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Friday, August 23, 2013

Review & Discuss -- Pastors' Wives: A Novel

(Image from Amazon.com)
I had the privilege of receiving an advance review copy of Pastors' Wives: A Novel, by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen last spring. Generally, a book with such a title would make me cringe, as I even now grimace when I think of the stereotypical way pastors' wives are sometimes portrayed in popular culture. However, remembering the sensitive way Cullen covered the pastor's wife story in Time magazine long ago, I felt pretty safe opening the pages and diving in.

I wasn't disappointed!

Strengths:
Cullen hooked me right away with a first person narrative from Ruthie, the main character -- very warm and inviting, like I was sitting on the couch with her, drinking my cup of hot tea and listening intently to her misadventures into pastor's wife-dom. I particularly loved how Ruthie would relate to the audience when describing certain life choices that in retrospect were perhaps a bit puzzling! There are some mild language choices that some might find objectionable, but I found that it was occasional and only served to make Ruthie's character more believable.

The other two pastors' wives, we hear of in the third person. Initially, I thought the narrative change was a mistake that would be corrected in the final copy, but then I realized it was a brilliant way to tell the story. I found myself identifying just a bit with each of them -- whether it was the seasoned wife with the well-tuned radar, or the young wife trying to find her niche, I could see myself in either situation.

I also appreciated that the characters were complex and believable, with human strengths and failings -- not unlike many Biblical characters we've known all our lives. Cullen also has an incredibly visual writing style. As the mega-church pastor's wife was going about her day, I could see the doors opening and the events happening as they were being described.

Weaknesses:
Though I thought it was generally a captivating book, I think Cullen missed a detail here or there. And I say this with grace, because I couldn't even begin to write a novel like this. So, the last thing I want to do is pick apart something that is well done.

But if I were talented enough to write a novel such as this (and knowing what I know about denominations), I probably would have made the mega church pastor and pastor's wife originate from a denomination that is ruled more from the congregational bottoms-up model (i.e. Baptist) because of the parsonage condition she describes. I've dabbled in other denominations, and some are just known for taking better care of their pastors in small churches than others. A minor detail, though.

The other thing I felt she may have missed was the whole "God calling the pastors in a dream" as it was described. I mean, yes, at times that happens and we find such scenarios in the Bible, itself. But... it seemed more mystical and new agey, in my opinion. I just know from the dude, especially, and also hearing from other pastors, too -- I've never heard a scenario like she described. My husband describes his calling like Jeremiah, as a "fire in his bones" -- it was most evident when he was sitting in church white-knuckled, knowing full well (and resisting) what God was calling him to do.

And Finally...
Cullen describes how the novel came about on her website. However, I get the feeling that the impetus also came a bit from her imagining how she might react if her husband were ever called into ministry. But really, you'd never know from Ruthie's character that Cullen isn't a pastor's wife -- she really nailed the gamut of emotions Ruthie might have felt, in my opinion, and really nailed the book in general.


So what about you? Have you read Pastors' Wives yet? If so, what did you think? Even if you're not in a mega-church (most of us aren't), which pastor's wife do you identify with the most? You can comment here --->(comments) and/or link to your review in the linky list below.

I'd love to hear back from you. If you don't plan to read the book, you could answer one of the questions below instead:


How was your husband "called" into ministry?

What about you and your callings? How did you come to know what they were?

Do you have any callings in your life that felt supernatural in how they came about?

-rg-


Update! Feel free to link to your reviews here:

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Pastor's Wife Post (August 2013, Volume 1-#2) {Link-Up}

Looks like the internet had quite the glitch today! If you're back online, it's time again to share your favorite posts -- any posts from this summer that you really poured your heart into or otherwise believe would be of interest to pastors' wives, link them up here!

Right now, it's fine to link up more than one! There's room for that, believe me!

Please remember to visit and comment on the blogs of your sister PW's, especially if you participate in the link-up! I know they'll appreciate connecting with you and would love to hear your encouragement.


-rg-

Friday, July 26, 2013

Urgent News About Cedarly Pastor's Retreat Center

The Cedarly Pastor's Retreat Center is in danger of closing its doors for good. Please let me explain why this breaks my heart and how you can help keep it from happening through prayer, spreading the word, and as God leads:

Dwayne & Rita Hanon broke new ministry ground 18 years ago when they opened up the Cedarly Pastor's Retreat Center in Delafield, Wisconsin. It was a nudging from God to take care of His servants. They offered week-long, life-changing, self-directed retreats free of charge to full time pastors and their wives -- six couples at a time on a year-round basis. No timeshare presentation nor multi-level marketing plan. Just pure, authentic ministry.

