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Monday, June 27, 2011

part “the ministry” almost ruined my marriage...who do you listen to

It’s been a couple of days.  I took the weekend off to enjoy some time with my husband, the kids and a good friend that is here visiting. The change of pace in our life, even if only for a season, is a nice one.  I have to admit, it took some getting used to.  I was not used to seeing Matthew...hardly at all.  So to go from that to seeing him every day...sometimes all day depending on his schedule...well, let’s just say that has all been part of the growing and learning process!  We are learning to love being together again and enjoying time with our kids. ( I am sure the feeling on that one was mutual!)

Now, through the years I have had a lot of friends.  Some are friends that I grew up with that I am still connected with today.  Some are from former churches with whom I have stayed in contact with.  Some are pastors and their wives who have had a great deal of experience and can give me true wisdom in dealing with a lot of the situations that I have been through.

The bottom line is, I have people that I TALK to and then those whom I LISTEN to and some who fall into both categories...I also have some people from my past who I don’t talk to or listen to.  This may sound harsh, but the fact is, that there are people that don’t really have a voice in my life.  For whatever reason, they have either never earned that position, or they have lost it.

Have you ever had a person who likes to pop up every now and then with some “words of wisdom” for you?  Have you ever wondered if those “words of wisdom” were really for your benefit or theirs? Possibly they feel the need to try to control you or a situation.  Possibly they are gossips and want the latest information and they blanket that with “concern”.  My favorite...the prayer/gossiper. :0)

Now I will say, there have been some people that have popped up that were divine appointments.  No doubt in my mind.  Words of wisdom from a person who has no idea of our situation, no ulterior motive...simply a word from God for us.

I could go a lot of directions here, but I don’t want to confuse the issue.

God puts people in our lives to help us along the journey.

You will discover who those truly Godly people are when you have been through a trial or a difficult season of life.

Like I said before, I have had a lot of friends through the years.  The thing that has surprised me the most as we have gone through this year is the lack of contact from those who we thought were people that cared about us.  Now I do know that some were told not to contact us...for those I understand why there was no contact, because they were trying to honor the spiritual authority in their life.  This is right and honorable on their part.

I honestly hadn’t thought a whole lot about it until someone from the past tried to contact me.  I knew the moment I received the message that this was not someone who was going to have a voice in my life.  Why, you ask did I know so quickly?  Well, for one the concern was with our family, of whom my husband is the head, but they didn’t contact him, they contacted me. For another, this was one of those people whom I thought would have been concerned for our family over the past year, who could have at any time picked up the phone to check on us, but this was the first contact I had received from them...and it really wasn’t about us at all...

Lessons learned in the mirror:

Know who has a voice in my life.  

From Galtians 6:

1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5for each one should carry his own load.
6Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that naturea will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Am I perfect?  NO, but is anyone?

Do I make mistakes? YES

Am I angry? Yes, at times I am very angry.  There are times I have to revisit the past and ask God to help me to love people the way that he loves them.  To forgive them time and again.

Ephesians 4:26
Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,

As I finish, one last thought that we should all take to heart...

When someone does something, whether it be sin or just something you don’t like...they are not trash to be kicked to the curb, worthless to you and the rest of the world.  They are God’s child.  Saved by grace, the same grace that everyone who chooses Him, is saved by.

Thanks for stopping by,


Wendy Jo

Friday, June 24, 2011

part “the ministry” almost ruined my marriage...the pastors we serve and the churches they lead

I am grouchy.  My beautiful 2 year old daughter has once again awoke me before anyone should be’s like clockwork.  If we don’t have to be up early, she is awake at 6, if we do have to be up early...we have to drag her out of bed kicking and screaming! And if you know Abigail, when she is up... so is the dog, her brother, her other brother...and me. Today might just be a 2 pot day...meaning coffee.... :0)

As I sit drinking cup number 2, black, no cream, no sugar I am trying to gather my thoughts.  I am amazed at the responses I have received from friends, former youth members and others I don’t even know...I am humbled to be able to share my life and I truly hope that it can help other to heal and find hope for the future. 

