Remembering

In case you don’t realize it, this can be a busy season! In all the rush we may feel a little lost and wonder what happened to the “true meaning” of Christmas. Many have found ways to keep Christ in Christmas such as celebrating advent, attending a Christmas Eve service, reading the Christmas story with family or friends, and I’m sure many of you have your own traditions.

Jesus baby

Well, guess what. I want to help you out too. Because I believe this is of utmost importance to our joy: remembering what God has done for us and becoming a thankful person. We can always, anytime, no matter what is going on, thank and praise God. Take time during this season to sit down and read a psalm aloud to Him (yes read to Him) such as Psalm 30, Psalm 27, or Psalm 100. Spend time just being with your Lord.

I know this season can also be a sorrowful time for many. While it is a popular misconception that suicide rates go up around Christmastime, a significant number of people do face the “holiday blues.” So as we get our preparations underway, let’s be aware that the people around us may be lonely or have horrible memories of Christmases past or may have experienced a tragedy in recent days.  Perhaps we can reach out to someone who seems a little down and of course, we can do the most powerful thing possible and pray for them.

I am praying that you, my reader, will experience the joy this season can bring, along with the excitement and the wonder of it. Because no matter what we have been through in the past, what we are facing right now, or how lonely we may feel, we can still experience joy—a deep-rooted joy that can remain with us all year.

I’m sure some of you have already seen this video (link below), but in case you haven’t, I hope you will watch and remember all that Christ has done for you. He loves you so very much.

Peace in Him.

 

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Jesus, His Mother, and a Party!

A few months ago, I was listening to a Christian radio station when one of the DJ’s asked a hypothetical question. If Jesus were on this earth today, living in our culture, would he be on social media?

I wasn’t sure about that one, but one of the other DJ’s said yes! Jesus absolutely would use social media as a way to connect with people. You may argue that  Facebook, Google+ Instagram, etc are not the best places to really connect with folks, and I would agree. It disturbs me when people say they are closer to their Facebook friends than they are their “real” friends. Nevertheless I have found it does have some real value. Through social media I have reconnected with friends I no longer see for one reason or another and have been able to find out what is going on in their lives. Being able to pray with them in their times of need has been wonderful.

So would Jesus participate in social media? I’m not sure, but what the DJ said certainly rings true. Jesus loved being around people and loved connecting with them in all manner of ways. He went to the temple to teach people, ministered to individuals, at least once invited himself to dinner, and went to parties

Parties in Jesus day were different than ours. Hospitality was exceedingly important to them. Did you know that in Jesus’ time the party after a wedding could last a week? A week! No honeymoon for the bride and groom, but rather, they entertained for several days after the ceremony.

In John 2 Jesus, His disciples and His mother have received invitations to a wedding in Cana. And now the celebration is on. The host is prepared with plenty of food and wine. Or at least he was supposed to be. At some point during the days of the celebration, the wine runs out. This was a huge problem. It was not like running out of pretzels or drinks nowadays, and oh, well, will someone run up to the 7-11 and buy some more? Oh, no, this was a reflection on the host’s reputation. His lack of hospitality would be a gigantic faux pas. So Jesus’ mother Mary goes to her son and tells Him about the situation.

003-jesus-wedding

Why would Mary do this? Why would she bother the Lord with such a problem?

Perhaps she thinks that her son will listen to his mom and come up with a solution. But Jesus does not do as she had hoped or maybe even expected. (If you study His life much at all, you will see Jesus often did the unexpected.)

Instead of saying something like “sure mom, I’ll be glad to help,” He tells her “woman, what have I to with thee? My time is not yet come.”  (KJV)

Take a deep breath, everyone. If you have never read this story, you may wonder why He was talking to Mary like that. His mother! I know His words have raised a lot of questions. So let’s try to answer one or two at least.

As you may know, “woman” was a term of endearment and respect. Okay, that’s better, isn’t it? BUT look at his next words. “What have I to do with thee?”  What? He really said that to her?

Not long ago, I was very direct with God and made this statement to Him: “I know you were being respectful when you called Mary ‘woman’, but I still think what you said afterwards…well, it seems rude.”  The Lord did not keep silent, and these are the words I heard him speak to my heart: “Now Eileen, don’t you think I knew how to talk to my mama?”

