Everything I’ve been taught tells me that Martha kind of screwed up in Luke 10.
Consider a different perspective: Jesus stopped by her house along the way and invited himself (plus his entourage) over. Martha was then left to clean-up her home and prepare a last-minute meal for the Savior of the world. Meanwhile her sister Mary was busying herself at the feet of Jesus, hanging on his every word.
Perhaps in Martha’s mind if she doesn’t “do” anything, everyone will go hungry. If she doesn’t “do” something, she might come across as negligent and unprepared. What if she doesn’t get to express her gift of hospitality?
It’s obvious by the way in which Martha speaks to Jesus so forthrightly that there is a deeper relationship here. Hers is not the normal connection with Jesus -filled with awe and wonder only. (How else could she question Jesus so abruptly!?) Maybe those days had passed.
So, what if Martha wasn’t wrong? What if she was expressing a faith that was akin to the busyness of today’s evangelicalism? What if her faith was simply status quo?
What if her ability to worry (i.e. worship one thing over and over again) about Jesus was transferred over to the things of Jesus, rather that Jesus himself?
I understand why Mary was in the right, but I’m not sure that Martha was wrong. I’m also not sure that Martha isn’t me –desperately trying to tie up the loose ends of my life while in full view of Jesus.
A couple years back I started writing my first blog at jasonostranderis.us.
That writing experience was more an exploration of my (then) current state of being, rather than a pronouncement of any type of wisdom or knowledge. The posts were therapeutic and intentionally self-serving; meaning that I was attempting to be "real" in front of an audience that I had for so long been avoiding. I cannot tell you how powerful it was for me.
Now, though, I feel another aching. This aching is similar in that I intend to write again, but different in that I intend to explore more deeply the intersection of the humanity and deity of Jesus. My hope is to provide further investigation of that place where ideas, faith, reason and action collide.
Along the way I'll revisit some of my archived blogs to see where Jesus was woven in - and I'll wrestle with new topics...perhaps topics that you suggest. (Maybe even Nancy will show up...)
The last time Nancy was in a diner, she was walking out.
Nancy flipped over the coffee mug in front of her and noticed that it was made by the same company as the mugs where she used to work.
“Morning hon. Will you be wanting some coffee?”
Nancy noticed right away that her waitress –Billie J., placed a glass of ice water down on her table while carrying a hot carafe of coffee. She remembered doing that, too. Nancy always trained the new gals at her diner to serve people water before asking them what they wanted. Never come empty handed to a table. That was her motto.
Nancy nodded and Billie J. began to pour. As the steam rose from the heavy mug in her hand, Nancy’s waitress asked if she wanted breakfast. Nancy ordered a simple meal of two eggs sunny-side up, two pieces of bacon and some fruit. She watched nostalgically as Billie J. scrawled notes into her order pad.
“I’ve never seen you in here before. Are you from around here?”
“No. I’m just travelling through –I’m on a bit of a journey.” (Immediately Nancy wondered why she chose the word journey instead of trip or vacation.)
“That’s nice. What do you do?”
“Actually, I’m an unemployed waitress.” Nancy said wryly. She wished in that moment that she could’ve said something more impressive like teacher, or secretary.
“Oh. Well you should talk to the lady at the front. She’s the owner -and I know we need a couple good waitresses around here.”
Billie J. topped off Nancy’s coffee and grabbed her menu.
As Nancy ate her breakfast she thought about what it would be like to work here. She looked around at the other waitresses and could tell that she was more experienced. Maybe all she needed was to keep doing the same thing, but in a different location.
When she finished her meal, she walked up to the front to pay her bill.
“How was everything?” the owner asked.
“Really good. Thank you.”
Nancy planned on asking the lady about the waitressing job but for some reason all she could think about was her runner-up award for “Most Likely to Succeed” in high school.
She knew that she had to keep going, that success was not measured by what she did, but who she was. After all she was on a journey.
“Have a nice day.” the lady said as Nancy reached for the door.
A rough, surly voice cried out from the front cab of an old Dodge Ram pickup that had pulled up beside Nancy’s car. Nancy couldn’t hear him over the road noise. The man got out of his truck and walked around the other side of her car. He found her hunched over the right rear wheel trying to loosen the bolts on her recently deflated tire.
“I said, can I help ya!?”
