Five Minute Friday: Done

Wait

Gentle Reader,

Kate says: done.

Go.

I feel done with life today. It seems as if there is never a break from the swirling chaos, both on a macro and micro level. Something weird is always going on. It wears on the soul. Enough to make me think that the Desert Fathers and Mothers had it right. Just go hang in a cave somewhere and pray. Put on a camel-hair dress and scream into the wind, “Dishonor! Dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow!”

But then annoying Paul – yes, I call him annoying because he annoys me sometimes – tells me not to grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9). And I wish he was here in front of me right now so I could pull his beard and tell him that he doesn’t understand. Because it’s hard. It’s hard to not throw off restrains of civility and kindness. Everyone else is doing it.

Then I read this:

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul.

– Psalm 66:16 (NKJV)

I wonder if the second wind I so often need to keep going is found in remembering what God has done for me.

The Thanksgiving Songs constitute the joyful reflex of the Prayer Songs, especially those for Deliverance From Accusation and Persecution, for here those cries have been heard. The terrible plights encountered in those prayers are now history. They surface here only to recount God’s faithful deliverance. Certain death and destruction (18:4-5), enemies and illness (30:1-2), a sense of forsakenness by God (22:1), sin and the terror of God’s anger (30:5; 32:3-4), and the scorn of it all (22:7-8) appear in testimony of the Lord’s saving answer. In every case he has made the day in which gladness appears (118:24). … The grand point of it all, as Psalm 52:9 puts it, is that these marvelous rescues are “what You [Yahweh] have done.”

Asbury Bible Commentary

He rescues me today by not allowing me to throw off the restrains of civility and kindness. I mean, I could. Free will and all. I really, really want to. I’d love to throw some verbal zingers. But it’s not what God wants. I can speak true words, strong words, but not hurtful words. No ad hominem for this lady.

So I sit and wait. It hurts. But He’s here.

Stop.

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Review: Made Like Martha

Martha

Gentle Reader,

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

– Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)

I’ve read this passage more times than I know. I’ve heard this passage exegeted from the pulpit more than once. I’ve written about this passage. Always, always the message is this: Jesus was mad at Martha because she didn’t “get it.” Type-A people need to learn how to chill out. Be more like Mary.

That’s how I’ve understood this exchange. I come away feeling bad about myself. Thinking that Jesus must be disappointed in me. Wishing that I could somehow mold myself into a non-task oriented person. Never succeeding in the attempt.

Thus, Made Like Martha by Katie M. Reid was an incredibly freeing book.

Jesus never asked Martha to be Mary, and He didn’t ask you to be either. He simply pointed out that you do not have to serve from a place of striving and worry, because He is already enough for you. He is not holding out on you. We have added words to what Jesus said and compromised parts of who He created us to be in the process. Enough is enough! Pointing out one behavior to improve on is not the same as criticizing the totality of who you are. Let’s stop agreeing with the serpent and others who echo his slippery sentiments.

– p. 12

Can I get a loud, hearty “amen?!”

Throughout my life I’ve been described as “robotic” and “mannish.” Because apparently only robots and men have a “get it done” mindset. (Fairly, some of those comments have been gentle teasing from people who truly know and love me as I am).  Women have to be…what, exactly? Flighty? Oozing emotion 24/7? I have no idea. What I do know that I’ve often believed that something is wrong with me. That it’s bad to be different from a lot of the ladies I know.

Reid declares that the personality I have – the list-making, job-finishing, hard-working, generally no-nonsense (unless it’s in an organized fashion) personality – is exactly the one that God intended to give me. I’m neither robotic nor mannish. I am a woman who reflects the imago dei, exactly as I am.

The message would be incomplete if ended there, however. We Marthas do have a particular struggle that Jesus works to free us from: worry.

…she was so consumed with cares that she forgot the One who is most careful with her. She was so focused on her works that she missed the Worthy One in her midst; Jesus, the water-to-wine miracle worker, the feed-the-five-thousand supernatural provider, the raise-the-dead anointed healer.

Have I, like Martha, overlooked the One who resides in the home of my heart? Has worrying and being overly responsible crippled my faith? Have the what-ifs distracted me from the I AM?

– p. 18

Ouch. And yes. Worry leads me to over-responsibility all the time. In recent years I’ve been better about stepping back and sorting out what is mine to bear and what belongs to another, but it’s a struggle. I want everyone and everything to be okay. If it’s not, that’s my fault. Because I’m the fourth member of the Trinity. Didn’t you know?

It’s good to be a Martha. The world needs women who can get the job done, women who don’t mind rolling up our sleeves. It’s not good for us to stay wrapped up in fear – fear of rejection, fear of being overlooked, fear of letting someone else try. Our value is not based in what we can accomplish in a day or how many committees we sit on. Who we are, our identity, is found in Christ. He has done it all so that we can work and serve out of love, not fear.

Reid has done an excellent job of steering her fellow Marthas toward the deep breath of release. We can trust God to take care of us. It doesn’t have to be “just so” for Him to love us. The moment we cry out to Him in the faith of repentance, He makes His home within our souls – mess and all. We don’t have to strive or seek to impress Him. All that is required is for us to listen, to allow Him to guide our hard work in the jobs that He uniquely designed for us before the creation of the world.

Excellent news indeed.

