Escaping Stereotypes

I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience, our brains automatically stereotype based on personal observation and experience. What image comes to mind with each of these?

  • professional basketball player
  • soccer mom
  • construction worker
  • woman missionary
  • minister’s or pastor’s wife

If I asked for an image of a “dogwood flower,” you probably think of the white flower above (calm, pure, little tinge of pink on the edges), but the riotously-fuchsia flower on the left is just as much a dogwood as the white one!

Growing up, I had a really strong image of what a minister’s wife was “supposed” to do and look like. Because my own life and personality were so far removed from that stereotype, I struggled when that role became mine.

This month on Pastor’s Wives, I talk about it. Catch the post here, then leave a comment over there or come back and talk to me here. I’d love to hear what you think. Am I right in my advice? What would you add or take away?

God always knew you would be a #pastorswife, and yet He made you this way anyway! (click to tweet)

One Man’s Treasure

11-24 children's Bible (1)
my first “real” Bible  (c) Carole Sparks

Jesus had just spent an hour or so with some kids. He hugged them, patted their heads, and blessed them (Mark 10:16). How do you picture that scene? I think he probably stooped down to be on their level or pulled them up to sit on his lap. I think he chatted with each one, smiled at them, comforted them, and just generally enjoyed himself. I think he learned their names, their pets’ names, their favorite activities and anything else they wanted to share. I think he was patient when they stuttered and laughed at their silly jokes. After all, the Kingdom of God belongs to “such as these.” This is one of my favorite images of Jesus, and not just because it was on the front of my very first Bible as a child.

Mark 10:17-22.

As Jesus stood to go from that happy, relaxing time, a man ran up and fell onto his knees in front of Jesus. Did he push some children out of the way? Did he see that Jesus was Continue reading

I’m not the first

I’m not the first to make a long drive
up a familiar four-lane,
to shake hands with an earnest doctor
who bears more bad news than any one person should bear.

I’m not the first to swallow vomit
and grab the glass door of an ICU room
as my own breath is ripped away
by the ragged breathing of one I love. Continue reading

Speechless Worship

The further I move into Psalms, the less I have to say. What, after all, am I to say to or about the Creator and Sustainer of the universe? More and more, I read my Psalm for the day, and I just sit back…taking it in…repeating the most meaningful parts. More and more, the only words I have are His. That’s why I call it Speechless Worship.
I’ve never done anything like this before, but today, I invite you to join me in this photo meditation. (All photos are mine. Please don’t use without permission.)

Continue reading

Above All Else, Guard His Heart

I’ve read the statistics. Many full-time pastors don’t spend personal time in the Word of God. Sure they study the Bible in preparation for teaching and preaching, but they don’t just dwell in it for their own spiritual nourishment. This month on PastorsWives.com, I share a couple of ways pastors/ministers’ wives can facilitate (or at least not prohibit) their husbands’ time alone with God and His Word.

Check it out: Above All Else, Guard His Heart, then leave a comment there or come back here to let me know what you think. Any other ideas on this topic? I’d love to hear them!

Prioritize your husband’s personal time with God to see a stronger minister and a better #marriage. #pastorswives @Carole_Sparks (click to tweet)

What’s So Good about Good Friday?

I don’t like Good Friday. If any day should be called Black Friday*, it’s this day…

when Jesus, the Christ, had willingly walked into the clutches of His desperate and vindictive enemies,

when the Prince of Peace climbed onto a torture rack and endured hours of excruciating pain before finally releasing His Spirit,

when Messiah himself hung up there deserted by those He claimed as followers—nay, friends and confidants (John 15:15), Continue reading

The Apple Tree

James opened the door to Grandma’s house while Mom unbuckled his baby sister. He didn’t have to knock at Grandma’s. She always said he should just “come right in,” like he lived there. He took a deep breath as his foot crossed the threshold. The air was still thick with old books, old furniture, and antiseptic spray—as usual. On his second sniff, fresh rhubarb pie clouded the mix. James’ shoulders fell. He was hoping for chocolate or apple.

“Why are you standing in the door, Jamie? Keep moving!” Mom usually left her exasperated 10-25 apple house (22)voice in the car, but not today. One more sniff told him why, and one glance at his sister’s backside confirmed it. Grandma’s exclamation hid his gagging cough.

“James!” Only Grandma understood he wanted to be called James, like his grandfather, not Jamie or Jack or James-er-ooo. Her nose wrinkled briefly. when she got close “Umm, I just pulled a pie out of the oven, James. Can you help me in the kitchen?” He was saved from diaper-changing!

Grandma handed James the knife as he entered the kitchen. “Want to cut your own piece?” Mom would never let him handle a knife like that.

