I was briefly introduced to Deborah when I was a child. I bumped into her again in college a couple of times. All I remember from those encounters is that she was larger than life.
I decided to connect with her again last summer – and I’m so glad I did! I sat captivated by her testimony as she shared her story with me daily for almost an entire week. I was awed by her military prowess. I was impressed by her devotion to God’s agenda even above her own. I was encouraged by her example of unwavering trust in God’s power to keep His Word. I was convicted by her utter surrender to God’s will and her consistent obedience to it. In short, I felt empowered in the presence of this assertive, working woman – a discerning and godly leader that even mighty men would willingly follow.
I would love to introduce you this week to my new friend & mentor, Deborah.
I don’t remember meeting Rahab until college. To be honest, I don’t remember thinking much about her then. I didn’t feel like we had much in common, what with her past and all.
I met her again last summer in a small group setting. She invited us into her home, into her life, to get to know her. She wore no Christian mask and was refreshingly lacking a facade of any kind. She was honest with us about her past. She was open about the choices she has made. As I listened to her story again last summer, she allowed me to ask questions (some of them pretty personal!) and through our time together I finally felt like I connected with this precious sister.
I found myself drawn to her belief in a God she had only heard rumors about. I was convicted as that belief turn to remarkably actionable faith in Him. I was inspired by her all-in obedience to God and her trust in His faithfulness from the first days of her knowing Him.
I saw her in a new light through my friends’ connections with her, as well. “A woman with a past is a woman with a future if she follows God,” one friend said of Rahab after the week was over. Another friend commented, “She took care of God’s people and we should, too.” Still another remarked how impressed she was that Rahab was such a good housekeeper (for her pantry was full) as well as a woman prepared (for that readiness allowed her to do what the Lord called her to do the moment He asked).
You, too, are invited to spend a week getting to know Rahab at her place. Please join her by clicking here.
I knew Miriam as a kid, but only from a distance. She seemed to have more in common with my big sister (being one herself) than she did with me. She was protective of her younger brother – much like my own big sister was with me. She was brave for a kid, especially when it came to her baby brother, Moses – much like my own big sister was with me. She was quick-thinking – much like my own big sister (I’m more of a slow burn kind of thinker.). She lived through some pretty tough times in her life which necessitated her to “grow up” pretty fast – again, like my own big sister. You get the picture.
I met with Miriam last summer for five days and learned a lot more about her life since those long lost days of childhood. She can be a pretty intimidating woman! Bold. Decisive. Purposeful. A leader with a pretty impressive following. A real lover of God.
She has also gone through a humbling experience that has left her more relatable than I had imagined possible. And because of that humbling experience, we finally connected as friends.
I invite you to spend a week connecting with Miriam through my five day Bible Study here.
The Summer Bible Study began simply as a way for me to find a way to connect with the women of the Bible. I knew all about these women from my years of growing up in the church and then attending Bible College, but I didn’t feel like I really knew them personally. I didn’t connect with them.
And I really wanted to.
With my first attempt, I realized that I was too unorganized and lacked the accountability to stay on track. So, I made a plan. I prepped. I organized. I invited. My next attempt was so rewarding that it was worth the feeling of failure I felt from the first.
This Summer Bible Study is about CONNECTING.
To Women in the Word
I had a desire to feel connected to the women I’d read about in the Word. I felt I could learn a lot from these ladies if I could bypass the obstacles (time, culture), focus on our commonalities (shared experiences) and really get to know them as they were (off the pedestal, preconceived ideas aside).
To Women in My Life
I also had a desire to feel more connected to the women in my life in the present. One night a week, my small group of friends came together to share our discoveries about these women in the Word. I gained a deeper appreciation for each of them, came to understand some of their own experiences better and fell in love with each of their hearts as they shared their own connections with our mutual Biblical friend that week.
Do you have a desire to feel more connected to the women in the Word and to the women in your life?
A couple of summers ago, I had this grand plan for a Summer Bible Study to do on my own. It had dawned on me that while I knew information about a lot of the women in the Bible, I didn’t feel like I really knew them. On a personal level. As friends.
