Friday, July 18, 2014

Kickstart.

Happy Friday!


I hope your weekends are full of the very things you need.  I hope you spend time doing the things you enjoy with the people you love most.  I hope that you use this weekend as time to recover and prepare. And I thought I'd help us get rolling on the weekend with some posts and things I found rather wonderful this week:

Matt Walsh made me cry.  I hope I am able to speak this into my own daughters.

This is a great post by Rachel Held Evans.  I enjoy her writing so much--even if we don't always agree on things.

Encouragement from Ann Voskamp--always a breath of fresh air to read her words.

This was my most popular post this month (courtesy of Mama A).

And finally, my neighbor, Caroline, posted this on Facebook recently--makes me crack up every.  single.  stinking. time.  Be sure to have your sound turned on from the beginning of the clip.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! 
xoxxo


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Assault VII: Transparency.


There is a hidden fear among the ministry circles.  This fear is not spoken of in a personal sense--because no one really wants to admit that they struggle with it.  And, if they do admit to struggling with the fear, no one is going to share why they struggle with it.

Your ministry team wants the people to feel confident in their church.  They want their congregation to put their trust in their leadership and they want their ministries to grow in effectiveness and depth.  They want people to come just as they are, with all of their bumps and bruises and share how the Love has used those stories for His Good.  They seek people that can be honest about their imperfections and the ministers are honored to walk alongside of them in their journey.  They are blessed with the responsibility to help carry the weight of the people's hearts and always want to help the people seek the Peace they have been looking for.

However, your ministry team is going to be very careful about what they say about themselves, and how they say it, and whom they say it all to.  They are going to hold most people at arm's length when it comes to their personal struggles and issues.  They have learned the hard way that sometimes the church just isn't as nice as it ought to be.  It's full of sinners and liars and thieves.  It's full of gossips and angry and abusive personalities.

It's full of broken and pitiful people.  
Just like the members of your ministry team.

Your minister might stand in the pulpit and tell you some stories from his past as examples.  He will tell you victories and losses in his daily walk--but I have a feeling he's not telling you about the worst thing he's ever done or the thing that is currently eating him alive inside.  Your minister's wife probably has a smile on her face as she greets you with a hug and speaks to your children--but she's not going to tell you that she's falling apart on the inside with all of the weight of her family and husband's ministry on her shoulders.  That worship leader is singing songs about redemption, love, and mercy--but his heart refuses to believe the words are true for him as well.  

It's often too risky for them to share their deepest struggles with their congregation.  The people in the church are often not at a place to absorb the sins and struggles of their leadership.  The people say they want leaders and they say they know the leaders aren't perfect people--but one sin, one mistake, one action can send their ministers right out the door to the unemployment line.  And your ministry team often feels compelled to not let the people down in their expectations--so they suppress what's eating them alive and limp along trying to keep it all together.  

They've learned the hard way because they've been taught the hard way.  They've been burned by trusted leaders and members of a congregation before.  They've spilled their hurts and had them used against them.  They have been honest with their feelings when the church didn't want (or wasn't ready) to hear it and it made the wrong people upset.  They have seen that for every trusted person in the church, there are multiple others who ultimately want to bring them down.  

So they hide.  They hide their feelings from the people.  They hide their feelings from their leadership.  They hide their feelings from their family.  They have long and serious talks with the Lord, but they are scared to find people they trust enough to share their struggles with.  They are even careful to speak to other ministers about their issues.  Pride is a difficult thing to swallow, and even among the ministers there is an expectation of success and a fear of not measuring up.  

Need a visual?  Imagine a room full of football coaches (musicians, lawyers, military officials, politicians, etc)--and then put your ministers' faces on them.  It's the same situation, different faces.  They only want to share their stories of success.  They want to talk about the latest wonderful thing they have happening in their church.  They want to boast of numbers, of celebrations, of new and exciting.  They don't want anyone to know that their hearts can't keep up with the mounting pressure that ministry brings.

They've also seen the young (and often inexperienced) ministers who tend to share too much.  The ministers cringe at the words--and they discuss strategy, tips, and ideas--because they don't want the responsibility of telling the person that perhaps ministry is not their calling in life.    

And your seasoned minister does not want to be on the receiving end of those types of conversations.
So they suffer in silence.


Church, your ministers need people to walk alongside of them.  They need the people who are going to be straight with them in all of their ups and downs.  But more than anything, they need a friend.  They need to find those trusted people within and outside of their ministries to share their struggles with.  They need someone to share crazy and funny things that have happened to them.  Sometimes it's a family within the church, and sometimes it's another person in the ministry.  

My husband has been blessed with some folks in his life who have taken the time to really know him and his heart and are able to speak love, encouragement, and correction to him.  And because these people have proven themselves to be trustworthy, he is able to receive their words without hurt, anger, or judgement.  These are the folks he can be himself around, without any hidden agendas or favors or expectations requested in return for their friendship.  

There are certain families (inside and outside of ministry) in our lives and I don't know how we would survive without them--and I pray that we are the same support to them.  I know that when I'm around them I can say exactly how I'm feeling, and it's not going to be used against me nor will it be their next topic of discussion at lunch with others.  They let us be funny, they let us be parents, they let us be spouses, they let us be angry, they let us be heartbroken, they let us be completely human--and it is refreshing.     

If you are upset that a minister or his family isn't chummy with you, maybe ask yourself why you are feeling upset.  Why do you want to be friends with them--because you like them, or because you like the idea of being close to the inner circle of knowledge?  Trust me, there isn't (or shouldn't be) a popular table at your church.  Your ministers don't have time to deal with that sort of drama when they are in the business of saving souls. 

