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Showing posts with label churches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label churches. Show all posts

03 May

Be Who You Are

When I was growing up in the South, there was a stereotype for “pastor’s wife.” She was quiet, long-suffering, always serving but never in charge, always appropriately (and maybe slightly over) dressed, smiling, and just slightly holier than everyone else. My own pastor’s wife once told me she couldn’t tell some parents at our church about their children’s misbehavior because she was the pastor’s wife.

I used to pray, “Oh Lord, I will be and do anything you want, but please don’t make me a pastor’s wife. I can’t live like that!” So of course, I became a pastor’s wife! It’s one of those great ironies of the Christian life, isn’t it?

As I’ve said before, we walked into a first ministerial position with other wives who were diverse and fun. The church body expected us to be involved but in our own ways and in line with our different personalities. The pressures were minimal, except for those I put on myself.

We hadn’t been at this church for long when I went to a certain conference where they offered one class especially for new ministers’ wives. Of course, I signed up. I was so uncomfortable for the entire session! The instructor’s list of “should”s and “shouldn’t”s sucked me back into that mindset from my childhood, where the pastor’s wife could never go to the grocery store in sweatpants or skip a meeting at church. I sat there while my identity in Christ wrestled internally with archaic expectations of tradition. I was too young and inexperienced to say anything, but I escaped as quickly as possible.

I wish I had humbly but firmly spoken up that day, but even more, I wish I could lead a session like that now. Here’s what I would say:

1.      Be authentic. You are a work-in-progress, with areas where God has already given you victory and areas where you’re weak. Don’t celebrate your weaknesses, but don’t hide them either.
2.      Represent well. Whether you like it or not, you represent your husband and your church to the public. Before you walk out the door, take a moment to evaluate what others see. Your local culture will determine what’s acceptable.
3.      Take care of yourself. Spend time in the Word and foster a healthy lifestyle. Your current circumstances will determine what “healthy” means for you, and that’s okay!
4.      Prioritize. Take a look at the different elements of your life. Then prayerfully, intentionally choose where you will invest your energy. Knowing you’re following God’s will gives you confidence to continue down the path He has for you.

We’re not all destined to be demure, soft-spoken paradigms of modesty and humility. We are, however, all being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), growing in the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and learning how to navigate the world He’s given us. God knew who you were and who you would become before He called you to this role. He wants you—the real you, not the fake, idealized model-pastor’s-wife version of you—to flourish in this calling! So be who you are.

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.

28 March

A Prayer for Those in Ministry Transitions

We moved in February to a new place of service, leaving our small West Texas town for a bustling Houston suburb. We still have boxes to unpack and names to learn, but it's starting to feel like home.

I know I'm not the only one in the midst of a transition. Some of you are starting to feel the holy discontent that signals God may have something different in store. Some are hurting and looking for an exit plan. Others love where you serve but can't escape the quiet certainty that it's time to move on. And you may be at different places in your transition journey. Like us, maybe you are dealing with unpacking boxes and finding your way around your new home. Maybe you're in the midst of packing and garage sales. Or maybe you're still in the middle of sending out resumes and talking with search committees, trying not to be discouraged by one more no.

Wherever you are in your transition process, I want to pray a prayer of blessing over you:

For those who are hurting from a painful season of ministry, may God be the great healer of your hearts. He stores your tears in his bottle; he records them in his book. Your sorrow will not be wasted. May God turn your mourning into dancing; your weeping into shouts of joy. May he bring to you to a place of healing and freedom where you can serve him in joy.

For those who are grieving the loss of friends and family, of favorite hangouts and familiar roads, may God establish you in a new family of faith. Change always brings its own sense of loss--the way the sunlight slanted through your window in the morning; the way your favorite hymn sounded with familiar voices. May God comfort you in your sorrow and surround you with heart-friends. May God open your eyes to the blessings around you so you can greet the future with open hands.

For those on the road, living out of suitcases and boxes, one foot in the old and one in the new, may God bless you with laughter today. May he be real to you in the present moment--not a memory and not an item at the bottom of your to-do list. May he keep you safe as you travel and birth in your heart a vision for what lies ahead.

For those joyfully serving and yet sensing it is time to move on, may God bless you with good goodbyes and open doors. May every moment count. As you have shepherded people through your season with them, may you continue to shepherd them well as this season draws to a close. May you end well, faithfully loving both your people and your God. May God give you anticipation and joy for what lies ahead.

For all living in the in-between and the unknown, may God help you face the future without fear. May his peace ride sentry duty around your heart, assuring you God is already preparing you and your family for what is to come. May God set before you open doors; may he give you clarity and confidence in each decision you face. For God is not waiting around the next bend; he is with you guiding every step. May you rest beneath the shelter of his wings.

How has God been with you in times of transition and change?

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

07 February

Hidden Assumptions

Her hair was dyed and styled with copious amounts of hairspray. Her eyeshadow was bold, what you could see behind the thick mascara, that is. She laughed loudly, dressed loudly, sang loudly. She was the opposite of most the women with whom I went to seminary.

As I sat down opposite her in a women-only Sunday School class at our new church, I decided she wasn’t very spiritual. I didn’t realize until later that I was making assumptions about her. Stereotyping, really. You see, I had never stopped to think how homogenous my seminary was. Sure, we had international students and a few students from varied ethnic backgrounds, but they were mostly quiet and studious, like me. After forty-one months on campus there, I had unwittingly internalized a spiritual ‘type’ for women.

Over the next few months, Cathy (not her real name) offered profound insights into our class study. She talked of past hurts and how God had used them to mature her faith. I watched her share generously with everyone around her, and my own family experienced her hospitality. She quoted Scripture and prayed earnestly.

But most importantly, Cathy loved. She loved hard. It was something I had forgotten how to do while my nose was stuck in a systematic theology book.

In other words, Cathy put me in my place, and I (thirteen years later) am still thankful for it. Sure, I had the classroom education, but she had the real-world experience our classmates needed more than they needed my historical facts and theological terminology.

Don’t misunderstand me. I relished seminary, and I am always thankful for it. God stretched and sustained me in new and wonderful ways while we were there. It just took me awhile to realize I inadvertently acquired some ‘notions’ at the same time. Cathy helped me expose them and gave me an example to follow—maybe not in makeup application but definitely in Christlikeness.

It’s easy to forget that God uses all types of people from all kinds of backgrounds. These days, it’s one of the things I love most about Him. (Read more about this in my post, Popcorn Conformity!) By this point, you’re probably thinking of the same Scripture passage that has come to my mind. Let’s read it anyway and think for a minute.

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  -1 Corinthians 12:14, 18-20
Question for reflection: Is there a sister-in-Christ about whom you have made assumptions because of her appearance or personality? Ask God for a special dose of grace to see her as God sees her, then examine your own experiences for where that type of assumption was planted in your past so you can remove it completely.

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.

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.

25 October

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

08 July

Russell Moore Offers Sunday Guidance For U.S. Churches in Shooting Aftermath

Where does a church even begin on Sunday morning after a week of violence and lament in national headlines? Russell Moore offers guidance to churches, especially pastors and worship leaders, in the wake of the July 2016 shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas. Read more at: http://www.russellmoore.com/2016/07/08/preach-shootings-sunday/

link to russell moore article

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