Why Trouble Her?

 

Mark 14:6 “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

I read this morning the above verse in the account of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. If you read the entire account, Mark 14:1-9, it seems that the atmosphere at the time of her offering was charged with negativity and judgment. You know the kind that takes place obviously, but supposed to be secret? Whispering, murmuring around the room under their breath, the disciples whispering, supposing no one else is taking notice but their discontent at the situation taking place before them provoked them to overt offense, it seems almost immediately.

“Why not sell it?” The disciples queried.

“Why not give the proceeds to the poor?” A noble gesture, they reasoned must be more acceptable to God instead of this waste of expensive perfume.

No matter that the perfume was the giver’s possession to use as she felt – why did the disciples feel justified to tell her how to offer her gift? Was it not hers to give how she felt led to give it? Obviously she got something right as to this day, even today as I write about her, her offering stands tall in scripture.

She must have had something right in her heart when she offered to anoint His feet with this perfume.

I heard a preacher once say that, “God will offend your mind to reveal what is in your heart.” I’ve found that to be true in my own life on many occasions. In the case of offering, why does it bother me, who has given me the right to dictate how or what someone should give their gifts to the Lord? I might not give in the same manner as others do, however, they don’t give as I do. Ought not we celebrate the diversity we have in the family of God rather than tearing it down at every chance we get?

While the outward reasonings of the disciples might have appeared to be noble, if you go on to read the account that takes place directly after this anointing, you’ll find Judas speaking with religious leaders – getting his money in exchange for the life of the Son of God.

It seems to me Jesus had already caught Judas on other occasions taking money inappropriately from their money (Judas was their treasurer see John 12:16). It might have been this last act was too much for Judas to bear. Perhaps he felt “ripped off” when he realized Jesus wasn’t going to bestow great riches and honor on the disciples; it might be that he felt he needed an “out” in order to get what he could while “the getting was good.”

Whatever Judas’ reasoning was, it was false, and it led to his demise (Judas hung himself see Matt. 27:1-10).

Judas’ fear of missing out on what he thought was his “due,” cost him his life. Imagine what his life could have been had his desire for money not overtaken him? He could have been part of a church that “turned the world upside down” (see Acts 17:6). Instead, his drive for his “due,” to get what was owed him for his service, drove him away from an amazing possibility.

Money can always be replaced, but it’s impossible to replace our lives that are intended to be lived for the Kingdom.

So, why trouble her? The offering is hers to give.

Behind the Times

I’m a bit behind the times I know. I could use the excuse of living overseas but with the advent of the internet, that excuse really can’t get me too far. At the touch of a key on my wireless keyboard, I have the world and endless search engines at my fingertips (literally). I can study just about any subject in any field, read news from the farthest corner of the earth (not to mention space news from NASA and beyond) and almost correctly diagnose any ailment (much to the chagrin of physicians worldwide). No, I have no excuse to remain disconnected from the rest of the world, except for the times that the power goes out and then I digress, I have an excuse, albeit a temporary one.

Yet, I somehow missed one of the past “things” that made the rounds online and in books called the “Enneagram.” The Enneagram is simply another method to discover different personalities. On the Enneagram, I came to discover that I am a 2w1 personality. This makes me someone who feels deeply and can read emotions and situations with surprising clarity. Twos (as we are known) are helpers and at their core, they want to be recognized for helping, they actively seek love and approval of others by what they do.

The spiritual journey a Two has to take is one of giving beyond investment expecting a return to giving simply without expectation of anything in return; that’s what we call true love.

This is perhaps why I relate with Leah of the Bible. Not only do we (almost) share a name, but we seem to share some of the same characteristics making me wonder if Leah of the book of Genesis was a Two on the Enneagram.

Leah was married, underhandedly by her father, to Jacob. Jacob expected his love, Rachel, to be the one under the wedding veil but was disappointed when his father-in-law gave him Leah instead. As the story goes, Jacob did manage to marry Rachel, but was bound first to Leah, who knew she was unloved.

