Rebuilding: Praying Protection for Your Church From a Distance

It’s well into our nationwide “social distancing”. Depending on where you live, you could be on day 14 or day 45… and things are getting a tad harried in your home. The demands of staying indoors, away from others, away from activities can be weighing heavy on you. I’ve been praying for the leaders all across the world lately. Leaders of companies, towns, states, health departments… and leaders of churches. My husband and I are leading just a small congregation in a small community, but the burden seems heavy. It’s daunting every Sunday when we know people long to connect, to receive prayer, a hug, or some physical reassurance that life will return to normal. This weighs heavy on me.

So I awoke early this morning and took my burdens to the Lord. In the midst of my prayer time I turned in my Bible to my scheduled Bible reading and asked God to shed light on our current situation. I know that even the Old Testament, has a current application. And God did just that.

Let me set the stage: When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 597 BC all of the Jewish men and women were taken into captivity. This captivity lasted 70 years
(And praise God he didn’t tell me that this Covid-19 would last 70 years!).

After many years, decades even, Jerusalem was like a ghost town. The beautiful city was in ruins. The wall torn down, the temple in rubble. Then, with a new king, the Jews were given the opportunity to return home.


One day, we’ll get to return to our norm. One day, churches will open up again. Leaders, don’t lose heart, there will come a great homecoming when the church doors will be flung wide, and the people will return!

Unfortunately, the Jews had made a life for themselves within the captivity. They built homes, married, had children, and settled in. So only about 2% of the freed Jews decided to return to Jerusalem. They came back to a town in ruins. However, they rebuilt the temple. They focused on rebuilding spiritual formations and getting back to their Jewish traditions. They had tried to rebuild the wall, but too many obstacles were in their way and the rebuilding had failed. The city wasn’t much for about 150 years until Nehemiah came on the scene.

When Nehemiah took a stand and boldly proclaimed that the wall of Jerusalem needed to be rebuilt, no one really believed it could be done. The wall was important to protect the holy city. And out of their unbelief the walls laid in ruins and the people stayed vulnerable and in trouble.

This is where I feel we are heading. Leaders are growing weary, the end is not even close. The dates for returning to real life change daily. The unknown is so dauntingly UNKNOWN… and that can debilitate us. If you are a leader trying to lead a group of people, shepherd from a safe distance… you may feel defeated.

But will you read Nehemiah chapter 4 with me?

There were people who hated that the Jews were rebuilding.


There are people who HATE that church is moving to the airwaves. You maybe don’t see them, or hear from them… but the enemy probably thought closing the church doors was a grand victory for him. He underestimated the God we serve. But we can not underestimate how hard the enemy will work. He’s going to (if he hasn’t already) attack those who haven’t had anyone lay hands on them for healing. He’s going to (if he hasn’t already) attack those who are prone to depression. He is going to (you get the point here) try to convince people not to return to the physical church building. We can’t assume that an online success will go unnoticed by Satan. Like most attacks, Satan uses a tad bit of truth with a whole lot of lies. There is truth to the fact that isolation causes a distance to grow among Christians. There is truth to the fact that we are all vulnerable when we are away from each other. There is truth to the idea that some will find it easier to stay at home instead of travel to the church building… and so it’s natural for church leaders to fret. But fretting will not bring results.

Nehemiah used the taunting and the naysaying from Sanballet as fuel for his prayers. He began to cry out to the only one that could remedy the situation, build the workers up, and protect the Jews from further attack.

THIS is the only way to fight. Church leaders, do you hear me? Great digital communication won’t heal the sick. Perfect graphics won’t hug the grieving. Top of the line video equipment will not be a good enough replacement for actual physical gathering. The only way to combat what the enemy is working so hard to destroy is to allow the Holy Spirit to enter each and every heart. And that can start as YOU pray for your people.

Nehemiah prayed for protection. He guarded the city to protect it against the enemy. Interesting thing here about the Bible. What we see in the Old testament in solid tangible ways like a physical enemy attacking a physical city, we see in spiritual ways in the New Testament. Ephesians 6: 12 reminds us that we now fight against the devil and his evil schemes, not flesh and blood.

This is why we fight through prayer. We pray what Nehemiah prayed. “The Workers are getting tired (AMEN!!!!), and there is much rubble to be moved, we’ll never be able to rebuild alone! LORD HELP US!!!”

Then, please look at what Nehemiah says in verse 14. He looks over the situation, he calls in the people and he encourages them.

Pastors, and other Church leaders now is the time to encourage your people not to be afraid of the enemy. Remind them of the Lord, who is great and glorious. Then tell your people to fight for their brothers and sisters, their sons and daughters, their wives and husbands, and their homes! Equip your people to minister to each other, to fight for them in prayer, and to protect their family through spiritual growth at home. This starts with YOU, leader, praying!

The Jews worked together once they were refreshed by listening to Nehemiah. They worked hard, and they DID rebuild that wall. They worked so hard that they went DAYS without changing their clothes (verse 23)… IF that doesn’t speak directly to the state of our world right now… I don’t know what does!

The Jews fought hard. They carried their weapons with them. They stood guard. They built, protected, and kept watch.

This is our calling for such a time as this. Our weapon? Prayer. Pray continuously. Anxious about when the church doors open? Pray. Scared for the health of those in your church? Pray. Nervous about how to connect with everyone in your church? Pray… then build your team, encourage them, and send them out to keep watch.

The Bible reminds us of how faithful God is time and time again. This will not be the exception. This virus will not stop the rebuilding of the wall if we buckle down and spend time before God on own knees. Prayer strengthens us, empowers us, and frees us. We, leaders, are drained. If you’ve never live streamed, premier streamed, recorded, edited, and talked to an empty sanctuary… you are wading in new ( and very turbulent) waters. Prayer will give you strength. Prayer will empower you. It will give you a new vision for a new time. You’ll feel renewed to think outside the box. And prayer frees us. Prayer will remind us that WE are not THE leader of the church, we are just one of them. JESUS is THE leader. And He will draw them in. What a burden that lifts off of us. YES, he will work through us. He will use us… but He’s the one that changes hearts and the more time we spend in prayer handing Him those reigns, the more confidence we’ll have, and the more freedom we will have in ministry.

I’m praying for us all. Even if you have the top notch equipment and you’ve always had an online presence, these times are hard. Hang in there, this, too, shall pass. And I truly believe we have the potential of being stronger, more united, and better when it’s all over.

Can God’s Word Transcend Culture?

