March 31, 2010

God's Greatest Gift

A few years ago, as one of my daughters and I were having a rather heated discussion, I finally said in exasperation that she should be grateful for all my sacrifices. (Ever said something like that to your kids?) She looked at me calmly and replied how could she know any different? She had never not known. For her it was hard to be grateful for something she didn't recognize as out of the ordinary. Her wisdom really made me pause.

In my Sunday School last week, we were talking about Holy Week and the teacher asked if it made an impact on our daily lives. To my utter sadness, most of the folks in the class said, No. They might come to church an extra time or two, but by-and-large, they really didn't do anything special for Easter. And that led to a long discussion about the differences between Christmas and Easter.

But how very sad, to take for granted God's greatest gift of grace. God's sacrifice of Jesus for us. Our salvation often counts for so little in our daily lives. But like children, perhaps we can't know what we've ever not known. God's grace is in the air we breathe. But many have never known that the love of God even exists. If we become more aware, perhaps we can be more visible witnesses.


What Would Jesus Do?

I wonder what Jesus would record if he kept a journal during these last few days of his life? Would he write prayers asking for strength? Would he record his feelings about the events that would occur later in the week? Would he leave a list of teachings and wisdom so that those who are left behind can know what priorities were important?

What Jesus did write was on the hearts of his followers. During this Lenten season, what are you writing on the hearts of others?

What are you doing this week to connect more deeply with Jesus during these last few days of his life?

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana

March 27, 2010

Preparing the Congregation for the Next Parsonage Family

Although you may already know that you are not moving, this is for those who do. Just as we grieve (or sometimes celebrate) leaving a church. There will always be some people who will grieve your leaving. Whether or not the church folk grieve your spouse leaving, but that doesn't mean they won't miss you and your family.

So if you are moving, how can you be a blessing for the next parsonage family? One thing you can do is talk about how you feel to a trusted friend. You need a safe place to process your feelings too. The next thing you can do is contact (when appropriate) the next spouse and make arrangements to show the parsonage. One friend I know even planted flowers in the yard especially for the next spouse. Giving the next spouse something special is a wonderful gesture. Of course, the next spouse will have feelings about leaving his/her church behind, so be patient. You can also pray for the next family and ask folks at church to pray for them as well.

I'm sure there are lots of other ways to prepare for the move, but pray to be a blessing and not a curse for the next family.

Are there other ways you've experienced? This is surely one way we can help each other. We are all in this together.


March 26, 2010

New Vision and Possibilites Also Bring New Fears

There are two United Methodist churches in Fishers -- the one my husband pastors: Fishers UMC, which was establish in 1875, and the Promise UMC, which began eight years ago. The two churches are 3 miles apart and through the years have collaborated on several programs.

The combined four pastors from each church had an idea last year to come together under one church with two campuses, so that all persons who attend these churches would have an opportunity to connect with programs already in place. There have been a few meetings in which individuals from both churches discussed and asked questions about this unique venture.

I attended the latest meeting last Sunday evening, during which persons expressed fear that their church would loose the identity each had worked hard to establish. Another fear was that each church would loose one or both pastors or that the four pastors would 'ride the circuit' so to speak and rotate preaching/teaching. Any change of this magnitude, of course, brings about anxiety and fear. However, one person summarized the vision of the meeting, "Our common mission is to bring persons to Jesus Christ and to offer ways for individuals to connect to God and to other believers." These words brought peace to those gathered as refining the project continues.

I am excited by the possibilities for service and connection that the Promise offers, as well as meeting new people.

Does your church have a unique vision? How are people responding? How do you feel?

Jacquie Reed Fishers, Indiana

March 25, 2010

Can you say "No" to an appointment?

Dear Friends, At our retreat, it came as a surprise to some that you can actually say "No" to an appointment. Frankly, I was surprised too. Looking back I don't think our family has ever said out-and-out "No."

But it seems that you can and that many have. I heard how when a former bishop threatened to move one pastor, the congregational objected by sending over 1,000 letters and hundreds of phone calls. That was back a while, but the bishop listened and the pastor served that church for over 15 years.

That raises the point, can you have long tenure at a church without saying "No" to other appointment offers?

When I discussed this with my spouse, he said that you can say "No" but that there are consequences. Apparently, the consequences are more serious for some than for others.

Have you ever said "No"? Might you? Should you?


March 23, 2010

Welcome to New Friends in North Carolina

Welcome to our new friends at Mt. Mitchell United Methodist Church in Kannapolis, North Carolina.


A Palm Sunday Parable: Bye, Bye Birdies

One of the advantages of living in a town where the average age is 29, is that there are children everywhere. I find children frequently offer parables about life in God's kingdom.

For example, a few days ago as I headed out of the Y, I saw an adorable toddler walking out the front door, holding her mother's hand, pointing to the sky, saying , "Birds, birds." Her mother tried to hurry her along, but the little girl was fascinated by the birds overhead. Finally, the dad, who was holding the door open, coaxed the child to walk faster. Then I heard the little voice saying, "Bye bye birds. Bye bye birds."

