Stepping it up

So, news flash on Claire’s personal life for a sec:

Last year’s STEP-UP Fellows (can you find me?!)

I am currently working with an urban education teacher preparation partnership with Chicago Public Schools and Illinois State University. It provides an intensive live-in internship for undergraduates working towards becoming urban educators and community workers. It’s called STEP-UP.

I had this internship last year and it literally changed my life.

Currently I am on staff for STEP-UP and I have a feeling it may be equally life altering.

Today, somewhere in between meeting with the GADC and St. Sabina’s Employment Resource Center and visiting all of Auburn-Gresham incredibly welcoming (and entertaining!) host families, I found myself thinking about all the strengths and qualities that my team, an incredible group of educators, posses.

This job–heck, even the internship–is very demanding and could be considered high-stress. It requires long hours and constant work, but also continuous self-exploration, intrinsic motivation, and an other-worldly  kind of collaboration that I have never before experienced here on this planet as of yet.

I started thinking about all these demands, and I then surprised myself.

You see, usually when I am in a situation where I have a lot of pressure and stress on me, I freak out and stress out. But this time I’m not doing any freaking or stressing.

I looked at the team of people I am working with and it all made sense.

I could go deeply into all the reasons why I am incredibly grateful to be working with each of them, but that would be a terribly long post. I’ll keep it short. The most important thing you need to know in order to understand happened last night:

It’s 10:45pm, we’ve all been up since at least 6am and have been working pretty much non-stop with no dinner break. You would think that energy would be low and people would be drained, grumpy, and snippy. But no! Yes, each of us feels tired, but it’s that good kind of tired that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The energy is lower, but still very  positive.

The stress and frustration that could easily come about from the late hour and the little kinks that have come up in our planning is replaced with a shared patience and love from the group as a whole that I can’t explain in worldly terms. But here, I’ll try: These folks got my back, and I got theirs’! Why worry?! 

My affection for my own team got me thinking about Jesus’ Team: the 12 Disciples. 

In my last post I picked apart the meaning of the word “Disciple” and since then I’ve been contemplating and reading about what it truly means to be one.

What are the demands and skill-sets needed to fill the job description of one of Jesus’ 12? 

In the next few weeks, while I continue to work within my own job’s high

demands and long hours, and while I monitor our intern’s progress and skill-sets, I want to explore what it truly means to be a Disciple of Jesus Christ in this current world.

I want to send in my resume to Jesus so I can apply for the position of Disciple. I want to get the job, and I want to discover how to ROCK IT!

…… Okay, maybe not exactly like that.

But seriously, what do you think? What makes a “good” Disciple? What would be the job manuel for a Disciple of Christ? If you were offered the job (and you are) would you take it ( or…. have you taken it)?

Look out for more posts on this topic to come in the upcoming weeks!

Lazy Sundays are A-Okay: Mary vs Martha

Today is Sunday…

It’s a hot and steamy day and I am sleepy for no good reason other than the fact that I am being rather lazy today.

It used to be that I would begin to feel extremely guilty for even feeling tired when I “shouldn’t” be. Well, I might start to feel that way if I had a “do-nothing” attitude every day, but I aslo know myself and my tendencies to be a Martha, so I don’t feel I am in danger of this happening anytime soon.

So today I was restful, sleepy, and at peace with it. 

At the end of an hour nap after church and lunch with my husband, I walked into the living room to go read my Bible and journal, passing by our calendar on the wall. I stopped and looked at it more closely, as if I could not believe what my eyes were seeing.

I found myself staring at the reality that this was my last restful Sunday of the summer. Beginning next week my life will turn into travel, moving to Chicago for my 6-week “independent contractor” job, hitting the road to run some races and go camping with family, then packing up our life and heading out to God-only-knows to go live G0d-only-knows where.

In preparation for my crazy, fast-paced life style which will be coming up oh-so-soon, I thought it might be nice to explore my tendency to be a Martha rather than a Mary (as I referenced earlier).

Mary and Martha are the probably the most familiar pair of sisters in the Bible. Both Luke and John describe them as friends of Jesus in their Gospels, which is why I find them so fascinating. Luke writes only four verses describing the particular interaction I am referencing, yet despite its length, it has been a complex source of interpretation and debate for centuries (at least I presume so).

The Pithy Story According to Luke

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42)

So basically, Mary sat down and just hung out with Jesus, and Martha was so caught up in serving him as her guest that she didn’t even spend time with THE SON OF GOD.

You know that one friend who you always feel like you have to impress? Who, when they come over, you have to clean your whole house and make sure you buy a bottle of wine to give to them and make sure you are cooking the best meal you’ve ever made? Well, Jesus isn’t that guy. And frankly, if you have a lot of friends like that, you need new friends who are more down to earth.

You know that friend who you can just be yourself around? Who you just value time with no matter what you’re both doing?

That’s the type of guy Jesus is. 

He’s the friend who calls you up and says, “hey let’s hang out– I don’t care what we do, let’s just sit at your house and I’ll tell you stories”.  If we’re like Martha, we highly doubt that’s all Jesus really wants from us, so we take our unbelieving selves to work and end up missing all of his stories entirely.

