Alabaster box

Some people know, probably most don’t that my favorite story of the Bible is the story of Mary and Martha, but for different reasons than you would expect. See, everyone looks at Martha being a busy body and Mary sitting at Jesus’s feet. But there is more to these sisters than meets the eye. See, the house was attributed to Martha, not any male or even parents. Jesus spent a lot of time in. Bethany, he loved this family. He did bring Lazarus back from the dead after all. He wept with the people over Lazarus, he spent time at the house while Martha bustled around and Mary… well, Mary just is, in this story, one who sits and soaks.

But there is more. See scholars believe that this same Mary was the one who poured Spikenard on Christ’s head and wiped his feet with her hair. And before men write this off completely, read on.

The perfume was incredibly expensive. It was housed in an alabaster jar. This was most likely her dowry, her future to reel in a great husband… particularly since likely her parents are deceased. See what she does… she throws caution to the wind.

She takes the jar and breaks it and pours it on Jesus. Not just a drop, but pours it on. And as she is moved to tears at her savior and the longing of her heart to serve him, she pours it on his head! Anointing him with such a generous and extravagant gift, Jesus sees this from her heart. He tells the disciples not to stop her or admonish her about supposedly wasting it. No, he doesn’t see this as a waste.

Then takes her head covering off (scandalous!) And wipes his feet with her hair as she is washing them with her tears.

She is a beautifully broken worshiper, and the disciples in the room refer to her as wasteful. So, look harder.

She gave up her future, gave it all to Jesus, every drop. She did this out of worship. She loved Jesus so much that she gave everything. She put her future in his hands completely.

Each day I strive to give everything completely to him. Everything meaning… Every. Thing. How much do I hold back? How much do I keep behind because my standards or my plans look differently than his?

How many blessings do we miss because we won’t break the jar and give our everything?

“Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head.”
Mark 14:3 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/mrk.14.3.NLT

Enjoy Cece Winans’ song Alabaster Box

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Crushing

If you knew that you would win the war, would you be ok with losing a battle or 2? I mean, it is almost like baiting your enemy… taking a beating when you know who the real winner is, and you showing up at the end like Rocky Balboa bloodied and broken but shouting for a loved one?

Kind of like, no exactly like, what Christ did for us. But what about what we face each day? I find myself reminding my heart that Jesus has already overcome the world in the middle of feeling crushed like an olive for its oil. But about that crushing…

When you crush something… the initial squeeze gets the top part out, the stopper that’s dried in place and protects the rest. Then comes the mediocre stuff. The stuff that really the world sees… the stuff that seemingly makes us who we are and yet not who we are in Christ.

Then comes the final press. This is the painful pressing, not-going-to-ever-look-the-same sort of crush that hurts, man, does it hurt. It is uncomfortable, painful and seems to twist and revise every part of us. And why shouldn’t it? Christ was beaten beyond recognition of man. Let me say that again, he was beaten so badly that he didn’t even resemble a man anymore.

Ever have that feeling? The feeling you are being crushed into an recognizable lump? Ah, but the oil… the oil, the product of the crushing is what’s important.

Some days I think that there is nothing good that comes from me. That the crushing is just for the sake of folly, but God never wastes pain. He uses those he crushes. He disciplines those he loves. (Psalm 94:12, Prov 3:12). Kind of makes the crushing worth it.

Here’s the thing though, I go willingly to the press. Not everyone does. But the desire to be used far outweighs the pain of being crushed.

Willingly going to battle, knowing the victory is already in the bag. One thing remains. He was broken and poured out, just as Paul was (2 Tim 4:6), just as we are to be. Crushed.

All the single ladies

Woman, I see you. I want you to know that your struggles are shared by many. Beware there’s an enemy who would lead you to believe you are alone and forgotten by your Creator.

The buck stops with you, or so you think. You make as many decisions during the first hour you’re awake in the morning than most people make all day. Can I encourage you in this moment that though those decisions, I know, are never made haphazardly, keep thinking of those babies you’re raising. Keep your eye on that house, that degree, that promotion you are working for… those goals drive you. They drive you to be better and more, but not only for yourself, but for those babies.

