Sunday, September 26, 2010

Confession 129: Things Your Pastor's Wife Doesn't Want You To Know

As a pastor's wife, there are many roles I take on.  There are the church roles--provide hospitality, help lead worship, teach Sunday school, facilitate Bible studies, pray with people, keep my boys' hands out of the offering plate and their bodies from swinging around the altar rails.  Then, there are the general public roles--be gracious to everyone you meet, visit local businesses, take your kids to community events, and pull your kids all around town in a little red wagon.  (Okay, maybe that last one is not a role every pastor's wife takes on, but I count it as my exercise for the day!)  If you work full-time, or part-time, there are the various roles that go along with that.  And, you get to be a single mom half the nights of the week which, depending on when your kids go to bad, isn't always a bad thing since possession of the remote control becomes completely yours! I cannot count the number of times my hubby has come home from church in the evenings and has had his sporting event plans thwarted by PBS or the History Channel. :-)

All of the above is common knowledge to anyone who has been around a pastor's wife for about five minutes, and it's something that is written in fine print on the marriage license which means, it's just a part of our lives.  I don't think many of us would complain.  But, there are some things that might surprise you about your pastor's wife and, in an effort to further the cause of globalization, I'm going to reveal them.

1. Pastor's wives let laundry pile up.  It's true, sad to say, that there is a mound of laundry waiting to be washed in each of our bedrooms in our parsonage, and a hamper full of clean clothes waiting to be folded which my husband has probably added dirty socks and t-shirts to the top of.

2. Pastor's wives lose their tempers with their children.  For instance, just this morning when my oldest pooped in his pants for the second time in a week after pooping in the potty three times in a row, 35 minutes before I needed to leave for church, still in my robe with a towel on my head, with my youngest running around in just a diaper--I flipped.  After yelling at him for a full 3 minutes (it's all I had to give) and demanding that he hand over all of his Thomas the Train underwear, he happily skipped out of his bedroom with his so last year Cars underwear and the blue and white striped shirt that matched them perfectly.

3. Pastor's wives bribe their children to get them to behave in church.  I always have cookies or crackers ready in the pew for my boys.  And, if that fails, I threaten the nursery.  I also sometimes allow them to eat a sucker on their way to church as a sort of good faith bargain.

4. Pastor's wives have a secret love affair with premium roast coffee.  Seriously, ask a pastor's wife to recommend a coffee shop sometime.  You'll get every coffee shop within a ten mile radius, a map that would rival Google itself, as well as a fail-safe menu for the ultimate coffee experience.

5. Pastor's wives don't iron.  Okay, maybe that's just me.  But really, can someone actually give me a concrete reason to engage in such an antiquated tradition?  It's what the dryer is for!! :-)

6. Pastor's wives each have one activity they feel compelled to do that they secretly detest.  Mine is football.  Hate it--always have, always will.  However, when over half your congregation turns up at the local high school stadium each Friday night, it's generally good to go, even if your kids see it as an opportunity to run in circles around the grandstand, try to steal drinks from the concession table and repeatedly jump on the aluminum seats. 

7. Pastor's wives love being pastor's wives.  This is probably the most important secret of all.  Don't let that harried frazzled look fool you--it's carefully put on and cultivated.  We love it.  We love our pastors.  We love our churches.  We love our people.  And there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we would rather be!

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Confession 128: Being Weightless

My sister, brother-in-law and I recently started a Biggest Loser competition amongst ourselves which will run to the New Year.  Whoever loses the biggest percentage of body weight by New Year's Day will be the winner.  We were supposed to start by weighing ourselves Sunday morning.  So, I got a cheap scale over the weekend (the boys drowned ours in our soaker tub at our last parsonage) which happens to be resting comfortably in its box on our bedroom floor.  I CANNOT bring myself to step on the stupid thing!!  The thought of stepping onto that scale and seeing precisely what I've done to my body over the past few years is terrifying!  I already can't button half of my pants, do I really have to have a number to put with it too?  My heart is palpitating just thinking about it!  Yet, if I want to be back into my size 12 clothes by Christmas, I'm going to just have to suck it up (not in) and do it!

In thinking about my big weigh-in, it occurred to me that perhaps this is how many non-church goers feel about walking into church.  Not the fatness, but the fear and anxiety that comes when you feel you're not good enough.  In the past, there has been this notion that in order to be a Christian you have to be "good".  Christians have it all together, have all the answers, are "holy" and better than others.  For most of us Christians, the reality could not be more different.  We are not always "good", our lives are messy, we have tons of questions and are "holy" works-in-progress.

The point is that, much as I try to suck-in and ignore my burgeoning weight, so many Christians try to suck their lives in on Sunday mornings to paint a pretty picture for others around.  Yet, if we want to truly witness to the message of Christ, we have to be willing to put it all out there.  We have to be willing to say to others, "Yeah, my life can be a mess, but God loves me anyway!"  We need to let non-Christians know that they don't have to conform to any standard, or fit any sort of mold to receive the love of Jesus Christ.

