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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Confession 280: Because God Doesn't Need You To Do His Job For Him

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,  so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,  and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:9-12

I tend to me rather impulsive.  I like spur of the moment road trips across several states.  If something catches my eye in a store, I like being able to buy it then and there.  I like surprising my kids and my husband with gifts they sometimes don't want and often don't need.  When I get an idea for a ministry project, I tend to just dive right in before swimming through the details.  Impulsivity is something I am comfortable with.

God, however, is not impulsive.  As it took almost 800 years from the promise made to Abraham about inheriting the land of Canaan and the actual inheritance of said land, I would say that God is the direct opposite of impulsive!!  God is a methodical planner.  I see this trait come alive in my loving husband.  Chris never builds/starts/buys anything without thorough research and planning.  If I'm perfectly honest, it drives me absolutely crazy, especially when it involves multiple trips to three different home improvement stores.  By the time I'm ready to scream, "Just pick something already!", we're moving onto store number two.

But, if I'm still being perfectly honest (which I am) it is a quality that I love and cherish about him.  His methodical planning of everything allows me to rest assured in all of the decisions he makes.  I trust him and I value his opinion because I know it's carefully formulated with lots of consumer research.  While I'm diving into the deep water, he's standing above holding a life preserver!

And yet, even though I know that God is not impulsive, even though I know that He has a plan and has painstakingly attended (and is attending to) every detail, I still find myself screaming, "Just do something already!  I'm tired of waiting!!"

Sometimes, I even try and push God to force His hand.  Instead of waiting and trusting in God's omnipotence and sovereignty over my life, I jump in and try to get the ball rolling myself.  I pull the, "Well if you're not going to do anything about it then I guess I'll have to" card.  Needless to say, it never works.  In fact, quite the opposite really.  My refusal to let go of situations and trust in God most often moves me farther back than I was to begin with.  I create situations in which God has to act, but it's not to move my life forward, rather, it's to clean up the new mess I've made.

The truth is, God doesn't need us to do His job for Him.  As the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, He's got it pretty well under control.  Moreover, He has a plan which He has been in the process of implementing since the dawn of time.  And God has graciously and perfectly placed us within that plan.  And while my impulsivity doesn't take me out of God's perfect plan, for nothing in heaven or earth or below can keep us from the great love of God, it can make the road a bit more difficult.

And so, I wait, begrudgingly at times, but with the knowledge that He who knit me together in my mother's womb is putting it all together.

Blessings and Peace,
Sara


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Confession 279: Hemmed In

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Psalm 139:5

Recently, my family and I have taken up bike riding.  I've forgotten the sweet freedom that comes from hopping on a bike and cruising down the road.  As a kid, the whole world suddenly opens up to you.  As an adult, I can now turn even a mundane trip to the grocery store into an aerobic workout!!


When we go out biking together, there are some important rules we follow.  First, no one gets onto a bike without a helmet.  Second, no one crosses an intersection until they hear Mommy or Daddy yell, "Clear!"  The problem is, when I'm out riding alone with the boys, I cannot be both before and behind them.  I have to pick one spot.  If I ride before them I can lead the way, call back when cars are approaching from the front, and get to busy intersections first.  However, I can't see cars coming up from behind, I can't monitor where the boys are in the road, and the boys have a harder time hearing me call back to them.

If I ride behind them I can see and hear cars approaching in front and behind, I can monitor their positions on the road and my voice carries a bit better as I call toward them.  However, the boys have a tendency to zoom ahead and reach intersections before I do.  And, if a car approaches too quickly from the front, I'm not there to immediately intercede, nor am I able to give directions to where we're going.

Ideally, I could be in both places at once!!

This dilemma always reminds me of the fact that God is actually able to go both before us and behind us in our daily living, and I am so grateful for that!  I rest assured knowing that if I am behind my boys, God is in front.  And, vice versa.  Moreover, God is both leading us forward in our lives and watching our backs at the same time!!

God goes before us--leading, directing, preparing the path, making sure the intersections are clear before we cross.  And, God goes behind us--encouraging us onward, watching our progress, helping us out of scrapes along the way, not letting us fall behind, and standing between us and our past.

As if that's not incredible enough, God also walks right beside us every moment of every day.  And sometimes, when we need it most, He has the ability to pick us up and carry us.

