Monday, August 08, 2005

on highs and lows ... and lists

Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. --Eph 4:2b (NLT)

The young woman looked nervous, but determined. As I took a chair in front of the girl and her husband, I wondered why they'd called an emergency meeting. It didn't take long for me to find out.

“I’ve made a list,” she began, “and these are all the ways you’ve failed me as a pastor’s wife.”

I couldn’t believe what I heard. One by one, she read my faults out loud. Most things were petty and insignificant. A few would have been disturbing, if they were true. But they weren’t.

"You tried to get me to disobey my husband," the girl said. "When he sent me to buy a van for our family, you tried to tell me not to go."

I remembered the situation. But it hadn't gone that way at all. Initially, I'd urged her to not to step foot on a car lot without her husband, because I knew the salesmen would eat her alive. But when she told me her husband had actually asked her to go, I simply warned her to be extremely careful and to make sure she read the fine print.

"You tried to keep my husband from going on the street and sharing the gospel," she added.

That also wasn't true. I distinctly remembered the day this young girl had called me near tears. "I'm a sinner," she said.

I had laughed at that. "You and me both." But I could tell she wasn't talking in general terms. She had something specific in mind. "What's troubling you?" I asked.

She explained that her husband had been out witnessing several nights that week and planned to go again that night, but she wished he'd stay home. She missed him and felt the kids weren't seeing him enough.

"That doesn't make you a sinner," I said. "That makes you a woman." I went on to tell her that women are like barometers -- we have a sensitivity to the needs of our family and can tell when relational storms begin to brew. "You're just recognizing that the family needs more of his time. That's not a sin." I encouraged her to ask her husband if they could plan a night that week for just the family, and promised her that God's will would not be thwarted. If her husband wasn't out on the streets sharing the gospel that night, God would make sure someone else went in his place.

But this girl remembered the conversation differently, and now, months later, she chastised me. " 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News,' she quoted to me. "You shouldn't have tried to get my husband to stay home. He was out doing God's work, and you tried to stop him."

At that, I couldn't keep silent. I wanted to defend myself. It's a weakness I have, if you must know. I just wanted to sort through the misconceptions and straighten out the confusion. "I can see how you might interpret our conversation that way, but don't you remember that I ..."

"Let her talk!" the girl's husband barked. He'd positioned himself on a cabinet next to me, so the barking came at me from above. I looked up at eyes exuding anger and righteous indignation. His expression didn't change, not during our entire meeting, and every time I attempted to speak, he shut me down in the same commanding way. "Quit interrupting my wife!"

I took it as long as I could. I managed to sit through the whole list of faults, but as the last was read, I lost my composure. Now, when I had the chance to speak for the first time, I couldn't say a word. I left in a blur of tears.

I cried all the way to a friend's house, where my sister and my children were waiting. Once there, I ran smack into a dilemma. I needed to let Tarri know I was there so she could send the kids out, but I didn't want either Tarri or Paula knowing what had happened. But I couldn't stop crying long enough to compose myself. Sitting in the driveway, I looked across the lawn and saw Tarri waving at me out the living room window. I gestured to her to come out.

The smile she wore as she headed in my direction faded as soon as she saw my face. “What’s wrong?” I heared alarm in her voice. She knew where I'd been and knew who had called the meeting. "What happened? What did they say to you?"

I didn't want to tell her. I really didn't. And if it had been anyone else in the church, I probably could have kept my secret. But this was my sister, someone who knew all my deepest pains and had been with me through the toughest moments of my life. I slipped. "She ... she had a list," I said. "A list of all the ways I'd failed her as a pastor's wife."

"Oh, Shanny," Tarri said, and then she, too, began crying.

That worried me. "You can't tell anyone," I said. "Not even Paula." Even as I said it, I could see our friend standing in the window, watching the emotional scene and no doubt wondering what calamity had occurred.

I suppose it was as hard for Tarri to explain away her tears to Paula as it had been for me to explain my tears to her. She slipped, too, and told her best friend. Paula, in turn, told her husband. I learned that the next morning, when Tony showed up on my doorstep. He didn't say anything -- he simply handed me an envelope, patted me on the arm, and walked back to his car.

