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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Work of Faith

The following blog really ministered to me today.  It's the first day of school in our district and at our house.  Some of my children go to public school, one is home schooled.  

It's not easy to send my two, hormone overloaded sons to public school, but for now, it's necessary. 

It's not easy for me to home school a special needs child.

It's not easy doing Brain Integration Therapies with her everyday.  It's tedious for us both. 

It was especially hard for me to drop her off at the public school for an 8th period class and leave her there to fight her way through a sea of students and trust that she would actually find her bus and get on it before it left for home.  She hasn't ridden a school bus in 2 years.  She was scared.  I was petrified. The mother part of me just wanted to sit in the 90 degree weather for one class period and take her home myself, but the rehab therapist part of me knew that ultimately, that wouldn't be the best thing for her.

Preparing four souls to enter eternity is a weighty responsibility.  And when all my prayers and all the duties I perform according to God's Word seem to be having no effect, there can be an "oppressive anxiety" that comes until I lift my eyes to where my help comes from and I am reminded that...

God sees the end from the beginning.  And He sees the middle, where I find myself on a daily basis.  And even though the things He asks me to do may seem of no value or effect, His path is the perfect path.

Just all too often, that path has to be traveled in blind faith.

The following blog excerpt quickly reminded me that I must do the things I do, both easy and hard, with faith and trust in my heart because I often do not see an immediate return.  There are many things in life I'm just doing by faith trusting that in the end, they will have been beneficial.  I am a firm believer that even the things we do by faith that are mistakes can be overruled and changed by God and that realization truly is the "shortest way to peace" but frankly, some days I forget that and the joy in my work is fleeting. 

Then I remember:

"It is faith that enlivens our work with perpetual cheerfulness. It commits every part of it to God, in the hope, that even mistakes shall be overruled for his glory; and thus relieves us from an oppressive anxiety, often attendant upon a deep sense of our responsibility. The shortest way to peace will be found in casting ourselves upon God for daily pardon of deficiencies and supplies of grace, without looking too eagerly for present fruit.""

Here is the whole blog entry.  I think I'll read it every day for awhile.

Today I was just going about my work: buying Gatorade (the red kind) and mixing jello (the green kind) for my sick husband; trying to get Tori to eat her peas and carrots (and then cleaning up the peas and carrots she threw on the floor); training Jack to obey “right away, all the way, and with a happy heart” (and “quietly” when we’re in the library, please!) and write this post.

Then Mom sent me this quote by Charles Bridges:

"It is most important habitually to contemplate our work in its proper character as a “work of faith.” As such, it can only be sustained by the active and persevering exercise of this principle. This is what makes it a means of grace to our own souls, as well as a grand medium of exalting our Divine Master.

It is faith that enlivens our work with perpetual cheerfulness. It commits every part of it to God, in the hope, that even mistakes shall be overruled for his glory; and thus relieves us from an oppressive anxiety, often attendant upon a deep sense of our responsibility. The shortest way to peace will be found in casting ourselves upon God for daily pardon of deficiencies and supplies of grace, without looking too eagerly for present fruit."

Faith transforms my work. I can find forgiveness for my impatience with the kids, I can have hope that my training efforts will not be in vain, I can wait patiently for the evidence that what I am doing for my family is doing some good after all, and I can be “enlivened with perpetual cheerfulness.”

Most of all, faith makes the laundry, the dishes, the editing, the diaper changing, the praying, and the care-giving a means of grace to my soul and a means of exalting my Savior.

It isn’t just work anymore. It’s a “work of faith.”

--from the archives

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Call To Counter Revolution-True Woman Movement

Ah...the last and final chapter, written fittingly by Nancy Lee DeMoss.  In this chapter she issues a call to professing Christian women to join the counter revolution, (a revolution counter to the feminist movement anyway.) 

I found it interesting though.  All the things she is calling women of all ages and marital status' to do is to simply return to Godly living.  I understand the call to swim upstream, against the influences of the world and I totally agree, but I have to ask myself, why are we having to call "Christian" women back to Godliness?  Where have they been all this time?  Somewhere, somehow, along the way the torch was not passed. 

Were the deceptions of the feminist movement so deceptive that even the very elect were deceived or was there already something lacking in proper discipleship between the older and the younger woman?  And where was the local church in all of this?  Where were the thundering pulpits filled with men of God standing up for truth.  Where were the women of God who should have been proclaiming the blessedness, the goodness and the wisdom of God in creating the place that women of God fill in the body of Christ?

Furthermore, where were those that should have been encouraging us to read, believe and heed the Word of God, fully engaging in the knowledge that the Word is pure and true and right and the only way to a fully satisfying life? 

Nancy is right.  We need a reformation!  But not necessarily in womanhood.  That is putting the cart before the horse.  What we need is a reformation in the church as we know it.  Pulpits, Men, Women and kids!  The church needs a movement back to the Word of God, back to men of God, back to holy living that is not only recognized by unsecularized dress or habits, but holiness that is of the heart.

Over the years I have watched the decline.  One popular woman t.v. preacher used to call her program "Life in the Word".  Now, after Joel Osteen's popularity, she calls her program "Enjoying Everyday Life".  There has been a shift from focus on the Word of God, pleasing God, making God central, the hub of our life, the central thing that all other things in our life flow from.  Now, God is presented as something we add to our life, like some self-improvement program.  He's become a spoke in the wheel of our life that we add for strength and stability, but we are still at the hub of this wheel of life.  We are not dying to live, we are not decreasing so that God can increase.  We have our noses stuck in our navals so far, it's a wonder that we can even breathe.  For decades, the world, our parents, even the church has been telling us that "we" are the main event.  They have fed our self-indulgent nature, in reality making us gods in our own eyes.

We have lost the knowledge of our true position in God.  We have placed ourselves in His care, as His children who can ask anything of Him when we are in need, but we have not placed His Son at the forefront, as the only one who can give us access to the Almighty.  In short, we do not appreciate Christ even slightly the way that we should if we truly had a real knowledge of what He has accomplished for us.  If we did, we would not need a reformation, a revolution, or a re-make.  We would be so different than what we are.

Getting the word out is good, but again, getting the word out without a system of accountability set up is really just continuing in what we have been doing for decades that has not worked.  It seems ridiculous to me to continue putting thousands and thousands of dollars into something that is not working.  Information is not enough.  "Knowledge puffs up".  We can be seeking knowledge and denying the power of it.  But we can only have the power if we are willing to be accountable to leadership as the Holy Spirit changes us and we learn to practically walk in our new-found knowledge practically.

I found this excerpt of James Smith's very insightful and a clear indictment of where the church finds herself today. He's says what I'm thinking much better than what I could ever express.  (the italics are mine)

Swallowed up in a worldly church!
(James Smith, "Man's Treatment of Gods People" 1859)

"If the world hates you--keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world--it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world--but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you!" John 15:18-19

Such is the testimony of the Lord Jesus.

Real Christians have never been favorites of the world--and while it continues what it is, they never can be. (Oh, but how the church has cuddled up to the world, making it feel comfortable in our meetings!)

Nor can the pure and simple gospel be pleasant to the world, because it lays the sinner in the dust, and exalts God as supreme and sovereign. Let us not be surprised then, if we hear worldlings speak against the gospel, and traduce the Lord's people; for what the Romans told Paul, is in a good measure true in the present day, "For concerning this 'sect', we are aware that it is spoken against everywhere!" Acts 28:22 (Would someone please tell this to the t.v. preachers??????)

This 'sect' originated with Jesus, the hated Nazarene, who came into the world for its good, and to save His people from their sins. He gathered around Him many--but they were principally the poor and unlearned. There was nothing in them, or about them, to recommend them to the proud and sensual world.  (But now our leadership has become proud and sensual to try to reach the world, which is clearly why it's not working!)

They were begotten of God, and made new creatures in Christ.

They embraced the truth that He taught.

They observed the precepts that He gave.

They copied the example that He set.

