Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Am I A Functioning Church Member?

A friend of mine gave me a book tonight that I had been hearing a lot of good things about. I have always been an avid reader and from time to time, I will talk about a book that I read and enjoyed with another book lover. VERY SELDOM, do I go on and on about a book....proclaiming it a must read! However, the book that I was given tonight, is just that!

"I Am A Church Member" by Thom S. Rainer is an amazing book that EVERY church member, regardless of the denomination of your church, should run out and buy!

It has six short yet powerful and moving chapters. After each chapter there is a pledge that you can pray about and then hopefully make. It is only 75 pages long, so it is possible to read it in its entirety in a couple of hours. It is a straight shooter in its approach to make the reader dig deep in their heart and ask themselves the tough questions...."Am I a functioning member of my church?" "Do I serve or do I expect to be served?"  "Do I minister?" "Am I trying to be a blessing to others?"  :Do I encourage gossip?" "Do I seek unity in my church?" "Am I willing to be inconvenienced?" "Do I have to have my own way?" "Do I pray for my pastor, even though he is my husband?" "Is my family worshipping together as we should?" "Do I treasure the gift of membership?"

All of these questions and more are what you will be asking yourself as you read. As I read, I realized, sadly, that even though I am the pastor's wife, I fall very short of being a "functioning" member. I am not sure that I have ever looked upon my membership as a gift. I do now! Many of the no no's in this book, are things that I have done (and do) whether it is consciously or unconsciously! Goodness, you would think I'd know better!

There have only been two books that I have read that I have thought powerful enough to call "life changing."

1. "Battlefield Of The Mind" by Joyce Meyer. (I read it once every year!)
2. "So Long, Insecurity" by Beth Moore

Now, I can add this to that very short list of mine!

God has really moved swift and furiously in my heart as I have read this book! It is powerfully thought provoking. It has made me want to seek forgiveness from those I may have hurt in my church! It has moved me toward forgiveness and allowed me to let go of grudges I have held onto. It has spanked me! It has stepped on my toes! It has me desiring unity in my church family.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

How Do You Feel?

I have been bombarded with questions recently about my feelings on "gay marriage." When I do not give what others perceive as the "correct answer," I notice that it is asked in a different way, yet it remains the same question.

So, for all of those enquiring minds that will not rest until the preacher's wife answers the burning question of the are my thoughts, and they are solely MINE.

First, I feel that a lot of times when someone asks me a question regarding my feelings on a myriad of topics, they are not actually hoping to learn how I truly feel about something, they just would like to trip me up. Maybe, they even believe that as a pastor's wife, and a Christian, that ALL of my feelings and beliefs should perfectly line up with scripture! I wish that life were that simple. Sadly, I am a very flawed HUMAN being. While I know that I am not God, I do strive daily to be Christ like. It is a goal that, until the day I take my last breath, I will still be working toward.

Second, my answers will NOT be the same as every other Christian walking this earth. Just as many have very passionate beliefs regarding homosexuality and abortion, among other things, so do I. I may not walk around waving a banner and shouting from the rooftops what I believe and how I feel, but I still FEEL. Examining my heart on a daily basis is very important for me to keep me in right standing with my heavenly Father. So, that said, there are many things that I keep in my heart, deeply personal, between God and I.

This is what I will say.....I believe in "loving my neighbor."  Who is my neighbor? My neighbor is the unwed mother... the school teacher......the gay or lesbian couple..... the attorney.......the adulterous man or woman..... the preacher......the lying teenager..... the grocery store clerk.......the prostitute....the person that ignores the plank in their own eye and trying desperately to pull out the speck in another's......the abuser.....the elderly...the waitress....the college student, etc.

I believe in "loving my enemy." Who is my enemy? Anyone that doesn't believe exactly as I believe? No! Someone that is hostile towards me and is bent on destroying me. That could be ANYONE! I am forever vigilant in watching for the enemy that roams around like a lion looking to devour me. So far in this life, I haven't found that to be anyone that has committed what so many find to be the worst sin imaginable, homosexuality.

There are so many sins spoken of in the Bible. I am indeed a sinner. I am saved by GRACE. Thank God for His mercy anew each day! Where would I be without it?

So, my thoughts are this.....I am on this earth to LOVE. I can love ANYONE and EVERYONE because HE first loved me! I am going to love EACH and EVERY person put in my path in this lifetime. I am not going to ask "Are you gay?" "How much money do you have?" "Have you ever lied?" "Did you ever have an affair?" You see, I do not need to know all of that in order to love the way Jesus loves. Being a Christian has not made me one of the ELITE....or thrust me into an exclusive club. I am a sinner saved by grace...a dirty sinner made clean by Christ.