I’ve been keeping a list, also, his letter began. And here are all the ways you’ve blessed my family … As I stood on my porch reading, his words soothed my hurt places and brought a fresh wave of tears. Since the first day we entered this church, you've treated us with nothing but love and kindness. You’ve welcomed us into your home … you’ve been warm and loving to new people … you’ve made me laugh … you've raised children that have touched our lives ... you’ve brought my wife much closer to Jesus.

Ministry, I've learned, brings the highest highs and the lowest lows. You share in God's joy when someone understands grace for the first time. You share the fellowship of His suffering when others misunderstand, betray or reject you. There's no other calling quite like it.

Eight years ago, just one week before we arranged a circle of chairs on our front lawn and started our church, a pastor friend shook his head solemnly and warned, "You two are about to be hurt like you've never been hurt before."

Mike was right about that. He'd been there himself, so he looked down at the path below our feet and saw, with eyes of experience, that much pain awaited us on that road. But what Mike didn't see were the young people who would walk through our doors, grab hold of Jesus, and begin new lives. He didn't see the broken man who would sit down and open a Bible for the first time as Dave taught through a chapter, and later say, "Pastor, I understood every word you said ... and I'll be back for more." Mike didn't see the near-death marriages that would be revived and strengthened, or the hearts that would be healed, or the eyes that would be opened for the first time.

And he didn't see Tony walking up my porch steps with that beautiful letter in his hand.

I'll take it all, Lord. Whatever You permit, whatever You send, if it will make me more like Jesus in the end -- I'll take it all.

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36 Comment:

At 8/08/2005 10:51 AM, Blogger Geekwif had this to say ...

What a heart-breaking, yet beautiful story. I'm not sure if I've ever commented here yet, but I've been reading your blog for a couple weeks now. Your stories are touching and inspiring and your writing, beautiful.

My husband is an associate pastor at our church, but as the youngest pastor and most recent addition to the pastoral staff, we haven't had to experience this kind of emotional wringer yet.

We will be moving soon and it is my husband's desire to start a church in our new location. Our senior pastor's blessing is on this endeavor and we will have the full support of our church when the time comes.

Personally, I'm terrified of this new venture. I've been very close to the senior pastor's family for many years and have seen our pastor's wife struggle so painfully with similar attacks against her character. I'm afraid of how I would handle these situations myself.

Thank you for a touching post. It's quite timely for me. Unfortunately, I know these types of events are bound to happen, but to see the other face of it - the beauty that you get to witness as well as the ugliness - helps me to remember that whatever we are about to face, God will always be there to pull us through.

At 8/08/2005 11:06 AM, Anonymous Matthew had this to say ...


I don't know you, but I just wanted to let you know that your story was very nice to read. You certainly have a talent for writing.

Are you planning to write anything with pictures in the near future? I'm sure my youngest, Medallio, would love to see your writing alongside the imagery it so beautifully portrays.

Whilst we're not actually a Christian family, instead choosing to follow the Wiccan faith, I really feel that your writing carries across an honest and real message which applies to all our faiths and beliefs.

Blessed be.

At 8/08/2005 11:08 AM, Blogger whaaaat! had this to say ...

Matthew 5:10-12. Blessed are those who are persecuted...
Hebrews 12:1-3. In good company, run with endurance...

At 8/08/2005 11:16 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

T, that was succinct and beautiful. Thanks for the reminder.

Thank you, Geekwif (and your name makes me smile, by the way. :) Do you mean "wif" as in "wife?" I often use that myself.) I know you know that God will equip you for whatever you face down the road. Despite all the tough moments, I wouldn't change a thing. It is such a privilege to be entrusted with a church family, and we love ours so much that I couldn't imagine not spending the rest of our days with them. God bless you as you and your husband discover His plan for you! Keep me posted. :)

Welcome, Matthew, and thank you for your kind words. Did you mean do I plan to write any more books with pictures? I can't say for certain what will happen with that, but I am working on a proposal for a 4-book series right now, and depending on whether it's picked up and what the publisher decides to do with it, there may be accompanying pictures. That's a good idea. :) As to the blog, I try to always add a picture.

