A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe

Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Don't Get Lost in the Label

As part of a pilot program at my work, a group of co-workers and I were treated to dinner at the company's expense. The CEO and a member of the leadership team were also present. 

I think I've mentioned before on this blog about how my fellow employees are obsessed with alcohol. There has not been one day since I started working there over 4 years ago that there have not been numerous references and discussions about drinking, in fact, I would think it odd if I didn't hear about alcohol at least once during the day. Well, this time was no different. The first discussion that went on after everyone sat down at the table was about the beer and wine list. Every person, except me, had alcohol to drink. I tried to not draw any attention to myself because it's just awkward. I'm not ashamed that when Jesus washed me of my sins, He also took all desire to drink alcohol with it. On the other hand, I don't want to make others intentionally feel awkward about their desire to have it, especially if they aren't saved. 

Everything was moving along fine until someone noticed that I had ice tea. "Cyndi, don't you want some wine or beer?" I just smiled and said "I don't drink alcohol." Then someone else spoke up and said, "tell the group what your husband does for a living." I couldn't believe my ears! I thought to myself, i don't remember going around the table and asking everyone else what their spouses do for a living. At that point, the waitress came and talked with us and I thought I had dodged the bullet and I breathed a small sigh of relief. Once the waitress left, that same person said again, but louder, "Cyndi, tell everyone what your husband does for a living." Well, then I had no choice so I had to share with the group, most of whom I had just met that day, that my husband was a Pastor, which makes me "the Pastor's wife." As soon as it was out of my mouth, I felt it--the label. I wasn't sure if the label was a crown or a scarlet letter but i'm leaning towards the scarlet letter. 

This may sound crazy, but sometimes I just want to go somewhere and be myself, me, Cyndi, not someone's wife, not some perceived position. I don't define myself by what my husband does for a living and I don't want people defining me by it either. I don't enjoy the extra scrutiny of every word I say and every action I take because some people think that I should act a certain way because I am the Pastor's wife. I don't think it's fair that I am liked or accepted based on the perception that people have about Pastors and their wives because everyone's perception is different depending on what they've heard, see on TV, been taught or experienced-good or bad. In a lot of ways, I don't feel like I have a chance. I know this to be true because I had worked there for nearly 7 months before anyone found out that I was a Pastor's wife. After that, some people treated me differently. 

Being the Pastor's wife, in my experience is cause for stricter judgement. It does not allow  for my individuality. It hinders me from truly getting to know a person if they are ones who have been taught that Pastor's wives are not to be trusted. The label doesn't let me be me. I'm not saying that I'm not me regardless. I'm just saying that it can put you at a serious disadvantage. In some ways it feels like being a can of green beans, but someone who didn't take the time to find out what was truly in there thought you looked like a can corn and applied a corn label instead. I'm not ashamed of the ministry, but in today's world, it can seriously limit your chances of getting to know people to the point where they will be totally honest and open with you. And above all things, I hate fakery.

How many people get introduced according to what their husband's do for a living? Have you ever met your doctor's wife? How about the garbage man's wife? You may have but they weren't introduced that way. I know sometimes people do it out of respect. I think my church ladies do and I love them for it. Others do it as a clue to others that they need to mind their p's and q's because "the Pastor's wife" is here. I've even had people rebuke others and say "not in front of the Pastor's wife." Why not!!?? I hate feeling that I'm spoiling someone's fun or making them self conscious or hindering them from being who they are. I love people. I love sinners. I recognize that they're sinners. It's okay. Really! I used to be one myself. I just want to get to know people. Actions or language are not going to melt my ears or traumatize me in any way. 

I just want to be me. I want people to know who I am. I want to be accepted or rejected based on who I am, not what my husband, who many have never met, does for a living. I'm not a Pastor. Don't label me as one and expect that I will be a certain way because of it. 

Now I know that some Pastor's wives think I'm looking at this too negatively.Other's see themselves with some kind of calling and think they deserve the same respect. That's fine for them. I'm in no way ashamed of Christ, ashamed of my husband, or ashamed of the ministry. There are many blessings that come with being in the ministry and I enjoy them all. If I suffer for the name of Christ, that's okay too but seriously, Jesus didn't go around announcing to all that He was the Son of God. In fact, he intentionally kept that a secret for a large portion of His ministry. Why? I believe for some of the same reasons I just mentioned. People knew Jesus for what He was to them, not because of His label. When he was labeled- "Isn't that the son of Joseph?"-it hindered Him from ministering to them the way He wanted to. Of all the people that Jesus would want to bless, it would be the hometown crowd but because they labeled Him, He could not. 

Is there more I'd like to say? Oh, you bet! Maybe God made me a PW so that I would have to learn to use discretion and not just say everything I think. If you think that being married to a Pastor is easy, you're wrong. The demands on his time and attention are endless. The influences that come from people to try to color his opinions are many. This, plus the things the enemy will throw at your ministry and your marriage are sometimes just too much to handle and I return to telling the Lord that I don't want to do it anymore. 

