Friday, August 2, 2013


Every day is not a party...and nor should it be. The kids and I have been killing time at my parents house before we leave for Vancouver on wednesday. Originally, I thought this would be fun. Its summer. we can go out - no school, no schedule, no work, no chores. but after a 3 week vacation in Europe  and 2 weeks in Maryland trying to have "fun" everyday - sightseeing, chuck e cheese, mini golf, and countless parties and playdates, I'm  looking forward to the tedium of every day life.
I want meals at home and regular bedtimes every night and the kids getting ready for another day at school. I want school, and work and grocery shopping, and THEN I want to play. Some may think I'm crazy. But I believe the best highs follow lows. The most beautiful sunshine follows days of rain. Great big Belly laughs follow sobs and tears. The Excitement of success  follows the drudgery of practice. the rest of the Sabbath follows 6 days of Labor. Maybe God knew what he was doing.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Who's your pastor?

Everybody needs a pastor.  A pastor is probably not someone you sit and listen to every week at church or  on TV, but you need a real "spiritual overseer", someone you know and who knows you, someone to pray with and cry with and to be accountable to.  In most cases, this is not the minister at your church.

This may be your best friend, if your best friend is not just the person you eat, shop, and gossip with (not that there is not a time and place for that); but ONLY if you talk with your best friend about the little things in your life.  By little things, I mean the big things.  The things that you secretly worry about  at night (Worries like "Is that spot on my back cancer>", "Does my kid have a learning disability?" or "Should marriage be this hard?").

If you are a Christian, this person should be able to talk you down from those emotional cliffs in a sensible and Biblical way.  I have a pastor, maybe a few pastors in my life, and none of them are my husband or my church pastors. Don't get me wrong.  I love listening to the sermons at my church. I often find great spiritual truths in them that I can apply to my life, but those are not the people I share my real spiritual life with.  In fact, I've always hated "pastoral visits" where you pretend to tell your pastor your problems so they can pray with you.  I can't really share my spiritual journey with someone in a 1 hour luncheon.

The deepest, most memorable, spiritual conversations I've had with my "pastors" has been sitting by the hot tub debating whether God has ONE plan for my life or if there is more than one RIGHT path.  Some of the most heart wrenching sermons have taken place on the couch at the vacation condo, spilling my heart to my "pastors." The real convictions come out when my "pastor" is calling me out about something over a cup of coffee.   I don't always know the right answers afterwards, but I know that someone who knows God and knows me, knows my heart.  And they will follow up on our conversation, supporting and loving me all the way.  That's a pastor.

As a pastor's wife, I keep hearing about the stress in many pastor's lives, and I sincerely think it's because they often  don't have their own pastor.  Someone has to be the pastor's pastor.  Who can it be? It usually can't be a church member, because if you knew the humanity of your pastor, it might be hard to still put them on that pastoral pedestal (which they shouldn't be on anyway).  A pastor may have another pastor as their pastor.  That sometimes works well, because they understand the calling and the person.  A pastor may have a best friend from childhood as their pastor.  That person  knew them  before they had a "title."  We are more than our titles.  We are people and we are pastors.  And I believe EVERYBODY needs a pastor.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

One of us is Crazy.....

And I'm pretty sure its YOU! -  (hilarious title of a book about marriage peddled at A Weekend to Remember)

I'm not a typical oeey gooey pastor's wife (Piano playing, casserole baking, home schooling church lady standing faithfully beside my man with a big fake smile on my face.)  So I've resisted things like "Women of Faith" and Weekend to Remember" conferences thinking that they are really hokey.  But lately, I must be getting soft.  I went o Women of Faith a couple of years ago and loved it.  I've started reading my hubby's Christianity Today magazine cover to cover and quoting it to him, and now I attended my first "Weekend to Remember" marriage conference. 
Despite being encouraged by many church members of other pastoral couples that the conference was worth our time, Kumar and I always scoffed at the idea.  I thought these weekends were kind of hokey, meant for country bumpkin couples who want to confirm their "respect, obey and submit" type marriage.  Who knew we would be delightfully surprised?  

