The Hireling and The Called

The Shepherd by Julien Dupre (1851-1910)
The Shepherd by Julien Dupre (1851-1910)

Sitting in the hot tub after a long day of ministry my husband and I were laughing and talking about a 4 year-old who was discussing the state of the world with me. Then it got quiet.

My husband quietly said, “You really shocked me a few days ago.”

Not knowing at all what he was referring to my mind began to think of what could be so shocking? I couldn’t put my finger on a single thing and yet I knew this statement was important as he’d been mulling it over, so I said, “What did I say that shocked you?”

“Well, when we began to budget for Project X you said we could take your salary and put it towards it and you didn’t hesitate.”

Trying to make this moment lighter, and being sarcastic by nature I replied, “Hey, there was a time when I had to pay to be in ministry, giving up a salary is a new level.”

We laughed and then it got quiet again and I felt I had to explain myself.

“Look, it’s not as self-sacrificing as you’re making it seem. I walk in the realm of big faith. I believe that God will take care of my needs and provide for them. I don’t doubt that for a minute. He has never let me down.”

My husband just smiled at me and said, “That’s why we’re here. We’re called. It’s not about what we can get, it’s about what we can give. Others might have given up if it was about a paycheck but because it’s a mission it becomes a lifestyle.”

John 10:12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. ESV

I thought on this conversation over the last couple of days. What makes one shift from the money aspect, which let’s face it, is a real issue and one that needs to be discussed, to the aspect of the calling? The calling is a place where you could take your education and experience and turn it into a money making proposition and sell it to the highest bidder only you wouldn’t be comfortable with yourself. It wouldn’t sit right. You’d feel a missed opportunity, you’d long for the day when you’d be called back to the ministry. Honestly, there is that space between God and reality where the bills come in and the hesitation starts. Only for me, and I don’t profess to know what it is for others, the faith that while I may not have it all, I have all I need, is the sustaining force that keeps me steady when the waves of doubt come crashing in. When the promise of being all in when the stress of ministry and the expectations of what we are called to do are overwhelming, I stop and tell myself that I promised, and more importantly, I trust my Lord.

I pray that wherever you are sitting and reading this post right now, that you are sitting under a pastor who is called and not a hireling. You will know the difference when life hits. I pray that pastors who are truly called never give up.

 

Fasting and Fun

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Fasting and fun sort of don’t go together except they do when it works. We’re coming to an end of our 21 days of fasting and this time our church let us decide what we’d be fasting. I chose to fast Social Media, Sugar, and Shopping. Honestly, I thought shopping would be the hardest. It wasn’t. I thought of myself as a shopper but my husband kept saying I was a selective shopper meaning I’d go in spurts where I’d want to go shopping then I’d get it out of my system and not shop at all for long periods of time. I guess so. I didn’t miss it except once when I wanted a new eye shadow but I abstained and it didn’t even matter.

I had a much harder time with sugar. Sugar has me. I am not even going to lie, I miss it still. Everyone says you lose your taste for it. I can’t say it’s so for me. I dreamed of going to the Mexican bakery and buying a star cookie, which is a cinnamon sugar concoction, to go with my coffee. I can taste it as I write. One day I was so on edge I was trying to justify how if I just did shopping and social media it would be more than most people did. I’m glad I let that thought go and stayed in my own lane minding my own business, keeping my word, and doing what I know to do. But it was close. Temptation is such a slippery slope, take one lazy side step and you’re there.

Social Media, now here’s a kicker, not reading FB was like a vacation. I didn’t read all the negative stuff. I know I will definitely limit my time on FB from now on. It was refreshing.

When you fast and pray to set the oppressed free the devil gets really mad. So anything that could go wrong did. I caught a cold that turned into a sinus infection and has lasted three weeks. Some unresolved issues began to blow up with serious attitude, but here’s the kicker; Doug and I remained firm, praying, and together. The power of prayer and unity kept us tight, in love and in each other’s corner, and advancing the Kingdom. We saw people receive salvation, we saw people set free, we saw people prosper, and all it cost me was sugar, shopping, and social media. Not a bad trade off.

And as far as the Fresh Eyes post, and taking a new look around my life, here is what I see:

We ended our bible study on James and I do really love the book of James now and I miss it. We started a new bible study on Prayer last week. It’s so necessary in the church.