Initially I didn't want to be a Pastor's wife because I didn't think I could do it. You see, when my husband made the big announcement that he felt called to ministry, I thought of all the Pastor's wives I had seen and known and thought to myself, I'm nothing like any of them so it took me a long time to find my way. What I learned is this. Allow God to develop in you a soft heart and tough skin and don't get lost in the label. More importantly, don't allow the label to form who you are. That's God's job. 

On a particularly stressful day, while my husband was in seminary, I was praying in the living room telling God that I just couldn't do it, I couldn't be a Pastor's wife. The Lord spoke something so loudly to me that I've never forgotten it. It has helped me all these years. He said  "Cyndi, I made you the way you are because that's the way I'm going to use you." 

I believe that's what He would like every human being to know whether you're in the ministry or not. God has designed you by His own special design. He knows what He had in mind for you when He strung your DNA together. So go with it because to do anything less is to deny your Creator the opportunity to shine through your life into a dark and needy world. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

True Hospitality

The idea and definition of womanhood has changed exponentially in my lifetime. Having grown up in the 60's, I saw the "Women's Movement" protests with bras and other feminine items being tossed into the "freedom can" and the crowning of a sheep as Miss America. I lived in a neighborhood filled with traditional women with the exception of one woman who was a bank president and considered an outcast in the neighborhood by the other mothers. Truly in that day and time, she was an anomaly.

After my siblings got on the school bus, all the mothers would gather in someone's kitchen for coffee and spend a few minutes "catching up" with one another. There was no set schedule that determined whose house it was. It was usually whichever house happened to have coffee cake or donuts on the counter on that particular day. If there had been a death in a family in the neighborhood, or someone had just had a baby, or someone was in the hospital or going through a hard time, they would line up a few meals or go door to door collecting money to buy flowers and a card.

There was never any need to put a GPS tracker on your kid if we had known about GPS back then. After school, as the kids came home and scattered throughout the neighborhood to play, all the mothers kept an eye on whoever happened to be in their yard and phone calls were made to let other mothers know where their children were. It was a happy, safe place as I remember. Often, at the last minute, a friend would stay for dinner. It was no inconvenience. We just ate a little less.

In my case, I would call home after a sports practice and ask my Mom if I could bring the whole basketball team or several members of the track team home for dinner.  My Mom always said yes. These people were usually people my Mom did not know but they were destined to become her friends. Mom was an average cook. Our home was not fancy but she was never daunted by the extra, hungry mouths. She offered what she had and did the best she could to make it edible. I don't remember what she fed us, but what I do remember is her sitting around the table with my friends, chatting and laughing and singing silly songs. She had a song for literally EVERY situation and she brought many smiles with her animated renditions.

This brings me to the subject of hospitality. I've heard the word thrown around the Christian world for many years and heard the discussion of what it is and what it isn't and quite frankly it seems a little skewed to me. I've seen many attempts to show hospitality. Some were successful, others were not. Some events were pleasing to the eye, but I felt uncomfortable there. Others were held in messy kitchens with dirty dishes in the sink but I felt completely welcome. Many think that hospitality is everything from the decorations to the table setting to the menu to the appearance of the house, to the guests. Some events take months and a lot of money to plan. Others are elaborate but done on a shoestring budget. But what is hospitality, really? Is it a production of some sort, a planned event, or is it more just a way of living? More importantly, if we're going to drag it into the definition of Christian womanhood, what does scripture say hospitality really is?

Biblical hospitality is not the Pinterest perfect setting, quaint dishes, and a perfectly planned menu. It is not teacups and finger foods on a balmy afternoon. It isn't themed parties or oysters on the half shell. It is not putting on the dog. That is called entertaining. There is a huge difference between the two. Biblical hospitality is sharing your food with the hungry and providing shelter for the wanderer or traveler in Isaiah, opening your arms to the poor and extending your hands to the needy in Proverbs, it is a simple offering without any fuss or frills in 1 Peter, feeding the poor, crippled, lame, and blind in Luke, it's feeding, clothing and housing the poor in Matthew, and blessing your enemy in Romans.

According to what I'm seeing in scripture, hospitality is not a pretty little gathering on a Saturday afternoon. Hospitality, in its truest definition, is messy. It involves people in need, oftentimes people you are not familiar with. It's probably not something you would share on Pinterest. In Bible times, it was taking travelers, who were passing through, into your home for the night, seeing that they were fed and comfortable. Hospitality is based on need, not preference. The Bible does not condemn entertaining. There was the wedding banquet that Jesus attended in John. The guests were carefully chosen for an expected outcome. There was the parable of the great feast in Matthew. Again, the guests were carefully chosen according to the preference of the sponsor. That is entertaining. When the guests could not come, unclean strangers were invited. That's hospitality. Of course, the parable was not written about hospitality but is more about the heart of God wanting all to come and feast from His table. Yet, we see that God's heart is hospitable in that He invites ALL, regardless of state or stature into His home to receive a blessing without pre-thought or personal preference but as the need arises.

