Free to Praise

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Wrote this post exactly three years ago on my old blog Crown Laid Down…today I wanted to repost it in light of the great and awesome things God has and is and will be doing in my dear friend Joanne’s life.  I praise YOU, Father…for you are setting her arms free to praise You.  Thank You, Jesus!

When all about me seems unstable, I look to the LORD for help. When every reliable pathway comes to a dead end, I call out to the LORD for direction. When it is dark all ’round about me, I cry out to the LORD in a loud voice–telling Him that I need Him.

Imagine with me the scene: three siblings, who are greatly favored and loved by Jesus, are going through a very great trial. One lay on his bed, very sick. One tends to him and does every single thing she can think of to make her brother well. She works tirelessly, even in prayer. Another sister, fasts and prays and begs God to send Jesus to them. Both sisters had already sent word to Jesus to come quickly, their brother was dying.


But Jesus did not come. Their brother, Lazarus, died. He was wrapped in grave clothes and put to rest in a tomb covered by a stone. His body lay in the tomb four days. Then Jesus came to Bethany.


Martha, the taskmaster, comes to Jesus to ask why he delayed. Her statement of faith is two-part: I know you can change this circumstance, and I know you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come.


Jesus then reveals to Martha a name that describes His character: I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live. Ah, now a taskmaster likes to know the solution to every problem, she longs to know the answers. Jesus told Martha, I am the solution and the answer.


Then there’s Mary, who is sitting still at home. She is the gentle worshipper, who is nearly afraid to ask the question–not sure she wants to hear the answer. Timid, but obedient, Mary comes with haste when Jesus calls to her. She comes and falls at His feet, saying I know if you had been here this would not have happened. She wept in pain.


Now, focus on this part with me: Jesus prays to God and thanks Him for hearing Him. Then in a loud voice (like using a megaphone) he calls for Lazarus to come out. Can you feel the rumble in the ground, as Jesus spoke?


“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said unto them ‘Loose him and let him go.’ ” John 11:44
 
Lazarus is bound from his grave clothes. Mary is bound from her sorrow. Martha is finally unbound from her need to take charge with her statement of faith in the One who came to take charge.


Now tell me, what has you bound? Think about it a moment. What has your hands firmly tied? What keeps them entirely unmovable? In service on Sunday morning, what keeps your heart in chains, your spirit unable to worship Him? What is holding your hands firmly to your side? For Jesus is worthy of praise, friends. Are you bound or unbound?


This weekend, I was very sick in bed. My head could barely lift. My arms could barely move. When I had to walk, it was very slow. But my mind was alert. So I pulled out my Bible and Strongs with KJV and began a little word study.
I was reading Psalm 142. David was in the cave, hiding from King Saul, and he wrote from a troubled heart.


David is crying out loud to his God, like with a megaphone. “I’m in trouble, God. I’m trapped. I’m overwhelmed. I’m alone. No one regards me. BUT you are my refuge, my food, my deliverer, and my strength.”


Then David gives his statement of faith: “Bring my soul out of prison, so that I may give thanks to Your name; The righteous will surround me, For You will deal bountifully with me.” Psalm 142:7
 


The word for prison here was surprising to me. For not only did it mean an enclosure or dungeon, but it is derived from a word that reminded me of a strait jacket–to be shut in, so that your hands cannot be raised. David says from the inmost part of himself, “LORD, I ask that you would speak over my tied, imprisoned and bound hands, so that I may throw them up in praise to You.”


From his prison of a life, David declares that the LORD will encircle him ’round about with righteous men and cause his life to ripen and bear fruit. He knows that his strength is in the LORD–the Just One, who has purposed his life to be full, rich and fruitful.


Now let’s go back to my question to you. Are you bound or unbound? If you are bound, cry out to Jesus in a loud voice…pour out your need to Him. So the Logos, Jesus, may speak (lego) life back into you. Then you may shoot your hands up in praise to Him. If you are unbound, speak in faith about what Jesus has done in your life. Praise Him!


When we praise Him and tell of all His works in our life to those around us, we call back to the ones who LONG to be unbound. It is the fragrance of Christ completely covering the smell of death in this world.


