Saturday, July 12, 2008

No more encumbering

Below this post is the last of the "Servant's heart" series. Now the time has come for me to say goodbye to the internet for an extended period of time. I will continue to communicate with friends and family via e-mail. But there will be no more blogging, no more internet "research", no more Facebook (why, oh why, did I ever sign up for that anyway?), no more home-school or large-family forums, no more frantic searches for the best, most miraculous (the "Christian" word for magical) weight loss secret.

I am not even going to print out my friend Rand's Friday Night Notes for our church bulletin board. I'm going to pass that job on to my son Josiah.

Pray for us this summer. Our church Bible conference runs July 30 - August 3. Our very dear friend Pastor David Dickerson is coming all the way from Georgia to preach for us. We are so looking forward to his coming, and pray that the Lord will bless it and begin to send us the revival we have been longing for (but not longing for nearly enough).

August 11-15 we will be attending the Bible conference at Maranatha in Pennsylvania. Our oldest son Nate was able to get time off from work to go with us. Please pray that God will awaken him.

The Sunday after the Maranatha conference we hope to be in Mount Vision, New York, visiting our friend Chris Ellis' church. I'm looking forward to seeing them again, and visiting with his wife, and his daughter Esther. Mount Vision is just about half-way between our house and Pennsylvania, so we've been sometimes stopping there to break our trip in half.

I am concerned about us living in a neighbourhood setting. On the one hand, I see such an opportunity to share the gospel with our unsaved neighbours. But on the other hand, I see my children more and more negatively influenced by those lost children. Pray for us about this. I don't want to try so hard to win my neighbours for Christ that I lose my children to the world. But I don't want to so close my family in that we neglect our neighbours, either. I don't know where the balance is, but I do know that my first and primary responsibility is to my home and family.

Part of what's hard about living in a neighbourhood is when all the neighbour children congregate in my yard. This is fine sometimes, but often they're all here way too much. If none of the children are outside, they'll come to the door and ask if they can play. I like that. But if the children are already outside, they won't ask my permission. They'll just come into the yard and start playing. I'd like to find a way to stop this so that my children are not with the world's children hours upon hours every day throughout the summer. I don't think it's fair to make my children stay inside until I am able to be out there with them. I'd like for them to be able to go out without having the neighbours in my yard, too. If any of you have any suggestions for how to deal with this, let me know.

As I get the money, I am ordering schoolbooks for this fall (the only other internet use I will justify for myself right now; a money order costs five dollars!!!). I am looking forward to starting up school again. I am thinking of doing home school more or less year round with breaks for gardening, conferences and family days. That way I don't have to try to cram all the lessons into the short months between Canadian Thanksgiving in October and Victoria Day in May like I have been. (That's between the end of harvest and the beginning of spring planting.) And it will help some with keeping my children occupied without the neighbourhood joining in.

That's it for now. Have a great rest-of-the-summer.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Servant's Heart, Part 3

Here is Part One.

Here is Part Two.

And now for a closer look at one of the controversial figures in the New Testament: Martha. Of all the women in the Bible, I believe I identify most with Martha. She is the in-charge type, who likes to control the situation, and who gets pretty frustrated when things don't go her way. She tends to take her frustrations out on people, and she tries to get other people to take sides--her side--in every argument. When she is hosting an event, she likes to have everything just right. The food, the house, the arrangement of the furniture, the clothes her family members wear, the way everyone has their hair combed--all has to be just right.

Martha has a very hard time "going with the flow" when something disturbs her idea of perfection. She likes to orchestrate everything and everybody, and she gets all out of sorts when people and things don't perform up to her standards.

I have just described Catherine Margaret Smith Newton. Somebody out there in blog world has just said to themselves, "So that's why she's always defending Martha! She's really just defending herself!" And that's how it was when I first started to study Martha 18 months ago, when a dear friend preached about her. I did not like the picture he was painting of me, so I decided to do some word studies connected to both accounts of Martha and her beloved sister Mary.