As a kid growing up in the church, I knew all their names. I could recite trivia about many of them. In Bible College, that knowledge was reinforced and added to, but only on an intellectual level. I learned about them. I learned from their example. But I still didn’t feel a connection with them beyond the academic.
In fact, I felt disconnected from them as a whole – by time, by experience, by culture, by life. And I wanted to bridge that divide.
With a list of questions in hand similar to what you’d ask a new acquaintance in order to get to know her better, I began my very own Summer Bible Study with high hopes of finally connecting with some of the great women of the Bible. By the end of the summer, however, I had only briefly met the first before I became distracted by the sunshine, my incredibly fun teens and my self-imposed home improvement projects.
Disappointed by such an underwhelming beginning, I decided that I would try again next summer – and with a better plan. I realized I became derailed so soon because I was unorganized and lacked the accountability of meeting weekly with other women. As the next summer neared, I began inviting friends one at a time until I reached my ideal small group number (which was 4). Next, I spent some time organizing my questions & passages into days of the week. Lastly, I got my husband involved. “I need this to look like a bona fide Bible Study or I won’t take it seriously, babe.” As usual, he exceeded my expectations and by the first week in June, I was rubbing elbows, celebrating “wins,” sharing sorrows and making connections with some of the most profound women of my faith alongside some of my favorite friends.
I want to offer you the same opportunity this summer! Invite a few friends to grow with you through the upcoming summer months as you connect with the women of the Bible – and each other. It’s FREE!
Before we moved overseas, we lived in the Southern US, which on the surface is a very friendly culture. We greet strangers and acquaintances with a “Hi, how are you?” You greet friends with a warm hug and a big smile and it’s great! But even at church we don’t just go around hugging everyone, right? We hug those that we love. Then we moved to Russia.There, it was different. People were not overly friendly, never greeted a stranger in the street, and I was usually grateful to be ignored.But in the conservative church, we kissed.On the lips. Men kissed men and women kissed women. Good times. Although at the time it was my least favorite part of church, looking back, I recognize that it was a very important part of fellowship. They took it seriously as a commandment and cheerfully (or not), kissed one another. A dry peck, and a quick hug if you were friends or a loving embrace if you were dear friends. They always made sure to greet every single person.In our youth group, there wasn’t as much kissing, but the girls hugged each other, and the guys shook each other’s hands, every single one. In a harsh culture, there was a comforting familiarity in that way of greeting each one. No one was left out of the greeting.
Now we live in a different country, in an even more traditional culture and, guess what. They kiss here, too. But it’s different.Here it’s the whole culture–not just the church–that is prone to kissing. Again, women-to-women, and it’s a kiss-kiss on the cheeks (left to right). It’s sweet, and all the while they are telling you how good it is to see you again and asking how you are, and how your family is and how your parents are. Even guys sometimes do a cheek-to-cheek thing that is not kissing, or a forehead bump, while clasping each other’s right hands. Every person in the room is greeted with a kiss or a handshake.
When we have people over, there is a ceremony of greeting and kissing that is not to be blown off casually. For instance, when guests come to our house for coffee, our whole family comes to the door, and we say, “It’s good that you came.”And their reply is, “It is good that we found you (at home).” If it is a man, I will shake his hand while we say this, and if it is a woman, we will be busy kissing each other’s cheeks, asking about the kids, if I’ve talked to my mom recently, if I’m tired (I’m supposed to be, because that means that I worked hard today, but I’m supposed to deny it). If we are really close, or it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, we will kiss each other’s cheeks more than twice and give each other a tight squeeze.(Hahaha!Some of you are cringing.It’s okay.Albanian women are awesome at making you feel greeted well.) While the women are kissing, the men are shaking hands and asking each other the same questions about their families (literally, “households”), work and whatever it is that men ask each other. After the greeting, the guests are either offered slippers, because Albanians do not wear their shoes in the house, or they are told to leave their shoes on because guests are special (or the floor is really cold and there are no guest slippers). Then they are led into the living room to sit, and the wife or daughter of the house brings a bowl of candy and serves each guest a sweet. This was traditionally llokume (Turkish Delight), but nowadays it is very often a chocolate. Then, coffee or juice is served to the guests. There are special customs regarding foods served and each region has their own, but the importance of it is the honor that they show their guests.
