on holiday break

>> December 20, 2010

CLUTCH is taking a little break for the holidays, so we can spend quality time with our families and friends.

We'll be back in the new year!

In the meantime, we wish you the season's richest blessings,

the CLUTCH chicks

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deep roots

>> December 17, 2010

Normally, I write encouraging posts about life, ministry, or being a wife or mom. But lately we've had a season of outreach, so I wanted to share what we've done.

We are small, with only a few people, but God is shaking up our resources and giving us creative ideas, and we are seeing new people find Jesus each week!

Our city has a great downtown cultural area. It usually draws students from Georgia College & State University, since the university is in the heart of downtown. A few weeks ago, the city had a great festival called "Deep Roots". If ya'll could smell the bbq, your mouths would be watering. Music, crafts - I loved it all!!

We knew we wanted our church to be right in the middle of this great opportunity to reach out to more than 15,000 people. What a chance! We didn't want to just pass out flyers and say "come to our church". We wanted to create a fun atmosphere where people could really make a memory.

So we created a state of the art (ok, not really) photo booth! It was so fun!!! We hung black shower curtains from the top of our tent. Shower curtains because they are thicker and heavier then regular curtains and here in Georgia it can get a bit windy. We bought fun props and raided our kids' toys. Two stools went in front of the black curtain.

We also created a video (http://familyroomonline.org/familyroom/enter_site.html) to play on a flat screen while people walked by.

We had a huge bucket of silly bands which kids could have for free. Then we gave out a card for them to go to the website to get their photos, and got their email to send them pictures. They all signed by their email address to give us permission to post their photos to the web. (Permission and privacy is a BIG detail when working with people and the internet.)

We had an amazing response, and so much fun!!! We were also able to activate 20 new volunteers from our church that day! Watching them love people and have fun was so awesome! So many great conversations -- and several have come to church the last two weekends!

Here is the cost breakdown so you can see how we spent just a little to connect with 15.000 people:

$275 - Space @ Festival
$225 - Props/business cards/video/silly bands
$500 - Total Cost

And the REALLY awesome part? We sent a letter to friends and family, sharing our vision for the festival and two people donated $250. In the end, this event cost us nothing but time and love.

What can you do in your city to go deep and dig some roots in the heart of people around your church?

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2010, leave it behind

>> December 16, 2010


Friends,

I am so grateful for the opportunity to share life with you on CLUTCH's Wholehearted column.

As we close out 2010 and prepare to spend time with our families this holiday season I invite you to join me in leaving every hurt, pain, disappointment, shattered dream, broken promise, failures, mishappenchances, and every should of, could of and would of behind.

God's gift to us was his Son, which is why we celebrate Christmas. So together let's celebrate this Christmas, the opportunity to begin again, dream again and live again. God has great things in store for you in 2011. Regardless of what your past holds, your future is brighter!

If everyday in 2010 seemed like a night, 2011 holds a brighter day. If you had good year in 2010; I declare better are still ahead in 2011.

Celebrating the opportunity to begin again, dream again and live again are exciting to me! I love you all and wish you a wonderful Christmas Season! CLUTCH has some exciting things in store!

See you in 2011!

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SURVIVAL TIP #7

>> December 15, 2010

TIP #7: Send thank-you notes. 

People often love to do something nice for their PW.

But do you know what they like even better? Getting thanked for it!

A thank-you says that their gift or act didn't go unnoticed in your busy life. It tells them you place value on their kindness. And it says something about your character. You are the kind of woman who will pause for 3 minutes and acknowledge the effort of someone else.

Thank you emails are the minimum. A grateful phone call is nice. Hand-written notes are better - if it's at all possible.

In today's world of cold impersonal technology, the warmth of a little note can go a long way.

Got a survival tip that someone shared with you, or that you learned along the way? Send it in and we'll share it: clutchtalk [at] gmail [dot] com.

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quiet time resources

>> December 14, 2010

Continued from yesterday's post...


Online Devotionals
A a list of links to online devotional sites, from pastorswives.org.

Inspired to Action
A blog by Kat, a Christian mother, helping women effectively manage time at home:
http://inspiredtoaction.com/

Maximize Your Mornings
Katʼs e-book on practical ways to make mornings more meaningful with God:
http://www.inspiredtoaction.com/wp-content/uploads/kat/ITA_Maximize_Your_Mornings.pdf

Stress Management: 8 Tips for Busy Moms
A blog post with ideas for staying sane and slowing down.
http://www.ourdailydevotions.info/blog/70/stress-management-eight-tips-for-busy-moms/ 

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quiet time in a crazy world

>> December 13, 2010

this article was originally published in 
the 4th Quarter 2010 issue of The Journal,
an international magazine for pastor's wives

adapted and reposted here by special permission
by Sarah K Asaftei
Quiet time is tough to find. At least it is where I live.

I suppose in some cultures, pastorsʼ wives may manage to live at a slower pace, but the increase of technology makes life run faster nearly everywhere. Just to write this article, Iʼm snatching a few peaceful moments at 6 AM, before our household explodes into the dayʼs activities.

“Come away, and rest awhile,” Jesus told his disciples, when they were so busy ministering that they hadnʼt even taken a moment to eat. (Mark 6:31) But if youʼre like me, that can be a tough invitation to accept.

The thing is, if we want to minister effectively, if we want to make a lasting impact, if we want to be agents of revival among our congregations and communities - quiet time is something we cannot do without.

Revival at church can only come after personal revival at home.

Itʼs an inescapable fact. We simply cannot minister to others when we are empty ourselves. Even Jesus needed time away with his Father to rejuvenate and refill. But how do we actually make it happen? Where do we find the time?

Sometimes I look at older women, or at younger women, and I envy the extra free time they seem to have. Probably - to them - their lives feel just as busy as mine, filled with different activities. But itʼs easy to imagine that other people have more time to rest, or pray, or study.