Their creed consisted pretty much in these facts:

that man is a lost sinner, (Whoa!  That's not very seeker sensitive!)

that salvation by works is impossible, and therefore it must be all of grace--or not at all;

that the Lord Jesus came into the world to take the sinner's place, fulfill the law in the sinner's stead, and die as the sinner's substitute.  (That's just being judgemental, isn't it! :-))

By such hopes, they were animated,

by such rules, they walked, and

at such objects, they aimed.

And yet, they were spoken against and despised, because they poured contempt on the luxuries, pride, and honors of this world. They were treated as the offscouring of all things, unfit for society, unfit to live.

"Do not be surprised, my brothers--if the world hates you!" 1 John 3:13

And yet, like Israel in Egypt, the more they were persecuted, the more they multiplied and grew; until at length they spread not only over the Roman empire--but nearly over the world. And, had they retained . . .

the simplicity of their lives,

the spirituality of their minds, and

the correctness of their creed--

they would no doubt have encircled the globe!

But at length they were . . .

courted by royalty,

loaded with wealth,

became intoxicated with worldly honors,

and then their glory departed!

They drank into the spirit of the world,

conformed to its maxims and customs,

sought its approbation and applause--and

so fell from their exalted station, and lost their real dignity. The 'sect' that had been spoken against everywhere, with the exception of a few--was swallowed up in a worldly church!

There are still some, who, like the ancient sect of the Nazarenes, are spoken against everywhere. They will not swim with the stream. They will not compromise their Master's honor, or give up their Master's truth. According to the light they have--they walk; and they rejoice to exalt the Savior, humble the sinner, and proclaim salvation, all of grace. They rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer shame, for His dear name.

Reader! Do you belong to this sect? Is there anything in your religion that is distasteful to the world, anything that draws forth its opposition, or excites its contempt? The carnal mind is still enmity against God, and if we are godlike--that enmity will manifest itself against us!

If we copy Christ's example, as set before us in the gospel; if we testify against the world, that its works are evil, and call upon it to repent, as Christ did--we shall soon be hated by the world!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Be sure to read this insightful and challenging 3 page article by James Smith:

Man's Treatment of Gods People

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Balanced Life

Warning!  If you are the type that has never stepped foot on a dairy farm or had poop on your boots, you might want to wait on the next post!  But sometimes the "base" things in life teach us good lessons.

Today I went to the health food store to buy some supplements for my daughter's brain.  There were two women working behind the counter.  Since this was the first time I was at their new location, and they had expanded their inventory, I took some time to look for Ezekiel bread flour mix.  They didn't have any.  (By the way, if anyone has a recipe for this without having to purchase a mix, would you please send it to me?  Thanks!)

As I approached the counter to pay for my products, I noticed that both of the women had very sallow complexions, frown lines and they looked very skinny--you know the way people look who have a regular diet of things that grow in my yard that I spray with pesticide look.  I chit chatted with the lady who checked me out about the new store, the flour I was looking for, etc.  As we were talking, another customer walked up to the other counter and asked about signing up for something on a clipboard that was sitting there. 

Mid sentence, both of the employees ran to help her, leaving me there talking to myself.  So as I picked up my purchases, wondering why it took two sour faced women to show an obviously educated middle aged woman how to sign a clipboard, I continued to carry on both sides of the conversation with myself as I left the store.  I was hoping that they would notice how rude they had just been to me, a regular customer.  (They probably just thought I was nuts! LOL!)  As I approached my car, I wondered to myself again why these women, who eat all the right things to make them healthy and happy were so sickly looking, frownish and rude.  As I opened my door, the McDonald's bag that just a few minutes before had held a McDouble and a small fry came into view and it hit me!  They're hungry!  I'm not happy when I'm hungry.  I know, a character flaw!  But God isn't done with me yet!

After leaving the health food store, I was walking through Wal-Mart, totally engrossed in my grocery list.  You see, I absolutely abhor grocery shopping, so I make a very detailed list that is organized according to the isles in the store so that I can just buzz through, throwing things into my cart without stopping, to see if I can set a new grocery shopping time record!  (Thanks to Wal-Mart's "improvement" program, I couldn't find diddly squat because NOTHING was where it used to be anymore and now I have to go make a new list!  What's worse is that even the signs in the aisles declaring what the isle contained were wrong too!  Frustrating!)

Anyway, I wasn't paying particular attention to anything or anyone when I heard a very familiar and annoying sound.  A very loud tooting noise.  Now I have told my boys 100 times not to toot in public, not to toot in a room when women are present, and NOT to toot around me!  (I fall into the woman category, you see.)  But there it was!  A very loud, long toot!  The toot that was heard around the world!  I whirled around to see which one of them had that guilty look and which one could hardly contain his laughing, but they weren't there!  Then it hit me, they weren't shopping with me!  They were at home mowing the grass!  (Maybe I should have them take the clippings to the ladies at the health food store).  The only person even remotely close to me was a large, older woman who just went about her business as if nothing had happened!  I was stunned! 

As I proceeded on with my shopping, I wondered to myself if that woman had ever had a mother.  I pondered how she could be a lady and just walk around town letting 'er rip whenever and wherever she happened to be.  I was thankful, SO THANKFUL that my boys were not with me because they not only don't have good tooting habits, but they tend to not be very tactful either!  I continued to wonder why a lady, so obviously overweight, would do something to attract attention to herself in this way.  I mean she reminded me of our dairy cattle, who at the crack of dawn, when roused from a night's sleep in the cool grass of the pasture adjacent to the barn, would stand, stretch, and let out all the gas that had built up overnight while they dreamed their cud chewing dreams.  So I turned around and casually walked by her again-holding my breath-to observe what she had in her cart.  As I viewed the contents of her cart, I realized that she was hungry too, for the right foods, that is.  Her cart was full of all the wrong things!  That would explain the pesky peristalsis problem that had just made itself evident to me.  


I've said all this to say that there is a balance in life.  And the result of being out of balance, in either direction can be devastating. 

Proverbs talks often about balances and weights and how God does not like it when something is out of balance.  Why?  Because a proper and true measurement was not taken and something is deficient on one side or the other 

There is a proper balance in the Christian life too.  There needs to be proper balance between the Word and Prayer in the life of every believer.  I know people who read, read, read the Word but who couldn't pray their way out of the proverbial paper bag.  They tend to become self-righteous and judgmental of others and think more highly of themselves than they ought.

I know others who don't read the Word much, but who pray a lot.  They have the tendency to grow weird, see demons on every doorknob, and pray things that just don't make any spiritual sense nor pack any spiritual punch.

Just as we need food AND water, we need The Word AND Prayer!  Faith is needed in prayer.   Where does faith come from?  The Word!  How does the Word that we read turn into faith in our hearts?  Through prayer!  A.W. Tozer in His book on "How to Pray", said that we should spend time in the Word and then spend time in prayer about what we just read!  That brings proper balance into our life, spiritually speaking.

If all I do is eat food and I never drink water, I'm going to get constipated and very uncomfortable.   

On the other hand, if all I ever do is drink water, I will grow thin and weak and sickly because there are no nutrients in water.   When I eat food it travels to my stomach where my body digests what I just ate.  But if I didn't drink enough water, there isn't sufficient moisture to properly digest it and I end up losing nutrients that would make me stronger and keep me healthy.

I have been taking time to make sure that I have a proper spiritual diet.  And I've discovered something.  As I read the Word, I find plenty of things to pray through there, and as I pray through them, I find myself growing hungry for more of the Word, and as I read more of the Word, I have much Word to use in my prayers which grabs the attention of God because He always responds to faith in His Word.  And then that makes me want to pray more! 

If God knows that we are asking and believing Him to answer because we just believe He really meant what He said, He will always respond!  And as I pray, I find that there is not enough time in a day to pray for everything that needs prayed about! 

There are the crisis prayers--things that really need His intervention NOW!  For instance, right now I'm praying daily for a baby who was injured while being shaken and a man who just yesterday was given 30 minutes to live.  God has already intervened in both those situations, but there are new concerns daily with both these people that need God's attention.

There are ongoing or continuing prayers--my family, my church, the individual ministries in my church, the individuals in my church, the missionaries we support and pray for, and the gospel message spreading through our city and our country once again.

There are the times of personal prayer when I take time to examine if I am in the faith.  Those times when we allow the Holy Spirit to honestly show us where we are and to give us a "proper estimation of ourselves."

