Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Haggai 1:5-6 NIV
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. 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!” “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 10:39-42 NIV
Becoming Mary. That is why I started the blog in the first place. A journey to become more like Mary. But suddenly the blog itself seemed to take on a “Martha” identity. Instead of being a place to journal about my time with Jesus and what he was teaching me, I was spending time on Pinterest looking for ideas on “how to create a successful blog” and “graphics to get your blog read.”
So I quit only a few blog entries in.
I didn’t want to change into Martha and have the blog be about all the “activities” to design and maintain a successful blog. That would defeat the whole purpose.
But I wasn’t sure how to blog if my focus wasn’t on getting readers, finding sponsors and making it fabulous. So I quit the blog and waited. And prayed. And a few weeks ago I felt like God was telling me it is time to get back to the blog.
And now after a long hiatus I’m back and I think I know what God wants this blog to be about. This year I’ve been reading through the Bible with the Life Journal Reading Plan through You Version. Going forward, on the blog I’ll post daily what I read and what I learn. I’m not going to get bogged down with making this pretty or maximizing readership. I’m just going to share my SOAP:
Scripture for the Day
If anyone wants to read along with me on my journey through the Bible, feel free to join me here. I’d love to have you. And if no one joins, that is OK as well.
Like my house, this blog may be messy. A web-designer or blog expert will probably have a million ways I should improve it. It will be far from Pinterest pretty or perfect. And there will probably be a spelling mistake (or two). But my goal is to only focus on what really matters. As Jesus said, “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.”
My goal is to sit daily at the feet of Jesus, for that will never be taken away from me.
“Resurrection”: The act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.
As I’ve been studying Mary of Bethany – and her role in the Passion Week – there is another resurrection story I’ve heard time and time again, but for the first time I understood the significance of it as I tried to view it through the eyes of Mary.
Mary lived with her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha. Jesus was a close personal friend. Biblical scholars believe that Jesus stayed at their home when he was in Bethany.
I imagine that Mary knew that when Jesus was in Jerusalem for Hanukkah, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to kill him, but He escaped when they tried to capture him and left the area.
A few months later Mary’s brother Lazarus was very sick.
What it would have been like to be a fly on the wall in that home, watching these three siblings who loved Jesus, deal with a tragic situation.
I can imagine Mary and Martha, in hushed tones, debating what to do:
– People in town want to kill Jesus
– But we need Jesus to come here to save Lazarus
– But what if Jesus comes to save Lazarus and the people who want to kill him find him?
Finally they sent word to Jesus “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
Did the sisters ever doubt that Jesus would come? Did they doubt He could save their brother? Or that He would?
Mary knew what is felt like to watch someone she loved dying. She knew what it was like to call out to Jesus for healing. She knew what it was like to wait for Jesus.
When Jesus heard about Lazarus’s sickness He said: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11: 4 – 8)
Jesus knew that a visit to Bethany would ultimately lead to His death. But He went anyways, because He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He also knew said that the sickness would not END in death. It didn’t end in Lazarus’s death and it didn’t end in Jesus’s death. It ended in God’s glory and our resurrection.
Imagine Mary, sitting in mourning with her friends and family and experiencing the heart-wrenching loss of her beloved brother. When Jesus arrived she left her friends and ran to Jesus and fell to His feet, sobbing. She cried out to him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
What emotions might Mary have been experiencing at that moment?
– Fear for Jesus?
And then when Mary lifted her eyes from Jesus’s feet to His face, she saw His eyes glistening with tears.
Mary watched as Jesus wept.
And then she watched Jesus raise her brother from the dead. She watched her beloved brother, whose flesh had already begun to rot, walk out of the tomb.
And just like Jesus’s disciples had suspected, there were people who watched the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus and instead of believing in Jesus, they went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done and they began to plot to kill Jesus.
When Jesus was on the road to Bethany and saw Mary running to him and crying at His feet He already knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew that in resurrecting Lazarus the plot for His crucifixion would begin. He knew that after His crucifixion, God would raise Him from the dead. And He knew that through His resurrection, all humankind would have the opportunity for resurrection: the act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.
Jesus knew that the one He loved was sick and even though it would lead to His death, Jesus made the journey to Bethany to save him.
And He made the journey for Martha, because He loved her.
And He made the journey for Mary, because He loved her.
And He made the journey to the cross for you. And He made the journey to the cross for me. Because He loves us.
Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV): As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. 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!”
“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.”
Making time in my daily schedule for Jesus has always been difficult for me. I’ve usually spent 10 minutes in the morning – reading the Bible or a devotional book and saying a quick prayer.
