I know, I know. Last week I was confessing that there were too many Marys in the Bible to keep them all straight and yet, here I go introducing another. Stick with me, though.
Mary of Bethany is someone I’ve known all of my life, but I felt like I had more in common with her sister than I did with her. Maybe its because I have this thing about feet and she always seemed to be about the feet. I don’t know. With half-hearted enthusiasm, I reached out to Mary of Bethany earlier this year and was surprised to find that we not only connected in a couple of ways, but she has since become a woman I deeply admire and want to be like.
You see, I’ve always had this prejudice where Mary was concerned, this judgment of her as the lazy sister, leaving her sister to pick up the slack while she did her own thing. The more time I spent with Mary, however, and the more attentive to her testimony I became, the more I saw her in a new light – as an example of a female disciple. Jesus called His male disciples to leave their work and follow Him. I saw clearly for the first time that this was what Mary was doing, as well. I became ashamed at how I had always viewed her, leaving all the work to her poor, burdened, responsible sister, Martha, when what she was actually doing was following Him, just as His male disciples were. And she was praised for her choice.
If you’ve held off on getting to know Mary of Bethany, let this be the week you decide to invest in that relationship. She’s not your average Mary. And she is about so much more than just feet.
Click here to meet my new friend, Mary of Bethany.
The Summer Bible Study began simply as a way for me to find a way to connect with the women of the Bible. I knew all about these women from my years of growing up in the church and then attending Bible College, but I didn’t feel like I really knew them personally. I didn’t connect with them.
And I really wanted to.
With my first attempt, I realized that I was too unorganized and lacked the accountability to stay on track. So, I made a plan. I prepped. I organized. I invited. My next attempt was so rewarding that it was worth the feeling of failure I felt from the first.
This Summer Bible Study is about CONNECTING.
To Women in the Word
I had a desire to feel connected to the women I’d read about in the Word. I felt I could learn a lot from these ladies if I could bypass the obstacles (time, culture), focus on our commonalities (shared experiences) and really get to know them as they were (off the pedestal, preconceived ideas aside).
To Women in My Life
I also had a desire to feel more connected to the women in my life in the present. One night a week, my small group of friends came together to share our discoveries about these women in the Word. I gained a deeper appreciation for each of them, came to understand some of their own experiences better and fell in love with each of their hearts as they shared their own connections with our mutual Biblical friend that week.
Do you have a desire to feel more connected to the women in the Word and to the women in your life?
A couple of summers ago, I had this grand plan for a Summer Bible Study to do on my own. It had dawned on me that while I knew information about a lot of the women in the Bible, I didn’t feel like I really knew them. On a personal level. As friends.
As a kid growing up in the church, I knew all their names. I could recite trivia about many of them. In Bible College, that knowledge was reinforced and added to, but only on an intellectual level. I learned about them. I learned from their example. But I still didn’t feel a connection with them beyond the academic.
In fact, I felt disconnected from them as a whole – by time, by experience, by culture, by life. And I wanted to bridge that divide.
With a list of questions in hand similar to what you’d ask a new acquaintance in order to get to know her better, I began my very own Summer Bible Study with high hopes of finally connecting with some of the great women of the Bible. By the end of the summer, however, I had only briefly met the first before I became distracted by the sunshine, my incredibly fun teens and my self-imposed home improvement projects.
Disappointed by such an underwhelming beginning, I decided that I would try again next summer – and with a better plan. I realized I became derailed so soon because I was unorganized and lacked the accountability of meeting weekly with other women. As the next summer neared, I began inviting friends one at a time until I reached my ideal small group number (which was 4). Next, I spent some time organizing my questions & passages into days of the week. Lastly, I got my husband involved. “I need this to look like a bona fide Bible Study or I won’t take it seriously, babe.” As usual, he exceeded my expectations and by the first week in June, I was rubbing elbows, celebrating “wins,” sharing sorrows and making connections with some of the most profound women of my faith alongside some of my favorite friends.
I want to offer you the same opportunity this summer! Invite a few friends to grow with you through the upcoming summer months as you connect with the women of the Bible – and each other. It’s FREE!