Almost everybody I know who as done any kind of devotional or sermon or article on Martha and Mary focuses on one against the other. Martha this BUT Mary that. Mary worships BUT Martha serves. Mary progresses in her worship BUT Martha continues serving. And this is how I usually saw myself. Wanting to worship BUT being stuck in the nursery. Wanting to spend hours in prayer and Bible study BUT having to work with my children. Wanting to sit and feed on the Word in the adult Sunday school class BUT having to teach a class myself. What I most resented was that I saw no way possible for me to "choose the better part" because there was no choice for me. I HAD to serve.

When I took a good hard look at myself 18 months ago, I saw the truth about myself in a way that I never wanted to admit before. The truth is this: given the choice, given the wide-open door of opportunity to "choose the better part" without distraction, guess what? I would still find some way to be "encumbered about much serving."

So here I was, embarking on a journey, setting out to prove to the world once and for all that it is okay to be a Martha. That we all have different personality types, and God can use us all within our different personality types. Martha can serve while Mary worships, and God will bless us both. And I fully expected to have people, even the best commentators, totally disagree with me. And I was loading my guns in preparation for fighting back.

So I started tooling around with my wonderful E-sword, and to my surprise, most of the commentators were sympathetic toward Martha! Well, that sort of took some steam out of me. And in wondering how to interpret the two Martha-serving passages, I proceeded with my word study.

Luke 10:38 Now it came to pass, as they [the Lord and His disciples] went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

This is an interesting verse. Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus lived together in one house. Yet it was not Lazarus' house, it was Martha's. Normally single women lived with their father, brother, uncle or other male relative. But here's a case where the home is owned by the woman. Now, I want to be careful not to read too much into this, but based on the following verses I think it's safe to say that Martha was an "in charge" type of person. She was the boss of that house. There is no way for us to know which sibling was the oldest, but I can imagine it might have been Martha. She sounds like she was used to running the show. Even her name means mistress!

Verses 39 and 40: And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was encumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

And here the contrast is drawn: Mary sitting in peace at the Lord's feet, Martha bustling about, becoming more and more agitated to the point of actually giving orders to the Lord Himself!

What is Martha actually doing here, that she thinks is so important? The phrase is "encumbered about much serving." The first three words emphasize each other in relation to the amount of serving this woman was doing.

Encumbered: To be over-occupied, too busy, about a thing; to be mentally distracted.

About: In excess, with completeness, through and through.

Much: Many. Large. (As in, "the hostess with the mostest.")

The picture in my mind is this: Days, maybe even weeks, of preparation. The best food in town purchased for this one meal. Perhaps servants are sent to nearby Jerusalem for items Bethany doesn't have. The house cleaned from top to bottom and beautifully decorated. The cushions arranged for maximum comfort. The dishes of food carefully prepared and exquisitely garnished. Each course exactly timed so that nothing is too hot or too cold when set before the guests. And she certainly would not have neglected the common welcome of the day as one Simon did. She would have had plenty of fresh, warm water, the best soaps and the fluffiest towels for washing her guests' feet.

In other words, Martha went WAY over the top with this one meal. And for what purpose? Why all this effort? Something I read once suggested that Martha was showing off. I don't think so. I think she saw the Lord as Someone very important, and she wanted Him to have the best she could offer. But her best was too much. It encumbered her, distracting her and drawing her away from simply sitting at the Lord's feet and fellowshipping with Him. He didn't want all that fuss and bother. He wanted her. He would have been perfectly satisfied with a simple meal such as they normally would have eaten, in order for her to have time with Him.

Verses 41-42 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Careful: Anxious, troubled.

Troubled: Disturbed, troubled in mind, disquieted.

The Lord used two synonyms to describe Martha's mental state. He wanted to make sure she got the point, like when we caution a child by saying, "That water is boiling hot." It's not enough to just say boiling or hot; we have to say boiling hot. So the Lord says careful and troubled.

Now let's fast-forward a year.

John 12:1-3 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.

On the surface, it appears as though Martha has not learned anything. Lazarus is sitting with the Lord, Mary is worshiping Him in a way that suggests she understands perfectly that He is about to be killed, but Martha is serving again. I'm going to suggest that she did learn something, something essential.

