Caves and Stables

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and place him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7


At our house every year, we watch the movie “The Nativity Story” during the advent season. It’s a fun tradition we keep with some friends and their children on a Sunday afternoon, for a little advent respite from the busyness of the season. There is a scene in this movie that strikes me every time I watch it, right to the heart. Joseph and Mark make the long trek to Bethlehem, arriving in the dusk, the beginning of night. Mary simply says, “Joseph, the child is pressing.” The next thing you see is Mary, a woman very much in labor, breathing and struggling through. Joseph is running through the street of this tiny town yelling “Please, is there a place for us.” He knocks no doors, he lifts up Mary and carries her, as if to try to carry her very burden. He’s still knocking and yelling, “Please is there no place for us!” How appropriately Biblical. There is no place for them.
 
And in my heart every year I think, when I see this scene-
This should not be! Someone, find them a place! Someone, give them a room, sleep on a different pallet for the night for pity’s sake! Jesus needs a place to be born!
 
And I wonder, is this the way it had to be? Did God have a specific prophecy about Jesus needing to be born in a cave, in a stable, in a dank, dark place? Did God have a not directly prophesied big picture plan here for us to see Christ’s humility so very early on?  Maybe, obviously it is useful for that. But is it necessary? Or is it just one more thing in this world that is just not as it should be…
 
There are so many things like the stable in our lives. So many things that just don’t seem right. They may not be deep injustices that need to be resolved and conflicted over and struggled through, but they are the smaller issues- the small slight from someone at church, the hurried words of someone just not thinking, or being in charge of the Christmas play for the thousandth time because no one else wants to do it, or calling someone in our family because evidentially it is just too much trouble for someone to be the person picking up the telephone first. I’m not sure what little things are in your life, but there are the things that yell – “This isn’t right! Does anyone have a place for me! Does anyone notice I’m trying so hard?!” 
 
A few chapters later in Luke 9, Jesus himself tells us, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Things are not has they should be still, for Jesus. Born in a manger, sojourning with us for 33 years, to walk the path to the cross. Nothing with beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, no place for Him.

So, how do we respond when we get the slight or the frustration or all the small issues that just should not be? We pick up, we move on, we give new birth and new life to the situation by God’s grace and power and mercy.  Because our caves, our stables, are to God still a thing of beauty, because they contain our Savior shining brightly in the midst of the darkness, in the dankness of every situation. 

What are you struggling with this advent season? Bring it to the Lord. He always has a place for us. Let’s share the small burdens together. He makes room in our hearts for each one of us to share the journey together. 


 

Is he my pastor or my husband? Spiritual Care in the Clergy Marriage

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.                                                               Ephesians 5:25

 
Spiritual care in the clergy marriage. It’s something I’ve been contemplating for a long time. God invented the idea of husbands and He invented the idea of pastors. Surely He knew that these two things would reside together, under the same roof. Of course He did. I just wish He would have given us a little bit more instruction on how to do this particular thing well. 
 
Can my husband also be my spiritual care giver? Perhaps it’s something you’ve never contemplated, but you’ve probably felt the difficult dynamic. It’s a difficult time in your life, a difficult season, maybe it’s a marriage struggle, or trying to be a new mom, moving someplace new, a hospital visit, or a difficult situation with one of your adult children. Fill in the blank for some kind of challenge. Many people take these struggles to their pastor. They lean on their spouses and family for support, but they also dial the church’s number or check the communion card box and ask for a visit from the pastor. 
 
What if your pastor is your husband? What if you wake up every morning next to that person and wonder “How did he miss that I’m hurting?” or “How can I burden him with my junk? He’s got so many people to care for.” or “He’s stressed out enough as it is, but Lord, I need someone to care for me.”
 
Can our husbands also be our spiritual care providers? 
 
After a lot of contemplation, lots of stories from other beautiful pastor’s wives, and some time in prayer and the Word… Here is what I will present on the subject so far.
 
Can our husbands also be our spiritual care providers? Yes. And no.
 
