A Letter to the Church from a Pastor’s Wife

I wrote this post a few years ago on my original blog beckfarfromhome. I like to revisit it from time to time. If you know of a pastor’s wife who is going through a hard time why not forward this on to her with a word of encouragement.
Wedding Chapel
Dear Church,

When I was twelve I fell in love with you. I remember it happening. My father opened the Word like breaking bread and painted a picture of a love story. Am I mixing my metaphors? He spoke and I saw the obsession in his eyes like a disease compelling his actions and eating at him from the inside. I saw visions of white and lace, a husband and wife, a community of siblings, love and acts of honor, noble sacrifice, joyful communion and rich fellowship. A quest. I had never seen it in action, in real life. But I heard the memory, like a rumor, lifting off the pages of truth.

Here I am now. Over twenty five years since those early days of wide eyed wonder. Years have slipped by since that first breathless commitment to serve. I bear the battle scars of loving you. You can’t see them. Unlike the scars of motherhood that stretch across my skin, these lines are etched in my heart. In secret places. But they are there. I feel them at night sometimes, throbbing in the darkness. They don’t hurt as much after a careless word or thoughtless action. No, those happen in life, all of us say things we regret. It’s after my husband is devalued or his gifts mocked, it’s when his honor is questioned, or my love isn’t good enough for you, it’s when we have to say goodbye again. It’s when we become invisible or worse, the enemy. The scars ache when I see young believers devoured, heavy laws laid across their backs, the hunger for grace creeps into their expression. It’s when Jesus is obscured by fear or pride or envy or hate, and the blame lies at our feet. Blame because we’ve called sin by it’s real name and that’s unpopular, and in the end rebellion is easier to embrace than love. That’s when my scars hurt.

I haven’t been in a location yet that didn’t leave a scar. At first I flinched and resented the marring. But I don’t anymore, at least most days. I’ve seen some men and women develop a resentment and run away. I understand that, but I can’t do it. I think it’s because I love your Bridegroom more than I love you and my love for him gives my love for you value, meaning, and purpose. And of course I recognize that I’m not guiltless. I’ve let you down too. Your heart bears the marks of my shortcomings and graceless moments.

I have a request. Instead of me loving you in spite of and through it all, why not let’s try something new? Why not allow me to love you, and you love me back. Like I’m your friend or daughter or sister, your very own, and we belong to each other because we belong to Christ. And let’s not forget him. Let’s do everything for his sake, and by his Spirit, as if he’s more important than blue jeans, and coffee in the sanctuary, and favorite songs, and drums on the worship band, and you sat in my pew. Because then maybe I won’t be embarrassed inviting a neighbor to church and maybe they’d come and just maybe they’d see Jesus too.

I really want to love you. You’re stuck with me. I have nowhere else to go. I’m like a dog on a scent and it smells like rain on the horizon. Like the Spirit’s going to fall. And I wouldn’t miss it for anything. But, I’ve stood in the storm before, wind tossing to and fro. I’ve heard the thunder and felt the hair raise on my arm, only to have the hot wind of pride kick up and chase the storm away. And each time I’ve stood bereft at what we’ve all just lost. The promise of less of us and more of Him. And inevitably we go our own way because the memory of what just happened is too raw to bear. But one day I’ll be there, face down in the dirt, when the cloud breaks over us. I’ll grab your hands and we’ll dance around like children in the free flowing grace, and forgiveness will stream down our cheeks. It’s what I live for. And if it doesn’t happen on this earth it will happen on another, at a banquet, with a Lamb.

So, you see, you’re stuck with me, it’s inevitable. But I have one last request. Instead of making it a chore for me to love you, could you make it a joy?

Your Sister,
Beck

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Hebrews 13:17

Why tell our children about Christians being beheaded?

Cross 10The news is surreal. It has become all too common to see orange jump suited captives being led to slaughter by evil hidden in black masks. For years Pastor Saeed has been incarcerated for his faith. Around the world Christians are paying dearly in this life to gain an inheritance of faith in the next. The cross still costs. But here in America we don’t feel the pain like our brothers and sisters do.

I’m tempted to hide the reality of the world from my kids. I hide a lot of ugly from them already. I limit their exposure to media, news, commercials. They are 11 and 6. I don’t apologize for guarding their minds and hearts.

Ultimately my goal is that they learn how to guard their own hearts from evil and value what is holy. Yet I don’t want them to wake up from a make believe world unprepared. Knowing what to expose our children to and what to shield them from isn’t easy. I didn’t chose to let them watch the Super Bowl half-time show. It seemed unnecessary to need to explain to them why a girl would sing “I kissed a girl and I liked it.” But I have shown them pictures of me holding a malnourished child in an Eastern European mental institution. If God provides the means I would even take them to stand in that harsh reality.  It all feels like a balancing act. One I think each parent has to navigate according to prayerful wisdom and conscience.

