Turning the Desert into Pools of Water and the Parched Ground into Springs

Good Morning, Everyone!

I’m back here on The Journey, forcing my feet to return to the path leading to victory over spiritual distraction. How ironic. And perfect. 100_9892

I have confessed the need to settle my mind, root my soul, and eliminate the pull of distractions.  Of course, the past few days have been full of distractions. In repose, this morning the LORD helped remind me of the discipline of setting small goals, and boundaries for them. I could sit here on the Praying Porch for hours, and ponder all that is glorious and beautiful about our God, as expressed in His creation.

“The poor and needy search for water,
    but there is none;
    their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
    and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
    and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert
    the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
    the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know,
    may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
    that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”  Isaiah 41:17-20

Oh, yes.

I could dig into His precious word and write my soul’s response, for the entire day.  I could also jump up at least 30 times in as many minutes to ‘take care of’ something that catches my eye or my mind.

This is going to be a very long and difficult battle.

I am determined, however to set my mind on things above. (Colossians 3:1,2)

And “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (Paul, again, it astounds me the way the LORD placed these words in you!) 2 Cor. 10:5.

So, yeah, this is a major spiritual battle of mine, which I’ve recognized for a long time, but have been too distracted to do anything about (stop rolling your eyes, please, I realize how ironic that is!)

Today I set the alarm for 30 minutes. That’s all I got. 30 focused, not-getting-up-for-anything, not-paying-attention-to-Facebook notification chimes minutes. To mediate on and pray my way through this journey whose goal is to remove Distraction’s power from my life, as it renders me essentially ineffective and splintered. When I do not engage in this, as though in warfare,  my mind focuses on the wheel-spinning overwhelm of all that I haven’t, all the needs, all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘maybes’. Then time slips away, and with it, opportunity and blessings.

Our Savior speaks peace in the battle: “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34

So, here is Day Two’s Action Against Distraction:

Determine a reasonable goal for success and give it boundaries. Perhaps set a timer. Pray against the temptation to go beyond that, or to interrupt it. Praise God for success and company in that time.

I chose to return to the discipline of studying and writing, because it is a tool that has proven to be empowering for me. That power does not come, in any way, shape, or form, from myself, but from the LORD. It’s one of the ways He works in me. Writing helps me hold onto His promises and work through the challenges. Allow God to find for you your own meeting place and avenue of growth. How does He gather you close? How does He work to spill that closeness over to others He loves? Set a reasonable, God-centered goal and embrace that time. Protect that time with prayer.

In sharing my journeys, I have chosen to live transparent, and call on you to help me keep walking. A listening community provides accountability (ugh, I’m not really comfortable with that, but realize it’s like medicine—good for me, even if it’s tough to swallow.) I am really, really hoping some of you out there, if you happen to pop in, have your own “Distraction Journey” successes and struggles you can share so we can lift each other along.

I am praying for you, and me, that we remain singularly focused on living in the world, but not of the world. I pray that we recognize the weaknesses of our own bodies and minds as exactly the spots targeted by Satan who loves to lie about what’s important and needful. I am confident, that as we draw near to the throne of grace, God will grant us victory, and work powerfully in our lives for His glory.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (Don’t forget the good part just before this: we have a high priest in Christ who can sympathize with our weaknesses!)101_0135

I’ll be back later. The timer has gone off. I feel strong, joyous, and grateful for these 30 minutes of success!

Blessings be on you and your day as you, too, wrestle with whatever distracts you from God’s quiet whispers of love and strength.

