Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Child's Perspective




Recently, my husband and I took our two young grandsons for a day outing.  As we were returning home, Ricky mentioned that he planned to drop us off at the house and go up to his office at the church for a while.  Our four-year old grandson, Gideon, overheard the conversation and I thought he was going to beg to go to Preacher Man’s office too.  Instead following conversation occurred:

Gideon:  “Preacher Man, what are you going to do at your office?”

Preacher Man:  “Well, I need to do a little work like study my sermon for Sunday.”

Gideon:  “That’s not what you do in your office, silly Preacher Man?”

Me:  “Gid, what do you think Preacher Man does in his office?”

Gideon (exasperated):  “Vivi, you know Preacher Man just plays in his office!”

Me (after Ricky and I quite choking on laughter):  “What does he play with?”

Gideon: “Well, he takes the teddy bears (small souvenirs from England) off his shelf and plays with them.  Then, he takes the golf ball (yes, a golf ball painted with the world on it) and rolls it on the floor.  Then, he takes a nap on his couch.” 

By the time Gideon finished the description of my husband’s office playtime, Ricky and I were laughing so hard tears were rolling down our faces.

Isn’t interesting that a four-year old has this impression?  Hmm, this simple thinking of a child makes me truly wonder what adults believe ministers do on a daily basis.  Here is what I have discovered:

*Many people believe the staff only works at best on Sunday and Wednesday.  They rest of the week the sit around, drinking coffee and relaxing.  Isn’t that sad?

*People fail to see that ministers spend hours praying for direction.  They seek God for wisdom in the message they are to proclaim.

*They fail to realize that ministers spend hours on during the week “putting out fires” that are brewing.  You know these “fires.”  Someone send a nasty note that the music was too loud or the sanctuary was too cold.  Bro. So and So didn’t speak to me on Sunday and should be fired.  These little petty issues can disrupt unity and the work of the Lord if not quieted.

*People do not realize that ministers take time away from preparing for Sunday to visit the hospital, check-in on homebound and visit nursing homes.  They do it not out of obligation but out of compassion for the sick and lonely.

*Let’s not forget the hundreds of hours they spend listening/counseling those who are depressed, suicidal, brokenhearted, in martial conflict, experiencing financial ruin, etc.  they receive phone calls in the middle of the night, during family dinner time, and while on vacation. 

*People (even family members) are always surprised when we share that we never take all our vacation time because there are not enough days to schedule it.  Also, they are surprised that there have been times we have been called back from vacation and lost our money on our vacation for a funeral or some other crisis.  They have told us that they just would not do it.  No, you might not because you are not called out to be a minister and to “shepherd” a flock.

I believe as minister families we should help our congregations that sometimes ministry is not fun and games.  A minister and his wife (and children) work hard to fulfill the roll to which God has called them.  Following the Lord’s example, they sacrifice much in order to win people to salvation.  But even the Lord rested and I believe “played.”

So, feel free to give my husband and I a call anytime and let’s have a play date.  We have the golf balls and teddy bears in the office ready to go.  Afterwards, we can turn off the lights and curl up on the couch or in the comfy chairs for a nap. 




Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Have You Ever . . .?


A couple of ministers’ wives friends and I were talking the other day and began reflecting on the things we have had to do for the sake of ministry.  The conversation soon became a series of “have you ever” questions that left us laughing. I just thought I would share a few of my “Have you ever” moments and hopefully you will relate or even share you moments with us.

*Have you ever . . . taken your preschoolers on a home visit with you because you could not afford a babysitter?  Yes!  My poor boys were introduced to church visitation at an early age.  Our first church was too small to provide a nursery and most of our members were senior adults.  These home visits were always around bedtime for my sons so the emotional wheels would fall off after about the second visit.  However, the sweet people we visited were so kind to overlook the tearful, tired meltdowns of our boys and offer them a cookie. 

*Have you ever . . . shown up at church with your child in just a diaper and dressed them at church?  Yes!  Our first church was across the field from the parsonage.  I cannot tell you how many Sunday mornings I would rise early to get myself and the boys ready for church.  However, my youngest (who at the time was 18 months old) HATED clothes and shoes.  After I gathered my Bible from the bedroom, I would return to the living room to find my child COMPLETELY undressed and smiling.  It just became easier for me to carry him to the church in a diaper and dress him in the nursery.  However, our church members did not mind because they saw us trying to teach the importance of church to our little ones.

*Have you ever . . . taken your young children on a youth trip?  Yes!  At our first church, my husband was the only staff.  That meant we cleaned the church, did the lawn care, and I was the youth minister.  If our parents were unavailable to come babysit, our sons went with us.  My young babies attended youth conferences, went ice skating/roller skating, and attended church camp.  I would be the youth leader walking with a group of teens pushing a stroller and carrying an infant.  However, our teens did not mind because many of those youth would help juggle our boys.  In turn, my sons LOVED all the attention showered on them. 

These are just a few of my “Have you ever” memories regarding my children.  I have other “Have you ever” thoughts about other church related situations.  However, I am going to leave it here.  I want you to take a moment and share some of your memories.  We all need a laugh.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Just Be You

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14

My sisters, every now and then we, as pastors’ and ministers’ wives, need a reminder or maybe a little bit of encouragement to assure us that we are who we are and there is NO possible way we can please everybody in our churches. Ladies, we are in awesome company, because even our Lord and Savior, who was and is perfect in every way, didn’t please the masses. In fact, the religious leaders in His day were constantly finding fault with just about all that He said or did, and He is King of kings and Lord of lords! So, don’t let us think that we will escape the fault-finders and the criticism that come as a part of what it means to be a wife in ministry.

