More than belovèd

“While they were traveling, he entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”

(Luke 10:38 – 42)

“Look, Teacher, what have I done? Oh, I am so sorry, I really didn’t want to get you into trouble…. Again!! You keep defending me and encouraging me and I just wish I could return your favour somehow… Before I met you, I felt so insignificant, purposeless, sometimes even invisible. At the market people look right through me and my very unimpressive life. Day after day, I feel like I am just a cog in the machine, and not even a very good one. Martha is different. She is gifted and strong. She knows what she wants, and she knows how to get things done. I, on the other hand, have never thought much about myself, until YOU came along … Until you told me that it’s not about what I can achieve or who I am in the eyes of others, but about whose I am in my heart. You told me that even if I did nothing else for the rest of my life, the core of who I really am would not change, I would still be ‘Loved’. And I finally understand that my life is in fact impressive, full of purpose, full of hope and value not because of my gifts and achievements but because I belong to my Father in heaven. Because my life hasn’t stared with me and by the will of my parents, but with the unchanging, unfailing, unshakable love of the Father. When my parents failed me, my Father chose me and clothed me in his love and faithfulness. When people rejected me, my Father has covered me with his grace and the love that has designed me, formed me, created me and saved me. And now I believe and understand that this is who I am, in you Jesus: I am Beloved. I belong to you, Lord, I am fully yours.” 

“Don’t worry about getting me into trouble, Mary. I was glad to take this for you and I will take much more for you later…and when I do, you will understand what I mean when I say, that you are MORE THAN BELOVED! Yes, I want you to know that you are loved no matter what. I want you to feel secure in the promise of my unfailing love for you. But I also want you to understand that there is a calling on your life to take this further. Rooted and secure in my love, I want you to step up, and to step out. Starting out from a posture of rest and wholeness – and never striving – I want you to follow the call that I have placed on your life and bring it up to its full potential.”  

“Yes, I want this, Lord! I want to stay and work by your side, but what is this calling my Lord? What do you want me to do?” 

“I want you to start building on the foundation I have given you. Start to see yourself the way I see you and start acting accordingly. I know you will face much opposition, but you oughtn’t to give up! I want you to keep learning from me and keep growing in faith and obedience. Be strong and courageous! I am on a mission my Father has entrusted me with and I have entrusted you with your own mission. When you sit at my feet, when you let me teach you, you become my disciple. With your time and energy invested, questions asked and answered, every step taken by faith, every sacrifice made by love, you become more than beloved.” 

Today

Then he said to them, “Go and eat what is rich, drink what is sweet, and send portions to those who have nothing prepared, since today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Lord, there are so many days when I give myself away to endless chores and the never ending pursuit of my dreams. Other days I am left surrendered by stress and paralysed by fear and regret. Either way, I give you only pieces of my heart and attention way too often… But today will be different. Today will be our holy day. Yours and mine. Today, I won’t look to the left nor to the right, I am determined to keep my eyes on you.

Today, I will embrace my life, just the way it is and I will praise you for everything you have given me. Today, I don’t want to be anywhere else, but right here…I want to be fully present in the now, with all its goodness and mess, with all its joy and every tear, with all my hope and fear, I want to be present and I want to stand strong in you.

Today, I won’t grieve either. When my mind starts to wander off to the faded glory of the ‘good old days’, and my heart starts to break under the weight of love lost, moments passed, opportunities missed, I will take a deep breath, stomp my foot and say no! I refuse to go down that road again. I will lift my hands instead and praise you because your are the same yesterday, today and forever. You have carried me in the past, you have been there in every moment, and you are with me now and I want you more than I want answers!!

Today, instead of being afraid for my life, I will celebrate it!

I will look my deepest and darkest fear in the eyes and I will put on my best clothes, I will drink my morning cup of coffee from my fanciest china cup – the one I have been saving for a special day. Today, I won’t count the calories either. I will savor every bite and I will bless your holy name!

Today, I hold onto JOY for my dear life, because I feel like the ground is slipping from under my feet, but You are my firm foundation and your JOY is my stronghold! Today, I will seek joy in tasting, in sharing, in every movement, in every silent Amen. On your holy day, I will find JOY even in the smallest and simplest things, and I will sing ‘Hallelujah anyway’, because in you I am safe and more than beloved!