We are currently attending a small church in Colorado.  We aren’t on staff. The Pastor and his wife here are true friends.  We have served with them on staff in the past. They are good people. Although the church is smaller than what we had grown accustomed to, the spirit of the people and the opportunity to take a break from full time ministry could not have happened in a better place.  The pastor is a phone call away when we need prayer, counsel, direction or just a friend.  Literally, anyone in the church can call him up. A seemingly foreign concept in a lot of today’s churches. His wife is the same.  Morning coffee and a shoulder to cry on...a voice of wisdom. 

It seems that this simple concept of being a pastor has become almost foreign in some religious circles today.  The pastor is insulated from the people and the focus is bigger, better, faster...if you are lucky you might be able to shake the pastor’s hand as you exit the church...

What do we expect in a pastor?  Someone who is good at preaching?  Someone who is a friend?  Someone who will lead us? 

There are a lot of expectations on a pastor.  This I understand and can sympathize with.  He cannot be everything to everyone, especially if the church he leads is large.  Some would say if a church becomes so large that the pastor doesn’t have time to be bothered with the phone calls of the people, the hospital visits, the “shepherding”, that, quite possibly, the church is too large...

I really have mixed emotions about this.  There is a large church in the midwest that I attended in college when it was not even meeting in a permanent building.  It is now running in the thousands every weekend. I showed up to attend a couple of months back and the pastor still remembers my name...and my husbands name...we served in a volunteer capacity with the 4 year olds for a year or two when the church was already quite large, but the man still remembers my, a volunteer.  There are countless ministries happening through that church to the homeless, widowed, poor, addicted...the pastor is somewhat shielded, but still accessible. I think the thing that sticks out most to me about this church is that from the beginning they were about reaching the community in a Biblical way, and they have never strayed from that.  They have a large paid staff of pastors and office administrators that help with keeping everything going.  I haven’t served on staff first hand at this church so I can’t speak to the work load or the stress. I am sure at times it is crazy. 

I say all of this about this church, because I think that there are large churches that are getting it might not be for everyone...

As a “lay person” or even “volunteer” in a large church I can tell you that the temperature of the church, where the church is headed, can be felt. If you are feeling overworked, the staff of the church is probably feeling 10x more overworked.  This is a good indicator of church health. I know this is a bit of a generalization and can not be fairly applied to every situation.  There are seasons of busyness.  That happens.  Preparing for a big outreach, a Christmas Service...but the key word is seasons...Last time I checked the longest a season lasted was 3 months...not years on end...

I am going to divert away from the “large” or “mega” church for a minute.  Another church we served in as Youth Pastors in the midwest is a great example of a pastor and his wife that are getting it right.  They have been faithfully working at the same church for the last...well, at least 10 years I think. They have pushed through difficulties personally and in the church, but have seen God blessing their work immensely.  They haven’t focused on numbers, but the church has grown.  They haven’t focused on being “the best”, but that is the reputation they have.  Why?  The people have grown under the leadership of this pastor...they’ve gone from drinking milk to eating steaks with a side of potatos. There isn’t a revolving door.  People come, people see genuineness and people stay...and grow! God has weeded out the thorns...some have left, blossomed and come back. We worked for this pastor and his wife and they loved us.  They loved the people.  The people, their staff and the health of their staff were the most important things...everything else has fallen into place as God’s word has been preached...unapologetically. I still speak often with my friends from this place and continue to seek counsel from the pastor’s wife. She has wisdom beyond her years.

Cup 3...this is getting long...

All of these churches and pastors...different styles, different people, different places...

If you refer to what I wrote yesterday and what we bring with us into these places, you can see how it can be quite the volatile mix...some pastors lead with an iron fist, others with a gentle helping hand...neither is necessarily just tends to be much more appealing than the other!!

