Monday, September 24, 2012

Having a Martha Heart in a Mary (Merry) Household...

            Okay, I don’t know about you but every time I hear the story of Mary and Martha I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Martha.  Now I know that isn’t the “proper” response, certainly we see from Scripture that Mary “chose the better thing.”  I am just saying that if Martha hadn’t been there then there would have been a houseful of hungry men.  Seriously, think about it.  Martha was busy preparing a meal and doing “all the work to be done.”  It’s not like she was doing unnecessary things for Pete sake.  I mean somebody had to do the work that needed to be done while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. 
            So am I the only one who has thought of this?  Is there anyone else out there who can relate way more to Martha than to Mary?  (I hope so!) It seems it is the same way in my own house, I suppose I could be seen as a “fun vacuum” if you ask my kids or husband, Jerry.  However, if everyone is having fun then who is going to fold the socks?  And I like flash light tag as much as the next gal but if no one cleans a path through the house then someone is going to wind up wounded when the lights are out.  So is there a way to balance a Martha heart with a Merry household?  Well, maybe…
            First let’s look at what Mary was doing.  The Scripture says she was “sitting at the feet of Jesus.”  Now this simply means that she was receiving instruction from him, she was learning from His teaching.  I will, sheepishly, admit that when I am preparing supper and Jerry is sitting on the couch I am quite easily angered, even if he is reading his Bible.  Sure, He is doing the better thing but won’t our children starve if one of us doesn’t cook for them.  Okay, back to Mary, it is safe to assume she was not playing a game of Chutes and Ladders or watching the newest video.  She was soaking up wisdom from the King of Kings, her Savior. 
Maybe that is the key, what the person is doing, so is it okay to ask your kids to do a chore (or two or three) when they would rather be playing?  I think even Jesus would agree that it is okay.  Playing and sitting at Jesus’ feet are two different things!  The trick is to find a balance.  The Scripture is filled with verses that talk about the value of hard work and not being lazy.  In fact Proverbs 19:15 states, “Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger.”  My dad always said it like this, “You don’t work, you don’t eat!”  Verse 26 in chapter 10 of Proverbs says, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who send him. 
I think it is safe to say then that Mary was not being lazy when she chose to sit at Jesus feet, but Martha was not being lazy either so why does she get a rebuke from the Lord?  Well, let’s take a look at what she was doing.  She was busy doing the housework, type A personality for sure, but I can just imagine how things were playing out for her.  After all I have found myself, once or twice, in her shoes. 
She wakes up knowing that there is a lot to accomplish this day before her guests arrive.  My guess is that she rushed through breakfast, handing out orders and shared her expectations all the way through.  Or maybe she didn’t even communicate those expectations; after all, Mary should know what needs to be done without being told.  Next, Martha whipped out her “to do list” and began checking things off.  “Build a fire in the stove, check, put on water, check, chop vegetables for a salad, check, knead the bread dough, check….  All the while Mary is nowhere to be seen and Martha slowly begins to boil inwardly.  With each passing task Martha gets a little madder until she finally “blows.”  She looks in and here is Jesus and the disciples with…what…what is she doing in there….  So Martha marches in and declares, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work?  Tell her to help me.”    Now Martha is expecting the Lord to side with her; she is hoping He will chastise Mary and set things right.  Imagine her surprise and hurt when He answers instead, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.  Only one thing is important.  Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”  I don’t suppose that made Martha feel an ounce better, and I have to admit it leaves me a bit puzzled also.  Here is Martha working her tail off trying to get things ready for Jesus and His disciples and Jesus tells her, “Mary has chosen the better thing.”  I imagine that Martha was expecting more along the lines of a word of thanks not a rebuke from the Lord. 
So why did Jesus respond to her this way?  Well 2 Samuel tells us that, “Man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart” and I imagine that is where the answer lies.  Jesus knew Martha’s heart.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”  Martha’s morning work had more to do with her than with being a servant.  I know this because as I have already confessed, I am a Martha.  I clean the house and run around like a mad woman when we are having people over because I want them to think well of me.  I am not doing it as a service to them or to my family.  Does that make sense?  It really is more about me than about serving company.  In trying to explain the frenzy that sets in upon the mere mention of company I have often said, “No one is going to leave this house and say, ‘That Jerry Graham is a terrible housekeeper.’ If we were honest most of us would probably admit that we think a messy house is a reflection on the lady of the house, right?  Martha, being the oldest sister was seen as the one in charge and so this may explain why she was worried about all the house work.  Oh, but there is a difference between being hospitable and being welcoming.
Or maybe it was something else.  Maybe she wanted to be recognized for all her hard work.  Look at me, look what I am doing for you, Jesus.  Have any of us ever felt that way?  Modern psychology would call it the “martyr syndrome.” Again I admit, I have often worked long into the night feeling sorry for myself and thinking about how lucky my family is to have me.  Pretty arrogant, huh?  Or I have worked long and hard on something, more for the praise than because I wanted to serve whoever it was for.  Paul reminds us though, in Ephesians (2:8-9) that we are saved by grace and not by the work we do so that we will not get caught up in boasting.  Well I haven’t got all the answers, that is for sure but I am pretty sure it is okay to have a little bit of Martha in you…just be sure to balance that with a Mary (merry) heart.  “A heart at peace gives life to the body…” Proverbs 14:30
Would love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Heart Overflow

