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

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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.

The Encroaching Vine of Busyness

The Encroaching Vine of Busyness

“Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest.”
Matthew  11:28

“Wow!” I thought. “These trees are really thick on this road.  I can’t even see through the branches!” The side of the road was a mass of green leafy trees, so brilliant in the sun, and I was amazed at how many of them seemed so close together.  As I kept driving, however, I noticed that I couldn’t see any part of the trunks of the trees.  It seemed like leaves were cascading down the
trunk, instead of up to the light of the sun. It was then I realized that the trees were being overtaken by a broad leafy vine.  The vines had completely encased the trunks of the trees, all the branches, and the tree was actually in the process of dying.  “How sad,” I thought to myself.  “All this beautiful, luscious greenery is actually crippling and killing these trees.”

It is the same way with sin in our lives – in particular, the sin of busyness. When we are so busy doing things that seem good, positive, and beneficial, we can lose sight of what those “good” things are doing to our lives.  They are slowly encroaching on our personal time alone with God, and our quality time with those we love.  We keep adding events, and meetings, and ministry opportunities to our lives that fall into the “good thing to do” category, but we are slowly overtaken by our schedule. The busy lifestyle we have chosen slowly starts to crush our spirit and discourage our soul. We feel like all we are doing is “keeping up,” and we become useless in our service for God as a wife, mother, friend, as well as in our church ministry.

God did not mean for life to be this way. He gave us the principle of rest starting in Genesis 2 when he established a day of rest. All throughout the Bible this theme of rest continues.  In Matthew, God entreats us to come to Him and rest.  We need to look at our lives, cut out the vine of busyness at its root, so that it doesn’t overtake us and make us useless servants for God. Find ways to cut out the busyness in your life, so that your relationship with God and others can flourish and grow.

Waiting for Spring

 

Waiting for Spring

Wait on the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord Psalm 27:14

The buds have just opened and Spring is just coming into bloom. The snow on the ground is gone. Waiting for Spring takes patience that I don’t have at all!  I was reminded of my impatience for waiting on God’s timing.  When the burdens of life are like the snow – melting too slowly – I am impatient for God to lift them and let the new life come out.  I don’t want the burdens of life weighing me down.  I want the breezy, newness of life to lift me up!  Why must I wait – because if the spring buds open too early, they often get a late winter freeze.  Waiting for the right timing to open brings out a beautiful flower, much prettier than I ever expected. Waiting for the timing of God until He brings things to pass makes life much more beautiful than I ever expected.

            As you journey through times of waiting for God’s answer, remember that His timing is best.  It is hard to wait, but His strength will get you through.  His answer will be the best, if you just wait for it.

Guest Contributor, Cindy Rooy

 

GOD ANSWERS HIS KNEE-MAIL

By Cindy Rooy

            Two images have never left my memory. The first is seeing my father on his knees beside his bed, head bowed, and praying with emotion in the middle of the night. The second is observing a man – over 90 years old – gladly kneel, but with difficulty, to pray at a community gathering. The time of day and one’s age are no longer an excuse. Are we too proud, lazy, or indifferent to kneel before the Lord?

            I felt God’s nudging to make prayer an active part of my morning. That meant pulling away from my memory foam bed and pillow, and literally getting on my knees. I was willing to demonstrate a submissive spirit, but after four surgeries, any pressure on what used to be my right kneecap brought tears. Not liking the idea of getting up earlier, and wanting confirmation from God that He wanted me to do this, I asked Him to be my alarm clock. Not only did He give me divine wake-up calls precisely at the requested time, He wouldn’t let me fall back to sleep. After a week of kneeling in early-morning prayer, God took away all of my knee pain.

            When we submit to Him, God rewards us. And He answers our knee-mail. Kneeling represents submission and humbling oneself, and that puts our thoughts and attitudes in the right perspective as we come before God with our praise, confession, gratitude, and requests.

            How often do we humble ourselves before the Lord? Do we consciously note that He is holy and we are not? The Lord told Isaiah, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit” (Isaiah 66:2). Peter and James quote Solomon’s proverb, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” They add that we are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand (1Peter 5:5-6), and submit ourselves to God (James 4:6-7).  

            The Bible gives a detailed account that a leper, synagogue ruler, Canaanite woman, and father of a demon-possessed son had knelt before Jesus with their request. A punishable decree did not stop Daniel from getting down on his knees 3 times a day to pray. Paul informed his readers that he knelt before the Father in his prayers. It didn’t matter where, for Paul, along with the disciples and their families, prayed while kneeling on a beach. Even Jesus knelt in prayer to His Father in heaven. There is a spiritual correlation between humility, submissiveness, and kneeling in prayer. David advises us to, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6).

            Jesus humbled Himself to be obedient to death on a cross, and God exalted Him so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:8-11). We can do that now, and put into practice what we learn from the Bible. Let’s humble ourselves in submission to God, kneel in prayer, and notice a difference in our attitude, prayers, and God’s response.

I Be Like You

 “Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children…” Ephesians 5:1

She came in to my room, all excited to show me her “surprise.”  As she burst in, she said, “I be like you, mommy!  I be like you!”  To my amusement she had concealer on her eyelids, lipstick every which way, and nail polish on her fingernails! (Well, sort of on her nails)  I couldn’t help but laugh, but not too hard so as not to disappoint her. J  It took a half-hour to get off the makeup and nail polish, and another half-hour to put the nail polish back on correctly – But it made my day!  The look of pure joy on her face as she presented to me what she thought was being like mommy.

