She Serves

She went to the river that Sabbath morning.  It was the place where she connected, the place where she prayed, it was the place where she worshiped.  Those who worshiped at the river were usually women, but this morning by the river, she noticed some men.

You see, while Lydia was making her way to the river, God was orchestrating the steps of the apostle Paul to do the same.  Their paths would cross in this place of worship and her life from here on out would never be the same.

God’s Word tells us that Lydia was a God worshiper.  She worshiped the One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but the Good News that God had come in the flesh in Jesus Christ had not yet come her way.   As Lydia listened to Paul share the Truth, her heart was opened.  She heard the Truth, she received the Truth, and Lydia was changed by the Truth that day…by the river…at the place where she worshiped.

Acts 16 says that Lydia, a woman now changed, responded to the change in her heart.

When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.  Acts 16:15

Lydia heard, she responded, she believed, she was changed and then, she served. She had just been saved, baptized and she had seen her whole family do the same.  You can imagine the joy this new believer felt as she and her family finally found the piece that had always been missing.  Isn’t that the cry of our hearts as women, to know the Truth, be changed by the Truth and see our whole families follow?   Out of a very grateful heart for all God had done, Lydia could not keep quiet, she could not be kept down!  This changed woman rose up, took her place, and served.  She saw a need, she acted on the need and she invited Paul and those traveling with him to come and stay with her family at their home.   Lydia’s service was the natural response to a heart changed by the power and love of Jesus Christ.

On the surface, Lydia’s invitation may not have seemed like anything out of the ordinary.  These men needed a place to rest and Lydia had the means, but Lydia didn’t just extend an invitation to Paul and his friends that day.  The Greek word for invite here is a word that doesn’t mean she just opened her door. The word for invite doesn’t mean she just provided a comfortable place for weary travelers to sleep.  This word for invite means she extend an invitation with a purpose, with the purpose to encourage. 

Lydia’s service had a greater purpose.

What we would have seen if we were standing at the river that day was a woman extending an invitation.  What God saw was a brand new believer taking her place in the Kingdom of God, acting on the spiritual gift He had placed inside of her in order to encourage the people around her!  What we would have seen at the river that day was a group of travelers accepting an invitation to stay at a home, but what God saw at the river that day was a church being born.

God’s ways are always higher than ours!  Lydia’s service prompted Paul to stay in her home.  That home became the birthplace of the first home church in the region.  That home church became the first church in Philippi, the very church to whom years later, Paul penned the letter to the Philippians and that letter holds life giving Scriptures that we stand on, live by and hide in our hearts today.

One woman was changed.  One woman used that change as a platform to serve, to do in the natural what God called her to do, but oh, the amazing things God was doing in the unseen places that we now see today.

All because one woman was positioned by a river, the place where she worshiped, and at that place she served.

Where do we worship?   The local church is the place where we hear the Truth, where we receive the Truth, the place where we are changed by the Truth, and as a response to that change, it should be the place where we serve.  The place where we worship is our platform.  Serving in our local church may look to us like a woman extending an invitation, a woman making a meal, a woman providing a ride or teaching a Bible Study.  That is what we see with our eyes, but oh what God sees with His.  God sees in the unseen places.  He sees souls saved, lives changed, His Kingdom advancing in ways that will impact generations to come!   He sees the greater purpose behind our service.  God sees beyond!

Our service has a greater purpose, too.

It all started with one woman positioned in the place where she worshiped. She saw a need, she acted on the need, she met the need…she served.

It all starts with one woman positioned today in the place where she worships.  She sees a need, she responds to the need, she meets the need…she serves.

Let’s be women taking our place in the Kingdom today, planted in the place where we worship and serving others around us.  We may see it one way, but God sees it beyond!  He will use our service in ways we cannot even imagine as we follow Jesus, serving His people…one woman at a time!

Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion.  Romans 12:11

 

Be that Tree!

The mangrove tree makes its home on the shoreline of numerous countries in southeast Asia, particularly those closest to the equator.   No one on a mission to landscape a home or beautify a city would request a gardener highlight this particular tree as part of his plan. An obscure tree that is not particularly attractive, the mangrove tree is not known for its beauty, the mangrove tree is known for its roots.

