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, March 31, 2015

Basket of Cheer?

I work for a company that is very charitable in the community. It's a rare week when some committee isn't raising money for some noble cause. Around Easter every year, different departments put together baskets to be raffled off.  The winning basket's department gets a free lunch so the competition is often very fierce.  After kicking around several ideas, my department picked a basket of booze--big shocker.  I don't know if I have ever mentioned before that the one thing that shocked me about working in the secular workplace was their fascination with alcohol. I have worked there for 23 months and not one single day has passed that alcohol has not been mentioned, yearned for, planned around, and lauded. 

Every event involves alcohol. Parties, weddings, birthdays, picnics, even meetings for aforementioned charities involve the planning of what is going to be drunk and who is going to bring it. Alcohol is the greatest prize a person can receive. If you have a good day, you celebrate with a few drinks.  If you have a bad day, then alcohol is what you use to forget it and relax.  Alcohol calms fears, is used as a sleep aid, and is a status symbol if you drink the right kinds and brands. Even our company meetings include company sponsored and funded alcohol. 

I was not surprised that my departments basket ended up being this "Basket of Cheer."  It's in the running with a "Basket of Cash" for first place.  And most likely, the winner of the cash will use it to buy "cheer".  How sad! 

As a Christian, I could not contribute to the basket because I am very opposed to drinking of any kind. You see, I read the Bible and I know what God has said about drinking fermented drink. I've also been at the end of the road for many who drink and I've seen the destruction both to them and their families. Alcohol is not a victim-less vice. The devil does not discriminate in whom he takes hostage. And he leaves no man alive, if it's at all possible. 

I've come to think that the cigarette industry got a raw deal. It is heavily regulated. They are required to put warnings about their products right on the package. The alcohol industry has somehow seemed to escape this scrutiny. There should be a warning on every can of beer, on every bottle of wine, and on every bottle of hard liquor telling the consumer that it will harm their liver, destroy their brain cells, rob them of every penny, impair their judgement, and destroy their family. Instead it is glorified on TV, at sporting events, and evidently, at most work places. 

Given all the things that alcohol does to a person when they drink it, you would think that people who claim even a minimum amount of smarts would steer clear of it altogether, given it's potential to ruin a life.

As a Christian, I know that a living, vibrant relationship with God far exceeds anything that alcohol can pretend to affect-without the hangover! And it's affects are not just for a night or an afternoon, they are eternal! 

I wish that my co-workers understood these things. I pray that some day they do.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Always Routine But Never Mundane

Most of us have a routine that we follow everyday. Few have the luxury of being independently wealthy. Fathers go to work everyday. Mothers get up, fix meals, do dishes, clean things, and play with children.  Working mothers get up, get ready for work, pack the diaper bag, dress their children and travel to the caretaker before driving to work. My routine includes packing my lunch, fixing breakfast, reading my Bible and driving to work. I do this every morning, five days a week. 

The route I travel to work is also the route I travel to church, except that church is one minute further down the road. When I first started working, I was constantly driving past the street to my work because I was so used to traveling that way to church. After working for awhile, I found myself turning into work when I was on my way to church. You see, driving to work is my daily routine. 

When we do dishes day after day, or pack lunches morning after morning,  it quickly gets to the place where it becomes mindless activity, lacking any interest or excitement. If you find doing dishes morning after morning exhilarating, I would recommend seeing a therapist, or better yet, write a book telling everyone else your secret. It would be a best seller in the at-home Mom market.

Daily rituals become so routine that we do them without even thinking. From a spiritual standpoint, that is very good, but it can also be detrimental. 

As Christians, we should have a daily routine of Bible reading and prayer. It should be as much a part of our day as getting out of bed and brushing our teeth. It is essential to our spiritual health. A problem can arise though when we begin to see that time with God as mundane. When daily time with God becomes more of an earthly activity than a spiritual one, we are in trouble. And don't fool yourself.  It can happen without you noticing. When you find yourself feeding yourself everyday off the 5-minute devotional or one chapter of Psalms, you may be in spiritual trouble. When your prayer time occurs behind the wheel of a car or while scrubbing the bathroom floor, it's time for a checkup.  I'm not saying you can't pray while you do those things.  I always do, but it should not be considered your time with God for the day.  If your prayers sound the same everyday and you can't remember what you read in the Word yesterday, it's reason for concern.

