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30 January

Responding to Gossip With Wisdom

"Can you believe what she said about me????"

"I feel like I'm always being talked about behind my back."

"It seems like people are always judging me."

How many times have we thought--or even said--things like this?  Nothing is more hurtful than being talked about or judged!  Sometimes it seems like pastor's wives are a target of such gossip more than is their "fair share".  But what does the Bible say about being criticized like this?

One of the most unique books in the Bible is Ecclesiastes.  It is one of Solomon's books of wisdom, and it is written in a more conversational tone than Proverbs is.  It kind of feels like having a heart-to-heart chat with Solomon himself.  

Solomon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has an interesting opinion on how we should handle gossip.  Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 says, "Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others."  It is so amazing how a Book written centuries ago can still be relevant today!  Human nature doesn't change.  Solomon is saying, "Hey--don't bother listening to everything people say, because if you do, you're probably going to hear someone say something bad about you.  But that's no reason to get upset, because you know very well that you have occasionally said disparaging things about others."  Basically, it's part of life that people are going to say negative things about other people.  There's no way around it.  You will eventually be gossiped about, if you haven't been already.  So the best way to handle it is to ignore it, and to remind ourselves that we haven't alawaysbeen gracious to others, either.

So that means we can just go ahead and gossip, as long as we don't get mad if we are the target--right?  Wrong!  Solomon has something to say about that, too.  Ecclesiastes 10:20 tells us, "Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter."  (As a side note, the famous saying, "A little birdie told me," comes directly from this passage). Solomon reminds us that gossip will almost always get us in trouble.   He says we shouldn't even think something hurtful about someone else in our mind (that's a tough one!) because it will usually end up getting around to the wrong person.  How many times have we had that happen--we said something we thought was safe, and it ended up getting us into a tight situation?  It's  not fun, and it can really mess up our testimony.  

Obviously, gossip isn't something that should be allowed as a regular thing in our churches.  God hates gossip and the sowing of discord among brothers and sisters in Christ.  We should all be striving for love and unity in our churches.  However, it is inevitable that we will occasionally hear something negative being said about us.  How do we handle it?  Just ignore it.  Remember we aren't perfect, and we have done the same thing to others at some point.  In God's eyes, it is much better to be gossiped about than to be the one gossiping.  So, in 2017, remember not to listen to everything being said around you. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

About the Author:

Suzy Vanhoose is the wife of Pastor Danny Vanhoose from Grace Independent Baptist Church in the suburbs of Philadelphia. They have four sons, and have served at their church for over fourteen years.  Suzy is also a high school teacher at a local Christian school. When she isn't busy with church, school, and family, Suzy enjoys reading books, writing poetry, baking, and anything else that isn't housework.

24 January

Honoring Our Husbands Among Friends

By  Carole Sparks.

It’s a natural thing for married women. We get together. We talk. And often, the talk turns to our husbands. Then the talk of husbands turns downward. We begin to joke or complain about them. How often do you hear a wife praise her husband when she’s with her girlfriends? Not often? Me either. Perhaps it’s humility that stops us; no one wants to brag or be thought prideful, but perhaps—and let’s be brutally honest here—it’s just more fun and makes us feel superior to share their failures.

When you’re hanging out with your church friends and your husband is also their pastor, you simply cannot play this game! In order to fulfill his God-given responsibility as the church’s leader, he must be respected by the membership. In order for your girlfriends to submit to His leadership, they must honor him. Detailing your husband’s faults, however humorous, derails that respect.

  -Proverbs 31:23

This is one of the biggest challenges I faced as a new minister’s wife. I wanted to be accepted in my ladies-only Sunday School class. I wanted my peers to treat me like “one of the girls,” not like a party-pooper pastor’s wife who frowned on their fun. I had already learned, however, that husbands need respect in their marriages more than anything else. Emerson Eggerichs, in Love & Respect, encourages wives to guard their tongues and never tell stories that demean their husbands, neither in his presence nor in his absence.

It was hard, though, because my husband has committed some doozies, and they are fun-ny! I learned to ask his permission before sharing any story that was even slightly negative, and to be sure I included how he resolved the situation as part of the story.

But more importantly, I learned to think about my husband differently, to “take captive every thought” about him in particular (in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 10:5). Honoring my husband had to start in my heart.

Over time, I commandeered Philippians 4:8 for my purposes. While this isn’t exactly what Paul intended when he wrote it, I think this application fits into the purpose of the text. Try it with me. I’ve added blanks to the verse. Put your husband’s name there.

Finally, …self, whatever is true about _____________, whatever is noble about _____________, whatever is right about _____________, whatever is pure about _____________, whatever is lovely about _____________, whatever is admirable about _____________—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy in _____________—think about such things.  -Philippians 4:8, with additions

Can you think of one true thing about your husband? One lovely thing? One praiseworthy thing? By stopping each negative thought and instead willing yourself to “think about such things” as these, you will gradually transform your perspective on your husband and find you don’t even want to tell the embarrassing stories.

The wife must respect her husband. -Ephesians 5:33b

I still have to apologize to my husband sometimes because I’ve spoken without thinking and dishonored him among friends, but this practice of thinking on the positive things has protected his honor and—bonus!—improved our marriage.

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 FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

17 January

Winter is but a Season

By Nan Jones

Hope lives in the scraggly branches reaching toward the winter blue sky.

