#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.

When You Wake Up Regretting Your Choices From The Night Before…

AmberOBrien"

Dear Sweet Sister,

I heard that you woke up regretting your choices from the night before. I have been there sister ….many times.  We try to blame someone else, make justifications and excuses …..and then the agonizing guilt when we finally admit that we made an unholy choice and disappointed our Holy God.

It we truly don’t want to make the same mistake again and grow from this then we do need to feel that pain for a short while. For God loves you and I so much that He wants us to grow in holiness and learn from our mistakes.   Name your sin and find a bible verse that deals with it so you will be better prepared next time. (google it:) What should you have done differently? What will you do next time to avoid a similar situation or outcome?

Now the good news………..

IMG_8099MA31589040-0001
Our sin is  like a drop of water in the Ocean of God’s Mercy………………Mother Angelica   

Our sin is like a drop of water in the Ocean of God’s Mercy.

Compared to God’s ocean of Love and Mercy, your sin is just a drop. Think of how huge the ocean is…water beyond what your eyes and mind could ever comprehend.  Now try to comprehend Mercy and forgiveness that is beyond what we could ever deserve. A forgiveness that erases our sins as if they never existed.  So write your sin down and tell God that you are sorry. If you are at the seashore write it in the sand.  If you are catholic arrange to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.  The key is to acknowledge your sin.

IMG_8191MA31590921-0002

If we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.

1 John 1:9

Do you need to apologize to a friend or family member? make restitution? Even though we are forgiven, sometimes we need to show that we are sorry. Ask God for wisdom and help with this…courage too.

Now rejoice!  You are forgiven.

God asked Mother Angelica, as she stood by the ocean after throwing back a drop of water that had landed on her arm….

“Can you find it now  ?”

IMG_8192MA31590922-0001

Walk sweet sister as one who has been forgiven much and then offer that same generous mercy to all those around you.

Oh Give My Husband a Brand New Wife

AmberOBrien"

My friend’s sobs echoed over the phone as she shared that her husband didn’t value the “new her,” but instead wanted to keep her back from growing into the vivacious woman I knew her to be. How sad that he couldn’t value growth and put in the effort and grow to love the “new Kelly.”  I sat down and wrote this poem after our phone conversation.

A Brand New Marriage

Oh give my husband a brand new wife
One that will serve him lovingly
Give him the helpmate he deserves
And may that “new wife” always be me

Oh give my husband a hot mistress
One that will surprise him lovingly
Give her energy and fresh ideas
And may that “mistress” always be me

Oh give my husband a new best friend
One that will listen lovingly
Give her wisdom to find the good
And may that “best friend” always be me   

So how does one protect one’s marriage as we grow individually and through the seasons of Life?

Here are some tidbits of advice that my husband and I have gleamed through the years.

IMG_8034
Happy 27th Wedding Anniversary to my husband!

Keep dating.
Our priest from Gettysburg College, Father Phil gave us the advice to “keep dating” when he met with us before our marriage. With each season of our marriage, life has changed, and so have our dates. A neighbor babysitter coming over for two hours a week so Dave and I could go out when our children were small, intimate lunches when we started our business, family members who watched the children so we could take a long weekend. Be creative, be proactive, and just do it.

“The best thing you can do for your children is to have a good marriage.”
This was the advice we received when we went to a day-long marriage encounter. This quote helped take away all my guilt about leaving my children to “date” their father or travel with him.  The children will grow up and share their own relationships and putting our spouse first is a way to model for them what a thriving marriage looks like.

A successful marriage is the union of two forgivers.
– Ruth Graham Bell.

Yes, your partner is not perfect. Yes, they are irritating at times. Yes, they keep hurting you.
This is what Love is about. Forgiving and seeing the overall good in your spouse. May they see the overall good in us. For we are imperfect people, who make mistakes and we can be so irritating to others. Love is a covering. Love does not “keep a record of wrongs,” so when you are angry or hurt or lonely, write down 10 good things about your husband and see if your perspective changes. Keep a record of Rights. What is right about your hubby.

This weekend seek out a way to date your spouse. What are some creative ways that you like to spend with your spouse? Please share them in the comments below.

Are You Spiritually Fit? 5 Ways to Keep From Becoming Spiritually Flabby

AmberOBrien"

So yesterday my bathroom scale confirmed what my thighs had been secretly trying to tell me. I had gained back the five pounds I had worked so hard to lose weeks before. I had gone a couple weeks without weighing in and had stopped using the Myfitnesspal app to track my food. In addition, the bible study using the book Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst had ended, my exercising had slowed and voila I gained 5 pounds.

Booo! How frustrating. I started to mentally blame my husband and the two pounds of chocolate covered pretzels he bought. “He knows sweets are my weakness. Why is he undermining my progress?”