In her article, What's the Difference, Jen Wilkins gets to the heart of this issue when she says:
"Entertaining involves setting the perfect tablescape after an exhaustive search on Pinterest. It chooses a menu that will impress and then frets its way through each stage of preparation. It requires every throw pillow to be in place, every cobweb to be eradicated, every child to be neat and orderly. It plans extra time to don the perfect outfit before the first guest touches the doorbell on the seasonally decorated doorstep. And should any element of the plan fall short, entertaining perceives the entire evening to have been tainted. Entertaining focuses attention on self. 
Hospitality involves setting a table that makes everyone feel comfortable. It chooses a menu that allows face time with guests instead of being chained to the stovetop. It picks up the house to make things pleasant but doesn't feel the need to conceal evidences of everyday life. It sometimes sits down to dinner with the flour in its hair. It allows the gathering to be shaped by the quality of the conversation rather than the cuisine. Hospitality shows interest in the thoughts, feelings, pursuits, and preferences of its guests. It is good at asking questions and listening intently to answers. Hospitality focuses attention on others.
Entertaining is always thinking about the next course. Hospitality burns the rolls because is was listening to a story.
Entertaining obsesses over what went wrong. Hospitality savors what was shared. 
Entertaining exhausted, says 'It was nothing, really!' Hospitality thinks it was nothing. Really.
Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.
But the two practices can look so similar. Two people can set the same beautiful tablescape and serve the same gourmet meal, one with a motive to impress, the other with a motive to bless. How can we know the difference? Only the second would invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind to pull up a chair and sip from the stemware. (Lk 14:12-14). Our motives are revealed not just in how we set our tables, but in who we invite to join us at the feast. Enteraining invites those whom it will enjoy. Hospitality takes all corners."
I've never been an entertainer. I don't have good decorating skills or a flair for what looks good. There will never be a Pinterest perfect party at my house. I am more like my mother and I pray like my God. I don't consider anyone a stranger, no matter their race, creed, social position or country. The downtrodden are always welcome at my table and to spend the night on my couch if they need to. Jesus said that when we show hospitality to others, we show it unto Him. Our reward on earth is often new friendships, gratefulness from others, and the joy of being a blessing. There is also a reward that is stored up in heaven and that is hearing our Savior say "well done, my good and faithful servant."

So to those who want to be a Proverbs 31 woman, "open your arms to the poor and extend your hands to the needy." Be prepared to be inconvenienced as you're exposed to the messiness of people's lives and seek to be a blessing to them by offering them a place of comfort and provision in your home and in your heart. This is the gospel. This is true hospitality.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Passed Over, Discarded, and Cast Aside

I got passed over for a promotion at work...again. I don't know why. It bothers me that I've gotten passed over twice now for a promotion. I have above average job reviews, I get along famously with all of my co-workers, I show up to work everyday and on time, I work hard and carry my load, but I still have not received a promotion.

When I realized that I had been passed over...again..the devil immediately tried to go to work in my mind. He started whispering things in my ears telling me that I never seem to measure up no matter how hard I try. It is true that if we look back over our lives, we will always remember times when we didn't measure up. I've had people in my life that no matter what I did or how well I did it, they always have some criticism about it. Instead of slapping me on the back and saying "good job!", they offer their opinions about how I did it, how I could have done it differently or better and how I missed some potential or opportunity, making me feel like I just didn't quite measure up. 

It is true that in life, at times, I have been cast aside and discarded by family, friends, employers and congregants. I've been taken for granted, taken advantage of, used, and unappreciated. The devil tried to create a slideshow in my mind of all those times. He told me, this is just one more time you didn't measure up, one more time you've failed, one more time that proves that you really don't matter. Just accept the fact that you're never going to be truly valuable or useful to anyone. You're never going to be special in any way. 

That lasted about as long as it took him to say it. I was ready for him this time. 

You see, the last couple of years have taught me a most valuable lesson. God truly does see me and love me...just the way I am...with all my weakness, all my failures, even if no one else on this earth can find any value in me at all. And that's more than enough for me. 

I love this song. It's been my reality. 

Reckless Love
Written by Cory Asbury, Caleb Culver, and Ran Jackson

Verse 1
Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Verse 2
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Just as I was telling the devil how much God loves me, I glanced at the promise calendar sitting on my desk. It said:
 "When he speaks in the thunder, the heavens roar with rain. He causes the clouds to rise over the earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and releases the wind from his storehouses." 

That brought a smile to my face. You see, that same God that this passage is talking about is MY father. He is the lover of my soul. He is the one who knows if one of my hairs falls from my head. He treasures every prayer, listens to every thought, keeps every tear, and His good thoughts towards me are numbered more than the grains of sand in the sea. I am the apple of His eye. He delights and dances over me!

When He speaks, things happen. Because He controls the weather, because He tells the sun when to come up in the morning and when to set at night, because He so meticulously shepherds my life, then when it's time for promotion, there's not a demon in hell or a supervisor on earth that can stop it.  

