If you talk to me anytime in October I'll probably mention Pastor Appreciation Month. I love the idea of saying thank you to people who invest and love and could likely use the encouragement. This year I'm going to make it a point to say thank you to the husbands and wives of our pastors as well. Think about it - when pastors are pulling long nights at hospital visits or praying with people in the midst of difficult circumstances their spouses are picking up the difference at home. Many good ministers depend on their other halves for support and care and comfort. Whew. Heavy load. Thanks are appropriate.
Kay Warren is the wife and ministry parter of Pastor Rick Warren. The Warren's serve at Saddleback Church in California, helped start Celebrate Recovery, are involved with The Purpose Drive Life and some incredible AIDS support and outreach programs. They are crazy busy. Kay's first book Dangerous Surrender is on my must read list. She's faced recovery from sexual abuse, depression, marriage problems, and suicide of their son. She loves Jesus. This new book Sacred Trust is about the blessings and difficulties of ministry and how to serve without drowning. Its gorgeous.
I've got a copy of Kay Warren's book Sacred Trust to give away! I'll be making a list of all the pastor's spouses I know and drawing a winner from the list this coming Friday. If you have a person who is married to a pastor you'd like to add to the list send me an email. You might consider buying this beautiful book and passing it on as well.
My youngest daughter had a rough happening at school yesterday. It was the first really rainy day of the year. Puddles abounded. The little one went running across the playground, tripped and fell full flat into a large muddy puddle. She started crying. Friends helped her up. They took her to the office where the nice nurse lady helped her wash off her face and hands. She changed into a slightly too small but clean and dry outfit.
When she got back to her classroom her friend was making her a little book so she'd feel better.
This book quite simply made my day. Its a perfect how to help a friend who is hurting plan. May it encourage you today.
How to help a friend
Help your friend stand up.
Friends give life.
I am thanking Jesus for this little girl who my daughter has at her side.
That's the Book: 1st Thessalonians
Ahhh it's October. The rush of back to school is over. The pumpkin spice is sneaking into every single thing sold anywhere. Christmas is still far enough off I can ignore my to do list a while longer. And October is Pastor Appreciation Month.
Seems like our society likes to mock, harass, ignore and abuse pastors. About the only time a pastor makes the news is when its bad news. And those pastors should be removed from the line of work. Its a holy and important calling. And frequently thankless.
The book of 1st Thessalonians is a letter from Paul to a church reminding them to take their relationships inside their church seriously. Much of the letter could be used as a sermon about pastor appreciation month.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
See what I mean?
Just as a nursing mother. cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-8
Every year I get to participate as a member of the Pastor Appreciation committee at our local church. This year one of the things we did was invite people to share things they were grateful for about our pastoral team. I was amazed about how almost every single one was about a time a pastor shared in their lives. At hospitals and funerals and court rooms. The flashy ministries are fun. But the real work is the love.
For you now that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
Want to know what pastors want for Pastor Appreciation month? They want to see their people love Jesus. Really. A thank you is good. A card is nice. Everyone likes a gift. But what makes the ministry worth it is when they see people learn to love Jesus.
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
I'm a mom. I have two kids. When they are kind to each other I feel like I won the lottery. My guess is pastors feel the same way. When they see people in their communities working together, forgiving, helping or growing I'm guessing its the very best.
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 These 5: 8-11
Practice gratitude this month. Send your pastor a note. Take your church staff a plate of cookies. Drop something in the offering with a grateful heart just to bless your team. I really don't want to do life without my church or the leaders who God has in place. Let's make the most of this October.
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always drive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 These 5:12-16
There are way too many things ending and launching and happening today for me to keep up without just laying it out there. SO if you've been following along at all you might want to read this post just because it's helping me count where I am.
Today is the END of #SeptemberJanuary. I tracked three goals this month and am counting it as a rousing success in learning some balance. I definitely was able to put some time and thought together for Quirky Faith. It was a fun way to kick start this love of mine which had stalled. Sometimes projects stall. More importantly, the kick start didn't derail my personal goals I've had in paying attention to my health and soul care. I'm down 11 pounds, my pants are fitting and I've kicked my Diet Coke habit. I feel better. And most importantly, my kids and I painted and played cards and had good conversations. My spouse and I even got a date in and another one planned this week. So YAY for balance. Thanks @JonAcuff. If you need help in reaching a goal can I recommend you follow Jon Acuff on Instagram or Twitter - or buy his book Finish. Its a funny game changer.
September 30 is an annual online conversation hosted by Wycliffe Bible Translators about why the Bible matters. This year a donor is giving $5 for every post on social media tagged with #whyBible. I've got a few up on Instagram. If you want in on the fun and want to share why the Bible matters in your life jump in the offer is open through midnight. Just post a photo with a ? on your hand, state why you care about the Bible and make sure to tag it with #whybible.
For those of you not on Instagram here is what I said:
The world is a giant painful mess. The Bible tells the truth and I recognize myself in its pages. When I apply the ideas to my problems I see progress. When I accept by faith the promises of Jesus I find freedom. #whybible because nothing else gives life.