I hope you come back often, Matthew :)

At 8/08/2005 11:37 AM, Blogger Nancy had this to say ...


Hopefully you already know how much a positive impact you have made on my life. Just know that Satan was writing that list and behind the anger being thrown at you.

I love you and any time you need a list of positives instead of negatives give me a call, mine could go around the world and back!

At 8/08/2005 11:38 AM, Blogger Nancy had this to say ...

Oh, and I think that a childrens series with pictures would be great!!

At 8/08/2005 11:39 AM, Blogger Nancy had this to say ...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8/08/2005 12:21 PM, Blogger Bill and Glory had this to say ...

Shannon, just know that anyone who is involved in ministry is susceptible to character assassination. I've stood in a church hallway while someone decided to get a few things off her chest. I've stood in a church office while all my bad qualities, real or contrived, were thrust upon me.

But your story also reminded me that I have stood at the front of a church and watched as God used a song He had given me to sing ministered to broken hearts and tortured minds. I have stood in a church fellowship hall and listened to appreciative comments from people who recognized the spirit of God in my worship leading.

Highs and lows for all of us, but still pressing on toward the mark.


At 8/08/2005 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...


I am forwarding this to my youngest daughter whom also is a minister's wife. Coming from a home where gossip and chewing the pastors woe's never happened, she is so overwhelmned with this side of the 'blessings' of ministry. I guess it is a course she never took in christian college.

You have opened a window she needed to peek through. Thank you and may God's joy over-ride the pain. In my morning, I am amazed at the times Jesus too was approached with a list of complaints.

Thank you for the battle scars...
just think of the medals you have coming at the awards banquet in Heaven!
Love, Norma

At 8/08/2005 2:55 PM, Blogger Darlene had this to say ...

Shannon, your words were exact, I can't even say similar to a situation that just swept through our church. I received a nasty letter by email that was sent to members of the church and my hands shook as I called our pastor to tell him what was going on. I was sad when the pastor asked me to read the email over the phone because I knew it would hurt him. And he was torn between defense and just letting it go.

All I can say it that you are persecuted for Christ's sake, and that is an honor, not a curse.

At 8/08/2005 3:08 PM, Blogger Ellen had this to say ...

Dan and I suffered a similar experience quite a few years ago, only the tables were turned. Our pastor at the time (of a very small church of about 30 people including kids)(who has since left the ministry) had a "list" of our sins and two witnesses in attendance when he read us the list and told us to repent or be kicked out of the church. It was so ridiculous... I still sometimes think I dreamed it all (I wish). We cried for days. They didn't have to kick us out because we never went back. The horror of that experience, being blindsided when called to attend a "meeting", kept us out of church for several years. I still have lots of fear. The whole thing was totally crazy... things remembered wrong and taken wrong just like your experience. We were pouring our hearts and lives out into that young church and trying to help it get off the ground. I just shake my head..... I am so grieved to read that you have had a similar experience... and to think that pastors and their families go through this all the time horrifies me!
God knows your heart Shannon. You are a BLESSING to MANY MANY MANY... close to home and around the country and world! Don't ever forget it!
((hugs)) and love, Ellen

At 8/08/2005 4:30 PM, Blogger Gina Burgess had this to say ...

Thank you, Shannon, for putting something into perspective for me. Our nominating committee has just finished cleaning out my Sunday School class. I have no one left to teach. I had originally looked at it as a sock to the jaw but the perspective now is that God worked through me getting them ready to do His work. What greater compliment from God can that be? Gosh, I've got tears now. The way you turned this around to God's glory made me so ashamed of the thoughts that have been running through my head since yesterday morning.

Without the bad we cannot appreciate how incredibly good the good really is. And the good is always through Christ and for His glory. GLORY!

Engraved in His palm,
Your sis in Christ,

At 8/08/2005 6:55 PM, Blogger Brad the Dad had this to say ...

