Ministry Musings: Pastor Appreciation Month

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October is “Pastor Appreciation Month”, or so I’ve seen all over Facebook. It’s really sweet of people to appreciate their pastor. It is a hard job with unique responsibilities.

But it isn’t that hard.

I mean, really, pastoring takes the same level of devotion and commitment to the Lord that being a Christian layman does. It is hard standing for the truth against opposition in the church, or opposition in the work place. A pastor has to show up at a set time and work hard, just like the Christian layman. It’s a job. If you think I’m demeaning the position, I don’t mean to. I happen to be very thankful for my amazing pastor and I respect him more than anyone else. But since I’m married to him, and since I am the daughter of an amazing Christian layman, I have both perspectives.

The reason pastoring seems so difficult might be because of expectations. Pastors sometimes expect Christians to be dressed in choir robes with shining halos over their heads. But, that’s not accurate. Church members are the same as pastors – robed in flesh, not satin. Pastors struggle against the flesh every day. They fight laziness and selfishness; they fight lust and greed; they war against gluttony and anger. Yep, every one of them fights against sin, just like the rest of us!

Don’t get me wrong, it takes a special calling of the Lord to shepherd a congregation. But I don’t think it’s worth having a whole month of appreciation. Serving God is not about how much praise we can get (pastor or layman). It’s not about being “appreciated”, it’s about appreciating the gift of Salvation. It’s about serving the One Who died for us – Christ the Lord!

It’s about Him, not us.

I am blessed with an amazing church. In fact, at Bethel Baptist Church, we have “Pastor Appreciation” each and every week. It’s called “pay day”. What a blessing to serve such gracious and generous people! Their generosity enables my husband to make a living by preaching the Gospel. So, I propose a switch! Let’s make October “Christian Appreciation Month”, giving thanks for God’s people who faithfully serve in good times and bad.

Whether you serve the Lord as a pastor or a faithful member, may God richly bless you – in October, and every other month, too!

I appreciate you.

With love,

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Ministry Musings: I Married the Pastor

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“If you ever visit our church, you would think Mrs. so-and-so was the pastor’s wife!”

A woman said this to me about her church several months ago. My first thought was, “A lady hangs on the arm of her pastor, and she’s not married to him?!” But, as the conversation continued, it became clear that that wasn’t what she meant. She meant that this other woman – who was not married to the pastor – was doing secretarial work, church decorating and event planning. I was thinking, “But those aren’t wifely duties!” Obviously, our ideas of the role of the pastor’s wife were very different!

I am one of those odd creations by God called the “pastor’s wife”. Over sixteen years ago, I fell in love with a funny, hard working, brutally honest and ruggedly handsome man. I wanted to be with him all the time. I wanted to cook for him, though I had little culinary ability. I wanted to keep house for him. I wanted to raise his children. I wanted to kiss him goodbye and goodnight. I hadn’t given much thought to his profession. I had planned to love whatever he loved and be thankful for his provision. God had called him to preach, and that sounded wonderful to me.

We entered the ministry the day we got back from our honeymoon. It was a just a part time position, but he was thrilled to have it. With just the two of us at that time, we could do everything together, so we did. When children arrived, I stayed home and cared for them, while he worked a  job and served in ministry. Whenever possible, I served with him. We had three children when God gave him his first pastorate.  I wanted to homeschool them, and my husband encouraged me in this venture.

At some point, and I’m not sure when it was exactly, I began to see that everyone had a preconceived idea of what the pastor’s wife should be. Opinions ranged from church pianist to janitor and everything in between! Folks also had ideas of what her personality should be like: she should be quiet, but talkative; reserved, but outgoing; in charge, but behind the scenes…I think the contradictions are clear and a bit ridiculous! So, while everyone has an idea of what a pastor’s wife should be, I’ve learned this: “Thou cannot pleaseth everyone.” Based on this truth, I began to focus on pleasing God and my husband. That goal keeps me pretty busy! (And yes, I fail often!) Don’t get me wrong, I do care about others. I want to show everyone Christ’s love. But, well, I just can’t be what everyone wants me to be.

I’ve searched the scriptures for where it says I’m supposed to be the church secretary, and I haven’t found any. I’ve looked for the passage that tells me to take piano lessons, but it’s not there. I’ve  hunted for where in the Holy Bible it says I should plan ladies (or any) events and well, it’s a big zero. Likewise, I haven’t found anything in God’s Word against a wife doing the above. I don’t see “requirements” either way. If you are the pastor’s wife in your church, and you play the piano, that’s wonderful! I squandered my youth and didn’t learn. If you throw great parties, then please invite me! I admire you. I can barely stay on top of my laundry. Wait, scratch that. I don’t stay on top of my laundry!

