Desert Times

It is currently 11:30pm on a Friday night and I cannot sleep. I went to bed about 2 hours ago. I know you are probably asking Jenny, why are you going to bed so early on a Friday night. Well my friend, let me tell you- Fridays have become a night of rest, a night that I look forward to because it means a break from my day to day life is coming and I need rest for such a thing.

That was NOT the reason for this post… After laying in bed scrolling through various social medias (i.e. TikTok, Facebook, Instagram) I finally put the phone down to try to sleep. I tossed to one side, nothing. Tossed to another side, still nothing. Even after taking my de-stress supplements from the chiropractor, I am still wide awake.

My mind continued to go back to various situations and stressors that have occurred over the past week. It reminded me of when I was in middle school and played softball- after every game I would lay awake in bed replaying each play in my head trying to figure out what to do differently. Eventually, I realized that I should probably do something else to get me to sleep.

So I did something that helped me sleep the first week of living in my new home all by myself. I turned out The International House of Prayer 24/7 prayer room. When I first moved into my own house, I was legit scared. I would hear creaking noises and just fear that something was upstairs. I even slept with the light on! The prayer room would play from my phone all night long and I slept so peacefully. Oh how I dream of such sleep now!

Now I sit in my dark living room, listening to the deep cries of the heart’s of our Father’s children over my neighbor’s A/C unit without a lick of fear. Praise God for that! Before I jumped out of my cozy bed and began writing this, I had such an inspirational moment to even push me to do it.

For some time now I feel I have been in a spiritual desert, a dry and weary land where this is no water. Similar to the Psalmists experience in Psalm 63.1. This is something unusual for me. I am a very emotionally sensitive person and can typically hear the voice of the Lord very well. I am sensitive to the Holy Spirit in what He is wanting me to experience in each moment.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case recently and I have truly felt it. A few Sundays ago I poured my heart out to a dear friend of mine sharing my struggle in just wanting to know that God is content with my service, to know that God is content with my career, my living situation, my lifestyle. And that I so deeply felt abandoned and forsaken by God- something SO contrary to HIS being.

This dear friend of mine, just as many times before, pulled me close and just prayed over me. When we pulled away from our hug, she told me that in these moments when we feel so far away from God, or in the desert, it usually means God is preparing us for something bigger and wanting to take us to a deeper level. This was later confirmed in almost the same exact words in a sermon I was listening to by John Mark Comer called “Seeking Jesus.”

This is a concept I always knew to be true and even studied the depth of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert. But I never considered that it would be something God would call me to. Now, let me give you a little glimpse of what my life looks like right now, as it has been quite some time since I have blogged.

About two months after getting settled into my new home, I became bored with my job. Well, maybe bored isn’t the right word- maybe complacent, or even burnt out would be better. So I sought the Lord, I submitted some applications, had a few interviews, and ended up torn with two job offers. This is the last time I can distinctly remember hearing from the Lord.

I was stressed because my dream job was offered to me (being a counselor at a Christian counseling agency) but so was another really appealing job. As I asked the Lord which He wanted for me, I had such a peace in knowing that no matter what I choose, He had something for me and would honor my decision, but there was one that would bring growth, new life, healing, and joy. And that was the position at the Christian counseling agency.

Fast forward to about to months into the new job with the Christian agency and now I see why the Lord told me there would be growth! I was not expecting to get through the first two weeks and then feel the Holy Spirit was giving me the silent treatment! On top of that, my second day at my new job my dear grandmother passed away and I was learning how to experience new life and death all at the same time.

As I struggled with a wondering mind this evening, I decided I no longer wanted to stay in this desert. I no longer wanted to feel held captive by worries of finances and future dreams. And as soon as I turned on the prayer room, the Holy Spirit awakened a soft part of my heart. The team began singing a song that I grew a liking to during my own prayer room life in college.

The prayer room in college is where my dreams were birthed. It is where the Lord gave life to my desire to help people, see the nations move, and know I have a place in the world to add to the Great Commission. It was such a healing moment for me to be brought back to that place. I continued to reflect about dreams and goals that the Lord had fulfilled.