Nancy jumped at the sound of his voice. The tire iron slipped off the bolt and came clanging down to the ground. For the briefest of moments Nancy wished that she had never quit her job. She wished that she’d just stayed home and dealt with her life in a normal manner. Nancy resisted every urge to cry and instead turned to inform this good Samaritan that she was fine and that everything was under control.
Except everything wasn’t fine. She was scared. She wasn’t strong enough to unscrew the bolts on the tire. She didn’t even know if there was a spare in the trunk. All of her courage and determination went out of her the moment she looked into the face of the man standing behind her.
Nancy broke into tears and hugged him.
There was nothing special about the man. He was just a guy driving home from work. He smelled like gasoline and oil. He quickly set about changing her tire and was back in his truck in no time.
As he drove off down the highway she wondered if he would remember that hug as much as she would.
Nancy was never the adventurous type. Back in high school when all her friends were making plans for spring break and summer trips, she was applying for jobs. She was known for being sensible and consistent. In fact, she was the runner-up for most likely to succeed her junior year.
Nancy had a different perspective on all this. She saw herself mostly as common and predictable. The life she had, she never wanted. Nancy was loyal to a fault –loyal to a dead-end job, loyal to a dead-beat husband and now destined to be loyal to her diagnosis.
This trip would change all that. This pilgrimage, of sorts, would disrupt her loyalties. She was determined to break with her past.
After leaving the library, Nancy drove to the nearest gas station and filled her tank up with premium gasoline. She’s not sure why she chose premium, but for some reason it felt wild and luxurious. Then she went inside the store to pay rather than use her debit card at the pump (which is something she never did). Her total for gas, coffee and two energy bars came to $36.60. She paid with two twenties and said something she’d never said before-
As Nancy sat alone in the computer lab at the local library she began flipping through the pages of her passport. She remembered how excited she was when it first arrived in the mail. She remembered dreaming of all the places that she’d travel to and all the different stamps that would fill up the now-empty visa pages. Completely unused, she was surprised by the fact that it hadn’t expired yet. (The only reason she even got a passport was to join some girlfriends on a trip to Cancun to celebrate their 40th birthdays. The trip never materialized due to one of her friend’s ugly divorce – which happened three weeks before they were to leave.) Not wanting to get overly emotional about lost opportunities in the past, she quickly picked up her travel book and went straight to the photo section.
One photo in particular always caught her attention, it was a picture of a woman selling tortillas on the corner of a beautiful little village. The village was quaint and idyllic –exactly what you’d expect to see in a Mexico travel book. It wasn’t the village that drew Nancy in though, it was the woman in the picture. Her life was obviously a humble one and she could tell just by looking at her that she was a strong, determined individual.
Nancy wanted to meet this woman. She wanted to buy tortillas from her and ask her all kinds of questions. She wanted to know if the woman pictured was afraid of anything. She wanted to know if survival was her only option.
Nancy typed out the library’s generic username and password on the keyboard in front of her. She was determined to go online and find out just where this village was located and how to get there.
Before she began her research, though, Nancy did something she had been wanting to do. Nancy longed for the opportunity to write her own story. She wanted to speak for herself rather than let her situation speak for her.
Nancy could hardly see the traffic signal in front of her through the tears in her eyes. She couldn’t believe what she had just done –leaving her job like that. For twenty years she’d been at the same job, doing the same thing, cashing the same check. She was truly out of her element now.
The man in the next car over was playing his steering wheel like a drum in time with the song on his radio. Every so often he would extend his arm out to hit an imaginary cymbal –his long hair bouncing off his right shoulder as he did. Nancy watched him for a bit. He seemed free from pain and suffering, as if he hadn’t a concern in the world.
Nancy felt as if this young man was the luckiest person on the planet.
As the light turned from red to green she felt an urge to follow him. She turned her directional signal on and tried to nose her way in, but it was rush-hour and nobody was in the mood to be gracious. The young man’s red sedan sped off into the distance not knowing that it had left behind a sad, unemployed woman who desperately wanted to attach herself to something new.
Nancy pulled into a local convenient store parking lot. She turned her car off and rested her head on the steering wheel. She knew that this little episode shouldn’t have bothered her as much as it did.
Nancy was dealing with the sudden reality that, just like this young man in the red car, life will not slow down to wait for her.
