Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Inconsistencies.

1. I encourage my kids to be themselves...except on Halloween.

2. I encourage my kids to not talk to strangers, take candy from strangers, or go near a stranger's house...except on Halloween.

3. I encourage my kids to make healthy eating choices and not gorge themselves on sugary sweets and chocolate...except on Halloween.

4. I hear myself saying, "Don't be scared of the man dressed in black carrying a bloody sickle"...only on Halloween.

This is but a short list of a few things that I'm doing that are probably permanently scaring and confusing my children.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When they find out.

It is always interesting to watch the responses of people when I introduce myself and we do the ritualistic "what do you do?" routine. The question always comes around to "What does your husband do?" Usually, I get confused looks from people when I say, "My husband is a youth minister. He works with teenagers." Some people immediately stop talking to me the second they hear the scary word "minister". I can almost hear them screaming inside their head..."Run away! Run away! It's the people who marry ten women! They will brainwash you and then eat your children!" (Many thanks to all the crazy cults out there that give Christianity such an intriguing reputation!)

Most people focus on the fact that my husband works with teenagers. I hear things like, "Oh that is so special and needed." One time someone actually said, "Wow. Yeah, teens definitely need somebody. What a tough job." Sounds innocent enough right? It wasn't meant that way. The tone of the conversation was more like my husband worked for the disabled, and they pitied him. It always bothers me when people pick on teens like they are all troublemakers. I happen to really enjoy spending time with teenagers. They, much more than adults, have tender hearts that are open to self-improvement and haven't become so marred by time that they avoid growth. Not to mention the fact that they are much more willing to listen than an adult who feels so well educated by vast experience. (This may surprise a few parents out there.)

The response that really gets under my skin is the.."Oh your husband gets to play all day and never grow up." SERIOUSLY? In our short experience within youth ministry I've stood alongside my husband as he ministered to teens facing drug addiction/abuse, alcoholism, cutting habits, suicidal thoughts/attempts, homosexuality, sexual abuse, abandonment, one divorce after another, physically abusive parents/step-parents, financial ruin, teen pregnancy, emotional disorders, eating disorders, disabilities, and runaways. This just names a few of the trials youth ministers and teens deal with. It makes one re-think the "Jr. Minister" title right? If someone even suggests that all my husband does is play all day, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. Oh yes, we do play. Don't get me wrong. It's a blast! But, that is not all it is. With this in mind, consider carefully the next youth minister your congregation interviews. Make sure he/she is prepared to handle what comes with the ministry.

I often feel that I'm avoided by the masses as a general rule. Oftentimes, people are shocked when I'm able to discuss a PG13 movie or that my husband listens to an occasional Metalica song. (Believers are sometimes more shocked by that!) My impression is that people probably fear judgement from me. Even though that is NOT my occupation nor my personality to doll out the wrath of God. (Technically it is only God's duty to deliver judgement. I try to stay out of that. Again, my thanks to the pharisees out their who find wrong in all but self.)

One minister's wife/friend of mine actually was emotionally wounded once because she was informed by a not-so-nice believer that befriending minister's wives is not beneficial because they(minsters) after-all move. This is true. We do move. Sometimes we really really don't want to move, but it happens. Sometimes it's a good thing. However, refusing to be a minister's friend because they may move someday doesn't benefit anyone. No one is promised tomorrow ministers or otherwise. If I followed the logic to avoid relationship to avoid loss, then it would be better to not have any relationships at all. Not to mention the fact that we live in the digital age; I have really close relationships with people all around the globe.

Even with this weirdness that comes from the title of minister's wife, I don't feel sorry for myself. I love what we do. I am so proud of my husband. I don't fault people for feeling awkward around me. I try to prove to them that I'm loyal and not pious. I suppose my lifestyle may make them uncomfortable, but I won't compromise what I believe to appease their discomfort. It is a part of who I am and what I do. Following Christ is a choice I make. Hopefully, leading people toward Christ is the natural result from my refusal to walk away from him.

When people find out what we do and who we are I hope that my life reflects who I work for. You see, while my husband may receive a paycheck from a local congregation, my employer is actually a much higher authority. My hope is that I never feel embarrassed, and that I never force myself to walk alone in life because it's easier to avoid awkward conversations that inevitably end up as spiritual opportunities.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On the wrong side.

I'm not an athlete. (I can hear my close friends laughing right now, as they recall how many "graceful" trips down the stairs I've taken in the past.) It's safe to say I am even prejudiced toward athletes in many regards. I'm working on offering more grace to the more coordinated of our society.

Growing up a musician, I witnessed many resources from what seemed a deep pocket delivered directly to the basketball team. I watched new football jerseys grace the semi-talented team on a nearly annual basis. I remember the year our marching band actually purchased new uniforms after ten, or was it fifteen, years of the same old torn smelly uniforms. Let me tell you, it is a weird place to be when over a hundred teenagers are actually excited to wear black and gold polyester pants with weird hats. I am a advocate of the arts in schools and it makes me sad to watch these programs wane, and yet the all-influencing sports continue to capture the hearts and pocketbooks of the world. In high school (and even college), I often felt like I was on the wrong side of a losing battle or at the very least a second class citizen only allowed to sit in a specific location on the bleachers.

I'm starting to feel this way within Christianity. While, I firmly believe that many hearts are open to God's word today, I also feel that being a Christian continues to get more difficult in our western culture.

I don't like describing Christianity as a war. I feel this analogy is misconstrued into an 'us against them' theology which only causes harm. It is not us against the world. It never has been. It was not Christ's plan to set us against our loved ones ready to begin a hurtful war of words. Within spiritually divided households like Christ describes in Matthew 10:34-39, perhaps we are not abandoning. Let me suggest, we are the abandoned. We are the ones to be left in the cold and mocked for believing in an ancient tradition. We are the "ignorant" few who cling to standards that don't meet the status quo in a more "advanced" civilization. In the world's eyes, we are on the wrong side.

Let me encourage you that it is not us against them. We may be treated as the nerdy kids sitting on the bleachers sometimes, but our fight is not with the players. Our fight is with the evil that continues to consume and destroy those whom Christ loves and came to save. Our path is not to wage a war against the lost. It is to wage war against the father of lies and the patterns of this world which seem right to some, but really only destroy.

We are to love when they hate. We are to give when they take. We are to share. We are to offer open arms for the hurting. We are to serve those in need. This is how we go to battle. This is the war we wage. If we find ourselves in a war of words, we are on the threshold of being sucked into the very darkness that blinds opponents rather than climbing out of the pit together.

In a society where the noisy dog gets the bone, it may be wise to stop attempting to fit in with society. Stop barking. After all, they should know us by our love, right? Heaven forbid, they know us by our cynicism, sarcasm, hateful speech, slanderous words, politically motivated agendas or prejudiced attacks.

Maybe it's time we start getting comfortable on our little reserved section on the bleachers. Maybe it's time to wear our plastic hats with pride, and stop attempting to fit in where we don't belong.