Later when I told a friend this story, she said, "Sometimes I am the little girl , focused and present to what is happening around me; sometimes I am the mother, hurrying along, preoccupied with my own list of things to do, missing the wonders of the kingdom. Sometimes I'm the father, waiting impatiently, getting frustrated with people who don't move fast enough."

Imagine you are in the crowd as Jesus enters Jerusalem that Sunday. Are you the little girl, waving a palm branch, watching Jesus pass by, noticing every detail? Are you the mother, scurrying around the marketplace, much too busy to see anything beyond her own needs? Or are you the father, curious but impatient to get this, whatever it is, over with?

Who are you today?

Jacquie Reed, Fishers, Indiana

March 22, 2010

These stats bear repeating

Dear Friends, Thanks for a great retreat. One thing I learned again is how hard we and our spouses work for the church and how we can encourage each other. This information was shared at our spouse retreat but bears repeating. (These facts come from Aldersgate Renewal Ministries.)

1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.

90% of pastors work more than 46 hours a week, leading to burnout.

50% of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.

80% of pastors believe that pastoral ministry affect their families negatively.

80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role.

50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could.

80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave within the first 5 years.

70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

70% of pastors say they have a lower self-image now than when they started in the ministry.

61% of pastors admit that they have "few close friends."

How can you help?


March 19, 2010

May God send you angels

Dear Friends,
This weekend is our annual spouse retreat. I understand we have a great group coming. Hope to see you soon.

On another note, being a pastor's spouse has given me many wonderful opportunities that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Perhaps as the days become brighter and warmer, it is easier to see the positives. Please remember that you are not alone. Anything you have experienced or are experiencing has happened before. If you need to connect, there are always folks willing to listen. While it is true, that spouses have to exercise care in finding safe persons in whom to confide, there are some available. It is true that when a person is hurting that is the most difficult time to reach out and risk. But God never meant for us to bear anything alone.

My prayer for you is that God will send you angels to surround you with God's ever-seeking love. If you need help, please ask. If you know of someone struggling, don't just stand by.
Last Sunday, I heard this story from a friend. A young mother kept forgetting to pick up her kids from baseball practice and even pack their lunches. Her friends were gathered waiting for ball practice to end and started talking about her behind her back. Finally, one stated in exasperation, "What's wrong with her?" To that, one of the friends mentioned that the mother had a stroke last year and hadn't been right since. "Good grief," my friend said, "Do you mean that she forgets because of the stroke damage? And you've known the whole time? Why didn't you speak up? The poor woman needs help." My friend, then walked away in disgust to find the mother's kids and take them home.

What my friend said, however, is telling. She said that she would never look at these "friends" in the same way again.

What we say is important, but what we don't say can be just a destructive.

If you know of someone who needs kindness or friendship, why not be the first to offer rather than pass by on the other side of the road? May God forgive us all.

Grace, Kathy

March 15, 2010

The birds are back. I am so glad to hear their chirping. Hearing the birds, makes me think of the music associated with the liturgical seasons. Hymns during Advent talk about "Do you hear what I hear?" "Hark, the herald angels sing," and "Let heaven and nature sing." Jesus was birthed hearing the animals in the stable. And surely, Mary sang lullabies.

While the early weeks of Lent are quiet, not soon enough, the chubby robins break the silence announcing the earth's reawakening. With Palm Sunday, we begin the the noise of a welcoming crowd that give way to angry shouts of hatred, then sobs of anguish from Jesus' followers.

What do you hear as you approach the Cross during this time of Lent? Describe the sounds that are in your heart. Do you hear noise or music? Perhaps there is a chorus that calls for repentance, forgiveness, celebration, or reconciliation? Please take a few moments to pray to better hear God's voice.

Jacquie Reed,
Fishers, Indiana

March 9, 2010

How Much Is Too Much Information

I grew up believing that spouses should share everything--no secrets. And I went into marriage with that idea. But as time has gone by, there are times that I'm glad that my spouse doesn't tell me everything. For one reason, it is unethical for him to tell confidences. I have to admit, though, sometimes I can guess anyway. Like the time some of youth parents were swapping mates. I didn't know, and still don't know, the specifics; but I could tell because youth do talk.
Or the time a church just didn't feel right to me. Later I found out about the hate mail that flew back and forth between various church families.

Of course, many church folks do believe that spouses share even confidential information. So sometimes, people assume I know things that I don't. Like the time a woman stopped by the house to talk to me about the affair her husband was having with another member of the congregation. She assumed I knew all about it. Before I could stop her, she gave me too much information.

What about you? Have much information do you and your spouse share about the church? Does your spouse ever share confidential information with you? Do you ever share any of that with your kids? (In my experience, kids usually know more than we often give them credit for.)


