I am so excited!! We made a commitment to join as members of Blue Mound United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 19, 2017.
We’ve been seeking a new church to call home and we finally found it. Funny thing is, we actually found it a year ago and didn’t know it. A year ago, I was still employed at another Methodist church where we were active members. However, we attended a wedding at this quaint little church last October and fell in love with it then. When my employment ended earlier this year, we started seeking and visiting churches. There are many good churches out there, but it’s sort of like looking for a home and you know it when you find it. Our new church reminds us of a small church we once attended.
Now keep in mind I’m not one of those who loves only small churches. There are many benefits to small churches. However, I love all that comes with a growing church. It’s very exciting to see a church congregation grow and to see people use their spiritual gifts and talents to further God’s work and kingdom.
In today’s reading of God’s Word, I came across 1 Corinthians 9:1-27. There were a few verses that really jumped off the page to me such as verse 14, In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Let me ask you something. Are you supporting your Pastor? I know for a fact that the congregation I just joined is doing so. They completely love him and will make sure that he and his family are taken care of. How do I know this? I can tell by the way he preaches. In verses 16-19, Paul explains that preaching is not something he can boast about, he is compelled to do it, and says how terrible of him if he doesn’t. Paul goes on to say that even though he is a free man, he has become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.
My new pastor has the heart of a preacher like Paul. I barely know him. But what I do know after having a meal with him, having coffee with him, hearing him preach a dozen or so times, is that he is called to share and preach Jesus Christ and does so beautifully. I am praying for his zeal to continue to share the gospel each week and for many to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I’m super excited to see what God does in this little congregation as I’m expecting an abundance of unprecedented growth. I believe it to be true that wherever Jesus is preached, people will come, and the church will receive more.
This message is not new.
People are drawn to the gospel.
They come to church seeking.
There’s nothing more powerful and life-changing than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
All are welcome to join us Sunday mornings at 10:45am.
I do everything I can to spread the Good News and share in it’s blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:23
My husband’s grandpa served as pastor for approximately 45 years. Grandpa Thomas knew adversity and had overcome several obstacles during his life. He was a strong yet tender man and he had a saying that I remember him saying several times; “church work is the hardest work”.
I didn’t understand what he meant at that time, but I certainly do now. You see I worked on church staff for six years as the Director of Congregational Care and Adult Discipleship in the Methodist Church. I came on staff after being a member of my church for five years. I don’t have a seminary degree, I just have a heart to serve Jesus. I’ve led Bible studies for many years and do my best to be a faithful and obedient servant and apply the Word of God. I have a wonderful husband and family and they support me in whatever I want to do and wherever God is calling me.
I have contemplated and prayed carefully over this post. I have sought God to be sure this honors Him. The purpose of this writing is to help others who either work in the church or care about the behind-the-scenes activities in the church.
I want to express love and respect for those I served and those I served with on staff. I believe there are many who are serving on church staff who feel isolated and alone on their journey. My hope is this will help those who are currently working in the church to feel understood. I also hope that this will help those who love the church and want to support their church staff.
From my experience on staff, I found that not many are willing to publicly share their journey of working on staff in the church. It seems taboo to speak of the happenings inside the church and quite frankly, I’ve heard church members express that they don’t want to know what is going on behind the Sunday morning experience. They don’t want to know the politics of running a church or the business aspect of making it happen from week to week. Some don’t want it to interrupt their spiritual experience. If that’s the case, don’t read this post and I completely love you anyway.
This is primarily written for the men and women who show up and do the work of a church staff person. They are not ordained or appointed ministers. They are quiet servants who may or may not have their pictures published in the church bulletin, newsletter, or website. However, they are the ones who make the work of the church happen. They care, they pray, they tithe to their workplace, they live ministry every day and often feel no one cares, no one sees, and no one notices. They know that ultimately, they do the work for God. This gives them fuel for a while.
One day they start to realize they are tired and their energy is depleted and they start to wonder if it’s all worth it.
They want to continue but they are tired.
This is where I found myself.
And there’s a name for it…ministry burnout.
My journal entry dated February 1, 2017 ~
I am thinking about leaving the church. No, not the church in general, but the church staff position in which I serve.
