Thursday, June 27, 2013

One Last Thing

I think I've identified with Martha all my life.  For years, every time I would read the story of Mary & Martha in Luke chapter 10, I would think "poor Martha!  All she's trying to do is making things perfect for Jesus.  Why isn't anyone helping her?" 

Yep.  I missed the whole point of the story for years. 

I cannot remember a time when I didn't have a list of things "To Do" sitting on the counter or tucked into my purse or on my desk at work.  Sometimes, I have one in all three places.  Occasionally, I will find an old list in my purse and realize there are a couple of things on there I never took care of.  That's how my brain works, I guess--out of sight, out of mind.  There are weeks that are so full of activities and responsibilities that I'm pretty sure I could not function without a list.  The List provides direction, boundaries, and--most importantly--it provides a sense of accomplishment.  And, Heaven knows I love to feel I accomplished something!

This is the week before vacation.  That's right--tomorrow we pile into the Murano and head out for a 10 hour drive to Pennsylvania.  That makes today the busiest day of my whole week, as I clear my desk, tidy the house, do all the laundry, and remember everything I need to pack for the trip.  This has also been the week for Vacation Bible School at my church.  On top of that, two of the nurses I work with in our office have experienced family emergencies that have necessitated their absence for at least 2 days of the week; the rest of us are "covering" their responsibilities, in addition to our own.  And, we had a baby shower at work for one of our business office personnel, so I had food to prepare for that.   Just writing all this makes me feel a little stressed!

The thing is, other than a couple of "OH NO" moments, I haven't really felt overwhelmed.  Really.  I can hardly believe it myself.  I may have learned a bit about "Stress-Less Living" during this whole online Bible study!

I realized a couple of weeks ago that this week was going to be packed tight with important tasks and unavoidable responsibilities, so I tried to plan ahead and think critically about what my limitations were.
  • I was honest with the VBS leader about how much I could participate
  • I started my cleaning chores two weeks beforehand
  • I signed up for food for the shower that I could make easily in the evening after VBS
  • I reminded myself, repeatedly, that I can only do one task at time--so concentrate on the current task and do it right the first time
  • I didn't skip any part of my Bible study/prayer time 
Reading this now, I see that it really wasn't that hard.  It was all about priorities and doing first what mattered most.  Skipping my time with the Lord would have only sabotaged my efforts to remain calm and focused during this stress-filled time.  Being honest with myself and others about my schedule really helped me to avoid over-committing.  Never once did I find myself muttering under my breath about how no one wanted to help or snapping at my family because my nerves were frayed.

That's what Mary understood as she sat at the feet of Jesus, and it's what Martha was struggling with.  Martha wanted to make everything perfect for Jesus--including herself.  That was never going to happen and could only end badly--probably with Martha snapping at servants and family members and crying in her room later over what a failure she had been.  I know; I've done that.  Her focus on all of the things she could do was being used by the Devil to distract her from the things Jesus wanted to do in her life.  That's just how it is with perfectionism.  It starts with our activities, but it takes over our heart, and soon we find ourselves trying to become good enough for Jesus.

But, Jesus gently reproved her and redirected her priorities.  Her worry over the "many things" was put into proper perspective.  He pointed her toward the "one thing" that really mattered.

You know, the Bible doesn't tell us that Martha went back to the kitchen.  I'd like to think that she grasped the truth of what Jesus was explaining to her and had a seat right there next to Mary, at the feet of Jesus.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

When We Have No Words

We've all been there.  It's that moment when you are in the middle of an important conversation, sharing a very important point, and you can't find the right word(s).  Your tongue goes numb and your brain goes blank and the stammering begins; no matter how hard you try to come up with the right thing to say--there is nothing.  These moments can come at any time, from a game of Trivia to an interview for a new job.  

Sometimes it isn't our brain that can't come up with the right word; sometimes it's our heart.  When you visit the family of a sick child in the hospital and they ask you why this has happened to them.  When your daughter wants to know why her boyfriend doesn't love her anymore.  When you run into a co-worker in the hall on their first day back after losing their Dad.  We find ourselves looking them in the eyes, feeling a measure of their pain in our heart, and having no idea what to say.

Sometimes the search for words comes when we are praying.  What can we say to God about our problems?   How can we describe what we are feeling?  We search our hearts for the right words to tell Him what we are thinking. . . .but all that comes out is tears.  There is no way to put our feelings into words to pray and we sit there overwhelmed by our circumstances and needing our Father so very much.   We feel helpless, but our intercessor is about to step in.

"The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray , but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  Romans 8:26
Does is reassure you that even the Holy Spirit doesn't use words to let God know what is in our heart?   Our pain, our fears, our loneliness--even the Spirit of God doesn't have the words for what is weighing on us!  Just imagine, if you can, the Holy Spirit groaning with the weight of what He carries to the Father on our behalf.  We are assured that God hears us because "He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" (vs. 27) 

Did you get that??  God knows the mind of the Spirit--they are entwined in the Trinity relationship--and the Spirit intercedes for us as a part of this intimate relationship.  No words are needed.   The very aching of our soul is expressed to God in a way that is beyond words. 

It's time to admit we don't have all the answers to the questions that start with "Why".  It's time to take our cue from the Holy Spirit and quit trying to find the right words to comfort those around us who are in pain.  It's time to hug them and hold them and listen to them and cry with them and know the Spirit is expressing the groans of their souls to the source of mercy and peace.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wounded Warriors

I think God must have a special place in His heart for the men and women who serve our military as medics, physicians, nurses, and their support personnel.  Can you think of a more intense, discouraging, and yet rewarding job?  They wake up every day knowing that they will spend their day tending to those who are wounded and scarred, in both visible and invisible ways.  They carefully apply their healing skills so that they can--return them to the battlefield??  Because, if they do their job skillfully, and their patient recovers fully--which is always the goal--that is what may happen.  

God understands their heart; He feels the joy of victory when a medical team does the impossible and saves the life of someone wounded so badly that there seemed to be no hope.  He feels their pride when they watch a soldier push through the difficult months of physical therapy.  He feels their despair when they recognize the patient in front of them and know that they "fixed" this soldier just months before; did their job so well that they returned him to duty, and now they must tend to his wounds again.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3

This text evokes a powerful mental picture for me.  It's not hard to imagine God as healer, especially when we consider the many Biblical stories of Jesus touching the people around him; healing their diseases, straightening their twisted limbs, restoring their vision, and even calling them from death.   This Psalm tells us of the tender loving care God uses to heal our wounds.  It evokes an image of God as the one who applies the soothing salve, who wraps our wounds with fresh bandages, who touches our diseases and restores us.  It also tells us that He knows when our hearts are broken and and He can heal those wounds, too.

God is the Great Physician for all those engaged in spiritual warfare.  He patches us up, knowing that He is returning us to the battle.  He strengthens us and encourages us when our hearts are broken by the pain that sin causes in the world all around us, and especially close to home.   Just like those faithful military doctors and nurses, He knows that He is fixing us in order to return us to the battlefield. 

However, He never sends us back alone.   We are reassured of His presence in this beautiful passage from another Psalm:

The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help.  he rescues them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.  Psalm 34:17-18

God knows the hearts of His wounded warriors.  He is never far from us and He will hear us when we call.