Above the Crowd

crowdsAfter my son’s graduation ceremony this past weekend we quickly exited the building to meet up with him outside, hug and congratulate him and get some pictures with the family. Thousands of other people left the ceremony with the same intention. The cheering sections of parents and extended family all left one way out the building and the students who graduated all left through another, on the complete opposite side of the building. And to add to the numbers, the next graduation was minutes away and those families were filing in to get seats in the midst of all the chaos. For us who were leaving, there were a few obvious meet up locations – a large statue of a bull, and a flagpole — each stood above the crowd in clear view. It quickly became obvious we parents gave our graduating kids the same connecting point, and two crowds of people collided in one tiny area outside the arena the ceremony took place in.

A half wall separated that area from the street where everything opened up. As I headed to the bull, packed in like a sardine with the stop and go crowd of people, I heard my brother-in-law call out, “Amy, let’s turn around and head toward the opening. If we can get through there we can see the crowd still, call for Russel and he can meet us there.” To which I replied, “Rob, you are going to have to lead me out of here because all I see is butts and backs.” That’s a very real viewpoint for a five foot nothing girl in a crowd. My sister-in-law says it another way, “all you see is elbows and …”…. well, probably best not to put that here. But if you’ve heard the rest of that saying you’re probably having a good chuckle right about now.

So with my hand in Kylie’s, and her’s in my brother-in-laws, we wove in and out through the crowd like a small train. Once through, I saw my gathering family and eventually we all made it out, except…. where was Ethan? We did a count. We were ALL there, without him. Who had he been with, did he hear our instructions, these questions quickly flashed through my mind until a minute or two later, I saw a boy lift himself out of the crowd and onto the half wall closing it in. Not just any boy — but my boy. Looking completely unruffled. He knew if he got himself above the crowd we’d find him and he was staying put. We called out to him en mass and he hopped down and ran over to us.

I was proud of him. He handled a crisis that could have terrified him with calm and ease. He’d been apart from us longer than we thought. He’d looked back inside, looked outside, then just decided to sit and wait and get where we could see him. Good call, Ethan!

It’s in moments like those that I see my kids are growing up. I see their level-headed thinking lead them through the crowds that could lead them off track. Instead of getting lost in them they rise above them. And I know he wasn’t alone in that moment – God was with him, and He saw him through. Was it Ethan, or a little whisper that told him where to go, to stay calm, to rise above the crowd? As a mom whose kids are God’s kids too, I know he is with them and leading them even when I can’t be. I count on it.

It’s that same thought that brings me peace as I prepare to send my oldest out. He is not alone. God is with him. And as God is with him, he is already leading him. A verse that keeps getting passed on to him in many forms now is Proverbs 3:5-6, ” Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” I have two life verses God’s given me at key times and they’ve stayed with me as steady constants through many storms and battles and moments I’ve wanted to quit and walk away from the path of destiny God has me on. I am thankful to see a verse emerging in this season for him. I know the Holy Spirit will quicken in his mind the awareness that this verse is repeatedly being given to him and quoted to him because it’s God’s word FOR HIM at this stage of life.

There are many things he is reconciling with-in himself — graduating early, what he wants to do with his life, stepping out into the world to make his mark. The only way to do that well is to surrender to and trust God every step of the way.

I’m thankful for the way God leads my kids through life. I love the way he gives them wisdom to rise above what they see around them to get a higher view as he did with Ethan. And I’m forever grateful for the peace it brings my heart to know God’s already steering them in visible ways and with words of guidance they can hold on to.

They are mine for a season. Entrusted to my care. But they are really God’s. And he’s got them in the palm of his hand.

One thankful momma,

Amy O’Donnell


Martha Syndrome, Guest Post by Shanna Briggs

martha marthaAs Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-41

I remember reading the scripture about Martha and Mary for the very first time. As I think back to my 15 year old self, sitting on my bed and reading this scripture I thought, “Jesus, why are you all up in her grill?” (Remember I was 15.) Why Jesus scolded Martha was just beyond me. I mean, isn’t it a good thing that she wanted her house to look nice for Him? Isn’t that something you do? He is more important than anyone on the face of the earth, and she wants to have everything look nice for Him. I would think He would feel flattered or something. But instead she gets chastised. I mean, Martha seems cool. Like, I think we could be friends cool.

