I Got the P.K. Blues Part Two

“Mommy play with me?”  I sighed quietly, staring at my desk in my home office, where piles of unfiled music and work stared back. My 3-year-old had fed, changed and walked her dolly all over the house in seven minutes.  The dolly went nappie and my busy girl needed the next thing.  The process of  putting away and getting out toys repeated itself every ten minutes.  One day, I let her just move from toy to toy with no clean-up in between.  The chaos of sorting mixed up Little People, Duplos, baby dolls, play food and puzzles made a disheartening mess to eventually deal with.

Ministry tasks that should have taken an hour or so often took twice that time because my thought train consistently derailed whenever my sweet girl was around. Juggling the duties of ministry and parenting never ended. I felt like I dropped a lot of balls, all the time.  In my last post I mentioned my failures prioritizing church work over mothering.  Sometimes they were colossal, as I reflect back on those days of young motherhood.  Praise God, my child never became bitter towards the church, no thanks to me.  Many p.k.’s resent their church because it seems to be their parent’s top priority.

Too often Ken and I left our daughter alone at home or shipped off to friends so we could accomplish ministry tasks.  For a child whose love language is quality time, this caused pain and loneliness more often than I like to imagine.

One of my favorite story themes is time travel.  I love the movie “Peggy Sue Got Married,” in which the main character relives high school with the advantage of possessing adult experiences, wisdom and knowledge. With adult eyes it’s easy for her to see mistakes and wrong turns.  Here’s what this Peggy Sue would change about my young parenting years:

  • Prioritize my daughter during her awake hours. My most productive time is early morning til about 2:00 p.m. Instinctively I tried to do all my music ministry work in the mornings when my girl longed for a playmate so much.  Instead of spending my evenings reading or watching television I could use those hours to work, instead of constantly fobbing off my daughter during her prime time.  I’d ask God to honor my desire to parent my child better and equip me to work efficiently after her bedtime. In spite of my poor example, or maybe because of it, my daughter is a champion in this area.  She makes the most of the awake hours of her three critters and still manages to teach college courses in composition AND maintain an outstanding, popular blog. (letterinoctober.com) When does she do cerebral work? My early bird girl (the two of us are often texting by 6:00 a.m.) plugs away during the evenings, after long days of mothering and housekeeping.

 

  • Include her more in ministry work and events. I could have allowed Jennifer to work with me more. Yes, it might take a little longer to accomplish tasks, but if you ask Him, God is a fountain of creative ideas for blending work and parenting.  My daughter does excellent work in this area also, but I can assure you she didn’t learn it in our home.  A wiser, kinder me would now accept jobs slower and less perfect in exchange for making my child feel important and welcome to work alongside me sometimes.

 

 

  • Say no to more invitations. Church folks and friends will come and go but your children will never stop being your children.  Sometimes I prioritized other people’s needs over my own child. Accepting too many invitations left my girlie with sitters too often, again.  I become teary-eyed when I think of the many times I left her for weddings, funerals, anniversary parties, etc.  My fear of offending anyone caused me to say yes to much.  Now, Ken and I would set appropriate boundaries for such things.  Expecting yourself to attend all of those events in your situation will set you up for failure somewhere else, probably at home.  Weddings especially, need firm boundaries as they involve the rehearsal and the wedding itself.   People might be offended by your boundaries if they so choose, but remember your job is to please the Lord first and love your family second.  All else comes after.

King David ruled his kingdom wisely but it seems that his parenting duties were sadly neglected.  He chose to produce many children by several different women but there seems to be no evidence that he spent time with many of them, teaching them God’s ways.  The fruit of his neglectful parenting is horrific, resulting in rape and murders within his own family and even an attempt to seize the throne by one of his sons.  The latter part of David’s life, as recorded in 2 Samuel, is tragic for his family due to seeds sown when they children were small.

If you are a young parent, I plead with you not to make your children feel like they are less important than your ministry.  Your actions will communicate far more to them than your words.  Are your children grown and gone and maybe you have some regrets like I do? It’s still not to late too prioritize your sons and daughters, if you are welcome in their lives.  If not, pray.  Seek forgiveness and reconciliation.   If you and your children are on good terms, then set aside some vacation time to be with them or do a vacation together.  Invite them for meals or some other activity you both enjoy.  You may have missed your chance to share their interests and passions when they were young so there might be some awkwardness there until you find some common ground.  Press through.  It’s up to you to decide whether your family will look more like King David’s or the Waltons.