2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.

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2 Marthas in the House

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I think it probably worked out pretty well to have Martha and Mary living in the same house.  Their personalities probably played off each other…Mary offering a quiet spirit in the wake of Martha’s overpowering presence.  I see Mary, not as a weakling, cowering beneath Martha’s rule, but as a person that would listen intently to what Martha was saying and then respond in a calm, quiet manner.  Not necessarily agreeing, but not arguing back with her.

But what happens when two “Marthas” live in the same household?

FIREWORKS!!!!  Explosive emotions.  Hurt feelings.  Stress.  Power struggles.

I was raised in a house with brothers, no sisters.  The only other woman I had to really get along with was my mother.  We did pretty good getting along, no major disagreements.  She told me what to do and I did it.  Maybe at that time I was Mary and she was Martha.  But we are very similar in nature.

We have the same hobbies.  We hold our hands the same way.  We even finish each other’s thoughts.  We’ll be shopping in different areas of a store and bring the exact same blouse to show to the other one, maybe in a different color.  We hear something and just look at each other because we both know that we are going to make the same comment back.  We even go so far as to call each other at the same time.  Mother told my husband that if he didn’t like her, he wasn’t going to like me in 20 years…because we are the same.  (I can say all of this about my daughter and myself too.  You should see the three of us together!)

Somewhere along the line…I became Martha too (thankfully it wasn’t while we were both living in the same house!).

Now my daughter is beginning to show her true nature.  During all the wedding planning, I tried really hard not to step in and take control.  It was her day and her planning.  But every now and then I would just have to say something…I am Martha after all!  Sometimes it would cause a little stress and a frustrated look from my daughter.  Other times, she was glad I had stepped up.

As she was packing up at our house and moving into her own house, I saw her Martha characteristics come to light.  I stepped back and let her be Martha….directing, ordering, in control.  I realized that I could very easily assert my own Martha tendencies and make some strong suggestions on where things should go and how her house should be set up.  I’m going to tell you….it took some will power not to do things my way, but wait on my daughter’s guidance.

I wondered if my daughter had hidden her Martha tendencies when she was growing up (like I had done) in lieu of my Martha tendencies, without even realizing it.

Can 2 Marthas live in the same house and have peace?

I wonder if we did some type of scientific research, if we might find that all the problems between mothers and daughters were because both of them were trying to be Martha.  Maybe if the daughters realized that their time to be Martha was coming, but they had to spend some type being Mary, then they might have a calmer childhood, especially teenage years.  And if the mothers realized that at some point they had to stop being Martha and become Mary, their adult relationships with their daughters would be calmer.

Just a thought I had while I waited for guidance on where to put the towels in my daughter’s new house.

The child grew up and became spiritually strong…Luke 1:80 hcsb

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Is It Too Late for Jesus to Act?

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I asked my husband what topic or area of the Bible he would like to study and his answer was “miracles”.  He doesn’t think I believe that miracles still happen.

I wonder sometimes if he is right.

I recently prayed for a miracle.  I thought it would be a perfect way for God to be glorified.  My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  My immediate prayer became one of instant and complete healing.  I believed with all my heart that God would hear my prayers and perform a miracle.  To my core I felt that when my mother went in for tests to confirm what the doctors feared, they would find that the tumor they had seen was miraculously gone.  There would be no other explanation but that God had healed her.

It didn’t happen.

My mother has gone through radiation and chemo treatments.  She is suffering, weak, sick and in pain.

It’s not what I prayed for.

Why didn’t God allow a miracle to happen?  I mean, if anyone was due a miracle, it was my parents and I prayed so earnestly.

Others have stood where we are standing.  Sickness, hardships and tragedy happen to everyone.  So why should my family be spared?  In the back of my mind the reason is this…..We love Jesus and He loves us.

It reminds me of another family He loved that was suffering.

———————————

Martha’s brother was sick.  Her kitchen was in total disarray with the trimmings from herbal plants and roots scattered across the table.  She had concocted different mixtures, recipes of medicines passed down from generation to generation.  Nothing was helping.