Because it’s such a traditional culture and everyone follows the same rules of greeting, they are used to it, but for those of us who have come from other places, it’s another opportunity to rethink the way we do things, especially those of us from the sometimes-too-casual West. Maybe in our Western churches holy kissing would be hard to reinstate as a scriptural mandate, but it would certainly make it easier for me, because when we go back to the US, it takes me two months to remember that no one there does the kiss-kiss thing. So embarrassing! Barring such a change, here are some things to think about. Do I honor the people who come to my home, to my church, to my social groups? Do I make them feel welcome, loved and accepted? How can I show love and honor to the people that I meet when I am out, especially those who are my brothers and sisters in Christ? Is there a way that I can reach out to those who might be on the lonely fringes, who need to a “holy kiss/handshake/hug”?
When I decided to look at some of the “one anothers” of the Bible during the month of April, practicing Biblical hospitality was an obvious place to start for me. I have a few friends that truly excel in offering hospitality. I do not…and here’s why:
I begrudge the level of cleaning that I feel “needs” to be done in order to have guests.
I stress over a menu for eaters that inevitably will not appreciate my culinary skills as much as my family does.
I exhaust my creativity in mustering new ways for everyone to connect during & after dinner.
I lament the energy required to stay up until the last guests (finally) decide to go back to their own homes.
The entire process is literally draining for me from start to finish – physically, socially, and emotionally.
I purposed, however, to step outside my comfort zone this year and grow in this particular area. “You don’t necessarily have to be good at it,” I encouraged myself, “just obediently practice it. You can do that.”
So what is Biblical hospitality?
1 Peter 4:9 – Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Romans 12:13 – Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
In reading just these two examples (there are more!), I am stopped in my tracks. I have allowed my own checklist to overshadow God’s simpler one. I realize that I have been focused more on meeting my own needs than on the needs of those I have welcomed into my home. I have been practicing having company, not Biblical hospitality.
What about you?
PONDER: Are you offering true Biblical hospitality, or are you having company? Is the hospitality you offer free of grumbling? Are you sharing with the Lord’s people who are in need, whether it’s physically, emotionally or socially?
PRAY: Father, thank You for our home in which we can practice Biblical hospitality. Grant me eyes to see those in need, that I may practice on them. Help me to focus on meeting others’ needs more than my own. And help me to learn to practice hospitality without a single grumble in my heart.
Practicing Biblical Hospitality is one of thirty devotionals I’ve been asked to write this year as part of a friend’s year-long devotional project. You can read more short devotionals like this by clicking here or the Devotionals tab at the top of this page.
Have you ever realized how many of the verses in the Bible dealing with our personal growth and maturity in Christ involve direct interaction with other people, other sinners?
People can be annoying.
People can be chafing.
People can burrow under your skin with their insensibility.
Some can be so prickly that interaction with them is akin to hugging a hedgehog.
Amazingly, God has commanded us to live in community with other believers, to bear with the annoying, to be polished by the chafing, and to be changed by the process of living life with one another. That adds much needed perspective to those interactions that could otherwise provoke an emotional and divisive reaction. What if you could see such individuals as gifts from God sent for your sanctification instead of criticizing or avoiding them? What if you could actually THANK the prickly people for being avenues through which God chose to mature you?
PONDER: Think of the prickly people in your life. How could their annoyances be used to build your character? Thank God for providentially placing them in your life.
PRAYER: Father, thank You for the prickly people you have placed in my life. Thank you that through interaction with them, You are adding to my own character and molding me more like Jesus. Help me, Father, to truly appreciate them as avenues of my sanctification.
The Art of One Anothering is one of thirty devotionals I’ve been asked to write this year as part of a friend’s year-long devotional project. You can read more short devotionals like this by clicking here or the Devotionals tab at the top of this page.
If you’re in a season of Crying Out to God, here are some tried-and-true resources to encourage your heart & help you gain perspective in the trenches. Perhaps they can help you, too, to learn to praise God even as you cry out. (Click on the book covers to read more about each title at Amazon.com – affiliate links.)