A Full Length Mirror

I recently stayed in a hotel room (to ride out an April Blizzard, if you can believe that!) and within the room was not only a full length mirror right where you’d normally get dressed, but also a very BRIGHT mirror. There’s nothing worse than being confronted with a very bright full length mirror…. while getting dressed. Talk about emphasizing every small (and not so small) part of your body! Putting makeup on was puzzling. Do I need more, or is this lighting deceiving and I’ll really leave the room with so much makeup caked on that I’ll look like a clown? Did I really think I looked good in this outfit? OY VEY!

I know my body isn’t perfect, I’m actually quite sure it’s far from it. I know that my face has some flaws and could benefit from some light makeup… but nothing prepares me for that up-close spotlight on all my flaws. I found myself dressing in the far corner of the room, and standing several feet away as I applied my makeup for the day. And I wouldn’t say I have a crippling self-esteem… it’s just a bit too much reflection for my taste!

Have you ever said those things while reading the Word? Have you ever felt a tad too revealed after listening to a convicting sermon? Have you ever felt completely exposed when confronted with your sin? If so, GOOD!!! That’s GREAT! It’s exactly what’s needed! If not, it’s time!

You see, I know I have some a lot of weight to lose. But if I don’t look, I can just put on my big clothes, sit around and not really have to face the fact that I’m overweight and need to change. But, MAN ALIVE when confronted with that full length mirror, I’m back on the healthier lifestyle bandwagon! If we don’t look at our spiritual life, we can just keep on going to church, reading our Bible reading plans and checking off the boxes, and yet we never truly grow much closer to Jesus in the process.

It’s important for our physical walk through losing weight if we weigh ourselves, look at our transformations, and SEE the change. The first few pounds are the hardest. But when we start to see our jeans a tad more loose, and our faces thin out, we’re more motivated. But how do we measure spiritual maturity? We look into that full length mirror that’s lit up on all sides! We pay attention to where God is shining the light and start to fine tune them.

Nancy Demoss Walgemuth says God creates circumstances in order to show us our great need for Him, and His work in us. She preached at a conference in 2016, and gave the example of a mother who never knew she was an angry person until her 2-year-old painted the living room furniture with butter. At that moment God gave that mother a circumstance to show her what was truly inside her… A full length mirror!

My kids can walk around all afternoon with jelly from their PB&J at lunch all over their face. They don’t care because they don’t know. I mean, they know they didn’t wipe their face with each bite, and that at some point they did feel the wet goop touch their face. But their focus was on other things and so they got used to it. It isn’t until I tell them to go look in the mirror do they fully grasp how crazy they look with a Joker-like grin of Jelly plastered across their face.
Unfortunately sin isn’t as cute. We know the issues has crept in, but we get side tracked and we don’t confront it any longer. It finds its way into our lives and makes itself comfortable. And before long we’re not just angry at our kids, we’re snapping at our spouse, our neighbor, our co-worker… our God. And we know it’s there, but as long as we stay in the dark corner, we won’t have to face the full length mirror, and we can skip having the light shone on what we’ve worked so hard to hide in the dark.

Maybe its not anger. Maybe it’s pride, or a critical spirit. Maybe it’s complacency, or a life of a busybody. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s not pleasing to God, it needs to go. And God wants it gone. But we have to be willing to let Him shine the light on us to expose those deep places. We can not hold back.

I’m not an expert in the field by any means, but I’m walking through it. I’m daily asking God to create in me a clean heart and to make my spirit right with Him. And in order to do that, I have to be willing to give up any and all things that hinder that clean heart and right spirit. I have to pray these scriptures…

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ” Psalm 139:23,24

“Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.” Psalm 26:2 (NLT)

But, beware… When you pray them, if you’re honest and truly are inviting God to turn on the bright lights, you need to be prepared to deal with what He shows you. Pushing it away will not get rid of it. Working through it will.

  1. Listen to sermons that won’t just tickle your ear. Find ones that will point-blank heap on conviction. I’m not talking about preacher who preach fire and brimstone… I’m talking about sermons that cut straight to the point and confront the tough issues. Ones that you hear and audibly say, “OUCH!”. Then begin praying through what hit the nerve.
  2. Tell a close friend so they can hold you accountable. Don’t pick your critical friend. You don’t need criticism. You need accountability. Tell your friend, “Please stop me if I begin to gossip to you.” or “I’m dealing with some pride in my life, if I start putting others down so I can puff myself up, will you please remind me of my goal to stay humble.” **If you’re the friend who has been asked, be loving, pray for the proper time to speak up, and don’t hesitate to call them out, they need it.
  3. Search God’s Word. Look for scriptures that speak to the sin you’re trying to conquer. Put those scriptures on notecards and put the notecards around your house. Put them inside cabinets you open frequently. Put them in your purse. Make a screen saver that will pop up every time you open your phone. Here’s mine…30874629_10156426241409430_1675829259_n
  4. PRAY! Nothing will get you through this gut wrenching fully lit, full length mirror like prayer will. Pray daily that God will point out every bit of what He wants removed. Pray that your eyes will be open to seeing it in yourself. Pray that you’ll be swift in dealing with it. Pray that sermons will penetrate your heart, that your heart will be open to a friend holding you accountable, and that scriptures would be so real to you that you begin to actually live them.

Please do not hear me saying that you should be down on yourself, that you should heap condemnation on yourself, or that you should feel you are anything less than the amazing person Christ died for. No, instead I’m telling you that there’s amazing freedom in knowing that God is fine tuning you, shining a light on all the parts that do not come into obedience to Him. When God does this it is so that He can USE you. He wants you to be a vessel He can work through. And what an honor and a blessing to draw close to Him and experience the power He has as he speaks to others through you, helps others through you, and changes lives through you. The greatest thing is that he doesn’t NEED us. But he uses us anyway. So, it must be for OUR benefit. And as I stand daily in front of that mirror, I’m noticing more and more the joy I have. I know I haven’t conquered it all, I probably never will. I’m flawed, and beautifully imperfect… but I strive not to stay there.

So, take a deep breath, and step in front of this full length mirror with me! It may not be beautiful at first glance… but believe me God sees something amazing…

Let’s turn the lights up!

Screenshot 2018-04-19 at 5.30.59 PM
Psalm 51: 10-12

 

Crossroads_Logo_Final
Crossroads Church in St. James, Minnesota has the desire to make it easy for every person to Discover God, Grow in Him, and Reach out to Others. If you’d like to visit a service, please join us each Sunday at 10am at 721 Weston Ave in St. James. Our services start at 10am and there is something for the entire family. Like us on Facebook.

You can contact the Pastor’s Wife via email at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com

 

Advertisements

Why Church this Easter?

There used to be a tradition that people attended Church on Easter and Christmas. Even if they never attended any other time of the year. It used to be that weeks before Easter mothers everywhere searched for the perfect color coordinating outfits in the perfect pastels for their family so that Easter was the perfect photo opportunity. Pink plaids, eyelet lace, Easter bonnets, and collared shirts… AND CHURCH, that was the tradition. Then our society started to buck the traditional ways and people who attended church only on Christmas and Easter were given names like “Chreaster”, so even those 2 days got missed.

More and more churches are reaching out and people are politely declining the invitation to attend church. The tradition of going no longer holds any appeal, and the commitment of going is no longer a priority. As a regular church attendee, I haven’t missed an Easter Sunday service in 25 years. So if anyone has some experience in this, I’d be one of them… So would you take a moment and examine my answer to Why Church this Easter?

For a Christian, Easter is the foundation of our faith. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our faith would not exist. We believe that Jesus is the Messiah. He conquered death by defying its parameters. It’s what gives Christians life! So it seems fitting that anyone who calls themselves a Christian should set aside an hour each year to celebrate that. For me, I can hardly contain my delight. I’ve lived a blessed life following Jesus and trying my best to live close to His teachings. So when given the opportunity to gather with like-minded believers and specifically celebrate all that Jesus did, I’m ecstatic. Easter is my favorite time! But for those who are trying to live this life without a weekly boost of church, I can see how much harder the journey can become. So it’s all the more important to join a church Easter Sunday to reconnect, celebrate, and refuel.

For Christians who used to go to church, and have walked away from it for a time, this is a great time to try again. I’m all for coming to church every Sunday. I belong to a church that is just as excited to see someone walk in in October as they are to see someone come on Easter. However, sometimes it’s hard to make that decision to come back to church on a random October day (or any day)… but not on Easter. It’s almost expected. So it takes a pressure off.

For someone who is seeking, who is unsure where they fit in, Easter is a great time to visit and get a feel of the church. The attendance may be up for church that day, so it’s less intimidating for you to walk in as a new-comer. You’ll learn a lot about the Christian faith by coming on a day where the foundation of that faith is going to be celebrated. This is a great day to venture out and attend the church you’ve been thinking about attending for while.