In 2001, the Hanon's left the miraculous work being accomplished year-round at Cedarly into capable hands, and began anew -- Broomtree Ministries. Through Broomtree, they offer fewer retreats, but in more varied locations. (Many thanks to the generosity of Christian property owners, such as The Shack Country Inn near White Cloud, Michigan for providing this space!)

My husband and I were blessed to visit Cedarly in 1998, when they were still fairly new. God really showed up for us that week to renew us personally and breathe new life into our ministry. They assigned a volunteer from their home church to each minister or couple attending who prayed for us and sent a personal note of encouragement to greet us when we arrived. We returned again about ten years later, this time to the ministry of Broomtree, where my husband was amazed to discover that I needed the retreat more than he did!

There were times of sharing over the dinner table, and times of quiet where we could just pray and seek God, uninterrupted. After both visits, we left renewed, and grateful to God for providing such a place and such people with a heart to minister to pastor couples.


Earlier this spring, Rita Hanon submitted a guest post, Observations of the American Pastor Couple

Cedarly, the original pastor's retreat center they founded, was still in operation until only recently. Now it has gone up for sale. It is a breathtakingly beautiful place, but will be torn down if the Hanon's are not able to raise the funds necessary to purchase it.

The good news? They're about two-thirds of the way there. This is phenomenal how much has been raised in such a short period of time! The bad news? Time is running short to raise the remaining funds. They have until the end of July.

So what does this have to do with pastors' families who may be cash-strapped financially? Trust me, I feel your pain and am praying hard, asking God what we can do ourselves. But I can do this much, and you can, too:

Please, spread the word! And.... pray -- that is something we can all join together for! Pray the rest of this money in! Also...

I've wondered... how many couples have benefited from the ministry of Cedarly and/or Broomtree these last 18 years? What if each couple were able to return a thank you gift of $50? Even $10 if times are really tough (5 people giving $10 because that's all they can spare  = one person giving $50). What if each church who is reaping the reward of having a renewed and revived pastor, were to give a matching gift? Or even $500, if their budget would allow?

How close would the Hanon's then be to raising the last amount needed? 

Regardless of whether you can help financially, again, please pray. This ministry has meant the world to us and countless others. I'm sure the ministry of Broomtree will continue, regardless of what happens. But what a blessing it would be to have the property at Cedarly available again for ministry!

If you have been personally blessed by the ministry of Cedarly and/or Broomtree (or would like to, now that you know about them), we'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Let others know what a precious ministry this has been!

Please visit the Broomtree Ministries website to learn more and/or help:  http://www.broomtreeministries.org/

-rg-


Monday, April 15, 2013

Observations of the American Pastor Couple -- (Guest Post by Rita Hanon)


We have been watching all of you.  And we are encouraged. 

A lot of polls and articles in Christian magazines report that the pastor in the USA is overworked, over tired, and on the brink of burn out.  These facts may all be true of some or even many, but often these articles paint a picture of the pastor couple that is full of negatives.  We see a very different picture that is full of positives and promise.   

Perhaps we just see a different kind of pastor in the retreat setting.  I don’t think there is a way to “poll” the answer to that statement.  We can say this; the couples who come are from over 93 denominations, 35 states, and 10 countries.  They are all ages and have shepherded a congregation from 1 month to 50 years. 

The variety is huge – the commonality is simple. Because they are called to serve, by a God who knew full well what He was doing when He called them, and how they could not do any of it without Him; there is a vast difference between the pastor who is shepherding the flock and the person who is (or thinks he is) in command.  So that makes it simple – a pastor knows he needs time away – a person who feels he is in control has no need to get away to talk to God. 

