Monday, August 27, 2012

Being a Pastor's Wife is an Exercise in Faith

My husband and I got married when we were both in seminary. He was also a part-time youth pastor. We had a short summer break after our wedding before it was back to the grind of school, work, and ministry. My dad was (and still is) a bi-vocational pastor, so I knew what life was like for a family when dad is often getting home from church just in time for dinner on a Saturday evening only to get up way too early the next morning to finish his sermon. When I was eight my dad went to seminary, so I lived in a family where my dad was working on papers, working full-time, all the while trying to be a husband to one and dad to four young children. I had no illusions about what ministry would look like. I knew it would be hard. I knew it would take time. But knowing and believing are two very different things. When it came time to believe that God knew what he was doing, I had a much harder time accepting that this was going to be my life.

The life of a pastor’s wife in a lot of ways is no different than any other Christian wife. But there are some key universally held beliefs that really get tested in the trenches of loving a man in pastoral ministry. These truths are simply what I have learned in these last three years, and therefore not necessarily exhaustive or applicable to every situation. But I would imagine that many wives of pastors probably face some variation of these struggles at some point. If you fit in that category, I hope my struggle towards faithfulness is a help to you.

Believing that God’s Word Changes Lives

If you had asked me four years ago what is the most pressing need for our churches I would have wholeheartedly said, “the preaching of God’s word!” I love the Bible. I believe that biblical preaching is needed in our churches. I believe that when we gather together on Sunday morning we desperately need to hear from God in his word.

But the real test comes on a Saturday afternoon, when my husband is immersed in his final sermon preparation. Do I believe that God’s word preached is the greatest need of his people on Sunday morning? Do I really believe that the people in our congregation need to hear from God, even if it means spending Saturday alone?

If a pastor cannot give God’s word faithfully on Sunday morning, he has very little left to give God’s people. As wives of pastors we have a unique responsibility to help him in this amazing task. From giving him a space to work, to refraining from interrupting him until the sermon is complete (this is hard for me), every ounce of freedom we give him (especially on those lonely Saturdays) is an opportunity for us to exercise trust in the never changing power of the word of God.

Believing that Jesus’ Words are True

Of course we believe that when Jesus speaks it is true. When I was a new Christian I used to boast that I would leave everything for the sake of the gospel, even my family. And while I lived away from my family long before I married a pastor, it did not hit me until that move was permanent. We are settled in ministry. And it’s not near my parents, brothers, or nieces and nephews. Jesus’ words about leaving family for his sake take on a whole new meaning when it’s not an idealistic declaration any longer.

Many of us live thousands of miles away from our immediate families. We miss birthdays, holidays, and important milestones. Our kids miss precious time with grandparents. When Jesus said we would have to deny our closest relationships for his glory he meant it. The cost of following Jesus sometimes implies that we live far away from family. But it also means that we get to experience a little piece of what he was talking about when he said “who are my brothers?” In a lot of ways, our church family is our immediate family now. We are with them at the 4th of July picnic and on Christmas morning. And we give thanks with them around the table on Thanksgiving. While we lose memories with our immediate families, we gain new, lifelong memories with our brothers and sisters in our congregations that are little foretastes of heaven.

Believing in the Coming Joy

Every sermon preached, every holiday missed, and every trial endured is an opportunity for a pastor’s wife to exercise faith in the God who can be trusted. We must daily fight to see that Jesus is better.  He is better than having your husband free all of the time.  He is better than living around the corner from your mom, dad, and siblings. He is better than stuff. He is better than our dreams for a nice house, extra spending money, well-behaved children (or any children), and a perfect marriage.

But there is more to the story. Because we are married to pastors we have a front row seat for all that God does through our husband’s ministry. We are there for the tears and we are there for the laughter. We are there for the criticism and are there for the praise. We get to see lives changed by God’s word. We get to see families restored through the power of the gospel. Even when it is hard, we can know that the difficulty is not all there is. Every trial endured, every lonely Saturday, and every missed family gathering is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. And sometimes, just sometimes, we get to see a little glimpse of it this side of heaven.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We Will Not Fear

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." - Psalm 46:1-3

I read this verse to my classes on Friday. I knew I needed it, and I know enough about people to know that I'm not the only one who must daily do battle with my fears. What I love about this verse is that the psalmist does not say that trusting in God will remove all frightening circumstances. That would only be disheartening to us all. If you live long enough you know that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. But so does terror and suffering. The fallen world we live in promises that we will all be impacted by its rage at some point.

