The Church Planting Wife – Chapters 5 & 6

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Chapter 5: The Sacrificial Heart

In chapter five, the focus is to be willing to be spent, to serve others and “eradicating pride.” Here are some quotes that give insight into the chapter:

“Am I willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister?” – Oswald Chambers

“My greatest ongoing struggle as a church planting wife has been primarily with myself.”

Some personal thoughts spurred:

People will often say to me, you’re the pastor’s wife, you shouldn’t be doing this or that. This is actually a boost to my resolve that I must continue doing what I’m doing, I must serve all the more. If I, as a pastor’s wife, will not serve, then I’m worthless for the work of the Lord.

There’s a lot of serving behind the scenes as a pastor’s wife; that hasn’t proved to be my problem.  I’m good at that, I’ve done it for many, many years.  What’s proved difficult is serving not in my strength, but in my weakness.  For me, putting myself out there, reaching out, doing the up front jobs, puts me in a place of having to depend on, trust in and rely on God like never before. Serving out of weakness has stripped me of my strength so that I have no other choice but to throw myself on God’s mercy and ask that He might work in and through me.

Chapter 6: The Faithful Heart – Forsaking Fear

This chapter goes right along with the lessons I’m learning about serving in weakness, being fearless and trusting God.  It talks about being out there, planting a church, safety harnesses gone. This can be a fearful place to be, going out on a limb for God. Christine challenges:

“When we fight to stay in certain and controlled circumstances, seek comfort over discomfort, or need a fully mapped out plan, can we even claim faith in God at all?”

Personal thoughts:

Fear spreads, fear can be sensed and felt. Fear says, “God, I do not believe you are enough for this.” Faith spreads, faith can be sensed and felt. Faith says, “God, I know that I’m not enough, but I believe you are more than enough for this.”

These two chapters were timely and further cemented the lessons God is teaching me right now.  Fear leads to partial obedience (disobedience!), a plan B that seeks to take God’s will and tweak it to our strengths so we don’t have to rely fully on Him.  I’m tired of serving in weakness, but my aim is to be spent in the service and glory of Him and doing this means I must be fully obedient.

Living fearless, transferring my fear of circumstance into a fear of God, that’s what I seek.

Exposed

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The day is bright, the sun is shining with all the hope of Christ Jesus.

You’re living in the light of His glory, set apart, made free, washed clean.

Like an unforseen summer storm, the darkness shadows you.

Words pour down, wash over; submerge you in their flood.

Words meant to cut.

Shards of hate

They slice

Tear

Shamed

Broken

Weak

Stripped

Alone

Naked

Exposed

In a moment, you’re reduced to a state of paralysis.

The ghosts that haunt you emerge from the shadows.

The words that taunt you descend upon your heart.

The condemnation and guilt ravage your mind,

tear your heart,

threaten to wound your soul.

You come to me torn, broken; tattered.

You speak of the skeletons in your closet.

Your guilt

Your Shame

No, my sister, you’ve been washed.

Made clean.

But if you only knew the truth. Of what I was, of the damage done.

If you knew the truth, your eyes would drop.

Cloud.

Look away.

If I told you of my guilt, you may find me guilty.

I look at you, broken before me.

I wonder what could possibly wound you so deeply, strip you so quickly?

You’re strong, you shout the praises of Jesus with exuberance.

What about your past do you think He hasn’t covered?

What about your past do you think I’m going to see

through the flood of the grace of His blood flowing over it?

We sing of being washed, whiter than the snow

We sing of the wonders of being made whole.

You aren’t alone.

I’ve been there too.

Exposed. Ashamed. Not enough. Never enough.

But I’m just a friend and a bad one at that.

How can I help when the enemy strikes so strategically, so precisely, so tenaciously?

When I find you stripped, broken, exposed,

I ask, Why God?

She shines the light of your glory so brightly.

Why?

That she might know she is washed.

That she might be made whole.

It’s true, I don’t know your stories

Haven’t heard tales of your deepest, darkest secrets.

If you speak them, I’ll listen.

Listen for the scarlet thread of redemption.

Listen for the jubilant exposure of God’s abundant grace flowing throughout your days.

I pray for you, friend.

For your healing, protection, for salve for your tattered heart;

pierced conscience.

Don’t carry the weight of your guilt.

Jesus has already carried it for you.

When the accuser drips with lies,

Lies disguised in some truth of your guilt – He holds illusions before you.

That sin that shames you?

It’s covered in blood.

Don’t heed these lies.

I know better,

You know better.

You were washed.

You were sanctified.

You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

You have been made whole.

Who can separate us from such love?

Seen & Heard: A Year of Grace & Stashing Treasures

There are so many things that happened in this past year that can’t be spoken about yet. The situations are too fresh, too near, so – unresolved. These things can be wrestled with, spoken about, cried over, before God in prayer. I think that’s the way He plans it. Quiet dependence on Him.

