Friday, January 20, 2017

What Does It Take to Make Mary's Choice?


In my imaginary visit to Martha and Mary’s house, I sit on the floor, staring at the rows of guests in front of me. I wrapped my arms around my knees as I survey the crowd. Nobody seems to have noticed what went on between the Lord and Martha. They all continue with their merry conversations, enjoying the refreshments that Martha is diligently providing. Then, my eyes fall on Mary…she doesn’t notice the trays of goodies that pass by her. She doesn’t notice the crowds. Of course, she doesn’t notice her sister’s frustration. She probably never noticed Martha complaining to Jesus about her. She made her choice to focus on only ONE thing at this moment. Her choice implies that the rest of the world can simply wait as she seeks the face of Christ…

The question that remains for me is: How does one make that choice?

The answer is simple, but extremely complicated: It takes the surrendering of the will.

Our wills have been at war with God’s since Adam and Eve. This war continues in our lives for as long as we walk on this earth. Ever since we are born, we want to do things our way, and that’s not about to change any time soon. It is a totally insane war, however, since there is no way we can win it unless we surrender.

Dissatisfaction, worry, frustration, fear and all those feelings of wanting and lacking are the daily battles we all fight as part of this war…we struggle and struggle until we have no strength left, and still get nowhere. We don’t understand why we search and search without ever finding what we are looking for.

I am guilty of all of that, and the main reason that my searching remains fruitless is because I lose track of what I truly need to seek. The only thing that will fill the whole in my soul is the One who created my soul. It is not until I start seeking Him with all my heart that I will finally find Him and feel the peace that passes all understanding covering me, making me truly free.

It’s like I read in my devotional: “When lesser goals capture your attention I fade into the background of your life. I am still there, watching and waiting, but you function as if you were alone. Actually, My Light shines on every situation you will ever face. Live radiantly by expanding your focus to include Me in all your moments. Let nothing dampen your search for Me.” (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

May the Holy Spirit grant us the ability to discern the need to seek Christ and the absolute necessity to surrender to God’s will with all our hearts so we can make the choice to put the whole world on hold as we sit by the feet of Our Lord.

Scriptures to review:  Psalm 27: 8; Philippians 4: 7; Jeremiah 29: 13

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It Will NOT Be Taken Away

From my corner of the room, where I’ve been witnessing the exchange between Martha and the Lord, I just saw and heard Jesus stating a truth that I want to hang on to for the rest of my days on this earth: “…and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 42b
No matter what may happen…I can endure it all if I stick by the feet of Christ.

That’s my job. That’s the only thing that matters. And once I’m there, nothing…no force from this world or the next could pull me away from His presence.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39

Surrendering to Him means that we get to stay with Him. And that is exactly what I want. Let’s just spend a moment still...taking comfort on these words…allowing this truth to sink in…

“…and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 42b

Praised be His Holy Name!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Redeeming the Times

Let’s consider Christ’s words to Martha one more time:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41-42

Jesus is definitively talking to Martha about choices. He is saying something like: you can choose to be worried and upset about the useless stuff of this world or you can choose to spend your time dwelling in the presence of the Lord. Look at your sister Mary. Even though you think she is a lazy bum, she has actually chosen wisely…and no temper tantrum or hissy fit from you would cause her to lose what she has rightfully chosen.

In other words, Martha, quit wasting your time and come with me!

Time is indeed the most precious possession we have in this world. It is finite. And here, in this passage, Jesus is calling us to redeem it!

Last night I was watching an old video Dan found, who knows where, and it was of Grant when he was about three and a half years old. Gosh…I could not hold back my tears as I watched that little angel walking around and talking with the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard. There was a moment in the video when I appear there, playing with him and eventually scooping him off the floor to cradle him, squeeze him and cover him with kisses. His little feet dangling in the air as we giggled…man, was that hard to watch.

My soul and heart became overflowing with a love so tender and intense I couldn’t stand it. Then, I looked at my son and realized that the tall, gangly, awkward teen standing behind me doesn’t have much left in him of that little cutie pie I held in my arms all those many years ago. Time has gone by so very quickly. It’s too much to bear. The only thing that keeps me sane is the thought and the prayer that I gave that boy my all. I don’t have any regrets because I believe that I redeemed my time with him when he was little and I trust that the Holy Spirit will give me the clarity to continue to give him my all for as long as I live…

It's the same with the Lord…I don’t want to have any regrets. I want to give Him my all, because He IS my all. He is the King of who I am. In the busyness of life, I don’t want to, one day, be watching the video of my history in this world and find out I wasted my time worrying and being upset about things that didn’t matter or that I couldn’t change…while Jesus was there, in the next room, waiting for me to hang out with Him.