Oh how wonderful to know that I am safe in His care. I am valued in His Kingdom. Nothing comes to me that doesn't pass through His hand or isn't part of His plan to give me an abundant, productive, successful, and joy filled life. I may not understand when hard times come, when rejection is my lot, or when it seems that I am no more than a whisper on this earth, but I do know that I need not fear, I need not feel ashamed, I need not feel passed over, discarded or cast aside because I am God's cherished child and He is thrilled with me. In the end, that is all that will matter anyway.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Watch Your Attitude!

Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. 2 Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.Ecclesiastes 5:1-2
A few weeks ago, our Pastor used this passage in a sermon on a Sunday morning. As I was reviewing my sermon notes, I re-read this passage and the Lord dropped some thoughts into my mind that I thought I would share.

It made me think about my expectations and actions in the house of God. I am a sanguine. I like to talk so these scriptures were especially applicable to me. I like to talk to God and do regularly but today I let Him talk and you know what I found? I found that when I shut up, He will actually say something! 

He said the following things to me as I read this passage. I think I've been guilty of almost all of them at some point in my life:

1) Don't be flippant with God. Don't use flippant words with God. How often do we come into the presence of God with a flippant attitude? Flippancy means we do not show a serious or respectful attitude.We forget about who He is. If we stay up til all hours of the morning on Saturday night because it's the weekend and then sleep through church, that's showing disrespect and flippant. If we take scripture and inject it into our conversations in a common way or quote it in a sarcastic way, that's flippancy. If we talk to God as if He's on our level and one of the gang, that's flippant and disrespectful. It's about the heart attitude. Whatever we say to God must be said with a reverent heart. We must remember who He is and who we are. Remember "He is in heaven and we are on the earth; therefore let our words be few." And I would add, let our attitudes be humble. 

2) Always speak faith filled words to God. Faith moves the heart of God and causes Him to listen. When we speak words that truly reflect who He is, what He has said, and what He will do, we will live the reality of those words here on earth. On the other hand, when we whine or rehearse our situation, as if He doesn't already know about it, this dishonors God and He will not answer. We don't need to explain anything to God, especially our situations or the reason we do things. He already knows. To retell it to Him is an insult. It's okay to let God know how you are feeling as long as you as you are well ready to admit that you are wrong when your feelings do not line up with His Word and to speak, by faith, His will into your situation and life. 

3) Don't question God. Don't accuse Him in any way. Instead question your knowledge of His will and ways and ask Him for wisdom and revelation. Whatever God does is always perfect. To question Him in an accusatory way is wrong. To question Him with the attitude of wanting to understand what He is doing is godly and productive. God doesn't cause evil but sometimes He has to allow it.

4) Don't get angry with God. That is sin. Scripture clearly tells us to "be angry and sin not." Be angry with what causes sickness, trouble, discouragement and sadness-sin and the devil. Don't blame God for your troubles. He didn't cause them. If you alienate yourself from your only true source of help by accusing Him of things He didn't cause, where does that leave you? 

5} Speak less and listen more. "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger." James 1:19. If we would listen more to people and talk less, we would probably get angry less with them because we would actually be hearing what they are saying and would understand. We would ask questions for clarification and gain a true picture of what is on their heart so that when we do speak, our words would be effective and helpful.  

Bottom line is that we must be intentional with God. We must approach him with a humble and reverent heart because He is God and we are only there because His love has made a way for us to be in His presence at all! We must speak in a way that represents and honors Him. 

We not fear Him if we are saved, but He must never become common because He has never been or will he ever be common. He is divine. He is eternal. He is all powerful. He is God Almighty!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Battle With the Tootsie Roll Bowl

One of my co-workers had a bowl of Tootsie rolls on his desk to share with everyone. They are the smallest size tootsie roll and when you're having a sugar craving just right to squelch it. They are only 11 calories and since I don't usually eat all my points in a day anyway, I don't feel bad about eating one. So that's five a week or 55 calories.

The problem comes in when I pop that candy into my mouth and the phone rings. Rather than gross out my co-workers by spitting it our and saving it, I just have to chew it as fast as I can before I answer the phone. Then I feel as if I was cheated, so I go get another one. On days when I'm weak, I might end up eating 3-4 of those delicious little bites and THAT IS NOT GOOD! Because after all is said and done, I might have close to 100 calories invested in those little brown devils. That's 15 minutes of walking at a fast pace to burn that off!

The bad thing is now my body wants at least one everyday at 3 pm. I have sworn off the temptation but my flesh is still longing, crying for, aching for a Tootsie roll. It tells me that just one won't hurt. It's not breaking the rules. It's well within the allowable guidelines. And so on and so on.

In our spiritual lives, the devil has a bowl of Tootsie Rolls that he is more than willing to share with us. Those little things in scripture that aren't marked as wrong, but that we are cautioned about. It's okay to have a little wine for your stomach, but notice he said "a little. For medicinal reasons. It's not prohibited. I can't say that someone who drinks a glass of wine now and then is going to hell. The problem is that things like this cause us to walk close to a line that we don't want to cross, if we truly love God, that is.

