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Losing It For the Lord

>> 7.10.2014

Jesus said to His Disciples in Matthew 16:24-25 "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."

What a weird title...but I couldn't think of anything else-- by that I mean, that title just kept coming back.  As well as the possibility of writing on this blog!  I know it's been forever-- and so many things have changed in a year's time...and then again, so much has not.

You know how it goes-- there's a laundry list of things to get done around you and then you have your laundry list of things to get done IN you - and yet year after year the same struggles abound.  I think some of this fact is that generational sin that God mentions numerous times in the Scripture and some of it is maybe just our sin- nature - that we're prone to habits- some good, some bad- and they are so hard to break!

My thoughts this morning are focused in on this verse-- what in my life do I need to deny and lose to follow Christ?  Is it an attitude (or two or three or four?!) Is it a thought pattern?  A bad (sinful) habit? Laziness?  Glutonee? Lack of discipline?  Worrying?  Prayerlessness?  ... See all these things are SINFUL habits-- not just "bad".  We're just too easy on ourselves.  God expects, rightly so, perfection. "Be holy for I am holy" (I Peter 1:16 - see a great devotional here about this text!)  I am ever so thankful this morning that JESUS is my righteousness, my only hope for eternity AND earthly change.  It is not having faith that I will someday be changed, but having faith IN CHRIST to change and transform me and bring me closer to HIS righteousness. Though never completely attained here on earth, we MUST strive for this -- and it begins with denying self.

This morning the "it" I must lose is my desire to gratify self/flesh with the temporary "goodness" of foods and my thoughts that so easily tell me God must not actually want the best for me because He allows such-and-such in my life.  Both are wrong.  Both are sin.  And both must be given up to Jesus-- moment by moment.  He IS enough.


To Fellow Pastor's Wives -- Being In Ministry Will...

>> 6.30.2013

I think I've only ever written a few ministry related posts.  It's not due to lack of things to say reguarding ministry-- but a lack of courage to say them.  You know, there are just some things in life you don't talk about-- and usually that's most of life if you are a pastor or a pastor's wife.  What will people think?  What will people say?  What's appropriate?  What's not?  What will make your husband look bad?  Will this or that jepordize his "respect" among the congregation, etc.  The questions are really never ending.  But, this post is about 10 years in the making so read on if you are a pastor's wife or a pastor's wife to be.  Just stop here if you aren't...unless you want to know some of what really goes on within our PW hearts...and perhaps some ways you can be praying for us as well as for our husbands.

That being said, I want to start a series as a way to get my honest thoughts/advise down on "paper" to those just starting ministry or planning on going in to it.  These posts will be a way for me to share just a little of my struggles and what I've learned along the way.  Maybe it will help someone-- maybe it will only be therapy for me. I don't know.  Please leave a comment though if it helps you in any way.  Thanks!

1)  Being in ministry will not make you rich -- no really.  I mean that.  I used to think "Well, of course not.  We minister because we are serving the Lord.  That is enough.  I don't need to be 'rich' "  And, I'm sure this is what most of the congregation members think, too.  However, when all is said and done, we still live in a culture (though this is changing rapidly) where retirement is something to be planned for.  Purchasing a home is still looked upon as the only investment that can really be counted on.  Putting clothes on growing children-- and growing numbers of children-- is still a need-- as well as paying for all that food that they consume!  And, if you're like me and have chosen to stay home believing wholeheartedly that God has called you to staying home-- all these things will be struggles to obtain.  A much larger challenge than for many in your average congregations.  So, a few words of advice that I wish I could say I knew and took to heart at the right time:  In no particular order...