Mary was stirring the bitter roots that Martha had dug from her garden to make a drink.  Silent tears ran down her face, but she continued to stir the liquid.  Martha came over to the stove and tested the roots and then checked the water she was boiling for the poultice.  Back at the table, Martha took small handfuls of different herbs and with a little more vigorous effort than was needed, using the mortal and pestle, crushed them to powder.

Fresh linen and gauze was laid out to hold the mixture.  After preparing  the linen, Martha took the wrap to where Lazarus lay, in pain and inconsolable, and laid it gently on his chest.

“Here, brother, this will help ease the pain,” Martha gently urged Lazarus to lay still.  She felt his forehead, the fever had not broken yet.  “Mary, drain that and be let it cool a bit.”  Martha instructed from across the room.

The rest of the evening the sisters took turns sitting at their brother’s side.  He was getting weaker, they could both see that.  Martha was at the worktable again, trying to remember all her mother had taught her.  Maybe there was something she had forgotten. Mary came to the table.

“Martha, maybe if we sent word to Jesus he would come and heal Lazarus.”  Mary suggested.  Martha sat down at the table, tired eyes watching her brother struggle to breathe.

Jesus loved Lazarus.  Surely he would come and heal him, but there had been threats recently against Jesus.  Could she ask Jesus to put himself in danger to come to them?  Another groan from the bed helped to determine her next move.

“Send a note, Mary.  Tell Jesus that the one he loves is sick.”

Mary hurried to do the bidding of her sister, glad to have a purpose and one that she knew would only bring help.  The Master would come and make all things right.  Lazarus would be alright.  Jesus healed complete strangers all day long; there was no question that he wouldn’t heal someone that he loved.  Mary finally felt some sense of peace.  She went to the bed and whispered to her brother.

“We’re sending for the Master.  You’ll be well very soon.”

Martha settled down next to Lazarus and retold some of the stories that Jesus had told them about God, His love and provision.  She spoke quietly, with a soothing voice and Lazarus seemed to ease in his struggles a bit.  But then she heard it, something she had heard before.

The death rattle.

Should she tell Mary that there was no need to send for Jesus, that it was too late or tell her to hurry, that there wasn’t much time left?  Martha feared that they had waited too long.  Jesus would be coming to Lazarus’ funeral.

____________________________

The time for a miracle had passed.  The tumor was still there.  My prayers changed to those of comfort and relief.  I stopped praying for healing.   I’m ashamed to say that and I don’t think I really realized that I did it.   But at that point, I took on the attitude of so many others that just don’t understand how big Jesus is.

Mark 6:35 hcsb….”Your daughter is dead.  Why bother the Teacher anymore…”

Remember  the story of the sick girl.  Her father hears that Jesus is near and goes and asks Him to come and heal his little girl.  But along the way, some other people needed to be healed and Jesus was delayed.  A servant comes and tells the father his daughter is dead.  The Healer isn’t needed anymore.  There is nothing He could do at this point.

Can you see Jesus in the next verse as He leans over and speaks only to the father, “Don’t be afraid.  Only believe.” (Mark 5:36 hcsb)?  It’s like He’s saying, “It’s okay, I can do death too, not just sickness and deformities.”

It’s the same with Lazarus.  By the time Jesus begins the journey to Bethany, He knows that Lazarus is dead.  When He gets to Martha and Mary, they both go to Him and lament.

“Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”  John 11:21, 32

If You had just come when I called….if You had just answered my prayer before the tests….but now it’s too late.  The brother is dead….the cancer is inoperable…the bank has foreclosed….the job is lost…the divorce is final…the jail bars are closed.

Now, Jesus, all you can do is console us and give us some peace during our struggles.

Listen closely….He’s leaning down and whispering in your ear…..

“Don’t be afraid.  Only believe.”

I’m sure Martha had no idea what Jesus was about to do.  Just as I’m not sure what He is about to do in my mother’s life.

What I do know is this…..

Jesus’ timing is not our timing.

Jesus can conquer all things….including death, cancers, financial woes, relationships, judgments….you name your situation that seems too late for a miracle…and Jesus can handle it and overcome it for you.

It’s never too late to call on the name of Jesus.  Miracles do still happen.

