Monthly Archives: November 2010

Martha: The Ditch of Doing


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Today, Bob Evans spoke about the dynamic between Mary, Martha, and Jesus in Luke 10:38-42.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus [1] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 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.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. [2] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.


Marthas serve and work; they are efficient, pragmatic, and active.  We are active and functioning, but in the midst of that we become critical of others who don’t serve and we forget why we started serving in the first place.  Bitterness takes root and our tone becomes more and more critical, insensitive, and rash.

In my work and in my holidays, I embody the Martha spirit.  I think that “If I’m not busy, I’m not worth anything.”  It’s a lie of the Devil I have succumbed to many times.  It is the temptation of the women in my family to find their identity by what they do rather than who they are in Christ.  I’ve always been active in the church, since I was a young girl.  I’ve worked in churches since I was 15.  I’ve always been so busy working that the idea of sitting, reading, listening, contemplating seemed like a waste of time.  In fact, one of my greatest struggles in ministry – particularly at Wildwood Church – has been a critical spirit.  I’ll plan projects, performances, and study groups and in reaction to what I perceive as low attendance, I begin to mentally or verbally criticize those who aren’t in attendance.  I rely totally on my intellect and skills and rarely ever pray.  As a result, I am left with a lonely existence.  Instead of loving and encouraging others, I criticize and withhold love and affirmation because – of course – they didn’t support me in my event with their attendance, they didn’t agree with my point of view, they didn’t help me clean up the dishes after the meal I had dutifully prepared for days.  As Bob Evans said in his sermon this morning, “If you serve and get bitter, your motives for serving are self-centered.”

My Life and Work

This morning, I posted an entry for the Night of Anticipation blog.

This evening I find myself exhausted, my body overwhelmed by the events of the week and my mind slowly shutting down into sleep mode.  Tomorrow morning I have to get up early, play and sing with a smile, and dress presentably.  Duty and desire will continue conflict as I struggle to make decisions, consciously or automatically to smile, sit, stand, walk, sing, and play.  I’ve been a leader in worship services, be it singing or playing the piano, for about nine years.  My Sundays have never been my own but for a short sabbatical I took at the beginning of college when I was church-hopping.  I suppose that it’s for this reason that the prayer this morning hits me so deeply in the pit of my stomach – I am weary.  I am tired.  My life is full of drama and busyness, and there are always projects coming up.

My prayer for this morning was this:

Abba, I am exhausted, broken-hearted, and weary.  Please come into my mess, renew my mind so that I can lead others in worship of you tomorrow morning.

May I remember these words today: “when my world is shaking, Heaven stands; when my heart is breaking, I never leave Your hands.”

As I listened to the sermon today and spoke with friends at lunch about my evident feelings concerning what I do and how I felt about leading worship this morning, many more things came to light concerning my Martha-complex.

There are a million projects going on at the church.  I feel pressured to get things done and to prove my worth so I will be respected by the men I work with. I feel that they respect products more than processes. I push myself to do a good job so that I will feel respected, and I feel that I lose respect when I perform at less than my maximum level of output. The Martha in me is so concerned with accomplishing these tasks and earning respect that I do not make time to sit and be with Jesus.  To sit “and do nothing” feels like a complete waste of time.  I figure – God gave us hands, and brains, so why can I not use them?

Working in Ministry (Following conversations at Sunday lunch in the mall with friends)

My conversation at lunch made me realize that my desire to serve in music ministry was rooted in a deep lack of satisfaction with myself. I started playing piano because I felt that my looks were not enough to get me by in life. I needed some sort of skill or talent to give me worth. Because that attitude was my first introduction to musical arts, I have ever since been trying to work my way into satisfaction with my life and acceptance from others. That desire to develop a marketable skill drove my ambition to be the best at everything musical in middle school and high school. In my family, I squashed any idea that my little brother could be a musician because I didn’t want him to rain on my parade. At school I wanted to be the best all the time. I hated the thought of competition, of someone coming in who was better than me.

My first paid job in church music

In ninth grade I got a phone call to audition as a church pianist. They said that they wanted me to play and asked if I could do it for community service hours. As my private piano instructor had told me to do, I said no, I want to get paid. The church accepted. Ever since then, I have been paid for my services at church. By the time I got to college I began to feel like a mercenary.

