Monday, February 27, 2012

Finding the Life-Giver in the Dry, Dreary, Difficult Days of Ministry


By Cynthia White *

I have been in ministry for over 25 years; however, the last 9 have been as a Pastor’s wife. Although I cherish and honor His call on my life, I have gone through several seasons that have changed my name and identification because of the way they have impacted my life. Yet God, in His love, has reminded me, like Joseph in Gen. 39:21, that He is with me, showing His kindness as the consummate giver of life in ministry.  

Your ability to relate to this statement may depend on where you are in your journey in ministry as a Pastor’s wife. So, to better explain, allow me to reflect on one of my favorite books of the Bible, Ruth.  In Chapter 1, we meet the cast. Naomi, whose name means “pleasant”, is married to Elimelech (“God is King”), but because of the famine in Bethlehem (“house of bread”) they feared losing their lives, and fled.  Looking for life, they fled to Moab (“the trash dump”), seeking life in the wrong place rather than remaining in Bethlehem with the resolve to live and lead from a difficult place with complete confidence in El Shaddai. They forgot that His presence was with them every step of the way, giving life in the midst of brokenness.

I too, have had times in ministry when I allowed the famines in my life -- the empty and broken places caused by the loneliness or isolation of leadership -- to impede my ability to live and lead well. Instead, I too, have unfortunately chosen to find life in Moab-like relationships or activities that God never intended to be life-giving. I simply forgot to find refuge in His presence as the All Sufficient One.

Naomi loses her husband and two sons and gains the added burden of having to be a life giver to her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah (“stiff necked”) and Ruth (“faithful friend”). She decided to return back to Bethlehem once hearing that the famine had ended. She was accompanied by Ruth only, because Orpah decided to return to Moab. Yet when Naomi returned home, her confidence and countenance had been altered by her dry, dreary and difficult days of leading and living. As a result, she changed her name to Marah (“bitter”), believing the Almighty had dealt bitterly with her.

Likewise, there have been times, while leading in ministry, when I too have lost perspective and questioned the kindness of God because of my bitterness over the things He has chosen to sift through His fingers of love. My dry, dark and dreary “Marah Moments” can present like this as a Pastor’s wife:
  • Financial strain - increased responsibility  with limited financial provision
  • Rejection - by disgruntled members who leave or remain in the fellowship. Feeling bitter by their betrayal, rejection, slander or unwillingness to resolve conflicts.
  • Sickness - health challenges that make it difficult to keep up with the pace of ministry.
  • Parenting issues - choosing to extend grace to your children who oftentimes are forced to publicly work through their private struggles.
  • Marital strain - forgetting that the attack on a marriage started in the garden with the first couple who too were on the front lines.
  • Death - forced to grieve the loss of loved ones in the context of having to care for/minister to others

I am so grateful that God is capable of using these circumstances to bring us as leaders to the end of ourselves, yet allowing us to return back to Him to find life in Him alone! He is always present (Heb. 13:5) and has provided Jesus, our Boaz, to be the kinsmen redeemer, our life giver, the one who rescues, restores and reframes our lives by giving us encouragement and hope. Like Naomi, I am so grateful for the rough spots, because they have allowed me to find my sweet spot in ministry again.  I have tasted and seen for myself that, according I Tim. 6:13, Jesus gives life in everything!!!

Be Beautiful~4:11


* Cynthia is the wife of Pastor James White, senior pastor of Christ Our King Community Church, 1500 Garner Road, Raleigh, NC. They have been married for almost 25 years and have 3 children: Christa, 21, Alexis, 19 and Justin, 17. She is the director of their Women's ministry, a sought-after speaker and the owner of Cynthia White and Associates LLC. Visit her website at cynthiawhiteandassociates.com.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Finding the One in LOnely

by Shannon Milholland

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 5:16

It's crushing. My soul gasps for relationship but attempts collapse. The pain of loneliness is palatable. As a pastor's wife there is usually no need to withdraw. We live, work and worship in lonely places.



We forge a deep, abiding relationship with our husbands but places of our hearts are a mystery to him.


We find satisfaction in the ordinary rhythm of caring for our home and family, but underneath the drum of solitude beats.


We delight in serving our King but find His courts an empty, solitary place.


How can we as pastor's wives fill our God-given craving for female companionship?

Seek Relationship Beyond Your Boundaries - Don't expect your new best friend to occupy the rocker next to you during your nursery rotation. But you might find her in a community Bible study, on a non-denominational ministry board or in the school PTA. Jesus withdrew to a safe place. We'd be well-advised to find a safe place outside the brick and mortar above which our church sign hangs.

Consider Going Cross-Country - I'm not advising ultra-marathons or running away from your family to join the circus. With the world wide web, communities like A Pastor's Wife's Garden are just a click away. We can find a place to pour out our hearts and pray without even leaving our favorite chair.

Re-Kindle Old Loves - Sorry girls, your college sweetie is off limits, but your college roommate probably isn't. Consider reconnecting with a sorority sister, a girl from your hometown or pretty much any woman who knew you pre-POW. (POW = the pastor's outstanding wife!) Sometimes the one who's known you the longest can be an oasis in a relationship desert.

This week let's face our loneliness. No we didn't have to withdraw to get there but we can commit to pray for each other in our lonely place. We can take a single step out of the shadow of lonely and into the light of relationship. Most importantly, we can seek the One Who guarantees we're never alone in our lonely.

Love,

 Shannon


* To read Shannon's bio and her previous post, click here

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love That Surpasses Knowledge

Hello again, sweet sisters!

I’m so glad you’re here. We’re one day away from Valentine celebrations and here in The Garden, we’re focusing on L-O-V-E. So without delay, let’s go ahead and dig into the meat…

God loves you.