As younger PWs, we tend to fall into a narrow set of categories: fiancee, newlywed, young mother. Iʼll admit, there are times when I daydream about the flexibility and freedom I once had to spend time alone with God during my 6 years of being a “newlywed”. Back when my dayʼs schedule was dictated by what I chose to do, instead of by feedings and diaper changes and nap times.

The silly thing is, I didnʼt think I had enough free time then, either. I thought I was so incredibly busy, and taking quiet time to be with God had to be just as intentional as it does today.

And thatʼs my point. It doesnʼt matter how old or young you are. It doesnʼt matter if you work or stay home. It doesnʼt matter if your house is full of children, or if you havenʼt had kids yet, or if they have all grown up and moved away.

Getting daily spiritual revival time has to be a conscious choice. It is never going to magically happen. And the less time you spend communing with God, the more empty and dried up youʼll eventually feel
toward others.

CLUTCH recently published a series of interviews asking several pastorʼs wives about their individual devotional habits. I asked each woman to share what they do during their devotions, how they make it actually happen, and what time of day they choose. (You can catch up on that series here.)

An interesting trend emerged. The women who reported having successful, regular daily devotions, all said that they wake up extra early to make it happen.

The ones who donʼt get up early, donʼt make it happen.

Now Iʼm sure that doesnʼt mean there isnʼt some woman out there who has quality, meaningful time with God every single day in the middle of the afternoon. But our best chance of spiritual rejuvenation comes early, before the dayʼs madness begins.

Right now, Iʼm in a season of life where even the early mornings are difficult. Some of you probably are right here with me. Between my 1 year old son and the new baby arriving shortly, it is not necessarily quieter before dawn! And it probably wonʼt calm down much for another year or two.

So what about us? What about the ones who do want to dedicate daily time with God, but being good mothers to our little ones makes quiet time all but impossible?

If your day is so full of babies that you hardly have time to shower (believe me, Iʼve been there!), try an unconventional approach to devotions. Play uplifting music and sing along while doing dishes, pray out loud while folding laundry, or turn on a recording of the Bible being read aloud while you nurse the baby. Talk to spiritual women whose children are a little older than yours, and ask them how they did it. There are all kinds of ways to commune with God.

Life brings all kinds of seasons. Some seasons bring flexibility, others bring exhaustion. Some seasons bring deep spiritual communion, others feel like a drought. Sometimes we are rejuvenated best through hours of deep study, other times God speaks to us through song, or uplifting relationships or supportive prayer partners.

Whatever your stage in life, whatever your season - the important thing to remember is that God longs to bring you spiritual revival each day. He hopes that youʼll think He is important enough to make it a priority in your day - even if you can only snatch a few minutes here or there.

If your season right now is flexible, why not choose to spend more time with God than you usually do? Maybe cut back on media consumption and other less valuable activities, and just soak up this part of your spiritual journey!

And if, like me, your current season is full of exhausted weariness, remember (like I'm trying to do!) that seasons come and go. This phase of life wonʼt last forever, and when it changes youʼll have a different schedule, with different amounts of time to spend talking to God.

Whatever your season, God wants to spend time with you today. What do you want to do with Him?

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impact, influence, inspire (week 1)

>> December 9, 2010

Three words have been ringing in my spirit for months now - Impact, Influence and Inspire.

Fellow Women of God, I want to encourage you to impact, influence and inspire the world around you.


In order to successfully accomplish this, we must get a few things in order. Over the next few weeks, here in the Wholehearted column, we will discuss how we can impact, influence and inspire the world around us.

To do this, one of the most important features is our need to take responsibility and care of ourselves.

Your physical, emotional and spiritual health is critically important if you are going to be able to influence and inspire the world around you. When was the last time you did something special for you? Taking care of you impacts your life, your marriage and your relationships.

Your spouse may not express it, your kids might not know how to articulate it - but a happy and healthy mommy and wife make for a good home.

To be continued...

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SURVIVAL TIP #6

>> December 8, 2010

TIP #6: Answer your phone. Or at least return your voice mails.


It's a common stereotype that the PW is impossible to get in touch with. I once answered my cell phone and the church member on the other line forgot what she called about in her shock.

No, you don't need to offer unlimited availability. And no, you should not let yourself be held hostage by members who can't seem to say "Goodbye".

But people value their PW. They want to know that if they need you, they can find you. If they are in crisis and need someone to pray with them, that you'll answer. If they're trying to invite you and your PH over for dinner, that they don't have to hope the pastor will remember to pass on the message to you.

Simple stuff like just answering your phone, at least whenever possible, can make a huge difference in perceptions.

Got a survival tip that someone shared with you, or that you learned along the way? Send it in and we'll share it: clutchtalk [at] gmail [dot] com.

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the view from the HOT SEAT

>> December 6, 2010

this article was originally published in 
the 3rd Quarter 2010 issue of The Journal,
an international magazine for pastor's wives

adapted and reposted here by special permission
by Sarah K Asaftei
Some months ago, I was sitting on the beach during our family vacation as we spent quality time with some (non-pastor) friends we hadn’t seen in years. The men had gone to swim in the waves, the little ones were happily building castles or eating sand. It was a deeply peaceful moment, full of companionship and comfortably meandering conversation.

And then my friend turned to me, and said “Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Of course.”
 
I could see that she felt awkward. But she also felt the need to sort something out. Apparently, someone she knew from another state had been talking to a colleague of my husband’s from a previous church. And the grapevine had concocted a fantastical story of why we had left that district.
 
 “Did your husband really have to leave that church because of trouble with the church members?” She went on to detail the dramatic saga she had heard. “It doesn’t sound like you, but Mrs A told us all about it, and she heard it straight from Mrs B who was on the staff at your old church, so I wanted to ask you myself.”

It’s never fun when somebody else’s gossip-mongering puts you in the hot seat.
 
So I told her the real story. Our regional headquarters had re-districted 40 families last year, during the Christmas season, to avoid letting any pastors go due to the economy crunch. My husband was moved from an associate position to be the senior pastor of two churches. There was no conflict in the church we left behind. There was no drama (unless you count the craziness of househunting and moving just 6 weeks after our son was born).
 