I have had it.
I am burned out.
I am done.
I have given nearly six years of my life and it feels like 60.
So, what happened to the excitement and passion I felt at the beginning of this journey? Let’s go back and see how it began.
~ The Beginning ~
I started working in the United Methodist Church as Congregational Care Coordinator. I remember so vividly the excitement of my first Sunday on staff and thinking how cool it was to get paid to love on these people. I even told those closest to me, “I get to talk to people for four to five hours on Sunday morning and someone pays me to do this.” I thought, what gives? This is awesome! I love listening to people, caring for them, and hearing about what is going on in their lives. This is the greatest job ever!!
~ One month later ~
I was asked to take on the role of Adult Discipleship. You know how it goes when a church staff person leaves and someone must fill the job because there isn’t enough money to hire someone specifically for that role. I said “yes” with one condition, that I would not allow myself to become so overworked that I would neglect myself spiritually or physically. I saw what happened to other staff persons. I recall very specifically persons who did not take care of themselves as they worked themselves to death caring for others. I did not want that to happen to me so I expressed that I would not neglect these areas of my life. I did not feel God was calling me to be a martyr in this way.
Now as I look back, I see such wisdom in those words.
If only I would have applied them.
~ Over the years ~
I don’t know many times I sat with loved ones who were grieving.
I don’t know how many funerals I organized/attended.
I don’t know how many people I helped in the way of benevolence.
I don’t know how many Bible studies/classes I led.
I don’t know how many people were affected by the ministries entrusted to me.
What I do know is that I found myself right here in this place of being completely done.
Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
~ 2017 ~
I want to share my journal with you to show you some of the crazy roller coaster of emotions I was dealing with in trying to make it work. One minute I was thinking I can do this and felt inspired and the next minute, I felt defeated and done. During this time, I was praying, spending time with God, reading my Bible, and meeting with a prayer partner.
My journal entry dated January 1, 2017
I reposted something from Facebook today that resonated with how I am feeling. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Isaiah 43:19
My journal entry dated February 6, 2017
Today, I feel like…I can persevere through this tough season. I am just so overwhelmed with leading three classes and having trust issues with certain people. I find myself thinking that change is coming.
My journal entry dated February 12, 2017
This Sunday morning before going to work, I had a conversation with my father-in-law and told him that I may be experiencing ministry burnout. He is a very wise man who loves God and the church. He told me that if my joy is gone, then it’s time to leave. He is right and so I’m praying and asking God if my joy is gone to the point of being time for me to leave. This is where I will spend time seeking God and see where it leads.
~ The Rest of the Story ~
I’ve been praying and seeking God about what to do. After a time, away with some of the staff at a conference, it is becoming clearer to me. I feel a pull toward leaving. One staff person gave me permission to do what is best for me. In some ways, this is liberating.
A few weeks later as a new organizational chart is being put in place. I want to say “yes” and I try to say “yes” but as soon as I do, I feel sick to my stomach.
The Holy Spirit is telling me “no”.
I don’t want it to be no, so I thought I’ll just “fake it till I make it”.
It didn’t happen.
My yes on Friday turned into a no on Monday. A few things that spoke to me during that time; God’s Word in Matthew 5:37, But let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’, a daily inspirational message, my devotional, and wonderful Christian friends.
A friend reminded me that my calling is bigger than any workplace. My calling comes from God and He will use me no matter where I go. This was a good reminder and one that I knew, but it takes good friends to remind us during these times. The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9
I gave my notice and it was not really received that day, but I had settled the matter with God and in my heart. After a few more days, it became official and my last day was March 31, 2017.
Some of the things I learned along the way was just how much God was moving and acting on my behalf. A series of events took place in order for me to leave and there is not one person to blame for my leaving. Honestly, I was just stubborn and didn’t want to leave. I loved the congregation and I loved my job, but I was tired and it was time. I recall thinking about those stubborn Israelites who didn’t want to move when God said move and I was no different. The staff and congregation were wonderful to me and gave me a very nice good-bye.
In looking back, I have often thought about what I could have done to prevent burnout. Here’s my list of recommendations:
Take a sabbatical.
