Friday, June 23, 2017

Simple Things Book



Announcing the release of my book, Simple Things





We tend to complicate the Christian life. At it's heart it's loving God and loving people. The easiest way to do this is to be Christ-like in all we do. Simple Things explores how to do this in daily life, in our relationships, online interactions, and at home. Through wit and wisdom, Simple Things will nudge you closer to your creator. 

  All proceeds from Simple Things go directly to Convoy: Women, a division of Convoy of Hope that gives women around the world tools and training to make better lives for their families. For more information on Convoy of Hope please visit www.convoyofhope.org

What people are saying about Simple Things:

"What Suzanne has accomplished in writing Simple Things is nothing short of genius. She has taken several relevant topics within the circle of the Christian faith, and brought them to light with thoughtful prose and fun stories. What made reading this book particularly delightful were the elements of fun that Suzanne has woven into each chapter, whether by relatable stories or fantastic recipes. I found her voice straightforward and refreshing, like a cool glass of iced tea on a hot summer day. After reading many of the chapters I was aware Suzanne's words had taught me something I could put into practice.
Do yourself a favor, don't only buy this book, but read it, cover to cover."
 -Nicole Bingaman, author of Falling Away from You 


"Sometimes it's the simple things that make all the difference in our lives. In this book, Suzanne uses humor, personal experiences, and practical Biblical wisdom to help us become the women of God we want to be--the women God designed us to be. As you read this book you'll feel like you're discussing real-life issues with a friend. So grab a cup of tea, get comfortable, and enjoy Simple Things."
 -Adessa Holden, Women's Minister and author of Finding Healing and Finding Significance 





Buy your copy of Simple Things here

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Yesterday I Didn't Invite Someone to Church





I have a confession. 

Sometimes I don't invite people to church.

This sounds a little odd coming from the pastor's wife, but there have been situations in which it's best if I don't because I've learned from past experiences, and yesterday I didn't invite someone to church.

I saw her glittery rhinestone, "I Love Jesus" pin perched on her shirt. I knew we were destined to be BFFs. When she got close to me I told her I liked it. 

I mean, it was Jesus and it sparkled. What wasn't to like?  

She was thrilled that someone noticed her pin. Her face lit up and she immediately began talking to me. After a few minutes I asked her where she went to church because a little of what she said lined up with my beliefs. She replied, "I don't go anywhere right now," and let loose into her entire testimony which was just enough to sound okay, but by listening closely I heard what she wasn't saying.  

It was then I made my decision.

The longer I listened to her the more I knew she was one of them. I've been around them before. The ones that are always complaining and always telling everyone how to believe, taking the focus off of the reason for the church and placing it on their opinions. I received a lot of interesting spiritual advice from her in the few minutes we talked. When she walked away my husband commented it was obvious she didn't attend anywhere because her beliefs didn't line up with Biblical teaching. Attending church is more than just listening to someone preach. It's where we are taught to discern between truth and emotion. Some lessons can't be learned from the couch while watching television. We need the fellowship of other believers, we learn from each other and can correct each other if needed. 

There have been other times I haven't invited people to church. The group of women I was seated close to at a park whose entire conversation about their church was reminiscent of a bad restaurant review on Yelp...I didn't invite them.


Because church isn't a critique group.

Sometimes I feel like we've been over America's Got Talent-ed. We can do our best Simon Cowell imitation and pick apart every bit of the service, from what songs are being sung to whether or not the pastor is wearing a tie. Even about who spoke to us. It's not about who said hi to us and who didn't. We recently received a complaint from Sally, very upset that we hadn't spoken to her on Sunday morning. A day later we received a message from Fred, praising us for speaking to him on the same Sunday morning. As the pastor's wife I try to speak to people, I mean, I'm an introvert so I really try, but in a church of about two-hundred people I'm not physically able to talk to everyone at every service. But church isn't about that anyway.