So the following is what we observe:

  • Pastors know that they're second in command – it is God’s church – no one else’s
  • Pastors are more polite than any other “people group” we have every dealt with
  • Pastors are more grateful and express that gratitude honestly and humbly
  • Pastors have a drive to learn, read, excel, and grow that is amazing
  • Pastors are often very critical and aware of their own shortcomings 
  • Pastors feel torn between serving the church and their family  
  • Pastors often expect their spouses to understand more than those spouses can
  • Pastors receive more direct, confrontational criticism from those they are trying to serve, knowing full well that these critics cannot be "fired" and simply replaced by "hiring" another parishioner
  • Pastors' wives are resourceful, patient, and creative
  • Pastors' wives often feel that they do not fit the “mold” of Pastor’s Wife
  • Pastors' wives are often lonely and long for close women friends
  • Pastors' wives are protective of their husbands and children
  • The very best thing you can give a pastor’s wife is time alone with her husband
  • Both pastor and spouse are sleep deprived
  • Each longs to laugh, be prayed for, sleep, be cared for, and hear from God

When the pastor couple *catches up on their sleep* and begins to hear God’s still small voice for their own lives, then we see amazing changes: 
  • Couples can see each other through God’s eyes instead of their own veil of tribulations.  
  • Being separated from the church offers an opportunity for a distant, honest viewpoint that is more ready for solutions from God and not men
  • Each person can begin to grasp how much God loves them; just as they are – just where they are – just who they are
  • The place of Holy space gives grace to every face

One of the days during our retreats we give each couple some questions to talk about with each other: 
1.  What do you believe God has uniquely gifted you to do?
2. Tell me, [in the last 6 months] about what activities that you have been engaged in have stoked your passion?
3.  Are you in a place where you can do more of what stokes your passion?
4.  If you are not, what do you need to do to change this?

One pastor wrote that when they got these questions, his wife easily shared the answers to these questions while he felt numb and unable to even identify what he believed God had gifted him to do.  Through the rest of the retreat and on into the next 6 months this pastor wrestled with this dilemma.  They talked and prayed and finally received an answer that not only let him stay in his senior pastor role in his church, but also find a way to have others take over so much of the routine things that bogged him down, giving him the freedom to do what God has equipped him to do. 

Another pastor’s wife called our retreats, “A way to push God’s reset button”.  She suggested that you run to your Bible and read Psalm 139 to grasp how much God really does love you. 

So we see clergy a little different from the polls.  We see people trying to change the “bad stuff” in their lives and focus in on the wonder and high privilege of serving the God who loves them, by taking time to ask Him for His help.   Sometimes we get to see Him answer their prayers -- the look on their faces when they get those answers is priceless.   We also are privileged to hear about how God called each one into ministry.  Each couple unique – each call unique.  It gives us a view of the pastorate in America that is encouraging, hopeful and gives reason to pray for all of the churches and their shepherd-leaders. 

If you are a pastor – thank you. 
If you are a pastor’s spouse – thank you.
If you are in a congregation – thank you for praying for your pastor and spouse.  

Some couples have only attended a retreat once; others come back for a second or third go-round.  Each retreat is 5 days so we really get to know you. They are free of charge, so there is no excuse for you to delay taking the time away with Jesus.  

-rh- 

Dwayne and Rita Hanon founded the Cedarly Pastor's Retreat Center, and later Broomtree Ministries, answering God's call to provide pastoral couples a place to recharge and reconnect with God and each other. My husband and I have had the pleasure of attending both retreats under their leadership. I'll never forget hearing Dwayne speak to our congregation, reminding us that God commands us to rest, and for good reason! If you've never taken a retreat or sabbatical, you should -- might I suggest once every 7 years?

-rg-

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pastor's Wife Monthly Link-Up

Again, I'm just making this up as I go, people!

I'm rarely one who is good at anticipating my schedule. I generally underestimate how long something will take, and then my plans and procrastinations band together in all out war for my time.

Such is the case this week. Really, any 2nd Monday/Tuesday in a month, I am swallowed by a project. So, sounds like the best time each month to open this blog up to you instead.

Let's share our ideas with each other this week -- I've included the April link-up script at the bottom. Any posts from April that you really poured your heart into or otherwise believe would be of interest to pastors' wives, link them up here! The link script will be open all month.

Right now, it's fine to link up more than one! There's room for that, believe me!

Please remember to visit and comment on the blogs of your sister PW's, especially if you participate in the link-up! I know they'll appreciate connecting with you and would love to hear your encouragement.

-rg-

Friday, April 5, 2013

PW Blog Round-Up, Link-up, & Speak-Up Vol. 2 #3: Tales from the Fishbowl

Earlier this week: "Those Few Sheep": Pastors' Wives in Small Churches
All this month: The Pastor's Wife Post (Link-up Time!)