First the facts:  The conference has a Friday evening, Saturday 8:30-5:00 and Sunday morning schedule.  It's done in a combination of lecture (sermon) style, mixed with video clips, short couple activities, and a morning session separated by gender. We also attended a morning session just for pastoral couples.  They also encourage you to schedule a Saturday night special "date night" with your spouse.  

Location: Hershey, Pennsylvania.  The sweetest place on earth, over Valentines Day weekend, no kids - what's not to like?  Hershey is just a few hours away from where we live, so its a perfect weekend getaway.  The hotel is cozy in winter - lots of fireplaces and comfy couches, and there's great restaurants (I must have put on 3 pounds in the weekend alone) and Outlet shopping nearby.  Although trying on clothes after those yummy chocolate desserts is not recommended.  

Lessons Learned:  Kumar and I want to be married a long, long time, and we recognize that we need help with that goal.   Even perfect couples grow and change.  Life throws us all kinds of surprises, and staying together through these problems requires work. 
      The sessions are fairly basic, covering communication styles, gender differences and a Biblical perspective.  Sure, you could probably learn this stuff by reading a book together.  But are you and your spouse really going to read a book together about marriage?  For me it's like working out.  I can exercise in my home, but somehow if I'm doing yoga in the living room, after about 15 minutes, I end up sitting on the couch with a snack. However, when I'm at the gym, with a live instructor and 20 other people watching, I worker harder and last the whole hour.
       There's something nice about knowing that other couples have similar or different issues as yours (we ALL have issues), and hearing strategies to work on your specific deficits.  Sure, there were parts that I thought were basic and I did hear more about child rearing than the feminist side of me wanted to. But for the most part, I think they handled it all well. 

Surprises:  I didn't feel preached at in a bad way. I didn't feel like it was hokey.  I even felt they handled controversial issues like physical/emotional abuse and sex in a thoughtful way.

The only downer for me was that the men at the conference did most of the talking.  Even in the video clips that where they showed psychologists and marriage therapists talking about marriage, they were all men. What's up with that?  Are women not respected in this field?  The American Psychological Association reports that in 2005 "nearly 72 percent of new PhD and PsyDs entering psychology were women."  I'm not sure if this is the norm at these conferences, since the website lists its speakers in couples.   But my experience, (adding to with my past negative experiences with gender equality within Christianity) was a little patriarchal.

I was happily surprised to see that their materials were well balanced in terms of racial equality.  There were all sorts of people there, couples like the one I described at the beginning of the blog, other couples who were fully tatooed and pierced, and then many "normal" couples like me.  All wanting to improve their marriages.  

If your relationship could a push in the right direction, we havea special savings code for people that we refer.  Enter NEW HOPE FULTON, when registering for a weekend to remember getaways at any location.  There are also special military and pastor rates.  We're all imperfect people, on this imperfect earth, trying to make our lives "perfect" - stop faking it and get real. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

One day at a time

This morning, I turned on the computer to find out that Pope Benedict is resigning.  Wow!  He says that he no longer has the mental or physical strength to cope with his ministry.  Pope Benedict is 85 years old. The median age of the 10 oldest popes on record is 85.6, so maybe it was a good move, physically and mentally.  But it really made me think- If you've been called by God, can you resign from ministry?

Most of us lay people serve in ministries as a side interest, taking on new ministries and resigning from ministries as our busy lives and interests allow.  But what about pastors?
There are some people who become pastors, maybe because they didn't know what to major in at college.  But others have been called by God.  Kumar says that he's always known he was going to be a pastor.  He was dedicated by his parents to pastors ministry as a baby.  Luckily, he also grew up with the talents and interest in pursuing a profession in leading others to Christ.  He started his career fairly young, age 20.  Does that mean he must be a pastor until age 67-70?  Or can he resign now after 20 years of ministry and pursue a new career? Are you called by God to the same ministry forever?