I heard testimony in church something to the effect that by the time we were eating lunch, no one would remember what was said in church that morning. I sort of wondered at that point why the person bothered to stand up and waste the breath, but I understood the point. I pray that never comes to be an accurate description of our church. As I thought about that troubling statement, I realized that it all depends on what kind of mindset I come to church with. Am I ready to hear when I come to church? Am I desirous to know what God has been doing and speaking in the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I willing to learn from them as much as from my own personal time or from the sermon? Am I ready to receive the message that the Pastor has prepared, with the help of the Holy Spirit, for my spiritual consumption? Am I prepared to make sure that I remember what was said so that I can meditate on it through the week? 

We could ask ourselves these same questions on a personal level. When I open my bible as part of my routine, am I hungry or am I just fulfilling one of the obligations of my day? Do I remember what He said to me yesterday? Is the reading of the Bible more of an earthly activity so that I can say I'm a good Christian, or am I really expecting God to speak to me in a life changing way when I read and pray? Do I view my time with God as the top priority of my day, as a supernatural experience, and as necessary for my survival? Am I coming hungry and thirsty to the living word of God? 

Truly, daily time with God is very simply knowing that you have been with God and that He has been with you.  It's knowing that He heard what you said and you heard what He said. It should always be routine, but it should never be mundane. If it is, something in your thinking need adjusting. 

Here are some ways to keep our time with God exciting and life-giving.

1. Consciously think about why you are spending time with God each day before you even open your Bible. Consider that you are entering into a supernatural experience with the Creator of the Universe and that He is going to speak directly to you.

2. Have a pen and paper handy. God is more apt to speak if He sees that you are serious about hearing and remembering what He has to say.

3. Pray before you read. Acknowledge the living Word of God and its power to change, nourish and heal you.  

4. Put on your listening ears. Decide that you are going to listen for the voice of Holy Spirit as you read and pray, which may mean that you actually shut up for awhile and discipline yourself in the art of spiritual silence. 

God has prepared such a blessed path for us to walk each day, but we cannot receive that blessing if we walk through each day mindlessly. Our life with God must be purposeful on our part, showing determination and resolve. 

Lamentations 3:25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Time Tested

In a world that believes that God is not relevant to our lives today, it continues to amaze me at how much He can take the normal, mundane things of life and interject His wisdom and presence into them. 

My place of employment has an extensive wellness program. They actually pay us extra to be healthy. We can earn up to $500.00 per year if we exercise, educate ourselves, and see doctors on a regular basis. 

In February, they announced that they were sponsoring a 17 week weight watchers program for any employee who was interested. We pay for the program up front, but if we meet our weight loss goal, they will reimburse us all but a very small portion of cost of the program. I had been investigating different weight loss programs because I have packed on some pounds through the years and they need to come off. Frankly, looking at the internet was just frustrating. What one doctor advocates, another refutes. So I did what any Christian would do, I prayed and asked God to help me.  Not two days later, this weight watchers opportunity came up. I just felt like this was my answer to prayer.  Weight watchers is a time tested, proven weight loss program so I figured that I could learn some things from them. 

I have learned quite a bit, I have to admit. I was never very knowledgeable about the chemistry of nutrition. My knowledge of chemistry, except the chemistry between my husband and I of course, is very limited. I’ve always thought an element is a brand name of clothing at the mall. 

I’ve been attending the meetings now for several weeks and I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight. It has been surprisingly easy because I have just followed the plan. Yes, I have days when I have to dip into my extra point stockpile, like my Friday night jaunts to a local restaurant. And there are days when it’s hard to make the healthier choice but I am never sorry that I did when I step on the scale and see numbers I have not seen in many years. Most days I don’t even have to look up the point value or portion size because I am becoming more familiar with them and I just naturally select the right thing. What’s really surprising to me is the gradual change in my taste buds. They are more discerning than they were before. Because I eat so many fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, when I do “indulge” in some chips or something processed, I can taste the chemicals and I find them repulsive.

I am thinking that I will easily be able to reach my 17 week weight goal if I discipline myself and continue to follow the plan.

In thinking about this, I just couldn’t help but see the similarities to our spiritual lives. 

God has a proven and time tested plan for us to be healthy. It’s called His Word. In His Word, He has carefully laid out instructions for us to follow if we hope to live a healthy spiritual life and reach our goal of spending eternity in His presence. Like my eating plan, if I follow it, it’s not hard. The Bible tells us that although “sin is pleasurable for a season”, “the way of the sinner is hard.” If we refuse to follow the Bible’s plan for living, we will have some pleasurable experiences along the way, but in the end sin will bring sickness, poverty and death, both emotionally, spiritually and physically. 

Just as I found that following the weight watchers plan was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be, following the commands of the Lord “are not burdensome.” Granted there are days when temptation comes, we find ourselves weakened by circumstances or situations, and we need a little extra help but It is then that we can “approach the throne of grace to find grace and help in the time of need.”  Just as I have a point stockpile for weight watchers, God has abundant grace for each of us everyday. It is “more than we could ask or think” and it works in us. 

