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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wagon with mums
An old wagon loaded with colorful mums in Manor Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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Note: Today's message is the first of a three part series on "Tyrannies of the Soul"

"The Tyranny Of The Urgent"

"As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:38-42).

Black wall phone"Tyranny of the Urgent" is the title of a small pamphlet I have read numerous times.  It never fails to speak to me as it fills my heart with conviction. This booklet expresses the sense of urgency that overshadows us in the daily experience of living, and it examines how modern technology contributes to this urgency. When Charles Hummel wrote this in 1967, he identified the telephone as a great contributor to this sense of urgency. At that time, for me anyway, that would have been the black rotary dial phone mounted to our kitchen wall; the only phone in our home in Belton, Missouri.

Smart phoneFast forward to present day where a majority carry cell phones and many have smart phones with instant and constant access to the internet in addition to every manner of distraction-inducing technology. Many can't resist using their phone, even to the point of being rude or inconsiderate to others or worse yet making themselves a menace on the highway. We experienced that recently though we don't have the exact details. It seems that Brooksyne's van accident over three weeks ago was caused by a technology distraction. The driver who rear-ended her and totalled our van admitted it, possibly texting as he was busy with his phone. His hard blow forced our van into the opposite lane with oncoming traffic. An alert 22 year old woman driving at 40 MPH toward Brooksyne quickly swerved into a yard barely avoiding a head-on collision. If the young lady had been texting while driving our story would have a much different outcome!

Tyranny is normally a term used to describe an oppressive government. In this series we use the word to describe those conditions that oppress the soul. The tyranny of the urgent is essentially the oppressive compulsion that I must do it now. Due to our busy multi-tasking lives filled with numerous distractions this is a condition common to most and indeed it can be oppressive!

Both Mary and Martha had important duties in welcoming the Lord Jesus to their home.  Martha was tending to physical needs (preparing the meal) while Mary was tending to spiritual needs (sitting at the feet of Jesus).  Both were important but when one duty rivaled the importance of the other, Martha's whimpering forced Jesus to address the attitude of the sister's hearts.  

I easily identify with Martha's attitude in the daily Scripture portion. I spend way too much time in the "kitchen"* and am easily distracted by the stuff of life in the material, visible realm. Distractions constantly lull me away from "what is better." I really imagine many of you identify with me.  We generally prioritize visible accomplishments over inward attitudes of the heart.  This can be seen in an obituary where titles, accomplishments, and interests of the deceased may be listed, but the person's attitude toward life may not even be mentioned (though admittedly, some titles or accomplishments can reveal one's attitudes during their lifetime.)

As I study this portion of Scripture I am especially intrigued with the phrase, "Mary has chosen what is better." She made a willful, purposeful choice to sit at the Lord's feet, listening intently to His counsel, His teaching, and delighting in His friendship. She likely dealt with distractions since I can imagine Martha was clanging those pots in the kitchen just a little extra loud to get Mary's attention as she surely muttered under her breath, "Why isn't Mary here helping me?". 
That muttering led her to appeal to the Lord; "She came to Him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'" But Mary chose to shut her mind to the daily routine and open her heart to the rare moments that she could personally spend in Jesus' presence.

"What is better" is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to what He has to say. It's focusing on the spiritual, non-visible realm. It's like another Mary, who following the birth of her son, Jesus, "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." It includes reading, studying, meditating and memorizing the Bible along with praise, worship and prayer.  What we store up in our hearts pours out to those around us making an eternal difference. It goes beyond impressing people to inspiring them to meet Jesus on a personal level. When we spend time with our Lord we experience the fulfillment and blessing that is at the very heart of living the abundant life.

But, in full disclosure, I confess the "kitchen" continually beckons and distractions abound.

"The Heart of worship" is a song that reminds me today of where my focus needs to be, although I realistically accept that distractions will continually beckon.  I am so thankful for God's patience and grace.  He has time and again called me back to the heart of worship and He constantly reminds me that this race on earth is really all about embracing Him at the finish line!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man
Daily prayer: Jesus, You know the very intention of all that I say and do.  As I invite You to examine my heart, I lay before You the people and pursuits that drive me further away from a heart of worship. You have not removed me bodily from this world, but You have raised me up spiritually to abide in Your presence even as I carry out my daily duties. As Your presence overshadows me it is there that Your love and faithfulness sustains me and gives me a true heart of worship. Even as a vehicle needs fuel to properly function, I need prayer to uphold and equip me for the day that lies ahead. Amen. 

* Certainly I am speaking of the "kitchen" as an analogy for the things that distract and take us away from the better choice. As I ponder on this subject here are some additional considerations:

1) Certainly some may be less easily distracted than others and some more spiritually focused but I have also seen this become a dangerous source of pride.
2) Jesus is not teaching that all "kitchen work" is wrong. We really need to consider a balance in Biblical teaching and that other Scripture teaches the importance and value of work and living responsibly.
3) We need to graciously recognize we have different callings from God, and not esteem one above the other or feel that others must feel as passionately about our cause as we do. This leads to arguments, jealousy, and resentment rather than expanding the kingdom of God.
4) Some distractions are ultimately God-ordained ministry opportunities.

Life in our Neighborhood

Kraybill church road harvest equipment  9/20/11
Farmers are busy in our area with the harvest. The harvest equipment is always interesting to watch (for me anyway!)

Vic and Etta Gibble 9/20/11
Yesterday afternoon Vic and Etta stopped by with some Broccoli Cheese soup they wanted to share with us. Vic and Etta are a colorful older couple who attend the country church we serve.  He was a boxer for many years and shares some very interesting stories.

Neck pumpkins on bench 9/20/11
Last night our neighbors brought down a wagon load of neck pumpkins to share with us. Neck pumpkins make great pumpkin pie and other dishes. We shared some photos and info about them in this message.

Neighbors 9/20/11
There goes Jandon pulling the pumpkin wagon along with younger sister, Janae.

Brooksyne with neck pumpkin around her neck!
Here's a photo taken last year of Brooksyne with a large neck pumpkin around her neck.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"The Heart Of Worship"  Video  Matt Redman

"It's All About You" Video  Kari Jobe

This song brings to mind a parody "It's All About Me" video that's actually far to true!

"Tyranny Of The Urgent" booklet by Charles E. Hummel is still available here.

Here's a doc version.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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