Watching for God includes times when we grieve. Aging means we live with memories but memories are best left in the past. There is a Scripture in the Hebrew Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 5b that reads:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up…
My sister and I made a trip “back home” recently. It caused us great joy at first, especially just being together. But the experience has left me with a peculiar heartache. I wrote a poem about it–don’t have a title and won’t tell the whole story. That’s what poetry is for.
someone said you can’t go home again
and I know they were right
it’s like an intrusion
a journey into the future of your childhood
but I tried anyway
we drove back to the place where we grew up
we knocked on the door and an
older woman smiled and greeted us
and invited us in
and my brain tried to register
this is my friend, my little girl friend
only I am not six or ten or even 18
and neither is she
those little girls, the teenagers
they are gone and we can’t bring them back
so if I had to do it over again
I would not. I would leave the past alone.
I would be thankful for that little
girl who used to be my friend
but I would not try to bring her back again
you really can’t go home again
home is here, where I am now, in time
and she is in my childhood memory
and she’s not coming out to play anymore
So what is a woman’s worth in God’s economy? How does watching for God in the Bible help us with this? Previously I wrote about how someone (I think her father) told my Mom she didn’t need a college education because she was “just a woman.” But what does God say about the worth of a woman?
The Bible does answer the question. The Apostle Peter wrote: “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (NKJV)
The apostles Peter and Paul both taught about relationships–household codes they’re called. Even slaves were included since slaves were being converted and needed to know how to honor God in their day to day lives. This was not a comment approving slavery, it was an encouragement to believers no matter what their present situation. But the passage above and others are written to all people. They might be rejected as their Savior was, but in God’s eyes all people, men and women, are precious–a holy priesthood, Peter says. We ourselves make up a “spiritual house,” a temple in other words. No longer do people need to go to a special place to find God. They can find Him in us, His own “special people” who are “chosen, royal, holy” (v. 9). What does that tell us about a woman’s worth?
You’re just a woman, you don’t need college. That’s what my mother heard when she was a girl. Thinking about girls and how they are prepared to lead (or not), I’ve decided to re-publish a poem I wrote. The original model was by George Ella Lyon, a poet from Kentucky. I followed her style and wrote my own poetic memoir. I’ve marked in bold a particular line my Mom heard and I still feel the pain when I remember. Watching for God involves looking for our purpose, a way to use our gifts. My Mom didn’t have a chance to do that, except that she told me she loved being a wife and mother. I am thankful. I, too, loved being a mother, and now a grandmother. There are five boys and one girl. Can anyone imagine saying to my granddaughter, “You don’t need college, you’re just a woman?”
I am from a tee-totaler and a flag waver
I am from a drummer boy from Boston
and a Pennsylvania farm girl
salty tears lonely.
I am from pen pals and he proposed before they met
and a match made with postage stamps.
I am from he always wanted two little girls and a white picket fence
and she wished he’d not spend so much on flowers.
I am from a disabled vet with a broken body
and Jesus is the Great Physician.
I am from “You’re not any better but you’re just as good”
and “Don’t play with fire or you’ll get burned.”
I’m from a two-bedroom house on Sunday Street and
the Johnstown Flood which happened again.
I am from steel mills and a city bus
And Saturday rides to the downtown library.
I am from a writer-dreamer with no place to write and the girl
who was told “You don’t need college, you’re just a woman.”
I am from both – the dreamer and the disappointed farm girl
Who struggled to give me safety and opportunity.
Women’s leadership in the Church is related to the history of civil rights in our country. I thought I could stop caring about this issue, but it seems that I cannot.
Sunday was an amazing day at my local Baptist church. Early morning life group discussed the sorry history in evangelical churches: refusing to let African Americans (called Negroes then) into the church. It’s painful to imagine such a scene: white men and maybe women standing at the door of a church arms folded, frowns on their faces, ready to fight the first black man or woman who tried to enter their church.
Then in worship, our pastor challenged us on the general sin of oppression. He even mentioned “women” once…but no, he didn’t go any further. Did anyone else hear that sermon as I heard it? All I could think about was, “What about the women who have been refused entry into leadership positions in this and other churches?” Our pastor challenged us to fight the oppression we encounter. Lord, help me know what to do. I am listening–and watching–for God’s guidance.
Scripture for the Day: You have been bought with a price…
I Corinthians 7:23a
The subject of “stewardship” comes up off and on in church, frequently with regard to how much money a member ought to give. But stewardship can be the category under which all of our resources come under scrutiny. There is no doubt that as redeemed people, we are not our own. From the moment we trust Christ as Savior, our decisions are made in the light of whose we are. When the Apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthians in chapter 7, he believed that Jesus was coming back in his lifetime, so he counseled people to remain in whatever state they were: if married, remain so, but if single, they were advised to remain single. It is generally true that single people are freer than married ones to serve the Lord wholeheartedly simply from the standpoint of time to give. But if everyone had taken this counsel as a doctrine for all time and all people, we obviously wouldn’t be here to talk about it!
So we are back to the issue behind the issue. How do we look at a sentence from the Scriptures and know how to follow it, how to teach it? This is one more example of why it is so vital to examine the Scriptures wisely. Generally, we look at any literature for the plain meaning first. Then, we look around before and after to understand the general context. Not only what are the words but what was happening to instigate the words? Paul was not dealing with money but the stewardship of our bodies and even our very lives.
Eugene Peterson, the translator of The Message, a modern paraphrase of the Bible, said it this way. “Use your head and use your heart.” That’s a pretty good rule, I think.