In my blog this month, I just want to give a few edifying encouragements, because at times people can be really insensitive or down right mean. This is nothing new, just a dose of comfort if you are feeling discouraged.

Remember:

When people don’t like you, remember you can love them. Sometimes you’ve done all you know to do to be kind and compassionate, and to show the love of Christ to all, yet hearts are cold. Pray and love on them anyway; it’s the Lord’s job to change hearts. Only He can do the impossible. “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

When people try to pressure you into doing something you are not called to do, remember the gifts that the Lord has given you to serve Him. Sometimes we have to say, “No”; that’s not always easy in the church, but it is necessary when we want to truly be in God’s will. A “good cause” may not be your “cause”. Church members sometimes expect the pastor's wife to do everything in the church—play the piano, sing in the choir, serve in the nursery, teach Sunday School, and so on. Whoa! That’s not possible! It’s unfair to put those expectations on anyone! “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12: 4,11

When people say critical things about you, your husband, and your kids, remember that no family on the face of the planet is perfect, and the same people who lash out with hurtful comments have issues and dysfunctions in their own families. We all have trials and sufferings that we go through in life---pastors’ families are not exempt! Our Father is still doing a sanctifying work in all of us, and one day we all will be conformed into the image of His Son. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

When you feel lonely and don’t think anyone understands your unique role in the church, remember God called you to be your husband’s support, to love him and pray for him. A pastor’s wife sees and hears things and experiences situations that no other person does. Use your calling in His kingdom to influence others for good. “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches.” 1 Corinthians 7:17

One day we will be perfect, we will have our new glorious bodies, not subject to growing old, sickness, or decay (aren’t we all looking forward to that!). Yet until then, let us allow God to work on us with our imperfections, flaws, and blemishes. Remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made! One day we will be like Christ; for now let us be patient with ourselves, and with our critics until that day arrives

So, my precious sisters, just be you!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Life is Unpredictable!

Life is Unpredictable!

Everyday..... you hear of wrecks, storms, violence and sickness taking the lives of the elderly all the way down to the young.

Everyday....you hear of another female with breast cancer, or another person with some type of cancer.

Everyday.....you hear of another home that has been broken up.

Life is Unpredictable!

Roger was told at his secular job a year and half ago that they were going to out-source the IT Department to a company in India.  Since....they keep getting mixed info.  They've been told that it will not affect any of his group............they've been told that it will affect the entire group and they've been told that it will affect some of the group..............but it will happen over the next few years.

Roger will be 62 in March.....so he felt comfortable.  At 62 he could take an early retirement....from his secular job and be able to spend more time working at church. 

He's made it this far...........and the company never does anything major except the first of the year or the first of the summer.............those are the "change times"....normally.

Monday, in a meeting, he was told that they are doing away with his position....it is being out-sourced to India and his last day will be November 10......4 1/2 months too early to retire early.  Whewww.......

They had warned them.........................but when they actually told him......it caught him off guard and even hurt his feelings.....................he's put in 20+ years with the company and worked many, many hours on salary with no over-time.

It is what it is.

Then....yesterday was our anniversary.  Since today was my first day back to school with students all day.............we decided to celebrate our anniversary on Friday night............so we could enjoy it and not be stressed. 

Roger had already taken the day off work so when I came home today.................I walked into this..............

 
 
If you look carefully you will see where my stove and sink was this morning when I left for work.
 
(We are right in the middle of completely remodeling our kitchen.....new appliances....new cabinets......walls knocked down...etc.)
 
Life is Unpredictable!
 
I guess I say all of this to say........................life rarely runs smooth without any bumps in the road.
 
We must keep our eyes on God and know that He is Still in Control....................regardless of what "hand of cards" have been dealt to you.
 
.........sickness.....loss of jobs......death.......messy houses......------just remember.....no matter what you face............the world is watching you to see how YOU handle it....be it little or small.
 
Let's let others see Jesus through you!
 
 


Thursday, August 3, 2017

"Mystery Trip"

Roger and I had plans to go to Pigeon Forge one weekend this summer......we had some "gifts" we needed to purchase.  Before that weekend, our daughter asked if we would be available to babysit her two children.

We asked if we could take the grandkids with us to Pigeon Forge.  They agreed, but we did not tell the kids where they were going.  They thought it was sooo neat because we were going on a "mystery trip".  Actually they had not been to Pigeon Forge since they were one and two years old, so they did not remember it.  And....this was our first trip away with just the grandkids.

We only stayed two nights, but in those three days and two nights, we got to re-experience Pigeon Forge from a child's eyes. 

Our grandkids are three and four years old.  It was the little things.......

Our hotel room had a hot tub.  They wanted to wear their swimsuits and play in the BIG BATH TUB and watch TV at the same time.  They were in heaven.  They thought that was soooo cool.

From our balcony, we could see the giant cross.  Our grandson got so excited............he wanted to know if that was the cross that Jesus died on.

They with granddaddy road the Big Farris Wheel.  Mimi does not like heights and has vertigo bad, so she stayed on the ground.

We did many things...........fed the bears, went to the Comedy Barn, ate at the Apple Barn and of course made a stop at the Disney Store....cause that is what grandparents do.

They wore us out.

But it was worth every bit of it.