We hosted a luncheon for pastors from 5 different churches. It is possible to fix a feast, enjoy a meal, and not indulge in the forbidden parts of the meal during a fast. I didn’t feel like Esther or anything but I didn’t have to announce it either. No one paid attention. We just had fun with friends.

We spent a sick day at home wrapped in blankets and watching season 5 of Downton Abbey. Life wasn’t any less complicated in the 1920’s.

 

 

Fresh Eyes

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As we put away all of the Christmas decorations and hauled the tree out to the old faithful Dodge Ram I am closing out a old year and ringing in a new one. What will this year have for us? 2014 was pretty good to us. I am expecting 2015 to be even better. I have a few secret desires in my heart for this year but not ones I am willing to share just yet. I hope it’s the same for you.

I am preparing the house for a pastoral luncheon this weekend. Pastors from several churches in our city will meet to celebrate the New Year, pray for one another, and enjoy my husband’s BBQ brisket. It’s always a great time of fellowship and friendship and when we are all together I always take a moment to take a step back and view the body of Christ as it was intended to be. Isn’t it wonderful when we can break bread together knowing that each have a differing view on the method but not the intention? While some of us may speak in tongues and others not we still love Jesus and food! This year will be more about hospitality than perfection.

This year, I plan to do a lot more of that looking at life with fresh eyes business. Rather than nose to the grindstone living I am going to be intentionally taking a step back to take it all in before I miss another moment.  This year I am going to continually remind myself of things that were missed while I was plowing and be more intentional about breaks.

I’m turning 50 this year. I have lived a very blessed life, even in the hardest times, I learned forever lessons that will hold me until the end of my life here on earth and I think I have a genuine gratitude for my life. I have made real friendships, lasting loves, beautiful children, and memories that make me smile. I am married to the most amazing man ever too so that is icing! Somehow though, day to day stuff tries to come in and taints the happiness I have found.

So what does this year hold for you? I pray it’s filled with plenty of good things. I hope that life keeps you busy in serving others and not just yourself. I hope that life brings to you fresh eyes in which to see the beauty of the holiness of a life well lived and not squandered on the minutia that fills a brain and does nothing to fill a heart.

This year I plan to learn from Lulu The Wonder Dog who plays for awhile, takes deep naps, comes and demands attention when needed, is pleased to see everyone anytime, enjoys her food, and takes deep naps, wags her tail vigorously to show her approval, puts her ears down at the things she hates but moves towards it anyhow, takes deep naps, long walks, romps with her friends, never worries about her weight, or whether she took a bath today or not, sighs deeply, shares always, and loves wholeheartedly. I think she has in her seven short years of life learned what it took me 49 years to learn. So maybe this post should be titled, I’m not smarter than my dog.

The Obstacle in My Path

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Sitting with my husband discussing a negative situation in my life. He looks patiently at me as I talk. He answers slowly in his Southern Style and it goes like this:

“Susan what do you do when you’re walking along a path and you step in dog poop?”

“Ewww , I immediately get it off. It’s so irritating when people let their dogs run wherever and don’t clean up after them.”

“Exactly, you get that stuff off of you as quickly as possible and you never stop to smell it or dwell on it. This is the same reasoning you should use when faced with certain situations.  You stepped in dog poop today so go get it off. It teaches you three things. One, it teaches you there was a dog in your path.  Two it taught you that the dog is not where it is supposed to be and therefore out of order. Three it was sent there to take you off course and distract you. Stay focused.”

 

 

The Pastor’s Wife

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When you hear the words, The Pastor’s Wife, what does she conjure up for you mentally? For so many she is the object of perfection in the church. She has it all together, her children are perfect, her responses are wonderful, and her life is one to be admired and emulated. For others of you, she is a working woman, playing the piano, leading the women’s group, feeding the homeless, and running the children’s ministry seamlessly. Yet for others, she is the epitome of judgment. She glances at you head to toe and makes a sad determination. Sadly, you’d be right with all three versions because she exists in all of these forms.

Back in the day there was the thought process that the Pastor’s Wife was to be set apart. She was not to mingle with the commoners of the church and she was to be held in high regard. Only that doesn’t really fly in the face of scripture does it? Jesus says he is gentle and lowly in heart. Jesus says he is set apart by believing and obeying his Father. It wasn’t about being set apart from the people, it was about being among the people and being set apart in action.