New clothes. Church service. Family feast. In my head, these traditions were an important part of celebrating Easter. They are how my parents celebrated the holiday while I was growing up and I continued the same traditions with my own family.
As an adult, however, I noticed that Easter more than once caught me off guard and I felt unprepared to celebrate it “properly.” One year I was aghast to realize that Easter was upon us and it was too late to recognize it as I had always done. I would have to suffer the humiliation of my kids wearing their same old church clothes on Easter Sunday (ridiculous thinking, but true – don’t judge). Last minute plans had to be made for Easter lunch. I felt like I had dropped the ball and I was kicking myself for it. In my frustration, I commented to my husband Simon that it was a shame that there was no build up to Easter, no way to really prepare for it.
“There is,” he replied. “It’s called Lent.”
Simon’s response was what propelled us to first explore Lent. We discussed it and decided to give this Lent thing a try the very next year. Easter should be the most sacred and important part of the year for the believer, we thought. Why had we only passively participated in it until now? We had high hopes for the next year!
The first year we chose to simply give up sweets for Lent. That seemed to be what everyone online suggested when I researched it, so we jumped on board that train. It seemed like a doable first for our family of six. And it worked! Every time we were offered a sweet treat (which was more often than we thought it would be), we were reminded that Jesus had sacrificed so much more on the cross. We walked toward Easter with more enthusiasm that first year and with a new appreciation of it. It was a day of celebration, of merriment, of remembrance, of gaiety, of festivity! (And admittedly, of dessert!)
Over the years, foregoing sweet treats has morphed into a once-a-week fast for my husband and myself, but our children still choose to sacrifice sweets. (And if you’ve ever gone a long period without any type of sweet treat, you understand what a sacrifice that truly is!)
In addition to fasting something, we began to include a devotional as part of our Lenten experience several years ago. Some years, those were personal devotionals like this* or this* or this. Other years, they were family devotionals like this. It has been difficult, however, to consistently find devotionals that we felt we easily connected with which is why my (ahem, published) husband wrote this free Lenten devotional last year. He is passionate about using pop culture to create Mars Hill-type experiences for the next generation and Lent became a natural avenue to do that. Using popular movies to aid in showing the powerful significance of Easter, Emptied & Humbled is an excellent resource for understanding Christ’s sacrifice on the cross through an in-depth study of Philippians 2.
This year, we will walk toward Easter differently than in the past. As a couple, my husband and I will look at Lent through the lens of faith. We want to be taught and challenged by the faith of those who have walked faithfully before us. We want to hold their tried-and-true faith up as a mirror and see what is reflected back. We want our faith to grow and be strengthened, ultimately becoming contagious as we walk it out in real life. This is a self-study that I hope to share with you in the future. In addition, we are using this* as a family devotional in the evenings with our teenagers. Written for youth, Seven Days That Changed the World is a discussion-based devotional focusing on the Biblical passages of Jesus’ life during the seven days preceding His crucifixion and (victorious!) resurrection.
Before we take our first purposeful steps on these roads to Easter this year, however, we will partake in another tradition. A few years ago, we accidentally participated in our first Fat Tuesday celebration at Big Shucks and have since added that to our ever-expanding list of new family traditions. While Fat Tuesday doesn’t have the most pristine reputation, Simon and I decided to redeem the day and we now use it, too, as part of our preparation for Easter. (I will share more in-depth on how we redeemed Fat Tuesday next week.)
Our experience of Lent is ever-changing, always morphing to meet the needs of our family as we grow. We are enjoying the exploration of the long-honored church tradition of Lent and the opportunity it affords us to look forward toward the empty tomb. By introducing Lent to our family, we have grown to appreciate Easter with renewed enthusiasm. Easter no longer sneaks up on us, but is now eagerly awaited. Through observing Lent, we now experience the build-up to Easter that I longed for years ago. We prepare for our most sacred holiday with something more than new clothes. There is a new eagerness, a new excitement and yearning, a new hunger, a fresh zeal for what we are truly celebrating on Resurrection Sunday.