View from the Parsonage – Frustration – Laughter – Joy

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When I first started my blog I said I was going to share some funny stories about the joys (and trials) of being a pastor’s wife.  I shared a few stories but then thought perhaps I should just keep my funny tales to myself.  Here are the few I shared if you want a good laugh.

 View from the Parsonage

I Didn’t Recognize You With Your Clothes On!

She Was Available!

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 Joy of Being Number 2

We all love a winner!

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We hold parades, parties, all kinds of celebrations when our team becomes state champion.  Coming in second in a state-wide contest leaves people feeling so dejected.  They seem to forget that being second means they have beat out many other teams.

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In the Olympics, athletics say they are going for the gold.  You don’t win silver, you lose gold.

This desire to be number 1 is not necessarily a bad thing.  To try to do your best, to succeed, to take pride in what you achieve, to have a healthy self-esteem are all good qualities.

But when that desire to be number 1 becomes so important that it leads us to step on others to reach the top, to despair when we do not achieve first place or to be overly prideful when we do, it has become a negative influence in our life.

For years I struggled with being number 2.  As a pastor’s wife, I worked right alongside my husband.  I visited women who were in the hospital, counseled those who were struggling with issues of life.  I taught Bible classes, played the piano and led the Christian Education department in the churches where my husband was pastor.  My youngest daughter and I went to the Philippines with my husband as missionaries.  While there we also taught classes and worked with churches.  Many Sundays, we each went to a different church to speak.  My daughter conducted a Kids Klub and the children in the neighborhood called her “Tita” or “aunt.”  I conducted a Bible class for a group of professional women and taught leadership classes to one church’s leadership board.

Yet when we returned to the states and visited the churches who had supported us to give a report of our work, they always introduced my husband and talked about the work he had done there.  It was usually

We are glad to have Pastor Paul and his family with us today.  Pastor Paul recently returned from the Philippines where he……..

A few times my daughter asked me “Were we there too?  Did we do anything?”

But slowly God helped me to see that my motive in working for God must always be to do His will and not to expect or even desire recognition for my efforts.

And it was through reading about Barnabas “the Encourager” in the Bible that I found  my role model for all I do.

We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4 where we are told his real name is Joses.  But the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas “Son of Encouragement.”

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And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

I love that thought.  To be a person that so encourages others that he becomes known not by his real name but by the nickname of “The Encourager.”  That has been my prayer – that I would be someone who encourages, builds up, strengthens others.

The next time we meet Barnabas the gospel has been received in Antioch.  When news of the new group of Christians there reached the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas to meet with the Christians there.  And there again he encouraged.

News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.   When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.   He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

We see Barnabas having success in the work at Antioch.  So what did he do?  He headed off to Tarsus to find Saul (who became known as Paul, the writer of much of the New Testament). 

Barnabas had been Saul’s friend when he first became a Christian.  The church at Jerusalem was afraid of Saul because they knew how he had persecuted the Christians.  But Barnabas, stepped in and told them Saul was a new man. 

When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

Barnabas brought Paul back to Antioch where the two of them worked together sharing the gospel with the new church there.  As you read the story in the book of Acts, you see for quite a while it is “Barnabas and Paul.”  Later in the story it becomes “Paul and Barnabas.”

This is the joy of being willing to be number 2.  Barnabas brought Paul from basically exile in Tarsus and encouraged him to become a main leader in the early church.

Barnabas and Paul

The church writes, speaks, quotes Paul a lot.  There are churches all over the world named after him.

But it was Barnabas, “the Encourager” who no doubt encouraged Paul to follow the calling of God on his life.  We know God had called Paul to the work of bringing the gospel to the Gentiles so he would obviously do that because God is in control.  But I like to think that God used Barnabas to help Paul step up and fulfill the call of God on his life.