The question that has been stirring in my heart as I see this attitude is what false hope it gives to women in the body. To think that any life is really that perfect and the average woman cannot attain it because it’s for an elite group is just not realistic. There are no scriptures to back this thought process up. There is no elite group of  Navy Seal Christian Woman. There are women who achieve great things and who have applied godly principles of life to their everyday walk but no one’s life is pure perfection. There are Pastors Wives who silently suffer, and because they are supposed to have this perfect image, they can speak to absolutely no one about it. So they put their makeup on and hide behind a smile and because no one really looks at each other anymore they are able to pose.

The problem with that is that we are called to mentor and to love and to help. We can’t ever say we have a problem because then we have this perception that no one will think we are as perfect as we pretend to be and therefore leave the church. So we lift up this unattainable goal to woman in the church that they too can be a perfect woman in Christ and she flounders because she never can quite get there. She feels inadequate and that’s good for us because it makes us feel more powerful.

I will never forget a story I heard Ruth Graham tell. She was Billy Graham’s wife who has now gone on to be with Jesus. Because her husband was often traveling she raised her children primarily alone. She said her son Franklin Graham, who is now an evangelist himself, gave her fits on a regular basis. One day while out and about he was acting out so much that she threatened to put him in the trunk of the car if he continued his behavior. Of course Franklin continued and she pulled the car over and stuck him in the trunk and drove on. Yes, she admits not a crowning moment for her but instead a desperate mom moment. While none of us would advocate putting your kid in a trunk, we relate to the feeling.

I have learned a few things in my life as a Pastor’s wife over the years. I know that life happens to the Pastor’s Wife. She gets flat tires on the way to a meeting. She has bad hair days. She has arguments with her husband sometimes. She yells at her kids. She sometimes skips her devotional time in the morning. She blows it at work. She gets mad at people who cut her off in traffic. She has issues. Her life is just as full and as busy as the next woman. She has flaws and temptations and everything else going on in her life. She isn’t married to a calling or a church. She is married to a man and she has been called, just as any wife, to minister to her family and then the church. So pray for your Pastor’s Wife because she’s as human as every other woman but sometimes she can’t say it.

 

Cheating On Your Spouse

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I was listening to Dr. Laura Schlessinger this week when a caller called for advice on a dilemma he was having. It seems he’s been having an affair with a woman for three years. His wife had been battling breast cancer and now that things had stabilized it was time for him to make decisions about his future.

Dr. Laura asked him what the pros and cons were as he said he’d thought them through. He said that the pros would be he has more in common with the woman he was having an affair with. The cons would be that he had six kids with his wife, two were married and probably going to have kids soon, and he’d end up being the visiting grandpa. He went on to say that his wife had been kind to him, and a good wife. His other con was that how could he really trust this woman who had so willingly had an affair with a married man?  How could the woman really trust him either even though he’d been faithful for many years before an affair knowing he was willing to have an affair with her?

That is the crux of the problem isn’t it? Trust for all three of them will never the same. Because no matter what you tell yourself, as this man did, that he been faithful for many years before he cheated, he did cheat, he broke a promise, to himself, to his wife, and to his children. How do you stand in front of a mirror and look yourself in the eye when you know you’ve not been a person of character? You’ve not been a person who can keep your word? And then how do the people involved trust you either? Yes, no one is perfect and we’ve all done incredibly stupid things, it’s true, but slippery slopes which rob you of your character, are pitfalls to be avoided at all costs.

Dr. Laura ended the call with a some very good advice. She said that of course he felt closer to the woman he was having an affair with. Marriage was different than dating and shacking up. It is. I’ve talked to so many people who got married to long term shack ups and ended up divorced because it is different. She also said that if he would put the effort into treating his wife the way he did his mistress he might discover his marriage was good. She also told him he would risk more than being the visiting grandpa. He’d risk the total relationship with his children. She said they would always side with their mother and they may not want the mistress at weddings and such. It also meant that he would put immense pressure on the mistress to fulfill all that he had lost and that it wasn’t possible for her to do so. She in turn would put pressure on him to choose her when the family didn’t want her around.

There was a lot said in this call. One worth sharing. Maybe someone reading this post today saves themselves a lot of heartache by honoring their vows and staying true to themselves and their family.

Men Don’t Matter

What a lie we have been given.

If you haven’t read Part 2 click here.

As women, born of this generation in America, we have this ideal of a single mother that while true for some is not true for most. We can buy a house without a man, we earn our own income and for some we earn more than the man in our life. For some women who are not interested in equality in a marriage, often because of their own daddy issues, this becomes the seat of power in which we devalue a man and emasculate him to show our power. This has nothing to do with love and everything to do with pride.

