July 3, 2014

Links for Your Summer

Summer is already in full swing, and I'm enjoying it so, primarily because of the three rambunctious boys that live in my house (four if you count my husband). We've already hiked in the mountains, spotted black bears, lounged at the beach, read books galore, spent time with friends at the pool, caught a turtle, and watched The Lego Movie for what feels like the thousandth time.
Because I want to soak up every moment with my children, and because I want to give my heart and mind space to think and learn and listen to the Lord before the whirlwind of the Yellow Period and the wind up for a book launch, I will be taking some time off from the blog for a bit.

Hopefully you've already had a chance to grab my ebook, Partners in Ministry. When I come back from my blogging break, I'll have my newest ebook ready to offer you, which is called, Partners in Planting: Help and Encouragement for Church Planting Wives. Yay!

In the meantime, below are links to articles I've written on other sites this spring or blog posts that I've continued to think about long past their publication. I hope they are an encouragement to you throughout the summer:

How to Pastor Without Losing Your Wife's Heart (on Send Network)
Although my husband says over and over that I'm his most valuable partner in ministry, his leadership in our home and marriage is equally valuable to me.

A Weak Mother is a Good Mother (on Desiring God)
This is so what I want: to know deep in my soul that a good mother is not one who bakes intricate treats, who schools a certain way, who manages her household within an inch of its life, or who has her children in a million wonderful activities. A good mother is one who acknowledges her need for the power of God to train and teach and change the hearts of her children.

Lessons in Love: Raising a Child with Autism (on iBelieve)
When my little boy turned two, he had no words and we began to worry. By the time he turned three, we knew something was atypical, beyond a hearing issue or a developmental delay. At 3 1/2, he was diagnosed with autism. That night I saw my husband cry for the first time.

Unrealistic Expectations 
When accusation has had its full effect, the enemy no longer has to accuse but watch and goad, because we've taken over for him. We self-accuse.

Clint Clifton of Send D.C. interviewed me about being a church planting wife
I love when a church planter cares about how church planting affects his wife. This interview may help them understand these very things.

Friendship: It's Worth the Risk (on iBelieve)
We need a new definition of friendship, one that allows for awkwardness and risk and fumbling through.

Set Apart How?
What should set believers apart from the unbelieving world? I've still been thinking about what God showed me in thinking and writing on this one...

God is Quietly at Work Always
A little encouragement for those praying for God to answer.

Life After Salvation: Why the Second Half of the Story Matters
The second half of the story is that God has known all along that we'd fail Him, and that we'd continue to fail Him after His sacrifice for us. It's not that our sin doesn't grieve Him, it's just that He made a way to deal with it on our behalf.

Kristen Lunceford: Help for Working Church Planting Wives
I read a statistic the other day about how many church planting wives work full-time to support their families and it was surprisingly high. Kristen Lunceford speaks to the issues these women face.

In Her Shoes: Ministering to Single Women in the Church
This post is well over a year old, but it continues to help me as I develop friendships with single women in our church.

Happy reading and happy Summer!

July 1, 2014

Push Through the Awkward

There is one piece of advice I give myself and other women more than any other and it is this: push through the awkward.

We are women who long for community and to live lives of purpose, but as anything that is good and beautiful and worth having, these things don't come just because we want them. They are invited by those who push through the awkward.
When I say to push through the awkward, I'm simply encouraging you to do things that make you uncomfortable: visiting a church's small group by yourself as a single woman when you know you're not going to know anyone, asking an older woman that you admire and want to learn from out for coffee, pursuing a passion that you worry others might find silly or a waste of time, starting something in your neighborhood to reach people even though it's possible no one will show up, agreeing to do something you've never done before that seems beyond your experience and abilities.

Being unwilling to push through the awkward keeps us in tightly controlled, safe places, but it also keeps us feeding on insecurities and frustrations. Of course, it's true that we may push through the awkward and then things will be, well, awkward. The person doesn't respond how we hoped. People don't get why we're doing what we're doing. Expectations and hopes take a little tumble.

But it's also true that we may push through the awkward and experience all sorts of incredible things, like a freeing dependence on the Lord, a deepening friendship, or the joy of doing what we instinctively know we were created by God to do.

We simply can't know unless we push through the awkward.

After living a lot of my life passively, I've discovered that pushing through the awkward is better than retreating almost all of the time. Because it's in pushing through the awkward that life gets a little bit crazy and a lot more complicated but also where God gets to come through.