Husbands are certainly always the spiritual heads of the household. We as wives lift them up and honor them in this position. Husbands pray with us and for us naturally in this position. They lead our families and guide the family ship through the turbulent sea of life. Pastors should, in theory, be exceptional at this role. They know the Biblical picture and seek to fulfill it in their homes. Obviously sin comes in, people fail, life overwhelms. Even in the pastor’s family. 
 
However, one problem, I think is that somewhere in trying to love us as wives and minister to us as pastors, care gets lost. Your husband is always your husband, loving you deeply, even when sin creeps in. But how can you know when he is your pastor? 
 
Even when a pastor’s wife sits in the pew listening to the Word delivered to her heart on Sunday, does she receive it from her pastor or her husband? I for one receive the Word gladly most Sundays with a side of “I really hope other people are listening and this one goes well for him.” Or have you ever walked into your husband’s office and said, “Wow. I’m struggling. You know when our child was disrespectful. I lost it and I have no idea what to do.” Your husband can offer you grace and forgiveness, but do you hear it the same?
 
So there is this tiny piece missing when you become a pastor’s wife. And maybe it all works out in the wash, but I think we need to put into words this struggle. I kind of gave up having a pastor like other people experience it. 
 
So let’s put a layer of protection around this strange relationship conundrum. What if we actively received pastoral care from other pastors or deaconesses, as church work couples? Maybe this looks like checking in with another circuit couple once a month, or utilizing the circuit visitor, dropping a bit of anxiety and being more transparent. Maybe it’s offering to be a another church work family’s source of encouragement on a regular basis. This does not replace our husband as pastor in our lives, but I think it frees them up to love us and be to us who Christ intended them to be in their primary role- husband, lover, best friend. 
 
Honestly, I don’t know what it should look like yet, but I know it’s worth a discussion. Tell me your thoughts. Share your story. 
 
I wouldn’t trade my pastor/husband for the world. I love him, I love his role, I love seeing God’s big amazing plan in our strange and wonderful lives. I also love him and our marriage enough to ask difficult questions and open a conversation that doesn’t have easy answers.  


Smelly, sweaty prayers

 

 

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.                                                  Psalm 141:2

In our house, one of my favorite things to spot is this giant bag sitting in front of my washing machine. It’s black and red and huge! I lean down and slowly unzip the zipper and wait for the smell. What wafts up at me? 

Sweaty, smelly, little boy scent.

I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for that smell. I’ll wash those gross hockey sweat infested clothes for years on end, if he’ll let me. To me that scent represents so much more than just a gross boy who needs a shower. It smells like hard work, determination, commitment, and doing something with your whole heart, something he loves, and in which he finds unadulterated joy. 

Now, I’m not sports obsessed. Nor am I a laundry slave to my 10 year old. 🙂 But here’s the connection-

I think that God is a little like me opening the sweaty smelly laundry bag, when we offer our prayers up to Him. Lately God has gotten not just my prayers, but my blotchy, red face, heart’s cry prayers. He’s gotten my bottom of the pit, arms raised, seeking rescue prayers. He’s gotten my broken heart, life crashing down around me prayers. He’s gotten my frightened small voice in the middle of the night prayers. 

It gives me comfort to know that, to Him, these prayers are a beautiful thing, like incense rising before Him…the sweet, sweaty smell of my precious, difficult, sojourning life on this planet. He collects my tears in an bottle. He calls my struggle “good”, when I can not. Then He turns it into something better than good.

Sister, what sweaty work have you been doing? What determined struggle do you see in your own life? From parenting wee ones and big ones, slogging through the work of grief, finding two more dollars to be able to make the utility bills, caregiving for a beloved aged member of the congregation, serving in a role that you don’t love, to loving those who seem unlovable. That’s all sweaty work. 

And He loves our sweaty prayers. 
jojo goalie

*Here’s my sweaty, smelly, precious hockey player. He’s equally embarrassed and loves it when I pray over him before each hockey game. 🙂