Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Secret Life of Pastors

Too often, pastor's lives aren't as they appear when they're behind the pulpit.  And I'm not talking about moral issues...although I could.  I'm sure each of you could cite examples of pastors who have had affairs or been exposed in some sexual sin.  But what I want to talk about is how pastors are hurting or are weighed down or overwhelmed with life and feel like they have nowhere to turn.  It's becoming more and more common.  We could talk about the broken structure of our churches, but until it's fixed...we have a problem.

I read an article tonight of a pastor who took his life, and although it happened two years ago, the seriousness of the situation is just as pertinent today--if not more so.  You see, pastors are givers.  There's a reason many are called "ministers"--because that's what they do.  They minister to you and to as many members of their congregation as they possibly can.  And they feel like they're failing much of the time.  There's always one more person to see, one more counseling session to schedule, one more committee meeting to mediate, one more hospital visit to make, and one more disagreement in the church to work out.  And their problems grow in proportion to the size of their church although they may be more glaring in a small church.  If they miss seeing someone in the hospital, they're upset with themselves.  They're afraid that sick person will feel unimportant or overlooked.  And that's the last thing they want.  Pastors give and give and give...and many times never get filled back up.

There's also a growing dilemma.  Many pastors have no one to talk to.  Who ministers to the minister?  Typically, they don't know who to turn to.  They don't know who they can trust.  Many pastors feel like they should "have it all together" and they're going to look like less than a leader if they ask their church for help.  For most, that's not even an option. And honestly, there are churches who perpetuate the notion that pastors should have it all together and never need help.  Or pastors feel like they should just be able to pray and have God "fix" their problem.  They're afraid they'll make God look bad if they go looking for help.  Many pastors feel like they're between a rock and a hard place which can bring about sadness, depression, despondency and even hopelessness when it goes on too long.

As Andy & I reach senior adulthood and the highlight years of our ministry (don't you like my new term?)...we have such a passion for younger men and women in the ministry.  When I read the article tonight about the pastor who took his life, I felt the need to reach out.  First, I wanted pastors and their wives to know there is help.  Andy & I want to help.  There are other older pastors--who've seen and heard it all and won't be stunned by your problems--who want to help.  Andy & I have also become a part of a wonderful ministry which recognizes the needs pastors face.  And they are helping.  If you feel called to help these pastors, I highly recommend supporting this ministry!  It's called Double Honor Ministries and it is a very worthy ministry to support.  Please go to their website and read about what they're doing.  They are having retreats for pastors in a safe environment where they and their wives can safely share their needs with leaders who can help.  It's a "filling-up station."

I want to end with this:  please, PLEASE seek help if you're a pastor who is struggling.  Or if you're a pastor's wife and you're struggling--or recognize your husband isn't himself--contact us.  Andy & I are available to help you.  And if your need is bigger than all of us, we have resources who can help you.  It's not necessary to keep your needs a secret.  Satan would love for you to think you're the only one experiencing this.  God wants to set you free.  If you are a pastor and wife and you are doing well, let me suggest that you continue finding ways to stay "filled up!"  

God bless our pastors and their wives!  Encourage yours today.

A Fifty Year Silence by Miranda Mouillot

It's taken me forever to write a review of this book.  In fact, it took me a long time to read the book!  I wanted to like this book--the synopsis of the book sounded amazing.  I applaud Ms. Mouillot for putting down her family history in book form.  I know it was probably healing for her to do so.

This book is the journey of Ms. Mouillot's grandparents.  They didn't speak to one another for over 50 years.  She spent time with both grandparents and wanted to understand why they separated and didn't speak again.  There just seemed to be no real resolution--which was just the way their relationship was, I understand.  Her grandparents were both Holocaust survivors and her grandfather was a part of the Nuremburg Trials.  It's a story I wanted to embrace...but was left frustrated.

I'd give this book 2 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to Blogging for Books for providing this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, November 13, 2015

Need Food!

I had a new experience last night...I'm ashamed to say.  You see, I worked for 5 years in the benevolence ministry.  I've seen it all.  And during those 5 years, I struggled with, "What's the truth of helping the poor?"  On the one hand, Jesus told us the poor would always be with us...and on the other hand God said that if you don't work, you don't eat.  During those 5 years, we gave people groceries and clothing once a week.  But because I'd been a volunteer for that ministry before I became the director, I knew that we were still helping the same people we'd been helping for the past 10 years.  I knew something was broken.  So I began trying to help renew their minds by offering programs to help bring them up out of poverty.  During the 5 years I was there, I saw three people transition from poverty to a self-sustaining position.  So I left that ministry more confused than ever.  How do we help the poor? 

And because of what I'd seen while in benevolence ministry, I never helped people on the streets.  I'd heard all the stories...people panhandling and making more money than I ever dreamed of making.  People using money to buy drugs, etc., etc.  And in other countries, we were told not to help the beggars because they'd never leave us alone--or the missionaries with us later. I mean...I'd seen the abuses up-close and personal.  But I began asking God what His heart was in the matter.  And then I watched my own kids and grandkids give, help, love...and challenge the rest of us to do the same.  God is so faithful.  About 2 months ago, I read this in Luke 6, "If someone begs from you, give to him."  Period.  There are no qualifications in that passage.  If someone begs, give.  Something shifted in me when I read that.  I purposed in my heart to be that kind of giver.  And I promised God that if I saw someone begging and had something to give, I would.

