Advice for Ministry



Jeremiah 29:11 & 13
My humble advice about ministry: God bless your heart for wanting to reach others. As for advice, pray for open doors, and then when God opens them be willing to walk through them if you sense God’s leading. Even though, they are not the doors you expected to open or wanted to open.
Many times, it will not be like you think. Try to stay humble no matter how people treat you. Good or bad. Try to stay grateful to God.
If you have a family, put them first. This of course, is first after God. Ministry can become more important than your family, and this is something God would never want.
Don’t worry about what other people think of you, but worry about what God thinks of you. When you feel that He is telling you to say, “No,” have the courage to do that too. Don’t let ministry push out a relationship with your Heavenly Father.
Always, love and forgive His people even when they hurt you. This is what He would want, but don’t allow them to abuse you. Shake the dust off then.
Take care of yourself, eat right, rest, and remember to have fun. There will be times you will be at the top and other times at the bottom. But it’s not about you, it’s about Him. Give God the credit and praise always, and rest in Him during times of failure and loss.
Never forget to pray, spend time apart, and to love God more than anything. Remember you’re not alone, He is with you even when you feel forsaken, misunderstood, and undervalued. You are loved, not for what you do, but because you are His!

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Finding purpose in life

iPhoneIt was one of those phone calls that you don’t expect to get. No, it wasn’t a middle of the night crisis, rather an early morning candid confession. “I don’t have a purpose anymore,” said my elderly friend with desperation.

In reality, there were still community events for her to attend, and restaurant lunches or suppers with friends. But there were no longer children to raise or even grandchildren to fuss over. Everyone had long ago grown up and moved away. My aging acquaintance’s body stubbornly refused to allow her to work or even volunteer for all the causes she had once so passionately supported. Quite simply, the fragile widow was searching for a reason to get out of bed each morning.

It is part of the human condition to seek fulfillment through what we do. “The two most important days in life are the day you are born and the day you discover the reason why.” This quote is from renowned humorist and author Mark Twain. Twain died over a century ago, but his wise observation remains relevant.

Purpose Driven Life coverProbably, the most well-known book ever written specifically about the subject is “The Purpose Driven Life” by Pastor Rick Warren. Originally released in 2002, the book had sold over 32 million copies by 2012 when it was reissued in an updated anniversary edition. Publishing experts never predicted this widespread success. The book’s subtitle, “What on Earth Am I Here For?” echoes Twain’s assertion. Apparently, learning the “why” of our existence continues to be a pivotal question for most people.

Besides, for much of the time we spend on this earth, we have defined roles. As a child we discover the world around us, and then assume the job of learning as students. We eventually find a career in the professional realm, and some folks embrace the awesome responsibility of becoming a parent.

Our days can be filled with mundane duties and tedious tasks that bear little resemblance to the lofty dreams of youth. It’s then we can experience burnout or become very disillusioned, which can result in a midlife crisis.

The Urban Dictionary online defines a midlife crisis as, “When a person regrets how they have lived his or her life, and they attempt to ‘correct’ their mental issue in a variety of ways which usually always harms themselves or those closest to them.” The satirical website says those “harmful” decisions could include buying an expensive convertible, or getting divorced. Society pokes fun at folks having a midlife crisis, since they are desperately trying to hold onto their youth.

Life is a journey, and we are all at different places along the pathway. “We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way,” according to songwriter Gloria Gaither.

We don’t want to rush through our days missing the precious moments that need to be cherished. Yet it’s good not to get too comfortable, because often our purpose changes dependent upon the season of life we are in. When things don’t work out the way we have planned, that’s when a wise individual reinvents themselves to discover meaning in each new stage.

Purpose Driven Life anniversary editionEven in unexpected tragedy like Rick Warren’s family experienced in 2013 when his 27-year-old son Matthew committed suicide after a lifelong battle with mental illness. In the past two years, the famous minister and his wife Kay, have become a highly visible force in the field of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Within the national faith community, they are now championing churches to reach out to those individuals struggling with mental health issues.

Often it is our life circumstances that are the most difficult that result in new direction. The “why” we are here changes, and we have to adapt. Similar to society’s recent trend to repurpose everything from old furniture to broken jewelry, we have to pick up our own shattered pieces and figure out how to make something beautiful out of them.

