Minister to Ministers


Years ago, Michael and I became good friends with a young pastor and his wife at our church.  We talked, shared meals and movies, laughed and became very close.  So much so, that we were crushed when we learned they were moving on to another church.  Before they left, this young pastor’s wife told me one day that she believed Michael and I had a ministry to ministers.  At the time I brushed her off.  But as the years have passed I do believe God revealed this to her.

Over the years Michael and I have had the privilege to know so many folks whom God has called into full or part-time ministry.  Some were senior pastors, some music ministers, some youth or education, and some missionaries.  Some we knew for a short season, while others we have known and kept in touch with for decades.  October is generally designated Pastor or Clergy Appreciation month.  Well, I missed October, but I thought I might offer what I’ve learned and observed regarding how to have a relationship with  ministers.

First, contrary to what many may think, ministers are people just like you and me.  They need friends.  They need down-time and they need an ear to listen (not just during the Sunday morning sermon).  Make friends with the ministers in your church.  Though they know a lot of people, most would tell you that they have few close friends.  Perhaps it’s because of their position, but most people in the congregation never take the time or put in the effort to reach out and build a close friendship with them.  You’re missing out!  Or perhaps you don’t really want to get to know them?  Perhaps you don’t really want them to get to know you?

Second, they need a social life.  And I don’t just mean what happens in fellowship hall.  Call them.  Invite them over.  Most of us assume that pastors and their families have invitations for every night of the week –WRONG!  Many times they are sitting home alone wondering why they didn’t get invited to the same parties everyone else got invited to.  Relax around them and treat them the same as your other friends.  Most pastors will tell you that the room suddenly grows cold and silent when people learn of their vocation.

Third, they need to not be judged.  I’m not talking about serious sin issues here.  I’m talking about the trivial stuff we deal with everyday — how are their kids dressed, what is her hair like, what school do the kids attend, what kind of car do they drive.  Are these really important matters?  Be yourself and let them be themselves too.  My mom  told me years ago about a pastor’s wife who was short, overweight, her house was messy and her kids were too.  My mom always said that was her favorite pastor’s wife of all that she had known because she was just like my mom.  Forget the little stuff and accept them for who they are and appreciate that they will do the same for you.

Fourth, they need forgiveness.  They’re not perfect.  In fact, some of them have made some really dumb mistakes.  Unfortunately, when they make these bad decisions they are under the scrutiny of every body in the congregation.  We need to forgive them.  Forgive them of the little things and of the big things.  Forgive them when they misspeak, when they judge, when they overeat/drink/talk.  Forgive them like you expect them to forgive you.  I know we tend to hold ministers to a higher standard – I get that.  But they have feet of clay just like everyone else.

Finally, support them.  Of course, yes, financially, with your tithes and offerings.   But also with your encouragement.  Rally behind them any chance you get.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they say.  Question and discuss the things you don’t agree on; but do it respectfully, not antagonizing and bickering in public. (I wish this was one I could say I’ve always obeyed myself.) Encourage others to speak individually and respectfully as well.  We should be able to talk about anything to one another as Christians, if we say it respectfully.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;                Romans 12:10-11




Windows Down

This time of year, every few days we get a cool front and the air is fresh and crisp.  Michael would always say to me, “this is my dear’s kind of weather” because he knew how much I enjoyed these days after a long hot summer.  Sometimes he’d ask me to go out and get the morning paper.  When I’d come in empty-handed because I couldn’t find it, I’d see him already reading it.  He’d smile and say “don’t it feel gooood out there?”.  And so often we’d go for a ride in the car, to no place in particular, with the windows down, just to enjoy the day.

Now I know lots of folks who would never ride around with the windows down for fear of messing up their hair.  But that never bothered me.  As a matter of fact, it’s become one of my “philosophies of life” —  I’d rather arrive somewhere with my hair messed up, than miss out on feeling the wind as I drove to get there.  And when we did arrive Michael would always be the one to tell me if my hair was sticking up or out.  Not that he cared; but he knew that I appreciated the help.

That same philosophy has bled over into other areas of my life as well.  Like not minding a few dirty dishes in the sink.  Or some finger prints on the windows.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do like my house to be clean.  And I have great friends whom I so admire because their homes are always so neat and put-together, and their appearance is always to a T.  But somehow I just have never gotten myself worked up enough to fuss over these things.  I’d rather be busy doing fun stuff – like reading a book, taking a walk, watching a movie, cleaning my purse, having a root canal – most anything overrules housework for me.  ( I recently had a friend tell me she thought we would get along well because I invited her over when I had dirty dishes in the sink.)

These days the cool mornings remind me especially of Michael.  And I miss how anxious he would be to get up to the farm and work in the pastures.  How he’d love to see the hay all baled up in big rolls.  And how he’d gather the firewood and stack it as high as he could reach in anticipation of those fires he would build for me.  And I miss our drives to nowhere in particular with the windows down.

So if you see me around town, at church or out to dinner and my hair is a little mussed — just know that I’ve been riding with the windows down.

Honestly, Really

I recently was challenged to be honest with myself.  “Are you being honest with yourself   .  .  .   really?”  The question makes you think, really think.  Not just a passing minute or two, but over the hours and days that follow.

In light of my last post and this challenging question, I think I’ve had to look hard at being honest with myself.  Here’s what I’ve discovered, or concluded.  My life doesn’t look like what it once did.  It doesn’t look like what I planned for.  I was once married, but now I’m not.  And there are so many parts of being married that I miss.

