One day in 1873 hymnist Frances Havergal received a little book entitled “All For Jesus.” It stressed the importance of making Christ the king of every corner of one’s life. Soon afterward, she found herself visiting with a group of ten people, some of them unconverted, others not yet fully devoted to Christ. She prayed, and went to work witnessing, and before she left all ten were yielded Christians. On the last night of her visit, she wrote this great hymn about allowing God to own and control one’s entire life. In the years that followed, Frances often used it in her own devotions.
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. ” Mark 6:30-31
Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim that people should repent. They also cast out demons, and anointed and healed the sick. They were busy doing important things for others. However, when they returned, Jesus knew that they also needed to take care of themselves. They were worn out and the crowds around them were barely allowing them time to eat! Jesus told them it was okay to take a break.
All of us sometimes need a break from ministry, as well. I grew up in a home where the worst sin was being lazy, so I tend to overdo and over schedule myself. I know there are many other people like me, especially in the church. We are so intent upon doing a good job for the benefit of others, that we neglect ourselves. This isn’t good stewardship. We need to eat right; we need to get enough sleep and exercise; we need to take some time to relax. In fact, if we don’t do these things, we may burn out and find ourselves unable to do anything. That’s not what God wants.
We need to maintain our own health and well being so that we can do our best for God and others. Here’s how Robert Fulghum describes it in his book, All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten :
Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
Are you maintaining your balance?
A couple of our authors have blogged in the past about pain, both emotional and physical. Henry Nouwen, who was a Dutch Catholic priest, writer and theologian believed that pain is something we can use. He said:
“Your pain is the concrete way in which you participate in the pain of humanity.”
According to Nouwen, we have two choices when it comes to pain.
- We can focus on the specific circumstances of our own pain, which can easily lead us into anger, resentment and even vindictiveness.
- We can move from my pain to the pain. We can realize that our particular pain is only a share in humanity’s pain. This view allows us to forgive and enter into a truly compassionate life. It makes our suffering easier to bear.
The second option is the way that Jesus took when he prayed on the cross:
“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
If we are good stewards of our personal pain, we will come to understand and appreciate the pain of others. We can let pain teach us to be more like Jesus. He suffered pain to save us from the ultimate pain of separation from God. How are you using your pain? Have you let it make you bitter? Or better?
I blogged recently about being a Pastor’s wife. The truth is I, and all of you, have many roles. We are mothers and wives, employees and daughters, friends and neighbors, church members and siblings. In each of these roles we have a responsibility to be God’s hands and feet in the world. On a Via de Cristo weekend, we call the team members who are serving others chas, which stands for Christ’s hands in Action. When you think of your whole life that way, it puts a different perspective on the smallest and most mundane actions.
Martin Luther, changed the whole understanding of vocation. In his time, those who had a “vocation” were the priests, nuns and monks. These people were the ones who were giving their lives to God. Luther said everyone could do this; those in religious orders were no different or better than the ordinary person who was striving to dedicate their daily life to God. Milking cows was as holy and important a role as leading the Mass.
This doesn’t mean we can go about our lives without any thought of God; instead it means that we should be thinking of God and trying to do His will ALL THE TIME. Imagine how the world would change if every one of us did this? It would put an end to a lot of cursing, gossip, insults and other kinds of careless talk. It would lead to productive employees, concerned parents, helpful neighbors and caring friends. I suspect that the harder I try to do this, the more contented and peaceful I’ll become.
The work I have in this world is the work God has given me. The roles I fulfill are the ones He chose for me. Each of them will teach me something and bring me closer to Him if I just remember who I am: a steward of the King.
The author of “We give Thee but Thine Own” was William Walsham How (1823-1897), an Anglican bishop. He was known as “the poor man’s bishop” because of his concern for the poor—and “the omnibus bishop” because he used public transportation rather than a private carriage for travels around town.
Bishop How wrote a number of hymns that reflect his concern for expressing the Gospel in terms that the average person could understand. This hymn is a good example. It speak of stewardship, not as a church budget concern, but as acknowledgement of the blessings that we have received from God.
We sing this hymn every week in our worship service as the collection is taken.
We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.
May we Thy bounties thus
As stewards true receive,
And gladly, as Thou blessest us,
To Thee our firstfruits give.