Life is hard enough as it is…I pray the Holy Spirit helps us make it lighter by taken away the unnecessarily heavy burdens our minds trick us into carrying.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Choice

Let’s consider Jesus’ words to Martha again, especially, the last part of Luke 42: “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” This is Jesus’ not so subtle, firm but at the same time, compassionate way of telling Martha that she needs to rethink her choices. “Mary has chosen well…how about you, Martha?”

In my mind, I imagine this scene wrapping up with Jesus’ hand slipping off Martha’s shoulder, the intensity of His eyes piercing through her soul, as He slowly turns and walks away back to his seat…leaving Martha standing there, tray of food still in her hands… dumbfounded…confused…quietly pondering the Lord’s words.

Jesus doesn’t force the issue…

He doesn’t directly tell her what to do. He does not command her to do anything. However, it is clear. Martha can’t deny what’s going on…the only thing she can do now is to make a choice.

She can continue her frantic pace, in pursuit of what she considers noble works that reveal a deeply misguided emphasis on the things of this world. Or, on the other hand, she can drop it all and seek His presence…letting Him take care of all the details…letting Him take care of all the rest.

I don’t know what she does… I can only speculate. My guess is that, being the practical woman that she is, Martha probably continued with the preparations to make sure all got done…being the Jesus follower I know she is, Martha was not the same. She might have made sure everything was in place to take care of the guests, but if Martha and I are as alike as I think we are, my guess is also that she was troubled by what Jesus said to her…something in her heart began to change.

I believe that as Martha went on with the chores, she could not stop thinking about the choice she had to make. She understood she was at a crossroads and that soon she would have to make a decision that would change the way she does things. I’m a slow-learner. Therefore, I’ve been at that same spot many times. I have been so concerned and so afraid by the waves and the winds of the storm that I have lost sight of the Only One Who matters, the Lord of the Storm. I hang on to the tasks and forget that I need to surrender all tasks to Him, for He owns the design of the plan that included such tasks, and that it is only by His power that I would ever accomplish any of their details.

There is still a lot of surrendering that needs to happen within my heart. And if Martha is anything like me, I would guess that she still needs at least another face to face encounter with Jesus in order to learn the lesson of surrendering in a way that when the time comes again, she and I would make the right choice.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Compassion and Strength

Like I mentioned in another post, I identify with Martha a great deal. I see a lot of me in her. That’s why I dare to call her behavior, an adult tantrum. As a grownup who has been known to throw hissy fits upon occasion, I know a tantrum when I see one. “You tell her, Lord!” Martha's tattletale on her sister to Jesus is a typical sign... But I’m not interested in delving into Martha’s behavior today. I want to take another look at Jesus’ response.

Of course, Jesus did what every responsible Father does when one of his kids comes to him telling tales: He stopped it. He showed compassion and great care, but He did not indulge Martha’s desire to tell on her sister.

Jesus acknowledged Martha’s situation. He did not dismiss her hurt. But instead of encouraging the behavior, He did the hard thing. He showed her that she was wrong. In a most compassionate way, Jesus pointed out to Martha the need for her to reprioritize. “Only ONE thing is needed…” and that thing is not household chores or publicly exposing your sister’s potential character flaws. “I’m all you need Martha…I should be number one in your life…choose wisely.”

Jesus is teaching us an important lesson here. He is showing us how to be loving, but strong. How often I face situations where loved ones come to me with complaints and/or plain, good-old gossip and rather than steering away from that muddy path, I basically throw in more dirt only to make it messier. In this passage, Jesus is showing me the need to balance being sensitive to my loved one’s legitimate issues, while at the same time stopping the slippery slide into open gossip.

