Mary, Martha, and the Beauty in the Small…

The world is buried in a cacophony of sound and volume.

We think everything has to be “harder, better, faster, stronger” (shout-out to Kanye for that earworm); everything has to be so much more “-er,” or it’s just not good enough.  We can’t be satisfied with “basic.” In fact, the term “basic” is now an insult! We’ve completely forgotten how to be satisfied with the “bare necessities” that our dear Baloo sang about with such sweet abandon. Everything has to be “Extra,” and if it’s not, well, then it’s “basic,” and that’s BAD. J

It’s so hard to just get quiet.

It’s difficult to get low…to get completely focused…to see the Beauty in the Small.

Last Sunday, I was privileged to be on an “abbreviated” worship team of 3 people. In a church that averages around 50 people or less, we usually have a team that includes a keyboardist/singer, another keyboardist/singer, a guitarist/singer, a bassist, an acoustic guitar player, a drummer, a bongo/cajon player, and 3 background vocalists (of which I am 1). That’s a worship team that’s around 20% of the size of the congregation.

I know that sometimes, there’s a focus on the “sound” that emanates from a team of musicians and singers. Number = volume = emotional impact. I’m not really about that (and that’s not intended to be any kind of a derogatory thought or statement). I’ve been on teams of 40-50 singers, and I’ve been on teams of 2, and one thing I’ve found is that if a heart for worship is there, the Holy Spirit moves. His heart isn’t moved by numbers or volume. His heart is moved by worship, and by a willingness to put ourselves out there to focus on Him.

That’s hard to do when you’re dealing with distractions.

Distractions come in so many forms. As a singer, I struggle with technology (anyone else hate Avioms? Or at least, Avioms that seem to have been chewed up internally by rabid mice? Okay, that hasn’t LITERALLY happened, but my Aviom is constantly going in-and-out, and that is a…problem). I struggle with understanding cues, and with knowing my place. I struggle with my age—am I still relevant as a team member in worship, at 41, when more and more kids and young adults are coming up? I don’t understand click tracks and talk-backs, and I’m not a musician, so I don’t always understand the “right” chord progression. I have this terrible tendency to switch harmonies in the middle of a song if I don’t stay focused, which is a nightmare for anyone singing with me (I’d assume—most people are nice to me about it). More times than not, I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, “Dear God, I’m a mess. I’m TERRIBLE.” I’m distracted by my own self-esteem, and every single Sunday, I have to push past that to focus on the reason why we come together as a team to worship God: He is worthy. He is so much more worthy of our praise and our attention. He is EVERYTHING, and everything else is NOTHING, so I push it aside—as does every other musician on the team—and we unify in the single focus of worshipping our Savior.

Sometimes it’s messy…but He is always glorified, and we always have the privilege of watching a congregation join us on that journey to praise Jesus.

So, last Sunday, most of our team was at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, taking part in the final One Thing conference. The theme was, “Reset,” and David & I live-streamed as much of it as possible. So many things from the conference really resonated with me…particularly, the discussion led by Corey Russell about Mary of Bethany, and her dear sister, Martha (who is one of my favorite people in the Bible…can’t imagine why).

Martha & I have a LOT in common. Mary and my husband have a LOT in common. My sister and I are about as naturally opposite as two people can get. Mary and Martha were about as naturally opposite as two people can get. J

I identify so strongly with those two sisters.

Martha had work to do, dangit! None of this sittin’ around, listening, whatever! There’s food to make, dishes to wash, things to clean! “You got time to lean, you got time to clean,” right? All of this lounging around, listening to some Guy talk?!?! Ain’t nobody got time for that!!! DANGIT, MARY, GET YOUR REAR IN HERE AND HELP ME!!!!!!!!”  How many times have those words come out of my mouth to my husband?!?  “DAVID!!!!!!!!!!!  Put your tablet/Bible/whatever down and HELP ME!!!” “WHY can’t anyone see that I need help? Why do I always have to ASK?!? Why doesn’t anyone have INITIATIVE to come in here and do the stuff that needs to be done?!?!?!”  Oh, Martha, I love you—I’m so glad the Lord saw fit to put you in the Bible, because women like me NEED to know we’re not tyrants. We’re just the kind of people that see a need and fill it, and pour out constantly….

And we pour ourselves into exhaustion and in doing things in our own strength, because we NEVER take the time to get Small, and get focused.

