Friday, November 30, 2012

Family Ties

"Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again."
John 11:23
KJV

I am the youngest of five children,
four of which are girls.
I share a special bond with every one of my siblings...
individually.
They all mean the world to me.
Each one of them is special...
and unique.
And I can't think of anything in the world I wouldn't do...
for any of the four of them...
at any given time...
should they need me...
or call upon me.

It's amazing how we all came from the same mother's womb,
but we are all so different.
We share a common history, there are similarities,
and our bond is strong,
but at the same time we have our own individual differences and personalities
and our own isolated dispositions.
And though we have all taken unique paths through life,
the same sense of values and conscience was instilled in all of us.


One of my many blessings on Thanksgiving Day this year,
was that I got to spend it...
not only with my sweet husband and boy,
but with two of my sisters and their significant others, as well.

It was a special day.
We made some great memories.
And though we all missed Mom and had our moments
of thinking of her and breaking down throughout the day,
what a comfort it was for three sisters to be able to share those moments...
even the moments of sorrow.

Shared sorrow halves the burden.
It divides the load.
It eases the pain.
The only thing that could have made the day any better
or more complete
would have been for our other sister and our brother to have been there.

I missed them.

I knew they were missing Mom...
just as much as we were,
but they didn't have the comfort of being with
the rest of us.
My heart went out to them when I thought of it.

A family is a circle...
of love,
traditions,
and memories.
Each member is a unit.
Each unit is a link...to the circle.
Each one, with their unique characteristics,
is a part of the whole.
When some are missing,
they are missed.

Which brings us to the next chapter in the lives of the two sisters
we have been studying.
They, too were individual units that were part of a tight-knit family.
They, too had strong family ties.
They, too were sisters...
who shared one brother....
whom they loved dearly.

We don't have a clear chronological map
of the order in which the events involving Martha and Mary
actually happened in the New Testament.
But, for the sake of this writing,
we will assume that the event we are studying today
took place sometime after the visit Jesus made to Martha's home
that we discussed in our last devotional.

Going to visit Martha, Mary, and their brother, Lazarus
was not an unusual event for Jesus.
We don't know exactly how many times He frequented their home,
but we can safely assume it was a natural occurrence
for Him to spend time there when He was in the area.
It seemed to be a place that brought comfort to our Lord....
a place where He was always lovingly welcomed
and treated with utmost respect and regard.

Jesus loved this family....
dearly.
They meant something to Him...
on a very personal level.
He was well-acquainted with each
of their individual personalities and quirks,
and He loved them all the same.

At a certain point in time,
sickness struck Jesus' friend, Lazarus.
The eleventh chapter of St. John tells the story.
Fear rose in the heart of the two sisters,
as they watched their brother's condition worsen.
They loved him.
They needed him.
No doubt, they were by his side...
continually....
fretting over him....
tending to his needs....
nurturing him...
doing all they knew to do
to make him comfortable...
hoping...
praying for a miracle.

Nothing was working.
He was steadily weakening,
growing increasingly ill.

So, they sent word to The Word....
the One Who could do anything.
Who could heal all manner of sickness and disease...
with just a touch from His hand,
or a word from His mouth.
Their faith was strong.
They had no doubts.
They knew everything would be all right...
the moment He arrived.

They sent word...
and they waited.
Minutes turned into hours.
Hours turned into days...literally.
Jesus did not come.

Lazarus died.

We know from the previous chapter of St. John that geographically-speaking,
Jesus was not near at hand.
He was on the other side of the Jordan River
residing in an area near the place where John the Baptist first baptized.
From all indications,
the place Jesus was staying
was a two to three day journey
from Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.
By the time word got to Jesus of Lazarus' illness,
Lazarus was already dead.

The messenger bearing the news didn't know this.
Lazarus was still alive when he left Martha and Mary to come to Jesus.

Was any of this a surprise to Jesus?
Did he need someone to come to Him with the news?
Of course not.
He was God in the flesh.
He knows all things.
Nothing takes Him by surprise.

Everything that happened in the life of Jesus Christ on earth
was for the benefit of others....
so they could learn...
and believe in Him.
That was His whole mission for coming here.
To present God....
in the flesh...
to mankind.

Jesus knew Lazarus' heart had stopped beating....
that the breath of life was no longer in him....
even as the messenger stood speaking to him...
relaying the story of Lazarus' illness.

But, He also knew that this was not the end of Lazarus' earthly story.
John 11:4 says,
"When Jesus heard that, He said,
This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God,
that the Son of God might be glorified thereby."

Even as Jesus knew a change had taken place in Lazarus
between the time the bearer of news left Martha and Mary
and reached Him...
even as He knew and realized Lazarus no longer lived or breathed....
He spoke these words...
"This sickness is not unto death..."


Jesus was not alarmed.
Raising someone to life who had been dead four days
was a much greater miracle than rushing to their side
and healing them of an affliction or disease...
while they were still living.

The greater the need,
the greater the miracle.
The greater the miracle,
the greater the increase in faith...
in those who witness the miracle.

This was all happening so Jesus might be glorified...
in the eyes of the two sisters....
and others whom He knew would be standing, weeping...
by Lazarus' grave four days later.


Verse 6 goes on to say,
"When He had heard therefore that he was sick,
He abode two days still in the same place where He was."

It was all under control.
All a part of God's master plan.

So, He waited.
He knew how long it would take Him to physically walk
from the far side of the Jordan River to Bethany...
yet, He waited...
two additional days.
So, that when He arrived at Lazarus' tomb,
there would be no doubt as to the outcome.
There would be no question as to whether or not Lazarus was dead.
There would be no dispute as to the magnitude of the miracle.

Looking at the situation through Jesus' eyes,
we see the big picture.
We get it.
We understand what He was thinking.

But, what must this have looked like...
to the two sisters?
How must it have made them feel?
As they sat by Lazarus' bedside,
as they cried and prayed and wondered...
as hope waned,
fear overwhelmed,
and at last, death won?
As they watched the rise and fall of his chest,
then saw it rise no more.
As they buried their brother,
watched them seal his tomb,
with still no word...
no sign...
from their precious Friend.

They had sent word.
They had trusted His love for Lazarus.
They had believed with all of their hearts that He would arrive...
in time to prevent Lazarus' death.

Why?
How could this be?
Can you feel their suspicion of betrayal?
The consuming fear...
that He had forsaken them?
Turned His back on their need?
Ignored the urgency of their request?

Jesus took His time.
He waited two full days,
then He began the two day journey to Bethany.

News of His soon arrival must have spread quickly.
Martha heard it!
What did she feel when she heard the news?
"Jesus is close by!
He'll soon arrive...
in our village!"

