Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Battle Is The Lords – With or Without Us!

Sometimes we get in the way of God’s work. We don’t mean to. We may not even know that we’re complicating life. We’re well-intentioned, hardworking, conscientious and responsible. Dependable is our middle name. But when all is said and done, God doesn’t need us to fight His battles. He’s got it!

It’s a tough balance. Knowing when to press on, to persevere and pray through. Or, when we should just be still. Still. Do we even know how to be still?

Psalm 46:10 begins with this statement, “Be still and know that I am God.” We could spend days considering what our lives would be like if we fully embraced those words and learned to slow down and truly trust that God has it all under control. We can gain great comfort in that knowledge, but to further understand how amazing that reality is we must look at the verse in context. The psalmist actually begins by stating that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.The words, “Be still” now gain a far deeper meaning. Taking a moment out of our crazy, hectic schedules to be still is a tough thing to do, but that doesn't fully encompass what the psalmist intended. Rather, his call to action is to be still “in the midst of trouble.” 

Is stillness your first reaction when trouble comes your way? Panic, is probably more typical. Or, anger. We all react a bit differently to uninvited stress, worry and irritation. When trouble comes our way, I would guess that most of us don't immediately switch gears to being still and knowing that God’s got it under control. 

One dictionary defines the word, still, as “deep silence and calm.” Another says that the state of being still is “to not move or make a sound.” The commentary notes in my NIV Study Bible say that “the Hebrew for this phrase probably means ‘Enough!’” and  “Know means to acknowledge.” So, when the psalmist said, “Be still and know” [that I am God], we have quite the challenge. When trouble comes – and it will – we must learn to stop and say ‘Enough!’ to the feelings of panic and fear that come creeping around our hearts and mind, and instead take those thoughts captive by ‘acknowledging’ the Almighty God we serve!

We must live with confidence in God’s power like David did in 1 Samuel 17:47 when he declared to that arrogant Philistine that he would soon be conquered by his hand. David wasn’t being boastful or proud. Rather, his righteous indignation bubbled over, and he looked Goliath in the eye and basically said, Enough! My God’s got this, and you can’t do anything about it! David’s confidence in God’s power was fully evident when he proclaimed that All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” And in the Living Bible those same words are translated as “The Lord does not depend on weapons to fulfill his plans – He works without regard to human means!” God’s got this.

What a blessing we have in serving a God who isn’t dependent on our brains or brawn. Yet, He loves us so much that He asks us to be a part of His plan. He challenges us to trust Him. He asks us to speak up, work diligently, stand strong and live at peace with others. There is a time to act, and there is a time to ‘Be still.’ We can stand on the sidelines of life, or we can stay faithful. Moving forward. Trusting God’s timing and provision in every circumstance of life. God may not need us to fight His battles, but He often uses us to bring glory to His name.

Jennifer Rothschild’s perspective on coming to grips with the fact that God didn’t need her is very thought-provoking. She says, “For years, I tried to write my own spiritual success story. I strived, worked, performed, and served. But, if I am really honest, I admit I did lots of that striving, working, and serving because, deep down, I really thought God needed me. I know, I know… like His kingdom here on earth would come crashing down if little old me didn’t run herself ragged working, serving, and striving! For years, I lived my Christianity as if God needed me more than I needed Him. I was self-sufficient, not God-dependent. So, to read, ‘God is not served by human hands as if He needed anything’ (Acts 17:25) was a big blow to my self-imposed, self-sufficient spiritual stardom! But, it was also the best bad news ever because it freed me to see that…God doesn’t need me, God wants me.”

What a blessing God has given each of us by encouraging us to "Be Still" in Him. May God grant us each wisdom to know when to rest in His almighty power, when to stand firm and say "Enough!" and when to simply bask in the knowledge that God loves each of us more than we'll ever know! I'm so glad to know that He truly is God!


www.yokemates.blogspot.com


(For Jennifer's full article, go to http://www.jenniferrothschild.com/god-not-need-you)



Saturday, October 14, 2017

I Hated Poems About The Pastor’s Wife…

...until this past year. For years and years, I have steered clear of the cliché comments, poems and stereotypes of pastors' wives. Why? After hearing that I was engaged to a soon-to-be-pastor, I received a poem from a ‘well-meaning’ friend. It was an absolutely horrible poem about what life would be like when… 
  • Trustees or church family entered our home unannounced and whenever they pleased
  • Our future children would be held to a higher standard than others, aiming toward near perfection 
  • My husband would never be truly available to love and cherish me.

