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Deb’s Ministry Blog shares articles of interest to people in a small church, missions, or writing ministry. These are practical and encouraging articles that may be shared freely.

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Ministry Marriages, Part Two: Working as a Team

 

In my last blog I began talking about ministry marriages and how to nurture them.  A couple can have a much more effective ministry by working together as a team than by each going their separate ways. Building that harmony into a marriage isn’t always easy, but good harmony will bless everyone around them.

Scripture pictures marriage as being like two oxen yoked together. The man and wife should be moving in the same direction at the same pace for the same purpose. This need for unity is especially important in a ministry marriage. If a couple is not united in purpose and are going separate directions, their ministry will suffer.

Have you ever met a passionate, gifted pastor with a wife who wished she could be someplace else? Doesn’t work very well, does it? Or maybe you’ve met a woman who longed to be in ministry and was trying to drag her husband along with her. God doesn’t lead a couple together and then give them mutually exclusive ministries.

Wives can help their husbands by supporting their ministries and working alongside them to see those ministries thrive. Husbands can help their wives by recognizing their gifts and encouraging them to use them.

More than forty years ago Art Brammer felt the Lord calling him to a missions ministry in Taiwan. He was training for ministry at Faith Baptist Bible College. I was attending the same college, eager to be involved in ministry and searching for God’s will. Two weeks after we started dating, Art told me about his desire to be a missionary to Taiwan and wondered if I would be open to the possibility. I told him I felt God was leading me to write for Christian publication, but I was also open to missions. The Lord led us together in marriage, then to Taiwan for sixteen years, then on to New Zealand in 1998.

Unity of purpose has helped us to work well together in various times of ministry. We both cared about the same people and ministries, though we had different jobs within those ministries.

Here are some ways I support Art in his ministry:

  1. Support and encourage his teaching ministry and ideas, both privately and publicly.
  2. Give feedback in a positive way. At times Art says something from the pulpit that comes out sounding like he means something different than I know he does. At times like that I mention it to him in private and allow him to correct it as he sees fit. I also try to get a sense of how people are responding to various ideas or events in the church and communicate that to him privately. Are we having enough or too many fellowship nights? Are people ready to make various changes? Who might be ready to fill a certain church office? Is a church member struggling with something?
  3. Offer suggestions for programs or events in the church. Art is a great plodder. He never grows weary of studying and he prepares well for all of his teaching and preaching times throughout the week. It’s easier for me, however, to come up with ideas for outreaches, programs, and events in our church. When I think of a new idea I run it past him. Sometimes these ideas don’t fly, but often, in talking about the idea, we come up with something that works well. Art doesn’t resent my ideas. He welcomes them, though he doesn’t use all of them.
  4. Complement his ministry with my ministry. I teach, plan, play the piano, lead programs, and do what I can do to help our team ministry prosper.

But Art also supports me in my ministry.

  1. He recognizes my gifts and encourages me to use them.

Yes, he’s happy for me to use my gifts in our church-planting ministry, but throughout all these years he has also encouraged me to write for Christian publication. This takes time, energy, sometimes finances, which I have to carve out of my life in addition to church ministry. He encourages me to do this because he wants me to be happy and because he recognizes the Lord leading me to do these things.

  1. He gives me feedback about my church ministry and my writing ministry. He gives suggestions and help. He’s my first editor.
  2. He helps me in areas of need. He works through computer problems and handles my writing finances. He encourages me to go to writing conferences when I can, and order helpful books or resources. When I plan events at church he’s the first to help me set up or clean up. When I plan a book launch he’s the quiet helper who makes everything work.

When a husband and wife work together in accordance with God’s will, ministry becomes more effective and rewarding. The hard times become more bearable. Without that unity of purpose, however, the ministry suffers and the marriage does too. Even when a couple is serving in separate ministries, they can support each other in a way that makes them stronger in each individual ministry.

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6 (NKJV)

In Part Three I’ll talk about nurturing your relationship.

Ministry Marriages Part One, Building Harmony into Your Marriage

 

How can couples in ministry protect and nurture their marriages toward more love and unity? I’m no marriage expert but my husband and I have worked in harmony in ministry  for over forty years. During that time we’ve grieved as we’ve seen some couples in ministry break up or struggle in their relationship while others draw great strength and encouragement from their marriages.

