Sunday, February 27, 2011

When They Criticize Your Husband

Dear Friends,

Shortly after becoming a pastor’s wife, I found myself in a church meeting where my husband was the object of criticism.  He sat there quietly, offering absolutely no defense.  “Why doesn’t he say something?”  I wondered desperately.

After a few more arrows aimed in his direction, I said to myself, “Well, if he isn’t going to defend himself, I guess that is what a good Christian wife is for.”

I rose to my feet, made an impassioned, one-minute speech, burst into tears, and rushed from the auditorium!  Since that traumatic event, I have done a little better at handling criticism. (That wouldn’t be hard, I can hear you say.)

It’s difficult when people criticize you, but it’s worse when they get after your husband.  Sometimes church members don’t want to confront the pastor, bur feel whey can pass on their complaints via the pastor’s wife because she isn’t so intimidating.

Criticism takes many forms.  “He’s too deep,” says one.  “He’s too shallow,” says the next.  “He’s too dull. My kids are bored,” confides another.  Do they expect you to say, “Oh, I agree, Mrs. Smith.  He bores me to pieces, too?”

Sometimes when I’m listening to someone criticizing my husband, I think to myself, “Has this person forgotten I’m married to the man?  How would she feel if I drew her aside by the coat racks to tell her I felt her husband really should smarten up his appearance?”

How do we handle such encounters?  Perhaps we leap to our beloved’s defense or cut the person off in mid-complaint.  I usually feel quite sick or produce a migraine headache within half an hour of such an episode.  After 30 years I still wrestle with the unfairness of it all.

“They don’t know how hard he worked on that sermon,” I say to the Lord.  Or, “How unfair of her to compare him to Jimmy Swaggart!  We don’t compare her husband to Ivan Boesky.”

Now, of course, if we find some truth in the criticism (and there is often some truth), we need to be mature enough to own that part of it and be teachable, pliable, and changeable.

Here are some of the ways I have learned to cope with criticism.

  1. Hold your breath and count to 20 before saying anything al all. 
  2. Try to listen long enough to let complainers know they are being heard, and you have understood the problem.
  3. As you listen, ask yourself why this person is so upset. Are they under pressure themselves, from other quarters, and did my husband happen along at the wrong moment? Often this is the case.
  4. Let the first thing you say be a quiet and gentle word. “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1, NKJV). “Thank you for being so concerned” is one possibility.
  5. Try to be objective and impartial. Pretend your husband belongs to someone else-almost impossible, but try anyway.
  6. Don’t start to reply with a defensive statement. Find a place to agree without being disloyal. For example, you could say, “I understand your children being bored in church, Mrs. Smith. Most children are at that age.”
  7. Quietly refute any criticism that is unfair or untrue with such statements as, “I’m not sure you’ve been given the whole story,” or “If you knew all the circumstances, I think you’d judge the matter differently.”
  8. If you feel the criticism is justified, talk to your husband about it. If not, don’t mention it. He has enough on his plate without piling it up with sour grapes.
  9. Try to send complainers on their way with no new criticism of the pastor’s wife.

Paul experienced a lot of criticism in his life and ministry.  He was able to day, “It is a very small think that I am judged of you” (1 Corinthians 4:3 NKJV).  I’d like to be able to say that, too, when either of us is criticized.  It will only be a small thing to me if I believe as Paul did, that Jesus is the judge and not this particular church member.  Knowing the motives of our hearts, God will evaluate all of our ministry as well as our actions and reactions according to His live, knowledge, and understanding.

All of us benefit by committing it to Him and leaving it in His hands.

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lord, Not Her!

Dear Friends,

God's idea about who you should reach might be different than yours. 

And he said, “Go, and tell this people ….”  ~ Isaiah 6:9

Can’t you just hear Isaiah groaning, “O Lord, not this people?”  Have you ever had a similar experience?  I have.  I can remember telling God just where to send me.  I wanted to work with teenagers.  They had caught my attention and captured my heart, and I kept saying to the Lord, “Here I am, send me!”  “Go and tell this people,” the Lord replied, drawing my attention to some very old ladies who were my neighbors.  They were all over seventy years of age, one was crippled, one blind, and one deaf!  I obediently, though grudgingly, complied, inviting them to a Bible study.  Only the deaf one responded.  Sitting in my little living room and screaming into her ear was a far cry from youth evangelism.  I comforted myself with the thought that God promised Isaiah there would be a remnant that would respond!  Even as I had that thought, the remnant was sitting looking at me!  This little old deaf lady accepted Jesus and went to be with Him shortly afterwards!   