The tale she had been told was pure fiction. A result of tongues wagging from person to person, as reality got manufactured through the rumor-mill. If I hadn’t known the source, I’d have been shocked. Even so, it wasn’t a pleasant surprise.
 
She apologized for bringing it up. She asked if I was okay. I reassured her that there’s no better university for growing thick skin than the school of life as a pastor’s wife.
 
And I actually thanked her for asking me about it directly. Many people hear gossip, and never bother to find out what is true and what is a lie. It’s rare when someone is honest and transparent enough to ask for the truth. I appreciated her bravery.
 
But, thick skin or not, no pastor’s wife likes hearing that she is the subject of back-stabbing chatter.
 
Later, as I shared the so-false-they-were-almost-hilarious details of the rumor with my PH, I felt a little sick to my stomach. Not particularly because of the content (it probably could've been worse), but because people I knew personally were spreading lies. Because those same people had smiled and hugged me and feigned interest in how I was doing.
 
I felt betrayed.

Part of me wanted to call and confront them directly. Right NOW. Another part of me wanted to hide away and make sure I never crossed paths with them again.

In my head, I imagined how I might react the next time we met, but not many of my mental pictures were Christlike. My husband and I prayed together and we agreed to let the situation alone, at least until we found a godly way to address it (which hasn't happened yet).
 
Two days later, my morning bible reading led me to Luke 7, where Jesus talks about people’s inability to be content.
 
“How can I account for the people of this generation? ... John the Baptizer came fasting and you called him crazy. The Son of Man came feasting and you called him a lush. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they?” (v 31, 33-35, The Message)
 
Jesus said it himself - you can never make everyone happy.

No matter what I do, or what my husband does, someone is guaranteed to disagree. No matter where we go in ministry, or how God leads us, there will always be onlookers with a twisted version of the story.
 
So if the opinion polls don’t count, then what really matters? There’s only one question left to ask - what does God think of your situation?
 
It isn’t easy for me to let go of things like this. Ever since childhood, I’ve had a finely tuned sense of right and wrong, fairness and injustice. It’s hard for me to sit back, say nothing, and let people go on believing a falsehood. I tend to want the truth at any cost.

Maybe you’re a little like me?
 
But I’m learning to give things over to God and keep my mouth shut about it. I’m learning that He is big enough to set the record straight when the time is right.
 
And when I’m the one in the hot seat of others' rumors, I’m learning that there is only one subject I should obsess about: am I doing God’s will? Are my actions blameless according to what He has taught me? Have I checked with Jesus about my decision? Am I following His plan?
 
If I can answer those questions with a resounding “Yes!” then let the gossips chatter. Let the tongues wag. Let those who are jealous or intimidated or ill-informed have their opinions. They’ll move on to juicier news sooner or later - it's what slanderers do.

Just because gossip puts us in the hot seat, doesn’t mean we have to get burned.

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raising boys & the “love” factor

>> December 2, 2010

Every week, my son brings home a new book from the school library.

This week, the book was about a boy named Michael and a girl named Sheila. The first page opens up with the two standing in front of the fire station. Every time we read, we go over the front cover, back cover, spine, title page, and author for the purpose of familiarization. Then I have him tell me about the story through the pictures; then I go back and read it.

His version of the first page was “there was a boy and he was embarrassed.” I asked “why is he embarrassed?” (remember they are standing, facing each other in front of a fire station) He replied “because there is a girl, she is trying to grab his hand.”

Our dialogue continued, but this moment was an opportunity to teach, instruct, plant, guide and invest in my child. As a mommy raising boys, I have realized that I'm raising a next generation leader, husband, father, pastor, business owner, etc. 

How do you break down the “love” factor for your boys?

One day my children will be men, leading their own families and I want them to be clear on the concept of love. I am blessed beyond measure to have a wonderful and loving husband, the greatest male role model for our children that I could have dreamed for.

In raising boys up to be Godly men, knowing the breakdown of love according to the word of God is critical. I want to share with you points I took from a series my husband taught on love. It breaks down like this:
  • Phileo - a friendship love
  • Storge - the love siblings have for each other 
  • Eros - the physical love expressed between a man and a wife
  • Agape - God the Father’s love, loving with purpose, on purpose, by choice
While some think kindergarten and pre-K is too young to teach Greek, we feel that it's never too early to teach fundamentals. So off went our mommy-son dialog into what Phileo love is about.

If you're raising boys in your pastoral home, I invite you to consider all the teaching opportunities we have while our boys are still young. Make the most of them!

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SURVIVAL TIP #5

>> December 1, 2010

TIP #5: Say nothing to which you wouldn't happily sign your name and post in the church entryway for all to see. 

Just.

Don't.

People repeat stuff. Stuff gets twisted.

You'll end up explaining something you never meant "that way". Or, you totally meant it that way, but you were trusting that person to keep it to themselves and they didn't.

If you wouldn't want it printed in the worship bulletin for everyone to read, just skip it. Odds are, saying it out loud won't be helpful to anyone anyway. That goes for pretty much all categories - from joking about your husband's foibles, to sharing an opinion on someone's performance in church, to chatting about the decisions made in a recent church meeting.

Got a survival tip that someone shared with you, or that you learned along the way? Send it in and we'll share it: clutchtalk [at] gmail [dot] com.

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wanted for hire (part 2)

>> November 30, 2010

Continued from yesterday's post.
Where is the line drawn between experiential faith ownership and intellectual knowledge?

I once heard a speaker talk about the three levels of memory. (I've read about it since in the book Searching for Memory, by Daniel Schachter). It made sense, so I wanted to share it with you here.

LEARNED MEMORY:
You know, the stuff you memorize out of history books. Like "In August 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Or what you cram into your fevered brain for that final exam. Learned memory is the most quickly and easily forgotten of the three. (I knew there was a reason that in college I couldn't remember the previous semester's concepts to save my life! They flew out of my brain just as soon as each exam was over, making room for new information.)

