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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Stay the Course

by Nan Jones

"For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown for His name in ministering to [the needs of] the saints (God’s people), as you do. And we desire for each one of you to show the same diligence [all the way through] so as to realize and enjoy the full assurance of hope until the end,  so that you will not be [spiritually] sluggish, but [will instead be] imitators of those who through faith [lean on God with absolute trust and confidence in Him and in His power] and by patient endurance [even when suffering] are [now] inheriting the promises." ~ Hebrews 6:10-12, AMP

I was done. Finished. There was no way I was going to walk back into that church again and face those … those people. Not after that business meeting. They were cruel and heartless and had no respect for my man—their pastor.

I was done.

I fumed and fussed, whined and complained to nobody but the mirror. That was my safe place—behind closed doors in the bathroom. I could fuss at that mirror all day long, and although I didn't get any sympathy, I didn't get any backtalk either. I could take off my happy mask and just be me—a woman who loved the Lord, wanted to lead others to His love, wanted to undergird my husband, and tried really hard to do and be the best pastor's wife I could be.

But sometimes I got hurt.

Many times I felt anger and betrayal.

And sometimes I just needed to stomp my feet and shout ugliness at that mirror!

But then God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy would come to me and whisper to my wounded heart. He would tell me to come and reason together with Him. He reminded me who I am to Him—His daughter, His servant, His beloved.

And then He reminded me to forgive those people for they knew not what they were doing.

Um … excuse me Lord? They know perfectly well what they are doing!

No, Nan, not really. You are not battling with flesh and blood, but with principalities of darkness. The people wanting to halt My work through the man of God I've sent them do not have the spiritual maturity to see the spiritual battle. You're right, some don't care and I'll take care of them, but most don't understand what they are doing. You must forgive them and stay the course.

But what if I don't want to?

Then you will lose the battle and Satan will gain ground in this church.

I had a lot of soul searching to do. Dying to self is no fun, is it? The need to thrust out our chest and boast that we are right and they are wrong is horrid. Us versus them. Control people versus  Holy Spirit people. Oy!

But all the people are God's people—the flock He has chosen for you and your husband to shepherd.

Even the ones who are ornery and self-righteous. Yes, even those.

He loves them too.

Go in God's strength. His eyes roam to and fro above the earth searching for those who are committed to Him who need to be encouraged. How beautiful is that?

Stay the course. If God be for you, and He is, then who can dare to be against you?

About the Author:

Nan Jones is an author/speaker who uses the words of her heart to assist fellow Christians in discovering the Presence of God in their darkest hour. She has been published in several anthologies as well as the online inspirational sites Christian Devotions, and Inspire a Fire where she is a monthly contributor. She is also a monthly contributor to PW Connections, a blog and forum to encourage pastors' wives. Nan has had the honor of being featured as a guest blogger on several sites. She is thrilled to announce her debut book, The Perils of a Pastor's Wife released June 30, 2015 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. This memoir was a 2016 Selah finalist. When Nan isn't writing, she enjoys leading prayer retreats, bible studies or sharing God’s love as keynote speaker for special events. She is becoming known by her brand: "Even so, I walk in the Presence of the Lord" as she teaches her audience to go beyond the veil to find God's Presence. You may visit Nan at her website: www.NanJones.com. Nan has also created a facebook community page, Seeing Beyond The Veil, to provide a place for folks to go and get away from the chaos for a few moments and focus on Jesus through scripture, worship, testimony, and inspirational quotes. For personal communication you may email Nan at nan@nanjones.com

The Perils of a Pastor's Wife is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and LPC Bookstore

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Recurring Dreams

My daughter and I were recently discussing recurring dreams that mess with our sleep. She’s had a dream three times and is relieved to wake up and realize it isn’t true.  As we talked about them I understood the three dreams I live while asleep reveal something deeper than I imagined.

The first dream involves driving in reverse. I hate reverse. My husband likes to back up across the church parking lot just to play, but it feels like I’m on a roller coaster. I tend to avoid anything that moves without my controlling it, so driving backwards is not my idea of a fun time. In my dream I’m driving in reverse and the car is out of control, spinning all over the place. No matter what I do I can’t fix it. I haven’t had this dream in a few years, and looking back I can see that parts of my life were out of my control. Things have since fallen into place and my dreams no longer involve reverse.

The second dream is one I haven’t had in almost a decade. In this dream I’ve got something in my mouth and can’t get it out. It’s the texture of the wax lips I used to chew on as a child, and it’s in big lumps and tiny slivers. No matter how much I try to empty my mouth of it, there is still more. This dream is an easy one to unwrap. It means I have something to say and can’t get the words out. I know the reason I don’t have this one anymore is because I’ve found my voice and the confidence to say what needs to be spoken. Fear of being ridiculed has vanished each time I speak where I would have once cowered.