As time went by and Leah began to bear children, she named them accordingly:

1. Gen. 29:32 – Reuben was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”

2. Gen. 29:33 – Simeon was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.”

3. Gen. 29:34 – Levi was born and Leah said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Each time, Leah’s disappointment in being “unloved” was further cemented into her conscience. Jacob must have made his utter contempt towards her clear in his treatment of her (this is another subject for another day) and Leah, due to the time and culture, was bound to continue serving. She hoped her actions would sway the love of her husband towards her, but it was to no avail.

The fourth time Leah, again I’m quite sure she was my fellow Two, learned a lesson vital to the spiritual growth of a Two, she learned to love and trust without expecting love from anyone – except the Lord.

Gen. 29:35 “‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah.”

What helped Leah cope through the rest of her life feeling unloved and rejected by her husband? How did Leah manage to juggle the responsibilities of her household when everyone knew no matter what she did, Rachel would be her husband’s real love?

She learned there was only One Whose love was unfailing and whatever she did for Him wouldn’t go unrecognized. She simply learned to praise the Lord.

There are a few times in scripture we read of Leah stumbling again into her past patterns of seeking approval (much like we all do even though we know better). But those times were few; I imagine each time she stumbled the pain she felt reminded her to return to the One Whose love never fails, never has strings attached to it.

_________________________

For more on The Enneagram, I recommend:

https://www.amazon.com/Road-Back-You-Enneagram-Self-Discovery/dp/0830846190

Pursuits

Our guest blogger, Mary Johnson, is back today with another powerful word for us. Enjoy!

_____________________________

What have you been pursuing, or better yet what has been pursuing you? It is easy to get distracted in life. James 1:11 says, “For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.”

How do you keep what is meaningful, what is lasting, at the forefront of your life?  Life is to be lived by the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit. Pursuits of all kinds will not be able to pull us here and there when led by the Holy Spirit.

Occasionally when studying for a test I would see so many other things that seemed to be more appealing and alluring. Sometimes when reading our Bible, various things come to mind, including tasks that need completion. We can get distracted into pursuing other things that may have consequences. For instance, not studying for your test could affect the grade you will receive.

Life will be filled with God’s peace or lack of peace, depending on if we pursue His Word, or the busyness of life.

Mary Johnson

 

 

 

The Light of Love

I’m delighted once again to share a devotional with you from Mary Johnson, may it fill your day with light!

_____________________________________________

Walk in the light of His love.  What is your tone, what does it sound like? Is it covered in the light of Jesus’ love? He provides that light for us.  You can say something to someone and your very tone can speak volumes. I believe Jesus spoke with authority, but it was laced with the light of His love.

John 8:12b “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

It gives you joy when you can speak truth to someone and they receive it, because they can feel where the love is coming from.  There are times when you can be misunderstood in what you are trying to convey. However, we in return have to be willing to examine ourselves to make sure we spend time with Jesus, so that the light of His love will shine through us to others. This will reflect in what we say and how we say it.

Proverbs 15:23 TPT “Everyone enjoys giving great advice. But how delightful it is to say the right thing at the right time!”

Mary Johnson

 

Wasted Time

The beginning of a New Year is when most of us will, at some level, come up with a fresh emphasis for the year. I’ve purposely held back from writing anything full of “newness” as I’m still working on what was supposed to have been fresh from New Years gone by. I find myself hesitant to reach for more when I feel what I hoped for in times past has been lost to time.

I woke on New Year’s Day morning feeling a bit sullen and wallowed in that mediocre mood all morning long. As we headed for church, we normally have some kind of church celebration every New Year, I tried to shake off my feelings of failure. Walking into the church building, I shelved my mediocrity, for the people were already lining up ready for the morning. Even in my foul mood my heart turned towards the people; I was unaware of what was about to unfold.

This year we handed the microphone over and let the people recount their testimonies, thanking God for what He had done in their lives. Sitting in my seat next to Jamie (husband unit), we laughed and cried as we listened as our people opened their lives before us. God really had accomplished more than I had been aware of – you really do have to get out of the forest to see the trees.