Why, oh why, would anyone ever think that this skewed version of ministry and marriage was true? And if they had found it to be true in a season of ministry, why would they saddle a newly engaged and eager bride with such a death sentence - of dreams and marriage. This well-intentioned friend had totally missed the mark. The poem wasn't funny, and it was filled with tainted truth. It scared me to death and infuriated me all at the same time...

...until I sat down and confessed my confusion and fear to two dear pastors - one from my home church and one on my college campus. By God’s grace they both gave me wise counsel. God’s expectations for my life, married to a pastor, was not to be one of misery and loneliness. I did not need to fear that our home would be a place of intrusion and heartache. I didn’t even have to resign myself to the ‘fact’ that we would live in the proverbial fishbowl! I breathed a sigh of relief and found my hope rekindled! 

After decades of ministry, I still hold strong to the fact that the vast majority of assumptions made of a pastor’s wife simply don’t have to be true. There is a hint of truth in many observations, but even the hardest moments need not define us. The words of J. Perdas, shared in honor of a group of pastors’ wives, ring more true to me than any other description of a pastor’s wife that I've read. My favorite excerpts from her poem are these -

How blessed a pastor when he answers God’s call
When he has beside him for life
One who was chosen by our Almighty God
To be the pastor’s wife.

She’s part of a marriage, a cord of three strands.
God, a woman and man.
When woven divinely together beside her husband,
She’ll stand.

The pastor’s wife is often a mother, a teacher,
Prayer warrior and friend.
She guides children at home and others in church,
On their way to a glorious end.

A glorious end! Gently guiding others toward their eternity. That is the heart of the message. To be restored in relationship to our Creator and Savior. To share the Gospel message at home, at church and beyond. To be privileged to partner with our husband, lover and friend. Because of the hope of Christ, we’ve been given the amazing opportunity to impact lives - as believers and as one who is called the pastor’s wife. May we stand faithful as partners with the Gospel and guide others to the precious love and forgiveness of our Savior!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:9-10


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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Every Day is a Good Day to Celebrate!

Woo hoo! Today is officially Pastor Appreciation Day! …as well as National Fluffernutter Day and National Pierogi Day. Sad to say, I missed a great opportunity to celebrate yesterday as it was National Frappe Day. Who knew? According to nationaldaycalendar.com there are a lot more things we can celebrate this month!
  • October 10 – National Cake Decorating Day & National Angel Food Cake Day
  • October 12 – National Farmer’s Day
  • October 13 – National No Bra Day (Ha!)
  • October 21 – National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day
  • October 22 – National Mother-in-Law Day (Uh oh!)
  • October 28 – National Chocolate Day
  • October 30 – National Candy Corn Day
  • October 31 – National Carmel Apple Day & National Knock Knock Jokes Day

The list of holidays is quite extensive, and I’ve only listed a few of the specific dates in October set aside for recognition and appreciation! I didn’t even dare take a look at November and December – yet. However, it would be great fun to take a year and celebrate random ‘holidays’ with special friends, co-workers or family. Some celebrations could get a bit out of hand (see October 13th above), but with a little creativity - and discretion - we could bring some extra smiles, giggles and laughter into other’s lives too! Which now makes me ponder how we could incorporate a few of these holidays into our Women’s Ministry next year. Hmmm.

Before I get too far off topic, I want to consider the different ways you and your pastor may experience a day of appreciation. It may be today, on Pastor Appreciation Day, or sometime later this month. Or it could be some other day when God nudges someone to  ‘randomly’ share a generous gift with your husband (or your whole family). It could be an offer to babysit your kids, a dozen 'homegrown' eggs, a neighbor who unexpectedly mows your yard, a genuine compliment given on a Sunday morning, a note that arrives in the mail or the sincere prayer of the faithful ones. The day or month doesn’t matter. What matters is that we recognize the generous gifts our church family does share with us throughout the year.

Our family has personally enjoyed seasons of ‘official’ Pastor Appreciation celebrations, and we have had years of silence. The silence, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a lack of appreciation. Just like any holiday, some are forgotten or missed. But on the flip side, when we neglect to get a Birthday card in the mail to someone we cherish dearly, does that automatically signify that we don’t care? Obviously not! It just means that life got in the way. We’re too busy. We got distracted. Or, maybe we just couldn’t find the ‘perfect’ card or gift to truly share our deepest words of love, friendship and appreciation.

My challenge to you (and me) today is this: How can we celebrate and appreciate the gift God has given us in the life of our pastor? 