PATTERN MEMORY:
This is the stuff you've done ten thousand times and your hands just remember how, no intentional thought process needed. Like tying your shoes, or riding a bike... These are the physically repetitive patterns that even an amnesiac can do easily. "I can't remember my name, but I can button my shirt!" Pattern memory is stronger than learned memory, and can stick with you even after your mind is gone.

EPISODIC MEMORY:
These are your episodes of feeling and experience. I had one the other day. I was out running, soaking up the brisk early morning air and warm sunshine on my face. In one yard there were some construction guys starting the day, and one had lit a cigarette. That particular smell of smoke, mixed with unwashed workman's clothes and the cool air and sunshine... and suddenly I was transported to my childhood missionary time spent in Russia - an episode that I will never forget.

My conclusions? Well... in essence... this tells me that as God-followers we must create venues for establishing episodic memory in relation to faith. While truth is essential, it falls under "learned memory" and can easily be overwhelmed by a negative episode. And while many will attend church or participate based primarily on force of habit or "pattern memory", the activities may hold little true meaning for them.

Sooooo... the challenge that lies ahead of every ministerial family? Initiating multi-sensory episodes of faith, based on accurate biblical learning, combined with supportive habit/lifestyle patterns and traditions.

Unleash the ideas on me....

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wanted for hire

>> November 29, 2010

WANTED FOR HIRE: one hip individual able to relate, knowledge not required, experience necessary.

A few years ago, back BC (before children) when I was working in full-time ministry, a friend and I were chatting about my upcoming trips planned for the year. When he discovered that Amsterdam was on the itinerary, he joked that I needed to definitely try some "stuff" while I was there.

Yeah, well, "I'm sort of a health nut" I replied.

"So how is a health nut, [i.e. somebody rigid and totally UNfun like you], ever supposed to be able to relate? Aren't you working in a ministry to reach postmoderns? Then you need to explore more! Smoke a little stuff, party it up!"

That got me thinking. Just how much do I have to experience in order to relate?

Oh yes, I believe everyone must travel their own journey. And no, I don't think it's possible to live life without ever making a mistake or a wrong judgment call, just because we hope to learn from the mistakes of others. Rare is the child who accepts "No! Hot!" as final, without still trying to touch the stove.

But how much do we have to experience to be able to relate?

If you're going to teach nutrition to cannibals, must you eat human flesh in order to understand their mindset?

If you're a rehabilitation therapist who is counseling a sexually abusive serial killer, must you go slaughter and rape a few victims before you can get inside the patient's mind to help bring healing?

Do I have to go get rip roaring drunk to acknowledge the medical fact that a hangover is likely to result?

Just how far should we go? Where is the balance? Is knowledge really worth so little without experience? Could experience be overrated? But then, most of us Christians are still feverishly trying to create a faith experience that moves our beliefs from the head to the heart.

Religion without soul is hypocrisy.

So then, if experiential ownership of faith is paramount, what worth does knowledge have at all? Does only experience count? Is it preferable to have only soul without "truth"? Or does knowledge make a difference as well?

And in the quest for reaching our secular and postmodern world with the gospel, what are our limits? Do we immerse ourselves in philosophical theories until we have lost our ability to believe?

Just how far do we go?

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a psalm for Thanksgiving

>> November 25, 2010

Hallelujah! I give thanks to God with everything I've got—
Wherever good people gather, and in the congregation.
God's works are so great, worth
A lifetime of study—endless enjoyment! 
Splendor and beauty mark his craft; 
His generosity never gives out. 
His miracles are his memorial— 
This God of Grace, this God of Love. 
He gave food to those who fear him, 
He remembered to keep his ancient promise. 
He proved to his people that he could do what he said: 
Hand them the nations on a platter—a gift! 
He manufactures truth and justice; 
All his products are guaranteed to last— 
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof. 
All that he makes and does is honest and true: 
He paid the ransom for his people, 
He ordered his Covenant kept forever. 
He's so personal and holy, worthy of our respect. 
The good life begins in the fear of God— 
Do that and you'll know the blessing of God.
His Hallelujah lasts forever!

Psalm 111
The Message

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SURVIVAL TIP #4

>> November 24, 2010

TIP #4: Just show up. Especially when your PH is preaching. 


If people think that your husband's sermons aren't even important enough for his own wife to be there - they'll either wonder what you have against them, or think there's no point in them showing up.

You don't have to be a party-planning guru or be in charge of lots of church social events. You don't have to be on every committee or even any committees if you don't want to. 

But you DO need to make a point to show up regularly. If you don't, people will naturally (even rightfully) wonder all kinds of things. Is the pastor's wife really a woman of faith, or is she doubting? Has the congregation made some egregious error so offensive that it keeps her away, and if so, who did it? Is the pastor's marriage having problems?

Sure, if you have small kids with early bedtimes, there are going to be events that you skip. When you do, make sure people know that you send your regrets and would have loved to come if you could.

And yes, there'll be times when you're too sick or you're previously obligated and you just can't make it. But let those be the exception to the rule, rather than the norm. 

Just showing up will go a long way toward building relationships and trust among the people you and your PH have been called to serve.


Got a survival tip that someone shared with you, or that you learned along the way? Send it in and we'll share it: clutchtalk [at] gmail [dot] com.

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little miracles

>> November 23, 2010

Brittany Cinquemani Woods
newlywed seminary wife & missionary in her own right

Recently, Josh (my PH) and I realized that our need for a couch was getting pretty bad.

We had gotten a free love seat from the Seminary, but it just wasn't cutting it when we wanted to have a group of friends over and only two people could have a comfortable seat!

We began looking and checked out about five different places to buy furniture. Surprisingly, we were able to agree on what we were looking for, but had a hard time finding anything in our price range.

Pastor Josh & Brittany Woods
We decided to make it a matter of prayer. God cares about the little things, so we knew he would take care of our couch. We both kept going back to one of the couches we'd seen, and again we agreed, that's what we wanted!

To make a long story short, when we finally decided to buy the couch, we realized that we would need it the next day, so we didn't have much time. When we went to the store to buy it, there was a brand new couch & love seat in the color we wanted, sitting in the store, and in our price range!

