Tuesday, December 27, 2011

McAllister's Deli and the gospel tract....

OK, without going into a lot of detail, I will tell you the story of how I became the recipient of a Roman Road to Salvation tract....
Last weekend, the recovering pastor and I were invited to a social gathering at a restaurant.  I was iffy on going, but ultimately, we decided to go.  All was well until we got to the restaurant and went back into the smallish room with the party of 14 (of which we were a part of) and another party of 14ish.  Seated at our table were 2 couples that we knew and 4 we did not.  I don't know what triggered it, but massive anxiety attack ensued after sitting down.  Chest hurting, couldn't breath, felt very conspicuous, thought I was going to burst into tears at any minute.  Being the fantastic man that he is, my husband decided we should leave.  Yep, we had been there maybe 8 minutes.  So, he made our sorry's to the hosts, and we took off.  Immediately upon leaving the restaurant, I began to feel better.  So we sat in the car for a bit, then decided that we had driven all the way to Champaign, let's try to make the best of it.  So we wound up at McAllister's Deli - home of some of the best house wine of the south (sweet tea) there is.  It was relatively quiet there, and we chose a table away from everybody.  We began talking about what had happened, trying to process  my feelings, and it all came out, the ugly cry.  You know the one, where you really want to just wail, but you can't because of where you are, so you try to hold it in and just let it out little bits at a time.  Then it happened.  A young lady, perhaps in her early 20's, walked up to me, leaned over to me and said, "I couldn't help but notice that you are crying, and I just want you to know.....Jesus can help" and slipped a Roman Road to Salvation tract over to me, looked at me we these sorrowful eyes.

I just looked at her, unable at that moment to figure out what to say.  Finally I muttered a 'thank you' as she walked off.  My husband asked what she had given me.  It was then that I looked at him and said  "You have married the freak that has a breakdown in the middle of McAllister's Deli, and gets a gospel tract given to her.  That is who you are married to!!"  And then we both dissolved in laughter.  And I don't think I will be going to McAllister's Deli any time soon.

Monday, December 19, 2011

In all circumstances.....

...Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus..1Thess. 5:16  In the Message it reads...Thank God no matter what happens, this is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

I read this verse the other day and thought, UGH.  Seriously?  Give thanks no matter what happens?  In all circumstances?  Obviously He does not know what I am dealing with today.  Then I notice that it doesn't say 'Give thanks FOR all circumstances,' or 'Thank God FOR what happens,' but IN all circumstances and NO MATTER WHAT happens. 

See, we don't have to like what happens, and we certainly aren't going to like every circumstance that comes our way.  I think sometimes as Christians we think that life is going to be all rainbows and cupcakes.  That if God loves us, then why in the world did ____________ (insert issue) happen?  Life is life.  It is going to be great, and then just a quickly it can be bad.  Sometimes our own choices bring things upon ourselves that wouldn't have happened if we had just trusted or sought the Lord.  But life is life.  It is all in how you respond to the stuff that matters.

And this is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.  It is His will that we be thankful in all circumstances, no matter what happens.  We don't have to like it, but we do need to choose to be thankful in it.  It really is not an option.  This is the way we are to live if we are choosing to be His children.  Be thankful that we have a personal Savior who is more than willing to walk every step of the way with us.  Be thankful that no matter what has happened, it is not a surprise to the Lord, and He already knows the steps we are to take, He already knows the way out.  It may  not be in the time frame that we want, or the exact way that we would choose, but He knows.  All we need to do is trust Him and be thankful that we can. 

I have a friend who walks closer to the Lord than anyone I know.  He was recently diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer.  He embodies this verse.  His facebook post after diagnosis was this:
Hey, if I could choose what stage cancer God was going to cure me from it would be the most vile, hopeless, impossible cancer to hope for a cure, because He can do much much more than our limited thinking is even set to understand. I don't want to limit His potential In my thinking. I wait on His Mighty Hand to do His Will as He sees fit. Come Lord Jesus and reveal your will and your way. Be Glorified in me!
He is fighting the cancer,  yet incredibly thankful for his position in life.  If he lives, he lives longer with his wife, his kids and his grandchildren.  He gets to share Christ with teenagers in the Myrtle Beach area, seeing them come to that point in their life where they trust Jesus like John trusts Jesus.  If he dies, He gets to live with Jesus.

In all circumstances, give thanks.

Monday, December 12, 2011


The Grinch.  That is who I usually identify with at this time of year.  I usually feel rushed, busy, overwhelmed.  However, this year it is the opposite.  I am feeling very festive, fully experiencing every part of this season.  I am enjoying the Christmas songs, I am loving the lights, our tree was up a week before Christmas., celebrating the Advent with my family this year has been new and fresh.  I am still overwhelmed, but a completely different kind of overwhelmed.   I am overwhelmed at the fact that Jesus came to this earth as a baby.  I am overwhelmed that He lived on this earth, and faced highs and lows just like me.  I am overwhelmed that He chose to give Himself up on the cross to redeem me - the one who fails Him often.  I am overwhelmed that I can talk with Him whenever I want to, and that He listens and cares.  I am overwhelmed that He did all of this, just for me.  Just to walk this season of life with me.  Just to make Himself known to me in such a special way.  Just to overwhelm me with who He is. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I read some statistics the other day, and the sad thing is I totally understood and related to them.  I'll share some of them here:

80% of pastors feel that the ministry has negatively affected their families.  Many pastor's children do not attend church as an adult because of what the church has done to their parents.

