On Being Single

It has been quite a long time since my last post, and I greatly apologize for that.  I have so many things clinking around in the corners of my brain that I have been working on, and yet an entire post has yet to form or be put down on paper (or pounded out on the keyboard, as the case may be).

I began this particular post before my wedding.  However, I was very busy at the time.  Between getting into the swing of things at a new job and planning a wedding, my writing fell to the wayside.  Not completely – it was just very hard to keep one particular thought or idea in my head for longer than a few moments.  Now that my wedding is over and I have gotten into a routine with my new husband, I can finish this post which is of some importance to me.  It is a post about being single, ironically enough.

I was thrilled that my dear fiancé  (now husband) offered to  write up a guest blog for my 10th post.  In my opinion, he is the true writer and has a wonderful way of getting his thoughts out on a number of subjects.  I felt it was quite apropos that his first post was on the theme of marriage, and why we were entering into it.

Interestingly enough, I had been kicking around the idea of posting about singleness for a time.  I had only been engaged for a little less than a year when we were married, so I honestly have more experience with the single life.  In fact, I am still sometimes overwhelmed by the fact that I am married.  It isn’t a bad feeling, just one of the unknown and the newness of this venture.

I think it is apparent that there is a rift of sorts between the married and unmarried.  I do not feel like this is puposeful, but I do feel that there are beliefs and attitudes that add to this rift.  There is this idea going around that being single means that you are missing something.  It’s like some of us believe that if you aren’t married it makes you less of a person.  I feel this in the church as well.  I don’t think it is necessarily something that all Christians have a lean toward believing or thinking, but it is enough of an epidemic that I feel led to speak on it.  Whether you revel in your singleness or find it lonely and difficult, the bottom line is someone out there thinks that something is wrong with you.

Singleness is not a disease.  Singleness is not a disability.  Singleness is one facet of someone’s life – like hair color, personality, and shoe size.  Single people do not inherently disdain the sanctity of marriage, nor have they all chosen this life.  In turn, married people are not the enemy because they like to talk about their marriage and happiness.  They aren’t boasting or being smug.

Now, I am not naive enough to think that there are no differences between the married and the unmarried among us.  Saying so would be untruthful.  I can speak to this, as I just went through the transformation from single lady to that of a married woman.  When you choose to share the rest of your life with another human being, changes will happen.  Some good, some scary, all very much grand and somewhat overwhelming.  Clearly there are aspects of married life that are just different than many of the single life.  And yet, here’s the truth: Ultimately neither one is better or more life-giving than the other.

Think on it: I love the fact that I have someone to come home to at the end of a hard and trying day of work.  When I was single, I loved being able to make every decision on my own and not feel that I had to ask someone else’s opinion if I wanted to travel somewhere, buy something, or make a major change in my lifestyle.  As a married woman it is sometimes difficult to distinguish how and when my husband and I will have time to ourselves without offending the other.  When I had no husband and no prospects, I felt cold and lonely many a night.  There are pros and cons to both states, and I will tell you why: They are both a part of the human condition.  All of us feel happiness at times.  All of us feel loneliness at times.  Marriage does not take your problems away.  In fact, it adds lots of elements to your life that can and do cause more problems and lead to adversity.  Being single is not a problem in and of itself, nor does it cause you to be anything less than the glorious creation of God that you are.

Now, as far as the church is concerned, on the outset we look very much like we support single individuals.  We ramble about Paul’s wish that all could stay as he is, and that it is good not to marry if you can help it.  We say of the single that they have the ability to go off and do missions whenever they feel.  We have small groups, bible studies, and Sunday School classes specifically marketed for “Singles”.

On the surface, this looks like we praise singlehood.  And yet much of what we spout in the church is nicety.  Just words we say and things we do to make us look supportive.  I have been a single woman in the church, and I will share with you how it made me feel.