I suddenly realized the necessity of reaching the aged; they don’t have as much time as the youth!  It is hard going, as older people tend to be adamant where change is concerned, and accepting Christ means change.  When they have always done something one way, another way seems impossible.  But He who said He was “the Way” showed these ladies “the truth” and gave them His life, and “this people” became my people!  What joy!

When God says go and tell “this people,” don’t argue - go!  You’ll find that a remnant will respond.

In Him,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Monday, February 21, 2011

There's an Elephant in the Room!

Dear Friends,

Maybe you became a Christian and left your family’s church – the one you were raised in.  Nobody’s forgiven you, yet.  You’ve tried to explain, but no one wants to discuss it.  It’s hard at family gatherings.  There’s an elephant in the room!

It could be a misunderstanding between you and your coworker.  You’ve always had a close working relationship, but since it happened, it has just not been the same.  It makes it hard to go to work every day.  There’s an elephant in the room!

Perhaps something happened at church.  An argument erupted over church matters that grew into a huge thing.  Somehow it’s never been dealt with, and every time you’re in worship, you’re super conscious of the elephant in the room!

This can happen not only between people, but between people and God!

Do you ever have your devotions when there is something you are really worried about, yet you never get around to talking to God about it?  Even though it dominates your thoughts, you manage to avoid addressing it with the Lord.  It’s funny, isn’t it, that you can have a long devotional time, finish, and be as worried as you were when you started.  Why is this?  How do we manage to talk to God about the world and this life without ever mentioning the elephant in the room?

But then, how can the elephant be in the Throne Room in the first place?  The answer is he’s there because I bring him with me!  Yes, I do.  You wouldn’t think an elephant would fit through the Throne Room door, would you?  But the front door is large enough for any old elephant, and he comes in because he refuses to stay outside.  There I am clutching my Bible, prayer journal, calendar of Bible promises, a book about faith, and a map so I can pray for all the missionaries in the world, and there he is looming as large as life!  The most amazing thing is that even though the animal sort of dominates the landscape, I manage to have my prayer time AS IF HE ISN’T THERE!  In fact, at the end of a seemingly balanced time with God, (you know, like we’ve been taught:   praising first, confessing next, praying for others, and then praying for myself) I get up and leave with the elephant in tow just as I came, pretending he’s been invisible to all those heavenly beings (who we learned in Sunday school have eyes all over them!).  In other words, it’s possible to have a huge problem that you know only God can throw light upon and help with, but you won’t allow yourself to LISTEN to what He wants to say or be enlightened and encouraged by Him.

Have you ever known you had to talk to God about a heartache, but if you were honest, it wasn’t really the talking you were worried about…it was the listening?  Maybe you didn’t know if you wanted to hear what He would say.

I was working through a particular worry one worrisome day, and I found myself sitting just inside God’s front door of His Throne Room, I had tied up the elephant behind a beautiful tree with evergreen leaves and fruit all over it where I thought he wouldn’t be noticed.  I waited for the difficult conversation to begin.

At first He and I talked about other things…lots of other things.  To begin with, I sang some songs of praise to Him.  (It’s only here I do this really loudly as He didn’t give me a wonderful voice like He gave others.  However, He’s promised me one in heaven to praise Him with once I arrive.)  But strangely, when I’m sitting beneath the praise of angels and singing to Him, my voice sounds really nice!  It changes into an altogether different thing.  In fact, if I’m not careful, I can even find myself listening to me and really enjoying the sound of my own voice instead of listening to Him and enjoying the sound of His – which is really silly and does no good at all!

Anyway, I sang as many songs as I could remember by heart, and then we talked about Tajikistan.  It wasn’t that I was really interested in Tajikistan at that moment, but there were lots of things wrong in Tajikistan and that meant using up a lot of the time I had allotted for my devotions.  I got out the mission letter about it and put it on the top of my Bible so I could cover everything.  Things were going along really nicely and there was still a long list of prayer requests when He took the letter off my lap and smiled at me.

“Let’s talk,” He said.

“We are,” I said hesitantly.

“Not really,” He replied.  “Let’s talk about what’s wrong and what you are worried about.  After that, you will find you can really pray about Tajikistan and do some good!”

My heart began to beat hard!  “I can’t – I can’t go there, Lord.”

“That’s because you usually go there on your own,” He said.  “Just you and the elephant.  Come with me.”  And before I knew it, He was walking me toward the big beast behind the evergreen tree with the lovely fruit.  “Remember, Jill,” He said ever so gently.  “Go on.  Remember what you’ve been trying to forget.”  I’d spent so much time with the elephant that never forgets that when I was this close to him, I found it was easy for me to remember, too!

