Category Archives: christian growth

Serving and Being Served

We just got back to St Louis after spending the weekend in New Hampshire, where Mark spoke at a Bible conference yesterday.  As shocking as it may sound, we went on this trip alone–without children.  Two different families watched the kids.  One family picked them up from school on Friday and kept them through Saturday afternoon.  The other family had them until this evening when we got home.  Now, these are what you call friends, people.  The first family has 4 little kids — ages 6, 5, 2.5, and 9 months.  The second family has 6 kids, ages 10, 8, 6, 5, 2, and 8 months.  But from all accounts, everyone did fine.  When we walked in our house tonight, the only one who was really thrilled to see us was the dog.  (Oh, and our friend Justin took care of Simon for us).  So you see why we don’t get away alone too often.

Mark spoke on Ephesians yesterday, and he really did an excellent job.  Yes.  I am his wife.  I am biased.  But the Lord can still use him to speak to me–to convict me of things I need to work on. 

Here’s the main theme I took away from the talks–God puts us in relationships with other people to change us and make us more like Christ.  We learn to submit to Christ by submitting and serving others.  There was a lot more meat to it than that, but my notes are somewhere between Detroit and St. Louis.  When they arrive tomorrow, maybe I’ll write more.  But, if you are really interested, I could hook you up to buy the cds of the lectures.

One great thing about these lectures for me was that while I was sitting in pleasant surroundings listening to good Bible teaching about needing to learn to serve others in the body of Christ, I was being served by my friends back in St Louis.  They came alongside us and cared for our dear children to allow us to spend some time alone together.  I was also being served by the church that hosted us.  They put us up in a nice hotel, they took us out to eat at some nice restaurants, and they gave us free time alone.  We also enjoyed a vibrant worship service with the saints there this morning, a pleasant meal at a great restaurant afterwards with a large group from the church, and great conversation and fellowship on the way to the airport.

I am glad to be home.  It is nice to come back refreshed and blessed by the service of others.  I am praying I can be of better service to those around me after our little time away.

500+ Page Book Robs Time from Missouri Woman

For my birthday last summer, I received a couple of gift cards to book stores. I love browsing through books, so it was fun to go spend a little time picking out some new reading material. I came home with Girl Meets God, a memoir about a young woman’s journey of faith. I actually read bits of this before, but I wanted to read the whole thing. I also picked up The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. I had no prior exposure to this book, but when glancing in the classics area, the back cover copy caught my attention. Finally, I purchased Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster. This is another book that I got because I liked not only the cover copy, but also the illustration and design style of the cover. (A matte finish on a paperback book always calls to me.)

Sadly, I didn’t read any of these books before 2007 ended. But after the new year was underway, I got involved in Lady’s Maid. It is the culprit who stole away many hours of the past week from my life. It is the life story of the personal servant to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. You might think you have to be a Browning lover to enjoy this book, but that is not the case. I am actually only vaguely familiar with some of her work. The life of Wilson, Browning’s maid, is intriguing. Following her, her attachment to her mistress, and her attempts to live her own life while caught in a life of true service is really compelling.

Wilson wanted to please so much. She quickly earned a spot in the heart of her mistress. Soon she was indespensible to Miss Barrett, and she even risked her position and livelihood to help Miss Barrett secretly marry Robert Browning and then left England with them so they might live their lives abroad.

The core of the book deals with the struggle Wilson has finding her place in the world and in her relationship with her mistress. If she had been a less competent servant, in some senses, her situation would have been far less complicated.

In some ways, Wilson’s struggle is not unlike our own to know how to live as individuals while still faithfully serving Christ. There is a constant back and forth in our minds and hearts as we try to navigate life with some sense of personal identity coupled with a life submitted to our Master.

Much of the time, I found myself despising Elizabeth Barrett Browning as I read, despite the fact that Wilson was devoted to her. One thing that pulled me on through page after page was my desire to see what Wilson would do after Browning died. While I don’t wish to give away the ending, I will say that I was not emotionally satisfied with it. I wanted more triumph, more personal accomplishment for Wilson than the author gave.

The afterward of the book explains how much of the book is based on fact and how much is purely fictional. This was helpful for me to accept the ending. The author, Margaret Forster, has also written a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, so I felt the book was likely more authentic as a result.

As I think about the parallels I saw between the maid’s life of service to her mistress and my life of service to Christ, I see my own flaws. I think I am sometimes pulled through life by my desires to have more triumph and personal accomplishment, too. So while nothing about the author or this book is specifically Christian, I came away feeling a need to submit more to Christ–to recognize that my identity is truly in Him. Our rewards on not often given in this life, and it is good to be reminded of that. This is the Scripture passage that came to my mind when considering these thoughts:

Colossians 3:2-4 (English Standard Version)

2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I recommend Lady’s Maid purely for its good writing and interesting story. But it is also worth reading to spur on thoughts about your own life. For me, my relationship with Christ came to mind. For someone else, it might be a relationship with an employer or some other authority. Don’t get me wrong, the parallels are not complete. For one thing, Christ will never disappoint me as Mrs. Browning was capable of disappointing Wilson. But I always find fiction more worthy of my time when it opens up my minds to think about my own situation, and to hopefully, improve it.


Sometimes, I wonder if I ever learn anything.

I mean, it seems like God has been harping on the same lesson over and over again in my life.  It isn’t easy and hasn’t been pleasant.  I am really tiring of it.  I apparently do need to be hit over the head many many times in order to understand (and have my behavior and life show that I understand) certain things.

Here are some Scripture passages that I have read to try to help me learn:

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. – Deut 8:2

Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. – Deut 8:4 (If I had been an Israelite, I probably would have whined, “But I wanted new clothes.  Who wants to keep wearing the same old thing?”)

1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
   my God, in whom I trust.”

3For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
   and from the deadly pestilence.
4He will cover you with his pinions,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
   nor the arrow that flies by day,
6nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
   nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

 7A thousand may fall at your side,
   ten thousand at your right hand,
   but it will not come near you.
8You will only look with your eyes
   and see the recompense of the wicked.

 9Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
   the Most High, who is my refuge
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.

 11 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways.
12On their hands they will bear you up,
   lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13You will tread on the lion and the  adder;
   the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

 14“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
   I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15When he calls to me, I will answer him;
   I will be with him in trouble;
   I will rescue him and honor him.
16With long life I will satisfy him
   and show him my salvation.”  –Ps 91

Encouraging words if I can just learn to really really believe them.  I am not very patient.  I have trouble holding on to the end to see how it will all work out.  I whine and complain.  I am worse than a pesky child.  But God is promising to work out everything for my good and for His pleasure.  I need to hold on to this.  I need to learn it.