Okay, maybe that sounds a bit more like milk than meat. Being in full time ministry with your boo, you've heard that phrase a lot. Maybe you've even taught on it. If nothing else, you’ve probably said it a time or two... or a hundred.

Photo Source
About a year ago I started pondering those words: God loves you. I’ve seen them displayed on signs off the side of the highway. I’ve heard preachers, and televangelists, and youth leaders say them. Within our churches and among Christian communities those words are often tossed around like a good game of hot potato. Their powerful meaning can be easily lost in the hustle and bustle of church culture and within the language of “Christianese.” But those words, which have become commonplace, began to strike my curiosity. Do we really understand this concept? Isn’t it too lofty for us (even those of us in church leadership) to grasp how deeply the God of the universe loves usindividually and intimately?

The other night, before going to bed, I came across Ephesians 3, in which Paul was writing to Christians. He prayed that they might gain some understanding of God’s love, “which surpasses knowledge”!

"... I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high, and deep is the love of Christ. And to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all of the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:17-19 
I turned to my pastor-husband and said, “Babe, I don’t think I truly understand God’s love for me. I haven’t yet grasped that concept. Have you?” He quickly replied, “No. I haven’t grasped it yet either.”

I began a quest (which I am still on and hope to always be on) to discover the love of God. I want to dive into the depths of it so that when those words come out of my mouth in ministry--those "God loves you" words--I might know the weight they carry.

It’s a crazy love. 

This Love lavishes undeserved gifts onto us like robes of righteousness, eternal life, and adoption. He seals our heart with the Helper. He crowns us with glory and honor. He even seats us with His Son Jesus in the Heavenly realms! Can we really lay hold of what all of this means?

I liken this love to the ocean. Just when I think I’ve got it, when I feel I’ve grown to be a scuba diver, exploring the unknown depths, I wake to the reality that I’m still a child, barely at the edge of the beach.
His love embraces when we fail to meet the expectations of others.
His love offers grace when we make mistakes.
His love surrounds us when others reject.
His love gives hope when we wrestle with our circumstances.
His love brings promise when we're ready to throw in the towel.
His love remains faithful when our wandering hearts lead us astray.
His love compels us to build the Kingdom alongside our husbands.

Precious sister in the faith, and fellow Kingdom ambassador, allow me the privilege today of reminding you of this incredible truth that surpasses knowledge. Lean in close and feel the life-giving power that drips from these letters. Don’t let the familiar water them down. Embrace this promise and dive deep in it “so that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). Are you ready to receive it? Here it is, glorious and beautiful…

God loves YOU! :)  

Woo hoo! Now let's go share that love.

In closing, I'd like to invite you to listen to this beautiful song, called The Love of Christ, from Laura Cooksey's album, Unshakable. It's wonderful! If you have any trouble watching the video below, hop on over to itunes and download a copy. :)

video

In His Love,

Monique Zackery

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Relentless Lover

My heart is full as I think of all the Lord has done in just one month. On January 1, I answered God's call to begin a blog written by ministry wives for ministry wives. I obeyed. And He has blessed.

The most exciting aspect of this blog for me is witnessing the diversity amongst us. Each writer comes from a different area of the country. We represent various races. Our churches differ greatly from one another. Our husbands serve in different types of ministries. Some are pastors, while others are leaders in para-church ministries.

Yet one common denominator amongst us all: we have all experienced God's abundant grace, mercy and love as we walk this road of ministry with our husbands.

So I thought it only appropriate to focus on God's beautiful love during the month of February, the month of Valentine's Day. So join us each week this month as we share the many ways we've experienced the love of God -- as women, as ministry wives, as His precious daughters.



"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1
When I think of the love of God, this is where it all begins for me. It begins with a love so strong that the very Creator of the Universe became a human being, lived a perfect life, suffered rejection and ridicule, subjected Himself to beatings and insults, then died a shameful death on a cross. It begins with Him taking my sin to the cross with Him, the one Who knew no sin. 

It begins with this amazing love that He has lavished on me. This amazing love that He has lavished on you.

For months now I've been studying the minor prophets. I could never express my love for these prophets. The book of Hosea has whispered God's love to my heart, a heart that's oh so prone to wander. A heart that identifies with Hosea's harlot wife Gomer, a heart that turns away from God to pursue this world's idols: success, fame, the applause of men, making a name for myself, worldly comfort, etc. etc.

Who is this sinful woman that turns her back on the kind, compassionate Lover of the bible? 

It is I.

And yet He continues to pursue me. He calls with the voice of the forsaken husband. I hear His voice so clearly.

"Return to me." 

22 Times. He speaks these words 22 times in the book of Hosea alone. He remains steadfast, persistent, relentless. 

I hear His voice, and I come. I leave the worthless lovers that bring no satisfaction, no joy. I bask in His love anew. I see it. I feel it. I live it.

And I'm a new woman all over again. I love Him wholly. I love the life He's given. I love the man He's joined to me. I love the little ones He's entrusted to me. 

And I love this crazy life of ministry. With all its ups and downs, its detours, its reboots. With all the expectations and disappointments and uncertainty. With all the demands, the meetings, the phone calls. With all the pouring out. Wondering when someone will pour back in.

And then I remember.

I remember the Lover's words to another harlot in history. This one a Samaritan woman hanging out alone at a well. A woman with a past so sordid, other women wouldn't even draw water next to her. I recall His loving response to her searching soul.

"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14




I remember that it begins with Living Water. Living Water that refreshes and satisfies the thirst of my soul. Living Water that empowers me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when my path cuts through the desert. Living Water that replenishes all that I have poured out for others.

Living water that grants me new life in Him and for Him. 

Come, my Sister, and drink. There's room at the well for you.

Carla Hendricks
 
* Visit The Master's Gardeners to read more about Carla
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