I remember a sermon illustration in which a pastor took out a crisp, clean ten dollar bill.  He showed it to the congregation, then proceeded to crumple the bill into a tight little ball.  The new bill was now thoroughly wrinkled.  In addition, the pastor tore the edges around the bill so that it appeared frayed and disheveled.  His point was that no matter what the bill looked like, it was still worth ten dollars.  The same can be said for God's love for us.  It doesn't matter what our lives look like--crisp and clean or wrinkled and frayed--God loves us completely.  We are his children and he wants to welcome us with open arms.

Church shouldn't be a weigh-in.  Instead, people should feel weightless.  "Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest."  God will meet us wherever we are--we just need to come.

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Confession 127: Refiner's Fire

My good friend Penny over at Living Above has graciously invited me to be a guest on her blog.  So, if you're interested, check out my post on refinement over there. And while you're there, check out Penny's work.  It's worth continued visits!

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Confession 126: Above All, Love

This past weekend, we went to St. Genevive, Missouri for the wedding of my husband's cousin to a lovely young woman.  The ceremony was held under the domed ceiling of a beautiful, ornate cathedral--the oldest cathedral west of the Mississippi I believe.  It was simple, yet elegant and the bride and groom both glowed with the warmth of love they held for one another.  One of the scripture passages used in the service was the same one my husband and I chose to have read on our wedding day almost six years ago.  It has become one of my favorites:
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Colossians 3:12-14

"Love Binds in Perfect Unity" is what I had engraved on my husband's wedding band.  Love has always been one of my favorite words.  The "ouh" vowel is soft and round around the palette while the consonant L slips lightly off the tongue.  The harsher V is tempered by the "eh" on the end which provides a gentle expulsion of air.  Like the brush of fingertips on bare skin, it is tender.  And yet, it possesses the ability to grip you as tight as a mother's hand on her child in a crowded place.  Love can be at once one of the most frivolous and one of the most powerful words in the English language, and while our society has mastered the art of frivolity, the love to which Paul writes is power incarnate. 

So, what is it about love that has so much power? First, as Paul states, love acts as a binding agent.  It pulls together virtues such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.  It is the thing that makes all of these other virtues possible.  Can we show compassion and have not love for those to whom we show compassion?  Can we forgive if we have not known the great love that makes all forgiveness possible?

Yet, there is more... 
Perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18
John writes that there is no fear in love because fear has to do with punishment, and love is not punishing.  Rather, love is freeing.  When we love, we are letting go of ourselves to focus on another.  We do not worry about our own wants, issues, hang-ups, mistakes.  Instead, we focus on the best we have to give to someone else.  We learn how to meet the needs of others, to care for others, to lift others up, to heal others.  For that is the ultimate goal of love.

Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for another. John 15:
And this is the penultimate power of love. We give--all that we have, all that we are--for the benefit of another.  Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way:
Power at its best is LOVE implementing the demands of justice.  Justice at its best is LOVE correcting everything that stands against LOVE.
 Can you imagine a world where the power of love was lived out every day?  I believe it is this, precisely, that God is calling us to as Christians--to bring forth his kingdom in love.  Jesus himself boiled the entire Gospel message down to these two things: 1) love God, 2) love others.  What a beautiful command!

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Confession 125: Breaking the Silence

Disclaimer: the following post is a rant about an issue of controversy that has engulfed our country for the past few months.  My husband and I have discussed it much in our house, but not in public.  Please know that none of my comments or criticisms are directed at any one person (save one) and are opinions that I hold.

  Over the past few months, great turmoil has been caused over a proposal brought forth to erect an Islamic community center near the hallowed grounds of Ground Zero in New York City.  Protests have been organized, politicos on all sides have spoken out, religious organizations have weighed in, and some idiot "pastor" in Florida is undertaking a book burning.  As a Christian and an American citizen, disappointment does not do justice to my feelings on this matter.  I am horrified at the Christian response to the proposed Islamic center and am outraged as a citizen of a country that was built on the basic premise that all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   I understand the basis of the concern, but to blame the entire religion of Islam for the devastating events of 9/11 is a narrow-minded and bigoted point of view to take.  To say that all Muslims are terrorists is akin to saying all Christians are members of the KKK.  I know that there are those out there who would maintain that Islam endorses acts of violence based on religious intolerance, that the precepts for that are established in the Koran, but the same argument can easily (and maybe more justifiably) be made about Christianity.

