I Didn’t Recognize You With Your Clothes On!

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One story my husband hates for me to tell – but I get such fun out of telling is the Sunday a visitor showed up at church.

My husband loved to get out of the office and into the community.  He felt just sitting at a desk all week was not the best way to be a help and influence to the community.  Since he is a Pepsi fan (I always said if he needs a blood transfusion they could just use Diet Pepsi instead of blood), he always stopped at the local Casey’s for a soda while he was out visiting.

Stopping two or three times a week at the same Casey’s, he became friends with the cashier and often invited her to come to church.  She always had some reason why she could not come.

Then one day she surprised my husband by showing up for the morning worship.  As my husband greeted her in the foyer, she loudly proclaimed, Pastor Paul, I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!

I wish I had a camera with me that day to get a picture of the shocked look on his face.  Then, a second later, a picture of the woman’s face as she realized what her comments sounded like and her face turned all shades of red.

Looking around at the congregation that stood by very puzzled at her statement, she explained what she meant.  “I mean, I always see you in jeans and a t-shirt.  I have never seen you in your suit and tie.”

While my husband hoped that everyone who heard her first statement also heard the second one, I just stood there and laughed and laughed!  I still tease him from time to time that I did not know he made pastoral calls in the nude!

Frustrations, Laughter and Joy

As another new year comes around, my mind races back to other new years and other times. Recently I was thinking about the life of a pastor and his family and the frustrations, the laughter and the joy that life brings.  Three different stories came to mind that illustrate all three scenarios.

THE FRUSTRATIONS

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One Sunday morning as my husband was greeting the church members after service, one man stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Smiling while thinking “I didn’t know anything was wrong – and who asked you,” my husband asked him what he thought was wrong.  His response:  “You are too organized.”

Continuing to shake hands with the other members, a woman stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Now my husband took a deep breath, smiled and said “What is wrong?”  Her response:  “You are not organized enough”

THE LAUGHTER

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There was a woman in one of our churches that bounced from church to church throughout the community.  She was a little slow mentally and when she came to our church we tried our best to make her feel welcome.

One Sunday my husband told the congregation that we would be out-of-town the following weekend as we were going to visit relatives in North Carolina.  He was encouraging everyone to please attend as members often stay home if the pastor is not going to be there.

This woman raised her hand and when my husband asked her what she wanted she asked him:  “Is Barbara going with you?”  Of course I was going and my husband replied in the affirmative.

The entire congregation tried so hard not to laugh when she said, “Well, if she can’t go with you, I can.”

THE JOY

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One morning as my husband and I headed across the parking lot from the parsonage to the church office a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out to talk to us.  She was looking for the church that was administering the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program.  We gave her directions to the local church that had the program.

She lingered after we gave her the information and seemed as if she was troubled and wanted to talk.  We invited her into the office and she began to share how she was pregnant and wanted to keep the baby but her boyfriend told her it was either him or the baby.  If she did not abort the child, he was kicking her out of their apartment and breaking off their relationship. She clearly did not want to abort the child but was unsure if she could raise a child by herself.

We spend time with her discussing her options.

  • She could obtain an abortion and keep her home and relationship with her boyfriend.
  • She could seek help from others, give birth to the baby and then put it up for adoption.
  • She could seek help from others and raise the child herself.

While we tried not to judge her or her boyfriend we naturally advocated for the life of the child.  It was clear she really wanted that, but just needed some help in not only making that decision but being able to have resources so she could keep that choice.

I made a list of phone numbers of various resources that would help her including the local Pregnancy Resource Center.  We also gave her our phone number and told her we would do anything we could to help her with doctor visits, baby supplies, etc.

After prayer with her, she left saying she did not know what she would do but she would keep in mind our offer of help and the list of resources I had given her.

Weeks, months went by and we never heard from her again.  I agonized over whether we had not made it clear enough that we and our church were willing to help her.

Almost 3 years later we had a district meeting at our church.  Several other churches in the area were in attendance.   A young woman walked up to me with a beautiful little girl  in her arms.  She asked:  “Do you recognize me?”

