Monthly Archives: September 2013

Martha and Mary

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My house is a mess.  Not just today but as a general rule, my house is a mess.  Happy children live here and the evidence is all over the floor, at all times.  Apparently, it’s often  necessary to pull all of the dress up clothes out of the box in order to find the right princess crown.  Raiding the tupperware cupboard is also a popular pastime.  Occasionally, if I’m making a salad and I can’t find my salad spinner, the girls will bring it to me filled with “little people” who’ve been enjoying the ride of their lives.

Josh and I are not uptight about cleanliness (obviously!) but there are many jobs that simply must be done regularly. For example, making meals, changing diapers, washing dishes, taking out the trash, shopping for groceries, and washing, folding, and putting away laundry are all tasks that have to be completed in order for our household to function.  There are multiple times each day when I’ll be in the middle of one of these tasks and a more desirable option presents itself.  “Mommy, can you read me this book?”  Sometimes I can drop everything and take a break, but often, the task at hand should be completed first.

In the story of Martha and Mary, in Luke 10:38-42, Martha hosts a dinner for Jesus. She’s “distracted with much serving,”  saying to Jesus, “ ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.’  But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”

This story has haunted me for years.  We all want to be Marys, sitting at Jesus’ feet, soaking in the grace and peace of His presence, right?  We want to be Marys in our homes and families too; we’d love to snuggle on the couch with our kids all day, reading books, making bracelets, and playing pretend.  But the dirty diapers must be changed, the groceries must be purchased, and if we never took out the trash … you get the point.  At times I’ve felt sympathy for Martha.  We’ve all been there – hosting a party and being stuck in the kitchen trying to get all the food ready while the guests are laughing and enjoying the appetizers out on the patio.  We say to ourselves, “Somebody’s got to do this.”  So here’s my dilemma:  I truly want to be a Mary, but sometimes I’m stuck being a Martha simply because Martha’s work must be done eventually.  Can you relate?

This is something I’ve prayed about and last week God gave me a new, humorous perspective.  What if Jesus had granted Martha’s request?  What if the conversation had gone this way…

 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.’  And the Lord answered her, “Oh Martha, you poor suffering servant, you’re completely justified in your bitter, workaholic attitude.  And doggone it, Mary!  Would you get up off of the floor and get to work, woman?!” 

 After I thought about this alternate ending, I said, “Thank goodness that it didn’t happen this way.”  Literally, “THANK YOU, GOD that this is NOT what You’d said.”  If Jesus had taken this alternate approach, we’d all be stuck in our works-based lives.

Let’s look back at the original text.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t correct Martha for working.  In fact, Luke says that Martha is “serving,” which we often see Jesus Himself doing.  In a practical sense, Jesus isn’t saying, “Don’t work.”  Rather, Jesus corrects Martha’s attitude while praising Mary’s.   It’s as if He’s inviting us to drop the bitter, workaholic act and sit down (proverbially or literally) as the eager, relaxed listener. We don’t know the back story, perhaps Jesus’ tone of voice was particularly loving when He was talking to Martha. Perhaps Mary had been helping prior to this scene.  Perhaps the Holy Spirit had given Martha the gift of hospitality and she just needed a quick attitude adjustment so she could use her resources to bless the Lord and others.

A friend pointed out to me that no kids are mentioned in this scene. So are parents exempt from the Lord’s correction here?  Are we off the hook because we have to take care of our little ones?  On the contrary, I think this passage offers priceless insight to me as a parent.  Yes, there is work to be done, diapers to change, food to prepare.  But instead of being “anxious and troubled about many things,” maybe Jesus invites me to take on Mary’s attitude as a parent.  Instead of cultivating that stressed, harried, hectic attitude with my kids, perhaps the Lord wants me to model for my kids an attitude of relaxed joy and willing service as I go about my work.  Instead of gawking over the increasing mountain of dishes in the sink, maybe I can thank the Lord for the delicious meal we shared as a family with the food we could afford to buy.  Rather than begrudgingly taking out the stinky diaper trash, perhaps I can celebrate the fact that my kids have perfectly working digestive systems that are fearfully (Can I get an AMEN?!) and wonderfully made.  And those dirty spots on the walls can wait.  As a friend says, “I’m not raising a house.  I’m raising kids.”