I believe taking a sabbatical would have made a huge difference for me. If you are in a position of caring for people, it doesn’t matter if you are ordained in ministry or not, you must take time to be away and rest. Even Jesus did this and we read about it in Mark 6. Jesus had to get away in the boat to a remote place and rest.
Don’t say “yes” to everything.
I could have said no and kept better boundaries. Responsibilities in the church can multiply especially when members/volunteers come and go. The ministries continue and often staff is expected to continue what a member/volunteer started.
Take your days off.
Don’t work on your days off unless it’s an emergency. Put an on-call schedule in place and really take your day(s) off. Unplug and don’t check your email on your phone on your days off. This is hard because our smartphones are killing us by the way we can never unplug. We are meant to unplug.
God, Family, Work.
This was meant to be the priority for all and even for those who work in the church. We preach it to people and church staff are the first ones to break the rule. If you see your family life start to suffer, take steps to change it right away. For me working too many evenings and weekends took too much time away from my family. They never complained, but I can see where they made sacrifices over the years. Keep the priority of God, Family, Work. I know God didn’t call me to sacrifice my family, if anything, it’s my first ministry above any other ministry entrusted to me.
Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3
Some of you my fear losing your job if you put some of the above recommendations in place. Let me remind you what Proverbs 29:25 says, Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting in the LORD means safety.
Looking back I can see the hand of God moving me to a place of rest and I’m grateful that I am able to rest. I miss the people I served but I love how God is moving and stirring. In some ways, God has brought me full circle and if I had not had this experience on staff, I would have missed it.
My calling has not changed, just the vehicle in which it happens. I am called to help people move from a place of religion and tradition to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have a special place in my heart to help women in their relationship with Jesus so I am going back to work on the book I started, Spiritual Makeup Bag, Beauty from the Inside Out. Who knows where it will go or if it will go anywhere. The only thing I do know is that I feel God calling me back to this book project of helping women find time each day with Him and learn how to care for their soul while caring for their skin and applying makeup.
Jesus said in John 10:10b, I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jesus came to give us life and not just life eternal, but abundant life here on earth. We are meant to thrive! Thrive is the word God has given me for this time in my life and it is exactly what I plan to do in this next season.
I’m praying you will thrive too!
This post is being released on August 9, 2017 in honor of Reverend Doyle “Bob” R. Thomas who gave his life to church work. Bob was born on August 9, 1923 and entered into rest on October 1, 2000. His last sermon was based on Isaiah 41:10, Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.
He came that beautiful night in the form of a babe;
He lives today in the hearts that obey.
He knows your name and every little thought;
He loves you in a way that cannot be bought.
This gift of grace and love that lingers
Came wrapped in cloth with tiny fingers.
His presence that night brought far away men—
What a story it is and a way to begin!
It doesn’t stop there; it goes on, you see,
For Christ came and died just for you and me.
May your eyes be open to see the wondrous love
Of the Savior who was sent from heaven above.
May your ears be in tune to the beautiful sound
Of the voice of the Savior whose love abounds.
May your hearts receive hope that your Healer is here;
He has never left you and His presence is near.
May you know you are loved beyond any measure,
For Christ came that night because you are His treasure.
Good news and great joy, as the angels proclaimed,
The birth of the Christ child, in a manger he laid.
My hope and my prayer for you on this day—
May you see God’s love in a whole new way.
For the angel said to them, “Don’t’ be afraid, for look I proclaim to you the good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David”. Luke 2:10-11
O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:1-3
Like the Psalmist David, have you ever found yourself groaning and crying out to the Lord first thing in the morning? If you have, you remember exactly the time and place in which it happened. To wake up and already feel so desperate for God that you start with groaning and crying is a tough place to be. I recall a time when something was so heavy on my heart that I woke up each day burdened by it. I would give it to God before going to bed, only to wake and have it heavy on my heart again. I learned very quickly to survive the day, I had to give it to God first thing in the morning.
