Busy, Busy, Busy Doing the Lord’s Work

By Deborah Maxey

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV

We all know a Martha. Or two.  You know that super-hostess on steroids with everything coming to the table at the same time, at the right temperature, looking like the best picture on Instagram. Her table is beautifully set and adorned with fresh flowers she grew and arranged herself.  

I wonder if the Biblical Martha was like that. These verses tell us Martha was scrambling around in constant motion to “get-her done.” Maybe she chaired the synagogue hospitality committee and organized the bake sales, making cookies shaped like baskets with a little Moses in the middle.

But her sister Mary wasn’t on the same page. Can’t you just hear the conversation between them? Martha exasperated, placing the food just so on a beautiful serving tray, “Mary, help me. This is Jesus we are talking about. Everything has to be just right. It’s not like we can open a Pringles can and set out Hostess cupcakes” (or whatever the equivalent was back then). 

What we do know is that Martha was using her gift of hospitality to serve the Lord. She wanted things just right for Him.

In the Bible passage it is clear that both Mary and Martha loved Jesus. And Jesus recognized that. Jesus didn’t condemn Martha for her focus on detail and being busy, but he lovingly asked her to check her priorities. Both women felt they were honoring Him.

The passage describes Martha as “distracted.” She had gotten off course. And Jesus was loving Martha when he guided her towards focusing on what would be hers for eternity, not busy work, but worship, internalizing His love, and basking in His presence. He wanted her to know, among other things, the greatest value is the joy of worship, feeling swept up in His love.

Which one do I want to be? Mary of course. Mary who had her priorities and focus straight. And yet…when I take an honest look, so often I am Martha.

When I rush through my daily devotions.

When I read The Word but don’t bother to research something I don’t fully understand.

When I drive to church thinking of the list of things I need to do when I get there or return home, instead of preparing my heart with praise and readying myself for worship and hearing his Word.

When I thank God for blessings but don’t slow down to let myself feel the joy of what I’m thanking God for.

And, anytime I go about my calling with a hurried checklist instead of connecting with God on a deep heart-felt level. After all, who called me? He is present in what He asked me to do. My work becomes a holy gift to me when I allow myself to recognize His presence.

If an internal command pushes me to get it done without those things, I’m Martha!

Lord, I know you love me even when I get distracted. Please help me to be like Mary. Continue to show me how striving to check the boxes robs me of precious closeness to you. I’m grateful that you want me to feel your presence instead and to soak up your love. Because that is what I most want.

This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey repurposed her life when she closed her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website https://deborahmaxey.com that focuses on miracles.  

Her debut novel, Deborah’s debut novel, The Endling, was named the Golden Scrolls Fiction Book of the Year. Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety. 

Join the conversation. Are you a Mary or a Martha?

Have a Mary Christmas

by Lori Wildenberg

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

The day after Thanksgiving, many of the homes in our neighborhood are already clothed in Christmas décor and lights. Our mailbox even presents us with our first Christmas card along with a bazillion catalogs.

Holiday anxiety seeps into my mind, as I notice the lack of red and green at the Wildenberg home while the browns and oranges comfortably reside in their seasonal spot. My stomach tightens and my heart skips a beat as one of my Facebook friends declares, “I’m done with my Christmas shopping!”

Me? I haven’t even made a list, let alone checked it twice.

When the calendar flips to December, this is when my home transitions to Christmas. I take some comfort in the fact I’m only one week behind my neighbors. The tree is up. The lights are on, the stockings hung. Even a little gift shopping has occurred.

Every year I give myself a holiday pep talk, “I’m going to do Christmas differently. I will look up. Stop. Inhale. Exhale. I will enjoy time with family and friends. I will remember the reason for the season. I will be more like Mary. I want to sit at Jesus’ feet rather than be consumed with worry over preparations.”

My memory is short. Martha and I are tight. Like her, I’m more of a do-er than a be-er.

I have found if I want to be more like Mary, I need to refocus my thoughts and attention daily. To reject the rush, I intentionally recall my desired priorities. When I push earthly frenzy and frantic aside and replace them with a heavenly perspective, I experience more supernatural peace and joy.

I know, living Mary’s way is easier said than done. I must commit to being OK with what I accomplish and with what I don’t. My Martha struggles with this. As Jesus says, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”

Are you like me? Do you want to keep the holidays in proper perspective? These three values help me focus. Perhaps they will help you too.

 People are more important than stuff.

 People are more important than chores, cooking, and cleaning.

People are more important than my iPhone or screen time.

Here are 7 ways I can live out those values:

  • Plan times to hang out with family and friends. Commit them to the calendar. Then do it.
  • Divide up the household chores and errands. Distribute the responsibilities.
  • Create a no phone and no screen zone space and time.
  • Avoid the joy stealing competition of comparison that plays in my mind.
  • Whittle down the yeses to God’s best for me, my time, and my family.
  • Be OK with good enough. Avoid catching the perfection infection.
  • Keep some white space on the calendar so I have some margin to serve or engage.
  • Daily, I choose to be present with family and friends…and whomever else the Lord would show me.

And for this holiday season, I confidently say to Martha who camps out in my head, “Don’t leave. Just move over a bit because I really want to have a Mary Christmas.” 