Ultimate Blog Party 2013This is a special edition of our weekly pastor's wife blog round-up, welcoming guests from the 5 Minutes for Mom ultimate blog party. If this is your first time visiting, welcome! To everyone else, welcome back! (And yes, I can write a sentence without the word, "welcome!" but what's the fun in that? You might feel unwelcome!)

Quickly reviewing what this blog is all about -- Sometimes it's lonely being a pastor's wife. It can also be very lonely blogging about being a pastor's wife. You can feel like you're talking to air, and might even resonate with the chorus to an old Neil Diamond song (I Am, I Said).

If either of the above fits you, I invite you to pull up a chair, and I'll do the same. Because neither of us is alone, and we all need each other!

This blog offers resources and encouragement, as well as several ways to connect with other pastors' wives. We have a twitter list, a blog directory, a brand spanking new monthly link-up, and also a list of recently updated blogs over there. --------------------------------------------->

You're welcome to connect with us in as many ways as you'd like. It doesn't matter if you regularly blog about church or not. It's just a great way to meet other pastors' wives online. (For more information on the various ways to list your blog, please see this page.)

I also post a discussion topic on Mondays (this week's topic for pw's in small churches really struck a chord). On Fridays I do a blog round-up, like this one. And again, please don't miss our brand new monthly link-up!

Eventually, I'd also like to begin featuring interviews with other pastors' wives. Here are some other topics we'll be discussing in the future.


So on to this week's blog round-up...

 Last week, I stumbled upon Pastor's Wife, Conversation Killer from Christine Hoover of Grace Covers Me. I shared it with some other pw friends of mine, and we had quite the laugh!

I also found some other fun topics about being a pastor's wife that I've listed below. (Many of them are older posts, but possibly new to you?) 


Meet the Pastors' Wives, from Teri Lynne Underwood

Busted by the Preacher Man a silly post I wrote a long time ago!

Being a Pastor's Wife, from Jennifer Faulk

If you've written a fun or informative post about being a pastor's wife, please share a link to that post in the comments. I'd love to read it. (I'm sure we all would!)


And if you don't have a story right now, that's okay, too. I'd love it if you just stopped in and said, "hello!" (Comments)

And finally, don't be a stranger! 

Dust off a bench and sit a while. Pick your favorite way(s) to connect and please come back to visit! We're also on facebook, pinterest, and google plus.

 (Oh, by the way, I'm Ramona. You can read more about me at my personal blog. In fact, here's my post from last year's blog party).
-rg-

Monday, April 1, 2013

"Those Few Sheep": Pastors' Wives in Small Churches


This is for all the pastors' wives in small churches!!! We often hear ourselves saying that it's not about numbers. Yet, in our hearts, it's hard to not look at numbers sometimes. Amen?

Others may sneer at our attendance figures, too, declaring publicly that we're insignificant or ineffective. Or, they may just declare it quietly in their thoughts, as they dismiss us and anything we may have to say.

David faced similar ridicule, too, right before he faced Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17 we cringe along with him, as his oldest brother scolds him:
 28 ...“Why did you come here? Who’s taking care of those few sheep of yours in the desert? ..." (NCV)
Ouch! But we all know better. We know the rest of David's story! And God know the rest of our stories, too.

My family's story goes something like this:

When we switched denominations, we found ourselves starting over. My husband served bi-vocationally before moving up to a full time position. The next logical step would have been higher up, not down.

After 13 years helping that church turn the next corner or two, we moved across the country to a ... wait for it... *smaller* church. Not the typical aim of a pastoral couple, and it wasn't always our aim either.

 It was tempting to stay at our previous church, bask in the accomplishments, and coast. It was also tempting to hold out there until we could find somewhere bigger to serve. But neither option was the best use of our gifts. (And believe it or not, the smaller church was a better financial decision for us than staying, but that's a whole other post!)

Though frustrating at times, I do love small churches. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. I believe it takes a unique set of gifts and callings to minister well in them, just as it does serving in a larger church or a mega-church. What works in one setting doesn't always work in the other, and vice versa.

The thing to remember is that small churches are small for a reason -- maybe they're in a really small town; maybe they have some challenges to overcome from past hurts or controversies. That takes time -- lots of it, to build trust and confidence in your ability to lead them.

At our previous church, a former colleague of my husband's told him to give the church three years to turn around; and if nothing happened, to leave. Honestly, we thought that was giving up too soon, and we were right.

The church did turn around, but it took seven years before people began to realize that he wasn't just another revolving-door pastor. It took that long to really start gaining trust. It took being there and walking people through their darkest hours.