It was a different day this time.
No rushing and scurrying and whirring around...
worrying over a meal
or diligently cleaning house.

This time her heart was broken...
shattered....
bewildered...
disillusioned...
towards the One Who didn't rush to her need.

Can you feel her pain?
She loved Him...so much.
She trusted Him.
She didn't understand...
it just wasn't like Him...
to put them on the back burner...
to delay in responding to their needs.

Verse 20 says,
"Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming,
went and met Him:  but Mary sat still in the house."

Martha!
The aggressor.
The outspoken one.
The one always in control.
The one with such zest and zeal and passion!

Mary!
The quiet one.
The humble one.
The one in the background...
willing for others to take the lead....
wanting most to trust...
with all her heart.

I can see Martha running down the road...
meeting Jesus...
just outside of town.
Her tone confused.
Questioning.
A bit accusing...
when she first spoke...
then softening,
as she felt rebuked...
by the kindness in His penetrating gaze...
upon her...
as she spoke.

"Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God,
God will give it thee."

Do you hear her tone soften...
as she melted before the holiness of His presence?
Do you feel the questions fade...
as she saw the Answer to her every earthly need...
standing in front of her...
in the flesh?
Can you discern the hope come back to life...
as the realization sweeps over her...
that even now...
the Hope of life...
can make all the difference?
Still.
No matter how dark the void of hopelessness.

Listen to their conversation...
on the road...
just outside of Bethany.

"Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again."

"Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

"Jesus said unto her,
I am the resurrection, and the life:
he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.
Believest thou this?"

The flicker of hope increases in her heart...
with every word He says.

His tone is gentle,
without a hint of rebuke...
for the steadily increasing fear and suspicion she has harbored towards Him...
over the past four days.

He understands.
Soon, she will, too.

"She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord:
I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world."

Up to that moment,
she had never believed more.

Somehow, standing there...
listening to Him speak...
looking into His face...
it was all so clear.

He was God.
He was Messiah.
The Saviour.
That had been since the foundation of the world.
That prophets had foretold and longed to see.
There He was...
standing in front of her...
listening to her...
talking to her.

Mary had to know!
She must leave Him...
and go tell her!

"And when she had so said, she went her way,
and called Mary her sister secretly, saying,
The Master is come;
and calleth for thee."

I can picture Mary there...
in the house...
her lone companion the overwhelming grief
in the pit of her soul.

"Hurry, Mary!
The Master is near!
He still loves us!
You will see.
He cares.
He has not turned against us.
Our fears were unfounded.
He is still the same.
He was happy to see me, Mary.
He wants to see you, my sister.
He is right outside of town...
on the road...
waiting there.
Go, Mary!"

"As soon as she heard that,
she arose quickly,
and came unto Him.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him,
she fell down at His feet,
saying unto Him, Lord ,
if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died."

Humble Mary...
always seeking,
full of questions,
so quick to find her favorite spot in the world...
her position of choice...
at Jesus' feet.

Remember when she was found there before...
by her sister, Martha...
the day He came to visit?

His feet!
Every problem could be solved there.
Every question answered.
Every tear dried.
Every heart-cry heard.

Her penitence melted the heart of our Saviour.
It touched Him....
deep inside His Spirit.
He felt her pain.
Her grief.
Her loss.
Her sorrow.

"When Jesus therefore saw her weeping,
and the Jews also weeping which came with her,
He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled."

Who could ever say Jesus doesn't care about how we feel?
Who could dare to accuse Him of lacking compassion?

He had all power...
He still does.

He possessed the capability of setting things right...
in Mary's world.

So, why did He groan in the spirit?
Why was He troubled?

Because she was crying.
Because her heart was broken.
Because He felt what she felt.
Such is the heart of our Lord, my friend!

Do you feel Him step into her shoes?
Can you sense her burden becoming His?

The heart of our Lord was shattered...
because the heart of Mary lay in pieces...
at His feet.

Something deep inside the core of His being...
was moved...
to the point of near-unbearable pain.
Not because He was powerless to help.
But, because she was powerlessly dependent...
before Him...
upon Him.
So trusting was she!

It touched His heart...
deep inside.

Jesus spoke,
"Where have ye laid him?"

They said unto Him,
"Lord, come and see."

Jesus wept.

The most powerful words in the whole King James Version,
in my opinion.
The most profound insight into the heart of our Lord and Saviour,
to me.

He wept!
God, in the flesh, stood in the presence of the weeping...
and He cried...
tears wrenched from deep inside.

His tears mingled with hers.

God of the universe,
creator of the world,
stooped to the point of human need....
in the rawest form...
and He wept...
right along with the needy.

Oh, friend, can you see what I see?
Can you feel what I feel?
As I watch the scene unfold
and become real?

Jesus wept.

If you never get a hold of anything else I ever write,
get this!
It is my passion!
Make it yours!
Absorb it.
Let it permeate your being.
Let it saturate your mind...
and heart.

Jesus cares.
More than you or I will ever even begin to comprehend.
His heart breaks with yours.
His tears flow when you cry.
He never misses seeing one drop fall...
unbidden from your eyes.

Mary!
How blessed she was!
To kneel before Him...
to linger at His feet...
as He wept with her.

You!
I!
How blessed we are!
To have the same privilege...
every time we pray.

"Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the grave.
It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.
Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him,
Lord by this time he stinketh:  for he hath been dead four days."

Oh, Martha!
Outspoken,
needing to control,
always thinking you know best,
haven't you learned?
Can't you see?
The Light of Life is speaking!
Trust Him!
Trust His wisdom!
Do as He says.
Watch His plan unfold!
It is always best.

"Jesus saith unto her,
Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"

How she must have tried His patience...His tolerance!
How we must do the same!
When we are like Martha.
When we think we know better than Him.
When we challenge His authority...
in our lives.
When we question His method...
and cannot resist promoting our own logic.

Mary was there...
quiet.
nearby....
just like Martha.
Humbly watching her Lord
take command of the hopeless situation
in front of her.

"Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid.
And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.
And I knew that Thou hearest Me always:
but because of the people which stand by I said it,
that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me."

Could it have been for Martha he prayed?
Along with all of the others standing by?
For Mary?
Had He sensed the doubt in her heart, too?
Even though she wasn't as forceful as her sister?
He absolutely knew every one of their thoughts.
He most definitely sensed every feeling being felt.

"And when He had thus spoken,
He cried with a loud voice,
Lazarus, come forth.
And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes:
and his face was bound about with a napkin.
Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go."