Checking it off my to-do list.
But then after reading about Martha and Mary something dawned on me. My time with Jesus should be my MOST important thing. I’ve known it, of course. But it never sank in before.
Time with Jesus is more important than TV. More important than Facebook. More important than work. More important than spending time with my husband. More important than spending time with my kids.
My days have always been busy – getting kids ready for school, working 8-10 hours, helping kids with homework, trying to get in a little downtime . . . and I’m sure all women experience the same thing. There isn’t enough time in the day to get it all done.
But here is the thing. I need to make my time with Jesus my most important thing. Seriously. More important than eating. More important than exercise. More important than housework.
Which means something has to give. I need to accept I won’t get it all done.
I have to choose to let some things go.
There is freedom in discovering that we need less clutter in our lives. And more time with Jesus.
I challenge you to decide to let something go. And choose time with Jesus instead. Carve out at least 20 minutes a day. The more the better.
It will be life changing. I promise.
Joshua 24:15 – New International Version (NIV): But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
I belong to “small group” at church of wonderful, funny, broken people who are all in different places on our Journey of faith.
At our 2015 Christmas party we busy playing games, eating cookies and exchanging white elephant guests when it was announced that everyone needed to vote on the next Bible study we’d be doing as a group.
With my white elephant gift in tow – a bag of quinoa and a can of mandarin oranges – I checked out the options:
I voted for the study on parenting. I struggle as a parent. And my husband and I have very different parenting styles.
Also, I’ve already read Renovation of the Heart previously and reading through the Bible seemed like a very daunting task. Finding even 10 minutes a day to read the Bible has often been a losing battle for me.
The group voted and we tallied up the ballots – Reading through the Bible in a year won.
Pinterest to the Rescue
I love Pinterest. I have a huge collection of Pins – recipes to make, places to travel, great cleaning tips, DIY projects and gardening hacks. 98% are pages I like and pin, but never attempt. I’d much rather read about “green” cleaning techniques and how to make mason jar crafts than actually attempt any of them.
January was quickly approaching and my group had yet to come up with a reading plan. I decided to see if Pinterest had any ideas.
Who knew how many great Bible study ideas are on Pinterest? From color-coding your Bible to creating a war room out of a closet, Pinterest had everything! Before getting too distracted by the ideas on creating Bible Study baskets out of shower caddies, I discovered a Pin recommending “The Divine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro.
The basic premise of the book is that nothing has the power to transform your life like sitting at the feet of the Savior.
The book includes a reading program – I have the app – and use the Life Journal Reading Plan. I also use the SOAP method outlined by Cordeiro:
Every day has been a blessing. What a privilege that I have the opportunity to spend time with a Moses, David, Paul and Peter. I have gotten to know women who have experienced so many of the same highs and lows that I experience thousands of years later. But mostly, I have been able to read a love letter from a man who died for me.
1 Corinthians 2:13 New International Version (NIV): This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
If you are wanted to grow in your spiritual life or are struggling to find a reading plan or Bible study, I highly recommend this plan.
Will you join me in sitting with Jesus and seeing where he leads us?
2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV): All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Deuteronomy 8:1-3 New International Version (NIV): Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
My husband, daughters and I attend a wonderful church in Gretna, Nebraska called Journey Church. I love everything about it. The music, the sermons, the Facebook community and the beautiful people who make up the church.
We meet in a middle school gym – in the same building where I attended high school. The stage where Pastor Phil preaches about grace and love is the stage I walked across to receive my high school diploma over twenty years ago.
Being a small church that meets in a middle school means we rely on other to churches in the community to provide some of the learning and ministry opportunities for our congregation, which is actually a wonderful way to break out of our church family and denomination mold to meet other Christians in different walks of life.
Over the last few years I attended two different women’s Bible studies at the Gretna United Methodist Church. In both of these studies I learned a lot and felt a very clear tugging from God to make some changes in my life.
GIDEON, by Priscilla Shirer, August 2014
When I read the brief announcement in my church’s newsletter about a neighboring church offering a Bible study, I was interested. The Facebook invite for the study said: “Here is a synopsis from the back of the workbook: ‘God can use your weakness. Do you feel overwhelmed? Inexperienced? Intimidated? Insufficient? Too old? Too young? Too invisible? Too afraid? Gideon’s story involves far more than a wet fleece and a battle won with 300 soldiers. His epic victory actually tells of one man’s struggle with his own weakness — and the One True God who transformed it into triumph. So if you’ve ever struggled with insecurity or had trouble accepting your limitations, this study will help you see how God can use your weakness to unlock His strength. Yes, Gideon can attest — weakness is a gift.’”
