Friday, October 31, 2014

The Fox

Ted had a picture hanging over his desk that hangs over mine now. A pack of hunting dogs is racing to catch a fox. Right smack in the middle of the pack is the fox himself.  ....blending in.  The "fox" in our midst may be a twisted perception of God's true meaning of scripture as it personally applies to us.

Both Ted and I were emotionally bruised and battered 20-year olds when we came to Christ and entered immediately into ministry. We left our past behind.  Isn't that what scripture says to do?  I told you last week that finally the hurt from not really sharing emotional intimacy with my husband surfaced enough that dear friends insisted that we go to a counselor who worked only with missionaries, pastors and full-time workers who are so very practiced at masking our own pain. Those we serve cry so much louder that we cannot hear our own whimpers. ...and isn't there a scripture that tells us not to murmur? ...or whimper?   My "murmuring" leaked out in the form of sleeplessness and body pain from repressed anger.  The choices I had to make between ministry alongside my husband and staying home with our children emotionally tore at my soul.  I had to be Ted's helpmate, didn't I?  I was a musician by trade, was given the gift of hospitality and mercy and aren't we supposed to "stir up the gifts"?  I stirred them far too fervently when our children were growing up.

Our salary in our Bakersfield church could not possibly cover the college educations of three children.  This mama finally became angry when a missionary couple asked Ted for monies to pay their firstborn's college tuition and I did not have any money at all to send to our own firstborn. ...but whom could I tell? Some of my best friend's husbands were on our Board. We simply left,  leaving a congregation that probably felt abandoned.  Only a few years ago I found a letter Ted had written to the Board that he had written a year before we left that church, asking for a raise in pay.  I know in my heart that he never submitted it to them.  The brutality with which Ted was raised shut him down emotionally from the time he was barely a toddler.  He had no words for the pain, but his little soul made some decisions:  "When I grow up no one will speak of anything that is not positive; no one will know what I am really feeling; no child of mine will ever be hit or even spanked and no one will ever raise their voice in anger".   In later years he said to many: "I just forbade my wife, my family and myself to be real." 

I know that all three of our children will be in Heaven, and one already is. When Doug was an adolescent he said to his dad after Ted read to him the story of Abraham and Isaac:  "Daddy, I feel like Isaac."  For him to reveal his feelings must have meant that he felt more safety with us than neither Ted nor I felt with our parents,  but it still breaks my heart for my little boy as I write.  No wonder, as an adult he followed his dad to Texas, then back to California, then to Heaven.  Kindly do not take it upon yourself to preach me any sermons about what I just said.  I am a mother; we mothers do not always think rationally.

Years ago when I was the token woman speaker for the Torrey Conference at Biola/Talbot Seminary I barely got any sleep the entire week because of being sought out by the missionary's children who needed to talk and cry about being sent to a mission school that left them bereft of parents. I have counseled adults whose parents were with an oil company in foreign lands. They too were sent away from home for school at an early age. ...with heartbreaking consequences. ...and ever so many dads and moms put their careers ahead of parenting.  Oh, dear Lord,  may the children of such not be bitter against You.

Some of my Ted's most courageous acts ...and there were many,  were bravely speaking in front of crowds when he was  by nature so very shy.  Now that I am thinking about that more clearly I understand why he never grieved a minute about leaving our last two pastorates.  He was so at home in a small group and discipling individuals and couples. The Lord graced him by releasing him to do that.  He courageously went to a Christian counselor who took him below the water line  (Refer to last week's blog: "The Iceberg").  In his 50's he commuted for years to California to receive his Doctorate in Family Counseling.  He formed our own mission,  Family Life Resources, under which I continue to minister.  The greatest evidence of his courage was that his faith in Christ never failed. the very end.

Dear readers, you have journeyed with me to my childhood on an east Kansas farm, to Billy Graham's school in Minneapolis, to Dallas Seminary, Palo Alto, California, Bakersfield, the Middle East, Africa, East and Southeast Asia, California, Houston, Texas and Bear Valley, and now beneath the waterline.  Will you continue to journey with me?  Our Lord, in His great mercy for two little kids like us who hid 90% of our real selves beneath the iceberg because we thought we were supposed to,  is faithful.  ...and have you noted that the Lord is very "economical"?  He uses everything for His ultimate glory.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt


Love, Jo

Friday, October 24, 2014

The iceberg

Boy Howdy,  do I ever love my Texas friends!  How could I not?  I am treated like a visiting dignitary.  When we went to Houston in 1975 to minister, never could I have dreamed that God would build from a little bit of faith and an enormous amount of hard work and hard-earned money by Nick and Euphanel,  a Retreat where thousands come for a fresh drink of water.  Most weeks and on many weekends they host a different group of people who come for different reasons. ...but always for refreshment.  I too received refreshment.   I stay with Nick and Euphanel in their beautiful home and relish every minute of being with them and with the dear friends who show up to visit.  I sometimes attend the meetings of FirstPlace4Health whose retreat coincides with my visit and board meeting with the Goads.  It is very nice not to be in charge of anything at all.  Michele, my dear friend that lives about ten minutes from me here in Bear Valley is a four-year veteran of Wellnesss Week with FirstPlace4Health.  She now leads worship and Bible studies for women who come from many states.  What a joy for the women,  Nick and Euphanel and for me who all love her so much.  I read in scripture that the early disciples returned to the ministries they began, in order to encourage and receive encouragement to keep on keeping on.  I came back home from Texas to head right into "keeping on" with discipling.  Some call it "counseling".  Some call it "mentoring".  Some call it "hogwash".  I don't hang around Christians who don't understand the meaning of the word "discipleship".

Ted and I were never personally "discipled",  even though Ted studied Greek, Hebrew,  homiletics and ministry skills for eight years.   Both of us came from parents who were emotionally and spiritually deprived.  They could not give us what they did not have.  We took the empty places in our souls into our marriage.  Usually a wife expresses our emotional needs first.  Even gentle, kind men like Ted have well-guarded emotions.  He had to, from the time he was a very small little boy.  You may remember that the one who personally threw me a "rope of hope" was the world's most well-known evangelist in history who was gone from home most of the time.  I expected nothing more of my Ted who worked forty hours a week and carried eighteen units in school for all eight years of training for ministry.  I worked as a secretary and as a musician while doing my best to cover the parental needs of our two boys. ...then we hit the ministry running, our baby girl was born,  and we continued to run, and run, and run.  Eventually my pain surfaced in the form of leaking-out anger, exhaustion, then dark depression.  Euphanel and Nick,  new Christians themselves offered the very large amount of money required for us to seek out a counselor that ministered only to missionaries and pastors. ...and so we went to Lewis McBurney in Marble, Colorado who said to my Ted,  "I don't want to hear anything about your ministry. When are you going to make your marriage your ministry?"  Also with Dr. Mc Burney that week were a missionary couple from India and a pastoral couple from Wichita, Kansas.  All of us were totally committed to the Lord and to ministry, but there was emotional distance between all three middle-aged husbands and wives.  Lewis worked hard and long with all of us in order to break through the twisted perceptions of passages such as Romans 12:1 and 2.

Our ministries have always drawn the lost and the hurting.  ... predictably.  There was so much new fruit from our ministries that the emotional deprivation we continued to endure was buried beneath the joy of giving birth to so many spiritual children.  ...but hidden below the water line was most of the iceberg, waiting to sink our passion-for-the--needs- of- people ship.  I did not understand in my soul that Jesus came to serve me, even though my mind had memorized the scriptures that told me so. I honestly believed I was here only to serve Ted, my family and everybody on the Planet.  I read and taught about Jesus' washing the disciple's feet, but it never occurred to me that He came to wash my feet, and I certainly did not expect my Ted who had so many other feet to wash to wash mine.  We had completely given ourselves to the Lord to be "living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the Lord.";  however  the "pattern of the world"   blocked our being able to "test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will".   That "worldly pattern" is headed up by Satan himself who is relentlessly destroying the marriages, families and health of sincere full-time workers.  ...and he uses whatever he knows is hiding beneath the waterline.  He watched it go in.  God's will is always for us to be free of hidden bondage that hides in the generations and twists scripture.  Satan did it with Jesus. Why would we think he doesn't do it with us?  The sweetest gift God could give us was to remove us from the last two of our three pastorates and give us freedom to "go and make disciples" of people who want to be disciples.  The unbelievable pressure put upon pastors, especially in today's world of terribly broken people is beyond human endurance.  Add to that having to "make nice" with ego-driven board members, the agonizing cries that accompany the birthing and the dying of the sheep,  and meetings and more meetings. ...many of which seem so redundant.

