The Strong Women Beside Me

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Today we lay to rest a mighty woman of God. Terri Rivas, on the left in this picture, came to our TLC4Women bible study years ago. A quiet woman with a bible and pen in her hand, she had been invited by a pillar in our group her best friend Bernie, on the right above. Both women had been friends with each other for over 50 years. They each attended different churches but they each loved to study the word. Bernie is a solid, grounded, woman of the word and so I knew her friend would be as well. What does it say that two women are friends for 50 years? In a time when we are offended so easily and friendships tend to come and go, this was something to be admired.

It didn’t take long for me to find out that Terri was not quiet at all. She had a quick wit and would make all of us laugh with that smirk-y smile she would get right before she made a comment.  She celebrated all of our successes and she told about her escapades with Bernie. Bernie and Terri wouldn’t sit together in study because Terri would say she was afraid Bernie would get her into trouble.

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I discovered that I could go to Terri for anything and she would pray. She wasn’t about gossip and she wasn’t about drama but she could pray. I saw why she and Bernie were such great friends. Two women who stood strong on the word of God and were mentors to each of us in the group. When Terri decided to move her membership to our church, she came with a notepad, scriptures, and a word from the Lord, BUT she wanted to talk to us first to make sure that we knew she would not to be any trouble. She taught me about honor and hearing from the Lord.  She wasn’t going to walk on what she thought was the right thing to do she weighed it out, got counsel, and waited on God.

When she decided to retire from the hospital we talked about it and it turned out she didn’t have to retire she could work from home. She was thrilled to do that but again, wanted us to pray to make sure it was the right thing to do.

When Terri developed Parkinson’s she came to me with a quake in her voice and announced the news. I could tell it had shaken her and I had never seen her scared before, she had faith for so many others, in that moment I needed her to have that same faith for herself. I reminded her that the Great Physician had the final say and we prayed together. I honestly didn’t think I would lose her. I thought she would battle on. She had been through a lot in her life and I thought this would be another victory story. When she determined that she could no longer trust her driving at night she told me bible study would be out. I told her to let Bernie bring her. She instantly replied, “Have you ever been in a car with Bernie? Pastor Susan I want to live.” I answered, “Well, at least you’d go together right?” She laughed and said, “Bernie would probably survive.” But laughter or not, scared or not, there would Terri be, walking in the door of bible study with Bernie.

Terri, I love you, I will miss you. The impact you have made on my life cannot be measured. I was graced by your friendship. I was graced by your love of my children and my grandson. And even though I mourn the loss of you here on earth, you won the victory. I know that you made it home safely. That all of the promises of God are true and that we will one day be together again. I’m sure you are talking to loved ones and strangers and everyone you meet. You’re making people laugh, and you’re awaiting the time when we’re all joined together again.

Proverbs 31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

terririvas

 

State Of Confusion

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As I have been watching events unfold I am looking curiously at the ramifications of revelation. While some ramifications are positive as it gets us to right our world some are negative as we watch the pendulum swing in the opposite direction causing an imbalance.

I heard a man say he saw a co-worker walk into the office and commented, “You look pretty today.” He then said he went to his office and immediately panicked. Is that sexual harassment? Would he be called into HR or worse a meeting with his boss? Could he be fired?

This is the negative ramification of the #METOO #CHURCHTOO movement. While it certainly is wisdom to check your comments and behavior, it is not right that an innocent comment can be taken out of context. I get it though. We’re all prickly over the abuse of women in the workplace. It went on far too long and although women had rights and were working equally as hard as a man in the workplace, this was an area of vulnerability. There are those men who make you feel uncomfortable with their remarks and then there are those guys who are work buddies who never cross the line into inappropriate boundaries, only in this climate how do we tell the difference?

Is it how it makes me feel or what was actually said? I saw an older man who was married with seven kids and one with whom I had never detected an ounce of inappropriateness lose his job before my eyes. He was walking out the door of our building carrying an armload of work supplies just as a woman was walking into the building. He stepped to the left to let her pass but she also stepped to her right to let him go through as his hands were full and they both ended up face to face on the opposite side of the door. They then simultaneously stepped in the opposite direction. It has probably happened to us all. He then laughed and said, “Shall we dance?”, which is a saying that people his age use when this happen, as he backed up and moved away to allow her to come through the door. The woman immediately went to her supervisor and said the man made her feel uncomfortable and he was fired on the spot. Did he say or do something inappropriate or was it a feeling she had?

