For Those Who Are Grieving This Christmas Season

AmberOBrien"

       My experienced friends warned me that certain days of the year could pull a bereaved person down into a quicksand-like spiral as the memory of the past rubs salt into the still-wounded present. Holidays and anniversaries magnify the loss of a loved one, each event having the potential to drag under the people left behind. As a new Christmas season approached, I hoped that during the second anniversary of my baby girl Megan’s birth and death, I would resist both fighting the pull of grief and trying to speed through this potentially heartbreaking time. For as a victim in quicksand soon learns, both thrashing around and trying to rush through it could result in more loss. Continuing to fight causes the quicksand victim to further sink, just as I could further sink into my grief and self pity. Panicking and trying to speed the process of escape causes the victim to sink faster, just as I could push myself further into the pit of despair by not taking my time to acknowledge and face my grieving.

The Key with both quicksand and with grief is to move slowly, take small steps, and be willing to let others pull you out.

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     Two years before, I gave birth to a premature baby girl on December 23. The most intense forty days of my life followed her emergency birth as my husband and I watched our baby girl go on and off a respirator and survive bowel surgery, only to watch her take her final breath in my arms. Megan weighed just 2 pounds 4 ounces, but she was perfectly formed, a true gift from God. As she struggled for her life, we struggled against two major snowstorms to bring her my breast milk. I felt so torn between visiting the hospital and caring for my other two daughters, Mary Jo and Katie, at home.

As Megan took her final breath, however, I felt God’s complete peace and an awareness of his sovereignty. She shared forty days with us on earth, the number the early church fathers held as “the necessary period of cleansing or testing and strengthening which allows the fullness of wisdom to become a reality.” According to the Bible, Jesus spent forty hours in the tomb between good Friday and Easter morning, as well as forty days in the desert while being tempted. Noah and his family spent forty days on the ark. Moses fasted for forty days before he received the Ten Commandments, and the Israelites wandered for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Megan completed her forty days on earth and was now free from pain, praising God in her own Promised Land – Heaven.

The name Megan means “will achieve might and strength,” and I knew in my innermost depths her life was complete at forty days. While most days I could trust in God’s perfect wisdom for my family and me, as a sensitive and shortsighted human I still felt the loss of a loved one. Grieving is a healthy and necessary process whose emotions and tears should not be buried or ignored. I spent the following year writing in my journal and creating a scrap/photo album to include the photos, cards, and letters sent to commemorate Megan’s short life. A room was dedicated to her at my home church and Mary Jo, Katie, and I made frequent stops to hang bulletin boards and set up supplies. A year and a half later, a baby boy named Jacob blessed our family (Jacob means “the supplanter”). The waves of grief diminished as time and understanding increased. I turned to Jesus and His Holy Word for comfort and I felt my own faith strengthen. At times, I relished in the thought that I had a child in Heaven, for is that not our ultimate goal as parents?

However, as Christmas and Megan’s second birthday approached, my fears of how I would handle the days increased. Christmas was centered on a baby boy who was miraculously born. The absence of a miracle for Megan would seem greater with one less stocking to fill. On the other hand, if I filled a stocking as some bereaved parents do, I have one less child to unpack all the goodies. The sore empty wound that I still carried (and will always carry in a lesser degree until I am reunited with my baby) seemed such a contrast to the cheery hustle and bustle of Christmas. What could I do instead of planning her birthday party? What could I buy instead of party favors, cake and ice cream? Would anyone but me remember Megan’s birthday?

     Christmas surrounded me with its cinnamon smells, jingle bells, glitter and gold tinsel. Could it have been only two years before, alone in my cold sterile hospital room that I spent Christmas morning? I was supposed to be six months pregnant, I thought. Instead, my little baby girl struggled for life in intensive care. My staples stung from the emergency cesarean, a physical reminder of the stinging feeling of sitting alone in a hospital bed trying to imagine the reactions of my girls as they opened their gifts at home. Two years later, especially during anniversary remembrances, the sore emptiness of loss was ever present and I feared I would sink into the quicksand of self-pity and depression. “Lord, I can’t let Megan’s birthday take away the peace and Joy of Christmas from my other children. Help.”

     The Sunday before Christmas, we stopped by Megan’s grave after church. Before I opened the car door, I spotted something lying on her tombstone. I burst into tears of joy as I realized someone had left a tiny Christmas tree in Megan’s memory. Little ornaments of angels, Mary and Joseph, adorned the little tree. Attached was a card inside a plastic bag. Who could have been so kind? Who remembered Megan? With trembling hands, I ripped open the bag. As I read the card, my questions melted into understanding. Of course –  It was from Irene and Rich, friends of ours who had lost their own baby a year before mine to SIDS. “Merry Christmas, Megan,” the card read.  “Keep an extra eye out on your Mommy and Daddy, Mary Jo, Katie and Jacob this Christmas. You are forever in their hearts.”  