For all our talk as Christians we have, collectively, perpetrated some massive crimes against humanity in our arrogance and misguided views of the Gospel message.  We have gone from being the victim to being the bully.  We took lessons from our Roman tormentors and put them to use through the Crusades and Inquisition.  We have brought people to "faith" at the point of a sword and have blasphemed against the glorious love of God for all humanity.  Many Christians today lament the active decline in Christianity over the past 25 years.  We blame our secular society, changing values and busy schedules.  But do we ever stop to look within our own organizations for the cause?  Many reliable studies have been conducted by agencies such as Barna and Gallup that point to Christianity itself as the cause of its own decline.  Ask any person between the ages of 25-35 why they don't attend church, and I would put money down that they have had a negative encounter with a church in their past.  We have ignored Christ's command to love God and love others and have turned the Great Commission into the Great Judgment.  If we want people back in our pews, we have to show them love and acceptance.  I don't believe we do that standing behind a picket line protesting a religious community center being erected in an impoverished area of a city in need.  It's interesting to me that the "hallowed" grounds of Ground Zero can house strip clubs and gambling agencies, but not a house of worship.

And now, to the newest twist, a "pastor" holding a book burning of sacred texts.  Let's look at the people who have hosted book burnings throughout the years.  There were the book burnings of the Inquisition where any book alluding to Judaism was thrown into a fire.  And let's not forget the infamous Nazi book burning parties where anything that threatened the Third Reich was torched.  Book burning, and banning for that matter, only promote ignorance and bigotry.  As the daughter of a librarian, I have seen my parents fight to keep books on library shelves, even if the message of the book was contrary to the values they held.  To destroy a book is to destroy a thread of humanity.

As a nation, we should be embarrassed by our response to the proposed Islamic community center.  In the city where the Stature of Liberty herself dwells ("Give us your tired, your weary, your poor.  Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shores.  Send these, the tempest-tossed to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door.") it is disheartening to see such passionate intolerance on display.  Although, as Americans, we have a great history of that as well.  Give us your wealthy, your light-skinned, your Western European ex-pats.... I promise not to enter into a diatribe on immigration "reform", but I think we need to begin to think about our responses to issues that challenge us to grow in our understanding and belief.

I know there are counter-arguments to that which I have presented here, and I am open to hearing them.  But I think it is a topic that merits reasonable discussion and tempered action.  To me, this is more than just a building being built, it is a way of life and living, a way of treating other human beings, and a litmus test for Christianity itself.

Blessings and Peace,

Friday, September 3, 2010

Confession 124: Beautiful Days

I love Fall.  It is, undoubtedly, my favorite season.  I love the crisp air, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the rich vibrant colors, the smell of woodsmoke.  We're not there yet, but today a hint of it teased in the air.  Today was the first really nice day we've had around here for months.  The high was 76 degrees with full sun and a heavy breeze.  It was a day meant for outside play.  So, we packed the boys in the van and headed for the city.  After turning in my Jetta (the lease was up) and bidding her Adieu, we drove to a nearby park where we met my sister and her little one.  Everyone in the North Kansas City area with a child was at the park, too, as there was only a half-day of school.  But the boys were not deterred.  Stephen ran up into a giant kangaroo that had a slide down the middle.  After a brief discussion with Mama about pushing other kids, he was ready to roll.  Garrett, my somewhat dainty careful child has suddenly become very interested in climbing, albeit only on playground equipment.  He found a jungle gym and got most of the way up before Daddy had to rescue him.

We left the park for an early supper at one of our favorite restaurants and walked around an outdoor shopping area, stopping to let the boys study a frog fountain. When Stephen decided to start throwing things in, we decided it was time to move on.  Still feeling the buzz of the beautiful weather, we decided to take a stroll down memory lane and show Garrett some of the places he knew as a baby.  We took him by his first church, drove him past the plot of land that was his first home.  The old parsonage had to be torn down after being condemned.  Good memories! :-)  We then went to our favorite park to let the boys loose before making the trek back home.  This park could possibly be my favorite of all the parks I've visited.  It is nestled in a quiet space between a river and a train track.  Idyllic is the word that comes to mind.  A walking/biking path follows the course of the river, big oak trees grow sporadically across the green space and two play areas provide ample entertainment for the young ones.  We spent many mornings and evenings walking the trails here, pushing Garrett around in his stroller.  This was the first place Garrett ever tried out swinging.  Now, he's running around in high-water pants (overalls he refused to relinquish even though they're too short now) and sandals, oblivious to the world around him, making up games only he and his brother understand.

While the boys played on the playground, Chris and I found a shady bench nearby.  I leaned my head in the crook of Chris' arm, content and peaceful.  "You know," I said.  "We have lots of happy memories in this park."

"Yes," Chris agreed.  "We've certainly taken lots of walks here."

"Lots of walks, picnics, talks.  I think this is one of my favorite places to be."

We ended our evening with some ice cream from Sheridan's Frozen Custard.  Garrett was almost asleep, but managed to rally and tell the woman at the counter he wanted some "banilla" ice cream.  As we were driving home, it struck me that finally, I feel home.

Tell me about your beautiful days.  I would love to hear them.

Blessings and Peace,

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2