I realize this blog is a little long; but, it’s important to raise our spiritual leader(s) up on a regular basis–by offering prayer and at times showing them some appreciation. In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to dedicate this blog to those who have given their time to tend their flocks. I know that my pastor’s compassion helped me to change my life. I was sexually abused as a child, and I had a lot of baggage. My pastor helped me to understand how to leave my past abuse behind while becoming more passionate for Christ.
So how can we show our appreciation to our spiritual leaders? Well, most pastors put a significant amount of their time into preparing sermons. I think one of the best ways to give encouragement to them is by being faithful participants in the congregation.
Many pastors pour their heart out, using God’s words, into a sermon to tell us the truth of His grace and love for us. These words spoken, allow us to understand the faith & hope we can have through Him so that we can live and have a passion for Him.
It seems to me that the life of a pastor might be one of the loneliest professions one could pick. It has the makings of a very tough, demanding – and lonely – occupation.
Frustrating? Some of the times, yes. Rewarding? Most times, yes. Spiritually fulfilling? I am most certain yes, and on many different levels.
To spend one’s “everyday” life to further the kingdom of God must be a great profession indeed.
We all have days where nothing seems to go right. Maybe days of immense stress with any number of things that could be contributing to a “bad day.” Maybe you’re having a “season” of bad days.
When that happens, it’s not uncommon for us to talk the situation over with a spouse, family member, friend, or peer. Those conversations can be a great relief. Maybe you might come up with some solutions that you had not considered.
Your pastor has probably had some of those same “bad” days; but, unlike the rest of us, they often don’t have the luxury of a sounding board.
Think about it. Most of us have jobs where we are faced with “performance” appraisals once, maybe twice a year. Pastors are continually being critiqued on a weekly basis. I’m sure there is someone sitting in the pews, on any given Sunday, who is thinking that the sermon could have been better, or that the music wasn’t to their liking, or that the service just wasn’t “good” enough.
It’s almost certain that at least some of the comments will make their way back to them. Who are they going to discuss their concerns with about the fact that no matter what they do…somebody seems to be unhappy?
Then there’s this role of counselor. We often speak to our spiritual leader in confidence. Things said, and seen, can weigh heavily on their heart. All along pondering how to deal with such difficult situations. Yet, where can they go when they are feeling emotionally drained themselves? Where can they go to receive advice about how to handle a particular situation? That could be a whole separate blog; but, at this time I want to share what one of my pastors did for me.
As a child I had been sexually abused by my stepfather from the ages of 7-15…becoming most intense from age 9 and on. I had no idea of how much the abuse really affected me. The following is an excerpt from my site “About Grace Desired”:
“My husband, Sam Hairston, had researched and found a church that taught reformed doctrine. We had been attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church for over a year. I have never been one to stand out at church. I have pretty much been a back row worshiper. I obviously lacked passion for His truth–because there was definitely a lack of knowledge.
As time went on, and due to the good leadership at the church, I began to understand more of the Bible–the truth of His Word. The senior pastor, Tom Gibbs, has a vision and a passion for furthering His kingdom by being compassionate toward His people. The church has a vision and passion as well. Together, the community of the whole church has a passion for wanting to further His kingdom within our city and beyond. For the first time, since I was in high school, I had begun to love a church.
At church it was spoken that the broken (being me) could be energized by the “grace of God”. Week after week, I began to hear that Jesus was for the brokenhearted. Tom preached, and I heard that Jesus could be my champion, and that I could be made new like the “Oaks of Righteousness“. I also heard that God took delight in me. I thought, who me? I am a broken and scarred sinner who is full of shame, guilt, fear, and contempt. How can that possibly be? I was a skeptic!
At the time, Pastor Tom Gibbs, and his wife Tara, believed something else. They had noticed the back row worshiper and her family. I was told that they had prayed for us prior to their time spent with me. I suppose they wanted us to become the front row family.
Anyway, they began to play an integral part in my life. They dedicated much of their time trying to help me see that His grace and love is the reality of my faith & hope; thus, I would learn that I have really received His grace for my past secrets. They helped me to begin to understand that my shame, guilt, fear, along with my contempt, were unnecessary–because Christ took all of that away when He was nailed to the cross. The path was becoming clearer. I was to begin my journey learning that God desired me for who I was…even if I was broken.
I began to realize that God was actually “wining and dining” me. God longed for my attention. I began to feel God’s love, and it was the kind of love that I subconsciously craved for years and did not know it. Many, many months went by, and little did we know that a volcanic eruption (in epic proportion) would follow after the completion of the workbook. It was very painful to recall the memories I had suppressed. I began to have nightmares. I had no idea of the emotions that were surfacing to the top (like the beach ball). These were emotions that I had harbored within my very soul for years.
My “season” of confusion, self-hatred, and fear became too complex… even to the point of a deep despair. I began to become so frustrated that I cut myself a couple of different times. Of course I never really wanted to die; but, that I just wanted to get the horrible shame, guilt, and fear out of my body.
My “season” of emotions turned into “seasons” gone bad; kind of like a really bad reality TV show.
I believe God puts people into our lives for a reason. I definitely believe God brought the Gibbs’ into my life for a reason.”
Sometimes we put our spiritual leaders on pedestals of sorts – and it’s got to be a little lonely up there. We might forget that they’re human beings just like we are. They have strengths, and they have weaknesses, just like us. They get tired. They get frustrated. They need a pat on the back every once in a while, too!