What is the work it does in us? It changes or sanctifies us, ridding us of hidden sin and fleshly desires. It makes us more like Christ in our attitudes. It’s like the gradual change in the tastebuds. When temptation to sin comes, it will repulse us, much like the taste of chemicals in processed food does me now and we will have no desire to partake in that temptation. 

At 17 weeks into weight watchers, I will be rewarded with the return of the cost of the program and hopefully some new clothes. I won’t be all the way through the process because I intend to keep on losing weight even after I reach my 17 week goal. But I will continue, one point at a time, one day at a time. 

Spiritually speaking, we will be rewarded as well, if we are found faithfully following the plan. We will get some new clothes too! But until then we need to set our sights on the “upward call of God in Christ” and depend daily on the grace of God to strengthen us, one point at a time, one pound at a time, one day at a time until we are with Jesus. It’s a time tested method that truly works!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I'm a Cave Dweller

Ps 71

In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed.
2 In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
Incline Your ear to me and save me.
3 Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come;
You have given commandment to save me,
For You are my [a]rock and my fortress.

I have become a marvel to many,
For You are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all day long.

I read these verses this morning in the few extra minutes I had before leaving for work. My mind immediately formed a picture (it does that more than I like to admit) of a brightly burning fire inside a cave. As I lay on my bed of tender green pine branches, I watched the fire shadows dancing around the walls of the cave as if the flames were performing a circle dance. 

Outside the cave, a terrible storm was raging. Wind and snow were beating on the outside of the rock. Branches and other debris, driven by the wind, were smashing against the face of the rock outside, collapsing in bits and pieces all around.

But I was safe and warm inside the cave where the only evidence of the storm was the occasional sound of the howling wind. 

I thought of all the times I have run to God, my rock of habitation, and He has sheltered me from all the chaos going on in life. In every one He brought peace, confidence, strength and comfort to my soul, so much so that others wondered how I could remain joyful and peaceful through the raging storm. 

There were two delivery room emergencies.  Both times His voice pierced through with promises from His Word filling me with reassurance and strength.  The first time I heard Him say “you can do ALL things through me because I will strengthen you.” I heard this at the end of of 32 hours of labor and while they were asking me to do something that physically was impossible during contractions. Within a few minutes, my daughter was born.

The other delivery room emergency involved my youngest daughter’s heart rate. God brought 2 Samuel 22:21, the same verse He had spoken to my heart on the morning I found out that I was pregnant with her, on the day when the doctor told me that I was probably going to lose her, and on the day when the doctor told me that I had lost her.  What?, you’re asking?  I didn’t lose her, but the doctor told me I had.  I refused to believe Him so he did a sonogram to prove to me that he was right and found out that he wasn’t. Furthermore, he found no evidence of bleeding, scar tissue or a detaching placenta, which former x-rays had shown. 

There was the day when the Lord had laid upon my heart to pray for one of my children and they ended up ingesting medication later that day.  The doctor was very concerned and fully expected that I would end up in the emergency room. I, on the other hand, knew that God had handled it already that morning, so I just waited and watched Him protect my kid.

There were several times when others who did not have my best interest at heart were trying to get me to believe things that weren’t true in an effort to render me ineffective and causing me to be confused. God spoke the truth to me with a clear, strong voice and kept me from making wrong decisions and developing wrong opinions about myself. It was then that I learned to do what David did and encourage myself in the Word, a practice I still do often, even if there is no crisis. It truly lifts you above your current circumstances and helps you see things from God’s perspective, making them seem much smaller than they had been before. What a release and relief to see things from God’s point of view and to know that nothing is too big or hard for Him to handle.

There was the literal chaos of a roadside accident where most of our worldly possessions and my children lay strewn about a field as if our van had exploded and everything had flown out. Even there, God spoke to my heart, several times, above all the sirens, the rescue workers shouting, the blaring radios, the roar of the jaws of life and the snow plows. He said, “I have answered your prayers” and then when a rescue worker announced that two of my children were unresponsive “that can’t be!”, which prompted me to run to them and pray again. There was the definite “NO” that came when the doctor wanted to put one of my children on seizure medicine, something that made total sense in the natural to do.  She’s never had a seizure since.

In all our crises of life, no matter how quickly they might come upon us, how hard they might come upon us, how powerful they seem, how hopeless they seem, how much they hurt, even if we know that every breathe we take that day is an extension of God’s power and grace in our lives, we have His promises to hide in. Yes, we remain in the storm, but it’s not pelting us with it’s fierceness. Instead we are warmed by His promises, we are strengthened by the power they reveal, we are encouraged that they never change...and yes, we can dance in the light of God’s love while everything else rages around us.