This week as I looked at the pictures of those brave men kneeling at the feet of masked killers I had to ask myself, “at what point do we tell our children about the sacrifice our brothers and sisters are making globally?” How can we expect them to understand the sacrifice? Will the truth frighten them?

It’s strange to me that a scene so grizzly could also be so precious. For centuries the cross has resisted our natural attempts at whitewashing. Nevertheless it will always be an invitation to death. We who would follow must lay down our earthly lives and desires. Some saints are asked to do so in the rawest of ways. They make us stand at attention. We have to ask ourselves if we are serving the same gospel.

When we read the list in Hebrews 11 of the faithful and their legacy I think it’s our duty to add the names of modern day martyrs to that list. The world isn’t worthy of them, eternity is.

I want my children to understand eternal things. I want them to know that life is about more than game cube and Nerf guns and barbies. Human hearts are hungry for meaning and valor. And while it pains me to tell my children something they can’t truly understand, something that will make them sad, I want so much for them to understand the eternal nature of their relationship with Jesus. I want them to know he’s called them to something far greater than comfort.

I won’t tell my children that the death of the 21 Egyptian Christians is a travesty of justice. I won’t compare their deaths to a Muslim’s or say it’s unfair because of the lack of political outrage. Because they deserve more honor than that. They deserve to be recognized for understanding that faith is eternal and worth infinitely more than what this world has to offer. I don’t want my children to compare the death of these saints with an Islamic jihadist or see it in light of politics. I want them to hold their deaths up to the standard of scripture and hear what Jesus has to say about them.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12

If we are careful to study God’s word we can see the warning of what’s to come in this life. I wonder at our shock. Not our sorrow, but our shock. How have we forgotten that Jesus calls it an honor to die for the gospel and every one of his followers should be prepared to lay down their lives? I wonder if we understand that what’s happening globally isn’t truly political, it is the birth pangs of redemption.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t speak up for freedom, protect the innocent, and stand for life. That is something we should value for all mankind. We should work toward equality and liberty. But we must also recognize the nature of the fight. We have to know evil doesn’t fight by the rules and the battle reaches beyond what our eyes can see or our minds understand.

As hard as it is I will tell my children about the faith of these men, their brothers, because I want them to learn to value what God values. I want them to learn to stand in honor of what’s honorable. And through it all I want them to learn to pray that the blood of the martyrs will sow the seeds of the gospel, even among their captors. I want my kids to learn to live with eternal perspective and values.

Of course it’s easy for me to pay respect to these brothers and sisters from a comfortable armchair in a very safe town on the other side of the ocean. But I think it’s important in light of these violent days to practice our faith muscles. We don’t want to be caught off guard and unprepared. And ultimately we have a job to do. In America we may not be asked to die for the gospel but it’s our responsibility to pray for those who are.

A New Step On A Familiar Journey

OceanLife twists and turns in strange ways. It would be easy to try fighting the flow but I’ve found that’s rarely productive. Better to ride the swells of change. Our hearts grow and expand when we embrace life for what it is instead of wrestle it into a false submission. That’s where I find myself, and daily I’m putting my shoes of faith on and walking in trust for each moment.

It’s been a month since I posted an update about what’s happening in our lives. The current of life has lifted us out of the comfortable and pushed us into the deep waters of change. Chris’ position at our church comes to an end in June. It’s been a bitter-sweet, pressing into Jesus kind of season.

The very same day I posted about our desire to stay invested in our community and pursue non-profit ministry, God put his two cents in. In March when we first learned our ministry position would be ending Chris and I agreed we would not pursue a move until God clearly led us to. Our conditions were that we would need to be contacted about a church position and it would be a senior pastorate. The evening I posted about starting the non-profit we got a text from a pastor friend in Indiana telling us that the superintendent of his district in our denomination had asked about Chris. He wanted to know if he was available to submit his resume to a church for the senior pastor role at a church in Indiana.

I pitched a fit. Why the day I posted our plans would God introduce this new factor? Why another move when we had worked so hard to invest where we were? But in the morning I felt peace. There was no point in fighting the why, change was calling and I recognized it’s voice. God has confirmed, through the church body and our own hearts, that he has designed us for full time pastoral ministry. We’re trusting him to lead us through the change and into peaceful waters again.

We believe in the vision we had for the center, but one thing that has become clear in the last few weeks is that we believe that the vision of outreach is best extended through the local body. This time of change has given us the opportunity to reaffirm some of our deepest beliefs.

We still believe that ministry happens best over the long haul of investing intentionally in people’s lives. We believe in putting down roots, in becoming a part of a community. We had hoped that would happen in our current home and it started to, but sadly it  didn’t last. It’s our prayer that in our next church we will find a place to belong for a long time.

