Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dorcas Tells All

Acts 9:36-41, NRSV, “Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.”

This passage struck me this morning. I remember as a kid thinking about the unfortunate translation of Tabitha to Greek, which only sounds bad in contemporary English. I giggled every time I heard the name Dorcas (the emphasis is actually on the last syllable, if that helps). It means gazelle, which paints quite a lovely picture of any woman. She probably had quite a presence. She was obviously a faithful woman. This morning, I found myself desiring to be her. I want to be that effectual. I want to be so relevant that people actually want for me to come back from the dead. Am I bordering on self-worship?

So, first we hear that she is a disciple. She is a disciple named Dorcas, who was devoted to good works and acts of charity. By what this passage says, we can assume that she was a patron of widows, amongst other things. That is such a noble assignment. Widows and orphans have a rich place in throughout Jewish tradition and into the early Christian church. I hope that we can say the same for our congregations now. Dorcas was an effective woman. She was going to leave a gap in the hearts and activities of the church. That is a powerful legacy, even more when you have been brought back from the dead.

I am being entrenched in the area of order, mostly because I ran across some materials, unintentionally. This is not a bad thing, although it does make us all catch our breath, doesn’t it? This morning I was given the verse, “for God is a God not of disorder but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33, NRSV)”.

God gives order for peace; peace and order are linked together, one begets the other. I can have peace in my home with order. I have been reading Donna Otto and Emilie Barnes. They challenge you to make a Life Statement. Then, my mother and I talked this week and she is reading another book talking about, essentially, a living epitaph. You know those things in your life that just keep coming up…well, mine is life statements and goals. I made my statement after a few weeks of praying and writing. I was so glad to finish it. I was sitting over breakfast in San Diego a week ago, and it just came out. It took so long for me simply to decide who I wanted to be; how I wanted to be remembered. What does God want for me to accomplish in this world and what will my legacy be? He gave it to me one word at a time.

In one of our recent discussions, my mother flat out said, not for the first time, “You are involved in too much”. Every time she says it, I know that it is true. She said it because I told her things that I desire in my life and I feel that God desires in my life, and then I contrasted it with what I was actually up to. Apparently, we have a shared gene that uncontrollably mutters the word, “yes”, when anyone says, “Could anyone (fill in the blank)”? So, I am prayerfully analyzing what should be in my life and what should not be in my life. I desire order in my life that allows the things of God to fulfill my identity and purpose. I desire that everything else goes away. Now I have to kick those things out.

Dorcas’ purpose was written down for eternity. She is one example of what I am striving for. She devoted herself to good works and acts of charity. I bet that she understood this about herself; in fact, I bet that she did it without a life statement. She probably did not try to do children’s nursery, the book reading club, prayer groups that meet on multiple nights, and every bible study that is offered. She devoted herself to two things and she was remembered forever for her diligence to them.

My mother also tells me that you can’t have it all. You have to choose the things that you really want, and do a few of them really well. This takes a lot of prayer and maybe the loss of some dreams. I will not be a marathon runner or tri-athlete in this lifetime. Although I have seen a movie of my triumphant win in my mind, after my back surgery last year I do not believe that this movie will ever make it to celluloid. I will not be an artist; I live this vicariously through my husband, lthough my mother did tell me that I was extremely promising after I did my self-portrait as a freshman in high school. I now will allow myself to be a fan of other’s art and let that 20 year dream finally rot. As long as I live with our pets and love them past the spoiling point, I will never have a completely clean home. If we have children, I will really never have a clean home.

I am at the point. I need to choose and devote myself. I need to understand that I am simply a vessel for the Potter and allow myself to be fulfilled and used by the unpredictable abundance of Him. He does not work under the shotgun effect…shoot and splatter. He is precise with His resources. I need to allow His order into my life into my home, so that I can be flexible enough to deal with this world. Coexisting with this order will be the gift of peace to people who touch my life because it will be tangible and intentional. Thanks Dorcas and mom, for inspiring me today to live out my purpose.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us the option of peace in our lives. Thank you for giving us the desire for your purpose. Give us the strength to be truly effective in our lives. Tell us where we belong and where we do not. Close doors for us and open others.

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