Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Friday ... but Sunday's Coming!

Yesterday was my favorite day in the church's calendar yearMaundy Thursday. We set aside this day to remember what happened the day before Jesus died. We remember the humility and vulnerability of Jesus wrapping a towel around His waist and stooping down to wash His disciples' feet. We remember the command He gave us on the night He was betrayed to love one another. 

I've often wondered ... did any of them get up and offer to wash His feet? Probably not. They were likely too stunned to think of that.

With clean, fresh feet, the disciples then enjoyed one last meal with their Rabbi, though they didn't comprehend the depth of what was taking place. In the Last Supper, Jesus shared with His disciples a heavenly secret they'd not grasp until later, after His resurrection. Jesus would leave behind a way to abide in each of them (and us!) in the mystery of the Eucharist.

After these moving acts of grace that were so packed with meaning, Jesus went to Gethsemane to engage the forces of evil in an unequaled spiritual battle. Through agonizing prayers, Jesus gave up His will entirely to His Father, reminding us that the victory against temptation begins in the mind and heart and is fueled by prayerful surrender to God. 

Yes, Jesus would go to the Cross for you and me. Why? Jesus deemed us worthy

The perfect, blameless One would give up His life for broken, imperfect, sinning you and me.

The spotless Lamb of God would fall so that this fallen race could rise.

Nothing in all of life reveals our exceeding worth as human beings like the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God Himself, would choose to give His life for each of us. 

This certainty fills me with the desire to give my life for Him, becoming a living sacrifice like Him.

This knowledge makes me want to live a life worthy of Christ's great sacrifice.

And, thankfully, the Spirit that comes to live within me as I receive Christ's sacrifice on my behalf enables me to live a life worthy of His sacrifice. As John 14:18 assures us, He did not leave us as orphans, but He left His Spirit to empower us to live for Him.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for Jesus' disciples to suddenly see Him hanging on the Cross He freely chose. This short video brings it home and points to the Hope of Easter. Before you go watch it, ponder this great truth with me:

Jesus thinks you're worthy of His death. 
How does this change you?

Dr Mari

For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 
Romans 5:16-18
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 
2 Corinthians 5:20-21

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
Philippians 3:7-9 
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:9-14 
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  
Romans 12:1-3

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.
1 Peter 2:4-5 
For more Lent reflections, read What's So Good About Good Friday?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Be Still and Know ... Know What?

"Be still and know that I am God." 
Psalm 46:10

Be still and know, says God in the much-quoted psalm. Our Maker ties our ability (and willingness) to be still with knowledge. But knowledge of what? What is it we don't know when we are not still?

When I go-go-go with little time to enjoy a slow meal, a relaxing walk or time set aside for reflection on the events of my days and weeks, I've noticed a few things.

I become restless inside.

My sleep suffers and so does my ability to listen deeply. With many basic needs unmet, I become self-centered. I don't stop to smell the roses and have little time or energy to consider the needs of others. I become impatient and have trouble relating to others, especially the hurting.

Can you relate?

When we don't stop to become inwardly still, we miss out. We neglect the sunset that calls us to reflect on its Maker. We miss the beauty all around us, whether in nature or in people. When we go-go-go, we miss out, and it hurts us (and others).

This is a terrific formula for burnout and a lack of compassion. But Psalm 46:10 implies that our lack of stillness helps create an even bigger problem, one that transcends our temporal lives.

If we're not inwardly still, if we're always on the go with few rest stops to reflect on life and what's of eternal significance, this go-go-go lifestyle affects our ability to know and recognize Truth and God Himself. Though we may complete our to-do lists through such haste, we have missed our Maker, the One who imparts wisdom and helps us live the rich, full lives we crave.

God's call for us to be still and know is of critical importance. And it feels very different from haste.

When I take time to be still, perhaps through gardening, music, or painting, nature walks or simply sitting with God in silent, trusting prayer, peace returns. My mind quiets down and I experience a deep rest in my soul. And in that stillness I experience God's presence.

