Category Archives: Book Club

Teachable Moments

Before I had kids, I was an elementary school teacher for a few years.  One of the most important things about teaching is knowing how to identify “teachable moments”. Lesson plans are important, but you have to be able to recognize when a child is ready and willing to learn.  Sometimes you can create these moments, but often they just happen.  The most rewarding days were usually the ones that we strayed from the lesson plans because the kids were passionate about a project or some tangent we found ourselves on.  That’s when the real learning takes place.  If the kids are bored, tired, or grumpy they aren’t going to be very open to new lessons.

Chapter 9 of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World is about Martha’s heart and her willingness to learn.  She could have become defensive when Jesus corrected her, but Weaver shows evidence that Martha learned from this experience.  I believe that Jesus can identify teachable moments with us, but I also believe that we have a responsibility, as adults, to be prepared for his teachings regardless of our moods.  I am definitely a very stubborn person and do not enjoy being corrected.  I probably would have been somewhat annoyed with Jesus had I been in Martha’s position.  The trick is to move beyond the initial bruised ego.  Martha was able to humble herself and grow in her relationship with him.  She had a teachable heart.

Weaver challenges us to do three things in this chapter: listen, act on what you hear, and respond to discipline.  As a mother I can relate!  This is what I want from my children.  It is also what God wants from us.

There is so much to this chapter about how to listen to God’s voice and how to receive his corrections.  I love the words that Weaver uses because she relates God as a father.  Any parent can relate to how frustrated he must be with his children sometimes.  This chapter reminds me of the saying, “I hope you have a child just like you.”  I wonder if this is part of God’s design… or maybe his sense of humor.  Raising my own children is definitely a good lesson on how God must feel about me – the good and the bad!

Lessons from Lazarus

Chapter 8 of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World is quite long, which is one reason it took me two weeks to get through it.  I am so slow when it comes to reading this type of book, but I am not giving up.  This chapter is called “Lessons from Lazarus” and is all about God’s timing.  Everyone thought that Jesus would heal Lazarus when he heard about his illness, but the plot thickens when Lazarus actually dies.

I am sure we can all relate to this moment.  We know what we want and when we want it, but God does not work on our schedule.  It’s discouraging when you think that God hasn’t answered your prayers and things just aren’t going the way you think they should.  I can relate to this feeling because I like to plan things.  I like to be organized and in control of things as much as possible.  When things don’t go according to my plans I get very frustrated and sometimes discouraged.

Of course the story of Lazarus has a happy ending and I believe mine will too.  The best part of this chapter is the reminder that Jesus understands what we are going through.  He can relate to our pain and frustration.  The famous verse, “Jesus wept” comes from this story.  Jesus wept and he knew the ending already.  He cares enough for us that he cries for our sorrows.  We are so blessed to have a Savior who understands.  All we have to do is trust and have faith that he knows the ending and it is a happy one.

Hula Hoops

One of the things I have enjoyed about Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World is the way Weaver is able to illustrate her points.   In chapter seven, she uses the example of hula hoops to illustrate our busy lives.  We try to keep many hoops circling all at once.  Quite often when one hoop falls, so do the others.  She explains that the only way to keep them moving is to find your rhythm and your center.  The more hoops you are trying to balance, the more you need to be centered.  However, that’s when we tend to skip quiet time because we feel too busy!

Near the end of the chapter, Weaver lists some ideas for creative quiet times.  I love practical applications, so I will share some of these.  The first is to “take God out for coffee”.  Heading to a local coffee shop with your Bible and finding a quiet corner to read.  I like ideas that get you out of the house because the house can be so distracting with dishes and clutter crying out for attention.  Just heading out for a walk is another idea that I like.  She also suggests journaling, singing, memorizing scripture and adding devotionals to supplement Bible reading.

This chapter really just sums up the idea of keeping your priorities in order and “choosing the better part”.

Getting Back on Track

I am two weeks behind on my Mary and Martha reading.  I did finish The Hunger Games trilogy and really enjoyed all three books.  I love reading a series all the way through without having to stop and wait for the next book to be published.  I did the same thing with the Harry Potter series.  I started reading the books after they were all published, so I could read straight through.  I definitely get addicted to books like that and once I start I don’t stop for anything!

Non-Fiction is a lot harder for me to read but I am going to try and get back on track with Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.  The chapter for this week is called Kitchen Service and it is quite long.  This chapter makes me think of the song “They’ll know we are Christians by our love”.  Weaver offers a lot of examples of Christian service and stories of people serving God in their own way.  She also talks about the excuses we make to avoid service opportunities that come our way.  She quotes a passage from a book called Love Adds a Little Chocolate by Linda Andersen.

“Duty can pack an adequate sack lunch, but love may decide to enclose a little love note inside… Obligation sends the children to be on time, but love tucks the covers in around their neks and passes out kisses and hugs (even to teenagers!) … Duty gets offended quickly if it isn’t appreciated, but love learns to laugh a lot and to work for the sheer joy of doing it.  Obligation can pour a glass of milk, but quite often, love adds a little chocolate.”