After arriving back at home, she stayed only for a few minutes. She called her daughter and gave her instructions for paying her monthly bills. She also told her not to worry and that she would call every 2 weeks. Then Nancy went upstairs and packed a medium-sized suitcase.
Just before she went out the door she grabbed a travel book out of her bookcase. She had purchased the book for herself as a birthday present 5 years ago -mostly because she liked the picture on the cover.
Yesterday my grandmother passed away. She was an amazing woman.
My grandmother was like most in that she never missed a chance to wish you Happy Birthday, or Merry Christmas. I have stacks of cards that she sent me and countless memories of being around the dinner table with her on Sunday afternoons. When I was younger I couldn’t figure out what was different about her so I chalked it up to the mysteriousness of grandparent-hood. As I grew older, I began to see something in my grandma that I didn’t see in other people.
My grandma loved her husband (whom she was married to for 67 years), her family and the community of friends where she lived. Outside of that, everything else was incidental. Everything, that is, except Jesus.
(Essentially, I went to college to study about Jesus. Furthermore, I pursued a masters in theology just so I could learn more about him. I’ve spent most of my adult life talking about Jesus and trying to help others understand him. I have travelled all over the world preaching about him. I have sung to him, prayed to him and even written about him.)
My grandmother’s journey with Jesus was very different than mine. Her path didn’t involve flight itineraries or author contracts. She didn’t need those things because somehow, she figured out how to live in heaven and on earth at the same time.
My knowledge of Jesus pales in comparison to that of my grandmother’s.
A while back a friend of mine told me that my future would not be defined by my situation. He tried to encourage me with strong words like position, identity and legacy. At the time, I wholeheartedly leaned into his wisdom –fully believing that everything he said would be true.
The current struggle to redefine myself is the most difficult thing I have ever been through.
Why does this struggle exist?
Most people I meet have zero knowledge about my current suffering, and others don’t care (thankfully). Rarely does something occur in my day to remind me of my current struggle. If I really think about it, I am the culprit. I’m the one that continues to drag up the past and set it out for display. I am the only one that analyzes and reanalyzes the data.
I have never thought of myself as a forgetful person.
When you’re a kid playing football at recess you have a pretty good understanding of toughness – its name was Billy and you could not tackle him. Every time he got the ball he ran it in for a touchdown. Kids (like me) played with a deep, inner fear whenever he was on the opposite team.
Billy was tough.
Now that I’m older, the word tough has taken on a new meaning. No longer would I compare it with the aggression and strength of a backyard brawler. Toughness belongs to single-parents, widows and cancer survivors –those that have lost the ones they loved and those that never feel like they fit in.
I used to associate toughness with winning, but I have seen a lot of brokenness and defeat lately.
The survivors, the desperate, the creatives –the downcast and marginalized; they’re tough.
I don’t have the things I want in life, but I do have the things I need.
(I am constantly surprised by the many ways in which needs are met – thankfully, very little has gone according to plan.)
I want to be settled in my poverty, not constantly flailing about as if I were drowning in it.
(While I never would have chosen this desert life, it is giving me the time to unwind the knots in my soul.)
I know that being poor is not a state of being, rather it’s a state of mind.
(The battle waged most heavily these last two years has been profoundly mental. Some days I win and some days I lose.)
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
(Even though this statement carries a ton of historical baggage for me, I have gained a deeper understanding of the dichotomy between desperation and hope embedded within it. There have been days where I've come to the end of myself. Days where there has been no foreseeable way forward. Days that have pressed me down so far that my thoughts and abilities became irrelevant. These days of poverty have been the most powerful and life-giving.)
Ever since my college days I've been a pretty active reader. Of the many different types of books I've read, I have been most influenced by writers who could seamlessly transplant you into their narratives. The first time I ever experienced this was with David James Duncan. His coming of age story about young Gus Orviston is not only a beautifully detailed account of life in the Pacific Northwest, it is also a meaningful portrayal of family conflict and forgiveness.
I know that I have a capacity for influencing others. I’ve worked with teens and young adults for most my life and I have witnessed first-hand the product of intentional relationships. There is nothing like a good mentor in one’s life.
The interesting thing about these experiences in my past is that they were, by and large, hand-picked opportunities. Either the potential for growth in the mentoree, or the capacity for instruction in the mentor acted as a catalyst for future engagement.
What happens though when the opportunities aren’t hand-picked?