            Have you ever looked in the mirror and been surprised by what you see?  Well you may not like what you saw but you probably weren’t surprised.  Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face reflects face, So the heart of man reflects man.”  Now I am guessing that in Biblical days they didn’t have mirrors so they could only see their reflection in the water.  But what about that second part of the verse, “the heart of man reflects man,”  what does that mean?  And how can we know what is in our heart?” 
A few years ago my school students were studying this verse and they wondered how they could tell if someone had a “good” heart or a “bad” heart.  So we looked at the passage in Matthew 12:34 that says, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Then we discussed how putting garbage in our lives-in our hearts- begins to poison it.  Take a glass of clean drinking water for example, pure and undefiled, quite refreshing on a hot summer day.  But what happens if we put just a little mud into the glass? Do you think many people would be interested in drinking it?  Probably not, because even a little dirt contaminates the water.  Now isn’t the same true of our hearts, even a little sin contaminates them? When we allow bitterness or frustration to come into our hearts, or when we harbor anger we are poisoning our hearts.  Eventually that poison will come out our mouth and stain our witness for Christ. 
So how do we clean our hearts?  Well the truth is, we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). Somewhere in the journey of life each of us have committed at least one sin, which means our hearts have been defiled!  So how do we fix that?  It starts with a prayer like the one David model for us in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Next we need to be proactive and guard our hearts against being contaminated again.  Paul tells us to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  (2 Cor.10:5b)    When I am angry about a situation I need to take it to the Lord, to examine the truth of the situation and then take action.  Maybe that action is realizing I have some responsibility in what happen, or that I need to make some changes, or maybe even that I need to forgive someone.  Whatever it is, we are responsible to keep our hearts clean and when we blow it (as we often do...well at least I do) then we need to a cry out to God to, "create in me a clean heart..."
Walking the journey with you!  Would love to hear your thoughts!  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


            As I glance out the window, the trees with all their brilliant colors catch my eye.  It reminds me of God's faithfulness, how every Autumn, without fail the leaves begin their change.  How every morning when I wake up the sun will be there to greet me and when night falls around me the moonlight is there to lull me to sleep.  God, You are faithful and consistent, never failing. 
            As I think more on the leaves I am reminded about the cycle of life and it strikes me how it is actually the “old” leaves that are filled with color.  The leaves that are dying are dressed in the greatest splendor, how the closer to death they are- the closer to death we are-  the more beautiful they-we-  become.  The closer we draw to death the more we let go- allowing the splendor of our King to shine through in us, in radiant colors.

Or maybe it is death to our old sinful nature, the more we allow it to die the more Christ-like we become. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us that, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here!" Maybe my old nature is like the green of the leaves, full of life...but life that seems to be self reliant.  The tree itself seems to be providing all that the leaves need to sustain themselves.  But the more I realize that it is Christ who must be my life giver, the more I surrender to His will, and the more He shines through me, like the beauty of the Autumn leaves.  

I would love to hear your thoughts, feel free to "leaf" them here or leave a comment on my facebook page! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Heart of God

This is an "old" writing but I am reposting today in honor of my Myrah's 17th birthday (on the 9th!)  It was my first published article, enjoy! 