70% of pastors say they have a lower self image now than they did when they entered ministry.

85% of pastors say that their greatest struggle is dealing with problem people, such as disgruntled members, elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members and associate pastors.

50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

80% of the ministers starting out will not stay in more than 5 years.

66% of church members expect the pastor and his family to live at a higher moral standard than they do.

80% of pastors wives wish their husband would choose a different profession.

Over 4000 churches closed their doors last year.  That's more than 10 a day.

(Compiled from Barna and Focus on the Family research)
The one statement that keeps replaying in my mind is my sweet friend, whom I called when we made the decision to resign, who said:  Alyson, you need to know that this is not the church.  You need to know that this is not what Jesus has in mind when he established the church.  And while I know that in my heart, my head sees and hears differently.  This, apparently, is what the church has become.  I can name many of our peers from college who were ministry majors, followed the Lord into pastoral roles, only to be chewed up and spit out by the very people we were prepared and called to serve.  What is up with that?  Where in the Bible does it ever say that it is ok to treat people badly, judge them, talk about them, and decide whether or not they are good enough? 

I have to think that Christ is in heaven shedding tears over how his bride is behaving. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

I admit it.  I am a second guesser.  I over-think everything.  I cannot make a decision to save my life.  So true to form, I was talking with my husband (the recovering pastor) about a decision we had made which I was second guessing.  Was it the right one?  Was it the best for our kids?  Did we give the other choices a fair shake?  Finally he stopped me and said that I just needed to be settled.  We are employed, released from ministry, in a good church, have friends, our family is happy.  I need to just trust - not wish for what was or what could be - but just be grateful for what we have and what the Lord has done.

He is right.  I am not sure why I feel that way sometimes.  Then it hit me.  For the last 20 years we have been in the position of always needing to strive for the next thing - never really being able to just sit and be content or happy with where we were or where the church was.  There was always something - the next sermon series, the next program, the 'now that we have this, how do we get to this',  the 'this didn't work, let's figure out why and correct it'.  There was always something.

So here we are.  The Lord has hugely and amazingly shown up - and we are able to just sit and rest - and be content and grateful. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lessons from Felicity

OK, a while ago I was perusing Netflix wanting something to watch.  Because clearly there is nothing else to do around my house.  And clearly I needed something else to occupy my time.  But I digress.  Back to Netflix.  Cruising through, and I come upon Felicity.  Surely ya'll remember that show.  1990's, girl goes to NYU to chase after a boy who doesn't even know her.  Falls in love with R.A., falls out of love with R.A., falls in love with boys she chased after, breaks up, gets back together, breaks up, gets back together, all the while still really in love with the R.A. from freshman year, but refuses to acknowledge it.  You get the picture.  All of this spans the 4 years of college.  Currently I am at the end of season 3, which is obviously the end of her junior year.  Basically this is a fluff show.  There is no real substance, although they do try their best to write episodes about relevant current events, which all turn out for the best.  Just like in real life. :)  Hmmm, still digressing.  Back to the end of junior year.  The R.A. is about to move to Seattle, and Felicity and the boy she chased after are going to spend the summer together.  Felicity is having trouble with the fact that the R.A. is moving away, and is trying to distance himself from her.  So Felicity goes to see her school counselor.  Because in a student population the size of NYU, appointments with school officials are abundant.  So Felicity is talking through her relationship with the R.A., and this argument she had with said R.A., and how she was appalled that the R.A. told her she was being selfish by wanting to stay in his life while dating the boy.  The counselor simply says, OK.  Which leads Felicity to ask why.  (I promise, I am getting to my point)  (Wait for it, wait for it...)  So the counselor talks her through the stages of grief, and how each situation she is talking about is a stage.

So immediately I start thinking about a decision I am having trouble making.  To most it would not be a huge decision, but for some reason, I cannot decide, or put my finger on why.  Until Felicity today.  It's the stages of grief in leaving the church.  Even though it was our decision.  Grief.  First is shock and denial.  Check.  Got that covered, knew it when I went through it. Felicity can't believe that her friendship with R.A. is over. Second is pain and guilt.  Check.  This one passed quickly, there wasn't much, as we had prayed and sought the Lord.  We knew we were released. Felicity feels like she betrayed R.A. for boy.  Third is anger and bargaining.  This I think will continue on.  I can't imagine that there is a definite ending to this.  Felicity gave R.A. a long sought after book he had been wanting, as a plea to stay in his life, so when he moved, she would still be in his mind when he looked at the book.  For me, I am involved in a situation that keeps me wavering between 2 worlds.  There is some pain involved, it brings dissatisfaction, a longing for what was, but never really was.  (Why is it when we look back at situations, things are always better in our minds than they ever really were?)  Anyway,  I think I am having difficulty making that decision because I don't want to be forgotten.  I don't want to not be the lives of the ones involved.