I did not know who she was.  Tears of joy quickly came to my eyes as she identified herself as the young woman who we had counseled and prayed with over the decision of abortion.  Although she had never called us back she had gone to the Pregnancy Resource Center.  They helped her with doctor visits and baby clothes and gave her the friendship she needed to carry though with the birth of that little girl.

She thanked me that we had taken the time to help her walk through the options she had and offered resources to help her in her choice of life.

So – you add it up.  The joys and the laughs far outweigh the frustrations.

The frustrations are gone, but the funny things still bring a laugh, and the joys still make it all seem worthwhile.

The Party’s Over – What Now?

I posted this three years ago. This year it is a good reminder to me. Christmas this year was not anything I had anticipated. A few days before Christmas I contacted Covid. All the plans for candlelight service at church and gathering with my daughter and her family for a fun day had to be cancelled. Christmas Eve my husband caught Covid from me and we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day basically sleeping when we were not coughing our heads off.

Our daughter, who normally would have been over – wearing a mask – to bring us food and check on us also had Covid and like me she shared it with her husband.  We are so thankful our granddaughter has remained negative.    So, we were basically on our own.

Spending Christmas alone while we struggled to have enough energy to sit up awhile and wish each other Merry Christmas made this anything but the Christmas we had always enjoyed. Today we are on the mend but still so tired. It will be quite awhile before we will be back to normal. But as I am saddened by no Christmas for us – I am thankful that the real reason for Christmas is still true. In the midst of our sickness, we are minded that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”

Grandma's Ramblings

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Christmas 2019 is history.  My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December.  Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.

Gifts have been given.  Some were, no doubt, a big hit.  Others may have been a disappointment.  Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.

Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.

Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas.  It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of…

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A New Christmas Carol

I love the old Christmas carols that I grew up singing and listening to on the radio and at church. But a couple of trees ago a new carol was written. To me, it is one of the best conveyors of the Christmas story.

Hope Has a Name.

Hope you enjoy it!

The Christmas Story Not Found in Matthew or Luke

At this time of the year we turn to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to read the Christmas story. Each Gospel gives us a different aspect of the birth of Jesus.

Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the King. He starts his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus showing his descent from Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people, and David, their great king. It is the story of Joseph we read. Matthew tells us of the wise men who came from a distance bearing gifts and seeking for the newborn king of the Jews.

Our nativity sets showing the wise men at the manger are not correct. Exactly how many wise men there were we do not know – only that there were three gifts. Their arrival happened sometime after the birth of Jesus as Matthew tells us that they found Jesus in a house and calls him at that time a child. When Herod realizes the wise men are not coming back to tell him where this child is, he orders all boys in the area who are two years old and under to be killed.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi

While they asked for the king of the Jews, they clearly recognized that Jesus was God as Matthew tell us:

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. 

Matthew shows us that his birth is for all people. These wise men were Gentiles, yet they were one of the first to worship him.

On the other hand, Luke emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. He traces the line of Jesus all the way back to the first man, Adam. It is not of the wealthy, educated Magi that Luke writes, but the lowly shepherds in the fields, the lowly widow Anna who has been awaiting the arrival of Messiah.

While these two portions of Scripture are the ones we look to as we read of the birth of Jesus, I think there is a passage in the book of Philippians that gives a greater understanding of the meaning, the purpose of the birth of Jesus.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As we celebrate the birth of this little child, let us not forget the very reason He came was to save us. And just as the shepherds and the wise men worshiped Him, let us bow down in gratitude and love to our Lord and King.

An American Carol We Don’t Sing

One of the earliest carols written in North America is a song we never sing. Most of us have probably never even heard of it. It was written by John de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary to the Huron Indians.

Brebeuf, along with a group of Jesuits, lived with the Hurons in what is now modern-day Ontario. The missionaries learned the native language and tried to introduce the Christian message in their language. They translated hymns and other Christian writings into the Huron language and then read them aloud to the Indians in their own mother tongue.

Brebeuf wrote the carol “Jesous Ahatonnia” (“Jesus is Born”). For the melody he used a sixteenth century French folk song. As you read the words of the carol you can see how he tried to use their own culture and understanding to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.

The Huron Carol

Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wond’ring hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O, harken to the angels’ word,
Do not decline
To heed the message which you heard:
The Child Divine,
As they proclaim, has come this morn
Of Mary pure. Let us adore.
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty ’round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high:
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
The helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heav’n
Is born today for you.