Jeremiah 33:3 hcsb…Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.

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A Martha Moment

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There are about 120 people coming over to our house for our daughter’s wedding next month.  We are excited, but there is so much that must be done.  There are all the normal wedding plans (the dress, decorations, flowers, cake, chairs, candles, food) and then there are all the extra plans since we are having the wedding at our house.

Our house is not quite finished.  We started building it 8 years ago and we still don’t have the floors in the living room yet.  There are no closet doors and the landscaping consists of 2 trees and a lilac bush.  Now that there are 120 people that will be coming into our home (hopefully just passing through since the house won’t hold that many people) I’m seeing more and more things that we haven’t finished or that need to be redone or fixed.  We want the house to look nice for the company coming and for our daughter.

I’ve counted it down to about six weekends that we have to clean and fix the house up.  I’ve told everyone what they needed to do.  There are porches (3) that need all the junk cleaned off and hidden somewhere (out in the woods for all I care!).  Saturday I gave orders for everyone to meet and get to work…I had a plan!

God had other plans.

Something happened to the water pump.  Have you ever tried to clean without water?  It’s not easy.  For 3 days our water was limited.  I tried to wash the curtains…by hand since we couldn’t use the washing machine…but that still took too much water.  My husband and I had some words about that…well, it was more like he had words and I mumbled under my breath.

Under my breath…I wondered how in the world we were going to be able to get everything done in time for the wedding with very little money to do it with.  I wondered why none of my extended family had not shown up to help out with the water issues we were having.  I wondered what we were going to do with 120 people if it rained.  I wondered why none of the plans I had got done and why no one showed up to move stuff off the porches or clean the bathrooms and I figured I was going to have to do it myself…like always.

I tried to move a sewing machine cabinet upstairs (yes, it had been on the porch, beside the broken washing machine…long story) and I got it up there, but then I threw my back out.  I’ve been laid up for a couple of days.

I see now that I was having “a Martha moment.”

I have realized that I was much like Martha going to Jesus and asking Him to make her sister help her.

Luke 9:40 (HCSB)….But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  So tell her to give me a hand.”

When the water went out, my first thought was, “Why doesn’t my brother help us out?”  My next thought became, “How in the world are we going to pay for a new well and a wedding?”

I realized that I was being just like Martha.  All I could think about was our problems, even during church.  I can’t tell you one word the preacher said that morning….I was distracted.

I wanted to complain to somebody.  I wanted someone to fix the problems right then.  I wanted to take a shower.

At that point, it wasn’t just one issue I wanted to complain about, it was the accumulation of many issues.  I wanted to go to the Lord and ask Him to fix everything….or at least one thing…just send us some help.

And then I wondered if that was how Martha was the day Jesus came to dinner.  Was she so overwhelmed, not just with the meal that day, but with every meal, every issue that she, as a single woman, leading her family, had to deal with?  Maybe this issue was just the one that “broke the camel’s back.”

“Lord, don’t you see me?  I need some help, if not with everything, then with this one thing.  Don’t you care, Lord, that I’m overwhelmed?”

In my mind, I can see this conversation taking place between Jesus and Martha. He gently tells her that Mary has chosen the right thing…to sit at His feet.  I also imagine that He said much more…maybe He said:

Matthew 11:28-3 (HCSB)…”Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

These past few days while my back has recovered, I’ve taken some deep breaths. I’ve thought, “Who cares if everything doesn’t get done?” I’ve released the worry and I’ve let Him pull the weight.  It is a yoke, which means that I’m not carrying my burdens alone….He carries them with me.  He’s on this journey with me.

What do you do when you feel “a Martha moment” coming on?  Go ahead and take it to Jesus.  He can handle it.

By the way….it only took $25 to fix the water issues.  Jesus was answering my prayers!  He did see me!

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Hairbrained

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One snowy afternoon when I was  in high school, some of my girl friends were over hanging out. For some reason, we decided to watch some of my family’s old home videos. My friends giggled and swooned over how cute my younger brother and I were at the age of three and two.