When REST found me

I have been searching for greater things.

I have been striving long enough.

I have almost got close enough…

But something was always missing.

Shining bright,

feeling strong,

learning fast,

chasing more,

living high,

taking pride,

running fast,

to do things right.

Ever enough? I need more!

To get complete, to become whole.

The further I reach, the further it gets,

Away from me … I find no rest.

But then REST found me.

He came close, He reached out,

He called my name and calmed my heart.

It felt like taking my first breath.

It felt like arriving home.

He is whole and in Him I am complete.

Not tomorrow or next week,

but right here and right now.

His light shining bright,

His power flowing,

His words resounding.

His Spirit reminding me, that

I am at my best when I am at rest.

Is God calling you to rest? How do you answer His call?

This story about Martha and Mary is famous for a reason. I think it captivates many of us because this story is so simple, easy to understand and there are so many ways we can relate to both Martha and Mary. In this post and journal prompt I would like us to focus on Martha, who represents one side of the scale.

Based on what we read in Luke 10:38-42, I can imagine her to be an over achiever. She knows how to plan and execute. She knows how to meet people’s expectations, she knows her job and she does it well. I can see her being super organised, super busy, juggling successfully between different tasks and responsibilities, keeping calm under pressure … except for that one time.

Can you relate to Martha in this?

Martha looks at her sister, Mary and she knows that what she sees is not right. It’s not only that Mary is not following the normal social etiquette and religious rules, staying in the “women’s place” doing “women’s work”, but their teacher (rabbi) is actually allowing it to happen. Mary should be helping in the kitchen, serving men and not hanging out with them, pretending to be a disciple – she probably thinks and she can’t keep quiet. In her frustration she calls out Jesus trying to correct him in his error.

Can you list a couple of things you believe that you are expected to do or should avoid doing?

Can you spend some time to think and write about some of the social and religious rules and expectations that you feel limited by and you feel you need to obey in order to fit in? This might be important, because very often we grow up with these kind of expectations and we become so comfortable with them that we don’t even think about them or challenge them at all.

But Jesus does. He is not afraid to challenge any rule or expectation that stands in our way of becoming everything God created us to be.

Jesus defends Mary and her right to sit with him and to learn from him as a disciple and he calls Martha to step back and think about the real source of her frustration. The son of God calls Martha to stop striving and to rest. A woman who has excelled in taking responsibility and keeping things under control was challenged to test the true value of her work and achievements. All the things she worked for, all he plans and goals, were they really needed… were they really worth it?

What about you? Is there something in your life that holds you back from becoming who God is calling you to be? Are you striving for the wrong things? Is God calling you to rest in him? How will you answer his call?

Rest

“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)

My Lord, God! Rabbi says that I need to learn to rest. He says that with all the business of my daily tasks and with all my attempts to do the right thing I am just numbing my pain but he wants to fully restore my peace, my shalom, so I can really relax and … just rest…and just breathe… and trust… yes, he said he wants to restore my trust, because it’s broken.

You know, I think he might be right. I don’t think I know how to find peace! My feelings are so intense and heavy! I didn’t mean to be so harsh with Mary the other day. I know how much she loves Rabbi and how much she was looking forward to his visit. Mary hangs on his every word and she’s got it in her mind that she wants to be a disciple, too. Poor Mary! Sometimes she still behaves like a little child! How could she be a disciple? She is just a woman and she belongs with the rest of us. How can she not see that? Oh, her naivete makes me so upset! Yes, I know she is still young and she hasn’t gone through a whole lot of challenges and difficulties that I did, and she hasn’t carried a lot of responsibilities in the family because Lazarus and I took care of everything, but seriously God, isn’t it time yet for her to grow up? I am very sorry that I was rude, but when I saw her sitting with the men again leaving all the heavy lifting to me again, I thought I was going to explode!!!

Yes, my emotions are sometimes very intense and I can be moody, even temperamental. I have promised myself that this year is going to be different, that it will be about rising and blooming and I won’t be so negative and critical. People think I am callous and controlling and I always try too hard, but they can’t see how insecure and fearful I really am on the inside. I want to change, I just don’t know how to make it happen.