Ultimately, however, I am responsible for what goes in my mouth. I have free choice, and each day I am making lots of little choices that contribute to whether the needle of the scales moves to the right or left. After all, the point is to be making healthy choices and not focus on a  number on a scale when we gauge our physical health. However, in my case the scale gave me a little wake up call that my healthy choices had diminished.  

What if there were a spiritual scale that we could step on each day? What would it weigh?

Perhaps the scale we should be most concerned with is the one that measures the size of our hearts.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So according to scripture, the amount of Love that fills our hearts is an indicator of our spiritual health.  

How are we showing God that we love Him? Are we praising Him in the hard times? Do we spend time worshiping Him? Reading His love letter to us – the word of God? What about how we love others? Do we try to see the good in others? Are we patient and kind when others are not patient and kind to us? Do we forgive quickly?

If my heart and yours were on the spiritual scale today, how would they compare to yesterday?

I have found that seeking to be physically fit and spiritually fit have similar principals. Here are my top 5 ways to becoming spiritually fit:

  1.       Spiritually exercise first thing in the morning.
    While physical trainers often advice physically exercising first thing in the morning so your metabolism has a kick start, the same is true for spiritual exercise. Make a commitment to wake up and spend time with Jesus before you look at your phone or check your emails or connect to Facebook. Spend time praying or reading the Bible before checking the headlines – read the Good News before hearing the world’s negative news. Get ready with God before looking in the mirror and getting yourself ready. Give God the best time of your day. If you must look at your phone first thing, try the free app First5.org. I just love receiving a devotional each weekday to look at first thing in the morning.
  1.       “You are what you eat.”
    Just as our goal physically is to eat healthy and nutritious foods for our bodies, we should be filling our minds with wholesome music, books, and thoughts, as well. Are you listening to a positive radio station? Are you watching TV shows that are negative or use foul language? Are you letting your friends speak negatively about mutual friends or family members? Instead, redirect the conversation and say something good about the person. Feed your mind with nutritious foods, just as you do your body.
  2.       Exercise with friends.
    When working toward a physical fitness goal, it often helps to have an accountability partner. Physical fitness is often influenced by other body conscious people and having a walking buddy or gym partner can help keep us motivated. The same is true for spiritual fitness. We need to spend time with others who are striving for holiness. Find friends who love God and who have His joy and peace; maybe a prayer partner to talk and pray with on the phone, or a small group bible study. We are to be like iron sharpening iron – let’s help each other to be as sharp and fit as possible. 
  3.       Make it fun.
    Similar to picking an exercise that we enjoy so that we continue (I love to play tennis), we should choose ways to honor Jesus in ways that are enjoyable. Following Jesus should be fun! Watching Him change lives and seeing answered prayer is so cool. Keep a journal to write down all your prayer requests and answered prayers, and spend the beginning of your time in the morning listening to uplifting praise music and singing and thanking God for all that His has done and is and will do. Be excited to spend time with Jesus – shout your praises with a smile on your face and joy in your heart. Have fun praising Him for all the past gifts He has lavished on you and your loved ones. 
  4.      Spend a Sabbath day in rest.
    Rest is just as important to physical health as exercise. Often, the importance of a good night’s rest is overlooked when pursuing fitness. Just as we need to get quality sleep to improve our bodies, we also need to rest to improve our souls. I love reminding type A people that “even God rested on the seventh day.” Be sure to honor the Sabbath. God created this because He loves us and wants to prevent us from getting physically sick or spiritually flabby. Use the Sabbath as a gift to spend time doing activities to help your soul grow.

Even though our culture focuses on our outer shell, it is our souls that will last forever.  Being spiritually fit is eternally more important than being physically fit. May the size of our hearts grow as we seek to be spiritually fit and desire to be more like Jesus each day.

When you realize that Christians can’t just sit and watch the World go under… politics, prayer and the Holy Spirit

AmberOBrien"

The opposite of Apathy is Love.  Last Saturday my husband and I joined four other couples for a dinner club and the discussion around the table was anything but apathetic. Jokes about the election year and the wild ride ahead for us Americans mingled with updates on our families and local parishes. Wine glasses clinked and Italian sauced plates scraped clean as five  women and five men tried to predict how the public would soon vote and who our next president will be.  The famous quote, Never talk politics or religion in polite company” was disregarded and I believe with good reason. As Christians we care about our country, families and our churches and to sit back and do nothing would be considered apathetic. And apathy is the opposite of love.