Posted in Distraction, Spiritual Drought, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reappearance of a Distracted Woman

It’s August, and I feel a prodding to get my voice going again. The voice that says: “Hey, I’ve just been journeying silently alongside you for months now. You’ve not been alone, remember? We’re in this together—you, me, the LORD, and the rest of the gang that are bumbling along in our grace-covered state. We’re just trying, in our own, completely human way, to love and live our best selves in the daily joy and everyday muck. And it’s better when we live transparent and encourage each other along the way.”  Yeah, that voice. So, here I am again. WP_20150806_001

Where have I been? Just here. Same life. Same stuff. I’ve been busy, like the rest of you, trying to balance the demands of everyday life with the activities of living Jesus. Let me rephrase that: I’m learning (again) that balance isn’t really what I’m going for. It’s more like calm, focused, unity of faith. I believe God’s expectation of His beloved (that’s you and me) isn’t an either-or kind of thing. It’s more like an only. “Only live with Me in your relationships, your work, your errands, your family, My church, in the world.” The rest isn’t there, waiting for us to pick it up and place on the other side of the scales that will stay balanced because of our efforts on the “holy side.” There is no “other stuff.” It’s only living in all that He gives us with Him, alongside and part of every piece.

I’m on a serious journey here, to throw obstacles off the trail, with the grace and help of the Holy Spirit. You’re welcome to join me. While you’re here, please feel welcome to heave a few things off the path for me, I need the help.

Here’s where I began several weeks ago, the gazillionth restart of this particular journey…

I have discovered something about myself (tucked among hundreds of joyous surprises and disappointing faults):  I am easily distracted. Well, that’s not really news to me, or anyone that knows me. Specifically, what I am determined to claim hold of, and wrestle free from my spirit, is the tension and soul oppression that comes from splintered focus. 

Experience has taught me that God takes willing hearts through a process by which, with His help, we gather all the pieces of ourselves into one place. In that space, He reveals to us the impact that different influences, both inner and external, have on our walk with Him- on our growth and spiritual vibrancy. Even on our effectiveness. The process includes naming that which He helps us discover. To name it, is to recognize it more clearly, and view it as a unit, or pattern. Once named, the work to use it, or master it, becomes more focused and a less impeded journey. It’s a “know-thine-enemy or blessing” kind of thing.

I think, for me at least,  its name is Distraction

Naming this one has been difficult for me. It’s been a nagging influence on everything, but out there on the periphery. The pieces have been so scattered, that they get easily shunted aside, slid underneath other, noisier things that demand my time and energy. But its influence is powerful. Like the grain of sand that irritates the oyster into creating a luminescent pearl, this ‘thing’ is felt in all, and this one, in particular, is binding both my spirit and body to inaction.

For a long time, I have seen Satan’s work here. In his opposition to God’s will and work, I have witnessed him crafting subtle ways to prevent deep love relationships with the LORD and His people. Honestly, I think he’s subtle far more often than he is obvious.  Wouldn’t you be, if you were trying to shift someone’s perspective without their awareness?

So, here’s the thing, I am making a decision, and with the decision, effort and commitment. I’m breathing deep here, because with that, Dear Ones, comes Opposition.

I will, with God’s help (and guaranteed power), define and name that which, in its entirety, is keeping me from releasing myself fully to Him and His plans for me. Thank God, He is Who He is, and His work is succeeding without my paltry contribution! However, I want to be part of it. Truly, I do. My heart is motivated by love and gratitude, and not by obligation or with a relinquishing of who I am , because it’s Whose I am that I love most about my life. WP_20160704_006

I’m not sure, but here is why I believe in this season, my worst obstacle is Distraction…

My mind and spirit are not settled, and haven’t been in over a year. While secure in the LORD, the specific directions and actions He has planned for me keep bouncing around. I am full of observations of needs, but too often do not act. Afraid to diversify so much, I become completely fragmented and ineffective, and end up spinning my wheels, doing nothing. Ugh. I am embarrassed to confess that. And really, it would be easier if you would just forget what I just said.

Allow me to give you one personal example (I have a boatload to choose from):

For a very long time, I was a partner with God as He guided me to write about my relationship with Him, with us, as He revealed His strength, power, and compassion in His Word. A hope I had was, that whatever simply put together words I shared about my journeys with Him, that He placed on the path of another, would draw their hearts closer to His as He draws mine.