There are times of intercessory prayer for people who are far from God or who have never known him.  

There are times of strong prayer when we feel, by the Spirit, that there is a battle in certain areas of our lives, the church or the lives of others.

There are times of praise and thanksgiving and worship and declaration of the attributes of our God. 

There is the all important time of just waiting on God, quietly submitted to Him with no outside distractions, turning up the volume in our hearts to hear what is on God's heart that He would like to share with me.  One day, God interrupted my prayers three times to tell me to take tea bags to a woman's house that I barely knew and ask if she would like to have a cup of tea with me.  Or there was the time that God sent me on a 15 mile drive to the local Laundromat to do my laundry at 10pm at night.  Both divine appointments yielded souls for the kingdom of God.   

And my favorite, there are just times when I sit and talk with God the way I am sitting here talking with you right now.  Invariably, His presence just surrounds me like He is giving me a real big hug.  As a child I used to travel upstairs to my grandfather's bedroom on the second floor.  He had a rocking chair by the window that overlooked the  street below and I would sit in his embrace for hours watching out the window and chatting on and on about everything.  Those were the times I felt the closest to him and so it is with God as well.  There's just nothing like knowing that God is truly listening to what is on your heart.  

As I eat the Word and drink of prayer, I grow in strength, maturity and wisdom-and oh, how I need God's wisdom!  I leave the balancing to Him though.  I'm not obsessively methodical in measuring both, but I am careful to make sure that I eat a balanced spiritual diet everyday so that I will live a balanced and healthy life.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Leaving a Lasting Legacy Through Prayer

Fern Nichols wrote perhaps the most encouraging chapter of this book in "Leaving a Lasting Legacy Through Prayer".

I have seen what a legacy of prayer passed down through a family can do. 

My husband and his brother, both in the ministry, are a result of a legacy of prayer passed down through four generations.

My husband's great grandmother, whom we called "Granny", attended a Lutheran church.  At some point, she heard someone preach who had been involved directly with the Azusa St. Revival and was saved and filled with the Spirit.  As a result, she then worked to help establish a Pentecostal church in PA.  Granny was a great woman of prayer.  She carried a tangible presence everywhere she went.  When you were around her, you noticed something very different about this woman that sometimes made you feel so very loved and other times made you feel very uncomfortable, but not because of anything she did or said because she was a woman of few words unless you asked her something.  

Granny had a daughter named Evelyn, who reaped all the benefits of Granny's prayers.  She became a Christian herself and a great woman of prayer.  In fact, in her house, there are two spots on the hardwood floor worn a different color, where Evelyn's knees wore a spot from praying.  When Evelyn said something, it was usually power packed.  Evelyn was a simple person.  She was a wife and mother and a wonderful cook.  She had a sense of humor that could quickly light a spark of hilarious laughter in any room.  But when it came to Jesus, she was all business.  Evelyn, in turn, passed her prayer legacy onto her daughter, Louise, my mother in law.

I love my mother in law.  She, too is a simple woman.  She is a wife and mother.  She married a very Godly and humble man and together they produced two sons.  These boys grew up in churches where prayer was all about lingering at the altar and "praying through" until you got an answer from God.  It was common for drunks to stumble into a service and deposit themselves on a back pew.  When the altar call was given, they would stumble to the altar, under great conviction.  There they would be joined by Granny and Evelyn and when they got up from the altar, they were completely sober and delivered from alcohol.  This happened to many drug addicts as well because when my husband was a boy the "age of Aquarius" along with all the psychedelic drugs were very popular.  Men and women would instantly change after going to the altar.  

My husband tells me stories of sitting on the front pew watching all that was going on.  People would be laying on the floor, praying, crying, seeking God and the Spirit would hit a woman who begin to spin and dance before the Lord.  He watched as that woman would dance, with her eyes shut, hands in the air, looking to heaven all across the front of the church and back, her spiked heels landing literally between the outspread fingers of folks laying on the floor, never stepping on anyone.

Somehow, when Louise's sons became teenagers, the pull of the world was too much.  My husband got lured away in to muscle cars and trans ams.  There were many times he should have died, traveling 160 mph on back country roads, sometimes after putting back a few brews with the boys.  His younger brother became a hard drinking, drug taking, womanizing truck driver with a foul mouth and a sarcastic attitude.  Many, many times, both of those boys should have met their maker.

But something was happening at the home of their parents.

Every Wednesday, my husband's father fasted.  He would spend the time in his bedroom praying for the salvation of his boys.  They knew what he was doing and both of them had to walk past his slightly ajar door every Wednesday and listen to him pleading before God to save their souls.  He did this every Wednesday for 13 years when suddenly, his oldest son, my husband, got saved.  It took a few more years for the younger brother to come, but he did.  Now, both boys are Pastors. 

I too reaped the benefit of those prayers because a few weeks before my husband got saved, I did too.

My husband and I have four children.  The legacy of prayer has continued.  As a mother, and knowing what I knew of the previous generations in my husband's family, my prayer was always this:

"Lord, I can teach them your Word, I can teach them to pray, I can live Your Word in front of them but I cannot make You real to them.  That is something you need to do.  Lord, please meet each of them, one on one.  Convince them of Your presence and draw them to yourself, just them and You til they know that they know that they know that they're saved."  And God has done that for some of them.  Others I'm still praying for, but I know what God has promised the righteous concerning their children and their grandchildren.  My faith is in His promise."

Some of our life's circumstances have caused us to have to pray, and pray hard.  Our children have been there.  They have seen God move.  They have seen miracles.  Some of them ARE miracles.  

Whether in a group or alone, prayer is power.  The Bible tells us that "the prayer of a righteous man makes much power available." (Amplified version)  What else do we have to do, what else do we have that is worth anything if we are not people of prayer?  

Any born again believer can pray and have power with God.  It is our calling.  It is our privilege.  It is our survival.  And so, WE MUST PRAY!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shoptalk for Pastor's Wives-The Importance of Your Testimony by Gisela Yohannan

Gisela Yohannan is a woman whom I have never met, but whom I admire.  I would like to meet her some day.   I've always wanted to pick the brain of the wife of a minister who has been successful both in ministry, in raising Godly children, and in maintaining  a life unstained by moral failures.  In Letters to my Sisters, she addresses other women whose husbands are in ministry with timeless, Biblical encouragement.  This portion of a letter she wrote especially encouraged me as I continue in the role of helpmate to my husband as he follows the Pastoral calling on his life.   I pray it encourages you too.  You can access this and other books written by both the Yohannas at Gospel for Asia by clicking on the button on this blog. 

"When I look at them now, I am often reminded of what I wrote by faith so many years ago in my book Mate and Helpmate:

I am sure as Daniel and Sarah grow up I will miss them not being small any more. But there is a day coming in their lives I am looking forward to—by faith. Before our  children were born, we dedicated both of them to the Lord and we asked Him to save them and to call them for mission work. It will truly be the most wonderful day of my life when the Lord will answer this prayer. . . . I believe I will not fear to lose them as they become adults, but my joy will be even greater, knowing the Lord will call them and use their lives to bring glory to His name.

Because of the very nature of my husband’s calling, our family is quite visible, both to God’s people and to those who oppose Christianity as well. I know the same is true for you in the place where the Lord has asked you to serve Him. That’s why I want to share a few thoughts with you on the importance of your testimony.

Our lives are made visible to others by God’s choice. If you are like me, you prefer to be more private and selective of what others should know about you and your family life.

But God has other ideas. He is trying to save a world that does not know Him or His Word. That’s why He chose to provide them with a living example of His grace—you. His intention is this: As they observe you, they can clearly see how God could transform their lives if they trusted Him. In addition, God is building a church with people who often come straight from heathen backgrounds. These new believers need to have the opportunity to watch and learn from someone living the Christian life before their eyes.

Paul is writing about all this in 2 Corinthians 3:2–3: “You are our letter . . . known and read by all men. . . . You are a letter of Christ. . . .” It’s not easy to be observed 24 hours a day. It puts enormous responsibility on us to live worthy of our calling and to be that example for others to follow. As adults, we find it difficult to be watched so closely, but our children feel the pressure even more. Church members usually have much higher expectations of the pastor’s children than they have of their own. Consequently, the pastor’s children often receive more criticism from people, a longer list of do’s and don’ts from their parents and more punishment for their shortcomings. 