The heart, what an incredible and complex part of our body!  It doesn’t take a doctor or scientist to realize that this muscle is phenomenal.  It pumps every ounce of blood that our body needs throughout our entire system.  Somehow just the right amounts go to all the right places. What an awesome creator we have!  But, sometimes we have heart troubles.  Now, I am speaking of the physical heart right now.  We hear almost daily of someone having a heart attack or a bypass.  Today I would like to share the story of a little four month old baby girl.
            The baby girl I am referring to is my own.  Her name is Myrah and her life has changed mine forever.  She was born seemingly perfect.  7 lbs. 11 oz.  19 inches long, dark skin and tons of jet black hair.  A beautiful baby girl!  Now she is my second child and so my husband and I were some what versed at this parenting thing.  Her older brother was born only 15 months prior and we had struggled through that pregnancy.  Jeremiah was a twin but because of my sickness and inability to keep anything down, I lost one of the babies.  I tell you this so you can understand how relieved we were that Myrah was born so healthy.  My pregnancy with her was still filled with much sickness and we, as probably all parents, were anxious for her arrival to be assured that she was healthy. 
            There were subtle signs as we began our lives together that things were not okay.  Myrah slept a lot and it was difficult to wake her for feedings.  When she was awake she would nurse only a few minutes and would fall back asleep.  She didn’t roll over or hold her head up as quickly as her brother seemed to.  But, we are taught not to compare our children and so my husband and I attributed it to a difference in personality.  When she was three months old I took her to the emergency room because she seemed to have a bluish tint to her.  The doctor shrugged it off and diagnosed it as a cold.  He prescribed some cold medicine and sent us home.  It wasn’t until a month later when our pediatrician was examining her at a well baby check up that we knew for sure something was wrong.  He told my husband that Myrah had a heart murmur.  Now, although we did not know it until then, heart murmurs are fairly common among children.  He tried to
reassure my husband of this and sent us to the hospital for an EKG.  To make a long story short, we ended up in a cardiologist’s office and we were scared to death.  After a few tests we were told that our baby had a hole in her heart.  I think that is the scariest statement I have ever heard in my whole life.  Myrah had what they call patent ductus arteriosus (P.D.A.) and required surgery as soon as possible.  Now the way God designed the heart is that before a baby is born there are two openings in the heart.  One is between the right and left sides and one is at the top between the pulmonary artery and the aorta.  These are designed to close at birth.  The reason for these holes prior to birth is that they allow blood to flow to the lungs and sort of “exercise” them since there is no air to prepare them for the “big day.” Myrah’s hole was the one located between the pulmonary valve and the aorta.  Instead of needing open heart surgery, the surgeon was going to be able to go in through her back between her ribs and fix the problem.
At the time though, it made no difference, our baby was going to be cut open and they were going to be working on her heart.  Even as I write this the butterflies start up in my stomach.  It was and is an incredibly scary thought. 
            Our God is so powerful though and he had reminded of this all the way through.
Remember the emergency room trip when Myrah was three months old?  Well the doctor had prescribed too high of a dosage of cold medicine for a 3 month old.  He had measured out the first dose at one teaspoon.  Fortunately, having an 18 month old already who only took a half teaspoon, I knew this dose was wrong.  I refused to give it to Myrah and in my stubbornness gave her none of the medication at all.  Two months later as we met with the cardiologist one of the first things he warned us about was cold medicine.  He told us that Myrah’s heart was already working so hard to get the blood throughout her body, (because most of it was falling back into the lungs) that ANY cold medicine would cause her heart to slow down and could kill her.  Isn’t it incredible how God can protect us?
            Myrah is almost three years old as I sit writing this.  She has been completely healed by the surgery and the grace of God.  Her heart is still bigger on one side than the other but eventually that will even out.  We just tell everyone she has a big heart!  Now she does have the energy she lacked in her first few months, in fact we joke that because her heart is bigger that she has twice as much energy as most toddlers!   Although, to some degree I am sure that this is true!!  She is a beautiful and very healthy little girl.
            So why do I tell you all of this?  Well at the beginning of all of this I mentioned that we hear of heart trouble often and I was speaking of the physical type.  I would like to just turn that a bit and focus on the heart of God.  In the years since Myrah’s surgery I have really come to think about the heart of God.  Remembering how scary it was to sit in that doctor’s office and hear that my baby had a hole in her heart still brings chills to my spine.  However, when I think about the hole that must be in God’s heart because of my sins, the ache he must feel to know that he paid the cost of his one and only son for us and yet we still turn away from him.  It is fairly obvious if you read the papers or listen to the news at all to see that the world is falling apart around us.  Satan is running rampant in our schools and in our towns.  Oh, how God’s heart must ache as he sees guns
and drugs in the hands of innocent children.  As he sees his children turning from what they know is right, He must cry a river of tears.  As those we set up in leadership turn their hearts toward the things of this world instead of the eternal things of heaven, there must be a gaping hole in the heart of our creator.  There is an old WhiteHeart song that says, “We are His hands, We are His feet...”   I think to, we are His heart and I wonder what we can do to make a difference in the world, in our world today??

                                                                                                                        Marla Graham
                                                Published December 2003 in Hearts at Home Devotional