My son struggled in school during his first grade year. He was tested and the outcome was unknown for his future. I was desperate for God. I needed his guidance, discernment, and peace to survive each day. I sought God and prayed hard all during my son’s school days. I was in a Moms in Prayer group where I learned how to pray and pray is what I did all through the years. My son graduated high school and those days are now gone. He has grown up and turned out to be a fine young man. However, his future is still somewhat uncertain and I still get up each morning and pray.
This situation created a pattern of seeking God first thing in the morning and it is vital to my soul. Without my morning time with God, my day isn’t the same and rarely goes well. Some days I have time to sit and read for a long time and some days are a few moments in a devotional. I give all that I can give in the morning and pray for all that burdens my heart each day. Sometimes things work out well and sometimes they are not so well, but I’m well because of time spent with God in prayer.
I started writing this devotion few years ago when our family had a moment of grieving together. We had to put our family dog of 12 years down. I had never heard my son groan and cry with such emotion. I can’t tell you how many times I prayed for my son to have the same life experiences as his peers. This may not make sense to you if you’ve not experienced having a child who has struggled in these areas. However, I’m a happy mom because my son knows how to love well and grieve well. What more could a mother ask…well maybe for him to take his requests to God each morning then wait expectantly like the verse says so I’ll keep praying for that each morning.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love. Psalm 5:11-12
I realize we are past the 15th anniversary of 9/11/2001 and publishing this post may seem late. However, I beleive the timing is perfect for someone and I’m praying for the person(s) this is meant to encourage. For me, 9/11 it’s a constant reminder that I need a deep relationship with God. Last year I went to New York for the first time in my life and when I returned, I started this post. However, it has been sitting as a draft ever since. I knew when the timing was right, I would share. Here’s my experience and I hope you will come along with me.
Saint Paul’s Chapel was the only building that didn’t sustain damage on September 11, 2001. I recall hearing about this at the time but there’s nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.
Prayers for those missing after the attacks.
Saint Paul’s Chapel
Inside Saint Paul’s Chapel
It was my first trip to New York and I was so happy to see the city with my precious step-daughter, Chelsea. She invited me to come along on a work trip so we took advantage of the opportunity and went early for the weekend to take in the sites and see a Broadway play.
The whole weekend was amazing! We started day one with a tour of New York City. It was a rainy and windy cold day. It was Fall which is something Texas doesn’t do well. Our tour consisted of bus and boat and it was fantastic! We saw many sites such as the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial site and much more. Our tour guide, Bernice, was great! You could tell she loved her job and the city.
She shared wonderful details about all the sites and when she talked about 9/11, her story became personal. Seems like everyone has a 9/11 story if you were alive that day. However, her story really resonated with me and I want to share it.
Bernice had a dream the night before 9/11 of planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. She was scheduled to give a tour of the World Trade Center to a bus load of people at promptly 9:00 am on September 11, 2001. She called in to work and told them that she needed to cancel the tour and would not make it to work that day.
I don’t have to tell you what happened because you know the rest of the story of that horrible day. Bernice praised God for saving her life and others.
Bernice has had other dreams and learned to pay attention to them long ago. On another occasion she dreamed of leaving her apartment and being mugged and badly beaten. When she woke and left her apartment the next day, she was mugged and badly beaten. Bernice has learned something that some of us might want to think about. I believe she listens to God and this is how God speaks to her. He speaks to all of us and often times we are not aware or we choose to ignore.
God spoke to me loud and clear to me following that dreadful September 11th day. You see I had a relationship with God for eternity, but not a relationship for the here and now. The bible tells us that Jesus came they we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). The Common English Bible translation says “…so they could live life to the fullest”. I knew he wanted me to find a place to worship and grow in the knowledge of who he was, is, and is to come. That day was a turning point in my life and I sought God with all my heart. Looking back, I’m grateful for taking the next step toward God and can see why he was preparing me for a better life…a life with Him at the center of everything.
Nothing can shake the foundation set in place by the One who delivered me from sin and death. I’ve been able to endure grief, sorrow, pain, and loss because God is my strength. I’ve also been able to experience joy, grace, peace, love, and life because God is my strength.
I believe God gave us a strong message by the standing and unaffected Saint Paul’s Chapel during the 9/11 attacks. There’s no explanation for why that building is still standing as it is literally across the street from where the Twin Towers stood. God purposely preserved this chapel and for me, it’s a message of hope and eternity. Don’t wait another second to follow after God and may you respond to the call he has on your life.
Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
I have to be honest, sometimes I don’t feel all that compassionate. I am on staff at Argyle UMC and part of my responsibilities under Congregational Care are to consider when it’s appropriate to help people with charity. When people come in to the church and need help (usually with financial assistance), I have to weigh the situation to see if it’s appropriate for the church to help. We have guidelines to help make the decision and sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. I pray every day for God to help me discern what He wants me to do and I take being prudent with church resources very seriously. I have to admit there are times when I can relate to what God said when speaking of the Israelites, he told to Jeremiah in chapter 15, “I am tired of showing compassion”. Sometimes I tire of the requests because there can be many and have to be very intentional to keep my mind focused on the task God has given me. It’s not always easy, but when I fix my eyes on God it gives me endurance to show compassion.
I have a tendency to think there are times when all of us struggle to show compassion. Jesus tells us there are signs of the end of the age and in Matthew 24:12, Jesus says, “Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.” I wonder if it’s possible that in the midst of so much terror and tragedy in our world today that we could become cold or numb. Honestly, it seems that daily we are waking up to another shooting or terror attack. It would almost make sense to put up a wall to protect ourselves of the daily violence happening in our world.
I don’t believe that we want to grow cold, but I could see us becoming numb and cold to the world around us simply as a way of coping. How do we keep that from happening when so much is going on around us?
How do we deal when another terror attack has occurred by those who hate Christians?
How do we keep our compassion for others and how do we honor what Jesus said when tells us to love our neighbor as our self when it seems our neighbor hates us?
Why is it important to be compassionate toward others?
What happens if we are no longer compassionate?
Well the good news is this…
Our God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth (Psalm 86:15) and because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22).
Could it be this is how we are set apart as believers in Jesus Christ? When we understand the compassion God had for us through sending his son Jesus, this motivates us to be compassionate toward others.
It’s no surprise that the Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” To be a compassionate disciple means you respond to the suffering and are motivated with a desire to help others.
Compassion always leads to action.
God took action showing compassion when He sent Jesus (John 3:16-17).
In the New Testament, we find Jesus exemplifying all of the Father’s attributes, including His compassion. Here are just a few examples:
Jesus saw His friends weeping at the grave of Lazarus, He felt compassion for them and wept alongside them (John 11:33-35).
Jesus was moved with compassion for the suffering of others and went to all the towns and villages, teaching, preaching, and healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35-36)
Matthew’s gospel tells us Jesus had gone to a remote place by boat and when he came ashore, the people were waiting (a huge crowd). He felt compassion for them and healed them before he divided up the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5,000(Matthew 14:14).
Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Mark 6:34). When He saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion for them, for they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he prayed for workers to send out into the harvest.
You see there are many people out there worn out and weary, they don’t know God and they are sheep without a shepherd. Maybe you are like the worker Jesus prayed for to send out into the harvest. People need to hear the good news that Jesus is the Great Shepherd who loves them.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, Then he added, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).
Love your God with all our heart, mind and strength means you have to spend time with God developing the same character of compassion as God. Seek God in asking what He wants you to do and realize that compassion has to be nurtured and practiced. Start by spending time in the scriptures and praying, being in church worship and community with other believers. If possible, seek one or two people to meet with on a regular basis and talk about the scriptures. You would decide before the meeting what book of the Bible to read before the meeting. Admit to each other where you have failed or sinned recently. Remind each other of God’s forgiveness and grace. Then ask each other some questions such as “where have you wasted time this week?” We are calling this DNA (Disciple, Nurture, Accountability) teams. John Wesley called them “Holy Clubs”.
What does the second commandment look like when it says to love your neighbor as yourself? Honestly, that is not all that hard unless you are not in a good place due to depression or anxiety. Most of us, love ourselves pretty well so when we think about loving someone else like our self, we should be able to imagine it.
In Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law asked, “who is my neighbor”. I think we ask this same question. Like God, who is my neighbor? Is it literally my neighbor, my coworker, my friend at school, the person I’m standing next to in line at Starbucks or the grocery store?