All this can easily result in discouragement, resentment toward God and the wish to have nothing to do with ministry. But by far the greatest danger is for your child to become a hypocrite, which can easily occur if he is constantly told to behave in a certain way, “otherwise, what might people think?” This teaches him to act out a spirituality before people that he does not have. Eventually, he will be more concerned about pleasing people than pleasing God. God never intended our testimony to be an extra strain. It should be the natural outcome of our normal, everyday walk with Him. He never meant for us to give an extra performance before the world! All He wanted was to let them see how Jesus lives through us.

If there is no difference between how I act at home or in church or how I talk to my husband and children in private or public, my testimony will have great power. In addition, my children will seeGod doesn’t expect perfect performance. He looks for faithfulness and sincerity in the testimony we have for Him before the world. When He decided to display our life to those around us, He knew well how weak and fragile we are. How is it, then, that He still wants others to watch our lives?

God wants to demonstrate how His grace and power are sufficient in our weakness. He also wants for the world to see how true Christians humble themselves, confess their sins, love one another, ask for forgiveness, love their enemies, persevere under trials, exercise faith, trust the Lord in difficult circumstances and are faithful until death. The devil will do all he can to destroy your testimony. Don’t be fooled even for a minute to think the devil has no interest in you because you are “just” the pastor’s wife or an ordinary member of your Gospel team. You are a target for the enemy, because whatever you do will deeply affect the credibility of your husband’s ministry or the effectiveness of your Gospel team. In fact, the more your life and ministry are visible, the greater interest the devil has in causing you or another member of your family to stumble, at the same time discrediting the name of the Lord and discouraging other believers.

Temptations, false accusations, sickness, discouragement, the lure of materialism, opportunities to compromise the truth, lies, the cares of this world, disappointment, misunderstandings between you and your husband or co-workers—these are just a few of the things the devil will use to trip you up. God is well able to keep us. Knowing about the devil’s intentions should not fill us with fear, but instead keep us on the alert.

“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4) is God’s promise to us. To give the devil no opportunity to destroy your testimony, do these things:

• Walk in humility before God, knowing that you need His grace every moment of your life.

• Flee temptation and anything that could cause you to compromise.

• Never allow sin, bitterness and resentment to put down roots in your heart.

• Forgive others.

• Pray daily for yourself, your husband, your children and your co-workers, that you will all stay faithful to Jesus.

Your Sister, Gisela
June 1999"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

God's Jewels-True Woman Movement

God's jewels was written by Joni Eareckson Tada. Well known to most of the Christian world, she needs no introduction.

We have all heard the analogies of diamonds in the rough and how the friction caused by buffing and scrubbing turn them into the most desirable of gems. And she, of course, uses the story of her life as a quadriplegic as an example. I appreciated her transparency.

In this blog, I'm going to share something that I rarely ever share with anyone, for a variety of reasons. But if one can learn from another's mistakes and bad experiences, then I pray that someone will learn something from what I went through. I'm not at all proud that I allowed myself to lose my confidence in my relationship with Christ. But it happened to me, and as far as I can tell, has also happened to many other Pastor's wives before me. I sometimes forget that even though I live in the midst of a loving congregation, there is sometimes a big red target on my back and if I'm not watching my back, I can sometimes fall prey to a scheme of the enemy. Fortunately God took what the enemy meant for harm and brought wonderful deliverance and victory from it, but had He not been on my side it would have been disastrous.

If we are going to truly be Christian, our Father is going to scrub us from time to time. Some Christians run from these scrubbings, as my sons ran from a bath when they were young. As kids, none of us probably liked having our bodies rubbed red by an over zealous mother determined to get every speck of dirt. (In my case things were potentially worse since sometimes she couldn't discern between specks of dirt and bazillions of freckles.) We didn't enjoy being dunked in the tub to get our hair clean and we certainly didn't enjoy a thick piece of terry cloth being shoved in and behind our ears, but we endured it. And most of us would also have to admit that the feeling of being clean of the day's play dirt and curled up in our beds in a fresh pair of pajamas felt really good. Still does!

I have learned to welcome the Lord's scrubbings because I know that there is going to come with it a freshness and cleanness that is going to feel really good when He's done. But sometimes the process is very grueling and painful. (Fortunately the Lord can discern between spots and freckles!)

I went through a time in my life where the Lord undertook a major spring cleaning event in my life. I had four children, three who were still in diapers. Life was hectic! My husband was busy working in the church and driving a school bus part time. Unbeknownst to me, someone in the church succumbed to selfish ambition and pride and soon seemed to view me as a major obstacle in their forward progress. Due to this person's influence, over time, I became convinced that I was more of a detriment than a blessing to my husband's ministry. Because I felt that I was a detriment, I withdrew from the women at church because I didn't want to hurt anyone. I had no idea how this had happened in my life and life became very lonely. I felt detached not only from my friends, from the ministry that I had always loved so much, but also from my husband.

I had always been very involved in ministry with my husband. And through the years we had experienced much success together. I knew what my spiritual gifts were and had learned how God used me, and I was very content in what I was doing. But now i became convinced that all the areas of gifting that I had experienced success in beforehand were actually areas of weakness in my life. It was very conflicting for me. I still reached out to women on my own, but as soon as I did, this church member would move to end any relationship or influence I might have had.

This all was very hard. Life became unbearable for me. So I ran to the only place I felt that I had left to run to. I ran to God Himself. I began to lay with my face in the carpet everyday during nap time, seeking God about how I had ventured so far from the truth. I cried, I soaked the carpet, I moaned and groaned because I did not know what to even pray about. You see, I was always taught to respect those in leadership. In our years of being under leadership, we had always been careful to maintain a posture of respect and an attitude of submission, even when we were falsely accused, mistreated or we didn't agree. We always presented a united front with whomever we were under unless it came to the place of compromising our convictions. Then we would resign and leave quietly. I also trusted my husband's judgement about who was in leadership, so it never even crossed my mind that something might be amiss.

As I spent time on the floor, seeking God about the things this church member had pointed out to me, I didn't seem to be getting anywhere. But one day God spoke loudly and clearly to me. One by one, He went through all my petitions showing me that this person did not have my good at heart, but their own promotion. He reassured me that my spiritual gifts were intact. He showed me that what my flesh and this person was trying to get me to believe and what He, by His Spirit, was teaching me were very much at odds, so I needed to follow my spirit. I began to grow stronger. And even though He clearly released me from this person's influence in my life, He also used that time of total submission and desperation to address some things in me that HE wanted to address. It was if He said "forget what that person told you, but while I have you here, I'd like to do something." Day by day, I sat in the Lord's bathtub as He scrubbed and cleaned. At times it felt as if He rubbed me raw, but then He would pour His healing balm on and I would feel the love and purpose that He had for my soul.

In time, some changes occurred. At first I noticed a change in the way I thought about things. Then I noticed a change in the way I reacted to things and people-mainly my husband. Then people in the church began to notice changes in me. And finally, my husband began to notice a change in me. All of the sudden our marriage began to improve-really, really fast! Soon, he began including me in meetings where I had never been allowed before and was asking for my opinion on things. No longer did I feel disconnected from him either in our marriage or in ministry, which for me was a double blessing. I am perfectly happy to just be his wife, but being able to join him in ministry is an awesome privilege too.

Eventually a split occurred in our body that was very devastating and wicked with this church member leading the charge. Many churches would not have survived. But God preserved our body and over the years that followed did some housecleaning of His own. He took what the devil meant for harm and brought much good from it. Today, I wouldn't trade our congregation for any other in the world. Together we have learned some hard lessons, but through it we have gained wisdom. Together we have experienced excruciating pain, but through it have grown together in love. Together we faced a giant and we won!

As a result of all of this drama (I HATE drama), I learned some valuable principles that I still cling to and practice today.