I once reported a military officer for inappropriate comments to me and was told by his commander, “Susan, do you really want to cause problems or be a team player?” I found another job.

The question in our society is now what is appropriate for a man? The answer seems to be whatever women want it to be which is unfair. The rules are changing and there seems to be a state of confusion which only leads to further abuse and misunderstanding.

Should a man pay for a date or is that sexist and silently saying he doesn’t believe women are capable of paying for dates?

Should a man compliment a co-worker or is that sexual?

Can a man be proud that he can provide for his wife and allow her to stay home with their children or does he demean her by offering this option?

Here is some advice for what it is worth…..

Let the man pay for the date. While it may seem old-fashioned, if my need as a woman is security let me know up front that I am a priority, that I have been thought about, and that I have been worth planning for. If I’m honest, my husband and I each plan and pay for dates, okay, okay it comes from the same account but it’s that thought and preparation that is key.

“Hey, you look nice today”, is not sexual harassment. It’s a comment. An appropriate response is, “Thank you”, as you move about your day. There doesn’t need to be a discourse on how you bought your dress on clearance at Marshalls. A healthy man couldn’t care less, save that for your girlfriend, that comment isn’t a reportable offense. Now, if he comes and says, “Hey, you look nice today, why don’t you come into my office and let me see what’s under that dress”, then heck yes, report it. That is not a man, that is a male and there is a difference.

A man who can adequately provide for his family and can offer his wife the decision to stay home is admirable. I do not ascribe to the male who can’t adequately provide for his family so they are leeching off of everyone so that his wife can stay home. No one put a gun to their head to have family. You BOTH have a responsibility to provide for your family. If he works days, you can work nights but pay for your own kids. Alright, off topic sorry.  If he’s proud he can provide then good for him. It doesn’t make him a caveman, or abusive. It makes him a man and that’s a great thing. The male who demands his wife stays home has work to do.

Let’s get back to a place where we celebrate each other, we call each other on truly bad things, and we don’t look for offense in every gesture or comment.

 

 

Saying What I Want to Hear

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My girlfriend is dating one of those undateable guys. The no job, no car, going to be a millionaire one day, you need to check out my abs kind of guy. He keeps talking about what he is going to do one day. Except if you looked at his life five years ago, it looks just like right now. When we talk she admits she has reservations but he keeps saying what she wants to hear.  All the while she has to pick him up and pay for the dates. THAT’S another topic for another day.

We talked again last week and I asked her if I could blog about her. She laughed and agreed.

Potential is one of those things that can trip us up. You can see it but it doesn’t mean the person who has it will ever play it out.

The key here is to know who you are and know what you want because if you aren’t clear you’ll make unhealthy decisions that will wreck your life and you’ll ask yourself one day, “How did I get here?”

When I think about it, this advice goes for any decision in your life.

Do you have goals?

Do you have vision?

Are the things you are doing today leading towards or away from those goals?

 

 

Before It Breaks

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I had been noticing that a line was forming on the back of my wedding ring but honestly, we’re pastors and the Christmas season is busy. I mean seriously, it has to wait because what pastor is working anywhere else but church during the second most important day of the year?

It began snagging things right after Christmas. Honestly, how does this happen? Sheesh! I’ll have to stop and take it to the shop, next week maybe. UGH what an inconvenience.

On New Year’s Day during our New Year’s Dinner it broke entirely. The weld came loose and my engagement ring and my wedding ring came apart. Not slowly either, just poof it was broken.

BAM! Then it hit me looking at my wedding ring on the kitchen counter that marriage is like that. The signs of trouble come up at the most inopportune times. We ignore them because we think there is a bigger picture and it will hang on, and vows, and forever, and all that.  After all, our marriage, like our ring is platinum, it’s not white gold. Platinum is 95% pure while white gold is 58% pure. We’re good, we’re in it for the long haul. These problems will wait until we have time to fix them.  So we keep going on with life as if there isn’t a problem brewing.

Things begin to hit a snag. An argument here, a passive aggressive action there, and we think we’ll get through it as we keep moving forward in other areas. We’re a team, teams have ups and downs.

Then all of a sudden it’s broken. Just like that. It isn’t like we didn’t know. It isn’t like we didn’t see it coming. It was never out of the blue. We may lie and say we didn’t know but we saw the crack and felt the snag.

Take the time to get your marriage serviced. Even the most loyal people have their limits. Even the most loving people make mistakes. Even the person with the upmost integrity breaks.