And if you've been chosen as their friend, guard that friendship.  
It is indeed a great honor.    

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mama A: Courtesy.

Hello my little darlings!

Mama A here after a lengthy hiatus and ready to share a little Christmas in July cheer!

SO MUCH FUN!

Photography by the delightful Lauren Thorn 
Or maybe some black coals if you've been naughty.  

It's sometimes difficult to get these brittle old lady bones moving, but I just have to get this off of my chest.  It's been simmering for a while now, and after several recent events that have occurred within my circle of acquaintances, friends, and family, I know that I am not alone in my feelings--and I felt it was high time to bring it to the table.

I used to believe that by living in the South, everyone was well aware of how to appropriately deal with situations and issues.  We were all raised with the fear of the Lord and Emily Post.  I know that my own personal mama taught me that Grace, kindness, and manners were expected.  

At all times. 
Even when you didn't feel like it.  
Even when you wanted to punch someone in the face.   
Repeatedly. 

Perhaps no one ever taught some of you how to be polite.  I get it--our school curriculums no longer have ample time for important things such as teaching beautiful cursive handwriting or character education.  The guidance counselors can no longer teach lessons with puppets and flannel boards and your poor teachers were frazzled and had absolutely no time to teach self-control.  Maybe your parents assumed that you just knew how to act because of your southern roots and bloodlines.  Maybe they are just as rude as some of you are.  Or, maybe you just ain't from around these parts (or as my childhood minister used to call it--you're one of "the cold winds blowing down from the north.")  I'm not sure what the deal is, but some of you folks have lost your minds.  I mean, this goes well beyond a "bless your heart" situation.  

It's become an epidemic of rudeness.  
In the South. 

Let us pause for a moment of silence.

My poor mouth has gaped open on more than one occasion recently (and we all know how I feel about mouth-breathers).  I am astounded by the behavior going on and enough is ENOUGH!

So, for the sake of sanity and clarity, let's discuss:

  • When you are at the grocery store, please do not leave your cart in the middle of the aisle while your children are roaming like monkeys.  And, if for some reason you do leave your cart, apologize profusely to the people in the aisle trying to move past you and your circus.  Then kindly collect and strap your monkeys down in the cart.
  • When posting a status update or tweet, please refrain from sharing your dirty laundry with the whole wide world.  And if you find yourself constantly in an argument with others over something they posted on the web:  stop and assess your behavior before you submit your response.
  • If you are dissatisfied by someone else's behavior--be it at work, church, Sonic, or the Wal-mart, please discuss the matter privately with the individual first.  Don't run to their supervisor, don't yell at them on speakerphone in public, don't bring along your gaggle of fellow meanies to the conversation, and don't copy people on an email that should be only intended for the "offender."  
  • Always ask yourself:  How would I feel if this happened to me?  How would I want the other person to handle this situation?
  • No one is thinking about you as much as you think they are thinking about you.  But, trust me when I say they are watching how you respond in difficult situations.  Think twice and maybe sometimes just don't say the words in your head out loud. 
  • When you are able to, apologize.  You might not be able to fix the situation, the person might still be upset, and you may deal with some serious consequences.  But, please at least apologize and do your best to move on from that situation.
  • Accept others' apologies and do your very best to move on from that situation. 
  • If an acquaintance gives you something out of the kindness of his/her heart, please do not turn up your nose and refuse.  For example, if the dear old lady neighbor brings you collard greens and you aren't a fan of the collards, all you need to say is "thank you so much!" and then once the neighbor leaves, call your collard-friendly friend and let them know you have a surprise for them.  It's a double rainbow of good deeds!  
  • If you receive something hideous from someone you know or are related to, smile and say "thank you!" and find one nice thing to say about it.  My girls know that if they ever open a box of cat poop (the most ridiculous present I could think of at the time of Hypothetical Situation Instructional Meeting in the car just prior to any gift-receiving event or function): they are to smile, say "thank you!" and find something nice to say about it. 
  • If someone you do not know says something offensive:  don't laugh, don't agree, and don't get all high and mighty.  Just discretely excuse yourself from the situation.  
  • If someone you know says something offensive: tell them and kindly offer suggestions as how to remedy their remarks.  Unless they are really, really old, then you may respectfully agree to disagree.  You may also want to duck, because the elderly around the South have been known to strike others about the head.  And sometimes our grandmas don't care about concealed carry permits.  
  • Pajama pants in public:  Never, ever, ever appropriate unless you are hooked up to an iv line and going to/from the hospital.  
  • If a funeral procession is passing, pull your dang car over and wait for the family and friends of the deceased to pass by.  While you are waiting you can pray and think nice thoughts about how you are blessed that you are not in that particular procession.  
  • Do not teach your children to yell, "Play ball!" at the conclusion of the national anthem.  For the love. 
  • When someone comes to your house, offer them something to drink.  Water is fine; coffee, lemonade, or tea are all better choices.  
And last, but certainly not least:
  • Wear the appropriate amount of undergarments in public.  At all times.  I don't think I need to expand on this one.  

My darlings, it is not that hard to use common sense and good manners.  Some of you might want to take your head out of the sand and remember that all the other folks (just like you) want to be treated nicely and with respect.

Let's be courteous.  

Because some of yo mamas would be smackin' you across the backside if they knew the stunts you were pulling in public/church/workplace. 


Love and smooches, 
Mama A.
xoxxo 


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