No matter our age, if we are still on this Earth, there is more for us to do. Like my friend who was panicking because she no longer felt that her existence had meaning. I wish I was an early morning thinker, because in that instant I could have reminded her, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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Let’s Keep Talking about Heroin

heroin spoonWhen an individual becomes an addict, they aren’t who they once were. A formerly honest person will lie, cheat, or steal to get their next fix. As a society we must be aware of how desperate this chain of deception can be, and how we can become ensnared in its web, despite our good intentions. For example, recently I was in a local drugstore when a seemingly frantic male approached me holding his cell phone in his hand. He told me that he had just spoken with his grandmother and was terribly embarrassed to ask, but he needed an additional $10.00 to buy a prescription for a loved one. His request tugged at my heartstrings. The young man dressed in a plaid cowboy shirt could sense my ardent desire to help, but what he couldn’t sense is that my compassion was checked by a painful past experience.

Years ago, this same story had caused me to give another stranger $20 to buy medicine for a non-existent sick child. I was a single mom back then, and that $20 was a large portion of our meager grocery budget. I found out later through a reputable source that my hard-earned money was used to buy drugs. My intentions were right, because the Bible says, “…if anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” Still, I vowed to use greater wisdom. prescription pillsThat’s why I went to the pharmacy counter inquiring if there was a young man unable to pay for a prescription. I wanted to help anonymously, if the need was authentic. The drugstore clerk informed me that no one matching his description or situation had been there.

We have to use great caution continually, since headlines report fatal overdoses in area motel rooms, murders in nearby sleepy villages, and rampant crime everywhere. Most of it is heroin-related. Yet it’s easy to believe that heroin addiction will never affect someone you care about, until it does.

The trouble is that very few of us remain unscathed by this deadly epidemic. According to the most recent statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 5,927 deaths in 2012 compared to 8,260 in 2013. That’s an alarming 39% increase. Over a decade ago, I experienced the loss of a close acquaintance to heroin. Back then, little was known about this cunning culprit. I was confused that its victim, a middle-aged mom who had spent much of her life as a professional woman, had been trapped in heroin’s clutches. Her funeral left many folks searching for answers. It seemed shocking that she had pulled off a double life, but it was not a shock to those close to her. They had lived with the chaos, fear, and unpredictability that loving an addict creates. No one could have forecast this treacherous path strewn with tears and hopelessness. After all, no little girl or boy says, “When I grow up, I want to be a heroin addict.” It must be a parent’s worst nightmare, and it’s definitely an extended family member and friend’s frustrating role. Often, we don’t speak of heroin addiction in our inner circle, lest we shame those already heaped with guilt. We are further silenced by our inability to provide answers.

angel grave marker'That’s why I started reading everything I could about the subject. I even found myself studying the local obituaries of those whose deaths seem to be heroin-related. Of course, it can be difficult to tell. A few months ago, I didn’t have to wonder if the young man with an engaging smile died of an overdose. His obituary read, “… [He] was taken away from us far too soon after fighting a battle for his life against heroin addiction.” My heart broke for his family, but it also swelled with pride that they had the courage to confront heroin head on. Not to bury the tragic truth with their loved one, instead to say that he fought valiantly, but lost the battle.

What that family did was of groundbreaking importance. They called the enemy out, and we need to have that same courage. To keep talking about the existence of heroin in our communities, and to be honest that as a relative, neighbor, churchgoer, or friend, our lives have probably already been personally impacted in some way. The first step in finding a solution is to accept that the problem is closer to home than we care to admit.

Christina at The CarolineChristina Ryan Claypool is an Ohio AP and national Amy award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her though her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. She has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV programs.

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Celebrating Pastor Appreciation Month

Clergy Holding Bible “Clergy Appreciation Day “ is always the second Sunday in October” according to www.hallmark.com. This year, October 14, 2012, is the official date to honor pastors, priests, and ministers for their selfless commitment. Yet the entire month is dedicated to celebrating our clergy with this remembrance first being established in 1992. There’s even a Biblical reminder to honor those who care for our spiritual needs, “Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness….”

