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Sarah Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Sarah Martin

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Sarah Francis Martin has a passion to encourage and relate to women in their twenties. She is the author of Stress Point: Thriving Through Your Twenties In A Decade Of Drama (Thomas Nelson 2012). Sarah's relevant and conversational style will lead young adult readers to live out the Kingship of Christ in everyday life in order to find godly success, purpose, and well-being. Obsessed with pink lip gloss and all things artsy-crafty, Sarah lives with her husband and son in North Carolina. Her ministry, LIVE IT OUT!, is a space for 20/30-somethings to connect with one another and grow closer to Jesus. Check out more at www.liveitoutblog.com.

soul-care

Lavish...now that is a word that sits well on my soul. Does it cause your heart to swirl with possibilities? Does it peek your mind's interest as to what could possibly happen if you were to lavish your Jesus? Does your soul long to be lavished?

Lavish...

Verb. bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.

synonyms: give freely to, spend generously on, bestow on, heap on, shower with

Mary defined the word lavish when she...

"took a pound of fine ointment, pure nard (which is both rare and expensive), and anointed Jesus’ feet with it; and then she wiped them with her hair. As the pleasant fragrance of this extravagant ointment filled the entire house..." John 12:3 The Voice

This wasn't just some cheap perfume from behind the drugstore counter. That would have been easy. To pour out this fine ointment cost much –– a year's wages. Money is precious no matter what culture or day and age. No, this wasn't the cheap version, it was pure. Perhaps a reflection of Mary's heart as she lavished Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair?

An act of devotion

An act of gratitude

An act of humility

When Judas attempts to put her down for lavishing, Jesus affirms Mary.

"Leave her alone. She has observed this custom in anticipation of the day of My burial. 8 The poor are ever present, but I will be leaving." John 12:7

We don't know if Mary fully understood the significance of her lavish display of devotion. What we do know is that this woman set aside social norms, financial comfort, and pride to physically show Jesus that He is deserving. All Mary desired to do at that moment was honor her King.

 

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I'm searching my heart today to see if I am as willing to lavish Jesus, to pour out my devotion, to offer Him my pure heart and soul.

What would that look like?

Stepping out of my comfort zone...no...jumping out of my comfort zone to lavish Him.

Expressing with the depths of my soul who I know He is...then truly believing Him...lavish.

Opening my hand and pouring out what the world deems as valuable so my hands are open to accept the intangible that my Jesus is so willing to lavish up me.

Ponder. Saturate your soul with His Truth. Fill your mind with adjectives that lavishly describe His nature. Live with open-ness to His goodness. Serve and love the unlovable because He loves them.

Let us lavish with our life.

Let us lavish with our words.

Let us lavish for these acts are oh so good for the soul.

(photo credit: kennysarmy via photopin cc)

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With a bag full of wildflower seeds and pots filled with fresh soil I sprinkled and patted down the prickly seeds left over from my father-in-law's beautiful wildflower garden that captured my heart last fall. As I watered the pots for the first time I embraced the irony that I was in fact, planting wild flowers in pots. But I didn't care. Irony aside I looked forward to the buds and blooms and the symbolism of this little gardening project.

You see, these wildflowers were a gift from God who was and is tending to my soul. These wildflowers were meant to help me focus and keep my head down. For months before, Jesus told me to keep my head down and focus on Him alone. I was not to cook up new projects or pop my head around Facebook to see what everyone else was up to. Keeping my head down and smelling the wildflowers was just what my soul desired, craved, to deter me from wanting what others had. The proverbial "grass" would be just green enough on my side of the fence...with in these pots of wildflowers.

I waited.

Several months.

The stubborn sprouts took longer to grow and bud and bloom than I expected. You KNOW I celbrated the first bloom with exuberance...I even had to Instagram about it!

 

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Not much longer I had pots full of colorful little blooms of pink and purple and orange. Celebration! You should see the care I give these wildflowers. But, I began to notice irregularities. Were these weeds among my precious blooms? How could I tell? I'm not an expert! Honestly, I don't even know the names of these flowers as I just picked seeds that looked pretty. Were these new green stems part of my wildflower collect? Who knows?

Weeds!