He Knows My Name

One of my favorite parts of the resurrection story is when Mary Magdalene was standing outside the empty tomb, heartbroken because the tomb was empty, and she did not know where the body of Jesus had been taken.

When Jesus appeared to her, she did not recognize him and thought he was the gardener. “Sir, if you have carried him away, please tell me where you laid him.” At that moment, Jesus spoke her name. “Mary,”

At the sound of Jesus speaking her name, she realized it was Him!

Something is very special to us – the sound of our name in the voice of a loved one.

Jesus spoke of knowing His voice in John 10

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

In Psalm 139 the writer reflects on how well God knows us.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

To me, in times of difficulty – it is so good to know that Jesus knows my name.

What Are We Celebrating?

It’s that time of year again!

Time for making cookies, shopping for gifts, decorating the Christmas tree and all our house inside and out. Time for family gatherings, parties at friends, watching Hallmark Christmas movies. The list goes on and on.

As I listen to people talk about the holiday, it almost seems at times as if it is more of a stressful time for some than a joyous celebration. People wonder if they will get the right gift for that special someone, if their decorations will look as nice as the neighbor’s next door, if they will have enough time for all they need to do to celebrate this holiday.

And I have to ask myself: what are we celebrating?

The Early Church did not celebrate Christmas. For them the important date was the day Jesus arose from the grave. Granted without His birth He could not have grown up and died for us. But for the Early believers, the important thing to celebrate was His resurrection. Two of the Gospels do not even mention the birth of Jesus but all four Gospels give great detail of the last days of His life as He was crucified, buried and rose again. The Aposle Paul shared that this was the heart of the good news.

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Doing some research into church history, I discovered that the first Christmas was celebrated December 25, 336. The Roman emperor Constantine decreed this celebration to take place throughout the Roman Empire and Pope Julus I selected the date of December 25. Bible scholars tell us there is nothing in the Bible or in Early Church history to know the date of the birth of Jesus. Many reason that it was more lately that his birth was in the spring. Would shepherds be out on the hills with their sheep in the middle of winter?

Many pagan societies observed this date as a celebration of the winter solstice. This was the shortest day of the year and would lead to the return of the sun. In ancient Germanic cultures, they would burn a Yule log, light bonfires, tell stories and drank ale. Ancient Romans had a seven-day celebration, Saturnalia, beginning December 17. They would have a sacrifice at the temple of Saturn followed by several days of a carnival atmosphere. oldest winter celebrations in the world.

It is believed by many scholars that the Pope chose December 25 to try to turn people away from the celebration of Saturnalia and begin to follow the Christian way of life.

Whatever the reason for the choice of December 25 it has come down to us as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

But again, I ask: what are we celebrating?

I recently visited a Christmas celebration at a local mall. I wondered what someone who had no knowledge of our customs and came to the celebration would think it was all about. There were all kinds of items with Santa Claus, the elves, the reindeer. But I saw nothing about the stable, the manger, Jesus.

Now – do I sound like Scrooge?

I certainly do not mean to. I love the decorations, the Christmas movies of the Elf on the Shelf and all that goes with our holiday in America. This week I will be busy putting up my tree and decorating my home all in red and gold, looking for that perfect gift for my husband.

But I wonder: What if you were told your friends were going to have a party to celebrate your birthday. You get excited and come to the party expecting greetings from everyone – and maybe some presents. You arrive early because you are so happy your friends want to celebrate this day with you. When you arrive, no one acknowledges your presence. No one offers you a seat at the table. There are no signs saying, “Happy birthday.” Instead, another person is seated at the head of the table. Everyone is talking to him, wanting to have their picture taken with him, toasting him. You are totally ignored.

You might go home wondering: what were they celebrating?

I hope you will enjoy this month and all the food, decorations, shopping, family gathering, parties. But I hope you will truly remember who and what we are celebrating.

I hope you will take time to listen to this song – and ask yourself: what am I celebrating?

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To What Do You Pledge Allegiance?

I try to stay away from political posts because my goal for this blog was to encourage, and maybe make someone smile.