One of those is working at the agency I work for now. Another is buying a house. I never thought I would ever buy my own house, especially before marriage! I always assumed I would be living on the mission field somewhere. But Jesus had other plans and opened such beautiful doors for me to buy my own home, with my own income.

As I bought my home, I bought it with the intention of wanting a bigger space for fellowship. And as this lovely song rang through the memories, I thought to myself, well why can’t I bring that back? Why can’t I use my home for the purpose I intended to? So, I began to plan about monthly worship and prayer nights, that might turn into weekly worship and prayer nights.

My friends, there is something SO beautiful about gathering in such a safe place as a living room to worship our Beloved Jesus. There is something SO deep, healing, and restoring about doing this with our brothers and sisters in Christ. What a beautiful fragrance that is lifted to Jesus in those intimate moments.

There was another song that I learned when I was on my first missions trip in Nepal. The words go, “Lord I don’t want you to be a familiar stranger to me, I want the fullness of knowing you in intimacy.” This is it. This is what my soul longs for. This is what my heart desires as I begin to walk out of the desert season. And even as I write this in this moment, the Holy Spirit is welling up inside of me, a slight tear in the corner of my eye.

I don’t write this to just ramble. I write this because I simply cannot be the only one who has gone through this. I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to blog about this because He wants to remind someone that your dreams are not broken. Nothing is wasted in the eyes of the Lord. He sees you in your efforts, He knows your heart, and He has not forsaken you.

My friend, He wants a deeper relationship with you. He wants to take you to a level you never thought was possible. My question to you is, are you willing to let Him? I had prayed, and even wallowed a bit in anger towards Jesus these past few weeks asking why He has abandoned me. And what He spoke to me tonight was that He has not forsaken me, but that I have not allowed Him to do a work in me. I have been trying to be in control of my own life and Jesus is offended by that.

Open that door, my friend, let Jesus in. You will not be disappointed.

Alabaster Flasks

Okay, I am going to be completely honest. The first time I heard this phrase, I had NO idea what it meant. What in the world is an ‘alabaster’? Well, never free dearest reader! Google definitions has come to the rescue! It is stated that alabaster is “a fine-grained, translucent form of gypsum, typically white, often carved into ornaments.”

Alright, now that we have that all cleared up, please grab your Bible and turn to Matthew 26 (or you can read below, but you can’t underline, highlight, and journal on this like you can in your OWN personal Bible!).

I want to look at one little section in this chapter: Matthew 26.6-13

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

To give this section some context, this little get together is taking place right before the Passover. Jesus decides He wants to visit with some old pals and his faithful servant Mary joins in on this little hoo-rah. She even brings Jesus a little gift. Consider the same passage in John 12.1-8:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

And Mark 14.3-9:

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

They all sound pretty similar don’t they?

So let’s talk about this little gift that Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, chooses to give Jesus. It’s an alabaster flask of oil (or nard, whichever is best for you to picture). She takes it and she shatters it at the feet of Jesus and blesses Him. Jesus says “this is a agriculture-blur-close-up-33783beautiful thing she has done for me”. So cool, this lady whose brother was raised from the dead by this Amazing, Miracle working Jesus makes this effort to anoint Jesus. We will talk more about the anointing part in a minute, but first, let’s hit pause on the scene of Mary and Jesus and discuss this alabaster flask…

So, a little bit of cultural history here… in these times, most people stored their expensive oils in these little flasks to protect them. However, if anyone wants to access the oils inside, the best way is to just break the flask. First, the flasks are super breakable as it is. Second, the flasks were sealed very tightly in order to keep the expensive oils from evaporating. This just proves how important and expensive these oils are!

It is also known and reported by many Biblical and theological scholars that these flasks of oils sometimes serve as a woman’s dowry or an inheritance from her father, or husband. They are typically saved for anointing deceased loved ones at funerals.

Okay, back to this scene of Mary and Jesus. Picture it in the moment. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus lavishing this expensive oil on Him. And of course, these disciples decide to pipe up and show how compassionate they really are in that Mary could have sold the oil and given the money to the poor, not “waste” the oil on Jesus.