Our oldest son Doug is in Heaven with his dad that he loved so much that he followed us all the way to Texas and back to California.  I know in my heart why he did that. The comfort I receive as I miss them both so much is that I know they are together at the feet of Jesus where all is understood and forgiven.  ..but the tears of loss are streaming as I write and I will not stop them until they are fully shed. ...for today.  I am so proud of our two remaining children and their spouses. All four reach out to so many hurting people but they diligently guard their marriages and their homes. what is true "discipleship" anyway?  Discipleship is caring about each other and subsequently the Body of Christ enough to journey alongside them as the Holy Spirit reveals to them the pain that is hiding beneath the surface of the water.   No one should have to take that journey alone. ...not even pastors and missionaries.

I am thinking of Paul:  once a murderer,  probably even members of his own family.  Was he married?  He had to have been to be a member of the Sanhedrin.  Did his wife divorce him or did she die from lack of emotional closeness to Paul, her husband?  Where was she? Why isn't she mentioned?   As I read the tender words Paul writes to his beloved disciples I know with surety that Paul was "transformed by the renewing of his mind" as he took the journey to his once-dead soul that in turn murdered so many others. Was all of this his "thorn in the flesh"?  We do not know, but soon, perhaps we will.

Matthew tells us in his book: "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks".  All of these writers of scripture were "transformed by the renewing of their minds",  perhaps even as they penned the words the Holy Spirit gave them.

Just a couple of lines of our beloved hymn come to mind right now:

...then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee



Sunday, October 5, 2014

We're comin', Lord.

Son Jeff and wife Carla are still sleeping upstairs. They will be heading to their home in Granite Bay (Sacramento) within the hour.  I will allow myself to go into a slump for maybe thirty minutes or so.  They came Friday night; Dee and Brent came for dinner. We were family, gaining perspective and energy from one another.  Yesterday was a day of sprinkler repairs and confronting a computer mess while son-in-law Brent's deep reservoir of patience with his mother-in-law was taxed to the max.   ... then off to Tehachapi we five went.  My four children deposited me at the Apple Shed then went on to see a movie. They came back to the Shed around 6 for dinner, I went on playing this and that for a steady stream of diners,   taking breaks to return to the family table and laugh with my beloveds.   Madi Jane, youngest grandgirl came for dinner, downloaded what's going on in her life then shot out the door to a friend's birthday party.  Gosh, I love my family! I mostly just listen as the parents exchange reports about their college kids while feeling downright relieved that that era of my life has been over for a long time. One grandgirl is in Philadelphia studying medicine, another is in Sacramento studying Philosophy, another is in a Bakersfield college studying Physical Therapy before leaving in a year for a university somewhere in California. Luke, oldest grandson is moving to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho this week for work and school.  Lance works locally for a wind farm enterprise. Madi, in her third year of high school is learning how to waitress and cook Greek style at a local restaurant.  O.K., that's the grandmother news. for another kind of grandmother news:

There are three great-grandmother widows in their 90's that I have loved and communicated with since our first post-seminary pastorate with Ray Stedman in Palo Alto. One is Ray's wife, Elaine. Another, Betty, the wife of one of the original founders of the church, and another, Harriet,  wife of a Board member.  Two receive my blog. The other wants nothing to do with a computer so I send her my blog once a month.  One of the widows claims that she blabbers about everything and everyone then can't remember what she told to whom.  Another never did blabber about anything personal and still doesn't. The third, twice widowed,  at 92 is probably still blabbering the Good News to neighborhood kids.

This week Michele and I fly to Texas to be part of FirstPlace4Health Retreat at Round Top  She will be leading worship; I will be goofing off.  Try to somehow make it through your days without my blog until the weekend of the 24th of October. 

The CD's of the Singalong are ready.  If you want one, send me your address. The recording has some blips, but you will catch the upbeatness of it all, with Gayel on fiddle, fabulous Frank on acoustic geetar,  Maria on the big ol' bass  and Michele singing.  What a great band!  I sing and lead from the piano. My 85-year-old voice isn't what it used to be, but then nothing else is what it used to be either.

Meanwhile, here's an old hymn that will make your day: WHEN THE ROLL IS CALLED UP YONDER

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more
And the morning breaks eternal bright and fair
When the saints of earth will gather over on the other shore
And the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there.


On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise
And the glory of His resurrection share;
When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies
And the roll is called up yonder I'll be there!


Love,  Jo