When a couple works together in harmony, each doing his or her own part in a way that blends with the other, the result is a beautiful ministry. Like a symphony, their marriage blend blesses the couple first of all, and then the people they minister to. On the other hand, when the couple fight each other and go in separate directions, the result is a clashing cacophony.

In a marriage, what makes the difference between that beautiful symphony and the clashing cacophony?

In the next few blogs I’m going to share my thoughts on marriage based on Scripture and what I’ve observed through the years.

Part One: Making Decisions

Submission and individual freedom need to be balanced or the marriage will suffer. Either extreme will affect the harmony of the marriage.

Suzy works hard to be a submissive wife. Sam speaks with authority and Suzy obeys. She hardly makes any decisions without consulting Sam first. Once he speaks on a subject, she follows his desires without question. If she disagrees with his decision, she prays that God will give her a submissive heart. She may not enjoy doing what Sam says, but she feels responsible before God to obey him. If Sam makes unwise decisions, she figures he is responsible to God for them. She leaves herself in God’s hands, satisfied that she has done her part and must leave the result to God.  In their church ministry Sam writes Suzy’s job description and she fills it. She never disagrees with her husband in public. When people ask Suzy for advice she refers them to Sam and she doesn’t answers questions without consulting him first. She never offers or accepts invitations or makes plans without consulting Sam first.

Edward and Enid, on the other hand, believe in perfect equality in a marriage. Edward makes his decisions; Enid makes hers. They negotiate to make joint decisions come out 50/50. He doesn’t tell Enid how to live and she doesn’t nag him. Edward makes jokes at her expense from the pulpit. She publicly criticizes him. In conversations they often correct each other or argue over who is right. Neither one can offer or accept invitations without consulting the other. Each speaks for himself or herself, but will not answer for each other.

These two couples show two extreme views of submission and individual freedom. Suzy takes submission to such an extreme that she doesn’t even need to think for herself. Sam, on the other hand, misses out on a lot of help Suzy could give. Enid works so hard to be equal that she loses some of the benefits of marriage, while Edward’s ministry would profit from her support.

Scripture does talk about submission, but an extreme view of it can destroy a marriage.

Ephesians 5 teaches us that wives need to be submissive to their husbands, but that we all need to submit to one another. A husband should love his wife in the same way Christ loved the church.  1 Peter 3 also admonishes wives to be submissive to their husbands and husbands to live with their wives with understanding, giving honor to them. It calls husbands and wives “heirs together of the grace of life.”

So who gets to make the decisions?

The husband, as head of the house, is responsible for final decisions on major issues. He should lovingly lead his family in spiritual issues as well as more mundane matters.

A Christian wife, however, brings her own unique gifts and abilities to the table. She can also be led by the Holy Spirit and should be capable of making wise decisions. A Christian husband can and should be able to learn from his wife.

A couple should work together in an open and trusting relationship in which each works for the good of the other. Marriage can add  a vitamin boost of energy to your ministry or it can drain all the nutrients and make your ministry anemic.

Each couple needs to work out the way they will implement these principles. Both need to give and take. Both need to recognize the strengths of the other. Who will make what decisions?  What will they do when they disagree? How will they work out differences?

Our marriage

Art and I compartmentalize many decisions. He decides car issues and many house maintenance and lawn issues. I get to rule the kitchen. I make suggestions about our ministry. He sifts them and implements many of them. He decides what computer to buy. I purchase clothing and small home purchases. He drives, I ride.

Many other things we talk about until we come to an agreement. Sometimes a decision is more important to one of us than the other. The one who cares least allows the other one to decide. Sometimes one of us gives in because it doesn’t seem that important. Art’s a gentleman and wants to make me happy so that helps a lot. It’s rare that both of us feel really strongly about a decision and take opposite sides. Rarely I might need to give in, even though I disagree, simply because he’s the husband and I leave it to him.

