Wednesday, September 4, 2013

MOVING DAY!!!

As some of you know, it has been a personal goal/dream/ambition of mine since childhood to be an author.  When I was younger, I saw myself as a Young Adult Novelist.  But through the course of time (and this blog) God put other words into my heart--His words.  And I realized that through women's ministry, I could put together all of the gifts, experiences and opportunities God has given me.

I don't where this is going, or if it is going, but in an effort to be faithful to the calling God has placed on my heart, I am closing my blog here and moving "Confessions of the Pastor's Wife" to an entirely new site.

You can now find me HERE!!  The blog is coming with me, as are some women's ministry programs I've been developing over the past 5 years.  The site is a perpetual work in progress, but I'd love to have you come along!!

Please take some time to take a look around.  Click on the "Follow Me" link.  You can also "like" me on Facebook and (soon) follow me on Twitter (heaven help us all!).

Wish me luck!  And I'll see you on the other side!!

Blessings and Peace,
Sara

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Confession 287: Wednesday Weigh-In: "If it Was Easy"

As Wednesday is my official "weigh-in" day for Take Shape For Life, I thought that I would do a different sort of "weigh-in" on my blog.  Wednesdays will provide an opportunity for others to "weigh-in" on topics of faith and ministry.  Over the next few weeks, we'll hear from some folks directly involved in pastoral ministry and the wonderful ways in which God has worked through them and, at times, in spite of them to make a difference in this world.

Today, I'm welcoming someone very near and dear to my heart; my husband, soul mate, life partner, BFF and ordained United Methodist pastor, Chris.  Chris' article is a response to some recent negative posts he's seen about what it means to be in ministry.  Here are his words....

If it was easy …

I hate to start a note with a complaint, but lately I have become more than a little ashamed of some of my clergy colleagues.  Over the past couple of weeks and months, I have seen, be it on Facebook or through emails, including from denominational sources, blog posts or other articles about how hard life in ministry is and how misunderstood clergy are.  These articles are typically done in list format, such as “Seven Surprises Since Becoming a Pastor,”   or, “The Five Things Your Pastor Wishes You Knew But Would Never Tell You,” and “I Love My Job, But …” 

These articles are typically written by people of my generation who, while entering into ministry, were told they could change the world.  They came in with the idea that, because of their office and education they should be treated a certain way.  Many clergy, myself included, enter into congregational ministry with a na├»ve understanding of what we are getting ourselves into – long hours, lots of criticism, public spotlight, emotional exhaustion, meetings, meetings, meetings, denominational requirements and obligations that don’t always make sense, and generally a lot of work that doesn’t feel a lot like building the Kingdom. 

Here’s a secret to my clergy friends who are so quick to write or pass along these articles complaining or just stating the difficulties of pastoral life – every job is hard, that is why it is called work.  Teachers, doctors & nurses, emergency personnel, customer service people, waitresses, flight attendants, etc. – all have to work with the general public and deal with the general public and receive very few thank yous.  Our culture has become overwhelmed with people who all think they know how to do our job better than us, no matter what industry we are in.  

The reality is, we think our congregation members don’t understand us because ministry is so hard, but I think ministry being as difficult as it is helps us to better understand those we are called to minister to.   If pastoral ministry was easy, we wouldn’t need to be called to it.  We are called to be spiritual leaders, organizational leaders, fundraisers, chaplains, community organizers, teachers, mentors, sounding boards, counselors, custodians and prophets.  This isn’t an easy calling, but it shouldn’t be.

Throughout Scripture we are told over and over that Jesus doesn’t call us to an easy life, but it will be rewarding nonetheless.  I don’t imagine any of the Old Testament Prophets ever wrote a blog talking about how misunderstood they were and how much they wish the people God had sent them to would just be nice to them.  Peter didn’t complain that people always looked to him for leadership, even on his “day off.”  Paul seemed to understand that part of his role was to take the criticism of those he was called to lead, even when it hurt.

Clergy friends, we have the greatest job in the world – other than maybe being a professional baseball player.  There are so many days where I am in my office or out in the community or preaching a message and the thought goes through my head, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!”  I love my job.  And yes, I have been in hard roles, places that have made me question my calling and my faith.  

