Pastor’s Wife: Called or Drafted?

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????October is “Pastor Appreciation Month”. This is an article with a different slant which deals with the need to encourage your pastor’s wife. I want to give you an inside look at what life might be like for your pastor’s wife.

“Most mornings I wake up with a sense of purpose, destiny, direction, and confidence to begin a new day.  At other times I can’t help but ask the question, ‘Did I volunteer, or was I drafted?’ ”

That’s the way I began an article written in 2006 for a newsletter that featured women in ministry, whose vocation included being a pastor’s wife. I revisited that article and realized that I’d lost some of the optimism of five years prior. I was in one of those places where “purpose, destiny, direction and confidence” seem to be shrouded, as if a fog had moved in to obscure my vision.

Maybe twenty-plus years in pastoral ministry can do that to you? One thing I know: those of us who find ourselves in this fogged-in place can easily become disenchanted with people-ministries.

Being a pastor’s wife can be one of the loneliest occupations in the world. It’s one thing to look at the pastorate through rose-colored glasses, how fulfilling it will be, how much you can help people and how grateful they will be for the help. The truth of the matter is that some of the people you help most will not be grateful. Sometimes they will resent you, be angry with you, take sides against you, talk behind your back, resist your husband’s leadership, and complain about how you don’t reach out to them.

Others in whom you invest time and energy and love will be gracious, friendly, accommodating, supportive, co-operative – all the things that encourage you in the ministry – and then leave for greener pastures during plateaus or tough times in the church or in your personal life. Those of us who are pastor’s wives feel the pain – it’s very hard not take it personally. It’s a sense of desertion – like a divorce.

So what would make anyone crazy enough to take on this role?  For most of us, it simply came with the territory; we married someone who became a pastor, so we in tandem became a pastor’s wife. It’s not a role that we always enjoy, though it is sometimes very rewarding; especially when you see someone grow spiritually because of your investment in their lives,  your encouragement toward spiritual things, your prayers for them, or just your friendship with them. It’s also rewarding when someone appreciates those investments.

There is something else that helps us not only to cope, but to find pleasure in fulfilling our particular ministry role: that coping mechanism is a sense of “calling”.

What do I mean by a “sense of calling”? The “calling” is three-fold:

  • First, the pastor’s wife is called to Christ by the Spirit of God. A woman who is not sure of her own salvation would do best not to marry a man with a pastoral gift and office. If her life is not dedicated to loving and serving her Savior, she will burn out very quickly in church ministry.

I believe that my first “call” is to minister to the Lord God Himself.  I am becoming more and more convinced that until I get this part right, all other ministry will have little eternal effect for the kingdom.

Sometimes in the midst of the busyness of ministering to others, I sense my Father God calling me to come and sit down by Him for a while so that He can refresh me. He also wants me to minister to Him, as a cuddling child ministers to its parents; it’s a matter of “my child acknowledges her need of me”.

The “calling” has in it that sense of total dependence on God and deep love for the Father. When I focus on staying close to God, delighting in Him, the sense of “calling” on my life increases.

A true calling of God does not end.  Rom. 11:29 . . .  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Is this different than any believer’s “call” to discipleship? I believe it is. It takes a special unction from the Spirit to hold up under the spiritual attacks that come against ministry couples and their families and to continue loving those who can drain you.

  • Second, the pastor’s wife has a “calling” to her husband.  Even if she is involved in the activities of church ministry, she must be able to create a space of peace and contentment for her husband. She needs to be a safe harbor for him – not just to minister to him, but to help protect him from other women who might try to fill the void if she leaves it vacant.

The pastor’s wife must be a consoler, good company, a playmate, an encourager, a sounding board, a counselor or confessor, a good listener, and a sympathetic friend.

So many ministry couples have ship-wrecked because the wife does not recognize, desire, or know how to fill this calling to be her husband’s helpmate.

A pastor’s wife who does not have a strong sense of “calling” will have a hard time with the stresses of pastoral life.  She can easily grow to resent the time and energy commitments that pastoring necessitates, both her husband’s and her own.

Though on paper the pastor’s job description does not include time commitments from his wife, and even though she is not obligated in any way by written or verbal contracts, there are usually unspoken expectations regarding her role in the church body.

In a small church, often it is expected that the pastor’s wife should fill in where there are church needs within her skill areas. She should do the recruiting for or planning of special events. She should envision and implement the vision for women’s outreach, participate in the women’s missionary program – or head-up that group. She should be able and willing to teach kids’ church or lead the youth program.  She should also do one-on-one ministry with women in the church,visit the elderly shut-ins.  Such are some of the expectations, often unspoken, that a congregation may subtly impose on a pastor’s wife.

I remember the congregational interview prior to our coming to our current pastoral situation where the question was asked, “And what ministry will Marcy be doing when you [my husband] comes here as pastor?” To which my husband responded that we would wait for the Lord to lead me in that regard. (Yes, I have a good man.)