Of course, pastors and their spouses aren’t perfect. But neither are any of us. However, they do have a special job, since the word pastor can be interchanged with the Old Testament title, “shepherd,” and congregants are analogous to sheep. An experienced farmer and Bible teacher once told me that sheep can be incredibly stupid animals, which need a shepherd to lead them. Apparently, if a sheep gets turned upside down in a ditch filled with shallow water, they’ll drown simply because they don’t know enough to turn over. Sheep can also be prey for an attacking predator. Due to their inability to protect themselves, they could be easily killed without a shepherd’s protection.

Therefore, “why” congregations celebrate Clergy Appreciation Month can be explained by the countless stories of pastors who have acted as a protector and a rescuer. Maybe, it was a midnight vigil at the bedside of an ill parishioner, walking alongside a family experiencing the loss of a loved one, or listening as a hurting couple tries to rekindle the smoldering embers of a broken marriage. However, needy congregants can forget that their busy minister often has a marriage of his or her own with flames that also need stoking.

It’s commendable that many pastors are willing to selflessly visit the sick in the hospital, offer endless hours of support to grieving people, or to respond to a church emergency when the phone rings unexpectedly at 3.a.m. However, these sacrificial tasks can result in their absence at the family dinner table or their children’s school or sports events. In addition, minister’s hectic schedules can necessitate their mates to shoulder the majority of the household responsibilities alone.

Rev. Jane Madden, president of Ohio’s Shelby County Ministerial Association agrees that those married to clergy sacrifice a great deal. “So often our spouses give up time with us, so we can do what God has called to do,” she said. Rev. Madden is the associate pastor of nurture and care at the SidneyFirstUnitedMethodistChurch.  She is also an organist there. The 69-year-old retired elementary music teacher went into the ministry as a second calling joining the Sidney First UMC staff in 2007.

As for concrete ways of showing clergy appreciation, Rev. Madden suggests, “Taking them out to lunch, [or if a congregant has] a cabin on the lake or something like that, they could offer that to the pastor and their spouse [for a getaway.] Gift certificates [for a meal out] would be good.”

She believes a simple card would be appreciated, too. “I know in this day and age everything is texting or email, but a handwritten note means so much more,” said Madden. She also suggests showing your caring by insisting that your clergy take time off, “If the congregation would make sure their pastor is taking a day off and having a Sabbath rest at some point during the week.”

According to Jane Madden not only in October, but all year long, “For myself and the other pastors that I have spoken to, the best thing the church people can do is to attend church and to get involved in the mission program in church, and be committed to their spiritual journey.”

Pastor David Clem of Ohio’s Spring Creek Christian Church shares her opinion, “The greatest gift any pastor can receive is to see members of their flock maturing in faith and actively engaged in doing the Lord’s work.”

Like Pastors Madden and Clem, most clergy and their mates are compassionate educated men and women who care deeply about those they oversee. During October, let’s especially remember to show gratitude to these individuals who give so much of their lives to minister to others.

Another way to do this is simply by praying, because the president of the Ministerial Association says that pastors would greatly appreciate this gift all year long. She explained, “Prayers lift us up and encourage us …just encouraging to know that people are praying for you as you are doing God’s work. 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award winning journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News on Oct. 6, 2012.

 

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The Controversial Case for Profanity

 

I  guess you could call me a recovering curser. Not one to appeal for a supernatural calamity type of evil curser. Rather the profane, get-your-mouth-washed-out-with-soap-by-your-mother when you were a kid kind. My late mom wouldn’t have approved when on July 13, 2012, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC policy permitting broadcasters to be fined for profanity on live TV finding the regulation unconstitutional. I’ll bet residents of Middleborough, Massachusetts, didn’t approve either. Early in June, they were so fed up with public profanity that they voted to impose a $20 fine on anyone ticketed for the offense. The violation appears to be limited to individuals swearing frequently and loudly. But it was protestors who made their voices heard loudly on June 26, 2012 by hosting a public protest against the pending statute. Reportedly, most of them weren’t even from the town of just over 22,000 residents which is located less than 40 miles from Boston.

