Identity is a Gift

Where were you born? Who are your parents? In what kind of home did you grow up? What color is your hair, your eyes, your skin? What is your name?

There is a reason why these are good, simple, getting-to-know-you questions. The answers to these questions tell someone core facts about you. They may seem superficial, because they don’t say much about your personality. But all these things form your identity. And not one of them was chosen by you.

Identity is not chosen. Identity is a gift. Likes, dislikes, habits, dreams, and the like are a major part of a person, but these things change easily as we encounter new experiences throughout life.

We may be able to wear contacts, dye hair, or tattoo skin. We may move from place to place. We may not know who our biological parents are, or have any clue about our ethnic origins. But the truths of those things exist. We all have natural coloring to our bodies. We all have a point at which we were born on a particular date in a particular place. We all have specific parents, a father and a mother, who gave us their DNA, and therefore gave us our identities. For many of us these people gave us our names, as well.

Identity is not chosen. Identity is a gift.

The popular term “Christ follower” says a lot about how I see myself. It tells others to what, or to whom, I devote my attention and energy. However, when I deliberately sin, or even unwillingly sin, and I start to feel the guilt, I may doubt whether I actually follow Christ or not. When I sin, I’m a bad follower. How can I call myself a Christ follower when I’m terrible at it?

This is why I will always prefer the name given to us by our ancestors in the faith. I am a Christian, a “little Christ.” In baptism, God claimed me as his own child and placed his name on my forehead and my heart. His name is mine. I am a Christian because God is my father.

“Christian” says more about who I am, and whose I am, than “Christ follower.” I may be a poor follower of Christ, but I will always be a Christian because God bought me for himself with the blood of Jesus. My identity in Christ is more sure than any identity I could attempt to craft for myself.

Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of my identity.

Thriving Where You Are Planted

A few months ago I had this idea that I jotted down and had not yet taken the time to develop. Well, I feel like writing something, but I do not feel like working on one of the papers I need to write for my current master’s course. Therefore, I will try to flesh out my idea a little.

Many families are like trees, hence the Family Tree analogy that is so handy for tracking ancestry and visualizing heritage. Family trees can be beautiful expressions of the love between a husband and wife that bloomed and grew into the branches and leaves of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Trees are typically firmly rooted into the soil where they were planted. Their roots can be deep and wide in their particular place. Generations of a family, branches that split off to form new trees, can grow together into a grove in some places. For these families, place is a very important part of their identity. Their place is a part of who they are. These people spend their entire lives living and growing near other family members and friends they have lived by, worked with, and relaxed with for years. The connection to their place is very strong and very much a part of who they are.

A pastor’s family is like a potted plant. Plants bloom and grow like trees, but they can be uprooted and moved to another location. A pastor’s family cannot be so firmly rooted as a tree (military families understand this, as well). A pastor is called to serve a community of believers, yet it is not always the community where he grew up. If he met his wife outside of his hometown, then she often has to leave the community where she grew up, too. Pastors and their families can often feel like nomads. However transient and mobile a potted plant can be, it can still grow and thrive wherever it is nurtured and cared for.

Though place is very important, Christians know best how place can be lost. Abraham was called by God to leave his father’s house and journey to a new land that God would reveal to him. The Israelites were removed from that land by God, through the hands of the Babylonians and Assyrians, and when they finally returned they found it to be nothing like it had been before. Christians in war-torn nations, or those subject to persecuting conditions, often move and never return to their land of origin.

Pastors and their families move around, and though some stay in places for a long time, others do not. But by staying connected to the True Vine, the Living Water, Christ, His people can live and thrive anywhere. As the old hymn says, “I am but a stranger here, Heaven is my home.”

So, for all those pastors and their families that are in transition, moving from one place to another, from one familiar community of believers to a new one, we remember the words of St. Peter and make them our own: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Cling to Christ as you mourn your losses, adjust to your new homes, and make new memories together.

If You’re Thinking of Marrying a Pastor (or Seminary Student)

I just saw on Facebook a friend of mine share a blog post from somebody else titled, “If you’re thinking about marrying a farmer, stop.” It made me think about my life as a pastor’s wife, and I figured I would write a similar thing.

If you’re thinking about marrying a pastor (or seminary student), you should think about what your life will be like.

You will never look at other pastors the same way again.

You will likely not feel like you have your own pastor again. Maybe not until your husband retires. I don’t know, we’re not there yet.

You will be a single parent on Sunday mornings and for most church functions. On Sunday mornings my husband is leading the service and preaching, so I’m always sitting with our children by myself unless we’re on vacation. And at church dinners and other functions, he’s working the room to make sure no one feels like he doesn’t love them and doesn’t want to say hello to them that day.

You will begin to despise the sound of a cell phone ringing.

You just might be left without your date/husband at a church Christmas dinner party when one of the party guests needs to be rushed to the hospital and he goes along to comfort the family.

You may have to sacrifice being near family and friends to follow God’s Call to lands unknown. Sometimes those lands are only 12 miles away from your mom, and sometimes they’re 1,000 or more. Your new church becomes your support group, and that can be a beautiful thing. Not to mention, mass communication makes living far away so much easier.

You may learn how to can food when you receive an abundance from parishioners’ gardens.

You may find that your children talk to everyone they encounter because they are used to people from church asking them how they are and giving them Christmas gifts. They receive more attention than most other children from church because church people love their pastor and his family.

You will understand best how sin affects the world around us as you may be brought into many people’s personal sufferings. Your husband certainly is. You may get to know those hurts or you may not, but your husband will know them all. That takes a toll on him. He will not be the same person that you married after he has served as a pastor for a few years.

Since he will be aware of the problems of most of the families in your church, you can’t be a nag. Being a pastor’s wife will teach you how to be a better communicator so that your husband can have a peaceful home.