     I felt God’s love through the gift of that tree. As I thought about how Rich and Irene were able to comfort me because of their own loss, an idea sprouted. Now I had a plan as to how I was going to celebrate Megan’s birthday. My excitement grew as I planned our birthday surprise, and I no longer felt the quicksand pull of self-pity. On December 23rd, I bundled up my children and stopped first at a florist shop and selected a colorful bouquet with roses.

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Next, we stopped at a local bookstore. I did not know the owners personally, but I had briefly met their preteen daughter before she died in a bicycling accident years before. She had watched my older daughter at church, and so five-year-old Mary Jo handed the father our bouquet. “What’s this?” he asked. I nodded to the picture of his daughter behind the cash register.  The words sputtered out and my eyes blinked back tears. “This is in memory of your daughter.”

     Later that night, as I pulled into our driveway, I noticed a white rose with a note attached lying in our path. I recognized my friend Terry’s handwriting, but the message felt straight from heaven.  “Mommy, Thank you for giving me a ‘birth’ day.  Love, Megan.”

     Tears of gratitude and release flowed. Like a balm for my wound, the tears flowed as I again felt God’s love and understanding through a friend. More ideas began to spring up as if my tears provided the moisture necessary for germination. Many neighbors, relatives and  friends were approaching quicksand pools of their own, and I hoped to help pull some of them out. The strongest pull is love, I will tell them, and the only escape from a pool of quicksand is to receive God’s love and then to love-pull a friend out of their own.

How your tears can be transformed into sweet wine #5 Mary at the Wedding of Cana

AmberOBrien"

 

Oh my dear Sweet Sister…..have you been waiting and hoping for something to change in your life? Are you searching for transformation?  Perhaps you have been praying for a relationship to be healed, a broken heart to be mended or maybe a sickly body to be restored to a healthy one?   Do you feel as if you are walking in a desert place and need hope and refreshment?  Jesus changes water into wine and He can make something beautiful out of whatever you are facing.

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He not only changed the water into wine but He created the sweetest and best wine for the later part of the reception. Come join your sweet sisters in this study and find out how “He saves the Best for last.”

Our focus in this series “Man…..Does Jesus Love His Women” is the close relationship Jesus had with many women in the New Testament.  The story of the Wedding of Cana reveals Jesus first miracle and gives us insight into his relationship with his mother Mary.

Let’s start by reading slowly John 2: 1-12.

Imagine yourself in this scene as Mary. During Biblical times a wedding festival included the entire town and lasted many days and to run out of wine would be an embarrassment to the wedding party as well as a huge disappointment to all who attended. Most people in biblical times labored long hours and had few opportunities for feasting and celebrating.

  1. If you were Mary and had a son who you knew could “change the situation”  ……what would you do?

She came to him and face to face she told him the situation. He questioned her with,“Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come.”

 But she did not give up. She took action and assumed that He would help.  He respected his Mother Mary and let God use her to continue to unfold God’s perfect plan. He listened to her concern. He responded to her.  Isn’t this the give and take of what a true love relationship entails?

  1.   “Do whatever He tells you.”   What kind of statement is this?

This is a statement of faith. A command from our “mother” to follow what God asks us to do. Let us consider what the servants needed to do to follow what Jesus asked them to do.

  1. How did the jars start off  They were Empty.
  2. Then the servants were asked to ? fill them with water ……..the servants had to make numerous trips to the well to fill up the 20-30 gallon stone jars. A total of 100 gallons of water. Wow!

We must become like the stone jars sweet sister.  We must empty ourselves out first before we can be filled with the holy spirit.  We prepare ourselves for the gift of God bubbling up within us with the confessing of our sins and the emptying of ourselves as we surrender our lives to God.   What could the water represent in this story?

Could our tears be as the water that was needed to fill the jars before the miracle occurs?

During desert times of loss and heartache, we cry tears that are precious to the Lord. If fact, in Psalm 56:8 the bible states that God collects our tears in a bottle.

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“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Could these huge stone jars be as the bottle reminding us that Jesus not only weeps with us but is collecting our tears to someday change them into the sweetest and finest wine?

We serve a God that keeps changing things.

He started off in Genesis changing dust into a man.

Then he made a woman out of a man’s rib.