It's so comforting to know that God constantly surrounds us!!


Lord, you have examined me.
    You know me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up.
    Even from far away, you comprehend my plans.
You study my traveling and resting.
    You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways.
There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord,
    that you don’t already know completely.
You surround me—front and back.
    You put your hand on me.
Psalm 139:1-5
Blessings and Peace,
Sara

Monday, May 20, 2013

Confession 278: When You Face an "Epic Fail"

Praise the Lord! He is good.
    God’s love never fails. 
 Praise the God of all gods.
    God’s love never fails. 
 Praise the Lord of lords.
    God’s love never fails.
Psalm 136:1-3

A few weeks ago, I interviewed for a teaching position in a district I have desperately wanted to become a part of.  This was my second interview in three years.  I prepared myself for the interview, going over questions and answers in my mind.  I prayed continuously, asking God to make me appear favorable in the eyes of the hiring committee.  I felt confident, allowing myself a vision of the future with me in that position.  Everything I'd desired for the past three years would finally be coming to fruition!!  I couldn't wait to get started!

 As you've probably noted by my use of the past tense, things didn't exactly go as planned.  Despite my preparedness, despite my prayers, I was less than my best throughout the interview.  Ready answers weren't there.  Important points failed to manifest themselves at the fore front of my mind.  I remember, at one point about halfway through, actually thinking in my head while my mouth was responding to a question, "Wow!  I am totally bombing this!!"  I walked out of the interview room dazed and reeling.  What just happened?  I found myself looking to the heavens asking, "God, where were you?!"  I had just had another "Epic Fail".  

Walking home, I felt ashamed, wary of facing my family eagerly awaiting good news.  I felt sad and depressed, worthless to an extent.  And I was angry.  I had just finished reading a book about prayer in which I encountered story after story of God's amazing acts of power and might in the lives of the faithful who turned to Him.  So, where was that power and might for me?  Why wasn't God acting on MY behalf?  He knew how much this meant.  He knew how much I wanted/longed for this.  So why did He sit back and let me fail?  How did this happen?

My initial response when dealing with an "Epic Fail" is to try and escape the negative feelings zooming around throughout my being.  In the past, I used food to cover up those feelings of failure.  I thought that a big banana split with chocolate, strawberry and butterscotch syrup would fix it all.  However, as I've worked my tail off (literally) to re-develop and maintain healthy habits, drowning my sorrows in sugar was not going to be an option.  My second thought was to go shopping.  However, I know the dangers of replacing one unhealthy habit with another.   As I was praying that night, letting God have it would be a more accurate description, I felt the Spirit move in the quiet of my heart. 

Lying in bed, surrounded by all of those awful feelings, I realized that instead of trying to run from them, replace them with something else, push them over onto something or someone else, I was just going to have to face them and accept them.  I was sad.  I was embarrassed.  I was angry.  And that is okay.  

Moreover, I realized that the "Epic Fail" moments in life are the ones where we truly test and grow our trust in God.  It's in our "Epic Fail" moments that we ask ourselves: "Does God really have a plan?  Can God make something good out of this?  Is God going to see me through this failure?"  Answering those questions requires us to dig down deep into the very marrow of our spiritual bones.  And if we can answer with even the most feeble "yes", then it forces us to relinquish our feelings of bitterness, despair, injustice and self-pity.  We can't hold on and wallow in negativity if we sense a bigger and better picture.  If we answer "yes" to God and His sovereignty, then we have to trust, and trust can often feel like a free-fall from 50,000 feet.

I'm still a little bitter about not getting that job.  However, God has shown me in many small ways that it was for my own benefit.  And although I don't understand the full plan, or know quite where we're going on the grand map of my life, I trust that God has the path laid out and I know that even though there will be other "Epic Fail" moments in my life, God's love for me never fails.
 

Blessings and Peace,
Sara

Friday, May 10, 2013

Confession 277: Purging

My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love.
Galatians 5:13

During Teacher Appreciation Week, our school puts banners up throughout the school with enlarged pictures of every staff member on them.  In looking around at all of the banners, I didn't see my picture.  The idea that I wasn't on any of the banners only surprised me in that my principal is very dedicated to making all of the staff feel valued and respected.  When I mentioned to a friend that I wasn't on any of the banners she said to me, "Yes you are.  You're right over here."  Leading me over to where my picture was, my jaw dropped.  I didn't recognize myself at all!!

