Monday, July 06, 2015

Why I'm Confessing My Sins (Specifically) to Friends



Despite what you might have heard, holiness is not outdated or irrelevant. God puts nothing in His Word as a command that we can’t accomplish with His help.  God says, “You must be Holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16)  If He tells us to do it, that means through His grace and strength, we can. His grace is actually for our empowerment -- not an excuse to do whatever we want. 

My response in light of His Word is to realize, it’s not about my desires, feelings, moods, urges or cravings. Being led by any of these things is a recipe for disaster.  

Holiness doesn’t happen in my strength, only through His. God knows I have tried so many times on my own and have failed! But, I have learned it’s not about trying harder – it’s about total surrender. Absolute 100% no-holds-barred obedience to God.

Rare is the person who has totally surrendered everything to Him, withholding NOTHING.  

There are decisions I make daily that move me closer to or further away from holiness. Guardrails are in my life, but more important is my daily decision to let God be the driver of my life, instead of me. Rather than try to stay within the guardrails while I navigate my life, it’s about letting Him direct my life entirely. And, living in daily repentance and practicing confession.  Yes, I believe in confession.

No matter what our season in life or our situation, it’s easy to start preferring our personal comforts or desires over the will of God . When I stay in the place of total surrender to Him and His way, amazing things happen. And when I start doing the driving again, things fall apart.

Honestly, they usually don’t fall apart right away. That's a trick of the enemy in itself. The fact that things go okay for a while, or even great, makes me think I’m on the right track for a bit. But eventually I hit a wall. I realize I will never fulfill my destiny without following His design.

The fight to be pure in body, mind and spirit is a daily battle. Right now there are some issues I struggle with more than others, as it pertains to holiness. These aren’t sins that would disqualify me under ministerial standards, nevertheless I know God is not pleased.  His standards are higher than what is required to be an Assemblies of God minister. And ultimately I need to please Him, not the Assemblies of God.

For instance, you can eat way too much and be an Assemblies of God minister.

You can gossip and be an Assemblies of God minister.

You can be jealous and be an Assemblies of God minister.

You can covet your friend’s stuff and be an Assemblies of God minister.

You can have malice in your heart and be an Assemblies of God minister.

You can do a lot of things as a minister that God explicitly says in His Word are wrong, and in some cases abominable.

This week I asked two friends to keep me accountable in some areas I currently struggle in. And they are not mistakes as we so often like to call them – they are sins. It’s more comfortable for me to call them errors or mistakes but they are not. 

 It’s so important to connect with others who are pursuing Jesus with all their hearts. Only in this atmosphere of accountability can I grow – can any of us grow in our faith --  and do what is pleasing to God.

It’s not enough to live or pray in generalities. We all need somewhere to lay out the details to move forward in God. Author Erwin W. Lutzer says, “Keep in mind that when sin is viewed superficially, it is dealt with superficially.” 

I don’t want any of my sin to be dealt with superficially because then it wouldn’t truly be dealt with at all. And in the end it would destroy me.   I’m thankful for friends I can be real with to the core, who will keep me on the straight and narrow.

Recently on the PF Women's Ministries Couch Tour I’ve been preaching a message and sharing a story of one of my worst sinful failures and God’s redemption. Some people may have been surprised that I shared it but the truth is, we don’t grow in an atmosphere where we only hear about people’s successes.

This is why confession is important to me. No, not as a mediator between myself and God. Jesus took care of that with his death, burial and resurrection. I speak of confession as James 5:16 says – confessing our sins to one another so we can be healed.   

I know there are many people who would love to see me, and people like me, fall. They would gladly rejoice in my failure much more than my success.

By God’s grace, they won’t have that opportunity.  
 




Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Thursday, July 02, 2015

How Do You Find Time to Write?

According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them -- and that they should write it.  Another survey puts the statistic of those who want to write a book at 90%

Statistics show that very few of them actually succeed.

 Approximately 80,000 books are published in America each year. 

Clearly, 81 percent of Americans are not writing a book even if they believe they have it in them.  

Intention and action are two different things.

