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!


Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Triangle

It has three points. It is one of the first shapes we learn to recognize. Triangles are one of the easiest musical instruments to play. Geometry unlocks the mysterious angles and formulas of triangles while Driver’s Ed class trains our eye to see this three-sided shape as a yield sign. Triangles may seem innocent enough, but they can really be quite dangerous!

Have you ever gotten caught up in a triangle between you, your child and “their father”?

or…

Have you been caught in triangle between you, someone in your church family and “the pastor”?

Both scenarios can be quite dangerous and yet filled with good intentions. The hardest part of any communication triangle is figuring out if it is actually an effective way to share information between three people or if it is simply a manipulative tactic that you are being drawn into. Trying to discern the motives of others is usually a very slippery slope. In time, and with prayer, it will become obvious if the ‘well-intentioned’ individual is truly well intentioned.

There are times when we believe that we are being ‘invited’ into a triangulated conversation that we need to just listen and value the person’s comments, but then just stop there. There are other circumstances when it is wise to direct the individual to the third point of contact in the triangle – the actual individual who needs the information. And, there are times when it is wise and appropriate to share the information with the third party – whether to give them “a heads up” of what may be coming down the road (if the person has the courage to speak to them directly) or simply to pass on a message.

Not all triangulation is manipulative. Often it is just the result of convenience or a lack of self-confidence.

In a parenting setting, teamwork between mom and dad is essential. Learning to recognize when a child is playing a parent against the other is typically best learned by trial and error. Honest communication between mom and dad is key to help each other stay on top of the situation and allows both parents to react with grace, direction and as a team. It doesn’t take long for the child to figure out that mom and dad can’t be fooled. They are a team and they can’t be played against each other.

In a church setting, teamwork is also key. Knowing when to simply pass on a message to my husband is essential, because sometimes it is much wiser to encourage the individual to go directly to him. For many pastors’ wives it is not uncommon to work in the church office or to oversee a church ministry. In those cases, a triangle often happens and it can be a very healthy form of sharing communication. However, it is so important to always keep an eye – and ear – out to sense when it is time to step out of a healthy triangle before it becomes unhealthy. It is in those times when you have to commit to trusting your husband, your pastor. He can handle it, and if not he may just ask for your input - at a later time.

The point is that we can be tremendous assets and advocates in situations, but it is so important to know when to excuse ourselves from the conversation. Psalm 34:14 teaches us that we should “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Our goal is to respect our husbands and to respect others. To pursue peace can take great wisdom and constraint. Psalm 141:3 is a great prayer to embrace when we find ourselves overwhelmed with information or suspicious triangles. It says, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

If you’re like me there are times when we know too much. People talk. We hear things, but we don’t necessarily know what is the truth. There are also those times when I don’t know enough, but just enough to jump to the wrong conclusion. The easy way out is just to ‘dump and run.’ I may feel better by sharing whatever I’ve heard with my husband so that I can clear my brain, but often times it would be much wiser for me to ask God to guard my mouth and watch over the door of my lips. I need to pray, redirect and seek wisdom from God. Then, if the situation warrants it – and I sense that I should share a critical piece of information with my husband - I still need to consider the timing of that conversation.

So, the next time you are tempted to get caught up in a not-so-healthy triangle, take time to breathe and consider the words of James 3:17, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” God will guide you if you ask for help, and trust Him to guide your words in the days ahead.

Dear Heavenly Father, 
May our words be sweet to your ears and to that of our husbands. May we trust you to guide us, to sense your presence and to recognize situations that are not where you would like us to go. May we be kind to others who may try to take the easy route to solve a problem through us or behind our husband's back. May we have the courage to gently redirect those on to the right path. May you give us discerning hearts and guard our hearts and minds from quickly making assumptions of others. May we seek peace in our homes, in our relationships with others and in our churches. Thank you, God, for knowing each of our hearts and helping us all to be able to work together, with your help, and for your glory. Amen






Saturday, January 28, 2017

Simply Smile

Sometimes all our husbands need from us is a smile. It can really be just that simple.