  • Don't get into school debt.  I know, almost an improbability-- especially if your husband has good seminary training.  Truth is, there are very few colleges and higher learning institutions that matter by name.  Everyone just looks to see if there is a degree on your resume-- and if you plan to stay at home, perhaps looking into other alternative types of training would be a better option for your post-high school education.  If you are in ministry, it rarely will pay the amount needed to pay for secondary education.  That's just the truth.  If it's missions you are interested in, even more so.  Remember all those loans will have to be paid before an agency will even look at you-- and you want an agency above you (trust me-- but that's an entirely different conversation.) 
  • (This one is still on debate for me -- too late, ha!) -- If you have large amounts of school debt, consider working longer before having children.  Many on the "conservative" side of Christianity might object to that statement.  I didn't REALIZE the amount of debt compared to the amount of income we'd have once I was home full-time so I have to say this really never occurred to me-- I mean, to the extent that it changed our "plans".  I wish none of my children away, but daily I wish my school loan black cloud away and it's very difficult to do anything about it now.
  • Find creative ways to make income and talk about those ways with your husband prior to needing the income it would create.  Needing income always makes business ventures filled with more pressure and urgency which can lead to not enough "thinking it through and counting the costs".  "Creative business ventures" translates into-- lots of extra time out of your current schedule which WILL mean him and you both needing to sacrifice time serving in the church to make it happen.
  • Trust God to bring you your "daily bread"-- and that's all He promises.  He does not promise cruise vacations (or even vacations that require a hotel stay, lol) like your congregation members.  He does not promise new clothes or weekly date nights at Texas Road House.  He does not promise anything aside from daily needs-- so if you are really into certain hobbies/places/events and feel it would be too much to sacrifice, then truly maybe ministry may not be for you.  (The first year in seminary we lived on the least amount of money I've ever seen-- I mean, I made more as a single person in a year than we did with three children, baby on the way, and TWO of us adults in the house!  That was the most exciting year of our lives...and we litterally had to wait on the Lord a few times so we'd have food for supper or toilet paper for those needs-- which, He sent-- an anonymous gift of hamburger and toilet paper awaited on our front porch the very night we needed it!  A complete, exciting George Mueller moment...)
  • Trust God to bless you with material gifts occasionally-- and then enjoy them!  My best examples of this are gift cards to the movie theater-- enough to cover the entire family!  We NEVER go to the movies.  We just can not afford it.  (I mean, guys-- it's a $70 dollar trip for a family of 6 and a popcorn and drink!)  Neither my husband nor I enjoy movies all that much so we don't lack for not being able to go, but we DO want to be able to give our kids this gift of something fun and different on special occasions.  We've been able to do that twice now using a Christmas gift given us by one of our congregation members.  This has been so wonderfully unexpected and a joy to our family.   
  • GUARD YOUR HEART AGAINST COMPARISON!  Did I write that boldly enough?  Probably not.  This is so difficult to do in our media driven world.  I am literally turning off my Facebook account today and I hardly ever watch TV-- both instances due to not wanting to indulge in comparison.  Sometimes it's comparing our lives/homes/opportunities from those in the church-- other times, though, it's comparing them to those also in ministry!  For me, this is the hardest.  I know God sends rain on the just and the unjust, but in my selfish, dark heart, I somehow believe that He should send the MOST rain to those who are trying to serving Him day in and day out-- dealing with people who many times only come to you with complaints or more things for you to do!  We have one set of ministry friends that just continually seem to get "blessed"-- flat screen TVs given to them, a boat, sale of house in weeks time when ours took 2 years and a short sale to finally sell; the list of differences between them and us seems enormous!  But, I have to cling to the fact that this world is not my home and He has seen fit to "bless" them in ways that He does not currently see fit to "bless" us.  He is teaching me something different...(like, all my life!  Phil. 4 anyone???)
All this being said, let me take one more moment to encourage you to COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS, NAME THEM ONE BY ONE.  It's not just a song.  It's the heart of thanksgiving that will allow you to continue to serve with a right heart attitude.  We have a family "Gifts" list that we've started this year and when I find myself getting particularly grumpy about finances, I start listing the gifts God has given me.  Here are a few of my recent ones:
  • Husband's job close to our home.  The kids get to see him for lunch and usually supper and this is more than many other families get to experience
  • Husband's flexible job schedule.  Oh, there are the "have - tos" for sure (MANY of them-- and many at night) but usually my husband is flexible should a need arise for doctors appointments and other unexpected needs.
  • Activities that the kids can attend with Daddy-- such as sports meets or various service opportunities.  They get to see Daddy's love for others in action and we pray this will become something they will learn to enjoy and do themselves as they grow.
  • A few generous congregation members that have taken us in as family.  We are allowed use of their pool, garden, and family conversation.  Their entire extended family have treated us as one of them and we are forever grateful that we have people who have stepped into being "family" for us when ours are too far to see often.  This particular blessing encourages my heart continually.
I'll write more later...but I'm sure that was enough to read for now!  Pray for a content heart.  One that is so full it can overflow to those around you as Jesus has called you to love.