The mangrove tree is not planted by the water on the shore, the mangrove tree is actually planted in the water by the shore.  Between each tree, seen resting on top of the water’s surface is a tangled mess of what appears to be sticks and debris, twisted and entwined to the place where it’s difficult to decipher exactly where the mess begins or where it ends.  This unattractive compilation of sticks and debris looks messy, neglected and unpurposed, but when you look a little deeper, you see the truth.  Continue reading “Be that Tree!”

Share Your Struggle

Share Your Struggle PICI am usually pretty good at packing a suitcase.  This summer, however, it was a whole different story!  For our 25thwedding anniversary, my husband and I went to Rhode Island to tour the old mansions and enjoy the tastes of the waterfront.  We travel for food and we are not ashamed to say it!  We arrived at our hotel, threw down our suitcases and headed out to explore the town. It wasn’t until we stopped back at our hotel that I realized I had done the unthinkable!

When I unzipped my suitcase and opened it up, what I saw took me by surprise!  Inside of my suitcase, there were NO clothes!   There were no clothes in my suitcase!  I clearly remembered getting my clothes together, I just never had that moment when I put them in the bag!  I was on my 25thwedding anniversary trip and I had forgotten to pack my clothes!

I stood silently staring into my empty bag, hoping that I was just seeing things, unsure of how to break this news to my husband.  Shopping on vacation is definitely not his idea of fun!  In a quiet voice, I shared with him the truth I had just uncovered.   He looked at me, not knowing what to say, shook his head and out we went!   We walked into a clothing store, found the clearance rack and started looking for my size.  A lady from the store asked me if she could help me find anything.  She had no idea what was coming her way!

I smiled at her and said, ‘Yes, please.  I am here on my 25thanniversary trip…’  She interrupted me to congratulate me.   I thanked her and then continued… ‘My husband and I just arrived today, and when I opened my suitcase to unpack, it seems I forgot to pack my clothes.’   You can only imagine the response.   She had no idea what to say, no idea where to start, no idea what to suggest.  She said she would be right back, went to the front desk and shared with her co-worker the mishap of the woman shopping on the clearance rack!

Within a matter of minutes, everyone working in the store that night knew my story, and everyone shopping in the store did, too.  I mean, really, it is not uncommon to forget a thing or two, but to go on vacation and forget allof your clothes?  While the news of my packing fail was going around the store, I found a pair of shorts and a few t shirts that worked, got in line, and that is when the conversation began.

One woman behind me asked, ‘Are you the one who forgot to pack your clothes? Oh, you must have children, I understand how that could happen!  I bet you were running around trying to take care of them before you took care of yourself…’

Another woman said, ‘You doing this makes me feel so much better about myself, I forget things all of the time and I thought I was the only one who would do something like this!’

Another woman opened up by saying, ‘Oh that reminds me of the time when I did something so similar….’

One by one the women in the line started sharing their experiences, sharing their failures, times when they had not met the standard, times they didn’t get it all right.  What started as a conversation about clothing became a conversation about life, because let’s face it, we all struggle!   No one gets it right all of the time.

Sharing my story allowed others to share theirs.  Sharing my weakness led to women I had never met telling me things about themselves that I would never have imagined.  Sharing my struggle became a launching point to start conversations with women around me.  Everyone in the store began talking, no longer about me, they were talking about them.

Women were connecting.   An invisible thread was being sewn as one by one we laughed, shared our weaknesses and encouraged each other because women were created to connect.  There is a piece of us that longs to connect with other women, to share our struggles, the places where we are vulnerable, to have someone listen, to hear us and then to pray.

Women struggle.  Who knows how many women in our churches, communities, in our families are struggling with feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, fear, anxiety and would be encouraged by the honesty of another woman saying it’s alright, I have been there, too.   I have had my share of failures and mistakes, but let me tell you about Jesus and how He set me free, and the conversation begins.  One woman ministering to one woman…who will in turn minister to one woman…and on and on it goes.

It takes just one woman to be real, but it requires a first step, that first courageous conversation, the moment when we let down our guard and let God use our struggle for His glory.   There is just something beautiful about women connecting with other women.  Women who share their struggles can be game changers in the Kingdom of God. 