There were also times I didn't invite people to church simply because it would have been better for their Christian walk if they didn't attend ours. It's not you, it's us. Early in our ministry when someone would ask me if I knew of a good church in our area I would send them elsewhere. The church we pastored at the time wasn't one I would have chosen for myself for many reasons, one being an overall disagreeable atmosphere. I'm so thankful that these days we are part of a healthy body of believers who accept visitors with open arms and not glares and muffled whispers. I'm proud to invite people to our church.

Well, most. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

New Growth


While walking my dog this morning my eyes caught the new growth on the evergreen tree. I snapped the above pictures and was struck by how noticeable the young part of the branches seemed. It occurred to me that this is how our lives as Christians should be. The new growth in us should be able to be witnessed by others as we mature in the Lord. 

These trees not only grow in height each year but also in girth. While we don't notice the vertical change we are able to see the change in their shape due to the fresh color and the unmarred branches reaching in all directions. They haven't been weathered or pruned in any way. 

Weathering happens when the world wears us down. Too many winds thrash us and we either push through the wind or let it keep us from moving forward. 

Pruning happens when a piece of us needs trimmed in order to grow stronger and stand taller. We've a pear tree in our yard (that I wish was an apple tree because, ew) that my husband prunes each year. When he neglects to prune it the harvest of pears isn't as abundant as when he snips a little from each branch, cutting it back in early spring. 

As each year passes I find myself being weathered and pruned more and more. I've learned to appreciate the pain that these bring on because I know the end result leaves me stronger and taller. My heart has taken a beating over the past twenty-five years in ministry, mostly due to people who thought it was their job to weather and prune me, yet their actions have only caused me to grow (and likely not in the way they'd desired) because I learned to let the Lord weather and prune me. His voice is the one I've listened to, even when it wasn't the loudest competing for my attention.

Sometimes there are changes He asks us to make in order for us to grow. Sometimes there are things He asks us to give up or not participate in. 
When we tune our hearts into His voice and allow Him to grow us we will be better able to represent Him in all areas of our lives. 

Our new growth should be as evident as the tender extended branches on the trees I saw this morning. Every day we should want to be more like Jesus and less like the world around us. 

Mold me, Lord, into the person You desire me to be. Less of me, more of You.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Just a Little


It started innocently. Chelsea found a summery fragrance that she loved. A little squirt here and there kept her happy all day. Soon she couldn't smell it on herself any longer so she added several more squirts. Within weeks she increased her daily spraying until she was fully covered in her favorite scent. 

This is where we met.

Chelsea greeted me with a hug and I complimented her on her fragrance. It smelled good. At first. Soon after our interaction I realized her scent was on me. It had saturated my clothing, hair, and skin. What smelled good at first soon became nauseating. I couldn't look over my shoulder without being nasally assaulted. As soon as I arrived home I scrubbed my shirt and my shoulder but I could still smell it. I realized it had seeped through two layers of clothes into my bra strap. My bra strap, people! This was a little too invasive and personal for me. 

Though, being an introvert, the initial hug was a step outside my comfort zone. 

But now I had been overcome. 

And that's when it hit me. This is how sin entangles our lives. It starts with us dabbling in something small. A little won't hurt. We become immune to the small things, just like Chelsea, we can't see how a little more could be a problem. We don't think of anyone but ourselves. A little more won't hurt anyone. Meanwhile, the person at the desk next to you at work is suffering a migraine because of your little more

Just like fragrance can saturate, sin can saturate our lives. This is why we must spend time with the Lord each day. Why we must reflect on our actions and attitudes and ask Him to change us. We are to be continually aligning our hearts and lives with His word. The closer we get to Him the further we get from the world, and we protect ourselves from being influenced and deceived. Your sin, your actions, affect more than just you. The decisions you make have a rippling impact on the lives of others around you. Sin will rot and destroy relationships. 

Be careful what you allow in. Guard your heart and your mind. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Allow His Spirit to guide you and pay close attention to what He is telling you to avoid or engage in. 

