Putting In Everything

I meant to call on Sunday. It’s a good thing I didn’t. She wouldn’t have been at home.

My friend, Ethel, celebrated her 85th birthday on May 1st. Her church threw her a birthday party and I wanted to call and congratulate her and ask how the party went. Since I didn’t call on Sunday, I decided to call on Monday afternoon. I hesitated, thinking that perhaps my timing wouldn’t be good—she might be having a nap.

What was I thinking!

After my conversation with Ethel (she wasn’t napping) I thought about yesterday’s post. While some might have sidelined the senior saints, that is not true where Ethel fellowships. Well, I can hardly imagine Ethel ALLOWING anyone to sideline her!

If I had called on Sunday, Ethel would have been at church. She spends all day there, first to arrive before Sunday School where she teaches a class and plays the piano for the adult class. She is still engaged in the music ministry in the church, though others, whom she trained, now play for the services. She stays at the church through the afternoon with one of the deacons and a couple of the deaconesses. Ethel doesn’t have a car so it’s easier to stay down rather than go home and come back again for the evening service. I used to stay down as well when I fellowshipped there. We’d have lunch together, do music practice, either the bells or the choir, and sometimes even schedule meetings for Sunday afternoon.

Ethel has worked with the youth on Wednesday nights for years. Here is her special passion. The group is supposed to be for teenagers but she has children and young adults who wouldn’t miss this time for the world. And God is working in their lives and through them to the community. She also plays the piano for the prayer meeting. She still has weekly several music students, a house to keep up and a huge flower garden which is the envy of the neighbourhood. She visits, calls, writes letters, and prays (every Monday for me).

Ethel’s sister, Betty, constantly reminds her to stop trying to run the church! Well, maybe just a little. But, as I said to her on the phone, the church must appreciate her input or they would not have gone to the trouble of throwing her a birthday bash—one that so impressed her children that her son, who has been trying to get her to move closer to his family, remarked: “I could never give her what she obviously has here!” Nor would the chairman of the deacons’ board have remarked from the pulpit the following Sunday that if Ethel could do what she was doing at 85, what was wrong with the rest of them!

I am put to shame!

But what I sensed (confirmed by a phone call earlier in the day from the chair of the deacon’s board) was that there is respect for her and an appreciation for her ministry. Oh she may annoy them once in a while because she can be pushy, but they know what they’ve got in this one gem.

I was reminded of Ethel again this morning when I read Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4. Here we find Jesus in the temple. He observed a woman who entered and dropped her tithe into the offering box. She was a poor widow. Jesus called his disciples over and pointed her out to them: “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (vss. 43, 44).

Ethel hasn’t had it easy. Her husband was a philanderer and abusive. Her children walked away from the Lord. One died young. She has little money (she gives generously, even supporting me when I was overseas out of what she earned in giving piano lessons). But Ethel has walked up to the offering box and put in everything she has—and continues to do so long after most of us have quit or been put out to pasture.

But there is a humility to Ethel that once again reminds me of this widow. She leans on the Lord—the practice of a lifetime of good and bad times. She is painfully blunt and refreshingly honest. She is also kind and patient. She watches to see what the Lord is doing in people’e lives and jumps onboard.

My suspicion is that one day, when Jesus welcomes her into heaven, He’ll say: “I tell you the truth, Ethel has put more into the treasury that all the others…she…put in everything.”

I’ve missed her. I didn’t realize until our conversation yesterday just how much. Ethel is a woman of influence; someone I need in my own life to remind me of a poor widow who put in everything.


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