I have more to say, but I'll end there for now. What about you? Are you in a small church? Do you love it or hate it right now?

-rg-

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Pastor's Wife Post (April 2013, Volume 1-#1) {Link-Up}

Here, finally, I have an idea for an unconfusing pw link-up! This site is a work in progress, to say the least! I'm just making this up as I go, people!

From now on, I'll post a monthly link-up (just like this) for pastors' wives to share their favorite posts of the month. And then, I'll do a monthly round-up of what all you'd like to share with others? Simple and do-able, methinks!
(Confused? That's to be expected when dealing with me! But please just bear with me and we'll get it figured out!)

I'm postdating this one to March 31st, but it's new today (April 5, 2013). So, any posts from April that you really poured your heart into or otherwise believe would be of interest to pastors' wives, link them up here!

Right now, it's fine to link up more than one! There's room for that, believe me!

Please remember to visit and comment on the blogs of your sister PW's, especially if you participate in the link-up! I know they'll appreciate connecting with you and would love to hear your encouragement.
-rg-

Thursday, March 28, 2013

PW Blog Round-Up, Link-Up, & Speak-Up Vol 2-#2: Holy Week

Note: I've kept the link-up script from last week, if you'd like to post anything else from March. Also, please comment with any Lent, Passover, Holy Week, or Easter Meditations that you've written or that have spoken to you! This is posted a day early because of the holiday.


Be sure to read :


God Shows Up Right in the Middle of the Ugly (earlier this week)


Holy Week Meditation that really reached out and grabbed me this week, from Stefanie Brown:
"When they were finally tired of mocking him... When they were finally tired..." (read more...)
and




Repost From Last Year: 

Holy Week Meditations from Teri Lynne Underwood:





A God Who Catches Tears

A God Who Helps Us 

A God Who Understands Our Pain 

A God Who is Present Even in Silence

A God Who IS 

Please remember to visit and comment on the blogs of your sister PW's, especially if you participate in the link-up! I know they'll appreciate connecting with you and would love to hear your encouragement.
-rg- 

Monday, March 25, 2013

God Shows Up Right in the Middle of the Ugly

Like many, I've been watching the new Bible Series on the History Channel. I always find it helpful to watch certain shows that I know others will be talking about, plus it's always neat to see how an artist will fill in the lines between the lines we all know.

There are conversations you know must have happened (case in point, the argument regarding whether it was legal to try someone at night), yet they're not recorded. There's also the whole angle of how the people surrounding many of the events might have been affected (the scene with Samson's mom, for instance.)

My favorite part of this series, though, is the way God shows up right there in the middle of the ugly. Just as tax collectors are exacting their brutality, He calls out and says, "Mary!"

That may not have been the exact way that particular scene happened, but it illustrates a greater truth. God doesn't wait for the ugly to die down before He speaks. He often doesn't wait until things are calm and we're ready to deal with them. He speaks now. He acts now.

As a pastor's wife, I have in the past been involved in the planning and grunt work that goes into an event. During those times, I've often found myself pushing off any personal or spiritual growth I might receive from the event until later. I like to process after the fact, but many times God is wanting to do His work right then and there in the middle of it all.

I know that Holy Week can be a crazy time for pastors' families, and I encourage you to make the time to slow down, be still, and know God.

But... don't just know God in the slow times. Look for Him in the insane, the busy, the traumatic, and the absolutely crazy.

-rg-

Friday, March 22, 2013

PW Blog Roundup & Link-Up, Plus Speak Out: Churches Losing our Youth

The re-launching continues! I don't know if I'll do this the same every week, but in addition to linking up your favorite post of the week, I'd love to hear comments back from you regarding young people leaving the church.

Jen Hatmaker posted an article recently about how a conference un-invited her to speak. While, I don't necessarily agree with every single thought she expressed, her post was well-written and just reached out and grabbed me this week for two reasons:

One: Why are we majoring in molehills when the mountains are slipping through our fingers? In her case, it was partly because of a joke about alcohol. But, that's not the only molehill around.

I understand the need for solid Bible scholarship, and I'm a bit of a Bible nerd myself. But, I see people debating and dissecting minutiae, tearing others down over it, and I'm broken for us that we're distracted from what really matters. (God, please forgive me for every single time I've done this myself.)