March 8, 2010

Clothed in Grace, Part II

My spiritual retreat concluded with an early morning prayer service and a final group summary. I left the monastery reluctantly but full of God's peace and presence. I was grateful for the opportunity to just be-- no meals, laundry, or phone calls-- a holy time of resting in silence as well as in new thoughts and ideas. I recommend taking time to go away once a year, every six months, or whatever works best for you. Sometimes I have even spent a day in a room in another church, with no one else and no agenda, just resting in God's presence.

Refreshing the soul can offer an indwelling of peace, new insights on scripture, or discerning direction for life. Take time to come to God and listen for God's voice.

Have you ever been on a spiritual retreat? If so, where do you like to go? Do you prefer having a focus or do you just try to be open to what God wants to bring?

Jacquie Reed, spiritual director, Stephen Minister, Fishers, Indiana.

March 4, 2010

Do you love Jesus but not the church? (new poll)

I've spoken with several people recently about the impact of being a ministry spouse (or a minister themselves) on one's personal faith.

For some, negative experiences in ministry have challenged their faith as they ask, "God, why would you call me/my spouse to this?" or "God, where are you in all this?" For some, a spiritual malaise has set in as they are unable to find spiritual nourishment in their current ministry setting and God feels very distant. For others, troubles in the church have brought pain but increased their reliance on God.

And for others, ministry is a wonderful, nourishing experience that has only strengthened their faith (I've heard they exist. ;0)

For me, I think I'd describe my faith with the words of the popular book They Like Jesus but Not the Church. I love God, I want to worship enthusiastically, I want to serve him and people everywhere, but it is seeming like all to often, the church has very little to do with those endeavors. And that disconnect causes me great distress.

Take the poll in the sidebar to share how your faith is affected. Positive, negative, or neutral? Feel free to elaborate in the comments.

When is the best time to move?

Dear Friends, I am helping lead a spouse retreat in the next couple of weeks and would appreciate your feedback.

In your experience how do you determine when it is time to move? Are there signs you look for?

For us, it seems that we've always been happy to stay. I especially have always advocated for family stability, even when my spouse would have been happy to move on. And while a couple of our moves were because the bishop wanted us at a particular place, there have been other times when the churches have been so unbearable/toxic that we just needed relief.

I had a bishop (not ours) tell me recently that the reason there are so many moves is because clergy request them. This surprised me for lots of reasons. About one third of our clergy move each year, despite promises of longer tenure by the Cabinet. This pattern has been in effect ever since we begin ministry about 30 years ago. Perhaps this just means that the more things change the more they remain the same.

What do you think is long enough or too much time at a church? When is the best time to move?


March 2, 2010

Want to be Clothed in Grace?

I am fortunate to live within thirty minutes or less of three monasteries: Sisters of St. Joseph in Tipton, Indiana (north of Indianapolis), Carmelite Sisters (west side of Indianapolis) and Sisters of St. Benedict in Beech Grove, Indiana (south side of Indianapolis). I spent last weekend at the Benedict Inn, participating in a retreat called "Women Clothed in Grace."

I arrived at the monastery on Friday, late afternoon, carrying multiple bags -- clothing, swimming, quilting and embroidery supplies, paints, pens, and paper. I felt like Maria in the "Sound of Music" carrying all of her earthly possessions in two large fabric suitcases as she walks to the monastery. "If I want to be open to new ideas and thoughts, why am I carrying so much baggage? I don't want to program my experiences into just quilting or embroidery or painting. I want to be completely open to what God will bring or to how the Holy Spirit might touch my heart." So I took all of my supplies back to the car.

I left "my baggage" behind, opening myself to whatever would occur. What about you? When you go to a new place or event, can you leave behind any preconceptions or expectations about what might happen? How able are you to remain open to God's leading? Do you want to be clothed in grace?

Jacquie Reed Fishers, Indiana, pastor's wife, and mother

March 1, 2010

Just when you think things are going well.

The other night we had dinner with another pastor and spouse--long time friends and colleagues. Their church is growing and in better financial shape than it has been in years, but they are moving. Why? Simply put, because this pastor is not like the last pastor. Seem unfair? There is more.
So the DS calls and says that they will move. The salary will be cut substantially, the kids will have to change schools, their college students may have to drop out, and the spouse will have to quit the job.
I don't know about you, but this breaks my heart for lots of reasons.

1. What kind of leadership allows their people (pastors and families) to be beat up on a regular basis?
2. What kind of leadership rewards good results and a job well done with punishment?
3. How many times can this happen to a family and not effect the pastor's ministry in the next church?
4. How may times can a family expect to be collateral damage and still feel good about the church?

Perhaps you say that pastors and families should not expect rewards. But should they expect punishment in the form of financial and family instability and anxiety?

You say, "Yes, but they have a guaranteed job and a house for free." And that is not nothing, but it is getting closer.

If leadership really want to improve the health of clergy, this is surely not the way.
If leadership really want trust, they need to earn it.
If leadership really want accountable, they also need to be accountable.