The next day, we had a couch just in time for our small group Bible study! And we love it!

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SURVIVAL TIP #3

>> November 17, 2010

TIP #3: Cultivate the art of being warm and friendly to all, while still keeping family information private.


Being friendly and approachable doesn't mean you have to spill your guts.

Remember that everyone else has another best friend, and learn to share only what you're comfortable being public knowledge.


This doesn't mean you're being secretive, just practicing discretion. Veronica talks about setting public, private and personal boundaries in this post.

If you take a few months to get to know people first, you'll be more free to accept ministry roles that you are passionate about and gifted in.

Got a survival tip that someone shared with you, or that you learned along the way? Send it in and we'll share it: clutchtalk [at] gmail [dot] com.

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the pastor's wife, then and now...

>> November 15, 2010

The Pastor's Wife. Carolyn P. Blackwood.
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1950.

I love old books.

I love 'em so much that my PH gets kind of irritated whenever we have to move, because there are so many extra boxes of antique books (call them ancient) that I absolutely refuse to part with.

Recently I pulled one of them out to re-read, and thought I'd share it with you. I'm not sure where I ever got it, actually.

The Pastor's Wife was published in 1950, by a seasoned pastor's wife. Granted, the sheer chasm of cultural change makes some of the advice in this book downright laughable.

You know, like the part where the she talks about hanging your wash out on the line early in the week, and making sure the whites are always extra white - so that people will know the pastor's house is clean.

Mmmhmm. Yep. I'm totally gonna get right on that.

But I found other bits of advice to be just as relevant today as they seem to have been 60 years ago. Blackwood talks about the importance of recognizing as a wife that you are as called to ministry as your PH. She also points out the importance of leading by example (even in things as basic as trying to have a home that looks/feels welcoming to guests), as well as becoming a woman of prayer, a thrifty financier and a friend to everyone. Skills like that are still very much in style.

One very valuable concept in this book, I felt, is the author's profound emphasis on cultivating a habit of discretion and learning to withhold judgment when people share even the most shocking things about themselves. Nobody trusts a gossip, and while people may gather to listen if the PW tells a juicy story, nobody will want to seek her advice or counsel on private matters if they know she can't keep a secret.

Another great aspect in the book is her focus on developing graciousness. PWs live under pressure. A lot of pressure. From a lot of different sources. Nobody's perfect, but the less we let ourselves nitpick, the easier it is to stay positive and focused on the blessings.

I was intrigued by the results of a survey the author shared. She questioned laywomen across America, in small and large churches, asking what they wanted from their PW. Here's some of the responses:
  • Christian character
  • sincerity and friendliness
  • tactful, and "not too eager to give advice" :)
  • willing to listen, able to counsel when appropriate
  • able to keep a secret and not gossip
  • well-adjusted/well-rounded
  • neat and appealing, but not dressed fancier than her parishioners (especially if they are poor)
  • most of all, someone who genuinely cares
I'd say, from my 8 years as a PW - that the last 60 years hasn't changed people's expectations much. They still want to know you care. They still want to know you'll listen. They still want to be proud of their PW when they meet you out and about in town. Mostly, they just want somebody relatable. The challenge is, when everybody want's someone relatable to themselves - it's an almost impossible challenge for the poor PW. Which points back to the "well-rounded" part...

Of course, none of us is perfect. Some aspects come easier to some PWs than to others. But any of us can find ways to show that we care, and we can all learn to keep other people's confidences to ourselves.

Finally, my favorite (paraphrased) tidbits of advice gleaned throughout the book, that might still apply today:
  • keep an emergency shelf in the pantry, with ingredients to whip something up for unexpected guests
  • dress nicely, but don't look slutty (that's not the 1950's word, but that's what she means!)
  • grow a thick skin - stuff happens in ministry, if you obsess over every little thing you'll drive yourself (and your PH) crazy
  • don't go busting on your husband's sermon mistakes the second he steps down from the front, give him a day to destress, and then share "kindly criticism" if you really have to
  • keep your kids a little sheltered from all the attentions and fault-finding of the "saints", don't excuse their flaws, but don't force them to be on display either
  • assume the unexpected will probably happen
  • find ways to be thrifty, without looking threadbare
  • stay out of church politics and focus on just loving people
  • pray a LOT
  • find ways to learn from other PWs
  • seek to live as an example of godliness to everyone, even if that just means being humble enough to admit it when you've screwed up
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SURVIVAL TIP #2

>> November 10, 2010

TIP #2: Be intentional about letting your new church know that you care, that they are important to you.

Your life as a PW may thrive or fail largely based on whether or not people know that you care about them. Every PW's personality and expression is different, and that's okay.

So if you're shy, you don't have to become a social butterfly, and if you're sanguine you don't have to morph into an organizational genius.

Find your own way to let people know you care. Listen, write encouraging cards or emails, text them, give a friendly hug - however it fits you personally. It doesn't have to be fancy or time-consuming, just genuine and real.

You'll be amazed at how people will respond positively just to knowing that they matter to you. And it will strengthen your PHs influence as well.

Got a survival tip that someone shared with you, or that you learned along the way? Send it in and we'll share it: clutchtalk [at] gmail [dot] com.

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loads of love

>> November 8, 2010


Several Months ago my husband and I drove to Charlotte, North Carolina to lead worship for a conference. I don't know about you, but sometimes these little trips are exactly what we need to plan and brainstorm for the future of our ministry.

I propped a whole bunch of sticky notes and a huge calendar up on my lap, with a pencil for notes. On the 5-hour drive we were able to accomplish so much, and get so much down on paper. We got to to dream and scheme without interruptions.

Our church has a huge vision to love our city. Red. Yellow. Black. White. Gay. Alcoholic. Addict. We think you still deserve to feel God's love. We like that do do that through tangible acts of service. Doing things that leave people going "Huh?"

Loads of Love was one of those acts of service.