I have been called names, lied about and to, criticized for things I’ve done and not done, been accused of things I would never even consider doing or saying, been told I don’t have the right to my own opinion or feelings, and worst of all, I’ve had my family attacked because of a mistake I made.  I understand that it is difficult always being on – I’d love to go to a family gathering or a church supper and not be the one always expected to say the meal blessing.  I’d love to go to the grocery store and not have people be embarrassed to see me because they have a case of beer or bottle of liquor in their cart.  I’d love to have people not change how they behave around me the moment I reveal to them that I am a pastor.  But all those things are part of this wonderful life I have been called to.  Through it all, in the good days and bad, we have the greatest job in the world! 

No other job grants us access to people in their most intimate moments – we get to be there for births, baptisms, confirmations, moments of justification, weddings, and deaths just to name a few.  We are welcomed into homes and communities simply because of who we represent.  We get to share to wonderful, amazing, life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ for a living, and get paid to do it!  (I understand that is would be nice if we got paid enough to pay off our student loan debt from seminary, but again, that is all a part of it.) 

 Pastors, through it all, we have the best job in the world.

I know pastoral ministry is hard.  But would you really want it to be any other way?
Blessings,

Chris

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Confession 286: Taco Tuesday

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14



When we lived in Kansas City, one of our weekly rituals was to go to "Taco Tuesday" at one of our two favorite local Mexican joints.  "Taco Tuesday" is an all you can eat buy one get one free homemade beef taco extravaganza.  Although it's been a couple of years since I've indulged in one, I can still taste the crispy fried goodness as the meat, cheese and corn tortilla all melted together in my mouth.

Although the tacos were good, I don't think they are the reason the memory of "Taco Tuesdays" invokes such a deep sense of fulfillment and peace in my soul.  Rather, it's the memories of those who gathered with us on those Tuesdays that I cherish, and that still makes me wistful.  It was sacred time among family and friends.

More often than not, we would meet my sister and her husband for taco dinner.  The wait time was always fairly lengthy, so we had lots of time to chat and laugh and vent about our day.  Other times, we would head out with my husband's co-workers for a semi-quick lunch.  Out of the church office, we could more freely share together the joys and struggles of professional ministry.

"Taco Tuesdays" became a little sacred ritual in our lives.  And, as I think back on it, I realize just how formative those small "everyday" rituals can be to living out who God has made us to be.  They give us the opportunity to stop, reflect, share, dream, laugh, fill-up, relax, and just truly be ourselves with those who matter the most to us.  It's in these "everyday" rituals that we are free to be who we are, that we get a sense of ourselves within our community of family and friends, that we develop the supports we need to continue doing the work God has called us to do.

In the United States, many of our "everyday" rituals revolve around food.  But that doesn't have to be the case.  As you go forward with your family and friends, constructing "everyday" rituals that are meaningful to you, I would challenge you to think beyond the food.

Every Friday my husband and five year old have "Daddy and Stephen Days".  Fridays are my husband's day off.  So, he keeps our youngest home from daycare and they enjoy time together.  They look at pictures of Newfoundland dogs online, lay in the recliner and watch T.V., eat lunch at their favorite pizza place, and run errands.  It's nothing profound or earth shattering.  However, it creates a special bond between them they both value and love.

It's important to note that most of our "everyday" rituals seem to be born from spontaneity.  "Taco Tuesdays" started out because someone said, "Hey, lets go get some tacos."  "Daddy and Stephen Day" started because we wanted to save a bit of money on childcare.  The sacredness of each evolved with time and repetition.

My sister and I both have zoo family passes.  The Kansas City Zoo offers two special family zoo nights for people with memberships.  The zoo is open until 8 P.M. and everything is free with your zoo membership pass.  This year, our family and my sister's family met up to participate in both family nights.  It was a wonderful experience, and a great opportunity for some quality family time.  I'm hoping this becomes another sacred ritual, albeit not quite an "everyday" one.

I could give example after example of "everyday" rituals that have been sacred time in my life.  But my guess is, you're already reflecting on your own spaces and places of "everyday" sacred experiences.  I would love to hear them.  More importantly, I would love for you to claim them and name them, to give thanks for the wonderful gifts these "everyday" rituals provide.

Blessings and Peace,
Sara


Monday, August 26, 2013

Confession 285:Blessings

Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your Presence.
Psalm 21:6

 In Sunday school last week, my boys brought home a large picture frame which enclosed a sheet of paper entitled, "Today's Blessings" and a dry erase marker.  Their instructions were to put the picture frame in their room, somewhere within easy reach, and to write a blessing on the frame each evening with their dry erase marker.