We can buy a car, we have great credit and we can afford to do so. We can pay for private school, camp, medical care, and trips to amusement parks. This is the picture of a single mom. Only that usually isn’t the case. Many single moms struggle to make ends meet. Often have more month than money left at the end of their payday, and life isn’t this happy place they thought it would be. They get up early to get their children ready for school, lunches packed, themselves ready. They work hard to get the laundry and dinner and homework finished while they are dogged tired. They make grocery lists and hope there is enough money for the food they need to buy. They make pancakes for dinner at the end of the month because sometimes that’s all there is. They don’t get to go and have spa days or go with friends to have a nice dinner because it isn’t in the budget.

And no matter how much we try and no matter how much advances in technology and medicine we make:

A woman can’t be a father.

 

No matter how much we try to fill the void of a male influence we can’t do it. We’re failing miserably statistically. Our children are missing out whether we want to admit it or not. Sure, there are statistics of moms who raised incredible people on their own but they don’t outweigh the statistics of those who can’t. I have a saying,

“A woman can do it all. She just can’t do it all at once.”

So while we’re busy earning a buck and climbing a corporate ladder, our children are missing out on a critical component of a family. In their mind, they are learning that they may have to go it alone that one day, they too may be called to raise children on their own because families may or may not be sustained.

So let’s throw the lie out. Let’s begin a discussion with young women about how valuable they are and how we need to make better choices in the men we choose to father our children. Let’s talk about working on our marriage before they are broken and let’s talk about marriage before babies. I know it sounds counter-culture and I know it it will sound sexist and it will be met with push back and name calling but I’m okay with that. And here is why: Watch this video and tell me daddies aren’t important. Watch this video and tell me that she has someone else who fills this void in her life regardless of who her daddy is. Tell me that these daddies are not necessary. Tell me that she isn’t affected.

“When he does time, she does time.”

 

I’m okay with the being an unpopular voice if a child gets an active, involved, worthwhile, father. I’m okay with the term baby daddy being thrown out of our vocabulary. Because it was never meant to be there in the first place.

Daddy Is Home

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My mother created a culture in our home in which our family wasn’t complete until my dad came home. There was always a celebration, a feeling of security and warmth and love when my dad entered the scene. She taught us that he was important to our well-being.

She tells the story of when she was a little girl and her father had to work three jobs to make ends meet. When she would get up in the morning, her dad was already gone off to work and when she went to bed at night he was still working but she says that she always knew he had come home and that they were loved because he’d leave a treat behind. A pie, or pastry. Something to let them know that he was providing for his family.

It was these memories that have kept me thinking about Father’s Day and all of the appreciation of it. Father’s are critical to the well being of the home. A father, in his proper order, guides and leads a home with strength and character.

The latest statistic is that 43% of children are being raised in fatherless homes. Our statistics in America get dismal from there, click here to read statistics

Despite what anyone tells us as women and how we are capable of raising children alone, we simply lack something that dads bring to the table. Yes, we can clothe and feed a child, teach them manners, help them with their homework, love them beyond belief but children still know something is missing.

TD Jakes said in his message Crash Course in Fatherhood, “Anything a man loves he will take care of it, protect it, provide for it.”

Here’s the truth women. You don’t wait until a man loves you and marries you to have his baby. In fact, you’ll have two or three in the hopes he will marry you. Beloved, if he didn’t do it before babies, what makes you think he’ll do it after? Do you think love is sustained by a forced marriage? We all scream about arranged marriages, yet we have no problem backing up our sisters with the cry of ‘do the right thing’ to a man. How about looking her in the eye and speaking the truth in love? Although she may not need a man to help her financially raise a child, like it or not, she needs a man to help her raise a whole child.

I know I know!! This isn’t a popular message. I become a hater to society who says we must do things our own way but could it be that we, woman, are not embracing the biblical principles set before us, and setting up a house where life is complete when daddy is home? Where a man leaves security for his children on his way to making ends meet?

TD Jakes also said, “When a man has no authority, he has no potency. So when you shout, ‘I am woman hear me roar’, you may be roaring alone.”

We weren’t meant to do this alone. Wait for Part 2, ’cause I’m not done yet.