But I want to help you as well to understand that you are already a daughter of the King. You are already loved and treasured, the apple of your Creator’s eye. I know, you don’t see this. You think you’ve made too many mistakes for God to ever love you, but he is a loving father. You may not be used to that, to having someone always in your corner, but God really does think you’re pretty amazing.

I feel your pain. The loneliness of 24/7 parenting, the longing to have someone by your side. You may have never felt that sort of love from a man. You may be recovering from the pain of abuse, can I remind you, that man is wrong. You are more powerful and beautiful than you realize, both inside and out. No man can truly appreciate your heart the way Jesus can.

You may be seeking security in a relationship. You see your babies looking to you for leadership that you are just too tired to give. Oh what a good thing to have someone to help out. And, beloved, if this is your heart’s desire, pray. God is already preparing the perfect man for you who will affirm you, admire you, respect you and treat you like the daughter of the most high King.

Child, do not settle for less. Remember, who paid the price for you. Remember to whom you belong.

I see you. I see the tears you cry in the wee hours of the night. The broken heart that you nurse behind closed doors, after the babies are sleeping. That pain runs deep and makes you question your very being. Let me again remind you, you are not alone. God draws near to the broken hearted. He waits for you to let him heal those broken places.

I see your struggle, I feel your pain, your worry, your loneliness. I am like you, but let me encourage you. Though there are many like us, but there is only 1 God who loves unconditionally. Give him those struggles, fears, tears, trials and yes, even victories no matter how small. He holds you in his gentle hand.

Don’t fight the hand that holds you.

Sincerely,

A sister single mama

Old Plans in a New Life

Some people are planners.  They plan every minute of every day, scheduled to the nth degree and carry out said schedule day after day.  They plan on saving $X, develop a plan and voila, it happens.  People plan children.  When to strategically become pregnant  and include the maternity leave… you know who you are.  Planners.

I would LIKE to think I am a planner, but reality is I am more of a dreamer.  I plan to do things and then end up scrapping the plan in lieu of something more appealing or to fill some need that arises.  I learned a long time ago that I can make all the plans I want, but when you give the Lord free reign over your time to do what he does, that is a dangerous place to be and you better just take some deep breaths and plunge ahead.

So it was when I graduated nursing school.  I had a job lined up to start the January after graduation in December 2009.  I prayed and fasted prior to beginning this career because… well, looking back, because I knew in my heart that God had better plans, I was just trying to talk him out of it.

Ministry! He said, you need to go to seminary.

No. Way. I don’t read so good (sounds like Moses?).  Seriously, don’t I have enough education to do what you need me to do? (the rich young ruler?)  It was then he became silent about my career.  Providing the job I needed to support my family, but giving direction?  nope.  none.

About 2 days ago I dismantled an old blog on a different website mainly because I am going to begin writing a Bible study and some research I had was already published on there.  In the course of skimming these interesting relics from my past, I discovered 2 posts from April and August of 2010.  Both of them wrestle with unrest, holy discontent.

I had heard him loud and clear that I was to go into ministry.  I felt his nudging, shoving, pushing toward ministry.  To say I was resistant was an understatement.  The direction I wrestled with was in fact seminary, and in fact it was to get an MDiv in Counseling.

I absolutely did NOT want to do this.  I rebelled in a huge way.  Blatant, unrepentant sin began tearing through my life.  It was easier to give into sin than to stand against it because I was very isolated and alone in a new place with a new job.  I felt as if I was leading a dual life, but the few people who were close to me knew I was in pain and making bad decisions but really were powerless to get through my thick head.

In one of the posts I wrote “my heart knows this but my head doesn’t”  That, folks, was my downfall. That was in August 2010.  My utter and complete undoing waited in the dark.

Fast forward 8 years.  The Lord has brought me through so many storms.  So. Many. Storms.  An unhealthy marriage, family trauma, health issues, mental health damage for me and my family, loss of home, job changes, toxic work environments… It has been in 2018 that I finally listened to the Lord when he asked, “Now, can we do this my way?”