We did have one issue on which we didn’t agree. When it came up it really upset me and robbed me of any kind of peace. We had agreed that neither one of us would use money for this purpose unless we both agreed on it. The issue surfaced at unpredictable times and always left me feeling unsettled. Finally I said, “Take x amount of dollars a year to use for that cause and I’ll leave you alone about it. I don’t want to hear about it or talk about it. Just use the money to do what you feel you need to.” In that unusual situation, that was the best way to make peace.

A balanced view of submission and individual freedom will reflect these Biblical principles:

The husband is the loving leader of the home.

  • Each person brings gifts and skills to the table. Each will be better qualified to make certain decisions.
  • Each person needs to have freedom to make many decisions by themselves.
  • Each person should consider the feelings and needs of the other when making decisions.
  • Each person should trust each other and be trustworthy.
  • Each person should be giving and taking. No one should get his or her way most of the time while running over the feelings and desires of the other.

 

In Part Two I’ll discuss working as a team.

Ministry Marriages

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. There’s even a song about it. Couples in ministry usually find extra opportunities for ministry over the Christmas season. So you would expect ministry couples to feel their closest to each other at Christmas.

Statistically speaking, however, Christmas is a tough time on relationships. December 11, exactly two weeks before Christmas, is the day couples are most likely to break up. Many unmarried couples break up then because their relationships aren’t going well and they can’t bear to go through the holidays pretending everything is all right. Even for married couples, the Christmas season with its many family expectations and social gatherings can be hard to get through when your marriage is struggling.

We expect ministry marriages to be bullet proof, but couples in ministry have the same sort of problems as couples in the pews. Added to the normal stresses of life, ministry couples often deal with the struggles that other couples face as they seek to counsel and help Christians in crisis. Just as ministry couples try to plan more time for family traditions and social gatherings, they are often expected to produce extra services and ministries at Christmas. Each activity may be fun and rewarding, but added all together they can put a strain on their own family relationships. And then the global pandemic has added its own challenges this year.

Personally, I find my marriage is the easiest part of my ministry. I thank the Lord for that. But I’ve found that many marriages struggle in ways no outsiders would ever suspect. Here are some tips for these last few days of the Christmas season:

  • Be kind to everyone. You don’t always know who is struggling.
  • Don’t let Christmas get out of control. If traditions or obligations are stressing you or your family, take some activities off your list.
  • Spend time with family and friends doing simple things you can enjoy.
  • Tell your family you love them, that you’re proud of them, and why.

If you get past Christmas and your marriage is still struggling:

  • Make working on your marriage a top priority.
  • Talk out your problems with your spouse.
  • Become accountable to a trusted person outside your marriage. Activities you keep secret can kill your marriage before you even have a chance to work things out. If you’re not okay, you need to tell someone who can help.
  • Make space for quality time with your spouse and your children.
  • Determine to find a good balance between your ministry and your family.

I hope your Christmas 2020 will build your relationships and not tear them down. May God bless your marriage and ministry this Christmas.

Deb Brammer

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas 2020!

Instant winner!

Being a subscriber to Deb’s Book Blast automatically qualifies you to be in the draw to win the Kindle version of Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection. I’ve already read about half of these novellas by Christian authors. I’ll announce the winner at the end of this Book Blast.

Because of Covid 19 my husband and I were not able to return to the States for Christmas 2020. New Zealand remains one of the safest countries of the world from Covid. Our country here continues to have near zero cases of community transmission. We were due for a furlough from our mission church ministry this year but it didn’t seem like a wise time for us to go back.

We were disappointed not to be able to see our family who we have not seen since 2017. So we planned a virtual Christmas. From Thanksgiving to Christmas we met online for weekly Zoom calls with our daughters and their family. We used these advent calls to share memories and photos from the past, seasonal crafts, share brief devotionals, and even play a short game. We planned activities that could involve everyone in some way. Several times we talked about the ways God has provided for us during the last year and during difficult times in the past. These have been positive calls that helped us be together in a year like 2020.

I have many things for which to be thankful. Today I’m especially thankful for social networking like Facebook and Zoom which allows us to be connected to friends and family even when many miles (or kilometers) separate us.

What Christmas tradition are you changing because of Covid-19 this year? What special blessings have touched you during this unusual year? What have you learned to appreciate more because of the effects of the pandemic?

