The Whys and Wherefores of Serving
(Nan Harrington originally shared this testimony at the Women’s Ministry Tea & Testimony event in November or 2021)
Ephesians 2:10 tells us: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (NKJV)
My husband and I have been at the chapel for about 21 years. We are empty nesters and raised four children, three who still walk this earth and one who’s with Jesus in His mansion (John 14:2-3). I enjoy serving and like to help people. I think this is the way God made me.
Psalm 139:16 says “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book, they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (NKJV)
God has brought events into my life that have shaped me and given me the desire to serve others. Last year, a week before Christmas, my husband had surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We would be in Baltimore about a week and knew no one. A couple here at the chapel had friends in Baltimore and put us in touch with each other. Our new Baltimore friends were a Godsend to us. They volunteered to pick up groceries for us (so I sent them a list), they brought us meals, brought Christmas decorations for our hotel room, magazines to read, a card of encouragement, transported us to and from the hospital, prayed with us when they dropped the groceries and meals, prayed with me over the phone on Johnnie’s surgery day and while he was in the hospital.
On December 23rd we checked out of our hotel and our Baltimore friend insisted on taking us to the train station and wait till we boarded. I told her she could just drop us and we’d be fine but she kindly, but firmly said “no I’ll wait”. AND I am glad she did because Johnnie began not feeling well while we were waiting. We decided to take him to the Emergency Room so I canceled our train tickets, our friend got her car, we loaded back up and headed to the ER and got him checked in and then left because COVID policy wouldn’t allow me to stay. About 9pm our Baltimore friend and I went to the ER to pick Johnnie up, it ended up he was okay and was able to travel. Because it was late, we spent the night with our Baltimore friends and because they strongly desired that she drive us back to NN, we made a plan for her to drive us halfway to Kings Dominion where my sister and daughter would meet us.
So, Christmas Eve we left Baltimore at 10am with our new, generous, kind Baltimore friend who was hosting a family dinner that night and helping international friends celebrate Christmas the next day, sacrificed a good part of her day for us. This was all in the midst of COVID. They associated with strangers, even inviting us to spend the night in their home and fed us. And if that wasn’t enough, her husband had outpatient surgery the day after Johnnie’s surgery so she was caring for her husband also. All this was God’s doing!
In 2011 my youngest daughter Kerry, who battled Cystic Fibrosis, died at Duke University Medical Center NC from complications of transplant surgery. We spent a year at Duke, my husband and I taking turns two to three months at a time as her caregiver. While in Durham we were served by so many people—some we knew and some we did not know. It began with our neighbor who had a niece in Durham who had a friend who had a mother-in-law suite that she let Duke patients and/or their family use at no charge. These ladies went to church together and others from their church joined in ministering to us---praying for us, bringing meals, visiting to see how we were doing. Even people we knew years’ prior from our previous church who relocated to NC got wind of what was going on with Kerry and came to visit or called and their churches prayed for us. Friends from PCC came to visit also---twenty-somethings, friends of Kerry and her husband went out of their way to visit, friends from my and Johnnie’s homegroup came to visit; plus, cards & notes from Summit Christian Academy, PCC-ers, family and friends were received in addition to prayers.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble (tribulation) with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (NKJV)”.
Two weeks ago, Garrett asked Johnnie and me to speak about the miracle God did in our troubled marriage in the years before and immediately after Kerry’s death. We were glad to share! During our struggle, close friends in the Body of Christ ministered to us. A small group of guys kept Johnnie close without condemnation. I had a couple of close girlfriends who listened and encouraged me. As a result, we are always glad to share our story of the miracle God did in us and our marriage AND we are always glad to meet with someone who needs a listening ear.
In 2017 after working 24 years in customer service, I got to retire! So now God has given me plenty of time to serve Him! And I do so joyfully!!!
Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (NKJV)
We have examples of service from Jesus’ life. At the last supper (John 13:12-17) He washed the disciples’ feet. Recall from Matthew 20:20-28 and Mark 10:35-45 the question posed by James and John requesting to sit on the right hand and left hand of Jesus in glory and His reply to them: “whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.” Jesus goes on to say that He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
I’m also blessed to have an example of service in my parents. After they retired, they ministered to the homebound in their church by visiting in nursing homes and praying with people they knew and people they didn’t know. My mom, now a widow, says she has a “card and note ministry” and writes notes of encouragement to friends, fellow residents and staff in her retirement community.
We also have examples of servanthood ministry here in our own church.