Now at a Wedding in Cana, He changes ordinary water into extraordinary sweet, sweet wine.

To my  sweet sisters, remember that you can draw near to Jesus as Mary did and tell him your situation. Repent and turn from any sin.  Let him collect your tears in His jar and trust that he promises to change your tears to sweet joy. If we draw near to him…the best is yet to be.

(To my Catholic sweet sisters, remember that Mary is now up in Heaven around the throne of God with all the angels and saints.  She has influence still and you can ask for her to pray with you to our Lord Jesus Christ.)

Now please turn to John Ch. 15  to read about how Jesus relates his followers to the grape branches and that He is like a vine.

3. How can we be sure to produce good grapes and wine?

Yes! We need to remain close to Jesus. 

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Reflect on the close relationship Mary had with her son Jesus at this wedding receptions. She spoke her request and then she listened. She encouraged others to follow him as well and to do “Everything He tells you”.

4. What if I feel as if I am in a drought and I don’t see any change happening in my situation or the situation of one of my family members?

Oh. Sweet Sister I understand. I’ve experienced times of drought while grieving.  Maybe you don’t see anything good with loss right now and think this time is just a waste of time and energy. I also have had  times of worry and angst over the choices or the situation of a family member.  I have seen many family members and friends struggle in times of drought and the fear can be overwhelming for those feeling helpless as we watch.

If you or a loved one is in a season of drought imagine the roots of your faith and the faith of your loved ones growing deep and wide under the surface. You can’t see the roots of the grape plant but it is during times of drought and heat that the best grapes are produced. The smaller grapes contain a more condensed juice that in turn produces a sweeter wine.  The Dessert wine (the sweetest wine of all) has been left on the vine an extra month. So if you feel exhausted from waiting, remember the best grapes have to wait the longest and that God has not forgotten you or your situation.

Our desert times can produce the sweetest dessert wine if we choose to remain on the vine.

Truly truly friend….God is able to use a drought to produce sweet wine.

If we listen and follow what He says to do.

If we remain close to Him.

If we have faith as Mary did and assume He wants to help.

  1. What Action can you do to show your faith ?

a. Perhaps writing down three things that you are thankful for.

b. Writing 10 good things about the person who is challenging you.

c. Asking a friend to pray with you. Or for you.

d. Turn on praise music and sing along or just read the words and soak it in.

e. Reach out to someone who is suffering their own desert time….a person whose loss or struggle is more recent.  Trust often means releasing the situation into God’s strong and loving hands and then focusing on helping those God has put in your path.

God is all about transformation and doesn’t waste anything. He even collects our tears and in His own time changes them to the sweetest of wines.  So trust that God will use this desert time to cause your roots of faith to go deep and your future compassion for others will be as sweet as the dessert wine served after a special dinner.

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“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.”

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Man…Does Jesus Love His Women. #4 The Samaritan Women

AmberOBrien"

 

Man…Does Jesus love His Women         #4   The Samaritan Woman

 

Thirsty for true Love?  Lonely and rejected by family and friends ? Perhaps concerned that your past or present may prohibit you from God’s complete love?  God sees you my sister.  He is going out of His Way to show you that He is the Way.  How do I know?…from spending time with our next sweet sister in our series  “Man….Does Jesus Love His Women” which  focuses on Jesus’s relationship with women in the Bible.  Let us study together our fourth women who is referred in scripture as The Samaritan Woman.

First read slowly John Ch. 4: 4-42.

 

  1. What do you think the statement, “He had to pass through Samaria” means?

Actually,  he didn’t “have to” pass through Samaria as most Jews bypassed this area. The Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jews and any item they touched would be considered “unclean”.   I believe that this was a divine appointment and that Jesus “had to pass through Samaria” because this was God’s will.  God (Jesus) knew the Samaritan women would be at the well at noon and made sure he was there as well.

2. Why did she come at Noon? When do the other women come?

Women traditionally came early in the morning to fetch water. Perhaps she went at noon to avoid the other woman in her village? Did they look down on her for her living situation? Jesus knew she would be alone.

3. She is shocked that he would ask for her to touch something he would touch …why?

A Samaritan woman would be considered ritually unclean by the Jews.  He had her at “Give me a drink”.  Her thoughts probably were,   “Who is this Jewish man that is talking to me …trying to get to know me?”  He came not to ask for water but to give her what He knew she was thirsty for…….

4. Does she understand what he means by “living water?”

No.  She takes him literally and thinks he is talking about a magic well.