I eat with sinners. I hang out with sinners. I am even married to a sinner. (And so is he!)

I guess the way I answer the question "How do you feel.....?" my honest answer would have to be....I feel undeserving of God's perfect love. I feel humbled by His grace. Now, how do I make others feel and know this love?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Feed Me

A lot of changes have occurred in the Wallace house since I late wrote on my blog. Scary, exciting, stepping out on faith type changes.

I told God and myself last year, that 2013 was going to be a time that I stepped out of my comfort zone. Being relatively shy and "blending in" is where I am most comfortable. However, for the last several years, I have been hearing that still small voice, urging me to step out on the water. Not being the best or strongest swimmer, I have hesitated. Actually, I have refused. But that all changed for me in May.

After having taken Lay Speaking courses since Ken and I married, I hadn't done a whole lot with it. I enjoyed going to the classes. I soaked up the knowledge that was presented by the pastors that taught the classes. I even LOVED writing the sermons. The hard part for me was to stand in front of the people and deliver the sermon. I am in no way trying to be arrogant when I say this....but, I knew that the sermons were good because whenever I begin to write anything, whether it is a letter, a blog or a sermon, I ask God beforehand to give me the words HE wanted me to convey and I would write them. I did everything else on faith...signing up for the classes, getting up early on two weekends to attend, getting there on time, putting everything I could into the class, going home praying and then writing the sermon...and then, time for the presenting of the sermon....I froze. I felt like if I stepped out of the boat, I'd sink straight to the bottom.

I told my husband on several occasions  that I loved writing the sermon, I just could NOT preach a sermon. I allowed my fears to take over and rule me. This went on for almost 5 years.

In May, I decided that God had been patient with me long enough and I was just going to do it! I contacted the Director of Lay Speaking for the Clarksville District and let him know, I was ready to go out and speak and to please keep me in mind. He had returned my call almost immediately and let me know that he would indeed keep me in mind, but there hadn't been that many to need anyone lately. I have to admit, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then, two days later, he called me and asked me to preach at a two charge church. I agreed. While in the middle of working on that sermon, he called yet again and asked for me to preach at another church the following week. I agreed. A few days, later, yet another phone call to preach at another church! I agreed.

I have to admit, I had to take a minute to process it all. I even told God, "Okay, I got your message, I am going to step out of the boat and even though I am scared to death. I am going to keep my eyes on you and just do it scared!"

I got through the first time, the second time, third and now fourth. And, while I am not an ordained pastor like my husband or a lot of our friends...this is what I have seen in these four churches and every other church I have ever gone to.

Some people come to church because they have always gotten up on Sunday mornings and gotten themselves ready and headed to church. Others, come because they want someone, the pastor, a Sunday School teacher, spiritually spoon feed them. While others, prepare their hearts before they ever walk out their front doors, for worship. They go to church in anticipation of being blessed and/or being a blessing to someone else.

I also realize that the sermon that God has laid on my heart and given me the words to preach...are not going to touch everyone in the same way. I can either feel crushed by the weight of others judgment or thank the Lord for speaking through me to that ONE person that needed those words.

I love my church and my church family. I also love contemporary Christian music. We do not get a whole lot of it in my church. That use to bother me a lot. But it never keeps me from praise and worship. I listen to the beautiful words of every song and watch our choir as they sing and it moves my heart. Not every sermon that my husband preaches, sends me into the "Amen, Hallelujah" cheering section.....but, I am not there for the church to spoon feed me spiritually. I have my Bread of Life at home that I dive deep into daily....I have a direct line of communication with my Savior, so when things are not "happening" for me in HIS house....I ask God to show me FIRST, what is going on IN ME, that is hampering me from getting fed. He always shows me, and I never resent it because I know that there are areas I need to always work on in order to be fed.

It is so true....every church you go to has the same 5 people. Bishop McAlilly spoke about this at a pastoral retreat my husband attended. So, even if we grow discouraged with those people in one church, rest assured, we will find them in another.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when Jesus feeds the multitudes. The disciples were there and they knew that the people were hungry, but there was nothing that they could do because they had limits. But Jesus did not, did He? I think this is a reminder that when we, as Christians, look to men or women, flawed human beings in their own right, to give us what we think we need, we are ALWAYS going to come up short. Jesus is the only One that can fill you up!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Loving Lent

For the last 4 years, I have given something up for Lent. Having been raised in the Baptist Church, we did not observe Lent in the same way  the Methodist Church does, where I find myself presently. The first year after Ken and I got married, I didn't "observe or participate" in Lent because I felt I had already given up something....being a Baptist! However, the next year I found myself eager to give something up. That first year, I gave up chocolate. Anyone that knows me knows that I am a lover of ALL THINGS CHOCOLATE! The next year, chocolate again! I really do love my sweets, but I am not sure that it felt like a huge sacrifice to me. Last year, I gave up ALL sweets and I really thought I was giving up something major.

