A Martha Becoming A Mary

Today, I am pleased to share a guest post with you from a new friend who is a member of God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness, a Christian support, encouragement, Bible study and prayer group that I am privileged to help lead.

Deb Peabody describes herself as “a daughter of the King, wife, mom and Nana to the six most adorable grandkids.” While she has chronic illnesses, her desire is to live as a joyful, chosen, holy, blessed, redeemed and adopted daughter of God with a desire to glorify Him in the life He has ordained for her. She blogs at https://joyfulrefuge.wordpress.com/

A few weeks ago, I did a post on our God-Living Girls page about finding God’s purposes in the pain. Deb shared the following:

“I know God has conformed me more into the image of his Son through my chronic illnesses and have grown in ways I never would have before. Before such a Martha hostess with the mostest go, go, go sunrise to Way past sunset. Now I am learning to be more a Mary at his feet, I have learned greater dependency in God, I have experienced His character and know even in hard times He is faithful, Sovereign, wise and good whether or not I understand why. I rely so much more on Him and His Word rather than doing it all myself in my own strength. I have learned joy and gratitude in spite of hard circumstances.”

This caught both my interest and the interest of several of the ladies in our group, and I asked Deb if she would be willing to write a blog post on what God has done in her life in the area from changing her from a Martha to a Mary. This article is the answer to that request. Enjoy.

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 chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

Before chronic illnesses slowed me down, my hubby called me the “Energizer Bunny” because I kept going and going and going. I was also very much a Martha go, go, go and do, do, do, the hostess with the mostest, involved in many church activities, walking, going to the gym, swimming, gardening, hosting smaller and all church events at our home that I also made sure were perfectly decorated.

In my Martha state, I was constantly fussing about how everything was done and worrying about the impressions I made on people. I spent time in the Word to prepare for Bible studies I attended to make sure I was more prepared and excelling more than others attending. I was forever concerned about what people thought of me, wanting to make the right impression with my looks, my actions, my words and my abilities. Life was frantic, distracted, fear filled and frenzied much more often than it was peaceful, focused, relaxed and faith filled.

My life suddenly changed in 2009. That November I fell while photographing fall leaves when I stepped into a pothole concealed by colorful autumn leaves. I ended up needing eleven stitches on my split open knee. After one dose of sulfa antibiotics I landed in ER with my first anaphylactic reaction. Next thing I knew I was reacting to all sorts of things I had previously tolerated. Fragrances, chemicals, cleaners, toothpastes and many foods suddenly were no longer tolerated. I began feeling like the girl in the bubble. After shuffling from doctors over the next few years received multiple diagnosis including chronic blood cancer, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome(MVAS) and a connective tissue disorder called Ehler Danlos.

As my symptoms increased and my energy ebbed, I really began seeking God, crying out to Him for answers and asking Him to show me how to live in this new normal. It was a really hard season of fading health, numerous unknowns and lack of strength to do all I did before. God met me through time in His Word and in prayer. Many sleepless nights due to insomnia, induced by high doses of steroids, were spent studying His Word and in prayer.

I began to desire to truly know God and His character. My dear hubby was faithful to often remind me that God has sovereignly ordained us to be together and that we will walk together as a couple through whatever He sovereignly allowed in our lives, including chronic illness, to glorify our God.

In this season, I began learning more and more about God’s character. I began to grasp He was sovereign, holy, faithful, wise, just and good no matter what my circumstances happened to be. God began to help me memorize scriptures and enabled me to apply them to my life. This really strengthened my walk and grew my love for Him. As I spent more time at His feet, He began transforming me from an ultra Martha to a bit of a Mary. During this time of unknown yet failing health, He revealed to me He is most concerned about my eternal good and my being conformed to the image of His Son.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – Romans 8:28-29

God met me in amazing ways through examples in family members and friends as well as in His word and prayer. One friend greatly impacted me fairly early in my chronic illness walk, as she and her hubby sat in our home crying tears of joy at all the many ways God has met them and blessed them as she went through surgery, chemo and radiation for breast cancer. That same spring I read two books that greatly impacted me One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Between my friends examples, personal Bible studies and my reading I saw the choice before me. I then purposed in March 2011 and asked God to enable me, regardless of my circumstances, to be a woman of joy and gratitude that ever sits at His feet. I am so grateful for the most part God has answered this request. At the time I did not think of it changing me into more of a Mary, but this was one result of that answered prayer.