I do spend time with my husband though. I do cuddle my kids and make them lunch. I teach them to read and write and to tie their shoes. I help them do important things, like memorize the lyrics to all of the songs in The Sound of Music. I study my Bible and pray. I attend church faithfully. I attend outreach opportunities. I participate in the music program of our church and teach Sunday School. My husband is happy with me, so that makes me happy. I realize none of these activities label me as “the pastor’s wife”, because any lady can do them. And any lady should do them, if she can.

I’ve discovered that every Christian lady has the same requirements: to walk with God daily and serve Him joyfully. This looks different in each one of us, because each of us are unique. I suppose the only thing that lets people know I’m the pastor’s wife, is that I do sometimes hang on the arm of my pastor. I am a wife to him, just as any lady should be a wife to her businessman husband or plumber husband or truck driver husband. The responsibility is in the word “Christian” not in the words “pastor’s wife”. So if you come to our church and see a precious lady working hard on something, it’s probably not I. I’m the one watching over my little children while talking non-stop. 🙂

With love,

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Ministry Musings: Dealing with Prickly People

 In ministry, well, just in life, we will come across people who are all prickles and stings. They have harsh expressions, they often spew harsh words and critical remarks, and can only see the black side of things. You can choose to respond in one of two ways: #1. Get angry and yell at them. #2. Have a meek and quiet spirit and love them. I try to choose the latter. I’m trying to think…I don’t remember ever losing my temper on one such person. (Does my husband count? Just kidding.) Here are some ways that have helped me to deal with cactus people:

1. Imagine what they may have been through in the past. You just never know what a person has experienced at age 2 or 20! They may have been abused as a child. They may have been addicted to drugs or alcohol. They may have been in prison! People in church – and in the world, period – come from all sorts of backgrounds. Next time a prickly person sticks you with their words, smile and remember that they may be carrying a lot of baggage. And pray for them.
2. Pretend you are “Pollyanna”. Yes, it’s corny, but it truly helps to look for the good! Everyone has something good about them. Maybe they can grow a garden or sew or sing. Steer them onto subjects about which they know a great deal and just listen. When they come to mind, think of their talent. And pray for them.
3. Accept them as they are, don’t preach to them or try to change them. We cannot change people, only how we react to people. Endure. Endure. Endure. And keep praying!
4. Avoid them when you are vulnerable. There are times when I am especially weak. Perhaps I’ve had one of those days where the dog bites and the bee stings and I have a headache the size of Indiana. If that’s the case, I stay busy, stay away or keep conversations brief. I’m the only one who can protect my spirit when I’m vulnerable. If I can’t avoid them, I ask the Lord to help me to be especially careful of my words.
5. Manage them. Learn what to say and not say. There are some people with whom you simply cannot discuss politics (or whatever) because they get too angry. Stay off that topic. Keep a mental list of safe topics. Keep a mental list of generic responses to criticism. A good one? “Oh really? That’s interesting.” or “I’ll have to mention that to my husband.”
6. When confronted remember that “a soft answer turneth away wrath”(Prov. 15:1), and try not to say much at all. Do not respond immediately. Hand the situation to your husband, if possible. If not, take the blame and apologize. If you have nothing to apologize for, then perhaps a reply could be, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Would you like me to pray with you?” Whatever you do, don’t get the foul! 

I’m not an expert, but I’ve dealt with lots of prickly people. My brother, who is also a pastor, used the age-old saying “hurting people, hurt people” – and there are a lot of people who are hurting. When the Word of God pierces a soul, the response seems to be either hatred toward the messenger or repentance. Our desire is for all to repent, but we can’t control others (see #3) so we must leave them in God’s hands. The important thing is that we remain blameless, and let’s face it, they can’t quote what we didn’t say.

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Ministry Musings: My True Calling

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted anything in my “Ministry Musings” series. Thoughts are jotted down on scraps of paper, in my journals and on my heart, but few have made it to the screen. I hope to get started back again, as the Lord is just recently teaching me some wonderful lessons.