In the early years of ministry there were times when I would ask my husband, “Do you want me to come today?” Typically, the event I was referring to would have been a funeral service, a wedding or a community event where he would be speaking. It was not uncommon for him to say, “Yes, at least there will be one smiling face in the crowd.” He wasn’t necessarily referring to a tough crowd or angry mob, but more to the support that he could find in the smile of someone who believed in him and who he knew would be praying for him.

Unexpected changes to my schedule in the early years were very challenging. We had three under the age of five. A change in plans meant that I went into “mommy mode” big time getting myself ready - as well as the girls. In the scramble to keep to my new schedule I had to find the missing coat, stash snacks in the diaper bag, grab some ‘quiet toys,’ make sure I had a few extra diapers, take care of the dog, find the shoe (that I swear was secured to a wiggly foot just seconds ago) and then hope that there was enough gas in my car to get to where I was going – because nine times out of ten I was driving separately. Have you lived that scramble in life?

Even to this day, switching up my schedule can create a bit of havoc. It’s not as hard to adapt at a moment’s notice, but it also is not always a simple process. Each stage of life has its own demands and challenges and there are always lots of moving parts to get me to where I need to go. The dynamics of each situation just change from season to season.

So, why bother trying to please my husband in this way? 

The  better question: Why not? 

By being present - whether he asks me to be or not - I have a great opportunity to show him my love and feed the spirit of unity in our marriage. It is also a great way to stunt the enemy’s attempts to distract my husband with any doubts or insecurities he may be facing. After all, we all tend to rise to the occasion a bit higher and quicker when we have someone cheering us on. What a great way to share in the partnership of ministry together by simply offering a smile, the ministry of presence and a heartfelt prayer.

After all, Solomon teaches us that “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” I want to be a source of warmth in my husband’s life. I want to help him do his best and encourage him along the way. I want to be his helper, his friend and his loyal companion. I want to be his wife and his partner in ministry. I want to share life together and to do so in the power and love of our Savior.

Simply sharing a smile can be one of the sweetest gifts to give. That, and a partnership with our Savior!

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

When is the last time that you went out of your way to simply share a smile, a prayer and the ministry of presence with your husband?





Scripture taken from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Interruptions & Priorities

Over the last few days I have beaten myself up a bit since I missed my self-imposed goal of sharing a thought or challenge with you every Saturday night. I am now officially three days behind schedule. Why? I could give you several excuses, but the reality of life is that we each have schedule challenges, and when that happens we all find ourselves scrambling for sanity amidst all the demands. The goal - prioritizing those demands before we get too frazzled and keeping some semblance of balance in the process.

So, what got me off my routine? Just one extra change to my schedule, but that change took a bit of extra mental energy. I soon realized that I had to make a choice of where to expend my extra energy for the weekend - and my two grandsons won out!

Then today, I was in the church office working hard to complete a few projects when I heard someone call out, "Pastor." This call was repeated several times before I was able to find the visitor and ask if I could help him. An hour later, and after some great discussion about the Bible and God's love for each of us, I prayed with this young man and we separated our ways. I returned back to the office and had to quickly prioritize what had to be done rather than what I had hoped to get done.

Interruptions will come when least expected.

Priorities will often need sorted and resorted in a day's time - or maybe even hour by hour.

After all is said and done, what is our goal for each day? Do we have time for interruptions? Are we willing to adjust our priorities as the day's events ebb and flow? How flexible are we in our schedules, rhythms and routines of life?

Where is God in that schedule? Is He an interruption or a priority?

I confess that my relationship with God is of highest priority in my life, but often I allow interruptions to keep me from spending time with Him. I have a true heart to encourage others - especially those who are married to their pastors - but I must keep the precious moments spent with my grandchildren high on the priority list as well.

Much wisdom is needed when we are in the midst of these changes to our schedules. Our emotions pull and tug at us to go one way. Our work ethic screams loudly in another direction. Having the self-control to be flexible in our journey with God each day allows us to enjoy all that God has planned for us. Schedules are just that - schedules. We must learn to run our schedules and not allow our schedules to run us!