We never get out of our own heads to find our rest in Him, because we’re convinced in our broken arrogance that the volume of our work, and the number of our works, will turn the heart of God and everyone else.

We break when our efforts go unacknowledged, because we strive so much, even subconsciously, to be recognized and valued.

We so often forget that when we get Small and get focused, then we can hear Him say, “I love you. Just rest.”

BUT WE CAN’T REST, RIGHT?!?!?  THERE ARE THINGS TO DOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

We are distracted, even with our good intentions.

It’s time to stop.

Last Sunday, 3 people came together in worship. It wasn’t perfect; it wasn’t bombastic or voluminous. It was simple…basic (in the best way)…and it was beautiful. It was Small, and it was intimate, and it felt like a healing balm in my heart.

When things are quieter, you have to listen harder. You have to focus more; you can’t be distracted, because then you miss the cues and there’s nothing that you can hide behind.  There isn’t a blanket of sound that covers mistakes or cushions missed cues. It’s stripped down, and it’s pure…

There is Beauty in the Small.

For us Marthas in the world, we “go big or go home.” We’re going to do what we have to do; we’re going to do it to the best of our abilities. We’re going to produce good works, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It becomes “wrong” when it becomes our focus, instead of the Jesus we say we want to serve. How can we hear what He wants when we’re so busy doing what we think needs to be done? If we don’t have those “Mary Moments” where we get quiet and focus at his feet…where we go Small and seek intimacy…how will know His heart?

We “go big,” but ultimately, in an All-Martha world, we get broken.

The Beauty of the Small is that in it, we find rest. We find focus; we find His heart in the simplicity and we are refueled and refocused to face the complicated.

The world throws volume and distraction our way….it keeps us from worship, and it keeps us from that place at His feet that He’s reserved for us.  When we reset, we find our seat with Him…where we are His, and He is ours, and the joy of the Bridegroom for His Bride is complete.

As I stated in my last blog, my husband lost his job shortly before Christmas. There’s a funny thing that happens when your finances get cut by 60%:  You stop running around. You no longer have the resources to fund things to do, so you find yourself staying home the majority of the time. Truth be told, had we done more of that prior to him losing his job, we probably wouldn’t have some of the financial troubles we’re currently struggling with. The sudden lack of income has left us reeling and has forced us to break down expenses, debts, excuses, bad decisions, and a lot of things we didn’t realize or didn’t want to deal with. Staying busy means that you can often ignore reality. Getting suddenly “unbusy” means reality comes crashing in, along with a WHOLE LOT of fear, failures, burdens, and things we hadn’t realized were quite so strong in our lives.

As a family, we’re in a bit of a “forced” Mary-Moment, and the Martha in me is FREAKING OUT. It’s a minute-by-minute process to stop, breathe, refocus, pray, and beg for peace. The conversations between my husband and I have been brutal, and outside of the death of our daughter, this is the hardest thing our marriage has been through. The anxiety is crushing, & while David tends to internalize to the point of my frustration, I am fighting to keep from exploding (to the point of HIS frustration). We don’t know how to deal with or process any of this…but we are. What else can we do?

And where else can we go? We have One place to turn with all of this.

Day by day, we look at each other…we watch our words very carefully, and sometimes, we fail. There’s a lot of unraveling…but as difficult as this is, we are taking the deep breaths and walking the path.

It’s not God’s “fault.” It’s an uncomfortable redirection, and it hurts. I don’t want to say “He has a plan,” because that phrase is so cliché. I want to say that He knows what’s happening, and what’s going to happen, so I will trust Him. We will trust Him…but to hear where He’s taking us, we have to embrace this Mary Moment, to focus, and to stay at His feet, even as everything within me wants to get up and run. “WHY ISN’T THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO FIX THIS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!” It’s not in my nature to sit down and wait.

It’s time to get a new nature.

It’s time to find the Beauty in the Small…to realize the vanity of the distracting…to dull the outside noise and to take off the burden of the to-do list.  It’s time to celebrate intimacy with the Father in quiet and in worship without the vanity of volume.

It’s time to reset.

 

(BTW, if you are looking for worship songs to help you in your journey of resting in Jesus, check out my friend, Bizzy Grapperhaus. She’s written so many songs that I call, “milestone songs;” the songs are Scripture-based, and for me, have truly helped key verses get ingrained into my heart through some of my toughest times. Right now, “Drink Offering,” “Here We Are,” and “Faithful as the Son” are on repeat on my Spotify account. This is NOT a sponsored plug, if you’re wondering; it’s just truth, because she’s awesome.)