Martha was probably a wealthy woman. Matthew Henry suggests that she was possibly a widow, which would explain why this is her house, not her brother's. Perhaps she came from a poor family and married a wealthy man. This might explain why Mary and Lazarus lived with her: maybe their father had no property for them to inherit. The point is, Martha most likely had many servants ready to do her bidding. In Luke's account, Martha was overseeing a huge feast. There was way too much for one, or even two, women to do. Servants would have been bustling back and forth with wash basins, cushions, appetizers, etc. Martha would also have been bustling about making sure everything was going just right, driven to distraction by the mental strain of it all.

In John's account a year later, there is a startling difference.

They made Him a supper. The main meal of the day, one that would take a little extra effort than for breakfast or lunch, just as many of us do for our own families every day. In other words, nothing more or less special than normal, everyday fare.

And Martha served. Martha. Not her servants. Martha herself brought the Lord His food and set it before Him. She served in His presence, and without the mental distraction of the previous feast. She had learned to use the gift of hospitality God had blessed her with to serve with simplicity and in quietness of heart out of love for her Lord. I quote Matthew Henry:

Christ had formerly reproved Martha for being troubled with much serving. But she did not therefore leave off serving, as some, who, when they are reproved for one extreme, peevishly run into another; no, still she served; not as then at a distance, but within hearing of Christ's gracious words, reckoning those happy who, as the queen of Sheba said concerning Solomon's servants, stood continually before him, to hear his wisdom; better be a waiter at Christ's table than a guest at the table of a prince.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Cor-Che-Me-Good: A Recipe

This was too good to keep. Servant's heart, part 3, coming tomorrow.

Take one pound (or so, I didn't actually weigh it) of Monterey Jack cheese that really needs used up today. Think about that for a minute to determine the best way to incorporate that into a meal. Remember that when the groceries came today, your husband left the hamburger out, at your request. Think a little more about how the cheese and the meat will go best into some sort of casserole that your family will love, if only because they're tired of the same-old-predictable-same-old that you've been serving. While you are thinking about all this, start a pan of clean dishwater so you can clean as you go.

Ask your 9 year-old-daughter to pull six green onions from the garden. While she's doing that, pour some (maybe about 2 tablespoons) olive oil into a small frying pan. Turn burner on low to heat the oil while you cut most of the stems off the onions (leave about six inches). Realize that you could have saved olive oil and frying pans by cooking the onion with the hamburger. Say "oh well" to yourself, and start browning the hamburger in the large frying pan.

Make sure that you are using the side of the cutting board marked "onions". Clean and slice the parts of the onions that you keep, putting the rest into the bucket for the pig. Stir the hamburger. After you've sliced four onions, look at the pile of slices. Realize that the green onions are getting bigger bulbs now, so you really didn't need six. Put the two remaining onions into a dish for your husband, who loves garden-fresh onions. Put the slices in the frying pan with the hot oil. When it all spatters and spits at you, realize that you have the burner too high and turn it down. Stir. Stir the hamburger.

Pull three cloves off a garlic bulb. Cut the the little bits off at the root ends and remove the papery covers. Stir the onions. Chop up the hamburger to make sure it's all in bits, with no big lumps. Look on the nice magnetic knife holder your friends gave you, for the chopping knife. Notice that it's not there. Glance into the dish drainer. When you don't find it there, say "oh well" to yourself and get a different knife. Chop each garlic clove into bits, pausing after each to stir the onions. After each clove has been chopped, gather all the bits into a pile and chop again. Scrape the whole pile into the frying pan with the onions and stir. Stir the hamburger.

Stir the onions and garlic again. Remember the book you read recently that said garlic does not need to cook very long, or it will start to not taste so good. Turn the burner off and set the frying pan to the back of the stove. Check to see that all the pink is out of the hamburger. Drain fat and juices into glass measuring cup. Not because you want to measure it, but because it was handy. Turn off hamburger burner and set that frying pan on the stove.

Wash all utensils, etc., that you've used so far. Wipe down all counter tops. Call in your 9 year-old-daughter and your 5 year-old-daughter. While they are coming in and washing their hands, melt 1/4 cup butter in stock pot. Measure 1/4 cup flour, and set it aside. Measure 2 cups of milk, and set it aside. When the butter is melted, use the wire whippy to stir in the flour. Slowly add milk, stirring all the time. Occasionally set the milk down and give the mixture a good, thorough stirring, to make sure no lumps are happening.

