The woman of Bethany, you and me

What would you do for Jesus?

Before answering that question, picture this: After a long day of teaching and going about town, imagine Jesus and the disciples reclining at a table together.   Unannounced, a woman that heard where Jesus was enters the house and pours a bottle of perfumed ointment that cost 300 days of labor (300 denari) on Jesus’s head.

Let’s think about the cost of that bottle of ointment in this way… With minimum wage now at $7.25 /hr, a work day being 8 hr long, and multiply that by 300 days… For us, that would be similar to pouring $17,400* on Jesus’s head and “only” having his shiny hair to prove it!  No extra mouths were fed, no new ministries were started, no church fund for mission trips was increased, etc.

The disciples are in an outrage and scold the woman!  They talk of what they could have done for the poor with the cost of that bottle.  In their minds–and probably in ours too– her use of that precious and costly resource was not the most practical, effective, nor successful.   But here’s what Jesus said to the disciples, what he still says to you and me:

“Leave her alone.  Why do you trouble her?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you will always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.  But you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.  And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:6-9).

For that lady in Bethany, Jesus was worth everything to her, and she did what she could with what she had.  She didn’t know God’s purpose for her actions at that time–that she was preparing Jesus’s body for burial.  On the other hand, she knew Jesus could heal the sick and feed the poor, and He didn’t need her money to do that.  In this way, her faith was simple, yet it was strong.  She brought him her heart, her devotion, and revealed her trust in God, knowing that He would provide for her needs and the needs of others.

The truth is that I’m still trying to understand that last verse…how wherever the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the whole, wide world–whether in the Amazon rainforest, a house church in Africa, a secret meeting in China, a classroom on a college campus in your state, or your family’s own dinner table–this woman’s actions are being told.  Maybe it deals with her part in preparing him for burial and then he was resurrected, or maybe it’s because of the love that she showed for him… But what is amazing to consider is this: faith in, hope of and love for Jesus will endure beyond our actions, even beyond our name.  We never learn the name of that lady in Bethany.  But even 2,000 years later, we hear of her outrageous love for Jesus and know that it’s being multiplied throughout the Body of Christ as more and more with that same, radical love for Jesus spread the Gospel across the globe.

So my question today is this:  How does the story of the lady in Bethany (Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:2-5) affect you and me today?  Knowing what Jesus thought of that woman’s actions, what do we think he would say about our actions?  Lastly and most importantly, what is Jesus worth to you and to me and how does His worth in our lives compel us to live?

Praying your day is filled with SONshine,

Sarah. signature

 

 

NOTES:

*(that’s not actually what 300 denari would cost today, but it’s just a comparative term…)

Obedience & Sacrifice: The Motivation of Love

Jesus praying - gethsemane

The very foundation of Christianity is based on obedience and sacrifice.  In the garden before being arrested, Jesus “fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will'” (Matthew 26:39).  Jesus knew that God had placed him on the earth with a specific purpose, and He was obedient, even to the point of death.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his stripes we are healed…”

Isaiah 53:5

It’s easy to put Jesus on a pedestal, right?  We can look up to him as our sacrifice, just like the serpent on Moses’s staff in the wilderness and say, “Yes, he is the only way by which I’m saved!” (Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-15).  But what next?  It’s necessary to remember that we could never add to the cross… none of our actions will ever make us more worthy of God’s grace.  But here’s a question that those who have looked on Christ as their Savior need to consider:

“What next?”

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”

John 15:20

Those are the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples!  Even though they were spoken two thousand years ago, they are just as true for us today.  We are no greater than our Teacher.  If we are to live a life that is hidden in Him, then our lives must also take on that requirement of obedience and sacrifice.  However, sacrifice and obedience must not be used to prove ourselves through the ability to deny the flesh… As we draw closer to Christ and become more and more hidden in Him, we’ll find that obedience and sacrifice come naturally for another reason:

love.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.”

1 John 5:1-3

In other words, once we’ve been saved through Jesus Christ, then we can love God.  When we love God, we will love His children, and when we love God, we will love His word.  When we love His word, we will delight to follow it. When we delight to obey God’s word, we will draw closer to Him, love His children, and–in all of this–become more like Christ.

And when we become more like Christ, we will grow in love for our Father.  We will delight even more in obedience to Him, even when it costs us the most painful sacrifices.  Nothing–not even the loss of worldly success, separation from family and friends, or even death–will keep us from following and serving the One that has already buried us in death and raised us to walk in newness of life to walk with Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4).

***

Is Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior?  Have you been raised to walk in newness of life, not for the flesh, but for godliness and to grow closer and closer to God?  Then ask yourself, “What does it look like to obey God’s word, to love His children, and become more and more like Christ?  What must I do in order for this to be true of my life?  What must I sacrifice?”  If you have not yet believed–even if you think you have but your actions do not prove a faith in Jesus that alone saves–what is holding you back?

To God alone be all the glory.  May He abound more and more in your life, and may the motivation of His love that He first gave us fuel your every action, spark your every thought, and determine your decisions today and every day.

