So How Did You Come Up With That Title?

Final Book Cover croped

Someone recently asked me, “So how did you come up with the title, “It’s Hard to Drain the Swamp When Yer up to Yer Ears in Alligators!”?

“Its life in the ministry,” I laughed.

“Yes, I know,” they responded. “But how did you think of it?”

My mind traveled back nearly 30 years. My husband (Lane) and I were home missionaries with the experimental assignment of beginning three new works in a two year period—works that would hopefully one day grow into established churches. (They all three did!)

After this very successful two year pilot program ended, Lane was hired as Director of Church Extension in Palm Springs County, FL. Because the percentage of people reached for Christ in new and young works is far greater than those reached in most established churches, we were excited about this opportunity. But not everyone felt this same way. Why? Because starting new churches require Christians to get out of their comfort zone and reach people for Christ. Otherwise, the young work will die.

Lane’s new job was to try and persuade established churches to help support young works, both financially and with workers, yet he was finding this job very difficult. After one very disappointing week, he overheard a fellow worker—who himself was over church starts for ethnic works—make the comment, “It’s Hard to Drain the Swamp When Yer up to Yer Ears in Alligators!”Everyone in the office burst out laughing. When he shared this comment with me that evening, I laughed until I cried. At that time I didn’t know that I would one day write, or that I would use that comment as the title for my book, yet through the following many years of ministry, while facing the most trying of situations, those words often came back to mind. Yes, it is hard to drain the swamp when yer up to yer ears in alligators!

For more information on RockieSue’s book, It’s Hard to Drain the Swamp When Yer up to Yer Ears in Alligators! visit rocklanpublications online.

How To Reject Discouragement


Did I hear the headmaster’s words correctly? Was I really being laid off? My head was swimming with confusion. For the past seven years I had poured my heart and soul into teaching the Bible to these high school students. It had become my life’s passion. Yet now, because of the economy, my contract was not being renewed. In a way, I did understand. No high school Bible teacher had ever stayed more than two years, so my salary was far more than MJCA was used to paying. The other high school Bible teacher was fairly new, his wife was an excellent teacher in the elementary department, and he was paying for two children to attend. Economically speaking, not renewing my contract was the better of the choices. Yet when the headmaster began to hint at the possibility of me causing trouble because of my release, I was more than insulted. I put my hand up in a “stop right there” motion. “Don’t even go there,” I said. “I love this school and I love these students. I’ve taught them that God is in control of everything, not man. It would negate my entire testimony and everything I’ve taught them if I were to throw a fit.” Still, discouragement set in. I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest.

When I arrived at school the next day, the word was out. Students kept approaching me, hugging me, crying, or trying very hard not to cry. One student protested, “But Mrs. Fo, you are Bible! How can they let you go?” With tearful eyes, I smiled. “Don’t worry about me. God is in charge of my life; not MJCA.” I began each class that day with a reminder of my favorite Bible character, Joseph. I recapped with them one of the greatest lessons learned from Joseph’s life. Like Christ, Joseph—the most perfect type of Christ in the Old Testament—was wrongfully treated by so many different people­­, including people who should have loved him, supported and encouraged him, yet rather than allowing discouragement to take hold, Joseph kept a good attitude and trusted his Heavenly Father. His secret: he understood that, no matter what happened, God was in control.

A few months after being laid off I learned one of the reasons why my contract was not renewed. I was hired by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) to assist in writing their new fourth and fifth grade Bible curriculum—an opportunity that would have been impossible had I still been working at MJCA.

After many years of ministry and life in general, the one most important factor that kept me going in the most difficult of situations was the knowledge that God was still on His throne. He was and is in control. Therefore, if you want to keep discouragement from triumphing, rest in the fact that God is—and will forever be—GOD.

Three Lessons For Families in Ministry

After looking back over 30 years of ministry, I can summarize my advice to young ministers and their wives by asking three questions:

  • “Does it really matter what color the room is painted?”

God has called you to minister and reach souls for Him. He’s blessed you with specific talents and gifts to fulfill this calling, but if you’re too busy debating about less significant details of church life, such as what color to paint a wall, you’ll not be fulfilling your most high calling. Seriously, the human body only has a certain amount of “get up and go,” and if you are so busy your “get up and go has got up and gone,” you’ll be too exhausted to accomplish your true calling with precision, and you’ll not have adequate time for your family. You don’t have to have your hands in everything. Place qualified church members in positions where their talents and gifts will shine, then turn them loose and let them shine.

  • Whose children are they anyway?”

You’ve all heard stories about the infamous “preacher’s kid” who is the church teenage nightmare. When we moved to our last church all four of our kids were in—or soon to be in—the youth department. Two years after moving there, Jerry Williams, our youth minister, pulled me aside to confess that he had been terrified when he heard we had four teenagers due to the many horror stories he’s heard told through the years. He explained that our teens were nothing like he had expected. They were all well-behaved, great, godly teens. “What’s your secret?” he asked. “Why are your kids so awesome?” My answer was simple. Our kids have always been OUR kids. They weren’t the church’s kids, nor the “preacher’s kids.” They are ours. That made them our priority. We worked hard to lead them to a saving faith in Christ at an early age, and then we built upon that faith. We encouraged them to pray and read their Bibles daily, even swooping so low as to bribe them to have a daily quiet time by awarding them with money each time they completed reading their Bibles through (Genesis to Revelation). As they grew, they came to believe that their actions represented their faith and the God they served. With that, everything else fell into place.

  • “Why leave the praying up to others?”

As a minister or a minister’s wife, it is easy to rest in the fact that a whole multitude of godly church members are praying for your spouse. In a world that thrives on devouring the godly, this can give a false sense of security. Yes, church members do pray for you both, but no one knows how to pray for your spouse better than you do. You know each other’s shortcoming better than anyone, meaning your prayers are too important to be neglected.

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