This knowledge is what caused Paul and Silas to sing although they were facing certain death.  This is what caused Peter to step onto the water. This is how the three Hebrew children could refuse to bow and how the Shunammite woman could reply “it is well” to the prophet when asked about her son’s health.  He had just died hours before. 

This is what is different about a Christian. We are not swayed by our circumstances, we are not fearful in chaos.  We hold a certain and strong assurance in the face of every tragedy. We go through things but all the while are covered by the rock hard protection and oversight of Almighty God. That knowledge gives us a different demeanor and a different dialogue. We should be a wonder to them.

THIS is what the world is looking for.  THIS is what they need.  How will they hear, how will they know if we do not hear and know this for ourselves? How can we comfort others with this comfort if we have never received it for ourselves? 

Today I choose to dwell in the Rock!

Monday, March 2, 2015

BUT God!

Our Pastor, my husband, is off recovering from surgery for several weeks, so people that don't preach that often are taking over the pulpit on Sunday mornings for awhile. One of my favorites to hear is our youth Pastor. Usually the only time he preaches is when my husband is preaching somewhere else, so I have to listen to the CD, which is good, but it just doesn't compare to being there to hear him. His sermons are always full of the Word and always touch my heart, challenging and encouraging me at the same time.  I'm so glad that he is a part of our body. Not many Pastors could take this much time off and know that the flock would still be fed just as well as if he were there. I'm very thankful for people who can and will step up in times of need.

Two Sundays ago, during worship, the Lord quieted our body for a unusually long period of time. I thank God for a leader that was in tune with God and led us that direction.  Some find times like that uncomfortable, but I love it because I know that God is going to speak.  During that time the Lord reminded me that HE is the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in a field. There is nothing more valuable than a relationship with him and He is worth giving everything else up for. As a result of this quiet time, we also spent some time in prayer and I prayed for myself that I would REALLY see Him as these on a practical level and that He would draw me closer to Him, making me more aware of His presence in my daily life, especially when I am at work.

 It's so easy for me to get busy at work and not really be conscious of His presence, even though I know in my head that He is there. It's obvious that He's helping me because I "catch" things that I wouldn't normally while doing my work and it saves me from costing the company money and costing me my job! :-)

Still, I would love to have God speaking to me all day, even during the busy times.  After spending the last 10 or so years on a lawn tractor most of the day, it was easy to mow and listen for His voice. Now, if I am not really attentive to my work, one little slip up can have grave consequences, so it has been an adjustment.

BUT GOD...I love that phrase! He does answer prayer! Early Sunday morning, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was leading Sunday worship service. When I woke up, I was singing a song about God's love. It wasn't one that I'm even particulary fond of, but the words were so meaningful to me.

I have requested several times at work that we be allowed to listen to music while we work. Before I had this position, I could and it calmed and comforted me throughout the day. I would listen to music or sermons or just the Word and I felt edified by the time quitting time rolled around. Our supervisor has not given into this request.....yet!

Today at work, I found myself humming all four verses of an old hymn.  How I remembered the verses, I'll never know. It's not even one that we sing at church. I don't believe this was an accident.  I believe that it is God answering my prayer that He would interject Himself into my day. I love music. It comes rather naturally for me. But as I sang, I contemplated the words believing that God Himself brought those to my remembrance for a reason. I just can't describe how thrilled I am. It has me thinking of God AND focusing on my work all at the same time! It reminded me that we have not because we ask not, but when we ask, God answers! That's just how wonderful God is!

Christmas Reflections-A Little Late But Still Pertinent!

As I child, I remember the "magic" of Christmas. For many years I thought that Santa brought the presents.  Eventually I discovered that they really came from underneath my parent's bed. Christmas Eve was spent at church and always involved holding real fire on a candle and singing Christmas carols as the Christmas story was read.

Then we came home to punch and cookies while sitting around the tree with a fire crackling in the fireplace. The last thing we did was put cookies out for Santa before going to bed. Christmas morning started early! Our parents had set a limit as to how early, but early nonetheless. The three of us would go into the living room and examine all the gifts underneath the tree.  There was always an unwrapped toy sticking out of the top of our stockings and we would climb up on the fireplace to examine it close up. When the time came, we would man out stations.  My brother would put a Christmas carol record on the stereo and turn the volume way up. My sister would stand by the outlet with the Christmas lights plug in her hand.  I would stand in ready position by the living room door. On the signal, my brother would put the needle down on the record, my sister would plug in the lights and I would take off at a full run to my parents bedroom to jump on their bed announcing that "Christmas is here! Christmas is here!."  After an excrutiatingly long wait while my Dad went through his morning routine-shaving, brushing his teeth etc- we would finally get to see what was in all those brightly colored gifts!

