Two Notes to Two Timothys...

"Study to show yourself approved unto God - a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth." II Timothy 2:15

Consider...The Birds of the Air

"Walk softly, and carry a big stick."

"Pull up your big girl panties and deal with it."

"Get over it."

"Put up, or hush up."

"Only one person can feel sorry for you at any given time. Since you are already feeling sorry for yourself, you've reached your limit."

I live by each of those phrases, to some degree or another. I've either coined or repeated each one...often. Most times, I don't really mean it. Sometimes, I do mean it. Fiercely. I've been through just enough myself, that trials of the generic, every day-ish variety don't move me to fits of tears or spasms of compassion for anyone - least of all myself. Some say I have a prophetic edge to my personality, others think I am just missing a critical component of an otherwise thoroughly feminine DNA. Neither opinion frightens or flatters me. Things are what they are. And there I go again...being all pithy and Spartan.

Lately, however, I've been gripped by another phrase, timeless and alive:

" Yea, even the sparrow hath found an house...even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. Ps. 84:3"

I'm a bird watcher. Not of consuming proportions, but I do spend a fair amount of time observing fowl in my own back yard. If there is a more relaxing way of passing an early morning or evening, I don't know what it is.

The sparrows who visit me are shy. Reticent. They are easily bullied from any and every feeder. By any and every sort of bird. A sparrow can be having dinner with his lady love, at a decorative feeder (read: "nice restaurant. great ambiance.") brimming with seed, and if a cardinal ambles up to the table, the sparrows take their leave without the first fuss. Every time, those sparrows will either fly away, or move to the ground, and commence to pecking up stray seed, embedded in dirt and grass.

My sparrows will not assert themselves. They won't join the other birds. They won't fight for their share of the bird seed. Without fail, my sparrows will place themselves on the outskirts of the action.

I love how the Lord made the observation, "Even the sparrow has found a home...". God didn't lead us to marvel that the friendly titmouse has found a nest. Or that the loudly talented mockingbird finally has a resting place. Or that the obnoxious grackle can finally land. We are led to feel gladness that the quiet little sparrow has found a home! And not just any home - even the very presence of the Lord. A sparrow is warmly welcomed, and given full access, smack dab between the wings of the cherubim.

How much MORE are we invited to partake of the presence and mercy of our God? Is it any coincidence that many hundreds of years after Psalms 84:3 was sung, the God-man Jesus Christ came and walked this earth, seeking and saving little guys in trees? Loving those on the outskirts? It it any coincidence that a sparrow was the acceptable temple offering of the poor and needy? It is any coincidence that Jesus said, "Fear ye not, are of more value than many sparrows."

If I were to take a bird personality test, I'd probably be classified as a robin. Why, I'm not sure. But I know some people who would test out as "sparrows". And I try to be careful to seek them out, to approach them softly, and draw them out in conversation. I don't feel sorry for them, any more than they should feel sorry for themselves; but I do acknowlege and celebrate the differences of gifting and personality.

I love watching the sparrows, both the human-sparrows, and the bird-sparrows. Both have a beautifully unique song. Both are valuable to the Father. If I claim to have a heart like His, I'll find a soft spot there for those on the outskirts of our church-feeder. I certainly don't want to purposely hurt or offend or exclude one who makes her home between angel's wings.

The Beautiful 'Burbs

This blog celebrates ordinary church life, the seasons, and suburbia. While it is easy to imagine the seasons and even ordinary life as things to be celebrated, throwing a word-party for the concept of suburbia is simply weird. It is just not done. There are many lovely old tomes and new blogs written about country life, but a blog in praise of suburbia? I know the idea is strange.

I am a middle class, suburban woman - much like the vast majority of women in the United States. I do not live in a funky urban setting. I do not live on a grand estate, boasting acreage, a pristine, fish filled pond, and grazing horses. I don't live in a tiny shanty, voluntarily doing without electricity, with hives of bees and gravel roads spotted with horse and buggy. I have friends who fit each of the above descriptions, and I love each one.

I wish for neither scenario - urban or rural. Suburbia is home to me. I live in what is falsely called a "rancher". It has a large "yard", and sits on a paved cul-de-sac, at the end of a concrete driveway. I have a neighbor to the right, left, front, and behind. I have a mailbox that is exactly 38 steps from my front door. And I have no regrets. I hope to prove that one can be "cutting edge", politically aware, culturally compassionate, and entitled to wear black sunglasses without living in the city. Conversely, one can be wise and earthy, soulful, philosophical and skilled in home arts without the fences and livestock. I do boast an 8-foot privacy fence in my back yard, two poodles who smile at me, and a small ornamental pond stocked with absolutely startlingly huge fish. That comprises our fences and livestock.