January

18120This year was definitely a lesson in dependence and 30 days into it, I was already Arguing with the Almighty.  My family dynamic had changed, the neat and tidy had been thrown off and I was struggling to line all my ducks up in a row again. I never did get those ducks lined up, but I learned a lot through that trial/blessing.

T&J

February
The stress of 2013, the decisions to be made, huge, greater than us, philosophical, moral, life-altering decisions had to be decided and we didn’t always see eye to eye. February 14 rolls around and a day that’s supposed to be full of love – wasn’t. Learning to live out Marriage in the Trenches was difficult, 2013 marks our hardest year of marriage so far.

March
FAMILYWORSHIPBy this time, we had started to gain our bearings a bit. Books certainly have an impact on me and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together made huge impact in how I view community and family life.  Out of it came the Family Worship Experiment, a practice that didn’t stick, due to life schedules, but was fruitful in the trying and I suspect will surface again.

April
Some time in April, I joined a book club. I’ve never been in a book club before, this one was good for me, until I made the mistake of reading someone else’s blog post on a chapter before I read it. It was talking about making furniture out of leather. That was more than I could bear, I’ve made unblogged progress in this book, but sadly, it is on the 2013 unfinished books list. I’ll finish it, I will, it’s too good not to.

Mayjojo
I was still reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking in May, blogging through chapters 3 & 4, who knew there was a Hidden Art of Doodling Prayer? This really was a good exercise for me, blogging through that book, maybe I’ll pick it up in 2014.  A better picture of what has had an impact on my own life and more specifically in 2013 is the post Child-rearing: It Takes Community. A special thank you to those very important adults who have impacted and poured into my children.

When your child hits a wall and turns their ears from you, when there is no way to get in, get through, make way. Then, friendship steps in, community steps in, life on life daily living kicks it up a notch and makes paths where the brush and weeds and thorns were too thick to pass through.

June
wpid-2013-06-11-16.56.08.pngAre you tired yet? It was tiring to live this year! We celebrated 15 years of marriage in June, moved in June, our hearts broke in June, I can only pray that in time God will restore and heal all broken things. So Life Goes On…

So I take my boxes and those dear to me and I venture out with all the exhilaration and hope that comes with new life. A fresh start. With all confidence in the One who has been faithful, and will be faithful again, I smile.

I embrace the future.

July2013-07-26 13.27.02
In July the struggled continued. 2013 was a year of changes and rediscovering who we were. It was as if the rug was pulled out from under us and we just couldn’t gain a steady footing. These two posts this month are very dear to me. One was the passing of a dear girl Amanda Wright and the other was regular life with kids, but as I look back now I see that we were making specific and pivotal decisions during this time that we’re reaping the blessings from now. God does that, He takes you through the pain to bring you to the joy, sometimes it just takes time.

August
I was studying for our Women’s Conference in August and I had biblical womanhood on my mind in The Old Worn Soapbox.  Being on the other side, I find myself tired of talking about this. We’ve gone through the teaching stage for now, it’s time to start living some of these things. I’ve been praying about how to provide opportunities for women to live out their call  in the body. We’ve made progress, God’s not done with this yet.

September
wpid-20130906_151341.jpgGuess What? In September, I posted my first Seen & Heard post. They’ve come to be my favorite, I love to act silly and say whatever I want in them. Sometimes I have too much to say because something has gotten me all fired up, but mostly I try to keep them light and funny and not LONG like this one. I also began blogging through The Church Planter’s Wife, a book that has been good for me, another book not completed in 2013. (Grace, Grace!)

October
I began blogging twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays in October. Yeah, I know, it’s a lot of Julee in a week. I have to live with me all the time so just be glad you can close your browser and walk away.  There were funny moments of Identity Crisis, moments where God spoke in A Still Small Voice, just reading books with the kids in Wrapped up in Rhymes, there were even battles over Halloween. The instance that had the greatest impact on me and greatest response from women was A Call to Connect where I discovered: “It’s possible to crave community yet also crave privacy.” I learned that it’s ok to have a small circle I’m close to, I don’t have to extend deep friendship to every person that seeks it. I scratched the surface on a topic (friendship) that is the cause of ache and hurt in  many women, it was interesting to see the response.

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We’ve almost made it through the year. If you’ve made it this far in this post, you’re a trooper. I honestly don’t expect you to read the linked posts (Not even my husband or my mother would do that), but it’s been a great exercise for me to look back through this lens of written word. I can see God’s hand in all of these difficult days and in the great days too. November 2013 brings a look at my Unconventional Life a dream In Visions and Dreams that I thought was for one situation, but as it played out, was for another situation.