Later in the evening when we resumed to the living room, the hostess presented our group with a challenge. Before Jesus ascended up to Heaven, He told his disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit has come down in power to help them. So for Ten days the disciples gathered together to pray and waited for the promised Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is a “He” who was sent to be our advocate; to give wisdom, help and power.  He came in the form of fire.  A burning fire of Love that enabled the disciples to boldly preach the good news and change the world.  What if we all prayed and sought the Lord for ten days as the disciples did? We could all use a refilling of God’s fire of Love, couldn’t we? and what of our families, our churches, our Country …..our World.  I’ve heard it said that we need to come daily to ask for more of God as we are cracked pots who keep leaking and God is limitless in the amount of Love He wants to lavish upon His Children.

Tomorrow  is Thursday May 5th  Ascension Thursday and ten days later the Church celebrates Pentecost on Sunday May 15th.  Our dinner group has committed to taking this Holy Spirit Novena for the next ten days. All denominations of Christians are needed to join this time of prayer and seeking, as Jesus’s heart cry was that His believers would be unified.

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you,that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. John 18: 20-21 NAB 

So if you are a Protestant perhaps to spend time each morning asking God to pour the Holy Spirit upon your family, church, Country and all over the Earth.  A pray as simple as “Come Holy Spirit, we need you, forgive our sins and pour out your spirit upon my family, community, country and all over the Earth. Show us how to burn with Love for all those you put in our lives. Change my apathy to a burning desire to share your good news so others can share the joy of knowing you.  11 Chronicles 7:14 is often claimed during election time but is as verse for all times.

And if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from Heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.

For my Catholic Friends and of course Protestant friends are welcome here  too, there is a website called www.thewildgooseisloose>com by the Franciscans with videos about this special novena.  According To Celtic tradition the Holy Spirit was compared to a wild goose. Stop a few seconds and meditate on the word “Wild”.  We need to be praying for an outpouring of fire that is not tame…..Our families need a “wildfire” of love that will spread like……… well “wild-fire”. A chain of reaction of fire that will spread from our families,to our churches, our communities, country and eventually to the entire world.  This chain begins though with each of us quietly listening alone in our prayer closets, as we withdraw for a time as the disciples did in the upper room, away from all distractions and to “be still and know that He is God.”

My dinner group will individually be praying the third decade each morning on The Glorious rosary called The Descent of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the mystery for this decade is Love.

Jesus taught that the fruit of being a Christian is Always Love.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask, the father in my name he may give you. This I command you: Love one another. John 15:16

applephoto

I believe God has the best for our families and communities.  I believe He want us to pray for godly leaders.  Instead of just complaining about politics, our families and churches, lets put love into action by first seeking and waiting to hear from the Holy Spirit.

Let’s chat again in ten days about this Sweet Sister.

Let the Novena begin.

 

When You Have Doubts That God’s In Charge: How I Met Your Grandfather

AmberOBrien"

Dear Sweet Sister:

Do you delight in hearing the love story of how a husband and wife first met? I sure do! When Dave and I meet another couple for the first time, my favorite question to ask is, “How did you two meet each other?” Most often, their eyes light up as they tell the story together of how their love story began. Oh how I love to tell my story of how I met my husband of 26 years. I share this as a way to encourage the single sister that feels called to marriage but is still waiting on God to find her life mate. I share this for the married sister who needs to be reminded that God is always in control. Lastly, I share this for my future granddaughters and my great-great-granddaughters in generations to come.  How did I met my husband? I’m so glad you asked. Here you go:

Act 1.  January 31, 1986 Friday afternoon:
Alone in my freshman dorm room, I lay in my bed confused and disappointed. Tonight was the night I was supposed to perform a skit entitled, “If God Talked back” for the Intervarsity Christian Group on campus. I had practiced for hours and memorized all my lines and I was just so excited to finally use my acting skills to give eternal truths. (I performed in high school and on the Gettysburg stage during my first semester but all the effort has no spiritual message or purpose.)  When the skit was given to me over Christmas break, I was ecstatic to use my time and talent for God and to impact other students. During that Christmas break, Janice and I prayed for all those on the campus. How excited I was once back on campus to practice and perform this skit.

But my plans came crashing in when Lee Martin (the classmate who was to play the part of God) called and explained to me that he had a family emergency and needed to take a train home. This just did not make sense to me. Why would God allow Lee to leave the night of our performance? Dinnertime was approaching, but I didn’t feel much like eating or getting out of bed.

I looked upward and the poster caught my eye. In this poster above my bed, a cute plump panda happily lays on his pack in a grassy field while the words above him boldly proclaim, “ Relax, God’s in Charge.” I can still vividly remember that poster, 30 years later.

IMG_1946

So I had a choice to make. Would I wallow in self-pity and disappointment, or would I trust God and do the next thing which was to simply go to the cafeteria for dinner?

This one choice would change my life and if you are one of my great-granddaughters, you are alive because of it.