When I got to college, I was tired of playing and I took a sabbatical from playing in church. But after about six months, I began seeking out another church gig. As I look back on that experience, I realize that I started searching for church jobs because I missed the accolades. I wanted to feel good about myself. I wanted to feel like I was good at something. I found my value in playing piano: the encouragement I received when I played countered the deeply-rooted low self esteem I had about my perception of my own personal worth.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Broken World

My greatest struggle at Wildwood has been that while I know people appreciate the musical skills I have to offer, inside I feel like I’m doing it more for myself rather than for God and for the congregation.

I feel that while my motivations are not the same as they were in high school, they are not where they ought to be. I’m caught between trying to figure out whether my feelings and attitudes at this point. I struggle to know if I’m being selfish or not. Am I withholding my musical gifts and talents from the congregation, as I criticize others for doing? I feel like I’m in a period of transition. I also feel like for the first time in my life I’m coming to a point where I could actually choose what I want to do. I feel like I should spend more time writing, composing, reaching out to people. I feel that I can’t do all that if I’m spending 20 hours a week frantically laying down track in front of the HereComesSundayHereComesSunday locomotive. I feel like I have the whole world on my shoulders.

I found this clip from one of Mark Driscoll’s sermons to hit a sweet spot with me on this issue of “Martha-ness.”

Just in the first 30 seconds, I find myself being one of the Americans Driscoll is talking about.  I have a lot of stress, which affects all of kinds of health issues (affecting my back, my digestive system, my headaches, etc.). The working person he’s talking about was me all through college.  And it’s affecting me even now, because I haven’t learned to relax and spend time with God on a regular basis.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bringing Balance to the Martha Complex

A recipe for healing…some thoughts for change:

When I go home at night and spend time with Henry, I will spend time with Henry.  We can make lists and make goals, but I will: Spend time reflecting at night with Henry.

Organize our nights – spend time reading, writing, relaxing, cooking, eating, spending time with friends & family. 

Henry and I used to play and sing together more often than we do now.  We love to make music together!  And yet…I’ve struggled with the desire to do so because I’ve been under so much perceived pressure to make life work and keep the plates spinning.

Pray – Start, little by little to pray at the beginning and end of my day, alone or with Henry, even if it’s just a silent 60 seconds with my eyes closed.


Photography by Megan Barton, "Breathe"


On Leadership


Originally Posted by Catherine Miller on Friday, May 11, 2007 at 9:16am

Leaders must accept responsibility. 1 Chronicles 21:7-8

Let the Lord be your leader. Jeremiah 17:7-8

Leaders must be servants. Matthew 20:26-28

Qualifications of a good leader (Titus 1:7-9):

  • Live a blameless life because you are God’s minister
  • Must not be arrogant
  • Must not be quick-tempered
  • Must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or greedy for money
  • Must enjoy having guests in his home
  • Must love all that is good
  • Must live wisely and be fair
  • Must live a devout and disciplined life
  • Must have a strong and steadfast belief in the trustworthy message he was taught, then be able to encourage other with right teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong

SERVE people, don’t abuse them. Matthew 20:27

Fasting and praying shows character. Matt 6:16-18

Listen more than you talk. James 1:19

Don’t compare yourselves with others. Matthew 18:1-6; Galations 6:4

Don’t try to control situations. Do what you’re good at: set up the situation, then just sit back and relax and observe God in the lives of your peers.


I felt this would be a good post to re-visit, because throughout my church we’ve been talking about leadershipAnd so… I thought it would be best to go back and figure out what the Bible said about leadership.  All too often we look at models from other businesses and other churches and we forget what the real vision for leadership is in the Bible.


our story: engagement.


At this point in our story, our second anniversary is coming up – Dec. 20 2010.  Maybe as we get there we’ll write some stories about “what happened since then”

May 19 marked one year from the day Henry officially asked Dad’s permission to court me with the intention of marriage. I knew he was taking me out that night for our anniversary, and I was wondering if he would propose, but I had no idea how or when. I was VERY surprised when (oh – after picking me up….he asked me to dress up in my blue gown from 8th grade…still fits!!) we turned up at the Melting Pot. We started heading North on Monroe and I started fearing it would be some sort of unfunny joke of his, taking me to Sonny’s or something. But, no! The Melting Pot! I so proud of him, too – he looked at the menu before we came! And made reservations! That shows PLANNING!!! And he even budgeted for the meal!!! We ate salads, cheddar cheese fondue (bread and veggies and apples for dipping…we were vegetarians that night….meat was a bit expensive) and cookies and cream chocolate fondue flambe. Henry wanted to see the blue fire….it was cool.