5. She is happily surprised that Jesus knows about her five husbands and that the man she is living with is not her husband. How do you think the way Jesus is responding is different than the women in the village?  She doesn’t feel condemned as her reaction is excitement and surprise that Jesus “Knows her”. I suspect she feels cared for that Jesus understands the circumstances, knows her heart and takes the time to chat with her.

She questions Jesus on which Mountain is best to worship God…..Does the physical location matter? What kind of worshipers does He seek?  Spirit and Truth (John 14:16-17 John 3:5-7)

The Samaritans had their own Temple on Mt. Gerizim to contrast with Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. But Jesus is saying the location of worship doesn’t matter.  Worshiping the true God is what is most important.  He is seeking our true worshipers and seeks out the Samaritan woman as He is seeking to have relationship with you my sweet sister.  Worship begins in our hearts.  She no longer lives in confusion as to which mountain to worship on or if she should continue in her sin of living with this man.

  She is face to face with the holy God of the universe and now knows what she needs to do.

Now read Isaiah 43:3 as this is an example of how water is used in scripture as an analogy for forgiveness and new life.

Remember not the events of the past, The things of long ago.  See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, In the wasteland, rivers.

She leaves her jar and runs into town to tell them about her encounter with Jesus.

What is the significance of her leaving her jar?

She has found what she was really thirsty for.  The Unconditional Love of the Savior of the World.

She has received the gift of the “Living Water” (Isaiah 44:3-5)

She has met Jesus who later in the same gospel answers, “ I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

She is often referred to as the First Missionary? Why?

She runs to tell everyone about her encounter.  Even those women who rejected her?  Yes! She wants to share her joy with all who will listen.

Does a missionary have to travel far? No…it often is the people around us in our ordinary day of fetching water that we can share the good news.

So my sweet sister.  The Holy Savior of the World knows your heart.  He sees you and knows your struggles. Come to the well and He will quench your thirst.

I end with a quote from the beautiful book, The Better Part  by John Martunek

Christ is the Savior of the World, the Messiah, the long-awaited King greater even than Jacob, inheritor of the Promise and father of the twelve tribes of Israel, so he tells this divorcee. He graces the Samaritan woman with one of the richest descriptions of himself and his work that appear in all the Scriptures. Why? Why tell someone so insignificant? Because to him, she wasn’t insignificant at all.  He wanted to be known by her, to give her hope, to save her. Ours is a Lord who wishes to shower us with His love, to fill us with the “living waters” of “the spirit and truth,” and to “tell us everything”. This is the God in whom we believe; this is the God we serve.qtq80-VMpv6P

#3 The Woman that needed healing Man…Does Jesus love His women

AmberOBrien"

 

Are you tired my sweet sister? Weak? Feeling alone and that no one understands what you are facing? Physically drained from the burden of Pain? Or maybe drained from grieving a loss? Are you so weary that it takes extra energy to do normal everyday activities?  I have been there my sweet sister and so has our sister we study today.

Our tired sister reached out in faith and she was healed. She traveled 30 miles to touch Jesus despite a twelve year long illness. She traveled alone as she was considered “unclean” because she continued to bleed.   I hope and prayer this small study will bring you one step closer on your journey to touching Jesus. May you find healing for your weary heart, body and soul.

Please join me in reading about our sister in Mark 5:25-34

Read this dramatic interaction again slowly as you put yourself in her lonely and desperate shoes.

 

  1. What do you think her ailment was?  (twelve years of bleeding so she is referred to as the hemorrhaging woman)

 During our discussion one thought was perhaps she had fibroids or         was in perimenopause? Could her bleeding have been from polyps or colon cancer? This is all speculation as the bible gives           no more detail except that she has bleed mysteriously for 12 years.

  1. How old was the child who was ill in the story surrounded this one? Look up Luke 2:41-52 and see how old Jesus was when he was found in the temple teaching?

 Yes! The answer is 12 for both cases.  Twelve is the age in Jewish   tradition that a young boy becomes a man and is responsible for himself spiritual. More on this to follow. I have found that numbers    have great significance and importance in God’s word.

 

  1. Do you think Jesus knew who touched him? Why did he ask the question and what did his question give her the choice to do?

 Is God all-knowing? Yes…and Jesus is “God with skin” so of course   Jesus knew who touched him. He also knew her heart and all her sufferings. The mysterious bleeding and the time, money and    dashed hopes she had spent on doctors. How she bore this alone as she was considered in this culture to be “unclean” and if she              were to touch someone else they would be considered          “unclean” too.  She was most likely looked down on as in these times it was believed that her “sin” must have caused this illness. She not only needed physical healing but confirmation that God had not   abandoned her and was not punishing her with this ailment. By asking this question, she needed to exercise her faith once again by professing in public what she had done.