Let's look at alcohol for a minute. The Bible does tell us that the drunkard will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. From my BC (before Christ) days, I know that it is hard to tell when you have crossed the line from sober to drunk. The law has an allowable limit, but that doesn't mean it's the same as God's. Then factor in tolerance, that the longer we drink, the more we need to get the feeling we were seeking in the first place and soon we are not just taking one tootsie roll from the bowl and if we're not careful we have crossed the line into sin. (As a side thought I would just add that I have no earthly idea why a Christian would "need" a drink. There is nothing found in alcohol that you won't find more abundantly in Christ. If you feel that you "need " a drink, then friend, what you really need is Christ.)

You might say that you can handle it, that you know how much you can drink and stay sober. Godly Noah thought he could to. Read Genesis and see how that worked for him.  Proverbs 20:1 clearly tells us that drinking is not wise. We are always seeking God's wisdom for the things that affect our lives-our marriages, raising our children, making business decisions, handling problems-so why won't we accept the wisdom God freely gives us without us asking? Why do we feel that we have to walk so close to the line just because we can? It's called carnality.

Billy Graham describes the carnal Christian as follows:
"There was a time, perhaps, when you were a spiritual Christian. You still had your first love; a fire burned in your heart for God. But something has happened along the way, something has disturbed your relationship with God, and you no longer know the joy, the peace and the thrill that you once knew." You have fallen prey to the three enemies of your soul-the world, the flesh and the devil and somehow it appears to be sweet like a Tootsie roll that just beckons to you from the bowl.

There are other things as well that if we overindulge in, they will steal our fidelity, strength and resolve and cause us to lose out with God. What are the tootsie rolls in your life? Is it entertainment? Music? The Sabbath? Modesty?

Take each tootsie roll and ask yourself these questions:
Will it benefit me spiritually?
Is there the potential for bondage?
Will it defile my temple?
Could it cause anyone to stumble?
Will it further the cause of evangelism?
Will it violate my conscience?
Will it bring glory to God?

If you truly want to please the Lord, error on the side of safety. Don't get too close to the edge. Don't walk on the line. Your enemy, the devil, is waiting for an opportunity, any opportunity to trip you up.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It's Just That Easy

I have a yahoo email account. For weeks every time I accessed it, a message box would pop up wanting to know if I wanted to increase the security of my inbox. Not having time to investigate I always answered "no" to the question that the end that implied I was an idiot if I didn't click yes. The question choices were "yes" and "no, I just welcome anyone that wants to hack into my inbox." Well it was not quite that bad, but close.

Today I decided to click on the button and see what it was all about. As soon as I did, a message box pulled up that "Thank you! Your security is now updated." BOOM! That was it! If I could reach that far around that I could've kicked myself a good shot, I would have. I must have said "no" a hundred times or more and was irritated that the message box just kept reappearing! How stupid of me to do that when it was such an easy fix. The key to my resistance was that I didn't fully understand or know what would be required to get the update. Turned out that all I had to do was agree and they did the rest.

​How many times have I done this spiritually to God? He comes to me with something that He wants to do in me and offers to do it. At first I see it as an irritation more than a blessing. I don't like change! But He keeps coming and asking. Finally I realize that He is wanting to do something to bless me and I stop and take a look. I investigate it a little more and even though I don't know how He's going to do it or what it's going to entail, I click the "yes" box and He gets to work. I receive nothing but by His grace. It's all Him. I only need to agree to let Him do it. Before I know it, I am delighted with the results and if I could reach that far around would give myself a good, swift kick for not allowing Him to do it sooner.

What things is God offering you? Are you listening? Are you checking the "yes" box of His will for your life? I encourage you to. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Just Be!!

I've lived almost 35 years as a born again Christian. Through the years I have experienced some very precious Christian fellowship. I've also experienced some very disturbing things done in the name of Christianity. With the current teaching pervading Christianity that you are not necessarily what you do, I also experience an increase of comments from non-believers about the hypocrisy of Christianity. Folks are going to hell because they have become disillusioned about Christ from observing His "believers" saying one thing and doing another and using "grace" to justify it.  This essentially makes us no different than "nice" sinners that we meet everyday.

In my case, it's a sad commentary that I have experienced first hand. Our next door neighbors are a a pair of older gay men. They have been our neighbors for over 12 years. Of all the neighbors that have come and gone, these two are our favorites. They are some of the nicest, most caring people I've ever met. Through the years they have taken many opportunities to bless us and frankly their concern and encouragement has at times far exceeded our own Christian community. They are what they are. They just do what they are. The are "nice" people. They are not saved but their experiences and perhaps their personalities given them by God have made them thoughtful, caring and nice. We enjoy talking and visiting with them.

One of our previous next door neighbors was a Minister. Doctrinally we differed on one thing. He was Calvinist in his thinking. We are Armenian. Some would rule this as a large difference, but we both knew that the basic foundation of our faith was being born again by the Spirit of God. When we visited, we talked of Christ and it was very nice. He lived what he professed because he believed that without change at salvation, there truly was no salvation. 

