A Year Later: On the Shore with a Towel Ready for You

This Easter, I read Jen Hatmaker’s post entitled My Saddest Good Friday in Memory . Her words broke my heart and I sat with them all weekend. I thought of her during a song at church on Easter Sunday and choked up.

First, and always first, I’m sad for Jen. This is her unique story. Yet, I could also relate to what she was describing in my own way.  A year ago, the following was my story, too:

“I’ll tell you a bit of how loss and grief and rejection will pulverize your heart and deliver you to Good Friday in pretty bad shape, or in any case, in the throes of recovery. ”

“Good Friday is about death – even a necessary death – and that makes more sense to me now than maybe ever. It speaks of a dark day and broken hearts, unmet expectations, mob mentality turned brutal.”

“I experienced betrayal from people I thought loved us.”

My reasons for why I arrived at Good Friday 2016 in pretty bad shape are varied and unique. It was a perfect storm. Any one stress or hurt on their own wouldn’t have taken me down, but gradually, I began to sink. I clung to the following quote in those dark days:

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2015/2016: I’ll never fully understand why things happened the way they did. Some of it was part of life – my best dog dying of cancer, newborn sleep deprivation, and a natural disaster. I can’t say that all of it was God’s plan. God has given us free will. Some people know the path that leads to life and light and they choose the one that leads to destruction and darkness. Thankfully, while I don’t believe that all of my loss, stress, and pain were part of His plan; I know that God can work things together for good and that He’s in the business of resurrection.

“I believe in the resurrection, so I know it will come. It always does. God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Savior. New life is always possible evidently, well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Friday and Saturday existence right now without fear that Sunday won’t come. It will come. I am nearly certain the way it will look will surprise me; I’m watching for the angel on the tombstone. ” – Jen Hatmaker

A year ago, I was attempting to keep my head above water.  This Easter, I realized something. I’m no longer in the water but on the shore! On Easter Sunday, I got choked up for Jen instead of myself (when you’re in a dark place you’re rather near sighted). From the shore, I’m cheering on those who have experienced loss and grief and rejection. I’m here for you and I’m saying: “keep treading water! Your feet will touch ground again. It will. I’m here! I made it. You will too. Keep breathing. I have a towel ready for you.”

Love,
R.

Bless your church: be an encourager

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Facebook reminded me that on this day in 2014, my status update said the following: “I believe this is universal: people are more likely to take the time to make a complaint than to go out of their way to express appreciation. Let’s change that.” The post received quite a few likes and comments in agreement. A couple of people stated that they were going to try to be better at expressing appreciation and complaining less.

The church is one place where criticism can be dished out as easily as mints and appreciation expressed sparingly. If you don’t believe me, have a heart-to-heart with any pastor or ministry leader. Whether the church is the biggest one in town or the smallest one, they all can relate in regards to criticism. Put a group of pastors together and you’ll find that they have heard it all.  And even though most of the criticisms are so very trivial (in light of eternity), they can wear church leadership down.

This is where you come in. There is hope! There is something that you can do to help offset the criticism that pastors and ministry leaders regularly face.  You can go out of your way to express appreciation. Don’t be a bystander (assuming someone else is doing the encouraging) but instead, take every opportunity to compliment, express appreciation, and to remind your pastor/leadership that you’re with them. I’m not saying that you’ll never disagree. Just make sure that your lips aren’t found to have more criticism on them than encouragement.

I don’t think that most congregation members in a church are critical and bitter. Rather, I believe (and some brief research has shown) that the opposite is true. It’s often 90% that are positive and 10% that are negative in a church. The problem is that it’s the 10% that are the most vocal. The 10% will talk (aka gossip) to anyone who will listen. And they are loud. It’s time for the 90% to rise up. To not assume that your pastor or leadership “just knows” how you feel. The 90% must balance out the 10% by taking every opportunity to express appreciation. To live out Hebrews 3:13 which calls Christians to “encourage one another daily.”

Lent is as good of time as any to start doing the things we know we ought to do. Why not take these 40 days to grow in the art of encouraging others. It may feel uncomfortable and unnatural at first, but it will get easier with time. Practice helps. What a difference we may see in our churches when the pastor(s) and leadership are encouraged regularly. What a difference the world may notice when the body of Christ is found to be generous with encouragement and careful with criticism. In this season of lent, let encouragement rise: in our own hearts, in our churches, and in our circles of influence. Each one – encourage one. Starting this day.

-R

Women in Church Leadership

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Our daughter has a set of toy people who are each of a different occupation. We weren’t sure which occupation this lady is. Teacher? Hubby suggested, “Pastor”. Yes. Yes, of course. She’s a Pastor.

