Monday, December 21, 2009

The Fat Man and His Trash

We never taught our kids to believe in Santa Claus. We just taught them the obvious truth: that Santa Claus was as believable as Bugs Bunny. As a result, our family enjoyed the secular side of the holiday season without taking any of it seriously. The biblical account was serious and we never joked about the birth of Jesus. But Santa was quite another matter.
The result was some comical, unintended consequences - sort of unintended, anyway. Since our kids knew that "Santa Claus" was not to be taken seriously, any time they spotted a man dressed as Santa, they pointed out his presence with their own label. I'm not sure which of our three started it, but they began to refer to every Santa they saw as "the Fat Man." Not very complimentary, but with dead-on accuracy. And since his ever present bag of toys loosely resembled a Hefty bag left at the curb, Santa's load was designated "the trash."
Thereafter, we could never go into a mall, department store, or past a Salvation Army bell ringer without hearing, "There's the Fat Man and his trash!" Our son who's never had a quiet bone in his body would sound the declaration at ear-splitting decibels just to make sure that Santa got the message. Naturally, Santa objected. So did the parents who shifted nervously in line while waiting to take their little ones to pay homage to the Fat Man.
We have no idea how many children saw the light in that moment of revelation (or how many stuck the parents later with the question , "What's the big idea of lying to me all these years?"), but we didn't care. Whereas normally I would have turned crimson with our kids' public exposure of the overweight-department-store-employee-turned-Santa, this time, I smiled and agreed, "That's right!" and kept walking. It wasn't long before our kids became evangelistic and convinced their friends that Santa Claus was indeed "the Fat Man and his trash." Today, our children are ages 32, 30 and 22. They still react to the Fat Man every time they see him. And their evangelism isn't over. We have grandkids now, and I can't wait for their own moment of truth.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"The Fun Part of Christmas"

I had been pastor only a short time when I made what could have been a fatal error. I blew the whistle on Santa Claus. Actually, I blew the whistle on the parents. It all happened very unintentionally during a Sunday morning message in the midst of Christmas season. Somewhere in the middle of an illustration, I made the passing comment that my wife and I never taught our kids to believe in Santa Claus. Gasps, looks of surprise and dismay quickly informed me that I had committed a major boo-boo. That's when I learned that most of the parents in our church regularly taught their children to look for Santa Claus. Not only did I let the cat out of the bag, I destroyed the "bag" altogether. Parents were faced with having to explain to children whether Santa was indeed a real person or not. I don't know if some parents ever forgave me, and I wisely chose not to ask.
Santa Claus was never a major issue in our family because, early in our marriage, my wife and I decided how we were going to teach our children. We did not go to war against Santa. I did not preach against him, and I did not teach him either. Whenever our children asked about Santa Claus, we gave them the same answer together:
"Santa Claus is the fun part of Christmas."
It occurred to us that children enjoy fantasy and fairy tales every time they turn on the TV to the Saturday morning cartoons. But when is the last time you ever heard a sermon against Bugs Bunny or Elmer Fudd? Or Daffy Duck? Or Mickey Mouse? We don't waste time preaching against those characters because they are such obvious fantasy that we expect our children to know they are make-believe.
Why not treat Santa Claus the same way? Yes, I know Santa Claus hearkens back to St. Nicholas, but kids these days do not know that. They associate Santa with Rudolph, Frosty and Snowman, and Tim Allen ("The Santa Clause" movie). Bugs, Daffy and the Road Runner are for fun, and so is Santa Claus. Don't let him out of that box. Don't deprive the children of having fun with all the make-believe fun things of the season, but do not allow the fun things to take on a greater reality either. Let the kids know "We want you to have fun during Christmas, and Santa is for fun."
Santa is for fun, but the Bible is the truth - and we never confused truth with fantasy. We never taught our children that Santa was real. Jesus is real. Santa is for fun, but the Bible is real. The gospel is real. Our children could enjoy all the cartoons and holiday specials. We could decorate the house and give all the presents. We could laugh at all the Santa Claus movies. But when we opened the Bible or went to church, we left the fantasy behind. As our children grew, the fantasy subsided and reality replaced the make believe.
We never complained to our children about Santa Claus, and we never lied to them about him either. They believed us when we said, "Santa is the fun part of Christmas." And when we taught them the gospel, they believed us then as well. I'm glad we didn't have to apologize for anything we taught them. I'm glad they learned the difference between having fun and having the truth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

'Tis the Season, So Far

You know. It's the season for some preachers to come out of the woodwork against all things Christmas. Time for the annual message against Santa Claus, "Christ Mass," and my favorite, "Baal Trees." Oh please. Can we just agree for once that 99.99% of the general public has no idea what all the fuss is about? As a matter of fact, probably 99.9% do not know that a fuss exists. They do not know - and don't care - that Christmas was a Catholic mass; that "Santa Claus" is the mispronunciation of "Saint Nicholas;" that Christmas trees probably really were "Yule logs" that descend from Celtic paganism. Who cares?
As a matter of fact, the atheists do - a bunch. If certain preachers and well meaning defenders of the faith can't identify with Christmas, the rest of godless America certainly identifies us with those traditions, every last one of them. As a result, there are wacky, witless public schools in our land who will not allow the colors red and green to be worn during the holiday season. The colors are considered too religious. Pardon my purple rage but exactly what color is Christian? Children can't sing Christmas carols in school anymore. (I remember the entire student body of my very public high school standing at the playing of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" during our Christmas assembly before vacation.) And don't even think of putting up a "Baal Tree" on public property; or uttering those sanctified words "Merry Christmas."
Our country is working overtime to rid itself of every last remnant of Christmas tradition so as to avoid any mention of the gospel at all costs. Meanwhile, somewhere in this vast secular landscape, a preacher will rail against Christmas trees, presents, and the ever-evil Santa Claus.
It's time we realized something. The fight isn't over Santa Claus. The secular humanists hate him too. They want to rid this country of every reference to the Christmas holiday and replace it with the "Mother Earth"/global warming cult. By preaching against our cultural traditions, we are playing into the hands of secularists who are trying to destroy our culture and replace it with their own invention. Don't be too quick to preach against Christmas. If we are not careful, we may get what we ask.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In the Preacher's Dog House (Happy Birthday, Daughter)

