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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

& Girl....

Sometimes the teacher needs to learn the lesson.....

I've been in a funk.
Which a friend of mine thinks is funny. If she texts me about it long enough she knows I'll end up calling myself "funky" which makes her lol.

But all of us girls know how unfun a funk really is. I recently spent months {MONTHS} teaching my Wednesday morning Bible Study ladies about our God-given temperaments and how we can and should submit them to Jesus. Months on how we should embrace our God-given strengths and kick our sin-filled weakness to the curb. And then my sensitive little melancholy self got kinda discouraged and just let everything I'd both learned and taught slip away forgotten. 

I accidentally shared some of my crazy funk with a friend this week. She encouraged me, we went on with our planning, and a few hours later I got a text. It included a list of things I've taught her and then a big ole' "& girl" at which point she shared a sweet and personal lesson God has taught her that I really needed to hear. 

Do you call your friends Girl? We do around here. There is a lot of "Hey Girl!" and "Bye Sweet Girlies!" going on in my social world. But this friend usually greets me with "Hi Pretty Lady!" which made this & Girl really catch my interest...and then smile that she used the &. I love her.

This is just a short post to challenge you in one thing.

Sometimes your teacher needs the lesson. 

Many of you reading are already attached to a Bible Study. You have a Sunday School teacher or a small group leader or a mentor or a minister's wife that you love. One that you know struggles sometimes, but is always able to shake it off and hear your issues and questions and send you off feeling encouraged as if you were just able to take a big deep breath. If you have someone like that in your life you are blessed. It's exactly the way believing life is supposed to be (Titus 2). But keep in mind, your teachers are people who get discouraged and probably are pros at hiding it. They don't need bossy correction, they need sincere encouragement. So when your teacher gives you an honest look at her struggle follow my friend's three-part little formula:

Specifically repeat back to her what you've learned from her. 

Add a really great affectionate & Girl... (or whatever you say where you live)

Follow up with what God has taught you as you've sought after Him all on your own. Because there is nothing as encouraging to a mentor/teacher than seeing one of their students or spiritual daughters digging out and walking in Truth all on her own. 

"It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 3-4 NIV

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ministry Life Lessons

Hi! I’m back! My family and I took a break for almost a month. We vacationed and endured the joys and perils of a 5500 mile road trip….with 2 teenagers and a kindergartener {Please feel free to insert any jokes here, we lived them all}. It was a much-needed time and one we will never forget for lots of reasons; sweet, fun, smelly, serious, delicious, and ridiculous reasons.

Here's a few pictures from my cellphone....

I couldn't resist snapping this as Todd was "coaching" our 16yo son as said son drove us through San Francisco.

We are a ministry family. I say family because there are no families whose mom or dad is a minister while the rest of them are just a regular ole’ family. Ministry belongs to the whole family. There are more joys and blessings and perks of being a ministry family than I can begin to list….many of those allowed us to take this trip. But there are also sometimes unpredictable seasons of demand and discouragement. Hurts and helplessness can take a toll that is hard to regain. Our main goal in taking this time off was to enjoy our children….do stuff, eat stuff, watch stuff, and laugh at stuff they love. It was fun stuff. Another goal was to regain some clarity and ministerial footing in a role that is difficult but so worth it.

Here's my kiddos on the porch of the house in the mountains.

We ended our trip with a week of nothing doing in the mountains. I hesitantly opened up my life to introspection….afraid of what I’d see after some months of survival mode. I fiddle-faddled around a few days and found myself in Hebrews 12:12-15 {not coincidentally, a familiar passage I taught to hundreds of women just 2 months previously}….sigh.

“Therefore lift your drooping hands
and strengthen your weak knees,
and make straight paths for your feet,
so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 
Strive for peace with everyone,
and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God;
that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble,
and by it many become defiled;”

This passage hits struggling ministers pretty hard with a double dose of challenge and encouragement. I’m a list-maker, so this passage turned into a list in my journal….something like this:

  • Hands – serve family and ministry; work and comfort.
  • Knees – walk, support movement; there is no standing and no forward progress without them.
  • Feet/Straight paths – this is about direction; eyes up and forward, not down. Look toward healing, no wasted time wandering.
  • STRIVE for healthy relationships with people (peace) and healthy relationship with God (holiness).
  • Cling to grace for ALL – this is the hallmark of ministry, marriage, mothering. Protect against all bitterness, not just me – for others too.

Had my service become droopy? Had my direction become lazy and self-focused? Was I striving for ease instead of peace and holiness? Was I teaching grace to others even while absorbing bitterness myself? Yes. {See? I hate these questions!}

We all have seasons of droopy hands and weak knees. This passage is in the context of discipline and we all need it. Ministry is not about being something special, or showing off your gifts, or serving for leadership’s sake, or keeping up with the church or minister down the street, or a hundred other selfish things that we can make look and sound spiritual. Ministry is about building a Kingdom that doesn’t belong to you and isn’t about you, yet is miraculously where you belong. It’s about building a Kingdom that is completely invisible except for the people who love the King and each other and the lives they live that show it. I’m constantly led to both simplify and deepen my ministry life.  For someone (hint: me) who tends to over analyze and complicate every SINGLE thing in my life, this is a challenge that often feels backward.

Over my 20 years in ministry God has encouraged me through irrational fear. He has chiseled out the frantic “fill in all the empty spots” tendency, most of the people-pleasing tendency, and lots of the selfish ambition along with comparison syndrome. He’s annihilated the “my kids have to be perfect” issue, only for me to recreate it all again and again. When I’ve tried to stay aloof He’s allowed the burden to become so heavy that I tossed it myself. Things I’ve mistakenly tried to root out of my personality He has reminded me to cherish as I settle its growth under His care. It seems to me there has to be a better way; I can’t believe how much time He gives to teaching and re-teaching me lessons that I should already have mastered. 

And then... in quiet moments in the mountains....

I remember all the repetition and patience He gives and realize it isn’t wasted effort. It is His intentional point that sends my gaze to Jesus, the only effort that matters, and the example I am to follow. And I'm encouraged.

So, let’s build His Kingdom with strong hands and knees, striving for peace and holiness, and being completely intolerant of bitterness. Eyes on the prize, which is not our own success but the arrival of a Kingdom both beyond and encompassing us.
“Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…’
Isaiah 35:3-4 NIV