Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Year of 16 Christmas Parties

It was the Year of 16 Christmas Parties. Yes...16!  Every adult Sunday School class in our church was having a party and had invited the entire staff to attend each one.   In their minds, they were honoring us.  But they also had expectations.  Expectations for us to attend—because they firmly told us so.  They were just as sure that we would bring life and fun to their party by coming.  We probably did—to the first two or three parties.  But all we brought to the other 13 was exhaustion.  By the end, we had dazed looks and could only implore, “Is Christmas over yet??”

We were young and didn’t have the sense to know that we could set Christmas boundaries—or make the breathtaking suggestion that we combine all 16 classes to have ONE GRAND adult Christmas party!   But believe me when I say that it was a Christmas experience we won’t soon forget—and one which taught us much.  We learned to say “no” in as kind a way as possible.  We learned to lead our church in putting their focus on Jesus during December. We seriously understood the value of fellowship, but learned to encourage it in a healthy way.  We learned that expectations kill.  And we learned to promote rest instead of frenzy.  

We survived the Year of 16 Christmas Parties.   But hopefully, what we gained brought life to all of us as we learned to celebrate Jesus and keep our hearts—and energy—focused on Him.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Feast

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies...”

Years ago, I read the book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller, who had actually been a shepherd.   Referring to this verse, he said the highest places you take a sheep are called mesas—or tables.  A shepherd has to go there—before he takes his sheep—to prepare it.  Sheep are prone to eat whatever is in front of them, so the shepherd has to remove dangerous weeds which could kill the sheep or put minerals or salt in areas to either promote or kill certain grasses. He will either scare away dangerous animals with his presence or kill them.  So before the sheep get to this table, the shepherd has prepared it.  He knows the sheep will eat well—and in peace.  

Are you chomping at the bits to get to a new place, a higher place?   Consider this...your Shepherd may be spending time getting rid of dangerous weeds, fertilizing grasses, and killing wild animals—so that upon your arrival the feast is ready!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Blind Bartimaeus

Blind Bartimaeus.  He was begging beside the road because it’s all he could do.  He’d heard about Jesus and the miracles he was performing.  Was he the Messiah—the long-awaited Deliverer?   Bartimaeus just knew he wanted to be healed.  He wanted to SEE!

It was time for the Passover feast and the crowds had swelled in Jericho as people were traveling to Jerusalem.  This meant Bartimaeus’ beggar’s cup would swell as well.  But then he heard it:  JESUS WAS COMING!   He began yelling, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” even as the crowd around him tried to shush him.  But that only made him yell louder!  And he kept yelling until Jesus stopped.  And then Jesus asked him, “What do you want from me?”

Shouldn’t that be obvious?  I mean...he’s BLIND!  But Jesus wanted him to name his request.  

It makes me think of the time I went to a dermatologist to have a growth removed from my head.  She sat looking at me and said, “Is there anything else you want done?”  I said, “No.  That’s it.”   And she left the room.  Later, I realized she’d been staring at two small benign skin growths on my face.  Why didn’t I ask her to remove them, too?   They just didn’t bother me that much, I guess.  And the doctor wanted me to name what was important to me.  

Jesus was like that doctor. What is it you want?  When all along Jesus knew Bartimaeus had a bigger issue—faith.  He needed to recognize his need for Jesus. Jesus said, “Receive your sight.”   And Bartimaeus believed...and received.  And Jesus told him, “Your faith has made you whole.”  

So...what do you want?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Boring Days in God’s Plan

After Christmas last year, we found out my mother-in-law, Liz, had cancer.  It became apparent in January that she could no longer live alone.  At that time, God called me to care for her...I mean, it was a CALL!   And I willing said “yes.”   She lived 45 miles away, so I moved in with her.  I tried going home on the weekends to attend our church and to help my husband with the ministry there.  

God did so many amazing things in the four months I cared for Liz before her heavenly homegoing!   But do you know what else I found during that time?   Some boring days.  Liz ended up in rehab for about 2 months after a hospital stay.  And while she was there, I was bored to tears on some of those days.  In fact, I’d ask God, “Are you sure this is the best use of my time?   Shouldn’t I be DOING something?”   I’d sit in a chair and do word searches as she slept.  I’d watch her game shows with her.  My bottom got tired of that chair.  Those were some of my day-to-day experiences. But then there were moments like in this photo when her young worship pastor came with his guitar and she worshiped Jesus from her hospital bed.  And as I look back on that overall 4-month experience—that call—it was an amazing time.  A healing time.  And worth every minute.  But it also involved some very boring days.  