I'll push through the awkward any day to experience that.

Where do you need to push through the awkward?

June 24, 2014

Have You Received the Blessing?

Last Saturday, my husband told the kids to put on their shoes and then sit down on the couch. As our three stair-step boys already tan with summer ran to the shoe bucket, they belted out questions: "Why do we need our shoes, Dad?' "What are we doing, Dad?" "Are we going somewhere, Dad?" They hoped the frozen yogurt shop or, better yet, Toys R Us for an unexpected shopping spree.
Amid the shoe-tying and couch-squirming, he announced to them, "We're going to the school where our church meets and we're going to help with some projects. God loves us, and we want to serve other people so they'll know God loves them too." Visions of toys and fun foods stopped dancing in their heads, and they began a different line of questioning about what they'd be doing and why exactly. They seemed a little concerned about their lazy Saturday being interrupted by glorified yard work.

I piped in from the armrest where I'd been listening: "I can't wait to see if you receive the blessing!" They all three turned and stared and asked in unison, "What blessing?"

With excitement in my voice, I responded, "Jesus said it is better to give than to receive. When we give to others, we get something better than when someone does something for us. We receive the blessing of giving! I can't wait to see you get the blessing!"

And then I hustled them out the door. No blessing for me, just some quiet and quick work so I could meet a deadline.

They came home a few hours later literally bouncing off the walls. Although tired, sweaty, and sporting a few new bug bites, they each took turns excitedly telling me of the work they'd done and the snakes they had hoped to see but, unfortunately, had not. They told me about the people they'd worked with and the teachers they'd seen. Their joy could not be contained.

I said to them, "I can see that you've received the blessing! Doesn't it feel so good to give to others because of all God has done for us?" Before the moment ended and tired boys became grumpy boys, they said the words a mama delights to hear: "We received the blessing!"

Ironically, later that night, I got crabby. I had one of those Saturday nights where I just felt overwhelmed at the whole pastor's wife thing and the silly expectations that people sometimes have of me. It was one of those nights when you're plotting an exit strategy, even though you know you don't really want an exit strategy. I spouted off to my husband: "I just don't always want to have to think of other people," and right when I said I thought about what I'd told my kids that very morning. It's more blessed to give than to receive. I can't wait for you to receive the blessing! I'd celebrated with them at the joy they'd received by giving, and now I was pouting at having to give myself.

There are times in this life, Saturday being one of them, when I don't really believe what Jesus said is true. I think it would be so much better to receive what I want than to sacrificially give to others. I want the Toys R Us trip over the glorified yard work. But in reality I know how that goes. I know that when I'm looking to serve myself, I'm desperately unhappy. Been there, done that, don't want to keep playing that losing game. But when I seek to serve others out of the overflow of what I've received from Christ Himself? Uncontainable joy and profound peace. Every. Single. Time.

The truth is that I do get to receive. Everyday, I can receive from a God who delights in me, who wants to pour out in me everything I need for life and godliness. Having received to overflowing, I can give easily. It's a double blessing, actually. A blessing of receiving from the God of the Universe and a blessing to give to others.

Yep, I want me some of that. I receive that blessing!

Will you?

June 19, 2014

Parenting Pastor's Kids: An Interview with Barnabas Piper

Barnabas Piper, son of pastor and author John Piper, has written a new book called The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identitya valuable resource for PKs, pastors, and pastor's wives alike. In my last post, Barnabas discussed with me the pressures and rewards of being a pastor's kid. But I wanted to know more from him--I wanted to know how best I can mother my own three PKs. 
Q: In your book, you say that the one thing a PK needs above all else is to live in true freedom and wholeness. What do you mean, and how can mom and dad best help this process?

BP: Obviously the biggest aspect of freedom is what I mentioned earlier – knowing Jesus. The best thing parents can do is present Jesus to kids personally. This means exemplifying grace and speaking of your own relationship with Jesus. PKs don’t need lessons. They need living proof that Jesus is great and close.

Another big piece of freedom and wholeness is the freedom to be themselves. This means that parents can work hard to ease the burden of expectations. You can help your kids learn what it is they love and are good at and help them see those things as gifts God gave them (as opposed to pushing them toward ministry).

Give them room to ask questions, and even encourage it. Indoctrination will do more harm than good in the end whereas honest conviction will do great good in helping your kids come into their own faith.