But if we’re like Mary, we are assured that all Jesus needs is just to be in our presence and to be listened to.

In this slower time, God has been so good about keeping me like Mary; quiet, loving, content, in awe of Christ, and obedient. But I know that with the distractions of this world, I am in danger of becoming a more like Martha. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us find it hard to live in this fast-paced world as a devoted follower of Christ, so, in light of such assumptions, I have decided to prepare us both for this challenge.

Six Warning Signs You Might Be Turning into a Martha:

Martha’s Musical

1. You are distracted by many things. Martha let herself get caught up in all her tasks and to-do lists. When we let this happen to ourselves, Jesus is usually what gets pushed off to the side. Even if we think that what we are doing is for Christ, it usually isn’t if we don’t have time to be with him. We don’t have time for him because we don’t make time for him; everything else has to get done first before we can truly devote time. This means that Jesus gets our “spare time”, if we even have it. The truth is Jesus is worth so much more than our leftovers, and if we give him our first and best, suddenly that to-do list seems way less daunting. (I speak from experience.)

2. You get upset because you feel like you are doing all the work. So Martha’s the only one in the kitchen cooking, and the house needs to get picked up too, and she knows that lazy little Mary over there is NOT getting out of her seat next to Jesus to do anything! Would you be frustrated? There are times when we are called to work and work hard with our serving, in fact, most times we are called to do that. But there is a time and place. Sometimes it just isn’t the time to do dishes. It can wait. Like I said before, God gets our first and best. Doing the dishes will be so much more enjoyable after some Jesus time. We can approach our tasks with a servant’s heart rather than with grumbling complaints.

3.  You feel like Jesus must not care about your situation. Martha straight out asked Jesus if he even cared that Mary wasn’t helping her. I know; She done got snippy with Jesus! But many times we can feel this way. We feel like God simply can’t know what it feels like to be in our shoes. We need to know that Jesus was fully human and fully God and he came down to this Earth to be tempted and to be perfect. We Christians are blessed that we have God who knows what our human experience is like, who has been tempted in the same ways we are tempted everyday and who overcame them all. Jesus not only cares about our situations, he knows them deeply and personally.

4. You are talking more than listening in your relationship with Jesus. Being a writer and a natural talker, I am guilty of this one… John tells us in another passage that when her brother dies, Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus would rise again. Martha immediately responds that she knows her brother will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. She did get her doctrine right but she didn’t really listen to what Jesus was actually saying. To some of us, myself included, the acquisition of Biblical knowledge becomes more of a goal than hearing what God is saying to us through it. If you find yourself reading God’s word without truly asking how God would have you apply it to your daily live, you might be caught in Martha’s trap. When you read the Bible or listen to some teaching, start asking yourself what does this mean for me?

5. You make rational excuses why you can’t do what Jesus asks. When Jesus tells the sisters that the stone should be rolled away from Lazarus’ tomb, Martha objects, saying, rather insightfully, that the stench would be awful. Sensible, logical, practical; that’s our Martha! But Jesus, the Savior, the Lamb of God, God himself! is telling her to do something….. shouldn’t she just do it?

The sad truth is that we often find ourselves making up even stupider excuses as to why we can’t do what God is telling us to do. Some of you may say, “Well, I really don’t know what he’s telling me to do!” Sure you do. He told you to forgive people who wrong you. But we often reason that the other person was at fault and they should be the first to ask for forgiveness. He tells you to give generously to those in need, but we quite sensibly think that some bills should be paid off first. He tells you not to worry about food and clothing but I know I myself have often laid awake at night wondering what to wear to my job interview, or in tight financial times, how we’ll get through another week without buying groceries. When Jesus says something, you don’t argue with him. Bottom line.

6. You just can’t get into worshiping; you’d rather do something “useful”. Soon after her brother was raised from the dead, Martha serves another dinner to Jesus. Hopefully this time she did it without complaining. Where is Mary during this dinner? There she is again at Jesus’ feet, this time pouring perfume on them and wiping them with her hair. Why isn’t Martha in on the worship? Jesus had already pointed out to her the importance of sitting at His feet and her brother had just been raised from the dead for heaven’s sake! She should have been falling all over Jesus… but she was too busy in the kitchen. Listen up: Don’t waste your opportunities to worship! Remember that Jesus told the disciples that the poor would always be with them when they criticized Mary for wasting her resources on worship rather than giving to the poor. Well, the household chores or business tasks will always be with us too. Prioritize them several notches below worship.

So… Why keep the Sabbath?

During the next few months, I know it will be a challenge for me to be like Mary rather than Martha. I know that despite the fact that this is my last “Lazy Sunday”, I still need to make time to keep my Sabbath and really spend time with Jesus. His desire is to be with us without distraction, worry, or chatter. But Jesus also tells us that God made that time available for us: the sabbath was created for people. So keep it yo– it’s for your own good!

Are there any other signs that Martha may be leading your mentality? How do you keep the Sabbath? What is your experience with creating time for Christ in this busy, fast-paced world? Please let me know!