Do I pick them? Would it disrupt things? So many questions!

 

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Because I know this gardening project sent straight from heaven was meant to teach me something, I contemplated these weeds beyond the picking and pruning.

What are the weeds in my soul?

Do I even know what they look like?

Can I distinguish what is thriving in the depths of my being and what needs to be picked and pruned?

What is thriving is my desire to seek out Jesus alone. To abide in Him and to focus on His glory and not my own agenda. These pots of gorgeous pink and purple and orange represent how far God and I have come as I have diligently kept my head down and allowed His hand to move me forward. But, was I missing out on going deeper with Jesus because of my weeds...my sin...my ugly?

I think of the woman at the well in John 4. After a conversation with Jesus in the heat of the day at the well where she came often shamed by her towns people, the woman left her jar of water to tell everyone...

"Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" John 4:29

Jesus knew her weeds. He called her out in her sin. For a woman with many men but no "husband" she was accustomed to judgement and condemnation. But this man was different. He knew her weeds but there was love in His knowledge. That sting of judgement was no where to be found this day at the well. She came for water. He offered her more than that which would satisfy her dry mouth. This man...this Jesus (The Christ!) offered water to nourish her soul...

"Drink this water, and your thirst is quenched only for a moment. You must return to this well again and again.  I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again." John 4:13-14

This declaration, this offer straight from The Bread of Life, The Word, promises much. Our souls, the part of us that craves something...is thirsty. Jesus claims He is the one who will quench our thirst for eternity. I love the woman's response. She doesn't quite understand what The Lord means here. Or does she? In desperation she begs Him to give her this water so she might not have to make this shame filled trek to the well where everyone knows her and her "weeds."

Do I quite understand the implications of this water of life for my soul? Am I willing to expose my weeds so as not to let them over run what is good and thriving with in me? Am I willing to examine and take a hard look?

So many questions to ask here. Trusting the process I move forward to pick and prune. I move forward to make the hard choices to change my behavior, to say "sorry", to do things differently to rid my wildflowers of the weeds. My soul will benefit. He receives the glory! These wildflowers in my heart are just for You Jesus!

Read more of the Soul Care series HERE.

soul-care

I invite you today to come along with me on a journey. Put on your well worn shoes, the soles that have taken you down twisting and turning paths and explore the depths of your soul. As we journey on, let the well worn soles remind us where we have been, remind us of life that adds to or depletes our very soul. As we journey on, let God gently take your hand and lead you toward His everlasting love and healing. Let Him whisper into your soul with Truth and wisdom.

Won't you come down the path of this Soul Care journey?

Soul...the depths of yourself. The inner being. Our individual essence. The deep spaces within. Created by God. Created for God.

Care...tending to the deep spaces with in. Nestling up to the Creator. Letting Him nurture your being for wellness, joy, peace.

We often seek out well-meaning gurus of the "soul" to lead us down paths of self searching and actualization. Many in the world us this term soul. For us, our journey is not first about self searching but to seek after the ever caring Creator of our essence...our soul. This series is a compilation of my own journey of soul care in Jesus. Take it or leave it...but know...He cares for your soul. He cares for your well-being. For when we live in the ultimate essence of who God made us to be we glorify Jesus Himself! With a soul serving and loving The Lord, we point His beautiful light toward the darkness within the hearts of others. His light heals. His Truth abounds. His beauty brings peace.

Today's Soul Care Scripture:

The one who loves this life will lose it, and the one who despises it in this world will have life forevermore.Anyone who serves Me must follow My path; anyone who serves Me will want to be where I am, and he will be honored by the Father. (John 12:25-26 The Voice)

I moped around. I sat around. I felt sorry for myself. It was pitiful.

This was a year of my life where my soul felt empty. Newly married, not strong in my faith whatsoever and having just sent my husband off to war, I was empty. After attempting retail therapy and spending too much money, I wish I could say that I realized my deprevation. I did know that I needed some sort of encouragement so I turned to my ever wise, red-headed Aunt Midge in Texas.

Sarah, you just need to get out an help someone that has it harder than you. Find someone to serve. Find someone to bless. You will get over yourself that way! You will feel better and stop moping!