Mary knows. She is so brave and effortless! What she tackles she conquers and she makes it all look so easy…She is beautiful, clever and witty, she is confident and secure. It’s like when we were children and father would play with us, we would jump and he would catch us … Mary stayed like that her whole life. So playful and trusting. I think, I fell so many times that now I am afraid to jump. I simply don’t trust anymore that somebody will be there to catch me.

I have always had to work hard for everything and why would it change now? Most of my days feels like I am trying to move a mountain so I flex all my muscles, I gather all my strength, I push and I push and then I fall on the ground completely exhausted and next day I pick myself up again and gather all my strength and I push and I push and I try to do the right thing, again and again, then I try to create some kind of order around me to make life more bearable but hand on my heart I ‘m telling you the truth, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up.

Mary is different. She flies through life. She is like a feather blown by the wind, she doesn’t mind being out of control, she doesn’t mind to leave things undone just to be able to do her thing and follow her vision. She doesn’t mind what others say or expect of her… she is so free!! I want to be free, too, my God! But how??

I asked Rabbi and he said that only love is strong enough to cast out fear and his love will bring me to freedom if I remain in him and learn to REST in him. He says that freedom for me starts with calling myself beloved and trusting the One who loves me.

Father, I know that you love me. I know that the peace and joy and the freedom I long for so much can only be found in you. I want to be everything you want me to be. I want to stop trying to move this giant mountain, I want to stop striving and start resting in you. I want all my efforts be rooted in the faith that you gave me life and you gave me purpose. You sustain the breath in me and I want to breathe in more of You, more of your peace, more of your hope. Please, my God, heal my trust, heal my heart and teach me to live my life in harmony with my new name: beloved. Amen.

Martha.

Love much

Don’t love just a little,

Love much!

Love with arms outstretched, …

Love with tears flowing, …

washing away the shame

and sorrow of age old sins.

Love with perfume pouring, …

kisses abundant, …

hope renewing.

Love the moment that turns

a sinner into a prophet,

a woman into a priest –

anointing her king,

loving her Saviour –

in whose arms she is forgiven,

she is beloved, at His feet she is

M O R E than she’s ever hoped to be.

In that moment she is changed.

Changed by the love of Jesus,

who loves not just a little but loves much.

He loves with arms outstretched, …

He loves with tears flowing, …

with his blood pouring, …

kisses abundant, …

hope renewing, …

hearts expanding

as they start to love not just a little

but they love much.

Much Love

Then one of the Pharisees invited him to eat with him. He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume and stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to wash his feet with her tears. She wiped his feet with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—she’s a sinner!” Jesus replied to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He said, “Say it, teacher.” “A creditor had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” “You have judged correctly,” he told him. Turning to the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she, with her tears, has washed my feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:36 – 50)

My father used to tell me stories about the ancestors of our nation. Patriarchs like Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, amazing leaders like Moses, kings like David, great women of God like Deborah, Esther and Ruth. He said that they were special because God used them to do great things and if I follow God and obey his law, then I can be special, too. Oh, how much I wanted to be special!! How much I wanted you God to use me for something great, to make a difference in a world where girls don’t get many chances, where our voice is unheard and our ambitions are veiled.

Lord, you see my heart how hard I tried to be good, and how much I wanted to do the right thing. I worked hard to please you, to please others, to keep the law, to meet expectations, but it was like walking against the wind, always fighting and no matter how many times and hard I tried, I always ended up exhausted, hurting, feeling ashamed and heartbroken.

And then I started to listen to a different story. I started to listen to promises of love.

I just wanted to feel different. I wanted to stop hurting, stop feeling empty and I didn’t want to be a failure anymore. I gave away my all several times in exchange for a fleeting moment of relief and the mere hope of unconditional love. I wish I had known that I was only chasing after the wind. So many of them promised me the moon but delivered nothing but contempt and more shame than stars in the sky, leaving me disappointed, hurting and heartbroken over and over again, until I have given up all hope and started to believe that this just might be the end of my story.

But then I met HIM. Jeshua (Jesus), your Chosen One! I know, that he is the One, I knew the first time I met him. I believe that he is the One you sent to save the world and to save me.

I have never met anybody like him before. He is kind and gentle, full of joy and faith, he is patient and forgiving. He is the only one who can see me, I mean really see me for who I am. He sees beyond all my sins and failures, he can see through the walls I built up to protect myself from even more heartbreak. The day we met he called my name and his words brought me freedom. The deepest longing of my heart to be known and loved has been finally fulfilled. I can finally breathe… His love has left me undone.

