7 “At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
8 Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.
- Job 14:7-9
August is Women’s Month in South Africa, and there are celebrations to honor women taking place every week all over the country. From promotions for telephone service to make up and life insurance, every stake holder and influencer in the country is looking for a way to express their gratitude for the bravery and contributions women have made towards the country’s development. Shack Church is no exception.
Starting this weekend, Revival Scene Ministry (Shack Church’s actual 501c3 name) will be hosting a women’s conference under the theme(s) Consecrate Yourself and Finding the Favor of God for Your Life. The first 7 days if the 10 day conference (we don’t do anything small in SA, you know) will be dedicated to prayer and fasting, while the final 3 will move into the phase of exhorting attendees to explore and unlock God’s favor for their lives.
Last night I was invited to attend women’s bible study with Shack Church’s Women on the Move ministry. This was a huge step for me, because as gregarious as I can be, I am increasingly introverted in my old age. I like to hide out in large crowds and when you are in small, intimate spaces, that’s pretty near impossible. The house where bible study takes place is the typical township home comprised of about 600 square feet and certainly constitutes an “intimate space”, especially when 18-20 people are crammed in the room, vigorously praising God.
It was in that environment that I realized that the notorious church break out praise bore an uncanny similarity to Xhosa/Zulu ceremonial dancing, replete with stomps and mid air splits. If I had the health of your 76 year old grandmother who had come through Jim Crow and lived to see Barack Obama rise to the position of president, I might be able to keep up. Alas, I only have the stamina of an 80’s kid whose idea of physical excursion is to furiously type a strongly worded thread on Twitter.
Why were these women so excited, I wondered privately? This display of joy was not the typical putting on and performance of obligatory praise that we who have been in the church for so long have become accustomed to. I clapped my hands and grimaced as I have been programmed to do over the years, but when the appropriate time to stop and get down to business had come and passed (you know: 3 fast songs, a worship song and a greeting), these women were still going HARD. Sensing my bewilderment, Sister Rochelle – who doubles as praise leader and First Lady of Shack Church – interrupted the service to explain why certain among us were so giddy with zeal.
“We read from Job 14 today at another sister’s house. In that scripture it talks about the renewing of a tree. How if it gets the scent of water it can come to life again,” she said. “You know, there is always hope for a tree. Whether you cut it, or even burn it, it can still have new life. And we women are JUST like trees. We go through so much in our daily lives. We are cut down in different ways. But when we get the scent of water – LIVING WATER – we are renewed again. When YOU as a woman carry the scent of Jesus’ living water, you can bring new life to a women who has been cut down and burdened! That scent of living water…”
She stopped talking and they re-ignited a joyful noise.
So what did I do? Fixed my lips to try and form their way around those Afrikaans songs and joined them in a good, hot, sweaty praise!
Naturally, it got me to thinking: What kind of scent do I carry? Do I carry and aroma or a stench? Is the spirit that I carry one that encourages renewal of life or does it smell of death and despair? Water exists in all kinds of forms, from brackish to fjord pure. Water is a conveyor and an amplifier. If you put trash in water and let it sit, guess what happens over time? The stench gets worse. The inverse is true.
What a powerful and simple word. What scent do you carry? And are you surrounded by people who bring the fragrance of living water? How awesome would it be…