Praying your day is filled with SONshine,

Sarah. signature

In the Security of His Love

Hello!  It’s sooooo good to be back and writing again 🙂  I’ve missed y’all so much!  Thanks for still checking in here and there during my absence, and I look forward to writing again more…

Over the past many weeks that I have been away, the Lord has been gracious.   The past few weeks, even months, were a time in which I temporarily gave up writing and the blog in order to better pursue my graduate studies and other relationships.  It has been hard, but this just is an affirmation of the truth that obedience to what God calls us to do is not always easy.  Sometimes we may not see a tangible result of our action or “reap what we sow.”  Sometimes, we may even wonder if we are actually hearing the words of God or something/someone else trying to distract us from Him.  Every time though, obedience to God requires sacrifice…

In those moments of realizing what God desires for us to do, there can be tension, right?  After all, what about our desires?  What about the plans that we have made?  But as the RUF minister at Mississippi State asked in his sermon the other night—“When was the last time that God’s love brought you more security than the plan you have made, the relationship you’re in, a title you’ve earned, your outward appearance, etc.?”

For the type-A personality like me—organized, driven, and purposeful even to a fault—that question opened my eyes, heart, AND mind to a reality that I had pushed away.  Maybe I had felt it here and there, but I pushed it away not wanting to pay the price of obedience and admit that the plan that I had made for my life was fallible and based on limited, human understanding.  But the Lord had other plans.  He wanted to bring me back into the safety that is ONLY found in the overwhelming presence of His love, and I’m so grateful that He did.

Sometimes following the will of God can cause temporary pain, but remember that He disciplines His children as a father would—with love and with purposes for their good.  Always though, living in obedience to God brings more security, peace, and joy than we could ever experience elsewhere.  After all, when resting in the warm embrace of His presence, what do we have to fear and what could we possibly lose?

So now, I ask you the very same question: When was the last time that God’s love made you feel more secure than anything else in your life?  What act of sacrifice and obedience would it take to draw closer to Him and to the security of His love?

Living in the Body of Love

Thank you so much, dear readers, for your patience in these past few days that I have not posted.  On Thursday morning, I had a freak accident while making coffee that left me with first and second degree burns on my face and arm.  In light of this accident, I have so many things to be thankful for, especially my friends and family.

Since Thursday, many friends have rallied around me with their thoughts, prayers, and even some treats like cookies or trips to get frozen yogurt.  What I learned from all of this is that there are friends that “stick closer than a brother” as Proverbs 18:24 says.  In other words, there are friends that love us more than just as a family member, but that also love us as they love their own bodies.  When we feel pain, they feel pain; when we rejoice, they rejoice; etc…

Isn’t this what the Church is all about?  The Church–all believers as the body of Christ–is composed to love one another and support one another as part of one, single body.  God infuses the body with love, and with that gift of love, we are able to love Him.  Because of our love for Him, we give His love to other people: those inside and outside of the body.  As we pour ourselves out in love, He continues to refill us and infuse us with His love, and the cycle continues.  But still, everything begins and ends with God pouring out His love for us…

Have we experienced this kind of love in the Body of Christ?  Is there someone around us that may need to experience this kind of love, especially today?  Are we a friend that sticks closer than a brother? That loves our friends as we love our own body?  Have you felt the renewal of God’s replenishing love after pouring it out for someone else?  We don’t have to cling to the love that He once gave us… it was meant to be given out over and over, so that we could experience the gift of receiving His love daily, hourly, even in the strain of every minute…  Is this the love that we are giving and receiving as the Body of Christ?

Praying your day is filled with SONshine,

Sarah 🙂

 

Love. (Mr. Roger’s Post)



“Love  (Mr. Roger’s Post)”

As a quick introduction, I will go ahead and warn you that this will be the longest post that I have ever written.  The ironic part of this is that the man whose life inspired it would tell me, “Sarah, remember your word limit.  250-350 words. 400 max!”  Well, Mr. Roger, no matter where in Heaven you are while reading this post—whether from a comfy couch of clouds with The Biggest Loser playing on the TV or while wading out at the duck blind (how about that resurrection body!)—this is what I have to say to you.  There is no way that I can write about you or in even reference to your life in less than 400 words!  Not even 1000 words can express all the praise that your life deserves… So without any further ado….

Love.

Tonight while sitting in my bed under strands of Christmas lights, I’m finally finding the courage to write about the passing of a man that I have loved.  Ever since 6th grade when his son, Roger, and I became best friends, I have thought of this precious family as my very own.  Filled with genuine compassion and even a streak of mischief, they always welcomed me with love shared through their open arms.  After all, their hugs always wrapped me up and seemed to never let go.