One of my friends made the observation, “Ashley, you played with your hair a lot when you were little, just like you do today!” My other friends agreed, and, to my enlightenment, pointed out just how often I touch my hair, run my fingers through it, or tuck it behind my ear. Watching the home video, I saw that at three years old I had very similar habits.

Since I was a little girl, my hair has been a focal point of my interest, happiness, and oftentimes frustration and sadness. I remember my mom fixed my hair every day when I was a little girl, and how one day at the age of four, I took scissors to my bangs and gave myself a haircut that made my mom cry, and eventually laugh and snap some pictures.

I get my dark, naturally curly hair from my dad. Growing up, I fussed about my curls and how impossibly tangly they were after I woke up, and after every shower.

When I was about twelve, we were on vacation in Texas, and I got a haircut that traumatized me for life. The lady cut it way too short, and I felt so ugly, so defiled. From that point on, I made a point to grow my hair out, and trust very few people to trim it.

My long hair became my signature, my identity. I found self-worth and achievement with every new inch it reached. I took in every envious compliment with flattery.

But my long hair wasn’t just something I prided myself in. Over time, my long hair became something I hid under. My long hair created a heaviness on my head and my heart.

My hair had become something that I loved so much, but also something I fussed over so much and spent so much time maintaining. My hair was an idol.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that God, the creator of all beauty, does not intend for us to idolize beauty, but embrace it.

I like The Message version of 1 Peter chapter 3: “What matters is not your outer appearance–the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes–but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.”

True beauty, I realized, wasn’t in my long locks. And actually, my long hair had gotten quite unhealthy and scraggly looking.

So recently I made a decision. I went to my good friend, a hairstylist whom I trust with my most treasured possession, and I had my hair cut shorter. I needed a change, a good change, a new start.

Having shorter hair hasn’t been an easy transition. I didn’t feel an instant sense of restoration after cutting it. I still miss my long hair most days. But the reviews I’ve gotten from people have all been very encouraging. Everyone thinks it looks really cute, and the most common compliment I get is “I can see your whole face now!”

I am no longer covering up who I am with my long hair.

I plan on growing it back out, but this time with a new attitude toward beauty. Because truly, it is not my hair that matters. Certain cultures or religions will tell women that they are to keep their hair long, or keep their hair covered, or keep it pulled up in a bun. But those rules miss the point. It isn’t about hair. Women all over the world are losing hair because of age, malnutrition, or chemotherapy. Our worth is not in our hair. Hair is temporary. Our beauty is a gift from God, and what God gives is a beauty that’s eternal. Beauty that can’t be cut, beauty that doesn’t have follicles, beauty that doesn’t turn gray.

In John 12, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with oil and dries his feet with her hair. This is a beautiful depiction of Mary sitting at His feet, humbling herself, and, in a very literal way, using her hair to glorify God.

Your hair is beautiful. Long, short, somewhere in-between. On good hair days and bad hair days. Your hair is beautiful because God made ALL of you beautiful. Sit at His feet, and honor Him with your beauty.

Ashley D.

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Who was Martha?

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How can I have a “Martha heart” without first knowing who Martha was?

As we gather in The Study today, let’s look at one of the few Scriptures that speak about this woman.  There aren’t very many and, in most of them, she is doing the same thing….approaching Jesus or serving Him.

I’ll confess, I think Martha has gotten a bad rap from commentaries and theologians, pastors, teachers and artists…even from women.  Most of the things I’ve read or studied about Martha always refer to the same thing…Martha was a complainer, she approached Jesus and demanded that He have Mary help her, she complained to Jesus that he wasn’t there when Lazarus was sick.

Maybe I’m a little naïve, but I want someone to recognize the good in Martha because most of the time…I’m Martha.

Luke 10:38 (ESV)…Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

Let’s state some basics that almost everyone agrees on….Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were orphans and Martha was the head of the household.  It is also widely believed that they were a family of some wealth (based on the oil that Mary used to anoint Jesus’ feet, see John 12:3) and were well known in the area (based on the amount of mourners that assembled at Lazarus’ death, see John 11:19).

What we know for sure is that it was Martha’s home, she was the eldest, and she had invited Jesus into her home.  Martha was in charge.