Well, that shut me up.

And I love it when He speaks in my vernacular. Both my children call me “mama,” and so for me the term is particularly endearing.

But the Lord had another assurance for me. “Look at how she reacted. She knew what I was saying. She was not offended.”

Oh.

I am totally looking at this Scripture in a new light now. Perhaps Mary is a little more spiritual than I because she doesn’t drop her jaw, make a sigh of disgust or demand that He talk to her with more respect, but simply turns to the servants and bids them do as her Son wishes. Is she recognizing His authority here? Is He somehow getting it across to her that He wishes her to relate to Him as Lord in addition to the mother-son relationship? Some scholars have said this is the case. His words probably meant far more than the English can convey. But apparently she understood his intent, and had confidence that He would let the servants know what to do.

And this passage ends in the first recorded miracle of Christ when He turns the water into wine. (By the way, it was good wine too according to the words of the host.)

There is always more that can be said about a particular passage of Scripture, and this one is no exception. So what would I like you to take away from this? Jesus acted in a loving way to His mother and He knew how to talk to her. You and I are not the same as Mary and He knows that. He knows how to treat each of us and how to speak to us as individuals.

Let me add one huge caution here. If you are not reading your Bible and searching for God’s instruction in His Word, it may be very difficult to hear His voice. Sometimes God may speak to us in a thought, an idea, or through the voice of a friend. But first search for His face in Scripture and through prayer. For that is where we find Him. Then step back and wait as He draws you close, rejoices over you, and quiets you with His love. (Zephaniah 3:17)

If you have any thoughts on this passage please feel free to share them in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

 

The Grief of Two Sisters and the Compassion of Jesus

The death of a loved one can be traumatic to say the least. Aside from the sadness, the hole left in our lives, or any number of emotions, grief can sneak up on us and strike when we least expect it. A movie, a casual comment, hearing a phrase the loved one used, or even a commercial can trigger tears or the wrenching of our hearts.

Today I want to take another peak at the lives of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazurus. The three siblings were apparently very close to Jesus and we have the opportunity to observe the sisters’ reactions and the reaction of our Lord to the loss of a loved one.

When we read about Martha and Mary a few months ago in Luke 10 we saw that Mary had the faith that Jesus most appreciated while Martha—well, he kind of fussed at her for not paying attention to what was important. Mary, who seemed so useless to Martha, was praised for listening and spending time with Jesus. I also believe Jesus’ rebuke of Martha was a gentle one, and He took the sting out of his criticism by addressing her by name. I also believe He was more disappointed with her attitude than anything else. Remember? She called him “Lord” then demanded He tell Mary to help her. In other words, Mary should be serving too, why don’t you see that and say something? (See my July 2015 blog.)

So let’s spend some more time with these two fascinating women and see how they interact with Jesus at a tragic juncture in their lives. It’s kind of a long chapter, but I encourage you to read John 11:1-43 for yourselves.

Just days before Lazurus dies, the sisters send Jesus a message telling Him that Lazarus is sick, referring to their brother as “the one you love.” Perhaps those words are meant to convey the urgency of the situation as well as an expectation that Jesus come immediately. But Jesus, in a seemingly callous manner, waits until after Lazurus dies to go to them. In verses 7-16 Jesus lets the disciples in on His plans. These verses deserve a closer look and we could most definitely delve into this passage and find some great treasures, but I mainly want to stick with Martha and Mary. (Again, I encourage you to read through these verses, and look at what the disciples say about His planned journey.)

In John 11:17, Jesus arrives when Lazurus has been in the tomb for four days. In verse 20 Martha hears He is coming and goes out to meet Him while Mary stays at home.

Wait. What? Is that right?

Yep. That’s Martha all right, heading down the road to meet with Jesus while Mary stays at home with the guests who had come from Jerusalem. Let that sink in for a minute. Martha who previously had been the one hurrying about, anxiously serving and taking care of preparations leaves a house full of mourners and heads out to meet Jesus with no desire that I can see, to serve Him. She simply wants to get to Him. Perhaps she is hoping to receive comfort. Or perhaps she wants to confront Him. All we know is that Martha wants to be with her Lord.

