Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saint Martha - Did I Choose the Wrong Saint?

I remember this part of my catholic journey....the part where I had to choose a confirmation saint.   This was to be a hero of our faith that would serve as both a role model and intercessor for me along my own faith journey.  It was also to be one that you connected with on a personal level in some way.....and I had a really hard time choosing.

In studying so many amazing saints, I was overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring lives and stories of such courageous men and women...and yet none had really spoken to me in a personal way.  Then I revisited the story of Mary and Martha.  Most of us are familiar with this one, but if not here's a quick recap....

(Luke 10:38-42) As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.  The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing, Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.'"

Now, the heroine in this brief passage is Mary.  Jesus commends her for choosing what is best.  Martha was not wrong for serving and she was not wrong to want Mary's help, but she was distracted by her worry and her work.  Mary chose what was better.  So obviously Mary would have made a wonderful patron saint!  But I chose Martha.  Here's why...

We only hear about Martha two other times in Scripture.  The next time is when Mary and Martha's brother Lazarus has become very ill.  The family sends word for Jesus to come, but he remains where he is for two more days and does not arrive to the family until days later. By this time Lazarus has died and the sisters are mourning.

Martha hears that Jesus is coming and she runs to meet him.  My first thought was,  "Look at Martha! First we see her distracted by busyness and so concerned with doing the right thing that she neglects to spend time with her Lord...and here she is, now running to greet him!"  But wait, what does Martha say......

(John 11:20-22) "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.  Martha said to Jesus, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."

She lays a bit of a guilt trip on Jesus - Why didn't you come sooner?  If you had been here this wouldn't have happened..." We see her frustration and her passion.

And in the next passage we see her faith...

"Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise."  

Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day."  

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?"  

She said to him "Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." 

Did you catch her response? "I have come to believe that you are..."   This is why I love Saint Martha.  Faith and understanding have not been easy for her.  When asked about her belief, the response we hear from her is not, "Yes, Lord!  Of course!".  The fact that she has "come to believe" indicates that Martha has undergone a process of faith.

The third and final mention of Martha in Scripture is very brief.  It simply states "and Martha served".  Beautiful.  Serving was Martha's gift, and she was never called to abandon it.  In this last reference, Martha simply served.  Her heart was right. 

I chose Saint Martha because I identify with her struggle.  I too am anxious about many things.....things I need to surrender through time at my Lord's feet...I can forget that relationships are more important than my to-do list....that I need God's help and time with Him in order to serve and live my gifts well.

What an advocate for me!  Saint Martha struggled.  She had her priorities misplaced.  She had a heart that needed to grow in faith and charity.  And it did.  Her heart was finally right and she used her gifts well. 

I still have much to learn about Saint Martha, but the more I discover, the more I realize just how right she is for me...

Turns out Saint Martha is the patron saint of home makers - little did I know that my greatest joys and greatest struggles would come in this realm.  

And her feast day is celebrated on July 29th, my mother's birthday.

I don't think there is a more perfect Saint to be my champion, guide and advocate.  Happy Feast Day, Saint Martha!  Pray for us! And help us all to set aside our worry and anxiety in order to choose what is better.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Growth In A Giving Heart

On Saturday we had a very impromptu garage sale (which you can read more about over at our home blog).  We had several items I planned to post on craigslist, and we had bags upon bags of items to sell or donate randomly planted throughout the house.  I figured a garage sale would be the quickest way to tackle the growing mound. There was also going to be a donation truck in our neighborhood on Monday that could whisk away anything that didn't sell on the weekend.

I decided to make one last sweep of all the rooms and gather anything else we could add to the sale.  Usually, I sneak extra toys and outgrown clothes out of the kids rooms, bag them up for donation and they never notice the difference.  But a garage sale is different.  The kids are able to see all of their items out on the table and see other people admiring them for themselves.  Things they haven't played with in ages suddenly become the treasured toys they just can't live without.

The last time we went through the kids' rooms looking for items to donate, Mia really struggled with letting go.  Her room was bursting at the seams with toys, clothes and just STUFF.   Even clothes that were too small and uncomfortable to wear, she wanted to keep "for decoration".   I assure you we don't decorate the house with our outgrown clothes.  Usually.

The battle to convince her to give away her extra things came to a head over slippers.  Slippers that she never wore.  In going through her room we found 5 pairs.  I wanted her to choose 2 to keep and 3 to give away.  The tears flowed, along with conversations about other children who had very real needs that we could help meet.

I want giving to be a regular and natural thing for Mia (and all our kids), but this was uncharted territory.  It was the first time we really involved her in the process of discerning needs from wants..of identifying the excess to give away. And it was hard.

I was tempted to force Mia to give away those 3 pairs of slippers.  To insist she give.

Cultivating a giving heart is a curious thing.  We can force a child to 'give' but without a willing heart and the desire to help another, it simply becomes taking.  We take from a child unwilling to let go, in the name of giving to another in need.

