about you?

  • Are you walking in fear or in faith? 
  • Is God asking you to do something that isn't in your timetable?
  • Are you not so sure you want to follow through on where God has asked you to go? 
  • What blessings are just around the corner for you and those you will lead into a deeper faith? 
  • What miracles is God asking you to be a part of?

Freedom from sin and doubt are available for each of us today. An obedient lifestyle is ours for the taking, but we must continue to walk on in faith - putting fear behind us.





Sunday, March 5, 2017

Blessings in Disguise!

In ministry, much time and energy is spent building relationships in our church and in our community. Over time, barriers are broken and we start feeling like we have been accepted and totally fit in. A sense of community and new friendships are sweet!

Given a bit more time, ministry transplants eventually have to come to terms with the fact that they are still "outsiders" - no matter how long they have served in a church. The old saying that "blood is thicker than water" rises to the surface. It is in those moments that a missionary mindset must balance the sense of loss. We are called to love and serve a group of people, but in most cases we do come from a different "culture" and have hopefully been accepted and loved at one level or another.

It's easy to be saddened when you realize that you weren't invited to a birthday party, baby shower, craft show or girl's weekend away. After the initial pain and disappointment eases, however, I have often come face to face with the blessing God gave me in not being invited! The weekend getaway ended up including the girls giving into the temptation to bar hop - 'just to see what it is like.' The craft fair ended up being full of drama between vendors and guests. Hearing these types of stories - after the fact - I thank God for protecting me. I have enough drama in life and ministry!

If you struggle with rejection or feeling left out, there is a great book you might want to read. At first, I was put off by the title, but I agreed to walk through it with a friend. I'm so glad I checked it out. It has made for a great springboard toward thoughtful discussion and helped both of us to put our sometimes fickle emotions in check. What's the book? "Uninvited" by Lysa Terkeurst. Here's a taste to tempt you to take this journey in trusting God to walk before you each day.

"Imagine how differently you might approach each day by simply stating: God is good. God is good to me. God is good at being God. And today is yet another page in our great love story...I lay down my need to understand why things happen the way they do. I lay down my fears about others walking away and taking their love with them. I lay down my desire to prove my worth. I lay down my resistance to fully trust Your thoughts, Your ways, and Your plans, Lord." (Lysa)

Are you ready to see what God is up to behind the scenes of your life? The leap of faith is worth it because He loves you and wants the best for you each and every day!




Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sitting Single

It is not uncommon to sneak a quick kiss from “my pastor” on Sundays morning before the service begins, but one of our church members is not quite sure what to think about these displays of affection. What really caught him off guard the other day was seeing us sit together during the worship hour. Whoa! Then came the question in all its sincerity, “Is it ‘date night’ at church this morning or are you guys having marriage issues?”

What caused all this curiosity and commotion?

I simply sat with my husband during the worship hour and it caught this young man’s attention. I’ll admit this sight is a rarity, but it is definitely a sweet treat for both of us when we can make it happen!

My husband and I seldom sit together at church. It’s just a fact, and apparently others have noticed that as well. What’s interesting for me to consider is that I’ve never actually known what it is like to go to church with my husband – at least at our church. We do live like many ‘normal’ families when we take a Sunday off or visit out-of-town family. When we have these opportunities, we drive to church together and even sit side-by-side. It’s a bit of a novelty, but we definitely enjoy each other’s company on those rare occasions.

Regardless of whether or not your husband is on staff or is the lead pastor at your church, you can likely relate to operating like a single parent or an unattached woman on Sunday mornings or at other church events. Typically, the pastor needs to arrive a bit early and stay late for services and activities. Whether or not it is feasible to drive separately may be a factor in what your Sunday reality looks like as well. Or, perhaps you just walk across the yard to enter the church doors! Then there are countless ways the parenting aspect of ministry marriages can play out during a worship hour or in getting the kids ushered to their various classrooms. Learning how to tag team is key in all marriages and at all stages of ministry life.

You may be at peace with the rhythm and pace you’ve figured out for your particular Sunday morning routine. Or, you may be struggling with a sense of overwhelming responsibility to keep it all together – on your own each week. Both scenarios are worth looking at to make sure that things are as healthy as they can be during this particular season of life. Kids can bring challenges. Aging parents can add an extra element of care and activity to our calendars. Ministry commitments also ebb and flow throughout the year – each putting a strain on our overburdened schedules. Taking time to consider the health of your normal Sunday routine is wise and worth the attention from time to time.

Are there any improvements that could be made to keep you connected as a family on Sunday mornings?
Or, is it simply time to shake up the normal routine - if the timing to do so is right for both of you? However you figure out how to ‘make it work’ in your home and ministry, teamwork is essential, and a little kiss on the cheek doesn’t hurt a thing either!

“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18





Saturday, February 18, 2017

Twelve Hours Before

What happens at your house the twelve hours before the alarm goes off on Sunday morning?

We learned many years ago that a calm Saturday evening was crucial for our Sundays to go smoothly. Sundays are so full of activity and people that it is necessary for my husband to have a ‘people free’ zone on Saturday evenings if at all possible. It just makes Sundays go smoother.

For years, the hardest part about 'the twelve hours before' for me was making sure I knew where all my kid’s clothes and shoes were. Why one shoe always seemed to go missing on Saturday is still a mystery! But, searching the house for that wandering shoe on Saturday evening was a lot less stressful than frantically tearing the house apart on Sunday morning.

In recent years, I have come to terms with the fact that Saturday nights are often ‘work nights’ for me. The last minute powerpoint details are double checked and fine-tuned for the sermon. Church-related mail that arrived over the weekend is put in a pile to either put in the church office or deliver to someone in the morning. I make out our offering check and add that to the growing pile. When those details are taken care of the only things left are 

1) What’s for lunch tomorrow? 

and 

2) Is my Sunday School lesson ready?