 

I Got the P.K. Blues

“Sharon, you girls stop that fooling around now and start listening!” My grandfather’s correction from the pulpit stunned the congregation. Fans stopped waving, bulletins stopped crinkling, restless legs froze and a few women emitted quiet gasps. I felt a hot flame in my cheeks while my father glared at me from his chair on the platform and my mother’s head snapped up from the sermon notes she’d been writing in the choir loft.

In my childhood church, my grandfather, Charles Robins, served as senior pastor, my father as minister of music and my mother as a director of education, who also sang in the choir.  Passing notes and whispering during a Sunday morning sermon was risky business with three sets of eyes triangulated towards the pews.  My friends and I thought our back row spot served as cover for shenanigans. Wrong, wrong, oh so wrong.   Worse yet, my grandfather’s pre-Christ years as a ship builder, pool hustler and boxer trained him to have a booming voice, sharp eye and no fear of confrontation.  The teens in our church adored “Pastor Robbie,” for his straight talking style.  Normally, so did I.  This day, I wanted to go a few rounds with him myself for publicly calling me out this way.

The life of a child in a full time ministry family receives unique scrutiny from others, inside and outside of the church.  Sometimes pastor’s children are expected to act far above their peers.  Their failings can be gossip fodder.  They feel the pangs of neglect when ministry demands cause parents to be absent too much.  Without a proper framework to handle the special challenges of their position, many p.k.’s flounder and leave the church entirely.  The Barna group reports in a national survey conducted with ministers, an astounding 33% stated they have at least one child who no longer attends church anywhere.

We made our share of mistakes raising our daughter in a pastor’s home.   The large ones involved unbalanced energies between home and church.  A few things we did pretty well, though, and I humbly share them as ideas and encouragement for other ministry parents.

  • We consistently played together. No matter how tired we were, we prioritized fun.  Many times we silently cried out to God to give us strength to play Barbies, build sand sculptures or do yet another craft, but we did it.  The years when your children want to be with you more than anyone else are brief.  The repercussions of over spending yourself on ministry during their childhood can play out sadly when your kids are grown.  Listen to “The Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin, on Youtube.
  • We did not discuss church conflicts around our daughter.

Jennifer knew nothing of the heartaches we endured at the hands of others, when she was a little girl.  We didn’t want her to struggle with any of the conflicts we faced with individuals whom she saw on a regular basis. These were not her battles to fight. Surprisingly, some people who could find nothing positive to say about us were very kind to our daughter.

  • We did not expect her to “perform” for every guest in our home.

Although Jennifer is by nature very friendly and outgoing, she and I both find small talk to be uncomfortable.  When we hosted visiting missionaries, pastors, and such, we didn’t insist that she spend the entire time with the adults. We trained her to politely answer questions during meals and to help with hostess duties. Since she is an only child, we often encouraged her to invite a friend over during these times and permitted them to play elsewhere after the meal.  Frequently, she chose to stay with us and interesting guests but we respected her need to retreat when that’s what she needed.

  • We took responsibility for her spiritual training and education. In their busyness, ministerial families can potentially drop the ball here. You know, the cobbler’s children and the holes in their shoes idea. Sunday school and youth group are great, but we considered all that a supplement to our daughter’s spiritual development, not the main dish.  We taught her how to pray and have personal quiet times.  We grabbed teaching moments that life provided and taught her to apply the wisdom of scripture verses and stories she learned at church, to everyday life. When we didn’t have a junior church program, she sat by me in church while I drew pictures for her to illustrate her father’s sermon points, rather than just letting her mentally check out.

I am intimately familiar with the pressures and responsibilities of full time ministry but please remember that our first ministry is to our spouses and children.  The way we handle our own “p.k’s” and allow the church to treat them will greatly affect how they view the body of Christ for the rest of their lives.  Let’s do all we can to keep them firmly connected to their kingdom family.

 

 

 

 

First, Do No Harm

 

My first experience with death came at age 8 at a funeral visitation for a prominent man from my church.  Colorful, aromatic floral arrangements encircled the room. Well-dressed church folk stood in conversational clusters and hugged and greeted my family and I as we passed. This isn’t so bad. How come everybody makes such a fuss over this stuff?  From my childish perspective, so far this didn’t feel a whole lot different than a wedding. I wondered where they were keeping the cake.