I am thankful I can trust in His faithfulness and goodness and to know His plans are for my eternal best and realize our earthly life is just a blip in eternity. I honestly believe if God had not slowed me down with various chronic illnesses, I would still be the Energizer Bunny version of a Martha. While lack of energy and symptoms may prevent me from doing many things, most days I can sit at His precious feet, be fed by His Word and pray as the Holy Spirit directs. I am at peace, have joy and gratitude, laugh easily and am so much more relaxed. I am now grateful for any help and even if not done “my way” to accomplish the task as it truly no longer matters.

Our marriage is better than ever and we enjoy each other, appreciate each other and love each other more than before. Laughter is frequent and we joke about the plot twists in our life. Now when we have guests over the focus is how to bless them and make them feel our home is a safe, loving haven where before my focus was on how to impress. Sometimes my house is a bit messy and God has even used that to make people feel comfortable and makes me seem more approachable.

There are days when I take my eyes off of my precious Savior and put them on me and my circumstances. There are days I must fight for joy and gratitude. I have purposed on those days to think of at least three things I am grateful for and either say them aloud or write them down. That seems to redirect my gaze back to Him, the lover of my soul, the One who sustains me and fills me with His joy, peace and hope.

While I would love to be healed, my prayer is that if God allowed it, I would not forget His using chronic illness to slow me down to transform me into much more of a Mary. The joy, peace, laughter, confidence and freedom from fears I now have from my Lord are of much greater value to me than perfect health. My devotion to my Jesus, my gratitude, my love for the gospel of grace, my compassion for the sufferings of others, love of His Word and prayer have all grown immensely as a result of chronic illness. I can say as the Psalmist said:

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

I would honestly choose to be a chronically ill Mary any day over going back to my former healthy but fearful frantic Martha state. May His transforming grace continually be at work in all of us!

Blessings,

Deb

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Entering the Trail to True Freedom

Today is a special day in the United States of America, the birthday of our nation and the day we focus on the liberty and freedom God has blessed us with as a nation. But there is an even more essential freedom than political freedom.

As I was reading today in Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, I was reminded that the key to true freedom is knowing Jesus Christ personally. As Beth says, “Christ is the only entrance to the freedom trail.”

John 8: 36 expresses the truth so clearly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

One of the most beautiful elements of salvation is its simplicity. Christ has already done all the work on the cross. Your response includes four elements:

  1. Recognize that you are a sinner and that there is nothing you can do to save yourself.
  2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and only He can save you.
  3. Believe that His death on the Cross paid the penalty for your sin, that He died on your behalf
  4. Surrender your life to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.

If you do not know Christ personally, there is no better time to make that decision than today. If you already know Christ, is your relationship distant, close and personal, or somewhere in the middle? Knowing Christ begins with an initial decision, but growing in our knowledge of Him is an on-going process. My prayer for this day our nation turns it’s focus on freedom is that each of you will experience the freedom that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and growing daily in your knowledge of Him.

Being Conduits of God’s Compassion and Comfort

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3,4 NIV

When you are in pain – physically, emotionally or mentally – what do you want most of all? Does you heart long for someone to feel sorry for you, pity you because of what you’re going through? Or is your desire for someone to walk beside you and share your burden?

When I’m hurting, what I want most of all is to have a friend say, “I love you. What can I do to help?” If that’s how you feel too, then you have a clear picture of what the above Scripture means when it says our Heavenly Father is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.

The Father of Compassion

Two of my favorite Old Testament references about the Lord’s compassion help us to get a clearer picture of this attribute of God. They compare God’s compassion to that of a father and mother toward their biological children.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” Psalms‬ ‭103:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

A loving father shows compassion for his children by walking beside them as they walk through trouble, by reminding them how much they are loved.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah‬ ‭49:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And for those of us who are mothers, lacking compassion for our own young children seems like an almost unforgivable sin.

God’s compassion is freely given to His children, and the only thing that can thwart it is our continued disobedience.

“For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Lamentations‬ ‭3:31-33‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The God of All Comfort

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” Psalms‬ ‭119:50‬ ‭ESV

Life in this world is filled with trials, but whatever problem you may be facing today, you can be assured our Heavenly Father knows the situation and is eager to provide comfort in the midst of it. And one way He comforts us is by reminding us of the promises of His Word.

Another source of comfort in the midst of trouble is knowing and trusting in the attributes of God’s character. For example, reflecting on His steadfast love brings us comfort.