What about the mental and physical demands of ministry?  Pastors work a weird schedule.  They work 24-7.   If someone is in the hospital in the middle of the night.  You're on.  Holidays - Christmas and Easter, you're not only on, but you are usually working overtime (with no overtime pay).  Even if you are off, and on vacation, you end up running into church members and once again, you're on.  What does that do to your mental and physical strength?   The Adventist church gives pastors sabbaticals to rest and refresh their bodies and minds.  But why are there still so many pastors who leave ministry?  And take it from me, an angry pastors' wife, there are many more pastors out there who WANT to leave ministry.

I think its because its a futile job.  Just like my field of special education.  We are working every day with people who can't,  don't want to, and maybe never will reach their full potential.   That's really frustrating.  How do we cope?  For teachers, we live for summer vacation and graduation, knowing we've done our best with these students and hope that someone else will find a new and different way to reach them later in life.  Some pastors do the same.  They move on after 3-5 years, so someone new can try to inspire this uninspired lot.  Or they move on to bigger and better things (Conference positions, healthcare administration, etc..) where the big bucks are.

I think pastors, teachers, nurses, anyone in a "people" industry should leave their positions once they no longer care.  Actually, this applies to all jobs.  If you work at Starbucks and you don't care about my drink, please resign. If you're a mechanic and you don't care about my car, resign!   If you work in Congress and don't care about our country, please leave.
It's a struggle to keep caring about others, even when they don't want your care and concern.
God does this every day.  He won't resign because of a lack of physical and emotional strength to deal with us pesky humans.  Maybe he'll give me the power to continue to deal with the people around me, one day at a time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Things Every Praise Singer Should Know

The snarky part of me wants you to read this like a David Letterman top 10 list (Can you tell that I am a child of the 80s)?
It's a little direct, and if you are hurt by this, because you are one of those people onstage, please know that I'm just saying what everyone else is saying.... behind your back.

10.  The tune - duh.
9.    The words - If you aren't naturally talented at learning the words to songs, read them on the screen or on paper.  Don't fake it.  We can tell that you are just repeating "Watermelon, bubblegum, watermelon"
8.  Your audience - If you are singing in a nursing home, you are probably going to pick a different set than if you are singing to a group of teens.  Not all congregations are that obvious about what they like, but if the group isn't singing, they probably don't like your choice of music.  Watch the audience and figure out what they like.  You are the leader, but you aren't leading if no one is following.
7.  Why Music is Important to Worship - Even in the year 2013, some people are not on the "praise music" bandwagon.  As a leader in this ministry, you should know and be able to articulate why praise music is a valid (and not Satanic) form of worship for your congregation
6.  The band - Unless you sing only a capella at your church, you should probably know your musicians.  You don't need to know how to play all their instruments; but since they are such a vital part of your ministry, and they can be temperamental (sometimes, please don't throw your drumsticks at me), you should probably know their names, some general info about their instruments, and what kind of coffee they like sabbath morning  ;)  A musician who loves you or hates you while you are singing can make or break you.
5.  The sound man - Likewise,  feedback or questionable mixing by the sound man can make you and your team sound really great or really really really bad.  Become friends with the sound man or woman, and you WILL sound better.  
4.  Body Language - I've been at a church service or two, where the singers were really distracting.  Think about Celine Dion - beautiful voice (can't be denied) + distracting body language = the butt of many jokes on Saturday Night Live.  Her awkward body language makes her a laughingstock to many people.  Body movement can be taught and improved upon.  If people giggle when you are dancing, you may want to consider evaluating your body language when you are onstage.  
3.  How to transition/finish - My least favorite song during praise is "I can sing of your love forever" sung forever.  Sorry God, maybe in heaven I'll be able to sing and never get tired, but right now, I want the "One more time" to stop.  Sing a song that everyone loves, then end the song.  Make us want more.
2.  Being Genuine is not enough - This is the hard truth.  If you are not a good hair stylist, I wouldn't let you cut my hair, not matter how much you LOVE doing it.  If even if tell me that it's your God-given talent, the thing that makes you happy.  No scissors for you!  Same goes for the praise team.  If you love to sing and you are not good at it, sing with gusto - from your seat.  Not onstage.
1.  How to take criticism - The truth is hard to accept, and sometimes hurts your feelings.  But if someone loves you enough to tell you the truth, for your own good, find a way to learn from it.  In the end, it will make you a better person.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Lost in Translation