I’ve become a Youth Pastor. I’ve worn many hats in ministry. I even consider my main ministry simply filling in where ever there is a need. So when I started, I was a Children’s Church Director. Then I was a Head Youth Leader (Female). Then I married a Youth Pastor and we were in youth ministry for 12 years. However for the past 7+ years I’ve been the Lead Pastor’s Wife (yes, that’s a ministry!) and again the Children’s Church Director (mainly teaching on Wed. Nights). But as I stated, my forte is just filling in where there’s a need… that just HAPPENS to be Youth ministry again. With two teens of my own, I’m thrilled! (They may not be as thrilled, however!) But… these youth, this “Generation Z”, are not the same as the group 7 years ago. We noticed the shift even 10 years ago… but it’s not just a shift it’s a cultural chasm now.

According to James Emery White’s research in “Meet Generation Z”, Generation Z, those under the age of 25, constitutes 40% of the US population as of 2020. That’s more than Millennials, more than Gen X, even more than The Baby Boomers. They ARE the new American culture. So how can we truly reach them for the Kingdom of God?

I recently asked about 80 church leaders (technically I ASKED 4000, but only about 80 responded) this question… I’d love for you to think of your own answer before you read the rest of the article…

If you were suddenly called to a foreign mission field (a country and culture NOT your own) what would you need to do once you got there in order to spread the gospel?

How you answer that question should tell you a bit about how you can reach the new generation for Jesus. This new generation is facing issues my generation never faced. It truly is a foreign mission field for many of us.

The number one answer to my question was
LEARN THE LANGUAGE.
If you are older, the “language” of the new generation is also new. It may appear to be English, but it’s not the same English you’re used to. Do not be scared to take a computer class. Our library actually teaches people how to use their cell phones. If you’d benefit from a class like that… SEARCH and GO to one! Learn what this amazing new generation is SAYING, and learn to converse.

Next, and a very close second was about Culture.
Get to know the culture. Learn the customs of the culture. Find out social norms so you are not deliberately offending the natives. Immerse yourself in the culture. Join a community. Work among the poeple. Those were all the different wording behind the main idea of LEARNING the culture you’re ministering to. You could never walk into an African tribal village and effectively preach the gospel to them if you knew nothing about them (assuming you are not from Africa!). So why would we assume we could jump right in and minister to this new generation that we know nothing about.

I mentioned a book above by James Emery White called “Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World”. It’s a GREAT resource. “So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World By Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace and Foles Nick is another good one. There are many more out there, but you have to take the initiative to do your research.

According to research this newest generation holds the largest percentage of non-religious, non-church-going, non-christian people. So in other words, it’s one of our own countries “unreached people groups” (a common phrase among church leaders).

They NEED you to infiltrate their culture, learn more about what means most to them, research to find what will ‘click’ for them. Their salvation hangs in the balance. The more we know, the better chance we have. For instance, MOST of the Generation Z-ers have stopped reading. This has gone WAY past the 28-40 words they’re willing to read at one time. Prayerfully I’ve still got my Millennials attention… although with every word, I risk losing MOST of us who live in this quick paced society.

The next answer in my “survey” was very close to the culture one in popularity.
Grow Relationships. Make Friends. Make Connections.
Can you imagine walking into a culture you’ve never been in before with the intention of spreading the Gospel but refusing to become friends with a single local. Do you seriously think they’ll listen to you before they know you? The same is true of the teens and early twenty something right in your own backyard. Don’t be afraid to befriend them and learn from them. Believe it or not, this generation LOVES friends of all ages.

A few other answers that deserve honorable mention:
Meet their needs.
Be intentional.
Eat what is given to you. I think this still pertains to the unreached generation. Look past the FOOD aspect and think of the concept. When they give you what they have to offer, accept with gratitude.
Don’t Americanize. Again, wording is different for a foreign nation, but the concept is the same. Don’t push your culture on them and try to drive out all that is true to theirs. Value them by valuing their culture.

However, here are my all time favorite responses, and they were only mentioned one or two times…
SMILE! BE HUMBLE! LOVE THEM! Again, look to this analogy of ministering in a foreign nation. Would you come in and complain and criticize the people? Even if they are living in blatant sin, would you meet them where they are and compassionately share the gospel or would you roll your eyes at their ways, belittle how they do things, and shake your fist screaming “Get off my lawn!” I surely hope you wouldn’t! Please do the same here. Smile, be humble, know you don’t know it all. And LOVE them.

Lastly, BE RELEVANT. And seriously, I’m going to answer my title question. Can the Bible transcend culture? As a follow up to my previous question I asked the same women “Would you change the Bible to fit the culture?” Not all 80 chose to answer. But in the 10 responses I did get it was a resounding NO! NEVER! The Bible does NOT need to be changed. The Bible’s Truths are immutable. The Bible transcends all cultures, people, or time period. The principles are timeless. Bravo, ladies.

HOW we present the Bible may have to change. But the content will not. We live in a society where we assume the Bible is outdated, counter cultural, and no longer relevant. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Remember that God does not need us to change His Word to save humanity. His truths were true for the Israelites, the early church, those fighting the turks in the late 1600s, The Americans of the Civil War, the Japanese in the 40s, the African tribes in the 60s, The Germans in the 80s, AND the Gen Zs! His word is powerful on it’s own… they just need to be told so they can hear.

Are you willing to be a missionary to this new up and coming generation who so desperately needs Him? I’m jumping in with both feet!

New Year New You 2020

It’s a new year. You’ve had a chance to set some goals, change some goals, or have you’ve already let go of some goals? I decided to put off publishing this post until we all had a chance to realistically think about 2020 and the way we wanted the year to go.

There’s a bad rep on New Year Resolutions. We make them, and break them before we ever have a chance to implement them. So what if we stopped with the “resolution” word, but we paused and answered the simple question, “How do I want my year to go?”

I recently heard a small part of a talk show where the woman used this question with her strong willed daughter. So I immediately began using the question in my home. It’s amazing the difference this little question has made.

When my tenacious child is struggling with the emotions life around her stirs within her I can turn her face toward me and I can ask, “How do you want this to go?” She can make decisions that will get her in trouble, or she can choose to calm herself and move forward with a more positive and better plan. This simple little question has been a life changer in our home. So much so that it has caused me to ask myself the same question.

Many times we look back on the previous year and we declare it was a “horrible year”. We focus on all the negative things that happened and we vow the next year will be better. However, in reality we can no more control the bad things that will rise up than we can control an F5 tornado. If we are going to choose to have a good year, we are going to have to change our criteria for judging the goodness (or badness) of a year.

The year will be as good as you make it. So I ask you, “What kind of year do you want? How do you want it to go?” It would be ludicrous to answer that question by saying, “I want my father to come back to life. I want my family to become functional. I want my company to be more generous, my co-workers to be nicer, and my husband to value me…. ” When we know we can not control any of those things.

We can not control others, the weather, or the government… we can control ourselves. We can only make decisions that we ourselves can carry out. So when you are deciding on how you want your year to go, you can answer by saying things like, “I want to be more generous. I want to be kinder. I want to read my Bible more.” or simply, “I want to seek to glorify God in all I do.”

