dill-dip-allisonSometimes people talk differently in different places.

And sometimes people do things differently in different places.

But there’s a catch. If YOU’VE always lived in the same place, how do you know if what you do is different from what everyone else does? You really don’t. And sometimes that doesn’t matter.

Two times I remember being caught totally unaware.

One time was at Central.

The church had a carry-in dinner and Ken and I didn’t bring our own plates or silverware. I never even thought about it.  All the churches I had attended before always provided paper plates, plastic wear or for fancier occasions – real dishes and silverware.

But being that Ken was the new pastor, people were paying attention to us and I remember about five different families immediately offered us a plate and utensils. So we ended up with about 12 plates, 6 spoons, 4 forks and 32 knives.  it wasn’t a big deal, but I do remember a few awkward moments when I realized we hadn’t done the carry-in dinner “right.” When you fail at dinner, you’ve kind of got a problem.

Probably if Ken hadn’t been the new pastor, I would’ve felt more embarrassed because people probably wouldn’t have been so quick to notice our dishless state. 

This is why it’s sometimes good to over-explain to someone what’s expected of them.

I will share the other situation tomorrow and in my opinion, the second one is ten times worse than the first one.


dsc_0052So, I’ve been thinking about the no oxen, clean crib thought this week.

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)  

A couple of you had good comments last week, so I decided to dig into it further.

One commentary said the verse means that sometimes in order to have growth, you need to have mess. That made me think of a church auditorium all spotlessly clean the people file in on Sunday morning.  But then after church, there are leftover remains of bulletins/worship programs, candy wrappers, wadded-up tissue.  Bibles and visitor cards are askew in the hymnal racks. Sure, someone has to clean it up and cleaning isn’t that much fun – especially the wadded-up tissue part. (Though reading the notes people – especially teenager-type people –  wrote and left behind can be fun. Did I ever tell you about the time I collected a bunch of them and printed them in the church news letter? Now THAT was REALLY fun.)

Another commentary talked in detail about the verse and said that the proverb is about corn. If you don’t plow, plant, cultivate and harvest, you won’t have results.
A third commentary said the verse is talking about investing in the right tools for the job. You can farm without the oxen, but can do it so much better with the oxen.
Three different takes on the same verse, but at the same time – the same take. Willingness to put effort into something, even if that something is incredibly difficult and messy (and sometimes takes money), is what produces results.
Whenever I think of this verse, I think of a mother-daughter banquet where I was invited to be the speaker.
Speaking at churches where you don’t know anyone is an unknown factor. Sometimes people do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and welcomed, but other times they treat you like you’re part of the furniture. Literally.  As in we have our food, the podium, the decorations and the speaker and our work is done.

I knew little about this church. I drove down to it by myself. I let myself in, walked by several women who were engaged in conversation and finally found a room with several tables set up for dinner. Everything was perfectly spotless. I picked out someone who looked like she was in charge and told her who I was.
“Oh,” she led me to a seat. “You sit right here.”
I sat. The lady walked away. I sat by myself for several minutes watching other ladies wander in and sit down, busily chatting with each other. Since I was at the speaker’s table, I was in front of everyone and it was all rather awkward, sitting there by myself staring at the ladies facing me.  I did notice as more and more seats were taken that most of these banquet guests seemed more of the mother variety, than the daughter variety. (Although I realize every mother is a daughter.)  But there were NO young girls. I mean younger than 25.
I took the time to study my surroundings. Pink table clothes, pink plates, pink flowers and two very obviously-placed posters on the wall – that I could tell were permanent fixtures.
The posters were identical to each other. They said:
That was just the first of 10 rules, the last five I can’t remember but they seemed like reiterations of the first 5.
The in-charge lady came back and sat down next to me and started going through her official-looking mother/daughter banquet notes.
I decided to play a mental game. If someone told me to list those rules for the kids, how would I change them around so they could be positive?
Wait a minute!  They DID have an Awana Circle. I was literally sitting on it. A conversation starter!  “Oh,” I said to in-charge lady, “you have Awana?”  (I didn’t work at Awana at that point and had no personal investment, but knew enough …)
“No,” she said. “We used to, but not anymore. For some reason we can’t get any kids to come.”
Duh! (They also didn’t have any daughters under the age of 25.)
And that church is what I think of when I think of this verse.  “Children, we have programs for you at our church, BUT IF YOU HAPPEN TO SHOW UP, we don’t want you ACTUALLY behaving like a kid. We don’t want to put forth the effort to prepare for you or clean up after you. But if you come and sit perfectly still in our perfectly-clean chairs, you can come.”
I’m sure there were good people in that church. The banquet went fine. They had great food and entertainment.
But it all made me sad. 
What are our priorities?  
Do we care about the scuff marks from someone’s shoes or the condition of  someone’s heart?



dsc_09472 Did you check out the comments from my post on different words in different places? Some interesting language findings from a couple readers.