I want to be careful here as I start to wind things down for today.  Many of you know where we have come from and the things we have been through over the last year.  No matter what you bring into a place of ministry, there is still a certain responsibility of the pastor you serve under to make sure that his staff is healthy.  

If the pastor sees a staff member working 70-80-90-100 hours a week....something needs to be done.  

When a staff member sees the people of the church more than his own family...something needs to be done.  

When this pattern is seen repeated over and over in the same church...what or who is the common denominator?

As someone who has been told after being asked to leave a church-who I can and cannot speak to....where I can and cannot live....where I can and cannot go...who can and cannot visit me...for my own protection...I can tell you that it is hurtful and it is wrong. Period. I have begun to think that it is not all for my protection...or my healing...

I won’t go on because it will turn from truthful statements to harsh words and anger...that is pointless.  Because I have found freedom in my relationship with God, I seek the counsel of those people that God has placed in my life. 

Who has God placed in your life? Who do you allow to speak into your life?...

Questions for later.  I have already gone on longer than I should have.  

Lessons learned in the mirror...
the health of a church is directly related to the health of it’s staff...

I am sure I will receive some “flack” for the things I have written.  I know that my name and my story will be discredited...”she is just bitter...” but I can tell you...NO, I am not bitter.  I am thankful. No matter what circumstances have brought me from where we were to where we are...God’s hand was in it.  I may not have liked the “way out” that God provided...but I have no doubt that he got us out just in time...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

part “the ministry” almost ruined my marriage...baggage and priorities

as promised...part 2

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to tackle this, and then realized that when I am organized it doesn’t ever seem to come out right.  So I will just let things pour out onto the page as I think.

The beginning is a good place to, well... begin.  What you bring into your marriage and ultimately into your ministry will greatly effect, possibly determine, the survival of your marriage. Whether you bring in generational curses such as divorce, drinking, marital infidelity, and abuse or simply your own attitude and belief about marriage and the ministry, all of these things will have a major impact as the years go by.

Looking back at the beginning, I see patterns that we brought into our marriage that, at the time, didn’t seem like anything major.  My husband brought in a work-a-holic background and a need for affirmation.  I brought in a family history of complete and quiet submission to your husband, even if you disagreed, along with a fiery Irish spirit!  Add to that being fairly newly married and pregnant with our first child...we were already setting ourselves up for disaster without even realizing it. 

Now don’t get me wrong...Being dedicated to your work is an honorable trait. Working hard and providing for your family is all good.  So is being a submissive wife...

Proverbs 25:24 Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

So we bring these things into our ministry and then begin working for a pastor who believes that he has "paid his dues” as he put it, and now it’s our turn.  The cycle begins.  My husband works hard to receive the affirmation from the pastor and from me that he is doing good.  I am upset that he seems to be working a lot more than anyone else in the church, but being taught to be quiet and submissive I say nothing...until that fiery Irish spirit pops up and I can’t hold in my frustration any longer...Kaboom!!!  

First major fight about the ministry and the beginnings of a foothold for satan to grab hold of. That love that my husband and I had for each other, unbeknownst to us, was very slowly beginning to erode. We kissed and made up, but this was to be only the first of many disagreements about time at work, time at home, priorities...there was a scratch in the protective surface of our marriage.  I look back and am saddened by the things we didn’t see.  

Was the pastor a bad, horrible slave-driver...well he wasn’t bad, he wasn’t horrible... maybe a bit of a slave-driver... God still uses men like this, but so does the devil.  I will discuss this more tomorrow...

My husband came out of this determined to work harder so that I would affirm the work he was doing.  He came out feeling as if I didn’t understand or support him in the ministry that God had called him (us) to do.  A child was born, I pulled away, he pulled away... you get the picture.  

Over the next several ministry positions the gap grew between us.  The more he worked, the more bitter and resentful I became toward the ministry, because after all, it was the ministry that was causing the divide...or so I thought. As I pulled away he felt unaffirmed from me and therefore continued to look more to the ministry and the people in the ministry for that affirmation.  Before anyone jumps to conclusions...we were both wrong in this. Equally.