Our childrens' ministry has 20-25 kids each week (remember, we're only 7 months into our churchplant). The kids brought in change they'd collected by doing chores or helping around the house or found in their parents car. The child who collected the most got to put a pie in my husband's face. If they reached the goal we had set for them we promised to throw an ice cream party.

The kids collected a little over $100. Not a ton of money, by any means. I asked myself "How on earth are we going to pull this outreach off?!?" That's when I felt Jesus' still small voice say "You're not, I am." Okay, fine!
We had people sign up to participate. Then we sent teams to two different laundromats where we'd called first for permission. Each team was armed with laundry soap, dryer sheets and lots of quarters. We also gave them donuts and bottled water since it was a Saturday morning. The biggest thing going for us was a team that had genuine love.

We got to the laundry mat and set up all our stuff. Slowly people trickled in, and we told them why we were there. We saw shock, some cried because they didn't really have the money to do their laundry, and we had so many one-on-one awesome conversations. Not pushing an agenda or our church, just simply loving. They saw a little bit of Jesus that day.

Will we see any fruit? Maybe. But we have at least reached one.

One grandmother with her four grandchildren are currently living in a motel. And it's not a Holiday Inn either. I can't share too much info, but one of the girls, a high school student, is now attending our Wednesday Night Glossy Girls (a small group for young girls). This group teaches girls about true beauty, what God thinks about you, and how he has a purpose for your life.

So - that measly $100.00 raised by the children, which I thought wouldn't be enough, was more than sufficient to meet this girl's heart and give her what she truly needed that day, loads of love.

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little miracles

>> November 5, 2010

It's November, a time of thanksgiving.

In our house, things have been tight lately. When the PW isn't working, it shrinks the family budget significantly.

So I've been getting creative on ways to make things last. And recently I realized that God's been helping us out.

Diapers are expensive. If you've got kids, you already know this. We get ours at Costco, the cheapest place we can find. But when I calculated how many he diapers he uses a day to know how many days the megapak should last, I realized that each pak is lasting days longer than it should.

You might think I'm crazy, but it seems that God has been working little miracles to extend the diaper supply. It may seem small, but when every penny counts, even the smallest things are miracles.

So this Thanksgiving Season, we're thanking God, for not overlooking even the little things!

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public, private, personal

>> November 4, 2010


In ministry, there is leadership and influence. You are a mentor, motivator and model. As such, I found it beneficial to categorize life events into the following: Public Life, Private Life, and Personal Life.


Jesus gave me this idea from the way He led his own life. He had a public ministry to the masses, yet had private time with disciples and those closest to him, as well as personal time alone with the Father. While this composition varies for each of us, it is a great example on how to categorize life.

There are times where you may make personal events public, or private events public, but that is up to you. The people you allow into your personal circle, let them know how you categorize and what you consider personal as well as private. In my experience, nine out of 10 will honor it. (As for betrayal, that is another blog post.)

Everyone's definition of what is public, private and personal will vary. However, if you don't already break life into these categories in ministry, I encourage you to consider it. See how it will work for you. It has proven a great help for us.

Especially in the age of social media, this concept helps to create boundaries. As leaders in the Kingdom, set boundaries in your congregations, in your groups, and with the people you lead. It will keep you strong and moving forward.


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SURVIVAL TIP #1

>> November 3, 2010

survival tips for the new PW

So you're a new PW.

This little series is all about tips to help you survive this new world, from young PWs who've been on this path for a few days longer.

TIP #1: Don't accept any church jobs for the first 6 months in any new church. (Make it 1 year if you have a new baby or very small children.)

When you and your PH start serving at a new church, tell people that for the first 6 months/1 year, you won't be considering any roles of service because your first job is to get to know everyone. Tell them you want to just get your family/household settled, learn your way around, and build relationships with people.

Taking a church position too quickly can put you in the crosshairs of conflict. You don't know who else might be desperately wanting the role, or what the expectations are, or the history of who was doing the job before. And you might get pressured into doing something you're neither good at nor passionate about.

If you take a few months to get to know people first, you'll be more free to accept ministry roles that you are passionate about and gifted in.

Got a survival tip that someone shared with you, or that you learned along the way? Send it in and we'll share it: clutchtalk [at] gmail [dot] com.

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digging into devotions - a miniseries (Holly Larsen Elias)

>> November 2, 2010

This is part of a mini-series featuring profiles of PWs about their devotional life and how they spend quality time with God. 

Holly Larsen Elias
Georgia
2 daughters, ages 5 & 4
Well I get up early, before the kids are up. Usually by 5:00 or 5:30 AM. I read for about 30-45 minutes. It doesn't happen every day, but I try for most days.

I also try to do some reading before bed, even if it is just 10 minutes. I read the Bible and then read some inspirational book. Right now, I am reading a book called Education -- good stuff!!! I have also read alot of books by Francine Rivers, Beth Moore and Max Lucado. I try to read one book a month as a personal goal.

Besides being a mom, a full-time student, and the pastor's wife -- I'm worship coordinator and I teach the beginner level children's class each week at church.

Share what you do to get personal time with God in a comment below!

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a season of thanks...

>> November 1, 2010

In the United States, the month of November is known as the Thanksgiving Season. It's a time for family, fellowship, food and friends.

Canadians celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday during early October. Other countries celebrate similar holidays at different times.

So for the month of November, CLUTCH is doing a few extra posts on things to be thankful for. If God has done some little miracle for your family lately, share it in a comment below or email us at clutchtalk [at] gmail [dot] com. We'll post it here as part of our series.

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WANTED::one columnist

>> October 29, 2010

CLUTCH needs a critic.

Often, we get requests to review new resources, new books, new music albums or artists, and even new family movies. 
We'd like to be able to do it, but our main bloggers are already fully committed. (And yes, occasionally it all makes us a little insane!) 

So we are looking for someone new, who would be willing to take on the role of reviewing stuff. And writing about it. 

This writer needs to be a young PW or ministry wife, willing to critique content based on biblical principles and values, keeping the interests and needs of CLUTCH's specific audience in mind.

Minimum frequency would be two posts per month, more if you like. 