WOAH WOAH WOAH there disciples, do you really think she is “wasting” this oil on Jesus?

Obviously, because they made such a big deal over this, this alabaster flask of oil had some meaning to it. Clearly, it was expensive. It must have been a possession of Mary’s that was of great value. In fact, it could have been Mary’s only chance at getting married. It could have been saved for her dear brother’s funeral, but when Jesus performed the healing miracle and raised him from the dead, she didn’t need it anymore. Heck, she could have just been saving it in case she needed the finances from it later in life. But instead, she breaks it open and anoints Jesus with it. She gives up this “inheritance” or this “dowry”. She sacrifices this greatly valued treasure, all to show Jesus how much she truly loved Him. And, let’s be honest here, it showed how much she trusts Him too.

The Greek word for “anoint” is Chrio. It means to consecrate by anointing; especially to present someone as divinely-authorized. This meant that Mary got it. She understood who Jesus was/is. She found Him to be worthy enough of the most valuable thing she owned. Wow. That is just incredible.

And Jesus, He defended her. He loved every minute of it. He saw her true, genuine heart of adoration towards Him. Unlike the disciples, who let’s be honest, didn’t really care for the poor. They just wanted Jesus to be impressed.

What is also very interesting about this scene throughout the Gospels is that normally these oils are used for anointing loved ones at funerals. Well, Jesus, Himself, even states, “she has prepared me for my burial”.

Another crazy thing, a little blessing that Jesus gave her because of her large sacrifice and recognition of the worthiness of Jesus, is that Jesus said that “wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the whole world what she has done will also be told in memory of her”. Wow. Jesus wants the whole world to know of her actions in preparing Him for burial. Personally, I believe that Jesus wanted her to be an example of how we should respond in rendering our hearts to Him, completely.

I mean, this oil in this flask might have been everything to her. It may have been her future, her marriage, etc. But she didn’t care. She recognized that Jesus is so worthy He deserves her very best, even if it meant she would be without financial security or a spouse. Those things were nothing to her compared to what Christ meant to her.

Now here is where it gets personal. Here is where I am just praying that the Holy Spirit will pull a few cords in your own heart. What do you value the most? Is it your career? Your education? Family? Car? Relationship? Dreams, hopes, goals, and desires? What is it that you place so high on your list of importance that when it is messed with you feel like your life is spiraling downward?

Let me give you a personal example. Mine is education. I have always been told to get the college degree to make the big bucks and get a nice job with a rich husband to support my family and be happily ever after. So, I started my college career while I was still a junior in high school. I graduated with my associates degree before I got my high school diploma. Then, I completed a double major bachelors degree in just three years. Now, of course, I am taking the next step of higher education and pursuing a masters degree.

I love learning. I love writing papers. But in a sense, it is my security. It i my excuse to avoid being an “adult” and truly figuring out what I want to do with my life. But you know what? I never really handed this over to the Lord to allow Him to do with it as He pleases. I always planned it out. I always said “okay Lord, I will agree to be a missionary one day, but just after I finish my education”. Yet, the passion and desire to go to the nations burns within me like no other.

Now, is when Jesus is summoning me to sit at the bottom of His throne. He is inviting me to allow Him to have complete control over this area of my life. He is asking me to render my heart in a position of trust and assurance that He will bring my education to be when He desires and it will be good.

Friends, these things that you value the most, are you letting Jesus hold them completely? Are you allowing the Lord to direct your steps? Are you ready to trust Him with this area of your life? What are you willing to “waste” for the Lord?

Take a step forward and shatter the alabaster flask at His feet. Anoint Him in recognizing that He is worthy. He is worthy to have control over it all. He is worth breaking it for! He is worth the sacrifice. Just as Mary gave up this very valuable and expensive oil to worship Jesus, we can give up the things we place at high value and worship Him as well.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be called to drop out of college and go to the nations as a full-time missionary. You will never know until you break that flask for Jesus.

What is your alabaster flask that you are willing to break at Jesus’ feet?