By the time the milk is all poured and stirred in, the girls should have their hands washed. Have them start making a salad. While they are working, monitor their conversation to make sure it is characterized by peace, love and joy. Correct any speech that does not qualify. Note that this time, most of it does qualify. Smile about that.

Meanwhile, unwrap the cheese and slice it into the milk mixture, stirring till melted and smooth after every 5-6 slices. Be thankful for the cheese slicer: it works much nicer than a knife for this kind of cheese. Try not to remember that you were irritated with your husband for "wasting" money on it, when a knife would work just as well. While you are slicing the cheese, your daughters will crowd around and say, "Mmmm. Looks good. What is it?" Instead of doing the "Food" - "What kind of food?" - "Yummy food" bit that you usually do, confess the truth: you don't have a name for it because you're making it up as you go along. Announce that there will be a contest at dinner to see who can come up with a name for it. Remind your daughters that they are supposed to be making a salad.

After the cheese sauce is done, turn that burner off. Stir in the hamburger, then the onions and garlic. Get an inspiration, and stir in two cups of frozen corn. Wash all utensils, etc., that are dirty, and wipe all counter tops. Notice that the dish drainer is getting full. Draft 9 year-old-daughter to dry and put away. Show 5 year-old-daughter how to cut the "trees" of broccoli off the "trunk" to add to the salad. Be thankful that she has learned to use the sharp knife safely and is being such a big help. Tell her that she is being a big help.

Grease two 13X9 glass pans with butter. Portion the hamburger stuff evenly between the two and smooth it all out. Do the washing up routine again. Get the cookbook out and open it up to the drop biscuits recipe. See what temperature to set the oven for, and do that. Look for the big white mixing bowl. Realize that the girls are using it for the salad. Look for the other big white mixing bowl, being thankful that you have two. When you don't find it, ask the girls if they know where it is. 9 year-old-daughter will tell you that it's in the refrigerator. Ask what's in it. When she says, "Salad. Lots of salad," say, "oh, boy." Look at that salad. Notice that there are white wisps of cottony-looking mold growing on it. Wonder to yourself, "When was the last time we had salad?" Don't bother answering the question because it doesn't matter. You were gone all day yesterday, and before that you don't remember because everybody's been sick--again. Decide not to think about that.

Send the moldy salad out with 9 year-old-daughter to give to the pig. Be thankful that you have a pig, the pig you hadn't wanted because your neighbours went ahead and got it for you without asking, and you had to get your family scrambling to build it a pen for it right in the middle of the Saturday night bath routine, and it got loose early the next morning (which was a Sunday), and set the dogs to barking at 4:30 AM, which woke up your visiting parents, but you didn't know why the dogs were barking until several hours later, and everybody had to go out and chase the pig back into the pen when they should have been eating Sunday breakfast and getting ready for church, and somebody had to wake up those neighbours because their pig was loose too, and....... Decide not to think about that anymore, either.

When the bowl comes back, wash it, and mix up a double batch of drop biscuits. Spoon the dough onto the top of the hamburger mixture, portioning it so there are exactly 12 relatively evenly spaced blobs of dough on each panful. When there is one blob left over, break it up into bits and add them to the other blobs. Open the oven to put the pans in. Notice that you forgot to move the oven rack back to the middle after baking bread earlier. Move it now. Put pans in the oven and set the timer.

Now 9 year-old-daughter will tell you that the baby is crying. Call 16 year-old-daughter in to do the rest of the washing up. Just as she gets there, notice that the baby has stopped crying. Decide not to pick him up just now, but help the younger girls with the table setting, instead. As soon as everything is ready, call everyone to dinner.

As all the children gather around, listen to them exclaim about how good it smells, and what is it, and how good it looks, and can I have two helpings please, etc. Announce about the naming contest. Serve everybody their portions.

During dinner, 9 year-old-daughter will announce the name of this new recipe. Remind her that there will be a vote. She will ignore you, and explain how the recipe got its name.

Cor for corn
Che for cheese
Me for meat
Good because it's really good


Only at our house.