The final dream is one I still have on occasion. I arrive at church to a full parking lot and have to park on the grass or the street. Once inside I find there is nowhere for me to sit. Every seat is full. As the pastor’s wife I have given myself an unassigned assigned seat: the first row second seat in from the left. It’s my spot. In my dream I’ve had to stand in the back or sit on stage with the choir (Choir? We don’t have a choir!) The more I thought about this dream, I realized it’s about my insecurity of not knowing my place or not knowing where I fit in as the pastor’s wife. Am I just another member of the congregation or am I a leader?

How many of us have felt this way? I am not someone who likes to be fussed over or have all eyes on me. Early in our adult ministry I entered church one morning with a new haircut. There was a collective gasp from the congregation and whispers of, “Suzanne got her hair cut.” It was enough to make me want to turn around and go home. I’ve faked my way through many a Sunday morning. But God has bigger plans and ideas, and sometimes they involve being uncomfortable. I’ve learned He is trustworthy and faithful. Even when I am apprehensive He will take care of me.

We can always trust Him with every part of our lives. Even when all eyes are on us.

About the Author:

Suzanne Schaffer has been in full-time ministry with her husband Wayne since 1992, pastoring in Pennsylvania and Illinois. She has two grown children and spends most of her days either writing or reading with a cup of tea close by. She enjoys attending auctions and sometimes brings home more stuff than she knows what to do with. She believes life is too short for mediocre food and insists on having good chocolate in the house at all times. You can connect with Suzanne at her blog, www.notenoughchocolate.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Fine Art of Saying No

We walked into our first post-seminary ministry position with confidence, ready to serve. We had a one-year-old and a U-Haul full of mostly second-hand furniture.

Because he was one of five ministers at the church, my husband’s responsibilities were fairly clear. He had to fill in for other leaders at times, but he knew where he fit in the structure and service of the church body.

Not so for me. Who was I in this new place? What was I to do?

Before long, several different individuals tried to answer those questions for me. I should teach a pre-school class. I should be in the choir. I should lead a morning Bible study. The requests kept coming, and I knew that saying “yes” to all of them would have meant suicide for my existing roles as wife and mother. So for the most part, I very graciously said “no.”

I’m not an incredibly self-confident person. In fact, I hate it when people think negatively of me. Every time, I had to work up the nerve to decline. This was my process. I pray it helps you determine where to invest your time and energy when you face similar requests.

1. Determine your identity before you go. Think about your gifting, skills, and experience. While God might call you to something completely new, it’s more likely you’ll find your fit within familiar bounds.

2. Evaluate your existing commitments. Your possible roles as a mother, a wife, an employee, etc. are completely valid and require large chunks of your energy. And let’s don’t forget your own spiritual well-being; that takes time. You also need to rest occasionally. Envision how this new opportunity will fit into your life. Be realistic about your superwoman status.

3. Don’t let someone else give you a guilt trip. A need does not equal a calling. It’s easy to confuse a big need in your church with a calling for you to meet that need. Pray about each offer, considering your prior commitments. If God leads you to say “no,” ask for the strength to do it.

4. Don’t give yourself a guilt trip. Even if the other person doesn’t make us feel guilty, we can lay that burden on ourselves. Remember someone served in that position before you arrived…or the church operated without it. If God intends your church to do/have that ministry, He is also calling someone to fill it. Pray for that person to step up and give yourself a break.

For me, I learned I could manage one big thing, such as leading a children’s group, and a couple of small things that didn’t require preparation, such as being a greeter or sharing my testimony at Upward games.

It took a while for me to learn how I fit in that first church body. They were (still are!) a special bunch of people, and I will always be grateful for the freedom they gave me to discover who I was as a minister’s wife and then to live in that discovery. If I had overburdened myself with church responsibilities, I doubt I would feel the same way.

About the author:

Carole Sparks is passionate about God’s Word—about how it can change our everyday lives! After years of globetrotting, she now lives, learns, and loves (plus a good bit of writing) in the hills of East Tennessee. Connect with Carole through her website, http://carolesparks.com or her blog, http://notaboutme1151.wordpress.com.

You can also find Carole on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Dealing with burnout? You aren't alone.

Megachurch pastor Pete Wilson’s recent resignation from Cross PointChurch in Nashville renewed attention on the topic of pastor burnout. Saying that he was “tired” and “broken” and “leading on empty,” Wilson told his congregation that the best thing for him to do was to step aside from Cross Point leadership.

Wilson’s words had a familiar ring to them. It wasn’t so long ago that my husband and I went through our own journey with burnout and depression. It was one of the toughest seasons in our marriage. His burnout was brought on by a lack of boundaries and unrealistic personal expectations. I was struggling to parent two young children without being caught up in his emotional turmoil. Things finally came to a head when I slapped the number for our state convention’s counseling line down in front of him and told him if he didn’t call, I would. He made the call, and our state convention helped provide us with counseling and needed resources. Slowly, we climbed our way out of the pit.