But what the psalmist does in the moments of fear is trust in the only one who can deliver him. Mountains being moved into the heart of the sea is enough to make anyone run and hide. I have never seen it. I'm sure if I did my heart would stop. The psalmist is saying that even if everything around him falls apart he will trust in God. God is the only one who can help him in such trouble. And why? Because God owns the mountains. God owns the seas. God owns every particle of this universe. There is nothing that happens outside of his sovereign will. And this is why we can trust him. Circumstances might tell us that they are the final authority in our life, but God's word says that he is. Circumstances might tell us that they will ruin us and destroy us, but God says that ultimate destruction will never happen to those who are his. Circumstances might tell us that we are alone and helpless, but God says that he will never leave us or forsake us.

In these terrifying moments it is tempting to look to our earthly provisions as our hope, but even those will fail us in the end. Instead we must say, along with another psalmist,

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." - Psalm 20:7

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday is for Food: Yummy Penne Chicken

It's been a while since I posted a recipe on here, so I figured it was time. This was my first Pinterest meal. I am not really on Pinterest, but I got on one day to look for hairstyle ideas for my brother's wedding and started looking at recipes instead. That's why I don't get on Pinterest! I get overwhelmed and distracted!

Anyway, the recipe calls for shrimp, but shrimp is not my favorite so I used chicken. And I also used whatever veggies I had around the kitchen. I really liked the addition of greek yogurt. It made it taste really good!

Here it is!

Chicken and Veggie Penne

What you need:
  • 12 ounces whole wheat penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes (about 1/2 lb.) chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • 10 ounces medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (or 1 chicken breast)
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/3 cup 0% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
How it's made:
  • Cook penne according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large skillet with a lid, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 2 minutes or until garlic begins to soften.
  • Add in mushrooms, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, or until mushrooms begin to release their water.
  • Turn heat up to medium-high and add in shrimp. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and opaque. If you are adding cooked chicken you do not need to do this step. Remove from heat, add in spinach and cover skillet. Let spinach wilt for 2 minutes.
  • Remove lid and place skillet back over low heat. Add the penne, Greek yogurt and pasta sauce.Stir until sauce is mixed well and all pasta and veggies are coated. Heat until just warmed through. Top with parmesan cheese

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why We Can't (and Shouldn't) Always Be Productive

Every young women has probably had it said to her on at least one occasion, “make sure you pursue your dreams now, because once you get married (or have children) you will no longer be able to get as much done.”

In some ways this is what Paul had in mind when he talked about the single person being free to minister, while the married one is divided in her pursuits. But often when we hear people talk about marriage and children it is with a negative bent. Divided attention hampers productivity. And in our industrious society, what you produce is what defines you and gives you value.

The culture would have us believe that marriage is the end of all aspirations and productivity. You are now tied down. You aren’t free. You now answer to someone other than yourself. While marriage does limit the freedom of doing things on a whim and working until midnight every night, marriage also gives us a really important thing that God desires for us—greater personal holiness.

Suddenly, I can’t do everything I want to do all of the time. And that is a very good thing sometimes. Marriage has made me get outside of myself and examine my priorities. Marriage has made me die to my idols of productivity that hinder me from loving my husband more than I love my pursuits. Marriage has revealed just how utterly selfish I am about “my time.” Marriage is the God-ordained institution that points to the relationship between Christ and the Church. Completing my endless to-do list does not.

As created beings we were made to be productive and to work hard for God’s glory. But this is not the only thing we were created for, as much as our western world would have us believe otherwise. We were also created for relationships with friends, family, spouses, and children, and more importantly, a relationship with our Savior. It is through these relationships that I am stripped of my sin and idolatry. It is through these relationships that I am able to see Christ in greater measure. These are realities that a solitary pursuit of my own perfect productivity can never create.

Like I said, in the relationship of marriage I have to die to self, serve, and love another person. It’s not always pay raises and glory, but it’s good. It pays much greater dividends in the long run. And while I am still thankful for the days where I can get my to-do list completely checked off, I am learning to be much more thankful for the moments of relational intimacy that marriage provides. Productivity and relationships are not in competition with one another. They both are necessary in God’s economy. And they both can easily become idols if we are not careful.

And now that I am married I am on the other end of the advice giving to young women. The next time I feel tempted to imply that your dreams of productivity are over once you get married, I will stop myself. Marriage and family are not the dashing of our dreams; rather they are the reorientation of these dreams. Through marriage and family our aspirations and desire for productivity are tempered and sanctified by the beauty of living life with another person. And that is a very good thing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

It Went As Fast As It Came

This face pretty much sums up how we feel around our place today. Why such a long face and tears, you ask?

The Olympics are over.

For over two weeks we were glued to our television. I suppose it is a good thing that we will do more productive things now, like sleep and read books. But for right now, we are just sad. Sad that we have to wait four more years. Sad that all of the hype is over. Sad that our favorite athletes will now fade away from our minds.

When I was younger I would be depressed (maybe that's too strong of a word) for days. Now that I am an adult, I'm not depressed today. But I must admit, this morning felt a little bit like December 26th to me. And who really likes December 26th?