~Take EVERYTHING, no matter the source, good or bad, to the Lord in order for HIM to sort out how it applies to you, or IF it applies to you. This does not mean that you doubt everything you hear, but when questionable things are said that don't immediately ring true in your spirit, allow God to sort it out.

~Learn to discern. If someone seems too good to be true, there is a good chance that they are not true, nor good. Learn to follow your gut, that intuition that God gives you as a woman and as a Christian. Women are so easily driven by needs and emotions that if we are not careful to take notice when we feel a little quickening in our spirit, we may make a wrong turn and end up in a ditch. There are many true people in God's kingdom, but we must watch for gross overcompensation in relationships (someone who is excessively loving or giving of good) because this can, not always, be a signal that there are motives at work that are not completely pure.

~As women, we MUST look to God directly to meet ALL our needs. It's so easy to look to friends or husbands for the emotional, spiritual and physical support that we crave. But when people we are depending on fail us, we then find ourselves in a position that hinders our ability to minister to others because we are so busy trying to overcome hurt and disappointment, that we build a protective wall around our hearts. In order to truly minister to others, we must be able to be vulnerable with others, knowing full well that we might get stabbed in the back but willing to take the chance. But if God is truly the one we look to for provision of ALL our needs, then when people fail us, it won't shake us. Yes, it hurts, but the pain is more short lived because our needs are still all met.

I have learned that for most of my needs, my husband is usually the vehicle that God uses to provide them, but if He doesn't, then I'm not disappointed because I know that God will provide them in some other way. I can't describe what a tremendous difference learning to see God as my only provider has made in my marriage. I'm not putting false hope and unrealistic expectations on my husband. He is free to be used of God in whatever way God chooses, but he finds exceptional joy when God uses him to provide for me.

~Enter the Lord's bathtub willingly. I always seem to know when a time of scrubbing is coming. It may be because I notice that I'm failing or struggling in a certain area of my life. It may be because someone else has brought something to my attention that I wasn't seeing. It might just be a knowing that I get. My first thought is always, "oh, I have disappointed the Lord" and I am sad. But I soon realize that I have come to a place in my life where God wants to scrub a little more of the world off of me and replace it with something good. So I look forward to the times of excruciating honesty because I know what the outcome will ultimately be.

~Keep the big picture in mind. We see our lives so differently than God sees them. We so often want to hurry through the times of preparation to get to the main event. But sometimes, the preparation IS God's main event. God is not in a hurry. He is very intentional in everything He does. And even though we can't always see or understand why in the world certain things are a part of our lives at the moment, in the sweet by and by it will all make perfect sense and we will say "Thank you Lord!."

~Stick to God's timetable. I will often tell my kids something and they will say, "Mom, I KNOW!" But then they run off and prove to me that they don't really know because if they did, they would have heeded what I just said. It takes intentionality and time to learn to put the things God teaches us into practice. And He will provide us tests along the way, not because He needs to see how we're doing, but because WE need to see how we're doing. Sometimes we may feel that we're going back to the drawing table, but God builds in us line upon line, precept upon precept, but when He is done, we can know that the foundation is sure and that further building will not crumble or fall. In all stages of His building, it may feel that He is reteaching when really He is just adding another layer to an already existing truth. I look at God's building in my life like I look at Baklava. There are those thin, flaky layers of crust, one on top of another on top of another on top of another. They're so thin, they appear to be one thicker layer. Eventually you actually get to layer some substance in the middle and then you go back to those thin, flaky layers again.

The end result? We are His workmanship, having a sweet savour to the world. We are built on a solid foundation, not easily shaken, full of His wisdom, operating in His grace, being a correct representation of Him to the world. We have been to the refiner's fire and we've been buffed by His Holy Spirit. We are precious jewels in His kingdom. May we always shine for God.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Love is Truly Blind-A Valentine for my Husband

Rarely do I hear women commending and complimenting their husbands.  Chat rooms are full of complaining and judging and criticizing, but few are expounding on what is right about their husbands.  (If these men are really that bad, then the women who married them must have been pretty stupid!  I don't think they think about that part much.  I myself don't claim to be smart--either I got lucky or someone prayed really, really, really hard for me!)  So I decided that as time allows, I am going to send my hubby a valentine each month on the 14th to try to counter balance all the hate out there and to let women know that "Yes, Virginia, good, Godly men do exist!"  And yes, it will be quite easy for me to write something positive every month, for the rest of the year, for the rest of my marriage, for all eternity!  I got me a keeper!

Whoever said that "love is blind" was very wise!  

I am thinking weddings!  My oldest daughter is getting married in October.  The other day I pulled out my wedding album and looked at the photos of my own wedding 28 years ago.  Man, I was much, much thinner than I am now!  My skin was smooth and soft.  My hair was dark brown and highlighted from the sun.  My hubby was tan and cut!  And he had hair all the way to front of his head!  (Nowadays I tell him that he's increasing in wisdom and knowledge which is why his forehead is getting larger to accommodate his expanding brain!  He has been deeply studying Proverbs, after all.  I don't think he buys it!)

My favorite photo is one of us walking back up the isle after being pronounced husband and wife.  Our hands are clasped together.  Hubby has a "shy Di" look, glancing out from under an embarrassed expression at those he is passing as we walk.  I am grinning from ear to ear because I managed to catch him after all those years that he chased me!  We were so in love back then!  I would have sworn on that day that I could never love anyone more than I loved him on that spring day in May of 1982. 

What first attracted me to him?  He was CUTE! 

"Some enchanted evening....., you will see a stranger.....you will see a stranger..across a crowded room...and somehow you know, you know even then..."  (For the younger crowd, this is a song from "South Pacific".) 

There I was on a dance floor, standing with my best friend and across the way I saw a tall, tan, clean cut guy with the deepest dark brown eyes I had ever seen and I thought to myself--Wow!  Hey, don't judge--I wasn't saved and neither was he!  I had not had any boyfriends in high school, so I didn't think that someone of his stature would even notice me, so I took one more drink in of those brown eyes and blond hair and promptly forgot about it. 

 As fate would have it, we somehow ended up standing right in front of him and his friends.   Anyway, a drunk person fell into my friend, who proceeded to fall into his friend and so we met.  From that day forward, we were pretty much inseparable.  After 9 months of dating, I went 3 hours away to finish college, but that only served to strengthen our love.  I still have every single letter and card he ever gave me, and he wrote me everyday!  I wish I still had all the money we spent on long distance phone calls and Greyhound bus fares. It was bazillions of dollars--all just to sit and listen to each other breathe while counting the days until we could see each other again.  Oh those were the days!

As I looked at those photos, I realized that we don't look anything like we did back then.  Those stout, cut shoulders and chest of his have migrated south.  Pretty soon the ratio of hair on his head compared to his facial hair will be 50/50.  We won't discuss my head to face hair ratio!  I'd have to double the material on my wedding dress to get into it now.  My face is full of laugh lines (his fault-he makes me laugh everyday).  On the outside, we are just a shadow of what we were back then, but the love I felt for Him that day is NOTHING compared to the love I feel for him now.  Perhaps today, a young woman wouldn't look across a crowded room and pick him out as anything extraordinary (she'd better not anyway--just sayin), but to me he is just as handsome and desirable, even more so,  than he was the first night I laid eyes on him.

I guess, for me, love, in a weird way, is blind!  But on the other hand, I see very well, and that is why I love.

Some of that goodness that first attracted me to him has moved to the inside.  Now when I look at him, I see his heart, I see his character, I see and experience how much he loves me, how much he makes me laugh, how much he has sacrificed to provide for me and the children, how hard he works and never complains or begrudges me any good thing, even if he can't be included in it and my heart nearly explodes with love!  I don't even notice that he isn't the same looking on the outside as he was when I was first attracted to him.  To me, he looks the same.  In fact, when he puts on a suit to preach on Sunday morning and looks all handsome, it's very often difficult for me to concentrate on the sermon the way I want to! (confessions of a Pastor's wife). 