Victory won!
Life Itself spoke life into the lifeless dead corpse of the brother
the two sisters loved so much.
Death had no power.
The grave held no authority.
Had he not spoken the specific name of Lazarus,
every dead person within the sound of His thunderous voice
would have filled with life...
and came forth from their tombs...
right along with Lazarus.

What was Martha's reaction?
Mary's?
Scripture does not say.

I can only imagine...
and speculate....
the joy and complete rapture that filled their hearts...
so full of worship...
joy...
restored trust.

"Then many of the Jews which came to Mary,
and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him."

It is interesting to note that Mary's name is mentioned as one who led others to Christ.
Martha's name is not.
Everyone around observed the reaction to Lazarus' death...
by these two sisters.
But, the one who drew them to the Saviour...
was Mary.

Gentle, quiet, humble, worshiping Mary.
Assertive, vocal, take-charge-of-the-situation Martha.
Both sisters meant well.

Jesus saw both of their hearts.

Martha gave Him the most trouble.
Yet, He raised her brother from the dead.
He restored life to Lazarus...
for Martha's pleasure, too.

He felt her pain,
and He loved her...
in spite of her shortcomings.

Thank God, He loves us in spite of ours, too.



Monday, November 26, 2012

Two Sisters

""And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha,
thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful:
and Mary hath chosen that good part,
which shall not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:41,42
(KJV)

It's amazing how each person can be so different
from all of the other people in the world.
Even siblings.
How they can have the same set of parents,
have spent nine months in the same mother's womb,
yet be so unique...
so specially created....
sometimes even as opposite as daylight and dark.

I am always fascinated to think about a fingerprint.
How could it be possible that
of the over 7,046,381,485 people currently living on the earth,
there are no two fingerprints alike?
It is hard for me to imagine that every single set of fingerprints is different
enough to verify the unique identity of its owner.
And how about DNA?
The Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid found in the nucleus of
 your body cells is entirely different from the ones in mine.
What about our hair?
Yours and mine might happen to be the same exact color and texture,
but the composition of the individual strands are different...
enough so that a single strand can identify 
a person with 99.999 percent accuracy, 
according to the DNA Testing Aid website.

Each time a new baby is born,
he or she brings a whole new, unique specimen 
to the population of humanity.

God, our loving, powerful Creator
designed it this way.

He wanted it to be so.
And while we can admire others and
long to replicate their qualities and dispositions,
we can never be another person.
Nor should we aspire to be.
Because God wants us to be who we are.
He instilled in each of us the attributes
that would make us special...
and unique.

I love to study about two of the most famous sisters
in the New Testament.
Remember Mary and Martha?
They lived in a village near Jerusalem, called Bethany.
Their brother was Lazarus,
one of the three people mentioned in the New Testament
whom Jesus raised from the dead.

No two sisters could have been more different.
As far as we know,
they had the same mother and father,
yet, they were complete opposites.



It is the assumption among Bible scholars
that Lazarus was the eldest of the three siblings,
Martha was the middle child,
and Mary was the youngest.

We have only three specific incidents that mention
the two sisters,
but we can learn much information regarding
their unique, individual personalities and dispositions.
I would like to dedicate the next few devotionals
to the study of Martha and Mary and their interactions
with our dear Lord.

First a few questions....

Based on the knowledge you have of the two sisters before this study,
to which of the two sisters would you say you most relate...
on a personal level?
What is your opinion of each woman?
Who do you most admire, of the two?
Which, of the two, possessed and most demonstrated
your individual personality?

The first incident I would like to discuss is found in Luke 10:38-42
and contains the account of a visit by Jesus
to the home of Martha, the presumed elder sister.

Verse 38...
"Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village:
and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house."

Jesus was human.
He walked everywhere He went.
He became tired from the journey.
He grew hungry.
His body required rest.

Wouldn't you have loved being there...
in the right place at the right time...
to minister to Jesus and His needs?
Wouldn't you have loved to have lived in Bethany
when He passed through that day?

I wonder if the full impact of this honor
was apparent to Martha?
Did she understand....
did she comprehend...
that later that day she would serve bread....
to the Bread of Life?
Did she realize how much any woman among millions
would have given just to have been granted this privilege...
this honor?

I can only imagine how it would have felt to be Martha that day!

I can just picture her hearing the news...
perhaps while shopping for vegetables at the local market
or as she drew water from the local well
or in the midst of watering flowers outside her front door....
somewhere, at some point,
Martha found out...
"Jesus is coming!
He'll be here today!"

I can see her dropping whatever it was that she was doing...
when she heard the news,
and calling to her sister.
"Mary, Jesus is coming!
We need to get ready for Him.
The house must be clean.
We must present the best meal.
He will be tired...
and need rest.
He will need to feel welcome here...
and loved.
Come, Mary, help me!
We must hurry.
I do not know what time He will arrive."

I can feel her anxiety level rise....
her heart rate increase.

Perhaps she searched through recipes
trying to remember what foods Jesus liked most.
After all, He frequented their home often.
Martha loved details,
so I feel sure she had taken careful note of His preferences...
when He had visited her in the past.
Today, I am certain she made sure she had everything she needed
to make this meal special...
for Him.

She probably scoured and scrubbed and cleaned...
every inch of her home...
from top to bottom.
I imagine she kept it that way,
so careful was she...
in covering all bases.
But today!
Oh, today!
Everything had to be perfect...
in every, single way.

When Martha opened her front door,
to let Jesus in,
I imagine the scene before Him was one of
"welcome home"
and peace
and perfect order.
There were probably wonderful smells wafting through the air,
mixed aromas that blended into the finest meal
Martha was capable of creating.
She had such talent...
as a homemaker.
She went to such extremes...
to make it all right...
for all of her family and guests.

But, this was no ordinary guest.

This was her Lord...
and Master...
her God...
whom she loved above all others.

"Welcome, Jesus!
Come, sit down.
You have traveled long.
You are tired.
Come and rest!"

I can see her taking Him by the hand,
leading Him to a comfortable spot...
where He could best feel the afternoon breeze.

After He is seated,
she immediately returns to the kitchen.
There are others with Him!
His disciples...
she is acquainted with them all.
They are hungry, too.
My, how she hurries...
and scurries....
and flitters...
she is like a blur...
rushing from one duty to the next.

Suddenly, a look of complete frustration
clouds her kindly face.
"Where is Mary?"
she mumbles...
murmurs...
under her breath.
"Why is she not in here...
with me...
helping me?
How will I do everything...alone?"

She peers into the other room.
She sees them all seated...
strong, masculine faces...
some of their eyes closed...
as they lean back...
thankful for a few moments' repose.