One lesson I’m working on is one that I should have mastered a while back; it’s one of the fundamentals. It is the answer to this question: What is my calling? So much of my life last year was dominated by discouragement and hopelessness. As I prayed, read my Bible and waited on God, I came to the understanding that my problem was that I had forgotten what my true calling was. I’d gotten wrapped up in problems that were not my own. It may not be a bad thing to carry others’ burdens, especially when they’re your husband’s burdens, but the truth is, I cannot control things that I do not have control of. Profound, isn’t it? I am not the pastor of the church. Yes, I am one flesh with the pastor of my church, but I still possess my own realm of responsibilities separate from his. My calling is being a wife (first) and mother (second). That’s it. My calling does sometimes overlap into my husband’s calling. Sometimes he needs help with something regarding his work. Not often, but sometimes. It is my job, and my delight, to assist him. However, I often don’t stop there. I continue pushing my nose into his business. This leads to learning about problems I wouldn’t normally know about. This, in turn, leads to stress and worry and fear in my heart. My beginning was good, but my ending, not so much. I am working on this. I want to help him, then walk away; end my involvement after my work is done. Some knowledge of bad things is unavoidable, but I don’t want to dig for it. Trouble will find me without my hunting for it! (Yes, I hear those of you who know me shouting “AMEN!” You can stop now. No running the aisles!)

Seven years ago, when we were just starting to look for a church to pastor, my husband talked to many pulpit committees. A question that popped up over and over was this: What does your wife do in the ministry? My husband’s answer has always pleased me. He said then, and would say now, “She is my wife. She is a mother. She does work in the church, but only jobs that I would expect any lady in the church to do.” For example, I teach Sunday School. If we had a choir, I would participate. If there is a need to bring food for something, I will gladly pitch in. I go soul-winning or canvassing. I work in the nursery. These are jobs that all ladies should participate in. I do not “lead” women just because I’m the pastor’s wife. I have lead Bible studies and things like that, but it is not mandatory. After seven years in the pastorate, I have decided that it’s best for me not to lead ladies functions. Not right now. My true ministry – my true calling – keeps me busy enough. There may come a season of life when I can do more, but that time is not now.

I’m planning on focusing this new year on my calling as a wife and mother. I am spending more time with my children, enjoying this all-too-brief time with them. I am trying to be a better wife, to be a joy to my husband. These are my goals; this is my calling.

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First Things First

One of the greatest things about being a stay at home mom and pastor’s wife is that I have the luxury of setting up and keeping my own schedule. One of the hardest things about being a stay at home mom and pastor’s wife is setting up and keeping my own schedule!

If you are the type of person who abhors schedules, then it will be difficult for you to make one and keep it. If you are the type of person who adores schedules, then you have a problem when life calls upon you to be (dare I say the word?) flexible!

Can you guess which one I am? Go ahead, guess. Okay, I’ll tell you. I’m an Obsessive Scheduler or OS! The phone rings, and Mrs. So-and-So is sick and needs some soup. I have to stop doing math with my daughter (which is the first thing on my school schedule…and yes, I have different schedules) and take soup to Mrs. So-and-So. It would be easy for my type of personality to be irritated at the change of plans.

Or perhaps my husband, out of the blue,wants us to go have a family day, out in the woods. EEEK! Change a whole day’s schedule?? *Gulp* Someone just cart me off to the loony bin now! Unheard of! How easy it would be for me  – the OS – to complain and share all of the things on my to do list, which is posted right next to my schedules! I have goals to accomplish here, people! I can’t be stopped by ladies needing soup and trips to frolic in the woods!

See how unbalanced I can get? It’s sad, really.

What about the opposite end of the spectrum? The Ultra Relaxed Lady (URL, but not a web address) will not know where her iron is, or even what shirt should be ironed. Her kids don’t know where to put their shoes, so they just toss ’em. She doesn’t get her chores done, or she does one job twice, because she’s just not paying attention. She floats through each day, doing some things and leaving others undone for days. Someone comes to the door and she’s embarrassed – it’s been two weeks since she vacuumed! Mrs. So-and-So is sick. She wants to take soup, and has plenty of free time, but can’t start till she buys groceries first, which she sometimes does on Mondays, but didn’t this week and it’s Wednesday! Sure, she’s free to go exploring in the woods with her family, but they don’t have any clean clothes, because she’s forgotten whether laundry day was Tuesday or Thursday. Life is rough for the URLs of the world, too.

The best plan is balance! We OSes need to relax a bit, and the URLs need to tighten up. It’s that simple. Okay, glad we fixed that! See ya later!