When she meets with Jesus, the first words out of her mouth according to Scripture are: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Hmm. Sounds like confrontation wins out. Or does it? Perhaps Martha is just seeking honest answers. Jesus doesn’t interrupt her, but listens as she continues (I don’t know about you, but I think Jesus is a pretty good listener), and her next words reveal her heart. “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Wow! Do you think she really believed that Jesus could raise her brother from the dead? (Hang on and we’ll gain more insight into her thinking.)

Jesus then tells Martha that her brother will rise again. She understands this—she knows he will rise at the last day. But Jesus has something more to share. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He tells her. “He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” I imagine Him stating these words so gently with an extra dose of the love that He has for this woman.

Martha’s reply is apparently immediate. And look at what she says! (It really is a great answer. Okay, take a deep breath. Ready to see more of Martha’s heart?) “Yes, Lord. I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God who came into the world.”

Dude. The first time I read this I was so proud of Martha because, to be honest, I was a little worried about her harsh attitude toward Mary in the Luke 10 story. But now I see her standing before Jesus having this quiet conversation. And He gives her a chance to confess what she believes about Him. She knows her brother will be raised and live forever. Jesus just had to remind her of what she already believed. He changed her focus and got her to confess aloud what she believed. This must have been a comfort to her for “after she had said this, she went back.” When she returns, who does she go to? The Bible says she pulls Mary aside and tells her sister that the master is asking for her. I’m so glad we get to see this side of Martha as she delivers the message that Jesus wishes her to come to Him. That is so awesome. Picture Martha’s kindness to Mary as she pulls her aside so they can speak in private. I love it. And Jesus requests her presence.  So now it is Mary’s turn to go to Jesus. And she leaves so quickly that those who had come to comfort notice and follow her.

When Mary reaches Jesus, she falls at His feet. Much like her old self for this isn’t the first time she is at His feet. She once washed His feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:37-38) jesus annointed with perfume

in a display of devotion. So now her emotions spill forth again in much the same way but this time with grief. And she says the same words as her sister. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” According to the Scripture, she doesn’t add Martha’s statement that God would do whatever He asked, yet Jesus understands her aching spirit. He is moved by her weeping and the weeping of those who had come with her. Maybe this is the reason “Jesus wept” for as soon as He asks where they have laid Lazurus and they tell Him “come and see,” He weeps. The ISV states that Jesus burst into tears. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English says “And the tears of Yeshua were coming.” I don’t know about you, but I want to weep when I read those words. Theologians have come up with a number of reasons for Jesus’ tears. All we really know is that Jesus is moved with compassion for Mary and for all the Jews who had come with her.

The people lead Him to the tomb and as Jesus tells them to remove the stone, Martha objects. “Lord, by this time there will be a stench.”  Keep in mind that we just heard Martha say that God would do whatever Jesus asks, but now her practical side has settled on her and she thinks about the smell. (Notice that once again she prefaces her objection with “Lord.”)

As you probably know, the stone is moved and Jesus calls Lazurus from the grave. Many come to believe in Him because of this miracle much to the chagrin of the Pharisees. It is interesting that the Bible says nothing about Martha and Mary’s reaction to having their brother back. And I wonder–do they dance with joy as they welcome him into their embrace? Do perhaps both of them fall at Jesus feet and cry tears of joy? As Jesus wept with them, does he now laugh with them? Or maybe they stand in stunned silence.

But God was glorified as Jesus said He would be (verse 4), and both sisters find comfort in Christ.

Messed Up by Sin, but the Good News is….

I have entitled my blog “Find His Love” for a very specific reason—my desire to help women better understand the tremendous love God has for them as individuals. (And as I have said before men, you are welcome to read along.) I know what it is like to doubt God’s love, to know He is love, yet to feel unloved and ashamed before Him and the world. Perhaps I will share those reasons at another time. For now I just want my readers to know that I understand what it is like to feel a deep sense of shame and unlovableness (yep, I made up that word). Even after I became a Christ-follower, I struggled with these feelings. And I am “one of those” who believe that feelings are important. God created emotions. He understands our emotions. Furthermore, God wants us to love Him with all our:

  • heart
  • soul
  • strength
  • mind

(Luke 10:27)

Seems like “emotions” or “feelings” are included in that list somewhere.