Break up with your phone
I already wrote about this book earlier. You can read the post HERE. This is just a friendly reminder if you are interested in working your way through this book with me for the next 30 days we start TOMORROW. I will not be posting a ton about this on the blog (seems counter productive). I already have another partner ready to give me some accountability. You are welcome to join in. Just send me an email and I'll keep you up to date on the process as I build some better margin.. If you need help - jump in - we can support each other to do our lives better.
Pastor Appreciation Month
Pastor Appreciation Month is October - guess what - that's TOMORROW! I'll have a post up all about how the Book of 1 Thessalonians is a big long letter encouraging the church to participate in Pastor Appreciation Month. Not really. But pretty much. At any rate - that's up tomorrow.
Ok. I feel better. My schedule is cleared up. Hope you do too. Have a great week.
I did the the fall chore of cleaning out my garden. I'd ignored the plants for the last couple of weeks. My zucchini had sacrificed all its energy to this last monster. When I brought it into the house my eldest screamed. The youngest was less than thrilled.
The zucchini plant itself was difficult to get out of the garden bed. I had to glove up because I have an allergic reaction every time I touch the leaves. You can see the scratches in my arm. The leaves were massive. The plant has grown to the point it was blocking the sun from my tomato plants. The tomatoes did terrible this year. I also stepped on a rotting bit. Nasty gross. The filth stunk. It had to go.
Later my husband and I discussed a few local and national news stories. Scary. The local paper had some extended coverage of the rise and fall of a local pastor. Such a sad story. Heroin and pastor should not be in the same sentence.
Lots of people say the Bible is only about love and we should never judge others. If you've read the full story you'll know love and grace are certainly primary themes. But so it justice.
The third chapter of Karen Swallow Prior's book "On Reading Well" also focuses on justice. I so appreciated reading through this chapter. Prior walked through a loaded topic with grace and thoughtfulness. I'm quite simply not going to be able to do justice to the chapter here (see what I did there?) I do want to share a few of my favorite quotations which were mulling through my head as I processed the morning news.
"When the justice system becomes a form of entertainment, it is surely unjust."
"Excessive anger distorts justice, turning it into vengeance."
"Injustice, no matter who seemingly private, always has public consequences."
"Compassion is individual and voluntary. It also has no cost. Justice on the other hand, exacts a price. Because the world is broken, making what is wrong right is costly. In other words, justice requires sacrifice." - On Reading Well
Here is what I know for sure about justice. God is not concerned about maintaining institutions or protecting false reputations. He is concerned about people. He is willing to tear down walls, remove leaders, crash ministries and start all over if sin, violence, injustice or pride are present. Our sorrow shouldn't be people were caught. Our sorrow would be the sin and heartbreak happened at all. And our response shouldn't be to shake our heads and turn away. Our response should be to make things right, to grieve with victims, to preach truth to the fallen, to check our own lives for what is dead and rotting. Justice is hard work.
The Bible is full of stories where God let his people fail to clean up hypocrisy and restore a right heart. Don't believe me? Go read Joshua 7 or John 2 for two excellent examples. God's story will not be stopped and His glory is infinitely secure. The end of the story is a lot about setting what is wrong right, setting captives free, restoring what was lost. It's about justice.
Truth is we all deserve death. We're all offered grace. We all have the opportunity to wipe the eternal slate clean and start over. This being made right is what moved Jesus to take our place. Great sacrifice. Justice is a virtue and character of God. When we ignore the impacts of our sin or refuse to corporately make right a wrong we are cheapening the cross. Justice means God will remove whatever he has to so heaven's darling can be seen by everyone.
"But even forgiveness can not negate the ripple effects of the past. To pretend otherwise is itself a further injustice." -On Reading Well
You knew I'd loop back to that giant zucchini right? The analogy isn't perfect but it works. In order to get my garden ready to grow next year I had to haul out the dead and stinking plants. And next year I should plant my zucchini away from my tomato plants. I really want the tomatoes to see the sun. Let's make sure justice is a virtue we cultivate. We want the Son to be seen.
My eldest invited us to an impromptu piano concert last night. Half way through the little one wanted to play something. Then they decided I better play something as well. It's been awhile since I sat at the piano bench. But I hauled out my old books and complied. It made me happy. I'd forgotten.
When I played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring my heart ached. I wanted so to be able to play it correctly. The few phrases which were correct made me want to practice. It made me want to hear it played expertly. So this morning on the way to work I blasted Josh Groban's version of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.
On my desk at work is a jar full of roses. I bought them at the grocery store. Just because they were beautiful. And on sale. They make my heart ache in the same way playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring does.
I think what's really happening is my soul is recognizing we were created for more than our consumer focused, politically divisive, sexually exploiting, death obsessed and frenzied distraction culture. I think we're created for more than what my phone thinks is important. I think we're created for more than what the very talented marketers at Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook think is important.