I seem to have created a problem for myself. Having noticed my birthday letter to our son, our younger daughter - who shares the same birthday with her brother - wrote to give me permission to publish "amazing stories" about her. Drat. Just as I was about to write something boring. Not that I couldn't come up with something absolutely amazing, even thrilling, about "Lady Talksalot" (See my earlier blogs). Perhaps it is fitting that my birthday greetings come tardily to the one I used to introduce as "the late Jennifer..."Still, I have the sense that I've put myself royally in the dog house, and I must make amends.
Since my first birthday epistle was to honor her aged brother for breaching his thirtieth year, gray roots and all, I must write our daughter a homage to her not-yet-departed youth and remind her of what she has not yet attained: Social Security.
Herewith, Daughter, I submit my list of things you can still enjoy before you reach the big 3-0:

1. The fantasy of thinking you're so much older and wiser that all those silly eighteen year-olds.
2. Children - at an age when you are still young enough to run after them.
3. A face without wrinkles.
4. The prospect of several more years of reasonably good health.
5. The excitement of young love (followed by the satisfaction of mature love).
6. The opportunity to correct your mistakes before it's too late.
7. Time.
8. Ice cream - without fear of calories and middle age spread.
9. Friends as young as you are.
10. The opportunity to hold on to the ones you love.

These things won't disappear when you hit thirty, but when you do, time will seem to accelerate and birthdays will come with awesome regularity. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, and remember too that your dad loves you - always.

Happy Birthday again, Mrs. M.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pastors Struggle Too

This is not "great confession" time, but it could be. As a child, I idolized my pastor. I looked up to him as the most godly of all men - certainly the most godly of all I knew. That's not to put down my own parents because, in fact, we all looked up to our pastor. I thought he was one person who did not share the same spiritual struggles as the rest of us poor mortals. Then, as the fellow says, "I are one," and my attitude has changed considerably.
I discovered along the way that pastors struggle like everyone else, maybe more. We have "issues" that the typical laity do not live with. I'm not talking about "sins that so easily beset." We all have those, and that goes without saying. But pastors have to deal with matters that go beyond the usual "besetting sin." I struggle with watching our church grow v-e-r-y slowly. I wish I had a more rapid answer, but I don't. I have to live with the fact that the church grows and goes at God's speed, not mine. I struggle with not always knowing the best, most effective way to reach the community with the gospel. I wish all our methods worked, but they don't.
I struggle with not being able to visit all our people as often as I would like. I struggle with not always being as available, and thereby not always as close to our members as I want. I struggle with not being able to help them past their personal problems. I struggle with all the things I wish I could do to help, but can't. I watch them suffer needs, go through difficulties and endure pain. I feel utterly helpless at times. Of all people, I should be able to help, But too often, I can't.
In a word, I struggle with my own inadequacy. How often I've thought of Paul's question, "Who is sufficient for these things?" and I've answered, "Not me, that's for sure."
This is one struggle I do not expect to overcome. I'm glad I have a patient and kind church who understands and accepts that they have a most imperfect pastor. I have to keep reminding myself that pastors are always at their best when they are at their weakest. It's at that point that we all have to throw ourselves unreservedly on the Lord - or else we would leave the ministry. But thankfully, Paul said one more thing that keeps us going: "When I am weak, then I am made strong." If Paul had his struggles too, at least I'm in good company.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Son

Today is our son's thirtieth birthday, so I wrote him a personal note. I thought I would pass it along in case there are other families out there with thirty-year-old offspring still under foot and needing a word of encouragement:

Dear Son,
Today you're thirty. Before you begin applying for Social Security (although the way Congress is going, it might be good to get yours while you can), I thought I would encourage you by noting some of the advantages of having reached your plateau:

1. You look more attractive to women who are looking for more mature men.
2. You can stop worrying about whether your clothes are the latest style.
3. You can claim dementia for everything you forget and it begins to make sense.
4. You can trust people over thirty.
5. You can say "When you've lived as long as I have..." and sound like you mean it.
6. Teen aged servers at McDonalds start giving you Senior Discounts.
7. You're one year closer to your Golden Buckeye Card.
8. Car insurance gets cheaper (This is for real).
9. College professors begin treating you like you have brain (This also is for real).
10. You get to laugh at the way teenagers dress.
11. You no longer have to show your I.D. to prove your age.
12. You're old enough to do it, but smart enough not to.

Congrats and have a good day. While you're at it, have a good year. I'm proud of you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

While the Preacher Wasn't Looking

A preacher I know - someone who is not likely ever to read this column - is in real trouble. His church is dissolving into a virtual civil war of infighting and general dissatisfaction. People have left, are leaving, and will leave steadily until there is nothing left but a hollow shell. The pastor has not been capable of addressing the situation or handling it properly. He has not known what to do. Instead, he has made himself absent most of the time, preferring a perpetual vacation to the angst of having to face a disintegrating church. Do not be too quick to judge this man. He did not directly create this mess, and he surely did not intend it to happen. He has been a pastor for many years and he is worn out from the onslaught of competing church members. Retirement is looking better and better. Anything is better that the current debacle.

What caused this situation? One or two church members -underlings; a lay person whose position allowed him (or her?) opportunity to become the unofficial "church boss." This person has succeeded in agitating for the direction he wants the church to go. He works behind the scenes to dictate the church program, music, special events, and anything else that appeals to this person and elevates his power. But you say, "How could a pastor let this happen?" This problem situation happens all the time because pastors are notorious for letting their attention be taken up by other issues - the various needs and burdens of individual church families, Bible study, preparing to preach, visiting the lost, the sick, the afflicted. While the pastor is looking one way, the "church boss," or wanna-be boss, is working in another. Pastors have - and need - deacons to help him keep an eye on all the activity going on around him. Pastors and their families need good vigilant church members who are alert to the plague of bossism in church.

This is a plea to churches and church members to cease and desist from all the church politics, the infighting and backbiting, the petty jealousy and self-serving competition that grows like a cancer, eating a church from the inside. Many a church could have its epitaph written over the door of an empty building: "Here lies the remains of a once thriving church. Death by suicide."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Odds & Ends

Here are some items that came "under the preacher's roof," but not under a particular category:

When we recently celebrated my dad's ninetieth birthday with a party at church, he was the most surprised person present - at his age. Dad suffers advanced dementia and could not understand why all those people were present, so I explained, "It's a birthday party. Do you know whose birthday it is?"
"No," he answered.
"It's yours. Do you know how old you are?"
He couldn't remember.
"It's yours. Your ninety years old."
He sat back in astonishment: "Ninety? Why - that's old!"
No kidding. "You're no more surprised than we are," I said.

