Friends, To Have and to Hold…..!

I recently read the book, Desperate Pastors’ Wives by Ginger Kolbaba & Christy Scannell.  I found out about the book while browsing a website I joined specifically for pastors’ wives.  It had some very positive reviews by women who are in the ministry, and I felt that perhaps I might glean some insight into whether my experiences were the same as my comrades.

The book begins by enlightening the reader that pastors’ wives (a.k.a. PWs) are many times without real friends.  Then we meet four PWs who put their trust in one another over a long period of time and eventually there is created a deep and wonderfully honest friendship. PWs can relate to each other.  PWs know and understand the difficulties of the ministry.

The focus of this book has described my life for the past thirteen years.  I have struggled with befriending anyone since becoming a PW.  I have begged God to bless me with a true Christian friend for all of these years. 

Prior to becoming a pastor’s wife, I had close friends.  I still have my oldest friend Valerie (we’ve known each other for 44 years) and my friend Beverly (we’ve known each other for 22 years).  But these friends are not near in proximity nor do we share our everyday lives any longer.  We talk or email every few months, catching up, but none of the depth of our lives is expressed in such short periods of time.  And now, as the wife of a pastor, with my own ministry, I tend not to think that they want to hear about everything that is going on in my life because of the uniqueness of being a PW.

I reconciled myself to the fact that Earl was just going to have to do as my best friend.  And actually, for all intents and purposes, Earl really is my best friend.  He knows all about me and certainly listens and shares with me on an everyday basis and deals with all my annoying habits and many faults.  But right now, I’m talking GIRLFRIEND! 

Once I became a PW, I noticed people to be more reserved about themselves around me.  Everybody is truly pleasant and certainly may be inquiring about me, but very few bring you into their lives and share who they are in such a way as to develop a close relationship.  However more recently, I have met a couple of women who seem to want to maintain a closer relationship with an alien PW like me.

Carol is a friend from our Morrow Church pastorate. It took six years at that ministry before we actually met.  Although I don’t get to see Carol but a couple times a year, we do have dinner and try to catch up.  We laugh and we usually cry in just a mere 2 hour time frame, but we are uplifted by each other’s company and God’s Holy Spirit.  God is the One Who has brought us together – not the call of being a PW.  We met when our kids started dating and our daughter invited Carol & her husband to church.  God answered that prayer for me.  Within six months of meeting Carol, Earl and I were called to our next ministry.  Since Carol, we’ve had two more pastorates. 

It wasn’t until we came to James Island Presbyterian, that I met a wonderful woman named Kristi.  Kristi is real.  Kristi is true and honest. Kristi speaks her mind!  The first time we met, she and her husband took Earl and me out for dinner and the first thing she said to me was “It’s been a heck of a day; I’m having a glass of wine, how about you?”….We hit it off immediately.  Kristi is in the ministry too.  Her husband is the Associate in Ministry at our church.  Kristi knows….and understands!  Kristi is yet again, a God answered prayer. 

If we have patience and trust in God, I believe that He will bring into our lives the people who will help us traverse through God’s difficult ministry trails.  I give God my thanks for giving me the patience to wait on Him and for giving me the friends that He has chosen for me…. in His perfect time.

John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

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I Need My Pastor….

“Earl, I need to talk to my pastor.”

Whereas my husband is a counselor to many when it comes to spiritual, life and relational issues, does anyone wonder who the pastor’s wife goes to for such help?  Most people would probably recommend some independent, Christian counselor.  Is it possible for a spouse to be your pastor and counselor?

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, a.k.a Clergy Appreciation Month.  With a few clicks of the mouse and very little research, I found that Pastors have been unofficially” recognized the second Sunday each October since around 1992.  Funny thing, we have been officially celebrating Groundhog Day since February 2, 1887!   Is it possible that we are more apt to put our focus upon a rodent who supposedly predicts the future over our Pastors who help us to find a personal relationship with our Creator and encourage us and help us to grow in our faith in Jesus Christ?  I’m just saying…

I see very few churches that even recognize the month let alone a day for Pastor appreciation.  Ever since I have known Earl, whenever someone mentions Pastor Appreciation Month, he quickly tries to refocus it into an employee appreciation month.  But my husband, without fail, will be there for everyone else with just the ring of the phone or a knock on the door.  His ministry is to preach the Word of Christ to all who will listen and to witness to those who cross his path.  He will hear your joy; celebrating with you, and he will comfort you in pain; crying with you in grief.  He will preach the Bible to the very foundation of what it stands for, and he will not be ashamed of it.

There are many times I have looked at my pastor husband and said “I need my pastor”.  It is astounding how quickly, as I watch his face, he transforms into my pastor.  That’s right!  As a member of the congregation for which he serves, I too claim Earl as my pastor and sometimes, even my counselor.  And Earl knows enough to understand that his wife needs a pastor too.  Not many people think about that fact.  But I do.