Finally we see the heart of Barnabas when later in his ministry with Paul, the young man John Mark wanted to go with them on their second missionary journey.  Paul refused to take John Mark with them because he had left them halfway through their first missionary journey.  Paul was not willing to give him a second chance.  But Barnabas’ heart was that of an encourager.  He insisted John Mark be given a second chance.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them,  but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,  but Paul chose Silas and left,

Most Bible scholars believe this John Mark was the one who wrote the Gospel of Mark.  So again Barnabas was instrumental in helping another young man fulfill the work of God in his life.

That’s what I have asked God to help me be.  That one that encourages others to follow the call of God on their life.

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When we get to heaven, I imagine the lines will be long for those wanting to speak to Paul.  That’s okay.  But I’m going to look up Barnabas and tell him how he was my role model in life.

 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.          1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

Where Is Our Reverence?

AWE-FULL

Great and holy God

awe and reverence

fear and trembling

do no come easily to us

for we are not

Old Testament jews

or Moses

or mystics

or sensitive enough.

Forgive us

for slouching into Your presence

with little expectation

and less awe

than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need

neither Jehovah nor a buddy—

neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”

Help us

to want what we need…

You

God

and may the altar of our hearts

tremble with delight

at Your visitation

amen.

Frederick Ohler

Fiery Red-heads Have More Fun!

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Growing up as a red-head I soon grew tired of all the comments:

  • Where did she get her red hair?  My parents were always asked this since they both had dark hair and my siblings all had brown or black hair.
  • And my Dad’s response to people’s questions on where I got my red hair – “She stood out in the rain and her hair rusted.”
  • Is that your natural hair color?
  • Being told what you can and can’t wear gets annoying.  For years I was told I should not wear red.  I loved the color and it was not until I was in my late 20’s that I decided to wear what I wanted to wear.  To my surprise, I found that I look fine in red!
  • Hey carrot top!
  • Hey red!
  • Hey firetop!
  • One young boy made my life miserable for a while by chanting every time I came around, “I’d rather be dead than red on the head.”
  • I bet you have a temper!
  • Are you Irish?

So for the first few years of my life, I hated being a red-head.  Then I discovered what a rare group I belong to (only 1-2% of humans in the world have red hair) and I have loved being a red-head ever since.  When my pastor husband and I attended conferences, he said it was great having a wife with red hair.  When the meetings broke up and everyone was trying to find their wife in the crowd, he just looked for the red-head – and there I was.  It also made it easy when someone would ask him, “Which one is your wife?”  Simple answer – “The red-head.”

My two sisters had dark blonde and brown hair.  Years later when we would meet someone who knew our family in the past, they always would remember me – “the little red-head” even if they did not remember my sisters.  (I think they may have hated that.)

My paternal grandmother had red hair (and Irish ancestry).  I was one of the last grandkids born in the family so by the time I was a young girl, Grandma was losing her sight.  When we would visit, she would always have me stand in the doorway where the sun would strike my hair and she could see my long red banana curls (yes, I had banana curls).  I think more than anything else seeing Grandma’s pride in me made me feel very special and love the idea of being a red-head.  As I have grown older, I have wanted to learn more about my Irish ancestry.  Think researching that will be my next item on my “bucket list” in retirement.

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Learning more about red-heads I discovered:

  • Red-heads have influenced history out of proportion to their numbers.  Famous red-heads include King David, Helen of Troy, Queen Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, Napoleon Bonaparte, Antonio Vivaldi, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill – and of course Lucy (although she was a “fake” red-head).
  • Russian tradition declares that red hair is both a sign that a person holds a fiery temper and craziness.   A Russian Proverb warns “There was never a saint with red hair.”
  • Mark Twain said, “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, red-heads are descended from cats.”
  • We are a big hit in the wizarding world!

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  • We have the most beautiful Disney princess!

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Some “facts” I’m not sure are true, but they certainly are interesting.