I wanted Mia to give from a willing heart and to do it joyfully.  So this meant that Mia gave away one pair of slippers that day - what she was willing to give.

A couple months later and we are here, preparing for a garage sale.  Mia had another opportunity to go through her room with me and decide what we could add to the sale.  We started with a bin of stuffed animals.

Personally, I'm not a big fan...they don't really serve a purpose, tend to multiply every time I turn my back, and rarely see play time.  We have our regular lovies for bed and snuggles but the rest, well, most of the time they are simply there.  To curb the amount of animals and dolls that come in, we have one hamper-sized bin in Mia's closet for all the kids' stuffed animals.  When it begins to overflow, it's time for some to move on.

I pulled out the bin and braced for a fight.  Then my girl surprised me.  Two very similar looking dolls?  Sure, let's give Sally-Swims-A-Lot away and keep Jenny.  A little puppy we got as a prize but don't really play with? Sure, let's put him out for sale.  Uh, OK!

There were still some "friends" she was not willing to part with yet, that I thought were ready for a new home, but I saw a significant change in her sweet heart.

I wondered if this was circumstantial.  Was there a difference between giving away toys and selling them?  The true test came after the sale.

Oddly, we had only one child come to the sale with her mom.  A few toys still sold, but Sally-Swims-A-Lot was still there at the end of the sale.  Throughout the morning, Mia asked, "When is someone going to buy Sally-Swims-A-Lot?"  She really wanted to see a little girl come and happily scoop up Sally for her own.

But that moment didn't happen.  Mia asked what would happen to Sally next.  I explained that the donation truck would be here on Monday and they would deliver Sally to a little girl that really wanted a doll of her very own.  Mia said, "OK, I'll just say goodbye to her then".  And it was done.

Her heart was so much more open to letting go and I pray that it's just the beginning.  I'm very proud of her and want her to know the joy of giving, from one child to another, and for the rest of her life.  Way to go, sweet girl!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Like Little Children...

What does it mean to be a child of God?  So much more than we'll delve into now but as I picked up my crying child today I thought about the relationship between parent and child..between God and us.

When our young children are hurt, they don't come and try to present their problem to us the way they think they should or the way they think we want to hear it.  They run.  They cry.  They crumble in our arms. They are not too proud.

Our children come to us.  They want to be held and comforted.  They want to unload their burden, and they do.  Once they feel better, they get up to go play once more. 

They are still little children.  They aren't too big to be calculated in their words and actions.  Not like us anyway.

They want love. They need love. They aren't afraid to admit it.  And so they seek it from the loving, trustworthy arms of their Mom and Dad.

As they get older, the world will try to convince them otherwise...that to need anything is a sign of weakness.  That they are strong and admired for standing alone.  That if they do seek out love and affirmation, that it can be found in hopeless places, least of all the arms of God.

Why as adults do we find it so hard to just come to God as his precious son or daughter?  Why do we feel we need to first get things right (including our thoughts) before we can even turn to him?  Or wait until we reach a place of desperation? 

I have struggled this week. Struggled with the desire for something that I don't know if God wants for me.  And because I don't know if it is in line with His will, my prayers about it have been scripted...thought out...restrained.  I have been afraid to really ask because I'm afraid the answer will be 'no'. 

In my mind and in my heart I know, I truly do, that I can trust God.  He has never failed me.  He has blown me away in mercy, in generosity, and love that knows no bounds.  I know that I can trust in His goodness and in His 'no'.

And in the same breath, I hear the world, in all it's subtly and aggressiveness, telling me that if the answer is 'no', that it's because of me.  I didn't do enough, I wasn't holy enough, I didn't give enough, I wasn't pretty enough, I wasn't humble enough.  I wasn't enough.

So what will I chose to believe?  I've fallen for that lie more than once but every time it faces me, I get to choose again.  I can reject the lie, and speak the truth to it, or I can try to ignore it just to have it creep back in later.

James 4:7
"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you"

Ephesians 6:11-12
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms"

2 Corinthians 10:5
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ"

'Putting on', 'taking captive', and 'resisting' are not passive.  They require us to be engaged.  To be conscious.  To be aware.  'Submitting' and 'coming' to God are not passive either.

Matthew 11:28
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
God does not want us to carry the weight of the world on our matter what it is that weights you down. If you feel overwhelmed and burdened, just come.  If the thought of resisting and putting on your spiritual armor is too much, just come.  God does not expect or desire for us to do any of these things on our own power.  Even coming to him in our frailty and in humility requires the prompting and help of the Holy Spirit.

God is waiting.  He wants to scoop you up like a child and just hold you in His firm and loving embrace, where strength, courage, and hope are restored.  Don't wait, don't over think.  Just push past your doubt and bring your honest heart before your Creator.  He knows everything that is there and it's only His touch that can help us to see through that fog the world creates to skew our vision.

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