It took 8 years of running, rebellion and pain for me to come to the conclusion he wrote on my heart years ago.  A counselor.  He has called me to be a pastoral counselor.  Teach the word, disciple the least of these, help people find their worth in Christ.  Love on people where they are at, see them through the eyes of Jesus and walk in the dark with them.

This is my calling.  My life’s purpose.

“If he’s called you, he is still calling you.”  You would do well to answer the Caller.

 

 

Ponderances Courtesy of Zaccheus

“Zaccheus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.”

You know you just sang that song… it’s ok. I did too.

In Luke 19 today, Zaccheus sought Jesus as he was passing  through. Zaccheus climbed a tree to even get a glimpse. Scripture says he was excited and full of joy when Jesus invited himself over for dinner.

“Full. Of. Joy. And. Excitement.”(emphasis mine)

A sinner, a tax collector… lowest of the low… he was excited for Jesus to come to his house. Zaccheus had to know that Jesus would see everything.

When guests show up unexpectedly at my house, the kids and I try to run through the house putting clutter in drawers, taking out trash and trying to make it look better than the normal “day after Hurricane Katrina” decor.

But Zaccheus just was excited. He didn’t have a cell phone to warn his servants “hey, Jesus is coming over… make sure you put the Bible out on the coffee table” no, he was just excited and joyful. Would I be excited and joyful knowing that the creator of the world was coming to my house? I mean the master who knows my heart coming to my home…. I would like to think I would be welcoming and excited.

Isn’t it funny how we are excited when we ask him into our hearts. We pledge to give him everything, and we still run through hiding our clutter and acting like we are living a set apart life when we know we aren’t. Jesus, though a gentleman, isn’t fooled.

Verse 8 says that Zaccheus stood before the Lord and pledged to make right his cheating of others. Wow, he really was excited! But it is the standing before the Lord that makes me wonder about the dinner conversation itself. Standing before someone… the very phrase leads me to believe that Zaccheus became convicted. He knew by spending time with Jesus that he needed to change.

Spending time with Jesus–we can’t help but change.  Stand before him this last week before Christmas… what changes will be made, need to be made, for 2019?

 

Walking With a Limp

I started this a week ago and believe me, I have been limping physically limping ever since.  Believe it or not, I used to be fairly athletic.  I played softball and basketball, did aerobics and even ski and roller skate.  I have definitely had my share of sprained joints.  I learned to wrap my knee or ankle and out the door I went.  Walking with a limp meant, to me, that I was not strong.  It meant that I couldn’t handle the activity that I had set out to do, so I pushed the pain aside and kept going.  Whatever is hurting or made me feel weak, I pushed aside and kept on going.

But what do you do when you just feel like you cannot keep on any more?

I thought 2016 would sign my death certificate. 2017: I knew some radical changes had to be made and 2018… well, let’s just say I have learned to walk with a limp.

It wasn’t my idea.  I have wrestled and fought.  I feel like I have walked this year uphill, both ways, barefoot, in 5 feet of snow.  Now as the year comes to an end… I am cautiously optimistic.  I am limping to the finish.

Someone else that wrestled acquired a limp and so much more.

See Genesis 32.  Jacob was a deceiver.  He was conniving and cunning, after working 14 years for his 2 wives, 2 servants and fathering 11 sons, we find him wrestling.  The Bible says that he wrestled with a man until daybreak.  The man perceived he couldn’t win so he struck Jacob’s hip and dislocated it.  Jacob refused to let the man go until the man blessed him.  It was only then that Jacob really knew who he has wrestled with…

“…From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” (Gen 32:28)

But did Jacob win?  He walked away with terrible pain and a pretty convincing limp.  From the on-looker perspective, Jacob didn’t win anything.  Sure he was blessed, but the blessing wasn’t an immediate reward.  Jacob got nothing from the encounter that anyone could see except for a weakness that followed him the rest of his life.

Though think about what he did win.  His name was changed to Israel and he was the daddy for the 12 sons that made the 12 tribes.  That’s some serious blessing.