I hope you have a lovely Christmas full of awareness of all life’s blessings.

Now for the free drawing.

I have randomly picked a winner from my subscribers list to receive the Kindle version of a book with a cross cultural theme.

And the winner is … Jenny Leavitt from Florida.

Free true story for Thanksgiving

Do you ever feel like life doesn’t make sense and the world is spiraling out of control? 2020 will do that to you.

I live in New Zealand, one of the safest places on earth from the Covid-19 pandemic. New Zealand locked down early and strong. Now, when cases are skyrocketing across America, New Zealand has almost no Covid cases from community transmission. Almost all cases are Kiwis returning to New Zealand from overseas.  Everyone entering the borders has to isolate in special hotels for two weeks and have several negative Covid tests before re-entering. My life these days is very close to normal except for travel restrictions. It’s been almost three years since we’ve seen anyone in our family in person. We were due to take a five-month furlough this year, but Covid changed all that. We have so much to be thankful for, but it has been a crazy year.

How are you doing where you live? Are you thriving or barely surviving? 2020 can make you wonder what God is up to. How good it is to know that, even in the darkest days, God is in control and is working things out according to his plan.

Mary Weaver, a godly Christian housewife, watched her life seemingly spiral out of control. She faced many dark days when she couldn’t see God working for her.

See a quick summary of her story in this trailer for Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story. (click on the screen with the doctor and stethescope.)

During the darkest days, Mary still believed God would show her innocence. In the end, God proved himself strong and revealed his mighty work behind the scenes.

For two and a half years I was challenged every day by this true story as Mary, her lawyer and I wrote her story. I was constantly challenged by Mary’s testimony and encouraged by God’s amazing work in her life.

As we come to the week of American Thanksgiving, I want to share a chapter from this book that will challenge you to give thanks. You are receiving this chapter free simply for being one of my subscribers to Deb’s Book Blast. In December I will tell you how you can get the ebook Edges of Truth for free as well.

Here’s the story:

 

Prison Blues: a Thanksgiving Challenge

Mary Weaver sat on her prison bunk and slipped a family photo from the pages of her Bible. It pictured her with her husband and two children, before she was sentenced to life in prison without parole. She caressed her red-headed son John and his blonde sister Catherine in the picture. For sixteen months she had only seen them once a week when her husband brought them to the prison visiting room.

It all started January 22, 1993 when Mary was providing childcare for 11-month-old Melissa. Mary was putting the baby’s snowsuit on when Melissa quit breathing. Mary called 9-1-1 and performed CPR until the ambulance came, but the baby died within a day. The autopsy found a two-inch skull fracture and other severe injuries that were seven to ten days old. Some doctors ignored these older injuries and believed Melissa’s death was caused by acute injuries from shaking and possibly slamming the baby just before she quit breathing. Since Mary was with Melissa during the forty-two minutes before she quit breathing, they believed Mary must have caused the fatal injuries.

Mary had never done anything to hurt Melissa but opinion on her guilt was divided. She was eventually sent to prison for murder. Her lawyers were seeking to appeal her case, but over a year had passed and they still hadn’t been able to get a new trial. Meanwhile Mary was separated from her husband and kids who were now five and six years old.

Mary felt sure God would eventually free her and clear her name. She was a Christian and she knew God would get her through prison one day at a time. But she grieved for her children and unsaved husband. Months had passed into a year and more and her children were growing up without her. She would never get those years back.

As Mary sat in her cell worrying about her family, a guard appeared at the door. “Mrs. Weaver? You got a visitor.”

Mary set her Bible aside and preceded the guard down the prison corridor. Who could this be? As she stepped into the visitor’s room Catherine skipped up to her in a pink tutu and leotard.

“Mommy, Mommy, I’m going to my dance recital! Aunt Lisa brought me so you could fix my hair.” Catherine jumped around until Mary could hardly get a hug from her.

Mary smiled her thanks at her friend, Lisa Murphy, who had figured out this creative way to include Mary in her daughter’s special occasion.

Mary drew her daughter close. “I’d love to fix your hair. Shall we do French braids?”