Scripture for the Day: Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. I Peter 2:1
I participated in a group discussion among believers recently who were talking about praying for healing. They were probably referring to verses such as James 5:15 where “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”
There seemed to be at least three groups of people and opinions there. The first one was represented by a woman who said that while she knew that God heals sometimes, she had accepted the tension that not everyone who is prayed for gets healed. She added some conjecture that maybe God had something to teach someone, and I think she was actually remembering something from her own past. The second viewpoint was by a man passionate to obey God who wondered whether the first opinion was “Biblical.” He seemed to suggest that when our prayers are not answered, it’s our fault. We just don’t have enough faith.
The third group of people were absent. I reminded the folks that I knew of people who were paralyzed or amputees, and I wondered how they would feel at such a discussion. My question is, why are people still having this anguished debate? Maybe it’s because the real problem is not the question of who does and does not get healed, but the issue of how to interpret the Scriptures. This is one issue where great confusion and even pain is caused because of this misunderstanding. It is careless, even dangerous, to take one sentence from the Bible and create a doctrine from it.
The “pure milk of the Word” deserves more careful interpretation, don’t you think?
The bit of wisdom I’ve got insofar as building a blog is concerned (that is, a following—I already have the blog) – is to support others who are writing about things I love and believe in. So in pursuit of blogs I can support, I typed in the name of an author I have enjoyed, Dallas Willard. I seemed to remember a website. When I followed a link, however, this man’s work was being denigrated and his general reputation attacked.
The trouble is, this was not a political rant; it was one Christian attacking another one. As I followed this woman’s posts, I found more vituperation concerning another issue I care about—the role of women in the church. I woke up this morning wondering what to do. I mean, what is the Christian thing to do? I found myself in the book of James, where this author did in fact have some advice. He said to bridle our tongues—keep them under control, in other words, for words are powerful and can cause great damage. Anyone can benefit from that advice. Further, he spoke of “Pure and undefiled religion.” What is it? Care for orphans and widows; in other words, be on the lookout for how we can be kind and helpful. And what else? “Keep yourself unspotted from the world.” Clean up your act, in modern language.
This doesn’t tell me everything I want to know but it helped me get through today. There’s someone in the hospital I need to visit.
So what do we do while we are “watching for God” — that is, while we are waiting for the answer to prayer? Moreover, how do we live in the reality of the abundance Jesus Christ promised when we look all around us and see everything but abundance–poverty of love, poverty of morality as well as economic poverty?
A few days ago I fell into a funk. All I could sense was the great need for health and faith and hope and love in our world, our country and in the lives of people I love. In addition, I have failed to reach some personal goals for myself. I felt myself slipping down into a very scary place.
Several things helped me. I had some places I could go and people I had promised to see. Also, I have books–stories of people who inspire me. I have poetry and I have the Bible. I began to read, and slowly I remembered that even when I can’t see how God is going to work in the various lives I pray for (including my own), I am rich in the knowledge that He does love us. He has not forgotten the world, our nation, my loved ones, or me. In the meantime, I have books to read and people to see. I can truly live rich in a world that sometimes looks very poor indeed.
Miracle: I don’t know what your definition is of a miracle, but I have a story that I think pretty near qualifies. At the dinner table of a very dear friend and her husband last evening, I recalled this incident. It is one of those “chill-bump” stories–a sense that we are not alone. Back in the States after ministry in the U.K. and looking for a job, I moved in with my Mom in Central Florida. I had a few strikes against me. My husband of two years, Bud Roberts, had died and all our plans to do ministry together vanished. Further, I had actually given up my association with the United Methodist Church and was coming to them as someone from out of the country (not a minister with tenure). Further again, someone told me that it would be nigh to impossible to find a job because “everyone wants to come to Florida to retire,” so now I had three strikes against me. It was not a good place to be. However, I trusted God. I was still His woman.
Bud was an inventor and his invention had resulted in a new company, and although he didn’t get a patent, he received royalties on his machine. Before he died, the owner of the parent company flew to England to visit us and they had a long talk. Now in Florida, he called me; I was to receive those royalties for a time. It took about six months to start earning money and during that time the royalties increased to a sum that would support me adequately. At just the right time, the checks decreased in amount and soon ceased, but I had been cared for by my Father in heaven who knew exactly what I needed.
I awoke this morning set on committing to pay another $6.99 a month to GoDaddy to help promote my web site, “watchingforgod.com.” But as I headed for the computer, I seemed to hear something like, “You don’t have to do this; you can support other bloggers who are doing something similar to what you love and believe in.” I feel like I have been set free. When I teach my workshop on blogging, I’ll be able to teach folks how to get started on the journey. But the truth is, the author of a blog needs help to promote their web site. Some individuals have followers anyway (such as the pastor of a church), and they get the thing going. Others have a good idea but need to get it out there, and that takes advertising one way or another. The field of online marketing, I have found, is a big business.
For myself, this “word” I’ve received is part of my own personal memoir and “watching for God” and I’ll be adding it to this blog as record that on October 4, 2016, I was set free from the business of promoting my own effort. I have already remembered one person involved in helping people write their memoir who also teaches for Nashville Community Education, Deborah Wilbrink. Her site is perfectmemoirs.com. It’s beautiful. She’ll also be teaching a workshop at the Annual Conference of Carnegie Writers in Huntsville, where I’ll be teaching on blogging. There are others that I’ll be following and sharing from time to time.
For now, I’m going to take a walk. The air is crisp and made for walking.