Perfecting Martha

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosenthe good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

God bless you Martha Stewart.  You have shown thousands – if not millions – of Americans how to host the perfect gathering for any and every occasion.  The right table settings, the right decorations, the right ambience, the right food… everything prepared to glorious perfection!  The apéritifs must be stunning (swirls of canned cheese heaped on crackers and celery won’t do for Martha, no matter how beautiful the layers).  The meal must be memorable, leaving a lasting impression on all who are invited to the soirée.

The gorgeous feast causes an audible gasp of delight (as well as plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs”) from the appreciative and hungry guests.  (Not too hungry, mind you.  The hors d’oeuvres should serve to curb any hunger pangs while whetting the appetite for the meal to come).

The Biblical Martha was, in some ways, like Martha Stewart (except for the whole insider trading prison sentence business).  Well… in one way.  The Biblical Martha was a perfectionist.  She had guests to feed.  She had Jesus in her home!  And everything had to be just right.

The napkins weren’t going to fold themselves.  The hand-rolled croissants still needed baking.  The beef bourguignon was in danger of overcooking and the quiche was going to fall if it wasn’t served soon.  (Boy, I really have overdone this French cooking theme, haven’t I?)

And where is her sister Mary?  She is sitting at the feet of the guest of honor, reveling in His company, soaking in His words.  Can you picture the scene?  Martha stomps into the room, hands on hips, hair disheveled, apron askew and flour-coated, face contorted with stress.  “I am in the kitchen, slaving away, and here you are, having a grand time!   Do you think the Tarte Normande is going to bake itself?  Come help me!  Jesus, tell her to get in here and give me a hand!”

Now picture Jesus, a slight smile on His face, calmly telling Martha that her serving is wonderful, a good thing, but something more important than food – no matter how fine the delicacy – is being served here tonight.

If you struggle with perfectionism, believing everything has to be just right or it will all be ruined, relax.  Don’t get stressed.  Don’t be anxious.  At the end of the evening, the meal will be devoured.  The bouillabaisse gone, the bowl that once contained the coq au vin now holding a mere carrot slice lying in a thin scrim of broth on the bottom.  The once perfectly folded linen napkins will be a stained crumpled mess.  All that is left will be a wonderful memory.  And the washing up.

It is far better to focus on real substance, and that is found at the feet of Jesus.  Put your focus on Him.  Not on being stunning.  Not on being perfect.  The real blessing comes from the presence of the Lord, not from the accoutrements that decorate the evening.

You don’t have to be perfect.  You don’t have to appear perfect.  Be authentic.  Relax.  All you have to do is love.  And put God first in all things.

Canned cheese squirted atop crackers on a paper plate will do just fine. Call it fromage dans une boîte sur un craquelin if you must.

The Thornbush Harvest

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?” – Luke 6:46 (ESV)

It’s a more than fair question, and more than worthy of our consideration. It lies at the heart of what is in our hearts.  It speaks to how much we have continued to conform to the patterns of this world, and how much we have been transformed by God and His Word.  After all, if we are not following Him, seeking His kingdom first in all things, our transformation will be limited.

In the verses immediately prior to the above passage, we see this is part of a larger teaching about how to discern (as opposed to judging), and the clarity required to clearly suss out the truth about another person or situation.  We have a huge, sinful log in our own eyes that blinds us from the ability to see the reality behind the surface.

We see rightly when we view the fruit being born from a person, or ministry, or business, or community… When you see the tree for the fruit it bears, you can discern accurately.  Grapes don’t grow on thorn bushes.

I find it interesting to clear the editor’s subtitles away and read Scripture as it was intended: a cohesive whole, flowing and orderly, not chopped up into bite-size passages.  In doing so – in reading the narrative as a whole – we find something quite interesting.  Jesus says (as recorded in Luke 6:45), “…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  Then, immediately following, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”

I imagine Jesus pausing – a Selah moment – between those two sentences.  He doesn’t expect an out-loud verbal answer.  He doesn’t need one.  He already knows.

What Jesus is doing is putting in motion the thought processes of the listener.  In the moments of intimacy, in conversation, in discussion… When we are at our most honest, our most authentic, being real… what flows out of our mouths?  Does what we say mesh with what we do?  More importantly, does why we say what we say mesh with why we do what we do?