They are tired.
They are so loyal....
to Him...
to follow Him...
and stay close to His side.

Her heart is warmed...
knowing they feel safe here...
in her comfortable home.

She inches closer...
she wants to see Him.
She hears His voice.
He is talking softly....
to someone.
Uttering profound words...
of wisdom...
of hope...
of life.
So important was each one...
 that fell from His lips...
none of them trifling...
or unnecessary...
or idle talk fodder.

She wished she could listen closer...
but, how could she?
There was no time.
There was just too much to do!
She sure could use some help.
Again she wondered,
"Where is that sister of mine?
She should be in here...
doing her part.
Where is she when I need her most?"

Just before she turned away...
from watching Jesus...
from catching one of His words...
here and there....
she spotted her.

Verse 39...
"And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word."

There was Mary!
Right there.
At His feet.
As if there were no meal to prepare.
As if there wasn't a crowd of hungry mouths to feed...
resting nearby...
in the same room.
As if her sister wasn't in the next room...
hustling, bustling, running around like a headless chicken!
As if she didn't have a care in the world.
As if she had the luxury....
of dropping everything...
and just sitting there!
As if she were literally hanging...
on His every word.
As if sitting at the feet of Jesus 
was the most important thing in all the world.

Hmmmph!

The nerve of Mary!
The audacity!
This was too much.
Frustration reached the point of boiling resentment.

She walked into the other room....
fully taking in the whole scene...
in front of her.
Her temper rose....
with every step....
until she reached Jesus...
and the calm peace that emitted from His being.

His face was full of love...
as usual.
His words were kind...
and gentle...
full of passion and zeal.

How he loved to speak of His Father!
And His mission...
His reason for being here...
with them.

As she heard His words...
as she watched His face....
she approached Him...
and interrupted....
the gentle flow of His conversation.

She didn't scold Mary.
There were no harsh words of rebuke...
directed at her.
She turned to Jesus instead.

Verse 40...
"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him,
and said, Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?
bid her therefore that she help me."

"Lord, don't you care?
Mary is sitting here....
while I am doing all the work!
This is not right.
This is not fair.
There is much to do.
Tell her to get up and help me!"

Martha barked orders....
to the One Who orders the universe.

So outspoken was she!
So comfortable in her retort!

Jesus heard her words.
He looked past her tone.
He saw her heart....
her giving, loving, serving heart.
And He set it all right....
like He always does.

He adjusted her perspective...
with a few more words...
fallen from the lips of The Word...
Who became flesh and dwelled among them...
Who stopped on His journey...
and took the time to grace her home.

Verse 41, 42....
"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha,
thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful:
and Mary hath chosen that good part,
which shall not be taken away from her."

Can't you just picture His face?
As He looked up from speaking directly to Mary?

Somehow, I can picture Jesus shaking His head
as He repeated Martha's name for emphasis!
Yet, I imagine His tone was unchanged...
from the gentle one He used while teaching Mary....
only a moment before.

"Martha, Martha!
You are so careful.
Every detail has to be just right.
You bear such weight!
You put so much of yourself...
into every, single thing you do.
You are troubled about so many things, Martha!
You care so much.
But, Martha!
There is only one thing that matters.
Only one!
And the one thing that matters is
the thing Mary has chosen.
She could have been there.
She could have helped.
How can I bid her to do so?
When her heart is so hungry...
for My words?
The choice she has made today was the right one.
There will be many meals.
There will be unending chores.
But, this...
this, Martha!
This will never be taken away from her.
My time here is limited.
Opportunity is precious.
I won't always grace your home....
with my physical presence.
Soon, it will take absolute faith...
for you to know that I am here...
at all...
for you will see My face no more.
Mary won't always have this privilege.
Only one thing, Martha!
Only one thing is needful.
This is Mary's choice.
Can't you see, Martha?
This....
this, Martha!
This is most important."

How His words must have pierced her heart!
She tried so hard!
She was so detail-oriented.
She "was cumbered about much serving..."
Wasn't that important?
After all, everyone had to eat.

Much serving....
it was her nature to serve....
the ones she loved....
those who came into her home.

But, as much as Jesus was hungry,
as much as He appreciated her service....
and the meal she so carefully prepared for Him....
there was something more important...
that she was overlooking.

In her desire to please Him,
she neglected to stop and listen...
to what was in His heart.

In her passion to minister,
she failed to be ministered to...
and she fizzled under the load of stress
created by trying to do it all.

In her zeal for perfection,
she overlooked the Perfect One...
seated in the next room.

I think it is important to notice that
Mary spoke no words in this exchange.
What was her reaction...
to her sister's outburst?
We do not know.
To me, her silence spoke profound volumes.

She didn't defend herself.
She didn't ask Jesus to make her sister understand.
She didn't ask Him to rebuke Martha for
trying to pull her away from Him.

Perhaps she was used to being scolded...
by her older sister?

At any rate,
I sense a deep yearning in her heart...
for Jesus.
I discern a deep love...
an unselfish sense of worship...
that is rare and hard to find.

Obviously, Mary loved to be near Jesus.
She loved to worship Him...
to sit at His feet...
to absorb His words....
to take it all in.
She didn't seem to care much about what was going on around her.
She seemed unruffled by the things that needed to be done.
She didn't appear interested in getting caught up in the busyness.

In her defense,
I don't think Mary was lazy.
I don't believe she was unconcerned
about the meal...
and all of the work that needed to be done.
I don't imagine that she was purposely trying to inflict frustration
or added burden upon her sister.

I believe with all my heart,
that Mary craved Jesus.
Her desire to be near Him....
to be like Him...
 was a deep-seated need...
in the inmost part of the core of her being.
It was an all-consuming yearning
that overpowered and took precedence over
everything else.

I imagine He had forgiven her of much;
therefore her love for Him was great.
I believe she felt very unworthy.
That in Him she found fulfillment for the deepest yearnings for love
in her heart.
That in Him she found what she had sought...
in so many of the wrong places...
 throughout her whole life.

Perhaps Martha had been more devout...
more adherent to Mosaic law....
more of a "good girl"...
who always felt that her works were of utmost importance.

Maybe Mary never could quite measure up...
to her older sister...
and her feelings of inadequacy...
her desire to achieve....
 had led her down the wrong road...
time after time.

I do not know much of the history...
of the two sisters.

I can only speculate...
and imagine...
what their lives had been to this point.

What we can conclude is that Martha was the busy one.
Always doing.
Always moving.
Never still for very long.
She was ambitious, energetic, a self-starter.
Someone had to prepare the meal.
Somebody had to get things done.
She had a hard time understanding the opposites in Mary's personality.