Another neighbor down the street is also Christian. In fact, they believe very closely what we believe except for one thing. They are Baptist and we are Pentecostal. Yet, our foundation is the same-Jesus Christ. When we first moved here I was hoping that we could fellowship together and work at winning our neighbors to Christ. It was not to be. While they are very friendly to everyone else on the street, they treat us as if we don't exist. We drive by their house on our way out of the neighborhood and if they are outside, they don't wave. They walk by our house when I'm sitting on the porch and they pretend that they don't see me. The woman walks a lot with others. When I tried to walk with her one day she told me that she uses her walks as her prayer time and didn't want to walk with me. The only time they are friendly towards us is when their ministry sponsors a welcome dinner for new International students at the local university.  Then they knock on the door with a big smile and ask if we would like to donate. At first our church did. We even attended the event to meet International students and signed up to host them for a meal in our homes. Funny, only one family from our church in 4 years was assigned a student to have to their home even though we all signed up. I can't help thinking it's not by coincidence. The other day I was driving up the street and she and another woman were walking in front of my house. I was pretty close to them because I was parking. I smiled and waved, which I always do, and she acted as if she didn't see me, even though I could have very easily run over her with my car. In the community they portray themselves as such great Christians yet they treat their own brothers and sisters in Christ like this. 

I've discovered that sinners are not dumb. They see and experience this kind of behavior from Christians all the time.  Didn't Christ Himself say that they will know we belong to Him because of our love for one another? Yet, they see this kind of thing within the Christian community all the time. The arrogance and loveless behavior of our neighbors perplexes and saddens me. On the outside they pretend to be good people but their behavior towards us is their true identification. You see, when you belong to Christ, you treat all people with love, saint and sinner alike. Christians need to stop acting and start asking for the fruit of the Spirit. You can act the part of a Christian or you can truly let God make you one. Just be what God has made you. You are a new creature. Old prejudices and judgments have passed away. Behold! All things become new! And that includes your disposition. To me our neighbors practice fake religion because they cannot even be civil, much less begin to act loving towards us. What is in their hearts? If we had ever done anything to them, it might make sense but we have never done anything to make them feel this way towards us that we know of. They have steered people away from our church, even lying about us when they have never passed through our doors, not even once. 

​If you want to act loving, do it because the love of Christ truly rules in your heart. Don't act kind, be kind. Don't act merciful, be merciful. Don't say to yourself that you should act a certain way because you are Christian, act that way because being a Christian has made you that way! There is a huge difference! Just BE what you profess. If you aren't what you know you should be, yield to the Holy Spirit and let Him do that work in you. Then you don't have to work so hard to carry on the facade. Facades will deliver failure and souls may be in the balance. JUST BE! JUST BE!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

In God's Timing

It's been said that "timing is everything." I was thinking about events in the Bible and the timing of them. Do you realize that everything that happened was in God's perfect time? The seven days of creation were God's perfect timing. The birth of Issac was God's perfect timing. The exit of Israel from slavery in Egypt was God's perfect timing. The birth of Christ was God's perfect timing. The things that are to come will also come in the fullness of its time as ordained by a perfect God.

We know all of this yet so often we question God's timing. When things come that are hard and painful we question God's timing. Sometimes we go even further and question His love, His goodness, whether He's paying attention or if He really exists at all. 

Ecclesiastes 3 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
 11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
If we believe that all the events in the Bible were God's perfect timing, if we believe that all the events coming in the future are all according to God's perfect timing as they meet their fullness, then why do we find it so hard to believe that the things we encounter in life are part of God's perfect timing for the world, thus part of His perfect plan for us?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I'm Not That Strong

I don't think I've shared much about my husband's health issues the last 3 years. In 7 days, we will encounter the third anniversary of the beginning of years of trips to the emergency room, tests, doctors, pain and unanswered questions. Three years ago, my son requested Chinese food from a local restaurant. We obliged. I also made some food from scratch to complement it. At around 5pm, our whole family-my 4 children, son-in-law, grandsons and husband sat down, gave thanks and ate. 

At 9pm, I got a call from my oldest daughter. She and her husband were very sick and needed help. My toddler grandson was fine and the nursing baby was also well, but they were literally fighting over the toilet because they vomiting so violently and often. I rushed over to their house to take care of them. At around 11pm, I got a text from my oldest son. He, my youngest daughter and my youngest son were still living at home. The text read "by the way...the rest of us are sick too." In other words, come home Mom! I stayed until about 3am at my daughter's house, helping to feed the baby from a bottle and making sure that the sick were at least trying to hydrate. 

When I arrived home, our two bathrooms were being put to the test. Four people were violently ill. I felt fine though. I went to the store and loaded up on Gatorade, Popsicles, and chicken noodle soup. I called off work to take care of them. That evening I began to feel ill as well and ended up joining them in the bathroom runs just as some of them were starting to feel better. I missed another days work because I was laid up too. 

On day three, I called the health department to let them know that we had gotten food poisoning from the restaurant. Their first question was, "did you go to the hospital and get stool samples?" I informed him that we didn't because I couldn't fit nine people, two car seats, and a toilet in my van all at the same time. Because they couldn't match our bacteria to bacteria at the restaurant and because no other people not related to us reported food poisoning, they had to deduce that we had caught a virus. I laughed as I said that he had better call the Center of Disease Control because this virus spread faster than yellow fever and the Bubonic Plague. 