I have sat in churches in which only married couples were allowed to do any form of ministry (such as teaching Sunday School), and therefore I couldn’t really find a spot were I fit in for ministry.  I have felt that due to the fact that I was a single girl in my late teens and early twenties who wasn’t even dating/courting/talking to a man, I should be waiting any day for a call from the Lord to fly to Ghana.  Yet, He never seemed to be interested in calling me to international missions, and I was confused because I thought that might be the only true calling for someone like me.  I was invited time and time again to singles Sunday School classes, events, dinners and outings.  All those who were doing the inviting were smiling, friendly, married women who had a twinkle in their eye.  I felt like I was being pushed into some strange religious speed dating.  I usually declined, because at such events I felt the tension in the air from the others: the “I may find my future mate here!” fog.  Time and time again I watched girls get married very young, almost in desperation because it seemed like their duty.  More than I can count I answered questions on whether or not I was dating, who I was dating, and when I thought I would be getting married.

I felt like there might be something wrong with me.  As I have mentioned before I do not fit inside the cookie-cutter box.  I like to read, write and do theatre.  I’m not particularly quiet and demure.  I thought maybe I needed to change myself into a Stepford wife in order for a nice Christian man to choose me over the other girls who seemed to have “it”.  Whatever “it” was.  I was lonely, but I also didn’t hate being single.  I didn’t mind not having a date on Friday nights.  I was content without planning out every detail of my future wedding.  Yet, the message I got from the church and the secular culture alike was that I was incomplete.  Except, in reality, I wasn’t.

This was a hard place to be.  I wanted to be happy with myself, yet I felt that maybe I wasn’t living up to my true self because no one seemed interested in marrying me, or even seriously dating me.  I was fun to hang out with.  I was easy to talk to.  But, I seemed comfortable in my single skin and apparently that was intimidating.  I wasn’t desperate to get married and therefore it seemed like I was in no way interested.  Here is the truth: I was waiting on the man God wanted me to marry.  I wasn’t being picky, I didn’t have a notebook list of all the things I wanted in a mate.  I just wanted someone who truly followed God.  The right one.  I felt like marriage would be a calling on my life just like going into the ministry is.  I just hadn’t heard anything from the Lord regarding a mate.  How did that make me a bad person?  How was I being incomplete because I didn’t jump at the first chance?

I have married friends.  I have single friends.  They are, each of them, trying to do what they feel is best for their lives.  Those who are Christians are trying to live as Jesus would have them live.  Ultimately, as a Christian, my husband does not complete me.  Christ completes me, my husband is just along for the ride for what God has for me.  I love him.  I am thankful for him.  I can’t imagine my life without him.  However, God is the one who completes me, who makes me whole.

Now, there is a problem on the other end as well: There are some, not all, single people who really enjoy themselves and don’t understand what the big deal is about the marriage thing.  They don’t see why it takes so much effort, so much time.  I have known some single people who have really downplayed the importance of marriage.  I took vows before God to give my life to this other person.  It’s a big deal.  Sometimes I will choose him over a night out on the town with my friends.  Sometimes I won’t.  But when I do, it  isn’t because I’ve “thrown my life away.”  I am not missing something because I will be sleeping with only one person for the rest of my life.  I’ll be experiencing every facet of my husband.  This is what I have chosen, and it doesn’t make me a sap, an old woman, or a sucker.  It makes me a human being who wants to spend the rest of my life with the one other human being who truly understands me.  I am no better and no worse than a single woman.  I am living the life God has given me.

Life is hard.  Life is lonely.  Single or not, you will go through trials.  You will make mistakes.  You will hurt those close to you.  You will spend hours having fun with those same people.  You are you.  I am I.  We are God’s creation and we are meant to live.

Are you single?  Do you enjoy it?  Hate it?  Do you even really think about it at all?  Are others pushing you and questioning you as to why you are still single?  Do not fear: if you are meant to have a spouse you will find one.  I found that following Christ led me to my husband.  This may happen for you.  It may not.  But you are you either way and you have a life to live.  Live it and ignore the comments from others.  They have their life to live and you have yours.