Sometimes in our busy, hectic worlds..................it is fun to just slow down and enjoy a "Mystery Trip" moment........................especially through a child's eyes.


  
 

38 plus years......


HAPPY ANNIVERARY, ROGER!

Exactly 38 years ago tonight, Roger and I got married.....after dating for 7 years, 1 day and 1 month.  (August 3, 1979)  On July 2, 1972......we had our first date.  We were babies.  Smile.

I feel blessed to have married my sweetheart and best friend and to still be married.......but it did not happen without lots of effort from both of us.  Marriage is an every day job.....especially if you are a Christian and "Preaching Couple" because Satan is trying to find every little crack he can to destroy your relationship.  If he can cause your marriage to fail...............look at the vast number it will impact.

There is no doubt in my mind that God chose Roger for me.  Sometimes I do think that God has a sense of humor because he could not have put two more opposite people together.

But....guess what......................after 45 years of being a couple and 38 years of being "one".......we are not so much different.  We have both mellowed out and become more alike.

I use to trust EVERYONE.....and believed everything that was said to me.  Roger trusted no one and was very guarded.  Over the years.....I have realized that I need to be careful because everyone is not as truthful or honest and I had once thought.  And, Roger has learned to trust people more which has caused him to be much more compassionate that he was in his early ministry.

Ladies......love your husband and guard your relationship.  What you have is a very precious gift from God.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Continued Prayers in Singapore


This is my niece Danae and her husband, Nick Ireland....and their two sons, Bennett and Jackson.  (You can't tell by the picture, but their baby sister, Emma Kate is due in November.)

They just completed their first year of mission work in Singapore.  They work with Young Life.

In June and July, they got to come back to the states and we were able to visit with them some.

Please keep them in your prayers.  They leave today to travel back to Singapore.

(In following God's lead, they sold their beautiful home in Franklin, Tn and most of their possessions....to move to Singapore to work with the youth.  Not only are they away from family..........they are away from friends.)

Just write their names down and keep them in your prayers....Nick & Danae Ireland.

Thank you in advance for your prayers.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

EVERYDAY.....we have a choice


Yesterday was my first day of In-Service at school.  In one of our meetings, our principal was talking about the split road we face each new day.  Everyday....we have a choice.  You go down the road and you can choose to: 
  •  to be positive and happy.
  • Or, to be in a bad mood and be negative.
It is our decision of how we will face each day. 

I use to always be a happy, uplifted person, but over the years, Satan and negative influences have caused me to be whiney and negative more often than I care to admit.  I catch myself sometimes.  AND....when I do......I do not like it.

You know as well as I do.....not only are we watched more because we are Christians.....we are watched even MORE because we are PW's..........Preacher's Wives.

My goal for this year....at school, at church and in my everyday life..............is to be more POSITIVE and to be more encouraging to the people around me.  I want to be a person people want to be around and not a person that people dodge.



Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer Vacation is OVER


SUMMER for teachers in Rhea County is officially OVER.  Today....we begin our In-Service.  We meet the students Wednesday and Friday the students come for their first full day of school.

This has been a very short summer.  I feel like I got very little accomplished.

However.....reflecting back....it has been very busy.  We went camping with our son and daughter-in-law.......we went to the beach with our grandkids & their parents......we had VBS......we took our grandkids on a "Mystery Trip" and we visited our moms in Alabama for a few days......

In the middle of all of that..................we are TOTALLY remodeling our kitchen.  YULK.  I keep reminding myself that when it is over, I will be sooooo thankful, but right now, not so much.  I HATE this disorder and mess.

We are getting new cabinets.....new counter top.....new flooring.....and new appliances and the design of the kitchen is being changed.  Roger is doing a lot of the work................which is good and bad.  It will save us money and he loves to do that type of work and has lots of pride in his work....................but bad because it takes longer.

I emptied my cabinets into Lowes moving boxes weeks ago.  That was a job in itself.  We have been in this house for 22 years so I found things in the deep back corner of the cabinets that I had not seen in years.

Then.....a couple of weeks ago, Roger began pulling the old cabinets out, knocking out walls and tearing up sheetrock. 

Then it hit me.  This is canning season.  I can not miss out.................so before he pulled my stove out................I drove up the mountain and purchased a bushel of green beans....shelled and prepared them and canned them.  I was so please with them that I got another bushel and in the meantime, our Crowder peas in our garden was ready so I fixed those also.

Remember.....................this was all done AFTER my kitchen was packed away.  My pressure canner was in the pantry, so I could get to it.  Also....my LARGE pot that I put the beans in.

I made a run to the store................purchased a cheap plastic colander, a large spoon, a canning funnel and a cheap square cake pan to heat my jars in.  Whewww.........I redneck rigged it up..............but...........IT WORKED and we now have green beans and peas for the winter months.

In the middles of all of the chaos I managed to rig up a way to still do a little canning.  WHY?  Because it was important to me.................it was high on my list of priorities.

Wouldn't it be great if we......or maybe I should just say....wouldn't it be great if I had all of my other priorities so high up on my list...................to the point that I refused to allow Satan or anyone else to interfere with my "visiting", "Bible Studying", "Praying", "Exercising"  Organizing"......and the list could go on and on.

Canning was so important to me that I did not let the chaos or the inconvenience keep me from it.  I went above and beyond to make it happen.

My prayer is that I will get that determined in other aspects of my life......................
And my prayer is also that YOU will do the same.

Just imagine..................WHAT A DIFFERENCE WE COULD MAKE!!!