You see, over the past 8 months, I have been working on getting my body back into optimal health condition.  After maxing out at my heaviest weight ever, I decided that it was time to PURGE my body of all of the unhealthy things I'd been feeding it.  In so doing, I have lost 51 pounds and dropped from a size 16 to a size 10!!  Clothes shopping is actually fun again! :-) 

Yet my picture was taken pre weight loss--hence the non-recognition of myself on my part!! The thought struck me that sometimes, in order to get back to who God intended us to be, we need to go through a period of purging.

There are several definitions of the word purge.  If you're looking for a laugh, check out the definition at the Urban Dictionary!!  For my purpose, the best definition of the word purge is: "to rid, clear or free from"...  It is the complete and total opposite of gorging, which we in America have created a lifestyle out of.  Most of us are pretty good at gorging ourselves, whether it be on food, entertainment, gossip, activities, technology, etc.... 

The problem is that when we continue to put all of this extra stuff in, we lose sight of who God has called us to be.  We become defined by our career, our kids, our activities, our dress sizes, our economic status and fill our days trying to maintain and add to all of these things.  Well, most of us probably aren't intentionally trying to add to our dress sizes!  But the point is, the more we fill our lives with the excesses of our culture, the less room we have for God to live and dwell within us.

Hence, the need to purge, to rid, clear and free ourselves from those things in our lives that pull us away from being the person God created us to be and to refocus our time and energy on those tasks God has called us to do.  Sometimes, we need to downsize.  We need to take a moment to reflect and take stock of our surroundings.  We need to look at where our time, our talents, our resources, and our focus is going and determine whether or not the paths we are pursuing are the ones God has asked us to follow.

In my life, my weight loss has been the impetus for a season of purging in my life.  I've felt as if I've woken up to my life again.  I'm reclaiming the dreams and goals that God has planted in my heart.  And in order to follow them, I need to give some other things up.  I need to make time and space in my life to do what God has called me to do.

When we take the time to purge/clear/free ourselves from the things that hold us back from God, we give God room to create.  As the apostle Paul writes....

 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

Blessings and Peace,
Sara





Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Confession 276: Active Listening



Obey God’s message! Don’t fool yourselves by just listening to it. If you hear the message and don’t obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror and forget what they look like as soon as they leave.  But you must never stop looking at the perfect law that sets you free. God will bless you in everything you do, if you listen and obey, and don’t just hear and forget.  James 1:22-25



Have you ever heard of the term active listening?  I remember talking about this quite a bit in my undergrad Interpersonal Communications course.  Active listening goes beyond simply hearing what someone has to say to being actively engaged with the speaker throughout the conversation.  It’s looking at someone while they’re speaking, making eye contact, nodding your head, giving verbal reinforcement and encouragement.  Active listening tells the speaker:

1) I am important to you
2) My feelings are valued
3) I am respected
4) I am understood

When we actively listen to someone, our actions demonstrate that we have received the message loud and clear.  Our response to what the speaker has said should reassure the speaker that she has been heard.

As the mother of two young boys, I truly appreciate the concept of active listening.  I’ve found that my boys can hear quite a lot.  For instance, they hear, “Go wash your hands and come to the table for dinner.”  But their continued playing or watching television five minutes after the fact tells me that they weren’t really listening.

Similarly, we can hear God calling us to something, but our response to that call will prove whether or not we were actively listening. 

Take this story of King Saul for example:

In 1 Samuel 15, God sends Saul off on a conquering mission with specific instructions NOT to take any plunder from the attack.  Saul hears the Lord’s command, but does exactly the opposite.  Saul takes the plunder from the attack in order to “make a generous sacrifice to the Lord”, despite direct instruction that nothing should be saved.  Samuel, God’s prophet,  comes to Saul and asks him, “Why didn’t you listen to the Lord?”

Saul replies, “But, I did listen.”

Samuel then points out the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Saul tries to justify his actions, telling Samuel that the plunder was to be a thank offering to the Lord.  Samuel’s response:

“Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him.”
 1st Samuel 15:22

When God calls us, He wants us to be active listeners.  He wants to see that He is important to us, that He is valued and respected above all things, and—He wants to know by our obedient response that we understand Him.

