31 Days for the Ladies: Church Crew

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Gentle Reader,

You organize meal trains when people are ill. You hold screaming babies, singing them gentle lullabies as you rock back and forth. You preach. You teach Sunday school. You wash dishes after potlucks. You run the vacuum over well-worn carpet. You greet people at the door, careful to watch for newcomers so you can offer them a special smile. You design and print bulletins. You visit shut-ins.

You are the church crew.

You are the substitute grannies and the extra aunties. Yours are the ears into which anxious teenage thoughts and fears are poured. You spend precious time creating or selecting the perfect gift to give to the new mom you don’t really know. In the middle of the night, when you suddenly awake, you drop to your knees and pray for your pastor. For the church board. For the random person God drops into your mind.

You plant flowers and pull weeds. You polish the pews. You help when it’s time to give the walls a fresh coat of paint. You grin when someone asks you for your cookie recipe and you tell him they come from a tube. You wriggle with delight over discovering a new Greek or Hebrew word. You drive the van for youth group outings. You pay the bills and keep the budget balanced. You are a woman of thoughts. You are a woman of feelings.

You don’t waste your time worrying when someone tries to tell you that you “can’t do” this or that. You only care about where God is leading. You love Him. You want to love others well as an act of worship. You want to serve wherever He asks you to serve.

Young and old. Rich and poor. Black and white. Smooth hands and wrinkled hands. Everyone pitching in, doing her part. This is the joy of Kingdom work. This is the privilege of standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, marching forward. Fresh eyes and dim eyes. Sweet voices and those best classified as the “joyful noise.”

You laugh together and you cry together. You battle the forces of hell. You surround the fallen and declare, “This far and no farther.” You help him to pick up his shield of faith. You help her to dust herself off. Your hugs, your smiles, your words of wisdom bring light to a dark world.

Women of the church crew, I salute thee.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the 31 Days for the Ladies series, go here.

31 Days for the Ladies: Catherine Booth

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Gentle Reader,

She was a quiet, serious child. Her heart beat for the afflicted and the impoverished. At only nine years old she broke through a group of schoolboys who were taunting a drunk man as a police officer walked him to jail. She took the man’s hand and, head held high, made the journey with him. By 14 she was an avid supporter of the temperance movement; several of her essays were published in leading English magazines (albeit anonymously). In her early twenties she met and married a young preacher, embarking on a life of service that would impact the world.

Catherine Booth, known as the “Mother of the Salvation Army,” was a force to be reckoned with. She emerged from a crisis of faith during her teen years with a deep dependence upon the Lord, determined to follow wherever He would lead. And the road God called her to travel was anything but typical for a respectable, middle-class Victorian woman.

The Booths, three of their eventual eight children in tow, traveled throughout England. William would preach to anyone who would listen. Catherine would teach Sunday school to both women and children. The pair was evenly matched in their desire to see anyone and everyone come to Jesus – especially those that polite society often overlooked. After settling in London, Catherine took it upon herself to visit the city slums to invite poor women to church, something that just wasn’t done. Her visits quickly turned from extending invitations into evangelism and teaching sessions.

William broke with the Methodists in 1861, with Catherine’s blessing. They launched the Christian Mission on nothing but faith in the Lord and passion for the lost. They would set up services in tents, dance halls, pubs and stables – anywhere that people might gather. By this point, it was not only William who would preach and teach. In 1860, pressed by the Holy Spirit, Catherine stepped forward during a service and told her husband that she was moved to say something. Until then, while they both agreed in principle that God could and did call women to be pastors, they had operated along traditional lines. This one extemporaneous sermon marked the beginning of almost three decades of preaching and teaching.

While it was shocking enough for a woman to preach (and sadly remains shocking today), the Booths took things a step farther. Anyone who had come to salvation in Christ was invited to share his or her testimony, from stable boys to prostitutes, felons to dock workers. Class and fortune did not matter. Past sins did not matter. Catherine and William both realized the power of Gospel transformation. They understood that the factory girl could reach other factory girls.

In 1878, the Christian Mission was rebranded the Salvation Army, complete with its own hierarchy, hymns and uniforms. The famous three-pronged approach – soup, soap and salvation – revolutionized evangelistic outreach. The Booths were not interested in mouthing platitudes. They knew that communicating the Gospel message is of utmost importance, but they also knew that the Gospel message is inextricably linked to practically caring for others. They took the words of James seriously:

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” – 2:15-16 (NKJV)

On a single Sunday evening, in homes and meetinghouses throughout London and its environs, 127 full-time ministers could be found teaching and serving upwards of 27,000 people. Catherine did not hold herself apart from that work. She embraced the people God put in her life, no matter who they were or what they had done. She taught her children to love God and serve others. Each one of them would grow to emulate their parent’s model, taking the message and style of the Salvation Army around the world.

Catherine’s full life of motherhood, preaching, teaching, traveling and service would have been impossible without the Lord.  Throughout her adult life she suffered from illnesses ranging from angina to depression to possible Crohn’s disease. More than once she became bedridden. In every challenge, in very storm, she turned to God in directness and simplicity. He was her Rock. He was her answer to every doubt, every question, every fear.

On October 4, 1890, Catherine Booth saw her Lord face-to-face. Her beloved husband and family surrounded her as she moved from this life to the next. Three days later, huge crowds knelt by her coffin to pay their respects. Their clothes were shabby, their faces careworn. Many were still alcoholics or prostitutes. Many more had come to Jesus because of Catherine’s efforts.

May we strive to love and serve as she did.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the 31 Days for the Ladies series, go here.

Sources

Michelle DeRusha, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014), 186-192.

31 Days for the Ladies: Thank You, Eyebrows

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Along with many others, I’m shamelessly ripping off this bit from The Tonight Show. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say. Please do play the music as you read.

Gentle Reader,

That one stray hair that just will not come out no matter how hard you pull. No matter what angle of approach you use. Not even the element of surprise aids in the attempt.

It is there.

Proudly declaring that all is not as it seems.

Thank you, eyebrows, for being the weirdest part of the female beauty routine. Honestly. We pull you out. Then we draw you back on. This makes absolutely no sense. We know this. And yet we are trapped in the cycle of plucking and waxing and contemplating just shaving you off and bringing back the Renaissance look. (#MonaLisa).

Your shape defines the look of decades, from the pencil thin flapper look to the much-envied full brows of Brooke Shields. Two little strips of hair, sitting above our lovely eyes, should not have that much power.

But, oh, we fear you.

Especially your potential to merge into the dreaded unibrow.

I think I’d better go get my tweezers.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the 31 Days for the Ladies series, go here.