The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still. Proverbs 27:9 (CEV)
After combing through hundreds of definitions and stories about sisterhood, and based on my own experience of having godly “sister-friends”, and doing ministry with all of you this past year, I’m sharing my understanding of what it means to have a sisterhood community.
Sisterhood is a bond that exists between women who are not related biologically, but who share an exceptionally strong connection as they do life together, sharing in the ups and downs, all the while enabling each other to thrive because of the connectivity of their relationships – relationships that are pure, and truthful, and authentic, and organic. In other words, real relationships. Relationships that are a way of life!
The Apostle Paul talks about the value of those types of relationships. In Titus 2, Paul instructs groups of people, through his letter to Pastor Titus, on how they ought to model proper behavior and he provides us, women, with some specific instructions on how we ought to mentor younger women. Before you discount this statement as not pertaining to you, let me say that no matter our age, we all know a younger woman.
Here’s the passage:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
This short passage can take a long time to fully grasp and an even longer time to actualize in real life. We may never entirely get all of it, but we can definitely give it a good try. Do not be mistaken, ladies, we need each other to grow and to be successful in what we’ve been called to do by God.
A while back, God placed it on my heart that I needed to develop some healthy, godly female friendships which I intentionally sought out. It also meant that I had to let go of some unhealthy relationships that were not adding value to my spiritual walk. Of course, not all my friends are Christians, but I’ve learnt the importance of choosing how to spend my time wisely and to focus on things that are life-giving and setting limits on the other things.
How may God be speaking to you through Titus 2:3-5?
Paul wrote this letter to Titus as he (Titus) was pastoring a small, struggling church on the island of Crete and while his church was living under the oppressive Roman Empire and the evil leader, Nero who wanted to get rid of all Christians. Imagine living under that kind of persecution!
Yet, in that context, Paul was instructing them to persevere and lead godly, exemplary lives as a model for the younger women (and men) in their community. Our oppression today may not be as obvious, or it may be, depending on your perspective. The point is that we have opportunity, under somewhat better circumstances to carry out these instructions.
Our women’s ministry has been gifted to us by a God who loves us dearly and desires the best for us. AW Women’s Ministry exists to provide opportunities for the women in our church family and our community to authentically connect with each other and to have a deeper understanding of the value of healthy, godly friendships. This is not only important in our own lives, but it is essential for the life of the church and for our mission as ambassadors for Christ. The different gifts we've received through the Holy Spirit enable us to be a source of strength and encouragement to our “sisters” during difficult times. What a blessing the women in my life have been when I’ve felt lost or overwhelmed!
Our Secret Sisters ministry, as a vital part of AW Women’s Ministry, is not simply a program; it is a lifestyle that we hope you have developed over the past year as you have prayed for your “sister” and observed her life unfold through the veil of those faithful prayers. Now, you have the chance to “reveal” yourself to her and deepen that relationship face-to-face.
Enjoy this gift; nurture this new friendship. Perhaps you’ve been paired with an older woman from whom you can learn some things about life. Perhaps it’s a younger woman to whom you can pass on some nuggets of wisdom. Perhaps it’s a fairly equal match where you can share your experiences and begin to build a true friendship. Some of us are extroverts, some are introverts, some are serious, some are funny. It is precisely these uniqueness that make for interesting friendships. But, be mindful that it will take time to build. Lasting friendships aren’t built overnight; they take years, so be patient!
“True sisterhood cannot be forced. It has to be developed with interest, patience, reciprocity and over time. Not every woman will be your best friend, nor should she be invited to be in your inner circle, but every woman is deserving of your respect and support when you are able to provide it. Sisterhood is not a trite word we throw around. Being your sister’s keeper should be a reflex. It should be based on how you would want to be treated if you were walking in her shoes. Sisterhood knows no boundary, no race, no class or geography. Sisterhood transcends, and it transforms us for the better. Sisterhood is from the heart."1
By: Sue Bloomfield & Yolande Knight
Enjoy another Carole King classic in which she joined a few “sisters”, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain to sing - “You’ve Got a Friend”
“THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS 31 WOMAN”
'Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised'. (Proverbs 31:30 NIV)
I love that picture of the Proverbs 31 Woman. However, the P31 woman also is married, cooks a lot, sews and has big arm muscles. I'm sure these are all tremendous assets in an agrarian society.
My question is this...how did the P31 woman become the standard-bearer of what a Christian woman should be? We have books, sermons and a P31 ministry. Why isn't there a Song Of Songs 6 ministry (Your teeth are like a flock of sheep coming up from the washing...)? It doesn't seem any less arbitrary than praising a woman who spins flax.
We need to be very cautious about over emphasizing individual parts of Scripture, and here's why...
- All Scripture is God-breathed. That is foundational to our faith, yet most women I know just roll their eyes when you mention 'P31', because of the way it has been elevated.