            This was a poignant reminder to me of how God wants us to be imitators of Him.  As we go throughout our daily routine, we should try to keep this in mind. Asking ourselves the question, “Is what I’m saying or doing, imitating the God I love?”  If only it were as easy as putting on some makeup! It takes a daily dose of the Word of God in our lives to help us keep focused on imitating Him. If you can picture the pure enjoyment that comes from watching a child imitating someone he/she loves, you can imagine the joy God must feel when He sees us working to imitate Him!

Happy New Year

 

Resolutions Worth Keeping

Happy New Year! These three words conjure up all kinds of images in my mind:  Everything from favorite movies that featured a New Year’s celebration as a backdrop to memories of friends and family over for a party. For some people, it brings haunting, lonely memories of times gone by with a loved one who is no longer with them.  For others, it conjures up mixed feelings of hope for accomplishing the goals they have set, and trepidation for fear of failing to meet those goals.  But whatever the case, facing the New Year can be a time for reflection as we look to a time of new beginnings.  We often start these new beginnings with resolutions of some sort: to be better, more diligent, or in better shape. However, I am not a big fan of these resolutions.  In fact, I always hated New Year’s resolutions, because I never kept any of them! So, it seemed very unrealistic to me to even try to make any.

 However, I think resolutions can serve a purpose in our lives. Resolutions are an everyday of the year kind of thing … not just a New Year’s Day event.  Even the Bible talks to us about having resolutions to live by. Listed below are passages that give us some resolutions that can encourage us in our lives. As you ponder these, think about making a different kind of resolution this year:  Not the kind that may or may not help you lose weight, write more letters, or get out of debt.  Instead, make your resolutions the kind that will help you live godly each day of this year. Here are just a few of the verses I found:

In I Corinthians 6:15, it tells us to “ …stand firm in the faith…”

*How do we practically do this resolution? The next few verses are some of the ways I have found that Scripture gives us to stand firm.

 In Daniel 1:8, it tells us that Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…” 

            *For Daniel, this was a choice not to eat the king’s meat which had been offered to idols.  For you and me, this choice will be different.  In what ways can we purpose in our heart that we will not defile ourselves because we are the “temple of the Holy Spirit?” (I Corinthians 6:19)

 Psalm 17:3 says, “I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.”

*What a hard resolution this is! There are many ways we can purpose to keep our mouths from slander, gossip, anger, complaining.  The book of Ephesians gives us many ways in which we can avoid transgressing with our mouth.  The best way is to give thanks and have a thankful heart. (Ephesians 5:20)

 The last verse I want to share is one that gives me hope that the resolutions I make will come about in my life.

 In Ephesians 6:14, it says to “stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…”

*I love this one, because telling yourself the truth about God and his work in your life is the key to standing firm in your faith. Truth wins out in the end.  It trumps fear, doubt, and discouragement.

 So, as you head into this New Year, may you find some resolutions in the Bible that will be meaningful in your life and may you be encouraged in your walk with the Christ.

 

 

Feed and Follow

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Discouraged by the lack of a catch of fish, the men threw their nets on the other side of the boat.  Still, nothing.  Ready to call it quits, they began hauling the nets into the boat. Then a man shouted from the shore: “Put your nets on the other side!” Peter was not about to try again.  They had already done that numerous times and did not catch anything! John recognized the man as Jesus, and excitedly urged the men to try one more time. And when the disciples did what he said, they caught more fish than they could handle.

In the book of John, chapter 21, we see where Jesus finds the disciples after his death and resurrection.  He finds that they have returned to their lives as fishermen. He must have been sad that they had such little faith.  They did not believe what he had been telling them for three years! He didn’t reprimand them, though. Instead he took one more opportunity to teach them.  He gave them two commands:  Feed and Follow. I often wondered why Jesus asked him to feed His sheep first.  It seemed out of order. Don’t you need to follow Christ first before you can do any ministry? The reminder to minister to his followers, his sheep, was actually a way of probing the depths of Peter’s love for him. Peter is professing his love for Jesus, but when he says, “You know I love you,” he just uses the word for brotherly love. However, Jesus is looking for more.  Jesus was getting to Peter’s heart.  He knew that Peter could not serve him at all until he was willing to give up his own selfish desires and follow Jesus whole-heartedly.  It isn’t until the third time He asks Peter that Peter finally answers, “You know that I love you.” – using the word for self-sacrificing love. In order to do the work of the ministry, Peter would have to sacrifice self for the sake of the sheep. It is then that Jesus tells him to “follow me.” – The same way he told Peter at the very start of His ministry. He needed Peter to sacrifice self in order to be ready to follow Him. 

We need to evaluate our own hearts and see if our love for Christ is a self-sacrificing love. It is only then that we can follow Christ with our whole heart, undivided in purpose and plan.  It is then that we are ready to “feed His sheep.” 

Questions to ponder:  Is your heart divided over following God in your life, or are you undivided and unwavering in following after God?

Who are the sheep which God has placed in your life for you to minister to? Children? Husband? Neighbors? Extended Family?