I feel like we're too busy keeping the house in order that we're not sitting at the feet of Jesus, nor following Him into our broken worlds, nor even engaging the brokenness right there in our own midst. We wound and then we bleed as our young people leave.

I fear that we turn so many people away when we turn on each other. (Ann Voskamp has a beautiful post about that, if you have time to click over.)

But, that's only part of why I'm broken. It goes much deeper and hurts right there in the middle of my heart.

I'm broken because it's MY son in danger of being lost, and I'm grieved to my core over it. Before, it was all just a sad statistic. But now that it's my statistic, I take it very personally.

I have some thoughts on that and the why's, but I'll leave that for another time. Let's just say that leaving a thriving church in a familiar culture and moving to a smaller church in need of revitalization has cost us in a way we did not foresee. For now, I'm praying and working on where to get him involved so that he's not lost altogether. I'd also like to hear back from you.

Sunday Women put a thoughtful post up this week on helping youth find a place to serve in church. (A real place, not just filling grunt work roles.) I think that's part of it. No doubt our churches need to help our teens identify their gifts and learn to minister in their sweet spots.

But what else?

Some more food for thought:

I went searching the web for an article I found several years ago and finally found it:

Almost Christian

In the process, I also found this:

Sticky Faith

As you have time this week or weekend, please read and ponder. Our link up this week is not limited to this topic, but if you blog about young people leaving the church or successes your church has had in slowing the flow, please let me know in the comments as well.

Now, in case I've confused you with too many words, please link up your favorite post(s) from this month. Since it's been a while and we're still a pretty small community, feel free to link up a few. And if you have something to say about young people leaving the church, please speak out in the comments --> (comments). 


-rg-

Monday, March 18, 2013

Relaunching The Pastor's Wife Blog

(Today's post covers an upcoming weekly link-up, plus upcoming topics of discussion: sexual abuse in the church, a soon-to-be released pastors' wives novel, the unique challenges of small churches, and some advice you may have heard that I believe is unhelpful.)



When I began this site last year, I burned myself out a bit. I tried to write every day on this blog, plus keep my personal blog updated, plus spend time to adequately promote this site. It just got to be too much, and I needed to take a break and regroup.

There was a time when I could keep that up. But life has just been really weird for a long time now. Although we're rounding out the 4th year since we've moved across the country, I still feel like I've lost my bearings somewhat. We live 30 minutes from our church building and it's challenging for me to minister in that context, plus also be involved in the community where we live, which is completely separate. I also can't dismiss that whole bad salad incident as perhaps part of me is still damaged (i.e. my brain?) -- I've just not been the same since. 

So, I've broken down and regrouped, and have set more realistic goals. At this point, I'm hoping to post once a week. I'm still open to others posting, but I'm thinking this site needs to grow a bit first before there's interest. I also hope to have a weekly check-in where you guys can link up your favorite post of the week. I'm thinking I'll do that link up post on Fridays?

I do have several posts I've been working on in the queue that (Lord willing) you can hopefully look forward to in the coming weeks. The topic of sexual abuse in the church has been in the news lately. I'm working on a post with the help of an old friend, who's going to help me navigate the sensitive elements and also clarify facts for me, as needed.

There's a new pastors' wives novel coming out in late April, and I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of it. I'll be reviewing it and also posting some questions for discussion. Though not a pastor's wife herself, the author really did a good job of portraying many realities we may find ourselves in. Also, unlike too many others in media, she didn't violate us with unflattering stereotypes.

I also have an upcoming post or two specifically for pastors' wives in small churches. I grew up in a small church and probably will always be in small church ministry, as my pastor husband seems to be gifted with the patience it takes to slowly revitalize these situations with God's mercy and help. Many ministries try to address our struggles and they generally do a good job; but unless you're in them and are even experiencing them fresh, I think it's hard to fully relate sometimes.

And finally, a topic I'm working on and would love to hear your input: "Be Dead to It". Have you ever been given that advice, especially in regards to enduring criticism or personal attacks? I have, and I've tried to put it into practice. But, I'm realizing that it's another case of bad advice. I've got a rough draft with some practical reasons of why it's harmful, but I'm also searching out God's word and others' input for help. If you have any thoughts on the subject, please weigh in with your comments!

-rg-

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bad Advice: "God Will Fix It," I Said

She's a nurse. More specifically, she's a single mom who worked hard to put herself through school. No doubt she sacrificed to do it, and I'm sure money was still pretty tight even after she graduated.

Still, she made a tough decision.