 

  1. Do you think it took more faith to touch his garment or to profess out loud what she had done?

 Absolutely. It took more faith to publicly profess that she had               violated “religious law” and put others at risk to becoming      “unclean” as well and risk a rebuking or even having the power be taken away. She showed great faith in not running off with her       miracle (stealing a miracle) but staying and trusting that Jesus   would be kind and loving.

 

  1. How did Jesus address Her? The only place in scripture where he used this word to address a woman?

Daughter.   Yes.. he called her Daughter.  This is huge              sister…don’t rush through this.

 If he calls her daughter, than he is saying that He is her father. If she is His daughter, she has rights to a royal inheritance as He is the King of Kings. She has the right to come forward and    ask for healing. God says in His word, that a Father will give to his children what they need when they come to him. (Luke 11:11)

 How thirsty she must have been to hear that she had faith, when she had been judged and looked down upon for so long. And to add insult to injury, she had been blamed for her illness.

 Jesus stopped his travels for a woman. An unclean woman who       was rejected, alone and considered an outcast.

He not only healed her instantly, but he called her “daughter” in         front of her accusers. He saw her heart and let everyone know that     it was not her sins that caused the illness but her faith in Jesus   Christ that resulted in her healing.

 

  1. What might the number 12 have to do with all of this? After twelve years of suffering what may have been happening within her soul?

 In Biblical times a young boy is considered to be a man at after the age of 12…think Bar mitzvah.  Bar means “son” and mitzvah      means “commandment.” So a young Jewish boy who turns 13      (Son of Commandment) is now spiritual responsible to know and     follow the commandments. (no longer are his parents           responsible for him spiritually.)   So after 12 years of growth   through suffering, she is now ready to  be called not a daughter      who still has the weak faith of a child but a daughter who has the    strong faith of a woman.  She is now a mature womanly daughter     who has a deep faith that has been tested and survived. Picture a mature tree that has been through a drought and its roots have gone down deep in the ground searching for water.  She persisted and did not give up until she found the living God  who came to heal the sick.

Man……does Jesus love his woman.

 

  1. Please look up James 4:8

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Look this up and underline it in your bible. Put next to it today’s date.

 

So my dear sister sister. This is what I hope you gleaned from this study.

  1. God wants us to draw near to him and reach out with our hands for Jesus.
  2. God see’s your suffering and notices you. He stops and turns to you and looks in your heart with kindness and compassion.
  3. Sometimes God doesn’t heal right away as with this woman of 12 years of suffering.  Sometimes God waits and “heals our bodies in heaven”.
  4. She was growing in her faith during this dry desert time. God is more concerned with our spiritual health than our physical health. Our souls will last forever, while our bodies are wasting away in this fallen world.
  5. Drawing near to Jesus can mean prayer and reading scripture, repenting/going to confession, attending church and spending time with your sweet sisters.
  6. How to be healthy physically? Eat healthy foods and exercise.
  7. How to be healthy spiritually? Eat the word of God……the bible and the Eucharist. Exercise your faith as this woman did as she drew near to Jesus.

Pray and ask with faith for Physically healing, but be most concerned is your spiritual healing.

because……………Man……Jesus loves His Women.

Man….does Jesus love us women. #2 Woman caught in Adultery

AmberOBrien"

IMG_8191MA31590921-0002#2    The Women who met Mercy (The Women caught in adultery)

Hi Sweet Sister….so glad you could join our discussion as we study another dramatic interaction of Jesus and a woman.

Exposed. She stood alone after being ripped from a bed of passion and placed in front of a crowd of judgmental religious leaders.  She was a pawn used to bring down the meek prophet Jesus.   Imagine yourself in her place as she stands confused, embarrassed, humiliated and scared to death.  Her heart must have raced as her adrenaline rose causing her to seek to “fight or flight”.   However,  she was as trapped as the man Jesus who was writing in the sand.

This unnamed woman did not seek Jesus out as did contemplative Mary (Woman #1) who sat at Jesus’ feet.  She was caught committing Adultery and thrown into a group of religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus and trying to put him into a “no win” position.  Let us study another way that:

Man…………………………..does Jesus love His women. 

Let’s start at the beginning in the Gospel of John chapter 8: 1-11.

  1. Where did Jesus go the night before this dramatic interaction? What do you think Jesus was doing there?

He left his disciples to be alone. Perhaps he was praying for wisdom as to the next days’ events? Spending time with His Father God as Mary modeled for us in Chapter 1?