Mary was a worshiper....
worship consumed every part of her.
She was humble.
She loved to sit at Jesus' feet.
She wasn't quick to argue or lash back.
She'd rather take the low road and allow Martha to have the last word...
if it was that important to her.
She wasn't quick to defend herself
or try to justify her actions in Martha's eyes.
She cared more about what Jesus thought of her
than what Martha thought of her.
His opinion was really all that mattered to her....at all.
So, she took the risk..
of a tongue-lashing,
possible embarrassment,
even scorn....
from her sister and others...
and she did what her heart longed to do...
she spent time with Jesus.
In spite of being misunderstood,
regardless of her fear of rebuke,
she made a choice.
She probably knew Martha would complain.
She made the right choice anyway,
in spite of the retribution she knew would ensue.
She chose what Jesus called
"that good part".

We can look at these two sisters,
with all of their differences and opposites,
and we can pass judgment...
on both of them.

Martha for being too busy...
too caught up in the cares of life...
too focused on what is temporal...
too unconcerned over spiritual things...
too critical of her sister...
too self-centered.

Mary for not showing initiative to help...
for being too nonchalant....
too heavenly minded to be of any earthy good....
too quiet....
too careless of her obligations.

We could go on and on finding things to judge....
saying what we would or wouldn't have done...
had we been in either Martha's or Mary's shoes that day.

To be honest,
I admire them both.
I admire Mary most.

I believe they both loved Jesus with all of the love each of their hearts could hold.
I believe they had very different personalities
and that each of them was doing the best they knew how.

Martha expressed her love for Jesus through service.
Mary expressed her love for Him through worship...
spending quality time with Him...
being as near Him as she possibly could.

Both are important.
Mary made the best choice.

And while there is great joy that comes from serving food to others,
she chose "that good part" of feeding her own soul.
She realized that nothing on earth was more important...
than those moments....
at His feet.

I believe Jesus loved them both....
even though they were vastly different...
in every way.

He created them with the differences they possessed.
He appreciated the goodness in both of their natures.
He cared enough about Martha to appreciate her service,
and to adjust her focus and realign her priorities.
He loved Mary enough to commend her worship....
to take the time and energy to fill her soul...
with what she so deeply and desperately craved.

I think maybe there is a little Martha and a little Mary
in all of us, don't you?

So willing to serve,
so eager to do,
so busy trying to please....
yet, so yearning to worship...
to be near Him...
to sense His presence....
to hear His words....
to feel His approval.

Sometimes, we all get off-balance...
out-of-skelter.
We go too far one way or the other.
Too much Martha, too little Mary.
Too much Mary...or wait!
Is there really such a thing?
If I have to err,
I choose to err on the side of "too much Mary".
I know there are things I need to do.
There are people I need to serve.
There are obligations that cannot be ignored.
But, if I have to let it all go,
even at the risk of falling behind,
I am determined to choose that good part...
that one thing that is absolutely needful...
every, single day.

Remember, Jesus gently chided Martha,
but He commended Mary.
There was absolutely nothing about her behavior
that caused Him alarm.
Rather, He was very pleased with her
and the choice she made.

I want Him to be pleased with me, too.
Don't you?

In the midst of my serving,
I want to take every possible moment to sit at His feet.
I want to come aside as often as I possibly can...
 to pray...
to listen to Him...
to be near Him.
To hear His witness deep in my soul,
"Cheryl, you've chosen that good part.
You have done the one thing that is needful.
This is what matters.
This is what is most important.
You have made the wise choice...
of how to spend your time."

I have found in my Martha/Mary personality...
in my Martha/Mary mindset...
that the thing that matters most...
is sensing His smile...
knowing He is pleased with me.

Making the choice to do what makes Him happy
ultimately makes me happy.

The Master's approval is absolutely the servant's best wages.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Good Things Outweigh The Bad

"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness:
come before his presence with singing.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
 be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
Psalm 100:1,2,4
(KJV)

Happy Thanksgiving!!


There will be an empty seat at our table this year.
The family circle has been broken...
and the reality that there is a missing link is hard to bear.
I never dreamed last Thanksgiving Day was to be our last one with Mom.

The other day, Kevin and I were sitting at the table...
talking...
just enjoying being together....
when he opened his heart.

"I kind of wish we could just skip it this year,
you know?
I will be sitting here looking at her empty chair."
He pointed towards the chair where she always sat...
directly across from him...
at the opposite end of the table.

We all miss her.

The absence of her....
is like a deep, dark void.

I have cried a bit more than usual
the past few days.
As Debbie, her family, Zach, and I sat in Zaxby's 
enjoying a meal together,
Debbie took out her paper and pen and reminded me
that we needed to plan out our Thanksgiving meal...
figure out who was making what, etc.

We were laughing, talking, enjoying the moment, 
when my nephew, Mark said,
"I'll buy the ham."

Bless his dear heart.
He has such a kind, giving spirit....
always so willing to help,
lend a hand,
share the load.

He meant so well, but hearing his words
was all it took.
My tears spilled over and flowed like a river...
which caused the tears of the others to start...
as the reality of it washed over all of us.

Buying the ham was Mom's job.
Those were her words....
so many times.
I can still hear her familiar voice..
"Cheryl, if you'll pick it up for me,
I'll buy the ham."
She has bought the ham more times
than I can remember.

She was so frail in recent years that 
she wasn't able to do much in the way of cooking.
So, most of her contribution would be made
in the way of sharing the expenses .

I finally regained my composure...
over the ham comment....
only to lose it again...shortly thereafter.

"I'll make the green beans"
I muttered, through coursing tears.

THAT was the one dish Mom still insisted on making each family gathering.
It wasn't so difficult to pour them in a pan, 
cover them with water, 
and allow them to cook.
She liked to buy the frozen ones, 
and no one could season them or doctor them up,
the way Mom could.

The loss of her hit me in the grocery store when I went to buy supplies.
And again after we got home and put them away.
And so many times since then.

But, right in the midst of my missing Mom,
the grief that is still so fresh, so profound, so unbearable...at times,
my heart rejoices.

How could I not rejoice?

Mom is in a better place.
I have no doubt.
And though she hated to leave us,
and we miss her so much down here,
she would rather be where she is.
What sweeter rest, than in Jesus' arms?

Mom liked Thanksgiving Day, 
but she always taught me that 
every day is Thanksgiving.
Every day alive is a great opportunity to thank and praise God...
from Whom all blessings flow.

We all shared many Thanksgiving meals...
and so many others...
through the years.