For the regular attendee who has never missed a Sunday, don’t let this be the Sunday you miss! Of all the services I’ve ever attended at the various churches I’ve been to over the last couple of decades, Easter service is so heartwarming. The energy is high, the joy is evident, and the celebration is heavenly!

Now, here’s the thing. You may be thinking I’m giving a free pass to ONLY coming to church on Easter. You may be wondering why a church lover is promoting this “Chreaster” mentality.  And here is why… TODAY is the day of salvation. Today is the day of God’s favor. God set in motion thousands of years ago this EASTER celebration by giving us His son as a way for us. Jesus was the sacrifice that we could not give. He died in our place so we could have a relationship with God for all of eternity. The world thought they could kill Him. But, He could not be contained by their ideals and ways. He conquered death and rose from the dead. Christ raised Himself to show Himself powerful over death and sin. So, if Easter is the only time you plan on going to church this year… THEN GO! Go and see for yourself all that Christ as done. Go and fellowship with other believers and see how much that can benefit your life.

Sin and darkness creep at every corner. A day can’t go by that we aren’t affected by evil everywhere. We see it on the news, in the schools, at our jobs, and it’s increasing. The world won’t be won by marches, facebook rants, and divisions among political lines. But for that one special Easter Sunday you’ll get a glimpse of the Man who can change this world. With Christ in our hearts, and the encouragement we get from attending a church that helps us grow WE will be the change. And we’ll eventually overflow onto our neighbors so they THEY can be the change… and why wait any other Sunday but THIS EASTER!

Of course it’s the goal of every church that you’d return week after week… but you’ll have to make the decision to come the first time. So, Why Church this Easter? Why not? This just may be the day that changes your life!

Quick disclosure…

  • Please don’t let the pressure of color coordinated, perfect Easter outfits hinder you. Come!
  • Please don’t let your hate for tradition keep you from joining in the tradition of Church on Easter. Come!
  • Please don’t worry about the many years you haven’t made it to church, this is a new day, a new choice, and a new adventure. COME!
  • Please don’t be intimidated. We’ve been praying for you, we’re expecting you, and we are SO excited about you! YOU are welcome! COME!

If you are in the St. James, MN area, Crossroads Church will be meeting Easter Sunday at 9am for breakfast and our service will follow at 10:15am. YOU ARE INVITED!Copy of Church FlyersInvitation

Crossroads Church 721 Weston Ave in St. James, MN 507-375-5920 Follow us on Facebook

If you are too far for our services, and need a church recommendation, feel free to email the pastor’s wife at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com. I can find you a GREAT church in your area!

images

Camp Crossroads VBS (FREE DOWNLOAD)

Churches are as unique as people. I’d bet it safe to say that no two churches are alike. And because of that, what works for one church (or even MOST churches) may not work for YOUR Church. I’m talking to pastors and pastors’ wives here.

We pastor (He has the degree and title, I’m just along for the fun!) a small rural church. The type of church that often goes unnoticed. However, if we were to overlook this small rural church, and so did everyone else… our small rural town would go unreached. So we count ourselves blessed and privileged to be called here for this time.

That said, it’s HARD! There are very few resources for the small rural church. (or the small church in any setting). Our funds are not large, our volunteers are not as abundant, our towns are not that easy to reach, either. And to top it off, our time is often spent between two jobs. Many small church pastors are bi vocational, leaving limited time to be accessible.  

I am blessed that I get to stay home with the kids and try to carry some of the weight for the church. I am also blessed that between the two of us, we found a part-time job, so neither one of us is away for many hours a day or week. (He works 8-11 hrs a week, I work 8 hours a week). This makes it easier for us to do some of these bigger projects.

So this past summer I was tired of spending money on a VBS (Vacation Bible School) curriculum, or even borrowing from a bigger church only to find it was written for a church with much bigger resources than we had (mainly volunteers!). So early in the spring I set out to just write my own. We had done many VBSes in the past and knew the basic skeleton of how to run one smoothly, so all we had to do was fill in the time slots. I’m very fluent in pintrest, google, and youtube… so I figured if I just took the time, I could come up with something that would entertain the kids for a couple of hours each night. Plus, I have 4 children, one in just about every age category, so I used their insights as well. And when all was said and done my kids, and the community kids exclaimed that this was the best year yet! I don’t take the credit, half of the things were written out of desperation and a prayer, “Oh, Jesus, PLEASE help me! I’ve scoured the internet for a VBS that will work for us… and have come up dry! When I place this pencil to this paper, will you please write for me?” And what came out was exactly what we went with, no 2nd draft… now THAT is God!

So, I fine tuned it over the next 6 months and came up with a 65 page VBS guide for the small church leader. I had no clue if there was a need for it until I posted it in a few small church forums. The response was eye-opening! There is a great need for good small church VBS curriculum! Some wanted to see it in a more visual sense, So, below you can download our VBS FOR FREE and tweak it to fit your needs. I also will post some pictures to give a clearer view of how much fun we had with this.
If you have any questions at all, please email me, I’ve never written anything like this before, so I may have left out some really important information without realizing it. thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com

Camp VBS is a 4 night VBS focusing on being brave. Each night is 2 hours. There is an opening rally with songs, a game, and a skit. Then 3- 20minute classes (Story time, snack, and games) and then a closing rally where we did 1 song and a “Game show” called BRAVE FACTOR. Brave Factor had 4 parts to it. An Educational Fact that dispels myths about scary things (bats, spiders, snakes… and Back to School). Egg Breaker, where kids compete against the game host (Billy Bob) in a game with 12 eggs. 11 hard-boiled, 1 raw. They take turns randomly selecting eggs until the raw egg is picked. Whats in the Box is a game where kids feel something (usually slimy and gross) and try to guess what they are feeling. And lastly they did Gummy Vs. Real. One volunteer vs Billy Bob. One gets a gummy and the other gets the real version. In the middle of it all, when the buzzer buzzed, 2 volunteers would engage in a beanboozle challenge. Jelly Belly makes these. One gets something tasty, one gets something gross… but the jelly beans look the same.
For more details, see the pictures below, otherwise, download the guide, and enjoy!

(Click the link below the image to download)

Copy of Summer Camp
Camp-Crossroads

Our sport was done around the newly added Gaga Ball pit that we added to our property. You can google “How to build a Gaga Ball Pit” and find all kinds of ways. This cost us less than $200. And we put it together just the two of us and a friend who could cut the board… and really he did a LOT more, but less than 4 eager workers!)18402725_10155399312564430_6250545921076087951_n

Here was our stage. We did our story time in this room for 2 reasons. 1, we gathered around the campfire for the Bible stories. It was already decorated, and kept kids out of the way of other activities. And 2. We did not have an extra helper for Story time, so we wanted the leader and kids to be in a wide open area. A full sanctuary where some adults sat and watched, or if they weren’t there, anyone could walk in at anytime. It is not wise for one adult to be alone with children, always have 2 adults when you can. But if you can’t, be sure your adult is out in the open.
The sky and clouds are $1 table cloths from Walmart or Dollar Tree. Buy some spray adhesive to attach your clouds, super easy!
Borrow trees from people at church, and if you have a piano, hide it behind a “waterfall” haha.
We gave the tent away, the orange chair, fishing poles, and a walkie-talkie. We got the logs from a church attendee who then donated them to anyone who would come pick them up (THAT was a huge hit in the community!)

The banner was purchased with Hobby Lobby’s 40% off coupon… be sure to take a friend so each of you can buy separately and get them cheaper (this is two tied together!)

20748021_1460924450644096_4358883426137472719_o

For Team points, the kids could dress in their team colors. Each teammate who sported their color got 10 points for their team… POINTS are the key to engaging kids! They’ll do ANYTHING for points.
The girls are wearing their worship team shirts. I printed the word Brave, cut it, laid it on the shirt then sprayed it with fabric spray paint and then picked up the word and got these SUPER CUTE shirts for our worship team!
20945557_10155736124154430_925205798_o

Our Worship team was just 3 girls. 2 belong to me, and one is a family friend. I had them watch you tube videos (the links are in the pdf download) and put together moves for the songs. Then they practiced, practiced, practiced. They started about 3 weeks before VBS started. This leaves more adults to crowd control.

20906937_10155736123629430_468603093_o (1)

 

Now for our Characters… This is Daisy Diva… she loves pink, and anything that sparkles.. she hates dirt, and anything outdoors.20904420_10155736114839430_2145245714_o

But she did get “Most Improved Camper”. This can be printed off of any website or publisher. It’s silly, but a good prop.