Although Mr. Roger was not my dad, I saw him in this light often; I knew he loved me just as I loved him.  And even though I tried with all of my heart, I found it hard to rejoice at the funeral service.  Instead, I cried until I couldn’t breathe as I watched this beloved family of mine walk down the long aisle behind a casket draped in beautiful, cream fabric with gold embroidery.  From the balcony, I wanted to reach down and take the hands of Ms. Nancy, Lizzie, Will, “Little Rog,” and “Bubbles,” but instead, I watched through eyes blinded by tears.  Tears of pain, tears of sadness and loss, yet I shed other tears, as well…

Tears of respect as I watched each member of the Waynick family seat themselves in the pew, tears as I listened to the oldest daughter, Elizabeth, speak of her father and share words of his wisdom, tears as I wrote these words down, praying that I would never forget them, tears as I watched Roger welcome her back to her seat… Tears as the desperate cry, “Oh, Sweet Rog…” escaped from my lips while watching him walk to the podium himself, tears as I watched my best friend tug at the sleeves of his suit jacket and I whispered a silent prayer for his strength, tears as I heard his voice catch while speaking of his dad…a hunting buddy… a fishing buddy…and tears of submissive trust that everything in life has a purpose: I cried many tears, many tears.

While this pain of loss waged war inside me, there was something even greater that was not willing to lose this haughty battle.

Love.

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.  God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” 1 John 4:16-18

So I hugged my knees as close to my body as I could, making one more attempt to keep it from frantically heaving while my mom wrapped her arms around me.  There was a place in my heart that wanted to feel empty.  It was the place where someone’s wise counsel, inspiration, encouragement, and belief in me filled my heart, pressing against its seams.  My mom’s fingers held tight to my arm, reminding me of the strength we must have to press on.

As the pastor read Psalm 100 and we rose to sing “Amazing Grace,” I decided that death would not have its victory here.  I would not let death take away from me the love and precious memories that I had with Mr. Roger.  I was fighting back the fear of death, the fear of life without this beloved man, but Perfect Love began to rise, determined to cast out my fears.

In those moments, it was evident that death was losing its sting. God was, is, and forever will be love, and He held us in His hands that dreary Saturday.  Even though the pain was more real than any I have ever felt before, God’s presence was abundant, filling the sanctuary as the light filtering through stained glass windows.  And in the voices of the hundreds that came in love and remembrance of a man that lived each day with godly purpose and intention, God’s presence was abundant, as well.  Each day, Mr. Roger lived with love and grace—the husband to a beautiful wife with one of the most compassionate hearts I have ever known, the father to four incredible children that I find myself blessed to call my friends daily.  He even lived as a “rascal,” but most of all, Mr. Roger always lived filled with “Sonshine” that shone through the twinkle of love and mischief in his eyes, a brilliant light that shone on the faces of each person he met.

Today marks a week since the day I frantically sought among the crowded Narthex of Brentwood United Methodist Church—a sea of black jackets and white tissues—for the faces of the family I hold dear to my heart.  And though my to-do lists and planner would say this past week went “back to being normal”—work, class, meetings, etc.—my heart begs to differ…

While I cannot even imagine the struggle that Ms. Nancy, Elizabeth, Will, Roger, and Katie are facing right now, I do know this: God has great plans for them.  For some, this tragedy would break them, but not the Waynicks.  God has given them hearts and a home that has been filled abundantly with love.  They will make it through this hard time as an even stronger family, always living in memory and honor of their loved one, our most loved Roger Scott Waynick.

There are many times that I wish I had better words to say to comfort the Waynick family through this time of grief.  I wish that I had words that could better express my grief yet also encourage them to grow even more in faith.  What I have come to realize though, is that neither life nor all the realities of it on this earth are always describable, measurable, or even fathomable.  But there is something else that follows this description.

Love.

God is love.  He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, and every aspect of His nature—“I Am”—is characterized by His love. He and His love are indescribable, immeasurable, nor can we fathom their significance and jurisdiction over all. We cannot be separated from it; not even death can keep us from His love (Romans 8:35-39).

There are many things that I don’t know, but I do know this: God is good.  God is always good, and He is faithful, even when we are tempted to believe that He isn’t.  In this world, we will have tribulation, but He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  We will feel so burdened that we will despair of life itself, but all of this will happen so that we will learn to rely on God, the one that raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).  We must never lose sight of these truths of our faith.  With all of my heart, I long for the day that He has promised will come to those that have been steadfast in trusting Him, even in the hardest times.

With this, I will now close.  Revelation 21 tells us that one day, God will dwell among us.  He will be our God.  In His lap, we will sit as He wipes away every single tear that falls from our eyes, even the tears that we wish would come, but won’t.  “Shhh, my sweet child,” He will whisper in our ear, “death no longer has a place here.  Mourning, crying, and pain shall be no more for all the former things have passed away…” (Revelation 21:3-6).

To the dear Waynick family, feel our Heavenly Father wrapping His great arms around you during this time.  Hear Him whispering in your ear words of love and comfort.  He loves you so much just as He loves your dad, your husband, Ms. Nancy.  Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  He loves you all so much.  I cannot say this enough: He is love, and He loves you.  Draw near to him and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

So to all of us—whether walking in the valley of the shadow of death or in the uncertainly of the future—let’s have faith because God is faithful, have hope because God is the trustworthy Almighty, and have love because God is love.

 

Love.

I love you, Mr. Roger.  Thank you for encouraging me to write and for always believing in me.  All of the advice you have shared with me–whether about life, love, and our passion of writing–I will cherish.  I will keep the promise that I made to you… You know what I’m talking about ;).  Thank you for loving me.