If what we claim to be Christians, we need to back up our words with right action.  It doesn’t mean we are perfect, or that we expect perfection from others.  It doesn’t mean we try to present ourselves anything we are not, and we are nothing without Christ.  We are imperfect, filthy sinners, given a gift of salvation – a second chance (or third, or fifth, or one-hundredth) to be set right by Our Lord and Savior.  We should be humble, not haughty.  Justified, but imperfect (our perfecting being a lifelong process called sanctification).  Utterly unworthy yet wholly (and holy) redeemed.  A vessel for filling.  A lump of clay for forming.  A slave to freedom and righteousness.

What we say and do need to line up, as do the reasons therefore.  If we call Jesus our Lord, we need to be following His example, seeking His will, submitting to Him with our whole hearts, trusting Him in all things.  It is in doing so that we find our house to be a well-founded structure, able to withstand the storms that rage against us.

Put That Down, Atlas

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. – Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

Confession time: I am a control freak.  I overthink everything.  I need to know what the outcome of any action will be so I can weigh the possible pitfalls and calamities before I decide to proceed.  I’d probably be a great risk analyst for some insurance company.

There is great wisdom in counting the cost before moving forward.  However, it is important to understand this: we are not in control.  None of us decides the outcome of any endeavor in our lives.  Indeed, the results of our very lives themselves are wholly and entirely in the hands of God.

You have probably seen the sculpture of Atlas, the Greek mythological titan.  There he stands, straining to carry the entire world upon his shoulders.  An apt illustration of those of us who strive for perfection, or feel it is our job to be in control of everything.

What egos we have…

The lesson here is simple, but not always easy to apply.  We make our plans.  We do what we feel we ought.  But, when it comes to the outcome, we need to not worry.  We are called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness – His will and His ways.  We are not called to worry about the end results.

The simple fact of the matter is none of us is Atlas.  The world will crush us beneath it’s immense weight.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  Calamities and actions outside of our “control” happen all the time.  It is impossible to know the outcome of our actions.

The only assurance we have in this world is God and His Word.  We are called to have faith, to trust the Lord.  And, in that trust, we find our rest.  Go, do your best.  Commit your work as if unto the Lord.  But, don’t try to carry the world on your shoulders.  That is just way too much for our pay grade.


Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. – Psalms 119:18 (ESV)

God is a God of wonder.  Everything about Him gives cause for amazement.  His ways are far greater than ours, His creation is far beyond any human “invention”, His love for us is astounding beyond full comprehension.

If we are viewing our lives as bleak, or hopeless, or without meaning, perhaps we aren’t opening our eyes wide enough. Familiarity breeds contempt, and we can easily get lulled into a sense of complacency.  We are anesthetized by comforts (at least here in the western world), and believe we deserve all the good stuff we receive.

The truth is, if we begin to feel that spiritual numbing, we need to change our focus.  if something is drawing us away from God in all His wonder and awe, we need to earnestly seek Christ.

With open eyes.

With an open mind.

With an open heart.

When we do this, we find He is there waiting for us, with open arms.

What is keeping you from opening yourself wide and running to Jesus?  Is it guilt or sin?  Self loathing or doubt?  Too busy or worried or overwrought to give God a second thought?  Burned by religion?  Hurt by believers?  Afraid of what family or others might think?

Whatever it is, whatever is hurting or hindering you, I ask you to stop, find a few minutes, grab your Bible, and just talk with God.  Tell Him what’s going on.  Open your heart and mind to hear what He has to say.  Trust Him.  He is not a human being.  People will let you down.  God will not.

Cast off your anxiety.  Toss off your burdens.  Walk away from the past.  Ask the Lord for forgiveness.  Embrace His love, not the lies others have told you.  Don’t wait to feel loved.  Accept it on faith!  Know that God is with you, God is for you, God is far beyond any barriers or attempts to box Him in.

Be open with God.  Rest in His goodness.  Seek the Lord.  He is there for you, open and ready to love you, no matter what.  Open your eyes to see Him.  Open your heart to receive Him.