My family progressed to the front of the room where suddenly I realized the main attraction at this affair wasn’t a bride. I knew Mr. Jones had “gone home to the Lord,” but no one prepared me for the startling appearance of what was left of him here on earth. During a vacation earlier that summer, my family spent a rainy afternoon in a wax museum.  So, after people die you make a wax figure of them maybe?

While I sorted the mystery in the casket, Mrs. Jones glided over to my family and said, ever so brightly, “Doesn’t he look just marvelous? Of course I know that’s not Howard anymore but didn’t they do a lovely job with his makeup. Doesn’t he look so natural?”  Huh?  My parents murmured quiet agreement and then attempted to express their sympathy but Mrs. Jones interrupted. “Oh don’t worry about me!  I’m doing just wonderful!  How can I be sad when Howard is with the Lord?” Double huh?  Didn’t mom tell Aunt Phyllis, on the phone, it was awful for Mr. Jones to die so young?

If Mrs. Jones ever allowed herself to grieve properly, she certainly never showed it at church.  Her unnatural, unrelenting happiness troubled my parents and others who feared, that at some point, she would break down, unable to live in denial of her loss any longer.

With adult perspective, I know Mrs. Jones probably sustained some soul damage by not allowing herself to feel the pain of loss.  Sometimes, at funerals and visitations I bang into people who want to take the same approach as she did, either for themselves or others.  They don’t allow a place for searing, raw grief and loss. Crying so hard your whole face and throat hurts is unthinkable.  Wondering aloud about the future and immediate, pressing decisions shows a lack of faith in God.

Your position as a ministry leader will place you into funeral homes and houses of grief.  After you’ve left will people feel better or worse? Will they feel their faith isn’t quite up to your standards or will they sense the peace and comfort that God would like to impart to them through you? That’s up to you.  Here are my suggestions so that you can be helpful, not harmful.

  1. Don’t say “I know how you feel.”  Recently, a dear friend said good-bye to a beloved father-in-law.  Mine went home to heaven three years ago.  Over the years we talked many times about the similarities in the personalities of our father in laws and our relationships with them.  The temptation to say “I know how it feels” might be there but the truth is I don’t.  Each relationship in this life is unique from any other.
  2. Affirm their feelings. I can say simple things like “It’s so painful to lose a parent ( sibling, spouse, friend, etc.) ,”  if I have experienced a similar loss.  Beyond shared experiences, you can simply allow grieving individuals to express honest feelings to you without you trying to “fix” them or cheerlead them with talk of “they are in a better place,” or such.
  3. Share your presence with minimal words. My daughter’s first pregnancy ended in a horrific miscarriage.  My husband and I sat with her and our son-in-law for several hours, just weeping together.  We didn’t offer many comments, just cups of tea, Kleenex and hugs.
  4. Offer specific acts of service.  Please don’t say, “If you need anything, just call.”  They won’t.  Offer to help with babysitting, housework, driving people to and from airports, shoveling snow, raking leaves, caring for pets and other everyday tasks.  Things like this pile up when people are weak from grief and overwhelmed with paperwork, funeral details and caring for their loved one’s possessions.
  5.  Although it’s last on this list, it’s honestly the best thing you can do for grieving people. Ken and I  said good-bye to three parents in the last four years.  Each time, I can sense when the prayers of our friends and church family kick in and kind of carry me along through each season of grief.  Prayers call down the mercy and goodness of God into a heart broken by the wrenching away of a loved one.

Whenever you are called upon to minister to grieving people, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with wisdom, knowledge, discernment and ALL of his fruit.  Ask God to let you be a healing balm, not abrasive sandpaper.

 

 

The Leah Syndrome

 

My polite smile began to cramp my cheeks.  “Pastor Jones wife always worked at our pig in a blanket fundraiser. Such a wonderful way with pastry,” the chairwomen of the women’s guild chirped while smiling sweetly. A circle of expectant church ladies stared at me, waiting for my presumed, “Oh, I’d love to help out,” answer.   Their polite disappointment showed when I replied, “Well, let me check my schedule with Pastor Ken and get back with you.”