God wants active listeners.  Are you listening today?

Blessings and Peace,
Sara

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Confession 275: Challenging the Call



When God calls us to a task, it is rarely ever an easy thing to do.  Oftentimes, the work seems impossible.  Always, the task at hand is one that takes time, trust, and infinite patience.  We don’t fee qualified, prepared, worthy, or even desirous of the opportunity God is presenting.  In reality, we’re probably not actually qualified, prepared or worthy of the opportunity. 



Listen to some of the responses of people in Scripture who have been called by God:

Moses: “I have never been a good speaker.  I wasn’t one before you spoke to me, and I’m not one now.  I am slow at speaking, and I can never think of what to say.”  Exodus 4:10

Esther: “…there is a law about going in to see the king, and all his officials and his people know about this law.  Anyone who goes into see the king without being invited by him will be put to death.”  Esther 4:11

Gideon: “Please don’t take this wrong, but if the Lord is helping us, then why have all these awful things happened?”  Judges 6:13

 Jeremiah: “I’m not a good speaker Lord, and I’m too young.”  Jeremiah 1:6

Zechariah: “My wife and I are very old.”  Luke 1:18

Mary: “Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this happen?  I am not married!’” Luke 1:36

Ananias: “Lord, a lot of people have told me about the terrible things this man has done…” Acts 9:13


Do any of these objections to a call sound familiar to you?  I’m too old.  I’m too young.  I’ve never done this before.  I’m not in the right season of my life.  I don’t have enough experience in this field.  It’s too dangerous.  I don’t trust you.  You’re asking too much.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve used a couple of these objections with God once or twice before.  I, personally, have used the “this isn’t a good season in my life” objection way too frequently.  I mean, how much can God expect me to do with two small children in tow?  A lot!

You see, God knows what our objections are going to be before we ever voice them.  And God not only hears our objections, He prepares and blows them out of the water.   

Listen to God’s reply to His faithful servants:

To Moses: Who makes people able to speak or makes them deaf or unable to speak? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Don’t you know that I am the one who does these things?  Now go! When you speak, I will be with you and give you the words to say.  Oh, and take your brother-in-law Aaron.  He’s a great public speaker!  Exodus 4:11-12

To Esther via Mordecai: “Don’t think that you will escape being killed with the rest of the Jews, just because you live in the king’s palace.  If you don’t speak up now, we will somehow get help, but you and your family will be killed. It could be that you were made queen for a time like this!”        Esther 4:13-14

To Gideon: “Gideon, you will be strong, because I am giving you the power to rescue Israel from the Midianites.” Judges 6:14

To Jeremiah: “Don’t say you’re too young.  If I tell you to go and speak to someone, then go! And when I tell you what to say, don’t leave out a word! I promise to be with you and keep you safe, so don’t be afraid.”  Jeremiah 1:7-8

To Zechariah via Gabriel: “You have not believed what I have said. So you will not be able to say a thing until all this happens. But everything will take place when it is supposed to.” Luke 1:20

To Mary via Gabriel: “The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God’s power will come over you…  Nothing is impossible for God!” Luke 1:35-37

To Ananias: “Go! I have chosen him to tell foreigners, kings, and the people of Israel about me.” Acts 9:15

You see, God doesn’t care if we’re old, or young, or single or married, or experienced, or well-trained, or prepared or have young children.  Each and every time we raise an objection God says, “GO!!  I AM is going to take care of everything you need!!” 

God doesn’t need us to be anything but obedient because He Is everything else.  When God calls us to a task He makes a sacred promise to be with us throughout the entire completion of the project.  God knows we can’t do it on our own—that’s actually part of the point.  We can’t.  God can.  We go.  God does.  And then, God is glorified and magnified and we have experienced the love of God in deep and profound new ways.

The apostle Paul writes that Christ’s power is made stronger when we are weak.  Because when we face a task that we know we are not qualified, trained, or are scared to do then we have to turn ourselves completely over to God.  And that is what God desires most of all—His children depending and relying on Him.   And when we give ourselves fully and completely over to God, amazing things can happen.

Blessings and Peace,
Sara

My Family

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