This year, I went in a different direction. I am always striving for a deeper, closer relationship with God. I never want to stop growing in that relationship....the most important one I will EVER nurture. So, this year I asked God to speak to my heart and let me know what He thought I should give up. I was very surprised by what He laid on my heart (and so quickly too!).

I have given up Facebook for Lent. I didn't go into this lightly. I love Facebook for a lot of reasons. I love to read all of the encouraging things my friends post. I love scriptures that Ms. Helen puts up every single morning. I love seeing pictures of my grandchildren. And, just to be completely honest, I love Bingo Blitz. But, I have given it up for these 40 days and I am okay with that!

After our Ash Wednesday service at church, I was happy to see that once we got home, I didn't begin to suffer any Facebook withdrawals. I didn't get on the computer at all. I found myself studying the Word more. I am reading the books that I have bought for inspiration and encouragement. I am digging so deep to figure out who God wants me to be. I am talking to my Father in heaven a lot more.

Yesterday, I took my 9 year old daughter to two different nursing homes and she handed out her hand made valentines. The smiles on the faces of all those precious senior citizens warmed my heart and thrilled Nevaeh. We stopped at an apartment complex and she went to the door to give a couple of women her valentines and they hugged her and thanked her profusely. Our last delivery was to my little granddaughter Riley in Clarksville and then we had lunch together. We discussed why we give up things for Lent along with a myriad of other topics.

As we were returning to Erin, Nevaeh asked me if her Papa would be home when we got there. Ken had been at a meeting and then had some Valentine deliveries of his own to make in Clarksville, so I told her he would not be home for awhile. She seemed saddened by this. She then dropped a bomb on me. "I really wish Papa was going to be home. I really want to go to the park and I know you like to rest in your room in the afternoons." WOW! Usually, after we home school, I do retreat to my room for some alone time and I am usually on my computer got it, FACEBOOK!

When we did get home, Nevaeh went upstairs and I sat in my recliner thinking....this is the time that I would probably be on facebook, reading and responding to posts. But at that moment, God spoke to my heart and told me, "Take your daughter to the park!" It was a lovely day, the type we do not often see in February. I called her down and when I said "Let's go to the park," she was overjoyed. We walked hand in hand to the park and played for an hour and then over to the library.

Last night, before Nevaeh went up to bed, she brought me a little Valentine bag. Inside there was a beautiful handmade card with the red ribbon I had put in her hair that morning. She had put a red heart sticker on the outside and on the inside she wrote...."Thank you mommy for making this the best Valentine's Day ever!" She also included a valentine sucker (since you did give up chocolate too, mommy!) and a little plastic heart that had a little silver bracelet in it of hers.

Moments like that come along rarely in life. When your child, gives up their "treasures" for you out of love, you see God in those moments. I would have missed that and more yesterday if I had ONLY given up chocolate.

Every year, Lent becomes something MORE for me. This year, yes, I gave up two things....Facebook and chocolate. But, it is NOT really about what you are giving is about what you gain! I thank God for all He is showing me and what is yet to come.

Even though I will share my blog and all of my friends and family will see it from Facebook, realize that I am not on there. I am really going cold turkey here.....I am loving Lent!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Love Letters

As we draw closer to Valentine's Day, many women are getting that downright giddy feeling of anticipation. "Is he going to send me flowers?" or  "Will he pick out a beautiful piece of jewelry?" or even, "I hope he remembers!"

Valentine's Day is a special day for many. It is the "official" day of love. I have a dear friend that said something years ago that made me see this holiday in a totally different light! I worked with a young man named Michael and he lived with his single mom and two sisters. They were and continue to be a loving, close knit family. As Michael and I were having lunch so long ago, it was almost Valentine's Day and I asked him if he was going to be doing anything special for his mom and sisters and I will NEVER forget what he said.

"I like to do special things for my mom and sisters all year. Valentine's Day is just a day on the calendar for loser guys that don't do nice things for their women all year long." I  had to admit, he was right. I do love Valentine's Day, mostly through my daughter's eyes....she lights up when she gets flowers delivered. Even so, her Papa does special things for her all throughout the year.