Now, on to Fun Friday.

Saturday is Valentine’s Day.  Here are some fun ideas. Some for home. Some for church.

1. A pastor’s wife in Wisconsin got together with one of the ladies in the church and they made Valentine cookies for everyone. They put the cookies in bags and their kids had fun decorating the bags with stickers and ribbons. Last Sunday they gave a cookie to each person in attendance.

2. Mix mini-kisses (chocolate chips) in your kids’ cereal on Valentine’s morning.

3. Or make heart-shaped pancakes.

4. Cook a red meal – spaghetti, radishes, cherries, grapes, cranberries. (Ewwww … maybe not together.)

5. Who in your church hasn’t had a Valentine for years and years and years? Why not have the teens show up at their houses with a plate of cookies and a coupon good for four hours of service: yardwork, cleaning the garage, scrubbing the basement floor, whatever.

6. In your Sunday kids’ program (whether SS or Children’s Church) have kids decorate red paper placemats with hearts, glitter, etc. Somewhere on the placemat, have them to write a big thank you for the teachers who work with them each week. Cover the placemats with clear contact paper and give to the teachers.

7. Plan a brunch for the single people in your church.

8. Make a list of 25 (I just picked that number) reasons why you love each of your kids. Present the lists with a drumroll!

9. Some pizza places make heart-shaped pizzas on Valentine’s Day – fun for your family or your youth group.

10. And remember the greatest love of all — (Ok the alignment of the Valentine in John 3:16 will get totally goofed up when I post this – so it probably won’t look like anything. 😦

          For God so loVed the world


      He gave His onLy




      whosoever  belIeveth

   in Him should  Not perish but 

                       have Everlasting life



Do as the Romans do or wherever

A clean oxen story

And more …



 You know what’s kind of funny?

When a pastor’s family goes to a new church, they gotta learn a new language … well, at least new ways of saying the old language.

I had a Pennsylvania Dutch, shoo-fly pie and scrapple-making roommate at Moody. When someone asked her to stand up for their wedding, she wanted to know why she couldn’t sit down. Seriously. PA is where they red up a room and put groceries in a poke. (Ken told me that.) My roommate also ended her questions on a downbeat (instead of raising her voice), an annoying habit I had acquired by the end of the year.  

I remember that my parents were totally puzzled (when we moved from back East) as to why the people in Illinois said things like, “Do you want to go with?”

With who? Where was the end of the sentence?

When we were in Ohio, I asked for a BLT and the server looked at me uncomprehendingly and then said, “Oh, you mean a TLB.”  (I guess that’s what I meant, I got the right thing.)

And when Ken and I moved to Michigan, people said they’d come “by” our house which seemed real strange to us.  By our house?  Why not to our house? Why just go by our house?

Oh, yeah, and in Michigan they celebrated birthdays on the hour such as “Jenny’s birthday is at seven on Tuesday.”

Then there was Wisconsin – land of bubblers (drinking fountains) and stop and go lights (which I guess makes sense, because they aren’t just stop lights.)

And the whole soda, pop thing – I’ve totally lost track. I use both words.

Or is it a grinder, sub, poor boy or hero sandwich?  Who knows?

And back now to Illinois?  Ken  laughed when people would give us directions and told us where NOT to turn. As in “You go until you see the Walgreens and then keep going.”  Or, “When you see Jefferson School, keep going straight.”  

Got any other quirky language stories?


dsc_0084First of all, please read the comments on my last post. Two pastor’s wives talked about ways their churches welcomed them – some good ideas there.

Here are some other ideas to welcome pastors …

1. Help out with information about doctors and dentists.

2. Don’t expect the pastor’s wife to start teaching Sunday school or be on the worship team immediately. Give the family opportunity to get acclimated.

3. Invite their kids to play with your kids.

4. Invite them out to dinner or give them gift cards to restaurants.

5. Send a meal over now and then – they have a lot to do.

6. Give them shopping information – “The grocery store on Tenth Avenue is cheaper, but the one on Broadway has better produce.”