Hey there,
I too had a list read off to me. This one was read by a pastor and included all the ways that I had failed the church. Unlike your list some of the things on mine were true. The pain this caused was excruciating and there was no time left at the end of it all to pray through it or to address any of the things it brought up. I was told that cell group leaders were told of some very private issues just so that if I showed up in their group they would know how to 'handle' me. Unfortunately there was no one there to read me a list of blessings. It is good to know that you had this support. These things have helped me to grow and I chose after a long battle to forgive and to bless with no strings attached. A long road to be sure, but so worth it.
Thank you for blogging this episode. I will try to remember to pray for this husband and wife.

At 8/09/2005 1:24 AM, Anonymous susan had this to say ...

Hi Shannon.

Ahhh Its good to be back in blogland! Sorry i have been away so long. I missed your inspiration.
I am sitting here at 1.20 am with the window open. Fresh night air is pouring in on me.After the heat of the day, this is such a welcome change, Much like reading your blog,,,it refreshes me.
I count finding you, to be such a blessing in my life.

At 8/09/2005 6:32 AM, Blogger Geekwif had this to say ...

Thanks for the encouragement, Shannon. I'm glad the name made you smile. My sweet husband calls me his wif (which makes me smile, every time) and he is a computer geek by trade, thus the name Geekwif.

At 8/09/2005 8:45 AM, Blogger Jennifer had this to say ...

Hi, Shannon,

What struck me as I read your entry is that the husband sounded a bit "off." Are you sure that the wife was doing that voluntarily? It sounded more like the husband was not pleased that you encouraged the wife to give him her (differing) opinion. Maybe this is a sign that you and/or your husband need to be especially observant to make sure that there is no abuse going on in that family? I'm no expert, but something didn't seem right...maybe because the only anger you described seemed to come from the husband.

You have some wonderful friends. Not everyone would have the creativity or thought to make their own list. How beautiful.

At 8/09/2005 11:50 AM, Blogger Sharon had this to say ...

I cried when I read this.Literal tears.My heart broke for you having to experience some of the worst people have in them.I have often read that ministry would be great if it were'nt for the people.... :-)I love you and I love your writing.You never fail to bless me in one way or another.I really do hope to come north sometime and visit your church and meet you in person.Then I can give you a (((hug))) in person! :-)

At 8/09/2005 11:55 AM, Blogger Sharon had this to say ...

Hi Shannon,
It's me again.I forgot to say how much I LOVE your new"look"here!Totally awesome...Lawd,I sound like a Valley Girl now.....LOL I especially love your name signature...that curvy S(script font?)Beautiful!!
Much love,Sharon

At 8/09/2005 12:51 PM, Anonymous Christie had this to say ...

Shannon.....I just cringed and felt a sinking feeling when I read this. We can't emphasize enough....love each other....love one another....think the best of each other and look for it. (John15, 1 Corinthians 13)

Your friend who made a list of how you've touched their lives is wonderful! It gave me an idea of what to do to for a friend who is desperately in need of encouragement. I have been praying for the right way to do it and here it is!

Thank you for sharing this heartbreak of yours and how to handle such a situation with grace.

And happy belated birthday. Mine is the day before yours! =)

At 8/09/2005 1:05 PM, Blogger steve had this to say ...

As a worship leader I understand this well...

I will take it ALL... the good and the bad. I will wash it all down with a big ole cup o' Jesus

God bless

At 8/09/2005 3:10 PM, Blogger Fran had this to say ...

Hey Shanny! First, Happy late b-day! Me bad, I went camping and forgot to say it before I left.

Second, I love your fancy new look! Very nicely done.

Third; Well, I just don't really know what to say that hasn't been said already. You are a blessing and I love you very very much. ((((Shannon))))

At 8/09/2005 3:35 PM, Blogger Curlyqfun had this to say ...

Shanny....you and P.Dave are the best and I am truly blessed to have you as pastors. Without the Lord, good friends, CC Marysville & most importantly the two of you I wouldn't be where I am today!!!! I love you guys.