As a young girl, I remember asking my dad why he was so committed to attending a Free Methodist church. His reply was, “I have 4 daughters. I want each of you to fully understand that you can serve in leadership at church, too.”

In the little and big ways, we desire for our daughter to know that she can serve in leadership and even be a pastor one day, too (should she feel called). Today that lesson comes in the form of a toy woman with the occupation of pastor.

When a pastor resigns remember the pastor’s wife

I just did the math. It’s been 85 days since we’ve become a pastoral family “in transition”. 85 days since our last day at our church. That’s almost 3 months. Here are few reflections from my perspective as a pastor’s wife re: resignation, leaving and being in transition:

  1. After my husband resigned from our church, he received phone calls and e-mails and coffee dates from colleagues who were all interested in seeing how he’s doing. He even had a coffee date with a pastor in our area who is from a different denomination. As a result, he felt very supported. During that same time-period, I was attempting to process everything. But no one called to see how I was doing. This was a wake-up call for me. Of course, it’s natural for my husband to be more connected to his colleagues than I am to other spouses of a pastor. Part of his job has included denominational networking and he’s been part of an interdenominational pastoral group in our town. While I was previously aware that there’s not the same networking for spouses of pastors, this reality really hit home when we entered into transition and I was processing our new reality alone.
  2. In the weeks leading up to our last Sunday, we as a couple were committed to, “leaving well by loving well”. For me, I found it rather therapeutic to write encouraging cards to congregation members and to give a speech on our last Sunday at the church.
  3. Some days or moments, I’m able to soak up this “in transition” status. There is significantly less stress and more family time. We actually go to church together as a family! That’s been so nice.
  4. At other days or moments, I’m feeling impatient. Searching for a church can be a long process. I feel lost without a church family. I want to know people at a church and be known. I desire to serve. I describe us as being “an island” at this time. Not fun.
  5. A retired pastor said to me, “leaving a church is a loss no matter the reason”. He’s right. Some days or moments, I miss our old church family so badly that my heart aches. We’ve created appropriate space between us + them during these early transition days. But I think about them. I pray for them. I don’t love them any less now that we are gone.

If you recall anything from these ramblings, I hope it would be this: Remember the pastor’s spouse during a season of pastoral transition. Remember that their life has changed in a big way, too. They could be experiencing relief or grief or anything in between. They are likely feeling very alone.  Do ask how they are doing and offer support in the best way that you know how.

 (We’ve been asked by some people what “in transition” means.  In the Canadian Free Methodist Church, pastors are first approved for ministerial service by the denomination.  Then, they are eligible to be interviewed and hired by a local church Board.  That employee-employer relationship is then formalized by the Bishop officially placing the pastor under appointment at the particular location.  For those familiar with the terms ‘episcopal’ and ‘congregational’ when describing church governance, the Canadian Free Methodist Church is a bit of both. In a nutshell, then, “transition” is the season between when a pastor resigns from one appointment and begins another appointment.)

coffee lovers who want to make a difference

Bukeye, Burundi - Dark RoastA blog post from Derek! He wrote it all himself:

The Good Coffee Company—how it tastes and how it’s sourced…the name says it all.

Actually, the name is an understatement.  Not just good, the flavour is EXCELLENT! Likewise, its positive impact on local coffee bean growers is beyond good—it’s ESSENTIAL.

Here’s what their website says:
“Our company was born out of a deep desire to impact the lives of people.  We dreamt of finding a meaningful way to connect people like you with communities in need around the world in a way that leads to hope, transformation, and deep relationships – all through delicious coffee.

We roast the coffee fresh every week in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and get it into your hands so that you can drink delicious, life-changing coffee.  From there we reinvest 25% of our profits into the coffee-growing communities through innovative projects.

Our coffee makes its way from farmers we know by name to the hands of coffee lovers who want to make a difference.”

“Coffee lovers who want to make a difference.”  In other words, people who love great coffee and love striving to meet needs of people around the globe.  Yup, that describes me.

Oh, and by the way, ethical doesn’t have to mean expensive.

I did the math for our family…we pay less for Good Coffee Co. than for the other stuff we were buying.  Yup, a dollar less per pound, actually.