I also wrote about The Dark Thoughts of  a Mother, I understand not everyone has been to this place, which is why it needs to be written about. If you haven’t parented a child like this, you just can’t know what it’s like. I wanted to give the mothers that have, some relief.

December
I wrote two posts in December about a boy who was killed for his faith. I understand that a rich christian man losing his reality TV show job is more important, but this still burns in my heart. Dear America, This is Not a Game and Dear America, Actually  were like the Dark Thoughts of a Mother post, me saying what I really think and have lived. Both posts were misunderstood by some, that’s ok.

I wish I could say that at the end of all of these 2013 posts, I didn’t need to write and work through ObSoLeTe – The Pain in December, but I did. There are still pictures and Facebook posts and memories that remind me of the sting. It is what it is. My prayer is still this:

And I know I shouldn’t care
If I’m out or if I’m in
Cause if I am dismissed
Oh you always take me in

Take me in God. Take me in and shield the pain of what was, the pain of what could have been. Take me in to the next year and close the chapter on all that once was.

Take me in your love and heal me, make me new.

After writing that post, it stings less, just a bit less. Most the time.

On to 2014
Congratulations! You made it to the end! Now it’s time to start 2014! I’ve gone back and forth about studying the book of Nehemiah this year, but after writing this wrap up, I see that it’s time to begin purposefully rebuilding the city.One foot in front of the other, here we go. We go with grace, hope and peace – We go with God.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

 (Psalm 91:1-2, ESV)

If There Be Strength in Man – Let Me Be Weak

facebookFacebook has a way of making you aware of others lives, like nothing else does.  The intertwining of friendships, paths crossed and heart bonding is astounding.  Many look down on Facebook, calling it superficial. It is. And it isn’t. It doesn’t have to be; that hasn’t been my experience. I’ve seen users rally around each other in a show of community and love that translates into real life.

One of the things that inevitably happens as we rally around those going through difficult times is words that are supposed to be encouraging, but are sheer nonsense. Someone loses their child and we say; “You’re strong, you’ll get through this.” Crushing news comes? “It’ll be alright, you’ve got this.” Illness strikes? “You’re a fighter, you’ll fight through this.”

I know people mean well, but when I read those things I think “If there’s something in me that makes me strong enough to watch my child die, I don’t want to be that strong.”

“If there’s strength in man to handle these things, let me be weak.”

That said, my encouragements wouldn’t be: “You’re weak, I have no idea if this is going to turn out alright, but you tend to bail out a lot so I’m not sure you’re gonna come through this.” Although, I do wonder – if they’re supposedly so strong, why did they get sick in the first place? Have you thought about what you’re saying right now?

I just don’t know how to make it through anything without hope in God. I don’t know how to go through anything without a sovereign God who has a hand in all things. Not a reacting God, who sees what we do, what comes our way, and then helps to make things better, but a God who has a hand in ALL things.

If we believe God is capable of anything we come across, why would we ever point people to themselves for strength?  I know we mean well, but that has to be the most discouraging encouragement around. It’s God, His word, prayer and the Spirit that are going to meet us in those dark moments of desperation. When our strength is lost, all hope seems lost, when we are in the pit of despair – God is there. It’s like putting out a house fire with a cup of water and leaving the fire truck at home. You have access to the fire truck, pull it out and us it!

God is our strength, our hope, our peace, our strong tower, let’s run to Him and direct our “friends” to Him too.

Seen & Heard: Bad Christians

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This Christmas has been an odd one for us. We haven’t broken out an advent book, haven’t lit a candle. We set up a tree in our living room, threw a bunch of ornaments on it, discussed at great lengths what star to put on top and called it Christmas. There have been no trips to look at lights, or to any festive places.

I suppose we aren’t very christiany Christians.  Certainly a pastor and his family must live more spiritually than this?

Last night, the kids and I watched Bedtime Stories. Tony asked how it was later in the evening. I told him it had crude humor, “You know, so that’s always funny.” I rolled my eyes as I said it, remembering the reason I didn’t let the kids see this movie in the theaters.  He asked, “Were there a lot of people slipping and falling down like Home Alone?”  “No. There was a guy named Butt-kiss. They loved that.”  We don’t do this.  There are countless children’s movies my kids have not seen. Last night, they watched Bedtime Stories. There. I said it.

I think they’re going to be ok. I really, really do.

We haven’t done anything Christmasy and we’re watching movies with crude humor. Great.

My friend asked me about children’s bibles yesterday, what’s on your bookshelf? We’ve read all of ours. Umm… The Action Bible? We had the Lego bible but it talks about rape and kids way to young were asking about that so we put that away. We have children’s books on Augustine and great leaders of the faith… surely that counts for something?