Act 2. The same Friday, evening:
I find a seat in the Gettysburg cafeteria at a table with my dear friend Janice. There are some new students sitting with her that I haven’t met before (she was a sophomore) and soon I am explaining my situation in true dramatic manner. I bemoaned to the group, “I have all my lines memorized for tonight’s show and then Lee who plays God took the first train out of town.” So I guess you could say I was holding onto the self-pity part just a smidgen?

Then a tall handsome young man with broad shoulders volunteered to play the part of God that night. (I had made a list years before that I wanted a husband with a good sense of humor and broad shoulders that I could cry on.) This mysterious  young man had never attended an Intervarsity Christian fellowship group meeting (despite being invited several times) and had never acted before.

You see, he also had a choice in that moment. He later explained that he had dreamed multiple times of a woman with full cheeks and lips (I once had the nickname chipmunk cheeks) who he believed was going to be his wife. She was washing dishes in the dreams (and yes I’ve done a lot of dishes in the past 26 years, but since Dave is a fantastic cook I am happy to do so).

Once he spotted me at that path-changing supper, he said I looked just like the girl in his dreams (literally). This gave him the courage to volunteer and stand in front of the intervarsity group that night.

Act 3. Later that night:
Dave stood behind me and read his lines from the script. I kneeled in onesie footed pajamas and pretended to be praying my nighttime prayers as I played an 8-year-old girl who recites The Lord’s Prayer each night without  knowing what the prayer really means.

“Hallowed? I don’t know, what does it mean?” She asks. God explains, “It means honored, holy, and wonderful.” She responds thoughtfully, “Yes, that makes sense.”  

And then she keeps on praying.   

“Give us this Day our daily bread…” and to her shock and the audience’s amusement God answers with,
“I think you’ve had enough of that bread.”  

As the girl continues to recite The Lord’s Prayer she receives help from God on how to forgive a friend’s betrayal and ultimately deepen her relationship with the Lord.

Dave enjoyed playing the part of God, and I was thrilled to perform that night to my Gettysburg peers.

The following Friday, I performed a mime as Sonbeam the clown with Janice, whose clown name was Salty, for the same Intervarsity Group.  Dave came to the meeting, and after we had hot fudge sundaes with a group at the Lincoln Diner. On the way home, with me still dressed as a clown: rainbow wig and white faced, he asked me out on a date. I’ve often kidded him that because I was a ‘mime’ clown I wasn’t able to say no. Of course I nodded  yes!

IMG_1949

Act 4. A few months later:
Dave and I joined the debate/forensics group on campus and visited other colleges/Universities to perform “If God Talked Back.”  But the real Act 4 is that we began to date and our love story continued. We dated three and a half years and married in my childhood United Methodist Church as our Gettysburg priest Father Phil assisted.

Dave is my best friend on this earth and God continues to guide me and bless me through him.   Our union has produced four children (three on earth, and one in heaven) and a thriving preschool business that we both enjoy.

IMG_1948

So dear single sister, my advice for you is to be patient and seek out ways to use your talents to honor and serve God. Join a Christian singles group or find like-minded friends. Hold out for a husband who will have self control and wait for you. You are worth the wait, my sweet sister.

To my married sister, are you sitting on your bed in self pity wondering why things are not going as you planned? Remember the panda poster and trust God that He is in control. Show this trust in your actions. Don’t hide away in your room, but let go of your tightly-gripped dreams. Release your own expectations and trust in God’s character. When things don’t go your way, repeat these three statements:

God is Good.
God is Love.
God is in Control.

When you are not sure as to what to do next, just do the next thing. Our lives are a result of our choices. Keep making small good choices for God.

To my great-grands, I love you. I am praying for you. Pray and wait for the one who will lead you closer to God.

PS.
For my sweet sister or grands who have slipped and desire to go back and start over, take heart, for it is never too late to start anew. God is all about redos and restarts.   

Love’s   Answer
(Duo for a young male and a young female)

Notarized: January 26, 2005

(Male voice)
Long ago you made a list
And gave it up to heaven
A lovely, Lonely Teenage child
Yearning for Salvation

(Female voice)
Long age you had a dream
Each night you viewed the sequel
A left-out, lonely teenage boy
Searching for the answer

(Female voice – clear and innocent)
May he be my life long love
With big and sturdy shoulders
So I can lie and cry on them
A love no tear can smolder

(Male voice)
May she be as in my dreams
With the pureness I desire
A girl who holding out for me
A love that will never tire

(Female voice – strong)
You are the shelter, who shields me from rain

(Male voice – strong)
You are the faithful friend, who finally came

(Female and male together)
Two love-sick doves, now side by side
Through every storm together we’ll ride

(Female)
You are my rock,
Sent from above

(Male)
You bring me hope,
My dream is love

(Male and female together – strong and long)
The answer
Love’s Answer
Is Always… LOVE.