You’re Not Allowed

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It bothers me when a spouse says in public what their spouse is allowed to do and what they aren’t allowed to do. I can only imagine what that nightmare of a marriage looks like in private.

“My husband is not allowed to drink his coffee in the living room.”

“My wife is not allowed to work.”

“My husband knows better than to think he’s bringing home a recliner.”

I stay quiet as I hear these statements but in my mind I think, “Bully”. I believe when we try to usurp authority over a person we are in essence saying we are higher than God. The bible reads that God is not one who overrides your free will instead he offers choices. Those choices usher in his presence or not.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

My husband and I are very strong people in very different ways. I am verbal and will say what I think. He is non-verbal and votes with his action. So when we disagree we tend to stop until a compromise is reached. He has never said to me that I wasn’t allowed to do something and I have never forbid him anything. We both take into account the free will of the other.

Are there forbidden things in a marriage? Of course! Adultery, Abuse, Addiction, Manipulation, Lying are things that are forbidden in a marriage but I would think if I have to demand a ceasing of these actions then I married the wrong person who lacks love and character.

When we  continually call the shots, continually admonish our spouse as if they are our child, continually manipulate the finances, I wonder where Christ is in all of that? When it’s our way or the highway whole people sometimes cower for a season but they eventually fall away. Maybe they don’t leave the situation. Maybe they just go away emotionally. Maybe they begin to spend time alone not meeting our needs. Maybe they find someone who respects their opinion.

We can argue that the person who is experiencing the violence of the violation of free will, chose to give it up and I would say that is true. In counseling I often hear that they feel stuck because of a circumstance such as children who will be devastated by divorce, so they bide their time. Then there is the lack of work or experience where they can’t support themselves which often keeps them in this situation as well.

It can happen in the work place. There are those who feel threatened by their boss or their employee. The employee who continually threatens to quit, who calls in sick as a pattern on critical days. The boss who lords that there are plenty of people out of work over their employees. It isn’t right.

As Christians we are supposed to have no unwholesome talk come out of our mouth. When we think of unwholesome talk we think about cussing, gossip, but what about bullying? What about dragging about someone by a leash demanding our way? Isn’t that the tearing apart of a person of free will? Un-whole-some?

 

 

The Pastor’s Wife’s Calling

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The Church often thinks when they select the man to shepherd their church they get his wife for free. During the interview process they interview the Pastor’s wife. I don’t see this done in any other career field and I’m mixed on it. I see the reasoning, I mean she’s hopefully going to be visiting his work often. If she is crispy fried over ministry issues it will play out in the role her husband plays in the ministry, there is nothing like the bitter Pastor’s wife who looks at life through the eyes of suspicion, because she will manifest her own betrayal. If she is helpful then the church has gained a saint but that doesn’t mean they’ve gained ministry help.

There is this thing that the church seems to miss and it’s a big thing.

Calling

Has she been called to ministry? Her husband’s call isn’t hers. One would argue that if she is saved and converted then she is called to win the lost, and it is right to think so, but being a disciple of Jesus and called to ministry are two different things. Calling comes with its own special set of parameters that the rest of the elect, that’s bible speak for those called to salvation, aren’t expected to live up to in the same way. I have met the Pastor’s wife who is the worship leader and awesome at it. I have met the Pastor’s wife who attends a different church and is lovely. I have met the Pastor’s wife who is raising little ones and is blessed to get to church with only one of her little children missing a shoe and she’s loving. Calling is a distinct thing and sometimes it’s seasonal too. Often I hear the cry from the church leaders who say she knew the expectation when she married a pastor (insert my jaw dropping here). What about the Pastor’s wife who met and married the business man who later became a Pastor? Did she sign up to lead a church or did she sign up to minister to her husband?

Let’s as people of God in the community of faith take a step back and cut the Pastor’s Wife some slack. Let’s quit being so quick to judge her ability to lead the Children’s Ministry and allow her to serve where she feels God is calling her to serve. Let’s quit looking for her to have an opinion on the direction of the annual Ladies Tea and see if she is even remotely interested in speaking to the group. She isn’t called to make decisions in her husband’s department of ministry yet so often we throw her in there and ask for her opinion and then criticize that opinion. She is the woman God has called as the partner to her husband. She hasn’t necessarily been called to ministry and maybe, just maybe, the horror stories of the horrible pastor’s wife is because she is in a role not suited to her gifting. Maybe she is bowing to the pleasure of man and isn’t called by God.

Maybe just maybe she is controlling and doesn’t fit the role. Maybe she has an opinion that doesn’t fit the vision of the church. Maybe she does feel the need to be “in” on every aspect of her husband’s ministry. Can we agree that it is  her husband’s to deal with, and the leadership of the church to deal with, and we, as the church, are simply called to pray?  Because if that isn’t the case then we are no better.

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.