And then we were surrounded by the mess and the hurt and the impossible things that needed to be faced and dealt with.  I wanted to run or distract myself by singing more songs or finishing my prayers for Tajikistan, but He held on to me very gently and firmly and just kept looking at me.

He kept me there as the pain of the hard situation came closer and closer to the surface and began to take over.  I cried.  He tightened His grip.  The pain receded a bit.  But I found myself in so much emotional turmoil, I could hardly breathe, much less talk about it.  He read my pain and heard my soul weeping.  I knew it.  It helped.

“Listen to me, Jill.”  Then He was talking, and I realized why I hadn’t listened to Him for a while.  It was because I hadn’t wanted to hear what He had to say about the worry in case it was a hard thing to bear.  If I stopped talking and began to listen, He might sneak it in there.  So I had been keeping my listening distance, if you know what I mean! I had just kept singing songs to Him; talking about Tajikistan; and memorizing promises about the weather, harvest time, taxes, the Babylonians, and things that had nothing to do with anything – though I got them all from the Bible, of course – all to avoid the elephant in the room.

But here I was, at last, daring to stand with Him and let the dark shadows of my memories engulf me.  As long as he was holding onto me, I could stand my ground, even though the shadows darkened.  And then I saw the light.  It was coming from Him who is the Light of the world, of course.  “Though you walk through the shadow of death,” He was saying, “I am with you.  My rod and my staff will comfort you” (Psalm 23:4).  And I remembered that where there’s a shadow, there’s always light for the believer.  No valley on earth is ever totally dark for the one who loves Jesus.  He talked then about the worry I had tried to pretend wasn’t there… the worry that was making me ill.  He gave me a perspective I’d never had before as I dared to listen with all of my worried heart.  I said I was sorry I had been afraid to be still and let Him near my pain.  He smiled and forgave me.  Right there!  Right then!

A lot of His words sounded very familiar and I remembered they came from His Book.  But when He said them to me in the presence of the dark reality of the situation, I found myself seeing everything in a new light.  I can’t really describe it to you, but suddenly, I didn’t want Him to stop talking, and I didn’t want to stop listening.  It had been a long time.  Too long.

We talked then of how I could begin to learn to live well with the consequences of the situation that had arisen until – or if ever – He changed them.  Today suddenly looked doable.  We stood in the shadows of my sorrows, and I watched the Light of Life chasing those dark things back where they belonged.  Later, as I walked out of the Throne Room into my day and its challenges, I found myself thinking about my breakfast!

Oh my!  How long was it since I’d felt like breakfast?  As I made myself a nourishing meal and bowed my head to give thanks, I suddenly couldn’t speak.  I didn’t have to.  “I hear you, Jill.”  He said deep down in my life.  As I readied for the day’s work, checked that the doors were locked, and all was safely in place, I realized something was missing.  My elephant!  Where was he?  For a moment I considered taking time to find him.  I felt sort of lonely without that immense hulk dominating the landscape.  And then I laughed.  At “this” moment in “this” day, I was free.  Why on earth would I look for the elephant?  He would be back no doubt, or one of his kind, and I determined to enjoy my freedom while it lasted.

Tomorrow was another day!

Why don’t you take time to climb inside my prayer?  Take the elephant with you.  Don’t keep your listening distance.

Right here, right now,
As before your throne I bow,
Turn my darkness into day
May I trust you, come what may,
Right here, right now.

Right here, right now,
As before your throne I bow,
Hear my heart in speechless prayer,
Ask for faith to replace care
Right here, right now.

Right here, right now,
Worried, weary, here I bow.
Deep inside my life hold sway,
Hear me Jesus; have your way,
Right here, right now,
Right here, right now!

©Copyright 2009 Jill Briscoe

In His Joy,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How Do You Keep Going When All Your Effort Seems Futile?

Dear Friends,

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips:  Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.”

 ~ Isaiah 6:6-7

When we have a vision of Him, we get a true look at ourselves.  “Woe is me!” we say.  Seeing Him looking at me makes me aware of the blemishes in my character.  When I see the Lord, I see the world, too. I stop saying, “Here am I, send somebody else,” and I start saying “Here am I, send me.”  He then equips me by cleansing me for service and giving me “hot lips.”  What I say will burn its way into people’s thoughts and bring them to the point of deciding for or against God.

But whom do I talk to? You may ask.  How am I expected to know who needs God’s message?  God told Isaiah to tell “this people.”  “This people” were the same people Isaiah had been preaching to for a long, long time.  He had been getting discouraged because they hadn’t responded, but God sent His prophet right back to tell them all over again.  What was more, the Lord told Isaiah that they still wouldn’t listen!  But that was not to be his concern.