20904224_10155736114344430_1594445888_o

This is Billy Bob! Our Character of Billy Bob has made an appearance every year. Pastor, is also a main character of the skits, so all the kids know him. He changes his shirt, takes off his glasses, and adds a big yellow clown wig. He speaks with a hillbilly accent and acts super silly. When asked if Pastor is Billy Bob, Pastor always replies, “Well, we’re never in the same room at the same time… so…” The kids KNOW it’s Pastor, but play along and even shout “Billy Bob” to him when they see him around town. This is a GREAT way to connect with kids in your community.  This year, since he was the host of BRAVE FACTOR, he wore a suit coat and tie with his tee shirt! (I sure do love this man!)

20840373_10155730529164430_386051035_n (1)

Our “What’s in the box” box. Just cut some arches half way up on the side of a box, be sure they are flexible, and their hands can fit inside and reach the item that is hiding inside.

20891248_10155730529214430_339135313_n

The game Egg Breaker. To save on cleaning up egg off the carpet, play this game (take turns picking an egg to break on your head… there are 11 hard boiled eggs to 1 raw egg, the one who gets the raw egg loses). We placed a big black trashbag with a head hole cut in it over the student volunteer to protect their clothing.

20839605_10155730529529430_512521799_n

At random times, we had a sound buzz, it was “BEAN BOOZLE” time. And Billy Bob called one volunteer up. The volunteer chose a friend and each kid got a jelly belly. One got a favorable flavor, the other got a nasty flavor… but they look identical. So did they get chocolate pudding… or dog food!!! *Have a trashcan handy!*

20930420_10155733382514430_279517341_o (1)

This is the game “Gummy versus Real”. We used regular church platters, and big mixing bowls on top. One of them got a gummy, and the other got real. To keep kids from eating nasty things (and to prevent puking), the kids ALWAYS got the gummy version. We’d ask them “A or B” without telling them which was A and which was B… it just “so happened” they always picked the gummy version.

20891451_10155736136249430_880221997_n

Our Gummy vs Real items were: Sardines vs swedish fish; Gummy squid vs Calamari; A long gummy snake vs dried snake… and once they knew the routine, and figured how the kid always got the gummy the last night we did small gummy bears vs LARGE Gummy Bear. The kids opened theirs first every time but this time Billy Bob opened his, and when they saw that he had the gummy bears, they panicked a bit… but then they got the large Gummy bear, it was great!

Screenshot 2018-03-06 at 3.26.32 PM

 

The winning team for the week got to put pies in Pastor’s face. We normally do this outside, but it was pouring rain this particular night… so he was sitting in the baby pool, with sheets all around for flying whip cream. But remember, stains on the carpet just prove that your church is doing WORK!

20885166_10155736136414430_1278076806_n

Snacks… Like I said before, Pintrest is your friend. And gave me all my ideas for snacks! Here are a few!

Screenshot 2017-08-13 at 1.53.39 PM

I made these the last day… they are “flames”. I laugh because I can so much better than this, and was super disappointed in myself. BUT… the kids LOVED them. Just reminds me that kids are great! Kids will love it so don’t hold back!

20819580_10155736157734430_5823619871713921156_o

For our BRAVE FACTOR Educational facts, we googled some images… These look pretty scary!

snakespiderbat

So although it looks overwhelming, it’s not! Be BRAVE and VBS on! If you end up using this guide for your church, I’d be ever so blessed to know! Please either leave me a comment, or email me thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com 

God bless, you and remember it’s not about numbers, it’s about passion and doing God’s will!

 

Marriage Success

This January marks 17 years of marriage for The Pastor and me. We started dating a year before that, so 18 years together. We are just years away from spending more years together than years apart. On our anniversary I looked across the table, past the 4 very boisterous children, at my man and thought, “THIS is success.” Life has its ups and downs. But when I look across the table, holding our family, I am so blessed by knowing that life can go any way it wants and I will still have this man of mine and our marriage.

So I thought I’d ask this man of mine, “Hey, what are we doing right?” That’s not always a question people ask, but in reality, marriage is hard. Marriage takes a lot of work. Not every marriage survives. And yet, here we were. And without sounding braggadocious, it has been pretty easy for us. Don’t stop reading!!! I’m fully aware that those who are entirely committed and completely love their spouses sometimes have to work hard at keeping a good marriage. And I’m so happy that people are willing to do the work to keep it good.

So, I want to share the things we are doing right in hopes to inspire those just starting out… or those who are trying to keep on going. And please… 17 years is just a drop in the bucket, so if you have your own “right”, please share in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you and your spouse are doing right!

Our wedding vows are taken from Romans 12:9-18. When we decided to write our own vows we wanted something Biblical. We figured the best way to truly keep a vow that important was to take it straight from the eternal Word of God. The caption to that passage says, “Love in Action” and that was our intention. To keep love an action.

Love must be sincere: When praying for my spouse, I pray that God will show me how to love him. I ask God to keep passion in my marriage. Without a sincere love, marriages won’t work. So pray for a genuine sincere love for your spouse, it’s never too late for this step!

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good: There are many things that are a huge threat to your marriage, stay away from those things. HATE THEM! If it threatens your closeness, your communication, your sincere love, stay away and cling to what is good. Leave no room for those threats to creep in. Keep your relationship pure. Keep your eyes on your spouse, your heart on your spouse, and your passion for your spouse. Hate all evil that tries to creep in. (With technology in our pockets, the temptation can be there at any moment. Take the steps required to keep your marriage good).

Be devoted to one another in love: This goes along with the previous one. Devotion is loyalty. So staying true to your spouse in all aspects (emotionally and physically) is very VERY important. It seems obvious, but loyalty isn’t just staying affair-free. It also involves not speaking bad about the other. It’s very common for friends to get together and bash their spouses. “He never_______!” “She always _______!” It breeds quickly and goes south just as quick. Be devoted in love! Don’t put your spouse down EVER… not even to your mother!

Honor one another above yourself: My husband rubs my back almost every night. I can almost guarantee he doesn’t really WANT to rub my back every night, but he knows I have a hard time falling asleep and so he does this for me. I could keep listing examples of how this man of mine honors me above himself… and to be honest, I’m having a hard time coming up with ways I demonstrate this for him (let me take a moment to let that conviction set into my heart…) but, when we honor the other above ourselves, we learn to hold our tongue, give things up, add things that aren’t our first choice, and strive to please the one we love. When BOTH spouses do this, no one feels belittled, overworked, or stretched beyond what is God-glorifying.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord: This is the most important thing to a successful marriage. I cannot emphasize enough how important your relationship with God is to your relationship with your spouse. As each spouse draws close to Christ, seeking His will above all else, they will draw closer to each other. Think of it as a triangle…                   Screenshot 2018-01-21 at 4.50.53 AM
So keeping your spiritual zeal and fervor is of utmost importance.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer: When our hope in placed in Jesus then being joyful is easy. Nothing makes a better marriage more than a happy spouse. When we can be joyful, it can spread through the household. That doesn’t mean trials won’t arise, but that’s where the 2nd part comes in. We need to be patient in affliction. Of course this verse is speaking about trials in our personal walk, but when trials come into our marriage, we need to be patient with our spouses. Because we love them sincerely, and because we are devoted them, and because  we honor our spouse above ourselves we can be patient when trials come up. This is why we must do the 3rd part… we MUST be faithful in our prayer time. Continually pray for your spouse, and your marriage. Nothing aids in the love towards a person like praying for them does.

Practice hospitality: I’ve often wondered why it’s so easy to hold our tongue and our temper with our college roommate (who can be a tad unruly at times) but when we meet the love of our lives, get married, and move into a house together (as it should be done in that order), we seem to throw consideration out the window. We stop holding our tongues and reigning in our temper. When my college roommate let the trash pile up in our apartment (it was her job to take it out), I didn’t nag her and scream about all of her inadequacies as a person simply because the trash was overflowing. And so I should not do that to the love of my life! Consideration goes a long way. Practice hospitality even with your spouse. They may not be a guest in your home, but you can definitely greet your spouse with a daily dose of warmness and courtesy.

Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse: Let me be honest, there are times when a tiny little frustration can blow up to a full-out catastrophe in my mind. In my mind I can say, “These dishes can pile up all week long! Maybe when he has to eat off dirty dishes I’ll get some help around here!” (this is usually on a bad day, and then I remember how often he does the dishes and I snap out of it!). I never follow through with my antics in my head (mainly because they are totally irrational!), but I’ve talked to women who have shut their husband’s out by refusing to make him dinner. She’ll cook just enough for her and the kids and leave him plateless at the table. I’m not saying he didn’t do something to hurt her, he probably did, but we should set out to bless and not curse. Do what is right even when the other person does not. And continue to be faithful in prayer, praying for a change in your spouse. Maybe even go above and beyond when you feel hurt. You can always discuss the hurt, but always always always bless and do not curse.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn: Empathy in a marriage goes a long way. When one spouse is dealing with frustration in the workplace, be that listening ear. How many times have wives said, “I’m not looking for a solution, I just want him to listen!” We, wives, want our husbands to be happy when we’re happy and sad when we are sad… well, at least, understand our feelings. I’m assuming it goes the same way from husbands to wives. Be a good listener, empathize with your spouse.