I’m teaching this concept to my four children. When one of them barges into another’s bedroom uninvited the occupant of that room has a choice. They can scream and name call, hit, throw things, shove… or politely ask the person to leave. They could even stand up for themselves and set a boundary for their room… However, there will be consequences to whatever they choose. We don’t allow hitting or shoving or throwing things or name calling in our home. So if that’s the choice they make, they will get a punishment. No matter what drove them to the action. I remind them that they must ask themselves how they want the situation to go. What is the ultimate plan. The goal is to have people knock before entering the room. And the underlying goal is also to not get grounded in the process. So if that’s the goal, they get to choose what actions they take to accomplish that goal. If they jump up and hit the intruder, yes the intruder may still get in trouble by mom… but so will the hitter. So by choosing the correct path, their day will go smoother.

Sure it’s a juvenile example, but it works for us, too. If a co-worker is causing trouble in the workplace you have a number of options. You can get snarky, back biting, gossipy, rude, or maybe even downright mean to the co-worker’s face. You could stand up for yourself in a respectful way, or seek out a peaceful agreement. Any choice you make has consequences it’s just a matter of how you want that situation to go. Sure, again, you can’t change your co-worker, but you can change your outlook, your mindset… or even your job if it came down to it. If you choose the negative reactions, you have no one to blame but yourself when things go south.

You are only truly responsible for yourself. So when making goals for your new year or when answering the question of how you want your year to go, might I suggest choosing to start with YOU?

Pray that your attitude will change. Begin to treat others with kindness. Perhaps your struggling with anxiety, maybe this is the year you set aside time to find a peaceful hour to focus on taking those thoughts captive and turning them into prayer. Maybe you can begin to pray about how to serve a hard-to-handle co-worker (the more you pray for them, the easier they are to love).

Stress and chaos mess with us. It causes us to react. You won’t be able to always change the stress or manage the chaos… but you can always change your attitude and reactions toward it. If you find that you’re screaming at your kids, that’s a YOU thing. If you notice that you are mad at your co-worker before you even step foot in work… that falls on you. A new year begins with a new outlook. A Good year begins with a good you. How do you want your year to go? Now what steps can you take to get you there?

  1. Pray- Pray that God reveal to you ways that you can change internally in order to handle all the external situations that come up in life.
  2. Read His word. The more you get to Know Jesus, the more you can be like Him. The more like Jesus you are, the more joy you can spread. I promise this is true!
  3. DO IT! Once you know what God is asking of you, and once you know how God created you to be by reading His word, you have no reason not to implement the plan.

The plan may be unique to each one of us. One may want to work on responding to their kids in a more respectful way while another mother feels walked all over and may need to work on being firm but loving. But all in all, we desire to glorify God. THAT is how we want our year to go… so what does that look like for you?

If you do not know Jesus, why not start your year off with the biggest change you’ve ever experienced? I’d love to introduce you to the Savior of the world, the leader of my life, and the reason for my being. If you’d like to know more and want to chat about it. Please email me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com or visit https://followchrist.ag.org/ for more info (then email me and tell me what you’ve decided!)

Are You Using What you Have?

I recently got a new crockpot. A Pioneer Woman one at that! The fabulous Black Friday sale was too good to pass up plus with our family growing bigger my smaller one wasn’t getting the job done. Since Black Friday I’ve been dying to use it. I mean, hotdogs can be made in a crock pot, right?

I actually know people who get great and wonderful gadgets then let them sit unused. When Instant Pot was first out women grabbed them up… then got too scared to use them. I know of families who buy brand new cars then let them sit in their garages. What are they waiting for?

As I pulled out my beautiful crockpot I was struck with the sadness of all the things we possess and never use. And I’m not just speaking about tangible things. If you are a Christian, God has given you tools to live out this new life. Are you using them?

When a person accepts Jesus and chooses to live life as His follower they are equipped with tools that enable them to live out the circumstances in their lives. Tools like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (among many others). Just like any tool put in our hands we do have to learn how to use them. But if we put those tools away and never use them, we’ll never learn.

If you’ve been a christian for any amount of time and there is no change in your life, there’s an indication you’re not using the tools given to you. You are getting a wonderful Instant Pot and allowing it to collect dust… only this is much more detrimental to your life.

If you are a stressed out mother and you find yourself screaming at your kids for everything they do and you are NOT trying desperately to stop that destructive behavior, you are parking a brand new vehicle in the garage while you drive a rusted out, beat up, barely working lemon of a car.

If you are walking around unable to forgive, carrying bitterness and anger as a beloved backpack, you are getting a brand new family portrait and hiding it behind your couch never to see it or use it!

Why would we do that? Why would we recieve a gift, buy a product, purchase a prized possession only to discard it never to use it again?

The same is true with God. Why do we insist on walking this life with tools that are going unused.

I’m not speaking to the struggles that we are aware of and working through. We all make mistakes, and we are not going to be perfect this side of heaven. So if you are struggling and seeking God and learning to use the tools He gives you, then you are moving in the right direction. Instead I’m speaking to the veteran Christian who is perfectly fine living with the frustrations that come along with unused tools. I’m speaking to that (I’m getting real here, bear with me) mom who criticizes everything that annoys her about her kids. She nit picks and gripes and fights and pulls her hair out never stopping to seek God’s patience, kindness, or self-control. I’m speaking to the grocery shopper that leaves church one minute and yells at the cashier the next never stopping and asking God to build gentleness within them. I’m speaking to the Christian who chooses to worry over every uncertainty, losing sleep instead of seeking out how to use the faith God has equipped us with. We have a toolbox full of shiny new (expensive… they cost Jesus His life) tools and never even open the box.

We were not meant to live this way. In the modern world we often say, “There’s an app for that”. And then we forget to turn to the source of all things good and find the help we need. There’s a scripture for that. There are tools all over the Word that are there to equip you to live the life God intended you to live. It was never His intention for you to be the source of criticism towards your children. He never wanted you to be the grumpy customer, or the pacing worrisome christian. He came to give you an abundant life. That life just may come with trials that require you to overcome big obstacles… but there’s tools for that, too. He has never left you to figure it out on your own.

So, first, if you own a new beautiful Crock Pot… USE IT!!! If you purchased an Instant Pot years ago and have been too scared to use it, Get that thing out and whip up some beautiful eggs… You’ll thank me later when you peel them! If you took out a large loan on a spectacular vehicle and it’s just sitting in your garage… sell it or take it for a spin… and especially if you are a born-again, bought by His sacrifice, beloved child of God open that tool box and utilize the tools God has gifted you.

Struggling with a griping/criticizing/annoyed spirit? Google search alone brings up scriptures that will help.

