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In Lesson #4, also called “The Cure,” we investigate our response to last week’s “Diagnosis” (Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things). He says, “only one thing is needed…” and yet, do we embrace that one thing?

Joanna Weaver begins this lesson with a story about the rocks and the wagon. This story begins with a man who is more than willing to serve the Lord by taking three rocks up a hill, only to be undermined along the way by taking on the rocks, boulders, and even a bag of pebbles that others have asked him to carry along. His wagon becomes too heavy and he cries out to the Lord in misery, “This job is too heavy for me… I’m just not strong enough.” In the end, it is the Lord who helps the man remove the rocks from his wagon that are not his to carry.

We had a wonderful discussion about this story and how it relates to our lives. How many of us have taken on the rocks of others… in our Martha way, trying to help, trying to serve, but losing sight of the original mission? Some of our God-given rocks were the things which we have no control over: serious illness, children with difficult issues, our basic appearance and talents, our parents, etc. while some of the other rocks we have put into our wagon were sin, our mates, our work, our addictions, our homes, our feelings and resentments, only to name a few.

Some of us also carry the “rock of perfectionism” that often manifests as chaos because, in reality, we can’t be perfect. And yet, we continue to place our “bar” or performance at such a high level that anything less than perfect is just not worth it and so we give up: our homes are chaotic, our work is stress-filled, our family life is tortured, and our self-esteem is shattered.

So, what is this one thing that Jesus admonishes Martha to have? We all know the answer, of course… it’s knowing God and being intimate with Him. And how do we do this? Spending time with Him… but do we have that time if it’s crowded with the “rocks” of manufactured responsibilities or perfectionist-driven tasks? It is certainly more difficult and often, to a pure Martha, “time with the Lord” can feel like one more rock. That is sad to say.

The story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-28) adds another dimension. The one thing he lacked, his one stumbling block, was his inability to give up his wealth. He couldn’t let go because it was his security. What are we holding on to? Are we holding onto worry even though we hate it, but it’s familiar. Are we holding on to our busyness “rocks” even though they make our lives heavy and difficult? Or, are we just performing for God with all of our tasks and duties and volunteerism, hoping it will be enough, hoping to work our way into His heart?

Sometimes, we are unable to let go of our “rocks” because of our history. Paul says in Phillipians 3:12-14, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me… one thing I do… forget what is behind … pressing toward the prize…” Are we holding on to what is behind? For me, there are still issues of not trusting men (doesn’t that make intimacy with Christ more difficult), or my fears of becomoing poor (as we were in my childhood), or fear of disappointment.

Our rocks at the altarI reminded everyone this week that this study will only be as meaningful as we allow it to be. Our first week, we talked about the necessity to “get out of our comfort zone.” If we want to grow closer to the Lord, we will have to change our behaviors. We will have to let go of the “old way” and press toward a new way. With this in mind, we created a strong word picture for ourselves by each taking a rock that symbolized some of our burdensome “rocks” and laid them at the altar. With each rock we spoke a prayer of letting go of some of the specific things that were holding us back.

Next week, we will begin to build on these new pathways and enter into a fresh intimacy with our Lord.

So, tell the truth! How would you feel if you were working really hard to get everything ready for a special guest and the rest of your family (sisters, brothers, husbands & children) were sitting around yakking/listening to the “special guest” and you were doing all the work… so, you decide to say something… not too mean, just a little pointed, figuring your gues would back you up and instead, he says… (fill in your name here)… “you are worried and upset about many things…” etc. I appreciated many of the group’s comments… they were not too different from my own: “feel like I’m being criticized,” feel offended, resentful, surprised, angry, irritated, devastated, and unappreciated to name a few. I even added that my tendency would be “add some more facts….” surely he would back me up then.

The reality is that most Martha’s are also worriers… and maybe half of us are “chronic worriers.” chronic worrierJoanna Weaver lists 10 signs of a worrier (page 33). Each person in the group picked their top 1 or 2 and shared how that was how they manifested worry the most. As we discussed worry further, we reviewed Luke 8:14 and I noted how the three things that choke the word (or perhaps I should say Word as in the person of Jesus) are worries, riches & pleasures. Isn’t that intriguing? You see, riches and pleasures are not sins of themselves, it’s our indulgence in these things … and so it is with worry. It literally crowds out the Lord from being able to make a difference. If we worry enough, there is no room for Jesus.