Then,  I stopped. My soul felt the loss of the discipline of writing, and my spirit suffered. It hasn’t been  about what I write, or whether or not my ramblings find an ‘audience’, but communing with God over His word, listening to His voice in my heart, and writing it down to hold it and remember it—those were the very acts that He used to bind my heart to His. I’ve been missing the blessings. I’ve also been missing the blessing of holy companionship. Occasionally some of you would pop in and join me in the conversation. I can’t tell you how much of an encouragement you are!
Isn’t it the same for any of us, when God clearly begins to reveal to us a ministry or discipline or talent or opportunity, and we stop listening to His voice within it, and cease to join Him there?

Our soul aches because it recognizes His voice and is unsatisfied.

That longing? That spirit of unsettledness? Yep. That’s what it is—the recognition, but incompletion, of the unity we have with God, in Christ, as we are joined together in something that He has designed us to do.

I imagine the same occurs for you when you are distracted away from partnering with God in worship, study of scripture, fellowship, service, meditation, writing, creating, snapping photos, cooking up a storm, singing your heart out, shepherding children, listening to others, shuttling those who need a ride, fixing things, visiting the sick, sending thoughtful e-mails…the list is endless.

What do we do?

We start.

We name the obstacle so it can be contained.

We open our hearts to God’s Spirit and ask for discernment as we recognize the ways in which we are pulled away from His heart.

We deliberately get back on the path, every time, and fix our eyes on Jesus.

And we heave things out of our way, or step aside willingly while Someone Else casts things (people, situations, desires) aside..

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1,2 (NIV) WP_20150808_003

Did you know that the original word God has the author use here for ‘everything that hinders’ means whatever is prominent, a protuberance, a bulk, a mass–a burden, weight, encumbrance. Don’t you find it interesting that it is mentioned separate and apart from the sin that entangles us? It’s the stuff that just gets in the way. Are the distractions good things, like work and family and relationships?  We must be deliberate in not allowing God’s good things to become exactly that which draws us away from Him. Remember, however, we are only called to throw off the parts that get in the way.

God’s beloved have been fighting a war against distraction since the beginning! What to do? Lay it aside. I love the NIV translation: Throw it off! Is it fear? Is it laziness? Is it our schedules? Is it selfish pursuits? Is it technology? Taking on too much? Taking on too little? A hobby? Lack of confidence or experience? We must deliberately throw them off.

So there will be a little heaving going on over here. I fear I will need to use a strong solvent to disengage from some…

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:2,3 (NIV)

Hide everything in Christ. Cloak all that we do with Him. Listen to the Spirit’s prompting.

That’s my plan. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, stay encouraged. You’re in good company. And heave away!

Posted in Distraction, Spiritual Drought, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Joining God on an Adventure

I am never disappointed when I turn to God’s face and listen to His words. Never.

He never says anything that unexpectedly veers from His character. His words are as reassuring as they are familiar.

With some people, their annoying habit of repeating essentially the same conversation over and over again whenever we meet, grates on every last nerve, and makes me doubt that there is vitality in the relationship. With God, it is the opposite. I count on His unchangeable Truths. I need them repeated to me, as a familiar and comforting lullaby of love from parent to child.

He even surprises me upon occasion by guiding my soul deeper into the layers of His love and purpose. That usually occurs right smack in the middle of what I thought I was Front Door 1familiar ground. It is a little like walking down a familiar street with an old friend or kindred spirit—well, better yet, a trusted mentor. We pass all the interesting doors and nooks we’ve passed before. While we amble, we grab the cloaks of comfort from each one, reminiscing about their blessings of love, laughter, and growth in hardship. Then we discover a secret passageway or hidden basement that we had never before noticed, and we explore it together. The twist is, when I occasion to look over my shoulder at Him, I see that He knew this adventure was here all along. He was just waiting to show me when I was ready to enjoy it fully along with Him.

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103 (NIV)Door latch

I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.

I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:15,16 (NIV)

 

Posted in Spiritual Transformation, Studying God's Word, The Walk, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

February 1–Spiritual Droughts: The Blessings of Dry Times

A follow-up discussion to our Sunday lesson. (All are welcome here, even if you aren’t with us in class!)

Something to Think About

February 1Drought Blessings of Dry Times

A drought in nature is a period of dry weather, especially a long one that is injurious to crops. An extended shortage.