Do not be proud… Do not be conceited: Most arguments between spouses are simply a matter of who is right and who is wrong. And too often who ever is right wants to be sure the other one knows just how right they are. But this goes along with honoring your spouse above yourself. You can be right and still honor your spouse. You can empathize and still be right. You can agree to disagree and maintain your friendship with your spouse. Is being right more important than valuing your spouse? Is being right more important than validating your spouses feelings? Is being right worth the divide it can cause? Do not be conceited or too proud to bow out of a discussion that is heading towards argument. A silent night is better than an explosive one. (That is of course assuming you’re communicating in a loving way in other aspects.)

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone: When Paul wrote this passage, this segment, this command he understood that it was impossible to always be right in everyone’s eyes. And although this particular wording can seem weird. What Paul was trying to convey was that we need to be upright Christians in our everyday walk. Let people see the good marriage you have. There are friends of mine (I use the term loosely) that are offended by my happiness over my good marriage. I’d bet it’s safe to say some have even stopped reading, not because this blog is SO LONG, but because they don’t want to hear about my successful marriage. They scoff and get upset, but in reality God set marriage up to show us a type of Christ and His Church. Christians are the bride of Christ. He loves us unconditionally and cares for us and He set up marriage to give us a tangible view of that relationship. Our sinful nature and actions have messed that up. But look at a good marriage, and you’ll see that loving relationship Christ wants to have with us. Of course, even the best marriage is an imperfect reflection of a very perfect Christ, but it’s a glimpse. The fact that my husband knows me better than my own mother, and loves me anyway… by CHOICE reminds me of just how much more Jesus does. So let your marriage be a testimony to those around you. Let it be a  witness of Christ’s love for His church. I mean, for real, if my husband can endure my many imperfections and still love and adore me, how much more can Jesus?

And lastly As far as it depends on you, live at peace with your spouse (scripture says everyone). Choose to live at peace. Learn to overlook. And decide on a respectful conversation over a hateful nagging.  If you know your husband likes the seat moved back in the vehicle so he doesn’t hit his knees on the steering wheel, take the extra effort to push the seat back when you drive his car. If your wife drags you to one more antique store when your feet have been aching for 4 stores already, take one for the team (she’s only looking for the best price anyway, and that’s a good thing for you!… insert winky face here). As far as it depends on you… if it’s in your power to do so… live at peace with your spouse.

There are TONS more scripture that would go great for guidance on a great marriage, and there are TONS more tips we could share. But I believe most fall within these 12 guidelines. I’m not stating that my husband and I never fight, or that I’m this perfect wife, or that he’s a perfect husband. But we have a fantastic marriage because we try to do all 12 of these things. Just like any human being, I get annoyed with him, and him with me from time to time, but that seems to be less and less the more and more we put these 12 things into practice.

How is your Love in Action? I’d love to hear and share, leave me a comment!

How to Celebrate Without the Chaos

Yesterday I shared my heart about cherishing the moment within the Christmas season and why we need to stop and ponder the reason we celebrate. You can read that here.

If you read that post you may be wondering (or even pondering. HA!) HOW you can take a moment to celebrate in the midst of the chaos. Let me share a bit of what we’ve chosen to do over the past few years in order to bring more celebration and less chaos to our Christmas season.

For us the chaos begins with my daughter’s birthday around Thanksgiving. We try to cram it in before Thanksgiving, and if you know us you know we don’t cut corners on birthday parties, I’m pretty sure they are my 4 of my favorite things to do! My other daughter has a birthday within a week of the New Year, so our chaos goes from November 20th to January 4th… and I feel I need to have that January birthday party completely planned before the November one just so we don’t forget through the month of December.
For us the chaos comes in the form of a personal christmas party, a deacon christmas dinner, a women’s ministry christmas meal/gift exchange, a church kids program, the big church christmas lunch and party. We do an advent calendar with our kids to make each day special throughout the month. My birthday is smack dab in the middle, and our anniversary is January 1st! Sounds CRAZY CHAOTIC doesn’t it? But it’s not! I promise you, it’s not. Here’s my secret in a nutshell. We got rid of everything that caused more stress than fun. If we were stressed a little but didn’t neglect the bigger picture, that was okay. But the things we dreaded and caused stress without any reason other than obligation, we cut.

First we scheduled out our Christmas weeks at the beginning of November. If things weren’t able to be spaced in a way that kept the chaos at bay, we moved things around, or cut them out completely. We chose what was important, what their purpose was (ultimately to celebrate the birth of Christ by gathering with people we loved and wanted to share God’s love with) and eliminated things that weren’t top priority. Although our part-time jobs may put on a fabulous Christmas party, getting a sitter, buying the extra gift for the gift exchange, and moving other meaningful engagement around seemed to heap more stress than meaning into the season, so we let those go. We respectfully decided not to attend. It was nothing against the party themselves, or the people who were going to attend, it just simply didn’t fit into our priorities for the season.  (and perhaps that will change year to year). So

#1. Ask yourself what your priorities are. What should get more time and attention, and what can be skipped. Then actually decline things that don’t fit in. Remember saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. So if you are saying yes to a meaningful, non-stressed Christmas, you’ll need to say no to things that don’t fit.

We do a daily advent calendar with our kids. Starting on December 1st there are 25 Christmas activities we do to purposefully bring meaning to the season. In years past I was trying to go big and make everyday huge. I guess I thought that big and extravagant meant meaningful and impactful. However, all it did was create stress, work, and failed advent days. Although it’s purpose was good, to focus on the real reason we celebrate, it’s execution was an epic fail! So we simplified. It’s important to focus on Christ and the outreach that this season can bring, so we stuck with those basics. We only do one Random Act of Kindness each week. We read the Christmas story throughout, we make time for family movie nights where we can cuddle together and have family closeness. We discuss the elements of Christmas. We purposefully set aside moments to reflect on the awe-inspiring focal point of the season… Jesus.

#2. Plan ahead for quiet, meaningful moments to give yourself time to reflect on the WHYs of the season. **To do this, you have to do #1

Many years ago we had to make the decision not to participate in extended family gift exchange. We had already decided that with our kids we were going to downplay the gift aspect of Christmas anyway. But the extended family (Our siblings, and all of their kids) was growing way bigger than we could ever keep up with financially. So we asked that we choose other ways to celebrate instead of buying gifts. Gift giving is fun. It’s one of the biggest highlights of Christmas Day. Jesus was our ultimate gift, and giving gifts has always been a reflection of that and extending the “giving” spirit Jesus had. But the financial burden those gifts heap on the gift giver can suck the joy right out of the season. For our 4 children, they receive 3 gifts on Christmas. We model these gifts after the gifts the wise men gave to Jesus. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Our kids do not make a wish list. They can add anything they want to a birthday list, but for Christmas we focus on giving, not receiving. The gold gift is something fun that they’ll enjoy; A toy usually. The frankincense gift is something that will aid in their spiritual walk; Bible, devotional, Christian movie, Christian artwork. The myrrh gift is a gift for their bodies; usually clothing. They spend their own money and draw a sibling to buy for… again, to teach them about giving. We can not afford to give gifts to all our friends. With being the pastor of the church, we would just have too many friends to buy for. Instead we opt out of that type of gift giving and we host an informal christmas party where we cook goodies for our friends and make time to sit and BE PRESENT with them.

My sister hosts a really nice dinner for her friends as a gift. It may cost her and her husband some time, and a tad bit more to their grocery budget, but the gift is a fabulous meal and some good quality time. Gifts do not have to be material in order to be meaningful. Keep in mind that although giving is better than receiving you will soon receive the bills for all of those gifts!

#3 Give within your means. Be creative, but don’t stress. Plan ahead for your kids so you can catch an item they may love while it’s on sale. You can give and still teach your kids that it’s not the primary part of Christmas.