Photo I took at Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West, in his writing room.
The majority of people who say they are going to write a book never will --but for someone who truly has a passion and more importantly – a calling to write, it doesn’t feel like work.  If you really want to write a book – absolutely nothing will stop you.

A lot people ask me when I find the time to write. People see the busy schedule I keep and know that in addition to writing, I have a family, a job/ministry, and  more. And all those people and things are very important to me.  For those who wonder how I do it, here’s the deal…

First, I manage my time well. So many people have asked me, "How do you do it all?" that I finally wrote a book to answer the question. You can get it here. 

Regarding time management and writing, specifically...

I am not a full time writer. So writing has to fit within the framework of the rest of my life. I give up a lot of what people would call “free time” to write books, articles and chapters for books that I am invited to be a contributing writer for.  I don’t have a plethora of down time but what I do have, I sacrifice in order to write.  

A young mom recently asked me if I wrote when my kids were young and if so how I managed it. When my children were babies and they would go down for their naps, I desperately wanted to nap with them. I was so tired. And most people advised, “Nap when the baby naps.” On rare occasions I would do that but most days, I would use their nap time to write. 

When the boys were babies the internet didn’t exist and I didn’t own a computer. We had a typewriter that I kept near the dining room table. As soon as they took a nap, I sat at the dining room table and typed articles to submit for publication. I still remember having to type them over and over to make sure they were error free before I mailed (yes, snail mailed!) them. My first ministry article that was published back when the boys were babies was a piece called, “Surviving the Sunday Morning Crunch,” for Jill Briscoe’s “Just Between Us” magazine for ministry wives.   

Right now my writing times are early in the morning or late at night. I also write on vacations, during the times my family is not doing something together. Last year Larry rented a house on a lake for a week. Each day I set my alarm and woke up several hours earlier than the rest of the family, fixed a cup of coffee, and wrote the first draft of the book I was working on at the time.  Once everyone was awake, I dedicated the rest of my time to spending time together as a family. 

By now you see why many people don't write a book. Who wants to set an alarm on vacation? If you are a writer who doesn't have the luxury of writing full time --  you might not want to, but you probably will. 

My laptop goes with me everywhere, in case I have a span of even 15-30 minutes to write. I write on flights, and layovers. I also have my laptop with me when Larry and I or our family are on a cruise. Normally I’ll go to the ship library or another quiet nook I can find for a bit of writing each day. My goal is at least an hour a day even on a cruise.

 I utilize drive time (when I am not the driver, of course!) on road trips or even a 30 minute drive or more around town. In a short spurt of time I can do an edit on a chapter or write a blog post. 

I am careful to do personal projects completely outside of my job, as I am mindful of intellectual property laws. Whatever I write outside of my work, I want to retain the rights to. The way to ensure that for me is to never work on it during time that is supposed to be dedicated to my job, or use work owned computers for personal writing.

Something I believe is important to note is not just finding time to write, but to study the art of writing. Like anything else in life that is worthwhile, as a writer you are not automatically given readers -- you earn them. One way that happens is by improving the quality of your writing, even if you are a seasoned writer. Never stop learning, because when you're through learning, you're through.

 I spend time each week reading about how to improve as a writer as well as discovering the keys to reaching various writing goals from the experts. (A lot of people ask for my advice on writing and publishing, but I am not an expert.  I refer them to others who are. Some of the experts I follow are Michael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, and Mary DeMuth.  I enjoy reading Hemingway's advice on writing as well. My favorite book of Hemingway's wisdom is Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Phillips.)

 I hope this very basic advice helps those who are truly called to write projects but don’t know where the time will come from. 

There are no shortcuts.

These tips will not make anyone giddy with excitement.

Sacrifice seldom gets people whipped up.

It's about giving up things we all crave, like extra sleep.

Or bumming around in our pajamas on Saturday, watching Lifetime. 

Like anything else, if you want to do it, you will sacrifice and put yourself in position to learn.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Job Description for a Pastor's Wife



One of the hardest things for a pastor's wife is knowing her assignment. There is no job description for a pastor's wife outlined in scripture.