Don't wait for others to take notice. Take time out to truly consider what you appreciate about your pastor – and not just as your husband. What Godly qualities do you see reflected in his ministry? When have you witnessed his actions quietly impacting others’ lives? What character traits are evident in his life that display his love for Jesus? If the answers don’t come easily to your mind, pray about it. Seek God’s insight into the unique design and man he has given you to partner with in ministry – and to love! Then, make sure you share your words of appreciation with your pastor this week or in the days ahead.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrew 10:24


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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Old Enough To Know Better

Without hesitation or prelude the unexpected pronouncement was declared, and that moment is still etched in my memory.

“It’s time for you to take over Vacation Bible School!" she declared. "I’ve done it long enough. It’s time for the younger generation to help out.”

That was over 25 years ago, and I can still feel the attack and panic I felt rushing up my spine. There were so many problems with that quick deluge of information that I stood dumbfounded.

The problem was, the only qualification that I had for this position – at least the qualification listed by the retreating VBS coordinator – was that I was young. Probably about 26 years old at the time with three girls under 5 years old. While I had attended many Vacation Bible Schools during my childhood, I had never coordinated any event, and I had absolutely no clue where to start.

Why did she choose me? I’m assuming I was deemed the best candidate for the position because I was the pastor’s wife. As I look back on the situation, I genuinely cannot remember if the next summer was the first year I did agree to be the VBS Coordinator or if that happened in the years to follow. (Sometimes it is nice when life is a bit of a blur.)

Recently, this memory came flooding back to my mind as I pondered a new dilemma. This time it came from the opposite end of the age spectrum. Still ministry oriented, but now framed in a package of “We need to step down and let the younger generation take over. They have new ideas.” What? I’m all for the younger generation taking on leadership positions and being involved in ministry, and I have seen many capable 20-somethings, and younger individuals, be very effective in ministry. But, why are we allowing the world’s influence to creep into the church when it comes to aging and ministry value or ability.

Does the Bible really say we need to let go of ministry when we get older? Does aging mean that we become less effective? Or, is every incoming member of the ‘older generation’ tempted to wave the white flag and surrender? Are we blindly giving in without a fight (and without prayer)? Are the faithful simply stepping aside - but for all the wrong reasons? They’re tired. They’re overwhelmed with commitments. They’re burned out and empty. I'm afraid many Godly men and women are being tempted by the whisper of the enemy to just ‘sit this one out.’ 

Now, don’t get me wrong. We all need breaks. We all need to reflect and reconsider where and how God is using us in ministry. We all need to consider our giftedness, but balanced with a heart of servanthood. It might be fun to "retire from ministry" (handing it over to the next generation) or to only serve in our sweet spot, but we shouldn’t be surprised when God asks us to stretch beyond our comfort zone in talent, ability, time and energy. Age, young or old, shouldn’t have anything to do with it. The question is - Where is God calling you and I to serve right now?

Regarding the young, the Bible encourages -

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

“But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 1:7-9

In regard to our later years, the Bible encourages -

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” John 12:12

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” 1 Timothy 5:17

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” Titus 2:3

As the years pass by, my gray hairs are increasing, but so is my desire to faithfully serve my Heavenly Father. I can definitely embrace the prayer in Psalm 71:18 which shines a bright light on both the youthful and aging seasons of life. “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” 

In my heart of hearts, I really don’t want to sit this one out. As long as God gives me health and life, I want to serve Him. There’s too much work to do. My prayer is that both the young and old can work side by side in this day and in this generation - for His glory. May we all, young and old, be faithful to His calling on our lives.


yokemates.blogspot.com

Saturday, September 16, 2017

God’s Ways Are Always the Best Ways!

It came as a big surprise! She asked me if I was still looking for help in my Sunday School class. I excitedly answered, “Yes!” as I had been running an announcement in the bulletin seeking a ‘helper’ for the Middle School Class. I was hopeful that I might get someone to fill in the gap one Sunday a month. This wasn’t the first time I’d tried to find another volunteer for the class, but it had been awhile. So, when this gal actually asked if I still needed help I was almost in disbelief. (Why do we do that when God answers our prayers?)

I have no doubt that she heard the excitement in my response, and we continued a conversation about the class and the kids. Within a couple of minutes, however, I was confused and the conversation seemed a bit awkward. (Were we talking about the need for a class helper, or did this gal want to actually teach the class?) Sensing my confusion, she backed off quickly saying something to the effect that “If I wasn’t ready to give up the class, she didn’t want to intrude.” Oh my! Now what do I say?

I wanted to jump up and down right there in the sanctuary! But, I contained my mounting excitement and tentatively asked, “So, were you interested in taking on the role of teacher for the class? I had actually been looking for a helper one Sunday a month, but I am definitely open to someone taking over the class - as I had signed up as an interim teacher ten years ago.” (Yep, that’s not a typo. Ten years!) After a bit more conversation, we were both on the same page, and we were both excited! We decided she’d try the class out for a few weeks and see what she thought. At that point, if she was still on board, we’d make it official.