I miss the romance.  I miss having someone pursue me.  I miss someone wanting me.  I miss being desired.  I miss someone bringing me flowers and telling me he loves me.  I miss his company and holding his hand.  I miss hearing he loves me.

I think much of this is what has led me to those obsessing, all-consuming thoughts.  But in looking hard at this, I feel like God is beginning to show me something I haven’t seen before.  I haven’t quite grasped it.  I get little glimpses of it.   I reach out to fully embrace all of it but can’t yet.  I get just a little taste at a time, but it keeps me pursuing.  And this time it’s not the obsessive thoughts I’m pursuing.  I’ve asked God to take all these things I miss about being married and to show me fulfillment in Him in these areas.  That I might be so satisfied in my relationship with Him, that even the beauty of my married life would be eclipsed.

God let me find all these things in you. Let me feel loved and pursued and desired. Let me find the satisfaction of all these things in You.  Let me find them in such a way and in such fulfillment that I don’t seek for their gratification anywhere else. Let me be so fulfilled that it is beyond what I had in him. Let it be even greater than I knew was possible.

Help me to be patient and persevere so that you will grow me and mature my faith. Strengthen me to pursue You, even as I desired to be pursued.  Perfect me. Complete me.

My Mind — My Enemy

I don’t now if it ‘s because I have much more time alone now than I did when Michael was alive.  Or is it just a factor of my age, my circumstance or my desires.  But I find myself easily drawn into daydreams of different things.  Ideas of what the future could be.  And perhaps because Michael isn’t here to hear the things on my mind, I just roll them over and over again.

The trouble is that, in my mind, I can become obsessed with these things.  Obsessed to the point that I know it’s not healthy and it’s not in keeping with what God would have me concentrate on.  Whether it’s an idea, a place or a person, my mind can become obsessed.

I know the cure.   The cure is found in God and His word.  I’ve asked him, earnestly pleaded and begged Him, to take these obsessive thoughts out of my mind.  He will fight the battle for me.  He knows I’m incapable of successfully fighting it myself.  Scripture tells me to put on the armor of God.  I know this.  I’ve studied this.  I pray this.  But most of all I fall down before God, confessing that I am unable and begging Him to fight for me.

And He does.  He has.  Some time ago when I felt like I was drowning in obsessive thoughts I cried out to God — actually I begged and pleaded with God to take the thoughts away and replace them with thoughts of Him and His goodness.  And He did.  It was such a relief to be free; free from what I knew was not God’s will for my life; free to concentrate on pursuing what God wanted for me.  And I’m so thankful.

But I have to tell you that I’ve recently slipped back into those thought patterns.  Just a little at first, but the slippery slope has pulled me further and further into these daydreams and fantasies.  Why does my mind default to these things?  Do I not have enough to keep me busy and occupied?

God, give me Your strength to walk away from these thoughts.  I lay them at Your feet.  Take them and don’t let me ever pick them up again.

Update:  Recently I was listening to my TV preacher again.  He was addressing the question asked of Jesus as to which was the greatest commandment.  He said Jesus couldn’t list just one; His answer was to love God and to love others as yourself.  What does this command look like?  He boiled it down to three points:  First, do nothing to hurt yourself.  Second, do nothing to hurt anyone else.  Third, let nothing master you.

I can’t seem to get away from these three instructions.  I cannot keep thinking the way I have and still have my own best interest and the best interests of others in mind.  And these thoughts do become master over me.  Clearly to follow these three means I must let go of my obsessive thoughts.

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The Biggest Lesson

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend when he asked me a question: “What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since Michael has died?”  Gee, and I thought it was just a casual dinner!  Here we are delving into deep waters.

At first I couldn’t really come up with an answer.  (I know — imagine me speechless!)  Several things floated through my mind.  The fact that I’ve learned to give blood without passing out.  The many, many legal and business dealings that I’ve taken over.  The negotiating with contractors that I never planned to do.   But none of these seemed qualified as “the biggest thing”.

In a few moments I knew what the answer was:  “I’ve learned to trust God.”

Now, I started trusting God when I was 12 years old and first prayed the sinners’ prayer in my bedroom at home.  I trusted God when when I told Michael I would marry him.  I trusted God when the doctors told me my first baby wouldn’t live.  I’ve trusted God when I’ve traveled and when I’ve had surgery.  I trusted God through raising three kids, letting them leave my sight and hearing Michael’s diagnosis.  But I don’t think I’ve ever trusted God like I have in the last 15 months.

You see, for much of my life I’ve been trusting in Michael.  I knew for years that I depended on him way too much.  In all our years together, no matter what we faced we faced it together.  Sometimes there were difficult situations that we struggled with.  But there was never anything that came between us.  It was always Michael and me against whatever came up.  But as those years passed, I also know that the scariest, worst thing I could ever imagine was to have to face life without Michael.  Just the thought of it as I would go through my day would bring me to tears.  I thought we could face anything as long as we were together.

So now, for me to look ahead and have to face each day without Michael is a nightmare come true.  And I realize like never before that I have to trust God.  Now I have to trust Him to talk me through decisions.  I have to trust Him to defend me.  I have to trust Him to ride along with me as I travel, to keep me alert as I drive long distances, to keep me company when I spend the night alone in a strange hotel room.  I have to trust Him to help me plan for my future and my finances.  I have to trust Him to help me know when to speak and what to say.  I don’t have Michael any more as a sounding board for these things.

So, yes, my biggest lesson is to learn to trust God.  To trust Him more and more each day.  I should have learned to trust Him this much earlier.  But I’m learning now.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!                                                                           Hymn – Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus