The Cleaning Ladies

cleaning ladies

The Cleaning Ladies

Ephesians 4:29 – “… but only speak words that are good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will minister grace to those who hear.” (NASB)

As we minister to women in our churches, we respond in various ways and we have various types of women we meet and interact with in ministry.  The caricatures below describe some women we might encounter, or descriptions of how we, ourselves, might act!

 First, there is the Bristle Brush lady. She is the woman who comes into church and always looks angry or annoyed.  You reach out to her and she quips some short answer that shuts you down and you realize there is no more conversation going to happen at that time. Still you reach out and occasionally you get a smile.

 Then, there is the Quicker Picker UpperTM lady.  She is the one who greets you at the door on her way to take care of some pressing need, and says something like, “Hi!  It’s been so long since I saw you!  How ya’ doin’- How ya’ doin’?  Are you doing ok?”  If you managed to get an answer out and venture to say, “I’m okay…struggling a little with…”  She immediately jumps in with a, “Oh, I will pray for you!  Just give it all to Jesus!  He will be there for you!  Jesus will help you!”  And quickly continue on her way to her “pressing need.”

 Next, there is the Disinfecting Wipes woman.  She goes about helping clean up the problems of people’s lives.  There is always a crisis for her to help wipe away.  There is always time for someone else, but never time to care for herself.  When one crisis is wiped clean, another one arises and needs cared for.  She doesn’t develop deep relationships, but frequently wipes the surface of one in a caring manner.

 Also, there is the Air Freshener woman.  She reaches out so kindly to people. There’s always a kind, sweet air about her.  She is viewed as the “sweet lady” in church.  But you never get past the surface air with her.  The deep troubles of her life never surface to be cleaned, and her eyes show an inner sadness that longs to be real and transparent.

 Also, there is the Scrubbing BubblesTM lady.  She is always hard at work in the church, offering to clean up, pick up, or put away whatever needs to be done.  She is a worker bee, and you can count on her to take care of business and get things back in order the way they are supposed to be. However, to really have a sit down, heart-to-heart talk with her is difficult.  She is so busy helping that she does not open up to ministering to people or allow herself to be ministered to.

Lastly, there is the Soft ScrubTM lady. She is kind in response and demeanor. She is the lady that is interested in you. She asks about your life and how things are going.  She takes time to listen. And when you’re done sharing, her soft response in one or two phrases brings you right where God needs you to be.  She scrubs your heart clean in one fell-swoop and brings your perspective where it needs to be biblically. And you love her for it! These women are few and far between, but they are gems when you find them.

The women we encounter in these descriptions are stereotypical women, but nevertheless, real women who often exhibit these characteristics. As I thought about these, I was challenged to look at myself to see which one of these “cleaning ladies” I was portraying?  Which woman are you? Where do you find yourself in your interactions in ministry? Are we the I Peter 3 woman, who portrays a gentle and quiet spirit? Are we the Proverbs 31 woman who portrays a life with God in control? What kind of women are we?

©Joanna Shumaker 2013

*”Scrubbing Bubbles is a registered trademark of the S.C. Johnson Company

*”Soft Scrub” is a registered trademark of the Dial Corporation

*”Quicker Picker Upper” is a registered trademark of the Proctor & Gamble Corporation

Lingering Sweetness

Lingering Sweetness

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. They are sweeter than honey

and the drippings of the honeycomb.

Psalm 19:7a,10b

Chocolate-covered peppermint candy!  These would be my weakness.  I love how the chocolate melts in your mouth and the peppermint lingers for a long while.  At Christmas, Easter, and other days of the year I love to put these out for guests, and, of course, me!

I am reminded that this sweetness and lingering taste is how we should feel about the Word of God.  The Psalmist refers to the Word of God as the sweetness of the honeycomb.  He also shows us all the ways that the Words of God is perfect for us:

Restores the soul

Makes the simple wise

Rejoices the heart

Enlightens the eyes

Giving us warnings in life

As we go throughout our day, do we have the lingering sweetness of the Word of God in our hearts?  Is it guiding us to choose to do right, love the unlovely, watch out for pitfalls? I am working to desire the Word of God and its lingering sweetness as much as I desire those chocolate covered peppermint candies!  What is sweet to you? May it remind you of God’s message to you and the sweetness of His perfect Word.

Rocky Paths of Life

Rocky Paths of Life

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  Ps 119:105

We often view life as a path, and if we have a relationship with God, He will direct us along that path. We view the path of life with God as a smooth, walking path through beautiful evergreens, and sweet smelling flowers. When life becomes rocky, difficult and even unmanageable, we think we’ve gone astray from the smooth walking path.  In reality, we have not gone astray.  It is on that rocky, thorn-covered path that we feel the Lord walking with us.  He has allowed that part of the path to be filled with huge rocks which are difficult to pass through, but He is there in front of us still guiding us along. I picture Him with arm stretched backwards to grab hold of my hand and guide or pull me along.  And often, I pull my hand away and say, “I can do it.” Then, I reach a precipice or an unstable part of the path and finally look up.  There is His hand outstretched waiting for me.

One of the best ways to see His hand waiting for you is to be in His Word.  His Word will guide you through the rocky times of life to give you hope and direction. The more you are in His Word, the more you will see Him guiding and helping you. Hold on to the Hand that guides you.  He is always there waiting, with arm outstretched, and He will never let you fall.

God Bless America

God Bless America

“Mom! Mom!  Come here and see the pictures Uncle Eric sent me!” my son said as he dragged me into his room.  There on the wall, hung every which way, were the pictures that his “uncle” had sent him.  They were of the helicopters he flew, the places he had been, and planes he had flown.  Besides serving our country faithfully, our friend, Eric, had instilled in my son a love of patriotism, country, and service.  To this day, my children call him “Uncle Eric,” and that’s who he will always be to them.  They worried when he was sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and were relieved when they heard he was home. He will always be a hero to them, and we dedicate this devotional to the service of all the men and women who are fighting for our country today.

We don’t know what it’s like to live day-to-day with bombs exploding in our neighborhoods.  We don’t have friends and family who died because they rode the bus to work this morning and it exploded when it went into the city.  We don’t have to live in fear of repercussion because we believe in Jesus Christ and not the state mandated religion.  On this day where we celebrate our freedom to speak freely, worship freely, and live in peace in a democratic country. Make sure you take time to thank God for our freedom, and our military men and women for their sacrifice.

God Bless America and God Bless Our Troops!

Simplified

Simplified

Matthew 6:31, 32b

“Take no thought for your life saying, ‘what shall we eat, what shall we drink, or what will we wear for clothing?’ For your heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things.”

“We have arranged for you to stay in a fully furnished apartment until we can get you back in your house.” These words were a comfort to me as we drove our kids to the place where we would stay the next few months. We had just left our burned out house, where white squares in black soot now marked the spot where pictures once hung on the walls.  Our “fully furnished” house was nothing but a water-logged, soot-filled, broken-apart house. It was a strange feeling to own nothing but the clothes on your back.

I was relieved to have dishes, towels, and blankets at the apartment, but they weren’t mine. The ones I had were given to me as wedding presents, holiday gifts or bought at the store because I loved them.  Mine had memories attached, and they were gone.  Whenever I picked up the quilt in the family room and folded it up, it was special because my great grandmother made it for me. The machine-sewed “quilt” on the living room couch now, had no meaning to it.  Never before had furniture, blankets or dishes retained such meaning and at the same time mattered so little.  On the one hand, I did not want to lose the representation of the person or memory attached to that object, but on the other hand, I still had my husband and children; and that mattered more.  Ironically, it was a strange paradox. I didn’t care that I was sitting on an apartment couch that wasn’t mine, because snuggling in with me on that couch were my children, happy to feel secure with their parents.

We didn’t replace everything in the house because we realized we didn’t need it.  The idea of “simplifying” became real that summer as God provided for us those items we needed.  We simplified and it was very freeing.  And even though the previous objects of my house, so full of meaning, were gone, the memories attached to them lasted. Simplicity and happy memories: that was all we had, and that was all we needed.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

California, 1991 – I stood under the tall palm tree…amazed!  It was the first palm tree I had ever seen in person. The huge, leafy branches hung out over the sand, blowing and dancing in the breeze. It was a beautiful, calming sight.  My mind turned to a picture of the people putting down palm leaves for Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. How bitter-sweet it must have been for him to see the people honoring him as King, but for all the wrong reasons!  They thought he was going to be the One who delivered from the oppression of the Romans; when, really, he wanted to deliver them from the oppression of their sin.

Often our prayers are for deliverance from earthly problems, conflicts and difficulties. We need to remember to praise Him in our prayers, not only for His deliverance from everyday problems, but also His deliverance from sin. Honoring Jesus as King means praising Him for delivering us from sin and death.  As we look ahead today to Easter Sunday, we realize the real reason to praise Him. His death on the cross delivers us from sin, and makes it possible for us to have life!

            As you praise Him today on Palm Sunday, remember to praise Him for His greatness in overcoming sin for us, delivering us from the Kingdom of Darkness and transferring us into the Kingdom of Light!