Watered

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This morning I woke up to doves calling on the rooftop of our home. The wind was blowing, the sun was coming up. I opened my eyes and could hear Lulu the Wonder Dog snoring on her bed, my husband was snuggled up in our blue comforter, his hand gently on my arm. The great part about this man of mine is he always needs to know I am there even if it’s just his foot touching mine. I lied still and said “Thank you Jesus”. In this brief moment before treadmills and agendas and meals and real life I am watered in the beauty of the life we have built, in the garden of our Creator. I wake up slowly, grab my gear and head downstairs to start coffee, start a load of laundry and get on the treadmill. If this were the sum of the good in my life, I am blessed.

I have lived in this little town for 20 years now. I have deep friendships, favorite places to go, neighbors whose names I know, clerks at the grocery store whom I know by name. I am part of this community. The community however didn’t come out to embrace me, I had to embrace my community.

Yes, we don’t have a lot of services that many bigger cities have. Yes, we are in the poorest county of California. Yes, we have a huge disparity between the haves and the have nots but what are those things to someone who can make a difference? I have a choice to make each day. I can choose to move forward and make a difference, or shut my curtains and complain. Face it, even in this town, we suffer in luxury. I can choose to water, or I can drink it all and not share it. My choice.

I remember when I first moved here. I loved the amount of house I could afford on my salary. Yes, there would be an almost 2 hour commute one way but what did that matter? I was going to own a home. The reality of that quickly set in but we muddled through and our neighbors helped. In no time I had people who I could count on to help in a pinch.

My children were raised here and they are people of good character. They have been shaped by a community who took care of their children. I heard a story a friend told recently about how the bus driver would tell her parents when she didn’t get on the bus for school, after her parents had sent her to school. These are things we can count on when we live in close proximity. Yes, sometimes that ‘everybody knows everything’ attitude can be annoying but it can save lives as well. Small town living is not for everyone. Some people complain daily about their plight.

My husband tells a story of an old dog on a porch howling in pain. A man walks up to the dog and says, “Why are you howling? How can I help you?” The dog says, “I’m sitting on a nail and it’s stabbing my side.” The man says, “Why don’t you get up and move?” The dog answers, “It’s easier to sit here and howl.”

I live in a small town with many people who enjoy living here. I am well watered in this field. If I didn’t like living here I would move. I am not a victim. No one twisted my arm to live here. I am not a tree and I can move if I’m unhappy.

Despite It All

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Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.

I read a post on Facebook recently how happy posts were fake because people chose to post that their lives were good despite the fact that they had real problems. It made me think about how you can still be happy and positive despite difficulties, or you can judge others in your unhappiness. Not everything in life has to be a major catastrophe to your well-being.

I am in a really happy place right now. I’m sure my life, speech, and yes, Facebook posts show that. It took me a long time to get here and I am relishing in it. I was a pregnant teen who raised children to the age of 48. I had never had an adult life where it was just me. I had never written out a monthly budget that didn’t include children’s lunch or field trip money, a college fund savings, or a extensive food budget. I can leave home on a moment’s notice and not worry about babysitters or dinner. I can clean my kitchen spotless and know when I get up in the morning it’s going to be exactly how I left it. I can turn the music on as loud as I want to and dance without fear of someone saying, “Mom! Stop! It’s so embarrassing when you act like a kid.” I can buy tickets to a concert or a play and not worry about what is being taken out of the budget.

I have a man who loves me beyond measure and is close by my side. We like the same things and we very rarely even argue these days. It’s a peaceful season in our life. My job is going well. I have a lot to do but I’m no longer so driven towards it. I am enjoying the work that I do at a new level. I have a dog that I think is incredible, she is pure love and she is a total spas, who I think has the Young’s A.D.D. problem.

Do I have problems? OF COURSE I DO!! Everyone does. My problems big and small have always been there, not the same ones but isn’t there always something? I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes miss being a mommy. Sure, I like the freedom, but there are those days I want to watch Sleeping Beauty with the Princess Casey. The great thing is my age and life experiences have put them in perspective. They no longer rule my every thought. I’ve learned to be content. If you want to learn to be happy, click here for an article I found profoundly useful.

Here’s the problem with judging the heart of someone and determining their motives; you aren’t always right. A person can be happy in the midst of pain. A person can be upbeat even in the midst of chaos. Happiness is a choice. Be depressed, angry, resentful, or petty, if you choose to be, but don’t expect that everyone else will be. It’s entirely up to you. As for me, I’m going to live out this last little bit of life in happiness, I’m going to let go and plunge into the deep things of life and experience freedom, despite it all.