Are you dating someone and scared it may or may not lead to marriage?  Trust.  It is a hard thing to do.  But trust is important.  Talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend; find out how they feel.  It might lead to a beautiful marriage.  It might not.  But you are you and you are lovely.  You too must live.

Are you married?  Is it a good marriage?  Does it seem like fighting a war at times?  That is because it is a war.  But remember – your spouse is not your enemy.  They are your ally in the bunker.  Maybe you miss the single life.  Maybe you have never been happier.  Either way, you have a shared life to live.

Singleness isn’t a disease and neither is marriage.  They are simply pieces of the human condition.  Do not be afraid.  You are never alone.  Live and love and be completely you.

Peace on Earth

I get quite frustrated when beautiful things are distorted to become ugly.  I am saddened when a great idea goes South.  It breaks my heart when someone with a beautiful appearance speaks hateful words and suddenly becomes less attractive.

I am agitated when my faith, one that should be characterized with love, becomes something different than what it is purposed to be.

I do not like what Christmas has become.

Now perhaps many of you who are reading this blog think that I am going to go on a tangent regarding the supposed “war on Christmas” and discuss how atheists and secularists and pagans are trying to destroy my favorite holiday.

Not so.

I think many people have caused this season to be characterized as something it is not.  And a great deal of those people profess to be Christians and feel that Christmas is solely about Christ.  It’s one of those instances where we say one thing and act in a completely contradictory manner.

I have a few concerns to cover, so I apologize in advance if this post seems all over the place.  I have a lot on my mind this lazy December morning.

First, I’ll pose a situation to you.  It’s a few days after Thanksgiving.  You’ve thrown out the pumpkins from your front lawn and decide it’s time to start your Christmas shopping.  You only have about a month to prepare, after all, and the kids are already writing out long lists of all the new games and toys and electronics they just HAVE to have under the tree this year.  You make your way to the mall, and already you notice how heavy traffic is.  It’s going to take a little longer than you thought, but you just need to get this done today.  You walk into the store, fill your cart, and make your way to the check-out line.  After a ten minute wait, it is finally your chance to make your purchase and skedaddle on out of there.  It is then that the sweet teenage clerk makes her fatal mistake.  She isn’t sure of your background, and doesn’t have any intention of offending you.  So, she smiles sweetly and says “Happy Holidays!”  It is at this point you get annoyed and frown, and when you get home you call up a friend and angrily discuss how much you hate that people are trying to take Christ out of Christmas.

I’m not trying to be judgmental, but I am trying to make a point.  I would venture to say this is a common occurrence.  And you feel that your anger is righteous anger because you think you are defending the faith.  I wonder, though, if you aren’t doing more damage to the faith.  During your shopping excursion, did you once think about Christ or His teachings?  Maybe.  Or maybe you were just trying to find the best deal on an Xbox 360.

I do not get offended when I am wished Happy Holidays rather than a Merry Christmas.  I do not see how it is logically possible to be offended by someone wishing you a good day.  If you are offended by a friendly greeting, one has to wonder if there is something not quite right about your thought process.

Most people, when greeting you in any way, are not doing it to ruffle your feathers.  They are being polite.  It isn’t the words themselves that matter, but the meaning behind them.  I love words.  I do.  But, the only reason we have words is because we need a way in which to convey meaning.  The meaning of “Happy Holidays” is not “I hate your Christmas and your Christ!”  The meaning of “Happy Holidays” is just that; someone is wishing you well.  And we take offense to this?  Come on.

Maybe you agree with me, or maybe you are still upset and wishing that everyone felt the same way about Jesus as you do.  I can get behind that.  I think it would be great if everyone believed in God and wanted to follow Him.  The thing is, that doesn’t happen magically.  We are His hands and feet.  We are supposed to lead those people to Him; not spew hatred at them and show them everything but His love.  Our words are just as powerful as anyone else’s.