Chapter two in KS Prior's new book "On Reading Well" is about the virtue of temperance. Temperance is "the virtue that inclines us to desire and enjoy pleasures well. It helps us to desire pleasures in a reasonable manner, desiring them neither too much nor too little, the virtuous mean between the vices of self-indulgence and insensibility". The virtue is about balance.
When I signed up for SeptemberJanuary to focus on my blog my kids were sad. Because I don't do balance very well. So I signed up anyway but made tracking my own health, connecting with my family and Quirky Faith a three pronged goal. I'm practicing balance. It has been refreshing.
In October I'm going to be working my way through Catherine Price's book "How to Break Up With Your Phone". I read the first half this past weekend. She convinced me I need to address my phone usage. What I loved about this book is it does not think throwing out the phone is the solution. Nor does it think shutting down all your social media accounts is the solution. It teaches balance. Temperance. If you are interested in joining in send me an email.
Pleasures are not bad. We were created for beauty, for depth, and for joy. My phone isn't bad either. I love the ways I can connect with people. I love the camera and music and calendar and occasional game. What is bad is when this good thing takes over and I miss out on piano and flowers and my children's smile. I miss the things that make life good. And my heart aches when I notice.
Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman
This is what a one mile run after almost three years of nothing feels like. Painful. Slow. Fantastic. It feels fantastic. I've been trying to talk myself into any level of movement for the past couple of months. I have successfully stopped eating full bags of gummy bears on a regular basis. So there's that.
Earlier this week I sent a text to my spouse. "Help. There are cookies and cupcakes here at the office. Remind me why I don't want to eat them all?". His reply "I'm sure there is something you want more. Think of that one thing."
Such. Good. Advice.
I really want my pants to fit. And I want to model good habits for my daughters. And I want to stave off the diabetes in my genetic pool.
I am currently working my way through Karen Swallow Prior's new book "On Reading Well". I just finished the first chapter and I love it already. I've been following KS Prior on Instagram and Twitter for the last two years and I'm impressed with her intellect, her character, courage and wit. She was hit by a bus six months ago and watching her recovery is inspirational. Her book is brilliant. It's about how reading good books can help you live a better and more virtuous life. I love a book that makes me want to read more books.
I underlined this quote last night.
"Prudence is love that chooses with sagacity between that which hinders it and that which helps it". Augustine.
I had to look up sagacity in the dictionary.
Definition of sagacity: the quality of being sagacious
Helpful. So helpful.
Further research revealed sagacity (and sagacious) refer to making decisions with discernment, with wisdom, with slowing down long enough to think through the decision.
I sat in the bathtub last night pondering a life where my decisions about my behavior are based on love choosing what is going to increase love and what is going to hinder love. Hmmmm.
Our pastor this morning preached about the gospel of grace. I loved the message. Jesus died on the cross for you. His death and resurrection took away your sin. You can be given brand new life simply by accepting that gift. No other requirements. No other checklists. Grace. That's it.
So today after church I was curled up in my recliner pondering if I was going to spend the afternoon playing on my phone or if in fact I was going to put on my shoes and go for a run.
My typical pattern of fighting with myself can spiral into a large load of guilt. Not inspiring. Shame makes me want to eat cookies. But the sermon this morning encouraged us to embrace the freedom of grace. I don't live under shame. I'm not on a treadmill of works hoping I balance out the crud in my life with enough discipline to sneak by. God loves me regardless.
The glorious truth is Grace gives me the freedom to choose.
Love wants me to choose what will increase love and to shun what will decrease love.
Playing on my phone all afternoon will hinder love. I'll ignore my kids. I'll snap at my spouse. I'll feel groggy and gross. I'll start to listen to the shame cycle. Putting on my shoes will be a choice to take care of the body I've been given. It'll shake out the sludge in my brain. It'll validate my courageous sister who has been running and texting me her progress.
So I hauled up and put on my shoes and ran a mile.
Not because I had to. Because I chose to.
So my friends. Choose this day. Go running. Call your doctor. Forgive your friend. Cut up the credit card. Burn the porn. Make an appointment with the counselor. Quit smoking.
Try again on that one thing you know is hindering love.
Grace wants to give you a gift of freedom.
This morning I read through the first several chapters of Joshua. You can read my full post about the book of Joshua HERE. This morning though I saw something I hadn't noticed previously. Before the Israelites witnessed the miracles of God they first had to go through some pain. The people would see the river Jordan dry up and they would see the walls of Jericho fall. God was about to end their 40 years of wandering in the desert by delivering their promised land.
But first God called the men to be circumcised.
Does not sound fun.
I think God used circumcision to really get the people's attention. To call them to obedience they would not easily forget.
My family has been through a lot of change lately. Selling houses, changes in ministry, health concerns, adjustments. We feel like we've prayed and considered and weighed the changes. We see confirmation from God with open doors and signs of growth. But there has certainly been pain. So here is what I remembered this morning from the book of Joshua.
Sometimes obedience is painful. God always proves Himself faithful.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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