If Pete Wilson’s words sounded familiar to you too, know that you’re not alone. Burnout is more common in ministry than we’d like to think. Conflict in our congregations, inadequate training, financial stress, poor boundaries, unrealistic expectations, and the sense that the work of ministry is never done can all create burnout-ripe conditions. Maybe your husband is struggling with burnout. Maybe you are. Either way, you aren’t alone. And there is hope. Here are four suggestions for pastors and pastors' wives struggling with burnout:

1. Get help. 

Many denominations offer counseling help for pastors and their families. Take advantage of those resources. If counseling help isn’t available through your denomination, try calling the Focus on the Family Pastoral Care helpline or check out CareforPastors.org.

2. Practice Sabbath.

 It can be challenging for ministry families to practice Sabbath, but it is essential. Rest is an invitation to enter God’s presence and allows us to participate in re-creation. Take a day off. Turn off the cell phone. Get out of town if you need to. Regular Sabbath practice is one of the best defenses against burnout.

3. Cultivate relationships. 

We need people in our lives who care about the state of our souls. For some, this may be a family member or close friend. For others, it may be a spiritual advisor. Find a person who listens to your soul. If you don’t have anyone in your life that fits that description right now, make it a matter of prayer. Ask God to reveal to you who he has placed in your life that can be a soul-companion.

4. Create a spiritual covenant.

Finding a goal to work toward can help you move out of burnout into health. A spiritual covenant can be one tool in helping you define and work toward meaningful goals. How are you doing in terms of your spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and worship? Are you keeping Sabbath? Tending to your physical health? Developing relationships? Growing in your vocation and training? Draw aside for an hour and prayerfully consider each of these components. Ask God to help you set a goal or two in the most important areas—not for the rest of your life, but maybe for the next six weeks or so. Decide what you will do to achieve these goals. Share your covenant with a friend, and reevaluate in a few weeks to see your progress.

If you’re dealing with burnout, you’re not alone. There is hope. Share your experiences with burnout in the comments, or connect with our message board community to talk in a private and secure setting.  

About the author:

Leigh Powers is a pastor's wife, Bible study and devotional author, freelance editor, and mother of three from small-town West Texas. She is passionate about helping women find hope and healing by meeting God in his word. You can connect with Leigh on Facebook, Twitter, or follow her at her blog My Life. His Story (www.leighpowers.com).

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pastors(Wife) Appreciation Day

Pastors' appreciation month has become more well-known and publicized in recent years, and companies like Hallmark have even joined the likes of Dayspring in making clergy appreciation cards now.

With the knowledge of the day, comes expectation. It's a bit like knowing your birthday is approaching and hoping someone will say, "Happy Birthday" or send you a card.

I have met some pastors' wives whose churches really go all out in honoring their husbands and/or family. Others receive some acknowledgement, while still others receive none at all. I've even met staff pastors’ wives who served in churches where only the senior pastor was honored in October.

So, if no one says how much they appreciate your service to the Lord this month, or even if they do, let me say it to you -- I appreciate you. We're in this together and you are a valuable member of God's team.

I know how you, pastor and wife, pour of yourselves into your congregation. I know how you love them and/or strive to love when some may seem annoying or exasperating. I know how you pray for them in secret and how you do things at church that many may take for granted.

I know how you felt when a church member you considered a friend gave you the cold shoulder because they were upset with your husband.

I know how you've sat on pins and needles, wishing you could be a fly on the wall, while your beloved was in a tough meeting that went long.

I also know the joy you've felt as you've seen the fruit of your efforts. I've felt the amazement you've felt as you've seen God work in situations you'd deemed hopeless.

I know the discomfort you felt when someone came to you for advice simply because you are the pastor's wife, and the elation you felt when God helped you guide them in His wisdom.

And I know the honor and humility you've felt as you've been presented opportunities to serve that are unique to your gifts, personality, and experience. But more importantly than that--God knows, and He's cheering you on.

"For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints." (Hebrews 6:10, NASB95)

Others appreciate you, too. There are Christians all over the world who honor pastors by providing retreat and vacation facilities for pastors, wives, (and sometimes families) at little to no cost. They know your sacrifice, and they are there for you.

We have personally worked with BroomTree Ministries, and it is a beautiful place to refresh and renew. They didn't use the evening meal to pull out the multi-level marketing plan nor the time-share condo opportunity. They simply wanted to encourage us.

While it is certainly neat to be honored and encouraged by other Christians, I think it's even "neater" how much God values your service to Him. Did you know that there's a special crown of honor for pastors? Peter calls it the "unfading crown of glory”. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

So if pastor's appreciation day comes and go without anyone noticing, and if pastor's appreciation month is a bit disappointing, please know that God sees what you do. He sees the love, prayers, and hard work you pour into His sheep; and He says, "Well done."

In the end, that's what matters the most.

"...because you know that your work in the Lord is never wasted." (1 Corinthians 15:58b, NCV)

About the author:

Ramona Griffith married into the ministry in 1993. Originally from Texas, her family took a step (or a drive, a really long drive) of faith when they moved to Wisconsin a few years ago. Ramona helped Sue Mitchum re-launch PastorsWives.Org in 2003, and later founded PastorsWives.Com to extend that ministry. She occasionally blogs at Ramona Writes, "Again". You can also find her on twitter and pinterest.  -- (View all posts by Ramona)

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