Jesus took that question “who is my neighbor” and told the parable of the Good Samaritan and how a man was on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and how robbers stripped him and beat him up, left him half dead on the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. Then a Good Samaritan came along and had compassion on the man and took care of him, he bandaged his wounds, put him on his own animal, took him to the hotel, then the next day, he gave money to the hotel clerk for the man to stay longer and said he would reimburse him for whatever the guy spent over what he gave. So who is our neighbor? Everyone?
God, who do you want me to love?
Those with a different lifestyle?
Different political views?
I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. John 13:34-35 NIV
So when we love everyone that means people who are different from us, different lifestyle, different color, different politics, different culture, different values.
Understanding how important it is to reach others and being intentional about showing God’s love should move us to be compassionate disciples.
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32
If you have not accepted the forgiveness of sin through Christ, then you are not going to understand how important it is to forgive others. I invite you to accept the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ and start a new life with him.
Also, know that being compassionate may cost you something. It may cost you time which is a great commodity in the age in which we live. God may move you to a new place in serving or in mission. If you believe in what you are doing in following God’s call to compassion, you won’t mind giving up what’s necessary to follow Him.
Compassion always leads to action.
Imagine what our world would look like if we were all kind and compassionate toward others. We have to understand where people are that don’t know God, they are just doing the best they know how. I would like to challenge you to pray and ask God how you could show compassion to someone.
Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society was trying to inspire and move his students when he told them, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world!!”
We have a legacy left for us by Christians who have gone before us? Some of them, because of their words and ideas changed our world. What would the people who are in heaven say to us if they could communicate with us? What if we could see from their perspective on how to do life here?
I think they might say something like this to us…
Carpe diem brothers and sisters in Christ!
Seize the day and go live an extraordinary compassionate life in the Lord Jesus!!
25 years ago I married Doug Thomas. It was next to the best decision I ever made. He is a wonderful blessing from God and I’m truly thankful for him. The best decision I ever made was to follow Jesus and I think Doug would agree it was the best decision he made as well. Two people staying married for 25 years is a long time and if you are married, you know marriage is not always easy. I just can’t imagine what our marriage would like without Jesus.
When we married in 1991, I instantly became a stepmom. I had never even dated someone with children but I knew I would love these little girls with all my heart. They were and still are precious to me. Of course, they are grown now with families of their own but they will always be these precious little girls to me. I couldn’t resist but to show you a photo of them on our wedding day.
Courtney was 7 years old at the time and Chelsea was 3. As you can see, Chelsea had decided to cut her bangs the day before our wedding. Her mom (who is a hairdresser) tried to fix them but she cut them so short, it was impossible. It was really funny and I couldn’t help but adore her even more as she rocked back and forth during our vows. Courtney is the quieter one who loved and still loves to read. I love them both and so grateful to God for giving me these two beautiful daughters.
Sharing is important in a marriage. Doug and I have shared our hopes and dreams. We’ve also shared grief and disappointment. Marriage is full of peaks and valleys. If we are open to each other, we can learn in the valleys in order to have more peak moments. It takes listening and being present for each other. I’m not always good at listening because I’m usually the one doing the talking (bless his heart). However, I’m hoping over the years that I’ve made some progress in this area. I love his gentle soul and how sweet Doug is to listen and care for me.
Find something you like to do together. It may not be your favorite thing, but it may be your spouse’s favorite thing. If so, do your best to enjoy it. If you still struggle, ask God for help. I believe God wants us to love being with our spouse. So ask God to help you love what your spouse loves. For us, it’s going on a motorcycle ride. Now I’m a fair weather rider so it needs to be nice and sunny for me to hop on the motorcycle with my husband. When I go with him, I just love getting away and enjoying the open air together. It’s refreshing and renewing.
When the kids are grown and you find yourself an empty nester or almost empty nester, make sure and get to know each other again.
As much as you try not to focus on the kids or work, it’s almost impossible not to when it comes to the needs of your children or the demands of work. However, make time for dates and stay connected. One day the kids will leave (well hopefully) and it will be the two of you. Make intentional time together along the way and keep those date nights, they are critical to your marriage.