I still always want to hold his hand, to slide over to the middle seat when we're driving somewhere together, to have some part of me touching him while we sleep.  (He doesn't mind unless it's my cold feet!)  No matter what I'm doing, I'll drop everything to ride along with him to an appointment, to take a mower to the shop, pick up a load of fertilizer, or go to the shooting range--okay, I admit, I enjoy the shooting range as much as he does.  He's the first thing I reach for in the morning and the last thing I touch at night.  My whole day is spent thinking how I can do something to please him, even if it's something so simple as putting the watermelon in the fridge to chill because he LOVES it cold!  He is like good scotch--he just gets better with age! (Really, I wouldn't know, I've never had any scotch, but I've heard this said!).  LOL!  ( And for those that are wondering, that bottle I drink out of during Sunday morning service that looks like a vodka bottle, and whom I call "Fred", really is just a water bottle.  I just bought it to get a rise out of you!  It worked, didn't it? LOL!)

With all the pressures that we face in our culture today to conform to some established idea of beauty and acceptance, the fact remains that love is truly blind!  Or maybe I should say, "true love" is truly blind. 

Have you ever been somewhere and seen a couple and thought to yourself, "what in the world does HE see in HER, or visa versa?  Or maybe you know a single that makes you wonder, "how will they EVER find a mate?"   But somehow they do find a mate, and that seemingly mismatched couple turn out to be extremely happy through life.  I'm convinced that opposites do attract.  My hubby and I used to be opposites in almost every way, which is maybe why we were so attracted to each other at first.  But now, we know exactly what the other is thinking, we finish each other's sentences, and we even know what the other is hungry for without asking.  We laugh at the same things, cry over the same things, and we fit together so perfectly we're like two spoons nestled together in the silverware drawer. 

My friends accuse me of thinking that he's perfect.  That's not true.  After all, I do live with the man.  But for me, the few little things that I might change about him are so small and insignificant when matched against all that is right, and good and true about him, I really have to think very hard to remember what those few little things even are. 

He is a simple man, a humble man, a spiritual man, a consistent man, a REAL man, biblically speaking.  That is hard to resist, not that I would want to.  In terms of worldly success, some would not think that he has accomplished all that he could, or perhaps all that he should.  I just hope that God lets me in the room when his eternal rewards are divied out, and that I can see all the faces of those who have tried to discredit or demean him.  Payday is coming, and his is going to be BIG! And I will rejoice! 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Choosing Faith in Seasons of Change-True Woman Movement

Karen Loritts was the author of this very transparent and honest chapter.  I appreciate people who are not ashamed to admit and honestly evaluate the hard times that come to every Christian's life.  Although I cannot say that I have ever dealt with fear in the same way that she described, I am forwarned as I am quickly heading into the empty nest period of my life.  It seems that even with all the preparation we can do in prayer for those times of life that we know may cause us some struggles, occasionally we are all blindsided by something we never saw coming. 

I know some who would think this could never happen to them, and when it does, they would never admit it to anyone until it was over.  There is some merit, I feel, in fighting through things with God alone.  I've done it.  The problem can be in how we share what happened, what we did and what we learned as a result of it.  Some choose to wear it as some kind of heavenly purple heart for people to look at and admire.  That is just plainly prideful.  But others, as Mrs. Loritts did, just honestly share what happened and how close they came to an edge of no return before the Lord had mercy and rescued them.  It is from these types of people that we can truly learn spiritual principles.

I was once blindsided by fear and it almost took me completely out.

It was in 1994.  I had just experienced a great spiritual victory in that my second child had been born full term and healthy.  From day 1, the enemy had tried literally everything he could to take her life.  Because of the Lord's protection, we had defied every statistic and even defied a doctor's diagnosis that told us that we had lost her.  In fact, I had, at one point, sat up on one elbow on an examining table and stuck my finger right in the doctor's face and informed him that I had NOT lost this baby and that she would be born when she was due. 

You see, also from day 1, God had spoken to me directly about this baby's life and He had promised her to me.  Having a directive straight from God to you, in no uncertain terms, can make you very bold when pushed to believe or accept something other than what God has said.  (I'm praying that I will learn to let God's written Word have it's full effect in me as His spoken Word did during this time.  I'm not there yet, but I pray that I get there!) 

Within 8 months, I was pregnant again.  Although welcomed, I had not planned on being pregnant so soon after having a baby.  I still am not sure what happened, but somehow fear assailed me.  I began to remember the previous 9 month's struggles and fears.  The days spent in doctor's offices, hospitals and emergency rooms were still very vivid in my mind.  And the close call while in labor was so clear that just thinking about it made my heart race.

Before you judge me, remember that the same thing happened to Elijah.  After his miraculous demonstration of the power of God in defeating the 450 prophets of Baal, he ran and hid from one lone woman.  Perhaps these things come on each other's heels so that we will not grow proud and wear our victories as a medal of honor.  Or maybe they come because we pridefully take some credit for the victory we just experienced, instead of giving God all the glory.  I don't know.  But I do know that God is just as big in both kinds of situations.

In 1994, while in my first trimester of my third pregnancy, fear took over.  I could not sleep at night.  For weeks, I lay in bed every night, all night, trying to go to sleep.  As this continued, I began to experience anxiety attacks.  I would all the sudden quake so hard with cold that I shook the whole bed, often waking my husband.  Then, in a split second, I would feel as if I was burning in a fire.  It scared me!  I tried everything.  I read my Bible, I quoted scripture, I listened to worship music, I refused to get up thinking that I would just lay there and eventually fall asleep, but I wouldn't.  I began sleeping in my daughter's room in a spare bed.  My nights were spent trying to make myself sleep, crying out to God, and searching my heart.

I experienced temptations to things I hadn't been tempted with since becoming a Christian.  And sadly, a few times I gave in to those temptations.  I became claustrophobic.  If I had to drive downtown during busy times and was forced to stop in a line of traffic, I would have to step outside of my car until the traffic started to move again.  At some point along the way, I got sick with a sinus infection that clogged my nose and ears, multiplying the claustrophobic feelings to the point that during dinner, I would often have to leave the noise of the dinner table to go outside.  People were continuing to pray for me, but quite honestly, every time someone would pray, I would grow worse.  At some point, I just told people to please stop praying for me!  The only thing I was truly interested in were some drops the doctor prescribed to help with the pain in my ears as my ear drums burst.

I wish that I could, as Mrs. Loritts does, outline what my plan of attack was to overcome the realization that I was losing it!  But I can't.  But what I did do had just as much effect.  One night, when the banging and the clanging of dinner was sounding all muddled in my head, I left the dinner table and went outside.  As I looked up, I saw the stars shining brightly overhead and I knew that beyond those stars God was, at that moment, looking down on me.  I was spent.  I had no answers, only questions.  I had little faith, only guilt and condemnation.  I had no hope, because I just kept growing more sick and more crazy feeling.  So I simply looked up to heaven and with all the faith I I could muster, I simply said "God, please have mercy on me." 

From that very second, my life began to change.  My fever broke, my sinuses cleared.  For the first time in months, I slept all night in sweet, peaceful sleep.  Occasionally the fear would try to come crawling back.  I could tangibly feel when it was trying to sneak up behind me and take back over.  But a very wise Christian had reminded me that "God has already won the battle.  We don't need to fight it again" and that alone was enough to make the enemy flee.  I've never had any trouble like this since.

My son was born one afternoon, all 10 lbs. 3 oz. of him.  God had obviously protected him through all that I had gone through because he was a delightful baby, a good little boy, and is a growing, thriving teenager today.  In some ways, God used that whole episode to rightly put me in my place.  I am no match for the devil nor for all the things evil can bring into a life.  It is only when I humble myself in my weakness before God, fully admitting that I am in trouble without God's intervention, fully depending on the mercy of Calvary, that I am strong.

The Bible tells us that God will fight for us.  That He is on our side.  That He causes us ALWAYS to triumph through Christ Jesus.  That He is greater in me than those in the world. 

The next time I was blindsided by something even more terrible, it didn't take me long to get to looking up to heaven at the God who was looking down and letting Him know that I was down for the count unless He did something fast!  And He didn't disappoint me.  And He displayed His power in a miraculous way.  And He secured a wonderful victory!  But that's a story for another day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Woman After God's Own Heart--True Woman Movement

Syndicated radio host Janet Parshall was the author of this chapter where she approached the story of Hannah and Samuel from a mother's persepective.