Am I missing something here? The chapter ends and there is no more on the subject, so I decided that the scripture wasn’t very important. After all, it is only 5 verses.

Over the years I began to understand that Martha’s focus was on all the wrong things. Not very long ago I found myself again reading these scriptures on my bed. This time I saw something I had never seen before. Martha actually walks up to Jesus and says, “Tell her to help me!” There is even an exclamation point at the end of that sentence! This chick walks up to the creator of the universe, God in the flesh and starts telling Him what to do. Who does she think she is!? As I read this my jaw dropped, and in my disgust I said out loud, “Who does that!?” God replied, “You do that Shanna.”

My heart sank and I went into defense mode with Jesus. I started to tell Him that I absolutely 100% don’t do that. Anyone notice I started to “tell” Him? As I reflected God began to show me how my prayer life was no longer prayer but just a to-do list for Him. I began to see how I wasn’t letting God do His job. Not only was I trying to tell Him how to do it but trying to do it for Him. I had what I like to call “Martha Syndrome.”

What are the symptoms you might ask? Constant worrying and a never ending need for control. I wanted to do everything myself because it was easier than having to teach someone else. If I saw someone doing something differently than I do, I felt compelled to correct them and teach them the “right way.” I couldn’t leave a conversation without wondering what others thought of me or how I could have said things better. My to-do list and fears kept me up late at night because I couldn’t make my mind stop. They also made me dread getting out of bed in the morning to face my day.

Martha Syndrome is a silent killer of joy. How do I get rid of this virus in my life? The good news is that there is an antidote. The bad news is I didn’t learn what it was until much later, until I found myself in a situation where I was completely out of control.

I got a call from my mother in the middle of the night telling me that my 13 year old sister was dying. The 12 year age gap between us had always made me feel so protective of her and a little like she was my own baby. I was half way across the country and completely helpless. My baby girl is sitting in a hospital. All we know is that it’s bad and the doctors don’t know is what’s wrong.

Up to that point in my life when I had faced challenging situations I always felt like there was something I could do, no matter how small. I sat for hours and looked the situation up, down, backward and forward. For the life of me I could not come up with a single thing that I could do to fix it. I was completely and utterly helpless. The only option I had was get on my knees and pray. Over the next year there would be many terrifying moments where my sister’s life was held in the balance and each time I was reminded that I was without question completely out of control. There was nothing I could do except beg the only one who had any control and hope He would hear my cries for help.

I can tell you in those moments I did not approach Jesus with any pride or arrogance. I did not go to Him about my sister with brash overconfidence. I ran to the feet of Jesus as a humble beggar desperate that he would hear my pleas and give me any scrap of hope to cling onto. I knew that he owed me nothing. In those moments it became clear how truly great He is and how lowly and insignificant I am.

One day as I was reading scripture I came across 1 Thessalonians 5:17. It says, “Pray without ceasing.” Now this scripture had always eluded me. A long time ago I had decided that this scripture was for the really spiritual who had somehow arrived and become these super Christians that prayed all day every day. But I had been a Christian now for more than 10 years, I worked at a church; when would I arrive? I called out to God and I said, “Lord, I don’t know how to pray without ceasing, that’s impossible. Why would you put such unrealistic expectations on me? His response to me was simple, “You know how to worry without ceasing.”

Ouch. God had just hit me right over the head. Was it really as simple as that? Exchange my worry for prayer. It always sounded so hard but when I thought about it this way it didn’t seem so impossible. Don’t get me wrong, I still worry. But now when I catch myself I try to turn that worry into a prayer. Sometimes I have to say the same prayer 50 times in one day.

It’s funny how prayer makes you focus on the positive. How worry makes you dwell on the worst possible outcome and how prayer shifts your focus to the best. Do you too find yourself infected with this nasty virus? Do you worry without ceasing? If so I encourage you to exchange your worry for prayer. As you do I know God will begin to bring back a little lost joy to your life.

Shanna profile pic

     Shanna Briggs
     Shoreline Church 
      Administrative Assistant to Pastor Sam Mata, Men’s Ministry
Shoreline Toastmasters Club President