Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do You Hear What I Hear? - A Glimpse into the Life of a Ministry Wife

I've spent years trying to immerse myself in the world of working in the yard. I've tried my hand at gardening, have planted flowers at least once, had a nice little strawberry patch for a couple years, but finally came to the conclusion I'd known all along.

I don't like yard work.

It's too dirty. It ruins my nails (even with gloves on) and we all know I need glitter on my nails, not dirt. 

Several years ago I hired a woman from our church to help with some yard work. Desiree enjoyed being outside and submerging her hands in the soil (and even without gloves!) while I preferred to stay inside and keep up with the housework because there is enough of that to last a lifetime. Is the laundry ever really done? 

It started out well. Desiree did her job and I did mine. Once in a while we would chat when she took a little break. I enjoyed getting to know her.

Or I thought I did.

It began slowly, "What does Pastor do that keeps him from answering his phone? Mark was trying to get him last night and couldn't reach him."

I wondered how Desiree knew Mark tried to call. I shouldn't have wondered long though, as she continued before I could answer.

"He called around several places looking for the pastor. He told us he tried the Jones' and the McManigen's. He should really be easier to get in touch with."

I was aghast listening to her. I didn't have words to respond with. I changed the subject and stewed the rest of the afternoon. 

The next time Desiree came to work on the landscaping she carried more complaints with her. 

I mean suggestions.

"You know, the reason people have left the church is because Pastor caters to the younger crowd and not the older ones." 

I silently counted the ones who'd left and realized they were all under forty. Clearly not due to being catered to.

"...and another reason is because the music is too loud on Sunday, is there a way to turn it down?" Desiree was holding a flower, roots dangling from her hand, and I felt sorry for it. 

"And Kendra wants you to tell him to preach on Revelation because she hasn't ever heard him do that. Does he not know how to preach on Revelation?"

Needless to say this was the last day Desiree did any work for me. 

It's one thing to complain about the pastor to me at church (no, really, don't do this) but to do at my home? I'm peri-menopausal. She's lucky I didn't throttle her physically or with my weapon of words. I've never had a harder time taking every thought captive as I have since entering this next phase of womanhood. 

And Desiree is just one person. Imagine the pressure on your favorite ministry couple when several hundred people have ideas on how things should be. 

"I could run this place better than you," is one phrase uttered to my husband several years ago.

And that's the problem. Allowing little things to mar our view of the cross and what really is important. 

It's not about you.

It's about Him.

It's about Jesus and trying to be like Him. If everyone in the church would do that we would all be more effective in our communities. If we would be the light instead of being gossip-carriers and complainers the world might be able to see the difference in us.

So if you see my house (which is not pictured above) and wonder why there are no flowers in the yard...wonder no more. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Be Still

Be still. The words resonated with me as I climbed the hill on my morning walk. Every step added to my angst. My mind whirled with self-loathing, hormonal rage, and annoyance at the dog on the end of the leash who just wanted to spring after each and every bunny she saw. I came home and decided I needed to step back from the world. 

It's okay to put yourself in time out.

When the world is hurried and we begin to feel overwhelmed perhaps it's our soul crying for some time to be still. 

It's in the stillness that we are able to listen to the voice that matters most. God beckons us to come to Him and rest. He wants to refresh us with His peace and His song. 

The laundry can wait.
The dishes can wait.
The television show will still be there.
Facebook isn't going anywhere.

Today is fleeting. Tomorrow isn't confirmed.

Take this moment and wait. Be still. Allow His presence to find you and relax in it. 

Don't be afraid to be gentle to yourself. The world and its bustling is relentless in its pursuit of our time and our minds. Do you remember what it was like to spend an afternoon or evening in rest? We tend to only indulge in these moments when on vacation but it's important for our body, minds, and spirits to be quiet and relax. Take in a sunset, go for a walk around your neighborhood, sometimes even sipping a drink slowly instead of rushing through it is enough to relax me. 

The next time you feel the walls pushing in I dare you to step out of the room. Take a moment or an hour, take what you need. Close your eyes or leave them open, surrender the moment and time to the Lord. Let Him refresh you. 

The funny thing about life and time is that it still moves forward. There is nothing we can do to hinder it, so take some of it and use it for good. 

Try it today.  

Just be still. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Whatever Happened to Common Courtesy?

My husband and his administrative assistant were at the church on a recent day and saw, courtesy of the security camera's view, a car pull into the parking lot. They watched as a teenager wrangled free of the full car and waltzed into the church. After a moment of quiet my husband strolled out to the foyer where he came upon said teen and asked if he could help him.

"Can I use the bathroom?" the teen asked.
Wayne agreed and that was that.

But that was not that.

Soon more people piled out of the car and came into the church one at a time. Kids of all ages. Then the mother joined them inside. After a few minutes she went back outside to collect her Squatty Potty from her car.

I wish I was kidding. 

She carried it to the bathroom where I suppose they had quality family time together.

My husband and his AA were watching this unfold with their jaws dropped. After another few minutes mom was seen walking back out to the car where she collected a bag and brought it back into the church. Wayne then decided to go see what she was doing and found her in the kitchen washing some of her family's dirty dishes.

"Can I help you?" he asked.
"I'm just washing some dishes," she replied.
"Don't you think you should ask?"
"I didn't think it would be a problem," she said.

Whatever happened to common courtesy? Would you take it upon yourself to go to a church (or any private business) and do these things without asking? 

They left in their car with New York plates without thanking anyone. The idea that we are entitled to do what we want is ruining our country.

