Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Martha Redeemed: It's a Good Thing

Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
(emphasis, cdj)

I used to become defensive when reading this story. I felt so much empathetic pity for poor Martha. She had welcomed Jesus into her home, and worked diligently to provide for the occasion. I would think to myself, "Well, we ALL can't be Mary's, now, can we? The biscuits won't bake themselves!"

But I've come to understand that Martha was not wrong in her service. Her mistake was allowing herself to become distracted by her own servitude. The only reason Jesus even spelled it out for her was because she approached him in a hissy fit. Hmmmm. He acknowledged the notion that peaceful communion was preferable to perturbed complaints. Shocking.

So how can we avoid becoming "anxious and troubled" about many things when welcoming people into our home?

Determine your hospitality trouble spots and be proactive about remaining calm. What is your biggest potential joy thief? Cleaning? Having enough room? Cooking? Finding things to talk about? Having enough food? Running out of time or having little notice of arriving guests?

Try to plan your menu and to-do list far in advance. Only include dishes and decorations that will bring you joy. If fancy china brings you joy, wipe it off and go for it. You'll probably have a great time chatting over the dish sink. But if disposable plates will not interfere with your festivities, they might afford you more time to sit and visit with family. I don't enjoy the tedious prep work that most cooking involves - like chopping and measuring. So I try to do as much ahead of time as possible.

Clean a few days in advance and just plan to sweep over the traffic areas and entry and wipe down the bathrooms before guests arrive. Cook as much as you can a couple days in advance...or many days and freeze it. Last week I chopped and sauteed the onions and celery for my dressing. I added the measured spices and put it in a zipper bag in the freezer next to the bag of cornbread:) Thursday morning it will only take a minute or two to put bread, seasoned veggies, and broth into the crock pot. The pumpkin bars are also waiting in the freezer... in a pan ready to pop in the oven.

If you get caught off guard and you don't get a chance to prepare, or haven't taken time to plan, ultimately you must prioritize. Making the most of time spent together is far more important than meal prep and domestic perfection.

I always keep a grocery bag tied up in the cupboard. Its contents: canned beans, taco seasoning, canned tomatoes, tortilla chips and a brownie mix. In the freezer I keep at least one bag of browned ground meat and frozen corn. These two mainstays allow me to offer taco soup for dinner within an hour. So if afternoon friends linger toward the dinner hour, I barely have to interrupt the conversation to throw together dinner. Philip has the freedom to invite folks to dinner without me having to panic and run to the store.

Ask the Lord what would bring Him the most honor. Sometimes a nourishing meal is the priority, so you concentrate on being resourceful, spontaneous, and quick. Sometimes the conversation is of greater importance, so you throw together some sliced apples, popcorn & cheese and sit and visit. Sometimes the need for others to fellowship is the central concern, so you keep the kids occupied, follow the toddlers, and keep every one's tea glasses mysteriously refilled.

As a hostess, your peace and joy can set the vibe for the whole house. So if you spend the day walking about serving all those you've welcomed, focus on your love for God and love for His creation. Don't be distracted by your effort and become anxious and troubled. Your worship will not be taken from you:) It's a very good thing!