7. Give them any school information they might need. “Your kids would be going to Jefferson School. That’s got a good reputation. In fact, Shana Wilson teaches there.” Or, “There’s a good Christian school over in Valley Grove.”

8. Invite them to a ballgame or a school play – helping them get to know the community.

9. Line them up with a realtor if they’re looking for a house.lk to them!  

10. The first Sunday at church, don’t just stand around and stare at them like they’re celebrities or something. These people will be part of your life for the next several years. Be friendly.


dsc_0930Recently I was talking to another pastor’s wife about what the church did right when they (and we) arrived in town.  Most stories were good – though my mom has the real not-very-welcoming story. (Although my mom is still friends with a lot of the people at the church – those who were there when they first arrived have long ago moved away.)

When we moved to Des Plaines, we moved into the parsonage and the stove had not yet arrived. I think we came in on a Saturday and my dad preached on Sunday.  Back then, there weren’t a lot of restaurants around and many of those that were around, were closed on Sundays. Besides, the lack of a stove, my mom had an eight-week-old baby.  And she did all the driving (because of my dad’s eyes). So, she had just driven 1,000 miles across the country, moved into a new house, had boxes stacked everywhere and now had a tiny baby, no stove and no place to get food. No one invited them out. Mom says she remembers driving miles and miles as they looked for a place that was open – and finally found a hamburger stand.  They ended up staying at the church for 18 years – so that wasn’t a deal closer, but still … my mom remembers the frustration of that first Sunday.

All three of the churches we’ve gone to have had food waiting for us (and in the case of Racine – home of Johnson’s wax – a lot of Pledge and Agree Shampoo). 

But here are some other things to consider … (I know many of you reading this ARE the pastors’ family, but I also have others reading this blog.)

Pastor’s families are real families. They’re tired and the kids are cranky and if they were happy in their last church, they might be feeling a little homesick, too.  You can offer to help, but sometimes it might be better to back away and let them have time to get settled. (You could offer to watch the kids so they can concentrate on unpacking.) Or maybe, you could call the phone company or electric company, etc. if these things haven’t been done.

Oh, funny story. The first week we moved here, I ran to Target to get some cleaning supplies. As I was attempting to cash a check, the clerk asked me for my phone number which I hadn’t bothered to memorize real well. (It came with the parsonage.) As the clerk is standing there, rocking from one foot to another, thinking I’m trying to pull something because I don’t even know my phone number – a voice from the next checkout line announced what it was!  It was a lady from church and the pastor has had the same phone number since at least 1976, maybe earlier, so she knew it.

Anyhow, more things a church can do tomorrow – and if any of you think of anything that meant a lot, add a comment.




Sometimes in churches (especially churches that have recently undergone a remodeling project) people have problems with anyone (especially children or teen anyones) who scuff a floor or accidentally get dirt on a wall.

Churches should look great and welcoming – but mess is actually a good thing. At least some mess can be a good thing. (Piles of papers and garbage and cobwebs aren’t good things.)  But rooms with kids’ pictures hanging off the wall and craft projects setting on a table and a pile of church newsletters in the foyer – shows that the church is alive and functioning.

The Bible tells us that. Proverbs 14:4 says that where no oxen are, the crib is clean. In other words, everything spotlessly clean means that nothing is happening.

So this week as you look at the relief map of India the middle schoolers are making for the missions’ conference and the stacked cups and packages of cookies for the after-church fellowship next week – be thankful for the “oxen.”  Be thankful your “crib” (or church) isn’t spotlessly clean.

People and activity sometimes mean scuffed floors and fingerprints on walls, but they also mean something is happening at your church.

God tells us that in His Word.

So this week, be thankful for the oxen.

(Back when we were in our first church, Ken preached on this verse – I think it was right after we started Awana and ended up with more kids than attended the town grade school. A lady in our church made us this watering pitcher as a reminder.)


dsc_0959A friend of mine was telling me this week that her church had a Defiance Dinner last Sunday.

What were they defying?  


They turned the church heat up high so the people could wear shorts and t-shirts.

Food, of course, included hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, potato salad and ice cream.

I think most people are into defying winter this year – so why not some edible Defiance?


dsc_0190Sometimes I would send a thank you note to child who played for offertory or someone who did something unique at church.

But I didn’t do it all the time – because I know if you try to do that every single time someone does something, you can forget or get behind. And then the child/person might feel they didn’t do so well because they didn’t hear from you.

So I would just do it every once in a while.

I liked to think those notes were unexpected encouragement.