Do you feel you lack patience? Google “Scripture about patience”

Do you lack faith to get you through the hard times in life? Search scriptures that will reinforce the tools He has already given.

(click on any of the hyperlinks above for a quick google search).

Reading the word is a great start… but it’s up to you to start using the tools. Take your emotions captive, submit to God and begin to change. You don’t have to do it alone. God desires for change to happen in your heart.

I’m walking this path with you. I’m fully aware that I struggle in areas that do not glorify God. I’m not pointing the finger, instead I’m offering a helping hand. We can do this together. One of the tools God gave us is fellow believers. Iron sharpens iron.

When I purchase a gift for someone, I like to put thought into it. I want to spend my money on things the person will use and cherish. If I buy my kids a toy and that toy sits in it’s box unused I feel slighted in some way. I imagine God feels somewhat the same. When he purchased salvation and abundant life for you with the shedding of His Son’s blood, just imagine what it does to His heart when you push it aside and never use the gift? I’m sad for those still walking in the old pattern of things when new gifts are at their fingertips.

Let’s join together and break out those tools we all have at our disposal. What a life we have ahead of us if we do.

If you have never accepted Jesus’s gift of salvation, you have an unopened gift waiting for you. The gift has been purchased, wrapped, and is available to you today. Are you ready to open it! It is a gift that keeps on giving! Please message me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com, I’d love to discuss with you how you can unwrap this precious gift just for you!

What if the Critics are Right?

“I saw you walking down the street last week and you never even waved at me! You seem very anti-social, shouldn’t you be more open to greeting others?”

“I would never talk to my child that way!”

“Well, I just think your way of doing things are wrong… just my opinion.”

So what do you do with other people’s opinion of you and what you do with your life. In a world of social media style communication the freedom to criticize others has become easier for people over the internet and even now in person. I ran across a very short section in a text book on how to handle criticism and loved the advice I was reading. That prompted me to ask some friends, family members, and fellow ministry workers what kind of criticism they encountered in any given week. 

A lot of the criticism we get is in the form of snide remarks disguised as “my opinion”. The critic has this look on their face as they declare that they’d do things differently… but ya know, it’s “just my opinion”. You walk away feeling defensive and judged. Many critics lack tact and respect and have little they want to accomplish other than passing judgment and well.. Criticizing. Critics are abundant. Love is not.  

So, what do you do when that critic just may be right? What if they approach you in love, or as a friend? Do you write the friendship off and end the conversation with a roll of the eyes and a boot out the door? Now, don’t get me wrong. SO MANY critics do it wrong. The motive is to knock you down a peg, to share disgust, or to push you down to make themselves feel better. However, I have to believe that some do it with correct motives, but simply in the wrong way. 

“Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.” -Proverbs 15:31, 32

Now let’s be real, MOST people are not simply correcting but judging, and sometimes rather harshly. It’s easy to spot when someone has perhaps overstepped because as they leave, you are left with a hurt heart, and a heaviness that you carry around. No one likes to have even the slightest fault pointed out. But what if there were some truth to the criticism? What if you only listened to the negative words and looked past a helpful, heartfelt friend who was just trying to help you weed out the bad?

It is very important to discern the difference between constructive criticism and a harmful form of judgment used to critique and hurt. One can bring life, the other death. I believe God can work despite the motive of any person even if that motive was not pure. Before letting the offense of the critical comment settle in, pray. Pray that God would show you what to do with the information. Is change needed? 

A friend of mine mentioned that he often walks the streets of his town with headphones in his ears. His focus is on getting a little exercise and to follow up on some podcasts. One day a friend of his approached him with a tad bit of an offended attitude. “You never wave at me when I see you walking. Why do you ignore me around town?” Even after my friend explained that he just hadn’t seen the wave, and that he was most likely really concentrating  the offended party was still offended. “You should be more polite when you are walking around!” It would be easy to roll your eyes and move on with life. But when my friend prayed over the encounter he realized that he could change the course of that one particular person’s day just by being a tad more aware of others on his walk. It was a simple change, but God impressed on his heart that a change was warranted. 

Because he prayed first before taking offense he was able to make himself more accessible to people. The reason for a change may not be simply to please unpleasable people, but when we pray God can take even the poorly given criticism and turn it into a positive change in a person’s life. 

When dealing with criticism consider the source. Is the person complaining trustworthy? Do they have motives that are pure, helpful, and are pointing you towards a better relationship with God? Or are their motives nasty and harmful. Unfortunately, you may encounter a chronic complainer, one who can not be pleased. Their criticism may not be a one time thing. But what if what they said is true? This is why praying FIRST is important. God may still speak to your heart even through someone with no positive motive. However,  if a change is not needed, then brush it off and move on. Do not let bitterness take root in your heart over their inability to look past their own preference. You can move on unphased when you know God is not asking the change from you. 

Ask yourself what part of the criticism is true what is not. Then fix the part that needs fixing; and not just for their sake, but your own. Your goal is never to be a people pleaser, but instead a God pleaser. 

“Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” -Proverbs 10:17

Pride often allows the initial response of offense to settle into anger and the change that could take place never does. But if we humble ourselves to what is true about what the other person said we can turn even the things said under the wrong motives into a life giving experience. 

I once was overwhelmed with a to do list a mile high when a woman from church approached me on my dash to another activity. I explained to her that she’d need to walk while we talked but when we arrived at my destination I politely told her I had a meeting and I’d talk to her later. I called her later that night to ensure that if she wanted to talk I was available. At the time she was not upset. However, later when I had inadvertently offended her another way she lays into me about how insensitive I was with her feelings. I listened to her yell at me and blame me for things I had no clue had ever happened. But when she brought up how I had dismissed her on my way to a meeting I knew what she said was not correct. I took that altercation to God and could walk away knowing I had gone out of my way to minister to her. If she did not feel ministered to, it was not because I hadn’t tried. I did not have to walk around feeling condemned. However, 15 years later I am still strongly aware of how I approach spur-of-the-moment ministry opportunities. I didn’t let the criticism weigh me down, but I did allow it to change my mindset on how others feel ministered to. 

It is important to humble yourself, pray about the criticism, consider the source, and change what you can change. It is also important you choose not to let it weigh you down. Do not let someone’s unloving critique of you and the way you do things define who you are. If God is not asking you to change, you can brush it off and move on. 

And to the critic… Proverbs 12:18 says “The words of the reckless pierce like swords,

but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” It is your goal to pierce the soul of another? If it is, STOP. You’re being mean, not helpful. Are you trying to bring healing? There’s a few rules here, too. First, do you have a true relationship with this person? If not, you do not have the right to bring correction into their lives. You can pray instead. Pray that the person will see their fault on their own and that through the conviction of the Holy Spirit they will make the change. If you do have a relationship with the person, pray about how to approach the topic in love. Ask yourself if it’s a sin that is hurting them or is it a matter of personal preference.  Friends are to sharpen one another, not nitpick their every move. Perhaps you should pray for your own correction first. 