School starts tomorrow, too. Life will quickly be filled with papers to grade and lesson plans to create. The Olympics were good while they lasted. Now it's back to reality.

Bye, bye Olympics. It was a fun two weeks!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Our Deepest Longings Are Met in Jesus

This is classic Keller and so helpful.

"You see, at that moment Jesus had the power to heal the man's body [the paralytic], just as he has the power to give you career success, that relationship, that recognition you've been longing for. He actually has the power and authority to give each of us what we've been asking for, on the spot, no questions asked.

But Jesus knows that's not nearly deep enough. He knows that whether we're a paralyzed man lying on a mat or a struggling actor or a former struggling actor who's become a celebrity, we don't need someone who can just grant our wishes. We need someone who can go deeper than that. Someone who will use his claws, lovingly and carefully, to pierce our self-centeredness and remove the sin that enslaves us and distorts even our beautiful longings. In short, we need to be forgiven. That's the only way for our discontent to be healed. It will take more than a miracle worker or a divine genie -- it will take a Savior. Jesus knows that to be our Savior he is going to have to die.

And we will discover that in the process of dealing with what we thought were our deepest wishes, Jesus has revealed an even deeper, truer one beneath -- and it is for Jesus himself. He will not just have granted that true deepest wish, he will have fulfilled it. Jesus is not going to play the rotten practical joke of giving you your deepest wish -- until he has shown you that it was for him all along."

Tim Keller, The Kings Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, p. 35-36.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Delivered From Fear

I have talked a lot about fear on this blog, probably because more than any other sin in my life, fear is my biggest besetting sin. I imagine that I am probably not alone. Even now you can probably think of a myriad of fears that plague you on a daily basis. And when those fears rise up and threaten to overwhelm us we are so prone to think that if we can just get past that moment we will be able to truly conquer our fears. I tend to have markers for my fear. For example, when I am flying on an airplane I think if I can just get to cruising altitude, or at least halfway through the flight, I won’t be afraid anymore. My marker is my barometer for fear. My fear is based on the changing of my circumstances. But what inevitably happens? My circumstances don’t always change. The plane hits turbulence for the duration of the flight. And my trusty marker is not a worthy protection against fear.

The psalmist doesn’t look for markers or changes in circumstances when he is faced with fear. Rather, he gives us a foolproof way to fight our fears.

Seek the Lord.

David says, in Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all of my fears.” There are two things to notice immediately about this verse. The first is that David has fears. That’s comforting for all of us reading the Bible today, right? Here is the man after God’s own heart and he faces fears just like the rest of us. Second, we see that David does something with those fears that seems to remove them from him.

The remedy for fighting fear is not to set-up markers or to hope in better circumstances. We might hit the markers, but there will always be something else to fear. And while our circumstances might change for a little while, the fact that we live in a fallen world ensures that we will be dealing with frightening circumstances until we are with Jesus in heaven.

He will deliver us from our fears. This does not mean that our circumstances will necessarily change, but it does mean that we will have hope in the midst of frightening days. As we seek the Lord our perspective changes. We see the God who holds it all together. We are given renewed hope that he is in control, not whatever is paralyzing us with fear. When we seek the Lord in our moments of fear (and all of the time, really) we are able to trust him in greater measure. Seeking the Lord, as David did, is really an exercise of faith in the God who has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Fear can cause us to forget this very important truth.

Fighting fear is an active faith. It means choosing to seek the Lord even when the flaming darts of frightening circumstances are flying at our head a million miles a minute. But as David learned, so can we learn that seeking the Lord is the only lasting remedy for the fears that assail us.

Whenever I prepare for a flight I always have to do battle with my fears. And this is just one of the many fears I face on a regular basis. The fears might change, but the answer stays the same. The God who controls all things, including the outcome of my fears, is worthy of my trust. He has, and will continue to, deliver me from all of my many fears. All I need to do is seek him.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

We Can't All Be Number 1

I never really played sports, but my brothers did. One thing stood out to me in my years at the baseball, football, and occasional soccer fields: someone always wins. While this is slowly becoming less likely in the world of childhood sports, when I was growing up there was a first place and a second place. And that was a good thing.

This idea of making everyone a winner translates into a variety of fields, including academics. Grade inflation is a problem. Young people are going to college and finding it increasingly difficult to make it in the corporate world because let's face it, your professors and bosses are not going to give you high marks and a promotion just for being you.

While not all of us fall into this category of feeling entitled to greatness all of the time, we all probably struggle with feeling like we aren't doing enough. We see people with flashy careers, booming ministries, and large platforms and we quietly wonder if our life has any real significance in the grand scheme of things. Can we really be glorifying God when we just go to our mundane job every day or are cleaning up after messy toddlers? Absolutely. In fact, I think that we would do well to encourage people in these pursuits more because the reality is that most of us will live in this mundane world for the majority of our lives. And God is very much glorified with our faithful living in the ordinary.

