At my grandmother’s house, sleeping in meant getting up at 5 or 6 a.m. instead of the usual 4.

On a typical day, by 6 a.m. she would have swept and mopped the floors, made a big pan of biscuits and done a couple of loads of laundry. These chores completed by sunup, she could then move into her garden to work until the heat became unbearable, when she would return to the house and resume indoor chores. She raised eight children and a number of grandchildren, so there was always something to do.

She probably would not have believed the story of Frances Gabe if she had lived to hear it.

Gabe, of Newberg, Ore., has invented and patented a self-cleaning house that includes at least 68 time, labor and space-saving mechanisms. Each room has a 10-inch square “cleaning/drying/heating/cooling” device on the ceiling. To clean the room, Gabe simply pushes a button, and powerful jets spraying soapy water clean the room. The device then rinses and blow-dries the room.

The floor of each room slopes slightly so the remaining water runs off into a drain. Things in the rooms that shouldn’t get wet are stored under glass. The sinks, bathtubs and toilets throughout the house are also self-cleaning, and the cabinet holding her dishes doubles as a dishwasher. Her closets not only store her clothes, they also clean and dry them.

“Housework is a thankless, unending job, a nerve-tangling bore,” Gabe says. “Who wants it? Nobody! With my jaw set hard I was determined there had to be a better way!”

Gabe’s father was an architect, so she gained early experience in housing design and construction. She was only 14 when she entered the Girl’s Polytechnic College in Portland, Oregon, finishing a four-year program in only two years. Following World War II, Gabe and her husband, an electrical engineer, started a building repairs business that she ran for over 45 years.

As a woman, Frances Gabe probably ignored more than a few old rules and stereotypes in order to realize her goals. Often that’s what it takes before we can see new possibilities.

While the gospel doesn’t depend on our innovation and creativity, it does rely on that of God’s spirit. And it requires that we allow God’s spirit to introduce new ways to express the Christian faith in worship, ministry and witness. Sometimes, there’s a better way, but it works only when we embrace it rather than fight it.

As long as we insist on living strictly by old rules, we’re blind to new vision. Worse, some people may be blocked from new life.

Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.

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