This week, I received a Love Letter a little early. I opened the envelope and it was a single sheet of notebook paper, handwritten, all in red ink and it is and forever shall be a cherished treasure. The first part of the letter was from my mother and it reads....(anything in parenthesis or capitalized is Mom's):

To My Baby Girl Julia Whom I'm so proud to say, "I'm Julia's Mom. Please always remember that! This should probably be taped to your bathroom mirror where you could read t everyday.YOU may not realize it Julia, but it is 100% true.

1. There are at least 2 people in this world that would die for you.
2. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way. (many more)
3, The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they want to be just like you. (oh yes!)
4. A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don't like you.
5. Every night SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.
6. You mean the world to someone.
7. You are SPECIAL and UNIQUE!
8. Someone that you don't even know exists loves you.
9. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good comes from it. (Right?)
10.When you think the world has turned its back on you, take another look! (A loving command from Mom)
11. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

God loves you Julia, and so does your Mom, very much. God Bless. Now start and continue to write. You have much to say and give through your writing.

And then at the bottom, yet another love letter:
Good morning Julia, this is God, Creator and Owner of the entire Universe. I will be handling ALL your problems today. I won't need your help. Ok? So go have a nice day.
Your Father God

After I finished reading this my heart was so full. All of the love that my mom has for me, she wrote out on paper. It means so much in this particular season of her life because mother is getting older and she tires easily, has arthritis and sometimes it's hard for her to write. I realize that there is NOTHING that I really want or need that could top what mother gave me for Valentine's Day.

I pick up my Bible and read and study each day because my mother FIRST did the same. I go to church and serve God because my mother did FIRST. The first LOVE LETTER I ever received was that little rainbow Bible placed in my hands with Jesus sitting on a stone with all of the little children  gathered around Him.

So, as Valentine's Day gets closer and closer.....many men will find themselves out searching for just the right gift and I know that their wives or girlfriends will love and appreciate whatever was chosen for them. As for me, I will read and reread this love letter from mother and when I see that red ink, I will think of Christ, shedding His precious blood for me. I will hug the Scripture closer to me....because It is and forever will be the greatest Love Letter ever written!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Teach Us All Lord

The majority of the time, I stay away from commenting on political issues...I have learned, especially after this presidential election, people can be VERY serious about their politics. The truth is, I couldn't get on Facebook even one day, for the better part of last year, without being bombarded with attack ads on both candidates and it always bothered me. The naive child inside of me just wanted to see a nice, clean well run arguing, just their individual platforms and then allow each and every person to go out and rock the vote!

Well, it didn't happen that way and I made the mistake of making a comment on a post and it caused what I considered an all out "free for all." So, I stepped away and have been very careful since then.

However, I find myself in a territory again that I don't enjoy visiting...but sometimes, it is a necessity. If I have learned one thing, I do not act or react based on MY own feelings. I do give the Holy Spirit full control though....a lesson that took many years to learn. Obedience to my God is way more important to me than how any human being feels or thinks about me. That being said, brings us to the here and now.

I was reading some posts on Facebook last night and as always, there are several thing posted that I just pass without even bothering to comment. (Holy Spirit at work again, let me tell ya!) But, then I come upon a picture that I see...and I continue to look at it and read the sign the man in the picture is holding. I struggle with what my soul is speaking to me.....but, I have also learned to "wait upon the Lord" because I have noticed when I shoot off at the mouth, I tend to make a mess of things. The sign the man was holding read:

"Don't spread my wealth...spread my work ethic."

I sat for several minutes after having read it and did a little inner battle with the Holy Spirit, because I just thought "God is on the throne....He can handle this." And then it just didn't go away.....that is how I always know that I am being prompted to write...and I never feel they are my words, but His!

Personally, I feel that this statement goes against EVERYTHING that I believe in. Before I get mauled to death....understand I am not saying for anyone to go out and give away everything that you have. I do get that people work very hard for their money. That said, we are not all given the same chances in life. There are people struggling with drug addiction. Do we know why? What is their story? Were they abused? Did they grow up in a home where drug use was an everyday occurrence? We have single parents living in public housing with children. Some are bettering themselves by attending college and working toward a goal, while others are trapped in the never ending cycle of poverty they were raised in. WHATEVER the reason someone is not as fortunate as me is a non issue as far as I am concerned.

You see, years ago, I was one of those women. I lived in public housing. I was on food stamps. I was on government insurance. I struggled to make ends meet. I had lost my job, my home, my car...everything. I was married at the time and my then husband had lost his job too. There were times that I took my little baby I had adopted and cleaned apartments that people had abandoned in housing, just to take money off of our rent for the month. For me, it was a "stepping stone." I had lived in a nice home, had a good job, worked hard and had a nice car. My kids had, up until that point, had a pretty easy life. I had EXPERIENCED first hand, what life could be. Sadly, others are not as fortunate.