I expound on this idea in an article for Her.meneutics that went up yesterday. I tie in the fact that our worth and value is not tied to our accomplishments but in our identity as image bearers of our creator. We are special because God is infinitely special. Every job he has given us, every sphere of influence we find ourselves in, is an opportunity to glorify him as the giver of all good gifts.

If you are struggling with the ordinary nature of your life, I hope this article will be an encouragement to you to remain faithful in the task that God has called you to. An ordinary life is not a wasted life when Christ is your supreme treasure and your work is done for his glory.

Read the article here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

There is a Better Sacrifice

Like many in our country I have been amazed by the stories of the men who gave their lives to protect the women in theater nine nearly two weeks ago. It has caused many to stop and reflect on the nature of manhood and the inherent desire in men to protect women in a moment of crisis. And many would say that is a good thing. We are thankful for the heroes, the protectors, and the men who gave the greatest sacrifice in the face of tremendous danger.

But in a lot of ways these stories fascinate us because we all feel the weight of what it means to sacrifice your life. We have grown up hearing stories of war heroes, ordinary men, and family members who considered the needs of others before themselves. And as much as our praise of such men is rooted in the God given understanding that men are supposed to protect, there is also a God given recognition that we all need a sacrifice in our place, even if that knowledge is masked by pride and sin. In the terrifying moments of danger threatening to overtake us, none of us would tell a would-be hero, “I would rather not have the sacrifice, thank you. I will take my chances.” Yet we do it all of the time when a far greater danger crouches at our door seeking to devour us. Our need for a sacrifice to absorb the violence of our sin is far greater than what any ordinary human being can ensure. They can only buy us a few more years, and after that comes judgment. But Christ has taken it all upon himself, and promises that no amount of earthly torment can take away the protection and provision that his substitutionary death accomplishes.

We are drawn to the stories of sacrifice and heroism because we all want to believe that this world is not as bad as it seems, and that there is hope in the midst of chaos. We all want to believe that when terror strikes we will have a sacrifice ready to take our place. And there is. His name is Jesus. He is the perfect protector, provider, and healer when everything else around us threatens to undo us. While we can praise these men who gave their lives for their family and friends, we must not let our praise stop there. There is a better sacrifice for us. It is a sacrifice that abolishes death and destruction. These men bravely gave their lives, but it cost them something that cannot be reversed apart from the sacrifice of another.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal tweeted earlier last week, somewhat insensitively, that he hoped these women were worthy of the sacrifice. He went on to explain that he meant that these women had been given a gift in the sacrifice, namely the gift of life. It is now their responsibility to use that gift well, essentially proving their worthiness of the sacrifice.

But if sacrifice is defined in terms of the worthiness of the recipient, then it is not really sacrifice at all, is it? What motivated these men to cover these women we will never fully know. But for many of us, we know what would motivate us. Love. Even if they had been fighting with their girlfriends’ right up to the start of the movie, these men probably would have still given their lives. Yet we want to know the details. We want to know the backstory to the relationship. We want to know that she was worth his life being taken from him. Why? Because like our gravitation towards sacrificial imagery, we like to know that the one receiving the sacrifice is worth it in the end. If one of these women had been cheating on her boyfriend, or ready to break-up with him, we would not appreciate the sacrifice as much. If she squanders her life over the next twenty years, we think he will have died in vain.

And a lot of times this is why it is so hard for us to accept the sacrifice of Christ. When Jesus died for sinners, like you and me, it had nothing to do with our worthiness as a recipient of his death. Yet, he did it anyway. He took every ounce of our sin on himself and covers us with his righteousness instead, protecting us from the horrific wrath to come, and there is nothing we did to deserve it. In fact, everything we have ever done proves we don’t deserve a lick of it.

The discussion surrounding these Aurora three and the women they saved is going to be around for a while, and it should. Over time stories may emerge about these men that portray them as less than ideal sacrifices. But it shouldn’t startle us. A mere earthly sacrifice by a boyfriend or husband, while noble and good,  is not enough to remove the stain of sin. We need a greater sacrifice. The Old Testament saints knew this well when they continually had to return to the altar to make atonement for their sins. The blood of bulls and goats can no more take away sin than the blood of an imperfect man. We all need Jesus as our sacrifice.

So let us have the discussion about the great sacrifices made in Aurora. But let us not end there. As Christians, it should cause us to remember the even greater sacrifice that enables us to lay our lives down not only for our friends, but our enemies as well. It should compel us to tell those around us that the reason we are drawn to heroic tales is because we have a void in our souls telling us that we need to be rescued as well. And it should give us greater hope that no matter the sacrifice we make on this earth, we have been rescued from the greatest enemy of all—our sin. There is a day coming when this will all be over and we will be with our rescuer forever.