First of all, new to West Michigan, I couldn’t cipher why selling pigs wrapped up in blankets worked as a fundraiser.  Secondly, “making dough” sounded suspiciously like it involved baking somehow.  I hate baking. I do it “heartily unto the Lord,” for family and friends but that’s it.  Additionally, our responsibilities with youth and education in the church left Ken and I scant free time.  Burning it up away from him, with pie dough and pigs no less, sounded quite unappealing.

In every church and school where I’ve served, at some point I am subjected to a comparison between myself and my predecessor.  Dialogues that begin with something like, “You know, our last pastor’s wife …….” or “Our old teacher always…..”  make me feel squirmy. I know this is the prelude to me explaining or defending something I’m doing, or not doing, or not doing right.

I used to think all my predecessors possessed mythical levels of kindness, wisdom, energy, creativity and time management, based on what church members or students told me.  Then I started meeting some of them.  One teacher I replaced suffered a nervous breakdown from the stress load of the same class that left me frazzled each day.  I felt compassion for her emotional wreckage but I also felt a burden lift when I realized she might not have been quite the superwoman my students described.

It’s painful to be the Leah in a situation.  Even the description of her and her sister Rachel, in Genesis 29:17 makes me wince to read it. “Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.” Leah never receives the best love of her husband, Jacob.  A pawn in her father Laban’s schemes, she must suffer through the rejection of Jacob being aghast that she is under the wedding veil, instead of Rachel.  Her new husband is so disappointed; he insists on marrying Rachel as soon as his wedding week with Leah is complete.  That’s a truckload of rejection.

The rest of Jacob and Leah’s marriage is a sorry tale of Jacob consistently cherishing Rachel over her sister, even though Leah bears Jacob his firstborn son, plus five more and a daughter. When Jacob is fearful that his reunion with Esau will end in bloodshed, who does he put at the very back of his caravan, farthest from Esau’s private army? Not Leah, and his firstborn son, Reuben.  No, Rachel and Joseph are placed at the rear of the caravan with Leah and her children ahead of them.  The message is clear; if wives and children are to be murdered, then Leah and her children will die before Rachel and hers.

Do you ever get that Leah feeling, like you just come up short in someone’s estimation?  Do the ghosts of the past haunt your environment?  Take comfort in the knowledge that your predecessors probably felt the same way.  You can also choose a different mindset that will help you to resist a spirit of offense or rejection when someone holds up your shortcomings to the gilded memory of someone else.

First, let’s consider Leah again.  Jacob might not have been her hero but God championed her cause.   “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.” (Genesis 29:31) Ultimately, the Lord gave Leah numerous children while Rachel only ever had two and died giving birth to the second one.  Also note, that although Jacob treasured Rachel the most, God honored Leah’s family line far more by placing her son, Judah, in the genealogy of Jesus. To this day we know our Lord as the Lion of Judah.

There may be folks in your church, ministry, or workplace that never truly celebrate you and only ever tolerate you.  Their loss.  If you faithfully serve where God positions you, rest assured His heart is turned towards you.  He will bless the work of your hands if you labor heartily for Him while dishing out grace to your detractors.  Let Him deal with those who idolize your forerunners.  Don’t’ allow your emotions to rise and fall with people’s thumbs up or thumbs down.  Trust God to be your champion, your vindicator, the glory and lifter of your head and your greatest fan.

Bright Stars in Dark Nights

Bright Stars in Dark Nights

I felt a familiar stiffness in my face while I led worship. My facial muscles ached from trying to keep joy on my face with knots in my stomach. A number of folks showed their ongoing displeasure with new worship songs by folding their arms, shaking their heads and glaring at the worship team.  Sometimes they’d even sit down, read a bulletin or ignore us altogether.  Sometimes very unhappy people verbally assaulted us after the service, in loud volume.

On the platform, we musicians worked to return smiles and joy for frowns and glares. We selected music prayerfully, thoughtfully.  Nevertheless, some members refused to sing anything written after 1950.  I continued to cast vision and pour out encouragement to our creative arts department.  Sometimes, though, depending on how many conflicts crossed my path earlier that week, I felt terribly disheartened worship services also.

In my conversations with dozens of music ministers or creative arts pastors, I’ve learned that the scenes like the one above continue to happen weekly in churches across our nation.  Maybe in your church it’s a rejection of music written after the 1990’s or a displeasure with the types of instruments your using. Perhaps they don’t like the choir numbers you’re selecting or the fact that you don’t use a choir anymore.  Music and emotion are so intertwined it’s not surprising that passions can run high when people feel like you’re messin’ with their tunes.