After recovering from the initial poisoning, my husband began to have trouble.  he had two hernia surgeries. He started to get sick during dinner. It took us several months of cutting certain foods out of his diet to come to the conclusion that he had developed a yeast intolerance. We later learned that this is common after having a serious case of food poisoning. This caused us to totally revamp what we ate. I read every food label at the store before putting it in my basket. We quit eating out except for two restaurants because all the other places made him sick. Basically we started eating like cave men without the fancy label of Paleo. That summer, he got to a place where he could not eat anything except water melon. For three weeks he lived on water melon and lost 30 lbs. He went to the doctor who ran every blood test you can run and did a sonogram on every major organ of his body and pronounced him completely normal. Eventually he began to eat again but nothing was ever found. After that, he began to have painful abdominal attacks. They were so severe that I would practically carry him into the emergency room. This happened every 4-7 weeks for the next 2 years. Every time we went to the emergency room, we got a different diagnosis. 

One x-ray revealed that he had a large hiatal hernia and his stomach had gone up into his chest cavity and lodged against his lung. A surgeon operated and sewed his stomach back in place, attaching it to his diaphragm to keep it in place. They also took his gall bladder, just in case. We were hopeful that this would end the attacks he had been having but they didn't. Within one week he was back in hospital and then again in a few weeks after that. A gastrointestinal specialist was called in. She did an endoscopy, a colonoscopy and a stomach emptying test.  All were normal. He was officially declared a mystery. 

Over the last 3 months I noticed that he seemed sick more often. In fact, about 3 weeks ago, he was just sick all the time. He tried to brave it out with me begging him to call the doctor again. Two Thursdays ago he asked me if I would mind staying home from work because he was feeling very rough. I of course agreed. By 8am I knew we were in trouble and I rushed him to the emergency room. A CAT scan revealed that he had a band of tissue, much like a rubber band growing around the outside of the colon and squeezing it off. So back to the operating room he went. After 7 days in the hospital, 4 of those with a large hose up his nose and down his throat to drain his stomach and prevent nausea, and a six inch stapled incision on his abdomen, he has come home to rest, recuperate and gain back the 14 lbs he lost when he went 7 days without any solid food. 

To say that this and many other serious situations that we faced over the last 3 years were anything but excruciating would be a lie. Never in my life have I ever been so pressed, crushed and persecuted than I was then. The physical, emotional and yes, spiritual toll that life took on me was greater than I could have ever imagined. After all, I've been a dedicated Christian for 35 years. I've seen a lot and been through a lot of crushing situations. I would have never imagined that I could ever be in the place that I came to be just a few months ago. 

In the last week someone texted me to encourage me and said something about how strong I am. That immediately scared me. You see, I know that I am strong in the Lord but I also know that I am not as strong as my enemy. I am not invincible. My life over the last 1 1/2 years proved that to me. I suffered greatly in several situations. It was so bad that I even questioned God on many levels and spent two weeks totally prayerless doubting and accusing God. I'm not proud of this but it's the truth.  

So often we face our giants without a word to anyone else. There are times when that is necessary. However, God has given us something called "family" in Him. They are there for the purpose of support and help and prayer. Unfortunately there is much teaching in the church that discourages us from using them. Some teaching would tell us that to be needy in faith is lack of faith. We don't want to appear weak in faith, so we say nothing and bear our pain alone, leaving us isolated and vulnerable to an enemy who is much stronger than we are. 

My fear was that people would look at me and say "She is strong. She can handle this." and then they wouldn't pray for me. I didn't want to imagine that I was going to have to make it through my struggles on my own prayers alone. Perhaps they would be enough but it's a whole lot better to have numbers when you are facing something that is larger than you. As humbling as it might be to admit that you are having trouble keeping "the faith", we have to realize that it can happen to anyone and I mean anyone. It can happen to the strongest person you know. It can happen to the leadership in your church. It can happen to your Pastor, your mentor, or the person who led you to the Lord. We are all subject to the devil's wrath and he is stronger and more cunning than we are. He is out to destroy us. If we allow our pride or the false teaching that tells us that we are invincible to keep us from humbling ourselves in times of need and admitting that we need support, we will surely fail in our spiritual lives. 

The Apostle Paul not only prayed for others but he asked for prayer from others as well. He was strong but even he still needed prayer. He faced opposition and situations that were much larger than he was. I believe it was the prayers of others that sustained him and made him victorious in every situation that he faced. 

So the next time you see a brother or sister facing a situation, don't assume that they are strong enough to handle it on their own. You don't know all the facts. You don't where they've been or what they're facing. You don't know the unseen torment they may be experiencing or the flack they are taking from the enemy of their souls. So even if it seems that they should be able to weather this alone, pray for them anyway and if God lays something practical on your heart that you could do to make their load a little lighter, do it, even if it may seem unnecessary. I can tell you from experience, it could be a lifeline that they desperately need. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Perfect Spot

I love being outdoors in nature. There is a beautiful stretch of creek near my work and home and I go there every day for lunch. I've seen some amazing things in the last year.

