We’ve all experienced it—that one moment where someone has said something, or done something that has made us feel small, insignificant, or flat out rejected. It seems that all the blood in your body rushes to your face, as your hair seems to stand on end. You feel like you have been punched in the gut, and you wish you could disappear into thin air totally forgotten. Next, you start looking for a way to make a graceful exit.
The moment you are alone, your thoughts immediately return to the words that were spoken, the actions that were taken, or the body language shown by the one who made you FEEL the way you are feeling at this very moment; embarrassed, humiliated, insignificant or little. Your mind dwells on the hurtful event despite your best efforts to dismiss it.
Maya Angelou put it extremely well when she said, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Think about the people in your life that you treasure. They may not have a list of great accomplishments under their belts, but I am fairly certain they have probably made you feel special at some point. Then there are those people we run into from time to time, and when we see them we immediately feel a tinge of despair, or discouragement. Most of the time, our thoughts rewind back to an incident (or more than one incident) where they made us feel, well, not so great!
It’s not like we haven’t forgiven them. They may have even come to us and apologized, and attempted to make amends with us. But, the feeling remains. We can completely forgive someone, but still remember how they made us feel. We then subconsciously, or consciously choose to “love them from a distance.” It’s a self-protective measure. We don’t want to feel the hurt, or insignificance they have showered upon us in the past.
I recently made a sweet friend in ministry that I can say, I truly would like to emulate. She inspires me. I haven’t been around her more than a handful of times, but I can tell you she has made me feel important not only to her, but especially to the Kingdom of Heaven! That has encouraged me tremendously.
In a society where women tend to be so competitive, and jealous of one another, it is so refreshing to see a woman of beautiful godly character rise up and show the love of Christ to her sisters. This precious lady is so humble, not at all self-seeking. She thinks of others first, and it shows. Her ministry is blessed not only because God is honoring her character and faithfulness, but because I believe she makes people feel significant and valued. She is genuine--the real deal!
In life and especially in ministry, we must be very careful about how we treat others. Everyone is significant, and cherished by Our Heavenly Father. How dare we treat one of HIS children like they are not just as loved and cherished by us? We might not think it matters, but you can believe it matters to Him.
Ladies, body language speaks volumes! If you think your body language doesn’t affect the way people react to you, take a look at the picture below. Which of the ladies in the picture looks most approachable?
You can almost tell by looking which ladies would welcome conversation, and who would rather be left alone. As women, we often carry our thoughts and emotions all over our bodies. Rolling our eyes can mean we are exasperated, or annoyed. Crossing our arms in front of us can mean we are unapproachable, and would rather not be bothered. Placing our hands on our hips with elbows extended can mean we are on the defensive.
We don’t need a class on body language to detect when someone thinks we are not worth their time. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a short answer, and turning the head as if the conversation is over. There are so many subtle hints that can make people feel as if we don’t value them.
Now, I realize sometimes we do things unintentionally and that’s understandable. Other times we can be shy, and it could appear that we are not being friendly. But, as women of God we need to be very careful of how we intentionally treat our sisters. I’m not saying we have to run around and gush all over everyone we see. That can be just as bad. There’s nothing more distasteful than people who run around gushing all over everyone in the room, but are just about as phony as a three dollar bill. We don’t want to be fake.
Be loving. Be sincere, and be transparent. We often worry so much about our own appearances that we lose sight of how we make others feel. Why do people want to be your friend? Is it because you are popular or hold a high position, and being around you makes them look important? Or, do you have friends that genuinely want to be around you because you make everyone around you feel loved and valued?
I’ve always heard you will attract the kind of friend that you are to others. Let’s learn to love well. We are sisters, and we need one another. Build one another up. Encourage each other. We all have issues to face, and we are certainly stronger together. Be the kind of friend you want to have.
Romans 12:10-11 ESV - Love one another with brotherly (sisterly)* affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV - Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
* Emphasis mine.
Is it possible to be convicted by your own blog post? Yes, I believe it is. Last week was an extremely busy week for me. Touring colleges with my daughter, getting ready for District Council, and planning, decorating, and preparing food for a Secret Sisterhood Tea Party were just a few of the activities occupying my time and attention. Not to mention I was sick and trying to recover from a cold during all of the above.
So, after trying for a few hours to clear my mind of all these distractions long enough to write a blog, I finally gave up and went to the archived blogs that were published on “Her Green Room.” I found one I had written a couple of years ago and decided it would do. (That is the blog I posted last week if you read it.) Finally, another thing checked off my list. Back to work on all the other important things that needed to be done.
After touring Tennessee Tech with Haley, we stopped by a bookstore and I picked up a copy of Francine Rivers’ book, And the Shofar Blew. If you are a pastor or leader, I highly recommend it. There is no doubt in my mind that I picked that book because God led me to it. Of all her other books I could have chosen, I knew this was the one I just had to read.
After spending a day in Chattanooga, we were off to District Council. After starting Francine Rivers’ book, I could hardly put it down. I was appalled and disgusted by the main character in the book and his ideas about ministry! How could anyone be so blind? He had become completely absorbed in building a mega church. Soon he was ignoring his family, and doing his best to attract wealthy members. He overlooked the sins of his board members just to have a group of yes men.
As he became more and more focused on the success of his ministry, he began to slip away from preaching the Truth to be more seeker sensitive. When he reached 5,000 members, he decided to build an overwhelmingly huge building costing millions of dollars. When funds got tight, he cut out missions. I was thinking all kinds of bad things about this fictional pastor as I continued to read. He was so far removed from where he had started.
