Who’s Your Oikos?
When you hear someone talk about the “Great Commission,“ Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 to “go and make disciples,” what comes to your mind? Do you think to yourself, “I don’t know what steps to take to carry this out!” I know it’s something that I’ve struggled with in the past. But I’d like to suggest one thing you can do over the next few weeks.
If you look up the word “oikos” in Strong’s Bible Tools, it’s defined in part as a literal or figurative dwelling or family. Basically, your oikos are the people in your life. But what does it have to do with the Great Commission? Throughout the Bible, we see God’s heart to expand His kingdom through oikos. From Noah and Abraham to Cornelius, Lydia, and others, we see God using people to reach their oikos.
So here’s something simple you can do: write your name in the middle of a piece of paper. Around your name, draw some circles for the different “dwellings“ or “families” in your life. Maybe it’s your workplace, your biological family, your Cub Scout family, your art class family, your friends from college, etc. Write some of the names of people in these oikos. Then pray over it. Everyday. For two weeks. Or maybe one week or three weeks.
When I tried this earlier in the year, the Lord showed me that my neighbor may be interested in knowing more about Jesus. I realized that she always tried to chat with me when we passed each other while out walking. The next time I was out walking and spotted her, I quickly started walking in her direction (but not in a stalking way of course). After talking for a bit, she shared that a close relative was the first in her family to accept Christ, and that she and her family, too, had become Jesus followers. She, however, knew almost nothing about the Bible. We wound up doing an outdoor Bible study!
Pray over your oikos and listen for God to give you some direction. Pray for people in your oikos to have soft hearts towards Him. Pray for the Holy Spirit to make you aware of who is open to Him. Pray for God to move in mighty ways within your oikos. And stay tuned for a future post suggesting a simple next step.
Mary David is the pseudonym for a global worker from PCC. She enjoys spending time with her family, sharing the Gospel, and watching God work.
Stories Spilled Out
I got to know my elderly friend, Trudy, the last 8-10 years of her life. I started visiting with her to help out her son and daughter-in-law with whom she lived in a mother-in-law apartment attached to the main house; but it wasn’t long before I looked forward to my weekly visits with her just for the enjoyment I took in her friendship and wisdom.
The first couple of times I sat in her apartment with her, Trudy started spilling out the stories of her lifetime. She took me on a memory trip with her to her farm in NW Pennsylvania when she was just a teenager. I heard about how she met her husband and how three months later, they married. Through the narration of the joys and pains of her early adulthood, I got to know some of what had made her the woman she was in her late 80s and early 90s. She shared with me how she had grown in the Lord over her lifetime, the markers the Lord had left and the things He had used to change her into His Image.
In those early days of my visits, we sometimes went mall walking or shopping at a couple of her favorite stores. I learned that she had a love of fine china and still enjoyed looking for a new blouse. As the years past, Trudy became less able to take our Wednesday morning trips out, so we transitioned to me reading to her out loud, something we both looked forward to as we discovered an enjoyment for classic fiction.
Wuthering Heights, Peace Like a River were delights to both of us, but our favorite was David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, a classic neither she nor I had read. It’s a long book, but most Wednesdays when we sat down to pick up where we had left off, she would say, “well, let’s find out how our boy is doing today!” The memory of her voice still brings a smile to my face.
Trudy has been popping up on my Amazon Alexa Show lately which “randomly” scrolls through all the pictures I’ve taken on my phone over the last 12 years or so. Each time I see her face, I’m reminded that she’s one of those people I look forward to seeing again. But in this life Trudy taught me something about graciousness and contentment, laughter and delight and never being too old to make new friends.
I don’t think Trudy ever knew how the Lord used her to encourage me through her honesty, forthrightness, grace in aging and through the spilling out of all her stories. As I’ve reflected on the time she and I spent together, I’ve realized that those stories she spilled out were so much more than a narrative. They were small treasures, each one to be mined for gems, both lasting and brilliant.
Likely there will come a day when I’ll have the opportunity and desire to spill out the stories of my own life. If they hold just a fraction of the beauty and wisdom I found in Trudy’s stories, I’ll know then that the Lord has used me well.