I hear God's gentle whispers of love and comfort and there, with God, I rest.

Such stillness is a gift, for in it I discover the God who never left me, though I'd wandered off once more. And the more I sit with Him, the more I recognize His voice the voice that rescues me from impatience and haste unto love.

Be still and know that I AM God, says God to you and me.

Be still ... that you may know, experience, and believe that I AM God. Your God.

Be still!
Dr Mari

Listen to Fernando Ortega's rendition of Be Thou My Vision to help you be still today.

For more inspiration, read Seek and You Will Find: The Joy of Relationship.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Inspiration for Today: The Importance of Yielding

"We cannot be filled with the Spirit until we are prepared to yield ourselves to be led by the Lord Jesus to forsake and sacrifice everything for this pearl of great price." 
(Andrew Murray)

Yield. There's an unloved word. It means to relinquish. To give up, as to superior power or authority. To surrender.

Any volunteers?

Counter-intuitive and difficult as it is, yielding our wants and desires is a path to life the abundant life Christ offers.

As we yield, we give up our right to forge our own path. We step aside to let Another lead. And as we surrender the illusion of control over our lives and destinies, we discover a freedom previously not even accessible to the self-centered, self-actualizing existence.

Yielding involves forsaking and sacrifice no doubt about it. But the pearl of great price is more than worth it!

Dr Mari

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:13-16

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday Reflection: You Are Perfect ... Really?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. 
(Romans 12:2)

Today is Ash Wednesday. As we begin a journey to a deeper understanding of and closeness with Jesus, here's a great mystery to ponder about what he accomplished on the cross, For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14).

I don’t know about you but, when I look at my life, I don't see perfection at all. Yet, the Word tells us that we have been made perfect, even as we are “being made holy.” 


When we look at our lives, we see neither perfection nor complete holiness. We see victories and brokenness; we see mistakes and success. We see our humanity. And, though at times we feel redeemed, we don’t always act like it.

Yet, by God’s grace, the reality of our lives as Christians is redemption, restoration, and growth in holiness. It is impossible to stay with Christ and remain unchanged. It is not possible to behold Christ’s holiness and continue to willfully sin. The Holy Spirit living in us is always at work, as it was in Jesus. Jesus’ presence changes us—we begin to crave his righteousness. God’s promise of maturity in Christ is accomplished in us as we stay close to him.

Our destiny in Christ is not one of doom, gloom, and persistent sinning. Our destiny in Christ is to mature in him and grow in holiness. 

If we’ve been stuck in a rut feeling like we can never do what God calls us to do, our thinking needs to change. We need to fill our minds with the truth of God’s Word, which reminds us that we are not our own, we were bought with a price, and God’s plan for us is good. 

Lent is a wonderful time to dwell in God's Word daily as a new spiritual discipline. Reading the Bible helps us not conform to the pattern of this world, which can so quickly become our default in life. God's Word renews our minds and transforms us, making us more and more like Jesus. God’s Truth empowers us to surrender to His perfect will—like Jesus did. And His will is that we should be holy.
Ponder with me: Are you resisting God's will to make you holy in a particular area? Why?

Pray with me: Heavenly Father, strengthen me with power through Your Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in my heart through faith (Ephesians 3:16-17), and help me grow in holiness.

Have a blessed and meaningful Lent, 
Dr Mari 

This excerpt was adapted from my study of the book of Hebrews (The Radiance of God's Glory) published by Bible Reading Fellowship in the current edition of The Journey.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Healing Hearts: The Power of Prayer

This month, my 25-day study of the book of Hebrews is included in The Journey, a quarterly publication of Bible Reading Fellowship. Here is an excerpt from one of the reflections I wrote this summer for the latest edition of The Journey.

As I headed for work earlier this week, I was sad, missing our sweet dog that just died. But more than my pain, I was suffering over the sense of loss in my children's young hearts. My soul needed to find its green pastures even as I helped them heal.