The world is watching, be the light.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Deeply Rooted


I've not spent a tremendous amount of time gardening. It's too messy for my liking. I prefer indoor work to yard work. I have given in to the idea of growing my own organic food and eating fresh from the garden but I also like the idea of driving to a local farmer's market and purchasing from someone else who has done the work. I'm not afraid to admit I don't enjoy working in the dirt, it messes with my fingernails. Buying local is much more attractive to me, and hey, my purchase helps support the local economy and we know that's very 2017.

The time I have spent doing the dirty work has left me with some thoughts. Anyone who's spent time in a garden knows that a majority of the time is spent pulling weeds. Some have roots that grow deep and can't be pulled without the use of a spade or other gardening tool while others can be easily plucked from the earth. I've seen the same with trees in our yard. We moved into an overgrown plot of land and have spent the past six years removing trees and brush. I watched the lot next door be prepared for new construction and was amazed that the pine trees could be knocked down with a tractor. They toppled right over because their roots weren't as deep or as strong as some of the others. The hickory trees in our yard had to be cut down a little at a time and then the trunks left to sit for a couple years until they could be easily removed. The wood was too hard and the roots too deep.

Our relationships are the same way. We get out of them what we put into them. In order for a friendship to grow we need to nourish it. If we want a strong marriage we need to grow deep roots. If our life with Christ isn't deeply rooted we will topple like the pine trees when life pushes us.

I've had friendships die. Friendships I thought were solid relationships because of the decades of their existence. One small push from the outside and down they went. The root system never went deep enough to be able to sustain the wind from the storms. Time does not equal strength. 

The marriage relationship is likely the most important physical relationship we can have. In order to keep it healthy we need to grow deep roots together. A family tree does not allow for members outside the family to live in its branches, and so our marriage should not flirt with the idea of entertaining outsiders. A strong marriage has grown deep roots over time through feeding it. Regular time spent together is important. Putting the needs of your spouse before your own is important. I've said it before, you cannot have a healthy marriage if you're selfish. Caring for each other is an essential part of marriage, especially if you want to finish, 'til death do us part. Your family tree begins with you and your spouse, not with your parents or his parents. Your spouse needs to be the most important person in your life for your marriage to be deeply rooted. There will be storms and you can survive. Grow together.

The most important relationship of all is the one with your creator. If you neglect to nourish your spiritual relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit then you will find yourself easily influenced by outside forces. The deepest ache in my heart I've felt in ministry over the past twenty-five years has been seeing the church filled with baby Christians who have been saved longer than I've been alive. They think they're deeply rooted but there is no fruit in their lives. Their roots don't extend deep enough to gain the strength to flourish. You've seen the trees in the woods, the ones that have no life left in them and they've fallen. Branches bare, limbs breaking off, rotten roots exposed. Unlike the lifeless tree there is still time for these lives to change. There is always time for a new start. Nourish your walk with the Lord. Let Him change you from what you think is the right way to live to the way He wants you to live. Your life may depend on it.

Start deepening your roots today. Call (or text...) that friend you cherish but haven't talked to lately. Make a date with your spouse. Spend some time with the Lord. Open your Bible, pray, sing. These things will make you stronger.



Monday, April 3, 2017

Less Than




I could feel their eyes on me and as they huddled together I knew the sheepish glances my way included conversation. I tried to fill my mind with other things and not the assumptions that were multiplying and emptying me of any self worth I'd woken up with. 

I felt less than.

Dawn spent time with some close friends and as they tucked themselves into their hotel room she turned the lock on her own door. Alone. Wanting to be part of a couple. Knowing she'd been forgiven of two failed marriages yet letting the loneliness creep into her heart again. "My flesh haunts me. I feel like I've worked through it but sometimes, because I'm not married, I feel less than."

Jennifer compares herself to other people and even to past versions of herself. The comparison game makes her feel less than

Jess married a little later than society expects and felt out of sorts over it. Even now, married just a few years and enjoying time with her spouse without having children makes her feel less than in the eyes of others.

Sharon feels the sting of less than when people in her congregation tell her she will never be like the pastor's wife that was at their church before her. 