No pressure at all from us, but she came to believe that her second part-time job took her out of church way too often, so she gave her notice and announced it on facebook.

So far, so good. But then I opened my mouth (albeit via my fingers).

"What a hard decision," I affirmed,"but I fully believe God will honor that and replace your lost income."

As I walked away from the computer screen, I began questioning myself. This is nothing new -- I second-guess myself and my actions mercilessly. I've learned to endure it and move on, lest I never do or say anything, ever.

But this time it was different. "How do you know that God will replace those funds?" and "What will happen to her faith if you tell her that and then He doesn't?" kept echoing in my mind.

And so I listened to the questions, and thought about why I'd ever said or written a statement like that. Truth is, the best I could come up with is that I'd heard other people say that very same thing. Likely, they had a similar personal experience and God did reward their faithfulness. But does their experience mean that material reward for a sacrifice is guaranteed?

Certainly, we see in the Bible stories of God's faithfulness. He did prosper people monetarily. But if I really ponder, it's tough to come up with a time when someone had it easy because they made a tough choice. Often, those choices cost them, sometimes dearly; though there may have been a reward of some kind later down the road.

Yesterday my class was discussing a passage from Exodus 4 and 5. Moses had gathered the leaders of Israel and told them of God's plan to free them, showing them some of the signs God empowered them to give. In faith, the leaders sent Moses and Aaron off to Pharaoh with their full blessing. The reward? Their oppression was worsened and the Israelites called for God to judge Moses and Aaron because of it.

Yes, God did eventually secure their freedom, and they even plundered the Egyptians for material blessings; but I'm pretty sure that during the time of the plagues, they still had to make their bricks without straw.

"But Where is Your Faith?" you might ask me.

I would say that my faith is not in believing that if I do the right thing, God will always bless me in the way I see fit. I believe that true faith is doing what you know is right in spite of the consequences.

Yes, God rescued Daniel from the lion's den. But His rescue of Stephen looked very different. Stephen's reward for faithfulness was seeing Jesus standing in his honor as he was martyred.

Of all the stands for God people have made, the one that challenges me the most is that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:
 “Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves to you. If you throw us into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from the furnace. He will save us from your power, O king. But even if God does not save us, we want you, O king, to know this: We will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NCV)
Yes, God CAN save me and/or bless me; but even if He does not, I will obey Him. That's the attitude I long to have for all of my decisions, big or small.

THAT is faith. THAT is counting the cost (Luke 14:28). We may still feel like backing out when our faith is put to the test, but fully appreciating ahead of time what is on the line can help us prepare for tough times that may come.

So, the next time I see the woman whom I encouraged with bad advice, I'll tell her that my words were well-intentioned, but wrong. May God help me to give her true encouragement for her journey instead.

Have you ever given someone advice and regretted it later? 

-rg-

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tax Resources for Pastors' Families (And Yours?)

*This is a fluid post. Please comment below with your own resources, or comment regarding ones already posted. I'll update the post as needed with your responses.*

Here are some general finance articles for pastors: http://www.crown.org/library/default.aspx?catId=86

Ramsey on opting out of social security (he apparently has a different opinion than crown financial on this) http://www.daveramsey.com/article/should....andmoney_taxes/

I wasn't meaning to post articles solely on that topic, though; I was looking for more general and how-to re: minister taxes. Anyone have a go to site or reference article they'd like to share?


A few articles I found at lifeway:


http://www.lifeway.com/Article/top-six-tax-mistakes-ministers-make

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/ministry-....ccountable-plan

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/pastor-ministry-housing-allowance-tax-mistakes


Recommendations from PW friends of mine:

"Dan Busby Ministers Guide to Taxes and Finances....something like that. Published by Zondervan. If you do your own taxes and want to do them correctly, this is a great book." 


http://www.churchlawandtax.com/aboutus.php -- "Richard Hammar also offers the annual 'Church and Clergy Tax Guide'. I've seen pre-sale offers for 2013. Worth's usually prints an annual book also.

"We have used Stewardship Services for the past 10 years or so. They are based out of the The Masters College campus and do taxes for those in ministry. They do not charge, however do accept a donation. I'm sure you can look them up online. We have always appreciated them!"

https://www.guidestone.org/LearningCenter/Ministry/MinistersTaxGuide.aspx "Guidestone usually puts out a pretty throrough guide. I don't think the 2012 edition is out yet, but this is last years."

-rg-

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