Spiritually speaking, it is a time when we feel depleted, dried up. Our souls feel limp and lifeless. We may look great on the outside, like we’re functioning, but inside, in our hearts and souls where it counts, there is little or nothing left.  Spiritual droughts cause a lack of food.

Our three QUESTIONS to keep in mind as we study:

  • Does God INTEND for us to have seasons of spiritual droughts?
  • If there is a drought, do we create it or contribute to it?
  • What can we do to survive (or move out of) the drought?

During class on Sunday, it was easy for us to identify symptoms of a spiritual drought. We acknowledged, that like all spiritual seasons, it is part of our imperfect human nature to experience this season, and we’ve all been there, are there, or will be there again.

Scripture Reminders:

  • John 6:35-37, especially v. 37: “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst”
  • John 5:37-40 A conversation with the Jews who thoroughly knew God’s Word, but managed to miss something important. (Not that that ever happens to us, right?!)

Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at some different causes of spiritual droughts. Our first glance is selfishness with our time and attention. This can lead to neglect of listening to God and living in relationship with Him through His word.

Jesus promises that in Him, we will never be thirsty. Check out His conversation with the woman at the well (John 4:7-26) and revisit that conversation with the Jews in John 5.

  • Can we take Jesus at His Word? There seems to be action that is required on our part to receive the blessing of this promise.
  • What’s the difference between studying God’s word diligently and coming to Jesus?

Don’t you love God and how His intentions for us are pure and complete? Yet, He understands our nature so perfectly, He ALWAYS offers a provision of grace that helps us in our weaknesses!

  • What are some small changes we can make in our study of scripture that can help us make the shift from viewing Bible study as a ‘should do’ and an academic exercise, to truly communing with God in His word?

I look forward to your thoughts expressed here or during class. Welcome to all who join in, regardless of whether or not you are with are group on Sunday morning!

Blessings and love,

Terri

Cardinalinsnowapgart2014

Posted in Facing Jesus, Ladies' Retreat Lessons 2014 Ganderbrook, Spiritual Drought, Spiritual Transformation, Studying God's Word, The Walk, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

January 17, 2015–Something to Think About: The Work of our Spiritual Summers

A while back I was asked to share my three Ganderbrook Ladies’ Retreat 2014 lessons with my sisters in Christ in Manchester, NH.  A class format is quite different from a speaking engagement, so it’s been an interesting journey, reformatting the lessons to be a collaborative study. What a blessing it has been to revisit the truths God brought me, and to look at them with a room full of fresh eyes and open spirits!

100_7879

Recently, I found myself wanting to continue our discussions into the week, since our Sunday class time is so short. So, here I am, trying to create a forum for sharing and growing. I am a fledgling when it comes to blogging and managing the technical aspects of a web site. I know what I WANT it to look like and do, but haven’t much of a clue HOW to make that happen. I’ll give it a shot. Please be patient as I figure it out.

I will post some follow-up discussion and reflection questions here on the site after each week’s Sunday lesson. The byline will be “Something to Think About”, so it can be distinguished from my other blog posts. You are invited to use them for your own private study, or to meet here, and share what God is teaching you, related to the week’s topic. As well, you are invited and encouraged to share the link with others. (They can find the lessons elsewhere on the site under the “Categories” side bar.)

Pose related questions and biblical links if you desire. Above all, respect each other’s hearts by being loving and gentle in your posted responses. Help us by making it clear when  you are sharing scripture vs. your opinion (also valued, but it’s good to know the difference!).

I’m kinda excited about this! (Kinda, really!)

Here we go!

Something to Think About

Jan. 17 Ladies’ Bible Study—The Work of our Spiritual Summers: Tending the Garden of our Hearts  000_0267

Biggest Lesson: There is no coasting during our spiritual summers!