Before I wrap up today’s thoughts on this subject, I would like to quote what I read in one of my devotionals. Perhaps, it will allow us to meditate on these thoughts through the lenses of Thanksgiving and Hope rather than of depression and guilt:

“God’s motivation for surfacing the destructive parts of us is so we will face them and cooperate as He uproots and heals them.” (Beth Moore)

I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us as we dwell in Martha and Mary’s house with Jesus for a while.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Answer

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41-42

Unlike the unsuspecting boys in my house, Jesus knows exactly what is going on with Martha. But His mercy and compassion allow Him to diffuse the time bomb more expertly than the most highly trained bomb squad ever coming out of the FBI. With a few words, he cuts the right wire and the clock stops ticking, leaving Martha exposed, but in a manner, that induces self-reflection rather than resentment and humiliation.

I can almost see Him, His voice filled with love, saying her name: “Martha, Martha…” I imagine Jesus putting his hand gently on Martha’s arm as He speaks to her. I imagine the sound of His voice having an instantaneous calming effect on Martha’s agitated heart. “Martha, Martha…” I don’t hear the slightest hint of reproach in His tone. All I hear is His love and concern for the soul and character of one of His beloved.

I also hear understanding: “you are worried and upset about many things…”

He knows…

Jesus knows about all our struggles. He knows our sinful nature. He knows all about our insecurities. He knows all about our hurts. He knows if we are worry-warts. He knows if we are easily offended. He knows when we are upset. He knows when we cry ourselves to sleep at night. He knows when we wake up shaking in fear. He knows when we can’t make ourselves get out of bed. He knows when we tremble in terror. He knows when our hearts can’t take another hit. He knows when we are all out of tears.

Not only does He know, but He cares. And in His love for us, He shows us the way. He shows us the answer. And the way, and the answer are always His presence. Seeking His presence is the only thing that can heal us completely: heart, mind, soul, spirit and body.

May the Holy Spirit allow us to continue exploring this passage some more next time, so He may clearly reveal the answer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

You Tell Her!

She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10: 40b)

Well, of course He cares. Jesus cares about this issue because He is concerned about Martha’s character. I’m guessing that the whining tone of her request is an outward expression of what’s in Martha’s heart. Once again, she wants to play the martyr role, exposing her sister’s weaknesses as she comes out like the victim of Mary’s unfair behavior.

Hmmm, yep…been there, done that.

-My husband: “do you need any help?”

-Me: “No!”

-My sons: “do you need any help?”

-Me: “No! I got it!”

A few hours later…

-Me: “Why doesn’t anybody help me around here? Can’t you see how much work there is to do? You guys are so lazy!”

I don’t know why I do this, but it happens quite often in my house. I get some sick satisfaction out of playing the victim’s role, I guess…I mean, sometimes, when I’m tense, doing housework helps me clear my mind, and that’s why I choose to do it myself when I can have someone else do it for me. But so often I must admit, I refuse help because of a subconscious desire to make those around me feel guilty or to get a card that I can hide in my sleeve so I can play the blame-game later and win.

I know, I said it, it is sick…but it is all-too-real. That’s why this portion of verse 40 touches me at such a personal level.

The worst part is that I keep accumulating those blame-cards until one day, when nobody is expecting it, I play them all at once, causing an explosion of whining and guilting others, blindsiding them into a corner where there is not much else for them to do than to sigh in frustration, wondering what’s going on.


Martha took her own frustration to another level. She went to the One she knew could end it with one word. She took the matter to Jesus and begged Him to basically give Mary a reprimand. She wanted Mary to feel humiliated…perhaps, because she was feeling humiliated herself.

Often, the kinds of feelings demonstrated by Martha’s behavior are a reflection of one’s own feelings of inadequacy. I’m not a psychologist, but speaking by personal experience, almost every time I want others to feel guilty is because I am feeling guilty myself and I want others to share that self-deprecating state. I feel guilty because of a misguided sense of inadequacy that warps my self-image, making me see myself as someone not worthy. I see myself as a failure who needs to compensate for her flaws by working harder than anyone around to somehow erase some of the character stains I see in myself. My insecurities lead me to a place of victimhood where the role of a martyr seems way more respectable than the perceived reality of a failure and a fake.

In the meantime, those around me are in the middle of a serious amount of manipulation that takes place to play these charades, leaving them exposed not so much to a game anymore, but rather to a time bomb.

May the Holy Spirit clear our vision and allow us to see through our insecurities to realize that we are more than the sum of our past mistakes. May we see ourselves with renewed eyes so we can finally appreciate who we are once we see ourselves through the eyes of Christ.