How do you keep going when all your effort seems futile?  You’ll need time to get a fresh vision of God, which will give you a fresh vision of yourself, a new look at your world, and a new concern in your heart.  Then you’ll be able to go back to rebellious people and see a difference.  Not in them perhaps, but certainly in you!  You’ll find you have the capacity to be faithful without having to see the results.

In Him,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Create an Oasis for Passion

Dear Friends, 

Life is busy.  With the demands of work and family, there is often little time or energy for romance in a marriage.  But that doesn't mean it isn't important.  With Valentine's Day just around the corner, here is some timely advice for couples on how to carve out their own "marital oasis".  

With Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

By Bill and Pam Farrel

It was a cold, clear January night. The stars flickered in the sky like individual candles calling lovers into one another’s arms. The ballroom lights were romantically dim. Music softly serenaded as a musician friend stepped onto the podium in the ballroom and announced, “We are here tonight to celebrate the righteous red hot monogamy of Bill and Pam Farrel.” The crowd laughed and we looked at each other in shocked amusement.

A celebration of love
As we were recovering from her statement, our oldest son stepped onto the podium to say grace for our 25th Anniversary Dinner Gala we were sharing with 300 of our friends. “Hi everyone. I am Brock Farrel, the first product of my parents’ righteous, red hot monogamy.” It was at that moment that the concept for our book, Red Hot Monogamy, was conceived. It is possible to keep the passion alive in a ministry home after 25 years! So what helps fan the flame in the fast lane? Ministry couples will need to carve out a marital oasis.

Oasis of T.I.M.E.
We suggest that couples make some T.I.M.E. for love. Here is what we see as a helpful time commitment for maintaining the connectedness needed for a strong healthy marriage:

Ten to twenty minutes to talk together alone everyday.
Invest in a weekly date night (or breakfast or lunch) together. (Couples need to emotionally connect before they can physically connect!)
Make a monthly day away policy. At least once a month, spend 8 to 12 uninterrupted hours together. This can be anything youboth enjoy—to maximize this, make sure you schedule a few moments for red hot monogamy sometime during this 8 to 12 hour block of time.
Escape quarterly (or at least bi-annually) for a 48 hour weekend getaway. 

Oasis of Space
Most ministry-minded marriages lack privacy. To gain a little alone time, you will have to create the space to experience it. Often, even if you try to go out for dinner or a date, people recognize you and want to socialize and you find your precious minutes together being whittled away by small talk with people other than your mate. So think about creating a space at home for a little romance.

Create a special place for two
We encourage couples to discover their romantic personality and decorate their bedrooms to enhance their love life. For example, we have discovered that even a messy room looks neater when lit by candles, so we buy a candle as a memento on all our trips together. When one of us is “in the mood,” we simply light the candles (our version of a smoke signal!).

Another couple scanned the “Penny Saver” ads each week for a Jacuzzi. Friends told them they would never find one for the few hundred dollars they had saved, but they prayed and trusted God; and within a month they discovered an ad placed by a couple who had to move quickly. That couple practically gave the spa away! On your next date, ask, “What one change can we make to our room to make it a more romantic place to be together?”

Romance helps create a healthy marriage; a healthy marriage creates a healthy family, and healthy families create a healthy church. Give your church some strength for tomorrow by giving yourselves an oasis today. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Have You Taken the Privilege of Worship Too Lightly?

Dear Friends

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”  And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.  
~ Isaiah 6:3-4

The posts of the heavenly realm shook at the voice of him who cried.  I used to think that this verse referred to God, but then I realized the text reveals it is the voice of the angel that shakes heaven.  If such a tumult occurs at the voice of an angel, whatever will happen when God Himself speaks?

We take the privilege of worship far too lightly.  We get too chummy with God, or try to bring Him down to our level.  A Friend He is - but an Almighty Friend, a Holy Friend.  As we come to understand His ineffable nature, we shall be saved from irreverent attitudes in prayer.  And yet He encourages us to come “boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).  It is because Jesus our advocate is at the right hand of God that we dare to come boldly before His throne.

When God’s angels acknowledged God’s Person and attributed worth to Him, “the house was filled with smoke.”  This undoubtedly refers to the shekinah glory, the presence of God made manifest.  So when you and I attribute worth to God in worship, heaven is moved and God will show Himself - if not to the world, certainly to the worshiper.  The awesome reality of God may wring a “woe is me” from our lips as it did from Isaiah, but it hopefully will lead us to submission and a deep desire to serve our lost world.