We typically host or prepare 4 Christmas parties. We have a personal one where we have a Christmas open house that is “come and go” in style. We invite people in all of our different areas of life. From our neighborhood, our church, our workplaces. We have a small intimate dinner as a gift to our deacons. I host the Women’s Ministry gathering and gift exchange. These three are in our home. The last one is the annual Christmas dinner at church following our kids church program. I love every single gathering. I love that we can have a large amount of people pass through our home. They don’t come at the same time, they don’t all leave at the same time, so I get the chance to talk to most without feeling like I left anyone out (Pastor’s wife’s problems!). I love our deacon dinner where we can express our thanks to an amazing leadership team! I love love love our women’s gathering. The giggles and fellowship is unmatched anywhere else! And I ADORE seeing our entire church family sharing a meal, and some fun games together. But hosting all these things can zap a person’s energy! To combat the stress that comes along with that, I do #1 (plan out all the events that are meaningful). Then I make my “needs” list. I make the shopping lists, the ingredients list, the gifts list all before Thanksgiving. By December 1st I have every meal we will eat for the rest of the year planned and the various grocery lists made. I can look at my calendar and know that if our Advent calendar is going to have us making christmas cookies, that I will have the christmas cookie ingredients. If the calendar says we have our church dinner the next day, then I know I already have dessert and side dish ingredients in the cupboard ready for the event. Gifts for various gift exchanges have already been planned out. When each gift can be bought within the budget is all planned… before Thanksgiving. This frees up the days for the fun of the season without the stress of not being prepared.

#4 Be prepared. Line up your events with the items you’ll need in advance so you’re prepared to enjoy and not stress. 

When we host a party, or attend a party, we want to fellowship. We want to socialize. We do not want to be standing over the stove while our guests are laughing and making memories. Nor do we want to attend a party where we never get to see the host. So if our party starts at 3, we have everything done and ready by 2:30/2:45 so we can greet our guests at the door, and socialize with them for the duration of the party. We also accept help, or ask for help so that we can all enjoy the party together. For our women’s gathering I will have ladies come and help me set up. I will also allow them help me clean up afterwards. If they are offering, they want to help. (if you don’t want to help, don’t offer! haha). We do not prepare the church food ourselves, we ask that everyone bring something to share. It’s more important to be together at christmas than to run around frazzled entertaining!

#5 Use time management so you can be present at your own parties. And accept and ask for help! Value relationship over perfection. Dismiss etiquette for friendships.

And lastly, take a deep breath, look around at every chance and praise God for the blessing. Again, if you can’t do that you need to revisit #1. If you hate Christmas caroling in the frozen tundra where your hands never get warm the rest of the season… and you can’t stop mid carol and capture a joyous moment… choose to skip the Christmas Caroling next year (can you tell this is not my favorite thing to do?!) Just as Mary sat and watched the festivities that first Christmas day, just as she decided to sit and ponder all these things, we, too should take the time amidst the chaos to marvel in all Christ has done for us. He came from heaven to earth to be our Way, our Life, our Savior. And for THAT, we celebrate!

#6- CELEBRATE… Celebrate by keeping Jesus the focal point. Bring Him glory this Christmas season.

The list can go on and on. But ultimately we mustn’t forget that the season should be a season of celebration of Jesus’s becoming Emmanuel, God with us. When we gather with friends and family it should be as a light shining for Jesus. When we offer gifts it should be to represent the gift of Jesus’ presence. When we partake of the Christmas festivities we should take the time to ponder just how blessed we are to be able to celebrate the gift of all gifts– Jesus

What are some ways you keep increase the celebration and decrease the chaos, I’d love to hear from you in the comments area.

 

Ponder this Season

Welcome to the Christmas Season! If you haven’t already attended a Christmas gathering, I’m sure within the next couple of days, you’ll have your ugly sweaters on, toting gifts for friends, co-workers, or even your mailman (don’t forget the mailman!). The wrapping paper will be strewn across every flat surface, the tape will be out (or missing!), and your nerves will be frazzled! If you’re like me, you’ve already hosted a christmas gathering (or two) and still have more in the weeks to come. So, now may be just the right moment to ask you… Are you enjoying the Christmas season? Do you dread it’s coming, praise it’s passing, or do you look forward to it only to see it whiz by in a busied blur of tinsel and tizzy? Do you ever stop and ponder the blessings of this season?

Let me remind of you of one of the most important Christmas story. Luke 2 says that once Jesus was born the shepherds were told of His miraculous birth and they came at once. After they saw the savior they just couldn’t keep their mouths shut about their amazement. They told everyone. It it seems that many came to see what the shepherds were so excited about. So, imagine introducing a new baby to the world and within such a short amount of time there’s a crowd there admiring your child.

I don’t know about other moms, but I wanted some alone time to bond with my baby before I opened the door to everyone and anyone to come and “oooohhh and awe” over them. But I wonder if Mary knew Jesus was to be shared. And so she entertained. She invited all those worshippers into her “Stall” with her brand new messiah child. And in the hustle and bustle of all that was happening Mary “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19)

I’m sure Mary could have been overwhelmed. She could have tried to straighten the barn stall and manger to perfection level cleanliness. For that matter she could have turned everyone away since she only had a humble manger to entertain in. She could have stressed over whether or not the family had matching outfits fit for a worship session. She could have been frantic trying to prepare meals and presents and crafts to celebrate this most amazing event, the birth of her savior, her son… but she isn’t recorded as doing so. Instead she rested with Jesus in her arms and she stored the joy away in her heart.

I can picture her now. She, having just given birth, still recovering, but in that early stages of pure euphoria sits back and takes it all in. Her Son. They are worshiping her Son, the king of all kings, and Lord of all lords, the savior of the world, HER savior. And she took that moment and instead of letting the stress of it all overwhelm her, she pondered instead. Perhaps she pondered the angels promise to her and then to Joseph. Perhaps she pondered the announcement she made to Elizabeth when Jesus’ cousin lept while still growing in the womb. Perhaps she recalled all the prophesies about the Messiah that she’d grown up learning about.

And this my friend, is the one thing many of us are lacking each and every holiday season. As a pastor’s wife we entertain a lot. We are either having a party in our home, or hosting an event at church every single week. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE the holiday season, but there are always more items to check off the list of “to-dos”. This can be draining, daunting, and mundane if not done correctly. If not done purposefully, we can get all caught up in the lights, the decorations, the programs, the parties, the gifts, the finances, the stress, the heartache… and we fail to sit back and ponder.

I have a list of ways to do this. Over the years I’ve prayed for a way to enjoy the holiday season without heaping the stress on to the breaking point, and I’m confident I’m headed in the right direction (can’t honestly say I’ve mastered it). So if you’d like to see the “How tos” check back in tomorrow. But for now, let the idea of taking time to ponder the Christmas season sink in.

Albert Barns says that “pondered”  means weighed. This is the original meaning of the word “weighed.” She kept them; she revolved them; she “weighed” them in her mind, giving to each circumstance it’s just importance, and anxiously seeking what it might indicate respecting her child.

So, if we were to “ponder” this season, and the importance of this season, and the REASON for this season (it’s such a great cliché!), we’re going to make the season revolve around its purpose. JESUS. We’re going to give each activity that we do an importance. We should be celebrating the birth of our Savior, so if our activities don’t do that, we can give ourselves permission to let them go.

Christmas parties aren’t wrong… but if they are causing strife in our household, stress in our hearts, and debt in our wallet, it is no longer about Jesus and should be omitted.

Christmas cookies aren’t wrong (PRAISE GOD!) but if we’re screaming at our kids for making too many messes, ignoring our family to get just one more batch done, it is no longer about Jesus and should be omitted from our holiday traditions.

Presents for loved ones of course are not wrong, but when we lose sleep over finding (and affording) the latest gadget, toy, or luxury, and we’re lashing out at the crowds at the malls in order to add to our plethora of “THINGS” all to please someone else and not our Savior that we’re celebrating… well, something has to change.

This season brings with it fun and warmth and togetherness, but it is also one of the leading causes for depression, anxiety, and despair. Most of that comes from our lack of ponder. We fail to sit back, and really weigh the importance of the season. We fail to sip our cocoa slower, we fail to cherish our kids’ excitement, we fail to gather just a tad bit closer, and we fail to glorify the one with whom our celebration is due.

Have your Christmas party, but don’t fail to breath in all the love that comes with having friends and family close. Ponder the blessing of friendship as you gather.

Bake your Christmas cookies, let the kids make messes, add in another batch for a neighbor, but don’t fail to ponder the reason we work these traditions into the season. To give out of sacrifice is an honor.

Shop for the perfect Christmas gift, but don’t fail to remember the greatest gift to mankind, the savior.

There is so much of the Christmas season to take in. And as Mary so graciously did on that first Christmas day, I pray you, too will find time to do as well. Take a moment to look around at the friends surrounding you during this season and praise God for each one of them. Take a moment to watch your child’s excitement over a gift under the tree, or lights as they look out their car window. Just take a moment to ponder what all of this means. What is it that you’re celebrating, and then take a sacred moment to ponder His goodness… that began that first Christmas day.