Just kidding. 🙂

Here are a few tips for those needing to tighten up:

Housework goals not accomplished? Here’s a schedule that might work for you. You can juggle it around till it fits your life.

Monday – Menu planning/grocery shopping
Tuesday – Bathrooms
Wednesday – Laundry
Thursday – Floors (sweep & vacuum)
Friday – Kitchen (stove, fridge, etc.)
Saturday – Change sheets, clean bedrooms

Of course, there are jobs that need to be done everyday, like emptying trash, dishes, etc. And if you’re family is large, you can’t do laundry just once a week! But, really, one major chore a day or area of chores is doable.

For more home cleaning and organizing tips, visit the Fly Lady.

Do you need to plan your day? Do you homeschool and need help keeping it all organized? (That’s a whole other post! lol!) Visit Donna Young for zillions of choices in lesson plan sheets, calendars and more!

For those of us with OS tendencies, we need to re-prioritize. I know, that sounds silly! We’re the ones who are prioritizing – to the max! But, that’s not what I mean. Getting chores done is important, but is it more important than spending that day frolicking in the woods with our children? They only stay small such a brief time! I can’t believe that tiny baby I brought home from the hospital will be thirteen years old in a few weeks!  I want to savor the moments. My bathrooms can be cleaned at midnight, but chasing butterflies is only done in the daytime. I can sweep at 5 AM, but I can’t catch lightning bugs then. And I can dust when they’re grown! Right now I need to read them a story. Those are my true priorities. How can we stay focused on the right goals each day? That comes from having the very first thing first each day – Bible time and prayer time. We open God’s Word and sit at his feet. We tell Him our cares and leave them there. We ask for His help in planning our day, and we remain open to His interruptions. Oh, believe me, this is hard for us OS people! But we can do it, or at least do better! 🙂

Both URL and OS type ministry ladies need to keep in mind that there are important jobs to do, but people trump schedules every time. The lady needing a meal and the family needing a frolic are vastly greater than housework or math. We are here to help and show love to people, not things. That’s what the ministry is all about.

With love,
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This post, with journal questions, is available to download or print HERE.

Feel free to contact me HERE or on Facebook. Thanks for reading!

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Remember that song from the Sound of Music? “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with ABC, when you sing you begin with do re me…” Ah yes, now I have everyone singing it, right? *sigh* I love the songs from that movie! But, this post isn’t about a movie. Or a song. It’s about life in the ministry.

Way back at the beginning, my beginning – around age 9 or 10 – I sat in my pew at Victory Baptist Church in Benton, Arkansas. I listened to the lovely music being played and sung, the lively congregational songs, the touching solos and the occasional guest singing family or group. I listened to my pastor, Bro. Ken Graham, preach convicting sermons and then I got to fellowship with my friends after it was over. People were smiling. Buses full of little children pulled up alongside our gymnasium, the children running out as though they were headed to a circus. Bro. Randy Witham was our children’s church director and he was amazing! We had puppet shows, skits, songs, games, snow-cones and Bible stories. He sometimes used kids to help him illustrate something and I desperately wanted him to pick me! Each year we had a huge Halloween carnival as well as huge Christmas tree on Christmas – seriously, it almost touched the gym ceiling! We had revivals every summer under a tent, and when I was a teenager, we began hosting our own teen camp. That was church as I knew it, and I couldn’t wait to grow up and marry a preacher and do church stuff all the time.

I felt this way until shortly after I said “I do” to my dream man, who just-so-happened to be a preacher.

The next day, reality set in. Okay, maybe not the next day, but soon after our wedding. I found out that life in the ministry wasn’t always singing and smiling. And sometimes, problems came and stayed a while. Not all  churches had huge children’s ministries or lots of instrumental or special music. Not all churches were like my home church. Hmmm…not what I had hoped for. It wasn’t just an eye opener to be “behind the scenes” in ministry, but married life was a challenge, too. As a kid, I didn’t know about bills that needed to be paid or what to do when the fridge went out. Dad and Mom took care of that stuff. Now it was my husband and I taking care of that stuff! Eeek!

My life had been turned upside down – all for good reasons – but, still, it was an adjustment. Somehow, we made it through our first year of marriage and still loved each other, and the ministry, very much.