Throughout the dinner, it was SO strange. I felt like we were on our first date! We were in a private corner in the back, the lights were dim, we were in a super nice restaurant (not usual for us). It was cool, but we were so awkward around each other! I gave Henry the first on my presents to him – a sonnet, framed, by John Donne. Henry was checking his watch throughout the evening. When I asked him about it, I discovered that our evening was not ending quite yet.

After dinner, Henry took me to the top of the Woodward Parking Garage. I had no idea we were going there. One of our first real dates was when Henry surprised me with a picnic on the top of the garage last summer. On this night, there were people on the top of the garage, much to Henry’s chagrin, and I suggested we leave since we were all dressed up. But, no — Henry had a plan, and he was sticking to it. He wanted to see the sunset, and this was the best place to see it that we knew of.

by Megan Barton

Megan Barton's picture of my hand. It symbolized opening new doors, trying new things, and learning to trust.

So…I gave Henry the rest of his gifts: a passage from Song of Solomon (framed), a German chocolate bar (he’s going to Germany this summer), and the attached photo of my hand. I wanted to give him a photo of me, and this one by Megan Barton (a friend of mine in Tally) of my hand opening a door I felt symbolically represented our relationship of trying to new things and learning to trust each other. At that point, Henry said “It’s funny that you gave me a sonnet, because I wrote you one.” At this point I thought “Aww, cute he’s trying to be cheap…but not ring!” But as I listened to the beautiful sonnet, I was taken aback by the words.

You asked me for a sonnet one spring day

So here it is, the best that I can do.

A sonnet is a fine and fitting way

For me to well proclaim my love for you.

For Catherine, you are music to my soul

A melody that brightens night to day

A harmony that makes my part sound whole

A symphony that chaces doubt away

And when I feel my strength is nearly gone

Eroded by some hardship, trial, or strife

Your beauty breaks upon me like the dawn

You warm my heart and quicken me to life

—-At this point, Henry pretends to misplace the last two lines, turns around to fiddle with his camera case, and takes out a small box and got down on one knee. He finished the sonnet…

I want no life without you by my side

So, Catherine Dunlap, will you be my bride?

—At this point, I was tearing profusely. I kissed Henry, so touched was I by the tender hearted words coming from his lips. He repeated the question, just to make sure I meant “yes” – “Catherine, will you marry me?” and I tearily said “YES.”

For the next 20 minutes we took pictures on the roof, including the one I have attached here, and tried to process what had just happened. Friendship being the foundation of our relationship, we shared the moment, laughing and processing and repeating the word “fiance/fiancee” to try and help it sink in.

Later that evening, we called a zillion friends to tell them to news, took a few more pictures on Park Ave. and went to Henry’s parents’ house for Rosa Regale. Henry’s parents (Paul and Eric), his sister Connie, brother Phil and Phil’s wife Jen, all joined in the celebration.

Right now our future plans include graduation in April 2009 and getting married sometime, we are trying to figure out when the soonest possible time would be plausible. Henry’s looking a couple of apartment offers for mother-in-law suites that would be free or cheap for us to live. We are looking at either before our final semester of school (Dec/Jan) or following graduation (May/June). Ultimately, the decision will probably depend on our ability to provide for ourselves financially. Henry would like to attend seminary but is not sure which one yet; we both believe he is called to be a pastor/teacher/counselor type person. I don’t want to go to grad school quite yet; I have no idea what I would do yet. I have several personal musical goals, and of course I would like to teach. I would also like to continue to explore composition on my own in a non-academic setting. We believe that God has called to be together, and that we are better together than we are apart. I suppose you could say that marrying Henry is an act of faith. I don’t know what life will be like, we’ll probably be very poor for a long time, but I love him and I also believe that God will provide and that we will find joy in this union.

On the Woodward Parking Garage

“the car note”


originally posted may 14 2007.

i never did find out who left me these notes….but i still have theories.  maybe they’ll leave me a note on their will and finally admit who they are….

A wee bit over a month ago, someone (I have yet to find out who) wrote me a silly note (would you call it a limerick) and placed it in an envelope on my car beneath the windshield wiper with a receipt & code for a carwarsh. The note has tickled me SO much that I am posting it on facebook. Whomever you are, amigo….thou art clever.

You now haven’t got an excuse,

So put this here code to good use;

Get onto your feet,

To P’cola street!

And make that car, er, look like juice?

This note isn’t all useless posh,

Your car is in need of a wash.

To BP quite fast,

This code will not last,

On the 10th of next month ‘but a josh.

Actually, I got the car wash then….but the inner body needs some work. My anonymous friend, are you interested in helping me with that one as well?

::end original submission::

as memory serves, i found another note after that that offered me a free carwash for the inside of my car….