If you're interested, write us at clutchtalk [at] gmail [dot] com for more details.  Tell us about yourself, where/what kind of ministry you and your PH are doing, and why you think you'd be a good critic.

© CLUTCH, 2009-2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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the dream

>> October 28, 2010

When you were younger, what did you dream of?

What was in your heart for you to become? Are you living that dream today? When was the last time you sat back, relaxed, and began to dream? The dreams God gave you were not meant to just ponder, but live out. Today I encourage you to "Live the Dream!"
If it's starting a Women's Ministry in your church, but you feel a lack of confidence, step out!

Have you been wanting to go back to school to finish a degree but are worried about how you are going to continue to support your husband in his calling? Talk to him about it. Pray together and see what God would have you all to do.

Is your dream to be a stay-at-home mom, but the finances just don't seem to add up? Ask the Lord for innovative ideas. He can make a way where there seems to be no way.

Maybe you have wanted to embark on the adventure of homeschooling, but you aren't sure where to begin. There are tons of resources out to assist you in finding the right method for you and your family.

Perhaps your dream involves saving for a vacation or a marriage get-a-way to strengthen the relationships in your family?

Don't complain about what you tolerate. Instead, start today and make a change. Take a step towards "Living the Dream!"

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digging into devotions - a miniseries (Heidi Rogers Melton)

>> October 26, 2010

This is part of a mini-series featuring profiles of PWs about their devotional life and how they spend quality time with God. 


Heidi Rogers Melton
Tennessee
  3 kids, ages 16, 13, & 7
Spending time with God begins for me at 5:30 in the morning while everyone else is sleeping, usually for 45 minutes. 
I accomplish so much more in the day when I start the day right. It has become a non-negotiable for me. 
I read a daily devotion and my Bible. I'm the earliteen/youth class teacher at church, and a counselor for Pathfinders. 
In addition to being a mom, and the pastor's wife, I serve on the regional Women's Ministries committee, and I'm the NE Tennessee area coordinator for Women's Ministry leaders in our denomination.

Share what you do to get personal time with God in a comment below!





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through the pain

>> October 20, 2010


You may be out there today hurting at a level so deep, many do not understand. Maybe you have gone through a tragic loss, were betrayed by the one closest to you or are experiencing the worst financial situation you have faced to date.

I want you to know you are not alone.

While others may not know what you are going through, God does. While others may not feel the heartache you are experiencing, the Lord knows. Life has a tendency to throw serious curve balls; completely unexpected. I want to encourage you today that whatever you are going through, God is going to pull greatness out.

Look past your pain and focus on the Word of God. Even if you feel you have been run over by a truck and all you can utter is "one word", close your eyes and utter the name of "Jesus."

I'm reminded of the hymn, I need thee... Lord, I need thee, every hour I need thee... it's Him that can heal your heart, your mind, your emotions and hold you like none other.

When you're "in ministry" there is not always the opportunity to talk to someone about what's going on. I encourage you today, through your pain, put some worship music on and talk to Him - the author and finisher of our faith, the Balm of Gilead. There is purpose in your pain, look for it, don't waste it.

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EMPOWER CONFERENCE 2011

>> October 19, 2010

If you live in the Dallas TX area, or if you've been looking for a PW conference to attend next year, check this one out.

The EMPOWER CONFERENCE 2011, hosted by Devi Titus and the Global Pastor's Wives Network, offers a variety of speakers, workshops and entertainment especially for PWs.

It's taking place next February, at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. You can find out more and register online here: http://www.gpwnempower2011.com/.


 If you've ever been to a GPWN conference before, we'd love to hear about your experience.

© CLUTCH, 2009-2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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digging into devotions - a miniseries (Nancy Witt)

This is part of a mini-series featuring profiles of PWs about their devotional life and how they spend quality time with God. 


Nancy Witt
Georgia
3 grown children, 3 grandchildren
How do I make it happen? First thing in the morning is when I love spending time with my Lord most. I get up 2 hours before any appointment and pray, read the Bible and/or a devotional book or study a specific topic. 
 
Often throughout the day, as time permits, I listen to sermons I've downloaded from the internet. That seems to keep Jesus as my focus during the day. Before going to bed I usually have a short devotion and prayer. 
 
Years ago I committed to spend as much time or more with my Saviour than I do watching or listening to TV or Radio. It has proven to be a real blessing.
 
Besides being married to the preacher, I'm involved with Women's Bible Study, Vespers Coordinating, Spotlight on Bible Ministry, giving away gospel books at the Flea Market on weekends. I also give Bible Studies during the week and do PowerPoint presentations for the Worship Service each week to help the service flow smoothly. 
 
Spending time with my Lord is always the highlight of my day.
 
Share what you do to get personal time with God in a comment below!

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CATALYST 2010 update

>> October 15, 2010

In case you've never heard of it, Catalyst is a multi-denominational Christian leadership conference held in Atlanta every October. This year, more than 13,000 leaders and pastors from all denominations gathered together to worship, learn, and fellowship.

This year was the first time I've gotten to go, and I think more of us should be there next year! I'll be honest, I only made it to the first day (this pregnancy has got me too tired and sick all the time to marathon through both days). But I believe that I heard what God brought me there to hear.

Andy Stanley, from North Point Church, gave the opening lecture. He wasted no time getting down to business and challenging our addictions to appetite. All kinds of appetite. Not just gluttony, or sex, or fame. He nailed the deeper ones, too. The insidious ones that disguise themselves as "spiritual desires". Stuff like, longing for more responsibility, wanting to be envied, lusting for more visibility.

You know the times when we say things like "God, I could serve you so much better if my church were just BIGGER!!!! And wealthier. And...."

He brought us back to the story of Isaac and Esau. When Esau was so overwhelmed by his hunger, so focused on his stomach, that he voluntarily traded his entire birthright for a bowl of stew. Because appetite makes you focus on one thing until everything else goes blurry, even when that thing isn't good for you. You HAVE to have it.