If Jesus came to my house for dinner, I’m sure there would be toys on the floor.  But I’ll bet He’d plop right down between the blocks and the rocking horse, hold little Sam on His lap, and tell my girls a story.  Would I stress over dinner?  I have a few Tilapia fillets and bread loaves in my freezer. Maybe if I tell Jesus about my fish and loaves He’ll do the cooking.

In the meantime, I think I’ll make myself a sign to hang in my entry way that reads, “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart!”

Crystal Nachtigall

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THE GREATER WORK

“Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work.” (Oswald Chambers) 

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I read this quote for the first time in the prayer room of our church in Springfield, Oregon.  After pondering it, I somehow felt obligated to pursue this really hard work of prayer.  But try as I might, I could not become the disciplined prayer warrior I desired.  Over time, I have come to realize that I missed the point of Chamber’s quote.

The real work of prayer is not whether I showed up and spoke certain set ingredients like praise, confession, and petition (though these are good prayer elements and not to be ignored).  The real work of prayer is not whether I prayed for twenty minutes, forty minutes or an hour.  The real work of prayer is not whether I made sure I added, “In Jesus name, Amen,” to the end.

The real work of prayer is making it a time of relationship connection with the Father, Son and Spirit.

Prayer

When I drive to work in the morning, it’s a great time to turn off the radio and let the Lord speak to my heart.  But it is work to silence         my racing mind or control my itchy radio button finger.  There are times in the day when I just put my head in my hands and speak His     name.  The work comes in waiting for his answer rather than continuing to devise plans for my own calm.  At night, my mind does not       shut off.  I whisper a prayer into the darkness.  The work comes in allowing God to speak his peace into the places I am trying to vacate.

Prayer is work because it is not a text or email message we let slip into space to eventually reach God’s ear.  Prayer is about         the relationship the Lord wants to have with each of us.  It is about making as much space for listening as for speaking, patience as for       petition.  The work of prayer is to take the time to get in sync with Him, to have our heart beat in time with His heart.  We are blessed to   be children of the One True King who works redemption in us and empowers us for the works He has prepared (Ephesians 2:10).

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) 

Jesus invites us to abide in him.  We are to abide in Jesus the way he abided in the Father.  He took time aside from other work and other people to be refreshed and enjoy the fellowship of His Father.  We are invited to do the same so we might continue to be refreshed and made fruitful for the ministry He gives us.  If we desire to minister and see God’s hand move, we need to take time to be in sync with His heart.

 Prayer may not seem to accomplish much to us.  I am thinking that if we engaged it not as a checklist to be met, but a time of connection, replenishment and clarity of mission, we would find the Lord there doing much more than we first believed.  Our first step is to engage in the greater work of prayer so we are ready to take on the works He made us for.

Mike Spinelli- Choir Direcetor

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Thankful Memories

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Before television (yes, I remember it well) we listened to radio and used our imagination to picture in our minds what was going on. On Saturday night it was The Lone Ranger and The Grand ole Opry. Then there was Bob Hope and he usually ended up the program by singing; Thanks for the Memories, making up his own words.

This last week Velora & I decided to dust the shelves in our walk-in closet and check out some boxes in another closet.
O my!!  We found things we had not seen for years and even things that belonged to our parents.
We tried to decide what to keep and what to throw away, so our children won’t have to do that.
What we found were many wonderful memories of encouraging words and comforting messages in trying times that got us through.

I found one sheet of paper that had notes my father had written in the early days of Bethany Church (my parents were charter members) stating what he was thankful for. At the top was Psalm 100 and a list of thank yous. Most were of the other people in the church who were ministering in the body in one way or another.

Ps. 100:4-5 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the
Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

May we always encourage others in the body to Love and Good works.

Ed Willems – Minister of Visitation and Care