  • Medieval Romanians believed red-heads turned into vampires when they died.
  • Hitler is reported to have wanted red-heads killed so that they could not produce “degenerate children”.
  • The witch-hunting manual from medieval Europe, Malleus Maleficarum, instructed that red hair and green eyes were marks of a witch.  (Thankfully my eyes are brown.)
  • And I found there is a study done in Hamburg, Germany and another in England that claimed women with red hair had sex more often.  (Not sure if that is a blessing or a curse.)

One question I used to be asked a lot was “Is that your real color?”  No one asks that now – guess that’s because they assume that anyone my age who still has red hair must being using Miss Clairol.  However, some brave souls do ask me, “Is that the color your hair used to be?”

Well – I don’t use hair dye – I use a wig!  After 16 rounds of chemo when battling my breast cancer, I lost my hair.  When it grew back, it was still red but very, very thin.  After a couple of years of hoping I would regain the thick head of hair I first had, I gave up and popped on a wig.

Yes, my wig is the same color that my hair used to be.  Sometimes I think I should buy a grey wig since I’m well past the age of natural red hair.  But one thing my husband really loved about me when we got married was my red hair.  So – taking the teasing chant the little boy used to taunt me with, I have changed it from, ‘I’d rather be dead than red on the head” to “I will be red until I’m dead.”

Brunettes may be smarter, blondes may have more fun, but nothing beats the intrigue and fascination of being a red-head.

Thank you Grandma Tate Sechrest for my red hair!!!

Which is Correct – Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

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Do you say “Merry Christmas?”

Or – do you say “Happy Holidays?”

It’s that time of year again!  We see it on Facebook – hear it on the news – the controversy about how people greet one another during this time of year.

Considering all the problems in our world right now – the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the threat to the West from ISIS and all the terrorists, the unrest in our own country from the problems in Ferguson, MO and the many who are unemployed and/or homeless, it seems to me we have much more important things to talk about.

What’s so wrong with “Merry Christmas?”

For those of us who are Christians, Christmas is a big deal to us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  So – if we want to greet others by saying “Merry Christmas” does it really harm those who do not share our faith?  Is the faith of Muslims, Jews and others so fragile that they will be somehow harmed by hearing those words?  Is the non-belief of the atheists so weak that being greeted by “Merry Christmas” will shatter their lack of faith in God?

When we say “Merry Christmas” we are not trying to impose our faith on anyone.  We are simply hoping that they may also experience some of the joy and happiness we feel at this time of year – remembering the birth of Christ – but also enjoying the time with family and friends gathered around the table laden with good food – sharing gifts with one another – catching up on each other’s lives.

What’s so wrong with “Happy Holidays?”

On the other hand, for those who may not be Christians or who simply wish to say “Happy Holidays” I ask the same question of my fellow-Christians.  Is our faith so weak that hearing someone say “Happy Holidays” will destroy our belief in Christ?

And do we really think we are “witnessing” to non-believers when we say “Merry Christmas!”  To us, those words may bring up thoughts of the manger with baby Jesus and of the wonderful gift God gave to us in coming in human form.  However, I doubt that those words mean anything of a religious nature to the non-believer.  To say “Merry Christmas” to them probably brings up thoughts of Santa Claus, shopping, exchanging gifts and parties.

So – let’s greet one another as we feel comfortable.  Let’s not judge one another by the greetings we give or receive.

And for my fellow Christians who really want to “Keep Christ in Christmas” let me offer some suggestions on how best to do that – and it’s not saying “Merry Christmas” to everyone.

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The Piped Piper of Iloilo City

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What happens when you take an American teenager away from her comfortable home and set her down in a totally unfamiliar environment?  That was the question my husband and I faced when our youngest daughter was 15.  We had a chance to move to the Philippines and teach at a local Bible school in Iloilo City. While we were excited about the opportunity, we had worries about the effect this would have on our daughter.  At the age when most teenagers are looking forward to receiving their driver’s license, having their first date and going to the prom, she would have to crowd all her personal effects into two suitcases and say goodbye to friends and the comfortable life she had known.  While she never complained, it was a scary and difficult move for her.