 

Check back in tomorrow for some ways to de-stress your holiday season. It seems as I started this topic God decided to lead me a different direction. However, I’d love to share how we’ve managed to host a party each week (between ministries at church and our own personal one), and bring some cherished moments in each day through the season. Maybe you could use some ideas for balancing the long list of to-dos with capturing the moments that need to be cherished. Until then… God bless.

What Life do you Choose?

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. The weather has gone from bright and sunny and warm to snow flurries, cold, and gray. And it seems as if that has affected the beings living in my home. Including me! The grumbling has gotten to me. The unreasonable expectations have weighed me down. The constant reminder that I can not make everyone happy has brought days of tears to my eyes. And I’ve piled weight upon weight upon weight until I’m riddled with headaches, sleeplessness, and crabbiness.

 

The seasons of frustration, anger, moodiness, or just plain crabbiness might stem from the fact that I homeschool, so these beings (along with their frustrations, anger, moodiness, and crabbiness) are with me all.the.time. It might stem from my role as pastor wife, or the upcoming holiday schedule staring me in the face. It could stem from any number of outside influences demanding more and more when I feel I can offer less and less.

But here’s the thing. He who is in me (JESUS) is greater than he who is in the world (SATAN). Do I blame Satan for all bad things in my life? Is he the root of all my frustrations? All my anger? Moodiness and crabbiness? No, not completely. I blame myself. I blame myself for forgetting that I have Jesus within me to conquer all those emotions that sweep across me through the day. 1 John 4:4 is an encouragement to the early Christians who have overcome the lies false preachers were preaching in their day.  God says to them, “You are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” We overcome BECAUSE of the Jesus in us. So when we feel defeated, deflated, down, and full of despair we know we have a Jesus in us who is WAY more powerful than the forces bringing us down.

No doubt many things that lure us to our crabby side come from the enemy. No doubt. He does not want us to live the life God intended. He does not want us to overcome and praise God for giving us victory. So he’ll whisper to you that you have a right to be offended. He’ll prompt you to lash out at a disobedient child, I mean, you ARE the authority! Satan will let you be comfortable thinking that “everyone yells, I’m fine”. But when it comes down to it, and when you are truly held accountable for your actions (emotions are one of those actions), it will all be on YOU.

So I’ll ask you what I’ve asked my 7-year-old many times this week. “What life do you want to live?”

We quote James 1:19 and 20 every day in my home. We need to! “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. For human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” We go even a step further and we discuss why it’s important to produce the righteousness God desires. God desires to give you life, And not a frustrated, anger-filled, moody, crabby one! He wants you to have an abundant life.

You see, Satan wants to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to steal your joy by being frustrated with everything. He wants to kill your relationships by being angry all the time, and he wants to destroy your day with a bad, crabby mood! But JESUS!!! Jesus wants to give life, and an ABUNDANT life! (John 10:10)

So what does that life look like? Is it free of all frustrating little tasks? Free from ever getting angry or offended? Does it mean that you’ll never have a moody day or fall into the pit of crabbiness? Oh I wish!

For me, one who faces frustrations everyday, who has to battle anger on a regular basis, who has the crazy life of homeschooling 4, babysitting full-time, and working a few hours outside the home where the temptation of being moody and crabby is right there… This abundant life looks like this:

I am making a lot of choices. I’m praying for perspective. I ask myself, reevaluate myself, and try again… and again… and again. I look at the child throwing a fit and say, “I could yell, or I could scoop her up and ask her to pray with me.” One will kill our relationship, one will bring a more abundant life.  A child has a meltdown over having to do a spelling test. I can let that frustration settle in, roll my eyes and spout out each word expressing just how frustrated I am. Or I could ask God for perspective, realize a tad more study time may solve the issue and encourage said child along the way. One can steal my (and their) joy, the other will bring confidence and thus a more abundant life. Someone is upset at me. I was unable to meet their expectation (I can hear the pastors’ wives out there nodding their heads!) I can fight attitude with attitude. Or I can re-evaluate, pray for a peaceful way to handle that situation, and leave the rest with God. One will destroy a friendship, and most likely a peaceful mood while the other gives abundant life.

It all boils down to what life you want to live. If you choose to dwell in the circumstances that surround you, to wallow in the despair that stress can bring you, you will choose a life of offense, unsettlement, and constant frustration. If you choose to live a life allowing the One who lives in you to conquer the one who lives in the world, you will choose a life of peace, joy, and power.

Verse 21 following the verse I quoted earlier urging us to be slow to anger because it doesn’t produce the righteousness God desires says, “So get rid of all filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the POWER to save your souls.” (Emphasis mine). God desires not just to give abundant life on earth, but an eternal life in heaven. So rid yourself of the life sucking anger, and frustration. Get rid of the moodiness and crabby that settles in your brows. The evil one does not have your best interest in mind! He does not care about your peaceful life! And submit to the One who died in order to give you this life! Accept His word, and live in joy knowing that He has the power to save your soul! (And your attitude!)

And to end let me quote the “speech” I gave my 7-year-old today with tears streaming down my face.

“You have a battle going on for your soul, sweetie. The Devil wants to steal your joy, kill your relationships, and destroy your happy heart. But Jesus says, “SHE’S MINE!!! I died for her, I bought her with my blood, she accepted me, and she’s MINE!” And they fight and they fight because you’re worth fighting for. Jesus sees your potential. He sees how valuable you are when you have your joy, your strong relationships, and your happy heart. He knows you are an amazing girl. But Satan is fighting against you becoming that amazing person. So he fights to keep you angry, frustrated, and unsettled. He fights so he can own you, so he can get you to hurt those around you with your words, and disrespect authority. He wants you to have a life that hates all the time. And Jesus will not relinquish. He knows that He’s already died on that cross FOR YOU! He knows that you’ve chosen Him. And so now he fights for you to choose HIM in the midst of those frustrating times. He fights for you to choose HIM when math is hard, or when your brother doesn’t choose your game. He is pleading with you to choose HIS path, for it leads to a life that is full of blessings. His path leads to a prosperous life, plans that He himself has set up for you! But, honey… YOU have to choose. Who will win? What life will you choose? Mommy can’t choose for you. I sure wish I could, it would definitely NOT be this anger filled life. So all I can do is show you what’s going on and then ask… What life do you want?”

Who will win in the battle for your life? As for me? I’ll choose Jesus every time. It takes effort, self-discipline and a lot of  “taking thoughts captive”. But I’m living the fruits of choosing this life, and I see the fruits of choosing the other option.

If you do not have Jesus in you it’s hard to fight a battle with the one in the world. But, just like Jesus died for my little girl, He died for you, too. And he desires to give you a life… an abundant life. If you’d like to accept Jesus, and to choose to follow Him, please click on the link below for more clarification. 

http://followchrist.ag.org/

And Please, if you just made the choice today to follow Jesus, or if you’re struggling to choose the abundant life, please contact me. thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com 

If you live in the St. James area, please let the church surround you. Church friends can make such a difference in the life of a Christian. We meet at Crossroads Church 10am every Sunday. 721 Weston Ave. In St. James, MN. ALL are welcome! Visit our facebook page here.

Is Your Iron Sharp?

I recently noticed something. Something big. Something profound. Maybe you’ve noticed this, too… but are you willing to admit it? I recently noticed that it is REALLY easy to see the faults in others while being completely blind to my own faults! GASP!!! I know! I’m in my upper 30s, I can’t believe I’m just now figuring this out! My guess is that you’re like me. That you’ve known this little fact for a while, but you haven’t really given it much thought.

I’m at home all day with the amazing task of teaching 4 children. Kindergarten, first, fifth, and sixth grade. I correct grammar, math problems, behavior and bad attitudes all.the.live.long.day! And sometimes, unfortunately sooner than it should, I become short, frustrated, and sometimes downright unloving. This goes on for some time before my husband comes home. Then my husband walks in, who knows what kind of day he’s had (I mean, I didn’t even ask) but he says one comment in a grumpier-than-I’d-like way and BOOM! I’m all over him! “Why are you short!?” “Why are you so frustrated!?” “Why can’t you be more loving!?” I promise, I don’t really shout this! But I am so quick to see it in him… why was I so unwilling to see it in myself?

I know I’m not alone. I’m a facebook user. I see the “advice-seeker” who posts an issue they’re having, asks advice, but then immediately turns angry when the advice doesn’t go their way. I even have a secret group of pastor’s wives that I’ll take my issues to. But as soon as one of them says something that requires me to look inward at my own bad behavior, I want to high tail it out of there! I’ve even deleted my posts so I don’t have to deal with it (I mean, let’s get real here, right?). It isn’t easy when we are faced with our own sins.