Second, what is your motive. What are you truly wanting to accomplish by criticising the other person? If you are approaching a friend, and you truly feel God has asked you to encourage this person in love then you can begin to bathe that in prayer before speaking. However, if you examine your reason and can come up with nothing other than, “It annoys me.” or “I don’t like the way they do things.” or any other excuse other than “because God has asked me to sharpen a friend” then you need to let go and move on. It is not your job to approach people in the grocery store, or your pastor before service, or even a friend who prefers to do things differently than you. 

Third, If you must approach a friend with some constructive criticism do so in love. Galatians 6:1 admonishes us to handle such a conversation with gentleness. The best way to do so is to bathe the conversation in prayer before ever saying a word. Be prepared to stop mid-sentence if the Holy Spirit prompts you to. And pray that the friend will be ready to hear what you feel God is asking you to say. 

Lastly, critisism should NEVER be given using social media. If you can not have a face to face converstaion where the other person can see your face, hear your tones, and get an encouraging touch from you perhaps you should not approach the topic. There may be times a phone to phone conversation is warrented but this is still preferred over a typed text. Hearing a tone is important. And if the Lord so puts on your heart to write a letter, be very consise with your words to express the right tone. If you must, tell them the exact tone you intend to use in the letter, “I say this with a calm spirit and loving tone”. Written word loses so much personality and should be the last resort and only used if God so prompts. Public criticism is NEVER a good idea. (outside of a Matthew 18 confrontation). Refrain at all costs speaking negatively to someone in public (or to someone else… that’s just gossip!)

We all have to know that we are prone to wander. We are sinful creatures that have the capacity to do wrong and make mistakes. When those mistakes have to be pointed out, we should humble ourselves in order to take the correction. We should also have grace and fight against bitterness when criticism comes in all the wrong ways with the wrong information from the wrong person. 

Critics are everywhere, there’s no way to avoid them. But how we approach them can bring God glory and bring about good… even if they intended it for harm. And if you are called to be a critic, be sure it’s loving, God honoring and constructive (and few and far between). 

Free Swim… Free Time

As summer is coming to a close, one of my favorite activities has also closed. The pool. With 4 active kiddos, a pool pass was one of our best investments ever made. For a flat rate our family can go to the pool for 3 hours or just 20 minutes if we wanted, all we have to do is sign our name on the sign in. It was awesome.

But for me, it was those 10 minutes every hour that they’d blow the whistle and demand all the 18 and unders get out of the pool. The pool would empty (as the concessions lines grew) and in I’d jump. I’d have the pool to myself. And I pretended there was a barrier between me in the middle of the pool and my kids who yelled at me from the side of the pool. I completely ignored them. When the 10 minutes were up and I’d get out, and the droves of kids dove in, my kids would say, “Mom! Didn’t you hear us yelling at you?” I’d play dumb and say, “Oh, It’s just so hard to hear when I’m in there and my ears are under the water.” And with that they no longer tried to talk to me during the 10 min adult swim. IT.WAS.HEAVENLY!

The cool pool all to myself as I floated in complete silence brought such clarity to my day. In those short 10 minutes of solitude I felt fully refreshed. My mind felt clear, my spirit uplifted, and by the time I pulled myself out I felt I could conquer the rest of the day. To be honest, there were days we had no plans of going to the pool, but I’d consider throwing on my suit and driving the 1.5 miles just in time for the adult swim… just to have that 10 minutes of heaven.

And here’s what I learned.

  • Our body, mind, and spirit NEED breaks of solitude. We can’t go day in and day out without moments during EACH DAY to pause, reflect, and regroup. Peter Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality calls this “Daily Office”. It’s a time (or times) during your day that you pause to commune with God. You can do this through stopping what you are doing, centering yourself (being still), sitting in silence, or reading scripture. Just take a few moments to pause, refresh, and be quiet.
  • There is NOTHING wrong with telling your family members, friends, or co-workers that you just need a moment to yourself. Of course, you’ll need to be sure you take your moment at an appropriate time. In the middle of a staff meeting… not a great idea. During your kids’ bathtime… perhaps not. But teaching your children that a quick quiet time to yourself is important is needed. There are times I go and sit on my basement steps. It isn’t pretty, but it’s quiet and for the most part my kids can’t find me. But when they do search and see me sitting there, they pivot their feet and announce to the others, “Mom’s having a quiet time, leave her alone.” Telling others that you’d like a few minutes to refresh is not only good for you… but is good for them as well.
  • It’s rare that people take advantage of the free time they are given. I was usually the only one who took advantage of the empty swimming pool. It was big enough for other parents to join in and yet most did not. (I totally get it if they had a toddler/baby with them.) So many of us see free time as another time to fill with more to do instead of a moment of rest. If there’s 5 minutes left of the hour, most are quick to use it to check emails, or return a phone call. It’s rare to see that 5 to 10 minutes as a chance to rejuvenate our day.

I may not get my 10 min adult swim time anymore this year, but I’m definitely going to change my routine to include it each day (or every other). There are just too many benefits to pass up. In 10 minutes of quiet time I can change my outlook on my day. I can put life into perspective and be grateful instead of spiteful. In 10 minutes of silence I can clear all the worries and stresses of my day (well, for 10 minutes at least). I can view a discipline issue in a new light. In just 10 short minutes, I can shut down and reboot and run better for the rest of the day. And if I get TWO ten minutes adult swim times… I’m golden!

I don’t need the pool to do this. The basement stairs, the front porch, the bathroom tub (if the kids will leave you alone), my freshly made bed (if I train the kids to recognize my need), all are great places to take your adult swim. It’s needed for every walk of life, for both genders, and for all ages.

I pray you take some time to swim today. Swim in the blessings of solitude God provides. Swim through freeing yourself of the days burdens. Swim away the worry and strife that you carry so close for the other 1,430 minutes of the day. Practice your swimming day by day. Maybe start with 3 min and work your way up to 10… then another 10 at another part of your day… then maybe even a 3rd 10 min time. There IS enough time to make this work, and it’s worth the time to find it.

The Silent Sufferer

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a “Tenacious Tuesday”. If you’re unaware of what that is, a while back I started a facebook page (click here to follow) as a way to support parents of strong willed children. (You can see my post about that here).

Things with a “tenacious” child aren’t always easy. Whether that child lives a life with autism, ODD, bipolar, RAD, or is simply stronger willed than their parents it can weigh heavy on a mama’s heart. Our unstructured summers seem to bring it out a tad more and the last few weeks have been very difficult in the Pastor’s wife’s home.