I love Earl – My husband.  I appreciate and respect Earl – My pastor.

I want to reach out and let my pastor know how much I appreciate him.  He has counseled me, he has strengthened me in my spiritual journey, and he has educated me in spiritual discernment and theology.  He has pointed out to me God’s Holy Word during times of trials, and he has prayed for me and prayed for me and prayed for me.

Hebrews 13:7 (NASB)

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

What has your pastor done for you?  More than a groundhog, I feel sure.  I’m just saying…

Blessings and peace…..Laura

Come, Have Dinner with Me!

Deutsch: Gastronomie om Schlosshotel

        It was Friday night and as many know, Friday is date night for Earl and me each week.  But last week it was a little different.

     Earl began CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) classes at the end of August, and they last until December 18th.   This past weekend was his first of eight, overnight, on-call volunteer times.

     So we decided that we would have a date night on Thursday night.  We tried a restaurant in downtown, Charleston.  We love sampling the food at different restaurants, and I almost always prefer Italian.  Unfortunately, we left the restaurant $60 poorer and still hungry.     Whoever heard of leaving an Italian restaurant hungry?         

                                                                           

Friday is also Earl’s day off (on call 24/7 always, but we say it’s his day off), so he got up early, worked on his computer, went into the office (he feels guilty now that he takes a day or two for the chaplaincy program, so he goes in on Friday)….then he came home and worked on one of his many auto projects before dressing to the nine’s and heading to the hospital. 

Before leaving he asked me, “Would you come to the hospital and have dinner with me?”  OK, I’ll be honest here, as the pastor’s wife, my first thought was not positive.  It was more like “What?  You’ve got to be kidding!”  But even as he was asking, and I was rejecting, I knew without a doubt, I would be going with him.

It’s not often that I deny Earl his heartfelt requests, and anybody who knows me, knows this is true.  But why would I deny myself an opportunity to spend a little time with Earl, even if it is in a hospital cafeteria?  As many people know, a pastor’s family life is very difficult.  Check out the blog-post here that I wrote concerning statistics on a pastor’s life and family.  So with this knowledge, I know not to make our life any more difficult than it already is.  If I’m given an opportunity to be with him, and I can do it, I’m there! 

When I met him at the St. Francis Hospital cafeteria, I must say that we enjoyed a fabulous fish dinner with rice and greens along with drinks and bread – all for less than $10.  The meal was fabulous!  My date continued on with a tour of the chapel, the CPE offices, and then I was brought upstairs to see where he would be spending the night.  It was in a small room on a tiny little single bed.  Earl is 6’2”, and this was not going to be comfortable for him to say the least.  Not only that, but the bed wasn’t even made up.  Ghee-gads!  Earl and I spent a few minutes locating the linens and then without a second thought, I was making up his bed for him. 

I figure it this way, I feel so blessed that God has given me a few things in this life to oversee, whereas Earl has been given much to oversee.  I certainly want to make sure that I do all I can for such a caring, compassionate and humble pastor, so that he can touch the souls of those in distress and those that are depressed and dispirited, by the Spirit of God that works through him.

Matthew 9:36 NASB

36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.

Message of the Beatitudes – Three – Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

  I am not meek, but I am working towards it. 

Most people would not admit to working on becoming a meek person.  We are usually offended when referred to as having too meek a personality or character.  Why?  From all that our culture values, to be meek is to be mild-mannered, spineless, weak, submissive, subservient, passive and even in-effective.  Meek people get trampled. 

Maybe we do not understand what being meek is really all about from Jesus’ perspective. 

Being meek is the middle ground between excessive anger and being completely dispassionate and passive.  Anger is not a sin, nor is it necessarily bad.  The bible says that we are to be angry, but sin not.  Anger can be a great motivator.  It can help us to get charged about God’s righteousness and justice.

Everyone gets angry. But anger is often a selfish response to the world and other people.  If we were left up to our own devices and decisions, everything would be going our way.  So what is it that make us angry?  We may feel anger when we lose control – when things don’t go as we planned and we begin to feel powerless to change them.  We can feel anger when other people’s decision’s adversely affect our lives without our consent.

Jesus was meek.  But Jesus also became angry.  But his anger was a righteous anger for the down-trodden and the oppressed.  His heart burned when people called by His name ignored “the least of these, my brethren.”  He promises judgment for those who truly hurt children and cause them to stumble.  His soul reacted when He saw his Father’s temple being used for profit instead of the worship of God.  James 1:19-20 “This you know, my beloved brethren.  But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Note that when Jesus became angry, His anger was focused on those that caused suffering to others and on the disrespect shown towards God and His worship.  Jesus’ anger was never about Himself.