Do you see it? Can you sense it? Branches bare. Raw. Vulnerable. Surrounded by a barren earth.
Skeletons of life waiting. Knowing—knowing that come spring, life will begin anew, because winter is but for a season.

Yes, hope lives in the scraggly branches reaching toward the winter blue sky.

Hope lives inside of me, too. And you—those who have allowed the Spirit of God to reign in their hearts.

The hope of God is a life-source, flowing strong through our veins. It may not be seen, but it's there. Just like the life-source of sap flowing through the winter branches carrying the promise of spring, so the hope of God resides within His children during winter seasons of the soul.

And with His hope comes a new tomorrow. With His hope comes life eternal. Abundant life. Life filled with peace and provision. With God's hope comes security that the world has not known.

The hope of God is known to those who dwell richly in His Presence and, with intention, take Him at His Word.

"Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory [inner self] rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely in hope." ~ Psalm 16:9

The winter branches don't question the trunk to which they are secured. They merely hold fast during the harsh winds of winter, trusting their life-source to sustain them until the season has passed. The branches rest with fingertips towards the sun, while roots grow deep, all the while waiting for the new life of spring.

Hope lives in the scraggly branches reaching toward the winter blue sky.

Hope lives inside of me, too.

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 AmazonBarnes and Noble, and LPC Bookstore

10 January

Finding Solid Ground When Your Husband is Sinking

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

I’ve been depressed, and I wouldn’t wish such anguish on my worst enemy. However, watching my spouse suffer from depression was excruciating. When my husband Carey fell into a deep emotional pit that lasted many months, I experienced a level of helplessness that frightened me.

Carey asked for ideas but then wouldn’t implement them. He blamed, complained and made endless plans about ways he could change his circumstances, while I tried to encourage him to instead change his mind-set. However, he was blinded by the fog of depression. He wouldn’t—or couldn’t—listen.

All the while, I attempted to take care of our two boys, manage our home, and work at a non-profit. I cried out to God regularly, and He provided a lifeline of support from scripture, worship songs, family members, and church friends.

At a certain point, I insisted Carey find someone other than me to talk to. He had barricaded himself from friends and others, and I had become his counselor, best friend, job coach, prayer partner, and lover. When he found a few trustworthy people to confide in, we both found more solid footing.

Satan, the destroyer, is an expert at stealing our joy, isolating Christians, and keeping us from the healing aspects of community. But we need other people in the body of Christ to help us find and maintain wholeness.

The enemy of our souls also attempts to sabotage our peace of mind by keeping us in bondage to fear, discouragement, and shame. Don’t let your struggle with mental illness—or that of a family member--drown you. Instead, begin to heal by talking with trusted friends and wise counselors.

I’ve learned by experience: He is the light, and He has provided a light for our darkest paths. He is the truth that sets us free from condemnation and hopelessness.

In the book of Isaiah, the prophet refers to Jesus as a “man of sorrow, acquainted with many griefs.” Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed compassion to those who were lost, sick, or abandoned. His tears at the tomb of Lazarus and before his crucifixion demonstrate that he knew deep feelings of loss and empathized with those devastated by death.

In moments of profound despair, He has been and continues to be--to both my husband and me--a “Wonderful Counselor” and “the Prince of Peace.” Finding freedom from depression is not simple or easy, but it is possible. Carey and I are both testimonies to that fact.

The journey back to a healthy mind, body and spirit can be a long, difficult road. It may involve dietary and exercise modifications, medical help, and counseling. It might take longer than you anticipated, and it will most definitely feel lonely and frustrating at times. Nevertheless, you can make it.

For those of you with loved ones who are depressed, I offer three pieces of advice. These are truths I wish I had believed all along:

First, remember that you are not your mate’s savior. Listen to him, love him, and support him. Encourage him to get the help he needs, but realize that you can’t fix his depression.

Second, take care of yourself. Don’t let yourself get so sucked into your family member’s illness that you begin to sink under the water, too. Set appropriate boundaries and make time for the things that feed your spirit.

Third—and this may be the hardest one of all—don’t give up. Don’t let Satan kill your hope. Remember that he is the father of lies, and we must battle him with the Sword of Truth—the Word of God.

With Jesus, there is always hope.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for suffering with us. When we’re drowning in sorrow, give us the courage to tell others. Lead us to solid ground when our bodies and spirits are broken. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Truth for Today:
Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (KJV)

Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (NIV)

Related Resources:
Read more encouraging devotionals in Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples, written by Carey and Dena Dyer.

Enter to win a free copy of Love at First Fight and download a list of helpful resources for depression sufferers on Dena’s website.

Reflect and Respond:
In what practical ways could you support your mate when he’s depressed, without sinking yourself?
Take time to unload your worries and sorrows through prayer. Then, through meditation on scripture, allow the Holy Spirit to minister peace to you.

Copyright  2016 by Dena Dyer. All rights reserved.

About the author: Dena Dyer is a professional writer, speaker, and teacher, as well as the author of eight books and hundreds of articles. Her most recent book, written with her husband Carey, is Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples. She and Carey have been married nineteen wonderful years and a couple more they don’t talk about. They live in Texas with their two sons (Jordan, 18 and Jackson, 12) and a spoiled dog, Princess. Dena loves to read, cook, watch British "telly," scour thrift stores for great finds, and spend time with family and friends.

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