Confusion often comes when people in the church think they know the God-ordained role of the pastor's wife. This is based upon the church member's background, stereotypes and personal expectations and of course these widely vary from person to person. 

To add to the challenge, many will outright tell their pastor's wife what they expect. Or, they will refrain from telling the pastor's wife personally and instead spread the word to others about what she should be doing. (And are more than likely not doing, and therefore, displeasing them.)

Here is truth that we know...

The pastor's wife is the wife of the pastor.

That's the definitive truth on this subject. So how does it get so mangled and misconstrued?

Through people's preferences, and false expectations. 

Beyond the pastor's wife being a daughter of God and wife to her husband, she is to hear from God personally for her unique assignment.

Who is the pastor's wife to please?

Galatians 1:10 gives us some insight here, not just for the pastor's wife but for all believers.   "I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant." Galatians 1:10

Pastors' wives, don't live under false guilt that you are not meeting the people's expectations.

What did God speak to you through His Word? What did God speak to you in your time with Him?

That's your job description.


End of story. 



*I recognize there are women pastors, and pastors' husbands. The purpose of this post was to speak specifically to the pastor's wife. It's a role I've walked in for almost 28 years along with being a pastor as well as a pastor's wife myself, and I and wanted to speak to this specifically.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

10 Songs That Will Get You Through!!






A go-to list of songs to help get me through whatever I’m going through is a must have. Some are new songs, and some are old stand-by’s. 

Listening as I travel in the car...

As I pace the floor in my home, the office or church sanctuary and pray...

Face down on the floor and crying out to God...

The following are ten of my favorites. 

I encourage you to try Spotify. You can get it for free if you don't mind a commercial here and there. I subscribe as it's something that's a priority for me to have without interruptions.

If you need to press through on something, make a playlist of these songs.

Play them incessantly.   
Believe what you are hearing.
It works.

*****


I Am by Eddie James

I Have to Believe by Rita Springer

As It Is in Heaven by David and Nicole Binion

Heaven on Earth by David and Nicole Binion

God I Look to You by Jenn Johnson/Bethel

Shoulders by For King and Country

I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe

You Are For Me by Kari Jobe

In the Presence of Jehovah by The Martins

He Touched Me by Planetshakers  

There are lots more but these are just ten of my favorites. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

10 Things To Say to Encourage a Friend


With my friend Joanne Greer ~ 1985

  1. You are not alone
  2. My heart is with you.
  3. I understand.
  4. This makes me sad on your behalf.
  5. Would you like to talk about it?
  6. What can I do to help?
  7. Call me anytime, day or night. (Make sure you answer!)
  8. I’m praying.
  9. How can I specifically pray for you?
  10. Just want you to know you are totally awesome because ______________.
 
Joanne and Me ~ 2014

Monday, May 25, 2015

How Much Do You Really Think About Your Spouse?

Larry and Me ~ Vacation in Boston, two years ago
 
Memorial Day is a day when our family typically stays at home. It's a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom in America.  I do remember and honor. Just saying, on this day of remembering our heroes, Larry and I choose to stay home rather than fight the crowds, trying to find a spot for a towel or chair on an overly-crowded beach.  Most people would not guess it but other than the context of work, I'm an introverted, stay-at-home type person at heart. I don't even like to go away for vacation, but make it a priority to do so because it's important to my husband.

Larry asked me last week what I wanted to do for Memorial Day. It was no shock to him when I said, "Stay home."

"What do you want to do at home?" was his response. I'm surprised he asked because I give the same response every time for 28 years: "Relax."

 "What does relaxing look like?" he says.

 "Steaks on the grill and a movie at home." I say.

 So yesterday I opened the refrigerator and saw a large package of steaks from the grocery store.
 
Alongside them was a small package of something in butcher paper.

I thought maybe he bought shrimp. (He actually did but it was in a separate package.)

"What is this little package in butcher paper?" I asked.

"That's your steak," he answered.
 
I was puzzled since I could see the large package of steaks alongside it.

When I asked him why my steak was separate from the rest he said, "The large package of steaks are for the kids and me. The small package is yours because it's your favorite cut of meat and I wanted you to have it."