So I developed a mission to help followers understand and yes, feel(!) God’s love more deeply by studying the way Christ demonstrated that love. What a powerful force we would be for His kingdom if we could but begin to grasp the concepts of that magnificent love.

The Problem of Sin

And yet lately, I’ve been thinking more about the world in general, and of those who have no clue about who Jesus is or what He did. I have also been burdened by the horrors that seem to increase in our world every day. Atrocities haunt us when we turn on the news or get on the internet. Hatred. Starvation. Desperate refugees. Beheadings. Sex trafficking of women (I’m sure men as well) and even children.

Here in the United States, an affluent nation we still see hunger, homelessness, a plague of adultery, and yes, human trafficking. Perhaps you wonder why we are in this mess. Why do we see so much suffering and chaos in this world? Why do I suffer? Why are children hurt and scarred for life every day? Or maybe you are one of the few who believes things are really pretty good right now—better than they used to be. However you feel, every problem—from the violence of ISIS to our educational woes to the aggravations at work and at home—can be summed up in one word: sin.

I know we don’t like that word. But sin is the problem—throughout the world as well as in our individual lives. When sin entered into the world, death also entered, along with sickness, the violence we see in nature; the whole world became skewed from God’s perfect plan.

And believe it or not—that is the good news. Because sin can be redeemed. Sin and the damage to our lives can be healed and even used by God.

Was Jesus really the Christ?

 If you are a regular follower of mine, you probably know the answer to that. Jesus, the Son of God came to redeem sinners as the Messiah. But perhaps you think He was just a man, a good man, a good teacher. You may believe Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. But I promise, Jesus knew who He was and I’d like you to see a few of the ways in which He proclaimed Himself:

Jesus called God His Father, and the Jewish leaders understood what He was saying.                     So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.  In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:16-18 (emphasis mine)

“I Am the Bread of Life”
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

Jesus Said He Could Forgive Sins
While healing He declared: “…that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God…” Matthew 9:8

“I am the Light of the world”
“…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life…”  John 8:12

“I have come that they may have life, abundantly”
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd….My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10:10, 27-28

“I will love him”
“…he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:21

“I am with you always”
“…behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”   Matthew 28:20

“I am the way, the truth, the life”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

In today’s society, some of these statements seem very narrow, especially that last one, but if you believe the Bible has any historical value, you see that Jesus made some pretty amazing claims about Himself and His Father.

But How Could He Die for my Sin? He was a Human Being and He Sinned, Didn’t He? 

The direct answer is a simple “no”. Since Jesus made Himself equal with God, and God does not sin, He could not either. But other Scriptures support this concept as well. In Hebrews 4:15, the author states: For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (NASB)

There are many other Scriptures I could refer you to. I suggest a search of Scripture or of course, a good ‘ol Google search or to make things simple I’ve provided a link to one site listing these Scriptures. http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Jesus-Christ,-Sinlessness

So How do I Respond?

Perhaps you think you have lived a good life, and have never done anything so bad that you need a Savior. “Surely I can make my own way in this life, and come out all right.” That seems reasonable. But take a look again at John 14:6 (above). Jesus claims He is the way. Hmm, that seems contradict our very human way of thinking that I can do it my way. And according to Romans 3:23 we have all sinned. Yes, Jesus loves us and He forgives. But He only forgives when we become willing to turn from our wrongful deeds. While Jesus declares “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”, we must also realize that He died to save us from sin, not so that we keep on sinning and doing things our way. So believing He is the Son of God and that He died for us must be accompanied by a heartfelt repentance (turning from sin and to God).

Or you may be thinking, “surely I cannot come to Him as someone who has done horrible things and just expect Him to take me in. I must get my life right first.” Notice what Jesus says though, God wants to give us eternal life. And Romans 6:23 says that the gift of God is eternal life. A gift that is given out of love is not something we must earn or can earn. And it is only by believing that God can make us right with Him.

Do you hear the good news in all this?

  • God made a way through Christ to have a relationship Him
  • That relationship is not only satisfying, it quenches our thirst, and becomes abundant life
  • We can become a part of His family, a child of God by simply turning away from sin, agreeing that we will follow His way, and believing!
  • Eternal life is a gift.
  • He will come to live with us and will never leave.