A support worker at a local funeral home told me this story. It actually happened this way, and I offer it to those of you who are looking for something to tell this Halloween:

A couple of support workers at the funeral home suspected their hearse might have a leak in the roof. The only way to test it was to take it through the local car wash. One of the workers volunteered to lay in the back - without a casket - and watch the car's ceiling for any sign of a drip. After the car made its way through the wash cycle, they came to the last stop where an attendant waited to towel dry the car. Just as he made his way to dry the hearse side windows, the man inside raised up, waved out the window to the attendant, and said, "Hi!"

The attendant has not been seen or heard from, since.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Can't Help Those People

Every church has some of "those" people - those people who are forever in trouble
- who seem to be overwhelmed constantly with problems, but can never figure out how to deal with them
- who complain about how they are being treated by God, but do not bother to make an appearance in church
- who are offended if anyone suggests they are not right with the Lord, yet never have time for the Word of God or prayer - or simple obedience, for that matter - in any part of their daily lives
- who are easily offended at people in church for not giving them enough attention, but cannot tell you who is actually attending church (because they have not been there in so long).
- who cannot understand why their prayer (or more accurately, prayer requests) are not answered as they wish while their lives are filled with myriad sinful habits and backslidings
- whose families seem to perpetuate their sinful habits and unfaithfulness through succeeding generations.
I have met enough of "those" drifting people through several churches over the last thirty plus years that I cannot be accused of focusing on a particular family for the above description. I have always found myself drawn somehow to trying to help those people because that is my nature. It is my calling. In virtually every case, I have been stymied and frustrated. Not infrequently, my wife and I have found ourselves the objects of scorn after spending ourselves to help. We've cleaned homes, given away stoves, refrigerators and rugs, babysat the children, sat up all night with the sick and bereaved, and made endless runs to the hospital at all hours - all to no avail.
I've had to come face-to - face with the fact that there are people I just can't help. Most of all, I can't help people who don't want to be helped. They enjoy their misery or their sin too much to make changes. And they are not about to be changed by some preacher.
Have you ever known people like "those" people, or am I the only one? I don't think so. At some point, every pastor has to contend with the chronically backslidden. This blog is not about giving you a quick and easy answer. I have none, or else I would have used it long ago. The answer, I think, is to keep trying with them, but not to be obsessed with them. Do not let them drag you down. Go after and focus on other people. Victories in other areas will keep you from the perpetual discouragement that "those" people breed. Even if they fail, we must not. We must keep moving forward for the sake of others.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"At Least Somebody Had Good Sense"

A retired pastor and I were sharing memories about our families recently when he told this story, explaining "I have a daughter who is a true blond. She doesn't dye her hair. " Really.
It seems his family was together sharing laughs and telling jokes when someone told a "blond" joke that went like this:
A blond owned a car that was badly dented in a hailstorm. She wanted to have the dents removed and asked a friend who he might recommend to do repair on her car.
"Oh, you don't have to spend money repairing the car," her friend advised, "All you have to do is blow on the tailpipe real hard, and the dents will pop out."
The advice sounded reasonable to her. So the next day, the blond got down on her knees and was about to begin blowing into the car tailpipe when another blond friend happened to come by.
"What in the world are you doing?" she asked.
The blond explained, "I'm repairing my car. If I blow hard enough on the tailpipe, the dents will pop out."
Her friend replied, "That won't work if the windows are all rolled down."

The pastor's family were all laughing hysterically at the joke, except for his blond daughter, who looked about with a confused expression. Finally she spoke: "Well, at least somebody had good sense."
It was several minutes before the family could regain their composure, while the daughter never understood what was so funny.
Isn't it comforting to know that God doesn't put all the craziness under one preacher's roof? He spreads it around. Really.

Monday, October 12, 2009

You Have to be Kidding

There are two women out right now, buying material and preparing a Halloween costume for me. Their project began when our church decided to do something special for the kids in our town on "Beggar's Night," and one of the ladies suggested that we dress as Bible characters. Fair enough, so I "volunteered" to dress as Jonah. Quicker than you could say "Me and my big mouth," the idea was born to dress the preacher as Jonah being swallowed by the fish. I've seen the pattern these crafty ladies have in mind, and I can't begin to describe it to you.
I can tell you that I've been nearly the victim of several plots hatched by church members who were determined to have fun at the preacher's expense. Don't ask me what they were thinking. I haven't a clue. At least the ladies in our church are dressing me all in fun. I'm not too sure about the others.
One church wanted me to ride down the isle on a "stick" pony - during the Sunday morning service - while the pianist and organist played "Circuit Ridin' Preacher."
Another church insisted that my wife and I participate in an egg toss so they could watch me being plastered with raw eggs. When my wife and I won the game, one deacon was so sure we had cheated that he insisted on squeezing the egg to prove it was a fake. The egg exploded and he was covered in yoke.
A third church wanted to "paddle" me for my birthday. I drew the line at that and insisted that the ministry needed to guard its dignity - what I had left of it. I probably offended some people by not going along with their prank - no, I'm sure of it - but what were they thinking? Somehow, I can't visualize D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones going along with being paddled for his birthday. Or Spurgeon. Or John R. Rice, for that matter. Not that I approach any of those men, but then, when does the preacher begin to preserve the esteem due his office if he is constantly treated as the class clown?
The difference between my church now and those of the past is that this church knows where to draw the line. They have not allowed a little fun to desecrate the office of pastor and I appreciate that. For the record, I didn't ride the stick pony either. But I will dress up as Jonah for the kids and have a little fun on Beggar's Night. On Sunday, I'll be back in the pulpit and the people will still look at me as their pastor. No kidding.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Everybody Hits "The Wall"

Marathon runners call it "hitting the wall" - that moment when the body suddenly decides it has had enough. Everything, every muscle, every organ, every fiber in the runner's body cries out to stop. Please, not another step. Runners know if they can overcome"the wall," their bodies will adjust and get a second wind. Often, they can finish the race stronger than when they began. They just have to get past "the wall."
In the ministry, everybody hits "the wall." It is that moment when the pastor and his family are tempted to think they cannot go on any further; when the burdens have become too much; the stress too great; the heartache more than the heart can bear.
I read a letter like that just yesterday. It came from a young missionary wife and mother in Africa. She and her husband are on the field for the very first time. Being away from home is one thing, but they are thousands of miles from everything familiar to them. The adjustments are astronomical. They are not so alone from people, but they are very alone from ordinary things. Now the husband is sick, very sick and his situation has not improved as of this moment. His wife writes, "I'm having one of those 'I hate Africa' moments." In reality, neither of them hate Africa. In fact, they have been willing to change their entire lives just for Africa, and the opportunity to reach Africans with the gospel. But they have hit the wall.
We all hit the wall. The ministry becomes work, a burden. It's not fun anymore. The headaches are too much. People are too much. The sacrifices mount to the point that all we can see are our problems, and we are tempted - very tempted - to cave. One pastor I knew became so frustrated with his church that he told another pastor, "You want 'em? You can have them" and stomped out of the ministry entirely.
We have to remember that if we refocus on the Lord, we can get past "the wall." Life will go on, not always better, maybe not the same, usually not what we expected, but life will go on. Often, I have found that some unexpected blessing will come if I just do not quit. It is part of that "reaping if we do not faint." There is life beyond "the wall" - a second wind, a harvest ahead, and the finish line. The preacher's life is never a sprint, always a marathon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Bathroom Evangelism"