At some point, Martha met Jesus.  It could have been while they were both in the city, in someone else’s home, or at her very own door.  If they met outside the home environment, Martha had to be bold enough to approach Jesus, speak to him and then invite him to her home.

Today that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but back then, women did not approach men, especially strangers, or speak to them without a male family member around.  But Martha didn’t have any male family members that would fit that role, so she had to do it on her own (it is speculated that Lazarus was still a young boy at this time, under 13).

I wonder what would have caused Martha to do such a thing.

  • Had she heard about his healing powers?  I’ve imagined that Lazarus just didn’t get sick and die.  In my mind, I’ve imagined that he was always a sickly boy.  Did she want Jesus to heal him?
  • Or, had she heard him speak and being moved by his ministry, desired to offer him a place to rest, much like the Shunammite woman who built a room onto her house for Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-10)?

For whatever reason she wanted him there, Martha stepped out of the norm and approached Jesus, boldly inviting him into her home.  Not only that, she welcomed him.

Think about that for a moment.

  • What does it mean to welcome someone into your home?
  • And when was the last time you boldly approached Jesus?

Jesus does not barge into your home (your life).  He stands at the door and knocks. (Revelation 3:20) He only enters when we invite him in.

Sometimes we just want to stand behind the screen door and chat with Jesus….like the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22), but then we decide Jesus brings too much baggage and we don’t let him in the door.  Or we only let him into the foyer while we run around like mad trying to straighten everything up before Jesus comes fully into the house (like the men that needed to bury their dead or say goodbye to their families before following him, Luke 9:57-62).  Either way, we haven’t completely welcomed Jesus into our home.

If Jesus is welcome in our homes, we allow him access to every part at any time (dirty toilets and all).  We invite Jesus to sit at the desk and help us while we balance the checkbook, pay the bills, and schedule events.  We invite him into the kitchen as we plan healthy menus for our family (Jesus knows where we hide the cookies).  We invite him into the family room to help us clean up our bookshelves and remove books and movies that are ungodly (Jesus helps us unplug the computer and disconnect the satellite!).  We invite him into our bedrooms to help us restore relationship with our spouses.  We invite Jesus into our powder room to help us deal with our self image.

Finally when Jesus feels completely comfortable in our home and we feel completely comfortable with him in our homes, then we can start to spend some time at his feet, in some serious learning from him.

You may think I’ve got that backwards…that we have to sit at Jesus’ feet first and then learn to invite him into the whole part of our home (our life).  But for me, and maybe other Martha’s, while Jesus is going through my house and setting it right….I’m at his feet, I’m learning how he wants each area of my life to be.  Some areas may require us to be on our knees, perhaps scrubbing with a toothbrush at the grim and grit that have collected over the years.  The trash may be too heavy for me to carry and he has to remove it for me.

If I invited Jesus into my home without fully welcoming him into every part of it, while I sat at his feet, then I would be thinking about all the stuff that I’d hidden under the bed that I didn’t want him to know about.  I would be trying to figure out how to not let Jesus see what movie I’d marked to watch as soon as he left.  I would be watching the clock.

Have you invited Jesus fully into your home, your heart?  Is he really welcome everywhere?  Are you comfortable with him there?  Are you ready to settle down and really get some learning done at the feet of the Master?

Be bold…approach him…invite Jesus in….open the doors wide…be Martha!

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Join Me in the Study

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The house is quiet this early in the morning.  The sun hasn’t made its appearance yet, but the lady of the house is already up with the morning bread rising over the freshly stoked fire.  Its warmth pushes the chill away, while she drinks her morning tea, pulling her shawl a little more tightly around her.

At the table she lays out a small ledger, writing quill, and small bottle of ink.  She pulls the lamp a little closer as she opens the ledger.

Today is market day.

Opening the ledger, she runs a finger down the list of regular items that are kept on hand from the market, listing those that they are running low on.   Salt, oil, and meal are written on a small parchment, the scrapping sound of the quill the only sound in the room, other than the occasional popping of the fire.  She ponders a moment over the list, and then rises to look into one of the containers sitting against the wall.  She nods her head in confirmation.  There is enough flour to last until the next market day.