Sometimes my prayer turns into a prayer from a silent sufferer. I cry out that no one truly understands. It’s rare that people see this side of our lives so they assume I’m exaggerating. Or in all honesty, they truly don’t understand. Until you’ve had a “tenacious” child, it’s unfathomable… and that’s understandable. So my prayer turns into this intense time with God where I plea with him to remove not just my suffering, but hers. I ask God why she has to struggle more than any other kid. I seek answers as to why prayer isn’t working, why reason doesn’t set in for her, why teaching her coping mechanisms aren’t her first go-to when her emotions get too big. I ask God over and over why He has not delivered her yet.

I recently did a study of the book of Job and God really began to speak to me regarding that “Why” question I continually ask Him.

If you haven’t read Job, it’s a book that is hard to swallow for a christian who believes in a gracious God. Job is found blameless (not sinless, mind you) in God’s sight. And Satan approaches God and says, “Does Job fear you (love you, serve you) for nothing?” In other words, Does Job serve you for his own gratification? Does he do it so you’ll protect him and bless him? Would he still serve you if those things were removed?” So God gives permission (important part there… God’s still in control, but allows this) for Satan to reek havoc on Job’s life.

In a quick summation, Job is stripped of any indication that he is blessed by God. His possessions are taken, his family is taken, his health and wealth are gone. He’s left with a nagging wife! HA!

To add to his grief, Job has 3 friends… I guess I should say “friends” that come and try to help. well, I should say “help”. It’s hard for me to reach out when I’m struggling with my tenacious one. For the most part I just want prayer. But instead I get a lot of advice. And even though I know my friends mean well. And I truly see into their motive and their loving offerings, it boggs me down like no other. When advice is given that I’ve already done and have failed at… it just reminds me that I can’t do it. When advice is given that displays a total lack of understanding it makes me feel utterly alone. And in the midst of my “suffering” I feel beaten down and not lifted up.

Job’s “Friends” are not acting out of a concern for Job though. With each cycle of speeches they are actually speaking from their own need for a secure understanding of who God is and how he should act. Motivated by fear they try to reshape the facts they know into a theology of God that can be applied to the situation. And what’s interesting is that their words are not all that untrue… they just aren’t what Job is needing at the time for they do not apply to Job’s situation. So although they are there, they are giving the advice, it’s beating Job down more than lifting him up.

I see my own friends, women who love God, serve God and take their time out to really care about my situation and I know that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (Job’s friends) probably mean well. They want Job to snap out of it, repent, and admit that he’s clueless. But their well thoughts are just not what Job is needing at the time.

And honestly, when our children are at their worst, struggling way harder than the average struggle sometimes advice comes across as a reprimand (at least in our suffering minds). **Please note, I’m not actually blaming my dear friends!** Our theology doesn’t seem to line up with our situation, when all the “right” things don’t seem to be working. We then have a decision to make.

Do you stand firm on your theology or do you lean head first into GOD!?

Job does something his friends failed to do. He goes straight to God. He recognizes his weakness. He understands that although things are not going the way he always thought they would, it isn’t God’s fault. Job’s friends never turned to God for the answer. They rattled off advice and suggestions and theology but never fell to their knees before God for Job.

When Job can’t figure out the “Why” he realizes (and here’s the point for us during our suffering) that wisdom in God cannot be reduced to a series of advice, ethical laws, theological debates, or especially our own understanding because at the end of the day, it’s all in God that we have our being!

Many believe that it’s God’s desire to prosper us, to answer YES to every prayer we pray. And although scripture does support that God wants what is best for us, too many take God out of the equation. “If we have enough faith and use it correctly, life will go well for us. If I face trials I must lack faith or be doing something wrong.” But in reality that just makes God a slave to us and our personal desires.

When God speaks to Job he actually never even addresses Job’s questions. He talks about how mighty He is (God) and how majestic His creation is. I think it’s not that God forgets to answer Job’s questions, it that those answers aren’t really what Job needs.

When I sit in my bed crying out to God to set my daughter free from her short temper and big emotions I’m deep down begging God to just take it away and change her… like right now! I’m not crying out that God would sustain us in the midst of whatever He is doing in and through her.

George O. Wood points out in his book “A Psalm in your Heart” that Job receives not an answer to his questions, but an encounter with God– and it’s enough!

Prayer is what set Job apart from his friends. They knew ABOUT God, Job went straight TO God. Our ideas and advice and suggestions may not be what we need. Our theology can be flawed. Our feelings can lead us astray. But when we come before God and surrender our preconceived ideas, theologies, and beliefs and simply seek an encounter with Him, we no longer suffer alone.

There comes a point where we choose to trust over our desire for answers. We continue to take our children (or whatever you’re seeking God for) to God in prayer; we let go of what we think should happen; we get rid of our ideas for how things should happen and we simply encounter God.

I should end with how blessed I am that God has not removed every blessing in my life. I don’t dare truly compare my life to the life of Job… and I honestly pray God never chooses me for that lesson plan. But I can read this story, the story God chose to be in His instruction book, and I can rest assured that God is still on the throne. He is higher than my ways. His thoughts are deeper than my thoughts… and His love for my daughter is far purer and grandeur than mine.

And so my advice to you? Do what I plan to do… fall on your knees before God, ignore the advice (well, except this one piece???), the articles, the well intentioned friends and encounter God in prayer. Don’t suffer in silence, pour it out in a meeting with your savior. He’s the only One who understands and who has the answers, even if He chooses not to give them to you.

I know it sounds silly for me to give advice on not taking advice. Please know that there is great and godly wisdom out there, wisdom that at times SHOULD be listened to. There is no shame in asking for advice, nor in giving it. Just know that sometimes when we feel nothing works its because we’ve failed to encounter God himself. Spend some time in prayer, seek His face not just His answers. And trust Him to do the same for your child.

God Bless you! If you’re struggling with a child who has bigger emotions than ability to deal with them, please join our facebook page for support.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/436955046698374/

When You Fly Off the Handle

The family and I had had such an amazing and anointed time at Minnesota Assemblies of God Family camp this past week, there were so many nuggets of truth shared and treasured but one has been on my mind these past few days that I wanted to share with whoever may need this.

Pastor and I got to sit in a Bible Study with other Pastors and Spouses under the teaching of Scott Hagen, the president of North Central University in Minneapolis. It was the only one we were able to attend and what a mighty teaching it was. Scott brought up the miracle of the floating axe head found in 2 Kings 6. Here’s how the story goes (but be sure to read it for yourself in the actual Bible)

Some prophets wanted to build a bigger meeting place for Elisha. In the building process a man’s axe head flies off his axe stick and falls into the river. IMMEDIATELY (key word here) he cries out! “HELP!!! This axe head that isn’t mine, it’s borrowed, has fallen in the river! Please help me find it!” Elisha rushes over and asks “Where did it fall in?” “Right there!” as the man points to the exact spot. So Elisha throws a stick in to where the man points and up FLOATS the IRON axe head (floats, ya’all!! FLOATS). The man goes in and grabs it and gets back to work.