Friday, July 28, 2017

My Third Priority

I love my three daughters with all my heart.

My oldest, R, begins high school in less than two weeks. She knows Jesus and sincerely wants to please him. She loves a good show tune and to shoot her bow. She rereads books she loves and appreciates time to herself.

My middle, P, is poised to start the 3rd grade, even if she isn't all that excited about it. While she is social and loves the spotlight, her attention span is on the short side and finds it hard to stay focused sitting at a desk all day. She loves her Legos and a good knock-knock joke.

My youngest, E, will turn 4 in September. She is my laid back sidekick. She adores her baby dolls and anything Disney princess. She has definitely discovered her voice. As a result, we never have to wonder what she is thinking as she emphatically explains everything with dramatic hand gestures.

Most of the time, I delight in spending time with each and all of them. (That's kinda tricky to say as summer vacation draws to a close - but I will miss them when the school bells start ringing again.) I appreciate being able to care for them whether doing the daily load of laundry or heating up corn dogs in the microwave.

I would do anything for them. Like most parents, I would lay down my life for my children. I will defend them, advocate for them, and discipline them. (I would argue that disciplining them is the hardest, most loving thing I can do for them.)

I pray for them, as Paul described, without ceasing. R, I disciple as my younger sister in Christ. P and E, having not made decisions to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord, I seek to plant seeds of faith in, looking for every opportunity to intentionally point them to Jesus.

Despite all my love for and devotion to my girls, on top of all the caring, serving, sweat and tears - they are not my first priority in life. They aren't even my second.

My children are my third priority.

Our culture may not understand that. Certain segments of our society would condemn me for it, but I make no apologies.

From both a biblical perspective and my own experiences, when my girls come third, they only benefit.

My first priority is my relationship with Christ. My second is my relationship with their daddy. When these two relationships have been given their deserved attention - my daughters only gain.

It is in my relationship with Christ, I can see them through God's perspective. It is through the presence of the Holy Spirit within me, that the fruits of patience, kindness, gentleness and more are produced. By seeking Him first, I can know that my identity is NOT in my role as a mother, but as His loved child.

By loving their father well, (see my last post), the girls get a real life picture of how Christ loved His Bride, the church, and gave Himself up for her. They have the stability of a two parent home with all the study proven benefits that come with it. I am also blessed to have a front row seat of the picture my husband gives them of a gracious, loving Heavenly Father. It is in this relationship that there is a  deeper understanding of how God loves each of His children.

As my third priority, the girls are my first mission field. By living together, they see and know my good, my bad and my ugly. I can honestly say I have never had to apologize so many times to anyone else ever. I have faith that God's grace covers my short comings and He can use me in their lives in spite of myself. Again showing my need for my first priority to be my first priority.

As our family is gearing up for a running start to the new school year, this is what I want my third priority to know. That they are third and for the best reasons.  The world and this life isn't about them. It is about restoring the creation to its Creator.... That lesson starts at home. Our house doesn't revolve around them. We want it to revolve around Jesus.

My extended family, my job, my Sunday school class, my church, my friends - everything else gets shuffled into the rest of my time.

Please don't think I've got this all figured out all of the time. Too often an outsider would struggle to identify these things as my top three priorities by just observing my actions and my attitudes. I cling to the fact I am a work-in-progress and one day, He will finish the good work He has begun in me. . .

Until then, these are my goals, my priorities, my prayers....


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My Second Priority

Love him well.

Yes, my aim, my goal is that my first priority would always be my relationship with Jesus and I most definitely long to love HIM well.

But, I don't always do so hot honoring my second priority.

They go together, these top two priorities. If I am making one happen, the other should happen too. They not only co-exist, but support each other. If I am doing "it" right, they will never compete, but rather complement each other....

I need to love him well.

Who?

My husband, the father of our daughters, the associate pastor, the associate associational missionary, the man - I married.

He is many things to many people and, as he relies on Christ, he "is" all those things well.

I watch him preach, teach, counsel, console, and encourage. I also see him hold his tongue, smile through frustration and prayerfully wait for the "right" time.

He has many friends, but only confides in a few. Honestly, he is an introvert who prefers to stay at home. Crowds can overwhelm him and exhaust him. This is sometimes a challenge for the work God has called him to do.

Sometimes, it is difficult for either of us to be fed spiritually. Opportunities to worship with abandon can be few and far between. Expectations get heavy to carry. Weariness can easily set in.

My man handles all of this with God-supplied grace. I pray to respond and react the way he does.

Recently, we got away for a couple of nights without kiddos. We talked and prayed for our children, our places of ministries, our extended families. We laughed. We remembered. We dreamt.

We also realized that those nights were important. We need to prioritize that togetherness more. It doesn't necessarily mean we call the grandparents in for reinforcements and book a hotel room - but we should make time for each other, for our marriage.

This summer, as I interviewed and hired staff members for the weekday preschool at church, I told the applicants that my second priority is my husband andnI began to think about what that meant.

I mean I do lots of things to pursue my first priority, my relationship with Christ. I read my Bible. I listen to worship music and podcasts. I study, sing, pray, share . . . .

But what do I do to pursue my second priority . . .  I began to pray about what that meant.

For my husband and our relationship, I felt like God kept telling me to "Love him well."

I need to listen to him.
I need to study him, knowing his likes and dislikes, his desires and aversions.
I need to minister to him at all times.
I need to be honest with him - but I can prayerfully pick the best times to "vent" my frustrations.
I need to build bridges to support, not hinder his ministry relationships.
I need to look to my first priority, to Christ, to meet my needs - not my husband.