We’ve changed a lot over the past 25 years. It’s so evident when you look at where we started. However, I can’t imagine changing with anyone else. I love this man of mine! I can’t control him, I can’t change him, I can only love him. By the way, I don’t want to control or change him. Well maybe early on in our marriage but we won’t go there (smiley face).
What makes a marriage last 25 years and counting? Love! Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).
It was 3:30 in the morning and I heard a voice. My alarm was set for 5:00am. I needed to get up early and get to work at the church. So it surprised me when three times He asked…
“Kim, do you love me?”
Yes I love you.
“Kim, do you love me?”
You know I love you.
“Kim, do you love me?”
God, you know I love you. Why are you asking me this? Then I heard Him say, “Feed my sheep”.
I knew immediately God was speaking of the church.
I also knew He told Peter this same thing in John 21:15-17.
Commentaries tell us when Jesus had this conversation with Peter, He asked him three times “do you love me”. It’s believed this dialogue was symbolic of the three times Peter denied Christ as a way of reconciling their relationship.
I believe God woke me and asked me this same question because people are starving for Jesus. So I asked myself…
Am I giving them sustenance?
Am I giving them the bread of life?
Am I giving them living water?
Am I giving them Jesus?
I’m currently taking a Disciplemaking course along with twelve other people. I’ve been praying about something I heard while taking the course. The presenter asked if we loved our mission more than we love Jesus.
Let’s think about this for a moment and reflect on the question.
Do we love our mission more than we love Jesus?
I have been putting several words in the place of “mission” such as family, ministry, myself (ouch). I have been reflecting on just how much I love others or other things. And do I love those things more than I love Jesus. Anything else that I put in the place of Jesus becomes an idol and a form of idol worship.
If I truly love Jesus more than anything else, then my desires line up with God’s desires. Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. His will is accomplished for my life and I’m living out the mission of being a Christ follower. Am I doing that?
Matthew Henry’s Commentary says this of John 21. Three times Christ committed the care of his flock to Peter: Feed my lambs; feed my sheep; feed my sheep. Those whom Christ committed to Peter’s care were his lambs and his sheep. The church of Christ is his flock, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28), and he is the chief shepherd of it. In this flock some are lambs, young and tender and weak, others are sheep, grown to some strength and maturity. The Shepherd here takes care of both, and of the lambs first, for upon all occasions he showed a particular tenderness for them. He gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom. Isa. 40:11. It is the duty of all Christ’s ministers to feed his lambs and sheep. Feed them, that is, teach them; for the doctrine of the gospel is spiritual food.
The doctrine of the gospel is spiritual food. Now that’s something to digest!
This Lenten season, I’m asking God to make me aware of opportunities to share the love of Jesus by feeding His sheep. I’m repenting of all those times I have not fed His sheep or loved them well.
Did you make a New Year’s resolution this year? Have you already given up on it? I would like to propose a different type of resolution. One that can be found in the scriptures.
Colossians 3:1-3, 10, 12-14 The Message
3 1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. 3 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life.
10Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.
12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Did you receive new clothes for Christmas? Did you open a gift or two with new clothes? What about a new accessory? Did you receive a jacket, shoes, boots, hats, belts, gloves, jewelry, or scarf? If you received a new jacket, would you put your new jacket on top of or over your old jacket? What if you opened a gift and it was a belt. Would you put on your new belt on top of your old belt? No, that would be crazy. I love how these scriptures use clothing as a metaphor for how we are to live in Christ.
When it comes to a new life in Christ, let’s go back and see what Paul says we are to take off.
5-8 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk. 9-11 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.We have to intentionally rid ourselves of the old ways that causes us to sin.
Asbury Bible Commentary asked the following question, “Does this transformation occur in a moment or is it progressive?” The answer is, Yes! John Wesley said that “put to death” means to “slay with a continued stroke”. In other words, while God’s transforming work is decisive, it is also perpetual. We are being renewed day by day, transformed from one degree of God’s glory to another. So we must die to self daily, and constantly put away evil. This is both our privilege and responsibility as those who bear the image of Christ.
