Saturday, November 27, 2010

Joys and Pains of the Ministry Life: Part II

Welcome back to my blog series on life in the ministry. I hope these writings encourage you as you walk through the calling that God has placed on your life. If you're like me, you have days that you thank God you've been called. Other days the calling seems so natural and fitting, it's not even a conscious thing. It just is. Then there are days when you scratch your head and ask yourself, as I have from time to time, "How in the world did I get here?" Trust me, you're not alone.

And if, at the moment, you are not in ministry or married to someone in ministry, please continue to read on. We need your encouragement, grace and prayers!

 Challenge #2: Life in the Fishbowl

I'm sure all of you have heard of the "fishbowl life" in ministry. Now this may not be a challenge for some of you, but I personally never aspired to a life on Broadway! An introvert, I  am most comfortable behind the scenes, supporting those around me. I am the encourager, the sensitive girlfriend, the "actress in a supporting role", if you will. Ten years ago, however, ministry life threw this introvert into the forefront, the spotlight, the front-lines. And for years I think I was about as shocked as the fish in the fishbowl above.

Today I have settled into my role, but I sometimes still find myself overwhelmed with the fishbowl life. Just this past Sunday my family slept in just a tab bit too late. When it was time to leave, I noticed I had just enough time to get to church a few minutes early. As I went to grab my keys from where I always keep them, my heart sunk with the realization that they weren't there. I searched for several minutes to no avail. I couldn't find them anywhere: not in the bathroom, not under the coffee table, not between the couch cushions. Finally my oldest son Kalin yelled out "Mom, the keys are already in the van!" Unbeknown to me, my son Christian had grabbed the keys to open the van doors, and left them right in the driver's seat.

Needless to say, we were late for church. I was faced with a dilemma: do I sit all the way in the front row next to my husband as usual or do I slip quietly in the back? Well, at a small church plant, there's no such thing as slipping quietly in the back, so to the front I and the four kiddos marched. I felt embarrassed about my lateness in a way that I'd never felt before my husband became a pastor. After all, I wondered, does my lateness communicate a lack of support for the ministry, for my husband? Thank the Lord, by the second worship song He had aligned my heart back with His. I remembered that church was all about Him anyway: not my fellow church members, not my husband, and definitely not me!

A few months ago a lady at church complimented a pantsuit I'd worn the Sunday before. She commented on the slim cut of the suit and told me she'd said to herself, "Oh, she's not a regular pastor's wife." Without any more clarification from her, I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not. I made the choice to take it as one. But then I asked myself, "What's a 'regular' pastor's wife?" I've met hundreds of pastor's wives in my lifetime, and they've probably been more different from one other than alike. We believers have got to let go of preconceived notions of our brothers and sisters in leadership. The preacher, the women's ministry leader, and the choir director are all human beings -- fallen, yet redeemed. We need the grace to make mistakes and reveal ourselves as the imperfect, and sometimes downright pitiful, human beings that we are.

God's Grace for this Challenge:
In Galatians 1:10 the Apostle Paul said, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." No matter who we are or what our station in life, God wants us to live our lives to please Him. We are to love and support one another as we live in community together, but we are not required to please each other. After all, we can never please everyone all the time. The funny thing is, the more I try to please other people, the more displeasure I sense from them. Perhaps that's God's way of realigning us with His will for us.

Ladies (and gentlemen, if you're reading too), let's vow to let ourselves and each other off the hook. Until we reach heaven, we will constantly fall short of our own and others' expectations. As we view our sisters and brothers in ministry, let's turn off the spotlight and let's "live and let live." We should neither place our ministry leaders on pedestals, nor throw them under the bus! We must strive for a balance of honoring and respecting our leaders, while allowing them to walk in humanity. We are all desperate for God's -- and one another's -- grace and acceptance.

Sisters, let's take our pastor's wives, ministry leaders and missionaries out of the infamous fishbowl and wrap them in our prayers, love and support.

Walking With You...


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Joys and Pains of the Ministry Life

My next series of blogs is dedicated to my sisters in ministry: whether you're a pastor's wife, a missionary or a ministry leader. Ours is a rewarding, yet trying road, Ladies. We cannot walk it alone. I know I certainly cannot. I'll be listing a few challenges of the ministry life then share tidbits of God's wisdom concerning that challenge. May you be encouraged by the things I share, and at the very least know that someone out there "gets" you.

And if you find that you don't fit into any of these categories, still read on. I'm sure there's a pastor's wife, missionary or ministry head who is aching for some of your encouragement. These blogs just might clue you in on how to give her that encouragement.