I am not fighting or chasing the wind anymore. My heart is calm and filled with peace. I have been fully satisfied. No more emptiness, no more shame, no more guilt. My name used to be rejected and sinner, now it’s beloved daughter.. How could I ever repay him? The Promised One has saved me, He restored me, he has given me hope, and he has told me a different story that I will never ever stop listening to.

He says that love can’t be bought and it can’t be earned. Love has to be freely flowing, poured out as a sacrifice, so abundant, so full of faith, so full of hope, never wanting anything in return. This is the love I have been looking for my whole life.

I have given away my everything so many times, that pouring out that bottle of perfume in the honour of the Chosen One really wasn’t hard for me at all. I just wanted him to know how thankful I am and that I believe that he is truly special. I believe that one day, Lord God, you will use him to do great things and his love is going to change the whole world.

Simon and his friends were outraged because I poured out the expensive perfume… “What a waste!” – they said. But you know what? I would be more than happy to pour out my whole life for the one who truly knows me and sees me and calls my name. If my father’s dream for me never comes true, if I don’t ever do anything great and significant, but my whole life will become a bottle of perfume poured out in Jeshua’s honour … then that will be big enough for me. I will gladly spend my life becoming who he wants me to be. I will go and sin no more. I will go and love much. Amen.

Your belovèd daughter

Have you ever heard God’s voice in your heart? How do you know it was Him?

You might have asked this question before. How can you know that you really heard from God and how can you distinct His voice from the sound of your own desires or imagination?

You might sense a call to change your job, to move house, to move town or even country. You might sense a nudge to start a business, to write a book or to take up a project. You may feel the desire to study further, to buy a house or to ask someone to marry you and you want to know if it would be the right decision. You probably want to know if your desire is indeed from God and comes with or without his blessing.

I wish I could tell you that there is an easy, bulletproof way to test your ideas and successfully manage your choices but I can’t. What I can do is to give you a few simple guidelines and journal prompts to think and write about.

1. To be able to hear God’s voice you need to believe that he is interested in you and your life and that your decisions matter to him.

Your heavenly Father wants to guide you, share his wisdom with you and He wants you to partner with him in his purposes. Think about this: do you really believe that your voice matters or that the choices you make are significant not just to you but to God as well? How familiar are you with God’s purposes and his work in this world? In prayer ask God to help you to align your desires with his purposes.

2. God never contradicts His own Word.

When you think about the call you feel in your heart or the choice you feel you have to make, let the God’s Word be your first stop. Think about what the Bible says about the topic or its underlying principles? I know that there are a lot of modern issues the Bible doesn’t talk about explicitly, but if you go to the heart of the matter you will find the answer you are looking for. Think and write about this: Do you believe that the Bible is God’s written word and that in it and through it God speaks to you? Do the desire of your heart contradict or endorse the core values of the Bible? In prayer ask God for courage to be able to let some things go if you need to.

3. God voice often calls us out of our comfort zone or ask us to do things that doesn’t make sense at the time.

Yes, God wants us to be happy and healthy, but more than that he wants us to be restored to the image of Jesus Christ. If you know his story you know that God sometimes calls us to do uncomfortable, even painful things. Or think about Abraham. God called him to do something strange, possibly dangerous and super uncomfortable, yet he obeyed without delay and stepped out in faith. How would God’s call in your heart move you outside of your comfort zone? Are you willing to go? Is there any chance you have missed out on important experiences before because of fear or your expectations of a comfortable life?

4. A prerequisite for being able to recognise God’s voice in your heart is the right heart motivation and the willingness to obey Him.

If it’s just an other opinion you want, you will always have doubts. If you want to please God and work for his love and acceptance, it will make you deaf to his voice and all that he says in Jesus, in whom he loves and accepts us. If you just want to use God for your own advantage to secure a comfortable and successful life for yourself, that can only lead to one thing: disappointment. Question: Why do you really want to know God’s voice? Do you want to use him or partner with him? Are you ready to trust and obey him no matter what he says?

Can you make mistakes in recognising God’s voice in your heart and call on your life? Absolutely! Nevertheless, be sure that God always honours an honest act of faith and he is able to work everything together for the good of those who love him.

How can I know?