I've seen dozens of species of birds: the elegant Junco, the Tufted Titmouse that looks like it was painted with watercolor pastels, the awkward sandpiper, the Baltimore Oriole and his wife eating crab apple buds as they forage for nesting materials, a majestic Blue Heron, the vocalist Red
Winged Blackbird, the Carolina Wren that sounds like a whole orchestra by itself, the sleek and friendly Catbird, the Red Breasted Robin-the bird everyone looks for in the spring and is annoyed with by fall, N. America bluebirds-they really do make you happy when you see one, the white and the Red Breasted Nuthatches hanging precariously overhead from pine cones that have just gone to seed, Indigo Buntings-I've always wanted to see one and he ended  up right in my own backyard, the Pileated Woodpecker along with his cousins the Downey Woodpecker and the Red Breasted Woodpecker, an assortment of sparrows-and the Lord knows each and every one, the striking Red Breasted Grossbeak, the decibel breaking American Redstart, the Scarlet Tanager-not to be confused with the Cardinal-both who made an appearance this summer, the King bird who really does live up to it's name, the Great Crested Flycatcher, the cowbird, the Thrush, the hummingbird that drank from every flower on the plant right below where my feet were hanging, the boisterous, cocky Blue Jay, the Northern Flicker-what a beauty, Bald Eagles both young and old, the Osprey who greeted me every morning as I exited my car and who dive bombed me with some poor creatures carcass hanging from it's feet, the Red Tailed Hawk, the Peregrine Falcon, the Sharp Shinned Hawk, the ever present Kingfisher whose call is unmistakable who caught and ate a fish right before my very eyes, a whole team of Mallard ducks who appeared to be looking for a place on the next summer Olympic synchronized swimming team, Canadian geese-always heading the wrong direction I might add, and the Common Merganser duck with his wife and child,

I also saw some wildlife: a mink swimming, playing and bathing in the creek, a muskrat who didn't see me first and ended up inches from my foot. When he saw me, he put it in high gear and splashed me in the process. A water snake who also wasn't paying attention and followed in the muskrat's footsteps. He hid under a log and spent the next 20 minutes periodically peaking out from under the log to see if I was still there. It was like playing hide and seek. Eventually he decided that I was okay and went on his merry way. There were also several varieties of fish, turtles sunning on logs, bull frogs, tree frogs, tadpoles, squirrels, chipmunks, and one lone garter snake that scooted across the path I was walking on.

I was constantly delighted by the wildflowers that grew and the butterflies and moths that frequented them. I think I got  a photo of nearly every one.

My co-workers complained to me that they had never seen so many things in nature. When I asked them how much time they spent there, they had to admit that they didn't spend much time in nature and when they did, they usually had some sort of an agenda like hunting or hiking to a specific spot so they really weren't paying attention to all the nature around them.

My trips to the creek had only one agenda-just to be there. On those days that I chose to just sit in one spot instead of walking through nature, I found that nature came to me and I was delighted every time. Whether I sat and read, studied, sang, cried, prayed or just closed my eyes to listen to the sounds of the water passing by, I always left with a peaceful calm in my spirit and a sense of wonder at all that God had made.

One day God reminded me we are to seek Him out just as I seek out the wonders of the creek. As we come to Him with nothing but His agenda in mind and we sit and wait or walk through His Word, He meets us there and shows us things almost too wonderful to grasp. We always leave with that sense of peace, faith and the knowledge that He is wonderful, powerful and good.  It surely is true that "when we seek him diligently with all our hearts that He will be found of us" but we have to show up first! That is our part. The amount of time we spend in His presence will determine how much of His beauty we will come to know and understand. Just as the creek calls to me every day, God calls us to come and sit in His presence to see what wonders He would reveal to us that day. His revelations to us will be as diverse and beautiful as the bird population that I love so much. Some people commune with nature as a way to find peace in this crazy world I choose instead to commune with the creator of nature who is the Prince of Peace. He knows me as intimately as He knows every sparrow that falls to the ground and He loves me much, much more than them. And He sees me everyday as I sit among all the wonders He has created for me to enjoy and comes to meet me there. Not one day have I ever left His presence with anything but the knowledge of His pure and perfect love for me. He always brings me to a place of peace in Him and with Him. He is a wonderful God.

He is so much like the creek. Just as I know I will always find the water tripping over the rocks on it's way to the sea, I know that God never leaves me or forsakes me. I can depend on Him when life whether life is rushing at me like floodwaters or when everything seems dry and the water is low. No matter what, He is always there waiting on me to tell me great and marvelous truths. Just as the water sings and giggles as it flows over the rocks and under the limbs on its way downstream, He tells me of His great love for me as His Word speaks to me through the Holy Spirit. Whether I need to see him like the strong rock cliffs that guard the creeks edge and provide shelter for so much of His creation or as the one who soothes away every hurt and concern as the water gently washes over anything standing in its way, He makes Himself known in just the right way on just the right day.

He's always there. I just need to come.