I appreciate every single meal...
every, single moment....
that God gave me with her.

How gracious He is to allow me extra time...
to enjoy and be with the others I love so much.

I try to count my blessings sometimes.
I start out doing pretty good, 
but the vast number of them soon overwhelms me...
and I completely lose count.
They can't be numbered...
for the number is too great.

God is so good.
He is a kind, loving, generous God, 
Who does not withhold good from His children.

Who among us has nothing at all to thank Him for?
Who can say they are not blessed?

Sure, we all have problems.
We all share suffering.
We all cry.

But aren't our blessings greater than our burdens?
Don't the good things in your life outweigh the bad?
They sure do in mine.

One of Mom's favorite songs was
"The Good Things (Times) Outweigh The Bad" made famous by
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

(I couldn't find it by Flatt & Scruggs online,
but I found a version by another group of guys, if you care to listen.)

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjLbj-Aplog

Here are the lyrics:

"I've been sittin' here thinkin' back over my life
All of the good things the trouble and strife
Well my share of heartache yes so many I've had
But I still think the good things outweigh the bad

Well I've rocked my babies at night when they cried
I've seen the teardrops turn into smiles
And that's when I realize all the bad luck I've had

And I know all the good things outweigh the bad


Well I never have riches no money to spare
Just a sharecropper's wages is my only fare
Yes makin' my livin' just working the land

But I still think the good things outweigh the bad


Yes I've worked the cotton in the heat of the day
And then paid the landlord nearly all that I made
Well I've seen high water take all that I had

But I still think the good things outweigh the bad."



It is going to be hard this year.
There's no denying it.

But, I've been thinking that maybe instead
of focusing on how painful it is,
I am going to try to focus on all of the good times
we've had in the past.

There are so many great memories.
I cherish family times.
They mean so much to me.
And I have lots of pictures...
that I can go back and look at...
to jog those wonderful memories...
to the surface...
so it doesn't hurt so much.

Memories of Thanksgivings gone by....
when the circle remained unbroken.

Meals we've shared.

Happy times...around our kitchen table.

If our table could talk,
oh, the stories it could tell!
Happy stories of shared laughter,
good food,
prayers,
and pleasant conversation.

She was there....
seated in her own, special chair...
straight across from Kevin...
for so many of the meals around that table.

For those moments, 
I am eternally grateful today.
And though the times of making memories with Mom are forever past,
no one can ever take away the ones we have already made.

These I will cherish...
and hold close to my heart....
as I count my many blessings today.

Maybe we all should take some time
to sit and think back over our life....
as the song says.
Perhaps we should pause to remember...
and consider.

I believe we would all have to come to the same conclusion.
If we put them all on the scale,
the side of blessing would outweigh the side of burdens.

Maybe you are feeling the pain, too...
of staring at an empty chair.
If you are,
my heart goes out to you, my friend.
I know how you feel.

Thankfulness truly lifts the spirits...
and the load.
Focusing on the positive dispels gloom.

Today, I make the choice to be grateful....
for good times past...
and good times to come.

I will lift my head...
and heart...
to the One Who always makes certain...
that the good times outweigh the bad.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our Redemption Draweth Nigh

"And when these things begin to come to pass,
then look up, 
and lift up your heads; 
for your redemption draweth nigh."
Luke 21:28
(KJV)

I was sitting across from Zach at our kitchen table.
It was late in the evening, 
and we were almost finished with school,
after getting a late start due to obligations we 
had to fulfill early in the day.

Every now and then, 
we chatted....
in between his reading and studying,
and I wasn't expecting any special moments of enlightenment.

Isn't that usually when God speaks?

We struggle and search and seek with such energy,
we pound against the doors of Heaven,
wanting to know....now....
but He answers us....
in His own time...
in His own way....
many times, when we least expect it.

How many times has He spoken to me
through Zach's homeschool curriculum?

How many times has He spoken to me
through Zach?

I have lost count of the times I have sat 
astounded at the wisdom in the heart and mind
of our sweet boy.
I ceaselessly wonder how God will use him and his life.

All was quiet for a few moments,
when suddenly Zach exclaimed,
"This is IT!
This is it, Mama!
This is our answer!"

He had every ounce of my attention.
"What is it, Zach?
What do you mean?"

"Just listen!"
He was doing Social Studies,
and at this point, along with studying American history,
he is studying about the history of the nation of Israel and its people,
how God hardened Pharaoh's heart against them.,
how Moses kept going back to Pharaoh begging him to release them
to go and worship their own God,
and how God sent plagues upon the land of Egypt
when Pharaoh refused to comply with Moses' repeated requests.

The thing that had grabbed Zach's attention the most 
was the fact that God always, always took care of His own.
He always protected His people.
He always looked out for them....
right in the midst of the judgment He sent upon the land around them.

Zach began to read aloud straight from the Bible....
I love how his textbooks so often require him to do that.

He began to read to me about the plagues.
He's heard the story before.
But this time, he took special interest in the fact 
that as God sent forth the plagues,
He made special provision for His people....
right in the midst of what was going on around them.

Such as, in these cases....
Plague #4 - swarms of flies
God allowed the flies to be everywhere around,
except in the vicinity of His children.
 In Exodus 8:22-23, we read,
"And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen,
in which My people dwell, 
that no swarms of flies shall be there; 
to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth.
And I will put a division between My people and thy people:  
tomorrow shall this sign be."

Plague #5 - the killing of cattle
Exodus 9:4 says,
"And the Lord shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt:  
and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel."

Plague #7 - violent hail mingled with fire 
Exodus 9:25-26 says,
"And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; 
and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.  
Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail."

Plague #9 - darkness so thick it could actually be felt
Exodus 10:22-23 says,
"And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; 
and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:  
They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days:  
but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings."

Plague #10 - the firstborn of every Egyptian household suddenly died at midnight
Exodus 12:12-13 says,
"I am the Lord....and I will pass over you, 
and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, 
when I smite the land of Egypt."

Are we seeing the pattern here?

God cares for His own.

The night before,
we had studied something very similar 
during our time of family worship.
I never cease to be amazed at how God does that.
How He orchestrates the details of our lives,
to reinforce a point He is making
and wants us to grasp and get a hold of.
Sometimes He will bring it to our attention in more ways than one...
until the point is driven home.