Speaking of words, let’s look at the meaning of the word holiday.  It is true, you can’t spell the word Christmas without Christ.  Does anyone know the etymology of the word holiday?  Bueller?  Well, let me break it down for you:

holiday
1500s, earlier haliday (c.1200), from O.E. haligdæg “holy day; Sabbath,” from halig “holy” (see holy) + dæg “day” (see day); in 14c. meaning both “religious festival” and “day of recreation,” but pronunciation and sense diverged 16c. As a verb meaning “to pass the holidays” by 1869.

from http://www.etymonline.com

Holy day.  Sabbath.  Religious festival.  So, technically, we get up in arms because someone is wishing us happy holy days and we think they are attacking our faith.  Seems pretty illogical to me.

I also want to remind all of us that Christmas Day is December 25th.  Not November 30th.  Not even December 24th.  December 25th is Christmas Day.  Then we have the 12 Days of Christmastide.  Those twelve days do not start before Christmas.  We have Advent, beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.  This year, Chanukah started Tuesday the 20th at sundown, and is going on now.  December 31st is New Year’s Eve.  And, then of course we have New Year’s Day where we will begin the year 2012.  It seems to be that the time right before and after Christmas Day is marked by holiday celebrations.  I am not discounting Jesus if I say Happy Holidays today, December the 23rd.  It isn’t Christmas.  I am not rejecting my faith if I wish my Jewish brothers and sisters a Happy Chanukah.  I’m not going to hell if I spin a dreidel and eat gelt with my preschoolers.

Following Jesus for me has always been about my actions, not the thoughts and actions of others.  My job is to love Him, love others, and show that love as best I can.  Instead of getting up in arms because public places aren’t putting up a nativity scene or are calling their decorated trees holiday trees, we should just hold fast to our traditions regarding the faith.  Yes, Jesus is the reason for the season.  Jesus is the reason for EVERY season when you’re a Christian.  I celebrate his birth, his life, his death and his resurrection everyday as much as I can.  That is how I can keep the faith.  Not by getting perturbed that others don’t share my beliefs.

I say Merry Christmas on Christmas Day because I want others to have a happy day, Christian and non-Christian alike.  If I say it solely as an attack because someone had the nerve to wish me a Happy Holiday, then I am not wishing them well from my heart.  It is the heart that matters.  Christ taught me that.

He came to love everyone.  Everyone.  Even those who despised Him.

Even those who despised Him.

Do we do the same?  Love unconditionally?

Another aspect of the Christmas season I have a difficult time with is the focus on shopping.  From Black Friday on we are encouraged to go out and buy.  There are many sales and Christmas is coming fast!  Spend, spend, spend!  I am not going to take up too much time on this issue, as I feel like it ties in rather well with my last post about The American Dream.

I like spending time with family.  I also love to give gifts.  Gift giving is one of my love languages.  I enjoy giving people cards just to say “I Love You”.  I get a kick when I wrap up something I know a friend or relative will enjoy.  I am thrilled when I see the look of happiness and gratitude on their face.

My gift giving has nothing to do with materialism, however.  I like to give gifts from my heart.  I like that we celebrate the birth of Christ, our greatest gift, by sharing gifts with others.

I don’t, however, like that the gifts themselves have become the focus.  That we feel the need to spend so much money on so many things that aren’t really needed.  I feel blessed when someone thinks of me and gets me a gift.  I don’t feel special, however, when someone buys me a bunch of things I neither really want or need just because they feel obligated to do so during this season.

I don’t feel led to operate in a consumer mindset and buy things for those who already have so much and are blessed to live in a country in which most of us do not understand what need really is.  I do not want gifts to distract us from teachings of the gospel.  I want to celebrate my time with family and show them I love them; not feel obligated to buy them a bunch of stuff.  I don’t want anyone to feel guilt-tripped into purchasing things because they are afraid if they don’t do enough someone will be offended.