It's unfair to ask him to fulfill what only Jesus can. My mate cannot validate me. I should not seek my identity in him. My purpose is not serving him, but glorifying HIM. If I ask my husband to "complete" me, I have made him an idol, wanting him to do something he cannot and only Jesus can.

Having a minister for a husband does bring its own set of unique challenges, but I don't think that they are too different than those that Christian wives face no matter their husband's occupation.

If our heart is to pursue Christ as our first priority, we will keep the first greatest commandment - to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind. Then, we should be able to love our husbands well, keeping the second greatest commandment, loving our neighbor as ourselves. Honestly, I can't think of a closer "neighbor" that I could have - after all we do share a bed and bathroom!

As I continue to process and pray through what it means for me to "love him well," I'd love to hear from you. What kinds of things are you intentional to do to show your spouse that you love him well?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Using, Or Being Used By, Social Media

If it isn't shared on social media, did it ever really happen?

If it doesn't get a certain amount of likes, did it really have any value to begin with?

From dinner plates to hotel rooms, family outings to everyday routines - we are documenting everything these days . . .

Pictures and photographs of my grandparents in their younger years are rare and priceless to me because there are so few of them. Those that do exist tell only so much about their lives.

In contrast, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with pictures that people want you to see of them and their rose-colored lives. Only the best shots make the cut and even if someone posts a "negative" picture, I question her motive thinking, "Oh she's just looking for sympathy...."  

I feel my eyes turning that envious shade of green, wishing it could be me at that place, eating that meal or having that experience. On some imaginary scale in my head, I find myself rating me, judging my life and feeling my discontentment grow with each swipe of the screen.

The opposite happens too. When it is my family doing the neat thing, or my husband taking me to the "cool" date spot, or one of my daughters making me feel especially proud, I click away trying to capture just-the-right shot to literally show-off and brag about whatever it is I want to make everyone else feel envious over.

Oh, I justify it in my head, telling myself I am making it "just right" for my "Chatbooks" Scrapbook or to share the memory with family that lives far away, but I still find myself stalking my own postings to see how many "likes" I've gotten. To be totally honest, the more likes, the better I feel about myself.

Studies have been done proving that the same euphoric feelings that arise from having a bunch of "likes" is extremely similar to the endorphins that are released when a person is literally "high." This is part of the reason that social media use is so addicting and dangerous to us all, not just teens. It is why it is so appealing to those of us who struggle with low self-esteem. Social media, in itself, is not "evil" but it can quickly charm the unsuspecting user into cyclical patterns of destructive feelings and even behavior.

There are lots of warnings about what, when and how we allow our kids to take in social media, but when was the last time you took stock on how it was affecting your heart? To be honest, it's been too long for me...

Recently, my husband and I got away for a couple of nights without the kids. We visited some old stomping grounds and spent a lot of time reminiscing about the past while dreaming about the future. About halfway through our time together, we realized we had not taken a single picture. I started to feel bummed about it and how I didn't have any record of this special time together.... not for my own sentimental feelings, but to show everyone on Instagram...

When I realized my motive was to make others jealous, it really made me think... If it isn't documented on social media, did it really happen at all?

Of course it did! I decided then that instead of taking pictures with my phone, I would take mental pictures, treasuring the moments in my heart -not unlike the Gospels tell us Mary did when Jesus was young.... I decided to "be" in those moments, living them as I had them.

If I spend all my time "with" my family behind the camera or on my phone or behind the camera on my phone, then am I really "with" my family? Documenting the moments too often keeps me from living them and other times it tends to give Satan the opportunity of robbing me the joy God intended me to have in those experiences.

When I update my profile picture am I really fishing for compliments, wanting others to tell me how good I look? Or when I share a blog post on my Facebook page, do I really want to share that information or see who agrees with me? Even when I write for this blog I seek others' approval by seeing how many times a post has been read or shared or commented on...

In a recent Bible study, I was challenged to take a break from not just social media, but technology as a whole. I was encouraged to plan the day-long hiatus, clearing it with work obligations, but not posting about it as to make a big, bragging deal about it. While I've not met this challenge yet, it has already challenged my thinking on how social media robs me of so much life and so much joy.

I am not ready to make a broad, sweeping commitment, closing my accounts and logging off certain sites. But, I am ready to not just consume blindly. I am wanting to be aware of the effects of what I am taking in and the motives that are driving me to hit "share."

However, if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram or both, I can assure you this - you can't define me clearly by what you see there. My life is more full and too colorful (the bright, pretty and dull, ugly) to be clearly, fairly or accurately portrayed there.

I hope people who truly call me "friend" and sincerely "like" me already know all of this. I do know that my Jesus does and He is the One who loves me. My salvation in Him is what defines me and gives me the validation that the gods and idols of the internet fail to provide.

Missing the abundant life Jesus came to give? Have you allowed Satan to steal, kill and destroy by sneaking into your mind through a wireless signal?

What are the safeguards you put on your heart and mind when it comes to social media? In what ways are you being intentional to use social media and not let it use you? Please share your insights below....

Sunday, July 23, 2017

I Was Jealous Of Her

I was jealous of her.  And I did not even realize it…until this week.  And it crushed me.  Devastated me.  Hurt me.  My heart is heavy.  The conviction is deep.