Plus, because of a wonderful partnership between the Good Coffee Co. and a non-profit organization that works with preventing and responding to human trafficking called the Set Free Movement , our $1 less expensive coffee purchase sends 10% of the purchase price to support efforts in ending modern-day slavery.  It’s a natural partnership, really—ethically sourced coffee that pays local farmers 20-35% above fair-trade wages and an abolition movement.  See, when individuals and families receive a sustainable income, they become less susceptible to the wiles of would-be traffickers, because a living wage means a family gains much-needed accessibility to resources like clean water, food, education, and safe housing.  Plus, don’t underestimate how powerful are the weapons of dignity and hope when it comes to vulnerable people engaging in the fight against trafficking in their communities.

(FYI, current estimates place nearly 46 million people in some form of slavery today around the globe—people held against their will doing activities they don’t want to do.  Context: that’s more people than were enslaved throughout the entire Trans-Atlantic slave trade from Africa.  In addition to the Set Free Movement website, you can read more at www.globalslaveryindex.org.  You can also check out the last 15 years of the U.S. Government’s annual Trafficking In Persons report here www.state.gov.  But be careful, it just might open your eyes, break your heart, and cause you to change your purchasing habits as a way to decrease the size of your own slavery footprint.)

So, if you’re going to spend your cash on coffee, might you do it in a way that supports, sustains, and empowers the growers?  That’s what you do when you buy from Good Coffee Co.  Plus, when you enter the promo code SETFREE, your purchase goes to support an abolition organization at the same time.  And, you end up paying less for your coffee than you would with other coffee out there.  (But, even if it didn’t cost less, wouldn’t it still be a worthwhile sacrifice for the sake of others’ well-being around the globe?)

Here are some of your options: 1lb or 2lb bag?  Whole beans or ground?  One-time purchase or recurring automatic shipment based on your consumption?  The choices are all yours, and your product comes delivered to your mailbox.  Plus, if you spend over $50, you get free shipping (I buy two 2lb bags at a time, costs me $52).  And, remember, using the coupon code SETFREE will ensure 10% of your purchase goes directly to the Set Free Movement for their work in preventing and responding to human trafficking…and it will also give you a 10% discount on your purchase!

You and I have the privilege to support two organizations that attempt to create hope for the future among some of the world’s most vulnerable people groups by investing in local communities, providing long-term sustainability, and facilitating life-transformation.  If you love great tasting coffee and care about people, why would you not do this?

– D.

when dad stays home

As a couple, we view parenthood as a joint adventure. We are both in the game in every way. For the first year of our daughter’s life, I stayed home on mat leave (Canada rocks!). Now I’m the one working full-time while dad stays home.

At this time, Dad has been the stay-at-home parent for two months now.  Over the last several weeks, the following has been said to him:

How are you liking retirement?

You can’t be staying home, you’ll go crazy!

There are things said to stay-at-home dads that don’t seem to be said to stay-at-home moms. Being a stay-at-home parent is a real, full-time job (I don’t think it’s quite like retirement??). While you DO feel like you’ll go crazy at times (teething, tantrums, etc) it’s also filled with moments of fun and laughter. Some days are tough. Some days are great.

While the day-to-day is similar whether mom or dad stays home, misunderstandings for dad abound. Even after Derek explains that his full-time job right now is providing care for our toddler, some are still shocked that he’s actually alone with her for 5 days a week (M-F). And he’s the main one up with our daughter during the night (on week nights). He’s a real stay-at-home parent in every way.

How long will he be the stay-at-home parent for? We don’t know. What we do know is this: it’s important to embrace whatever season of life you find yourself in. And we try to remember that our daughter won’t be like this for long…and we are going to miss this.

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A new season: Pastor in Transition

6 years ago, we packed up all of our belongings and moved from the US to Canada. We moved to a small town that we never visited before the job interview at the church. To say that it was a step of faith is an understatement. More like a leap of faith. We left behind all that was familiar for the unfamiliar. We trusted that I’d eventually find a job. We said good-bye to good friends and family. We went knowing that staying wasn’t our next step. No, our next step was to go.

Now, after 6 years have passed by, we sense that our season at this church has come to an end. Truthfully, this conclusion took us both by surprise (and involved a lot of wrestling). We like longevity and thought we’d be here longer. But then I thought that I’d live in the States forever and here we are in Canada.

Sometimes we think that we’ll always do this or that…until we don’t. We can think that we’ll always live in a certain place, always work a certain job, always have certain friends, always think a certain way…til we no longer do. Thankfully, change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Often, the unexpected changes in life can produce in us new fruit.

Our recent church will always hold a special place in our hearts. We’ve loved, we’ve learned, we are better people now than we were 6 years ago. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Now a new season is upon us. It’s scary and exciting. It feels a bit like 6 yrs ago. Except this time, we have evidence to recall of God’s faithfulness. He was with us then. He’s still with us now.

Here’s to being in transition. Come what may.