Today I was studying Shakespeare with my 8th graders when it occurred to me- if I had this kind of explicit instruction on the Bible, maybe I would enjoy reading it more.  Face it, most of us Gen Xers grew up with the King James Version.  If you went to a conservative Christian school like me, you were taught that the KJV was practically breathed by God.  My Bible teacher used to call the NIV - the New International Perversion.  I've since learned to distinguish between translations and paraphrased versions of the Bible and I believe each can be used while talking and listening to God.
Twenty years later, I'm teaching my kids the stories from the Bible and they are beginning to read it by themselves.  They have access to many versions, some of which I want to share with you, and others I'd like to warn you about.

1.  For toddlers and preschoolers, any book with Jesus' picture is fine, right?  We are just introducing them to the idea of God's word.  In our baby sabbath school, we used to just look into little felt books and find a sticker of Jesus inside.  The Bible is what we use to read God's word.  That's the basic concept.  Wilo (my 4 year old) loves taking a Bible to church. I like that she feels that's a necessity, but sometimes it's just one more thing I have to carry.  :(  Small price to pay for a Bible-loving child.

2.  The Action Bible - pretty cool, right?  Eli (my 7 year year old son)started with the Manga Messiah, which is also a good read, but it only contained the New Testament.  After it reading it through 5 times, we bought him the action Bible.  It can be a little graphic, but the Bible is pretty graphic.  We try to talk about what he reads, but since he is zooming through it, and he's only 8 - I do wonder if the violence gets to him.  But compared to the scary Revelation seminars, I used to go to as a child, it's probably nothing.  Kids these days are such wimps.

3.  When Jaelin started getting into reading the Bible (around 7-8) we bought her a life application Bible.  It's purple and cute and is a translated version, good right?  It also has character studies and how to apply the Bible to your life - more good - NOT!  She enjoyed reading those "Dear Abby" type question and answers in there and ended up asking me what "weed" was - yup.  WEED, POT, MARIJUANA!  I had to explain drugs to my 8 year old because she learned about it from her Bible.  Not happy with this version.  I would have preferred to get her a Bible (with nothing else in it) and an age appropriate devotional book.  I'm not sure that preteens are able to distinguish whether what they are reading is God's word and what's commentary.

4.  But here's an  even worse option. ..The Bible as a teeny bopper girls magazine!  Are you kidding me?   The reviews on this one are pretty harsh, "Girls please don't short change your self ever by thinking you are too stupid to understand something as complex as a book. There is more to you than make-up and boy angst. You were born with a brain because God wanted you to use it, not so that it could be used by those around you." - I love that quote.  I actually love fashion magazines, but let's not pretend that they are God's word.

5.  The Street Bible - kind of intriguing, isn't it?  I don't own this one, but I'm thinking of buying it.  I, like most educated young people in the US, can use and interpret a few different dialects.  I read Jane Austen and understand it. I listen to rap and understand the messages.  I've gone to Indian church and totally followed the sermon.  I may be monolingual but I have some language skills.  So this may be a good addition, just to see what Jesus would really say to the homeless man on the subway.

5.  This one is my favourite.  It's always with me, cause it's on my phone.  I can read the verse of the day if I have just a minute.  I can follow the pastor's sermon at church. I can even read a passage and compare many different versions to see what "speaks" to me at the moment.  The New Living Translation is the best one for me right now- but language is a living, ever changing thing.