About that limp… as the year comes to a close, I reflect on the past particularly 2 years.  I cannot push aside the things that bring pain or make me feel weak.  I must learn to walk with a limp.  I used to think that walking with a limp was a sign of weakness, but I am learning that it very well could be a sign of strength.  Strength not to just give up, but to keep on going in spite of the pain because I know that God is good.  His plans are good, and even though I cannot understand… he has his best in mind for me and I will keep following.

I will say again:  God is good.

Garbage

Garbage. We all make it, have it and even hoard it. Wait. Hoard it? Yes.
When moving companies come in to pack and move you, the packers pack everything. And by everything, I mean EVERY. THING.  That includes your nasty kitchen trash, the baby’s diapers you have been putting off throwing out, as well as your fine china and fur coats. What a great surprise to get to your new home, open your boxes and discover the rotting, smelly trash that you brought with you!
Isn’t bitterness this way? You move through life collecting items, and you pick up a bitter root. Someone offends you and you said it was ok, but really it wasn’t.  Someone mentions in passing that she got the promotion or project you wanted, you become bitter. A relationship goes sour and you become bitter.
Bitterness is just like that rotting trash. It may start off as just something you throw away and forget about, but when you begin unpacking the baggage you have been hauling around, you discover you never truly threw it out. You’ve been hauling it around, It clings to those trophies of unforgiveness, and the horrid stench is making it impossible to unpack anything else.
This may effectively be the hardest item to unpack, because just like garbage in our trash cans the awful smell, the reminder of its presence permeates everything and the sweetness of anything else is snuffed out. You are going to have to an intervention to get this nastiness out.
Intervention. Yes. Removing bitterness is an active process. Just like with oozy smells, you bleach, clean, disinfect.. bitterness you must yank out by the root. Painful? It can be. It depends how long you’ve let this sit, soak and sour. In pulling this out you will dredge up other grossness that you probably didn’t want to experience either, but remember the smell isn’t just in 1 part now, it is everywhere.
The antidote to fix this? God’s love. The sweet smell of God’s love will take this bitterness from you (Is 38:17), and make you new (2 Cor 5:17)… you have to allow it. It’s an intervention of heart proportions that has eternal ramifications.
Removing that horrible stench opens up a whole new place for you to fill with good things, good memories, good deeds and fresh relationships.
Why not unpack that, put the trash where it belongs and enjoy the freshness of making room for the good things God has..

Trophies

When I was a kid, trophies were a big deal. Not participation trophies, but the silver or  gold colored statues that said 1st place… they are a big deal!. You work hard for the trophies in your life, some are statues, some are pieces of paper, still some are intangible. Like the trophy of unforgiveness.
In unpacking today, let’s first take out that tarnished, delapidated trophy. You won this by putting up with a cheating spouse, a competition with a co-worker that cost a friendship, a person at church who seemed to be uncaring or worse, your own family who you refuse to forgive because… well, you have forgotten why, but they are jerks anyway, right?
Trophies.
Trophies are usually something displayed because of a job well done. Surely I can put that 10 year old trophy, or 30 year old trophy on display,  you know, now that I’m unpacking and all. I am certain everyone will want to see the gunk that has accumulated on my trophies of unforgiveness.
What would happen if I got rid of them? I mean, large trophies are bulky and heavy, and if I am truly unpacking, how would it feel to lay these aside? To forgive the wrong done to me would certainly lighten my load… is it possible to unpack these and donate them like I would a worn out bag or dress?  The answer is yes.
The best drop spot for old, gunky, delapidated trophies are at the foot of the cross. Did you know that you can put those old trophies there and God will take it and make something new? Christ is in the business of refurbishing and repurposing (2 Cor 5:17).
The trouble is that we would rather carry those trophies around because we think perhaps it makes us stronger. Reality? It is a burden we were never intended to carry (Matt 5:24).  You read that right.
A burden we were never intended to carry.
Best unpack those old trophies and donate them. God has this habit of taking the ugly and making it beautiful again (Is 61:3).