One of my favorite parts of the chapter was the Concern & Worry diagram. It’s so important to know the difference. We have to be able to look at our lives and how we react in order to change (remember, being in this class is about CHANGE… moving outside the box of how we “normally” react to the circumstances & people in our lives! right?) … So concern invoves a legitimate threat… it is specific and there is a way to specifically address the problem and even solve it eventually. Concern draws us closer to God. Worry, on the other hand, is usually generalized, often unfounded, obsessive and often creates more problems. Worrk looks to the self for the answer. What’s on your list? As we discussed, we must know and identify what is in the Worry column before we can move it around.

The two key scriptures are Proverbs 3:5-6 (Trust in the lord is the command… and what is the promise/result?) and Phillipians 4:6-7 (Be anxious for nothing is the command… and what is the promise/result?). These scriptures we need to memorize and hold close when the Worry column of things starts dominating.

We also followed the instructions of the book and read Matthew 6:25-30 with our names personalized within the scripture. I would encourage each of you to do the following exercise too… Read the next section, Matthew 6:31-34 and respond IN WRITING, “Lord, I don’t want to worry as the world does, help me to… ” and fill in the blank.

At the end of class, I gave a small talisman to each person as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

Interesting second class… missing a few students from the first week but picked up a few new ones… hope we can all get together this week! Please do remember to prayer for Hannah … Lisa and Pastor Craig’s daughter… as her situation is of grave concern. Let us continue to hold her in the Light of Christ.

As we started the discussion on Chapter 2, we began with some general stories about sibling rivalry. Sibling Rivalry[/caption]Was there any rivalry in your home as a child? Did you ever feel that your brother or sister was getting better treatment than you? Several shared that it wasn’t so much that they resented their siblings as the other way around. That was certainly a different take on the topic.

We re-read the Mary/Martha story (Luke 10:38-42) and put some emphasis on this week’s topic: “Lord, Don’t You Care?” that Martha exclaims out of her frustration… or anger… or what do you think? She was working so hard and it just didn’t seem “fair.” I had to laugh a little at the group. I guess I am the quintessential Martha. I had lots of stories of asking God “why this?” or “why that?” … I’ve challenged the Lord many times for the circumstances of my life, from childlessness to difficulties in my marriage to growing up with a mentally ill parent. But, few in the group had stories of this type to tell. Eventually, though, with a step here or there, there was sharing about deep disappointment in the face of an illness or the unchecked behaviors in a teenager.

Author, Joanna Weaver, lays out a clear breakdown of the spiral that can begin in the mind and can lead to catastrophic results. We read I Kings 19:1-18 and analyzed Elijah’s response to Jezebel’s threats. Despite his previous miracle when he challenged over 450 of the Baal priests to pray down fire. Not only did fire come down for Elijah only, it was after dousing the altar with water 3 times. And after that, he even called forth rain in the midst of the desert. And yet, when Jezebel threatened, he lost heart and bolted.

Weaver identifies 3 D’s. First there is Distraction. Elijah became afraid of Jezebel and ran. He lost sight of the big picture. Then, he became Discouraged as he contemplated being the only prophet left to fight the good fight. And finally, he Doubted that God could protect him. Have you experienced a similar spiral? I know I have. And I also know that doubt can fester into unbelief.

But how does God help us in our time of need? Like Elijah, he sends his “angels” to give strength and provision. For us, as we talked, we realized that God has sent people to be his angels… people who cared about us and added their strength to our strength. God also speaks … not so much in the wind and storm, but in the still small voice. So often, it takes the quiet voice to calm someone down. Does it work to calm someone who is upset with more screaming and shouting? No, it’s the steady, confident voice. What else did God do for Elijah? He gave Elijah a plan and put him back to work…. that is His work, not the work we have create for ourselves.

Jesus calms the stormWe pursued this concept a little further with Mark 4:35-41 as we discussed the disciples who grew so afraid even with Jesus in the boat. They couldn’t see past their circumstances. And isn’t Jesus in our boat… whatever our circumstances? (Read Psalm 103.)

As part of a closing exercise, each person wrote a letter to the Lord… each letter started with these words: “Lord, I know you love me because…” (and then we listed the ways He has shown His love.) If you missed last week’s class, please try this exercise at home, seal the envelope and bring it to class. I will keep it safe for you … for a season.