Not only is it often expected – by church members or by herself – that the pastor’s wife will fill-in the ministry vacancies in the small church, but, if the salary afforded the pastor cannot cover his family’s personal living expenses, there is often the suggestion that his wife should get a job to make up the difference.

  • Third, the pastor’s wife has a calling to care for her family. If there are no natural born children, you can bet there are “heart adoptions” that are subject to compassion and energy drainage. Plus considerations of responsibility to both her extended family and her husband’s extended family and the reality of aging parents.

If your pastor’s wife has been involved in ministry for only a short time, maybe the glow of that role has not worn off, but the loneliness of the position might already have set in. And if she has been ministering for many years, you can know for sure that emoional and spiritual reserves have been seriously called upon if not depleted.

If you have never thought of the kinds of on-going pressure on your pastor’s wife that I have mentioned – both in her ministry and personal life, perhaps you should make an opportunity to consider her this week; pray for her, ask the Lord how you can bless her, and take the time to speak an encouraging word to her.

What will you do this week to encourage and brighten your “PW’s” day?

©2011, Marcy Alves

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Pastor Appreciation: Saying “Thanks”

When is the last time you said, “Thank you” to your pastor or priest? Or have you ever done it? October is “Clergy Appreciation Month”. It’s a time to say, “Thank you for your service,” as we stop to think about the pivotal role of “pastor” in the life and health of the local church body. This is a national awareness month, a time when we honor those men and women whose vocational ministry and spiritual calling is to nourish, instruct, and shepherd the sheep in their appointed area of God’s spiritual pasture.

These are men and women who have been called by God and have responded to that call by committing their lives to training disciples of Jesus and equipping their congregants to do the work of the ministry in their individual areas of gifting.

This is no easy task.

There are many sheep whose inclination is to wander off from the flock and become prey for predators, to be obstinate and un-teachable, to butt and bite the other sheep, to become “cast down” so that they can’t get up without help, or to become sickly from eating the wrong food.

My husband, David (who is a pastor) and I have been watching ABC’s documentary on the tape recordings of First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States. On those forty+ year-old recordings she spoke of the terrible loneliness her husband experienced as he tackled the affairs of State, his sleepless nights, his doubts and fears over decisions he had made, and the tears he shed over the failure and loss of life resulting from such decisions gone bad, such as at the Bay of Pigs.

My heart is drawn to Mrs. Kennedy in her obvious compassion for her husband.  I identify with her sense of the weight of the burdens he bore, and with her desire to ease his distress. Although the responsibilities of the pastor do not compare with the weighty decisions of the President of the USA and their possible consequences of national importance, like the President, that’s where the buck stops if something goes wrong. And though the pastor is not involved in international wars, the spiritual impact of a pastor can have eternal results in the battle for good over evil.

Anyone who has not been a pastor cannot imagine the stresses and energy drain of pastoral ministry and the on-going spiritual warfare that is part of such ministry. Pastoral ministry can be an extremely lonely existence for the pastor, and for his wife and family.

I have watched my husband (my pastor) agonize in prayer over the course our church body should take and when things didn’t work out, to wonder about his ability to hear God. I’ve seen him flounder under undeserved criticism and misunderstsanding, fight against feelings of rejection or failure when families have left for greener pastures, wonder if he’s in the right place and if he should leave the pastoral ministry, puzzle over the lack of comprehension when he’s preached and taught what he believes is the heart of the Father – with sometimes little visible results. I’ve seen his struggle to accept a phone call when he’s already exhausted.

No one in his right mind who knew ahead of time about the temporal and spiritual challenges of pastoral ministry would choose such a vocation. Most of us who have been personally involved for any extended length of time (say, more than a year?) can no longer be casual or callused about the struggles inherent in pastoral ministry.

I have been a pastor’s wife for 20+ years now. Four of those years we were in local church youth/family pastoral ministry while also in part-time itinerant ministry. We also spent about 10 years in strictly itinerant ministry. Neither the years of youth-pastor ministry, nor the years of itinerancy,  during which we ministered to many pastoral couples, prepared us for the role of full-time local pastoral ministry.

We blush a bit now at the presumptions of some of our early “Come Away” ministries – four-day weeks of small group outreach to pastors and their spouses. We were encouraged as we watched their tensions lessen and their tired faces reflect some easement of their ministry stress.  But we did not know by personal experience the feelings of defeat and futility that pastors and their spouses often felt over their local church ministries. We now know it firsthand.