I was jealous of her marriage.  Of her speaking ability.  Of her relationship with the Lord.  Of her ministry.  Of her ability to mother well.  All.  Of.  It.  I was jealous.  Envious.  I wanted her life.

We go way back to the mid 1970’s in Texas but I did not meet her until sometime early 2000’s in Tennessee.  Long before I met my husband, Ernie, she and her husband, Doug, worked with him in Young Life in Fort Worth, Texas.  She later told me that she prayed for Ernie to find a Godly wife.  I remember vividly how that affected me….that someone I did not even know was praying for me!  Me!  I had no idea anyone was praying for me….yet she was.  She is a pray-er!

Fast forward to today.  Doug died tragically several years ago….Suddenly.  She has been battling cancer for years and now can barely speak.  As she says in her own words, she is struggling physically.  Emotionally.  Spiritually.

Karen Alexander-Doyle was married to a pastor and wrote for this blog for a season.  I encourage you to go to the the TN PRIME RIB web version, look on the side panel for Karen, Click on it and read her posts.  She is the real deal.  Many of you know her.  You have heard her speak.  You have read her writings.  You know her story.  Her beautiful, tragic, incredible God story.

Her life is all about giving God the glory, praying, serving, encouraging, loving, speaking Truth and giving much joy.

Get on Facebook, go to her page and see/read/hear her current situation.  Pray for her.  Learn from her.  Encourage her.  Be encouraged by her.

She is living proof of 2 Corinthians 4:16:  Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Do I still want her life?  Her suffering is real….but not more real than her relationship with the God of the universe.  What I long for is that same kind of faith and trust and dependence on our Father. 

Father, right now as my sisters read this we pray in one accord with one mind and one heart....we lift up Karen and her family.  Fill them with Your Peace and Your comfort.  We believe You are near to each one of them....may they come to know You as they have never known You before as they walk through these days.  Would You use her story to bring many people to know You and glorify You.  Thank you for using Karen to encourage so many.....would You use many to encourage her.  In Jesus' name....amen!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Help Me Please!!


Help!!  Would you please, please, pretty please help me out?

More than likely you have gone to women’s events.  You know what I’m talking about….those occasions when your church or favorite author or association provides women for spiritual growth or renewal or teaching or fellowship or _______________.  They come in the form of retreats or conferences or lunches or ladies’ days or _______________.

These events will often have a speaker.  Most assuredly it will have food and decorations and centerpieces.  Much of the time there will be worship and/or a solo or two. Sometimes there will be a mission emphasis (so we don’t focus too much on ourselves).  Door prizes are given out amidst much clapping and squealing.  (Or in some instances no one claps or squeals which, to me, is quite odd and so if I happen to be in attendance will encourage said clapping and squealing.)  Some events might even have get-to-know-each-other games or crafts that many of you love and others would rather have a root canal than have to participate.  In fact, maybe you make yourself scarce during those times.

Some of you love to go to these events….and you go as often as your time or budget or schedule or husband or _______________will allow.  Others….you only go because you feel you are obligated to!   You go because it is held at your church or you are the speaker or your best friend begged you to come or _______________. You would rather have a colonoscopy or a hysterectomy than attend such occasions.

I think I might have just gotten off track a little bit.  Back to my need for help!

As a speaker for such events….what suggestions would you give the speaker?  I sincerely, genuinely, maybe even desperately need/want your insights, thoughts, suggestions, likes, dislikes.

I would love to know, from your experience, what worked.  Didn’t work.  What was helpful?  What wasn’t helpful?  What impacts you?  For those of you who are speakers….what insights do you have? 

My desire is for women to know God and glorify Him.  To not simply know about Him but to know Him.  To not “always be learning and never coming to understand the Truth” as the women Paul referred to in 2 Timothy 3 were….or to be “religious but reject the power to be Godly”.  I never want women to come and sit and listen and hear the Word and leave stirred but not changed.

So, please, if you have any input, experiences, insights….I need to know.  I am desperate to know what ministers to you.  PLEASE comment or email me at jgang@aeneas.net. If you leave a comment it will allow others to be helped/strengthened as well.  It also might cause us to ponder why we have the events.

It terrifies me to think of doing any of this without His Power and His leading and His Presence…and I am not asking for your input to replace what He tells me to do….it is just that feedback is good.  It’s helpful.  It is necessary.  And I sense that God wanted me to ask you.  And so you must answer (smile and wink).  And I don’t know why I haven’t asked before!!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Other Girlfriends






Pull out your chocolate stash and sit a minute with me as we continue our discussion on friends. 

Today, I want to pose the question:  “Can you have close friends who are part of your congregation?”



This is a tough question and many people express varying opinions.  Most ministry wives will answer a firm “no” to the question.  However, I have a different perspective.  I believe we can have deep friendships with other women in our churches. 



I was raised by a mom who taught me to always find the good in people.  She set the bar high for me in establishing friendships.  Before they went to be with the Lord, my mom and her best girlfriend shared over 50 years of close friendship.  Therefore, I always want to mirror that relationship.



When seeking a safe friend, one of the first things I do is pray.  I ask for the discernment to know when a woman wants to be my friend simply to get firsthand knowledge of church happenings or whether she will be a true, safe friend.  I can tell you that there have been times when I did not follow the Lord’s leading and I have been burned in friendships. 



Once arriving at a new ministry, the second thing I do is watch and listen to the ladies around me.  I see how they treat one another.  I look for those ladies who always are encouraging and supporting to their friends.  I always want someone who is very real and loves to laugh. 