Conflict and criticism can create black nights of the soul where you question your calling and gifts.  Look up! Like the stars in the heavens, God’s mercies can be seen best in darkness.

For a long time, my worship team endured worship services more than enjoyed them.  I believe God allowed us to remain in the fire for awhile so He could accomplish His purposes in us.  Here’s some things we learned during our time on that particular battlefield which can apply to ANY ministry.

  • Flesh fails. Only God’s strength kept smiles on our faces, songs on our lips and ongoing forgiveness in our hearts.
  • Conflict reveals motives. We were forced to shed insecurities that desired EVERYONE’S approval.  We hunkered down under the armor of our senior pastor and board’s approval of our musical choices and then learned to sing for an audience of One.
  • Battlefields create bonds. We formed deep, agape friendships, binding one another’s wounds and covering each other’s backs.
  • Iron is forged in heat. We learned to remain steady and calm returning gentle words for hot, angry ones.

We love the starry nights of the physical world.  Beauty splashed across the deep blue heavens inspires songs, poetry and paintings.  As believers we need to be just as moved by the brightness of God’s character and activity during our spiritual midnights.

Throughout His word, glowing stars of comfort, hope and promise are everywhere to be found. How would we ever understand the profound beauty of passages like Psalm 23 if we never walk through the shadows of sorrow?  Can we truly appreciate God’s assurance we will not drown in Isaiah 43:2 if we’ve never floundered in a sea of trouble? Let me close with some of my favorite Scripture “stars,” to encourage you.

Psalm 139:12 “Even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.

 

  

               

 

 

What’s the Point of Being Good?

 

The stony silence of the congregation ushered me back to my seat in the second pew. The sanctuary suddenly felt chilly. I wanted to sneak out during the prayer before the sermon but rejected that kind of cowardice. So, I stayed through the service and quickly passed through the glare and stare gauntlet waiting for me on my way back to my car, in the parking lot.  As I drove away I felt confident there would be no future invitations for me to be guest music ministry at this church again.

In my early years as a pastor’s wife, many smaller congregations in our area enjoyed hosting “special music,” guests, from other churches, in their worship services. My full schedule caused me to resist this notion, initially.  Several of my own church members insisted that hoarding my singing voice to our church alone seemed selfish. I allowed my name to be put on an area-wide “special music,” list and agreed to sing at other churches once a month.

I offered my best efforts for each invitation. Coordinating my music with the pastor’s sermon,rehearsing, and filling the hole I left behind at my own church, added hours to my work week. The thankful, positive responses I received from most congregations I visited, however, affirmed my decision to sacrifice time for neighboring small churches, until this day.

Months later I learned that this very traditional congregation considered hymns, in their original form, to be the only appropriate music for worship.  Well, perfect.  No wonder the room turned icy when I presented an alternative arrangement of an old hymn.  The song had been well received in my church and others but was definitely verboten in this one.

The experience left me frustrated, and questioning my commitment.  I didn’t lack for work at my own church.   Why should I risk the chance of this kind of rejection again?

I’ve been frank in my posts so far, that sometimes I was the architect of my ministry troubles, but my mistakes and sins were NOT the only situations that landed me in hot water. The truth is, trouble will find you.  In fact, doing good can get you into trouble.  God led me to share my gifts with others and do so with excellence.

Consider what doing the right thing led to for Joseph.  He honored his father by searching for his brothers.  This obedience landed him in a pit and then slavery.  He refused to have sexual relations with Potiphar’s wife so his moral integrity caused him to be branded as a rapist and imprisoned.  During his incarceration of fourteen years, for something he didn’t do, he faithfully cared for the needs of other prisoners.  The reward for his compassion was to be forgotten for two years, by the cupbearer, once he returned to his position in Pharaoh’s court.

I used to think that negative responses meant I wasn’t doing the right thing. Yes, that sounds silly when you see it in print, nevertheless, I somehow developed the notion that obeying God meant I would get more “Atta boys” than raspberries.  There is no Scriptural support for that. The Bible is chock full of folks who obeyed God amidst bad reviews, in the short term.

I once felt prompted by God to call on an older church member who spent much of the visit complaining to me about my husband. At the time I responded with a hardness of heart, vowing that I wouldn’t do THAT again.