Adessa feels it when she looks inside. The good, the bad, and the ugly taunt her and tell her she is less than

Shelli feels less than when in conversation with someone and they focus elsewhere unless she is sharing her deep secrets. 

Jodi feels less than in almost every area of her life. She sees herself as average. Nothing awful and nothing great. 


What makes me feel less than?

My interpretation of the way someone is looking at me.
Illusions of what I see as truth.
Whispers and glances.
A snub from a friend.
A sneer.
The numbers on the scale.

Why do I let what others think of me matter instead of listening to the voice of the one that truly matters? Time will pass and people will think of me what they want to. God's opinion of me is never changing.

"How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered. I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me." 

Psalm 139:17-18 (NLT)

God is thinking precious thoughts about me. So many of them. I can't even count them.

I can't even. (And people say the Bible isn't relevant...)

What we're doing when we allow the less than to creep into our hearts is nothing more than falling victim to the lies of the enemy. The eternal enemy of our souls is daily creeping around looking for ways to attack. He knows where to hit hardest. He has been studying us our entire lives and knows what will cause us to take a step backwards. 

The quickest way to put a halt to this is to call him what he is. A liar. A cheat. A thief. A coward.

The enemy runs at the very name of Jesus. Do not be afraid to use this power that is inside of you. The moment you allow the Lord into your life you are in a battle. When the enemy sees you moving in ways that will hinder his work he attacks. 

When he sees me gain momentum he reminds me of things I've done or not done. He tries to fill my mind with shame to get me to a place of complacency. To a place where I'm frozen and unable to do what God has asked me to do. His plans to destroy me are broken when I stand up to him with the power God has given me. 

I had it out with him in my kitchen recently. "Devil, you are a liar and I will not listen to your lies. You cannot have control of my mind," I yelled. "In the name of Jesus, leave. Me. Alone."

That thirty second prayer took care of hours of attacks. He left. He had to. There is power in the name of Jesus, yet many of us neglect to use it.

The next time he is filling your mind with the lies of less than remember to use the weapons in your arsenal.










Tuesday, March 28, 2017

disillusioned

"You look so much like a girl in a movie I just watched," he said to me. He repeated it often enough during the week that I was curious as to what movie he was talking about. "Mystic Pizza," he replied when I asked him. "You look like Annabeth Gish."

At nineteen I hadn't heard of Annabeth Gish nor had I heard of Mystic Pizza. Several years later I saw it in a video rental store and read about it. I didn't rent it because it was R-rated and I knew I didn't need to see it. I did see it edited for television some time later.

And was appalled.

This man, this pastor, thought I looked like this actress. Fine.
In a movie with a questionable rating. Meh.
Playing the part of a girl who has an affair with a married man. Not fine.

This is the first time I remember being disillusioned. I wondered why this was an acceptable form of entertainment for this married man, this pastor, this leader. And why he felt the need to tell me. Repeatedly. It left me with that icky feeling in my stomach. Honestly, I've tried to avoid him since.

I've been disillusioned many times since.

I asked a friend where a certain business was and they refused to tell me, "You're not going there."
"I don't want to go there, I just want to know where it is," I had no intention of visiting. But why was it okay for them to go there and  not me?

I asked another friend about the Cards Against Humanity game she'd been playing. "You don't want to play that," she said.

Time and again I wondered why it was okay for them but they thought it was not okay for me.

We all profess to believe the same. We all serve the same God.

I've witnessed many things since and have had my share of disappointment in people. People who preach, entertain, teach, from a Biblical perspective. Perhaps I observe too much about people. Perhaps I have higher expectations of those who claim God owns their hearts.

I've seen a lot.

But one thing that's always remained the same is God. He has never let me down. He has never caused me disappointment. He has never created a sense of disillusion in me.

When we look at people, even His people, we will be disappointed because we all mess up. None of us get it right, even on our best days. But God is the author of perfection. He will not let you down. He is the one we need to keep our focus on. He is the one we need to listen to. He sets the standard.