At 8/09/2005 4:55 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Oh, my word ... where to begin. First of all, you are all amazing encouragers. Thank you for all those loving thoughts and supportive comments.

I need to let you all know that this wasn't a recent event, but something from a few years ago. It could still sting if I let it, I suppose, but everytime this moment comes to mind, Tony's letter nudges the thought right out of the way. Isn't it great the way love and kind words can do that?

For Jennifer--I can see how you would wonder that about the man in question. This will sound odd in light of this post, but he really is a gentle man at heart. I was as startled as I can tell you by the way he spoke to me, but I've never seen him be anything but patient with his wife. We do keep in touch (they left the church shortly after this incident) and I'm always glad to hear from or see them. I don't harbor any bitterness over that conversation. I can step back far enough to see that there was a bit of immaturity there that surfaced in my face. :)

Nancy, I love you too. You're a great sister.

Glory, I am quite sure you've had your share of situations like this. It just goes with the territory. Glad you had the same positive experience I've had as well.

Norma, I'm so glad to see you back. :) I hope your daughter will be comforted to know that others understand.

Oh, Darlene, I'm so sorry about your pastor. Please tell him I'm saying a prayer for he and his wife. It seems many here have walked a similar path ... Ellen, Gina, Brad, Steve. See? We're all in good company. :)

Hello Susan, and welcome back!

Sharon, I look forward to you coming north sometime. It would be wonderful to meet face-to-face. I'll take that hug then. :)

Happy birthday, Christie! I've met so many people this year with August 4th and 5th birthdays. We're coming out of the woodwork. I can't wait to hear how your "list" touches your friend. Be sure to come back and let us know!

Fran and Gina, I love you both and couldn't imagine our church without you. It's a nightmarish thought ... what if I didn't know Fran and Gina? What if I didn't know Fran and Gina? What if ... Ack! Don't ever go anywhere, you two--ya got that?? :)

At 8/09/2005 8:57 PM, Blogger QueenBee had this to say ...

As I read your post, I was horrified by the insensitivity and down right 'meaness' of that meeting. But it got me thinking, all of us have two lists in our lives. One of the bad things we've done and one of the good. As Christians, Jesus covers all the things listed on the bad list with His blood and it's a clean page again. But I know He also keeps a record of all the wonderful things we do and He rejoices over them as if they were the only things.

At 8/09/2005 10:38 PM, Blogger Pam had this to say ...

Shannon, having just ended a 16 year ministry earlier this year, I can say I do know how you feel, and I do so pray that God will heal your heart completely. You have remarkable friends who would immediately encourage you through such a tangible means. When the "turkeys" start to get you down again, pull out that blessing list and read it out loud. Ministry, no one said it would be easy...and no one was right! Blessings to you and your family as you walk through this fire and come out stronger and more refined on the other side.

At 8/09/2005 11:08 PM, Blogger *~Tey~* had this to say ...

Sorry...I posted the below post in the wrong post of yours...this is from the lists post.

Oh Shannon. That must of made you feel so upset. I know it would make me upset. It's not right to make a list of lies and someone faults. I don't know you very well, but I feel like I'm getting to know you better by reading your blog and I can tell you're a beautiful person and I know that if I were to meet you face-to-face that I would love talking to you. I think we'd get along great...God Bless you Shannon and your posts are so inspiring and often speak to me. While others might bring negativity about you I can only bring positivity about you.
Thank Shannon for speaking into my life, even if you never realized you did.
Luv Kristy

At 8/10/2005 6:25 AM, Blogger Lea had this to say ...

Thank you or sharing this... last night I met with a fellow pastors wie and she and I had a sob fest until about 10:30... we had been chewed, grinded and spit out....its great to know there are kindred spirits AND to be reminded of the good...

At 8/10/2005 11:21 AM, Anonymous Linda had this to say ...

Thank you for sharing your heart. I’m going to write my “pastor’s wife” and give her a “blessing list”. We all need to do that. Thank you for your faithfulness to your congregation. They are truly blessed to be shepherd and loved by your family.