The prayers of a mother seem to have a special power.  Andrew Murray, in "Raising Your Children For God", alluded to this fact.  C.H. Spurgeon did as well in his vast writings.  The Puritan writings are full of admonitions to mothers concerning their prayers for their children.

All of us, as mothers, have had times of prayer similar to those of Hannah.  It may have been for a wayward child.  It may have been for a sick child.  It may have been for the bearing of children.  It may have been for grace in releasing a child to the mission field, marriage, or even kindergarten.  The fact remains that, as mothers, we often experience the most heart wrenching pains in prayer for our children. 

Although I found Janet's take on Hannah's story intriguing and interesting to read, something she said at the end of the chapter caught my eye. 

"Motherhood gives us feelings of fuzzy blankets and baby rattles and toys to line the crib.  But motherhood is actually one of God's refining fires.  The reality of motherhood is that it's a place to learn surrender, letting go, trusting and believing that God is God.  But because He is in it, motherhood gives us the opportunity to interact with history."

She later says, "our prayers for our children can make a mark on our nation."

I've always thought that God gave me children to make me grow up!  For me, being a mother has not always been easy. 

-I fought in prayer to conceive
-I fought in prayer to bring each pregnancy to full term.
-I fought in prayer for the sparing of the lives and the healing of my children after a devastating car accident that left two of them brain injured and close to death.
-I fought in prayer, and still am for grace and mercy to keep my children unstained by the world until I am sure of their salvation, and then beyond their salvation. 
-I fought in prayer as my oldest made some scary decisions in picking those that she would date and refused to listen to sound reason.  (She's getting married this October to a man we love already as a son--he's just what I prayed for!) 
-I fought in prayer to survive having 3 inquisitive toddlers who were all in diapers at the same time.  I spent a lot of days declaring what I know is truth, even though my experience didn't always line up--"Children ARE a blessing, children ARE a blessing."  I sometimes return to that "mantra" now that they are all teenagers.  But I have more faith than I did then!

I read something lately about the influence of mothers in the context of perhaps the greatest mother that ever lived.  It challenged me greatly, even though I am closer to the end of constant mothering than I am to the beginning.  But I highly doubt that we ever quit being mothers, even when our kids are grown.  It was written, of course, concerning Mary, the mother of Jesus.  If there is any woman in scripture that I would seek to reflect, it would be her.

J. Oswald Sanders writes, "Everything indicates that she was one of these rare women whose glory it is to prepare a noble life, losing themselves in it, and desiring to be glorified only in it's usefulness.  Her song, reveals her as a devout, high-souled woman, fervently patriotic and a student of Scripture.  Her song is patterned on that of an older saintly woman of the Old Testament, Hannah."

How refining being Mary must have been.  How purifying being Hannah must have been.  In light of what these women accomplished as mothers, the influence they wielded through their prayers, the kinds of men that they produced, and the impact their children had on the history of mankind,  it is clear to me that "the hand that rocks the cradle IS the hand that rules the world" and I would add this is true if the one that rules the hand that rocks the cradle is the King of the universe." 

Women of God, we MUST be women of prayer!  We must approach the refiner's fire so that the dross of our lives does not affect the potential of our children's lives.  We must realize that we, as mothers of prayer, hold the greatest power available in our hands and we must put stock in those prayers, by faith, believing that God hears and answers them, no matter what we may see right now.  We must believe that when we train our children according to the Word of God, that they will not depart from it when they are older.  But we, like Mary, must come to the point where our lives and our children are not about our pwn success, our reputation, or our happiness.  No, they must be about producing usefulness in the Kingdom of God and for the Glory of God.

We must, as Hannah and Mary realize that our children belong first to God.  We are only their caretakers.  They belong to Him.  And at some point, we must be willing to say, "be it unto me according to your Word."  That may mean that the life we plan for ourselves will not go as planned.  It may mean times of heart wrenching and exhausting battle in prayer.  It may mean letting go of a child who is sent far away.  But one thing I do know, that when we can submit ourselves to raising our children for God and truly trusting God, He will not disappoint, He will not allow their lives to be a waste.  He will glorify Himself through them. 


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wacky Worship

Recently, I attended a week of youth meetings.  It was held at a Charismatic Christian College known for it's missions and ministerial programs.  I've always had high respect for the school, although I haven't always agreed with all their practices.  But I'm a firm believer that there can be some differences in preferences amongst Christians without disruptions of fellowship or unity.

This year was certainly an eye opener for me as a Pastor's wife.  Being involved in several on-line groups, some with Christian women and others with women in ministry, I was aware of some of the ideas about worship that are being taught in charismatic/pentecostal circles that migrate from conventional types of worship, but I didn't realize how detrimental some of them can be until I observed the results of them first hand.

The first thing I noticed right off was the "party" type atmosphere.  I believe that there is joy in the presence of God, but it is because of the presence of God.  It is not what brings the presence of God.  It appeared to me that the youth and quite a few of the youth "leaders" were there to have fun, thinking that having fun was worshipping God.  There were lights changing the backdrop color, balloons flying everywhere, people jumping up and down like pogo sticks, booties shaking in a provocative manner, leaders leading the crowd in cheers and hoots as if we at a football game instead of a church service, musicians dancing around as if they had a snake in their pants, and songs with words that appeared to have been written in a yellow submarine during a writing session with the Beatles.

There was a heralded rapper, whom appeared to be a sincere, godly man. The words to his songs, (what I could understand anyway), were God honoring.  But quite honestly, I can't see him standing in heaven with a dew rag of righteousness (I'm sure I misspelled that--I'm a hick) swinging his arms above his head yelling "come on everybody, let's make some NOISE!  Get your hands up, get your hands up"  If my version of the Bible is right, it's already thunderously loud in heaven, the general position for worship is prostration and there is no need to encourage people to  worship. Furthermore, the beat of those songs was such that my flesh could hardly keep still, which put up a red flag for me right away.  And John and Charles Wesley said "Amen!".  

There seemed to be a general disposition to make God anything we wanted Him to be in that we could present any type of worship we felt like and it would be accepted by God and bring Him pleasure.  There was a popular worship song a few years ago that began "Come, now is the time to worship....Come just as you are to worship...."  That song has always bothered me because at no time ever, has the Bible taught that we can come just as we are to worship God.  In fact, there are instances in scripture where God hated the worship people were trying to give him.  The only time we can come just as we are to God and be accepted is in repentance at the time of salvation.  At that point, we are cleansed by the Blood of Christ, which makes us able to worship in spirit  and truth.  (To the songwriter's credit, that is not what he meant by the lyrics, but because most people didn't know his life circumstance at the time of it's writing, the song presented a wrong message.)  

 And as a Pentecostal, I know that at times the Spirit of God will lead us out what is considered the norm, but some of what I saw had walked clear out of the realm of the spiritual and into flesh.  In the OT, the priests and the Levites went through all kinds of cleansing and special activities to prepare themselves for the worship of God.  It is true the veil has been rent, but that has not changed the holiness of God one bit, nor the kind of worship He desires and is worthy of.  He is the same as He always was and responds to the kind of worship He prescribes, not whatever we want to come up with and call worship.   

As the service progressed, the pulsing of the drums seemed to  drive people into a fleshly frenzy even though the words of the songs really wouldn't lead people that direction.  Maybe I'm just a moldy oldie, but encouraging me to "take off my lampshade" is not exactly a spiritual thought.  And for the most part, the words to the songs were at best shallow, repetitive, and mostly a bunch of "Christian cliches" thrown together in an effort to create lyrics.  In fact, the song that brought the most presence of the Holy Spirit during that whole week of worship services was written in the 1970's and went like this:

"For thou Oh Lord, art high above all the earth
Thou art exalted far above all other Gods  (Repeat)
I exalt thee, I exalt thee, I exalt thee, Oh Lord (repeat)

Hmmmmmm......Words directly from the Bible AND IN KING JAMES LANGUAGE--gasp! 

As I, for the most part, made myself worship the best that I could, and I looked around at people seemingly enraptured singing lyrics that neither flowed in a particular idea or concept nor made any logical sense, I thought to myself, man, I am really losing it!  But inwardly, I knew that I hadn't, but I discerned that something was terribly wrong. 