Our boys, especially our 5 year old, LOVE this new night-time ritual!  In fact, the 5 year old has gone so far as to write down (with Mom's help) each of his daily blessings and to create a book which he intends to illustrate.

My boys' earnest endeavor to verbalize all of the good things they have in their life has both touched and convicted me.  So often it's easy to complain, to bemoan, to wish away so much of our daily lives.  But when we truly stop to look, we have blessings in abundance.

And so, I thought I'd start recording Bountiful Blessings each Monday.  It will be a positive reflection on the week before, and a hopeful anticipation of the week to come.  Will you join me as we count our blessings?

Blessings and Peace,
Sara

Here are the Bountiful Blessings of my boys this week:

5 Year Old
Playing with my cousins
Playing outside
School
Mommy
Daddy
Playing with friends
Church

7 Year Old
Family
School
Playing
My Teacher
JoJo (the family dog)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Confession 284: Why We Go To Church


Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

Psalm 95:5-7



Recently, my husband and I have been pondering the question of what brings people to church.  I know the answer lies in a plethora of reasons which are different for each individual and family.  However, I think it's a question worth asking.

I grew up going to church.  My parents didn't give an option, not even the night after prom.  On Sunday mornings, you showed up.  Moreover, my parents demonstrated to me the importance of faith development.  It wasn't enough that we sat in the pews playing hangman, we needed to have something theologically substantial to contribute over our Sunday dinner pot roast.  My parents talked to us about what we'd learned from Sunday school and worship, and shared their reflections from both Sunday school and worship, as well.  In this way, my sister and were encouraged to develop an authentic and meaningful faith experience through the church experience.

However, church was also about community.  It was the place we went for fellowship dinners, for wedding receptions and birthday parties.  It was where we went after school once a week for bell choir, kids choir, GA's and kids cantata rehearsals.  It's where we met our friends to play on Wednesday evenings as our parents did choir practice.  And, it was the site of countless lock-ins and weekend retreats.

Church was a vital part of our lives, and although it smacks a little of nostalgia, it really wasn't that long ago.

As an adult, my motivations for going to church remain largely the same, although some of my desires have been transferred onto my children.  I want my children to know God.  I want them to develop a strong and authentic faith.  I want them to live their lives in service to God.  And for me, that can't happen without the Church.

Moreover, in our increasingly secular society, I want my children to have a community of believers they can gather with each week.  I want them to see Christian principles and teachings being lived by adults around them.  I want the wisdom of those who have passed through parenthood before me to help me on my journey--to speak words of encouragement and to offer decades worth of guidance.  I want them to help me guide my children in the ways of the Lord and to live out the covenant promise they made when our children were baptized to help rear them in the faith.

Finally, for me, church is the place where God's Kingdom takes root on earth.  It is the place you come in order to show the love of Christ to a world in need.  I want our children and adults to have abundant opportunities to engage in mission and service, whether it be collecting money for Imagine No Malaria, bringing in jars of peanut butter for our local backpack program, sponsoring students so that they can go to school, bringing in shoes, making dresses to send overseas, visiting those in the local nursing home, or making cards for our shut-ins.  Church is the place where we not only receive God's love, but where we pass it on to others.

So, that's why I go to church.  How about you?  Why do you go to church?  Tell me.  I want to hear your story.

Blessings and Peace,
Sara

Friday, August 9, 2013

Confession 282: Of Calla Lilies and Grace

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 
1 Timothy 1:14





"The calla lilies are in bloom again" I hear Katherine Hepburn intone each time I step out my front door.  (For those of you who do not enjoy watching movies that were made before most of our parents were even born, that is a quote from a delightful 1930's film entitled, Stage Door.)  The calla lilies came up in late Spring and have been our beautiful, soft plum sentinels of summer.  I love them, and not just because I hear Katherine Hepburn every time I look at them.  For me, these calla lilies have become a symbol of God's magnificent grace.

My husband and I planted three pots of calla lilies a couple of years ago.  It was an impulse buy.  I had no idea whether or not they were native to Missouri, would thrive in our mostly sun-filled environment, or if I would remember to go out and water them regularly.  They were pretty, they were on sale, and I wanted them.

They did okay that first summer.  The leaves grew and we had one pretty little lily pop up by Fall.  I left them in the ground over the winter, not knowing there is anything else to do with plants, and didn't give them much thought until someone pointed out that calla lilies are supposed to be brought indoors for the winter.