I find great comfort in Isaiah 30:21 which shows us the great compassion God has for us when we need His guiding hand. It says, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Are you listening for His voice? Are you willing to change course and follow that voice when it tells you that "This is the way; walk in it."? Let go of those things that are not necessities and allow yourself the freedom to walk in the path God sets before you today.

Listen for His voice! Truly listen. What are God's priorities for your life today?


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Gaping Trust

We comfort the hurting. We seek the lost. We encourage the champion. We lend a shoulder to cry on. We speak truth. We open our homes in love. We rock the crying baby. We clean the toilet. We lend a listening ear. We fill empty stomachs. We set limits. We pursue the wanderer. We change dirty diapers. We clean the house, fix the meals and walk the dog. We fix things. It is human nature. It is a Godly quality.

Depending on the size of the church, many of the faithful take on multiple responsibilities weekly to keep things running smoothly - filing in the gaps and fixing things! The worship director may also be the sound tech, children’s choir coordinator and the one who pulls together Christmas and Easter concerts, musicals or specials. The elder may sit on a board making key decisions regarding the future of the church as well as serving as church janitor and head greeter. This reality is often true for both the pastor and his wife. After all, what is the alternative when there are gaps in oversight or simply on the sign-up sheet for VBS volunteers?

The reality of the classic 80/20 Principle inevitably comes into play in all churches from time to time – regardless of attendance or church membership. This principle teaches that 20% of the people in an organization usually do 80% of the work. The 20% are usually referred to as the faithful, but sometimes are referred to as the bossy and overbearing. Murmurings can be heard from the sidelines – “I would if I could, but my work schedule you see…” “They think they run the church, so let them do it.” Ouch!

On the other spectrum of things, church leadership realizes the importance of training, equipping and teaching. Individuals in the church body catch the vision of how and where they can fit in to use their gifts and abilities to strengthen the church. The gap between 20 and 80 shrinks. A sense of community grows stronger. Friendships develop. A spirit of teamwork is born.

…and somewhere in between is the sweet enthusiasm of a new member, a visitor, a teen or a refreshed soul that eagerly anticipates and volunteers for the opportunities that are posted and needing filled.

 All that effort and teamwork keeps the boat afloat, so to speak. Some gaps are slow leaks and can go unattended for a season. Other gaps need filled rather quickly and consistently or they will rock the boat significantly. Knowing which gaps need filled and when is an art – and sometimes a balancing act. Trusting God to fill in the gaps is vital.
  • In trusting God, we have to trust man. 
  • In trusting God, we have to let go and allow others to join the journey. 
  • In trusting God, we must allow Him to help others “fix” the fixable. 
  • In trusting God, we may need to stretch ourselves, our schedules and our attitudes.
  • In trusting God, we may need to go beyond our insecurities. 
  • In trusting God, we may need to let go of strongholds or even valuable ministries. 
  • Bottom line – God can fix it and He may or may not use us in that process.

…take a deep breath now….in and out…there you go. 

It isn’t easy, I know.

Now, don’t go and cancel the next event or ministry that has a gap in leadership if God doesn’t immediately come to the rescue and provide a volunteer. It is a process. A process that needs prayer, trust and wisdom. When to move forward, when to hold back.

My challenge for you today is this. What gap are you filing that someone else could fill? What class are you teaching that someone else could teach? What event are you coordinating or chaperoning that you could seek out individuals to serve alongside of you?

…or what ministry has God called you to that you keep saying “No” to? Is it time for you to become a part of the 20%? Be honest. Where do you fit into the ministry of your church?

My second challenge to you today is this. Often we like things the way we like things. Our way seems best, but there is another principle out there that says something like this: If someone can do it 80% as well as you, let them do it. Can you give up that 20%? Can you trust God to grow others? Can you let go and allow others to grow in their faith and ministry to the local church and community?

Do you have a gaping hole in your trust level of God?

Be honest and seek the wisdom of God as you move forward into a new year. James 1:5 teaches us that, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

When is the last time you asked God for wisdom in dealing with a situation? Really asked - and waited for a response?

James 1:6-8 continues with a caution: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Trust, there it is again.

Where do you need to let go? Where do you need to step up? What do you need to pray for God’s wisdom about in the days ahead?

Trust Him! I challenge you.