Several days ago, my brother-in-law and I sat at dinner with our wives, sharing memories of all the ways our kids created to embarrass us when he reminded me of my son's unique contribution to the family. For lack of a better way to define it, my wife and I called it "bathroom evangelism." Any time our family went out to a local restaurant, our son found the need to visit the men's room without fail. Naturally, I attended to my Daddy-duty and took him. As soon as we passed through the door, my one and only son felt a rush of inspiration and broke forth in song. Not just any song, mind you, but "Amazing Grace," all four verses, at the top of his lungs. Why he did this is beyond me. All I can say is that the effects were, well, interesting. Any other five-year-olds present with their dads were totally mystified by the pint-sized soloist. Probably, they were envious that they had not thought of such an ingenious way to embarrass their own fathers. The men did not say anything. Usually they left in a hurry. I rationalized that they were under conviction, but then I'll never know for sure. No one offered a comment, or felt an apparent urge to join in singing, or offered money for voice lessons for my son. Most of all, they did not offer - or threaten - anything to make him stop singing. Surely they must have been under conviction, or maybe they were just music critics. Either way, they got the word, and a testimony was given if under somewhat unorthodox circumstances. But then, God moves in mysterious ways.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dad's Secret Weapon, Part Two

Every pastor has had the experience of watching people either freeze up or flee in panic once they hear the preacher is at the door. I remember one occasion when the visiting evangelist and I arrived at home just after the family returned from the grocery store. We watched as they carted their bags into the house, then we knocked on the front door and waited. No one came. After an embarrassing long wait, I went around the house and discovered the family had sneaked out the back door and gone to the neighbors to avoid us.
There are situations I cannot enter and people I cannot reach. When that reality began to sink in, I faced a very real question: How do I gain access to these people? Enter the secret weapon. My kids, two daughters and a son, have gone with me on visitation from the time they could hold a gospel tract. They learned first hand the difficulties and the victories of talking to people about spiritual issues. As a result, they learned to talk to people about the Lord as well, and they became effective at reaching people I could never approach. Kids do not have titles such as "reverend" or "doctor." They also have no fear. They will talk to people that most adults would just as soon leave alone. Kids do not make value judgments that adults use to deprive themselves of opportunities. They look past the things that stop us cold ("His hair is too long;" "He's wearing chains;" "There are things sticking out of his face;" and "What did she do to her hair?"). They invite their friends, and their friends, because they are friends, respond.
Frankly, my kids accomplished more at getting certain people into church than I ever could. Now that our kids are grown and gone on with their lives, I've lost my secret weapon. My wife and I are too old for more kids, and I need help. Maybe I can borrow the grandkids.

Dad's Secret Weapon, Part One

When it comes to visiting prospects and handling problem situations, I freely confess to being sneaky and underhanded. There have been any number of times when I have found myself in awkward, unintended predicaments, or caught in an ambush. After being burned enough times to finally get the message, I resolved to pull out the one surefire secret weapon I had in my arsenal, and it has never failed - my kids.
As soon as our first daughter was old enough to be carted out of visitation, I asked her to go with me and made it a big deal. She quickly agreed and became "Daddy's little sidekick" - a title she has retained to this day through a husband and three grandchildren. I'd had enough of inadvertently greeting young ladies at the door who were dressed in (ahem) indiscreet ways. I needed cover (Well, they did too), and my daughter fit the bill. No one could claim that I was up to no good with my ever-observant child tagging along. There were other benefits as well. Irate people who would have carried my head on a platter did not want to explode in front of a little girl. Gossips didn't want to talk. People who would have misbehaved or made all sorts of accusations against me did not want to risk having a perfectly believable witness around.
People who were otherwise inaccessible opened their doors. I discovered a very useful truth for the ministry. Kids make the visits much easier. Thereafter, I made it a point to take all our kids with me on visitation (one at a time, of course), or whenever I needed cover. They never failed to be a help. As a byproduct, they also learned how to talk to people about the Lord. I highly recommend to all preachers that they pull out their own secret weapons. It's a great reason to have kids. If your wife has any questions, just tell her this preacher said you needed someone to go with you on visitation.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Preachers Have to be Shared

There is never enough time for everyone. Even in my postage stamp-sized church, I am amazed at how hard it is to give everyone enough time and attention. There is always someone falling through the cracks of my attention. There is always someone asking for time, asking a question, or tugging me in another direction. Situations like that can be stressful. One of the most difficult facts that a pastor's family - especially the wife - faces is that the preacher has to be shared. There are times when the pastor's wife has to let go. There are times when he is going to be called away. There are going to be plans interrupted. There are going to be awkward situations. There are going to be times when the pastor's wife is left alone, and that can't be helped. It comes with the job.
On the other hand, since most pastors know what we are getting into, we have to do what we can to make time for the family - especially the wife - and make up for the time we miss. That is every bit as hard a lesson to learn as the truth about sharing. I am reminded of a missionary I met several years ago. He and his family were being recalled from the field on account of serious family problems. The largest problem was that this particular missionary had spent so much time with his church that he was virtually estranged from his family. It was a sad situation. The man confessed to me, "I thought if I took care of my church, God would take care of my family." Not that way. God can provide in lots of ways, and He does, but God cannot be a husband to a wife, or a dad to the kids. If it is true that the family must share the preacher with the church, it's equally true that the church must learn to share the preacher with his family. After all, he is their pastor too. It comes with the job.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Bless the Dog!"