I’m not proud of it, but I often find myself putting together my Sunday School lesson on Saturday night. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it on and off all week. But the procrastination must now cease, and all the ideas that have been swirling through my head must be pulled together into an organized lesson. 

It is always a blessing when the class is working through a particular theme and there is a carryover from the prior week’s material. It's when the series is done that a new set of challenges begins. I often don’t know which topic to turn to next. Eventually, a bright idea comes bubbling to the surface bringing a surge of new ideas. The hunt is then on for relevant – and Biblical – material to share with the class. Props are gathered from around the house. Pictures, handouts or mini-quizzes are printed. The excitement mounts at the prospect of sharing with the class in just a few hours! I don’t deserve God’s continued grace in this area of my life, but I am truly thankful for it!

Ephesians 5:15 encourages us to “Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” The context is in our daily choices toward sin and ultimately living to please God. Am I always wise with my time? No. I miss opportunities. I don’t always make wise choices – procrastination being one of those not so wise moments in life. In the midst of my humanity, though, my goal is to make ‘the most of every opportunity.’ Making that a reality is the challenge and that’s okay. It’s part of the journey.

So, what is your challenge the twelve hours before your alarm goes off? Is it getting a good night’s sleep? Is it making snacks for Sunday School or figuring out what you have in the freezer that could be Sunday’s lunch? Do you procrastinate like me in preparing for a class – whether a teacher or a student? Or, are you constantly on a search for clothes that are clean, aren’t too tight and you actually feel like wearing? It’s actually pretty humorous to think about all we often do to ‘prepare for church.’ My advice – keep it as simple as possible. Watch out for the challenge areas where Satan would like to trip you up and create stress in your home and heart.

Take heed of Paul’s advice in Ephesians 5:15 and ‘Be very careful, then, how you live.’ Take a moment to consider what you can do to simplify your Saturday nights to help your Sundays be a more joyful and stress-free experience. I have a feeling your pastor will thank you, and you’ll be blessed as well!





Saturday, February 11, 2017

Can I Help You?

We’ve all asked this question of others, but how do we respond to that question when the tables are turned? I have to admit that most days I’m pretty quick to say “No, thank you.” My response quickly changes, however, the moment I feel a precarious grocery bag preparing to send my produce plummeting to the ground. The simple offer of an extra hand brings a sigh of relief, and I quickly accept the offered help.

How about you?  Do you send a message of “I’ve got this” to others? What impression does that response make on those who offer their caring assistance? Does this reaction mean that we’re too independent or prideful? Or, do we simply not want to bother others with our not-so-well-thought-out challenges in life? Is showing kindness to others easier than receiving those same blessings in return?

Helping others. It seems a pretty basic topic, but when digging deeper into the how’s and why’s that we help others it can get complicated pretty quickly. It began way back in time. As in, back in the beginning. When God created Eve, he created an amazing creature. One who was actually created to help the man. Here’s a peek at several translations of Genesis 2:18.

“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” NIV

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” ESV

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.” ASV

“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” NKJV

In a world full of people trying desperately to figure out their value and purpose in life, I find the concept that we, as women, were created to be helpers amazing! Yes, Adam needed Eve to be able to ‘multiply,’ but I think it goes way beyond that. Plus, the Bible teaches clearly in Galatians 3:28 that we are all equal in God’s sight, so my thoughts don’t even go down that side trail. Instead, I soak in the reality that I was created to help my husband, and it is okay to find satisfaction in partnering with him in life.

To the world, that concept is strange and reeks of subservience. Even in the Christian community there is a hush that comes into a conversation if the subject of being a 'helper' is spoken out loud. Often the response is charged with an attitude or harsh laughter as the woman retorts with “He can get his own food, why do I have to do that for him? After all, I work all day too.” Or, “He’s got two feet. He can get his own (fill in the blank).” My internal response to these outbursts is this – “Why does the idea of helping our husbands quickly deteriorate into the idea that we then become a household servant?” Is that what God intended when he made a ‘helper’ for man? I think not.

There are so many ways that we can help our husbands in and through life. Each couple has different personalities and preferences as well as daily demands that drain their time and energy. I would guess that there are no two marriage partnerships that operate exactly the same. The variables between individuals are just too great. The things I do to help my husband may look nothing like the things that you do to bless your husband. And that is ok. It's actually exciting to think about!

For one, helping may mean taking time out to pray for, or with, your husband. It might mean that you prepare the communion elements. It could be to simply care for your kids and create a non-stressful home environment (possibly the biggest self-sacrifice of them all!). For another, helping may mean a homemade meal or to take out the garbage. In another marriage, helping may mean driving your husband home from work or co-leading and teaching a classs or seminar. The options and opportunities to help our husbands (and others) are endless. We must continually steer clear of comparisons. We must put a halt on getting stuck in the quagmire of preconceived notions that dictate what is the right way to do things. We must instead seek the best way that we can work together to build each other up and to be a witness of God’s love to our children, our families and our churches.

Once we know where we are headed as a couple and what works in our particular marriage, there is another question to ponder. Are we the kind of companion, friend, lover and partner that is spoken about in Proverbs 31:11? “Her husband has full confidence in her.” Does your husband have confidence in you? Are you faithful? Are you self-sacrificial? Are you loving? Are you honest? Are you gentle? Are you dependable? 

Bottom line: Are you helping or hindering your husband in life and in ministry? It’s a valid, and tough, question to honestly ask ourselves, our spouse and our God.

The answer - it will be ‘helpful’ to you both!