The Lord said to Abram: Go from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. (Genesis 12:1-4)

It’s been 40 years to the day since I left Haran. I left behind a life I knew and loved in exchange for a life of a foreigner. But why me? God, why do you call some to go and others to stay? Why did you choose ME to live on the road in pursuit of your voice and your promise that I could never obtain on my own? You promised to bless me so I might become a blessing, but why could you not bless me at home?

When I close my eyes I still remember the oak tree on top of the hill nearby the rocky river valley. I remember the smell of the wind after harvest and the coarseness of the dust under my feet. I can hear the light-hearted laughter of my family and friends, singing songs by the fire and telling stories about heroes of old times to their children. We shared our dreams when the sun came up and we shared our meals after a long day work.

Today I wonder if they still remember me? Before I left, they said I was out of my mind. Who has heard about a God, who tells people to leave the safety and comfort of their home and become wanderers? Who else have heard a God making promises of abundant blessing to people and a new home in a far away land? “You can’t just pack up and go” – they said – “think about all your responsibilities and think about everything and everyone you would have to leave behind.”

“Have you considered all the risk you take?” – they asked – “It is not safe out there! You will have no one to protect you, you will be alone. You will regret this!” “How can you know anyway, that what you heard was really a god or what he told you is true?”

How can I know?

Oh, Lord God… when you called my name… when I heard your calm but terrifying voice, my heart skipped a beat and I knew I had no choice but to follow you.

I often think about that moment. I struggle to find the right words to tell what has really happened that day. You came to me and you touched a place deep inside of me I didn’t even know existed and your touch made me come alive somehow. You made me see the invisible, a vision of a road ahead of me and a journey you want to take me on. You have given me a dream of being part of something greater than myself. A desire of always being exactly where you want me to be. I just wish you gave me a map or a destination, but you simply called me to trust you and follow you one step at a time even when I’m scared. Even when I’m homesick.

Yes, after all these years I still wonder what it would have been like to stay. What my life would look like if I have never left. But it is a mystery I can live with. What I wouldn’t be able to live with is the regret of ignoring your call and dismissing the quest you surprised me with.

How can I know?

The truth is that I can never know. I don’t have all the answers. But I believe in you! I know that I want you more than I want answers. I also know that you have brought me this far and you haven’t failed me yet. You proved your might and your faithfulness in a million ways and now I know you more than ever before.

God, It’s not about the destination at all, is it? It’s about the journey itself. It’s about getting to know you and learning to trust you in my loneliest and scariest moments. You called me and I followed you. You proved your faithfulness and I learned to recognise your voice and to take a leap of faith again and again. As you catch me when I fall, my faith in you and my love for you grows and my heart becomes stronger and it overflows with thankfulness.

I look around and I see your blessings everywhere.

You called me to walk on this land, you said you want to bless me here. You said I belong here even if I don’t have roots in this soil and my name means nothing here. The people of this country speak a different language, they sing different songs and tell different stories to their children about heroes of old times.

But we walk on the same ground and we live under the same sky. We look up to the same stars after a long day work and the same birds sing songs to us to calm our weary souls. You created all of us and you sustain our life in us. We are strangely different yet uniquely connected in you.

How can I know that I really am where you want me to be?

I know, because I know you! I might live like a wanderer but I have made myself at home in you. I live for you Lord God, I am fully yours! You bring me hope on the days when my heart starts to sink, and you remind me that I am completely safe in you.

You are my God! You are my home! You are my shield and my shelter, you know me, you satisfy me, you are with me in the waiting and the rejoicing. God, I fix my eyes on you and where you lead me I follow.

Sarai and I are heading East at dawn. Lot and his people have already left and I had to say goodbye to my family once again. We will walk on different dust but we stay under the same sky, looking at the same stars, finding hope in how constant and unchanging you are. I am not afraid to let go anymore. I can embrace the new season, the change and the ‘out of control’. I will stay calm in the uncertain and the ‘not knowing’ because I know that when the sun comes up and goes down again, you are still the same. I chose to follow you once and I choose to go with you again. I choose you every day a million times, over and over again because you are worthy. I choose to move with you, to keep in step with you, because you are the only one who can count the dust and the stars.

So even when your promises seem false or delayed, my heart feels heavy and the future uncertain, I keep trusting and following the one who loves me and calls my name.

Abram

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