Besides the smile of our Heavenly Father that we feel in His presence, the warmth of His love that drains off the stress and exhaustion of pastoral ministry, there is one other thing that keep us going:  the expressions of gratitude from our church family.  There are things that make it all worthwhile: words of appreciation, the “ah-ha” reflected on the face of a congregant who “gets it” as he/she opens like a flower to the work of the Spirit, a simple “Thank you for that message”, or a sincere hug as someone leaves the worship service. And once in a while a card, or a gift, or a dinner invitation. Or we hear the pride in a voice as it says, “I’d like you to meet my pastor,” or, “You ought to visit our church sometime.”

If you are a member of a church, I’d like to challenge you – this month, this week, today – to think of a way to thank your pastor for his commitment and service to the Lord, to you, and to the rest of the church body. And if there is a clergy person from your past who positively affected your life, take a moment to contact him/her and say, “Thank you for caring about me and having an influence on my life. I’m a different person because of your influence.”

If you have a pastor for whom you are thankful, how about jotting down a few sentences and sending them to me. I’d like to include them in a post before the end of October. Also, share this post with others and remind them to thank their pastors.

Thank you!

©2011, Marcy Alves

This post is a re-post of an article from October of 2011. There is a sequel coming this week on ideas to express thanks to your pastor(s), entitled How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor.

How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor: Part 2

So, you finally decided what to give your pastor as a gift for pastor appreciation month. Maybe you decided to share verbal or written approval, or a kind deed to express your thanks.  But is what church members do once a year enough to truly let a pastor know that people are glad he is serving their church or parish?

October is “Clergy Appreciation Month”. In a previous blog post I shared some “hands-on” ways to express appreciation to your pastor. In this post, I would like to share some basic “attitudinal” ways to let your pastor know you are on his team and appreciate his team leadership.

Gifts, deeds and words are important ways to express appreciation for your pastor, but attitude gifts keep on giving. There are three attitudinal areas I would like to address in this post: consideration, respect and trust.

  • Consideration

Most pastors are on call 24/7, especially in a small church with a one man staff. There are days when the telephone never stops ringing – not just from current parishioners. In our church, people have learned to practice consideration in their calling. David and I take our weekly Sabbath on Mondays: our New Life family members don’t call us on that day – unless it’s an emergency. They also don’t call after 9:00 PM, if something can wait until the next day.

About 3½ years ago, my husband’s stress level sent him into a depression – there were mitigating causes, including a mini-stroke (his), plus my diagnosis of breast cancer the year before. Our small church (aided by our church Association) helped us to have a 6-month paid sabbatical. This was a gift motivated by consideration for our needs. My husband came back from that sabbatical a very refreshed man.

There are people who ask my husband for personal time, over breakfast or lunch. He eats out frequently. With our personal budget and our current church budget, there is little to cover such costs. It’s always a blessing when the person requesting the mealtime mentoring also offers to pick up the tab. Though it’s a small thing, it’s a consideration that means a lot to us.

Allowing your pastor to not have to attend every church calendar event is also considerate, especially if the church is a large, program-oriented church. The most important “work” things your pastor should give his/her time to is prayer, study, mentoring others, and preparation of Bible studies and weekly messages. He need not be the one who prays at every church function.

Another consideration: it’s very important that your pastor have down-time for rejuvenation and personal family time. He will not be of much good to you if his family or marriage is falling apart from neglect, in order to meet your personal needs or wants.

  • Respect

1 Thess. 5:12-13 instructs the church:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” ESV

It’s hard for a pastor to minister to the people if there is a lack of respect for him and the calling of God on his life. If your pastor has applied himself to ministry preparation through additional years of specialized education, that commitment should garner respect.  His/her care for the flock in continual preparation of sermons or special seminars, individual discipleship, time with members who have special emergency needs, and prayers for the body deserve respectful acknowledgment.

1 Tim. 5:17 “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”  NRSV

The office to which God has called your pastor should also to be respected, just as in public areas of appointed or elected authority.

  • Trust

Appreciation for your pastor is also demonstrated in trust. Trust that he has the congregation’s welfare in mind when he has to make determinations in areas that call for leadership, admonishment, or correction is essential. Trust in his knowledge of and ability to teach the Word, his understanding of how to apply the the truths of Scripture, and his discernment of God’s desires for the congregation at any given time are very important.

That trust should carry over in those times of personal disagreement regarding doctrine, decisions on church polity, or other church issues; in such situations trust is demonstrated by an open mind and a humble, teachable spirit. Cordial, productive discussions are easy when mutual trust is at work.

As you contemplate “Pastor Appreciation Month” and how to effectively express appreciation to your pastor, I hope this post will be helpful to you. Remember, pastors and other church workers need appreciation all year long – one month a year can’t make up for lack of appreciation during the rest of a year.

How are you doing in the areas I have mentioned of attitudinal gifts? Do you need to polish them up a bit? Or to ask God to give you an attitude change?

How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor: Part 1

Do you know your pastor’s “appreciation language”? If you don’t, then you may not know how to best express your appreciation in a way which communicates your thanks to him/her.