I started the study excited to see what God would teach me. I really thought He’d show me some huge mission he had for me to save the world.
But looking back I wonder if I was even listening. Or just looking and walking away without applying it to my life.
James 1:23-25 – New International Version (NIV) Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Looking at my handwritten notes in the margins in my study guide, I can see I was asking important questions and gaining insight as God was shining his truth into my life through Priscilla Shirer.
– “I often put my job before God, my husband, kids, etc.”
– “My calling as a wife and mom is NO less important than the callings of Abraham, Moses or Gideon. I need to do it to the BEST of my ability.”
– What realm of life do you think God wants you concentrating on while doing this study? Don’t overlook the ordinary or minimize your role in a larger arena. Let Him Lead your thinking and trust him to equip you for whatever He inspires: “My relationship with God and my role as wife and Mom. I need to prove myself in these areas first.”
– “Life is all about choices and every day we choose who we will serve – God, ourselves or other “gods” that enslave us. A daily, hourly choice. Who will I serve? And every choice has a consequence. We choose the path but not the outcome. I need to be diligent about making a daily choice to serve Jesus.”
– “Quit watching Sons of Anarchy.”
– “I should never make any career choices that impede my calling as a follower of Jesus, wife and mother.”
Hindsight is 50/50.
Reading my notes from 2014 I wish I’d taken more time to explore how God wanted me to apply those nuggets of truth.
At that time I didn’t re-align my priorities. I didn’t spend more time with my husband or kids. I didn’t make Jesus my first priority.
The only real change I made was to stop watching Sons of Anarchy (and believe me that wasn’t easy . . . my secret fantasy of someday being in a motorcycle gang went up in smoke!)
The Best Yes, by Lysa TerKeurst, January 2015
I started The Best Yes study about four months after ending the Gideon life study. My only application/life change from the Gideon study was to quit watching Sons of Anarchy. And, in those few months between the studies, I had also taken on a lot more work. Business was booming.
And the more business grew, the less time I spent with Jesus.
I was actively making career choices that were impediments to my walk with Jesus as I grew more and more busy.
In January 2015, I was again blessed by the women at the Gretna United Methodist Church and the Lysa TerKeurst’s video series they shared. And my questions became more pointed and the answers more clear: – “What is God’s priority for my life?”
– “I say ‘yes’ to work and clients to make money and grow business; but if I get too busy and stressed my children and husband suffer.”
– “If I get too busy and let my priorities slide my walk with Jesus takes a back seat which hurts everything else.”
Even with clear questions and answers, I am a slow learner. Or at least I’m very slow in moving from learning and observing to actually making life changes.
Romans 7:15-20 – English Standard Version (ESV) For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
I had written down a prayer in my “The Best Yes” study guide . . . “Lord, please give me an undivided heart. Help me to focus on you in all things and prioritize my time with you above anything else.”
God was listening.
And even though I am slow to learn and even slower to put His wisdom into action, God was at work.
He was starting a revival in my heart and answering my prayers in ways I couldn’t imagine.
Martha Stewart I am not . . . if anyone ever showed up my house without giving us at least 2-3 hour notice, he or she might be tempted to call Health and Human Services to report deplorable living conditions.
And while an unannounced visitor wouldn’t find a Pinterest perfect home, he would have found a “successful” business owner with a constantly hectic schedule. He would find a frazzled woman with a feverish drive to accomplish.
Through my front doors he would have found a mom who couldn’t sit for 20 minutes playing with my kids without feeling an impatient tug of email, Facebook and a demanding to-do list. He’d find a wife who’d rather impress her clients than her husband.
My unannounced visitor would have seen a woman who showed up at church on Sunday and participating in the occasional Bible study, but who wasn’t loving Jesus with all her heart, soul and mind . . . .
Jesus would only get the 10-15 minutes I could carve out in the morning before the pace of life hit me full in the face. And maybe he’d get an exhausted prayer while I was falling asleep. If I was going through an especially rough patch Jesus might be “lucky” enough to get a few extra minutes of my complaining and explaining the list of things I wanted him fix. But that was it.
Jesus got my left-over time and attention.
Luke 10:38-42 New King James Version (NKJV)
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.”
I was Martha.
Every inch of my being was distracted. By work. By Facebook. By Pinterest pins that were never again opened. By Twitter. By the demands of my clients and the mess of my house.
And I was missing out on the one thing I needed.
Just one thing.
To sit at the feet of Jesus and hear his words.
This blog is my journey to leave a life of distractions and focus on the thing that matters most. My prayer is to be transformed from Martha to Mary.