God Listens

Image

God Listens

Jeremiah 33:3a – “Call unto me and and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things…”

After having brain tumor surgery, I was in the ICU at the hospital for weeks.  There, I had a nurse named Liz. Her family was originally from the Bahamas, so she had the remnants of an islander accent. I was never as happy as when I heard that accent on the other side of the curtain.  She was the best nurse I’ve ever had! And it wasn’t because she was the sweetest, kindest nurse I have had.  In fact, she was mostly matter of fact, firm, and business-like.  But….She listened.  She didn’t ignore me when I rocked back and forth in my hospital bed because the pain in my head was overwhelming.  She matter-of-factly told me that I needed to calm down and stop crying because it would only make my head hurt worse.  But… she got me the pain medication that I needed.  She had to tell me the hard things and show me the not so pleasant things.  But….She listened.  She answered my questions, even though they were most likely quite obvious to her.  She didn’t get annoyed when I asked her the same questions for the fifteenth time.

Liz is a good reminder to me of how God listens to us.  When we pray for something for the fifteenth time, when we cry out to him because the pain of our heart seems too overwhelming, when we just need someone to hear us, He is there.  He answers us with what He knows is best for us, which may not be what we requested.  But His love for us gives what we need, and comforts our hearts through difficult times.  God gives us the encouragement we need in Jeremiah 33:3 when He says, “Call unto me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things….”  God listens to us, answers us, and gives us what we need.  Take comfort in knowing that God listens.

Dwelling in Peace

Dwelling in Peace

 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…. and be thankful.  Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.

Colossians 3:15 & 16

 The dove is the universal sign for peace. I often wonder why it is always seen as flying away.  Does the dove carry the worry, anxiety, anger, frustration and fear away from people? Or does it just represent a calming effect as we see its beauty in flight? Peace is a common theme in our world and many people seem to be searching for it. Peace from war, peace from anger, peace in the hectic pace of life we live. Yet, God gives us the perfect way to experience peace in our lives. It is by letting the Word of God dwell in our hearts, which brings a thankful heart, which brings us peace.

How do we let the Word of Christ dwell in our hearts? By reading and interacting with it. Are we spending time with God by reading his letter to us? It is here that we find truth which gets rid of all doubt and fear and brings peace to our hearts.  It amazing how much dwelling on truth, instead of lies and fallacies, helps us be at peace!  Also, these concepts are intertwined with each other. You really can’t have one without the other. If the Word is dwelling and permeating our hearts and minds, we are thankful and then the peace of Christ can rule in our lives. From salvation to everyday living, it takes the Word to change our lives from sin, chaos, anger, and frustration to peace, thankfulness, love, and grace.

In this season of thanksgiving, may we find ways to be interacting with the Word of God, letting it permeate our hearts and minds, creating a heart of thankfulness and a spirit of peace.

Catch the Wave

Catch the Wave

“He has done great things for us, which make us glad.”Psalm 126:3

The waves were huge, leftover from hurricane that came through a few days ago. The huge waves were the best ones to surf!  Waves after a storm are fantastic compared to everyday, normal waves. We often look at our life as a dreaded wave towering over us.  Instead, we should be waiting for it, surfboard in hand, eager to ride the wave through life’s journey.

When we are looking at the difficulties of life, we lose sight of the goodness of God.  All we can see are the problems.  We must try to look beyond the problems, to God, who is in control of every situation in life, and has proven Himself to be faithful in past situations.

As we deal with the issues of life, we need to begin to look for the ways God is good to us.  As we are in the midst of busy, hectic times, we need to actively remember the ways God has been good to us.  I Chronicles 16:12 says, “Remember His marvelous works that He has done….”  What better way to take our eyes off the difficulties of life and focus them on the faithfulness of God. We also need to pass on to others the faithfulness that God showed us.  Psalm 126:3 is a praise to God for bringing the nation of Israel out of captivity.  It is called a Psalm of Ascents because as they are ascending the mountain to the temple, they are singing this song for the entire world to hear.

Ride the wave of your journey through life, recounting the goodness of God and your focus will change from fear of the issues on the journey, to faith in the goodness of God to care for those issues.

Fall Majesty

Fall Majesty

Psalm 96:6 – “Honor and majesty are before Him. Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”

Today, I’m reflecting on the beauty and majesty of God’s creation. It is finally a tad chilly here in Tennessee which makes me think that maybe….just maybe we will have a fall season here in Tennessee. Yesterday, when I was going through pictures I took of the fall leaves last year, I realized all the bold and strong colors God put into his creation. As I looked at the striking colors of the leaves in the pictures, the word that came to mind is majesty. The vibrant colors showed God’s majesty. The colors of fall are bold, reflecting His strength, and beautiful, reflecting his majesty. They become a sanctuary for me to feel God’s presence.

As you take time to reflect, look for God’s majesty around you.  You may find it in unexpected places, or you may find it in the simplicity of nature.

« Older entries