Once I discover those individuals I ask the Lord again if one of those ladies will be my safe friend.  It is really interesting how God works at times.  Sometimes He does lead me to those ladies but there have been times He takes me in a direction to someone I have not discovered yet. 



Interestingly, in recent moments a woman who is very soft spoken, humble and a deeply committed Christian popped onto my radar.  Over lunch one day she shared her story and I realized we had so many things in common.  Our only difference is that she is sometimes shy.  (I was at one time but once I married into the Lee family my shyness flew out the window).  However, I truly believe the Lord is leading us to develop a true friendship.  I really look forward to see how He works out the details.



Over the years, God has provided a true, safe girlfriend in every congregation we have served.  I have one friendship that is still going after 30 plus years.  I think my mom would be proud.  These ladies have listened to my heart, cried with me, celebrated the joys of life, and held my hand in some very difficult times.  They provide the laughter to my soul and sometimes even supply me with my favorite nerve pill-Peanut M & M’s. 



So yes, dear sisters, I firmly believe we can have close, true friends within our churches.  All you have to do is pray and seek the Lord’s leading.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ministry Girlfriends




A few weeks ago, the topic of friendships arose in my bible study class.  For some reason, the teacher wanted to know if I had close friends.  Silently I voiced, “Well duh!  Of course, I have close friends.  I am a woman and God gave women a need for girlfriends.”  However, I responded to the question, “Yes, I have many close friends who are allowed to be in my inner circle.”   I further reminded the teacher and fellow classmates that even Jesus chose the disciples who were also his friends. However, a couple were allowed to be his closest companions.



This week I want to delve a bit in to my perspective on two areas of friendships-staff wives and congregation wives.  I have touched on this before and there are far more qualified people who have much more knowledge than me on this subject.  Just remember these are my opinions.



First, let me say I wish I could gather all my girlfriends together for a beach trip/chocolate feast.  Alas, time, finances, and schedules restrict the trip.  So, let’s imagine we are all on some white sandy beach with a salty breeze giving us a “I don’t care” hairstyle, and we are munching on coconut M & M’s (that’s the favor for beach trips).



As a pastor’s wife, I am fortunate to have many girlfriends whose husbands are also in the ministry.  We come from different walks of life and vary in age.  We serve in large congregations and very small rural churches.  Some of these ladies are here locally with me and others are scattered across the nation and world. 



Ministry girlfriends understand each other.  We walk the muddy ministry path together.  We get that we have great days and really stinky days.  We know that there are times we need to vent our frustrations to girlfriends who understand.  (Let’s face it, we can’t vent to a church member about another church member).  We celebrate joys.  We cry when one of us hurts.  We hold each other accountable.  We support one another in prayer.  And we laugh . . . a lot!  What is most important to me is that there is no judgment or jealousy.  If one of us is struggling with an un-Christ-like attitude, we simply pray for her and encourage her.  The fact that we serve in different size church does not cause envy because we all know that every church has its good and bad sides.



Like I said earlier, not all my ministry girlfriends are in my church or local.  I have a great relationship with the staff wives at our church.  I always know they are a phone call away.  Many of my girlfriends are in our association.  We fellowship once a month.  There is no agenda.  We simply fellowship and laugh.  These ladies are so encouraging and supportive to one another.  I am able to stay in touch with my long-distance ministry girlfriends by phone, text, or social media.  Just getting a simple “how are you doing?” from one of them brightens my day.  Here in Arkansas, our convention has a private Facebook page for the wives.  We can share prayer request, joys and even vent some. 



It’s funny but I have two ministry girlfriends-one here in Arkansas and one in Tennessee-and we are constantly texting one another.  We do not see each other often so texting is our mode of communication most of the time.  We check up on one another, solicit godly advice, and share funny things that have happened.  I truly love these two ladies.



Let’s face it, ministry is extremely hard.  We are facing a day when people do not want anything to do with the local church or sound biblical teaching.  As a result, our husbands get discouraged and need our support.  That in turn leaves us needing a safe place for encouragement and uplifting.  My ministry girlfriends provide a place of safety.  They are my encouragement.  They provide godly wisdom on dark days.  They laugh and cry with me.   They are true God given friends!

.  How about you?  Share with us how your ministry girlfriends encourage and support you.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

True Freedom

Happy Independence Day!


My sisters, I hope that you all have a wonderful, restful day filled with good food, family gatherings, and time away from the normal routines of life. Each year on this date, July 4, we celebrate the birthday of our nation, a time when the thirteen original colonies declared their independence from England. It was a time of rejoicing over 240 years ago, and it is still a time of rejoicing today as we recall the price that was paid to set our nation free!

As I thought about writing this blog, I called to mind another event, the MOST SIGNIFICANT event in all of human history. This event happened over 2,000 years ago: One Man, the God Man, gave up His life to gain freedom, not for Himself, but for all the world who lived under the oppression and bondage of the Enemy, Satan. Victory was gained those many years ago, and it is still being celebrated today. This glorious news is that Jesus Christ, our Savior, gave His life on the cross, took the penalty of sin upon Himself, so all who trusted in Him for the forgiveness of sin would be free from its hold and the punishment it brings. Hallelujah!

Yes, our Savior died for us, but was raised from the dead, for death could not hold Him, and we who have trusted Him as Savior will experience eternal life in a beautiful, awesome (words cannot adequately describe) place called heaven. Wow, that’s something to truly celebrate and rejoice over!!