Luke 9:23, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
I don’t recall anyone having to teach me to sin. I’m pretty sure I could disobey when I was a toddler and Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it.
Paul goes on to tell us that we need to remove those old ways that are connected with the old life meaning sin. Verse 9, You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes. What do ill-fitting clothes look like? They don’t fit, they are either too big or too small. You have a new custom-made wardrobe by God with his label on it. Those old cloths are out of style…obsolete. You can try to put on those old cloths but they won’t fit and you won’t be happy because you have the Holy Spirit living inside you prompting you, speaking to you and nudging you toward Christ.
As a Christ follower, we are someone new and made to dress in the likeness of Jesus Christ. We are to clothe ourselves in Christ’s image.
12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you (clothe yourselves): compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength (meekness), discipline (patience). Be even-tempered (bear with one another, make allowance for each others faults, accept one another), content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment (it binds everything together in perfect harmony, perfect bond of unity). Never be without it.
We are chosen for this new life of love so dress like it. Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.
When we lay down those things our human nature wants to do, we are renewing our minds on what is above and not what is on the earth.
13Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.
What does it mean to be quick to forgive? What does it mean to forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you? Well let me ask you how much forgiveness have you needed from God? I don’t know about you but I’ve needed a lot of forgiveness from God and others. I mess up all the time and if it weren’t for grace, I don’t know what I would do. As I meditated on this, I was asking God if I am quick to forgive an offense? Do I offer forgiveness to others like I want in return from God? This is thought provoking and reminds me of a story.
Recently I had a bad day. My husband had been sick with a cold and was coughing…A LOT. After two sleepless nights, I moved to the guest bed. A storm moved through during the night and woke me up. It was too early to get up so I went back to bed after the storm passed. Well I overslept and this threw me into overdrive to get ready and get out the door to a meeting that I was leading. As it turns out, I was ten minutes late. It wouldn’t have been so bad except we had a guest coming to our meeting and I forgot to let her know that we had changed meeting time to 15 minutes later that morning. So she arrives 25 minutes before I do. You can imagine how bad I felt and apologized profusely as she and some of the other persons were leaving the meeting room as I arrived.
She was so gracious and forgiving to me which is something I didn’t deserve but really appreciated. She had a choice and she chose grace. Oh I forgot to mention that this is not my first offense with her. I’ve needed her grace before. There’s an incident in our past where she exhibited forgiveness and grace to me. She didn’t have to forgive me and offer grace to me either time but she did. I see someone who displays love, forgiveness, and grace over and over. I see God in her because isn’t He the one who offers love, forgiveness, and grace over and over? Isn’t He the one who equips us to offer love, forgiveness, and grace over and over?
One other thing I need to share about this story of forgiveness is that I thought because of our past that our relationship was fragile but actually it’s quite the opposite. Our relationship is very strong. Two people who offer grace and forgiveness over and over are stronger because the more we forgive, the more we love.
Have you ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer? Have you ever considered the part, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are asking for as much forgiveness from God as we have given to others. It’s something to think about.
So accessorize your life with grace and forgiveness. That’s exactly what the Father does for us all the time.
14And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
The Japanese ceremonial dress consists of layers of expensively decorated cloths which are draped over a person, each beautiful in its own right. But the costume is incomplete until the belt is placed around the waist, holding the costume together. In a similar way, love functions as the primary virtue with which a Christian is to be clothed.
No matter how much you are offended or how much you disagree, wear love. It’s your all purpose garment never be without it. Love binds us together.
So let me ask you. What’s in your closet? What’s in your heart? Have you given up your old self and old ways? Have you come to a place where it’s just not working any more. Could it be you need to tell God you are sorry for the ways you have failed him, for your sin? Do you need to clean out the old and ask God for the new way of life in Christ? Why not start off the year with a new wardrobe? It’s not too late.
Maybe you have a relationship with Jesus and need to put on some new accessories. Put away those old accessories and start wearing the new accessories God had custom-made just for you. Just ask God, He is waiting.
Don’t wear those old clothes any longer or don’t wear those old accessories. God has brand new custom wardrobe just waiting for you.
Go now and resolve to wear love, it’s your all purpose garment never be without it.