Just because you may be going through some slow times, some less-than-miraculous times, don’t think God isn’t using you!   It may only be as you look back that you see God’s amazing plan.  And it may have included some very boring days.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Masses to a Handful

Have you been discouraged by the masses of people coming to your church to hear the truth of God’s Word dropping down to only a handful of followers?  Jesus had that problem, too.  Or just maybe he created that problem.  I was reading John 6 where Jesus had just fed the 5000 men (not counting women and children) the fishes and the loaves.  They showed up the next day wanting signs and miracles.  Jesus exposed their true hearts—they wanted him to feed them every day.  And then he preached the morbid sermon that began to send the masses away:  you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.  Even the disciples were appalled!   And this is where it gets interesting. 

Jesus explains to his disciples (after the masses left) that he was talking about spirit and life.  In a side note, John explains that from the first day Jesus began to call disciples, he knew who would have genuine faith and who would betray him.  And then Jesus said, “No one comes to me without the Father’s blessing.”   After hearing these teachings, many of his disciples walked away and no longer followed him.  How many disciples did Jesus call?   1000?   100?   50?   We know he was left with 12—and he knew one of those was his betrayer.   

It’s so interesting to have 40+ years of ministry behind us to have some perspective.  Andy was in youth ministry a good many of those years.  We’ve had large groups of youth and out of those large groups, there was always a handful who chose to follow Jesus with all of their hearts.  Not even a big number of followers—a small number.  Out of each youth group (there have been four), we’ve watched those small groups invest Jesus’ teaching in others. We may long for the MASSES to follow Jesus.  But Jesus knew there would be small groups of followers and he was content with that.  He knew that each follower could invest in another handful of followers who would invest in another handful of followers...until the whole world had heard the truth and had a chance to decide whether to follow him or not.  Don’t be fooled by the masses.  It may be time to press ahead and see who’s following.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

Would God send us HERE?!?

All I could do was cry!  Andy & I had been invited to interview with a church 350 miles from home.  We’d spent the evening with a fun-loving committee—but after we got back to our motel room, all I could do was cry.  I told Andy that I didn’t know what it was—but there was something wrong with the situation.  He assured me we didn’t have to come to this church. 

The next morning, we met the pastor and his wife for breakfast.  We knew and loved and respected them both.  We talked a bit and then I asked them, “Why are you here?”  They looked at one another and the pastor replied, “That’s a good question. God sent me here to practice the things I’d been teaching in my last church.”  

We went home and prayed. And waited.  As the days passed, I tried to convince myself it wasn’t as bad I thought. I had nothing to base my reaction on. At the time, I didn’t even understand that I had a spiritual gift of discernment. We got the call and were asked to come to be presented before the church for a vote.  My heart was full of dread.  We went and sat in the pastor’s office as the church voted and I ugly-cried!  Andy assured me again, “We don’t have to come here!”  And I replied, “Yes, we do!!   I know God is sending us here—but WHY?!?”  We went out (with my red face) and told the church we accepted their call.  

We were there three years. And it was, by far, the hardest place we’ve ever been.  In fact, we were building a house and a man from our church told our builder to quit building—he was going to make sure we were GONE!   There was big, constant conflict because there had been a deep root of sin in the church which had been exposed.   And our pastor was dealing with it in truth.  I wish I could tell you I spent those three years quietly submitting to God...but I have to admit there was a lot of kicking and screaming on the inside of my heart. 

But...what we gained from that three-year experience was priceless!!!  Andy learned how to stand in truth and deal with conflict.  His ministry became very defined.  And we’ve never had such closeness with a staff as we did then—we were bound together!  And the people who were our friends became life-long friends.  Our youth group was amazing!

Will God send you somewhere you may not want to go?  Yes.  But will He have good reason?   Definitely.  And, if you’re like me, you’ll look back on that time as a life-changing, life-giving experience.  That was, in fact, God’s plan all along.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ministry & Friends

What have you been taught about friendships as a pastor’s wife?  Were you told to not make friends with those in your church because it could create jealousy?   Were you advised to avoid confiding in parishioners because you could end up being the main course at their dinner that night?  Were you cautioned to spread yourself around and not limit yourself to one or two friends?   How have YOU handled friendships in the church?

I was given much of the advise above.  But it just didn’t feel right.  I HAVE to have friends.  And I need deep friendships—it’s just who I am.  So I decided to look at the life of Jesus and I was encouraged by what I discovered.  

Jesus chose twelve friends.  Actually, it was twelve men he wanted to mentor—but I think he knew or expected they would become his closest friends.  Out of those twelve, he had three closer friends—Peter, James, & John.  And out of his three closest friends (that he wasn’t afraid to call out for private times), he had a best friend named John.  John even called himself “the disciple Jesus loved.”

I was so encouraged when I understood Jesus and his friendships.  Of course, he reached out to many people and made himself available to the masses but he spent quality time with those he was mentoring—he wanted to give them a part of himself.  

Invest yourself in others and allow them to invest in you!  Make friends!  Have CLOSE friends.  It’s even ok to have a BEST friend. You’ll have to be vulnerable and you may even be wounded or sold out.  After all, Judas did that to Jesus.  But Jesus would have chosen Judas all over again. Friendships are worth the risk.