To me true independence came when Jesus Christ became my Lord and Savior. I am free from the power of sin in my life, and He paid the precious price for the penalty of sin. What about you? Do you rejoice in the new life that is found only in Jesus?

As we go through this day remember that true freedom is found in Christ……”So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Friday, June 30, 2017

WOW.....

School was out one month ago.  School will start back the last day of July.  Where did the summer go?

I've already mentioned about the two "vacations"...VBS and two deaths.....................

Add to that...........a suicide, another death, an attempted suicide, a total kitchen remodel.....with new cabinets and the works and....MORE.

There is NO TELLING what else I will have to blog to you in five weeks!

Ladies.....have a nice day and I will check back with you in five weeks.

Outside the BOX

I've blogged before that our church has begun a ministry "outside the box" called the "GiveHIM Tennessee Ministry."  This summer, every Sunday night.....instead of having services at our church, we are going out into the community and have services....whether at the park.....at the ball field....at the swimming pool.....at the bowling center, etc.

We added to the ministry this summer and began feeding the children of the community on Thursdays at lunch.  Some of our young men of the church got under conviction because the only meal some children receive are their breakfast and lunch at school.....so they got together and decided to at least feed them one day a week during the summer.  Last Thursday was their first day and they were very pleased with the large turn out.

Please continue to be in prayer for this ministry and for the men in charge of it......pray for God's blessings.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Break from Church

I copied this from a friend's Facebook.......

Those days you feel like you just need a break from church are probably the days you most need to just go to church.
– Tim Challies

I read this and liked it well enough to share with you...................but, if I am honest with myself and with you.................MANY days I feel like a just need a BREAK from CHURCH and the CHURCH FOLKS.  😣

Don't get me wrong..........I LOVE our church people.........but many times I am so physically and emotionally drained that I would love to take a "time out".  Many times I long to be "just a member" where I can go and sit on the pew.....listen and go home.  

Girlfriends.................I know you KNOW what I mean.  Wouldn't you love to be able to walk out of the church doors when the last amen is said....................and not wait until after "someone" gets finished talking to or meeting with your husband?

Oh....and wouldn't it be nice to just once..........get to church, just as the music is starting.........instead of being the first one there????

Our lives..............first one there and last one to leave.  Smile.

I really wouldn't want my life any different, but it is sure nice to be able to VENT to ladies that I KNOW understand.  Love you!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

TIME OUT

Whewwww................I am just NOW, half-way getting order back into our home.


  1. The end of school mad rush.....
  2. TENT camping trip
  3. Trip to Daytona Beach
  4. Had two deaths......one church member and one dad of church member
  5. Vacation Bible School
  6. and concluded with Fisher of Men.....fishing tournament team coming to our church
Whewwww..........................

It is times like this when I feel my age.  Use to I could go and do and do and keep up with everything else.  Seems as if now...............when I go and go and go.....the house and clothes suffer.

Ladies.....how do you do it?  I try really hard.....but eventually I have to say TIME OUT.  This week is my TIME OUT.  It is my week to blog, but other than that.....I refused to put anything else on the calendar.

This is my CATCH UP WEEK.

This has been a much needed week..............to catch up on the house work.......to catch up on the laundry.....to catch up on the garden and flower................and to catch up with quality time spent with God.

During those "whewwww times" everything is rushed.....even devotions, quiet times and prayer times.

This week it has been nice............getting a cup of coffee, relaxing and enjoying time spent with God.

We all need a TIME OUT sometimes.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

They GET IT!



These may not be the most flattering photos of me..........but they are my favorite pictures from Vacation Bible School.  We are saying our blessing before eating our rocket Popsicle.


Remember.........these are 2 & 3 year olds................and ...........THEY GET IT!!!

(The ones in the photo that REALLY get it......are in my Sunday morning and Wednesday night classes.)

I am so blessed to be able to be a part of their lives.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Different?

Five weeks ago I blogged about being different.  In the blog I mentioned the difference between our daughter and son.  Both kids had included us in their "vacation" plans.

Our son and daughter-in-law were going TENT camping, kayaking and hiking.

Our daughter, son-in-law and grand-kids were going to the beach.

TWO OPPOSITE vacations.

We were very hesitant about the tent camping............at 60 years old.....been there and done that and not sure the old bones can handle much more.....  BUT....Roger ordered us an old folks tent and and old folks air mattress.

(Old folks tent.....10 ft. x 17 ft. with a 6 ft. height that sets up instantly.  Smile.  And, old folks air mattress......22" air mattress that pugs up and airs up on its own.)

I am very happy to report that the weather was PERFECT for tent camping.  We were under trees, so it never got very hot inside the tents.  At night, it was so cool, we needed the fire.  And most important........NO RAIN.  That was a first for us.  I'm not sure we have ever tent camped without it raining.

We kayaked for two solid days.........on Dale Hollow Lake and down the Obey River.  And we went on a hike on a deserted island and found a cave.

It was a VERY relaxing and enjoyable few days.

Next....we went to Daytona Beach in Florida.  It rained every late afternoon, but the mornings were beautiful.  Most of the days were partly cloudy, but that is exactly what the doctor ordered for our pale skin.

Our course, our grand-kids spent the night with us while we were at the beach so we got to enjoy them and give mom and dad a break.

It was a VERY relaxing and enjoyable few days.

I say all of this to say................DIFFERENT does not have to be bad.  Many times different is good...................................we should keep and open mind and be willing to try the "different".