His lips began to form the word “no” as Grandma stepped away from the stove. A fresh apple pie stood beside the still-steaming rhubarb pie. “Made that one this morning. It’s already cool enough to eat. You hungry or not?”

Grandma chose apple pie, too. She sat a lukewarm cup of grey coffee beside her plate and an ice-cold glass of milk beside James’. The milk sloshed out a little.

James lost himself in his pie. It was half gone before Grandma finished her first bite. She was eating more slowly than usual and staring out the window while she chewed. James put down his fork.

The clink of fork on plate woke
Grandma from her reverie.

The clink of fork on plate woke Grandma from her reverie. She took a long swig of coffee. James was patient. Grandma told the best stories when you didn’t push her, when you let the story flow out on its own. He’d learned that fact last summer. She had always told stories filled with “The Lord did this” and “God blessed us with that,” but last summer, those stories finally began to interest James. Now they were his favorite part of a visit to Grandma’s.

She swallowed hard, hesitated as though to take another drink, and returned the cup to the table. “The apples in your pie came from that tree over yonder.” She pointed out the window and across the back yard. “You know that tree?” Of course he knew that tree! It was his favorite climbing tree, but he just nodded. Better not to distract Grandma when she was gearing up for a story. He’d learned that last summer, too.10-25 apple house (24)

We planted that tree the year your Uncle John went to Vietnam. He loved apples, and I was so tore up when he got drafted. Your Grandpa thought tending to a new tree might help me cope.” She tried to smile, but the tears trembling on her lower eyelid got in the way. She took a bite of pie, so James did the same.

“He wasn’t the only son to leave that spring. The pastor said all us parents should be strong as oaks, faithfully pray for our sons, and continue to help those in need. I didn’t feel like an oak. I felt more like that little sapling, bending with every slight breeze. The theme music for the nightly news made my hands shake, and I couldn’t face the mailman. Your mama was only four years old, but I made her fetch the mail every day.

“I didn’t pray so much for John’s
safety as for his witness.”

“I wasn’t strong, like the pastor said, but I did pray. Funny thing, though, I didn’t pray so much for John’s safety as for his witness. I prayed God would help him be a Light for the other soldiers. I prayed God would make him respectful and brave. I told you how he won that purple heart, didn’t I?”

“Yes, Grandma.” James wanted to ask for that exciting story again, but Grandma was bent in another direction today. He took a big gulp of milk. A little dribbled down his chin, and he wiped it on his sleeve. Grandma didn’t notice.

“The next Spring, a year after John left, that tree got seven blossoms on it. By Autumn, those blossoms had turned into apples. You know how many apples it takes to make a pie?”

James shook his head, his mouth full of pie.

10-25 apple house (28)Grandma smiled. “It takes seven. I knew from the moment I saw those blossoms that those apples weren’t for me. When they got ripe, I picked ’em, made a pie, and took it over to the Marshburns. Their son was missing-in-action. We talked for two hours, mostly about our boys, of course, but God kept reminding me of Scripture to encourage them. We ended up praying together, and it was one of the sweetest times of…communion, I guess you’d call it, I’ve ever known.

“The next fall, there were fourteen apples. I made two pies, and I took them to two different families. The same thing happened. We encouraged each other, we prayed together, and we were all blessed.

“I’ve made apple pies from that tree every single year since then—through a terrible drought, through late freezes that I thought killed the blossoms, and even through a tornado one year. I didn’t keep even one of those pies for myself. I always shared them, and God always blessed through them.”

“But Grandma,” James interrupted, “You didn’t share this one. You kept it right here in your house!”

James felt like Grandma
was sizing him up.

“I shared it with you, didn’t I? And we talked about the things of God, didn’t we?” Grandma stood up, her eyes never leaving James. He felt like she was sizing him up. Then she walked into the kitchen, cut a big piece of pie and put it in an old plastic butter tub.

She sat the plastic tub by his elbow and nodded toward his forgotten plate. “You gonna finish that piece of pie?” James stuffed the last two bites into his mouth and drained his milk. “If you’re thinking we didn’t share this pie properly, take this piece across the street to Mrs. Key. But remember, this pie comes with a side of encouragement and prayer.”

James grabbed the tub, hugged his Grandma again, and turned toward the door.

“Um, James?” Grandma interrupted his march. “You might want to wipe off that milk mustache first.”

We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. –Psalm 78:4

Stories tell themselves better over pie. Which of your #stories bring Him glory? #flashfiction (click to tweet)

It’s important for us, as parents and grandparents (literally or figuratively) to tell how God has been real in our lives. Maybe it’s not a miraculous apple tree, but “He has done great things!” Remember that old hymn, I Love to Tell the Story? What one thing do you want the next generation to know? Do you have a parent or grandparent who told you these kinds of stories? How did it affect your faith? Please share in the comments.