2. Where is the “Man” caught in Adultery? Does the law require the man to be stoned as well?

Read Deuteronomy 22:22-24. Since these leaders and Elders asked for Stoning it appears this woman was a betrothed virgin.  So the man should have also been stoned.  It is a mystery as to where he was during this confrontation. He certainly was not defending her.

She stands abandoned, betrayed and alone.  But is she alone? Are we ever alone as daughters of the King? Have you ever felt accused by others? Attacked and misunderstood?  Write down what happened and how you felt.

  1. What women in the New Testament (she is related to Jesus) could have been stoned?

Yes…his own mother….Mary could have been stoned…should have been stoned (according to the law)  if Joseph choose to expose her in the same way.

Since the woman (Mary) was pregnant the child would have died as well.

How would this world be different if Jesus had died in Mary’s womb?  How would you and your world be different?

Meditate on this awhile.

God intervened with Angels (messengers from God) to save Mary and the son of God.

Who would intervene for this women….?   

  1. What was Jesus writing in the sand?

A. Names ? Read  Jeremiah 17:13  Some scholars believe that he was writing names in the sand….

A medieval tradition was the latin, “ Terra Terra Accusta” which means the earth accuses earth.“Those that turn from the Lord will be written in the dust, because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of Living water.”

What is the opposite of being written in the dust?

Exodus 32:32 Moses begs the Lord the Lord to forgive the Isrealites or blot his name from the Book of Life.  The Lord Replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.  In Psalms this is referred to the Book of Life. In Psalm 69: 28 David sings about his enemies and asks, “ May they be blotted out of the book of Life and not be listed with the righteous.”

B. The 10 commandments?

Some scholars believe he may have been writing out the sins of the elders or perhaps the 10 commandments.  Exodus 31: 18  “When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.”

Perhaps Jesus wrote with his finger the commandment,  Thou Shalt not Kill. Weren’t they all guilty of this command?

In the book of Luke verse 20 Jesus states “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”

What a powerful symbol for the religious leaders to see him writing in the sand. Quietly, the leaders are reminded that the 10 commandments were written by the finger of God. Now, Jesus is writing out commands.

Could he be writing out the two commandments that all the law and prophets hang on? Matthew 22:37

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  Love your neighbor as your self

Were they being loving toward this woman? toward Jesus?

Do you think they realized that the Kingdom of God was upon them?

If Jesus is God made flesh, than is not Jesus the finger of God?

C. Comfort for the frightened woman?

One of the sweet sisters thought perhaps that Jesus was writing out something to comfort the woman.  This certainly would align with the kindness and love shown the woman after they all leave.

Perhaps he wrote words similar to those found in Isiah 41:10

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with my Righteous right hand”.

To counteract the words of her accusers:…..”adultery” “sinner” “harlot” “condemned” etc.

5.  What  do you think Jesus might have written?  _______, __________,________________.

Jesus states, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Why do you think they all walked away?  Why the elders first?

Who is the only one who is without sin? The only one who can forgive sins?

________________________________________

So this passage does not tell us what the woman physically did immediately after her accusers left…….

6. What do you think she must have done if Jesus forgave her and said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, from now on do not sin any more.”?

Sweet sister….I imagine her falling to her knees in relief and gratitude.  Kissing the feet of Jesus and thanking Him for defending her. I believe she repented and decided to turn to Jesus and turn away from sin.

Read Psalm 51….such a beautiful and powerful song of Repentance.

Read slowly over verses 18-19

“For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.”

Do you need to turn from a sinful choice and turn toward Jesus? Are you “all in” or are you still sitting on the fence? What do you need to leave behind that is preventing you from following even closer to Jesus and his holiness?   Will your name be written in the dust as one who turns away from the Lord or will your name be written in the book of Life as one who turns toward the Lord.

He waits patiently for you and I to offer our broken, humbled hearts at his feet.

 

Man………………………….does Jesus love us women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man…..does Jesus love His Women. #1 Mary and her sister Martha

AmberOBrien"

Come on in Sweet Sister and sit for a while.

Bring your Bible and an open heart.

Your sweet sisters discuss the relationship of Jesus with Mary and her sister Martha
Your sweet sisters discuss the relationship of Jesus with Mary and her sister Martha

Let’s start in Luke 10 38-42.  

Jesus visits sisters Mary and Martha and brother Lazarus in their home. This study will focus on Mary and where she chooses to sit.

 1. Which sister does and doesn’t do as expected within her culture?   ___________ 

Instead of doing as is culturally expected of a woman (cooking and cleaning)  as her sister Martha does…Mary sits at the feet of the Messiah.