So while Pastor Appreciation Month is a great thing, remember it’s important to support them all year long with prayers and words of encouragement. If last week’s sermon had a particular impact on you, say so. Send your spiritual leader a note of appreciation. You can also support spiritual leaders by becoming more involved with the church.
If we are enthusiastic followers of God, it will mean something to God – and to His ordained servants. I’m thankful that my pastor showed compassion and saw more in me, than I saw in me. He saw that God was not finished with me yet. Through his compassion he helped me to leave my past abuse behind and helped me to become more passionate for Him. Thank you, Pastor!
My prayer for spiritual leaders would be: “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” ~Philippians 1:2
In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to thank the rest of the staff at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas. They are as follows: Tom Gibbs, Senior Pastor; Brandon Eggar, Associate Pastor; Victor Martinez, Assistant Pastor; Michael Novak, RUF Pastor; Brent Watkins, Music Ministry (BTW he also has his own jazz band “South Texas Jazz); Bekah McNeel, Children’s Director; Matt Beham, Youth Director (who has spent countless hours with my kids); Harriet Peavy, Office Administrator; Sarah Gill, Assistant Administrator. I would also like to thank the Elders, Deacons, and Deaconesses for their countless hours of service. There are so many others that play an integral part behind the scenes, and God bless you all for your time and efforts to further His kingdom.
I definitely seem to be in a battle of Spiritual warfare. It seems Satan is always trying to make me feel worthless; therefore, it’s important for me to surround myself with a “friend that loveth at all times.” Knowing that, I am far from being a good friend; I can definitely get wrapped up in “my own little world”.
I was thinking about this on a bit deeper level. There are people in my life who are more like acquaintances. They have really not touched the inner core of my personal being, and I seem to be able to carry on a nice casual conversation. I thought this funny that I could meet a stranger, whom I will never see again, and greet them with a certain nicety.
On the flip side, there are a few that I regard as trusted confidants; those that seem to “loveth me at all times”…even during my bad times. I am sure I catch them off guard with my “irrational” emotions. I can only imagine being my friend can be rather taxing at times. I definitely have a funny way of showing loving kindness on certain occasions. In the midst of trying to understand, or confront, my own emotions–I seemingly confront them emotionally & not always rationally.
One moment I can be positively nice, and in the next moment, I can confront them with some insidious remark. I will say this is not a normal practice of mine. Yes, I may say something totally ludicrous; but, not always hurtful. I make no excuses for this behavior when it occurs. I must be sincere in asking for forgiveness when this happens.
…Switching gears with my ADD thinking…
God tries to confront me with His goodness. Sometimes I consider Him to be “interrupting me”, and not think Him to be very important. I am not always thankful for His “interruption” in my life. Like my unwanted emotions on others, it “seems” as though God confronts me at unpredictable times.
On the other hand there seems to be times that I am encountering loneliness, heartache, and pain. During these instances in my life, it “seems” to me that God is not “interrupting” me at all. In fact, I feel as if He is ignoring me.
I have to realize that it’s not because God wants me to “suffer”; but, that He wants me to know that He has an “unimaginable” pleasure–for me. His grace and mercy covers me in these dark times. His arms are wrapped around me. I just have to keep that in mind, and not think that He is trying to “trick me”.
Satan tricks. GOD DOES NOT!
I am reminded of a quote that Westly tells Princess Buttercup in “The Princess Bride”,
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Again, God really does love me! He is not trying to “sell” me something. He loves me unconditionally! In return, God desires for me to come to Him, and tell Him I love Him. He is filled with great joy and happiness when I do so. He is not out to “trick” me.
My husband, Sam, had me listen to a message by Jamie Lash one afternoon. It reminded me of how I sometimes think God is “interrupting” my day. That His will for me may be “interrupting” what I desire for myself.
After listening to one of Jamie’s messages, a lady stayed behind to ask him a question. She was obviously, like many, afraid to abandon herself to God’s will. She asked Jamie, “What might God want me to do with my life?” She was worried that He might want her to do something that she really did not want to do…or that was not her will for herself.
Jamie went on to ask her, “What if your child was to come up to you, and say that he/she really loved you with all of her/his heart. Would you, in turn, laugh an insidious laugh and say, ‘I got you now! From now on you will clean the toilet every day! I finally tricked you!”
The lady was offended and said, “What kind of mom do you think I am?”
Jamie’s response was, “What kind of Father do you think God is?”
WOW! Through my brokenness, God reveals His goodness to me…even when I think He is “interrupting” my will. This is great news!! “No matter what my experiences have been with my “earthly” parents, or as parents to our children, we are to give voice to the cry within us for the Father who nourishes us and protects us.” (Dan Allender, “The Cry of the Soul”)
I think it very ironic that my experiences of pain, fear, anger, & shame (of the world I live in) actually bring me closer to the joys and mercies of God. This is the way He intended for me to really live. God delights in me! He desires me to “dance with Him wildly”. He goes to great lengths to keep me from pursuing others before Him. He wants me to desire Him as if there were no other lover. I need to remember how intimate He is…with me. I am His bride like no other.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith,
who for joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…”
~ Hebrews 12:2
Christ is not trying to “sell” me something, or even “trick” me. Above all things, Christ bared my shame, so I could live in joy! The least I could do is praise Him with adoration, and not confront Him with irrational emotions.
After all, He was nailed on the cross and He did not laugh an insidious laugh. Instead He said to me,