There we were, house sitting with a bunch of teenagers. That would have been enough of a challenge, but some of them were missionary kids as well, so any thing could happen. All appeared to be going rather smoothly until bedtime rolled around and we gathered in one bedroom for prayer. Since Christian kids and missionary kids in particular are generally used to family prayer, that also seemed to be going normally until we came to our son. Our one and only son was, as I recall about the age of either four or impossible, whichever. At any rate, this was the night he chose to prove he was a preacher's son who, like his dad, could launch into a prayer for just about everything in the known universe when occasion called for it. Being so moved, he began praying when his turn came and determined not to finish until he had tried the patience of everyone, and blessed every living creature. Just about the time he had named everyone - so we thought - he interjected one more request: "Bless the dog -." At this point, his mother had had enough. "Don't bless the dog!" she interrupted, thinking, no doubt that if he started naming the animal kingdom, we might never get to bed. At this, he suddenly began wailing in showers of tears, and at the top of his lungs, "I wanna bless the dog!" Pandemonium reigned. To regain order, my wife quickly caved, "All right, you can bless the dog." Like a switch immediately thrown, and a faucet turned off, our pint-sized thunderstorm abruptly calmed, turned to his mother, and politely asked "What's the dog's name?"
We all did our best to contain the well of hilarity dying to erupt within us. With every ounce of self-control we could muster, we held ourselves until the little prayer warrior finished. Then, one more teenager had the nearly impossible job of closing in prayer without losing her composure. When the last "Amen" sounded, pandemonium returned, and it was a good five minutes before we could catch our breath from laughter. I didn't know whether to be proud of my son for insisting on praying or upset for his obvious tantrum. I suspect it was a little of both. When we ask the little ones to pray, anything can happen. I remember hearing of a little girl who asked the blessing on her food by praying: "God is great, God is good. Let us spank Him for our food." She probably blessed her dog too.

Missionary Kids and Other Strange Species, Part Two

Our son-in-law's father was a missionary kid who grew up in Brazil. His parents were pioneers with a long and distinguished ministry on the foreign field. To my knowledge, he never made a credible profession of faith in Christ. The man turned from the gospel, never bothered to attend church, and came to a very sad and lonely end. Missionary kids face many unique difficulties and their stories do not necessarily end well. Before there were computers, e-mail and Facebook, missionary kids came home out of touch and out of date. Their clothes and language were behind the times. Fortunately, missionary families do not have to be quite so disconnected these days. Still, missionary kids are a strange species when compared to families in the average church State- side. One missionary couple we know have reared a family of five in Europe. Nearly all the children were born overseas. As a result, the children do not consider themselves Americans (although they are), and they have a distinctly European cultural mindset. They do not fit in with America, and return to the States only on occasion to visit relatives.
The challenge they have faced is the same for missionary kids everywhere. That is, the fact that they were born to missionary parents in a missionary family does not of itself make the kids missionaries. Sometimes they resent being pressed into service and do not understand why they have to live under difficult circumstances while other kids in other places are enjoying a much more pleasant existence.
When we faced the challenge of having to prepare our own kids for the mission field, we tried to anticipate the difficulties by teaching our kids two facts: 1. That being a missionary was a great adventure. They were going to do things and see things most kids only read about.
2. That being a missionary was a great privilege. The greatest thing we can do in the world is lead a soul to Christ. We never let our kids forget these two facts. We never allowed them to feel as if they were being deprived.
If you know a missionary kid who is feeling left out because of the time they had to spend away, let them know they are the ones with the advantages. The shallow culture they left behind cannot compare with the privileges and opportunities they enjoy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

"Nothing's working. Now what?"

There was a time when our family was not only between ministries, we were between everything else - between an income, a home and a future. For reasons beyond our control, we were without a church and living in borrowed quarters. One evening when things seemed the bleakest, I gathered our children around me and said to them, "You are being given a rare opportunity. You get to see what can happen when all you have to depend on is the Lord." God brought us through that particular period in a most gracious way, and we found ourselves on the mission field for the next six years. Sure enough, God did not fail.
As the years have passed and our children have grown, married and gone into their own ministries, there have been times when that conversation has returned. Usually, it has happened when one of our adult children has called to say, "Dad, nothing's working. Now what?" They have found themselves in some predicament in their ministry or some life situation where every solution they have tried has failed. Most of all, God has not worked, or so it seems, so now they are calling Dad. They are not calling to complain, but to find answers. Dad is still the pastor. It is in those precious situations that this dad has been able to assure the kids once again that they are being given a rare opportunity. God still delights to make a point to us, that when we have nothing else on which to depend, He is sufficient. It's a tough but necessary lesson. Someday our kids will have kids under their own roof, and there will be more phone calls: "Dad, nothing's working. Now what?" That is the moment when our own children can pass on what they have learned in the crucible of their own experience, that when "nothing's working," God is working most of all. He doesn't ask or expect us to make sense of what He is doing. He asks only that we trust Him. I know this may seem like a platitude to some people, but the answer to the question is actually very simple. God is working, whether we see Him or not. And if we know that God is working, we know He will take care of the "Now what?". The answer He provides may not be what we expect - that is usually the case - but we know He will always see us through.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ten Things a Preacher's Kid Needs to Know

1. Don't burn your bridges too quickly or too often. Someday you may be invited back to the place you left behind, and you want to return with dignity.
2. Learn to appreciate the sacrifices some people will make for you. They do not owe you special favors; they love you.
3. Get over the hurts and slights. Life is way too short to carry grudges. Some of the people who hurt you now may be your best friends later.
4. Accept the fact that some people do not know how to treat the pastor's kids, or what to expect of them. Be yourself, keep things straight between you and God, and everything will work out. If you mess up, remember that your parents still love you.
5. The best thing you can do for your Dad and his ministry is pray for him.
6. Never measure the success of your family or your Dad's ministry by the size of the church. God doesn't do that and neither should you. Besides, the apostle Paul never pastored a large church and he turned out OK.
7. If you really want to encourage your Dad when he is down, go with him on visitation.
8. Consider being part of a pastor's family a privilege rather than a burden. You probably get to do more things, go more places and meet more friends and experience more life than the average kid anywhere.
9. Take care of your own spiritual life diligently. Being part of the pastor's family does not give you a free pass.
10. Of all the methods and gimmicks you've ever tried, prayer works better than any of them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Missionary Kids and Other Strange Species, Part One