I bear wounds from years of upheaval and disappointment. For thirty one years I’ve been a part of a ministry family, I’ve learned it just goes with the territory. Strangely, I’ve found that those wounds, when bathed in grace, turn sweet and not bitter. It’s the story of life though, isn’t it? We all bear hurts and disappointments, grace is the salve that heals us all. When we’re unafraid of the deep and plunge in faith restores, grace heals.

So now our family waits in the strange, uncomfortable in-between, caught between sorrow and hope. It’s not time to say goodbye or hello. Chris’ resume has been reviewed by the church in Indiana, now we’re waiting for the phone call to see if we move to the next step of an interview or not. But if not that church, then certainly it will be another.

In the waiting God has reminded me that a blessing is a blessing regardless of it’s duration. It has been a blessing to be a part of our current church family, and we will cherish our home and relationships here as long as we can.

Thank you friends and family for praying, encouraging, and offering our hearts a safe place to land on this journey. We love you. Please continue praying for God’s direction for us in our lives and for endurance while we wait.

I’m Not Done Risking Rejection

If you’ve been reading my blog this month you’ll notice I’ve been talking about risking rejection. One of the risks I’ve taken is to write a story, publicly, on my blog. (Come back tomorrow for part 2 of Dixie’s story!) I also mentioned last week that I’m stepping out to pray risky prayers.

Well, the Risk Rejection project is coming to an end. This is the last official week of risk taking. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve been encouraged by the group of women who have been stepping out in risk as well. (A big whoop whoop to you ladies!)

While I don’t feel I’ve taken a lot of dramatic risks this month I have thought a lot about the risks I’ve taken in the past and the risks I’d like to take in the future.

One thought that’s stood out from all of that thinking is this; I’m not opposed to risk taking, actually I quite like it, but I do get sweaty when it comes to risking rejection. For some reason there’s a difference. If a risk may lead to a loss of money, property damage, injury, inconvenience, hardship, fatigue, etc. I’m willing to weigh that risk and take it. But if I think someone I respect or admire may disapprove or people will misunderstand, if it leads to rejection, that freezes me in my tracks.

Which has taught me a lot about where my focus should be. And it takes me right back to risky praying. When we’re kept by Christ, indwelt by his Spirit, accepted by the Father, risk just doesn’t feel so risky anymore – it feels like faith. It leads us to ask according to his will, certain of his love, unafraid of what the outcome will be. His opinion will be all that matters which frees us up to love.

Even though this month of risk taking is officially over I know it’s really just been the beginning. I plan on continuing to pray big prayers for my family, community, and world. Prayers God just might ask me to be the answer too. I plan on continuing to write – we’ve still got a long way to go with Dixie! I’ve also been tossing around the idea of visiting our local assisted living to gather resident’s stories. I want to learn how to be a better storyteller. And I’m sure all kinds of new risks will present themselves.

I want to be the kind of person who embraces risks, regardless of the cost. Not risks for risks sake, just for a cheap thrill or attention. Risks that are born of faith, risks that look a lot like Peter stepping out of the boat and walking to Jesus. Risks that are for my neighbor’s good and defy my comfort. Risks that say – I trust.

So here is to a year of risking rejection! Of practicing digging deep into my heart and going with it. Of letting Jesus lead in Jesus sized ways, even if where he’s taking me looks impossible!

What about you? Is God calling you to trust him in a particular area of your life? Are you willing to risk?

Let’s Pray For Our Kids on this Thanksgiving Day!

Friends, I’m thankful for you!

Thankful for your reading and commenting, thankful that you join me to pray for our kids. Thankful that you let me share this journey that’s gone from accidental to purposeful. Thankful that you share your own beautiful journey with me! Truly you bless my heart.

Takingawalk

As we pause this Thanksgiving to savor the goodness of life, the kindness of God to us, let’s thank him for our children. As much as they may drive us crazy day to day and stretch us to our limits they are great treasures aren’t they! My children are the greatest blessings I never knew I wanted!

I hope this thanksgiving season, as we’ve practiced thankfulness as a family, my kids hearts have grown. I long for them to be blessed and be a blessing to others. I heard this gorgeous Psalm earlier in the week and I wanted to pray that it would be true in our kids lives as they grow. Feast your heart on it’s powerful words.

I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart;
I will sing your praises before the gods.
I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.
I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
by all the honor of your name.
As soon as I pray, you answer me;
you encourage me by giving me strength.

Every king in all the earth will thank you, Lord,
for all of them will hear your words.
Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways,
for the glory of the Lord is very great.
Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble,
but he keeps his distance from the proud.