I appreciate when people think of me and buy me gifts.  Honestly, I don’t need much.  I want to feel happy, peaceful and charitable at Christmas.  I want to celebrate Advent, to watch and wait for Christ; not run around like a chicken with my head cut off hoping to get the best gifts.

When I have children, I want to teach them about Christ: his birth, his life, his sacrifice for all of us.  I want my celebration to be giving Him a gift for the day we celebrate His birth – the gift of loving others and focusing on what is truly important.

Consumerism does not glorify Christ.  If we want to put Christ back into Christmas, maybe we should start acting like He matters.  That love and charity matter.

All this being said, I do believe that there are people in this world who have a bone to pick with Christianity and are trying to attack everything that we stand for.  There are Christians all over the world who are truly being persecuted.  While our society has viewpoints that I feel go against the tenants of my faith, we at least have the freedom to gather to worship.  That is something to be thankful for.  We have the freedom to love other people.  We have the freedom to wish happy and healthy days to all, whether we consider them holy or not.

I want to end this post with the story of Christ’s birth from the Gospel of Luke:

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

–Luke 2:1-20
New King James Version (NKJV)

Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.  That is how I want my Christmas characterized.

“The American Dream”

This is a topic that I personally have a very difficult time with.  I do love this country and I feel blessed to live here.  I want good for myself and others.  This idea of the American Dream, however, in the many ways it is lived out and defined, seems unbiblical to me.  That is just the way that I see it.

Society tells me to work hard.  To compete.  To win.  To take care of Number One.  To get to the top.  Success is key.  This success is measured by how much money you make, what car you drive, how big your house is, how nice your clothes are…the list goes on.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not trying to judge.  I like nice things as much as the next girl.  I love putting on my pretty dresses.  I think if you really want something you should work hard to obtain it.  I love buying scads of books.  My fiance and I went to register for wedding gifts recently.  I certainly looked forward to it; a whole day searching for all the things we will share in our life together.  Sure, by the end of the day we were somewhat crabby from picking things out (decisiveness is not a strong point for either of us) and my still healing ankle was clearly objecting.  Yet, it was great.  All those nice things sitting there on those lists – it does make me smile.  It isn’t bad to desire a nice life.  But a nice life mostly includes other people.

We have become so thing oriented.  Should I feel guilty for being excited about my bridal registry?  No, that is not the point.  Guilt is never positive.  We will actually need most of the items and our friends and family will be itching to oblige.

I just don’t want objects and status to be my focus.  My interest should be other people.  Not just in a “keeping up with the Jones’s ” way.  I should be concerned with the well-being of others.  The American Dream does not push this idea.  Do your duty, work hard, accrue nice trappings, build up your white picket fence, pop out your 2.5 children, compete with your neighbor on landscaping, and try not to let relationships get in the way of “progress”.

Technology is a great testament to the genius of the human mind.  It has come such a long way in such a short span of time.  It is very helpful.  It is a marvel that we have used ingenuity to build up: So make sure you have a flat screen, a smart phone, a desktop computer (or two), a laptop computer (or two), two or three game consoles…

I am exhausted.  I am tired of feeling like this world wants me to go go go and get get get.

Again, I want to explain that I am not attacking you for your desire to be a gamer or for owning nice possessions.  If you enjoy killing zombies and your standing KitchenAid mixer – trust me, I understand.  More power to you for knowing what you like.  I just want to remind us all that there is more.  People are astounding machines.  I like to spend time with one of those.  The Ultimate 3D Experience indeed.

I think it is wonderful to have a form of ambition, to want to do well.  To have a goal and strive to make it there.  I’m not pushing laziness or boredom.  I am not telling you that if you are in a career or field in which you feel very competent that you shouldn’t try to get as far as you can and do well.  I also know we are not all called to inhabit a monk’s cell.  I am aware.  I’m not trying to keep you from doing something you love.

It’s just that I feel sometimes we forget to relate.  We have all these wonders of social media and networking, so many venues in which to connect, and yet…and yet…

Do we connect?  Really connect?  I know that it is hard to truly connect with people.  I have a hard time with it myself.  I don’t trust anyone easily.  I want to do better.  I want to know people.  To hear their stories.  To see the lines on their face that show the years in their lives.  I want connection.