This passage alone makes this chapter worth reading.  I hope it is encouraging to other moms as well.  We can be in service just by the way that we take care of our families as long as we are doing it with love.  I just have to remember this while washing dishes and folding laundry each week.  I think I need to check out Linda Andersen’s book as well.

The Hunger Games

Well, it’s Friday evening and it is just now hitting me that I completely forgot to write about the next chapter in my Mary and Martha book.  I will have to catch up next week because this week I was completely preoccupied with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  From everything I had heard about this book, I was expecting it to be a futuristic novel like Fahrenheit 451 or Super Sad True Love Story.  I was pleasantly surprised.

The story takes place in the future, but the emphasis is not really on technology.  There are definitely hints of futuristic technology, but Collins doesn’t beat you over the head with it.  There is a corrupt government which is the driving force behind “the games”, but the real focus is on the characters.  The plot sucks you in right away and the characters are convincing. I don’t want to give away too many details for anyone who has not read this book, but I was impressed by some of the plot twists.

This is definitely young adult fiction.  It is an easy and quick read and the main characters are young teenagers, but I think the story still appeals to adults.  It has hints of Romeo and Juliet, but not enough to make me gag.  The biggest let down for me was finishing the book, and then logging into the library catalog to find that book two in the trilogy has a waiting list that is 42 people long.  I may have to buy the trilogy for my kindle this weekend.

I should point out that I loved Fahrenheit 451, but was glad that this book was different.  I hope all of the teenagers who are reading The Hunger Games trilogy are also still reading Fahrenheit 451.   The teacher in me would also like them to write a paper comparing and contrasting the two stories.  🙂

Quiet Time

Chapter five of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World discusses ways people try to find intimacy with God as well as ways to avoid intimacy with God.  Weaver also brings up the idea of a “God-shaped hole”.  This is Christian lingo for the emptiness we feel when we don’t have God in our lives or when we try to substitute something else in His place.

One of my favorite things about this chapter is that Weaver gives practical applications for the ideas she is presenting.  I am not normally a fan of “Christian living” type books because I am left wondering, “now what?”  There is so much information, but not a lot of practical teaching on how to apply it to your life.  If I remember correctly from my first read of this book, Weaver has ideas like this throughout the book.  This week’s application is for spending quiet time with God.  She suggests having an area in your house dedicate to this time, but this is not practical for everyone so she offers alternatives.  My favorite is the suggestion to make a basket with a Bible, a devotional, and some note cards.  You can stash this anywhere and pull it out for some quiet time.  I like it because it is small and portable.  It doesn’t limit you to one place in your house.  I also love the idea of including note cards.  What a blessing it would be to receive a note from a friend who is praying for you.  And we are talking about real mail, not e-mail!  There is something special about a hand-written note, but that seems to be a dying art.

I would like to challenge all of my readers out there.  If God puts someone on your heart this week, send them a note saying that you are praying for them.

There is a ton of good information in this chapter, but I don’t want this to turn into a summary of the book.  I focused on one small point that I enjoyed.  If anyone else out there is reading with me, I would love to hear what you took from this chapter.  If you aren’t reading this book, you can let me know if you are taking the challenge to send someone a note or if you have a tip on how you make time for God despite your busy schedule.  In other words, I want to hear from you! 🙂

Too Much of a Good Thing

Chapter four of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World is full of stories about knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.  Taking on too many projects is never a good idea even if they are all worthwhile projects.  Weaver mentions that she likes to jump into ministry whenever she feels passionate about a project, but sometimes all God really wants her to do is pray for the right person to step up and take on that project.  She says that taking on a job that was not intended for her causes her to feel stressed out and is probably robbing someone else of the chance to be blessed by that responsibility.

This idea is what struck me most in this chapter.  It is easy for me to identify what I am passionate about in terms of ministry, but it is not always easy for me to know what I should do about it!  I have two big examples from my own church experience that illustrate this point.  More than anything it shows that I really don’t know what I am doing and desperately need to learn how to seek God in these decisions.  I believe that Weaver will be shedding more light on this later in the book.  Let’s hope so!

Example #1.  I attend a very small church, and it is hard to get children’s programs up and running.  This is my number one interest in ministry.  I love working with the kids and I think I am good at it!  I decided to start a Vacation Bible School one summer a few years ago.  The first summer went well.  It was a good first run.  We had fun and learned a lot about how to improve the program for the following year.  The second summer was awesome.  We had a bigger group of kids and everything ran smoothly.  We even had a great response from the congregation at the end of the week.  I had people asking if they could be volunteers for the next summer.  I was very excited about the response and doing it again the next year.  The third summer nobody signed up.  There was little to no interest from the kids or the volunteers.  I have no idea what happened, but we haven’t had a summer VBS since.

Example #2.  My husband and I tried to start a young families group at our church.  The intent was to build relationships among the young kids, so they would be excited about getting together as a youth group as they got older.  We have a problem with teenagers disappearing at our church, so we thought this might be a fun solution.  It started off great.  Everyone loved the idea and we had a good number of people coming to our monthly events.  But like the VBS program, this fizzled out.  It was much more gradual, but with the same result.  The group is no longer meeting and we are left wondering what we are going wrong.