The biggest piece of this is overwhelming grace. PKs need it because too often they don’t receive it from those in the church. They need it because they will screw up. They need it because it points them to Jesus.

Q: What are common statements or actions that moms and dads say or do that are detrimental to their PKs?

BP: A big one is the heaping on of expectations the PKs already feel. They know they are being watched and expected to behave better than other kids so to say things like “Now we’re going into church; make sure you’re on your best behavior, people are watching us” is just piling on. Make sure they know that the standard for behavior is honoring Jesus and loving others – period. Being a PK neither adds or subtracts from that.

Another significant one is giving your kids the impression ministry is the highest calling. Don’t put pressure on them, either tacitly or explicitly, to go into ministry.

Don’t preach at them. Don’t Bible lesson them. They need counselors, confidants, and conversations. PKs need to connect with their parents, not just hear from them. Build relationships with your kids that surpass the sharing of morals and information.

Q: How can moms of PKs help their children develop a personal faith and a genuine love for the Lord and for the church?

BP: The biggest thing is having a personal faith and living it so your kids see it. They need to see your patience, grace, and peace. And of course you will fail because you are human and being a mom is hard. So then they need to see you repent and ask forgiveness. This might be even bigger than getting it right the first time. It sets a precedent of forgiveness both from God and within the family. That helps make God accessible and personal.

Q: Pastor's wives are often acutely aware of church members' expectations but perhaps aren't as aware of the pressures their children face as PKs. Help us understand those outside pressures and how we can ease them for our children.

BP: I suspect the pressures on Pastor’s wives are similar to those of PKs, so if you take what you feel and think about that placed on a 12-year-old you have a decent sense of things. They feel the need to be better behaved, more attentive, and have all the answers. They know that everyone is watching. They feel the tensions when things aren’t going well at the church (even if you don’t talk to them about it; kids are really perceptive).  They often feel the confusion of not being sure what they believe or of having doubts.

A big thing moms can do to ease these burdens for their kids is to talk through them. Help them see that you know their frustrations and are with them. Give them a safe place to vent and sort through stuff. And give them the stability of love so they know you are always in their corner. Sometimes this means pep talks, sometimes and encouraging or challenging conversation, and sometimes it means just listening. Moms are usually really good at knowing which is needed.

Q: What are the very best things your mom did to help you navigate your world as a PK?

BP: My mom was not the “feely” type, so we didn’t talk through the frustrations much. But what she did remarkably well was to be rock steady. Her demeanor, no matter how things went at church (and there were some hard stretches) stayed the same. She created an environment in our home of calm, well, as much calm as a family of seven could have.

The other significant thing she did was to never, ever badmouth my dad, the church, or the ministry. While, it might have been nice to hear from her heart about frustrations it was significant to see her stand with my dad in his calling no matter what. Negativity and second-guessing in the home make things brutal for PKs, and we had none of that.

Barnabas Piper writes for World Magazine and blogs at barnabaspiper.com. He writes regularly for the popular blog, The Blazing Center. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Grab a copy of The Pastor's Kid on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

June 17, 2014

Barnabas Piper on Being a Pastor's Kid

Fun fact: Barnabas Piper, son of pastor and author John Piper, was the editor who acquired my book, The Church Planting Wife, for Moody Publishers in 2012. The book was turned down by multiple other publishers, but Barnabas believed there was an audience for it--church planting wives like you and me--and that the audience was eager for resources. I'm obviously indebted to him and to the work he did on my book, and I got to tell him so when I recently met him in person. 

Fun fact #2: Barnabas Piper is now the author and, happily, I am now the one who gets to help his book get into the hands of an eager audience. Barnabas has written a much-needed book called The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, which will release on July 1. In it, he examines the unique challenges that PKs face, addresses pastors and their wives about how they can help their children navigate these challenges, and calls the church to care for PKs and ease the pressures they face. 
I simply cannot wait to read it! As a pastor's wife, I'm concerned that my children grow up with a deep love for Christ and His church, one not tainted by anything they've seen or heard from us or from others. I cringe when I hear jokes about rebellious PKs or when, as happened recently, my oldest asked me if I did something "just because" I'm a pastor's wife. So I put some questions to Barnabas, both about his book and about raising a PK. 