Challenge#1: Sundays no longer feel like the Sabbath

This was perhaps the most difficult thing about becoming a pastor's wife for me. The Sunday before Anthony became a pastor, we enjoyed worship together as a couple. We sat side-by-side through the entire service, worshiping together, laughing at our pastor's jokes and being challenged by the same Word. In the afternoons, we'd enjoy a meal together, take an afternoon nap and during NFL season, watch the Ravens play.

The Sunday Ant became a pastor, he no longer sat serenely in church next to me. He would often answer ministry questions during the service or even leave his seat to go rectify the situation himself. He was always "on" and seemingly attentive to everyone else before me. And because he had to arrive to church early, his presence -- and help -- in the home with the children was non-existent. Years ago I coined this phenomenon the "Sunday-morning widow". A harsh phrase, but that's how I felt.

And no longer did I feel like I had the freedom to walk through the church doors with a long face. I too felt like I had to be "on", smile always intact. And now that he preaches more often, I even feel "watched" during the sermon. People want to see my reaction to my husband's jokes or when he shares a deep personal struggle. And it's not imagined. Very recently, a lady told me she checked my expression to see how I had reacted to something shocking Ant had said. I've been told very similar things throughout the years.

For you ladies running ministries, you feel me too. Gone are the days when you can sit in the pew soaking up the ministry poured out by others. Sunday is a work day, just like for your pastor. How do you rest on a day like that?

God's Grace for this Challenge: An Audience of One

A friend recently shared her heart about becoming a pastor's wife. People were heaping their expectations on this young woman, discouraging instead of encouraging her. I encouraged her to remember that she should live her life to please an Audience of One. Let me give you the back story on this concept. One Sunday, before I performed a skit in church, I told my sweet friend Peggy Southard how nervous I was feeling. She told me to remember I was performing for an Audience of One. Jesus was the only One I really had to please.

Although Peggy has gone on to be with the Lord, I still remember her words like it was yesterday. So when I enter church, the smile on my face is authentic. I don't feel the need to pretend or perform for others. Remember I mentioned the time my husband made a shocking statement during his sermon? I know my mouth was wide open. Girlfriend, I didn't play it off at all!

And as far as the Sunday-morning Widow issue... Hey, it is what it is. After ten years in full-time ministry I can hardly remember Sundays being any different. Daddy works on Sunday mornings, but praise God, He's working for Jesus! The children don't resent this; it's the only life they know. And now I guard our times after church on Sundays. Ant's usually exhausted, so I do my best to make sure he gets some rest on the Sabbath too. His just starts after church! By Sunday evening, we're usually rested up and ready to enjoy a good meal and time with one another. We'll often watch Sunday night football together or a family movie.

It's funny I just recently told a friend that the ministry life isn't easy, but I cannot imagine living any other life. And it's true. This is the life God's called me to. Why would I want anyone else's life?

Be blessed, my Sisters! Feel free to send me comments or Face book messages about your ministry challenges. I welcome the dialogue. And until we tackle the next ministry challenge together, may we seek to delight our Audience of One!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunny San Diego!

Last week I had the pleasure and privilege of spending a week in beautiful San Diego, California with my hubby. For several years our lead pastor, Mark DeyMaz, has been dreaming of a conference that would encourage other diverse churches around the country and train others with the goal of becoming diverse. Well that dream is now a reality as we participated in the first Multi-ethnic Church Conference. And what a blessing it was to see men and women of different races, cultures and backgrounds worshiping and walking together

During the conference, we were blessed by speakers Erwin McManus, David Anderson, Dave Gibbons and many others. We even heard from Michael Emerson, the spiritual trailblazer that penned the book Divided by Faith. My husband Anthony and our dear former Pastor Chris Williamson (Strong Tower Bible Church in Franklin, TN) facilitated workshops. And my pastor's wife, Linda DeyMaz, represented the ladies in the house by teaching the pastors' wives. We had a wonderful time.

After the conference Ant and I got a chance to play. We ventured out on the San Diego trolley and hit some really cool spots. Here are just a few:

A really cool place with fun shops and the best Mexican food I've ever had!

Live music at Old Town. The Day of the Dead skull was larger than the singers!

Ant chilling on some artwork at Balboa Park. Hmmm... Looks like I've got five kids!

At the botanical garden we enjoyed flowers of every kind from all over the world. Pretty prophetic considering the ministry we've been called to.

The most popular photo op in Balboa Park, so we had to get one here!

Me lost in a sea of fragrant roses. Song of Solomon 2:1: "I am the rose of Sharon, And the lily of the valleys."

 Isn't God's creation amazing? In a "desert garden" we were overwhelmed by the variety and creativity of cacti we saw.

 Back in Arkansas with Linda and Mark DeyMaz. What a blessed time we had connecting hearts!