The meek are not easily provoked to anger; they patiently bear and put up with injuries and affronts;  they carry themselves courteously and affably to all; they have the best thoughts towards others; they do not envy the gifts and graces of other people, and they are willing to be instructed and admonished.  Meekness is patience during the midst of injuries.  Meekness produces peace.  It is proof of true greatness of soul.  It comes from a heart too great to be mowed down by insults.  It even prays for those who tear down.  He that is constantly ruffled, and raises a storm of passion when wronged, is at the mercy of every mortal that chooses to disturb him.

The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult; are silent, or return a soft answer; who, in their patience, keep possession of their own souls.  To be meek is one who controls his strength and uses it appropriately.

You cannot achieve meekness without first achieving humbleness.  We submit ourselves to God and know that we can do all things through Him.  We humble ourselves into servant-hood…to love, to have compassion, to serve those around us, even those who are against us.  To be meek is to be wise….

So, what keeps us from being meek?  Ego.  

Besides the meek inheriting the earth, the bible refers to other blessings for those who are meek.  “The meek shall be satisfied.” “The meek He will guide and teach.” “The meek will become wise.” “The meek will be filled with fresh joy.”

So, what’s not to like about being meek?

Walking Down the Aisle to Serve…

Galatians 5:13
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

When Earl and I got married, I did very little of the planning. Truth be told, I did NONE of the planning. I did manage a week before our wedding, to take my good friend Bev and go look for a dress for my big day! Now, I am a very organized and detail oriented person. So looking back, it’s very hard for me to understand how I could have let this big day just happen.

Earl planned everything from the flowers to the music, the cake, and also the car that whisked us away after the ceremony. I got myself into my dress and waited for my queue to walk down the aisle with this handsome man on my arm. Our wedding was a full worship service with hymns, liturgies and a sermon. We spent the sermon portion of the service looking down from the church choir balcony listening to every word and in total awe of the over 300 guests present. We then took our moment to walk down the aisle together to say our vows. After saying “I do” and being presented as man and wife, we came back down the aisle to an instrumental piece that Earl had written, played on the organ…..it was magical! I still to this day, wake up to that beautiful piece of music entitled, “The Proclaimed Word” as it plays as our alarm each morning.

Why am I reminiscing about my wedding day so long ago when I’m talking to my fellow pastor wives? Well, let me just say that, every Sunday morning, I relive that beautiful day of saying “I do”.

Years ago, when I realized that God’s appointed ministry in my life was to minister to my pastor husband, I understood that Earl needed assistance after a worship service concluded. I let you know in my blog entitled, “A Rare Sunday in the Pew…”, that I walk around pre-service to meet and greet congregants and visitors. Well, an extension of that ministry evolved when I understood that Earl was being given numerous prayer requests and concerns as people left the church after a service. In the receiving line, Earl couldn’t greet everyone and at the same time write down prayer concerns I found that by sitting in the front of the church, usually 3rd or 4th pew, I could actually see the service better, but I could also take the opportunity to walk back down the aisle with Earl as he went to the doors to greet attendee’s. Each Sunday, I walk down that aisle with Earl and feel a renewal of our vows, to have and to hold, in good times and in bad, for better or worse.

I stand at the doors with him, hand him gum or a mint in order to relieve him of any dryness of mouth from speaking, and I offer him another ear. Some congregants hesitate to burden their pastor with their request feeling that the pastor has too much to do already. I am someone they feel they can inform and they know I will get it to Earl. I write down the requests, and he is free to continue to greet everyone.

I am right here beside him, being his helpmate and right here for HIM, in HIS service..to this day I say, “I do”…….

God, Family, Church?

If you are a pastor, your job is to serve Christ first and foremost.  Great, I understand that.  That would be under the God heading within a Christian’s priorities.  But within a pastor’s priorities, what happens to his/her family being second, or more specifically, the wife of a pastor being second?

I know that there must be a lot of pastors’ wives that ultimately feel that they don’t even come in a close second.  They feel that they are ranked way down on a list of priorities by their minister spouse.  Maybe they are 200th in a 200 member church.  Whatever the church roll is, add 1 and that’s where she is. It is hard to be dead last even if, at times, it is out of necessity. The reality is, the real priorities of being a pastor must at least feel different to the family.

God, Church, Family (spouse)………..and they don’t like it.

What we, as pastors wives, have to ultimately open our eyes to is what it means to serve Christ first.

It took me a little while to understand that when God united Earl and me, “for this cause a man …..shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5) and “Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6), I too was called into the ministry.  Yes friends, we were called into the ministry along with our husbands if we are truly one flesh. 