Pretty amazing. I mean, we all know iron axe heads don’t float. And another miracle… he lost something in the river and knew exactly where it was. Have you ever lost something in the river? Even something heavy can be washed further away just by the currents. But, that’s usually if you wait. If you hesitate and don’t go in immediately those items can be lost… and that was the point of Scott’s devotional that day.

This man earned his living by working hard for it. He was so destitute that he had to borrow equipment in order to even work. Perhaps this wasn’t his normal line of work. Some scholars think the translation here could mean that the owner had begged, pleaded, and borrowed money in order to purchase the axe. He NEEDED that axe, it was the means to making a living. And how embarrassing to have it fly off and into the river, leaving him trying to chop wood with a long stick. He could have easily slumped his shoulders and thought, “it is what it is, I’m destined to live the way I live!” But he knew he needed help. So he cried out, “HELP!” and he did it immediately. Had he waited he may not have been able to locate just where it went in. Even if the axe head sank to the bottom, finding the exact spot is nearly impossible. But seeing the ripple effect allowed him to know the exact location.

The mention of this happening in the Bible can teach us a few things. As Scott put it in his devotional it can apply to our marriages. When a spouse “flies off the handle”, maybe pressures from a job get too heavy or bills are stacking up and we hit our breaking point and we yell at our spouse. If we ignore that offense and move on it will be nearly impossible to come back to find the spot where hurt was doled out. But if you deal with it immediately. Recognize that the words were hurtful, that the actions were unwarranted, that the love of your life is in damaged by your actions IMMEDIATELY and cry out to God and IMMEDIATELY make it right (apologize, admit your wrong, ask for forgiveness) the impact of that “flying off the handle” will be minimized greatly.

Scott used the terminology of how couples will say, “I don’t know where things went wrong in our marriage, somewhere along the way we’ve just lost our way.” Just like if you had dropped something into a river, did not go back immediately to find it, you would have a very hard time finding it years later. But if you had dropped it in, seen those ripple effects and reached in the water right then… your hand would find that item nearly immediately. The same has to happen in your marriage. When you’ve let the stress and pressures and sin of the world bear down so hard that you suddenly fly off the handle, reach out IMMEDIATELY. Don’t let resentment creep in. Don’t let feelings of hurt and anger seep in. Don’t let a second go by before righting yourself, asking God for help, and reaching in to remedy the issue you just created.

We all mess up. We all say things with tones we don’t realize come out of our mouths. But we all have the power to reach right in and fix those mistakes.

“Whoa! I just said something that hurt you. I am so sorry. I should not have reacted that way. Will you please forgive me?”

It’s a simple couple of sentences (and a contrite heart) that can gain composure after flying off the handle.

This is also true when dealing with your children, your co-workers, your boss, your pastor, your deacons, your best friend… really… it works with anyone. Anytime you sin against another person you have the time to immediately make it right.

Notice in 2 Kings 6:7 Elisha says “Pick it up yourself”. God could have done this miracle in a million different ways. God is powerful enough to have made that axe head just suddenly reappear on the end of the stick. POOF! and be done. But instead He involved the man in the process. “Go pick it up yourself.” Yes, God can heal wounds even without the guilty party apologizing. I walk around daily with a healed heart after many people have wronged me in the past 40 years. I don’t HAVE to have them apologize in order to know my worth… but what a mighty work God can do in their lives if they’d just be obedient and cry out for help. God wants us to do our part of the miracle of reconciliation. He wants us to take the steps into that river in order to bring healing to those we’ve hurt or wronged. It does something in US when we cry out, and reach out, and find the axe we just let go of.

So the next time you find yourself flying off the handle, don’t take another breath before you cry out to God for help, then take the steps to grab back what you’ve lost. Of course this man in our example did not sin. But when we do it, we spew hurt and cause damage. Don’t hesitate; don’t lose your way. Immediately reach out and grab hold of the situation and seek forgiveness. I promise you’ll see a miracle happen in your marriage, parental relationship, work situation… whatever relationship that needs mending.

**If you failed to act immediately, it’s not to late to right a wrong. Ask for forgiveness soon. Don’t go one more day without heading in and grabbing what was once lost.

I want to thank MN District Family Camp for such godly leadership. Their camp at Lake Geneva Christian Center is phenomenal. If you’d like more information on how you can attend next year, visit their website at www.lakegenevacamp.com/familycamp

Thanks for the Pain

“A story on the subject (positive psychology) in U.S. News & World Report says, “Once income provides basic needs, it doesn’t correlate to happiness. Nor does intelligence, prestige, or sunny weather. People grow used to new climates, higher salaries, and better cars.” Researchers have found, however, an ingredient that is certain to characterize a happy life: gratitude.”

You Matter More Than you Think. By Dr. Leslie Parrott page 49

I recently found myself in a situation where I was standing just a few feet from someone who had intentionally hurt me and my family a few years ago. It’s amazing how just seeing a person’s face can dig up such deep rooted emotions… even decades after the fact. Fortunately I have been reading Dr. Leslie Parrott’s book You Matter More than You Think where she discussed the power of gratitude in the midst of pain.

She was so right when she said “Once we come around to expressing gratitude for the lessons learned from the pain in our past, we experience personal redemption and healing, and we transform our pain into a tool that we can use to love others more effectively. ” My husband and I spent the majority of the night going over every detail of how God walked us through this particular painful situation and at the end of our conversation we said with 100% sincerity, “Thank you, God, for giving us that trial and for getting us through it in such an amazing way. Truly what they meant for evil was done for Your glory.”

We could have grown bitter. We could have added this situation to the many other ways we’ve been hurt in our pasts. We could play the victim forever and have the sympathy from others galore. But we made a choice. A choice to be grateful. Hurt is nothing new to a pastor and his wife. And often times it has to be kept quiet for the greater good of the church. So we often times suffer alone. But for us, we truly feel God brings us through tough situations in order to teach us, guide us, and build us up. We believe that every situation we face is a means to spread the gospel.

HOWEVER… it doesn’t mean we are perfect at it. Reading this book reminded me that God can use our pain to make a difference in the lives of others around us.

When I get to minister to the young girls in our church who crave a father who loves them, I can speak to them from experience and I can be confident that even though our earthly fathers fail, we have a faithful God the father. When young new pastors’ wives face the first disappointment in ministry, I can praise God for the 20 years of church ministry experience (and the negatives that come with it) that He’s given so I can offer some assistance.

My intention isn’t to list out the hardships and pains I’ve gone through, I’m sure my list won’t even come close to some of the devastation I know some of you have lived through. However, I do know one thing… the attitude of gratitude is the key to climbing out of the victim mentality and into the gifting mentality.