God Bless, Linda

At 8/10/2005 12:47 PM, Blogger Tana_Schott had this to say ...


Very recently (it feels like yesterday) I had someone make a list about me. I'm not even a pastor's wife!! (*smile*) It's very painful. It was by someone who I was very close too. But it is amazing how God puts people in our paths who act as salves to our wounded spirits. It just happened to me today. I got a "your a great person" card in the mail today and it made me cry. So sweet. It makes me want to thank the people who bother to see me the way Jesus looks at me.

At 8/10/2005 4:09 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Cindy, that is such an insightful thought. You really are quite a thinker! I barely have time to post these days, let alone visit others, but when things settle down, I will definitely be over to take in more of your great thougths. :)

You're right, Pam. And believe me, I keep Tony's letter where I can get my hands on it quickly.

Kristy, you are such a sweet girl. If you ever get ANYwhere near Seattle, let me know. I'd love to chat in person. Thank you for those lovely words!

I'm so sorry, Lea, that you and your friend have been under fire. But I'm glad you have each other! That can make all the difference.

Oh, Linda, I love that idea! Please come back and tell me how she reacted. I'm sure she'll be blessed! You just can't believe how many times a letter like that will be read.

I'm sorry, Tana. It really stings--but then those "balms" come. I love what you said about seeing each other the way Jesus does. That is the key, in a nutshell!

At 8/12/2005 1:18 AM, Blogger Fishkrisser <> had this to say ...

It's hard to immagine what kind words I could add to this page that haven't been added allready by all the other bloggers. Just know I feel the same. It's even encouraged me to see how much others love you and care about you!!!

Like Tony I want you to know that I have felt nothing but the love and compassion of Christ through you and PD from day 1. I remember the first week I came to the church and was new to most everyone and you came up to me as well as PD and said hi. The next week I was encouraged even further when you not only said hi but you were talking to me on a first name basis. You came right up to me and we must have had a 4 or 5 minute conversation. It was awesome!!! I love you guys so much. Many e-hugs from me to your family. :)

At 8/12/2005 9:47 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

I know, Chris. I'm amazed at the kindness of the people who stop by here.

We love you back! I couldn't imagine our church without you, Fish. :)

At 8/13/2005 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Five years ago, we sat in a room with a few pastors from our churches, as they methodically went down a list of my husbands and my shortcomings. Weaknesses. Faults. Sins.

It was painful. It still hurts. While in our situation, I believe they had better intentions than in your situation. We were preparing for ministry and it was accountablity in a sense.

Well-founded or baseless, confrontations like this are always hard. Painful. Are they necessary?

And they make life in the fishbowl very unappealing.

At 8/15/2005 10:22 AM, Blogger Michele had this to say ...

Shannon my husband direceted me to your blog. It is awesome. What the enemy meant for harm, God turned around and used Tony to bless you. You are a beautiful writer. I know hurting people hurt other people. It doesn't make our pain any easier but when we have a chance to look back on the situation we see them in a new light and can pray more effectively. Bless those who persecute you for righteousness sake. You and your husband are doing the work of the Lord sheparding hundreds of people and helping to restore their lives. God has great plans for your family and it is awesome that you have family and friends who can encourage you during this time. Keep pressing on!!

At 8/17/2005 2:39 PM, Blogger BHGA had this to say ...


I have been reading your blog for only a couple weeks and just keep coming back to it. I am so blessed by your writing, the heart that you have for our Father and the love you spread to a hurting world. May you be blessed and not discouraged as He continues to guide you..

In Christ,

At 8/25/2005 5:47 PM, Blogger Sugar had this to say ...

Today at work things started off alright I guess, but it took a decidely strange turn when my co-worker told me that another department within the company "were not fans of me". I don't know if someone from that dept. told him that or what. It wasn't a great big surprise (long story), but still I was filled with sadness. I didn't say anything for quite a few minutes, but when I was able to find my composure I simply told him that that dept. has been going through a lot of ups and downs and everyone there had their bad days and good days. I don't remember what else I said. So the bible verse you posted at the beginning is very appropriate. :)


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