Perhaps you feel a certain emptiness in your soul. May I suggest that the filling you need is Jesus the Son of God? I know I felt that hole in my life for a long time. When I was in my early twenties I realized what was missing and came to Christ. I needed to understand that I could never be good enough to gain God’s acceptance. His acceptance only came through a moment in time when I told Him I believed and that I wanted to live for Him. Praying a prayer is not necessarily what it takes as you may have been told. Believing and turning from our own ways invites Him to make our heart His home.

This video may be a little dated, but I hope you will enjoy it. It is entitled “The Hole Story”

References:

http://www.everystudent.com/wires/whodoyousay.htmlAccessed September 3, 2015

Parker, Troy. “The World’s Messed Up.” Worldview series Part 4. Sermon presented at Church at Red River. Shreveport, Louisiana, August 30, 2015  http://churchatredriver.com/media/worldview-2/

Scriptures are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated.

Attitude, Balance, and Sisterly Strife

I have not written in over a month, and apologize to those of you who “can’t wait” to hear from me.

Have any of you ever suffered from vertigo? If so, you have my sympathies. I could blame my delay in writing at least partially on that. It was a “fun” few days until I went to a chiropractor and she did some adjustments and showed me how to get “balanced” again. Odd exercises, but they work! And if they will keep the vertigo away, I’m there!

When a person has severe vertigo, they are pretty useless. Everything is spinning, and when you try to put your feet up under you, well, it’s not gonna happen. In my case I was fortunate to have a husband around who is a CNA and didn’t mind taking care of me (getting me to the bathroom, bringing me my meals while I laid around for three days). Walking was impossible, and I certainly couldn’t go to work. (I couldn’t even dial the number to work because my phone thought it was a child’s top.)

This little episode makes me wonder if there are others “out there” who feel out of balance and maybe even useless. You’ve tried, you’ve struggled, but things just won’t come together for you. You want to serve God; you want to spend time with Him, but your attention is turned to the tasks you must accomplish in order to survive, in order to keep everything going. And even if you are not super busy, in our world of television, movies, electronics, and other things that are designed to catch our eye and keep our attention, our focus is easily distracted from Christ.

Most of you I’m sure have read the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10. If not, I invite you to open the pages of your Bible or take this link to Bible Gateway www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A38-44&version=NIV

You’ve also perhaps heard it preached on. I know I have. Several times. Now I love stories about women in the Bible but I get a little tired of trying to figure out if I am a “Martha” or a “Mary”. So I’m going to approach the story of these two women in a little different manner.

This particular account begins when Jesus who is now on his way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) passes though the unnamed village where Martha and Mary live. (Many assume this is Bethany because that is the locale mentioned in John 11.)

We see Martha opening her home to Jesus, prepared to serve her honored guest. And is she ever busy! The Bible only tells us that Martha opened her home to Him, but we should probably assume his disciples are present as the Bible seems to indicate there was a great deal to do.

But there’s a problem, and that “problem” is sitting at Jesus’ feet. Her sister Mary. I don’t know about you, but I wonder what Jesus is telling her. Are the words intended just for Mary? For Mary and Martha, or also for the disciples? I’m just curious about these things.

As Martha works, I can just see her fuming. Her sister sits while she takes care of “all the preparations”. And Jesus says nothing to that lazy Mary! Now that, my friend, is just not fair. How can He ignore her hard work?  And how can Mary be so inconsiderate? (I’m wondering how many of us have fumed in a similar way.)

Well, Martha has had enough. “Lord,” she says. “Don’t you care that I am doing all the work and Mary…she…she is doing nothing! She should not have left me to do all this. Look at her! She is just…sitting there. Tell her to come help me” (Okay, not to disrespect God’s word, but yeah, I threw in a few of my “insights”.) Her request seems fair enough. Certainly, not unreasonable.  But I do have to chuckle a bit at Mary. She starts her request with “Lord” then in the middle of it says “tell her”.

But maybe you can relate to Martha. Maybe you are totally on her side.

Lord, don’t you see me here drowning in this mess. I can’t get supper fixed for having to take care of a screaming baby. Can’t you get my husband to help?

OR

Lord, this is so unfair, I work hard at my job, but ______ only works when the supervisor is around, and yet she is favored and gets the promotion. How can You allow this injustice?