I’ve been a pastor’s wife for 20+ years and have friends who are pastors’ wives, so I’d like to share from an inside view.

There is probably no one more uncertain about whether or not he is doing a good job than a pastor – except for politicians who often lean on state or national polls for affirmation. (The only time a poll is taken on a pastor’s performance is when a contingency in the congregation wants to relieve him from his post and needs a 2/3 vote to do it.)

Whether you are in a small or large church, your pastor needs your expressions of appreciation. No matter how big or small the church staff, being a pastor is not an easy job.* (see my earlier posts)

In Hebrews 13:17, church members are instructed to make the work of leaders (pastors and elders) a joy.  Here are some ways to say “thanks” and to stimulate joy in your pastor’s service to the body.


Spoken: The easiest way to express appreciation is with words. It really encourages my husband when our folks let him know that a particular sermon, training session, mentoring time, study group, his handling of a situation, etc., has impacted their thinking and their choice to follow Christ more fully – that his toil has been meaningful to their lives.

Be specific. Let your pastor know which part of his efforts have most affected you. If it’s sermon content, say so. If it’s his personal interest or concern, let him know. If it’s his character, such as compassion or integrity, say so. If his/her lifestyle speaks to you of Jesus, say so.

Written: Think about putting your appreciation in writing. We have been in ministry for the entire 34 years of our marriage. When we were itinerant speakers/singers there were many accolades spoken or written to us on a regular basis, not so in the pastorate. When we receive “thank you” notes or letters that speak appreciation, we are very encouraged by them. We keep them in a file as reminders that there are people who have been positively affected by our ministry.


There is an old saying that “actions speak louder than words”. It could be that your pastor’s appreciation language is “acts of service”.

A couple months ago someone ran over our mailbox; we woke up one Sunday morning to find the box smashed flat with the post bent almost to the ground, and tire marks across the grass. We went to our church service, then to another event to which we were committed that afternoon and evening. When we arrived home later that night, we discovered a brand new mailbox and post (cemented in) at the end of our driveway. A couple in our church took it upon themselves to do this kind deed.

There have been people who have worked on our cars, repaired our lawn tractor, plowed our garden, cleaned our house, and taken us out for a meal.

Other good deeds you might consider: babysitting while your pastor and spouse have a night out alone, caring for their pets, watering their plants or picking up their mail while they are on vacation, calling to see if they have any personal prayer needs.

Just as encouraging to us are those times when folks have stepped forward to do deeds for the church body, such as cleaning the church building, mowing the lawn, volunteering in the nursery, or helping someone in the fellowship who has a temporal need – anything that says “we get it”.


When you are giving gifts to express your appreciation, spend a little time and thought on what your pastor may enjoy. Is he/she a sports fan, an avid reader, a collector of some particular thing; does he have a hobby or special interest?

You might consider tickets to a concert or sporting event (if your pastor is into sports). Once we were given a gift of two nights at a lovely bed and breakfast. We felt so special.

Last October we received a card with money in it from several church members, with the instruction it was not to pay a bill – we had a nice dinner out.

In other years, our Lifegroups (small home groups) have presented gifts on particular Sundays during the month of October, such as beautiful potted plants, wall hangings, gift cards, a gas gift card, etc. (Caution: when giving a decorative gift, consider lifestyle and personal tastes of your pastor and spouse. If they have been in the pastorate for a long time, they may not need something else that needs periodic dusting.)

For female pastors or the pastor’s wife, think “feminine”: a visit to a salon, a pedicure or manicure, a gift certificate to a clothing store or specialty shop like Bath & Body Works, fresh flowers, a lunch with you, etc.

Last but not least by any means: Whether male or female, your pastor’s overall health is essential and foundational to a vibrant life and ministry. Be certain to consider a sabbatical policy for your church. Ask your pastor if he/she prefers print books or owns a Kindle or Nook. Purchase BOTH A Sabbatical Primer for Pastors (CLICK on title) and A Sabbatical Primer for Churches (due in May 2014) at Give the Pastor’s primer to your pastor(s) and the Church primer to someone in leadership who cares about the pastor or pastoral family and wants to love and honor them.

These are some practical tips for saying “thank you” to your pastor(s). In my next installment, I will share a few other items that don’t cost time or money, but are important in showing heart-felt appreciation for your pastor.

Are there things you have done to say “thank you” to your pastor that you would like to share? Or, if you are a pastor or the spouse of a pastor, how has your church or individual parishioners shown appreciation for your ministry to them?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Pastor Appreciation Month – October

thank you pic 2014

October has been designated for many years as Pastor Appreciation Month. I can verify that a little sincere appreciation goes a long way with these men and women who are serving the body of Christ by following God’s call on their lives. I have written several posts on the need for such a service to your pastors, and on how to best express such appreciation: links to those blog posts are listed below.

Also, I would like to add to my suggestions in those articles for a possible gift for your pastor; it’s a book written by my husband specifically geared to pastors. It is entitled “A Sabbatical Primer for Pastors“, and encourages your pastors to take needed breaks from ministry for personal refreshment and spiritual rejuvenation. It is available in both print and e-book versions. A sequel to that book is also available “A Sabbatical Primer for Churches” – this book will help guide local churches in exactly how to provide such times of spiritual refreshment and nourishment for their pastors and other full-time church workers.

It’s very important to honor those who serve us in their service to the Lord Jesus. I pray a special blessing on those who take the time to encourage their pastors and church leaders.


©2014, Marcy Alves

Pastor Appreciation: Saying “Thanks”

Pastor’s Wife: Called or Drafted?

How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor: Part 1

How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor: Part 2

Pastor’s Wife: Called or Drafted

Labor Day: Honoring the Working Class

One of my favorite national holidays is Labor Day – a special day off to honor the working class and extend a weekend to give people time to catch their breath. It closes the curtain on summer and welcomes autumn to end the summer heat.  It means town parades, backyard barbecues with family and friends, and the last hurrah before school gets into full swing.

For me Labor Day creates a lot of nostalgia, going back into childhood. As a child growing up in Virginia, the day marked the end of summer freedom and the beginning of the school year. It was also the end of fun times with my dad, taking us to the swimming place (a freshwater mountain pool) and playing softball with me and my 5 brothers in our backyard. It meant mornings began earlier and nights got dark sooner.

My nostalgic memories of Labor Day also include adult years. My husband and I enjoyed Labor Day weekends for about 30 years with my spiritual parents at their lake cottage in the Poconos Mountains of PA. The cottage had to be sold several years ago. I often feel the longing to return to the quiet of that cottage, with the sun shining off the lake, the sound of motor boats, the wind in the sails of our sailboat, and the the feel of the floating dock as it rose and fell with the moving water caused by the wake of motor boats entering the cove. I miss our annual lobster dinner shared with close friends and family.

According to the history of Labor Day in Wikipedia, this day to honor the American workforce was proposed by either Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who served as secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York and/or by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor, in May 1882, influenced by the annual labor festival held in Toronto, Canada.

Oregon had the first official state Labor Day, followed by 30 other states. Then in 1894, Congress, under President Grover Cleveland, proclaimed the first Monday of September as the official national Labor Day.

I think that God would approve of the original intent of Labor Day, because He approves of labor. When He created the world and placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He gave them work to do:

Gen.1:28  “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

That’s a pretty big job! And it was assigned to Adam and Eve and their offspring. He first told them to be fruitful (i.e., have lots of children), then to have dominion over everything that moves on the earth. Taking care of the earth involves a community effort, as it does today.

It really bothers me when David and I go for a walk on one of our local community streets and find trash that someone has left behind along the road or in the nearby creek or river. God’s creation deserves our care.

Gen. 2:8-9 “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Gen. 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

God instituted the work ethic. He approves of the labor force. There are many verses in Scripture that deal with the benefits of honest labor, in contrast to the fruit that comes from laziness or putting your labor into the wrong things.

  •  Labor That Honors God

Psalm 128:2  Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Isaiah 3:10 “Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.”

  •  Fruitless Labor

Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

Isaiah 55:2 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

  •  Abusive Force on Laborers

Habakkuk 2:12-13  “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?

  •  Results of Laziness

2 Thess. 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ ”

Prov. 12:24 “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.”

  •  Working for God Pays Off

1 Cor. 15:8 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

I was raised with a “hard work pays off” ethic: that if I want something badly enough, I had to be willing to do the work it takes to get it; that I should not expect something for nothing; that if I take care of what I have it will last longer; that work is honorable; and that I should share with those who are willing to work, but are less fortunate with skills or have less opportunity than I have.

I have learned that in both temporal and spiritual labor, anything done to bring glory to my Heavenly Father is not done in vain, but I will see the rewards either in this life or in the life to come.

Happy Labor Day! May the Lord reward you as you seek to honor Him with the work of your hands.

©2012, Marcy Alves

I Love Living in the USA

I love living in the USA; and amidst all the political and ideological clashes we face in this nation, I am still thankful that I live in a country where people are clambering to get in, not out.

While I don’t claim to be a world traveler, I have visited several other countries for both ministry opportunities and pleasure. With each foray beyond the borders of the United States, I have been glad to come back “home”. I realize that some of my discomfort in other countries has sometimes been due to not knowing the local language – having to work through an interpreter – but it’s more than that.

Each culture, even those countries where English is the primary language, has necessitated adjustments for me; for instance using different English words for the same item – a sweater is a “jumper” in Aussie land, for instance.

But there are many other challenges, such as:

  • Differences in monetary units, dollar exchange, and sales taxes that required constant mental calculations as to what a meal, service, or item actually costs
  • Different expectations as to what is polite, or humorous, or taboo
  • Hot weather with no air-conditioning
  • Hard beds – no, make that very hard beds – on one of our trips we slept on a thin mattress on a bed made of cement – it was actually more comfortable sleeping on the floor.
  • Strange food – I once ordered a “regular hamburger” at a MacDonald’s in Australia and it was served with sliced beets on it; also once had tropical fruit pizza (I was expecting cheese and tomato sauce).
  • Dangerous roadways and unusual public conveyances – once on a trip in Haiti I rode with a missionary friend in a “tap-tap” (a truck with bench seats in the back) which wound up the mountain on a major “highway” that offered a scenic view, accompanied by a drop-off ledge with no guard-rails and a very narrow shoulder.
  • A lack of driving laws – or a lack of enforcement; in our travels we often don’t know which – more than once we felt our lives endangered from what we considered reckless driving on roads in much need of repair or safety features.

In any event, whether the differences made a visit to foreign soil either challenging or enjoyable, I have always been glad to get back to the USA.

We have so much here in the United States to be thankful for: adequate food supplies, cheap gasoline (compared to other advanced nations – though the prices have crept up a lot in the past couple years), clean water, the best health care system anywhere, freedom of religion (so far), freedom of speech (so far – though there are many instances where this right is being challenged by the thought/speech control fanatics), the rule of law without military enforcement, the lowest jobless rate anywhere in the world (even with our present high unemployment rate); a volunteer military; and the most affable, generous people in the world.

There is something about the way Americans care about others who are facing disaster – both natural and man-made – and how they seek to alleviate suffering wherever they find it, that I admire. My fellow citizens are extremely generous and give more of themselves and their substance to others in need than do those from most other countries around the world. Americans are rescuers, often even to their own harm.

I love being able to travel from state to state, town to town, on highways and back-roads and to encounter folks who speak the same language, share the same feelings about living free, follow the same sports teams, root for the underdog, are quick to stop and help a stranded highway traveler with a flat tire, advise you on the best restaurant in town, or suggest the motel with the cleanest rooms.

I love football games, homecomings, 4th of July fireworks, parades with marching bands, summers at the beach, pizza, backyard barbecues, and baseball games.

I love the political process and the freedom to run for an office if you want to help change things in our nation. I love the debates – (however, I do wish that each side would take a minute to listen to the other viewpoint before jumping in with negatives). Though we need to learn to compromise on minor points in order to find common ground on the major ones, still we are free to disagree without fearing reprisal or imprisonment for holding a minority view in government.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I just want to say that I love living in America. I think it is very important to protect the freedoms we have of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

I do not live in a war-torn nation.. I’ve never had my life threatened in any of the places I’ve visited, or feared for my life in any travel situation. I have not faced famine. I’ve not been persecution for my faith. I’ve not been imprisoned for having a “variant faith” or of seeking to win others to Christ. I am so thankful for every freedom we have.

I thank God for those individuals who have given and are now giving their very lives to preserve the freedoms we so often take for granted.

There is a slow erosion of many of the values we have held, which are woven into the fabric of our society – too much pulling on those threads and society as we know it will come unraveled.

So I continually lift our nation in prayer to God. I pray not just for God’s blessing, but also for His mercy and grace to allow us to continue in the religious and personal freedoms we have come to enjoy and often take for granted.

Happy 4th of July to you!!

©2012, Marcy Alves (edited, 2014)

My 4 Fathers

How many fathers have you had? Were they good ones? I’ve had 3 dads in my life +1 – all of whom brought something special into my life that have contributed to who I am and what I am becoming.

My birth dad’s name was James Robert Devers. He was one of 10 children and fathered a family of 7 children, of which I am smack dab in the middle, #4 child (1 sister – the eldest, and 5 brothers). Dad was a handsome, strong, viral, 6’ 2” tall man, with sandy brown hair, bright blue eyes and a pleasant demeanor. He and my mom married when he was 22 and she was 16.

Though we lived on our own land, financially we would have been considered a lower income family; living without such amenities as indoor plumbing, a furnace, or electricity. We heated with wood and coal and lighted our home with kerosene lamps.

My dad was raised on a farm in north-eastern Virginia – you won’t find many farms in that area now because it’s mostly a bedroom community for Washington DC.  He did not graduate from high school – having quit school to work on his dad’s farm after the eighth grade. At age 17 he went to work for the railroad, doing manual labor on the “yards”, where train cars came in for repairs.

James Devers was a man of integrity – if he gave his word, he kept it. He was a hard worker, an outdoorsman. My dad taught us by his life to not be lazy. He was self-sufficient and industrious.

As he continued to work for the railroad, Dad also did odd jobs for friends, extended family and neighbors. Plus he had a large garden in the summer to help feed his family. Any garden overage was taken to the farmers’ market or given away. He was a very outgoing man, friendly to strangers – there were not many people in our town that he did not know. Dad felt that to have friends, you had to be friendly. He was optimistic, confident, and generous, especially to his girls. He was also proud and prejudiced.

He came from a stock of people who accepted bad news as a part of life. When he was diagnosed with cancer at age 64, he accepted death as inevitable – which didn’t quite gel with his optimistic nature. He lived for only two more years.

Cancer brought him to faith in Christ – as he said to me from his hospital bed – “I know who I have to trust for heaven, and it’s not me.”  And the person who led him to Christ was one that, due to Dad’s racial prejudices, would not have been allowed into his inner personal space a few years before. But God’s love does that – it takes down barriers and redefines us and our long-held beliefs.

At the time my dad became ill, I was single, living in NJ and attending a church there. My pastor and his wife had no children of their own and “adopted” me. I remember when my dad was diagnosed they said to me, “You will always have a home with us.”

So, when my birth dad passed away, I had another dad. His name was Phil and he was basically a “city boy”. He was raised as an only child in a middle income family. Phil was very different from my father, though about the same age. He was college and seminary educated, not of many words, and had a deep faith that had sustained him since youth. He was thoughtful and a good listener. He had a good sense of humor, but was not loud like my father. He also was a man of his word and chose his words carefully. He was a careful planner, financial saver, and wise investor. He was a “suit and tie man”, where my birth dad was a work pants, work boots guy, except for occasions like weddings. Phil wasn’t expressive with his affection, but he, along with my adopted mom, parented me as a young adult – shared their lives, even vacations with me and later with my husband.

My third dad was my father-in-law, Dave Alves. I think when he died I cried more than my husband did. He was upper-middle class, college-educated, and had served in the US Navy. He had risen from immigrant Portuguese status to a management position with an insurance firm. Dad Alves was a fun person. He filled a room when he entered. He was the entertainer at family parties. Outgoing, stubborn, but never quite sure of himself. He was warm and accepting and interested in kids – my husband’s childhood friends loved being around his dad.

I also loved Dad Alves because he and his wife, Betty, had adopted my husband, David, from an orphanage when he was about age 4 or 5 years old. They took a chance on a kid who had been in 10 or so foster homes in the first couple years after being removed from his birth parents by the state of Massachusetts. Dave and Betty did a good job with him.

Dad  Alves not only accepted me, but was proud of my vocal abilities and encouraged David and me in our Christian concert ministry – though not a follower of Christ at the time. He came to a commitment to Christ on his hospital bed after a heart attack. He died several months later.

All three of my “dads” contributed to what I have been and am becoming, by loving me, encouraging me in my particular ministry pursuits, validating my abilities, and modeling character traits such as:  generosity, kindness, friendliness, integrity, hard work, honesty, truthfulness, and courage to face what comes your way. They also taught me the need for listening to others, taking time for fun, and applying yourself to your goals.

But my 4th dad is the best of all – and that’s my Heavenly Father. Though I’m sure He was active in my life long before I recognized Him as “Father”, He proves over and over how very precious I am as a daughter of His. He has provided me with tools not only for this life, but for the life beyond this one. Unlike my other dads, He has promised never to leave me or forsake me. He has promised to complete the work He has begun in me, to give me wisdom for each situation, to answer my prayers, to heal me, to save me from disaster, to be with me in trouble, to cause “all things to work for good” in my life.

I don’t have to travel to visit Him, but I can have an audience with Him any time of the day or night. He listens to my yearnings, my pleadings, my supplications, my confessions, my complaints, my discouragements, my questions, my theorizing and my expressions of gratitude. His presence fills the room, especially the room inside me, more than either of my other dads. He points out my faults and weaknesses only to show me a better way and to lead me to learn to trust Him completely with my life.

Thank you, God for my three earthly fathers, and for being the ultimate Father for whatever “orphans” are out there, who want to be in a loving family with a loving Dad.

©2011, Marcy Alves


Your Death on the Cross

Who was it that hung on the cross? It was a liar, an adulterer, a murderer, a thief, a fornicator, a greedy person, a hardened criminal, a selfish person, an abuser, an addict, and the list goes on and on. But how can I say this? Am I a blasphemer against our Lord Jesus?

Gal. 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” NRSV

Jesus hung on the cross for us, in our place. He died for all kinds of sin, for all kinds of sinners. Think you’re not a sinner? I once thought I wasn’t. Keep reading.

Gal. 5:19-22 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  NRSV

I was a young teenager when God spoke to me about my personal sins by leading a speaker at a youth meeting to use the Scripture quoted above. I had not done really bad things, but I saw myself in the list of sins in the verses above. We were very poor and I had jealousy and envy and sometimes anger about not being able to have things I wanted to have or live in the kind of house where I could comfortably invite friends over. I also had a lot of pride, which is probably why I was ashamed about our house and our poverty.