Proud suburbanites, we are. We like our street lights, and we find a modicum of lawnmower noise and human contact strangely normal - even pleasing and enjoyable.

Christianity has its share of armchair apocalyptics who forecast coming calamities, prescribing "fleeing to the hills" and personal generators as the solution - as though living a quarter mile from your mailbox is better protection in the event a solar flare throws the super computers into an extended crash. Personally....we don't buy into it. Literally.

Firstly, that "flee to the hills" solution is far too expensive to be practical. We are more into using our very limited resources to tend people, than to spend resources tending fences and cows, as lovely as that life is, I'm sure. Nothing wrong with it. It can just be a bit over-celebrated, as compared to an ordinary home in the suburbs. Country living is not the only option for a well-lived, effective life. It is a good option, if it does not make you narrow, or consume your every last penny and hour. Anyone who can live that lovely rural lifestyle, and who voraciously shares it with others, is someone I'd want for a friend. Please do have me over for the weekend!

Secondly, we are of the opinion that electricity is here to stay. If it goes off, due to flood, fire, or vapor of smoke, they'll eventually get it turned back on. Not only that, but should sudden catastrophe befall (and we certainly believe its possible), we think our best contingency plan is a few good neighbors and a well paved road or two.

Yes, suburbia is under-rated. I think this is largely due to the idea that artists somehow need isolation and transcendent views to be creative. I find my writing inspiration right outside my bedroom window. The parade of life - human, and animal/vegetable/mineral - on my own street provides me with enough food for thought to pound out a page or two daily, artistically speaking.

I encounter the same blue skies, or sunsets, or cloud formations or majestic thunderstorms that a country woman does. It all exists for me here. Having no horses or acreage to tend leaves me more time to enjoy it. I'm just sayin'.

Besides, when I was a kid, a horse bit my little sister in the belly, and I've had a lowered opinion of them since.

My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places...Isaiah 32:18

Joy Cometh...

Ps 143:8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust...
By: Sheila

I think it was Thoreau who said that the two most beautiful words in the English language were "summer afternoon". Not to be contrary, but I am convinced they are "summer morning". Especially this summer. Three of my four children are grown - not yet moved out, but grown. They each have a good, full-time job. Each is doing what he or she wanted to do, in the area each wanted to gain experience. (One daughter is in fashion merchandising, her identical twin, small and feminine, is in construction - shooting for a contractor's license, and my oldest son is slowly mastering HVAC - "Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning").

So my summer mornings these days, are quite different than those of yore. While my youngest son sleeps in, I say goodbye to my pastor-husband as he leaves for the day...

....and suddenly I have the unimaginable luxury of a quiet morning. I putter. I dawdle. I try to think of just what exactly do I want for breakfast - a question I almost never have time to ponder any other time of year.

I have been one who has made the acquaintence of that "prophet in rough clothing" - the name C.H. Spurgeon coined for depression. Years ago, I dragged myself to my Bible, and again discovered Psalms 143. In fact, the year was 1997. I drank deeply from the truths of that Psalm, acknowleging before the Lord that mornings are the most wretched times for a woman struggling with depression. I pleaded with the Lord to "cause me to know" Him and His lovingkindness in those empty, hollow mornings. If He did not "cause me", if He did not initiate, I feared I would remain in that place of no-feeling, that place of no-motivation, that place of no-joy, forever.

..."And it came to pass in those days..." Everything comes to pass. No longer do I fear the valley. I now understand that I will always pass through every valley of the shadow I will ever encounter, even that of final death. I will never be there to stay. I know that now.

I've passed through several valleys since the Year of Psalm 143. I've received from the Prophet in Rough Clothing a few times. In fact, he just left me this late spring, after an unusually long visit. And I can clearly see that God has lavishly answered the prayers I prayed all the way back in 1997, when mornings were the worst, and I needed Him to force Himself upon me. I needed God to "cause me to know".

That is why the two most beautiful words in the English language are, to me, "summer morning....summer morning".

Just as Christ left the wilderness of testing, and quietly had some sort of breakfast, I too silently celebrate the Lord of the Morning, and the lovingkindness He has caused me to know. With a ripened tomato, fresh plucked and red on my windowsill, I create exactly what I'm craving. What an amazing luxury!

Joy cometh in the morning!

Why Pastors (and their wives?) Should Blog

I ran across this on what, in my opinion, is one of the best ministry websites out there, John Piper's My husband does have a blog (see the link on the left, "Can You Embrace the Truth"), but I think the following could also apply to pastor's wives, no? See if you agree...

6 Reasons Pastors Should BlogMarch 31, 2008 By: Abraham Piper Category: Commentary

In this article I want to convince as many pastors as possible to sit down and start a blog today. If I can’t convince them, then I want to convince churchgoers to hound their pastor until he does.