“Yes, yes, yes, with pink ribbons!” Catherine bounced with every word.

Mary removed ribbons and elastic bands from Catherine’s ponytail and pulled long blonde strands into sections with her fingers.

“Hold still,” she reminded her daughter as she started one braid. Mary breathed in the fruity fragrance of the superfine hair as she began to weave the strands into identical braids on either side of her daughter’s head, then tied perfect pink bows at each end.

Catherine shook her head to feel her new hairdo. “Thank you, Mommy! I can’t wait to see myself in the mirror.”

Mary surreptitiously wiped tears with one sleeve. “You look beautiful. Can you show me your dance?”

Catherine performed several ballet steps, ending with a lopsided pirouette. Mary clapped loudly. “Good job! Just remember, when you’re in that recital today, I’m going to be thinking about you.”

Catherine gazed at her mom with pleading eyes. “I wish you could come to my recital.”

Mary blinked some tears from her eyes. “Me too, sweetheart, but Aunt Lisa will take pictures and I’ll study them carefully. Just remember that your mommy is very proud of you!”

Mary gave her daughter a quick, prison-acceptable hug and watched the two walk away. Satan whispered, “You are missing her recital and all the other important moments in her life.”

Mary lifted her chin. But God allowed me to fix her hair. God gave me that precious moment. God is good.

She thought of other ways God had allowed her to mother her children as well. God had given Mary a prison job, and her wages had been raised from thirty-eight to forty-one cents an hour. So what if it was only ten percent of minimum wage? The job made her time pass more quickly, and she could use the money in the commissary or craft store. Supporters could also add twenty dollars a week to her prison account. The activities directors had been especially kind to use this money to purchase fabric and patterns for her. Mary had been able to sew outfits for the kids, paint T-shirts, and buy presents for them.

Mary returned to her cell, sat on her bunk, opened her Bible, and prayed. Lord, help me to be thankful for what I have, not to complain about what I don’t have.

A prison sentence made it easy to slide into self-pity. Unfairness could defeat her but only if she let it. Instead she thought about The Hiding Place, a prison library book she had recently read. Corrie ten Boom had hidden Jews in Holland during World War II. The Nazis had caught her and thrown her into a bitter cold prison for four months, then a women’s extermination camp in Germany. Except for her sister, who was imprisoned with her for a time, Corrie had almost no contact with her family. She and her sister existed in overcrowded, filthy cells with little regard for sanitation and little to eat. They were allowed no exercise or fresh air.

Like Mary, Corrie was unfairly imprisoned, yet Corrie’s sister challenged her to focus on what she had. Corrie accepted the challenge. In solitary confinement she hungered for human contact, but she thanked God for an ant that crawled into her cell and provided a bit of company. In one of her prison cells, for one hour a day, she could stretch herself out tall and feel the sun shine on her head and chest. She thanked God for the sunshine. Later, at the extermination camp, she slept piled on a straw-covered platform with many other prisoners, sandwiched between other crowded platforms. Fleas infested the stinking straw, but Corrie even learned to thank God for the fleas. The tiny insects kept the guards away from the overcrowded bunk, where she hid her precious Bible.

Mary closed her eyes to shut out the conversation of the other inmates lounging right outside her cell. Her prison cell was the Ritz Carlton compared to the ones in the book. “Thank you, Lord, that my family is safe and that I can see them every week. Thank you that I have other gals to talk to. You’ve even given me a roommate who seems to be a true Christian. Thank you that I can feel safe in prison, that other inmates haven’t given me trouble, that the guards treat me with respect. Thank you that I have a Bible and I can read it openly, whenever I want. Thank you that I’ve grown closer to you in prison.”

The State had stolen her family. The first year they seized all her possessions, even her clothes. Only now they allowed her to keep a few things of her own. The State could separate her from her home and family, but they couldn’t take God away from her and they couldn’t take her away from God. She would focus on him and the things she was allowed to enjoy. Today that meant fixing her daughter’s hair for a special occasion.

 

God showers us with so many blessings every day that we sometimes get used to them and claim them as rights. When we have them we don’t appreciate them, and when we don’t, we complain.

Thanksgiving is a great time to focus on what we have. What has God given you today?