September 22, 2014

Not So Easy Money

My childhood friends owned Monopoly, while I had a cheaper, no-frills game called Easy Money. It was a Monopoly wannabe that used different rules, and it lacked the cute silver shoe and thimble playing pieces. I was jealous of the Monopoly crowd.

When it comes to money, I sometimes feel like a child who is familiar with the Easy Money game in a world dominated by Monopoly players. The salary my husband receives is decided on by the people we minister to, and its use is open to inspection. Even when the rules seem different, I need to guard my attitude toward the money.

Differences I know that it is hard for a layperson to understand what a pastor's job entails. But, as his wife, I see how my husband lays down his life for the congregation and the energy it takes. At congregational meetings where his salary is discussed, I think things like, "You should pay him a million dollars for doing this." I am thankful that we are not in a situation, like I know some of you are, where the church can barely afford to pay its pastor. I need to combat a sinful attitude of resentment toward the church and discontentment toward God.

My compulsion to justify purchases is another area where I differ from church people. I see it in other ministry families, too. I say things like, "Yes, it is a Kate Spade purse. I got it at a consignment shop. Ten years ago. On sale. At 50% off. With a $10 coupon." This is not an effective way of communicating a godly attitude toward money. Yes, I am trying to be a good steward of the money the congregation gives us. Yes, I want to be a good example to that same congregation. However, I need to acknowledge God's blessings in my life and repent of my touchiness and self-justification.

Commonalities Even though a pastors' wife has a different way of receiving money than other Christians, she shares their need to obey the Bible in regard to money. All of us are called to be good stewards of what we possess, make wise choices with our money and be content. Here are some commonalities.
  • Store up treasures in heaven and not on earth. (Matthew 6:20) 
  • Acknowledge that everything you have belongs to the Lord. (Haggai 2:8)
  • Give cheerfully. (II Corinthians 9:6,7) 
  • Be generous to those in need. (Proverbs 19:17)
  • Practice contentment. (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Thank God in all circumstances. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

September 15, 2014

You Are Not Forgotten

“Culturally, we expect people who fall down to pull themselves back up and put their hands to the plow. Sure, everyone stumbles occasionally. And we’re willing to give help in time of crisis. But when the time of crisis doesn’t seem to end, we start to wonder why we’re still helping. Why we’re not seeing progress. Why we’re not moving on.”
-Amy Simpson, Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

Three years ago, my children and I were visiting a friend when a tornado hit her housing complex. Squashed into her tiny downstairs bathroom, she and I leaned over our kids, praying and listening to the rotation touch down a few units away. When the storm had passed, I left, thankful and unhurt. On my way out, I passed a fleet of arriving church vans; relief teams already mobilized and ready to help.

The church is great in a crisis. We are great with sudden heart attacks, emergency surgeries, car wrecks, funerals. We are great with flowers and meals and child care for people’s moments of chaos and desperation. This is good.

But we are not always so great with the messy, unsolvable, lengthy trials of those who are in and out and in and out and in and out of the hospital. Not always so quick to care for the chronic, the unmedicated, the aging, the terminal, the slowly declining, the undiagnosed. We get worn down by one need after another. We forget.

And yet our Lord doesn’t.

In fact, Jesus seemed to show especial kindness toward those who had suffered long.

• The woman “who had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.” Luke 13:10-17
• The man “blind from birth.” John 9
• The boy who had an unclean spirit “from childhood.” Mark 8:14-29
• The woman “who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years.” Matt. 9:20-22
• The demon-possessed man: “for a long time he had worn no clothes.” Luke 8:26-39
• The man “who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.” John 5:2-17

What was life like for these people? Had their families, their believing neighbors, their synagogues given up on them, I wonder? Were friends still bringing them meals and visiting them and praying with them? Or had they eventually become weary of afflictions with no cure?

And so the sick came to Jesus. And Jesus did not neglect them.

Think about it. That man by the pool of Bethesda, “an invalid for thirty-eight years,” was sick before Jesus was even born. He had been unable to walk for almost a decade when little Jesus took his first toddling steps. And nearly forty years after his illness began he tells Jesus, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.” If that man had friends, they had long since tired of his needs.

Is there someone in our churches who has suffered for forty years? Are we still lifting him into the pool?

In the United States, the POW MIA flag bears the motto: “You are not forgotten.” The church has its own POWs—those who are missing or imprisoned by life in a fallen world, those who spend long periods of time captive to illnesses both mental and physical. Some of them may find no rescue this side of heaven. Some of them are forgotten.

Can we be more like Jesus, my church? Can we, by his Spirit, not grow weary in doing good for those who don’t get better? Can we hold in our minds and hearts those whose needs defy the easy solutions of a meal schedule or a bunch of flowers? Can we love them long?

Can we pray for these who are our brothers and sisters? Can we pray, not once or twice, but until He calls or comes? Can we pray long?

May the body of Christ fly in her heart the flag of remembrance: You are not forgotten.
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