I read a study that said that 75% of all divorced couples say they made a mistake five years later they felt they quit too soon. Often it’s too late to go back and repair. One or the other has moved on. One or the other has had other children. It’s too late.

Thankfully for me, it was only my rings that are broken. My husband I work on diligently on our marriage because we know how important it is. We will alert each other to signs as they come up and we will take the time to fix any cracks as they arise. We aren’t perfect but we keep a line of communication open to one another and we examine ourselves regularly. We haven’t been opposed to getting professional help when needed either in the early years of blending our family. As my husband loves to tell people, “We’re in this for life. No one is leaving this marriage except in a box. Hmm I wonder if this is why sometimes I wake up with a pillow over my head?”

Yes, I married the comedian.

How’s your marriage?

Daughter of The King

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1Peter 2:9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

I saw this beautiful picture by Rebecca Halton and got goosebumps.

Daughter of the Most High King your Father calls you Chosen, Royal, Holy, His Possession. Your present condition does not determine His eternal position. Stop living in condemnation. Start being the conquerer that you were created to be. When you believe and know whose you are, you become unstoppable. Go out and make a difference!

Divorce Is Not a Simple Never

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I hear Malachi 2:16 quoted often. It’s the verse generally quoted out of context that says God hates divorce. God also doesn’t like, manipulation, lying, violence, gossip, and a whole host of other things but when we’re counseling couples this is the go-to scripture. Except when it’s not. I’ve been in ministry for over 15 years and just when I think I’ve heard it all, something new pops up. The question then becomes do I counsel and meet the status quo of the church or do I counsel in love?

In the case of the minor infidelity, I recognize it sounds like sarcasm but it isn’t because honestly infidelity is minor compared to what I hear, you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again when he has a crack.

In the case of the porn addiction you can transfer the fear of intimacy and get a marriage back on track but these are minor compared to the shattering realities of some marriages.

What do I tell the mother who has just found out her husband is molesting his child? Do I tell her God hates divorce?

What do I tell the wife who comes in and shows me her burn marks and bruises of abuse? “Go back home Daughter of the Most High King, for you see, your Father hates divorce.”

What do I tell the woman who has been told that her husband is going to be staying at their house sometimes, and his girlfriends house sometimes?

What do I tell the woman whose husband was having sex with her daughter and selling the video tapes to his friends for extra money?

What about the woman who has lost her home because her of her husband’s _____________ problem? Fill in the blank, I’ve heard them all, drug, gambling, spending, loaning.

Why am I only speaking about women and not men? Trust me, I know men have been wronged often more deeply than these examples if you can believe it. I get it but you see, I minister to women. I am surrounded by women. So I hear stories from women.

So instead of telling them that God hates divorce, instead sometimes I say, “Get to a safe place where you can think about what your next move is.” No where, not one place, in the bible does it say we must stay in an abusive situation, nor does it say God tolerates abuse. In fact, it talks of love, of bearing one another up. We must be wise, but we aren’t to be heartless and we certainly should never line up with sin.

The dogmatic response of never can’t stand in the face of truth. Life is complicated and sometimes nightmares and horror stories become real life. When I hear Never Divorce I wonder what you would tell your daughter? Well she’s God’s child and she wasn’t created for some of the things she has gone through.

 

 

 

Frances Martinez

You first met her here

I found the beginning of this post from four years ago as I was editing my drafts. If you ever wonder about my writing sometimes they are finished years after they are started. 

Sitting at our breakfast table last week eating with my son and daughter-in-love the conversation went like this:

Frances: “They have kittens at the shelter and they have a sale going on.”

Anthony: “Umm humm”

Me: “Lucy would do better with a friend. You should get one.”

Frances: “They have an orange one.”

Anthony: “You’ve been wanting an orange one.”

Frances: “What do you think?”

Anthony: “Well, in a few years, we’re going to have a couple of kids, a dog and two cats. I’ll be at work, you’ll be home, so what do you think?”

Frances: “It sounds a little overwhelming.”

Anthony: “Ummm hummm”

Could I have any better joy than to have a daughter-in-love who is working out the plan of her life with her husband in such a special way? She has a career and goals and a thoughtful process of proceeding.

Cut to today. 

Our oldest children have made a major move across the state and are expecting our first grandchild. I can hardly wait. Those dreams sitting at the table four years ago are coming true. God’s timing is always perfect.

Never settle for now. Pray, dream, plan, execute. Living your dream should be a goal!

Oh and the second kitten came. This means the dog and second baby are on the way!