Everyone had something good to say, something good to thank God for: food and clothing, shelter, school fees for their children and health. Among their thanks for God’s provision, almost everyone gave thanks for our church and what God is doing in our church once again. We were especially touched by the testimony of one young lady who stood up and began to cry when she said, “I’m so thankful for our church and for God bringing our pastor back to us.”

I had no idea.

In that moment the year(s) of lost time rolled back and I understood in a new way how God can reach into the past and restore it. I understood that time, while I am limited by it, does not limit God.

Joel 2:24 ESV “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”

The things that we bury in the ground and assume cannot be restored are the very things that God will bring back to life – for God resurrects the dead.

When Jesus surrendered His life to the cross, died and was buried, it seemed that the enemy had won. It seemed that those who had planned His death had the upper hand for how can someone who has died come back to life?

In Matthew 27:50-66, Jesus lays His life down and sandwiched in the middle of the story are the Priests and Pharisees looking to “secure” the grave because they reckoned Jesus’ disciples would steal His body away. Pilate tells them, “make it as secure as you can.”

I imagine during the three days that Jesus’ body was in the grave, the disciples had some choice words among themselves:

He’s died, so we’re as good as dead.

What have we done with our lives? Three wasted years!

Let’s flee to another nation!

What about our families? All is lost!

In the same way, I’ve often been guilty of feeling my years have been lost, that my time has gone for naught. What has it all been for anyway?

What the Priests and Pharisees did not take into account when they “secured” Jesus’ grave was that when God has a resurrection in mind – there will be a resurrection. It was with great flourish when in Matthew 28:2-4 the earth shook, an angel rolled the stone away and the soldiers guarding the tomb fell “as dead men” when Jesus walked out. The “wasted” years of the disciples walked out with Him and the early church began.

It’s through our “wasted” seasons that God works most in our lives to resurrect and return our hours, days, weeks, months and years to us. Imagine how the disciples agonized for days about the death of Jesus, only to have Him appear before them and say (in effect), “Let’s do this people, let’s win the world!”

So let’s rewind the tape, replay the recording and start all over again.

It’s January 2020, what’s new?

The Knock at the Door

A dear friend of mine, Mary Johnson, brings us a word for the moment. Which moment? Every one that we live. Enjoy.

________________________________________

I remember when I was a young girl, I never wanted to go outside to play.  My mom and I were reminiscing about it the other day.  She asked me, “Do you remember what you did when you went out doors to play?” I said, “I probably sat down.”  She said, “Yes, but do you remember where you went?”  I told her that I did not remember.  She said that I went outside and sat on the steps right at the front door.

When you think about the words “knock at the door,” Jesus said in Revelation 3:20 “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” When we open the door to Jesus, fear has to leave, intimidation has to go. Why? Because love has entered in. 1 John 4:18 states,  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”

We can boldly step out in faith and as we take a step, Jesus takes each step with us. I opened the door to Jesus and He stepped in. I found myself willing to move from the front steps and into the games the other children were playing one step, at a time. Fear had to move away and was no longer able to keep me on the step at the front door.

Take the step of faith with Jesus, He promised to never leave or forsake us.  All we have to do is open the door of our heart when he knocks. He is knocking. Will you let Him in?

Mary Johnson

 

 

Counting Sheep

When you hear people say that jet lag is a real thing, believe them! I think the past two weeks since our return from itinerating in the states have proved to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that jet lag is not an imaginary phenomenon.

In times past when we have traveled, I was the one who usually suffered the most. My husband might have had one or two nights of tossing and turning, and of course my little girl would bounce back almost immediately. This always left me wondering if I was imagining the struggle to keep time!

All of my doubts have been erased since this most recent return. During the past two weeks, each of us has lived in a semi-conscious state of jet lag induced zombie-dom. My daughter, who is only 11, would fall asleep in the middle of the day and wandered the hallways in the middle of the night. Both my husband and I tossed and turned, waiting for the minutes to pass – morning coffee came very early at 3:00 am.

The worst for me came one night when I woke at 12:30 am and was wide awake until bedtime the following day. While that was doubtless the worst night, I slept the following night and then the next and the next until this morning when I announced to myself that jet lag has been defeated.