Well, as I said, I enjoy serving. I’m a “behind the scenes” kind of person. Sign Up Geniuses are my kryptonite! I gladly sign up to provide food, a meal, to help set up and help clean up. Sometimes it’s easy for me to overcommit when those Sign-Up Geniuses or emails for rides and visits come. I just want to sign up without thinking through what the commitment entails. In doing so I might slight my husband or my time with the Lord. So, I make a conscious effort now to look at the Sign-Up Genius or email, look at my calendar, and talk with my husband before signing up. It’s okay if the request doesn’t mesh with my schedule, God will see that the need is met.
I enjoy driving someone to an appointment, visiting someone at home or in the hospital, praying for and with people, dropping a card or note to someone, attending PCC WM Bible study, doing discipleship with other women. Some of these activities take me out of my comfort zone like discipling a younger woman, or driving someone I may not know or know well to an appointment or visiting someone I may not know or know well. But afterward I’m glad I ventured out of my comfort zone! I want to say it’s not dependent on me but on God---He has given the words, the conversation; He has made the friendships.
From Fall 2017 till June 2019, I was in a discipleship relationship with a young mom until the USAF moved she and her family out of the area. We met weekly on Friday mornings for about an hour. She and I along with her two toddlers walked, quizzed each other on our scripture memory verse, talked about our week and prayed. This was a sweet time in which I made a new friend and grew spiritually too. I had never done this before; it was out of my comfort zone but I’m glad I said yes when approached about discipling a young mom. Even though she’s far away now, we still keep in touch, we pray for each other, and I send cards and stickers to the children on birthdays and holidays. She tells me the children, now 6, 5, and 3-year-old twins, still talk about the times we had together.
Writing cards and notes has its rewards too---recipients have thanked me and told me how much they appreciated the thoughtful gesture or that the card came at a time they needed encouragement. Two who have been homebound have written me back which just thrilled my heart and another told me receiving my cards was like getting a hug! Also delivering the Sign-Up Genius meals to those having short term difficulty is always a blessing to my husband and me---to meet someone we may not know or know well, hearing them express how grateful they are and how this helps them during the difficult time and is an opportunity for my husband and me to pray for them.
In closing, Psalm 105:1-2 (NKJV) tells us “Oh give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Talk of all His wondrous works!”
Holy Imagination: The Lord is Near
When I was a new Christian, I used to clear off the passenger seat of my car and imagine Jesus was riding next to me. Sometimes I’d even reach out my right hand and imagine that He was there holding it in His.
Holy Imagination. I’m not using the word “imagination” in the make-believe sense. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says the Lord is preparing for us “an eternal weight of glory as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen.” Our use of holy imagination doesn’t make things up but looks for ways to bring spiritual realities into view; it looks for the symbols of this world that the Word spoke into being to remind us of what truly is.
I love birds. And living here in the Tidewater area of Virginia provides ample opportunities to see them in all their variety and majesty. Thinking about the Lord’s delight in creating everything from the hummingbird to the bald eagle, from the common duck to the great blue heron amazes me to think of the endlessness of His creativity in just one kind of animal type. (I happen to know a biology professor who finds himself constantly awestruck about the variety of bugs crawling around on this earth. I don’t really understand his fascination, but I do appreciate it!)
My morning walk takes me down near a dammed-off area of the James River. It’s a haven for all kinds of birds. My favorite, though, is the great blue heron. Years ago, as I watched them glide across the water, or swoop low overhead on their way into a landing, I started associating these beautiful birds with a reminder that the Lord is near. After all, I’m slow to remember and quick to forget that He promises to “never leave us nor forsake us” and making this mental association reminds me not only to praise Him for the beauty of His creation, but also to talk with him about the day ahead, the concerns of my heart and pray for those who are in need.
There are other ways that holy imagination points me to Truth. In the spring as the trees start to bloom, I’m reminded of rebirth. In the summers, when it’s 100 degrees, the crepe myrtles in their array of colors remind me that even in the scorching heat of trial, there is beauty. In the fall, as the trees turn glorious shades of gold and red, the Lord reminds me that though this life comes to an end, there’s still joy to be had. Finally even in winter, as the bare trees stretch their arms up toward the heavens, I can almost hear them groaning in eager longing to be set free from their bondage to corruption. (Romans 8:19-22), encouraging me to look forward to That Day as well.
Scripture uses metaphor – word pictures – in many ways: lions, harvesting, roiling waters and rocky soil to name but a few. The same Word who breathed all Scripture, also spoke all things into existence. May we – may I – not miss the pointers to Himself that He’s put in front of us.
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