OK, all that’s overstatement, perhaps. You can still be a good pastor and not blog.
However, here’s why I think it would be good for you and your congregation if you did.
Pastors should blog…

1. …to write.
If you’re a pastor, you probably already know the value writing has for thinking. Through writing, you delve into new ideas and new insights. If you strive to write well, you will at the same time be striving to think well.

Then when you share new ideas and new insights, readers can come along with you wherever your good writing and good thinking bring you.

There is no better way to simply and quickly share your writing than by maintaining a blog. And if you’re serious about your blog, it will help you not only in your thinking, but in your discipline as well, as people begin to regularly expect quality insight from you.

2. …to teach.

Most pastors I’ve run into love to talk. Many of them laugh at themselves about how long-winded they’re sometimes tempted to be. Enter Blog.

Here is where a pastor has an outlet for whatever he didn’t get to say on Sunday. Your blog is where you can pass on that perfect analogy you only just thought of; that hilarious yet meaningful story you couldn’t connect to your text no matter how hard you tried; that last point you skipped over even though you needed it to complete your 8-point acrostic sermon that almost spelled HUMILITY.

And more than just a catch-all for sermon spill-over, a blog is a perfect place for those 30-second nuggets of truth that come in your devotions or while you’re reading the newspaper. You may never write a full-fledged article about these brief insights or preach a whole sermon, but via your blog, your people can still learn from them just like you did.

3. …to recommend.

With every counseling session or after-service conversation, a pastor is recommending something. Sometimes it’s a book or a charity. Maybe it’s a bed-and-breakfast for that couple he can tell really needs to get away. And sometimes it’s simply Jesus.

With a blog, you can recommend something to hundreds of people instead of just a few. Some recommendations may be specific to certain people, but that seems like it would be rare. It’s more likely to be the case that if one man asks you whether you know of any good help for a pornography addiction, then dozens of other men out there also need to know, but aren’t asking.
Blog it.

Recommendation, however, is more than pointing people to helpful things. It’s a tone of voice, an overall aura that good blogs cultivate.

Blogs are not generally good places to be didactic. Rather, they’re ideal for suggesting and commending. I’ve learned, after I write, to go back and cut those lines that sound like commands or even overbearing suggestions, no matter how right they may be. Because if it’s true for my audience, it’s true for me, so why not word it in such a way that I’m the weak one, rather than them?

People want to know that their pastor knows he is an ordinary, imperfect human being. They want to know that you’re recommending things that have helped you in your own weakness. If you say, “When I struggled with weight-loss, I did such-and-such,” it will come across very differently than if you say, “Do such-and-such if you’re over-weight…”

If you use your blog to encourage people through suggesting and commending everything from local restaurants to Jesus Christ, it will complement the biblical authority that you rightly assume when you stand behind the pulpit.

4. …to interact.

There are a lot of ways for a pastor to keep his finger on the pulse of his people. A blog is by no means necessary in this regard. However, it does add a helpful new way to stay abreast of people’s opinions and questions.

Who knows what sermon series might arise after a pastor hears some surprising feedback about one of his 30-second-nuggets-of-truth?

5. …to develop an eye for what is meaningful.

For good or ill, most committed bloggers live with the constant question in their mind: Is this bloggable? This could become a neurosis, but I’ll put a positive spin on it: It nurtures a habit of looking for insight and wisdom and value in every situation, no matter how mundane.
If you live life looking for what is worthwhile in every little thing, you will see more of what God has to teach you. And the more he teaches you, the more you can teach others. As you begin to be inspired and to collect ideas, you will find that the new things you’ve seen and learned enrich far more of your life than just your blog.

6. …to be known.

This is where I see the greatest advantage for blogging pastors.
Your people hear you teach a lot; it’s probably the main way that most of them know you. You preach on Sundays, teach on Wednesdays, give messages at weddings, funerals, youth events, retreats, etc.

This is good—it’s your job. But it’s not all you are. Not that you need to be told this, but you are far more than your ideas. Ideas are a crucial part of your identity, but still just a part.
You’re a husband and a father. You’re some people’s friend and other people’s enemy. Maybe you love the Nittany Lions. Maybe you hate fruity salad. Maybe you struggle to pray. Maybe listening to the kids’ choir last weekend was—to your surprise—the most moving worship experience you’ve ever had.

These are the things that make you the man that leads your church. They’re the windows into your personality that perhaps stay shuttered when you’re teaching the Bible. Sometimes your people need to look in—not all the way in, and not into every room—but your people need some access to you as a person. A blog is one way to help them.

You can’t be everybody’s friend, and keeping a blog is not a way of pretending that you can. It’s simply a way for your people to know you as a human being, even if you can’t know them back. This is valuable, not because you’re so extraordinary, but because leadership is more than the words you say. If you practice the kind of holiness that your people expect of you, then your life itself opened before them is good leadership—even when you fail.