The national women’s group of our denomination (AFLC – Association of Free Lutheran Churches) has a blog especially for Pastor’s wives. Recently I was looking at some of the articles and posts, and found one that dealt with the role of the Pastor’s wife within the congregation, the expectations that members may have. That got me to thinking about how I perceive my role of Pastor’s wife, and how I use my gifts and talents in that role.
I think I’m lucky to have become a Pastor’s wife later in life (my husband is a second career guy). I know what my abilities are and I’ve learned which tasks I’m good at, and which ones I should probably avoid (for everyone’s good). Since I spent a long time as a lay person in a small, mission congregation, I thought things wouldn’t change much as a Pastor’s wife. I’m still a lay person within the congregation, and my job is the same as everyone else’s — to use my spiritual gifts within the congregation and community where I’ve been placed. I’m an introvert, so I don’t really enjoy standing out, I just want to be one of the team.
I still think that, and our congregation has actually been a blessing to me by letting me join in whenever I want, appreciating me and allowing me to use my own talents. I have, however, come to see that there’s a little more to being the Pastor’s wife than that. Often I hang back from leadership positions because I don’t want the congregation to become dependent upon me in a particular position — after all, the time will come when we leave, either for another call or for retirement. Sometimes I do feel a little pressure (which may be self-imposed) to participate, if only by showing up, in everything. I worry about having favorite friends within the congregation, and try to take an interest in everyone. In fact, I am interested in everyone, but even within a family, we gravitate toward others who are similar to ourselves. Even though all of us should be good examples to others, I realize that being the Pastor’s wife is a pretty visible role and people are watching and noticing what I do.
Now, as Sarah said in her last blog, I’m not whining. I love our congregation, and they have been a joy and a blessing to me. Pastor’s wife is just what my life is right now, but I’m honestly curious. I’d like our readers and authors (some of them are Pastor’s wives as well) to tell me — what do you expect a Pastor’s wife to do? What is the proper way to be a steward of the role we’ve been given?
The only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. Our charities should pinch and hamper us. If we live at the same level of affluence as other people who have our level of income, we are probably giving away too little.
C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)
What is your reaction to this quote? I find it challenging. I fear few of us could meet C. S. Lewis’s standard–I know I don’t.
The very first talk on a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend is called “Ideal.” The premise of the talk is that everyone has an ideal in life; a goal they are aiming toward. It’s this goal that gives life meaning.
Now, we can have a good ideal (living to serve others) or a bad one (the one who dies with the most expensive “toys” wins). We can have a realistic ideal (owning our own home or business) or an unrealistic ideal (becoming the queen of England). We can devote ourselves to a false ideal (such as a political party or candidate) and be devastated when it proves to be disappointing. The big problem is we often fool ourselves and fail to recognize and admit what our ideal really is. For example, I may tell myself I am working 60 hours a week in order to support my family (a laudable goal) when what I actually desire is just more money to spend on luxuries, or the admiration of others.
The talk ends with some practical advice I’m going to share with you. Examine your checkbook and your calendar. Look hard at how you are spending your money and your time. Remember, we all find the money and the time to do the things we really want to do. So, does your stewardship of these things reveal an ideal worthy of a disciple of Christ? Or does it show you something else? What is your true ideal?
This month’s theme is one that is often ignored, because we really don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s not death, but close — stewardship: or as Beth Anne told me, taking care of God’s stuff. We don’t like to talk about it because down deep, we can’t bring ourselves to admit it’s God’s stuff. We fool ourselves into believing it’s ours. We have money because we got a good job and worked hard. We’re talented because we recognized an innate ability and developed it. And time! Don’t even go there! Surely any time we can carve out of our busy, productive life is our own. We’ve earned the right to some relaxation!
The Bible tells us this kind of thinking is dead wrong. We’re the managers, not the owners, of everything we have, even ourselves. God made the world, and God made us. He gives us our daily bread, and so much more. He expects us to use all these things wisely.
So this month I hope we’ll see lots of posts on our time, talent and treasure. What are we doing with them? Are we being good stewards? Are we multiplying them or squandering them? Are we using them to build up or tear down? Will we hear the words “good and faithful servant” the day we meet Jesus in eternity?
Of course, at times we may be led to go off topic and post what the Spirit has put on our heart. We are after all “free in Christ.” I look forward to this month together. Readers, don’t hang back. Use your ideas to encourage us. We want to hear from you.