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

BP: I guess things just sort of built up to writing it. I wrote an article here and there about being a PK and each time I felt there was much more to say. The response to those articles was always remarkably strong, so I saw a desire from both PKs and those raising them for something more. The more I reflected the more I realized a handful of articles just wasn’t enough. I saw there was nothing else out there speaking on behalf of pastors kids and to our parents, so I wrote The Pastor’s Kid.

Q: What two things do you most hope readers take away from The Pastor's Kid?

I hope PKs come away with a sense of hope – hope in God’s big grace, hope because they aren’t alone, and hope because the book helped them make sense of hard things in their lives.

I also hope pastors see the struggles of their kids in a new light and take steps to help. I want this to be a book that, although pointed, brings pastors and their kids closer to each other and to God.

Q: People are often curious about what it's like to be a pastor's wife. I've developed a short response to give when asked, but it's pretty near impossible to explain. Are people curious about what it's like to be a pastor's kid and what is your response when they ask?

BP: I completely resonate with the “nearly impossible to explain” sentiment. My response is usually to turn the question around and ask them what it was like to be a salesman’s, teacher’s, or accountant’s kid. It’s kind a smart aleck thing to do, but I mainly want them to see that nobody can explain briefly what it’s like to live their own life. It’s just life.

Q: What kinds of pressures do pastor's kids face?

BP: There are several, and they mostly stem from unrealistic expectations. I give a much better explanation of this in the book, but people expect the pastor’s kid to be any number of things: a super smart bible scholar, a perfect angel, a theologian, a leader. And on the other hand they also expect him to be a little deviant troublemaker. It’s all very confusing and frustrating. It’s tough being a normal person facing the expectation to be so many things to so many people when you just want to be yourself. It is a constant feeling of being pulled in one direction or another.

Q: In your book, you say that pastor's kids struggle with identity issues. Explain why that is and how you've worked through those.

BP: For me this was the biggest struggle of all. When your faith is handed to you on a silver platter, all systematized, organized, with questions answered and doubts allayed it’s hard to know if it’s real. When people have so many expectations of what you should be it’s tough to figure out what God made you to be. It’s not that none of those things is real, necessarily. It’s that it’s so hard to tell which parts are.

For me this all led to a significant collapse a few years ago. For years I had not allowed my faith to seep into the deep places in my life and sin grew until it crumbled the supports of my life. I didn’t know what I believed even though I know all the answers about what I should believe. I lost a job. It strained my marriage to near breaking. It put me in a position where enough was stripped away that I finally saw Jesus for real. That was when I found a deep faith and, in it, a real identity. I began to understand what God made me for and some of the abilities he’s given me to use (like writing; I never wrote before that).

I think this is the only way for PKs (or anyone, really) to sort through identity issues. Without connecting with Jesus in a personal way, a way where He becomes more than daddy’s boss or dinner time conversation, there is no finding identity.

Q: What are the best parts of being a pastor's kid?

BP: The donuts. And knowing where the janitor’s keys are in the church.

Just kidding. Sort of. The best part of being a pastor’s kid, for those of us who grew up in relatively healthy churches, is just that – the church. Growing up all my closest friends were through church. I learned to see church as a center of community and relationship. At various points I have been fed up to my eyeballs with how stupid the church can be, but leaving it has never seemed like even a moderately reasonable choice. It’s home. It’s family. And like family it has good and bad. PKs know that as well as anyone. Like family it provides some of the greatest joys and greatest hurts, and PKs know that as well as anyone. Knowing all this makes some PKs run from the church, but helps many of us love the church realistically and well.

Barnabas Piper writes for World Magazine and blogs at barnabaspiper.com. He writes regularly for the popular blog, The Blazing Center. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Grab a copy of The Pastor's Kid on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

June 12, 2014

The One Thing to Know in Ministry

In my last post, I basically exploded with exciting news: I have a new book coming out next March! I also shared about how God is leading me to transition my writing and how, as a result, I've put all the ministry posts I've written (180 pages worth!) into an ebook for easier consumption. The book is called Partners in Ministry: Help and Encouragement for Ministry Wives and its essays are divided into six parts, each packed with words that both speak to the heart and offer practical help for ministry:

Lessons Learned in Ministry
The Ministry Wife's Role
Helps for the Ministry Wife
When You're Hurting, Tired, or Discouraged
Friendship and Ministry
Specifically for Sundays

As I compiled the book, the following vintage post stuck out to me, and I wanted to share it both as an example of what you'll find in the ebook and as an encouragement for you today. Here it is:

The One Thing to Know in Ministry
If I could sit with you for just a few short minutes and give you words of wisdom that could sustain a lifetime of ministry, I might try to cram in what I've learned about criticism or how to approach Sunday mornings or what you need to know about making friends, but really it all boils down to one thing: You are loved by God.

Know and remember and meditate on the fact that you are wildly loved by God. This will keep your eyes up rather than looking side-to-side for what others are doing or saying. Dress yourself in His love, tend to your wounds with it, look to His love for your approval and rightness, let His love do the compelling work that it does to fling us into the world with His grace and compassion spilling out from what you've received.
Know that you are a daughter sitting with Christ at God's table, not an orphan on the outside looking in, hoping to belong. You belong, you are welcome, and you carry the family name. Let His love fall over you, let it satisfy you, let it sustain you when you are full and also when you are lonely, downtrodden, and ready to cash in the chips. Because He can, and He will.

Rest in the idea that you are loved simply because of what Christ has done for you. Receive that gift graciously without trying to make up for the gift or prove you were worth it. Be a good gift-getter: enjoy His love, say thank you, and express your gratefulness for it by living joyfully and freely in what He's given you. Make it your goal to continue to know His gift toward you.

I could tell you about strategies and steps and spiritual gifts, roles and rhythms and relationships, but it's much simpler than that. You want to be fruitful, do you? You want to be a good ministry wife, yes? There is, at the very foundation of ministry, only one thing you need to know: love. Receive God's and let it compel you to love others.

For the entire law is fulfilled in this one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14

You can find the ebook, Partners in Ministry, on AmazonNook, and iTunes.

June 9, 2014

Three Books and a Yellow Period (Lots of Exciting Announcements!)

I started writing purposefully seven years ago, although I'd been flirting with the idea long before that. In the few hours a week I could give it, I fumbled my way through discovering what was driving me to write, what I even wanted to write about, and where my voice lay under layers of bad writing and poor grammar and passive voice.

As I thought about this post, I thought about the very small amount that I know about artists and how some of their work is described in periods--Picasso's Blue Period, for instance. I am certainly not equating myself with Picasso, but I can look back at these seven years and see how God has taken me through periods where I've lived through and written about certain themes.

First was the cathartic period, a time I might call my Blue Period. I cut my writing teeth on the experience and processing of my son's autism diagnosis. In fact, I wrote an entire book on it that few have seen and few experienced readers would really want to see. Though private, it was a fruitful period. I grieved through writing, and I learned myself through writing, and I actually learned the process of writing.

Then there was the Green Period--green because of the growth personally and the growth in writing, and because of the color of the cover of my first published book, The Church Planting Wife. So much of my life in the Green Period has gone toward encouraging ministry wives and church planting wives and to what I hope has been a strengthening of God's church. And I've loved every minute of it. 

But I sense a new period coming. In some ways it is clear what this period will hold: a new book, for one. Yes, a new book! I've been quietly pounding away at the keyboard since last May, I turned it in to the publisher in February, and it won't be long before I will have a cover and pre-order links to share with you. I can't tell you how excited I am to share this book with you. It's called From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel, and it's basically THE message that I love to share with women: that we aren't just saved by grace and then expected to get our life in order and be good, but that we're saved by grace through faith and then live everyday after the very same way. These are the truths that have changed my life. (Way more details to come on this book in the near future!)

In some ways though, this new period is unclear. I've questioned myself a lot this past year. I've felt at times uncomfortable with writing so openly about ministry life, knowing that people in our church read my words. I find myself wanting more and more to hold some of these things to myself. Instead, I want to explore bigger themes, themes that apply to all women.

I hope this next period is a Yellow Period, bright with joy and grace. I find the Lord challenging me in those areas, and I want to write about these themes with creativity and thoughtful curiosity. I want to write beautiful words that lead me and whoever reads them to enjoy God more. I don't want to force a focus on church planting and ministry when my writing heart is expanding its horizons. All that said, however, I am a pastor's wife, I love being a pastor's wife, and my writing will never escape the perspective and flavor of life as a pastor's wife.

So this is what I'm trying to tell you, however much I'm fumbling along: Green is becoming Yellow. I won't be so overtly focusing my blog on church planting and ministry as the summer moves along. I'll actually be taking a month off from writing in early July, and when I return, I will be focusing more and more on grace and how the gospel of Christ affects our everyday lives. I've feared that you may not come along with me, but God is leading me, my writing is His, and, though none may go with me, I'm going to follow His leading.

In preparation for this transition, I've compiled all my blog posts on church planting and ministry into two ebooks. That way, if you're like, "Hey Friend Who Is About to Church Plant, I know just the blog for you!", she doesn't have to dig around in old posts but can just plunk down a few dollars and have it right there on her e-reader. Or if you're a faithful reader but want to have the posts all together in one place to read or refer to like you would a book, you can just plunk down a few dollars and have it right there on your e-reader.
One of the ebooks, Partners in Ministry: Help and Encouragement for Ministry Wives, is available starting today on Amazon, Nook, and iTunes. The other ebook, Partners in Planting, will be available later in the summer. If you want to be alerted to when it becomes available, just subscribe to the blog or like Grace Covers Me on Facebook.

Thank you, dear readers, for the Green Period. I absolutely love connecting with you and hearing about how God is at work through you and in you. Won't you join me now in the Yellow Period? And might you invite a friend to come along by sharing the blog with them? Let's all explore grace and joy and love together, shall we?

June 5, 2014

Compelled By What?

In my study and memorization of Galatians, I've been consistently struck by one word that pops up throughout: compel. It likely sticks out because the word compel is in one of my all-time favorite passages of Scripture: "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

This is a hopeful compelling, a very sure footing and motivation for sacrificial ministry in Christ's name. But in Galatians, the compelling is of a different type, or more accurately, toward a different end. It is a compelling toward division, categories, and judgment. Toward people and their own glory rather than toward God and outward in love.
The gist of Galatians is this: Paul comes down hard on Jews (the circumcised) who have followed Christ through grace by faith but then have required Gentiles (the uncircumcised) to observe Jewish laws in order to be fully saved. Paul faces all kinds of pushback about it, but he holds a firm line that the gospel is that we are saved through grace by faith in Christ alone.

So where does this word compel show up? It appears in Galatians 2:3 and 2:14-16, but the one verse that has stood out to me is 6:12:

As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised...

Why does this stand out? Because motivations and ideas have consequences. These were influential people teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation: leaders, teachers, pastors, perhaps even pastor's wives. Even Peter and Barnabas were caught up in it for a time (Galatians 2:11-13). We don't know the others' names, but we do know that their motivation was to instruct people to do a certain thing that would in effect cause people to come to their side, to be like them, to validate their choices and behaviors. It was to rally a group around them. They desired to make a good showing, and that motivation had divisive, harmful consequences. That desire led people astray from the true gospel.

This has just sort of stuck in my heart. I am just like every other woman alive--I want people to like me, admire me, and respect me. But as a pastor's wife, if that desire is my driving motivation for what I do in ministry, if I desire to make a good showing, my end goal is really to raise a group of people who follow me, not God. I am either preaching myself and my convictions, or I'm preaching the gospel; there is no middle ground. I'm compelled by something and I'm compelling others to something in everything I do. A desire for the approval of others will always compel me to manipulate others for my own glory. But the love of Christ, according to the 2 Corinthian passage, will always compel me to service, to live for others rather than for myself.

Sometimes I find myself wanting people to do things the way I do them or having the same convictions that I have about open-handed issues. Sometimes I want to force my thoughts and opinions on others. And, as I already stated, sometimes I just plain want to be liked. Galatians has challenged me to stop and consider how destructive those motivations can actually be if not reined in by Christ's gospel of grace.

And it's caused me to consider two things:
What am I compelled by? My own glory or by the love of Christ?
And what am I compelling others to? Myself or to the gospel?

I ask the same of you. Because motivations have consequences, either harmfully divisive or joyfully freeing, both for you and for others.