Grace upon Grace
There are some who may believe that the grace I need to live with a physical disability is greater than they would ever hope to need. Some may not be able to imagine what it might require, but that's okay. God gives an equal measure of grace, no matter what we need -- and He gives it when we need it.
I once heard that at the foot of the cross, the playing field is level. I loved that. We all have challenges in this life, and our need for His grace is a privilege because that need removes the barriers that might keep us from seeking Him otherwise.
As God has worked to grow me over the past years through disability (sometimes at a snail’s pace), I have learned through friendships with women who don’t have a lot in common with me, a disabled 54-year-old single woman with no family, that in Christ there is always a crucial connection through our need for His grace which exceeds our ability to bind us together more closely than our earthly commonalities ever could.
Our lives are filled with reminders of our need for God’s grace every day. For me, it's often the empty wheelchair parked by my bed when I wake up in the morning. For many women it is the sound of a crying baby or of older children, already up and about. For others, it may be the care of an aging parent, or the stress of a demanding job. In each of our challenges, we have in common the bond through an understanding of God’s grace that overshadows the lack of understanding in the details.
God humbles and strengthens us as we witness his grace working in each other’s lives, as well as in our own.
What’s on Your Table?
Chemotherapy during COVID is not just scary, it is lonely. I walked into the oncology office for my first infusion and I was flat-out terrified. I needed my husband beside me, but that was forbidden. The unknown of what was ahead loomed dark. Adding insult to injury, the waiting room was excessively decorated with the worst kind of Halloween tacky. The glittery sign on the door to the treatment area read “Come in, my pretties.” It felt confrontational, as if someone were enjoying my pain.
As I sat waiting for my name to be called, I closed my eyes and cried out to God for comfort. I needed to feel the Presence I knew in my heart and soul was there but at that moment felt distant. In my weakness, God answered quickly. The words to Psalm 23 ran through my head but stopped on “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Really, God? On that day, my table literally included Taxol and Herceptin, poisons for the cancer. God reassured me that indeed He personally had prepared that table and He was with me.
Days later, I spent some additional time in Psalm 23 with some study tools at hand. I learned that the Hebrew word used here for table was most often the king’s feast table or the table of sacrifice and worship in the tabernacle. Both were lavish and detailed in their preparation.
We surely know the Enemy, but what about these enemies? The Hebrew word is used of adversaries but also of narrow places, oppression, affliction, and vexation. Those words describe situations that involve actions against us but can also include our emotional reactions to those circumstances.
Consider the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These attributes of our sanctification also involve behavior as well as emotions. Suppose we think of our daily enemies as the opposite of these qualities that God has promised to be working into our sanctification?
Whether it is as big as cancer and the fear it brings or as small as the irritability that comes at the end of a long day, these are the tactics of the Enemy who will use what is at hand for his sinful purposes. Satan wants us to doubt the sovereignty and the goodness of God when faced with illness and death. He wants us to question the validity of our redemption when we respond yet again with harshness instead of gentleness. But just as God prepared the table of our salvation at the cross, He daily prepares a table before us in the presence of these enemies of our sanctification.
Meditating, trying to grasp the fullness of what God was showing me, I realized there were many things on my table alongside the cancer poison. A caring and skilled nurse who makes it all as easy as possible. A husband who walks each step of this with me, who assures me that bald will be beautiful, and who would take the treatment for me if he could. A daughter who cares for me not just out of love for her mom but also using her many skills as an Occupational Therapist. A brother who saw the need and took my dad to live with him for 3 months. (Many of you prayed for that.) A friend who texts me almost daily with the verse she prayed for me that morning. Another friend who writes her scripture prayers for me and mails them to me. An old friend who has already walked this journey leaves a bag of her favorite chemo comforts on my front porch. Phone calls and cards from friends and family to assure me of their love and remind me of God’s truths. Even a song lyric that asserts that Jesus is “the blessing buried in the broken pieces.” Knowing me intimately and knowing all that I need, God prepared each of these things on my table for me in the presence of fear, doubt, and loneliness.
My cup overflows. Cancer is surely no picnic, but it is starting to feel like a banquet.
Here you can read perspectives on life, ministry and God's Word from a variety of PCC's female leaders.