Unpacking

Final thoughts on today: been thinking about all the stinking baggage we haul around day after day…. you know the baggage I mean… past hurts, memories of embarassment or shame, doubts, questions and anxiety about today, tomorrow and even next week.
Can I just say to you: unpack it and live in the present. Stay awhile and see what happens.
When I was growing up we moved a lot, so now as an adult I often find myself restless. Most people around here don’t leave and they look on people like me as brave. Honestly, the bravest thing I have ever done was to stay put when I was unsure, to plant my feet and be firm. It was hard, and still is, but the baggage remains.
I urge you, stay strong, stand firm and unpack. Look through your “stuff” long enough to toss out the unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, shame, and pain. Do you really need that junk where you are at at this moment? Will you need it where you are going? No. And. No.
“Ain’t nobody got time for that ”
Here’s the deal. You can only bear so much. God only intended for you to bear what he gave you, not the junk that the world gave you. So, honestly speaking, all that extra junk in your trunk? It was never yours to carry.
It. Was. Never. Yours. To. Carry.
Unpack. Stay a bit. Have some iced tea and sit a spell with Jesus. Not only will he help you unpack, but he will spruce up.

*Embrace being free (John 8:36)*
It is good.

Kingdom Business

A long time ago, I was in church and a missionary family came to visit.  I loved listening to their story.  They were (and still are) a sweet family with such a heart for the Lord.  At the end of the service, I was thrilled to give a love offering and was so excited to sign up to provide dinner for them.  I remember running to the desk after the service and looking at the empty list.  I was so afraid that I would not get to break bread with this family, and here I was one of the only on the sign up sheet.

Years later, I had asked for help on Facebook mainly because it was a daytime cry for help and knowing that someone may have time to assist me during a lunch break…  and well, I didn’t really know anyone specifically to call.  You see, being a single mama means that whether people want to admit it or not, my integrity is called into question when I need a man to help me move something or in this case, deliver something that would not fit in or on my minivan.  4 days.  There were a couple of women who contacted me that their husbands were out of town or they would help.  But 2 out of….??  It took 4 days and when the person who “gave in” delivered the item in his truck, he indicated that there were several people who had seen the post and not done anything about it…even though I had stressed that this was important and I desperately needed help.  No one budged.  4 days. He said that someone else had told him that they were “about to help me” were it not for him who already showed up.  Seriously.

Many years ago, when I lived rurally and was going through a divorce, the acre that I normally kept mowed, I didn’t have time to keep up with because I was trying to pack, grieve, keep up with kids, find a job, find a place to live… the yard was the last thing on my mind.  Basically the men that showed up to help me move were there at the request of my soon to be ex husband to get me out of his house/life. When loading up all the stuff, one of the men mentioned to me that he drove by our house every day on his way to work and noticed that I was having a hard time keeping up with the yard.  He knew what we were going through because he was a deacon with my husband at the same church.  And he said that he guessed he should’ve stopped and asked if he could at least mow the yard (because the grass was so high the kids weren’t allowed outside for fear of snakes), but he didn’t.

During that same season of life, I had taken a job that worked weekends, 2nd shift and I wasn’t able to get my kids to their regularly scheduled Sunday night activity.  I had asked a few different people and 1 family did it a time or 2, then there was no one.  I had served in this ministry before I had to earn a living, but no one had room.  No one had time.  Meanwhile, my kids were left wondering why no one would come and take them to church, after all, lots of people had said if we needed anything to ask.  The kids knew I had asked, and based on the fact that they were home on Sunday night, they knew the answer.

This is the body of Christ?  When it came to the real work of Christ, where was everyone who said if I needed anything to call?

Now, I know that I don’t get it right all the time.  And I know that I can not help everyone.  But I can help the ones that God lays on me to help.  And perhaps that what these people were doing… or perhaps God put something or someone on their heart and they didn’t listen.  They said that someone else can do it because they don’t have time…  the bottom line was there wasn’t a perceived need.

You may have heard about the study that was done many years ago about a young woman who was raped and killed in an alley in a big city and all the neighbors heard her screams but no one did anything to help.  Why?  Because everyone thought that someone else would help.  There was no perceived need because they all thought someone else would help.  Seriously, this is the world we live in.  How in the wide world can we expect a lost and dying world to come to Christ with the mindset that someone else will do it?

Is there no perceived need?

Matthew 25:37-40 ““Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’  “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’”