In Him,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's All About Perspective

Dear Friends,

A friend on Facebook recently posted, “You know you’re in California when the weather report includes a ‘wind chill’ of 49 degrees!” Others were posting actual temperatures below zero the same day. It’s all about perspective.

Contestants on The Biggest Loser are thrilled to purchase a size 16 for the season finale. When a new mom has to purchase a similar size, much larger than her pre-pregnancy weight, she’s devastated. It’s all about perspective.

Your leadership position and ministry is all about perspective. How do you respond when challenged with conflicts, timing, and resources? Do you respond from your own perspective or God’s?

Conflict. It’s not an option in leadership (or in life!). Conflict is inevitable. Your choice is in how you deal with it. Ask yourself:

  • Do I jump into conflict without assessing the situation first? Do I avoid conflict at all costs? Or do I fall somewhere in between?
  • How has conflict resolution been modeled to me by mentors, leadership models, and family?
It’s important to be aware of your personality and experiences in order to understand initial reactions or limits you’re placing on your responses in conflict. Most important is seeing God’s perspective on conflict. It’s all about perspective.

How would our spiritual growth be impacted if God chose never to confront us? Or if He chose to always confront but never encourage us? You have a similar impact on those you lead. It’s not up to you, your experiences, and your personality to determine when to confront and when to encourage; God provides you the discernment you need.

“Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:15).

Do it God’s way. Confront (in love) when required. Encourage (in truth) when required. See it through God’s perspective, and be obedient.

Timing. All leaders have time issues. You might think there’s not enough time at your fingertips. You might be a poor manager of time. Perhaps you’re impatient, or you wait so long for God to make the next move obvious that you miss out on the opportunities He provides to you during the wait.

The truth is everyone has the same number of hours in the day. If you’re obedient to God, you’re going to get done what He intends for you to get done. Replace your to-do list with His to-do list. If there’s something that doesn’t get done when you’re being obedient, apparently it wasn’t supposed to get done in that time frame! “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail” (Prov. 19:21).

Perhaps your challenge with timing isn’t about time management as much as it is about patience. You want to act now, but you find yourself in a waiting pattern. Or you think you need time to prepare, but God says, “Now!” Reread Proverbs 19:21. No matter how you struggle with timing, it’s not about your timing. Set aside your perspective. Adopt God’s. It’s all about perspective.

Resources. Every leader struggles with provision at some point. We have too few volunteers, too small of a budget, too many meetings. “If only we had….” would solve many of our leadership woes! It’s all about perspective. When we assess resources through our human perspective, there will always be a desire for more or less. We don’t see how everything fits together. God’s provisions are perfect. If we don’t have enough of something, He’ll provide what we need (not what we think we need) to accomplish His will. When we feel burdened with “too much,” God balances the scales. But we have to adopt His perspective in order to experience His balance.

“And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25).

Be aware of the perspective you have. Jot down words to describe your responses and experiences throughout the day. Overwhelmed, frustrated, joyful, ecstatic, betrayed, compassionate, frantic, blessed. At the end of the day, give it all to God. Share your list, your perspective, with Him, and ask Him to help you see it through His perspective and to ultimately replace your perspective with His. After all, you’re living life for Him…and it’s all about perspective.


Susan Lawrence
Women's Ministry Consultant

Compliments of Just Between Us Magazine

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Want to Live a Life of Significance?

Dear Friends,

And planted it with the choicest vine.  ~ Isaiah 5:2

After fencing His vineyard, Jehovah did everything necessary to ensure good fruit, including planting the fertile soil with “the choicest vine.”  The word sorek, used to describe the plant, is the name of an especially fruitful species.  The rest of the world had not been cultivated by divine revelation.  Only Israel received the pure religion, the excellent law.  Ordinances that would help the Israelites keep up their acquaintance with God had been carefully and prayerfully instituted.  But God’s chosen ones became a wild vine unto Him (see Jer. 2:21), and because Israel would not listen to reason, the Lord took away “the hedge,” rained no rain upon them (see Jer. 3:3) and the land was trampled underfoot by their enemies.  But Jehovah promised that He would preserve the few who believed and that from the stock would come the very choicest of vines - Jesus Christ.  Our Savior used this vineyard metaphor in the Gospels, saying, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).

Did you realize you have been planted with the choicest vine?  His Father is your Father and mine - the Husbandman.  The fruits of Christ’s spirit - love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (see Gal. 5:22) will grow within us and show without us when the branch abides quietly in the vine, is pruned into usefulness, and is nourished by faith.  Fruit hangs on the outside of the tree - displaying the tree’s nature, enhancing the tree’s beauty, and refreshing those who partake of it.

When we are inwardly submissive, we are outwardly obedient - and a hungry world is glad!

In Him,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor