Running on Empty

running-on-emptyIf you are

  • a woman engaged in full-time ministry or
  • the wife of a man in full-time ministry or
  • a missionary,

you are probably at risk of running on empty.

If this describes you, have I ever got a book you need to put on your reading list – Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry by Barbara Bancroft. With experience as a church planter’s wife and as a foreign missionary wife, Barbara is well qualified to write to other women in ministry. She writes honestly and directly but with compassion and grace.

In the very first chapter Barbara addresses the fact that ministry can bring out the worst in us. We are faced with situations that are too hard for us. For instance, no one told me that being married to the pastor’s wife would mean having to bite my tongue while some crazy woman made a list of my husband’s faults. No one told me that as an inexperienced 21-year-old I was going to be trying to help an abused teenage girl. Barbara truthfully writes, “Ministry confronts us with our insufficiency over and over.” Ministry pushes us every day to remember who we are in Christ and to move forward in His strength alone. As Barbara says, “A heart abiding in Christ is prepared for ministry when it comes.”

The first chapter had me hooked and I wanted to read more. The second chapter took me off guard. The title is “Proverbs 31 Remix”. I’ve been a Christian wife for almost 36 years. I have heard Proverbs 31 taught and preached more times than I can count. There was a time when I could barely read that chapter because it filled me with guilt about all that I was not. Barbara says that most women feel the same way I did, but her perspective changes everything.

“Since the coming of Christ changed how we read the Old Testament, it would be good to see how his coming changes our understanding and application of this passage. We might begin by viewing King Lemuel as a ‘type’ or forerunner of Christ.” She says that the way we normally apply Proverbs 31 makes us the center of the discussion. But “with Christ as our focus, we can appreciate the amazing truths this passage reveals. Our King’s bountiful provision for us, his bride, gives us all we need to be extravagantly creative as we love and serve him and seek to bless those around us.” Proverbs 31 is not a checklist for the Christian wife but is a treasury of the abundant wealth the King showers out on us as His precious bride.

“It is from the wealth of the king and her position as his wife that the virtuous woman is able to be and do all the things represented in this passage. Out of that relationship she prospers, and from his resources she is blessed and able to bless others.” And one last quote from this chapter – “Christ deeply loves and rejoices over his bride. Our faith and ability to trust him and step into ministry grow stronger as we understand that we are the ones he has chosen.”

After just these first two chapters I was in love with this book and felt like Barbara Bancroft was my friend in ministry. The rest of the book is just as wonderful although reading some of it and thinking through the ideas was more than difficult. Barbara pushed me to face up to some sins that I had buried and that had made ministry so much harder and less fulfilling than it should be. Chapters 7 and 8, titled “Fair is a Four-Letter Word” and “The Pit of Entitlement and Envy” were pretty rough, but I am so glad that I continued to read and that God used what I read to show me myself and his acceptance and forgiveness.

Throughout the book, Barbara directs our attention away from ourselves and away from our weaknesses and turns it to Christ and to His strength that He offers so freely through the Gospel. She reminds us that the Gospel is not just the power of God for salvation, but it is the power of God for us to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

If you’re feeling like life isn’t fair – that ministry is too hard for you –  that nobody really cares how hard you work in your area of ministry – that you’re running on empty, please pick up a copy of Barbara Bancroft’s book. Read it slowly and thoughtfully and let God use it to fill you back up.

Put It in Park

put-it-in-park“Now put it in park and turn off the car. That’s it for today. Good job!”

Her first driving lesson was over and I tried not to show my relief. We were both in one piece – maybe a little shaky – but one piece, and my little red car had come out of that lesson unscathed.

This was my third teenage driver to train. I should be used to it, right? But no, in the months to come, each time we drove back to our house and she put the car in park I was relieved again.

Several years later, it began again with my last teen driver – but still the reliable little red car. And we made it through that driving course successfully again.

That little red car holds lots of memories for me and those two teen drivers. Endless conversations about life (when I was wishing desperately that she or he were more focused on the road), bumps against the curb, first day driving without mom (oh, that was so hard!), first date, and painting a senior parking space for that car.

But then came the driver’s side window that wouldn’t roll down (no more drive-throughs), the air-conditioning that barely worked (not good in Texas summers), the locks that wouldn’t lock, and then a series of minor repairs leading up to that day we knew was coming but wished wasn’t.

The last day that one of our family members would put it in park and walk away.

It was a good little car. I remember that day we brought it home – finally a red car – something I’d always wanted. And for fourteen years we stuffed that little red car with tons of memories.

Until the day when we could no longer justify the cost of the repairs and we had to park it for the last time. I have to admit I was sad, but now there’s a nice looking black car parked in the space where the red car had been and it’s time to start stuffing that car with my son’s memories.

I can’t wait to see what those will be!


Hop on over to Five Minute Friday to see how other blogger responded to the writing prompt word “park”.


Photography from Pixabay

The Summer of Our Discontent

the-summer-of-our-discontentIn the summer of our discontent I was twenty-one, had been married a year and was the pastor’s wife at a small church in Pennsylvania.

Life wasn’t turning out quite the way I had expected. The church was tiny and struggling. I was immature and still very young in the faith. What I knew about being a pastor’s wife wouldn’t fill up a thimble.

During that rough summer the church was unable to pay my husband’s full salary. I had a job. He got a second job. And, thankfully, in the middle of Lancaster County even we were able to grow a garden. We had plenty of corn and lots of tomatoes. One of the ladies in the church gave us a bunch of turkey legs which we put up in our freezer. So, for a couple of weeks we lived on tomato sandwiches and turkey corn soup.

I know – this doesn’t sound so bad, and, looking back, it really wasn’t. However, when I added our limited pantry to worries about paying our bills to the discouragement we faced when the church didn’t grow spiritually or numerically to wondering how long we were going to have to stay here…well to say that I was discontented is putting it mildly.

I remember telling God that it wasn’t fair. We had given up so many things to come to this church. We turned down a cushy youth pastor position in a large, suburban church. We moved away from our families and from all of our friends. We were trying so hard to minister to people who were so different from us. We were working with tiny budgets and the barest essentials for church work. And now we didn’t even have enough money to buy normal groceries. Why couldn’t we be like other people who seemed to have it all? It just wasn’t right.

I don’t know if I ever came right out and said it, but I know I felt that God owed us more.

Over all these years I thought I was probably the only one who had done such a bad job as a pastor’s wife and as a Christian until I read Barbara Bancroft’s words in Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry. She said, “Our unbidden expectations that things go smoothly as we do God’s work is a common hazard of ministry.” and “We give in to the notion that the sacrifices we have made for the gospel entitle us to special treatment.”

As I read about Barbara’s experiences as a church planter’s wife and then as a missionary, I saw that she had experienced some of the same feelings I had known. I also saw why I had those feelings.

I had created an equation and expected God to abide by my equation. If I gave up the lifestyle I had known and added working hard at the church then God would be bound to shower me with the blessings I deemed to be best for me. I was completely focused on my comfort and my security and my happiness – in other words – me, myself, and I.

Thabiti Anyabwile has said, “Discontent comes when we linger on the affairs of men. Joy comes when we linger on the works of God.”

During our time at that little church in Pennsylvania, I totally lost sight of who God is and what He was doing in my life. I was not content with His plan. I wanted my own plan.

The good news is that God’s purpose was not to condemn me, but it was to complete the good work that He had begun in me.

He’s not done and I still struggle with discontentment. Just hours after I read Bancroft’s chapter “The Pit of Entitlement and Envy” I fell back into that pit. Thankfully this time I knew that only focusing on God would pull me back up. Only being content in how He had made me and in His plans for me brought me back out of the mire caused by discontent. Only repeating the truth about God and about my place in His story because of the gospel enabled me to be content with His will.

God isn’t finished with me yet and I expect that entitlement and envy will try to take me down again in the future. However, I know that if I “linger on the works of God” I will be able to see clearly again and to be content in Him.


Photography by Dorin Vancea from Unsplash

Have You Gotten the Mail?


The word and the associations it brings to mind make me smile.

When I was in college my grandmother and I started writing back and forth to each other. Yes, that was back in the days of long distance charges when phone calls were saved for special occasions or emergencies.

We wrote pretty regularly and I looked forward to seeing her beautiful handwriting and pretty stationery. It wasn’t just that her letters were pleasing to the eye. They were full of news of my family and my hometown and they were full of my grandmother’s love.

When I married and moved to another state, the letter-writing between us resumed and once again I looked forward to finding her letters in the mail. Over time her lovely handwriting became a little shakier and she wrote progressively shorter notes, but still her love came through the mail loud and clear.

When Grandma was gone my letter-writing fell off to practically none at all, but, last year when my son went off to become a Marine, I learned the importance of the mail again.

This time it was me writing newsy letters full of family and home and encouragement and lots and lots of love. I knew he wouldn’t have much time to write but still I eagerly raced my husband to the mailbox every evening to see if there was a precious piece of mail with a California postmark.

Mail! So lovely to receive. I know I can email friends and family in distant places. I can even call them without worrying about long distance charges, but maybe it would be a good idea to pick out some special stationery and send it off their mailboxes once in a while.

What about you? Do you enjoy getting mail? Do you have someone you correspond with through real mail or is there someone in your life who might enjoy getting a handwritten letter filled with love from you?


Hop on over to Five Minute Friday to read some more posts inspired by the prompt word – “mail”.


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