I used to be so strict, so careful. I haven’t lost that, but now that I’m the ripe old age of 33, I’ve loosened up a bit. You know how the babies in the family are always allowed to do more than everyone else ever was? Yeah, I think we’re there. I don’t plan on watching more crude humor, but if my 3 year old says Santa is bringing her a candy, I don’t sit her down and give her a good talking to.  She plays with Barbies. I know, it’s wild around here.

There hasn’t been a strong feeling of Christmas cheer, but there’s been something else. There’s been a distinct feel of family, relationship, connection.  We’ve had friends and family in, we’ve talked, laughed, shared life together. My friend showed up at my door the other day and a few days later, I sat down in her kitchen. We laughed, we talked, we shared hardships. The other night, I had the opportunity to go out for dessert with a group of women very special to me. Another group of believers talked and guided me through a difficult test in my life. The kids, all of them, have been hanging out together. Meeting each other in the halls, in bedrooms, on swingsets and spending time together.  There’s been laughing. Lots of laughing.

I had the opportunity to sit down to talk for 2 hours with my 14 year old the other night.  He just kept talking, sharing his heart, his dreams. I just kept staring straight into his eyes, asking questions, smiling, laughing.  What’s more merry than that?

We’ve been praying for people. People who are visiting our home, people we hear about, people we care about.

We actually filled up an Operation Christmas Child box this year! Two of them! That is an accomplishment for this family! 🙂

That’s 13 days of real life in December in our household, it’s not much, but God is here, alive and moving among us.

Happy Friday!  or Merry Christmas if that makes you feel better! 🙂

Dear America, This Is Not A Game

I look at my soon to be seven year old and I see his face, the face of the 7 year old tortured and killed because he and his family are Christian. His father is said to be one of the strongest Christians in their community, many came to Christ through him.

I hear of Christians unwilling to go to certain places, races or people groups. Their own safety more important than those slipping into hell.  I trust in a sovereign God and know that He will make himself known despite a rich and selfish people who think they know best and will not hear His call. But, I wonder, what will become of such a tight-fisted, self-loving church?

We speak of persecution, of being mistreated, becoming the minority and yet we haven’t truly lived a day of want in our lives. Not if we still have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, not if we still have all our fingers and toes. Not if we still have our 7 year olds.

We say we want to be on fire for Jesus, but what if Jesus asks us to be set on fire for him? What if our faith causes the stomach of our child to be set on fire? Will God be our God then? Will we still bless His name? Will it matter where we live, who we know, what we have? Do we really think, as those who commune with Christ, that we are above such suffering?

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”(John 6:66-67, ESV)

Do you?

Want to turn away?

Will you? Lay it all down?

Maybe it’s time we stop complaining about how the media portrays us, stop complaining that we don’t have enough. Maybe it’s time to stop feeding into our children’s innate desire for more things and start preparing them to stand for the King of Kings.  Instead of marching around in circles proclaiming we’re in The Lord’s Army, maybe we could bend a knee and pray for our brothers and sisters being slaughtered for the name of the Slaughtered One.

I just keep looking at his picture. I can’t get his face out of my mind.

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Christian Post Story Here: 7 Year Old Indian Christian Boy Brutally Tortured
Gospel for Asia Story Here: 7 Year Old Boy Tortured, Killed for Being Christian

To Do: What the Rich Do Everyday?

Can we have a friendly conversation here?  I don’t usually join heated debates, y’all say crazy things all the time and I just say to myself, “They be crazy!” and keep on scrolling. 

I ran across an article today that I felt conflicted about. I think it’s fair to look at in context and realize it’s coming from Dave Ramsey and his job is to help manage money and give wisdom in that regard. I don’t actually want to talk about whether or not this list is good to follow or if these principles should be integrated into your life, if you want to be rich.

What I’m trying to figure out is what to do with this list in light of a desire to live out the great commission. What of these things would one follow if the goal is to be Christ like? What of this list will not burn away when we stand before God?

What I don’t want to read is about how you worked hard for what you’ve earned and you deserve it. Nebakanezer tried that and he ended up eating grass in the fields.  Where does this list hold up to the missionary in Africa? Where does this list hold up to the family in the church seeking to honor God with all of their lives? If self-improvement is the goal, self-improvement to what end? 

I suppose this is a list looking at what wealthy people do and I am looking for a list of what godly people do. What things on the list would look the same? What things on the list would look different?

I bring this up because articles like these are articles that come across our path all the time in the church. On the surface they seem fine. Many things about them may be fine. Something about this leaves me unsettled.

So, TALK TO ME: If the goal is a life lived out and exhausted solely for the glory of God and the exaltation of Jesus, what do you do with this list?

And Remember: I don’t want to hear why this list is wise for living unless it’s wise for living the goal above!

20 Things the Rich Do Everyday