Now I don’t object to telling God how we feel. I think we should let Him know what’s going on, as if He doesn’t already. But back to the story.

Here Martha is working really hard and it seems Mary comes out as the “favored one.” Well, perhaps it’s comforting to know that Jesus gives Martha a relatively gentle rebuke. First off, He addresses her by name: “Martha, Martha…” (I feel that when God really wants to get my attention He speaks my name in that still small voice. “Now, now Eileen…” And I love it.) Notice He doesn’t tell her to quit serving but instead points out that the problem is her attitude about her serving. She is distracted or “troubled” by many things, and Mary has chosen what is better.

Wait, wait, she’s doing what’s better. Just sitting there?

Well we obviously can’t sit at Jesus’ feet like that all the time. But the only way we can serve Him (and by the way, that includes loving that co-worker or husband or whoever else you think is not doing their share) is to spend time with Him and find a way to ignore the distractions, even the things that seem to demand our time. Perhaps it’s a bit about finding “balance” in our hectic and often distracted lives.

Okay, so great, Eileen, but how do I do that? What you say sounds simple but I’ve tried and it doesn’t seem to work out for me.

I understand. I can feel your frustration for I remember the “days of yore” when I had small children, and perhaps it is your turn now—you are the mother who works outside her home, who is wrestling a baby and a toddler from the moment you get home, and by the time you get everything done just so those babies will be fed and bathed and put to sleep, you fall into bed exhausted, whisper a prayer, and drift off to dreamland yourself. So your time with the Lord is, well…minimal. Or maybe you don’t have kids and work is just stressful or your parents are ill and you’re exhausted from caring for those.

A friend of mine faced this same frustration when her children were small, and had no idea what to do. Until one day an older lady asked her a question. “Do you have time to take a shower? Can you pray while you are in the shower?” These words were so freeing to her, and showering became her alone time with God. Maybe that seems kind of lame and maybe that won’t be the right time for you. Maybe the kids are pounding on the door or even slipping notes to you under the door whenever you’re in the bathroom. Perhaps you can find a quiet corner at work while you’re on break. Perhaps when you have some time off, you can take some extra time with God to build your relationship. But don’t feel guilty because you don’t spend an hour in prayer, or because you don’t get up at 5:30 a.m. to pray.

And I can hear you: Like sure, I can do that. I was only up until 3 with a sick child. No problem. (Told you I understood.)

Don’t worry about the “giants of the faith” who set this “standard”. You are you. And God knows, and He understands.

And for those of you who can spend an hour or more a day praying and exploring your Bible, I encourage you to keep things balanced as well. It may be just as hard for you to avoid the guilt that tries to grab hold of you when you spend that time with Him.

Do you see? Satan has us coming and going. If we don’t spend enough time with God we’re guilty. If we spend the amount of time we feel we need, we feel guilty because we’re not “doing” enough.

Whatever your situation, whatever your phase in life, hold onto Him. Keep Him before you. Maybe simply pray His Name to restore your focus. Ask Him to remind you of His presence. He will bless you, as you seek Him. Don’t worry if it’s not “enough”. He loves you so much, dear ones.

Oh, oh, oh, and guess what happens in another passage? We see Martha interacting with Jesus in a very different way. But I’ll save that for another time. (If any of you want homework, read John chapter 11.)

Mothers and Not-Mothers

Odd title, I admit, but just keep reading, and I’m hoping you’ll “get it”.

Mother’s Day is almost here. It is a wonderful time to celebrate our mothers and if we are really blessed, to have someone celebrate us as “mom”.

But for some, Mother’s Day can be painful. Okay, I hate to be negative about holidays. I dump on Valentine’s Day and now Mother’s Day.

Woman, what is wrong with you?

Well here goes. I personally know how hard Mother’s Day can be. My husband and I lost a child in December of 1892 —just kidding, we’re not that old, but on December 4, 1979 (still a long time ago for some of you) our first son was born prematurely. He lived for only for fifteen days. That did not make for a pleasant Christmas. Did not make for a pleasant Mother’s Day the following May. And you know when you go to church, how they make such a big deal over Mom’s Day. “If you’re a mother, would you please stand?” kinda thing. Well, okay, I was a mom, but what’s a mother without a child? What do you call that person?