“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.” Psalms‬ ‭119:76‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In His mercy and love, God is eager to provide comfort to His children in any and all circumstances. Whatever the trial we face, our Heavenly Father knows the situation and offers comfort as needed. The fact that He is the God of all comfort teaches that all comfort ultimately comes from Him. He is our source of peace and happiness and blessing, regardless of what is happening around us.

Experiencing God’s compassion and comfort should be our motivation to show compassion and give comfort to others who are hurting. As I read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, the word conduit comes to mind. A conduit is simply a channel through which something is conveyed, in this case the compassion and comfort of the Lord.

God is not asking us to produce compassion and comfort, simply to be a channel for carrying these qualities to those around us who are hurting so that a need can be met. What is actually being transmitted? The compassion and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

This week, reflect on the times you have experienced compassion and comfort from the Lord. And choose to be a conduit of His compassion and comfort to those you are around who are hurting.

Peace Within the Body of Christ

God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is our guidebook for how to walk in peace in each area of our lives. Last week, the focus of my blog post was on peace in our relationship with God. If you missed that post, here is the link.

https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2018/06/16/peace-with-god-the-peace-of-god/

This week, I’m shifting attention to peace in our relationships with others in the body of Christ. God’s will for His people is to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:2-3‬ ‭ESV)‬‬ In practical terms, how do we do this?

For Christians, how to act in a specific situation is often black and white. Option 1 is obedience to a command of God’s Word, option 2 is disobedience and living according to our fleshly desires. But there are also many areas of our daily lives where right and wrong are not so clearly spelled out. These are areas where we need to seek understanding from the Lord concerning what He wants us to do, where with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we form our own personal convictions.

Once we have formed our own personal convictions and are seeking to live according to them, we need to understand how these relate to our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If God has shown us something is right for us, does that mean it is right for every Christian? Not necessarily. This week’s verses for the Perfect Peace study begin with Romans 14, which deals with areas of personal conviction, things which the Bible does not say in themselves are right or wrong.

How to live by my personal convictions yet not insist that others adopt the same convictions was one of the first lessons I remember God teaching me as a new believer. Some things God clearly says are right or wrong (sin), but in many areas the choices we make are between us and the Lord. We are not to force our personal convictions on others.

As God was teaching me this lesson, I was invited out to dinner with some dear family friends who were Christians but belonged to a church that tends to be rather legalistic in areas like abstaining from certain foods and gathering for worship on a specific day of the week, both areas mentioned in this chapter. I was asking God how I should handle this invitation. He lead me to Romans 14 and told me to accept the invitation, order only the type of foods they would be comfortable with me eating, and avoid the trap of trying to change their personal convictions.

I love this chapter in The Message – it makes this lesson so clear and easy to apply. Here is the Message paraphrase of Romans 14:1 which gives a good summary of the message Paul was trying to get across, and I’m including the link to the entire chapter below for anyone interested in reading more.

“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.”

‭https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+14&version=MSG

Where God does not say one choice is right and another is definitely wrong, He gives us some guidelines in His Word to help us make decisions. Here are a few mentioned in Romans 14.

  1. We are to welcome other genuine believers in Christ with open arms.
  2. We are to seek peace and walk in love toward all of our true brothers and sisters in Christ.
  3. The forming of personal convictions is between each individual believer and the Holy Spirit that lives in the believer’s heart. I am not to attempt to do the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of my brother or sister in Christ.
  4. Once God has shown us what is right for us in these areas, we are to be fully convinced in our mind. God will hold us accountable for our own choices and behavior.
  5. Quarreling over personal convictions does not maintain peace among believers, so this is to be avoided.
  6. Judging others in areas where right and wrong is not spelled out in the Bible is not our responsibility.
  7. We are to avoid actions that would be stumbling blocks to others who are seeking to follow Jesus Christ.

Walking in love with others in the body of Christ, especially with those who don’t see things the way we do, can be a challenge. But with the truths taught in Romans 14 we have some clear guidelines in how to promote harmony and peace with our  brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s begin using these to begin bridging some relationship gaps so we will be a clearer representation of what it truly means to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

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Return to Me and I Will Return to You

As soon as I saw this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt was RETURN, the current Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 study on the book of Zechariah came to mind. The theme of this book is found in the first chapter, “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

As I’ve studied this book, I’ve seen the call to RETURN more clearly. It is a call to three things. And in this verse, it is also a promise.