However, our current political scene is so chaotic, and our politicians are contributing, not to unity, but division. What makes me sad is to see the church trading its beliefs to gain political power. So when I read this today in my study, I must share it.

These are not my words. The following is taken from the book “The New Testament in Its World” by N.T. Wright.

When Paul says that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) he is emphasizing that the Messiah, who reigns in heaven, and who will one day return from heaven, is the object of our hope and loyalty. There was nothing wrong with being a citizen of Rome, just as there is nothing wrong with being a British or an American citizen. But when the gospel of Jesus is unveiled it reveals the true empire, the true citizenship, the true lord and in that light all the pretensions of empire, not least the arrogant and blasphemous claims of the emperor himself, or the propaganda of power-hungry presidents, are exposed as folly. The church’s vocation is not to bless the power, policies, and pantheon of civic leaders, but to measure them by the standard of Christ, to pursue the things that make for peace and justice, and to proclaim that all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The church was never intended to be the religious department of any empire, but always to be building for the true kingdom, setting up an embassy for the one true lord, living lives according to his symbols, his teaching, his story and no other. If that means suffering, that will mean following the pattern of the Messiah, and confidently expecting his rescue and reward. The church’s loyalty cannot be auctioned off to those who promise it political influence; not can its core convictions be pummeled into submission to fit the reigning zeitgeist. For citizens of heaven, the gospel should be declared, not domesticated.

View From the Parsonage

(This was my first post when I started my blog. Revisiting it still makes me laugh. Hope it will you also.)

For many years I was a pastor’s wife.  In many ways, it was a blessing for which I am thankful.  What a privilege to be allowed into the lives of families at those very joyous times:  weddings, baby dedications, graduations, anniversaries.  I have enjoyed providing the music for many a bride to walk down the aisle.

It was also an honor to share with families at those sad times:  deaths, divorce, sickness.  While “enjoy” is probably not the right word to use, I have felt blessed to provide music for the funeral of many a dear saint.

What a joy to share God’s Word in a class with the children or young adults and to see that moment when their eyes light up with understanding, to watch them grow in their walk with the Lord!

But if I am honest, I must admit that there are also times when being a pastor’s wife felt anything BUT a privilege and honor.  Times when I wanted to run from the parsonage and say, “I quit!”  It’s hard to hear your husband criticized and hold your tongue.  Frustrating when you have planned a date night, are all dressed up and about to walk out the door only to have it cancelled because someone in the congregation calls and needs your husband.  Or, you are just about to sit down to a family meal when the phone rings – and off he goes.  There were times I wanted to pull the phone out of the wall.

But along the way, I have had moments when I wanted to laugh!  Some silly and funny times.  I always said when my husband retired, I was going to write a book about “The View from the Parsonage.”

Well, there’s no book – but I certainly want to share some funny stories in my blog.  I promised my husband –

the names will be changed to protect the innocent – and the guilty.

For now, let me just share with you some thoughts –

You might be a pastor’s wife if:

  • You’ve ever had a church board hand you a job description with no attached salary package.
  • You are the secretary at the church.
  • You are not the secretary at the church, but people assume you are.
  • You think about burning down the church if that would give you more time with your pastor.
  • You used communion cups to serve your grandchildren orange juice.
  • People automatically assume you know the inside scoop on everything going on at church…and you do…but your lips must remain sealed.
  • You are expected to attend 2 baby showers, 3 birthday parties, 2 weddings and 1 graduation in a month (and, of course, brings gifts for each one).
  • You’ve ever had someone angry with you because you sent a card, but didn’t come to see them.
  • You’ve ever had someone angry with you because you came to see them, but didn’t send a card.
  • Your house sometimes feels like an extension of the church with all the traffic it gets.
  • Your husband always knows someone or someone always know him, everywhere you go.
  • Your husband is constantly excited to tell you something else he’s learned…and you struggle to remain as enthusiastic as you wish you could be.
  • You get roped into proof-reading or listening to the rough drafts of sermons…all the time.
  • You’ve resigned yourself to the fact that there will always be more books that your husband will want but will never read…but will buy anyway.
  • You could pay off your house if you just sold all the Bibles laying around the place.

There will be more stories to come!  Believe me, I have plenty.

If you read this and are a pastor’s wife, I would love to hear from you – to hear some of your stories!