Friday, June 12, 2009

Is that edifying to the church?

Should pastors blog? This has been a question rolling around in my head all week. I keep going back and forth on it, and still haven't decided for sure how I feel. The more direct question that I've come to is: Should a pastor always edify the church through their blog? To that I say yes! Now there are people who might say that pastors are people too, and sometimes their blogs are just an expression of their humanity, not necessarily of their role as a pastor. To that I say, if can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen, OR if you don't want to live your life under intense scrutiny don't become a pastor, or a Christian for that matter.

I say all of this not to say that pastors have to be perfect, or that their blogs have to be 100% edifying. I say this to challenge pastors to think about the standard they are setting for the people they are leading. The new trend is for pastors to blog as a way of footnotes for a recent sermon. This I love. It really is enjoyable for me to look at a blog of someone who has been studying much deeper than I am capable of studying something that I feel is necessary for my life and I find an extra sermon or two in their elaboration of the point. It is edifying to my faith, and I think it is as well to the faith of others. Do I expect this to be my only source of sermons though? No way! Christians are commanded time and again throughout the Bible to seek out corporate worship. But, when we are not as good at studying as we should be, these blogs that give you everything that had to be cut out to make the sermon short enough for Sunday are wonderful resources to get our studying headed down the right path. Thank God there are pastors technically savvy enough to give us the extra meat to encourage us in our growth!

The blogs that bother me are the pastors who seem to blog all day long. One particular blog, I recently had to stop reading because I would get so upset that the writer was making 3-7 blog posts a day, most of them between 8-5. Part of what disturbed me was the content of the blog; at least one post a day was a vehement virtual screaming against abortion. If you wonder how I feel about Christians screaming about the horrors of abortion, look further back in my blog. The other part that bothered me was the amount of time each day that this pastor spent blogging. My issue with this is from strictly a financial perspective.

People give their money to the church with a three part understanding. First, they give because it is commanded, and often they give cheerfully because it is a desire in their heart. Second, they give in order to support the ministries of the church, whether it's missions, or children's church, or meals for the sick, or any number of other things. Third they give to support the staff of the church. Hopefully people recognize that pastors, secretaries, janitors, and financial people need to have money to be able to eat, and in order for them to serve the church with all of themselves it is our duty as the body to provide for them. It's sort of the new application of the old Levitical Law that allowed provision for the Levites so that they could focus on serving the people instead of focusing out feeding their families. I have seen great examples of pastors taking this part of people's giving very seriously, almost too seriously sometimes. I have seen pastors who literally work themselves sick because their desire to serve the church was stronger than their desire for their own lives. Do I think that pastors should work 80 hour work weeks? No, but those who just hang out in the office from 8-5 and then go home and make no extra effort in edifying and discipling get a lot less respect from me than those who do.

So, when I see a pastor who spends all day blogging, and very rarely are his blog posts edifying, it makes me feel like he doesn't understand Who he serves, or why he is being paid to be in the position he is in. Is it so important to have a well read, frequently updated blog that you need to forsake your ministry to the church to get it? I would rather you didn't ever blog and pour your passion into loving people!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Reflections on "Trying"

It seems like everyone I know has new babies, is pregnant, or is trying to get pregnant. Since this is something that is pervasive in my life it has started me thinking about the whole art of trying to get pregnant. Shortly after we got married, J's friend pulled him aside and told him to never "try." Apparently trying to get pregnant in their house was a very stressful event, and became a true obsession for his wife to the point that the frequency with which she took pregnancy test was becoming a major household expense. J conveyed this conversation to me and I scoffed at the fact that someone could be that obsessed with something, and we joked about the people we knew who were trying and bordering on similar obsessions.

That was until we started trying. Then we discovered the feeling of failure when every month you're not pregnant, AGAIN! We found how stressful it could be to have your fertile days all mapped out and then have life interfere with the plans for those fertile days. It seemed like immediately we started fighting over little things, both of us feeling inadequate, and struggling with feeling like God just didn't understand our plans for our family, and if He did He would let us get pregnant. How funny is it that we want God to fit our plans instead of finding out what His plans are? Silly humans!

Then I was reading through my Bible and kept coming across women who were unable to have children. In that culture it was truly a shameful thing to not be able to give your husband children. It was also continually acknowledged that children were truly a gift from God and that being able to bear children should not be taken lightly. Wow, that's convicting. Had I even put God anywhere in the discussion about babies? No. Maybe that is why it was becoming a wedge between my husband and I! Shouldn't children be brought into this world as an extension of our love for each other rather than as something for us to love? Finally I ended up sitting down with J and telling him that I wanted to leave it up to God, and wanted to mutually try to have the faith to trust God to work in our lives how He planned and in His timing. The poor man seemed relieved, and I realized then how stressful this had become for both of us. I've also realized since then how many thing in our lives need to happen right now that couldn't happen if we had a baby. It still is a thing that every month we hope for, but we try to place our hope in God first and foremost.

Now when people tell me they're trying, I often want to ask them if they've prayed about it. It has become so much of an obsession in our culture as children have become the center of our families that I think a lot of well meaning people forget to put God in the middle of the discussion, or even in the discussion at all. Yes, sometimes it is hard to look at all the babies in my life and not long for one of my own. But what should be more pervasive in my life is looking to God from Whom all blessing flow and asking that I be changed more into the image of His Son, in order to prepare me to a be a good parent.

Friday, June 5, 2009

*** people of Earth, donate your blood ***

J and I are donating blood tomorrow at our church. DSC has a blood drive I think twice a year, and we both are excited to join with our church family to help save lives. While we have both donated before, we decided to do this at our church to encourage this ministry to our community to grow. There are a lot of people who desperately need blood, and even more people who have no idea how desperate the need is or how easy it is to meet that need. I was so excited to see an Extreme Makeover Home Edition the other day that addressed this national need. In it was a story of an amazing young girl and her family. My favorite part was that throughout the Makeover they held blood drives all over the country in this girl. Seriously, if you think donating blood is too much of a hassle, read Lizzie's story and then give of yourself so that someone else can live!

Lizzie Bell was born with a rare blood condition that is characterized by a failure of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Less than 700 kids in the world are stricken with this disease, and 14-year-old Lizzie is one of them. The only thing that has kept her alive are the routine blood transfusions she has every two-three weeks. If she gets sick, she often has to go to the hospital so doctors can monitor her and keep her stable.

When Lizzie was five, she and her mother decided to visit her local blood bank. There they learned that the refrigerators that should have been full of blood weren't. They didn't understand until that day just how desperate the nation is for donated blood, and decided to do something about it. The family established the John P. Bell Foundation, and for the past ten years little Lizzie and her family have been working hard to raise awareness about the desperate and ongoing need for blood donations.

Lizzie was given the Red Cross Hero Award for her ambassadorship in telling others about blood drives and donating blood. But while she's been helping countless others, the Bells' home has been neglected because of Lizzie's high medical bills. The home is sinking, has gaping cracks in the cement floor, suffers mold and termite problems and needs countless repairs. These conditions are dangerous to Lizzie's health and her vulnerable immune system, so it's up to Ty and the designers to help the Bells spread the word, lighten the load and give Lizzie a comfortable and healthy home.