What it comes down to, is that you can't read the Bible, just like you can't read the newspaper or a medical journal or any piece of Nonfiction writing without considering the author/translator/publisher and his/her views.  Our biases are present in all that we produce (our writings, videos, photography and our kids).  Acknowledging those biases and get on with your life.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

From the pulpit

I try to stay away from the pulpit. I hate being on stage in front of people.  But time to time (pastor's appreciation, Adventurers, etc...) I am forced to stand up there in the bright light for everyone to see and talk about.  (Can you hear my introvert insecurity?)  When I'm up there, I'm always surprised at what a vantage point pastors and the praise team has to observe what's really going on at church.  Sometimes when I'm sitting in the audience, I think no one is looking at me.  But really, everyone on stage can see you.  And sometimes they are surprised at what you are doing down there.  Maybe I should start a Dear Abby type column about appropriate church behavior.  Because people just don't seem to know what's ok.  For starters, here's some of the things that angry pastors wives and their husbands hate to see you doing in your pew (or chair) at church:

1.  Texting - I know some of us have our Bibles on our phones these days, fine.  But checking Facebook, Word with Friends, or the Groupon deal of the day is really inappropriate.  And we can see it from behind you, next to you and from the pulpit.

2.  Eating - A piece of gum or hard candy is no big deal.  I sometimes need that sugar rush to get me through the service.  But sometimes things go too far.  I've actually seen someone  eating a sausage patty during the sermon.  I know there's a million 6 meal a day diets out there right now, but once a week, please time your protein snacks around the 1 hour that you are at church.

3.  Painting your nails - I hope I don't have to explain this one.  Painting, clipping or filing of your nails should be done in the privacy of your home or a salon.  The same goes for cleaning your ears, flossing your teeth, and brushing your hair.  And all you touchy feely couples out there - hold hands or put an arm around your spouse to show affection.  Kissing, nuzzling, massaging and playing with their hair is over the line.  Get a room.  

4.  Disciplining your child - My favorite offensive move is putting your hand over your screaming child's mouth.  Sometimes this is a quick move that you need to do to get your child out of the sanctuary quickly.  No problem.  I'm a parent and I know that kids have outbursts.  It's a part of life.  But if you are holding your hand over their mouth while they scream continuously for 10+ seconds, you are being inappropriate. The same goes for pinching your child, scolding, or slapping.  Have a gentle talk with your unruly child - in the lobby or restroom please!

5.  Making change out of the offering plate - First of all, this is 2013, why are you carrying cash?  Secondly, are you only willing to give God your ones?  If all you have is a 5 or 10, why don't you give it all - are you going to miss the change THAT much?  If you can afford to tip the barista at Starbucks, you can probably afford to tip God.  If all you've got are bigger bills, and you ran out of checks, and don't own a computer or smartphone, go out to the office or back of the church and ask the treasurer for change.  The rest of us in your row do not want to watch your lengthy bank transaction.

6.  Making rude facial expressions - I'm probably most guilty of this one.  It's hard to fake it sometimes.  Try to remember that the pastor/worship team/prayer leader CAN SEE YOU.  No matter how bad the music or grammatical error, Do not roll your eyes.  If the prayer warrior starts speaking in tongues or the dancers wave their flags into your personal space, try to stay neutral.  They will see you giggling and be offended.  It may be what you want to do, but its not very polite.

7.  Gossiping about your week - I know church is a social place. We greet our friends, make plans for lunch or remind each other of special events, but save this stuff for the hallway.  It's distracting to all those around you as well as the people onstage.

It's hard to keep all of these things from interrupting our worship. I find myself wanting to do many of the above things during church, but I have to stop, and control myself.  Going to church is about worship.  FOCUS REJ FOCUS!  Attention is a learned skill.  It's not inborn.  But when you train your mind to stay clear and open to God, you can hear Him talking to you and through you.

No one is forcing you to go to church.  If you've got better things to do than worship God, why are you at church?  Go home, hang out in the parking lot or meet your friends after church for lunch.  You aren't fooling God or anyone else.  You are just fooling yourself into thinking that you are church-going Christian.  That's not my issue.  That's between you and God.  Just stop trying to take me down with you!