If your leadership decisions are dictated by your appetites, sooner or later you WILL trade your future for a bowl of stew.
It got me really thinking. Made me want to pray Paul's prayer of contentment (Philippians 4:10-12) - no matter where I am, no matter what my circumstances. God, make me content!
 
Of course, it doesn't mean that you don't want your church to grow, or that you don't want your family to be healthier, or that you wouldn't like to be able to pay all the bills - at the same time! But it does mean that we won't go lusting after what God hasn't given us right now.

I needed to hear it. And I'm glad I went.

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dear abigail::what about over-sharing, blackmail, and witchcraft?

>> October 13, 2010

Dear Abigail,
I'm writing with emotion after a conversation with my husband, so please bear with me. A lady in our town prayed for a bible-believing pastor to come, for about 20 years.

Not long after we moved here (my husband's first pastorate after seminary), she heard of him and realized her praying had worked. Here he was: God's gift to her. She is a very dedicated Christian and very spiritual, I have no doubt. But she has tried some things that make me feel enraged.

My husband happened to mention in passing that we own some of the Harry Potter books and movies. It does not bother us. I do not believe that by reading well-written FICTION that I am going to start holding seances instead of bible studies. She believes that having it in our house is holding him back spiritually and blessings are not coming because of it.

She proposed to give us a large amount of money for student loans IF we agreed to several of her terms: including getting rid of anything Harry Potter, reading a book on Spiritual Housekeeping, and more. After counseling with other pastors and mentors, we declined her offer. They advised that if she wants to give money as a gift without strings that would be fine, but not with a list of conditions.

The issue has now come up again. This morning she told my husband that she cannot continue to worship under him unless he gets rid of the Harry Potter. He keeps thinking to the verse in Corinthians (forgive the paraphrasing) about when a weaker brother struggles with something, we should give up that something as well. I always thought that this teaching meant "if you go out to dinner with a good friend who's an alcoholic, don't order a drink". Not "if a parishioner thinks the color on the walls is detrimental to our spirituality, change it"!

I'm quite upset about this. I truly feel that she is acting in an un-Christ like manner. I don't think my husband is a worse Christian or a worse pastor because of a novel that sits on our shelf. I'm worried about where this could lead.

Does this mean we remove all things magical, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Do I get rid of every book written by a non-Christian author? Do I refuse to let my best friend of over 20 years in our house because she is recently divorced? What happens if we choose to homeschool our soon instead of sending him to the "blue ribbon public school" in town?

I feel that if we decide to get rid of certain things, like Harry Potter, it should be our choice of what's best for our family and our house, not because someone has a different opinion. I hate the boundary this lady has crossed into our personal life and I hate the rift this is driving between me and my husband. We have a very good marriage and I certainly don't want something like this to change that.

Thank you, dear Abigail, for your listening ear.

Sincerely,
Veronique

Dear Veronique,

This woman's actions have obviously got you steaming, and for good reason. Pastoral families often face tougher "private" choices than any parishioner, because of our life in the fishbowl.

I see three separate issues in your letter: the sharing, the blackmail, and the material. Let's deal with the sharing first.

At the beginning of ministry, many young pastors (and wives) have grand notions of being totally  open with their new congregations. There is lots of buzz about transparency in ministry today. Now I would never urge you to be two-faced, or secretive, or opaque to the people in your church. We need to be consistent, trustworthy ministers of integrity. But families who have pastored for a few years will almost all tell you that they had to learn to keep family information at home - with the family.

Your husband probably had no idea that his passing mention of Harry Potter would cause such a firestorm. And you can't always know what will trigger such reactions. But there is a cultivated art to learning how to be warm, friendly, approachable and interested in people - without over-revealing the details of your family's private life. You never know what some people will do with personal information about you. Discretion is often the better part of wisdom as a pastor's family. You know the text: "Be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16)

Now, about the blackmail.

It is never okay for a church member to hold your husband, his ministry, or your family hostage based on their personal opinions and convictions. You would never do that to them, right? The offer of money in exchange for gaining control over your family life is completely unacceptable. You were absolutely right to graciously decline her offer.

When she came back, saying she could no longer worship under your husband's leadership, I'm sure that hurts. But it is still her choice. Your husband can not, and should not, sacrifice his integrity just to make her stay. If he can say, in his heart, that he has done everything appropriate to encourage her to stay, and she still chooses to leave, then he needs to be at peace that God will sort it out in His time.

Caving to her forceful manner and spiritual extortion will only open your family and your ministry to all kinds of manipulation and distortion in the future. Acts 5:29 is especially applicable here: "We ought to obey God, rather than man."

And finally, the material.

While I would strongly urge you not to make lifestyle choices based on intimidation from church members, when someone raises a lifestyle question that challenges you it's always wise to be SURE that your choice is okay with God.

Many might disagree, but I do not believe that Harry Potter and CS Lewis fall into the same category. You shouldn't be in any danger of needing to toss out The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. CS Lewis openly acknowledged that his allegories were designed to illustrate the gospel for children, and his use of witches is always aligned with their evil role against Aslan, the Lion who is Christ.

Harry Potter, on the other hand, even though it is a novel - portrays witchcraft as being a good, desirable thing, as long as it is used for good purposes. Each book gets progressively darker, and it tantalizingly familiarizes children with sorcery, making witchcraft seem as innocent as any other hobby or pastime.

Both the Old and New Testaments speak strongly against all forms of witchcraft, leaving no room for fictional enjoyment of it. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 says "Let no one be found among you who... practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead."

Galatians talks about witchcraft too, lumping it in with some pretty ugly sins like immorality, debauchery, fits of rage, orgies, etc. Paul says, "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21) Acts 19:19 says that people who came to believe in Jesus publicly burned everything they had about witchcraft, including their books and scrolls.

No one can dictate your conscience, and the lady in your church obviously has a controlling and un-Christlike attitude. But while you conscientiously reject her manipulation, prayerfully be sure that God isn't asking you to go ahead and make a different choice for reasons of his own.

~ABIGAIL


© CLUTCH, 2010 unless otherwise sourced.
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