The first few weeks were rough for her as she adjusted to no TV, no hot running water, no soft comfortable bed, and especially no friends.  Adjusting to the public transportation was also a big hurdle for her.  As Americans we don’t like our own personal space to be invaded, yet riding the public transportation system gave a new meaning to the concept of closeness.

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When the children in our neighborhood realized there was an American girl living at our house, they began showing up at our gate every morning.  At first communication consisted mostly of smiles and giggles as the children would come to the gate and then run away when Jessica approached – only to come back and repeat it over and over.

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Slowly they stopped running away and Jessica began to try to talk to them.  The younger children only spoke the local dialect, Ilonggo, but the older children knew English and soon she was able to communicate with them.  Quickly she fell in love with these children with their bright smiles and beautiful eyes.  She no longer was lonely for whenever she stepped outside our gate into the dirt street in front of our house, she  was quickly surrounded by all the neighborhood children who followed her wherever she went. She taught them English and they, in turn, taught her Ilonggo.

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It became very obvious that she had a gift for reaching out to children even though they were different in culture, language and even skin color. She began a “Kids Klub” on Saturday mornings. Our home was filled with children as she taught them a song she had learned as a small child.

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While Saturday was the “official” day for the kids, every day some would show up at our front gate calling, “Tia, Tia!” Tia was the name for “Aunt” and Aunt she became to all the neighborhood children. The other missionary children never left their home without a chaperone and their parents could not believe we let our daughter ride the public transportation by herself. But she was never really alone, because everywhere she went, the children went also. She was safer than the other missionary children because she was not considered an outsider, but one of the community.

When the time came to return to the United States, our daughter did not want to come home. Her heart was with the children. The time spent in the Philippines opened her heart to the children, especially those who were less fortunate than she was. Organizing and running a weekly Kids Klub gave her experience that she began to use when she returned home.  Years later, she continues to work with children, and continues to love them without regard to their culture, language or skin color.

Uprooting my teenage daughter from her comfortable life and setting her down in a totally unfamiliar environment – far from being a traumatic and unsettling experience was perhaps one of the best experiences she has had in life.

I wish every American teenager could spend a month in a country less fortunate than the USA – could see how much we have here – how little others have.  In fact, I wish every American – adult as well as teenager – could experience life without all the luxuries we have.

She Was Available!

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When I first started writing my blog I said that I wanted to share some of the funny things I saw and heard as a pastor’s wife.

So – here are two more.

I Can’t Sleep!

In a deep sleep early one morning (about 2 AM) the phone rang in the parsonage.  Since I was closer to the phone than my husband, I answered the call.  I heard a very sleepy voice on the phone saying, “Barbara, I can’t sleep.  Would you pray for me?”

After asking God to help her find rest and sleep peacefully, I turned to my husband and said, “I think I will call her back in about thirty minutes and ask her to pray for me so I can get back to sleep!”

I’m Available!

One Easter we had a new member who had just recently moved to our area.  Since she had no immediate family close by, we invited her to join our family for lunch after church.  We had a nice meal and then I invited her to join my husband and me in our living room for a cup of coffee and dessert.

Sitting down on the couch, she began telling us a little more about herself – where she had lived, what jobs she had in the past.  Suddenly, she crossed her legs in a very unladylike position revealing more leg than we wanted to see and giving us a clear picture of her black underwear.

Smiling first at me and then at my husband, she said, “You should know that at my last church I had an affair with the pastor.”

My husband quickly announced that he needed to go to his office to go over notes for the evening sermon.

After she left we laughed and wondered what she was trying to convey and to which one of us the message was intended.

To me:  “Better watch out – I’m on the make for your husband.”

To my husband:  “I’m available.”

Either message she intended was, of course, not received.  But even today I teased my husband that if he ever gets tired of me, he can always look her up.  Maybe she will still be “available.”