For me, profanity is personal, because using colorful expletives became an entrenched habit early in life. Besides Mom’s Ivory soup, when I was only 19, the owner of the restaurant where I waited tables, reprimanded me for my foul mouth. Being an educated and successful businessman, I listened intently as he corrected me by saying, “Intelligent individuals know how to use their vocabulary to express their emotions without resorting to obscene words.”

But after finishing college while employed as a corporate representative for a large manufacturer, my supervisor seemed almost amused by my vulgarity. It was in the early eighties, and I was desperately trying to make it in what was then a man’s world. I used obscenity as a defensive weapon to balance my gender inequality, and to create an impression. Regrettably, I must have been creating the wrong impression, since I never moved up the corporate ladder. Let’s be honest are you awed by a female whose salty language could make the late comedian George Carlin blush?

Speaking of Carlin, I did walk out of one of his shows back then. He was doing his famous monologue where he lists one bad word after another, making people laugh hilariously. Yet for the first time in my life, I was enlightened to the fact that a lot of dirty words are simply references to female anatomy. Being a lifelong champion of women and being one myself, I couldn’t support degrading the very sex I had tried diligently to defend.

Yet it’s been decades since I let those four letter words fly freely. My endeavor to curb my wayward tongue started when I became a Christian believer almost 25 years ago. There were Scriptures that convinced me that spouting obscenities was probably not attractive as a Jesus follower. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3: 9 & 10 NIV

For those of you, who want to know how far you can go before it becomes sin, I think that Ephesians 4:29 in the New Living Translation is pretty clear, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” If that verse is not convincing enough, take a look at Colossians 3:8 NLV, “But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.” The term, “dirty language” is referred to in the Bible’s King James Version as “filthy communication.”

According to The Preacher’s Files [preachersfiles.com], “In the Greek language, the phrase, ‘filthy communication’ means foul speaking, low and obscene speech.” More than two decades ago, in respect to my newfound faith, it took a concentrated effort requiring vigilance and time to liberate me from my potty mouth. For months, I bit my lower lip constantly to avoid swearing, shocked by how frequently I cussed like a sailor.

Fully rehabilitated, and moonlighting as a prerelease speaker at North Central Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio, more than a decade ago, I was surprised when an educator negatively commented about my lack of expletives. Following my lecture, the public school principal said, “When ‘John Doe’ comes to speak, he uses the ‘F’ word, and the prisoners can relate.”

“I know the ‘F’ Word,” I said with sarcasm. “But I don’t use it, because I thought we were trying to teach the inmates to aspire to a better life.” Inwardly, I was disappointed that someone trained to instruct others, thought we should incorporate their bad habits into our delivery to communicate more effectively. Besides, everyone knew that “John Doe” was paid thousands for his speeches, while I barely made three figures.

Recently, I’ve noticed that even clergy sometimes seem to think it makes them appear more relevant if they throw in a few four letter words occasionally. Of course, I don’t think most folks in ministry would venture into the “F” bomb terrain, but apparently a British priest did. I read the account of a vicar in northern England who used the infamous word on his Facebook page. The Church Report shared the story on May 25, 2012, “Priest Apologizes for Unholy Language on Facebook.” Seriously, Father, what were you thinking?

As a transformed gutter-mouth girl, I’ve been on both sides of this argument. Only one expletive away from a relapse, I’m biting my bottom lip again, but this time it’s over the outcome of Middleborough’s ban. This new ordinance is under scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union as a possible violation of the First Amendment regarding freedom of speech. The ordinance also had to be filed with the Massachusetts attorney general’s office by July 11, 2012, and then there would be a possible 90 day review period to review the bylaw’s constitutionality.

Interestingly though, the ordinance actually decriminalizes public profanity which has been an illegal, but rarely enforced offense in Middleborough since 1968. The recent demise of the FCC policy probably sets a precedent that the First Amendment protects people’s right to cuss up a storm. But how about a little common courtesy in public? Maybe we could designate a “foul language only” section in community settings and eateries. Although if my former boss was still around, I’ll bet he might have a little chat with patrons about their deficient vocabulary, if he caught them swearing in his restaurant.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award winning freelance journalist, inspirational speaker, and author of the book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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