Today I don’t have answers.  Only questions.  This chapter made me think about my place in the church and what jobs I should and should not be taking on.  Hopefully as I keep reading and learning how to seek God’s will I will come up with some answers!

Victory Over Anxiety

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Chapter three of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World deals with worry. We all worry and I am not going to bore you with my laundry list of worrisome topics.  I like that Weaver ends this chapter with some tools to help overcome worry.  She doesn’t say, “worrying is bad and unproductive so stop it!”  She gives some practical applications based on Paul’s words in Philippians.

First, she tells us to turn our anxious thoughts into prayers.  No matter how small the worry, it is never too small for God.  Sometimes I think that I am worrying about something far too silly to bother God with, but I need to change my thinking because all my concerns can be brought to God.

My oldest daughter is in fourth grade and sometimes I worry about the friendships she is building at her new school and how she will handle the meanness that sometimes comes out in girls at that age.  She is younger than most of the kids in her class and she was homeschooled for the last two years, so this year has been a big adjustment for her.  However, if I am going to follow Paul’s advice I need to change my train of thought.  On days that I a start to worry about her, I should turn my worry into a prayer. “Lord, give my daughter the wisdom to build good friendships.”  The next step is to praise God and give him thanks when my daughter comes home glowing about the  fun day she had at school.

This is one simple example of turning worry over to God, but it is easy to see how this can apply to so many areas of my hectic life.  By turning worries, big and small, into prayers our focus turns to God.  This reminds me of the verse in 1 Thessalonians that tells us to “pray without ceasing”.  I have always wondered how that is truly possible, but I think this is a step in the right direction.

Distraction, Discouragement, and Doubt

I realize that this is not a very cheerful title for a blog post, but it is the theme in chapter two of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. The chapter starts out discussing how life is not fair, so I guess I jumped the gun last week when I wrote about that in relation to chapter one.  If you missed that post see Mary vs Martha to get caught up.

Chapter two seems to be geared towards busy moms.  Weaver is pointing out tools that Satan uses to disrupt our walk with God.  It makes a lot of sense, but is kind of scary to think about.  If distraction is step one, then I am in trouble right off the bat.  It is so easy to be distracted by things that are important, but can become all-consuming.  My list of important distractions would include taking care of the kids, keeping up with chores, running errands, and making time for friends. Not as important distractions might include e-mail, facebook, and checking my blog stats!  Step one: guilty.

Step two is discouragement.  Once we are completely distracted by our busy lives we can quickly become discouraged.  I think this is especially hard when we see value in all of the things that we are doing that keep up so busy.  Martha felt the same way.  Anything that makes us too busy for God is bound to make us feel discouraged.  I can definitely relate to this.  I am often discouraged when I feel that I have done all the “right” things, but can’t seem to get ahead.  We work hard, but the bills keep piling up and it’s hard to find any money for the savings account at the end of the month.  We try to teach or kids manners, but they continue to do some gross things at the dinner table!  Both of these things are discouraging, so I’m guilty again.

Once we are distracted and discouraged it is easy to see how the next step can be doubt.  If I work hard at good things in life and end up feeling discouraged, then I start to doubt God’s faithfulness and forget his promises.  As depressing as all of this sounds, it’s a good reminder of how Satan works to mess up our lives.  Once we are aware of it we can work to avoid that path. I am sure this is where the “Mary heart” comes in.

Mary vs Martha

This week I finished the first chapter of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World  by Joanna Weaver.  I hope to read one chapter each week and write a little about it each Friday.  I do not plan to summarize or review this book.  I will just share my reflections on each chapter.  If anyone else out there is reading this book I would love to read your thoughts on each chapter as well.

When Jesus arrives at Martha’s home she runs around the house making preparations for him and his disciples.  When she realizes that Mary is not helping her she runs to Jesus to complain.  Mary is at his feet listening to him and Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better thing to do.  This seems to be a lesson in priorities.  We should be putting God first in our lives and not let the daily distractions get in the way of what is important.  Jesus makes this quite clear.

However, when I read this story, I cannot help but think of how this made Martha feel.  Talk about sibling rivalry!  Martha is working her tail off for Jesus and his disciples while her sister is just sitting in the other room enjoying the visit.  That’s not fair!  This story reminds me of the prodigal son.  There is such a celebration when he returns home.  But what about his brother?  His brother was faithful to his family and always worked hard, but there was no party for him.  That’s not fair!

Life’s not fair, right?  That’s what we tell our kids.  What if life was fair?  What if we got what we deserved and gave up grace and mercy?  It can be easy to wish that on someone else, but we certainly don’t want it for ourselves.  Poor Martha had to swallow her pride and realize that she was missing out on an opportunity to sit with Jesus.  I would like to believe that she handled this situation gracefully and joined her sister without bitterness.  To me this is a harder lesson than putting your priorities in order.  Life isn’t fair and we should be very thankful that it isn’t.