Back at the table, she pulls out a letter and reads slowly.  Taxes on her home will be due in several weeks and there is the Passover to consider, guests will be coming, more supplies will be needed during those times.  She must remember to take the cloth that she and her sister, Mary, have been weaving to the tailor next week.  The money from selling those six yards of soft wool will help to cover the expenses for those two huge events in their lives.

Another piece of paper floats to the floor…from the doctor.  Lazarus’ last sickness had required a visit from the physician and he charged a little more than they had on hand that day.  He was gracious enough to allow them to pay him at a later date.  She thought of the money pouch hidden in the pantry.  There were enough coins now to pay him in full.  She worried that Lazarus had not fully recovered.  There was a shadow under his eyes that had not gone away.  She decided to start saving more coins back in case there was another need for the doctor.

Through the closed curtain, a gentle light starts to pierce the darken areas of the room.  She rises again and pulls the curtain aside, tying it with a string.  Outside the chickens began to come from their nests.  She takes a basket from the pantry, blows the light from the lamp out, and steps into the yard.

As the morning begins to break across the horizon, Martha stops, raising her face to the warmth, pulls her shawl over her hair, removing a cloth from the basket, she spreads it on the ground and kneels upon it, closes her eyes, and begins the morning ritual of praising Yahweh for His provision and protection.    Raising her hands to the sky, she repeats words taught to her long ago by her mother and father, passed down through the generations, all the way back to Father Abraham.

Martha rises, shakes the dust from her cloth, returning it to the basket and heads toward the nests where hens have left provisions for the morning meal.  In the small barn, she takes the pail from the nail on the wall and speaks gently to the goat that will provide the drinks for the household.  With a pail of fresh milk in one hand and a basket of eggs in the other, Martha returns to the house to serve her family.

______
What would Martha’s study look like?  I would like to imagine that she had a study dominated by the large desk with drawers holding ledgers pertaining to the running of her household, surrounded by walls covered with shelves holding books of dark cloth coverings, tattered edges from the many hands pulling them down to scan their pages.  There is a large fireplace with a roaring fire; two strategically placed over-stuffed chairs placed before it.  Lamps with painted globes sit nearby for extra lighting, Bibles and books on the coffee tables for easy access.  Pens and markers sit ready to be used, journals…some full, some empty…waiting to record thoughts.  The view from the massive windows behind the desk is breathtaking, large glass doors open up to a patio overlooking the family vineyards.  A basset hound waits patiently to climb up into his mistress’ lap.  He will be absently patted as she reads a book with her legs curled up underneath her.

Wait…that sounds more like a sitting from Pride and Prejudice at Mr. Darcy’s home, Pemberly, not the study of a simple Hebrew woman!

More than likely, Martha’s study was in the large room that served, not only as the kitchen, but also the dining room.  The table would sit low to the floor with pillows scattered around for the family and friends to recline on.  There might be a small stool off to the side that she would use when working on the ledgers.  It’s quite possible that there were even sleeping pallets scattered along the sides of the room where the family slept while she prepared for the day.

Yet, without a doubt, I believe that Martha rose early, long before anyone else, and took care of the details of her home, for her family.

When she returned from gathering the eggs and milking the goat, she probably put away her ledgers and supplies in a safe place in the pantry, returned her stool to the wall peg, keeping it out of the way.  She might have gone back outside to draw fresh water for the family and for washing her meager dishes.  As she was cleaning the table off and preparing for the morning meal, I think Martha looked over to the pillow that had recently supported one of her guests.  She would smile at the memory of her frazzled state that day and then remember His gentle words that forever changed her life.

“Only one thing is necessary….sit at my feet a while.”

From that day forward, she would take a few moments every day to sit quietly and meditate on His words.  Her study might have been a room designed especially for the keeping of her home, a quiet room away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house, to mediate over the Word and keep records of bills due, responsibilities required of her.  Or it might have been in her bedroom, her kitchen…anywhere that she could just sit at His feet, if not physically….mentally, spiritually, bowing before Him on a regular basis.

Join me in the study, as we learn to have a Martha heart in the daily business of taking care of our homes.

Deborah

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