I googled “Why is it so hard to be held accountable?” You can’t even imagine how many responses I got to that question… NONE! Not one!  It’s rare to find someone who truly wants to be held accountable. We may SAY we want it. But our actions tell a completely different story. I tell my husband many times a year, “Honey, please talk me off this ledge! Please remind me of my goals of being a loving parent in the midst of my knit picking and nagging.” Then I wonder why he isn’t quick to do so after I bite his head off for not agreeing with me that whistling is the root of all evil. (Oh, have I never mentioned my hatred of whistling and how quickly it makes my blood boil in anger??? Maybe another blog post…). We say we want to be held accountable, but we actually hate correction. I believe this to be one of Satan’s most successful tools. If we can fight against correction, we can turn a blinds eye to the sin that is so easily visible to those close to us.

The word “accountability” isn’t found in the Bible. But the concept is all over the place.  In Hebrews the Author says,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:23-25

The author knows that in order to hold on to our hope without wavering, we’re going to need each other to stir one another up. This is the purpose of gathering together on a regular basis. Our relationships are so important in this process. This is accountability!

To stir up can be translated urge, spur on, or motivate. It can also mean to provoke or irritate. Have you ever tried to cheer up a really grumpy person? It can be downright irritating! It’s not always easy, even when the accountability is coming in an encouraging way. However, this is needed for us to be at our best spiritually. Done right, accountability can be and should be encouraging. The word “encourage” means to call someone to your side in order to strengthen them with your words; it can refer to a variety of encouraging speech: instructing, comforting, admonishing, warning, urging, begging, and consoling. Whatever it takes to pull a friend from the dangers of sin.

I would expect my husband to remove a knife from my hand if I were about to harm myself with it. I would actually feel unloved if he sat back and did not act quickly when he could clearly see I was hurting myself. So why do I feel so attacked when he steps in to lovingly warn me about the sin I’m involving myself in? Done the correct way, accountability should encourage you to choose a more godly path in life. Galatians 6:1-2 says, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

If God is telling  a person to help restore a friend, He must expect that friend to receive the restoration. Just imagine the change that can come to your life if you’d receive the correction as a blessing instead of an offense. We are to bear one another’s burdens. Why not take some off yourself and let someone help you with it? Sometimes anger is too heavy of a burden to bear, Confess your sins, and let someone pray for you and hold you accountable (James 5:16). Gossip is a hard habit to break. Ask some friends to stop you before you sin against another person, causing both them and you harm. Depression is a dark hole to get lost in, connect with a friend who won’t leave you alone even when you withdraw. Help a friend help you.

Being held accountable isn’t always easy. It isn’t always comfortable. It isn’t always painless. We are called to admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Admonish isn’t a pleasant word. It means to warn or reprimand someone firmly. Firmly, not harshly. As grown adults (and I guess even as children), we don’t like to be told what to do. Somehow we thought that when we became adults we could do whatever we wanted and no one could tell us what to do! And yet… The Bible tells us that we should admonish one another. I’m sure many of us read that and allow it to give us permission to rebuke others. That’s easy. But what about when you’re the person who needs the rebuke?

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17). Are you sharpened or do you live in a dull state with no desire to live up to your full potential? Try cutting a tomato with a dull knife. It’s a mess. And so is life when we refuse correction. Would you take this sharpening journey with me? Ask someone to hold you accountable. Tell them to be loving, but to correct you on the sin you’re struggling with. And then actually receive the correction. Pray over it, and make the necessary changes in your life. Don’t let your pride ruin your walk with God.

There is no need to be around toxic people who correct, rebuke, and admonish out of mean spirits and divisive intentions. There are people like this lurking behind every corner. They are not there to encourage you, but rather point out your faults, push you down, and walk away. Search for those with their hands outstretched in love pulling you up. Choose a person that loves you, and loves what God could do in your life. Ask someone to come along side you  in order to strengthen you with their words. And then pray for the humble spirit to take their encouragement and grow closer to God.

 

Church is a great place to find this kind of friend. I’d love to invite you to visit us on Sundays at 10a at Crossroads Church in St. James, MN. 721 Weston Ave. Make plans to visit with a friend, I’ll save you a seat!
Like Crossroads Church on Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Give Up

screenshot-2017-02-20-at-11-20-32-amWe’ve been struck by Influenza A. It wasn’t so bad, fevers, sleepy. But then it turned into coughs and runny noses. Friday night I took our 5-year-old in with a temp of 105! He has double ear infection and bronchitis. His 3 hour stretch in the ER kept me from my pre-overnight shift nap. Oh well. So after working my overnight, I stayed up to wait for the pharmacy to open and get him his med. Then slept about 3 hours and got up for our day. By 11 that night I was struggling to stay away and finally fell asleep on the couch. About an hour later I woke up to my husband clutching and rubbing his chest. He was having pretty bad chest pains. I ran to the cupboards and found one measly little baby aspirin. A whole 81mg! made him chew it, and woke my 12-year-old up gave him Dad’s phone and then headed to the ER. Praise God he had pneumonia, not a heart attack. So we leave the ER with the instructions “NO WORK TOMORROW, PASTOR!”. On our 3 minute drive home I convince my husband that I had a sermon tucked away that I could write out and that we could do CD for worship and all would be fine. 3:30 and I started writing out my notes, bed at 5:30, up to preach at 7:30. I LOVED what God did! I love that  God equips those He calls. So I put that to the test when God gives mamas babies, he lowers her need for sleep! haha (don’t get me wrong, we NEED sleep, but God helps us function on little sleep a lot!). So I preached. One of my favorite things to do… and so you may not get Pastor’s notes this week… but you’ll get mine!

The Book of Hebrews was written to a people who were about 40 years removed from Christ’s life. And as we’ve been learning through Pastor’s sermons, the Israelites have a hard time remaining faithful even for a short time.  However, these Jewish Christians are only a living generation from walking with Jesus, and already the writer is encouraging them to run the race, stay the course, and not fall away. They are slipping, and in a very dangerous way.

Who among us needs encouragement? I’m raising both hands here! When the world’s messes are delivered on our doorsteps each morning, on our computer screens, or scrolling across the bottom of a newscast, it’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to join in with the world’s anger and hatred and get discouraged… maybe even begin to turn away. We need some encouragement.

With little time to prepare the message, it’s great to open the Word of God and have a sermon right in front of you. So although I won’t have the notes on the screens like Pastor does, you’ll have my sermon notes right in front of you if you open to Hebrews 3 and 4.

Let’s start by reading Hebrews 3:1-2

Because Jesus is our High Priest, we actually can learn something about ourselves here. To know that we belong to such an amazing God reminds us that there’s hope! We’re put on the most amazing team, our partner is Jesus… THE SON OF GOD!

Think carefully about that. When you’re discouraged and weary, think about this Jesus we declare as God!
When a spouse isn’t a believer and we don’t have Christian support at home– Think of who your partner is!
When sickness keeps us from feeling ourselves– Think about the healer you’ve partnered with!
When you work hard but feel undervalued– Remember that God sent you a high priest as your PARTNER! The highest of high has chosen YOU!

Now, that is meant to encourage you, but this knowledge also is a challenge. We must give honor to this high priest we’ve been given, And we need to submit to Him, something not so easy to do.

The Jewish Christians were beginning to stray just as the Israelites did so many times as they wandered their way through to the promise land. The writer here brings Moses up. Maybe the pastor of their time was also walking through the scriptures and was right about where we are in Pastor’s sermons… He mentions Moses. Hebrews 3:3-7

One of the worst compliments you can give a photographer is, “Wow! You’re camera takes amazing photos! What model is that, if I had a good camera and photoshop, I could save tons of money!”
Heaven forbid it has anything to do with the good shot the photographer craned her neck to get. I mean, it couldn’t be that the photographer who is laying on the ground to get the perfect lighting of your grumpy baby smiling for that very split second actually has an eye for things. No, definitely, photoshop that does that. (Enter eye-roll and sarcasm). These Jewish Christians were upholding Moses, but missing the lighting behind him– GOD! God was the reason Moses was who he was. Yes, Moses was great but he pointed to the Master.

When we, like the early Christians here, lose sight of that Master, the builder of our lives, we’re going to get discouraged. When we focus on whether or not our candidate won the election or whether our neighbor loves the candidate that did win and we take our eyes off the Supreme Authority– Anger will begin to take the place of contentment and our standing with God will become shaky. When our focus is more on the job that we weren’t offered and less on the One who gives security– We’ll begin to doubt God’s provision for us, and unbelief sets in.  When we take our eyes off the builder of our faith and sift it to ANYTHING else, we will lose our courage and confidence and our overall hope in Christ. That is why the holy Spirit says… Hebrews 3:7-12

“BE CAREFUL!!! Make sure that your OWN hearts are not evil and unbelieving TURNING YOU AWAY FROM THE LIVING GOD!