Whew! This is hard to write, but for some, you know what I am talking about.

The next Mother’s Day was tough as well, and the next, and a couple more…because now, guess what! My husband and I struggled with infertility. Fortunately it was not one of those “forever” struggles, and about five years after we lost Michael, our daughter was born. Can I just begin to tell you how much she meant to us? I mean, I could actually hold this baby! Wow. And I got to take her home! And I got to tuck her in at night. And…well, some of you know the sweetness of a newborn baby.

But…sometimes our dreams die and they are never revived. Can I just say how I hurt for those of you going through this? Not just for the ones who have lost a child, but for many who want a child and the months go by, each one bringing hope, and every month that hope fades a little more. It can be a harsh cycle of hope, hope dying, grief (yes, grief), then hope again and so on. And there are those well-intentioned folks who will tell you, “You can always adopt,” or any number of things that I won’t get into right now. And by the way, we can’t “always adopt”. That is another huge discussion that I may let a friend of mine weigh in on.

And I know there are some who choose not to have children for whatever reason, and I will respect that. You may be freer to minister to others. Perhaps you may carry a genetic disorder for a disease that could be fatal, and you don’t want to risk passing that on. (For the argument about Paul’s letter in which he says: “Women shall be saved in childbirth”, please don’t take that out of context because believe me it can have a whole other meaning than a surface reading can give you. Maybe we’ll take a look at that some other time.)

Then there are those who have lost their mother. Some at a very young age, and some of us when we were older. My mom passed away over fifteen years ago and I still think about what I need to get her for Mother’s Day, then the realization….oh, wait. Never mind.

I think that all women should be honored at Mother’s Day. No, really. Whether or not you ever have children or adopt children, you should be honored. My pastor’s wife feels the same way, and every year she makes something for each of the ladies who attend church on Mother’s Day. Her reason?  She puts it something like this: All women have an ability to nurture. All of us can influence the next generation.

And there are countless ways to do this whether it’s working with kids in church, loving on your nieces and nephews, taking a younger woman under your wing as a mentor or caring for a neighbor (maybe even an elderly neighbor setting an example for your own as well as other generations).

For those of you struggling with issues of infertility,  or a lost child, let me leave you with these verses:

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

So what about you moms who are struggling to get things done, struggling with children who do things you “never would have done” and so on? (Because I know what that’s like too.) Perhaps you feel like you “should be thankful” for your kids, or you “should be better” at this or I “should be like other moms whose kids always look nice” or whatever “should’s” you tell yourself, I’d like to let you in on a secret. If you are seeking the Lord, praying for your children, and asking God for guidance, I believe you are a good mom! Yup, you heard me. God sees our hearts. He really does understand your desires, and He will honor you by helping you get through each day.

I pray each of you today would feel God’s arms around you and let Him love on you. Take a moment to be the kid. Today you are the one with the skinned knee or cut finger and you need some “Daddy-time”. Take that hurt to Him, and let Him “kiss it and make it better”.

One other thing and I’m done. About six years after our daughter was born we had another son. (I don’t mean to leave you as a P.S., Sam. I just couldn’t figure out how to work you in.) And I do know that our little Michael waits for us in heaven, is having a blast, and we will see him again. Have hope and find joy and comfort in the Lord, sweet ones.

Is Jesus ever cruel?

I hope you have a time to pray and and just spend time with God every day. I know when I talk with my Lord, it seems as though He speaks to me in sweet words of encouragement, kindness, and love. I so enjoy these times with Him for I can almost feel His physical presence as He puts his arms around me like a loving parent comforting a child or someone holding a tiny puppy in their hands.