Just imagine who you can minister to by relating to their pain.
Just imagine who you can comfort because you understand just where
they’ve been.
Just imagine the glory you can give to God when you realize that the trial
developed character.

This is not my idea. This is not my made up declaration. It’s scriptural.

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, character, hope.” Romans 5:4

We rejoice because of the suffering we’ve been through. Not because something ungodly happened. NO! Not everything horrible happens because of God’s will for your life. Evil is present at every turn, and satan desires to do bad. But with God’s help, we can come out as the victor not the victim. We can rejoice in that suffering because we can allow it to produce perseverance, character… and ultimately hope. And your suffering can give hope to someone who has faced the same horrific tragedy.

“Dear Brothers and sister, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4

It is unfortunate that things we never deserved happen to us. And I can see why so many in ministry walk away from the hurt that happens at the hands of those we thought loved God. I totally understand. However, I lived this verse. When someone that should have known better chose to lie and conive and ultimately make a choice that could have devastated our family we could have packed our backs and high tailed it out of town. But praise God we’d read this verse (and many others that would prove so very true in our lives during that time). And so through the pain, fear, and anger, we decided to be grateful for the opportunity to have our faith tested and our endurance a chance to grow.

Because of that incident we learned who we could count on. We learned the truth behind scripture and the blessings that come from following it as we read it. We learned the value of confronting sin and setting boundaries for our family, however strict they were, that could protect all of us. We learned leadership skills we may have never developed any other way.

So would I ever wish this incident, or any painful incident, on another person? HEAVEN’S NO! My prayer ultimately is that you’ll be protected from all harm. HOWEVER, since pain and suffering is inevitable, it is up to us how we let it shape us. And it isn’t until we begin to rejoice and be grateful in our pain that we will be of the best benefit to those around us.

My ultimate goal is to live every day glorifying Him. By using every bit of experiences in my life to shine a light on the faithfulness of God I can glorify Him. By using the pain in my life to comfort others, I get to glorify Him. By choosing to be victorious instead of a victim I can be the strength others need in the midst of their trials.

Pain is, well painful. But gratitude can heal a multitude of wounds. Start today by thanking God for bringing you through a trial in your life. And if you are in the thick of it, begin to rejoice now for making just one more day… or hour… or minute if need be. Your faith is building, your endurance is growing, and your hope is coming!

Below you will find a link to Dr. Leslie Parrott’s book. If you choose to read it, I’d love to hear how God used it to transform your life. I’m not selling nor do I get anything monetary from promoting the book, but it is a great simple read to remind us all of the important difference we can make in the world around us.

Is it Time to Clean-up?

Our town recently had a city wide clean up day. Our sanitation company actually came around and picked up all the “junk” that people put out on the curbs. It’s amazing how much stuff everyone had. And it’s amazing how many negative comments about said stuff were on my Facebook feed.

Each person in town had a chance to clean up. Each person who had broken furniture, unwanted appliances, broken items, or even overflow trash got to finally get rid of it. It took vulnerability to put their junk out for all the town to see. I mean, all your past decorating decisions are now scattered across your curb… for days. I have to admit I wondered where half of these people could even store all that stuff.

But guess what? They got rid of it. It is no longer cluttering up their homes, garages, basements, or backyards. They are free-er now, cleaner, and one less burden sits on their to-do list. Good for you city of St. James!

So what would happen if you chose to do this same thing with your soul. What if you chose to declutter the guilt, the shame, the fears, past hurts, or even the sin that is taking up space in your life. What if you chose to have a body-wide clean up?

Yes, it would mean you’d be left vulnerable. Yes, it would mean some people may see the ugly mess come out. But it would also mean freedom, clarity, and less burdens.

James 5 13-16 gives us a picture of what cleaning up can do.
“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has power and produces wonderful results.”


All these things require you to put yourself out there. All these things, suffering hardship, sickness, and sin can keep you from being your best self. And in order to get rid of them, you may have to share them with others. Tell people how you are suffering and ask for prayer. Admit your sick, and request someone to pray over you. Confess your sins to someone else.

Sickness sometimes comes across as weakness. No one wants to be weak, and so many suffer alone. Suffering can become overwhelming causing many to shut themselves off and suffer in the corners of their homes… alone. Sins. No one wants to even admit they’ve sinned, let alone tell others about what they’ve done wrong. And unfortunately sometimes even being happy is a vulnerable emotion that causes some to hold back. But freedom comes when we clean that up. When we put it out there to see, and we seek GOD. Throw out those insecurities let others see your struggle and let God come by with his big truck and load it up!

Confession is for accountability. If we knew that our every sin would need to be told to others, we’re less likely to do it. So when we set out to confess to others, we are keeping ourselves accountable and asking someone to help us. And asking for help is not easy. But it’s so very needed.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is therapeutic for the soul. Getting rid of the junk is freeing. The days before the actual clean up days our town was given permission to put things out on the curb. This allowed people to drive around and see broken dressers that could possibly be fixed. Or scrap metal that could be hauled in for cash, or chairs that could be reupholstered and be the perfect gem in their home decor. It was true “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” The same is true when we open ourselves up and share our struggles. When we show others how human we are they begin to feel human, too. When we confess our sins to another and allow them to walk with us, we give them the treasure of having a real friendship. And seeing God heal those wounds is the greatest treasure to share. Our hurts, struggles, and sin can be used to minister to others… but we can’t keep them heaped up in the recesses of our souls. We have to get them out.

Our town looked pretty messy for a few days. The work was so great the workers couldn’t get it done in one day. But now, just a day later, it’s beautiful. All the junk is gone. Cleaning up our lives won’t be a simple day’s work. But it will be beautiful in the end.

A few disclaimers here…

  1. Be careful who’s curb your put your junk. Not everyone wants to help you clean up. There are mean and vicious people out there. When you confess your sins to them, they will not help you reconcile to God. Instead they will throw your failures in your face and try to do more harm than good. As important it is to put yourself out there, it is just as important WHO you give the information to. Find a trusted friend.
  2. Don’t go right back to filling up the empty spaces with more junk! Once it’s out, turn to God to replace what is missing. Let him heal the wounds, correct the lies, and rebuild your faith. Let Him lead you back to greatness and away from sin… and if you really did just throw out a ton of trash, don’t start collecting it again in your garage!
  3. Sometimes people can’t see the good that is coming from the clean up. Just like people griped about the stuff cluttering the curbs, they will complain about you speaking about the negatives trying to clean yourself. Focus on the good of getting things out and in the safe open. And don’t focus on the naysayers.
  4. If you aren’t already connected with a church, this is a great place to start. Church can open up a great source for great people. But always keep #1 in mind as unfortunately hurt people can oftentimes hurt people.

But it is time for a body-wide clean up! You’ll be thankful you did!