June 3, 2014

Know This: Nuggets for Those New to Ministry

One of the best things about being fifteen years into this ministry gig is watching those we've loved and invested in coming up behind us and flourishing in their faith, their families, and their ministries. I concur with John's sentiment: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 4). I love to hear stories and watch lives of faith, and I simply burst when I think of what it might be like to see it in the lives of my physical children.
A couple came to visit us this fall that we first got to know at our previous church. We've watched them fall in love and get married. And we've watched them from afar grow in grace, perseverance, and leadership as they've followed God's leading into ministry. He was ordained last year and when they visited, he asked Kyle to write a little note in his ordination Bible, which he did, and I got to pass the written-in-Bible to his wife when we met for coffee one morning. As I sat in the parking lot waiting with it in my hands, I thought about how it's not only been a joy to watch those behind us grow and flourish in ministry, but how it's also been a joy to watch my own husband grow and develop into the man and pastor he is today. He has so much wisdom to offer, and I wanted to see it for myself in that ordination Bible, so I took a sneaky little peek inside. Here's what he offered to that young man coming up in ministry:

Drink deep of this book. The great gift of this Bible is that you've been given all you need for the joy and sustenance of your soul. Seek to love God and worship Jesus your whole life--knowing that the Lord in the Bible is the source of all your hope. Know, treasure, claim, proclaim, preach, teach, love, and cherish God as the hope for your soul and for others' souls.

Live daily out of identity as a deeply loved, forgiven child of God. You are a grace-filled, freed son of God who has nothing to prove and no one to impress. You are saved by Jesus and the rest is gravy. Make sure there are deeper, truer things about you than just being a pastor. You, because of Christ, have an identity in His righteousness that puts performance in pastoral identity to death.

Love your family and shepherd them before any ministry role! The greatest, most lasting ministry imprint you will have is to your wife and kids. Give them your best and first shepherding.

Labor with all your mind, heart, and hands. Dream gospel-sized dreams for people, think gospel-sized thoughts. Your work is literally going to live on and have fruit for eternity! So never lose sight of what is at stake and the joyful opportunity of your calling.

Gold. Pure gold. I held that Bible in my hands and thought about our years together in ministry, Kyle and me. I thought about my husband and who he has become and is still becoming. I thought about the girl I once was and all that the Lord has taught me specifically through the avenue of ministry. I thought about the people we've loved and been loved by. And then I thought about what encouragements I might give the ministry wife over coffee or anything I might add to the nuggets Kyle had inscribed inside the Bible, and there was really only one thing:

It's worth it. Ministry and all that it entails will cut you to the deepest core sometimes. It will reveal your selfishness and sin. It will challenge you in ways you sometimes don't want to be challenged. It will teach you and stretch you and grow you and change you. But it's totally worth it, because you'll see the gospel move in power, marriages restored in Jesus' name, sinners redeemed, and the weak made strong. You'll see the best of the church and people thriving in their gifts. You'll see tribes and tongues worshipping the living God and sacrificial servanthood at its humblest. The spiritual battle is constant, but so is the faithfulness of God. And you'll see that.

So no matter what comes, remember this: It's worth it. Because He's worth it!

Your turn: What are the most pressing lessons you want to pass on to those coming behind you in ministry?

May 27, 2014

A Podcast for Church Planting Wives (and Their Husbands)

A woman once tagged me in a picture on Instagram that is perhaps one of my favorite pictures ever, which of course I can't currently find to show you. Boo. In the picture, the woman stuck her camera up over her shoulder and snapped a shot of her husband intently reading a copy of The Church Planting Wife that she had snagged at a conference.

Aside from being just a really cute picture, I loved it so much because it was a church planter reading a book about how church planting wives generally experience church planting, so he could understand his wife specifically.
My husband understands that this church planting wife needs Tex-Mex in regular intervals.
I love when guys care about this stuff. I also love when guys ask me questions about their wives and church planting, because it's cutely obvious that they want to serve their wives well through the process. There are lots and lots of church planters out there (and right there in your home) who want to get the marriage and family part right just as much as they want to get the ministry part right.

So I was thrilled when a friend of ours, Clint Clifton, who facilitates church planting in D.C., asked me to answer a few questions for church planters about what it's like to be a church planting wife. You can listen in on our conversation, perhaps together with your husband, as I share:

  1. Our church planting story, including how God called us into church planting and why we chose Charlottesville, Virginia;
  2. Why I wrote The Church Planting Wife
  3. How I would advise a man who feels called into church planting but whose wife has reservations;
  4. What, if any, qualifications or competencies are necessary for a church planting wife;
  5. What I see are the biggest fears and difficulties church planting wives are facing and how their husbands can help them through those;
  6. What success looks like for a church planting wife;
  7. What my husband, Kyle, has done that has helped make church planting easier for me;
  8. and, finally, about the ever-asked issue of friendship and ministry.
Click over to listen to the podcast here (and check out the other podcasts that Clint has put together!).

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