Our Pastor, who is a fourth generation pentecostal, who has seen genuine worship and revival first hand, has preached many times about the advantages and the disadvantages of the Charismatic movement.  It did bring a spiritual renewal that was needed in the church, a renewal of faith, healing and worship.  But it seems that our culture, that always has to have something new-new doctrine, new worship, new methods-has carried it beyond the boundary of Biblical doctrine.  Having sat in charismatic circles with other well known and popular ministers, I've heard them discuss first hand how they have to "one up" the speaker that came before them or they won't be invited back next year.  Sad to say, but at that moment, I was very ashamed of the ministry.

Ah.......doctrine.  The main disadvantage of the Charismatic movement is it's lack of training in Biblical doctrine and scholarly learning of Biblical doctrine and Biblical languages, therefore making proper interpretation difficult.  As I watch Christian t.v. with a man who had 5 years of Biblical Greek, it amazes me at how these guys butcher and make up definitions and pronunciations of the Greek language.  In fact, my husband is in search of the books they get this stuff from because it's not in any of the myriads of books he has on the subject!

"Scholarly" is not a dirty word.  All the heralded preachers AND song writers of the past were schooled in doctrine.  And like it or not, they got us where we are.   But with the coming of Charisma, the emphasis shifted from doctrine to experience, but went to the point where instead of doctrine discerning experience, experience became doctrine.  According to D. McIntyre, who quoted an unnamed theologian in the book "The Incomparable Christ" by J. Oswald Sanders, the church has swung like a pendulum from thinking too much of the deity of Christ and too little of His humanity to allowing His humanity to hide His deity."  In many circles, Christ has become one of the boys, our best buddy, our "daddy", our lover (which I see perverted way too often, especially in song lyrics), our bestest friend.  While all of these things may be true, except for the lover part if you are thinking in human terms, there is also the Holy, Righteous Kingship and all powerful, unlike any human, judge of the universe side to God.  Scripture does tell us to "behold the goodness AND the severity of God."  And we must learn to worship within the balance of those two things.   

Jeff Purswell writes:

"Doctrine provides a right understanding of God's person and character. At its core, worship involves a response to God's self-disclosure. However, we can only respond rightly to God if our perception of him is true. Sound doctrine shapes in us a true vision of God, and curbs our sinful tendency to accommodate our view of God to our own self-interests.

"Imagine that a man living in conscious, willful, unrepentant immorality walks into a church. He gets caught up in the melodious sounds of the voices and instruments, and thinks, 'I'm really alright with God. God loves me, and I love him, too.' Then he leaves and continues to pursue his immorality unabated.

"Has that man worshiped the true and living God? Absolutely not. He has simply worshiped a god of his own making, a god who winks at sin, a god who is not holy. This man came to church, and sang worship songs, and felt good, but he worshiped a false god...and one which looks suspiciously like himself.

"To grow in our worship of God, we must first grow in our knowledge of God. Far from intruding into worship, sound doctrine makes true worship possible.

"Doctrine enables us to respond appropriately to God."
After growing up in a denominational church, singing from a hymnal; getting saved in a Baptist church with choruses and hymns that actually included words like "Blood" and "Sin"; getting filled with the Spirit in an A/G church where we sang the early choruses of what is now called "contemporary Christian music"; and spending years in ministry circulating amongst several "camps" of charisma, many of which had the reputation of "cutting edge music", and experiencing the effects of all those different kinds of music, I see a dire need to put doctrine back into our worship.  We need to put Christ back as the focus of our songs.  Most of what I see now, is about what I am in Christ, what I'm going to do for Christ or because of Christ, what I can do through Christ, what I get from Christ, what I feel as a result of Christ, what I....I.....I--well, you get the picture.
It's not about us!  It's about HIM!  In our church we have waged war on wacky worship.  We have declared that we will not worship in a wacky way. We will not sing wacky songs.  We will not give to God anything less than what He instructs us to do in scripture or leads us to do by His Spirit, as long as it lines up with Biblical doctrines of worship. Fortunately, we have a Pastor who is schooled and sensitive to the Holy Spirit to guide us in this. 
My heart fears for the young of the church in America.  They just need what is real.  They get their flesh stroked everyday by the world, and now, it appears by the world that has infiltrated the church.  May God have mercy and bring a sovereign move to this generation.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Merger With A Serger

"Sew, Mamma, Sew"  is a blog that I read regularly.  I have found many wonderful tips and ideas on it.  With the economy as it is in my house (6 mouths to feed, a wedding coming up, 3 teenagers in high school this year, and me needing some smaller clothes), well, a serger would just come in real handy.

It's funny that just two nights ago, as I hooked up my 28 year old Pfaff sewing machine that has never given me a day of trouble, it gave me a day of trouble!  It's been a good ole machine, even survived a trip from the closet shelf to my daughter's big toe.  (Her toe didn't fare as well).  There's a lot to be said for German construction.  (My daughter's not German).  It's been drug all over the countryside through the years.  It survived 3 dairy farms, and over 18 different homes through the years.  It's made at least one of everything and even survived a close encounter with a heater that warped the cover. 

When I saw that I could actually win this,

for one brief moment a little spark of excitement ran through my body!  So I thought I'd take a chance and enter to win one of these.  This blog is my entry!  Of course, time has taught me that there are many others more needy and deserving than myself and that my chances are about as good as me winning the big lotto, cause with that, you actually have to play to win!  And I don't play!  But that being said, it has been fun to think of all that I could do if I actually did own one of these!  And I could stop drueling over my friend's machine when I watch her sew.

Oh the things I could do, Oh the things I could do
Oh the things I could do with a serger so new
Oh the seams I could finish, the garments I'd make
Not to mention the fun I would have--goodness sake!
Making dress shirts, and dresses, and pant suits, and blankets,
And silk ties and country skirts reaching down to the anklets!
Oh the things I could do, Oh the things I'd create
Is it possible, probable--could it be fate?
Oh the things I would sew, Oh the garments so new
If this could be yours, tell me, what would YOU do?

Friday, August 6, 2010

How Not To Live Stupid

This is the second week's sermon on wisdom.  Again, very challenging and was certainly fun to listen to.  Sometimes, Pastors are just a bit more relaxed and jovial than others.

Sermon Title:  The Wise Rebuke-A Way of Increasing in Wisdom

1)  You must love wisdom.  A wise man will receive rebuke and increase in wisdom.  

Prov. 9:7-9-Love wisdom even when it hurts your feelings.
Rebuke is a tool in the arsenal of wisdom.  Jesus did it both to the wicked and his disciples.  There will always be an area of life that needs reproof.  You obtain what you love.  If you love wisdom, you'll obtain it.

The only hinderance to rebuke is pride.  The sin of pride is the worst of all sins because it removes the necessary posture of constant need and desire for God in everything.  A lowly thinker doesn't mind the insult.

2)  You must love wise men
     -a wise man has been rebuked in life
     -wise men are wise about who and how and when they rebuke
     -wise men are humble men
     -wise men rebuke in humility and wisdom
You must be careful about who you rebuke and who rebukes you. 
1 Timothy 5:1-there is never any reason to rebuke an elder.  That is for their elders to do.  Children are to honor their parents and the law of their mother.  Even if Mom is wrong, without sinning of course, wisdom will obey knowing that God rewards a humble and contrite spirit.

Titus 1:3  There is a corporate rebuke.  God will sometimes rebuke a church body.  We see this here and in Revelation as well.

Prov.  29:1  There is a place of no return and no help.  If a person has been warned and warned by wisdom, and refuses her correction, then he/she is "without remedy".  What else could be a remedy that would be better than God's widsom?

So with all your giddyup, get wisdom!  The Bible talks a lot about wisdom.  If the Bible talks a lot about a subject, that means we should major on that subject.  Above all, we must have wisdom so that we don't live stupid on the earth.  It not only affects us, but affects those you are to influence for Christ.  "A wise man wins souls."  It takes God's wisdom to win a soul.  Also, a man is wise if he is a soul winner.  So get out there and pursue wisdom.