Choose This Not That

I will or I will not.  I can or I can not.  I change or I won’t.  I seek or I don’t.  I act or ignore.  Choose.  Today is just another day, really.  But the world was created to be marked off in years, and so we begin a new year.  365 days.  What will you do with yours?

I want to read through the Bible in a year, something I did 3 years in a row once.  It changed my life.

I want to walk/run/bike 1000 miles.

I want to determine to speak words of encouragement and kindness and build up those around me, to be a living, breathing, walking example of Ephesians 4:29.  May Grace fall on those around me and may I not sound like a clanging gong or a noisy cymbal.  This one needs work.  I used to be an encourager.  But “used to”s are yesterday’s vapor.  We must guard our heart but not let it harden. “Watch over [guard] your heart with all diligence for from it flows the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

I want to choose people over schedule.

I want to be a person who chooses God’s strength over my weakness and can face weaknesses, submitting them to the loving Potter hands of God who can mold me no matter how stubborn or set in my ways I am.

I want to take a photography class and capture time in space, a moment of falling suspended snow or the invisible curiosity of my grandchildren who are cousins and know they are connected in that untouchable thing called love and can’t quite figure out why.

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I want to choose Christ over culture.

To do that, I must understand that more than being a choice, it is a submission of my will to God’s will and that to do that I must yield to the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within me.

It is supposed to snow today.  I’m going to put on my ten layers of clothes and boots and outerwear and take a walk with my husband in the subzero windchill.  Maybe I’ll even make a snow angel.  Catch snowflakes on my tongue and wonder how each crystal can be as different as every one of the billions of humans on the planet.

Listen to the deafening presence of God in the winter stillness and know that I am connected to Him in that untouchable thing called love and can’t quite figure out why.

 


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What Time Is It? It’s 4:29. Time to Encourage.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month.  I discovered that people hold many opinions about Clergy Appreciation Month.  Here are some of the comments I’ve read or heard about it.  (I would like to preface that most of these comments were read online and that I did not hear them from anyone in our current church :) ):

“Pastors are like everyone else.  People just put them up on pedestals.  God doesn’t require anymore from them than He does from the rest of us. They don’t need encouragement any more than any other person in the church.”

“I would think that pastors’ jobs are easier than other jobs because they can work from home.”

“Clergy Appreciation Month was manufactured by the greeting card industry to make money.  We shouldn’t support it.”

“What do pastors do all day anyway?  My pastor never visits___________ (fill in the blank).”

“Pastors are overpaid.”

And here are some heart-rending statistics and facts about those in full-time ministry:

  • The latest statistics show that over 90% of those who begin a career as a minister do not retire as a minister.  They leave because of burnout or discouragement.
  • The average minister in the United States makes a salary below the poverty level.
  • In the world of mega churches, we have a preconceived idea that most churches are large, when in fact, the average church attendance in the United States is less than 90 people!
  • The majority of pastors say that they have no close friends and no one to confide in other than his/her spouse, which puts tremendous strain on the marriage.
  • The majority of pastors leave churches because the congregation does not want to go in the direction that the pastor/leadership believes the church needs to go.
  • The majority of pastors have struggled with depression, often because they “feel burdened” by the combined weight of expectations and a responsibility for the souls of his/her congregation.

In the New Testament book of Ephesians 4:29, the apostle Paul writes, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

A precious young woman (thank you, Jana) who participated in a Bible study I was in a few years ago shared that in her family they used to ask, “What time is it?  It’s 4:29!”  Ephesians 4:29 that is.  Her parents gently passed on one of the greatest gifts human beings can give to each other…the gift of encouragement.

Yes, my husband is a pastor, and maybe it seems a bit odd that a pastor’s wife is advocating Clergy Appreciation Month.  Spouses experience the behind the scenes world of those in ministry.  We know that our pastors need good words, building words, grace-filled words.  I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, but one of the “love languages” that Chapman writes about that helps fill the human love tank is words of encouragement.  I have had scores of wives tell me that their husbands’ primary love language is the need to hear words that affirm…it’s the healing balm of, “You are doing a good job.  I appreciate you.  Thank you…for your sermon.  Thank you…for your time.  Thank you…for your humor.  Thank you…for your burden to reach people for Christ.”  (And don’t you know it’s true at home as well?  Doesn’t your husband say to you at times, “I did the dishes!  I took out the trash.  I cleaned your car.”  They want to hear us say how much we appreciate them, while all the time we are thinking, “I do the dishes every day and no one says ‘thank you’ to me!”  That’s when we need to ask ourselves: What Time Is It?)

Pastors (not just senior pastors – associates, music, youth) and clergy ( that would include chaplains – military, hospital, hospice) aren’t typically going to ask for encouragement.  They aren’t typically going to say that they are discouraged.  And they need courage from the Holy Spirit, the kind of courage that comes from the gift of encouragement.

WHAT TIME IS IT?  

It’s 4:29.  It’s October.  And whether or not Clergy Appreciation Month is manufactured doesn’t matter.  It’s a wonderful reminder to offer a word of grace.  Maybe you are one who doesn’t particularly like your pastor or you have bumped heads with his ideas or his personality.  Here’s your opportunity to love.  Here’s your opportunity to find something to be thankful about for your current pastor.

If you would like some ideas, Focus on the Family has resources that will help you.

Clergy Appreciation Month

Thank you, God, for the men and women who bring us Your Word!  Protect and strengthen them and their families!  Guard their health and refresh them as only You can.  And move the hearts of the body of Christ to encourage them.  Amen

 

 

 


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