 Imagine my surprise, then, when my husband came in one day after work the next Spring and said, "You've got a lily coming up".  Indeed, I did--an astoundingly rich deep plum lily had fluted forth from the ground with no help at all from me.  I marveled at its beauty.  I'd never seen anything like it.

But then came the Drought.  Everything dried up, including my beautiful lily.  Our grass turned brown, weeds took over the garden, and I left it, not expecting anymore life to pop forth.

And so again, I was surprised when, late this Spring, THREE lilies opened themselves to our garden once more.  They weren't the rich deep plum of the previous summer, but a softer, paler sister.  They were also taller, and stronger than any of the lilies had been before.  And, as we approach the middle of August, those lovely ladies are still standing tall.

Looking at the lilies is a tangible reminder to me of God's grace.  Even when we feel we're done, God's grace comes pouring in giving us new life, new meaning, new purpose, and new strength.  God renews us over and over again.  More than that, God's grace transforms us.  We become a new creation.  And, like my lilies, God makes us stronger and more plentiful in each passing season.

The calla lilies are indeed in bloom again.  And as I watch them, I realize--so am I.

Blessings and Peace,
Sara

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Confession 281: For the Love of Summer

My boys and I have fallen in love with summer all over again.  Maybe it's because the winter was so long and cold.  Maybe it's because last summer was so hot.  Maybe it's their ages, now 5 and 7, but this summer has been a thing of beauty for us.


Warm skin, freckle faces, flip flops smacking along the pavement.  The smell of sunscreen mixes with the smell of sweat and freshly mowed grass as we dance through our activities.

Bike rides to the playground, to the grocery store, to the church, to the library--the boys racing each other down the road, calling out to each other with shouts of glee.

Hot afternoons fishing at the city park, casting long lines into the cool breeze rippling off the dark water.  Eagerly anticipating the tell-tale tug that something has taken the sweet-corn bait.  Excitement moving like electricity as the line is wound in.  We hover along the edge of the bank in the long, dry, itchy grass shouting encouragement to the one who is bringing in this greatest of all catches.  Laughter explodes as a clump of lime green water grass is revealed to the merry call of, "I caught a weed!"  But then, that beautiful moment is there when a flash of silver comes bursting out of the water and we share a moment of triumphant joy before releasing our prize back into the cool depths of the lake.

Tired, but satisfied, we emerge from the bright white heat of day into the dimmer coolness of air-conditioned home.  Arms and legs tangle together on the couch as we rest, letting the cool air and popsicles melt the sticky humidity away, laughing together as we watch family shows on t.v.

There are days with friends, picnicking in the park, cramming down Lunchables in order to run and play.  Wiffle ball home run derbys, a trip to the driving range, and determined attempts at completing a tennis volley.

Zoo trips with family, marveling at the sea lions as they swim above and around us, so close to a penguin you could reach out and touch it.  Wondering at the gracefulness of the polar bear's swim and standing in silent appreciation before the King of Beasts.  Peals of laughter ring out as the 5 year old does his gorilla impression, beating his chest and calling to the distant apes, "Gorillas, come to me!  I am your master!"  Exclamations as one lone gorilla slowly ambles toward us.  Camel rides, train rides and the majestic view of a setting sun while we ride the skytram over the zoo and watch the giraffes below us--so close you could almost reach down and touch them.

Barbecues with hot dogs and hamburgers hot off the grill.  Corn on the cob that bursts with sweetness and richness into your mouth.  Tomatoes warm from the garden, full, round and meaty.  Berries galore, sweet and tart, a perfect end of day symphony.  Frozen custard melting in the heat, filling your mouth with a sweet delicious coolness you can only get this time of year.  Fireworks lighting up the night sky.  Cardinals baseball games coming through the television each night; the now familiar voices of Dan, Al, and Rick old friends coming back for an extended visit.

Vacation Bible School week-organized chaos as children sing, dance, laugh and play to the glory of the Lord.  The excitement of learning how you, at ages 5 and 7, have the power to save a life.  Imagining No More Malaria.  The ornery one suddenly exclaiming over lunch, "I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger..."  Church families gathering together to share with one another, to create and seal beautiful memories for these children we have all covenanted to raise.

There is no time for blogging, for delving into the world beyond our IRL. Time is too fleeting.  This glorious summer shall soon pass, and I want to surround myself in it.  My cup runneth over.

Blessings and Peace,
Sara

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2