You may go years without knowing the names of the people you talk to every Sunday. Everyone will know your name, but they will forget that they only have a few new names to remember (your husband + you + your kids) and you have dozens, and they won’t think to reintroduce themselves on a regular basis until you have their name committed to memory. And unless you’re bolder than I am, you may feel awkward asking them their names multiple times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my husband, “who was I talking to just then?”

You may be given a car that a parishioner was getting ready to part with anyway, just because one of your cars died.

You may get to live in the largest, nicest home you’ve ever lived in since moving out of your parents’ house when your church has a nice parsonage for you.

You may get to learn all kinds of new things about different kinds of people by living in different kinds of places. We’ve lived on Long Island, NY, in suburban St. Louis, MO, and small town North Dakota. We’ve had churches filled with businessmen, doctors, dentists, nurses, teachers, and farmers. God’s people are everywhere and they are kind and loving people wherever you go. That makes new environments easier to adapt to.

You may learn that picking a church based on finding friends for your kids is the wrong attitude. We would much rather our kids be founded on the Word of God with a sure faith in Jesus than be surrounded by lots of children their ages. Granted, a pastor doesn’t get to just pick the church he serves unless another church Calls him. Then he has to choose between where he already is and the other place.

You may find that you need to have hobbies to make friends outside of church where you aren’t known as the pastor’s wife. Or you may find that you don’t know anybody where you live outside of your church, because the church is your life. That will depend on your personality.

If you’re like my husband and me, your perpetual joke will be, “see you in Heaven.”

You will have friends/acquaintances all over the country/world by developing relationships with other pastors and their families and the people that attend whatever congregations your husband serves over the years.

You may end up somewhere where people are very critical of your parenting, or you may end up somewhere where people are very understanding about children. We’ve been both.

You may feel like a failure as a wife and a mother, but that’s just a normal part about being a woman! Forgiveness and communication are vital aspects of a good relationship. Remember those things, and even if you’re crazy enough to marry a pastor, you will live a happy life where you can’t imagine living any other way.

Review: The River: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel

The River: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel
The River: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel by Ray Keating

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pastor Stephen Grant has run into trouble multiple times near the home front of New York City in recent years. Trouble finds him again in Las Vegas when what should be a business and pleasure trip turns dangerous and deadly.
Ray Keating delivers lots of excitement in this fast-paced thriller. Action, character development, and plot are all solid in this 4th installment of the Pastor Stephen Grant series. “The River” may be my favorite so far.

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The Call Process: A Pastor’s Wife’s Perspective

the-divine-call My husband is a pastor. I met him when he was a Seminary student, so his intention to serve Christ and the Church has always been a part of our life, the center of our life, really.

He is rostered to serve in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. An LCMS pastor’s first parish is assigned to him straight from Seminary. After that he is generally available to receive a Call from any of our member congregations, at which time he must choose between the Call he already serves and the Calling congregation.LCMS Cross

My husband graduated from Seminary in 2009, and from there he served at a church on Long Island in New York. We lived there for about three years until he received a Call from a church in St. Louis County, Missouri. He chose to accept that Call, and we have lived here for a little over four years.

On the evening of August 7, my husband received a phone call from a Calling congregation in southeast North Dakota. Now this Call could not be more different from the parish my husband currently serves.

In Missouri, we live in a large suburb of a good-sized city, the county and the city comprise of about 1.3 million people. Our congregation is large enough that we have three worship service times. We have a thriving school with about 200 students.

In North Dakota, we would be living in a town with about 650 people, 73 miles from the nearest city. It is a dual parish, which means two small churches that are 6 miles apart. And it has no school. The whole town only has one K-12 public school.

These kinds of decisions are very difficult to make. We had been living very comfortably, making plans for the future here, and then given an opportunity that causes us to rethink everything. I really dislike not knowing what to do, where to go, or when it will happen. Some pastors may take the entire weight of these decisions upon their own shoulders, which is understandable being that they are making a choice about their vocation and occupation, but my husband values my opinion. He would never make me do anything or move somewhere that I don’t want to go.

So we have spent a lot of time researching, talking, not sleeping very well, and agonizing over what we are going to do. Thankfully our children are young enough (9, 7, 5, and 3) that they are really flexible and would be happy to live in either place. I’m sure they don’t quite understand what living 5 hours from the nearest family really means, but my husband and I are just grateful that the kids are flexible and that we homeschool, so that we don’t have to factor those things into the decision too much.

My husband spends his time contemplating the two congregations, analyzing where both ministries ohmcardare going, and determining his gifts, passions, strengths, and weaknesses and which place he could serve best. He is a very perceptive, analytical, and thoughtful man. He can and will think of all angles during this deliberation process.

I spend my time thinking about how different these two places are, how I spend my time, how I would spend my time, what we would be leaving, what we would be gaining, etc. One thing that I determined early in our marriage was that I am not opposed to living anywhere, and I would go anywhere with my husband. We have a very close and strong relationship, and as long as we are together we will do anything together.

So, ultimately this decision still ends up primarily on my husband’s shoulders, as I am not the pastor. He is. He is the one that must think about which parish needs him in particular the most. I trust him wholeheartedly to make the right decision for our family. And I will gladly stay or go where my husband decides he needs to be.


Review: Blessed

Blessed by Christopher Mitchell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book took me a long time to get through. I just couldn’t quite get into it to breeze through it. However, it was full of good information and insight.

“Blessed” was an interesting word study of how the Hebrew word brk is used in Scripture. I love the conclusion:
“[God] comes to us with blessing through a virgin’s womb and a Father’s love, by His promise and benediction, in good times and in bad, and death shall never part us. May God look upon us and all nations with His favor and give us His peace. Amen.”

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