The Ladies of the Church

Church Ladies
 
1 Timothy 5:1-3 (selected): Treat…older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters… (and) give proper recognition to widows…

 The title of this piece this is not a reference to Dana Carvey’s Church Lady, a hilarious send-up of an uptight, self-righteous judgmental church lady on Saturday Night Live several years back. No, these church ladies are a group of ladies of a certain age at my church who are at opposite poles from uptight and self-righteous. Many (though not all) of them are widows, and they are faithful supporters of the church and its people. I see them sometimes sitting together in services. They are always immaculately dressed and well turned out and don’t seem to change or age that much.

 The ladies of the church have been through more than most of us. They have suffered the deaths of spouses, children, friends, and losses of all kinds from financial reverses to illness. I would not minimize their sufferings, but they have an indomitable faith, and a spirit that bears them up and carries them on. I feel better just seeing them wherever they are, and they are in most places around town—at plays, concerts, restaurants and sporting events, making a contribution to the life of the community just through their presence and good cheer.

 The ladies of the church have children and grandchildren of their own, and they are actively involved in supporting their families. They baby sit, take the kids to rehearsals, attend performances and games and celebrate birthdays. In some cases they are raising the grandchildren because their children are not able to do so.

The ladies of the church have a wide range of interests. One is involved in a book club that has run for years; she always has a good recommendation for me of a book to read. Another is a Nationals fan like I am and we share in our team’s suffering. One coordinated and taught in our ESOL program for decades. She lived all over the world and has a deep appreciation of other people and their culture. Another oversees a quilting ministry at the church which involves dozens of people. Another is a master gardener and leads the effort to keep the church grounds beautiful.

 I have identified the church ladies by their interests instead of their names because they would not like the attention. In fact, some of them will probably smack me in the head for implying that they are any more special than any one else. But they are, and I value their good sense, insight, sense of humor and their wisdom, although they would not claim any special qualities for themselves.

 When there is a funeral, they are there in the kitchen, making sure the family and friends are fed and insuring that they will have enough food during the trying days after the service. They supply food and help at church dinners—and you’re lucky if you come to a meal where they help provide the food—they are all excellent cooks.

 They are women of faith, with beliefs that have been tested by trial and trouble. They are involved in the Sunday School, music program, missions activities, women’s ministry and senior adult program, just to name a few. They serve without notice, but they are the quiet mainstays of the fellowship.

Of course, there are many other groups within our church family—the smallest babies, the children, the young people, the couples, the singles, those who are middle-aged and the seniors. They’re what helps make a church a church. Every church seems to have them, and each group contributes something special to the community. This time, though, I want to salute the ladies. I hope you’ll recognize and encourage them as well.

 So, here’s to you, ladies of the church. May you prosper, and may you continue to inspire and lead the rest of us. May you keep on keeping on for a long, long time.

 

 

 

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Brown Thumbs and New Hope

Day Lilies (Not Mine)

Day Lilies (Not Mine)

Devotional #642

Matthew 6: 25-27: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

I don’t know if you recall my mentioning in earlier devotionals that I have a brown thumb. In case you don’t remember this, I do. And I know it, and admit it. So when I got some day lilies last summer to go around the mail box, I wasn’t surprised when the leaves turned yellow and died. Maybe I watered them too little; maybe I watered them too much; maybe I planted them too deeply; maybe I didn’t plant them deep enough. I don’t know. I’ve killed plants off so frequently I just shrugged at this latest example of floracide and went on. The poor plants endured as some dry brown husks.

Then, this spring, I noticed that they were coming back! They had greened up, and one of the two plants started growing. Now it has nice yellow flowers. The other is still stunted but still, it’s green!

I reported my experience to one of our gardeners extraordinaires at church, who also happens to be in the choir, Mary Alice Corder. She knows a whale of a lot about plants and flowers, and I figured she would be impressed with my success at bringing back the flowers. But she said, “Well, you can’t kill day lilies. They’ll live in a ditch by the side of the road and they don’t care if it’s too wet or too dry.” I was glad to hear they were hard to kill, but then was not as impressed with my success in bringing them back. I really didn’t do anything, after all. Apparently, if I want real success with day lilies, what I need to do is dig a ditch by the side of the road, put them there, and ignore them. This would work well for me.

I think my experience with these poor plants has a spiritual dimension. Sometimes we try to get something going, something worthwhile and important. We do our best to try to grow something, somehow, and our efforts come to nothing or just flat out fail. We become discouraged and give up on whatever it was that we wanted to succeed so badly.

But, like my flowers, there is a power at work far greater than our poor pitiful efforts. We now that we plant the seeds or the flowers but it is God who makes them grow. We have to do our part, for sure, but by and large, we do not do the real work. The real work of God’s Kingdom is ongoing, and we have a part in it, but we do not need to concert ourselves with the success or failure of each little project or each little part of the grand design. That has been taken care of by the Master Designer, in whose care we all live and grow. Praise God for God’s providence and mighty power bestowed on his children!