- Homemaking is a real gift. If you've met someone with this gift, it is VERY obvious. Many of us are homemakers, but not all of us have the gift. To expect otherwise is to reduce the value of the gift.
- We are PART of the body of Christ. If we already had all the gifts, we wouldn't need each other.
Here's my idea...the next time someone tries to pigeon hole you into a stereotype of a Christian woman, tell them that you are a “2 Corinthians 5 Woman” - Christ's ambassador, or an “ Isaiah 61 Woman” - anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, or find a verse that speaks especially to you.
The Proverbs 31 woman is 'honoured for all that her hands have done', which is a good thing. Even better will be the 'well done, good and faithful servant' that we receive from the Lord.
In case you are unfamiliar with this theoretical woman, or need a recap, read it here.
I do not believe that it was ever God’s intent for us, as women, to try to fit the mold of the so-called “Proverbs 31 Woman”. I submit that this model woman came about as a result of the western church's and culture's attempts at establishing rules around what it perceived as the ideal Christian woman. In Jewish culture, men actually memorize Proverbs 31 as a song of praise to the women in their lives; it is not an expectation that they become one. In our culture, women believe that if they are not measuring up to this standard, they are somehow a failure.
Rather than focusing on Jesus, who is our standard, the modern church adapted Proverbs 31 into a set of rules and turned it into a religious checklist.
Understanding Scripture is largely about culture and context and the interpretation of Proverbs 31 as commonly held by many is not universal. For starters, most scholars believe that the Proverbs 31 Woman is not a real woman. In fact, some scholars have suggested that the “Proverbs 31 Woman” is a combination of the commendable qualities of several different women. (Read about that here) Still others believe that she is the epitome of wisdom. (Read about that view here) It is worth noting that throughout the book of Proverbs, wisdom is referred to as “she” and Proverbs 31 is seen as the culmination of all the wisdom that its main writer, King Solomon, was passing on to his son.
Have you considered that if this was truly God’s standard for women, He probably would have ensured that Mary (Jesus’s mother) was clearly identified as such. Or He would have chosen a few “Proverbs 31 Women” to be in Jesus’ lineage rather than pagan Ruth or Rahab, the harlot. I’m just saying…
The Bottom line: both men and women can apply the wisdom listed in Proverbs 31 to our daily lives. For instance, we can be earnestly:
- Seeking God first such as waking up early and beginning our day with God.
- Loving others, being kind, truthful and loyal.
- Working diligently as unto God.
- Seeking ways to enrich our lives and growing in God’s Word rather than remaining stagnant.
- Not giving up when we encounter difficulties and learning to trust God to direct our paths.
- Seizing opportunities that are before us rather than waiting for perfection.
- Having respect for ourselves in the way we behave, dress, and conduct ourselves as image-bearers of God.
In the end, we can have the assurance that God loves each one of us exactly as we are; that He rejoices over us with singing and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more.
Rest in the assurance that no matter how you see yourself, God sees you as His Beloved Daughter and He knows your name. Enjoy these stories of women experiencing redemption shared through Francesca Battistelli’s song, He Knows My Name.
By Bethany Breault & Yolande Knight
“THE REBEKAH PRINCIPLE”
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV)
I would venture to say that the average Christian may not have given much thought to the extent of Rebekah’s generosity as described for us in the story of how she was chosen to be Isaac’s wife. I would further submit that Rebekah demonstrates a generosity that is lacking in our society today.
The servant, whom Jacob sent out to find a wife for Isaac, lays out a fleece for the woman who would become Isaac’s wife. (In Christian language, a fleece is asking God for a concrete sign that something is His will.) This fleece represented a huge prayer request and though we do not use fleeces today, the significance of this request should not be overlooked. It called for a woman who would offer water to the ten camels that made up the servant’s entourage. (Genesis 24:10, 14) On the surface, that seems like a small request especially to those of us who have never had to give water to a camel, let alone ten.
So let me break it down in a way that may resonate with you.
The fact that the servant’s prayer was answered exactly as he prayed is where many of us focus our attention. Here’s what we miss when we do that – we miss the magnitude of Rebekah’s generosity. After offering the servant a drink, Rebekah proceeded to provide water for all his camels. (Genesis 24:16-21) A conservative estimate of the amount of water a camel would drink at the end of a day is about 20 gallons. Rebekah offered water to all ten camels which would have totalled 200 gallons. Assuming that she carried a five gallon water jar, it meant that she would have made 40 trips back and forth to gather that much water. Further assuming that it took her about three minutes per trip, this small act of kindness would have taken at least two hours to complete. Two hours of Rebekah's time that was not part of her plan for that day.
How does Rebekah’s story strike you now?
Rebekah’s attitude stands in stark contrast to the attitudes so prevalent in society today; a society that seeks to do the least amount of work necessary for the most reward. These days, we call that "working smart". Our society is sorely lacking in its ability to go the extra mile for others.