It’s bit over six months now and the class is going great. I’ve checked in with the new teacher once in a while, and she is thriving in her new ministry! The kids adapted very easily and never even missed me – well, maybe for a week or two. (At least, I tell myself that!) Oh, but what a blessing for all involved!
  • The new teacher had been being 'recruited' to teach women, but God knew she'd thrive with the pre-teens!
  • I had willingly signed on as a temporary teacher a decade earlier, but God had given me peace to enjoy teaching rather than providing a replacement.
  • The kids, well they are being well taken care of. They are being loved. They are being taught God's Word. They are feeling very special.
  • It’s a win, win for everyone!

I’m so thankful for the years I taught this class. I was able to connect with many young people, and I’ve since enjoyed watching them graduate from high school and college - and some have even gotten married! I never was really embittered by the fact that I was a ‘long-term’ interim. Instead, I did my best to be faithful to the Word of God and present it in a fun and interactive way. I loved getting to know the kids and challenged them with some of the hard realities of life, balanced with the fact that God loved them no matter what!

And now, I am so thankful to see God work in the life of this teacher. A gal I had the privilege to disciple. A gal I call friend. A gal who is kind and genuinely cares about these kids. A gal who has a solid understanding of the Bible and wants to share God’s love with them. Now, she will have the blessing of watching them grow from boys to men, from young giggly girls to beautiful young women. Oh, what joys are in store for her!

I love how God brought all this together. In His time, and in His unexpected way! I can’t imagine not having taught these great kids. In the meantime, I'm still trying to figure out what to do with myself during the Sunday School hour. But, I’m not worried about it as each week has had a little extra blessing in it. And, who knows what God has around the corner for me. All I need to know now is that He is able, and I can trust Him…over and over again!

Are you serving in an unexpected 'temporary' position or do you find yourself regularly filling in gaps to help make Sunday run more smoothly for your husband? If so, you are in good company. For many pastors' wives, we have lived through these seasons of life and ministry where you just 'Make it Work.' And, at the end of the day you hopefully are able to say ‘Thank you, God!’ You move forward and trust Him to give you the energy to do what you need to do, bow out when you need to bow out and hang on when you need to hang on. Solomon was so right when he said ‘There is a time for everything.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1) May we each seek God’s guidance as we determine what ‘time’ it is and what ‘season of activity’ He has given for us to do today.

Dear Heavenly Father,
There are so many demands pulling on our lives. May we hear Your voice clearly as You direct us to Your will and purposes in our life. May we be willing vessels to sacrifice ourselves for the purpose of serving others and sharing the hope of the Gospel. Give us courage to trust You and be willing participants in Your plan. May we be faithful in the midst of the unknowns of life. Help us refuse to give into the temptation of feeling unappreciated and overlooked. Rather, help us to embrace a positive attitude in all circumstances knowing that You have laid out a path before us and Your purposes are trustworthy. May we trust in Your perfect timing and Your holy ways. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of Your process, Lord. We are humbled to be used by You, and for Your glory. Amen.   

yokemates.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Choosing Our Words Wisely

Have you ever stopped to consider how many words we share with others in just one day? 
  • What we say.
  • What we write.
  • What we type.
  • What we swipe.

What if we had our own personal ‘word count’ button (like in MS Word) that we could click on? Yes, we'd have a literal word count, but it wouldn't include the words that often speak the loudest - the words we communicate with our hands, our tone of voice and our facial expressions. Whether our words are put into print, are spoken or are merely an innuendo understood clearly by the listener, we each have moments when we wish we had a button to erase each misspoken word or rambling sentence.

Putting together a short, yet meaningful message, for a birthday card, a voicemail or a text can be very challenging. Too minimal and we run the risk of being cryptic and confusing. Too many words can turn into rambling, and we lose focus of our purpose. Choosing our words wisely takes extra thought, but it is always a worthwhile investment.

This week, I ran across a great quote -

“My words, sometimes even my lack of words, have caused me much pain over the years. It hasn’t always been that I have gossiped or lied. Sometimes I just talk too much. Or I repeat the words of others, which I should not have. Other times I have tried to say the right thing, but it came out the wrong way. Or I have said the right thing but in the presence of the wrong people or at the wrong time. There was just no shortage to the ways I could misuse my mouth.” - Karen Ehman from her book, ‘Keep It Shut: What to say, How to say it and When to say nothing at all.’