Our children had the rarest of opportunities in life - to be both "pk's" and "mk's" at the same time. That's "preacher's kids" and "missionary kids" for the uninformed. Our family served on the mission field for a number of years. It did not matter that we were "home" missionaries. We were in Louisiana, and by all accounts, we were in a foreign land. The weather was foreign (Whoever heard of sunburns in February?), the food was foreign, and most people spoke with a French or Cajun accent. Our daughter, who had looked forward to speaking with a southern drawl, was most disappointed. The rest of us were merely confused. Shortly after we arrived, I noticed a bumper sticker touting the New Orleans Saints football team. The sticker read "Geaux Saints" - a sort of French fried way of saying "Go Saints." But not being familiar with French spellings, I could not translate it. I stared at the bumper sticker for a moment, turned to my wife and asked "Who wants to Gee-ox the Saints, Honey?" There were other things to learn in the state dubbed "America's Banana Republic." We learned that fire ants can build a mound around anything at anytime and spring up over night. We learned that the mosquito is Louisiana's state bird. (Our neighborhood was sprayed regularly every Thursday by a pickup truck armed with a cannon full of bug spray that hung in the humid night air like thick, deadly fog.) We learned that Cajuns will eat anything that moves and can be seasoned with five gallons of pepper. We learned that we had moved into the bug-and-critter capital of the universe. The cockroaches live in the ground before they decide to move into your house and take over. They are humongous, and they fly. The Wright brothers could have saved themselves a lot of money and flown one at Kitty Hawk. Then there were the lizards that moved into the house to eat the mosquitoes and fight a turf battle with the cockroaches. All of this did not faze our kids, who thought it was great fun to be sharing the house with the wild kingdom. Most of our visitors, especially those from up north, were put off by all the roving critters, but our family accepted this as part of the mission field, and delightedly shocked our guests by our not being shocked. When we invited another missionary family to visit us for a week of meetings, the other "mk's" - who had spent lots of time in Brazil - were equally delighted. Rather than being put off, they joined our kids in chasing around the house after all the lizards. Missionary kids can be strange like that. There was one notable exception, however. One night when our older daughter woke up to drink from the glass of ice water by her bed, the night air was suddenly split by her shriek. We dashed into her room to see what had happened, and there, on top of the ice in her water glass, sat a cock roach the size of a battleship. All Angela could say was "IT TOUCHED MY LIPS!" To this day, she cannot bring herself to drink anything in the dark.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Twenty-six Mice Under the Oven

The first time my wife and I saw the parsonage in our first full-time ministry, it was like viewing the White House. "That," I said proudly, "is going to be our new home." Ahhhhhhh. We were smitten. Then reality set in, right after we moved, and we discovered that our new home came with as many landlords as church members, not to mention rules and expectations. For example, we were expected not to use one of the bedrooms. It was to remain perpetually as a "prophet's chamber" for any visiting preacher or missionary. So, in spite of the fact that we could have really used the room, we dutifully left it untouched except for the rare visitor. We've always had odd experiences with parsonages, and we've learned that our experience is not exceptional. One house we lived in was located so close to the church building that our basement (it was a bi-level house) was used for church offices and Sunday School rooms. This had a number of unintended consequences. First, we did not have privacy, especially on Sunday morning when people began to stream into their "classrooms." Vacation Bible School became a real adventure, as there were people in and out of our house at all hours. Add to that the fact that our church clerk had a key to the house but expected us to keep our home unlocked so she could come and go as she pleased. She had no idea how often we came close to dialing 911 when we heard the "intruder" in the basement. Then there was the parsonage where the previous pastor's wife had used a bedroom to dry fruit from her garden. If that wasn't enough, the house was overrun with mice. I quickly learned that the best place to catch them was -believe it or not- in the stove, especially in the drawer under the oven. I routinely emptied the traps each morning. After I caught twenty-six mice, I quit counting, but I kept catching mice. I have no idea how many traps - or mice - I went through. But that was not the worst place we ever inhabited. That honor probably belongs to the little shack where we lived before moving into the "mouse palace." The shack was owned and leased by a church member and was a temporary residence for us until (get this!) the church could clean out the parsonage for us. (Given the number of mice I caught, I wonder what they cleaned out.) The shack was just that. When the church member/landlord put up a new wood-framed screen door for us, I let him know it wouldn't close properly and needed to be remounted. No problem. He showed up the next day to fix everything - with an axe!! He might have noticed the stunned, speechless expression on my face as he committed atrocities on the door, chopping and flailing until the wounded door surrendered and closed. He asked me if there was anything else to fix. All I could do is look at the axe and declare "No" rather cautiously. If you've never lived in a parsonage, you just don't know what you're missing.

The Things People Say ...!

I recently received a letter from a college student "PK" ("preacher's kid") whose dad is suffering some serious health problems. Her letter contained the following account that actually happened in their home: "The deacons came over one night to 'pray for and encourage' my dad and started firing questions about his situation instead, even asked if there was sin in his life...It came off as accusing, and my dad had just told them that he had basically lost his will to live, and they start firing questions like that to OVERWHELM A GUY MORE. An assistant pastor told them to stop, to just pray and leave ... but some damage was already done." No kidding. Apparently, there is no end to the really ridiculous things people can say to a pastor and/or his family. There! I've said it. (And all God's preachers said "Amen!") I've said it for all the other pastors who wish they could say it too if they didn't have to deal with all the feathers they would ruffle as a result. But really now, do people think the pastor's job description includes a target for rude, thoughtless remarks? I know this sounds like so many sour grapes, and yes, I really do believe in being long suffering, but then I remember the time one bona fide genius said to me "I don't think, if your wife was disciplined by the church, it would have any effect on your ministry." The truest part of his statement was "I don't think." Of course the crude and outlandish remarks are not always confined to pastors. Other church members get in on the insults as well. When one of our members gave birth to a disabled son, born without a hand, another "believer" observed, "God is punishing you for some sin in your life." Sounds like some of the deacons from the pastor's home, doesn't it? The pastor's daughter had it right - damage is done. The wounds are real, and sometimes they are deep. The first time I became a target for the thoughtless remark, I felt crushed and recovery took a long time. By now, the words still hurt, but I have managed to get over most of them. Some of the people who said the worst have become my best friends and most fervent supporters. Forgiveness has to be part of the regular diet for all the preacher's family. Without it, we would not survive. We would be consumed by self-pity and discouragement. We have to get over being hurt and remember that, at some point, we also may make a careless remark. So forgiveness works both ways. Just consider this a plea to "put brain in gear before setting mouth in motion." Warren Wiersbe once observed to some seminary students (I was one) that a good pastor must have "the heart of an elephant and the hide of a rhino serous." We all said "Amen" to that too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Long Goodbyes