As a child of God, I take it to heart when I read "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked," (Luke 12:48) I am assured that everything I have was given to me from Christ. We must always remember that anything and everything we have, we did NOT acquire it on our own. I hear so many people say "Oh yes I did! Through hard work sweat and tears....I earned every single thing I have."  I am not disputing that you worked hard....but as a christian, we are given gifts and talents. If you have a strong work ethic, GOD handed that down to you...maybe it was through your parents. Perhaps it was from another adult that took you under their wing....but YOU didn't get their on your own strength and merit alone.

Scripture also tells us that God loves a CHEERFUL giver. I love to give. I have no problem giving until it hurts. I was on the other side of having "plenty." It taught me to not only give, but to reach out to others that are less fortunate....and when we reach out brothers and sisters....reach out with your hearts. When we are really looking to help others...we will do it in a way that allows God's children, made in HIS image, to retain their dignity. We never should do anything for another human being for the sole purpose of shining among men...if you do that, you already have your reward.

Yes.....the sign in the picture "Don't spread my wealth...spread my work ethic" touched a very sensitive spot in me. Maybe this man will be moved by Almighty God and say to himself...."I am not going to wait for someone else to teach my work ethic...I am going to go out there and look for ways to encourage, build up and help someone that is less fortunate. I will teach them what it means to have a strong work ethic."

 “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  That is a beautiful Chinese proverb I have read many times over the years. It is very true. If I were to make my own sign and hold it up for the world to see, I think it would say this....wish I could take credit for these words, but the God I serve said it:

"The KING will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for ME!"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Let The Little Children Come

One of the complete and utter JOYS of my life began eight years ago when my first grandchild Layne Brianna came into this world. My daughter, at the time, was living in Germany and it was six LONG months before I got to lay eyes, not to mention hands and lips, on my beautiful little Laynie Bug, as she has become affectionately known in our family.

Since then, I have been tremendously blessed with eight more grandchildren and this coming June, I will be able to add yet another to make an even ten. I can honestly say that having grandchildren tops my list of "great happenings in this life."  It makes every single teenage moment you go through with your own kids, every eye roll, every grounding....any and all things you just did not think you would possibly survive with your OWN kids....worth it.

There is finally that moment when you think..."They are just never going to grow up or they are never going to get where I am coming from....and then they go and do the unthinkable....they bless you with grandchildren.

My daughter Ryan and I often skype so that not only I can see MY baby face to face...but those beautiful grandchildren of mine. Several weeks ago, I had to have a couple of round places above my right eye shave biopsied and I will be the first to admit, I was very self conscious about it. I waited patiently (well, maybe not patiently...but, I did wait) for it to heal. I stayed in and didn't go out at all.  Yeah, yeah..."Vanity thy name is woman." Got it!

At did heal. The scabbing came off and I was left with a couple of round pink areas. At least I could now cover it with makeup! I was beginning to feel pretty good about it. My daughter had seen me without the bandages during this time of healing, and she was very encouraging. However, I never had the bandage off while skyping...just didn't want my grandchildren to see it.

Ryan and I were skyping and little 3 year Emma Kaye (she was given her middle name after her very proud Grammy!) was sitting beside her mommy and ever so often she would say something to me. I had on makeup and my hair was fixed (and not just in a pony tail.) I was feeling pretty good. And then Emma asked THE question.  "Grammy, what are those things up on your eye?" My heart sank. I thought they were not so noticeable. I took a deep breath and explained to her what the small scars were and she smiled at me and then she said something that I will FOREVER remember because it melted this Grammy's heart....she said, "I wish I had two just like that Grammy."

Emma had a love so innocent and so pure and it ran so deep for her came from a place that we as adults, possibly never discover....that she wanted what I considered my "uglies" my "scars."  It didn't look hideous to her. She loved me and wanted what Grammy had. At THAT very moment, I realized that THIS is the reason God says "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  Children come from such a place of pureness. They love so deep and so unconditionally. They wear their little hearts on their sleeves. They LOVE the same way God loves.

God doesn't just want all our good....He wants to take our scars and our "uglies" and heal and restore. The other day while skyping with my little 3 year old granddaughter, God used her in a very special way to touch my heart.....those few sweet words she said to me...."I wish I had two just like that Grammy," went a long way in my healing....and not just my surface scars.

Thank you Lord....Laynie, Kenny, Zoe, Emma, Collin, Riley, Christian, Ava, Zachy and in June our new little granddaughter Mykah.....Let the little children continue to come to me!