Remember Lot?
He lived in a land that was full of wickedness.
2 Peter 2:8 says,
"...that righteous man (Lot) dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, 
vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds..."
God was extremely angry with the citizens of the land in which Lot lived,
because the sins they committed were abominable....
and against His Divine law.
Right in the midst of the desecration of values,
the immorality,
the transgression against the holiness of God,
Lot remained a man who feared God 
and who endeavored to please Him.
He didn't succumb to the evil around him.
He stood firm in his integrity.
He knew the difference between right and wrong,
and he strove to follow and uphold the truths he had been taught.
After all, he was Abraham's nephew, remember?
Abraham's influence was strong in his life and mindset.
Seeing what was going on around him 
was a continual vexation to him.
After a very interesting and intriguing conversation between 
God and Abraham found in Genesis 18:23-33,
in which Abraham interceded to God on behalf 
of the land in which Lot lived,
God left the conversation with Abraham
with a promise to spare the land on one condition.
He would not destroy the land if He could find 
ten people living there who were righteous.
Upon examination, God found that the tide of evil was so strong
that there weren't even that many...
not even ten....
who lived there who were righteous and Godly.
It turned out that there were only four...
Lot, his wife, and two of his daughters who still lived at home.
God is true to His Word.
Had he found ten,
He would have been duty bound to spare the city.
Since he could not find ten,
God chose to bring judgment
and to destroy the land.

So, what about the four?
The four who were found to be righteous?
Did He forget them?
Did His wrath rain upon them, 
right along with the unrighteous?
Were they overlooked...
destroyed....
punished...
along with the wicked?

Come with me to Genesis 19:17.
God had sent two angels all the way from Heaven...
directly to Lot's house.
Straight to the one who still believed...
who still trusted...
in Almighty God.
The angels literally took Lot and his family by the hand,
and they pulled them away....
out of the city.  
Once outside the city walls,
the angel said this to Lot...
"Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither."

In my words?
"Hurry, Lot, because I have been given orders.
God gave specific instructions.
My first order of business is to make sure you
and your family are safe.
I cannot do ANY thing until YOU are out of harm's way.
That must happen first.
Otherwise, I cannot execute the plan.
Not until you are safe and secure,
can I proceed with my mission of destruction."

The way God made a way of escape for Lot and his family...
because they were His children...
never ceases to be a great comfort to me.

Remember Noah?
God didn't send the flood that destroyed the entire world and all that was in it,
until Noah and his seven family members were safe...
aboard the ark...
and the door was shut.

God knows where you are.
He sees your heart.
He understands your worry...
your fear....
your burdens.
He sees world conditions...
sees the condition of our country.
Sees right through to the hearts of all men and women.
He sees the vexation of your soul...
over the evil surrounding you.
He will take care of His own.
I promise.
How can I make such a promise?

Because of His track record.

We know what God will do...
based on what He has always and without fail,
done in the past.
We have living, breathing examples...
all through His Word...
to show us what and who His priorities are...
to reveal His providential care...
of His trusting children.

I admit, in recent days, 
I have had my moments of faltering, teetering faith.
During one of my recent episodes,
God used "Little Mr. Wisdom"....
again....
to snap me back to reality.

I was fretting, 
worrying,
distraught,
giving voice to the rising fear in my heart,
and I heard him say,
"Mama, He's brought us through before.
I look at God's track record."

Whew!
What does the Bible say about 
"a little child shall lead them"?

Sheepishly, I asked, 
"Zach, who taught you that?"

"The person who's doubting it!"
He responded.

Talk about putting me in my place!
I felt so ashamed...
because of my lack of faith.
I have drilled into his head since he was born...
literally...
that we must trust God.
That He cares for His own.
That He will never leave us behind in a trial.
That He always looks out for His people.
That He will see us through.

How quickly I become overwhelmed by pervading conditions...
anguished over moral decline.
How soon I panic when I remember the fierceness of God's wrath.
I take my eyes off Him for just a moment,
I begin to look around, 
and I watch as my faith ebbs away like the receding tide.
I forget that He is my Father.
That I am His child.
That as long as I am on the side of righteousness,
then He is on my side.

Zach snapped me back to what is real...
what is constant...
what never changes.

God is still God.
He remains sovereign...
over all things...
over all people...
over Heaven and earth.

He absolutely does have a track record....
that is impeccable.

From Lot and his family,
to Noah and his family,
to the inhabitants of Israel,
to you and to me....
He has always
and will always 
take care of His own.

If He always has,
why worry that He always will?

Mom used to tell me that there are three things God cannot do.
I remember how her words grabbed my attention,
because hearing them contradicted everything I had been taught about God.
As she kept talking,
I realized she was exactly right.
She said,
"Cheryl, God cannot change,
He cannot fail,
and He cannot lie."

How grateful I am for the three things God cannot do!

I love the words to the old song written by Kittie L. Suffield in 1929.
The lyrics are as true as they were when written over 83 years ago.

Chorus

"God is still on the throne,
And He will remember His own;
Tho’ trials may press us and burdens distress us,
He never will leave us alone;
God is still on the throne,
He never forsaketh His own;
His promise is true, He will not forget you,
God is still on the throne."

"Burdened soul, is your heart growing weary
With the toil and the heat of the day?
Does it seem that your path is more thorny
As you journey along on life’s way?
Go away and in secret before Him
Tell your grief to the Savior alone;
He will lighten your care, for He still answers prayer;
God is still on the throne."

"He is coming again, is the promise
To disciples when He went away;
In like manner as He has gone from you,
You will see Him returning some day;
Does His tarrying cause you to wonder,
Does it seem He’s forgotten His own?
His promise is true, He is coming for you;
God is still on the throne."

Jesus told us when we see the signs of His coming
to lift up our heads,
for our redemption draws nigh.

Signs are all around us, my friend.
Should we fear?
Is it time to panic?
Are these the moments we should let go...
of our faith...
in God?

He is our light...
and our salvation...
and the strength of our lives.

He is the Solid Rock.
He doesn't change.
He never will.

We must believe what is true and proven
and hold on to it in the days to come.
I believe we have entered into some of the darkest, most troubling times yet seen,
but God is still on the throne.
We are HIS children.
I am glad He is on the side of good, and not of evil, aren't you? 
If God be for us, who can be against us? 

Let us turn our faces upward, past all fear, doubt, and unbelief.
Let us gaze upon and into the face...
  of our Almighty,
all-powerful FATHER,
and trust His wisdom. 

He will not continue to overlook sin.
He is a holy, righteous God.
Judgment will come.
It always has.

But, we can rest assured that He will do what He has always done.
  He will keep His children safe.
Possibly by removing us ahead of His wrath....
just like He did in the case of Lot...
and Noah.