A quick side note here...these are the times where, if we are unguarded, satan will use others...usually of the opposite sex to fill that gap of affirmation in our lives...both the husaband and the wife are susceptible to this.  It is such a difficult thing, because even if you see someone flirting with or setting traps for your spouse, giving them the affiramtion that they need so deperately...your opinion is no longer as valuable as it once are just that same old nagging voice to them...

Over the years my opinions, my words became of less value to him. Not because there wasn’t wisdom in what I had to say, but because of the divide that had slowly grown between us on our views of the ministry and what was important...everything I had to say was weighted to him with my bitterness...and in the last couple of years my sheer hatred for the ministry.  

Looking at all of this I am sure many of you that knew us had no idea what was happening, for in "the ministry" it is always a plastic smile on your face and fake joy in your heart if you want to survive. That sounds terrible...but I told you I was going to be honest.  

(Now as a disclaimer, not everyone you see that is in a leadership position in church is miserable, unhappy and bitter. There are many, some of which I am good friends with, that are truly serving God joyfully...those that have figured out how to do it right...and if you get close to these kinds of can spot a fake pretty easily...)

Lessons learned in the mirror:

Priorities...God, Family, Then Ministry

So many times pastors, youth pastors, others get confused on this one.  Our personal relationship with God is NOT the same thing as our ministry. End of story. Period. This is one that establishes itself early in ministry and only grows worse with time.  

The lines are blurred...
I am called, therefore this work is God’s work...
therefore the work of the ministry slowly supercedes the calling...
which supercedes the personal relationship...we become known for our work and enjoy being known...and no one knows that our personal relationship with God has 
into the background, or into oblivion...

I will stop for now although I could keep going, and going, and going!

tomorrow...part 3...the pastors we serve

thanks for stopping by...

wendy jo

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

part “the ministry” almost ruined my marriage

I say ‘Part 1’ because I know I have a lot to say here, and I know you don’t want to read all day. I have been thinking about this set of posts for quite some time and have decided, after much thought, to go ahead with it.  I am going to be brutally honest and upfront as much as I can, without naming names or slandering anyone.

I am sure at first glance that many of my church friends are appalled by the title.  Please read on, because if you know me well, you know there is much more to my blog than the title!

My husband and I have been married for 16 1/2 years.  We have been involved in ministry of some kind together for all of that time, and then some.  We are falling more in love with each other every day and learning more about each other every day. I won’t speak for my husband, he will speak for himself when he feels like it, but as for me...

Over the years we have worked at many different churches.  Some small, some average, and one huge one.  Churches, like people come in all shapes and sizes and, just like people you can’t judge them by their “cover”.

In each of the places we have served, we have made incredible friendships, worked with incredible people and had some incredible experiences. I still believe that there is some good and some bad in every church.  The bad comes in because a church is not a building, it is people.  Sinful people with their own preconceived ideas and intentions that come together...there is bound to be some trouble!!

As we take off on this set of posts I truly hope that others can gleen from my experiences and maybe have some of their own input.

Right now, we are taking a much needed break from traditional ministry.  It is for a season, a much needed one.  When I say traditional ministry, that means that I am still in ministry every day, just not on staff at a church.  Whether it is counseling former youth members, praying with friends or volunteering in my church, I look at everything I do as a ministry opportunity.

Well, the introduction took up most of the blog, but that’s ok.  It’s my blog and I will just keep posting until I run out of things to say!!!

One thought for today before I go, and it is an important one to remember....

There are always two sides to every story. I am telling the one that most people don’t hear. The one that is brushed under the rug, hidden from sight so that “the church” and “the ministry” can move forward.

I don’t speak out of anger or bitterness, because those things only hurt me.  I simply speak the truth in hopes that others can learn from it.  The following scripture I think best describes where I am coming from and my true intentions.

Instructions for Christian Living (From Ephesians 4)
 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

So here we go...