Though this is a shocking example of one leaving their First Love, (Rev. 2:4) it is so easy to fall into the same trap. The sad truth is, though the book is fictional the same thing is happening all around us. Even though I’m not a pastor of a mega-church, I’m still guilty. Reading last weeks blog, I had to stop and think about the last time I stopped someone in Wal-Mart to pray for them. I wrote that blog two years ago. In the last 6 months I can’t remember stopping a stranger to pray with them.
Why? Some of my excuses were, “I don’t have time, I’m usually just so busy,” or “I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit impressing upon my heart to approach anyone.” “I was in a hurry, I had to get back to work on…” You get the picture. Jesus never let ministry get in the way of loving people. We sing, “Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, Oh it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.” (Luke 15:4) He will leave the ninety-nine to rescue one lost soul. But, do we?
It all comes back to our first love. When we truly love Jesus the way we should, we recognize our real purpose. Above any ministry we attempt to do for Him, our first purpose—the reason we were created—is to love and worship Him. When we put Jesus above every thing else, and He has our whole heart, ministry becomes a by-product of that love. It overflows from a heart like His. We have more compassion for the lost. We are more sensitive to the sweet whisper of the Holy Spirit, and we are more than willing to reach out to one who is hurting.
I had to take inventory, and do some soul searching this weekend. In a society where people are constantly competing, and everything is results driven, measured by numbers—whether that’s offerings, ratings, people following our ministries, or people in the pews—where is our first love? Have we become so focused on the success of our ministries that we have lost sight of our purpose?
Do we want to have a church full of numbers, or a church full of people? Do we recognize our members by the jingle in their pockets or the Jesus in their hearts? Are we seeking to save the lost, or being sensitive to the seekers? We are not called to get people into pews, but to get Jesus into hearts. And God help us, if we feel like it's dependent on our talents, or abilities to do either!
We must never lose sight of our purpose. We were created to glorify God, and to love Him with all our hearts. When we do that, ministry flows naturally from the love we have for Him. Any ministry that is not driven by our love for God and His people holds no benefit for us. Our reward is not on this earth. We can build 100 mega-churches, but if we have walked away from our first love, we have lost everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against mega-churches, and I’m certainly not saying they are all bad.
But we must choose carefully whom we put in the place of honor. The “look” of success can be deceiving. Don’t look down on small ministries, and don't feel less valued if you are in a small ministry. God loves the small churches who love Him wholeheartedly, just as much as the big ones. He doesn’t use the same measuring tools people use. God looks upon the heart. You are more than a number to Him.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
1 Samuel 12:24
Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
I don’t know about you, but I love ministry. There is nothing I enjoy more than pouring myself out for God’s glory, and seeing Him work in the lives of others. It’s humbling, and inspiring. Every day in my personal prayer time, I find myself asking God to open more doors for ministry and opportunities to share His love.
In my mind, I’m usually envisioning traveling to speak for a women’s event or an evangelistic service at a church. For so many of us actively involved in ministry, we can sometimes begin to get tunnel vision. At least, that seems to be my case. I often pray for God to use me, but then when He is trying His best to do that, I sometimes am distracted, busy, or just not listening.
The other day, I was grocery shopping. Let me just interject that I hate grocery shopping—no matter when it is—but when the store is packed full of people frantically trying to finish their holiday shopping, I really hate it.
So, here I was attempting this maddening scavenger hunt to find all the items on my list. I became frustrated and anxious to get out of the store. I stopped at the end of the aisle to check a couple of items off my list. When I looked up, I noticed a lady reaching for the nearest shelf to try and steady herself. She looked as if she might faint. People were scurrying past her, paying no attention, while others looked irritated because she had stopped in front of them.
I approached her, and taking her arm to steady her, I asked, “Ma’am, are you OK?” She looked at me, and said “Yes, I think so. I just have really bad back pain, and it is hurting so much right now, it’s almost making me sick.” Without a second thought, I asked, “Can I pray for you?”
She totally lit up. She looked at me with the most precious expression of love on her face, and said, “Yes, absolutely. That would be wonderful.” With her permission, I placed my hand on her back, and began to pray for God to touch her and heal her. As I continued to pray for her, I was no longer aware of the busy crowd around us. Everything and everyone just ceased to exist in that moment.
God had opened a door for ministry. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of grocery shopping, He had sent someone to pray for this sweet lady in her time of need. When I finished praying, she smiled at me, hugged me, and said, “Thank you so much!” I asked her if I could help her finish shopping, and with a big smile on her face, she said, “No, thank you. I am just fine now.”
She grabbed the items she had laid on the shelf, wished me a good day, and before I knew it she was halfway to the check-out. Pushing my cart down the next aisle, I began to thank God for the ability to do my shopping. I thanked Him for the opportunity to minister to someone in need, and I thanked Him for the open door.
All open doors do not look the same. Some open doors may be invitations to speak at big, grand venues in front of hundreds of people. That is great, and I love those opportunities! But some doors are seemingly small encounters, where He has put us in the right place at just the right time to be His hand extended to someone in need.
Personally, at times I have received bigger blessings, and a greater sense of His presence by just being obedient in the small things. We don’t have to view ministry as something that can only happen in a big church setting, or in a huge stadium. God longs to use us in big ways every day! We just have to be willing to look around us, listen for the Holy Spirit, and be obedient.
I can almost feel Him smiling down at me in these quiet little encounters. Every time I have one of these little “miracle moments,“ I’m reminded of something a beautiful friend, and popular women’s minister said to me years ago. She told me “Donna, God trusts you to be available for Him. He knows He can count on you, and that is no small honor!”
He trusts me! Wow, to think that the God of the entire universe trusts me to be there when He needs me! There could be no greater compliment or calling. Many times we tend to view our worth or value based on the invitations we receive to speak at large venues, or for large congregations. But, we have to look at the bigger picture. Does He trust us to be available when He needs us? If we can answer “yes,” that is a huge honor!
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.