Words! They can be heaven sent and bring healing to ourselves and others.

Words! They can spew out poison that is impossible to wash away. The cost is great!

James 3:6b warns us that “The tongue corrupts the whole body [and] sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Wow! Our words can be “set on fire by hell.” Well, that explains a lot about what happens in both the believer's and the unbeliever’s attempts to communicate clearly and kindly. We have an enemy that loves to cause confusion, heartache and misery. We must be on guard and stand firm against the schemes of the enemy.

How can we choose our words wisely in the days ahead?
  • We need to fill up on God’s Word. – Matthew 12:34b "For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
  • We need to surround ourselves with positive witnesses. - "Walk with the wise and become wise." Proverbs 13:20b
  • We need to understand the impact of our words. - "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29
  • We need to ask God to guard our mouths. – “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3  
  • We need to seek God’s ways. – “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2
"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."  Matthew 12:35

What is your heart full of today?


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~ For more encouragement take a free sneak peek of Karen Ehman’s encouraging words about taming the tongue. Check out the video preview of ‘Keep it Shut: What to say, How to say it and When to say nothing at all’ (Lesson 1) Just go to www.christianbook.com/biblestudysamples and scroll down until you see the image of the book. Click on it and then scroll down to the video. I found this to be a great tool to help me decide on the topic for our next Women’s Bible Study. And, the bonus – Being able to listen to this lesson was an unexpected and refreshing moment for my soul.

~ Some of the other Bible Study titles who have full video samples include:

‘Anxious for Nothing’ by Max Lucado
‘Unglued’ by Lysa TerKeurst
‘What Makes You Happy’ by Andy Stanley

~ For more encouragement on partnering with your husband - your pastor - and your Savior, check out yokemates.blogspot.com or send me a note via the contact form. I’d love to hear from you!


Sunday, September 3, 2017

You and I Are Famous!

How can that be? I don’t have millions of followers on social media, and I was never even a prom queen. To be famous used to mean that you were “widely known” or “honored for an achievement.” (Webster) Now, being famous means that you have “your own Wikipedia page.” (Urban Dictionary) We live in a society that worships celebrity and tells us that in order to succeed we must have a ‘platform’ to promote ourselves. Ugh! That just isn’t who I am or where I want to be in life, but…

The reality is that you and I are famous, or “widely known,” because of who we married. That notoriety may look very different depending on the size of the community or city that we call home. Our personal career path may also greatly influence how many people we know or who may know us. But, at the end of the day, we each are famous simply because we are married to our husband, the pastor. Yep! Those that know us may or may not know our given name, but they do know who we are married to.

The Pastor’s Wife. Some people hate that title. Others embrace it. Sometimes it is the tone in which it is said that irritates us. Sometimes it is the fact that people treat us differently once they find out we are married to a pastor. Even on the days we enjoy being known as the ‘Pastor’s Wife,’ there is a part of us that wants to be known and loved for who we are individually – not who we are married to. That’s understandable, and that reality takes time. Our husbands tend to be more in the spotlight on Sunday mornings and as they interact with people throughout the week. With just one wedding or funeral, they touch the lives of dozens, hundreds or even thousands.

People are watching our lives as well. Even when we don’t realize it. Just this week, I went to pick up a copy of some medical records at our doctor’s office. Now, I’ve only been in this office one time in the past three years so I don’t know the office staff very well at all. My husband has been in about twice a year. That’s it. We come, we go and once in a while someone in the office looks vaguely familiar.

So, as I arrived at the reception desk and saw no one seated there, I waited patiently behind the glass window. Soon, I saw some movement off to the side and realized that there was someone at the desk nearby. I moved over a bit so that they could see that I was waiting. The staff person never looked up or spoke but started shuffling through some CD’s. I waited. Then, the next thing I knew she handed me a CD with our last name on it. (How did she know who I was? I never spoke my name.) I simply thanked her and exited the building. 

Huh. That was a bit weird. I wonder how she knew who I was?

Whenever I have an identity crisis, I always have to take a minute to grasp my reality. My true reality. Beyond my church family and friends, I’m not just Annette. Usually, I’m recognized because of who I am married to or because of whose mother, or grandmother, I am. There are situations when I’m known by my own personal reputation - and not my husbands – but I believe those moments are rare. The reputation I do want to ultimately be known for is in my Christian witness. In my moments of 'fame,' what am I known for? Am I kind? Loving? Patient? Am I different than the world? I hope so, and I hope you are too!

May we each use our fame to bring glory to our Heavenly Father and to help spread the message of God’s love in our communities, our churches and in our own homes. May we each…

“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” 1 Peter 2:12 (NLT)


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