This same scenario had played out many years ago in the shepherd's fields outside of a small town called Bethlehem.  Israel lanquished under the oppression of the Roman government awaiting their deliverer. Surely, at times, the shepherds had discussed this very thing around the fire on those long, chilly nights. On this night, all was calm and then as if someone gave the signal, the sky suddenly flooded with light and angels appeared in the heavens singing the first Christmas greeting, "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, goodwill to men."   The shepards were excited to go and see the gift God had given them.

"Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.  The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices."  Israel understood their current state. Yet they had hope that a deliverer was coming to set up God's kingdom on the earth. So when the angels announced the birth of their King, they ran to the place where he was so that they could see this wonderful gift so long promised. The problem was, they did not understand that their oppression was much deeper than the Roman Government. Their Messiah came to free the oppressed hearts of mankind. Eventually they would come to know that what they expected and what had really come were very different, so different that Judas chose to betray his own king.

Sadly, not much has changed. Many live oppressed by the devil and don't even recognize that they are in bondage and in need of freedom through the forgiveness of sins.  They do not run to see the Savior, in fact they have an incredibly skewed view of who Jesus is. Although the gift is still the same that the shepherds ran to see, they do not desire to gaze upon their King.

While the earth groans for His return, humanity frolics around their golden calves not knowing that judgment is very near. When Christ returns in all His glory, they will wish that they had paid more attention to the message He left on the earth.

We are the bearers of that message. Although we may not be able to deliver that message with all the granduer of the angels, we must, nonetheless, share that message with as many people as possible. God has graced us with His Holy Spirit for this very purpose. Tell the world! The Savior has come! The King is coming soon! Come and see this wondrous gift!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Fluffy Stuff

It's been a long winter. For more mornings that I can count, we have been awakened by a phone call from the school district at 5:30 am announcing a school cancellation or a two hour delay. This morning came as a surprise to both of us as snow had not been predicted to be a serious concern. We were surprised to find 4 inches of the whitest, fluffiest snow we've had all season outside our window. Last evening when I came home, it had just begun to lay on the flower bed border. The light shining on it revealed the individual snow flakes, so intricate and diverse in their design.  I stood there for several minutes observing them, marveling at them and trying to find two that were alike.  There weren't any. This morning I rushed outside early to clean off my car and found that just a light touch to the snow hanging on the side of the car would cause all the snow on that side to fall to the ground. A leaf blower proved to be the most effective way to remove the snow from the walkways and driveway.

The downside is that there won't be any snowmen or snow forts built today. It;s not the right kind of snow.  You can't even make a snowball out of it much less build a foundation to a snowman or fort. It's pretty much useless except that it looks radiantly pretty until the sun hits it and poof, it's gone.

As Christians, we see and hear a lot of spiritual fluff on Christian radio, TV and and sadly from American pulpits. It sounds pleasant.  It's easy to swallow.  It challenges us little and affirms us too much. But like the beautiful snow that I found outside my door this morning, it is useless! It will not build any kind of foundation in your life. It will not add to what foundation you already have. It will not add anything to your spirituality. It will be here today and gone tomorrow and you will remain un-helped. When a little north wind blows, that fluffy teaching will run away ahead of it and be gone. It will offer you no protection or shelter.

Fluff will only make you feel full and deceive you into thinking you've been fed.  It's empty calories. It's like cotton candy for the soul. Full of calories with no nutritional value. It will leave you feeling sickly and weak.

The ingredients of spiritual fluff are truth, some extra-Biblical material and plain falsehood. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous. There is enough truth in it that it won't slap you in the face with its error, but if put  into practice will lead you closer to heresies or at best, leave you the same way you were with no change, maturity or strengthening.

Fluff tells you there is grace without repentance, blessing without obedience, and virtue in weakness. The end result of fluff is vulnerability, a sickly spiritual demeanor, and eventual spiritual death. You will melt away just as the icy fluff did on my flower box. 

To be strong, we must have meat and vegetables and fruit. But just eating it will not produce results. We gain strength by eating healthy and exercising with the strength that it provides. Our spiritual life is no different. Sound, Biblical doctrine strengthens us to walk strong in the Lord. Spiritual fluff deceives us into thinking we are strong until it's too late.

That fluffy snow might make great snow ice cream, but when it comes to spirituality, we need to stick to the teaching that throughout history has been the foundation of the church.