Last night, Andy & I had gone on a date and had eaten at Hoffbrau.  Andy began feeling sick and we left with 2 boxes of Brau chips, steak, hamburger, rolls--two meals hardly touched.  And then we had to run by Wal-Mart to get medicine.  As we were leaving, a family with two children was standing there with a sign which read, "Need Food & $ for a Motel Room."   I stopped in my tracks.  My mind raced with what I had to give.  I got in the pickup and picked up those two boxes of food and the cash I had in my purse (which is quite unusual!) and took it to the mom.  She began crying and looked me in the eyes and said, "I promise to pray for you!"  Someone else was walking up to help at that moment so all I said was, "You're welcome.  God bless you!"  As Andy & I drove away, I saw them digging into the boxes and the kids were already eating.

You might think I'm telling you this to pat myself on the back.  But I'm telling you this because my heart was broken---and I was ashamed.  Ashamed that it's taken me this long to help people who beg.  As we drove out of town, I saw a motel sign which said, "Rooms $35."  And I cried.  Why didn't I think of taking them to a motel?  I had enough money to do that--and it was getting cold outside.  Before I went to sleep, I saw their faces again and prayed for them.  This morning, I woke up thinking about this family--and praying they got a room.  And I cried that my heart had been so bound up in judgment that this is honestly the first time I can remember helping someone who begged.  I cried that I didn't say more, pray for them, take them to a ministry in town who would help them.

But it won't be the last time I help.  I know the heart of God now.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Church Where I "Grew Up"

First Baptist Church of Borger, TX.  Andy & I went to this church in 1987 when he was 36 and I was 31--the ages some of our kids are now.  Andy became the youth minister under Pastor Gary Miller.  We'd come "back home" from Broken Arrow, OK where we'd been under Pastor Paul Burleson for 3 years...and where Gary had been a former youth pastor, ironically.  We had no idea when we went to Borger (which was Andy's home town and where he'd gotten to know Paul Burleson) that we'd be there for 26 years and be a part of the ministry of 4 different pastors or that Andy would hold several different positions in this church.

What a great place to "grow up!"  I actually grew up in Pampa, TX--a mere 30 miles from Borger.  But FBC Borger is where the people graced me to be myself, allowed me to practice the spiritual truths I was learning, and loved on me.  The pastors we were under invited some of the most incredible men and women of God to come and teach us.  People like Major Ian Thomas, Bill & Anabel Gillham, Peter Lord...there were so many and they all left a lasting impression on my heart.  I learned things from them which I still teach today.

There were people in this church who took me on my first overseas mission trip and really planted a desire in me to reach other countries for Christ.  There were people who taught us how to teach English as a second language--which God used to open doors in many countries.  There were people who came alongside us to do youth ministry and became our right hands.  There were older women who taught me and encouraged me.  There were people who challenged us and caused us to have a broader focus.  It was here that I learned how to pray--and I prayed with some amazing saints.  I'll never forget a 90-year-old man who had such a passion for our youth and prayed for them consistently.  It was while I was in this church that I learned the blessing of giving.  There were people who were passionate, bold, and outrageous about God who breathed life into us.  There were people who held us accountable.  There were those who encouraged us.  There were older people who were great examples for us.  People in this church knew how to roll up their sleeves and get things done.  There were women who were organized and brought those skills into our ministry.   These people walked arm-in-arm with me through some of the hardest things I've ever faced--like Andy's kidnapping. There were people who helped us raise our kids and loved them unconditionally.  It was here that we developed deep friendships--the kind that last for a lifetime.

I will forever be grateful for the investment this church made in my life.  It was a deep, deep investment.  It was a church who helped me and watched me "grow up."

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What story will you tell them?

Have you ever said to someone, or thought to yourself, "I can't wait to get to heaven and ask Moses about crossing the Red Sea...or Joshua about the battle of Jericho...or Deborah about leading an army of men."?  There are so many heroes in the Old Testament--men and women who obeyed God and did some amazing things.  And I certainly want to hear their stories in person when I get to heaven!

But did you realize they can't wait to talk to you and hear your stories?  They're going to want to know what it was like to live with the Holy Spirit residing inside of you.  There were a few of them who had the Holy Spirit come upon them during their lifetimes...but none of them had Him living inside of them constantly.  Which is why David asked God not to remove the Holy Spirit from him.  He didn't want his sin to cause the Holy Spirit to leave.  The Holy Spirit doesn't leave us after we're saved.  He's right there all the time--living inside of us. It's part of the change called grace.  When Jesus died, rose again, and left the earth--He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us. And all He is and has is available to us all the time.

I was stunned one day when I began thinking about it and this thought occurred to me:  People who lived thousands of years ago are waiting to ask ME what it was like living with the Holy Spirit available to me every day.  What would I tell them?  How have I allowed the Holy Spirit to teach me, guide me, help me?  What kind of power has He been able to display through me?  Has my life been different than those who lived without Him--those who are already in heaven?  Wow.  It's changing how I live--because I want a story to tell those saints of old.  I want to be able to tell them what it was like allowing the Holy Spirit to change me and display His fruit in my life.  I want to tell them what it was like to hear Him tell me what the Father was saying.  I want to be able to say I heard Him and corrected my course.  I want to share with them how He arranged divine appointments for me as I followed Him.  I want to be able to tell them I did miracles or shared prophecies because He told me what to do.  I want them to know what it was like having Him so available to me.

I want a story to tell.