We have a dumpster behind our church and had a recent yard sale. At the end of the day the items were sorted into a donate pile and a trash pile. The trash was taken to the dumpster and strategically placed inside to get as much in as possible without it peeking over the lid because the trash hauling company has a rule about it being that way. My husband arrived at church the next morning for Sunday service and saw that the dumpster had been rooted through and rearranged so it was now overflowing. Not only that, but things the dumpster divers didn't want were left piled outside of the dumpster on the ground. He had to once again put everything back inside.

It seems we aren't teaching people a few basic life lessons:

Ask before assuming you can do things. 
Leave things as you found them.
If it's not yours don't touch it.

Join me next week when we'll discuss the people who sit in church and clip their nails during the service, leaving a pile of their DNA on the floor.... 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Did you get the message?

Messages have been directed towards us since the day be breathed our introductory breath. Some of the first we heard first were, "Shhhh," and "Don't cry."

When we were a little older we heard, 
"Sit still"
"Speak up"
"Finish your dinner"
"Don't eat too much"

Once school started it was, "Don't talk in class," and, "Don't talk to strangers."

Talking in class is pretty much the only thing I ever got in trouble for. I can't help it. I like to laugh.

School was filled with messages.
"You're not applying yourself."  
"You could do so much better."
"You'll never get into college with these grades."
"You'll never amount to anything, why try so hard?"

We were forced to participate in all kinds of school activities (of which gym class was my least favorite of all). Some of us were forced to be in church every time the doors were open. Some made to endure music lessons even though they lacked talent and desire. Still others lived lives where they were forced to do things unspeakable. 

Commercials send us messages.
We hear messages from parents, our spouse, teachers, and friends. 
Movies and television share their opinions with us.
Politicians -- nope, not going there.
Music has a message too.

Over the course of a lifetime we are filled with even more messages from church and Christian teaching. Some of us became really good at knowing how to be a Christian without ever actually becoming one. 

But what if we've missed the message entirely?

What if it's so much more and simpler than we imagined?

"You're not good enough," the world says.
"I love you as you are," God says.

"Nobody cares," the world says.
"You are not alone," God says.

Sometimes we need to not listen to the messages around us and give heed to the author of the only message that matters.

The message of eternity.

Your life is worth so much more than what the world is trying to sell you.

Even on the days when you feel worthless, you matter. God loves you.

His message is one you can trust.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Don't You Want More?

As a pastor's wife the hardest thing for me in ministry has been observing the people around me in church and wondering why they are happy with a little, with just enough Jesus to get by.

I see their potential. I see what more could do for them, but they're content. 

Krista was one I'd watched for a while. I could see the pain in her eyes and could feel the longing in her for something more but I wasn't able to get it for her. She had to get there on her own.

It was free. All she had to do was reach out.

When I look at the above picture it makes me think of our walk with the Lord. A plate of decorated cookies and a cup of hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream. Yeah, I want all of that. Not just the whipped cream, I want more. Not just the pretty candies on the cookie, I want more. I want it all.

A couple years ago I noticed a change in my friend Krista. Suddenly she went from being happy with just showing up at church each week to being excited. Then to overflowing. I asked her some questions about what changed, what made her suddenly want more.

Here is what she said:

"I went to almost every church out there but when I came here I felt like the pastor was preaching about me. I knew something was happening when I cried for the first two years during every sermon, I now know the Holy Spirit was stirring something inside of me."

Still not fully in Krista found herself pregnant and considered abortion. A few women in the church prayed with her and something changed. She came across Jeremiah 29:11 
      "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper         you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV)

"It was then I realized that God did have a plan for me. I wanted a home and wanted to become a family member at our church.

I started to attend every week because I realized if I didn't I would have a bad week. A missionary from Romania came to speak and introduced me to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I received the gift and it started a new journey for me. 

I began to feel unsettled when I didn't do what God wanted me to do. I gave up fighting and began to let God do what He wanted to in and through me."

Krista was no longer sitting on the sidelines, she wanted in on the action. It began with listening to what God was saying to her and then acting on it. She was given devotionals from friends and read through them as fast as she could, gleaning from every word. She wanted to be used of God, to see signs and wonders, to witness miracles. She took the next step and went on a sixteen day fast during which time she only drank coffee and water.

"God showed me visions, He allowed me to feel and know things before they happened and He showed me His nail pierced hands. I realized if I kept pressing in every day and every moment then I would get to where He would use me."

"I began to believe that God was able so I got specific with my prayers, I wanted my nightmare of a life to stop. I asked Him to heal me and end my pain and He did. After over twenty years of chiropractic care He healed my back. He also delivered me from bondage. I believed I had faith that could move mountains because the miracle happened to me first. I could tell the world about it without any fear. I didn't hold back but stepped out and now when God nudges me to pray for someone I do it immediately."

"It is not about me anymore, it is about whatever God wants me to do."

Krista now ministers weekly to women who are recovering addicts. She shares what God impresses on her to speak about. She started attending our Wednesday night Bible study where she learned even more and came to a better understanding of the Bible. 

"I want to fill my life with Christ everyday and I want to share what He did for me to help others. If I could talk to the old me I would say, "It doesn't matter that your father or stepfather hurt you. Put down the bottle, stop poisoning yourself with drugs. You do not need to sleep with that guy because your Heavenly Father loves you. Do not waste one more second of your life because Christ is so much more powerful that anything you could ever do to your body."

"God sent His son to die on the cross. He took the pain for you and He rose again. Start living a life of freedom and break the chains of guilt and shame."

"The best feeling in the world is know that you are loved for just being you."

Krista is now married and is owner of a non-profit and will soon open a home for women in recovery. She wants you to know that God is a God of redemption. You are not too far gone that He can't change you. You are not too old for Him to use you. She walks in faith and sees the blessings of God all around her. Life isn't perfect, but it's better. 

I believe Krista would say the same as I do. God wants to use you. He has so much more to offer you. What is holding you back?

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

Follow Simple Things on Facebook

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.