As a Christian I am called to be in the world, but not of the world.  What exactly does that look like?  Many Christians have their ideas of how to live this out.  Me?  I think it means that it is okay that I’m an oddball.  That I take the road less traveled.  I have no idea what to do with my life.  I do not have a path for a particular career laid out in front of me.  I don’t feel the decision of what to do with my life should solely be based on the size of the paycheck.

Now, I don’t want to be irresponsible with money or time.  That means I do want to find some way to pay my bills and feel like I am contributing.  It also means I don’t want to become a work-a-holic and miss opportunities to love people and spend time with them.  I’m still figuring it all out, but I am trying so hard to find out how to live my life as me in this land of the American Dream ideal.

I love the items on my bridal registry.  I do.  However, if nary a soul bought me anything and I hadn’t the money, I would simply go without.

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:15-17

Pride in possessions – I don’t want that.  Pride and lust in many forms are not positive things because ultimately they have a negative effect on other people.  I do not want to hurt people, to cause problems for people, to ignore people.  I would like to think that I value people more than possessions and power.  You – you my reader – are important.  You serve a purpose.  I want my focus to be loving you.  Helping you.  Hoping for you.  I am not perfect.  I live in this society, I’ve grown up with ideas about working and money and all the pretty things.  I never felt good enough to have all that.  It was something I couldn’t reach, but something I was told I should push for.

My faith declares that God finds favor with me.  Success in His eyes is when I show love to other people; when I do something simple.  Smiling at a stranger.  Holding a baby.  Hugging one of the older members of the church who is having a hard time.  Washing dishes.  Praying and thinking positive things for a friend.  Being willing to be open to my fiance.

This world is a mess.  This society has skewed views of success, happiness, beauty, connection, love.  And yet…and yet…

The people in his world?  They are worthy of my help and my love.

I’ll be looking out for Number Two, and Three, and Four…

Loving God and loving other people: That is my dream.

My heart

I mentioned in my first blog post that September the 30th was to be my confirmation into the Charismatic Episcopal Church.  The church I have been attending for a little over a year is, I believe, the church home that God called me to.  I feel that I can be myself there, which is something I have had a hard time with in churches in the past.  I don’t blame those churches of course; all in all it was about finding the place where I was meant to be.

We recently moved into a new building, which was a very exciting event in the life of the church.  The building we moved out of had been the home base of the church for fifteen years.  Our new building is very nice and a bit larger so we can do much more with our ministry.  The 30th was the day picked for the Bishop to come and consecrate the new building.  It was also the day that many of us were to be confirmed or reaffirmed.

I love our church.  I love that we are liturgical and yet also allow for the Holy Spirit to move.  During my confirmation, the Bishop laid his hand on my head and prayed over me, then also prophesied over me.  For those of you for which this is not a common occurrence, I want to explain that he was not engaging in some sort of fortune telling hocus pocus as many supposed “prophets” do.  The best way I know to explain it (and the way I personally understand it), is that the Bishop prays for me and gets a sense about me, and God gives him words to help me find out who I am in Him.  It isn’t fortune telling.  It is almost more “present” telling.  Also, as I have free will, I can readily ignore everything he says and choose not to live up to anything or try to follow God.

Each person received a recording of their prophecy, and I decided I wanted to type mine up and share it, along with my thoughts about it.