  • RETURN is a call to REPENTANCE. Repentance is a recognition I am on the wrong path and a decision to turn around and head in a different direction. It begins with a change of heart and is lived out with a change in how I live.
  • RETURN is a call to REVIVAL. Revival is a spiritual reawakening from a state of stagnation in the life of a believer. It is a continuing process.
  • RETURN is a call to REST. Rest is ceasing from our labor entering into the rest and peace of God. Jesus Christ invites us to enter rest as we take His yoke upon us and allow Him to help us carry the burdens of life.
  • Finally, RETURN is a PROMISE. Zechariah 1:3 makes it clear that RETURNING is a action that brings a response from the Lord. When we RETURN to Him, He has promised to RETURN to us.

Today, is anything causing spiritual stagnation in your life? If so, it’s time to RETURN in repentance. With repentance comes revival and rest, and we become recipients of God’s promise to reciprocate and RETURN to us.

A New Month, A New Topical Bible Reading Plan

For a couple years, I have been using the monthly topical Bible reading plans published by Rachel Wojo, and this month’s plan Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus is especially appropriate to where I’ve been walking in recent months. My desire is to do at least one blog post per week during June sharing some of the things I’m learning from this study. If anyone is interested in doing this study with me, here is Rachel’s June Bible reading plan.

In the midst of a time of trying to find answers to explain recent irregularities in my blood tests, walking in God’s peace has been a challenge. It’s been a daily battle not to give in to fear. Last July and again in February of this year, my alkaline phosphatase levels have been elevated. My doctor suspected this was due to a new bone problem, so she ordered a full body bone scan with contrast. The test revealed no new bone disease that would explain the lab results.

Then, she felt the next most probable problem was disease or obstruction in the liver or pancreas. So I had a barium and IV contrast CT-scan done of my liver and pancreas done last Friday. This was especially scary, because my doctor had mentioned the possibility of cancer. But again, I was given a clear report of health from this test. This was a huge relief, but at this point we still do not know what is behind the elevated levels.

Next Friday, I’ll be taking the next step in the diagnostic process, an appointment with my gastroenterologist to discuss the results of the CT-scan in more detail and to schedule a colonoscopy. And the following Friday, I’m scheduled for a bone density test, which my doctor said is due and should be done to rule out the one other possible area of trouble with my bones.

Unlike most of the health issues I’ve faced in the past, this new one isn’t causing any outward problems. But there has been a battle – a spiritual battle in my mind against fear. So this month’s topical study on the peace we find in God’s presence is especially fitting.

Day 1: Psalm 29:1-11 (I’m using ESV throughout this study unless otherwise noted)

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Psalms‬ ‭29:3-4

‭‭The voice of the Lord – and His very presence – is above the waters that threaten our lives. This reminds me of the first part of Isaiah 43:2.

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…”

Psalm 29 ends with these words. They are a great reminder that God is still on His throne, that He has been and continues to be in charge.

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” Psalm ‭29:10-11‬ ‭

Father, today I remind myself that these latest health problems I’m facing haven’t taken You by surprise. You are above these choppy waters I’m going through, still reigning on Your throne of grace and love. Thank You for a doctor who won’t let this go until she rules out all of the major issues that could be causing this irregularity in my blood work. Thank You that the two most likely and most serious problems have now been ruled out. Continue to teach me how to take hold of Your peace and rest in You as I walk through this storm in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Being Thankful Is a Choice

Matthew Henry, the eighteenth-century Puritan preacher and Bible scholar whose commentary is still widely used today, told a story of a time when he was attacked and his wallet taken. Knowing that it was his duty to give thanks in everything, he meditated on this incident and recorded the following in his diary:

“Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

God calls us to give thanks in every situation we face, and in these words Matthew Henry was obeying this command. The “attitude of gratitude” is a clear command and expectation of God. Intentional gratitude causes use to see even the hardest of circumstances from a God-centered perspective.

There are several benefits of expressing gratefulness.

  • It pleases the Lord, who has instructed us to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • It brings us closer to God. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!”
  • It changes our perspective of what we are walking through.
  • It motivates us to look for God’s purpose in our circumstance.
  • It is the path that leads to joy and peace.

Are you facing one or more turbulent, unsettled situations in your life? Take time today to practice intentional gratitude. Following Matthew Henry’s example, find at least three things you can choose to give thanks to God for in the midst of your circumstances.