Today's motivator of the rekindling of my love for my Lord is a book by Martha Kilpatrick called Adoration.
(Full disclosure here - I received this book from an organization called Speakeasy - a group that invites bloggers and other writers to review books on our blogs. The books are sent for free and in exchange for the free reads, we agree to write reviews within 30 days of receiving the books. I love to read. I love to write. I hate to spend money. What a deal!)
Martha Kilpatrick begins this marvelous book this way -
When Jesus visits
some stare but are blind,
some know and are ignorant.
But occasionally one sees
in holy wonder...
Amen, Martha. Amen. That's exactly how I see Jesus. That's how I see this walk of faith. That's how I see much of my life - which is exactly why I began and continue this habit of Thankful Thursday blogging. There is so much beauty in the world, in the people of the world, in the magnificence of creation. I happen to believe that all of this was created by God and given to us to enjoy - to gaze at in holy wonder. So when I saw those opening lines on one of the earliest pages of this book, I knew I had a gem in my hands.
This book is about Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus of New Testament fame. She's the woman whose story is told in John chapter 12, the one who broke the alabaster flash of precious oil, anointed Jesus' feet with it, and wiped his feet with her hair. The story is also told in Mark chapter 14 and in that account, when she is ridiculed for wasting the oil on Jesus, he responds by saying, "I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." This book, Adoration, is a detailed consideration of Mary and her deep, passionate, unequaled love for Jesus. She sat at his feet and listened to him speak. She sat at his feet and wept tears of gratitude and joy and love. She took a bottle of perfume worth a year's wages and poured it onto the feet of the one she loved most of all. Indeed, she was one who "sees in holy wonder."
Later in her book, Martha Kilpatrick writes -
God is willing to be and wants to be
(Do you understand? He wants to be!!!)
the Intimate Companion of the most secret place,
the Consummate Lover to the desperate soul.
To Mary, Jesus was a person - fabulous and amazing.
She knew Him by His name... JESUS.
He was not just Teacher, Rabbi, Father.
He was a person, knowable, intrinsic.
He was not his labels... to her.
He was not his roles,
He was not even his miracles to her.
He was her heart's companion,
the long-lost mate to her soul, the finishing
of her own being, the mirror of her creation,
the secret of her mystery.
She let him into her ordinary humanity
with no inhibitions.
She exposed her bare soul to him,
to be known, to be captured.
Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it truly a love story? Jesus was not only a teacher, a healer, or a miracle worker. He was the lover of her soul and she wasn't afraid or ashamed to show her passionate love for him regardless of who was in the vicinity. Mary's love for Jesus captivated her, filled her, defined her, became her most easily identifiable trait. He was all she needed and wanted.
Martha Kilpatrick's eye for the details of these stories, her ability to find new nuggets of insight I had never seen before - and I have read the story of Mary of Bethany dozens of times - caused me to read the Biblical account several more times and gain a deeper appreciation for the kindred spirit I share with Mary of Bethany. I too fall to my knees and weep sometimes when I pray, when I journal, when I am reminded of the love of Christ, the faithfulness, kindness, generosity, mercy, healing, comfort that overflow into my life because of who Jesus is. I have been known to use fragrant oils in prayer and in rituals of gratitude towards God. I have been known to weep in front of dozens of people when I pray or read the Bible or share some of what I am learning through prayer and Scripture. What can I say? I love Love.
This book, Adoration, examines Mary's love for Jesus more meticulously than I have ever seen or read before. This book speaks of her need - my need - for the inestimable treasure of relationship, personal relationship with Jesus. Not the kind that begins and ends with "an altar call," but that kind of relationship that deepens over time, that broadens with the passage of time, the kind of love that excludes no one and welcomes everyone. This book grants people like me permission to love Jesus elaborately, passionately, whole-heartedly, unashamedly, openly, and excessively - if such a thing were possible. I can pour out my heart's desires, my needs, my dreams, my longings, my hopes at the feet of the one who loves me most and rest in the cradle of his loving embrace. I can fully indulge this love affair with Christ without apology or explanation.
Like Mary, I have been ridiculed and insulted for my sentimentality and my faith. I have been called naive and hyper-emotional. I have been smiled at condescendingly and dismissed for my beliefs. But this is true love. This is my greatest love. This is the love that sustained me through kanswer, through my daughter's illness, through job loss, through moving from one state to another, through the death of my father and my father-in-law, through so much sorrow and loss and pain and fear. I know that because of this Love story I am in the middle of, I can always find a quiet corner, close my eyes, open my heart, and feel the love of Jesus wash over me, into me, around me, and through me in inexplicable ways. Inexplicable and indescribable until I read this book, that is.
One of the things Martha Kilpatrick does very well in this book is draw a stark contrast between Mary's adoration of Jesus and her sister Martha's spirit of borderline contempt for Jesus. (Confused? The author's name is Martha and that is also the name of Mary's sister...) One example comes from the account in the John chapter 11 of the death of Mary and Martha's brother, Lazarus. I have always been intrigued by the fact that both Mary and Martha said the same thing to Jesus when he showed up four days after Lazarus died.
In separate encounters with Jesus, the two sisters said, "Jesus, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
The author of Adoration posits that Martha said it as a reprimand of Jesus for his absence, but Mary said it as a recognition of the fact that he was the loving and all-powerful solution to all their challenges. When Martha addressed him, he responded to her with important spiritual truths. When Mary spoke to him, he became overwhelmed with emotion, wept, and then performed a miracle. (Adoration, pages 71-72) That's what I hope my prayers do for Jesus - touch his heart and cause him to perform a miracle - even if that miracle is simply helping me to remember that no matter what life brings my way, he, Jesus, is walking with me all along this journey.
Here is another example of how Martha tells this love story far better than I ever could -
What Mary chose to seek... to grasp... to own -
possessed her and also became the Treasured Property
to which she gained permanent title.
Christ was her personal Wealth, her Prize of Life, her Home.
Neither man nor nature could move or remove this possession.
No evil could dislodge it. No enemy steal it.
He, the only Imperishable, was
the hiding place of her spirit.
And no one could get in, much less steal.
No one else possesses me the way my Lord does.
No one else has access to the hiding place of my spirit as Jesus does.
No one else can get into the secret place of my love for my Lord.
No one else knows the depths of my heart in the same way.
No one else can handle my fears and doubts, my laughter and joys,
my pride and deceit, my hopes and expecations like my dear sweet Savior.
I can love him, talk to him, listen for him, and adore him for eternity and never have enough.
And that is exactly my plan. For all of eternity.
This is a love story - Mary of Bethany and Jesus.
This is a love story - Gail of Charlotte and Jesus.
And this is also a book-love story - Gail and this book, Adoration.
I have reviewed two other books for Speakeasy. I don't think I will reread those other two books again. I don't even know where they are at the moment. This book, on the other hand, will remain within arm's reach of me for a long, long time.
Thank you, Martha Kilpatrick, for this confirmation that my love for Jesus is not excessive and never can be.
Thank you, Speakeasy and Mike Morrell, for the gift of books and the freedom to write what I really think and feel about the books I receive.
Thank you, Jesus, for so many reasons to love you.
Thanks be to God.