The Pain that Precipitates Change

>> 5.18.2013

Really it's only ever pain that gets us to change anything we do in life.  I can not think of a moment I changed my route/mind/attitude/diet, etc. without pain being present.  In our bodies pain is the God-given source that signals to us that change needs to be made.  In our lives, the same is true.

Recently, I attended a women's meeting during which nutrition was the main theme.  Several women brought items I've only thought were crazy...until lately.  Items such as fermented vegetables (eww-- doesn't the word "fermented" just kind of make your skin crawl?) and keifer (again, I don't know why we don't give healthy foods a better name like..."Twinkie 2" ;)  Anyway, our group that day consisted of some mamas who have been on a health-seeking journey for years and some mamas who had never heard of these items and some mamas who had heard of them...but were still skeptical of their application into their life.  The mamas who brought the items to sample and have wholeheartedly embraced the most wholesome eating life-style in our American world made it very clear-- before their pain events, they would have never considered eating this way.  They didn't know about the health benefits and didn't know how "do-able" it really would be to their life.

I have to agree.  I am much further away from where they are in the journey, but I too began seeking out a better way to eat due to pain-- very real pain that was inescapable.  If I wanted relief, my only option was to change my diet significantly.

Perhaps that is where you are today. Or, perhaps you, like so many around me, think they can handle the pain and it'd be a bigger upset to have to change their whole diets.  I'm not here to say it's been easy.  Everyday I find myself at a loss for hours which would aid in more prep for easier meal consumption later on, but it's a fight I have to continue to make.  And I encourage YOU to continue today if you have not already begun a journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Books I Recommend (That I Am Reading On This Journey)
Gut and Psychology Syndrome -- by Dr. Natasha Campbell- McBride (great information on how the digestive track can affect so much of your body's functions/thinking/behavior)
Nourishing Traditions -- by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig (great read on the appropriate place GOOD fats, protein, and carbohydrates need to have in your diet.)
Trim, Healthy, Mama -- by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison (the current dietary life-style I am using to lose weight and eat in such a healthy way as never before. "Love me some buttah!")

I used to think anyone "natural" (doctors, other health professionals, and everyday people) were crazy and tricksters-- who ever would believe my son's asthma could be healed significantly with food?!  Craziness!  Schmucks!  Turns out...it probably CAN be significantly improved by his diet as well as my children's eczema, my weight issues, irritability...and, of course, stomach pain. And if I can heal from the inside out, starting with good foods, why would I choose another way-- a way filled with medications attempting to do the same thing...only having to overcome an abounding mess of unhealthy diet going in on top of it!? Simply because it's not "easy"?  That's no excuse and I personally am leaving that one behind.  It will continue to be hard...but anything in life worth having IS work-- and good health, as much as it is up to me, is worth having SO THAT I am able to live an energized life IN ORDER to bring glory to God, love to those He places in my path and bring HIS NAME to the nations. 

Weight Update:  199.6!  FINALLY blew that 200 mark! (14 total pounds and counting!)

NOTE:  I DO NOT believe, nor advocate, that food is THE ONLY way to heal anything, including asthma, etc. and I DO NOT believe that regular doctors are "no good".  They are just practicing the medicine they have been taught but many personally living healthy life-styles that they know their patients many times are unwilling to live.  I also DO NOT believe that seeking out a healthy life-style for the sake of a healthy life-style is the end all.  Our health is only to serve us in order that we may best serve Christ and not be burdened with lack of energy, spending time and money in the drs office, unable to be physically fit to do the tasks to which He calls us.


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