faith · life

come away ~ part two

I just chuckle when people ask what my role is in our church planting journey.  I honestly can’t say for certain.  In fact, I often wonder why I have been given this privilege.  I really don’t think of myself as a ‘pastor’s wife’…I’m just not qualified. In fact, when my love brought up his thoughts of becoming a pastor before we were married (that’s another story), I responded, “But, I don’t play the piano or the organ!” By the way, he didn’t become a pastor until just recently. Primarily, I try to be the helpmeet to my husband that I’m called to be and momma to my kids and the various roles these include; both very important ministries in and of themselves.  In fact, they are my primary ministry.  When we were at camp in our first year of full-time ministry, this was something I really struggled with.  I wanted to ‘do big things’ for God, but often my family got lost in the shuffle.

Beyond that, I just do what I do…much of it the same as before we were in this particular ministry position.  I live day by day–hopefully paying attention to the Holy Spirit as He shows me my job for the moment.  It may be to reach out to my neighbour, it may be to start a ladies’ Bible study, or to fulfill administrative needs in the church, coming alongside someone affected by addictions, babysitting for a single dad who needs fellowship in the men’s discipleship group or offering hospitality.

Life in general, and the demands of ministry sometimes interfere with my time alone with God.  Some are clear and easy to identify, then there are those not-so-obvious ones.

We all know sin can create a barrier, disrupt fellowship. Not just ‘the big sins’ but also the less noticeable sins that sneak up on me, like pride, selfishness, bitterness, grumbling and complaining.  If I’m struggling with sin, my prayer life may not be where it ought to.  I may even begin to avoid God’s Word, as it reminds me that I’m not honouring Him in my life. God tells us, like the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more.”  Thankfully, He knows I am unable to do this on my own and has made provision: the Holy Spirit as my guide and His grace and forgiveness when I fall. Still, it is critical that I keep short accounts with God–on the lookout for unconfessed sin in my life.

Sometimes complacency, apathy or even fear is the culprit.  I get comfortable with the status quo. I become lazy.  I confess this has probably been one of the my most difficult obstacles.  When we first decided to follow His leading into full-time ministry work, we knew that there would not be a fixed salary.  For the first time in several years, our financial situation was amazing. I was afraid to live on faith for provision and reluctant to give up my cushy lifestyle.  I remember going into Costco, looking at the box of K-cups in my cart and putting them back.  I cried all the way home, thinking this would be my life now.  Counting every penny…no more luxuries. Sounds silly now, but I was terrified.  I didn’t understand why God would call us to this when we had a meaningful ministry where we were, as well as all the money we needed and more to bless others.

I may be distracted by a disproportionate amount of time in my leisure pursuits.  This doesn’t mean I should not spend any time doing enjoyable things, it means that perhaps my focus is on that rather than the things of God.  I’m frequently after my son about his screen-time.  How often am I guilty of mindlessly staring at a phone, tablet or computer?

Sometimes, my responsibilities in both life and ministry can be time-consuming and real energy-sappers.  I may be plain worn out–not necessarily by choice.  Ministry can bring me people who need a significant time investment, there may be lots of activities for a particular season.  Peg Forrest, wife of Bay Forrest (a retired NBA center turned evangelist), visited us last summer.  They have a ministry called FOCUS, for which they travel extensively.  Peg is a gifted speaker, mainly encouraging Christian women. They are both so warm and open that you feel like you’ve known them forever. Peg commented that she is an ‘introvert living in an extrovert’s body’.  While she enjoys meeting and serving people, it’s hard work for her.  I totally relate to that.  I’ve always loved showing hospitality to friends as well as strangers, I enjoy visiting with people, connecting with people; however, conversation does not come naturally to me—it’s hard work, and being in crowds is overwhelming and draining.  After a while, I need some time alone to recharge.  I covet my early mornings while everyone is still asleep.  Even my family is not exempt from my need for solitude.