Try as jet lag might, eventually, my cicadian rhythm was bound to catch up to local time.

There are countless remedies that are touted to make the transition better – and I have tried many of them.

Melatonin.

Stay hydrated.

Exercise.

Follow a regular schedule.

Sleep when you want to.

Read books.

Drink coffee.

Don’t ingest caffeine.

I will likely keep on reading and trying the new and improved remedies as they become popular fodder for travelers. While my hopes are high that there might be something out there to alleviate my symptoms, my pessimistic side is preparing me to keep battling the jet lag demons that taunt me during these long-haul travels.

On the positive side of jet lag, I do get lots of laundry and house cleaning done during those strange hours. The house is sparkling and there’s not a bit of dirty clothing to be found.

As much as I love a clean house and clean laundry, I’ll gladly trade a bit of dirty laundry and some dirty dishes to watch the sheep jump the fence in my dreams.

sheep-981881_1920

 

I Had To See Over The Trees

Earlier this year, in July to be more precise, I learned that some jewelry I had left in the USA with my son had been stolen (we live in Burundi, Africa). Together with the help of the local detective, my son located the items at a local pawn shop. After speaking with the owner and proving that the items were indeed mine and stolen, a hold was placed on them pending resolution of the case. In the meanwhile, I wrote a personal statement and sent it in to the investigating detective and waited to travel Stateside for our usual bi-yearly itineration. We were set to arrive in September and would work on collecting the jewelry at that time.

When we finally arrived in town and managed to talk to the detective face-to-face, we learned that retrieving our property would be a bit more complicated than we had originally imagined. The owner of the shop had offered to “give” us our property if we paid him $500.00. We felt such a sum was unfair and followed the detective’s advice to file papers at the courthouse to get the property returned to us. The shop owner was resolute and would not return the stolen property; we were given a date to appear before a judge just last week (October 24).

I found myself standing last Thursday morning at a podium next to the pawn shop owner before a judge. The whole process for me was nerve wracking. My husband (Jamie), who had pushed for us to get the items returned in the first place, has the emotional strength of an army. His mantra throughout the process was, “It’s not their jewelry! We are going to get it back!” I followed his lead, all the while feeling wobbly and anxious about what the actual outcome would be.

I am an Enneagram 2w1 personality for those who might be interested, it may shed light on my reaction!

Yes, the necklace and bracelet were mine, yes they were stolen and yes I wanted them back. However, I also knew that things don’t always turn out as we hope or plan and my negativity took over “helping” me to prepare for disappointment. I went so far as saying, “Let them keep it!” when the shop owner refused to return in voluntarily. Jamie would not hear of it and off we went to see the judge last Thursday.

Since the jewelry was mine, I was the one called to stand at the podium. I knew Jamie would most likely have done a better job than me in explaining the whole situation but I did my best when my account of events was called for. I kept things truthful, simple and to-the-point. There was no need for anything more or less, I reckoned, as a little part of me hoped that the right thing would happen.

When it was time for the shop owner to speak, his words were loud, coarse and shaded. The judge, while she had pity on him that he had paid $1,100.00 for the items and had lost money, had no pity on him when it came to her reminding him of the law. He had to return the jewelry to me without pay – they were mine and it was wrong, against the law, for him to keep them.

An order was written on the spot and handed to both parties ordering the shop to return the items to me free of any charge. About an hour later, I found myself wearing the necklace and bracelet, a bit embarrassed at my pessimism throughout the process.

Why did I doubt You, Lord?

Luke 19:3 NASB “Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was…”

I was trying hard to see Jesus but I was just too short to see above the tree line. I thought my problem was not of any consequence; a necklace and bracelet have no value in light of the lives of the children we feed in Burundi and Malawi or the schools that we are opening. It seemed so trivial, but I hoped that somehow those unnecessary items would silently make their way home without any fuss. So, like Zacchaeus, I had to climb up just a bit higher to see Him and recognize what He was doing and just like He did for Zacchaeus, Jesus came home on Thursday to eat with me at our table – and He brought the necklace and bracelet home to me.