By the time we were expecting our first baby, my husband had finished Bible college. He would be looking for a ministry very soon. How EXCITING! New places, new faces, and lots of church work to do! However, I wasn’t prepared for the major life change that re-locating 950 miles from my hometown would bring, or for the challenge of first time motherhood.  I was still more “kid” than “adult” even though I was 21 years old! We moved when I was 7 months pregnant. I gave birth to our beautiful seven pound baby girl, Lauren Kassidy, in Clarksburg, WV, on August 27, 1999. And that same day, I unknowingly began the toughest journey of my life. One that almost took my life – postpartum depression. You can read more about that HERE. I spiraled downward and would have lost a great deal, had it not been for the love and sacrifice of my husband.

One change during those days that was not good, and that I could have controlled, was that I stopped faithfully reading my Bible. When I was 12 years old (before I even trusted Christ as my Savior), I began reading my Bible everyday. I read it through every year, till that year we moved. I had seen my parents reading their Bibles everyday. Usually Dad would read it aloud to mom while she got ready for work, or they’d read it aloud at the breakfast table. I decided I should do that, too. So I did.  But somehow, with the moving, the changes, the pregnancy, I got off track. I skipped a few days each week. Sometimes, I missed a week or two in a row! That was bad. Christians need to be reading God’s Word every day. We need to study it, memorize it and mediate upon it  – all of us, not just preachers. I often wonder if the outcome of that year might have different if I hadn’t strayed from God’s Word. I’m happy to say, I haven’t missed a day of Bible reading in a very long time. I finally got back on schedule and stayed on it.

Also, during this time, when I was struggling to find my way in this new life, some friends and relatives criticized me. They corrected me, not in love, but in anger and pride. The marks of those words are still with me, scars that hurt even today. I do my best not to dwell on those words, (Phil.4:8) but, in the dark times, their critical remarks do come back. From that, I’ve learned not to judge someone else in the ministry. My friends and family members had no idea I was suffering from PPD; that I wanted to take my own life. Their words at that time almost convinced me that ending my life was far better than living it. I don’t want to hurt someone that way. Ever. And you know, I’ve wanted to criticize others in the ministry! I might think, “Why doesn’t Mrs. so-and so get her attitude right!” Then, the Holy Spirit reminds me of my early ministry life. He says to me, “Don’t judge someone else, you don’t know what they have been called to bear.” And I stop that line of thinking. Again, I wonder what difference a loving friend might have made? Someone who prayed for me, instead of critiquing me? A Titus 2 woman who might have stepped up and lovingly taught me the things I needed to know?

One thing I do know: In spite of my faithlessness to God’s Word, He remained faithful to me. He saved me from making bigger mistakes than what I’d already made. He rescued me from myself, and I’m so grateful. He has taught me valuable lessons from the heartaches; lessons I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. And now these 13 years later, it brings great satisfaction to know that my critics were wrong about me.

Perhaps you know a lady who is newly involved in church work and you’d like to help her? Here are some thoughts:

  • Give her sincere words of praise and encouragement.
  • Pray for her.
  • Write her a kind note and mail it – the old fashioned way! Or email will do. 😉
  • Purposely look for her strengths and sincerely encourage her to use them.
  • Never offer a negative opinion, unless she asks for your counsel. And then, be very careful in your tone and wording.

Are you feeling alone? Discouraged? Feeling that your critics out number your supporters? Remember, God is the one you are serving. Get wrapped up in Him. The song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…and the things of this world (people, too!) will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Just typing those words lifts my spirits! We must look at Him!  Here are some other thoughts:

  •  Pray every day, keep a journal or list. Mark off answered prayer, and thank God for it.
  •  Read your Bible every day. Never miss. Busy? Read a chapter of Proverbs each day, or something from John (I love John.) Or a Psalms. (I love Psalms). Or any of it really, I highly recommend it all. 😉 Ask God for something, then read what He has for you.
  • Memorize a verse for your particular struggle. When Satan tempts you to worry about that thing, quote your verse.
  • Talk to a friend. God designed women to be very relationship oriented, men are more work or goal oriented. There is one caveat, though. Women are emotional and sometimes (I hate to say it) we can border on the ridiculous. Before you get angry about something, step back and think about it. Pray about it. Look at the situation from the other person’s point of view. Still mad? I recommend kick boxing. It works wonders. 
  • When Satan tells you it’s over, that you’re all alone, that it’s hopeless, tell him he’s lying. You have people who love you, lean on them when life is hard. Most of all though, you have a Father who sent His only Son to die for you. Now that’s love. And even in the darkness, He is there. Never forget in the dark, what you know to be true in the light.

Download or print this post with journal questions HERE.

With love,
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