Now please turn to Acts. Ch. 22:3 to find out what this means in 1st Century Palestine Judaism to sit at the feet of another.

When Paul makes his defense, he describes sitting at the ______of Gamalie.

Some versions of Bibles use “a student of Gamalie” because in biblical times to say one “sits at the feet” of someone means to be their student.

2. Which woman does Jesus stand up for? ___________________

Don’t rush by this my sweet sister….Mary is not only taking the position of a student, Jesus defends her and tells her that she is making the best choice or “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Now look up Luke 8: 1-3

3. Does Jesus travel with just the 12 disciples? Who are these women? How did they know him? Would this be socially acceptable in 1st century Palestine? 

Wow. I had always envisioned Jesus spending all his time with his inner circle…his twelve disciples. The above verse tells another story…that besides Mary (Martha’s sister) there were other women who followed him and had a strong relationship with Jesus.

Lastly, please turn to John 11: 17-44.

Jesus arrives after their brother dies and has been in tomb for 4 days. Both Mary and Martha make the same statement “If you had been here, my brother would not have died”.  Martha makes her statements standing up….

4. Where does Mary fall to when she makes her statement?

My Bible reads…..”she fell at his feet”

This was revelation to me sweet sisters.

Falling to His feet is a act of Mary demonstrating that she is a true disciple and will follow Jesus even though he came too late to save her brother.

Her positioning is often seen as an act of surrender of saying with her body, “Thy will be done”.

Culturally though she is affirming that she was his disciple just like his male followers. Sitting once again at his feet must have been a reminder to both her and Jesus that she has “chosen the better part”and was drawing near to him once again.

She proclaims her faith even though she doesn’t understand the “Why’s” of death and the heartache that follows.

Such a heartbreaking scene that truly breaks the heart of Jesus.

How he loves this woman Mary….

He weeps with her.

He snorts with anger. (God hates death….hates what it does to those of us left behind)

This is why Jesus came to earth….to reverse death. To conquer death through his resurrection. Raising Lazereth is a precursor to His own resurrection.  For as He tells Martha, I am the resurrection and the Life, who ever believes in me, even if he dies will life, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. (Luke 11:25)

and this Jesus…Loves you my sweet sister. Wants a deep close relationship as he had with Mary….He wants to weep with you…snort at this broken world and how it has hurt you….He wants most of all to be the resurrection in your life and in the lives of your loves ones.

So in conclusion, how should this change our own hearts and lives?

How can we develop this close relationship with our Lord Jesus ? How can our head knowledge grow into Heart knowledge?

When, where and how can you sit at the Master’s feet?_____________

We concluded our study sharing how we spent time to grow our relationship with Jesus.

Geri (a Catholic sweet sister) sharing how she had her coffee and a special chair and started with the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be and then reads scripture.

Sue shared charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening Daily Devotional a beautiful way to start and end the day.

Amber (Me) reminded the sisters of the free app called first5.org. Sisters who are studying a chapter a day and then a devotional to read and a video on Saturdays.  This app from Proverbs 31 was created to encourage us to give God the first minutes of our day.

I  also shared how to stay focused using the ACTS method. This includes the four types of prayer in appropriate order:   Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication. This helps me to stay focused as it is so easy to become distracted and writing down God’s attributes, one’s sins,  what one is Thankful for and who one is praying for really helps.

Next, I shared how I view spending time in the morning as Having a Date with Jesus and read a poem about this that is on my blog post, “Confessions of a Survivor Addict”.

I will attach these my sweet sisters to the Sweet Sister community page on Facebook. So please join us and share with your Sweet Sisters any ideas on how to keep your date with Jesus.

“Martha, Martha you are anxious and worried about many things…there is need of one thing….Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”     Jesus

Have you chosen the better part? 

foreverlove

 

 

 

 

A Wake Up Call

AmberOBrien"

Four years had passed since I’d last seen Annie and her daughter, and as she approached me, my heart froze, halting between joy and trepidation. Children’s laughter filled the air during the annual family carnival hosted by my preschool, but all I could focus on in those few moments was my last interaction with Annie. I was overjoyed to see her, yet I feared our reconnection might be marred by the fact that I had fired her years ago. Was she angry with me? Was she here to confront me about what had happened? How much had changed in the time since I’d last seen her?

Annie had worked in the infant room of my preschool. Not only did she lovingly care for each infant in her classroom, but she cared for her room as a whole. She loved a clean classroom and the order it provided; she meticulously cleaned each item and table, and continuously tidied up to keep the room spotless. Her daughter, Jenna, thrived in the preschool, as well. Jenna’s father had died in a car crash soon after she was born, leaving Annie a young, single mom. We joked how Jenna was Annie’s “Mini-Me” as they looked so much alike. She was a diligent and determined young woman who took great pride in her work and I was glad to have her as an employee.