That did the trick and gave me the proverbial kick in the pants I needed to get my life back in gear. I wish I could say that I immediately turned to Jesus to fill my depleted soul, but this advice was a great start. Scripture tells us that when we serve others, we are serving Jesus.

Taking care of your soul often requires that we say "no" to activities especially when we are physically and spiritually worn out. More on this another day. On the flip side, our soul is invigorated when we follow the one who created our very soul. He created us in His image an innate need for His presence. Our soul is fulfilled when we seek out where God is, where He is working--then serve Him right THERE.

The Scripture in John 12 reminds me that my soul finds fullness when I loose my life in Jesus and gain His LIFE abundant. The greek word for life in this verse is Zoe--meaning "absolute fullness of life in Christ."By serving Him, following Him down His path the depths of our very being finds where exactly it needs to be...where Jesus is.

Soul Care for everyday...

Go where He goes.

Listen to His voice.

Love who He loves.

Be honored by God Almighty. This is what we need to live in the fresh joy offered to us each day anew when we allow the caret taking of our soul to be handled by Jesus.

When I was asked by my friend Ashleigh Slater to review her new book Team Us, of course I was happy to do it. A part of me though was on the skeptical side since there are SO many books about marriage out there. Once I started flipping through the pages it became clear that Team Us is a marriage book that everyone (engaged, married and singles) need to read. Ashleigh's poignant style of writing along with funny quips and life examples brings much wisdom to the table.

Today I am sharing with you an interview of Ashleigh. I know you will glean much from her words. If you are not married, be sure to read the final question and answer...just for YOU!

 

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Sarah: I would love to know how you came up with the title Team Us. How does teamwork ensure a successful marriage?

Ashleigh: The title Team Us actually started as the name of chapter four; the chapter on conflict. But as my publishing team at Moody brainstormed what the final book should be called, they realized that this idea of “team us” or growing together was the central message of the book. When they emailed me the title Team Us: Marriage Together, I loved it!

For Ted and me, teamwork in marriage means that we are working and playing together for a successful season. Each of us is fully invested in seeing our marriage do well. When both a husband and a wife give marriage 100% – in the good and the bad – that goes far in creating a successful marriage. Because the truth is, we fight for what we are invested in.

Sarah: I loved your chapter on conflict. Can you give us a quick glimpse into the concepts you cover in the book...the "Me-first fighter" vs. the "Team-first fighter."

 Ashleigh: When I got married, I was very much a “me-first fighter.”  My first priority when Ted and I experienced conflict was to protect myself and my interests. I had a desire to be right, a lack of control over how I spoke about Ted to others, and wasn’t quick to extend grace and understanding. Over the years though, I’ve learned to approach conflict as a “team-first fighter.” This means that I now attempt to work through disagreements in a constructive, relationship-strengthening way.  A way that puts the long-term health of our marriage before my own personal agenda. This includes a desire to understand where Ted is coming from, an “owning” of my personal sin, and lots of grace. As I’ve learned to do this, I’ve come to see that conflict isn’t the enemy. It’s not a threat to me. Instead it can be an adventure as Ted and I work together to resolve it and ultimately strengthen our relationship.

Sarah:  Any advice for readers who aren't yet married yet desire a team-oriented marriage. How best can they prepare?

Ashleigh: I’d say by examining their expectations and making sure they are hope-filled, but also realistic. What I mean by that is this: Yes, believe that marriage is a wonderful gift from God. Because, it is. But at the same time, remember that you and whoever you do marry are both imperfect individuals. There will be times that you both disappoint each other. There will be conflict. Sometimes the other’s habits will annoy you. But prepare yourself to be ready and willing to extend grace when those moments come. To be patient. And the thing is, these are foundational principles you can practice prior to marriage. You can exercise them in your relationship with your parents, siblings, friends. Learn to practice patience with others now. Learn to extend grace and believe the best. Then, when you do get married, hopefully, these things will come more easily.

More About Ashleigh...

 

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Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). As the founder and editor of Ungrind Webzine and a regular contributor at several popular blogs and websites, she loves to combine the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com or MarriageTogether.com. You can also find her on Facebook here or follow her on Twitter at @ashslater.

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