As I walked out of the store that evening, women working, women in line and women still shopping waved goodbye and wished me a happy anniversary.   People who were strangers upon entering the store were now conversing as if they had always planned on being there together.  The atmosphere in the whole store had changed, all because one woman shared her struggle.  It can happen in our churches, in our women’s programs, in our communities and in our homes.

In a world of filters and perfect posts, it’s okay for us to be real!   God used one empty suitcase to impact a store full of women.  Just imagine how many hearts He can impact through your struggle today!

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.  2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)

Created to be Filled

created to be filledThere’s a picture frame in my office on a shelf.  I bought it a few months ago, and I am almost embarrassed to say, it’s never been filled.   I had a plan when I purchased it.   There was an empty space on the shelf that needed to be filled.  So I ran to my favorite discount store, found a great frame that matched the office, brought it back and filled the space…

…but that filling created a new space, a new empty space.  The frame was empty, and now it needed to be filled.

The Bible begins in Genesis with a chapter full of empty spaces.  Continue reading “Created to be Filled”

I Cling to You

Many years ago when my daughter was in preschool, I attended a mom’s group with some girlfriends at a similar place in life.  Our children would play together and participate in various activities while we studied The Word and prayed for one another.  It was one of those rich circles of friendship God knit together as we encouraged each other to follow Him.

Many of the women in the group thought that my girlfriend, Lori, and I looked a lot alike.   We are both fair, have similar hairstyles.  We have similar personalities and we get excited about the same things.  The women in the group were not the only ones who thought Lori and I resembled one another.  It quickly became apparent that her three year old son, Andrew, did too.

When Andrew needed some comfort or a reassurance, like all three year olds, he would run to his mom, grab ahold of her leg and cling to her.  His eyes would turn upward, looking for her reassuring smile that said he was loved and that everything was going to be alright.

Without fail, at every mom’s event, Andrew would confuse me with his mom.  We could see it coming from across the room, but there was no easy way to stop it.  Andrew would see what looked to be his mom from a distance.   He would run to ME, throw his arms around MY leg, and CLING to ME!  Continue reading “I Cling to You”

She is Strong

Mom she is strongI heard the news that I was going to be a mom in a rather unconventional way.  My husband and I were waiting to board a flight when we decided to call home to check the answering machine one last time.  There was a new message waiting for us and when it hit my ears, it grabbed my heart. The adoption agency we were using to start our family had left a very short message.  It simply said, ‘Please call us back.  We have identified a baby girl for you.’  The call I had waited years to receive had finally come!  It was the moment that changed my life forever.

Because of the path I walked on my journey to motherhood, I love to read about women in the Bible who walked a similar path…Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Samson’s mom.  Notice something different about Samson’s mom.  We are not given her name.

Samson’s nameless mom received the news that she was going to be a mom in a very unconventional way!  She was met by the Angel of the Lord with a message that after years of wanting a child, she would have a son.  She would be the mother of the next deliverer, a strong man who would begin the path to freedom for his people from the Philistines. It was a dark time in Israel’s history.  The Bible says the days were evil and everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes… Continue reading “She is Strong”

Come Here and Listen

come here and listen 1As women who seek to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, hearing the still small voice of God through the written pages of His Word is something we crave.  There comes a time in life when hearing anything other than His voice is no longer enough, a time when we long to be in His presence, when we need to come close and listen to His voice above all the distractions and chaos of life.  In those moments, God calls us from where we are, to where we will be.  For me, that moment was in the winter of 2011.

We had recently moved into a new house and I was trying to establish a new routine.  I know many of us have been there.  Boxes, boxes and more boxes were piled up crying out to be emptied while at the same time my family was crying out for food, laundry and some normalcy in life!  So many things were calling out for my attention, my focus.  The chaos in life was loud.   I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed and just plain exhausted.

For years, I have had the habit of spending time with God first thing, early in the morning.  It has been a priority in my life that I treasure. Time set apart with Him before I have time with anyone else, including Facebook, texts and email, has been critical for direction for the day and developing a deeper relationship with Him.  Continue reading “Come Here and Listen”