Saturday, February 19, 2011


I remember with a giggle how my dad would step away from a Thanksgiving table. He'd pause in the doorway, rub his belly, and smirk, "Well, folks, another turkey has entered the ministry!"

What a goofball.

But he was right. His entire life was a ministry. Not just because the vocational box he checked on the census was beside the word "Minister". Not just because the employer listed on his tax form was a "church". He was a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ every day in many ways.

A couple times in my life, my dad held day jobs outside the church. From my adolescent vantage, there was not a big difference. He was the same. Jovial and endearing toward strangers, passionate and probing about the truths of God, and willing to be used in any capacity to which the Lord called him.

Back in elementary school - when he had been a pastor my whole life - I remember taking the distinction quite personally. A group of friends were discussing some dastardly deed, and the statement was made, "Well, we know you won't, Cari. You're dad's a PREACHER!" I immediately assured them that they were only half right. "I wouldn't do it if my dad were a banker or a garbage man either!"

I vividly remember explaining to those kids that the decisions I made were not based on what my dad did for a living. I told them I tried very hard to make all my decisions based on what might make God the most happy. I suppose it was the first time I used words to share my faith. (Well, there was the time in Kindergarten, shortly after I had been saved, where I unashamedly proclaimed to the other five year olds that disobeying one's parents was indeed a sin.)

I don't remember being taught this idea of integreating faith and discipline or ever questioning it. But confusing messages of protocol floated all around. I knew of people who were "called into the ministry". Mainly boys. The few girls who felt this call -and said it out loud- were surely heading for the mission field. Where else would there be an acceptable position of service?

My first summer at youth camp, I "felt a call". I was terrified. I did NOT have one single vibe in my soul toward foreign cultures. Now what? Was it real? What do I tell people? "I've been called to missions?" What does that really mean? After much editing, I remember saying, "I feel like God is setting me apart for something important that He wants to do through me." (That was my story and I was stickin' to it!) I simply had not heard a model for the verbiage to articulate what was truly happening in my spirit.

Honestly, the best I could figure, I was being called to [marry a] minister. I knew second-hand the pressure and privilege lain at the feet of a pastor's helpmate. My youthful perspective allowed my mind to entertain such a notion as rational closure.

Years passed. I read the Bible. I enjoyed worship. I made good grades. I kept taking piano lessons. I kept singing in church. I kept trying to make my decisions based on God's glory. I kept a journal.

As I studied music education at college, I prepared to manage a classroom, but hoped to joyfully manage a thriving household someday. As I spent time with gentlemen, I would occasionally and quite secretly think back to that July evening in the camp tabernacle and wonder if I was "within the will of God".

More years passed. New university. New major. New guy. I met the "one for me". Luckily -in terms of aligning my life with teen aged interpretations of divine callings - he was a "ministerial student". Whew! That was a close one.

We married. I worked for my Alma mater until we found out we were going to be parents. Though we had no financial foundation for my transition home, God blessed us with common resolve and uncommon poverty and provision.

A couple years later, my husband came to me and said, "I need a change. I feel like God is leading me to step away from youth ministry. I want to encourage and meet the needs of men. I don't know what that looks like, but I feel really strongly."

Even though this new direction would leave us homeless since we were raising our sons in a parsonage, not for one moment, did I hesitate. Never did I ask, "So, you're leaving the ministry?" He read his letter of resignation from the pulpit a short time later and then we continued to worship with that body. Although, we did have to actually drive to church.

We immediately began hosting a mens' prayer breakfast in our home on Wednesday mornings. Philip didn't get paid. He had no title or position in the church. He didn't turn in receipts. He just ministered to a group of men once a week before going to work at a power company.

Ironically, that same year, I was approached by our pastor. Our worship leader was scheduled to be out of town the week of Christmas. He wanted to know if I could put together a special communion service. That project led to many more opportunities and eventually a permanent position on staff as the worship leader.

Funny story: When we received the invitation to the Association's Staff Appreciation Banquet, it was addressed to "Ministers and Wives". I snickered at Philip and said "Can you be my wife for this event?"

In my new roll, I received a paycheck. I had a title and a position in the church. I kept mileage and turned in receipts. But really, I just ministered to the people with whom I much the same way I minister to my kids and neighbors and friends every day.

Let me say, I believe God ordained men to be leaders. I look at my time as a staff member as a specific calling for a specific season in a specific gifting for a specific flock. If there had been an available man willing to serve, I would have cheerfully returned to my seat on the seventh pew, and submitted to his matter his skill or ability.

Today, many years later, Philip still works as an electric lineman, and I "joyfully manage our thriving household", (dreams really do come true:). Within the church body, he teaches and oversees and greets and serves. I share my love for worship with the next generation and I use my love for writing to encourage women.

Beyond the walls of the church house, we try to shine for Jesus. Philip does a ton of ministering from the cab of a lineman's truck, across the booth of the local diner, or in a dugout. Most of mine happens as I walk and talk and teach and train. We tell our story. We share with others. We give our time. And we raise our kids to do the same.

We are ministers of the gospel of Christ every day in many ways.