Possibly less obvious are the pursuits that are good, but may give me a false sense of security in the building of my own personal relationship with God.  For instance:  reading, studying and praying in the context of family and church. My kids and I spend time in the Word and prayer before our school day begins.  Good, right?  I listen to messages at church, on social media.  Also, good.  I prepare bible study material for the ladies.  Good, too.  I think we’d all agree that there is absolutely nothing wrong with these activities, they’re all very good practices, in fact; however, they may become mere exercises to me, if I’m not careful. I may be able to put together a Bible study or a Sunday School lesson. I may be able to incorporate the Bible or a Biblical worldview into our homeschool day, but if I’m not in close fellowship with Him, it’s can be an empty work; just a check on my to-do list. I need to be cautious that I don’t become like the pharisees who knew the Word, but did not know Jesus.  I need to spend personal time with my Father. Quality time.  Surely, He deserves a slice of my 24-hour day, as well as fellowship throughout the day (pray without ceasing -1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is how my relationship with Him grows deeper.

I read this quote by John Piper the other day:

“Several years ago, at a North American seminary, fifty students planning to go overseas in ministry for the summer were interviewed for their suitability. Only three–six percent–could testify to regular quiet times of reading the Bible and devoting themselves to prayer.  We assume that our pastors and missionaries are the models–we would be shocked I am afraid.”[1]

When my love and I were dating, and newlyweds, there were not enough hours in the day to satisfy our desire to be together.  We talked into the wee hours of the night in my parent’s living room when we were together or on the phone when we were apart.  Eventually the honeymoon ends and we are left with the routine of marriage. We have been married for 31 years and still enjoy spending time together, but it somehow it doesn’t seem as pressing as when we were young.  Recently, as I was talking with some friends, it was suggested that my love and I should get away somewhere warm next winter, just the two of us.  I responded that with my older kids and grandlittles living far away, I couldn’t possibly use funds or vacation time on that.  It struck me then, this sounded like I couldn’t waste my time on my husband.  Wow.  I felt terrible.  Of course, I don’t really feel that way, but that’s how it came across.  While it’s true, I am with him every day, a trip like that would be a wonderful reprieve–special.  How often is my time with God treated so indifferently?   ‘Oh, I read a devotion on ‘First5’ today.’  ‘I sent up some ‘fire-fighting’ prayers (you know, the kind where you’re in trouble and you want some help), prayed for so-and-so when they asked on social media.’  Do you see where I’m going?  Time together—yes—but not quality, ‘I-love-you-and-there’s-nowhere-I’d-rather-be-than-with-you’ time with Him.  ‘Mary’ time at His feet.

When I was first saved, I could not get enough of His Word.  I loved every minute I spent reading and talking with my Lord.  Intimacy comes from this time.  My relationship with my husband, my marriage will suffer if I am not spending time with him, communicating with him, and reaching out in love. In like manner, if I am neglecting time with the Lord, I am more open to attack from the devil, discouragement, temptation, etc. When I am filled with His Word and enjoy close fellowship, I am near the Source of strength and can draw from His resources to battle the negative effects of life.  It’s a wonderful circle of blessing.  He is blessed when He is my first love, I am blessed as I am refreshed in His presence and my ministry as a Believer is blessed because I am ‘abiding in Him’ which in turn blesses others and glorifies Him.

I’ve enjoyed experimenting with watercolours. I love the pure, vibrant colours, the way they blend together beautifully. How varying the amount of added water gives the transparency and effects I desire.  If I am not careful to clean my brush as I change colours, if I use dirty water to dilute my pigments, or if I contaminate one colour with another, my overall picture becomes muddy. The beauty of the colours is lost. I need to be intentional as I work, refresh my water jar regularly.  Likewise, if I am not ‘coming to the well’, meeting with Jesus, and refreshing my spirit, letting Him wash my feet, I can become muddied by the cares of life and the world; in turn, I will not be a pure reflection of Him.

In come away ~ part three I will share some of my ways to ‘come away’ from the demands of life and of ministry to draw close to Him, so that I might be that pure reflection of the Son.

come away 2
The Lone Shieling, found in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia, is a replica of a Scottish hut called a shieling.  Crofters (tenant farmers) in the western highlands of Scotland grazed their sheep in the hills and would find warmth and shelter for themselves and oftentimes their livestock in such a place. I thought it a fitting picture for ‘come away.’

[1] ”If My Words Abide in You”  John Piper, 1993

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