After a year of teaching in the infant room, Annie was faced with another tragedy. Her best friend suddenly died of an aneurysm and her world spun out of control. Her focus shifted from her classroom as she processed this new grief on top of her older grief. Instead of working through her grief, Annie put her efforts into attempting to numb the pain. Noticing she was struggling, I invited her into my office and tried to encourage her to join a grief group, but she was not yet ready to face her grief head on. She was trying to outrun her pain, and it was wearing on her. She increasingly called out of work, and on the days she did show up her co- teacher ended up doing most of the classroom duties. My heart ached for her, but as the owner of the preschool, my main responsibility had to remain the children, and providing them with the best care possible. I was torn. I had compassion for Annie and her situation, but I also had compassion for the children in her care and her co-teacher. I wrote her name in my prayer journal and prayed for her each morning. I hoped and prayed that she would find healing some way. That she would learn healthy ways to handle her grief. That her weariness would lift. That she would return to us, the focused, caring, diligent teacher we all knew and loved.

Then, another teacher reported Annie had nodded off during the children’s nap time. This is a major violation of my school’s policy. My director brought her into my office to discuss our concern. On a Thursday afternoon, I told her that she needed to make some changes in her personal life and to take Friday off and come back in Monday with a fresh start. I also had to inform her that if it happened again I would need to fire her.

She came back in Monday, and I was hopeful that she had made some positive changes. But a few days later when the children were resting she dozed off again. As the owner and lead supervisor on site, I knew what I “needed” to do, as the safety of the students must come first.  However, asking Annie and her daughter to leave was the last thing I “wanted” to do. I invited her in and told her that she needed to leave immediately. Annie was very quiet and did not dispute that she had fallen asleep. She calmly picked up her daughter and left the building. My heart grieved as she walked out the door. The last thing I’d wanted to do was send her off when I knew she was grieving, but I knew it was the right decision for the school. For years, I questioned my decision. I wondered if I had failed her. I wondered what had became of her and Jenna.

And so four years later when she stood before me, I was filled with mixed emotions. I was so happy to see her and her beautiful Mini-Me. I was relieved and overjoyed that they seemed to be doing well. But I couldn’t help but wonder how she was feeling toward me now. I couldn’t help but wonder how my decision had impacted their lives.

As Annie and Jenna approached,

Annie looked me in the eye and said, “Thanks for the wakeup call.” 

She wasn’t angry. She didn’t blame me or my staff. She was grateful. We hugged and caught up and she and Jenna returned to the carnival.

I was blessed with the opportunity to rekindle a relationship with Annie and to learn more about what was happening during that time. She confided that she felt her life was falling apart and felt lost. She had settled into a toxic, abusive relationship and had lost the will to fight for herself. Instead of heeding my advice for a grief support group, she continued to let her world spin out of control, staying out late with friends and not getting enough sleep. I learned that Annie struggled with being alone at night and was prescribed medication for anxiety that had made her excessively tired during the day. She shared her sorrow at being fired from the place that she loved so much, but that it served as a much needed wakeup call. Unsettled by being asked to leave, Annie was driven to start fighting for and taking responsibility for her happiness, step by step. She found new friends, a new boyfriend, and a new job as a nanny. Annie told me,

happylife

While you can’t control what happens to you, you can control what happens next. If you want a happy life, live a happy life.”

Annie’s words of gratitude felt like a spring rain after a dry, cold winter wait. I was grateful that my tough decision had positively impacted her life. How many employers have an employee they have fired come back and thank them? I was grateful for the confirmation that sometimes tough love is needed in tough situations. I no longer questioned myself and wondered if I failed her. I rejoiced in knowing that she had taken control not only of her grief, but of her life and her own happiness.

As I shared with my husband my interaction with Annie, we both felt that we would like her to come back and teach in our school. I am a big believer in second chances, and knew in my heart that Annie had more than earned hers. We called her and asked if she would like to come back to work for us. Providentially, the family she was working for was moving to Florida. She used this opportunity to return to our school as a long term substitute. She came back full of joy and energy and the hard work and dedication we had initially seen those years ago. Soon, she was back to being a full time teacher. Her first year back, Annie won Teacher of the Year. She has now been with us for three years and I am grateful to have her.

Who would have thought that letting her go was the wakeup call that would bring her back? Only the God of wakeup calls and second chances.