A woman of influence

Do those who influence our lives deliberately seek out to do so? So often we hear celebrities declare, “I don’t want to be your role model”.

The truth is, young people are watching, learning, being influenced by those positioned around them. Gratefully, in the raw years of my youth, I was surrounded by people who were aware of the influence they made.

I was sixteen, a new believer, standing in the pews among my high school friends. Challenged to sit in the front rows of our small but vibrant church, we were eager to do so. Sunday night worship was often open for testimonies and hymn requests. Different generations shouted out the page numbers to “It is Well with my Soul” and “How Great Thou Art”. I don’t believe I will ever forget the sound of humble voices singing passionately the words of the hymns.

“How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me?

Things so undeserved, yet You came to give Your life for me.

The voices of a million angels, cannot express my gratitude.

All that I am, and ever hope to be I owe it all to Thee.

To God be the Glory, To God be the Glory, To God be the Glory

For the things He has done….” (My Tribute)

Yesterday, I stood amongst this congregation again. Many faces and families have changed with age over the two decades I have been away. We came together to celebrate the life of a woman who lived her life well with Jesus.  I don’t recall specific conversations I did or didn’t have with Sheila Perlman. But, my sixteen year-old self recalls her voice ringing out above the rest as she sang, “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul”. My young believer’s heart quietly prayed, “Jesus, I want to be that passionate for You. Help my heart sing these words in the trials of my life.”

Jesus has answered my heart’s prayer. I give credit to this older generation who embraced my formative young heart. I watched them humbly serve, I took mental notes of their public testimony to Christ’s love, and I followed in their examples.

Even in death, Sheila Perlman is a woman of influence, while her life speaks to me about leaving a legacy. As I read her obituary, it records decades of service to the Lord. Ministering to generation after generation; a life committed to passing on her faith. It is a testament of a life well lived. She served Jesus in humble quiet ways, like giving up her weekly paycheck to pay for others to have Bibles. She served Him in leadership roles. She served Him with humor and faithful living. In her 90′s, she delivered meals to the “elderly” and folded church bulletins each week.

People shared about Sheila’s selfless life, her commitment to praying for generations of individuals, her deep love for Jesus and her fresh gratitude for salvation. As I listened again to the words of “My Tribute”, my 48-year-old self prayed, “Lord, help me live with this same passion for You until my dieing day.”

I have a habit of writing my favorite quotes within the binding of my Bible. So, I was tickled to receive a handout with Sheila’s quotes from her own Bible. These quotes reflect the heart and drive of this godly woman.

  • What good am I if I can’t be a blessing to others?
  • God, fill me so completely with your Holy Spirit that even my reactions and sudden impulses are godly. I need this.
  • If you feed your faith your doubts will starve to death.
  • Our work is to cast care-God’s work is to take care (I Peter 5:7)
  • The little that we have, God can use.
  • I don’t fear what God brings into my life so much as I fear my response to it. Will I be faithful in tough situations?
  • Those who bless God in their trials will be blessed by God through their trials.
  • How will the knowledge of God affect my life this week?

Wow! The private words from a woman of influence. She lived what she believed.

Jesus, thank you from the depth of my heart, for spiritually parenting me with faithful saints. People who had no idea about the impact they made to a hungry heart and watching eyes.  Thank you for the life of Sheila Perlman. Oh, more of You, Lord Jesus, and less of me…so my life would cause others to thirst for You.

 

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Comments

  1. Jennifer Penner says:

    Bonnie,
    Thank you for being that woman to me! Thank you for being used of God to show a bunch of silly, high school girls what living out a life of true intimacy with God, without compromise looked like. While I miss seeing you face to face, I am glad for the opportunity to continue to hear your heart through this blog.

    I love and appreciate you!!!!

    • Bonnie J. Christensen says:

      Ah Jen, that means so much to me. I think I was silly myself–so we were always a good mix! ha!ha! I appreciate your encouragement, and have having the opportunity to chat here. My love to you, sister!

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