Though I am surrounded by troubles,
you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
and the power of your right hand saves me.
The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138

Father, we bow down and give you thanks for your unfailing love. We pray that your faithfulness will reach out to our children. Thank you for answering us as we pray for them, for your kindness, protection, guidance, and grace. Will you work out your plans for their lives, caring for their humble hearts, protecting and saving the little ones you have made. Thank you for blessing our lives with our children. Each one different and precious, with purpose and value. Thank you for the joy and challenge of parenting them. Thank you for walking with us on this parenting journey and strengthening our hand to the task. Amen.

I hope your day is filled with laughter, warm memories and new ones being made, and the sweet presence of Jesus. Bless you friends on this Thanksgiving day!

I want to hear about your kids! What are you thankful for in your children’s lives?

Let’s Pray For Our Kids

Bone tired. That’s where I am, this whole nurturing thing – not for the faint of heart. Are you there too?

I love my children, but I’ve got to confess I’ve always been a heart wanderer, never content to stay still. Sometimes the monotony of peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every-single-day, laundry never ending, whining at the crack of dawn, makes my heart quake.

Just when I feel the cycle of give and take, give and take, heavy on the take, will never end – magic happens. Jesus pulls my attention from day dreams of saving the world back into the here and now, and thankfully I don’t miss the sweetness before me.

Lately it’s come in the package of my littlest one’s tender heart. God’s word is shaping and living in her and prayers are bubbling up from deep down. (Big shout out to our children’s pastor Kathy and her wonderful team for the way they nurture my kids!)

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At dinner lately, after her brother prays, Maggie is quick to pipe up “My turn!” And oh those prayers, full of “touch Max’s body and help him feel better… thank you for my brother, I love him… help my heart to be sweet and not sassy… Jesus I know you love me, and I love you too” they melt my heart.

In those moments I’m reminded that the beauty of protecting, nurturing, teaching those innocent hearts is not a burden but such a dear gift. And I love my little ones in the memory of the children an ocean away, whose abandonment to an institution I can never forget, but right now can do nothing to save.

I press in to the here, and am faithful in trusting for the later. I believe God will produce fruit of faith in my children, and fulfill dreams yet unrealized in my own heart. One of my deepest desires is to see my children walking in their own knowledge and love of Jesus, and it begins now.

Let’s pray for our kids today to experience God in their own lives in personal ways, whether your child is two or twenty two:

Father, would you enable our children to draw near to you and as they come would you make yourself known to them. As they pray, would you answer, as they seek, would you be found. We’re trusting you to develop a faith in their own hearts that rests on an experience and knowledge of your faithfulness. Help us as parents to press in to the now and not miss opportunities to teach. Thank you for these hard days of motherhood as they shape our own hearts as we are shaping our children. Amen.

If you’re weary, hold on, the weary fades and the sweetness will remain. No matter what kind of mama you are, God’s got you, he’s working through you, using you, strengthening you. Don’t miss the right now as you hope for the later. The later will come and God will be in it.

Let’s Pray For Our Kids

My beautiful Maggie goes in for an endoscope procedure tomorrow. We’re hoping to find out the reason behind some tummy trouble and suspect a gluten allergy. I wasn’t worried about it until I was preregistering by phone and realized all that was involved.

Maggie

Maggie and I talked about the camera that was going down into her tummy to look at her guts, and that she would go to sleep while it looked around. She giggled and thought it was cool she would have a camera in her tummy. Hopefully everything goes just that smoothly.

Of course there are always the what ifs. As mamas we can be really good at the what if game can’t we?

Bad things happen all around us, and sometimes to us. That’s the reality of life, it’s a given. So how do we help our kids prepare for that? I think the answer is in what we teach them now, before the crisis comes. They need to understand that God can be trusted.

I’ve been chewing on the words my mom recently said in relation to her fight against cancer, “If it pleases him, it pleases me.” I want my children to live in the legacy of those words, if it pleases him, it pleases me. Can you and I say if it pleases God to bring me low, if it pleases God to lift me up, if it pleases God to bless, wound, correct, or strengthen me, then it pleases me? If we can’t say that then we can’t teach it to our children.

Let’s pray that God would give us hearts that so trust him that we embrace whatever he has for us in our lives, and then teach it to our kids.

Father, just the privilege of calling you Father should teach our hearts to trust! We’re asking today for trusting hearts, hearts willing to embrace whatever you choose for us. Enable us to respond “if it pleases you, then it pleases me.” As our hearts grow in that deep, abiding faith would you help us to teach our children to trust you deeply as well. Would you call and equip them to live for your pleasure. Train them now, while they’re young, to see life’s challenges as opportunities to trust their Heavenly Father, and we ask that they will experience your kindness in those moments. We love you, Amen.

Can you say “if it pleases you, then it pleases me” to God right now? If not are you willing to do what it takes to get to that place?