In the family medicine clinic where I worked that morning, I start each day by praying with our staff. We spend a few minutes sharing our hearts and our needs. We then pray together, acknowledging God as our provider and healer. We ask to be Christ's hands and feet, to have His compassion, and to stay close to Him while caring for people.

That day I showed up with such a heavy heart that I didn't even feel like praying. But as I saw my coworkers' faces, my heart softened, for I know their struggles and hurts, too. Some of my pain began to melt as I considered their needs.

Somewhat reluctantly, still, I asked if they wanted to pray. They did, so we prayed, and lightness returned to my soul. As I share in my book, Walking with Jesus in Healthcare, God does draw near to us when we draw near to Him (James 4:8).

The first couple I treated that morning spontaneously shared what God was doing in their lives. They were excited to tell me about a mission trip that was coming up and all the ways God had provided for them. After addressing their medical needs, I asked with renewed joy whether they wanted to thank God together. As we offered a prayer to our faithful God, I felt like I'd been healed. My heart was no longer heavy at all. It was light and full of joy! I had experienced once more the fruit of faith: living in God's presence, where healing, restoration, and joy are never far.

Are you living in a valley where even praying is hard? Tell someone you trust, and ask him or her to pray for you. Offer your pain and your losses to God. He can do anything.

Dr Mari

For more inspiration, read My New Promotion: A Life of Grace.

Learn more about Bible Reading Fellowship here and visit my author website for information about my devotional for healthcare professionals and caregivers.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Encouragement For Healthcare Servants

I am so thankful for every opportunity I get to support, encourage, and empower healthcare professionals and caregivers in their critical roles. If you are a physician colleague navigating the many changes in healthcare that continue to impact your life and work, stay encouraged! People need your medical and technical skills and, especially, your gifts of attentive listening, compassion, and love.

These are challenging times, so remember to keep your cup full so you can give out of the overflow of your heart. Learn to identify the signs of burnout and compassion fatigue in yourself and your coworkers so you can be proactive, stay healthy, and continue to serve others.

As you know, music can be not only therapeutic but also a way the Spirit of God ministers to our deepest needs. So I'm posting a link to two songs to encourage and strengthen you right now: Mandisa's Overcomer and All Sons & Daughters' Oh How I Need You.

If you find this helpful, consider sharing this post with someone else.  

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

In Christ's Hope,
Dr Mari

Whatever challenges we face today, whether in our personal lives or while caring for others, God says to you and me, Pray. Stay with Me. Do not give up. I will answer. Pray. (Walking with Jesus in Healthcare, p.186) 

"Ask and it will be given to you; 
seek and you will find; 
knock and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks receives; 
the one who seeks finds; 
and to the one who knocks, 
the door will be opened."
Matthew 7:7-8

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Radio Interview with Connecting Faith Live

Yesterday I was blessed to join Jo Rathmanner as a guest on her live, call-in radio show, Connecting Faith. It was a real treat to share about my book, The Ultimate Girls' Body Book: Not-So-Silly Questions About Your Body. Coauthored with Dr. Walt Larimore, the book is set to release later this month by Zondervan.

Follow this link to hear highlights (or the entire interview), and consider sharing the link with your friends and loved ones with tween/teen girls.

This book will help equip girls and the adults who love them during the change-packed years of puberty and beyond. From pimples to bras to girl-boy relationships and what makes a good friend, we cover it all with fun stories and humor, providing accurate medical information from a Biblical perspective. My goal is to help girls and the women in their lives see themselves through God's eyes, beautifully and wonderfully made for a great purpose.

For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
(Psalm 139:13-14)

Please join me in thanking God for the privilege of speaking into the lives of young girls and their moms. I also ask you to pray for me as I continue to speak on this subject in the coming months. Thank you so much, and have a blessed and purposeful 2014!

Dr Mari