“…The Lord has given you the heart of Mary, the sister of Martha.  I mentioned a word earlier in the sermon that God is raising up helpless lovers of Jesus.  Song of Solomon talks about being lovesick, and the helpless are those who realize they can do nothing apart from Him.  And God wants you to know that he has shaped you and brought you and is bringing you to a place where you’re understanding your own helplessness apart from God.  But a helpless person can do all things through Christ who strengthens them.  That’s gonna flow out of a Mary place, a place for your helpless love of Jesus – that the passion of your life is gonna be a worshiper.  God’s gonna take you down the path, the extravagant path, of being a worshiper of God; and your heart is gonna be all about worshiping and about sitting at the feet of Jesus and doing that one thing.  During this season that we’re in we’ve just come through this month of Elul and we’re in the days of Av all the way up to the 19th of October.  Jewish people all over the world recite Psalm 27 twice a day and the heart of Psalm 27 is: This one thing I’ve asked, that I shall seek; that I shall dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life and behold the beauty of the Lord.  And this is what is going to characterize your life: you’re gonna have a vision of the beauty of God.  Your heart is going to be to seek Him and to sit before Him and to lay before Him and you’re going to be a worshiper of God and behold the beauty of the Lord.  And that’s gonna be your life is beholding the beauty of the Lord and describing and relating the beauty of God to people.”

The thing that struck me the most as the Bishop spoke was his description of me as someone with the heart of Mary.  For those of you who are not savvy in regards to Bible stories, I’ll share with you the story of Mary and Martha from the book of Luke:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

It was surprising at first to hear that I work from a Mary-like place.  I have often had trouble with this particular story.  I always felt I identified more with Martha.  I grew up in the South, and was taught from a young age the importance of a work ethic.  In fact, I thought that work ethic and religion were all tied up together.  I thought to be a “good Christian” you had to strive and work yourself to the bone.  Which sounds much less like grace and more like works to me, but I digress.  Not only that, but I spend a great deal of my time making plans and worrying about what is happening next.  I live in a state of anxiety, though I know this is neither healthy nor helpful.

I claim to love God and trust Him, which is true, and yet it is much more complicated in practice.  I say I trust Him, but then I become anxious when I have to make a phone call to the bank, or make a trip out to buy groceries, or when I am applying for school or jobs.  I want to rely on God to get me through things or to provide for me, and yet at the same time I want to be in control.  I know being in control of your own life sounds freeing, but it really isn’t.  It is scary and exhausting.

I realize worry is just part of life.  We all have something we focus on and are concerned about.  We all make plans and preparations and run around the house trying to make it spic and span.  I do not think that work is a problem; but I do see how distraction can cause a disconnect between the Lord and me.

I yearn for relationship with Christ.  I enjoy beauty.  As I have mentioned before I love to paint.  To write.  To sing.  To read beautiful stories and poetry.  I enjoy praying and reading the Scriptures because that to me is a way to experience the beauty in this world.  So, in truth, I am not so far from Mary as I used to think.

My opinion is that I operate with a Mary heart but a Martha mind.  My desire is that I can change my pattern of thinking and focus on Christ.  I want to have both a head and a heart that work together and choose what is better.  Listening to Jesus and following Him.

You will notice Jesus never said that the work Martha was doing was wrong or bad.  He only revealed her distraction and worry.  Her actions were what seemed right.  She was making a house ready for guests.  She was being the good little homemaker.  But her focus was not in the right place.  Her focus should have been the heart of Jesus.  She needed to feel her helplessness and be okay with it.  She wanted Mary to get up off of her butt and help.  Her feet were sore.  She was cranky.  I might have done the exact same thing.  Yet, Jesus was telling her that Mary had the right idea all along.  Seek Him first.  Do not be anxious.  Do not judge.  Sit at the feet of Jesus, accept that you aren’t in charge of everything, and see what He has to say to you.  I am no theologian or Bible scholar, but I would venture to say that Martha’s heart was probably not much different than Mary’s.  She just had to recognize it.

I do have a Mary heart.  I want to seek the Lord.  I want to experience His beauty.  I can do nothing without Him (except maybe worry and fret).  I want to worship Him and share love and beauty with the world.  I think that this blog is one way in which I can do that.  Come, friends, put down that broom for awhile.  Let the email wait to be checked.  Take a day off.  Come sit with me at the feet of Jesus.  The lessons are worth it.  Grace is beautiful.