What happens when the consistent tug of this life takes you to places that you never would’ve chosen?
What happens when you spend your life shoulder to shoulder with people of vastly different backgrounds than you? __________________
Yesterday I realized just how far some people will go to make ends meet. The indomitable spirit of humanity that forces someone (regardless of their age, race or gender) to persist through the harshest of life’s circumstances has encouraged me to no end.
I’m currently being mentored by people who, by worldly standards, have not the right education, position or resume to do so.
As her longtime manager stared out over his reading glasses, Nancy could feel the rush of blood surging through her whole body. There’s no way she could have known how powerful these two little words would become.
“Beg your pardon?” he said.
“I need to hand in my two weeks’ notice.” Nancy’s voice waivered.
In her mind, Nancy had played out a scene in which her gruff, but kind-hearted boss attempted to talk her out of making such a terrible decision. She had hoped that he would implore her to reconsider – maybe he would even offer her a better position. One that would suit her long-term physical needs.
“Ok.” he replied as he reached into his bottom left desk drawer. He pulled out a photocopied form entitled “Resignation Notice” and handed it to her. He never even looked up. Nancy grabbed the form and headed towards the door. She wanted to remove herself from this awkward situation as soon as she could. As she reached for the door her manager leaned back in his chair.
Nancy wheeled around quickly, longing to hear him say something that would significantly affect her.
“Don’t forget to hand in both of your aprons. We’re going to need those for the next gal.”
“Right. Ok. Thanks.”
As she closed the office door behind her she could feel the weight of her future meeting her in the hallway. So as not to make a scene she headed for the bathroom. On her way there, she made a last-minute decision and instead walked straight out to her car.
For the last couple of years, I've been working outdoors rather than indoors. Instead of writing emails and attending meetings I’ve been planting perennials and manicuring lawns. Most days I consider myself lucky to be outside working with nature. My hands feel differently about it though -they’ve been cut, poked, sliced, hammered and pinched more times than I can count. They remain dirty no matter how many times I wash them. Blisters are commonplace and the scars are really starting to add up.
It’s amazing how the body works to heal itself. Last month was a slower month for me due to the weather so I was working indoors more. I noticed that my hands started to return to their normal look and feel. The blisters went away and the dry, rough skin was starting to smooth out. Over time they cleaned up nicely –all except for the scars.
Scars are persistent and almost always come with a story. _____________________ My current challenge is to embrace life’s scars as a representation of healing rather than a remembrance of past wounds.
I can truly say that being genuine in the midst of suffering has been life’s one consolation so far. Throughout all the pain and suffering I have tried to be real –real with myself, and real with others, but the challenge has been to hold that course.
The more I try to sugar-coat my current situation, the harder it becomes to deal with it. Sincerity forces me to reckon with facts and not just get by with wishful thinking.
After all, wishful thinking is what got me here in the first place.
The key to multitasking is the ability to handle many things all at the same time. Some people thrive on this kind of life -kicking out email after email and overfilling their calendars with the greatest of ease. These same people will often remind you that if you want to get something done you should ask a busy person. I used to be one of these people, courageously attacking overlapped projects and deadlines like a conductor orchestrating a symphony. In the end, it wasn’t about how much I could handle doing, it was about how much I could accomplish. I prided myself on the stack of “things I got done” and I was always ready to compare my stack with others’.
It’s been a while now since I’ve been any good at multitasking. The ironic part is that the number of things that need to be accomplished has not decreased (and in fact has increased) but my ability to handle them has.
When you are doing a lot of things at once but not really accomplishing anything you are no longer multitasking you are simply inundated.
Being inundated has been neither thrilling or life giving. No amount of emails or scheduled meetings has been able to alleviate this pressure. The unaccomplished things of this life are constantly pooling around my feet.
So much of my time is spent running around trying to turn off open spigots.
A man who I held in high regard passed away unexpectedly yesterday. He was someone who bucked convention for a higher purpose. He worked on a global scale but with a neighborhood mindset. There are people on this earth who have cheated pain and death because of his work. You will most certainly be missed Phil. _______________
Death is a not-so-subtle reminder as to the limits that exist in life. Limits are rarely looked upon with favor –mostly they’re complained about and ignored.
Some limits cannot be ignored.
The challenge now is to engage a perspective that speaks most loudly when death has interrupted our lives.