While my son and I were out enjoying the evening together recently, I began to reminisce about some of the places we've lived over the past thirty years of ministry. When we returned home, I discovered on Facebook that a pastor friend of mine was leaving his church for another ministry nearer the east coast. "It been," he wrote, "a very, very hard decision," hard on himself, his wife and children. "But God seemed to be leading that way." My family and I can sympathize with all the difficulties they face. Relocating is one of the problem issues the general public does not seem to grasp about pastors' families. A pastor arrives at his new church with his beaming wife and children, and the announcement "We are all pleased and excited to be here." No doubt there is truth in that statement. Finally arriving at a new ministry is a big relief in many ways. Yet there is so much behind the scenes that people do not realize, for uprooting the family is very hard. The challenge for every pastor is how to communicate to the rest of the family that his calling, his sense of God's leading, must somehow become theirs as well. The preacher senses that his present ministry is closing. He has the urge to move on, but no one told the wife and kids; and believe me, just telling them that "it's the Lord's leading" doesn't satisfy them. I've known pastors and their wives who nearly came to a divorce because he was ready to move and she wasn't. Our children came along with us of course, because they had no choice, but months and sometimes years passed before they forgave me for forcing them to leave friends behind. The truth is that saying "goodbye" takes forever in our hearts, and sometimes it never comes. My family and I have attended two anniversaries of former churches this year, and I could not help but feel like I should have apologized for leaving each of them. Whenever I return, the goodbyes become longer and longer because a part of our heart remains with all those we've left. They remain our good friends. We still pray for them, we still miss them and we still ache for them. My friend will go to a new ministry and do fine, I am sure. His family will adjust - we always do - but like all good pastors, a piece of their heart will be left behind. Being in the ministry means never really saying goodbye.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Offerings and Other Hazards

I'm not quite sure what this topic has to do with this preacher's family except that somehow my family has found a way to turn what is supposed to be a fairly harmless part of the church service into an adventure. Perhaps it all started with our oldest daughter, a toddler at the time, who became quite offended when the usher forgot to pass the offering plate to her so she could give her dime. When she realized that she had been rudely bypassed, she turned to find the usher - now a couple of rows behind her - reared back as if she were delivering a fastball, and threw the dime like a bullet at the usher. The coin landed dead-center in the offering plate. There was one time when I also found a way to "contribute" to the service. My dad and I were sitting in the midst of a very crowded service in the largest Baptist church in town when the offering began. As the ushers proceeded in our direction, I realized that they did not use plates, but offering baskets instead. I suppose they were expecting lots of money. Anyway, as the basket made its way toward us, I reached for it, and my dad, thinking I was going to drop the now-full basket of money, reached for it as well. He knocked it out of my hand. Money flew in every conceivable direction - lots and lots of money. I never dreamed money could travel so far. Dozens of people were on the floor trying to pick up and account for every coin, every dollar. The pianist, who had meticulously practiced his offertory to the last second, suddenly realized that his wonderfully planned, practiced and precise offertory was now out the window. He scrambled to replay everything and kept glancing in our direction to check on our money-recovery effort, now in full swing. At least once, I thought I saw him look my way with a "If I could hit you with a hymnal right now, I would" sort of stare. This had become the unofficial Longest Offering in the History of the Universe thanks to me and my dad. But there are other hazards in the church service as well. Like baptisms. When I baptized our pint-sized youngest daughter, she was so happy with the experience, she decided to celebrate in her own way. Immediately after I raised up from the water, she flipped over and began doing the dog paddle. As discretely as possible, I leaned over and whispered to her, "You can't swim in the baptistery." She ignored me, swam to the handrail, and got out on her own. It could have been worse. I have baptized impossibly large people in impossibly small baptisteries, all while praying "Lord, I can get him in, but You have to get him out." I baptized one lady outdoors in a pond - February - and it was snowing! My legs were never so cold. I don't see how she survived, but the whole thing was her family's idea. It could have been worse. One of my uncles was baptizing a fellow in a creek when my uncle lost his grip and the man floated downstream, so the family legend goes. At least I never lost one in the baptistery.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Life of Quiet Sacrifice

To hear my wife tell it, she was called to be a pastor's wife. Belinda is a pastor's daughter and knows the hardships and challenges of life in the ministry. Her father never had the opportunity to lead a very large congregation. He supported a family of seven children on tomato farming and carpentry while preaching in a variety of small, mostly out-of-the way churches from Texas to South Carolina. One would have thought a talented young lady would have been dying to get away from those struggles to a better life. But not Belinda. She always wanted to be a pastor's wife, and looked forward to it. The thing that impresses me most is that she has never changed her mind. And let's face it, she's had lots of reasons to change her mind. Like countless other pastors and their families, we have gone from one unenviable situation to another. Our ministry income has been small - even minuscule - by comparison with other pastors. That has meant my wife having to be employed outside the home to shore up our income and supply health insurance that most of our churches could not afford. Neither of us wanted her to work outside the home, but the Lord has provided many of our needs that way, so she has carried on without complaint. Thankfully, my wife is not alone in her attitude. Multitudes of pastors' wives go about their business with a similar spirit every day. theirs is a life of quiet sacrifice. They do not gather the public attention so often given to their husbands and prefer instead to stay in the shadows. They make routine sacrifices every day and find ways to make a little go a long way. They willingly accept less that others may have more. But there are other challenges and difficulties unique to the wife of a pastor. Some churches assume the pastor's wife will take on certain church responsibilities just because she is, well, the pastor's wife. One well meaning gentleman reflected that presumption when he asked me "Does your wife pastor the church with you?" I replied, "No, she takes care of me, and that's the way she likes it." He was surprised. My wife has had to sit quietly and endure unjust criticism aimed at her husband. She has remained silent and supported me in prayer when she knew I hurt, and that I, in turn, was hurting for her. She has had to be strong when I was weak. Belinda has been strong for our children when she was not well and I could not be there. She has done it all and yet to this day she still wants to be the pastor's wife. The only complaint I ever heard was when she wished she could spend more time with me at church. Perhaps someone reading this is the pastor of a small congregation and the husband of a wife who goes about her business in much the same way. They take care of both the home and ourselves, and we would be lost without them. The pastor's wife is the unsung hero under the pastor's roof. Right now, I have to hurry and publish this post because my wife is coming to meet me in a few minutes for lunch - one of our few opportunities in the week to be together for lunch - and I shouldn't be late. Do you think?