I believe that we can learn how to be generous with a willing spirit, as described in 2 Corinthians 9:7, from Rebekah. Her story shows us how to be faithful with what we have (Luke 16:10), to give with a mindset of multiplication in eternity (Matthew 6:19-20), and to understand that the smallest act of generosity makes a difference. (Matthew 10:42)
Giving generously is not only about our finances; it is also about giving our time, our talents, and our attention to people, encouraging and spurring them on. People who give with a willing spirit and who are not focused on a return are blessed beyond measure. (2 Corinthians 9:8) Generosity of that kind is not a give-to-get system because we cannot become legalistic about giving since ultimately, when we give, we give to the Lord. (Matthew 25:40)
Can I challenge you to be intentional about doing something generous every day this coming week? Share a smile, a kind or encouraging word with someone. Show love to someone who is difficult to love or use your talents and treasures to bless someone else. Funny how when you do, you end up as the one who feels more blessed; funny how that works!
Rebekah’s generosity was not only rewarded immediately and materially in the jewelry she received from the servant (Genesis 24:22); she also ended up in the lineage of our Lord. How’s that for an eternal reward?
Let all that we do be for the Cause of Christ as Kari Jobe so beautifully expresses in her new song.
Yolande Knight – email@example.com
“AULD LANG SYNE”
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 ESV)
Who has not sung or heard the beloved New Year’s Eve (or as the Scots may say, Ole Year’s) Scottish song – “Auld Lang Syne”? But who actually understands the words of that song anyway?
I decided to look it up (just a quick online search) and here’s what I found:
“The Meaning of 'Auld' is "Old" and the meaning of 'Lang Syne ' is "Long Since". The lyrics "We'll take a cup o' kindness yet" refers to the tradition of raising a glass, or a cup o' kindness meaning with "good will, friendship and kind regard" and in remembrance of "noble deeds". The custom of drinking a "health" at a special gathering to the prosperity or good health of another dates back into antiquity. The old Christmas term ’Wassail’ derives from Old Norse phrase 'ves heill' meaning "be healthy". (Retrieved from: https://www.carols.org.uk/auld_lang_syne_song.htm)
Another source had this to say about the person who wrote (or not) the song:
The UK Telegraph reports in its article of December 31, 2015 titled “Auld Lang Syne: should old lyrics be forgot... (plus eight things you didn't know)” that Robert Burns, who many thought wrote the lyrics “didn’t invent Auld Lang Syne as we know it. The Scottish Bard wrote many wonderful pieces of original verse, but this was not among them. Instead, he was the first person to write down a much older Scottish folk song. In 1788 he sent a copy of the song to his friend, Mrs Agnes Dunlop, exclaiming: "There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians!" Five years later he sent it to James Johnson, who was compiling a book of old Scottish songs, The Scottish Musical Museum, with an explanation: "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man." (Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/what-to-listen-to/auld-lang-syne-new-years-eve-song-facts/)
So what’s the point of this bit of trivia?
Friendships! That’s the point and as the song says, old friendships though I’d like to throw in the new ones as well.
As we begin to pack away Christmas and look forward to a new year with new resolutions (more on that in our next post), we can also take some time to reflect on old friendships and the people who have been there for us in 2016. My list is particularly long this year and includes many of you who are reading this post so thank you!
I also love this characteristic of our Arlington Woods Church family – that close sense of community where the treasure of old (and new) friendships is so evident. Few things in this life are more precious than friends!
Some of our friends go way back to childhood; some came through circumstances in which we found ourselves. Others came about through the people who live on our streets for years or ones who moved more recently. Some friends have walked with us through difficulties and life tragedies and understand our heart; what inspires us, what brings us to tears, what makes us laugh out loud. LOL!
All this talk about friendship makes me think of an exceptional friendship that existed in the Bible – that of David and Jonathan’s. I’ve always been fascinated by their closeness and particularly Jonathan’s loyalty to David. Consider reading the story again paying special attention to the bond that existed between these two men (1 Samuel 18:1-5, 2 Samuel 1:17-27). At least, read these two verses as they describe the depth of this relationship as a love so “extraordinary” - 1 Samuel 18:1, 2 Samuel 1:26.
As we say goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017, let us not forget our “old acquaintances” especially those who have helped/help us see life in its purest form knowing that every good and perfect gift comes from God Himself. (James 1:17)
Won’t you take a minute to make a phone call and schedule a coffee, or lunch date, or have someone over for tea and biscuits (or whatever). Send a card, or flowers, or write a note or better yet, an old-fashioned letter (people still love receiving those). If it’s easier, send an email. Don’t delay letting someone know what they mean to you, how much they’ve impacted / are impacting your life.
Happy New Year! Enjoy this lovely rendition of the “Auld Lang Syne” tune to the words of a song called “All Glory Be to Christ”.
Yolande Knight – firstname.lastname@example.org