For most of you, anything you post online will only be a small piece in the grand scheme of your pastoral leadership. But if you can maintain a blog that is both compelling and personal, it can be an important small piece.

It will give you access to your people’s minds and hearts in a unique way by giving them a chance to know you as a well-rounded person. You will no longer be only a preacher and a teacher, but also a guy who had a hard time putting together a swing-set for his kids last weekend. People will open up for you as you open up like this for them. Letting people catch an honest glimpse of your life will add authenticity to your teaching and depth to your ministry,
* * *

Have We Become Jaded?

by: Sheila


Webster’s dictionary: made dull or insensitive by excess – cynically or pretentiously callous

If you’ve walked with the Lord any length of time, you may have been made dull by what feels like an excess of church gatherings. You may have found yourself insensitive to conferences promising to heal your marriage, or order your finances, much less conferences that tell you they intend to bring down some mighty move of God. You might feel a bit cynical towards endless prayer meetings calling out for revival, and all the Christian books that, in reality, are just "Oprah".

If you’ve walked with the Lord any length of time, you’ve also developed somewhat of a thick skin towards all the would-be converts who “get saved”, and then dramatically depart some length of time later, taking a large chunk of your heart with them. If you and I are not careful, that protective, thick skin can become "pretentiously callous".


Webster’s dictionary: having calluses. Emotionally hardened.

Jaded. That’s what it is. Is it what we are? If so, it’s an ugly skin condition. If so, our jadedness can be reversed. We can become as little children again, fresh and baby skinned, and actually inherit the Kingdom instead of just read stuff about it. Nobody – I don’t care who you are – nobody is in more danger of becoming jaded, nobody has more chances to be hurt, to be rubbed the wrong way, and thus become a walking blister, and that walking blister become a walking, “pretentious callus”….nobody tends towards that danger MORE than a preacher’s wife.

But by grace I have, so far, avoided becoming jaded. Not because I am holy, but rather because I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t fun. And I’m too old not to have fun. Little children naturally want to have fun. So I feel it is high time I indulge in some holy regression.

You can’t know how fun it is to wait in agony of expectation for the next breath of God. It is like Christmas Eve, all the time. You can’t know how fun it is to imagine that, any day now, the next Billy Graham just might come to salvation….in my church. You can’t know how fun it is to be convinced that each person in my church family is destined, in Christ, to become a dazzling display of splendor – when you see Him, you will be LIKE Him. I can’t wait to see what you’ll look like. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be…” but my confident expectation on your behalf makes me exceedingly glad.

You can’t know how fun it is to actually believe that the next group of young people who gather to pray can spark a historic revival – just like that Welsh Revival, the name of which has long been capitalized in church history books, because it is considered as noteworthy, as much a history altering event as The Great Depression.

Besides, I have the promise of God that, for every thousand disappointments, the ONE promise of God is worth waiting and hoping for. It is worth confidently expecting. I am told that those who wait on the Lord are never made ashamed. God has a tendency to embarrass the jaded do-nothings, by suddenly showing up for those whose lamps are lit with holy hope. I plan on delighting myself in an excess of wedding cake and Dr. Pepper, while the Pretentiously Calloused Ones scramble for oil and matches in the cold dark night. Scrambling for oil and a match….THAT, my friend, would be no fun.

If you are all grown up and having no fun, please don’t take it personally if I hope so hard, and enjoy God so much, I seem to act like a little child in front of you. I'm not reacting to you per se….I’m simply choosing a different method of coping with the wait for God. I’ve chosen to have fun hoping! If you let it bother you to the point of wishing you could choke me, you are very near to the Kingdom of God. You may get so weary tolerating me that you decide, “If you can’t beat them, JOIN THEM.”

Come be glad with me. Come and hope again. Let God heal your big ol’ pretentious callus. Come and play. It is the only way to live responsibly.

Day's End

Ps 104:23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the

By: Sheila

This is twilight, as it looks here in my own little back-yard piece of earth. I find, the older I become, I am more and more comforted by reliable things like sunrise and sunset, the passing of seasons, a certain pair of shoes or comfortable pajamas....and chores. There is nothing like the feeling of a day well-spent, doing meaningful work. Summer brings its own routine: water, weed, and tend the garden in the morning. Pick tomatoes. Harvest basil. Carefully snip dead blossoms from my huge containers of petunias. Feed and water the many pots, clay and otherwise, of various blooming things like dwarf cannas, ferns, impatiens, and herbs. I am deeply satisfied when I begin my work early, and end it just as the sun is going down.

This is life, as God intended. my home. Come and sit on the back porch and watch the sunset. Another day's work is complete, my friend.