 It's the little things...

 The power of this is huge in marriage, or any relationship for that matter.

 What holds a relationship together isn't just times you go away for an anniversary...

 New lingerie...

 Or what people consider huge demonstrations of love (expensive jewelry, creating big events, sentimental videos, or spending a lot of money).

 The fire remains in a relationship when it is continually stoked by every day demonstrations of thoughtfulness.

Larry Shrodes thinks about me, even when he is at Publix. 

Who knew? 

Now, I do, if I didn't before.
 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Getting What You Don't Even Pray For
(How Incredible Is That?!)

We don't have some things, because we don't ask God for them. James 4 tells us that. I also believe that as we delight ourselves in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4)

Sometimes God answers when we don't even ask for the desires of our heart. Perhaps it's because we don't see how God would do it within our current structure. Translation: our current box.  We forget that His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours. (Isaiah 55) He can give us our desires even when it doesn't seem feasible at all. He is truly omniscient. I love that, and so much more about Him. 
 
I'm a homebody at heart. Most would never guess it, but at the core I'm an introvert who could live in my pajamas, with a dog by my side, writing books until Jesus comes back. But  I was convinced  that one day upon retirement I was going spend my days in between pj's and book writing, taking road trips. These jaunts would be for purpose of encouraging leaders. It wasn't about traveling to make a presentation. My passion is looking into a fellow leader's eyes and let them know somebody cares. I've reached out to colleagues online and over the phone for years, because perhaps nothing fires me up or fulfills me more than to help people by speaking a kind word or praying in person.

Sights on the way to Wauchula this past Saturday
Driving through the country is another passion of mine. Give me the boondocks! Let me go to the mailbox in my nightie and not be seen by a soul, please. Give me a dirt road. Since my husband does not share this passion and is a lover of all things city life, the neighborhood where we live now is a stretch for him.  And, riding through the countryside is not something I've had a lot of time for, during most of our ministry.
 
 When we are on vacation I often ask Larry to stop the car and I pull over so I can take a photo --- especially of churches.  Sometimes I lament, "Boy, I sure do wish this was a time the pastor was here. I'd go in and give him or her a kind word." My husband isn't into stopping to take photos or meeting a stranger. He's more interested in how fast he can get wherever he's going. 

Prior to last May, I was so engrossed in co-pastoring our church as well as part time career coaching, there was only time to travel elsewhere to minister about one weekend a month although it sometimes stretched to more. And sometimes I would feel like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Last May when I had the honor of becoming women's ministries director for PenFlorida, I made the leap of faith of transitioning to the district office full time. Anyone who knows me well knows, this was not on my radar at all. But God knew! 

I don't work at the church office anymore (I just attend/participate in services) and resigned my job as a career coach. This was a huge risk for me, as I don't like to fail and quite honestly was afraid that I might. I've never been fired in my life.  I was aware of much of what the role of director of women's ministries entails, but I underestimated the amount of time I'd be on the road.

 People ask me if I mind it. 

 Mind it? It's my dream come true minus the staying in pj's with a dog by my side. (Although I'm still writing books.) Preaching wasn't part of this little dream of mine, but speaking is one of my gifts, so it works.

And to think, it happened waaaaaaay before retirement! (smile) I work extremely long hours, and am not complaining one bit. Hard work is my strong suit. I have never been more fulfilled. I adore all of our state and the many cultures represented on our peninsula. I do have to admit though, that when I am in the country, I stop and take more photos. I am right at home in places like Lake City or Wauchula. The only thing better than a long stretch of country road is meeting over coffee with a leader and lending an ear, a hug, or extending a word of encouragement.

God knows the desire of our heart even when we don't pray it because we don't  see it as realistic.  He does what He wants to do, when He wants.

Speaking of stopping along the way...as I was on the way to Wauchula to minister this past Saturday, I stopped at this little church and took a picture. I was intrigued by the name.



No pastor was there at the time, but I prayed, "God, encourage the pastor of this church, today. Strengthen his or her spouse as well if they have one. Bless this church, and their pastor's family in every way, I pray…”