In time, I learned to respond, not react.  I gained understanding that if your life isn’t being messed with in some way it means you’re probably not on the front lines for the kingdom.  Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said we’d have lots of troubles in this life, if we faithfully follow him.

Are you disheartened by some of the responses to your ministry?  Do you feel that your efforts towards goodness aren’t producing edible fruit yet? Is hardness creeping into your soul?  Joseph spent his teens and twenties in iron shackles, watching his youthful dreams drift farther and farther away. Only hindsight showed him that God used his incarceration to change a young dreamer into a man of iron character who eventually ruled over Egypt’s national resources and saved his entire family.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) This verse is my go- to when I am misunderstood, misrepresented and mistreated.  I remember that I serve a big picture God and that I am part of his grand plans, if I’ll keep obeying Him. What we experience at the hands of others serves only to drive tenacious and gracious women towards their destinies.

 

 

 

Lonely Holidays

 

“But why don’t ­we have any family to be with?”  My kindergarten daughter looked up at me, tears brimming in her blue eyes.  She is still our favorite party otter to this day, always anticipating the next opportunity to go somewhere and do something fun with people she loves. Although my family lived only two hours West and Ken’s family one-hour North, they were all unavailable for family picnics and parades during Memorial Day weekend.  My family owns greenhouses so for them the holiday means many customers and loooooong work hours.  Ken’s family owned a large sailboat and end of May meant getting the boat ready for the summer season.

Our friends were all off enjoying camping or cottaging with their extended family “up North” “down at the lake” or “at the beach.” (That’s how we roll in Michigan during the summers.  Holidays and weekends, our cities empty out to our abundant lakefronts and woodlands.) All week, Jennifer’s classmates jabbered excitedly about “going to Nana’s cottage,” “camping with our cousins,” “boating with my aunt and uncle,” etc. etc. etc. Just hanging out with Mommy and Daddy all weekend sounded quiet and lonely by comparison.

Following God often means moving away from family, friends and hometowns. Full time ministry families frequently spend many holidays alone.  Travel expenses and vacations must be reserved for Christmas, weddings and other important life events.  Smaller holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Labor Day, etc. can be incredibly lonely when you are separated from extended family, especially if God positions you in an area like West Michigan where people stay planted for many generations.   Even in very mobile areas where few people have extended family nearby, I’ve spoken with folks who, due to their ministry demands, struggle to find enough time to build family-like circles of friends.

Abraham, Moses, and Joseph all spent decades living far, far away from any extended family.  To achieve their destinies, God separated them from beloved siblings and parents.  Surely they experienced times of great longing and loneliness for those who knew them best and loved them most.  When my husband moved me from Central Michigan to Chicago, for graduate school, (a scant four hours away) I developed intense homesickness for the first time in my life.  Except for Christmas, we missed every other holiday with our families due to our work and school schedules and tight budget.

After a very tearful Labor Day weekend, we decided to prioritize time and energy to make friends.  God graciously provided many quality, godly people who lived in the same on-campus apartment building with us.  We literally started knocking on doors and introducing ourselves, discovering that we were surrounded by a lot of lonely, homesick, newly married couples.  By Thanksgiving our circle of friends was so strong we celebrated Thanksgiving together in our tiny apartment.

Perhaps your family is all alone for this July 4th weekend.  I remember well what that feels like and I am praying God will show you some fun activities you can enjoy together.  Secondly, I’m asking Him to give you friends to spend time with on the next holiday.  God truly does provide for our needs “according to his riches in glory.” (Philippians 4:19) His wealth includes the richness of relationships.

If you are blessed to live and minister in close proximity to your extended family or lifelong friends, please look around you for those who might not, particularly families in full time ministry work.  Can you include them with your extended family or schedule a separate get- together with just your family and theirs?  Remember, we reap what we sow.  Just because you are ministering on familiar turf today doesn’t mean you will be a year from now.  Always be about the business of sowing good seed!  You never know when you might need to harvest it.

If someone extends an invitation to your family, don’t just brush it off.  God can use the most unexpected people and situations to bless us.  If no invitations are forthcoming, look around, just like Ken and I did in grad school. Did we feel kind of goofy just knocking on doors? Yup. Was it worth it? Absolutely.   There might be wonderful potential relationships right around you, just waiting for you to take the first step.  Ask God to open your eyes and heart to new people and new possibilities and trust Him to lead you.