Who knows?
Maybe soon He will
"send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet,
and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds,
from one end of Heaven to the other."  Matthew 24:31.
Maybe, like the angels sent for Lot,
 they will take us by the hand and pull us away
and lead us out of this earthly city...
so corrupted by sin...
so tarnished by moral depravity...
so marred by suffering...
and maybe once we are out of harm's way,
He will say to us,
"I could not send Judgment...
I could not execute the plan...
until you were safe....
with Me at home."

Maybe that will be our means of deliverance...
this time....
ahead of the wrath to come.

I know not when our Lord will return,
but I know of a certainty...
He will come back.
I believe it with all my heart.
Signs all around us prove that His Word is true...
and being fulfilled...
right before our eyes.

What better means of deliverance?
What better outcome...
for you and me?
Than to leave this imperfect world behind...
and gain the perfect one He has gone to prepare...
the one He has taken so many of our loved ones to...
already?

So, let not your heart be troubled.
Take heart, my friend.
God still cares.
We are not forsaken.
He is still in control.
His light still shines through the darkness.

Keep looking up!
Jesus said to lift up your head.
Don't be sad.
Don't look down...
or back.

Keep your eyes on the sky.

The One we love more than life itself is coming...
in a cloud with power and great glory!
And He will take us to live with Him forever.

Imagine this....
our loved ones will be there...
to welcome us.


Thank God, we'll never part again.

We will be forever safe....
together with them....
at home.

Until then,
be assured that nothing is happening that He isn't allowing to happen,
nothing surprises Him,
it is all a part of His big plan,
 He is watching out for us,
He is with us,
our redemption is right around the corner,
and


the best is yet to come.



Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Matters Most

"He hath shewed thee ,O man, what is good;
and what doth the Lord require of thee,
but to do justly,
and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God..."
Micah 6:8
(KJV)

My eyes were fixed...
all through the evening.
Each time I looked at the news,
my hopes sank further....
and further...
and further...
until I was literally sick...
to my stomach.

I would walk away from it,
deciding I could bear watching it no more,
only to be drawn back to the computer...
like a magnet...
a little while later....
unable to pry myself loose.

As I sat,
praying for all I was worth,
begging God to do something,
voicing my aggravation, frustration, and fear,
I saw a little boy...
out of the corner of my eye...
 standing in the doorway near me.
Then, I heard a little voice.
"Mama, I don't feel good.
It hurts."

Poor, little Zach had been battling an illness for two days.
His ear had hurt so bad the night before that he was in tears...
crying hard.
Throughout the day, he had steadily become more and more miserable.
Until now, his temperature was elevated to somewhere over 102 degrees.

I looked at his bloodshot, glazed-over eyes...
his rosy cheeks....
his pitiful expression...
and I made a decision.

I turned off the internet.
Shut off the monitor.
Walked away....
from all of the bad news and
all of the disappointment.
And I joined my sweet, fevered boy....
in the next room...
where he had crawled into bed...
and lay in such misery.
As I sat beside him,
praying for God to give him a healing touch,
constantly alternating and applying cool washcloths to his head and back,
I experienced one of those rare moments of enlightenment...
an epiphany of sorts.

Right there.
In the midst of it all.
When I felt completely overwhelmed.
As the shadows of darkness settled down over my soul.
In the stillness,
with the noise turned off...
I heard the voice of God.

It was Him.
I knew it was.

"Child, THIS is what is important.
THIS is what matters most."

It all made perfect sense...
right there in that moment....
holding the wash cloth that had been so cold...
only a moment before....
now alarmingly warm in my hand....
from just a moment of contact...
with the raging fever in Zach's body.

I stopped.

It was a moment of jaw-dropping realization....
that way too much of my energy had been misguided...
that it needed a major change of direction.
That I had spent so much of it in the past weeks,
even months,
worrying over the outcome of something
I was completely powerless to control or change.

How sweet it felt to be needed!
To know that Zach is still young enough
to believe Kevin and I can solve pretty much any problem
that comes across his path.
That God sent us this precious child....
after such a long period of waiting.
That I am, at last, a mother....
of a son....
who has filled my heart and life
with more love and happiness than I will ever deserve.

I care deeply about the big things.
God showed me that night that it is okay to care.
It is okay to pray....
in fact, it is the right thing to do...
to pray...
over the big things.
But, this was bigger.
Zach is more important....
than all of the rest of it put together.

This is what matters most.

This is what deserves the biggest part of me.
my energy...
my focus...
my heart....
my love.

Suddenly, everything came into clear focus.
The lens of my priorities was completely adjusted...
and I saw it.
A scale....
world affairs on one side....
the people I love the most on the other.

All at once, world affairs seemed trifling....
out of reach....
only remotely important...
to me....
at all.

Suddenly, I knew it was okay.
To let that go.
To hand it over to the hands of God.
To forget about it...
knowing He is bigger than all of it....
and He is in control.
To focus my every shred of energy....
on what He has given over to my control.
To do all I can for them.
And let Him handle the big stuff.

How could I worry about national and international affairs
when the child I carried in my womb for nine months,
brought into this world,
and love more than life itself was suffering?

I looked down at Zach...
my heart so full of love
and compassion....
and I thanked God for the moment.
All of it.
Because I was learning something valuable.
He was reminding me....
through the trial...
through Zach's need of me....
that being a wife and a mother
is the greatest earthly gift I could ever be given.

That the moment in front of me...
was precious...
and invaluable.
That Zach would remember this night...
for the rest of his life.
Each time he faces sickness or pain or fever,
he will know that his Mama dropped everything...
to sit by his side...
to soothe his brow,
to give up sleep through the night,
to come back and forth to his bedside over and over,
just to make sure he was okay.
If he lives to be 100,
he will remember that he was raised in a home filled with love....
where he and his needs...
were of utmost importance.

Sometimes, we all need a wake-up call.
Sometimes, we need jarred....
back to reality....
to what is truly important...
in our individual lives.

As we try to solve world problems,
God reminds us that drying tears are what we do best....
that giving hugs,
being there for our husband and children,
keeping love and hope alive in the home,
making sure our "world" is nurtured and tended to....
ever so lovingly,
ever so thoroughly,
are the most important things we will ever do.
That these are the things He requires of us.
These are the things that make our hearts sing....
that make our lives complete....
that fulfill us to overflowing happiness.

After Zach got better,
I thanked God...
from the bottom of my soul....
as I listened to him and his Daddy...
laughing and playing games....
with his action figures....
on our kitchen table.

While the world rages outside,
as our economy teeters on the brink of complete collapse,
I bow my head to the God Who knows what is best....
for me....
and the precious ones closest to me.

I praise Him with all my heart
for reminding me how truly blessed I am,
who is really important in my life,
and what matters most.