Of course, He often helps set me straight or warns me of behaviors I need to change, but it seems it is always done in a gentle, loving manner. Ah yes, we can have a “cuddly” relationship with Him. And of course there are some qualifiers to having such a relationship, but as a Christ-follower, this is what I often experience.(See note below.)*

Yet in Scripture it seems that Jesus is not always so kind. While there are several examples of Jesus’ “unkindness”, for today let us look in on Him and the twelve as they interact with a Syrophoenician woman, a non-Jew or Gentile. The story begins in Matthew 15:21-27. Jesus has gone to the region of Tyre and Sidon with His disciples after a tiring day. A woman approaches Jesus, frightened and desperate. Her daughter is demon-possessed and while the Bible gives no picture, I am sure the child’s behavior would evoke horror in the heart of a loving mother. (Other portions of Scripture associate demon-possession with blindness, inability to speak, wearing no clothes, wandering in the tombs, and being thrown into fire and water. See Matthew 9:32-33, Mark 5:1-20, Mark 9:22, Matthew 17).   She persists to the point that the disciples urge Jesus to send her away. They are annoyed “for she keeps crying after us.” (Matthew 15:23, NIV) And what does Jesus do? He seems to completely ignore her! Can you imagine how this mother must have felt? She is desperate so she begs the One whom she knows can heal her daughter, and He will not even answer. We’re not told how many times she begs Him or how long it took for Jesus to answer, but when He does it almost seems He is responding to the disciples’ request: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24 NASB)

Wait a minute. Jesus came for all mankind, to save us all from our sins, right? For the “whosoever”‘s of this world, didn’t He? (See John 3:16) Hmmm, can’t believe He said that to her. Yeah, I hear a lot of head-scratching out there. Well…let’s just stand back and see how she reacts to these words.

Perhaps to our surprise, this mother persists and falls on her knees (or bows or worships depending on your translation) before Him and begs again.

Jesus says: “It’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (verse 26)

Okay, before we get upset about this and think “how unloving”, again let’s get mom’s reaction.

““That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”  And now Jesus replies:  “Dear woman, your faith is great. Your request is granted.” (verse 28. NLT) And finally! Her daughter is healed.

Can you be honest and admit that if you had been in that mother’s shoes, this situation might have tried your patience a bit?  Well, let’s take a look at some possible reasons for Jesus’s answers.

So why did Jesus initially ignore her? Why did He tell her He came only for the “lost sheep of Israel”? And why on earth refer to her (and all the Gentiles for that matter) as “dogs”?

To the first question, Jesus may have been testing her in some way. Her patience maybe? Her faith? Or maybe He is allowing her to be an example for us because He knows she will keep asking. Honestly, I am not sure but notice she does not give up.And does her begging seem to bother Jesus? The disciples, yes. But not Jesus. Not in the least.

He then talks about His mission to the Israelites. Did he want her to understand the importance of that mission?  For He had indeed come for the lost sheep of Israel so that these chosen people could spread the gospel to the Gentiles, to all nations. Perhaps He honored her by explaining this. Or maybe He is testing her patience again. At any rate, she reacts by falling on her knees and asking Him again.

When Jesus next refers to her and her people as dogs, telling her it isn’t right to throw food to them before the children are fed, we might think of the whole statement and especially the word “dogs” as an insult. Well, not really. He could very well have meant little pet dogs, you know the kind we have today who win our hearts when they rest their head on our lap and look at us with “puppy dog eyes” or who wag their tails off when we come home. (I mean after all, who else is that happy to see us?) I think Jesus is referring to dogs in a loving way. (One version actually uses the word “puppies”). And she responds readily “True Lord.” Wait….What does she say? She’s agreeing with Him? So it seems. But she doesn’t stop there, instead she gives this incredible statement that complements his illustration. “But even the dogs will eat the crumbs from the master’s table.”

She could make do with the crumbs. Whatever He is willing to give her would be enough. I believe she is saying “You are enough, Your blessings are enough, whatever You give will take care of my daughter’s needs, I trust You.”  At any rate, Jesus knows her heart, and listen to what He says next (wait for it):  ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.”  He compliments her. He grants her request. Perhaps we can learn from this woman that God is waiting for us to cry after Him, waiting for us to come to Him desperate to have our needs met. Yes, He knows your needs but as I am sure you know, He still wants us to present  them to Him. And if you still don’t think Jesus’ response is what you would expect from Him, remember, He deals with different individuals…well, differently. He knows how to talk to people, including you in your situation. So don’t be afraid to ask. And to keep on asking. To cry out with a pain-filled heart and to expect something in return. He really is listening.

Sources for this blog: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/matthew/15.html and Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda, Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in the Scriptures(Grand Rapids:Zondervan,1999),357-358

*God does not speak to me aloud, but in that “still, small, voice” and if it truly is Him speaking to my heart, what He says will never contradict His Word.