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“Holiness in the Shadowlands,” AKA, “Listening to Praise Music while Wanting to Throat-Chop People in Traffic”

Sometimes, when I talk about my faith, I feel like a giant hypocrite. Man-oh-man, do I make mistakes…I mean it when I say, “I love Jesus but I swear a little (somedays, more than others).” My filters are occasionally nonexistent, but I promise you, I am working on it.

I’m grateful for grace.

This morning, as I was on my walk around the local university, a kid (Millennials, LOL) with a man-bun, who was wearing those ridiculous Adidas slides with socks (they’re only ridiculous when worn WITH SOCKS), was texting and walking, and somehow walked OUT of their shoe, and tripped…because they were texting and walking. Did I respond with compassion?

Nope.

I laughed, and posted about it on Facebook, with the hashtag, #WhyDoesJesusLoveMe

I’m grateful for grace.

Last night, I was driving home with my windows open and my stereo BLARING a Brian & Katie Torwalt CD (BTW, what’s with mixing worship CDs with a crap-ton of bass? Are people gettin’ down in the club to worship songs?!?! I mean, Lord knows I love my bass, but it seems weird to have it bumped up in a quiet worship interlude? Is this for Da Youts? Am I just getting OLD?!?!?!?!?!?!?). I was singing along (loudly–sorry, other drives. Okay, I’m NOT sorry), and driving through what’s known as The Depressed Section of the city. It’s where the highway goes under the streets and pedestrian overpasses of downtown; it’s very congested, and dirty, and LOUD, and stands in direct contrast to the song about holiness that I was singing along with….

The juxtaposition of Holiness and “The Depressed Section” was not lost on me, and as the music (and the drive) went on, I could feel a fire erupt in my chest…

You see, this city–Saint Louis–stands on the brink. We stand on the brink of decisions that could potentially change the course of this city. We stand on the brink of once again, being the center of attention of this nation…this nation that is already so divided, and so on edge.

Everything is uneasy…

Everything is disjointed…

But the music in my car plays on…and I drive by the dirt and the graffiti, by the trash and by that glorious Gateway to the West…I breathe the fumes from the exhausts, but I refuse to roll up my windows, because I feel like the words to the song are a healing balm to this city….because I feel like maybe if I play it louder, someone–anyone–will hear it, and remember Who Reigns…

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord”

He is welcome in this city…there is still a remnant left, and we cry out daily for the hearts of St. Louis…

The song plays on, and my mind is taking in the scene around me as the traffic comes to a standstill…

My heart cries, “Holy.”

The dichotomy of Holiness and helplessness…the struggles in this city, the poverty, the glut of resources and the lack of communication in getting them out…the children that cannot fend for themselves, and the adults who are too selfish to help them stand on their feet…my brain and my heart are arguing, but the music answers the questions:

“Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness”

That is my prayer, for myself, for my church, and for this city…that we Understand a Glimpse of the Grace of God….just a glimpse….

The traffic is thick, but the song says to “sing Holy,” so I do…because I HAVE to, because it is what I was made to do…I get cut off in construction, and I wonder, “Lord, where do these two worlds meet?!?”

And He says:

“I

Am

Greater.”

God is greater. He is greater than every mess in this city. He is greater than the violence and the fear; He is greater than the racism and He knows better than anyone that it is real. He is greater than the traffic that is sucking my soul; He is greater than the accident that just happened. He is greater than the storms and the hurricanes and the earthquakes. He Is Greater.

God is greater, and His holiness exists, regardless of where we are or where we live. His holiness reigns supreme in this microcosm of a city, and it reigns in every corner of every house in this nation. Our mind CANNOT HANDLE IT, so we try to drown Him out.

We fail.

He simply cannot be dimmed, and when we pause for worship, we are reminded that His holiness is the greatest Light. Everything else is in shadows.

My mind is ready to throw a stick at the next car that cuts me off, but my soul still cries in harmony with the music playing in my car…I cry “Holy,” with the heart of a grieving mother…with the heart of a stubborn wife…with the heart of a Daughter of the King, with the heart of someone who is struggling to reconcile what He sees in me, with what I see in myself. He is greater than all of my insecurities, my judgmental behaviors, my filter issues. He is greater.

I don’t understand Him, but I will not stop worshiping His Name, even in traffic…

Even when I laugh at falling Millennials.

I am so, SO grateful for grace….