Whether you are a Martha or you know a Martha (so, everybody), I recommend you read this book. Marthas will feel the knots in their shoulders unwind and non-Marthas will gain valuable insight into their sisters. You might be surprised at how fearful we are. We need you who are able to sit at His feet to remind us that we are safe – and that we are invited to do the same.

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Sketches: Spiritual Maturity

Mature

Gentle Reader,

I’ve needed to bump up my weights (for exercise) for awhile. Finally did so. Heavier dumbbells. The tortures of a new resistance band. I’m sure it’s good for me, but I can barely feel my arms right now.

So, let’s talk: spiritual maturity. (Prompt submitted by longtime reader and encourager Jodi. Thank you, Jodi).

I’ve sat and pondered this for awhile, for what, exactly, is spiritual maturity? Ultimately, I believe that it is the process of becoming more like Christ, also known as sanctification. In simple terms, this means to be set apart. To be different. To have all the distractions removed and rough edges smoothed so we can be the people that God wants us to be.

We cannot naturally achieve sanctification. While every human has the capacity to do good things, our nature is warped at a fundamental level. When, through the beauty of God’s prevenient grace (the grace that “goes before,” the action of God drawing all people to Himself) we come to the crisis of repentance and cry out to Christ for forgiveness, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. He begins to “unwarp” our nature. In both a moment and across a lifetime, which is a mystery and I am nowhere near smart enough to explain to you, He purifies and completes us. I suppose we could think of it as a prisoner being set free, but taking a really long time to figure out that he has been freed. He needs help in learning to drop old patterns and habits, to learn to live as a new person, in a new way.

John Wesley loved the topic of sanctification. Really loooooooooved it. ‘Twas his jam. In the opening paragraph of the sermon Circumcision of the Heart, he wrote:

…he is only preaching to them “Jesus and the resurrection,” with the necessary consequence of it, — If Christ be risen, ye ought then to die unto the world, and to live wholly unto God.

He went on:

 That “circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter;” — that the distinguishing mark of a true follower of Christ, of one who is in a state of acceptance with God, is not either outward circumcision, or baptism, or any other outward form, but a right state of soul, a mind and spirit renewed after the image of Him that created it…

And so one does not have to be in vocational ministry or in possession of a theological degree in order to be spiritually mature. Growth in grace and Christlikeness is a natural consequence of right relationship with God. We don’t always get it right. We stumble. We fall. It can take a long time for us to let go of wrong beliefs and cherished sins. In the end, though, God will have His way in us. Through the gentle yet at the same time head-walloping conviction of the Spirit, He will enable us to pry our white-knuckled hands off of those things He wants us to release (that is, if we aren’t consistently refusing to listen to Him and hardening our hearts, which is always a danger).

When talking to His disciples about false teachers, Jesus said:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

– Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

God, the Master Gardener, is in the business of resurrecting bad trees. He waters, feeds and prunes. If we submit to the process – because we always have choices – we will produce the good fruit of:

…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

– Galatians 5:22b (NKJV)

These traits are ours in an instant, yet they take a lifetime to develop. The Spirit has to train our minds to think differently and teach our hearts to feel differently. We start off as cranky little babies, focused only on ourselves. In time, with His patience and mercy, we move toward becoming the light-bearing, Gospel-breathing people He wants us to be.

Spiritual maturity has nothing to do with age and everything to do with attitude. It all boils down to a simple question: Do I want to submit to God in this thing or not? Sometimes it’s a “two steps forward, one step back” dance. I freely confess to you that there are days when my answer is “no.” Then I get to learn things the hard way. I get a rough lesson in the necessity of not responding to people and life like a squawking toddler. Thankfully, there is grace.

In short, spiritual maturity means that we grow up.

And boy, do we ever need to grow up.

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Five Minute Friday on a Monday: Return

Unknown

Gentle Reader,

I was cranky last week. Anvils hammered in my head. Had a “crying mad” moment over something. Opening the laptop to chat with my blogging buddies simply didn’t happen. That’s life, I suppose. And so, this late entry.

Kate says: return.

Go.

I haven’t shared much about my attempt to read through the Bible this year. There’s the fear of sounding prideful – “Well, look at what I’m doing…” – and the fear of somehow jinxing the project – “Well, I told them about it and now I’m three weeks behind so I suck.” And to be real: I didn’t read my Bible last week. As stated above, I was in and out of a wicked headache and what I was feeling kept me from reading. Because that’s a spot that Satan loves to press; I’m feeling angry, condemned, so don’t read Scripture because that will make me feel worse because God, in reality, probably doesn’t like me very much.

Yes, I still struggle with that. Not as much as I used to, but I’m not yet free. I’d like to claim that I was, but does the world really need another liar?

Anyway, I’ve made my way to Job’s story, which I love. Many hate this book because there are no answers. We don’t get to know why God allowed Satan to wreak havoc in Job’s life. We don’t get to know why God chose to test his servant like that. Job is a mystery to us and we don’t like it. We want to be able to unravel the strands of human responsibility and Divine movements. We want to be able to say, “This is what and where and when and – most importantly – why.”

And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

– Job 1:21 (NKJV)

That’s a profound statement. This man has just lost everything. He doesn’t know why. He maintains his innocence and his devotion to God. He puts up with his probably well-intentioned but ultimately idiotic friends spouting hot air at him. In the end, he encounters God, who gives him no answers, instead expressing His majesty and sovereignty. In short and amazingly simple language, the message of Job’s life is: We don’t always get to know.

Will we keep trusting God?

Will we return to Him, over and over?

Stop.

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