We ran out of time before we were able to discuss the parts of the chapter that were most meaningful to us. For me, it was the clear instruction on distraction, discouragement & doubt (I would throw “disappointment” into that mix as well). It also made me realize how powerful circumstances are as distractors… they prevent us from seeing ahead… it’s like coming up against a great wall. If we don’t see or believe that change to our circumstances is just ahead or at least, possible, doubt has even more room to grow.

With our next lesson, we’ll examine the “Diagnosis” of this state in more detail. See you then.

Welcome to the new class! On Thursday, September 4th, 11 class members met with me to begin investigating, discussing, and discovering what God might have to say to us about “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.” This book, written by Joanna Weaver, felt ideal to me… a Martha from way back! 🙂

Mary, Martha & Jesus

Mary, Martha & Jesus

Our discussion was strong and covered some very foundational truths before we move further into the topic and into our hearts. Generally, we covered the questions in the back of the book, but I did add some of my personal viewpoints about a study of this kind.

We began the class with some basic “norms” about group dynamics such as respecting one another’s opinions, accepting differences, letting people finish what they have to say, and establishing confidentiality for anything shared during class. We do ask that we try to keep an open mind and heart throughout the class.

Assuming that most of the class members consider themselves a “Martha,” I asked them to call out some words or phrases that come to mind when thinking of Martha (remember the story can be found in Luke 10:38-42). Here are some that I captured:

Resentful, “Martha Stewardish,” gift of hospitality, fulfilling a perceived cultural role, distractedness and yet single-minded, a people pleaser, task-oriented, driven, a doer, and a servant heart.

Then I asked for words and phrases about Mary:

Innocent, spoiled, sweetness, calm, thoughtful, reverent, brave, focused, self-paced, content, and connecting

I found it interesting that most of the words for Martha were negative and yet most of us identify with her the most. There is definitely some work to do here! And, while coming up with words for Mary, we all laughed, a little resentful of her “perfectness.”

I also asked the Joanna Weaver question about comparing oneself to an inanimate object or animal. I don’t remember all of the items, but there was a blender, a “Tazmanian Devil,” a soda bottle, a washer and dryer, a roller coaster, and the inside of a clock. (I’m surprised no one mentioned the “Energizer Bunny.”)

It’s my belief that this class will offer lots of opportunities for introspection. In order to discover our internal Mary (because I also believe that we are all both Mary and Martha, but one tends to dominate), we must know and understand ourselves. We must be honest with ourselves. We must be willing to step out of our “comfort zone.” Apparently, what we have tried so far in our quest for “Mary-ness” is not working or we wouldn’t be in the class!

There are lots of ways to begin the process of knowing yourself. Some of the ways are casual and strictly entertainment-based like reading your horoscope in the newspaper or answering questions in a women’s magazine survey or reading some self-help books. There are also more standardized tests that can help you identify your “preferences” – or how you usually respond to situations (also called the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator) or the Keirsey Temperament Sorter or even the Enneagram. Again, none of these are definitive, but merely a way to “think” about ourselves in this moment, this day, this year.

One of my favorites is the Meyers Briggs for the broad strokes. For instance, do you “get” or “renew” your energy when you are with other people or when you are alone. If alone, you would be considered by the MBTI to be an “introvert” and if the opposite, then an “extrovert.” Or, when thinking about how you process or understand new information, do you tend to use the 5 senses (that is more concrete data) or do you ten to use your gut feel. The first is considered a “sensor” and the other an “intuitive.” And how about making decisions? Do you consider yourself more rational and logical (a “thinker”) or do you base decisions on your feelings or how others feel (making you a “feeling” person). The MBTI then combines all of these various preferences and comes up with a basic template. Again, the only reason I brought all of this up is to show that we are all different and yet the same… there are different types of Marthas and different types of Marys. We must understand ourselves before we can move into something new!

Lastly, we considered the idea of change. Can a person change? I have to confess I believe there are probably some “core” aspects that do not change. But, I also believe, (and witnessed in my own life) the power of Christ in us that makes the biggest change of all. In fact, we are promised in many scriptures and in particular, the three noted in the book: Ezekiel 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 5:17, and Philippians 1:6 that Christ can transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh and that we can be a new creation and that “He who began a new work in us …” will complete it. Others in class also had some powerful stories and testimonies of Christ’s power to change a life.

So, are you ready for this journey? Are you ready to step outside your comfort zone? Are you ready to find Mary in you? Together, we can do it.

For those of you who missed the first class, please don’t let that keep you away. You are welcome to come to class #2… please read Chapter 2 before coming to class, 7 pm, Thursday, September 11th.