Monday, August 10, 2009


Like a lot of dads, I have had nicknames for each of our children, especially the girls. Andrew did not get in on this as much as the others because "Andy" was too available and too obvious. That was not the case with the girls. Angela was always "my little sidekick" who delighted to go with me on visitation. I am not quite sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way I began to refer to Jennifer as "Spud." It was a silly little name for Daddy's precocious little partner who always tagged after me whenever possible. Then one day she happened to ask me, "What is a spud?" Being caught somewhat off my guard, I started to answer simply, "Well, it's a potato -" Little Mount Jennifer erupted. "A potato!" Such indignation from a four-year-old, the world has never seen. "You called me a potato?" I tried a useless explanation. "It's only a name - " She continued fuming, "A potato!!" "I didn't mean to offend you-" (That's right, sound real pastoral!) "You called me a potato! UUUUUHHHHH!" That was always her last and most exasperated expression of total disgust. So "Spud" was tossed into the potato bin of history. I never referred to Jennifer as "Spud" again until the night of her wedding rehearsal dinner. She laughed hard at the name that night. I think she has finally forgiven me. She belongs to another man now, a big strapping fellow who overshadows me, literally. (I commented to my wife, "We're not losing a daughter, we're gaining a body guard."). One thing is certain. I'm not going to refer to his wife as "Spud" if the name offends him. I need him on my side. But there will always be a place in my heart and in my memories for "Spud," and the days when childhood innocence did not take offense. Those were days when it was just me and my little partner heading off somewhere in the pick-up truck. Just "Spud" and me - days I will never forget.

"Lady Talksalot"

When our small church was in desperate need of someone to be in charge of the vacation Bible school skit, the director hung the job on me because, well, there was no one else and I was the pastor. Pastors always get the jobs no one else wants. So he handed me a file containing the five names of those to be included in the skit. The only problem was that all the skits were written typically for two people. There was nothing else to do but create new characters and new dialogue for each.
One of the five to be included was our younger daughter, Jennifer, the truly born actress of the family; the one sure to be over-the-top dramatic (See her reaction in the post titled "Spud."). I was stuck for how to write for her special talents when a thought occurred to me. Both our daughters had developed an ability to speak at a rapid-fire rate that to this day leaves me replying "Duh" to everything they say. Suppose I wrote a part for a lady who could speak in Jennifer's typical machine gun rhythm? I tossed the idea to her and she lit up at the thought. Since "Sir Lancelot" wouldn't do, I gave her the name "Lady Talksalot."
When the opening night for vacation Bible school arrived, I listened with some trepidation to the skit, wondering what I had done. I had turned loose our daughter with the instructions to talk without a script (It was impossible to write one.). "Just talk until you run out of words, then someone else will step in and pick up the dialogue." Right.
Everything went well and normal until the moment her character was supposed to speak. Enter Lady Talksalot. Jennifer erupted in a blizzard of words. The other actors looked as if they had been beaned with an inside pitch. Jennifer never slowed. I kept waiting for the end, but it never came. The other actor (now totally confused) kept waiting for her to take a breath so he could say his lines, but she didn't seem to breathe. Jennifer just kept talking on and on, effortlessly, and - most amazing - she never repeated herself. When Jennifer finally paused (She did have to breathe after all), the audience fractured. Sensing his one and only opportunity, the other actor stepped in with his lines and the skit continued.
Our program was a hit and audience was hooked. From that night forward, the audience swelled with as many adults as kids, just to see what "Lady Talksalot" would do next.
Jennifer did not disappoint them. She rattled on at mind-numbing speed for the entire week and never missed a line. A legend was born.
"Lady Talksalot" was married this summer to a fine young man, another pastor in the making to bring under our roof. He has been forewarned - not that it will do much good. He seems intelligent enough, and I know he loves Jennifer. I just hope he gets in a word once in a while.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Update - I'm back ...

Well, I think I'm back. The last few days have been a combination of confusion and mystery for me because I am not a professional blogger. Most upsetting was my experience in trying to find this blog on Google, or anything else for that matter. The blog doesn't exist - not on Google anyway, not at the time I tried to find it. If you "Google" this site, you will find the blog I originally set up on Go Daddy, but it has no heading (Go Daddy would not allow it.), so I decided to construct this blog instead - only I could not find it. To remedy the situation I have submitted the URL address to several search engines. Hopefully and eventually, the situation may be worked out. Meanwhile, share our address with your friends and we will see what kind of following we can create. Check out the links and suggest a few if you like. This blog is for and about you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

And What is Normal?

I recently ran across a very nice, formal looking sign at the local Cracker Barrel Restaurant that read "Remember, as far as anyone knows, we are a normal family like everyone else." The sign was funny enough by itself, but what really got my attention was the fact that it was being sold in the section where church and religious articles could be found. I could just imagine some pastor and his family buying that sign and reverently placing it in a prominent place in the home, or over a doorway to remind themselves whenever they entered.
Normalcy - what is it? My kids liked to wear shorts while growing up, and they still wear them. That probably bothers some people. My dad thinks the shorts look funny, but then he has dementia. Aren't Christians allowed to wear shorts, or is that normal for Christians? I remember hearing of one family - and they actually exist somewhere - who went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico; but they were a Christian family, so of course they swam a bit differently. The girls went into the water wearing dresses (or something very much like dresses - not pants!), and their dad went swimming in his jeans. Blue jeans. Levi-type jeans. The kind that shrink up enough when wet to raise your voice a full octave. And lest you think somehow modesty was saved that day, think again. Once the girls were sufficiently wet, more showed than they ever imagined, and more than any one's imagination cared to know.
Pardon me for being just a tad worldly right off the bat, but my wife and I allowed our family to dress for the water when we went swimming. Having lived along the gulf coast, we quickly learned how to find our own beach without having to resort to all the touristy locations, so we avoided the danger of gawking at some embarrassingly displayed person.
But we still wore swimwear. Why? It was normal. Pastor's families need the liberty to just be normal. That may mean allowing them to fail at times, or at least not expecting the tribulation when they do. As far as the preacher's family knows, they are normal like everyone else. Don't let them know any differently.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Well now ... What's This?

After receiving quite a number of comments from frustrated preacher's kids, an idea has begun to take shape. It began when one student wrote "I have no one to talk to. No one understands what I'm going through ..." Those were words of despair from someone who had spent her life in the unique bubble known as the parsonage.

Life in the ministry is a world unto itself. Thirty-two years after ordination, and a lifetime in parsonages later, I began to think that perhaps there might be a place for a blog like this - a place to share my own thoughts and gather the experiences and insights of other pastors and their families. If nothing else, it would serve to give me a little writing experience on the side and keep my mind fresh for further projects. But there is more here than an academic exercise. Perhaps someone will catch an insight, have a laugh, or share an experience. This blog is really not about me. It's about all those who share life under the pastor's roof. Come under my roof for a while. Make yourself at home.