But would I be better off if I wasn't in the situation?  Would I be better able to heal if there were some definite boundaries, space?  Am I bargaining, begging if you will, for just a little satisfaction in a situation where I know there will be none?  Somehow I want to still have a  presence in a  world that is not mine.  I need to be able to move on, to do it on my terms, for the benefit of my family.  A clean break.  So I know the decision that needs to be made.  I don't really want to make it, and I wish it could be different, but in order to move on to the better side of grieving, I am going to have to.

But first, maybe I'll watch the beginning of the next season of Felicity, her senior year. Perhaps there is some wisdom she gets over the summer.  And because you just can't not watch a show where one of the lines is "Do you think we are living in the dark ages?  Like the 80's?"

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Recently I read a quote from Priscilla Shirer.  It is from her book The Resolution for Women.  It hit me square in the eye.  You see, contentment is something I have struggled with for a while.  Let me back up and give a little history.  When we were pastors, it seemed there was always something greater to strive for, always something to go after or achieve after reaching the current achievement.  In the church, especially in leadership, it is difficult to have contentment, which is sad.  I don't believe that is what Christ wanted for the church.  I don't believe He wanted there to be this need for numbers, this desire for the best programming, this quest for acceptance, the question of whether we were "good enough."  So, back to the quote.  Here it is:

"Contentment is the equilibrium between the enjoyment of life now and the anticipation of what is to come. Contentment serves as a guard against desires gone wild. It is the key to unlock you from the bondage of unrestrained longing that wells up within your heart and inevitably begins to control your life, making you a slave to what you don't have instead of a fully engaged participant with what you do.

By choosing contentment, you're not getting rid of your desires; you're just demanding they assume an appropriate, humble position in your life, not bossing you around like a tyrannical dictator forcing you to submit to his ever-growing and ever-changing list of demands."

 Read that line again.  Discontentment makes you a slave to what you DON'T have instead of a fully engage participant with what you DO. 

See, in this new life we have been experiencing since the end of August, we immediately found contentment.  We chose to trust that the choice we made in walking away was what the Lord wanted.  We deeply felt that He was saying to us, "You have tried enough.  You have done enough.  Walk away and shake the dust off of your feet.  You are released, and I have you in the palm of My hand."  So we leapt.  Was it scary at times?  Yes, but we make the conscious choice to trust.  Was I prone to worry and be anxious?  Yes, but I made the conscious choice to trust.   Did we get discouraged?  Yes, but we made the conscious choice to trust.  We taught our children more about trust and the faithfulness of God in that month of unemployment that we would have in a lifetime of being a pastor's family.  

We have learned to be fully engaged and aware of the blessings from the Lord.  We look at each day and live wholly in what it has to offer.  We are incredibly a better family.  We are content that my husband is employed.  Is the salary anywhere near what he was making as a pastor?  Nope.  But it is enough.  Does he have the flexibility that he had as a pastor?  Nope.  But we are way more conscious of how we spend our evenings and weekends together than we did before.   Instead of going to church, wondering why attendance is what it is, or why this person didn't speak, instead of submitting ourselves to "ever growing and ever changing sets of demands," we are attending church, worshiping the Lord with no boundaries.

Contentment has been a great thing to discover.  May we never go back to that place of not being able to recognize what we have been given.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Today I turn 40.  So far, it feels good.  It's like turning over to a brand new page in a journal.  Clean, fresh, unwritten, open for new opportunities.  It seems appropriate that I would turn a brand new decade as we are entering a brand new season of life.  A season that is clean, fresh, unwritten, open for new opportunities.  After 20 years in ministry, we are done.  We are no longer a pastor's family.  My husband now has a regular job, my kids are regular kids, we are attending a church, finding our place, figuring out who we are, who we want to be.  We are literally discovering a new life in Christ. 

We are discovering that we can potentially be better Christians by just being Christians and not being in leadership.  We are discovering that our family is better for the change. We are discovering that we are better for the change.  We have learned that the battle is not ours to fight, and the Lord is our defender.  We have learned that sometimes you have to let go of what you have so that you can embrace something brand new.  We have purposed that we will be the supporters of our pastor and his family that we always wished we had.  We are discovering the hope of tomorrow. 

So today I turn 40, and begin blogging about this new life we have.  Some days will be insightful, some days will be funny, some days will be stories of things to which we are adjusting, but all days will point to the glory of the Lord and the new thing He is doing in our lives.   My favorite verse through this transition time has been Isaiah 57:16:  I live in the high and lowly places, but also with the low-spirited, the spirit crushed.  And what I do is put new spirit in them, get them up and on their feet again.  So thankful for that!!