Therefore it really doesn’t matter if he was called into the ministry before you met, while you dated or even years after you were married.  If the two were joined in marriage, they are both called, because in marriage, God does not call one without calling the other.

And since every Christian is to serve Christ first and foremost, we may not have been called to preach, but we, as a ministers wife, have been called to do one of the greatest ministries ever mandated by God.  What is that?

We were called to serve Christ alongside our husbands as a helpmate to him.  A pastor’s life is not glamorous.  The statistics on a pastor’s life are horrendous.  Take a look at these I found under the Schaeffer Institute:  Statistics on Pastors, By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir.  Here’s the link if you want to know more:

http://www.intothyword.org/articles_view.asp?articleid=36562&columnid=

  • 100% pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure. 
  • 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out). 
  • 89% of the pastors we surveyed also considered leaving the ministry at one time. 57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work. 
  • 77% of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage. 
  • 71% of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis. 
  • 38% of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process. 
  • 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner. 
  • 23% of the pastors we surveyed said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home! 

I only took those statistics that directly related to family and marriage.  These numbers should prompt every good pastor’s wife to ACT. 

But what can we do when we hardly ever see this dear sweet, (well, not always) man of ours?

Serve him as He serves Christ!  Oh that is so politically incorrect!   But when you serve your husband the way he serves Christ’s people, you are doing a great service for God.  Who better to serve “God’s Man” than “God’s Woman”?  We need to focus on how to serve our husbands better in order that their lives in the ministry will be a little easier on them, and possibly, some of the above statistics aren’t fulfilled in your marriage.

One of the small things that I have chosen to do is to be up at 5 AM on Sundays, while he is preparing and dressing for a full day of service and meetings, and cook him a good breakfast.  Of course once he is out the door, I promptly take myself back to bed!. But this one little act (among others), has made a big impact on our marriage.  He goes out fully nourished to battle the day, and he really appreciates it.  I believe he even preaches a little better after a good early morning breakfast.  And it also puts me in a very good light in his eyes – and I believe in God’s eyes too.

A Rare Sunday in the Pew…..

As ALL pastors’ wives know, we are almost always lone pew sitters.  While other couples snuggle up, get comfortable, whisper their thoughts together during a worship service, we pastor wives’ sit alone.

Today was one of those rare Sundays where my husband Earl was not behind the pulpit, but right next to me on the pew.  Not our James Island Presbyterian pew, but it happened to be a Baptist pew…  We had a Sunday off and went to worship together.

But upon entering the sanctuary, we were not greeted by any greeter or ushered to a seat by a church usher.  We found our own bulletin, located the restrooms prior to service and then seated ourselves.  There were people in the sanctuary talking amongst themselves, couples and groups, and though we were noticed as visitors, we only had one person introduce himself to us.

One gentleman strolled up from the front of the church to shake hands and say welcome and then off he went to chat with someone that he knew.  Next, Earl got up to ask someone who was preaching (it was not listed in the bulletin), and while he was gone, a woman walked past me, I caught her eye, and she was compelled to do one of those little waves and “Hi, how are you doing?” I am not sure she heard my answer because she walked away and wasn’t close enough to have heard my response.

Once Earl and I were back together, not one other person approached us for the next 15 minutes while we waited for the service to begin.  We both felt a bit unwelcomed.

Upon reflection, I of course, had to think about our church.  Is this the way our guests feel at times?  Earl and I both try to take time before both services to welcome and to greet not only our longtime congregants, but also all those visitors who walk through our doors.  Pastors do not normally have a lot of time before a service to walk out and talk to the parishioners, they are mentally preparing and praying to hear and deliver God’s Holy Word. But they and their people all need to take the time.  I see our members walking around and talking to others every Sunday.  And I am glad.

But how does that happen?  

First, I believe that the pastor’s wife needs to take the lead and get out in the congregation and talk to people.  Not only should she welcome them, but be sure to ask about their lives.  If you know something about the person, ask about something in particular.  If not, ask what they did that week.  This gives the pastor’s wife the ability to find things out that perhaps her husband/pastor is not yet aware of.  She can fill him in and he can then be sure to contact with that individual later on that day or week.

This is also the perfect time to approach someone who is visiting for the very first time and offering him or her a name and contact person (yourself) if she/he has any questions or need to talk.  It would also help to even invite a lone person to sit with you, so he or she doesn’t feel alone in a new church environment.

But this is just me.  I am but one person.  Yet as the pastor’s wife maybe taking the lead in this, it might encourage other members to be a little more hospitable, warm, and welcoming.  Not only may there be more greeting members, but by your actions, you will be reflecting Christ to those around you and they WILL begin to follow your lead.

Hebrews 13:1-2: “Let love of the brethren continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

God’s peace and understanding,

Laura

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