Sin is all around. We brush elbows with it each and every day… we aren’t perfect, we sin, too. You’d be hard pressed to find a T.V. show that isn’t compromising to some degree. The news can lean so far in one direction that sometimes it’s not good for our spiritual walk to even watch it! Relationships can pull us in directions that aren’t always glorifying to God. We’re pulled away on social media, magazines, top selling novels… but none of those are excuses for the fact that we are in charge of our own hearts. It’s OUR hearts that we allow to grow evil and unbelieving, and if we don’t get it under control, we’ll slowly turn away from God.

Unbelief and sin is deceitful. When we are unbelieving, when we fail to trust God at his word, and/or we fail to act in a way that shows God is who He says He is, we don’t simply stop believing. We actually start believing something else. We start believing lies.

  • God can’t help me pay this mound of bills!
  • God will never fix this broken relationship!
  • My addiction is bigger than God!
  • God is not who he says He is!

Lie, lie, lie, LIE! So… we must be warned– While it is still today. Keep reading Hebrews 3:13-19

If those walking to the Promise Land, with daily reminders of God’s provision through manna, and could hear God’s voice and rebel… We can, too! We can let our discouragement turn to disbelief and our disbelief turn to sin and we can let our sin keep us from God.

Unbelief kept an entire generation that escaped Egypt and wandered the desert out of Canaan. It’ll do the same for us if we keep it up! We’ll wander this Earth all for nothing… worse… all for Hell!

But there’s Good news. Hebrews 4:1-3
God’s rest, Heaven, is our rest! Oh how Great! A place to rest from sorrow, from pain, from disappointment, from ridicule. A.place.to.rest! I don’t know about you, but I could use some rest (read my first paragraph!!!)

Hebrews 4:6-11

Ok, GREAT! We’ve established that life is exhausting, discouraging, weighs us down. We’ve acknowledged that all this in life causes us to lose faith, live in sin and come close to missing out on heaven (if not completely)– GREAT! What a great message, Stevie! When’s Pastor coming back!? This is pretty dreary! I mean, I want that rest…
But wait… you have the sermon notes… read on. Hebrews 4:12-13

Oh! Good… much bett…. wait, what? What does the Word of God have to do with my discouragement and wavering faith!? I want to know how to keep my faith strong, how do we stay out of discouragement and sin? The answer is simple… to realize HOW POWERFUL the Word of God is!

My kids (almost) 12, 10, 7, and 5 have read through the Bible a least twice (the older ones maybe more). Front to back! A couple of weeks ago we finished reading Revelations and so the next day when I called them all down, “Bible reading!” my 5-year-old says, “But mom! We finished that yesterday!!!” Oh my little bambino! One does not simply FINISH the Bible! That’s like saying no thanks to dinner, “I ate last week, I’m good!”

The Word of God is POWERFUL! It digs down to our innermost thoughts and desires. Want to stop getting discouraged, let the living word of God cut between your soul and spirit, and expose you to God and hold you accountable!
Want to trust God to provide? Read about the woman who only had enough flour and oil for one last meal, shared it with Elijah and her jar never went empty.
Want to feel like an overcomer? Read about Moses defeating the Amalekites simply by raising his hands up to the Lord (then try that in your own battles!)
Feeling alone? Read how God himself goes before you, never leaving or forsaking you!
Feeling bound in chains? Read how a little praise and worship SET PRISONERS FREE!!!!!
Want to replace anger with joy? Read about the Love Jesus had for those who plotted to kill Him.. He gives His life up for them, he Loved them (and YOU) so!
Want to feel valued? Finish this life-giving chapter with me! Hebrews 4:14-16

A preacher can not make the Bible come alive! The Bible makes the preacher come alive! I praise God we attend a church that preaches the Word of God. I am so thankful that we have a pastor who pours over the Word. He preaches with such gusto… not because he’s bringing life to the Word, but because we have a pastor who LOVES the Word of God and that Word brings Pastor ALIVE (*** When preaching this the congregation was almost in a standing ovation… I wish my hubs could have seen the love these people have for the Word and for a preacher who preaches it!)
The Word of God will bring YOU alive, as well… as long as you’ll receive it!

Because God has given us a High Priest in Jesus we CAN RECEIVE IT! Let’s hold firmly to what we believe and we believe that He understands, he’s been in our shoes, and he still offers. It’s up to us to receive it. Praise God we can come boldly, We can come get renewed, encouraged, and cleansed.

We open the alters for prayer after the sermons for the church to respond to the message God has given. You may be reading on your break, or before bed… still I invite you to reflect, to begin praying and find the mercy and grace to help you where you need it most.

I’m believing in God’s healing touch and believe pastor will be behind the pulpit again next week. Please join us. The Israelites are getting so close to that promise land… I can’t wait for that sermon!!! If you are in the St. James area, please join us at Crossroads Church 721 Weston Ave at 10 am each Sunday. I’ll save you a seat!

The Distracted Worshiper

It happened on Sunday. I could feel myself in deep deep worship. I knew from practice that we were going to sing one of my favorite songs and I had already made a commitment to press in. The first song was in full swing but as I tried to read along with the words on the screen (that I actually don’t NEED to read, I know the song) I notice that the words are lagging, or missing, and I gently leave my seat and head back to my lovely 11-year-old who is eagerly serving in church as the computer guy. He shrugs (whatever that means) and the words miraculously seem to be on time and correct.

Then the 2nd song comes on. I close my eyes, focus on God, and BAM… I can hear my 7 and 5 year olds singing with all their hearts. I keep my eyes close but I stop singing, I HAD to listen to their sweet sweet voices. Seriously, ya’all… there is nothing so near to a mama’s heart than when you hear your kids worshiping! NOTHING!

Then my song was on. I was determined to be zoned out focusing on nothing but my God. I was planning on entering into the holy of holies singing my heart out. “Singing as one.. Hallelujah… holy holy, God almighty, the GREAT I AM”… I was belting it! I didn’t care that my friend was standing next to me. I didn’t care if the front row could hear me although I was sitting in the back row. I just sang. At times I just laughed, I smiled so big there was no room for words. I let my emotions go and I WORSHIPED!

I’m a mom of 4. Worship hasn’t come easily to me since having my first child almost 12 years ago. I was raised in a church that valued worship. We served in churches that exalted worship to amazing levels. Then I had children. There’s something built into a mother that doesn’t allow her to close both eyes at once unless her children are sleeping safe in their beds. Since our kids have always been in the worship (songs) portion of the service with us, worship changed for me. *side note… I’m a HUGE advocate of families worshiping together in the same room at church. Kids can go for their own lesson, but if they can stay with their parents during worship… ohh, mama… amazing things can happen!*

Worship with a baby can be touching, but that baby may not feel as into the atmosphere as you are, and may just mess their pants right as you try to enter in. And sometimes the smell overrides your desire for uninterrupted worship. Sometimes a 2-year-old HAS to go potty just at the perfect song. Sometimes the 3 and 4-year-old who chose to dance (awww, how sweet) are now rolling down the aisle in an all out WWF Wrestling match. And sometimes, right when you think your kids are at the right age (almost 12, 10, 7, and 5) you can close your eyes and experience an amazing time of corporate worship.

Here’s the thing: during my amazing time of corporate worship, my mama eye would not stay closed, so I peeked to make sure my 5-year-old was still standing close by. He was, and his eyes were closed and he was worshiping… I think. His little eyes were squeezed shut, his head was swaying from side to side, his hands were waving… oh, it was so adorable… then… then… HE.LICKED.THE.PEW! Yes, HE.LICKED.THE.PEW! I don’t know about your church, but this is not a normal worship practice at our church.

But I had a choice. Would I let that take me completely out of my time of worship. It was quite the struggle, but I just closed my eyes, lifted my hands said, “Lord protect him from whatever disease could be resting there” and continued singing “Who is worthy, none beside Thee…God Almighty, the great I am”

You see the only perfect worship atmosphere is the one in which hearts are willing to shut out all around them and truly decide to enter in. I’m going through a learning process right now where my key word is “Choice”. I’m learning that if I want it (and God wants it) I must make choices to get me that thing that I want (IF God wants it). A lot depends on our choices, more than we want to admit.

If we want to draw near, we must say yes to Him, and that means that we say no to everything else. Even if that does mean we let our 5-year-old lick germ-infested pews in an effort to get more from God.

Happy Worshiping, Friends!