About the author: Helping families create connections that last a lifetime is Lori Wildenberg’s passion. Lori, wife, mom of 4 plus 3 more, and Mimi, shares her stories of failures and successes to encourage and equip parents. The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connectionsis Lori’s fifth and most recently published book. As a national speaker and licensed parent and family educator, she leads the Moms Together Facebook group and co-hosts the Moms Together Podcast. For more information or to connect with Lori go to www.loriwildenberg.com .

Join the conversation: Are you planning to do Christmas a bit differently this year?

Don’t Worry; Martha Will Do It

by Kathy Collard Miller

I wonder if Martha, the sister of Mary, was the dependability queen in her town, Bethany. I can just imagine at the Women of the Temple Committee meeting for the upcoming women’s luncheon event, the chairperson asking, “Now who can we get to cater the lunch?”

Everyone looks around and another woman asks, “Where’s Martha?”

Mary speaks up, “Oh, she’s at the meeting for the Temple Benevolence committee.”

A third woman raises her hand. After being called on by the chairperson, Lydia says, “Ask Martha. She’ll do it.”

Could Martha have worn an invisible S on her tunic? No, not for Superman, although many most likely called her Superwoman. But S for steadfast and its twin sister, Dependability. Why else would Martha have been so crazy busy when Jesus came visiting? Remember the story?

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 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.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

What motivated Martha? Of course we’ll never know conclusively her heart’s motive. But as women, so many of us are like her because we have chosen the same technique to gain approval and applause: busyness and productivity. We know Martha didn’t have to do everything she did because Mary, who was equally considered the hostess, didn’t. I have no doubt Mary did what she was supposed to do and then chose to abide at Jesus’s feet. If Martha is like me, she thought of “one more thing,” “one more dish,” “one more decorating touch,” “one more …” Did she think, “Just wait until Jesus sees this. He’ll feel so important and valued.” I would have.

But Jesus loves Martha’s soul well. He doesn’t want her to carry the heavy yoke she puts upon her own shoulders and the muddy cistern she is gulping from. He doesn’t need anything to make him feel important or valuable. He only seeks his Father’s approval and applause.

In his concern for her he woos her by pointing out the result of her sin: anxiety, anger, critical spirit, feeling abandoned, even blaming Jesus for not making Mary do what Martha thought Mary should do. She accused Jesus of not caring for her. Most importantly, her motive was to provide rather than abide. Jesus was saying, “I love you too much. Please look at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Come and abide.”

He says the same things to us.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NASB

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller is an award-winning author of over 50 books and this devotional is excerpted from Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory . She is a speaker who has shared in 8 foreign countries and over 30 US states. Kathy and Larry have been married for 48 years and are the parents of 2 and grandparents of 2. They live in Southern California and often write and speak together. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com. She would love to hear from you.

Join the conversation: Do you seek God’s approval through busyness and productivity?

Photo by Jisu Han on Unsplash

Rocking with God

by Peggy Cunningham

 In the early mornings, I sit down with God and rock a while––with a puppy on my lap. A puppy at our age––senior citizens? What were we thinking?

We didn’t plan on coming home with a puppy the day we went to buy our Golden Retriever a sweater because he’d lost all his hair from chemo treatments. I had wisely warned my husband that morning ––”Don’t look at the dogs for sale.” I should have warned myself! There she was, a Shih Tzu. Our Shih Tzu, Kelsey had been gone six years. Never another little dog again turned into right now, this little dog. We brought her home to Jake. I’m thankful I didn’t listen to my own advice!

Now there is a puppy on my lap again. One morning, as I sat rocking with Zoey, I read this in my Bible:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations underway. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed––or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38- 42 NIV

Every morning, Zoey chooses to sit on my lap and rock for a while just to be near me. Maybe she knows I won’t be sitting much the rest of the day. When I finish my reading, she goes about her day playing, napping, and going outside. But before all that, she chooses to be with me. Yes, she chooses what’s best before anything else––times of closeness with her master.

Isn’t that what Mary did? She chose to let the unimportant things go for the most important thing–time at Jesus’ feet. Maybe Martha, like me at times, was overwrought because of going overboard with preparations, unimportant things. She had lost her perspective. She was focusing on the service rather than the One she served.

We face the same kind of choice. It’s about loving God, not our schedules or to-do lists. We try to plan the things, and then seek the kingdom. If we heed Jesus’ words and seek Him first, maybe our priorities will be different; those overwhelming details we once thought important will dim in the light of His face.

Today’s (puppy) lesson: Let’s not be distracted and settle for less when God wants to give us more. Loving Him first will always be the best thing!

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5

Peggy CunninghamAbout the author: Peggy Cunningham and her husband have been missionaries in Bolivia since 1981, where they work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also a prolific writer. Peggy’s heart for children and vibrant imagination led the way to having two picture book series published, Really Rare Rabbits, and her new four-book series, Hooray for Holidays (releases quarterly in 2018.) She also writes devotionals for adults: Dancing Like Bees and a new one for women, Shape Your Soul, which will release in summer 2018.

Join the conversation: What things get in the way for you in keeping your focus on the Lord?