We were all in big trouble before the crucifixion of Jesus. But thank God:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2: 24

I remember responding to an invitation the night of the youth meeting, to be cleansed from my sin. I told the Lord that I was wrong – I did have sin in my life – and that I was sorry. I asked for His forgiveness and He told me that because of Jesus death on the cross, I was already forgiven.  It felt like a warm blanket of love had been placed round my shoulders that night. I have never doubted from that night that God loves me and that I have access to the God of the universe now through Jesus. I was re-born that night.

According to the Scriptures, all who have been re-born by the Holy Spirit of God were “crucified with Christ” on that cross.

Gal. 2:19-20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

You and I spiritually hung on the cross with Jesus – He felt our sin, our shame, our guilt. He took our punishment, our pain, our wounds into himself.  We have been set free.

Rom. 6:5-6 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

Because Jesus was raised from the dead, resurrected, we who are born again by His Spirit also participate in that resurrection, both now and in the future when Jesus returns. The power that was unleashed in the resurrection of Christ is available to us to live the life we have been called to live – one of victory over sin in this earthly life and over death itself when the physical body “dies”. All this is through the gift of eternal life that was revealed in the resurrection of Christ and promised to all those who put their faith in Christ.  Halleluiah!

Forget the Easter bunnies and  colored eggs and chocolate candy. Praise the Lord that Jesus conquered death!

Happy Resurrection Day!!


©2012, Marcy Alves (edited 4/19/2014)

The Ultimate Lover

Love ImaageValentine’s Day has arrived again, as it does every February 14th. There are exchanges of presents, cards and sentiments expressing someone’s desire to be your valentine, or for you to be theirs. Or if you are already someone’s “special person” the cards or gifts will reflect that relationship and the other person’s appreciation of what you mean to him/her. In most cases words of love will flow, both genuine and often not so genuine.

We all have a desire to be loved, it’s built into our psyche. It’s a need we all have, whether or not we recognize or acknowledge it. Not necessarily romantic love – but that sense that your existence in this world matters to someone. That it matters enough that your not being here in time-space any longer would cause a deep sadness to someone other than your dog or your cat.

We also have a need to love. I believe that is also part of our human nature. Our need to love is so deep a need that if there is no likely human prospect in our sights, we will often transfer our affection to our pets. Not that it’s wrong to care about our pets – but you could hardly call our connection with a pet a real “relationship”, where interchange of feelings, and ideals, and dreams can be mutually shared.

Perhaps I should reveal what I believe our two most basic human needs, to love and to be loved, really are. I believe that those two yearnings, along with our “conscience” are the few things that remain in humankind of the image of God from before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

You see, God is love. As such, He loves and desires to have that love returned. Our God is the God of relationship, as we see illustrated in Genesis when He walked in the Garden in the cool of the day to communicate with Adam and Eve. After their fall and the betrayal of His love, He had such a desire to return to that love relationship with His highest creation, humankind, that He came seeking the objects of His affection, by entering into the human experience in the person of His Son, Jesus.

Jesus, in a human body, experienced our humanness to relate it to the Father. And He came to relate the Father to us. He said, “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father”.

Jesus came for more than just to reveal what the Father is like.  He actually came to make a way back to the Father. He came to quell the rebellion and to alter the results of the original rebellion against the Creator. He reconnected us to God.

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10 NIV

God is the ultimate lover, who desires a return of affection from those He loves.

We all have known at some time the sadness of unrequited love – of unreturned affection – if not from a romantic enthrallment, then from an unreturned affection from a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance who caught our fancy. Is it hard to imagine that perhaps the God who is Himself “Love”, would also have a strong desire for a heart communion with His created beings?

This relational, loving God is revealed in the Bible from Genesis through Malachi in the Old Testament to Matthew through Revelation in the New Testament. He is a longing Deity, desiring relationship with His earthly family of humankind. It’s really an amazing love.

I remember seeing an ad in the newsletter of a Christian humanitarian organization which depicted a young sad-faced orphan girl in tattered clothing with the caption “Who will tell her that her Father loves her and is looking for her?”

If you are one of God’s “orphans” who has lost connection with your Heaven Father through some disappointment of choice of your own, I want to remind you that your Father is looking for you and desires to reconnect in a deeper more meaningful way than you have yet experienced.

If you have never realized that you can enter a “relationship” with Creator God, please consider and believe that He desires a heart connection with you. He wants to enter into that kind of love relationship with you through the gift of His Holy Spirit; for according to Romans 5:8:

” . . . hope will never disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”

You and I will never find anyone who can love us as God loves us. His love is the kind of love that produces change in those with whom He is in relationship – and it’s always a change for the best of those He loves.

Don’t settle for a lesser love as the main love of your life than the love of the ultimate lover. And allow that love to work in you the kind of love you need to shape your love of others in your life.

Happy Valentine’s Day!



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