  • When have you ever been spiritually ‘transplanted’ by the Master Gardener? What spiritual reasons do you think God may have had in mind? Who do you know that has been recently transplanted? Can you help with God’s watering and nurturing of their heart?
  • What season are you in today? Think about how you choose to use your time…what fills your thoughts…how you interact with people in your words and deeds…your personal, work and church family relationships

Are there any spiritual ‘weeds’ that stick out to you? Be courageous and brutally honest with yourself and God. (He already knows, anyway, and hasn’t stopped loving you!) Ask Him to help you seek wisdom and strength to rid your heart of these weeds by the sword of His word. Grab His sword and find a scripture today that deals with this weed in some way. Write it down and meditate on it. Does the context fit your situation? Let God do His heart-work with you through it, over time.  Do the same thing tomorrow with another verse. And the next day…and the next.

(biblegateway.com is a great way to search a topic)

Confession time!  Rubekia and thyme entangled

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Guess what weeds I have found (ugh!)…complaining…misuse of time… (I’ll stop there for now.)

Phil. 2:14,15  Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…

Even the Greek word for grumbling is ugly! Goggusmos (gong-goos-MOS)  It means murmuring, muttering, a secret debate, a secret displeasure not openly avowed.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/goggusmos.html

 Bonus Thought 

The Macedonian church was able to let God create a spiritual summer while they lived in a storm. They eagerly pleaded for an opportunity to serve, despite the battering of life. Let us aim to do the same!

Scripture Reminders

2 Cor. 8:1-7                         The Spiritual Season of the Macedonian Church

Matt. 13: 1-7, 18-23         Jesus talks about the Garden of our Hearts

Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12        Our Gardening Tool!

Posted in Ladies' Retreat Lessons 2014 Ganderbrook, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Learning in the Shadow of a Pillar

I am listening to an earnest exchange today–not much action going on at the moment, but the air crackles with the rhythm of point, counterpoint. The buzz around the temple has the aura of an interrogation room, and I am standing as though on the dark side of a one-way mirror.

There is a lot to be learned from quiet listening in the shadow of a temple pillar. 100_8223(John 8)

Using the tool they have at hand, the one they think they know best, the Pharisees are at it again. As tiresome as their law-flinging haranguing is, I wonder if Jesus welcomes these frequent exchanges. Perhaps it is better to exchange in the conversation of testing and doubt than to ignore the Son of God. In exchange there is a seeking, and hope of resolution, while in purposeful ignorance, a soul never stands a chance.

As I listen to the dialogue, without the pressure of participation, I learn the craft of Jesus’ conversation:

*He uses the tool that is wielded by the opposition. Rather than selecting an argument He has already used, or a one-size-fits-all, He selects that which rings true to the soul of His audience: the Law. It is so interesting to me here that he calls it ‘your’ law. They have had added so much, and at the same time, missed a great deal. At times, it is unrecognizable as God’s law. It has become something entirely different, with only a glimmer of truth. As Jesus selects the law, upon which to base His response, He redirects his opponents from the flaw in their handling of it to the purpose and Giver of it. It is all about God. He continues to emphasize the link between Himself and His Father. (v. 12-29)

We can learn from this. Sometimes, in the name of ‘spreading the gospel’, we select a tool (a stance, even a particular scripture) that does not connect to the soul of our audience. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the craftsmanship of the tool that we forget that our main purpose is to bring others to Jesus and His connection to God, and our connection to Him.  Sometimes we allow, over time (and usually with good intent), God’s words to evolve into our words. And we distort or dull their purpose.

Hearts change in this moment. Jesus’ witness has its effect and many are convinced. (v. 31)

Now a new group gathers around Him. These are His fellow Jews that already believe in Him. They have followed Him here, and with them, they bring a heritage and centuries of baggage. He starts a discussion that requires a shift in their thinking. Don’t you love when that happens?

“If you continue (abide, remain, stay in) my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  v. 31, 32

He confronts them with IF statements:

If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples…

If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed…

If God were your Father, You would love Me…
Their faces register surprise. This was not what they expected to hear. They thought they had already nailed down this ‘being God’s people’ thing. They had the right lineage, a heritage of faith. They believed this man who calls Himself the Son of God. Here they are, following Him as good students do. Their expressions register the hidden rebellion in their hearts, the secret places that only God knows, the ones that stay cloaked by external actions.

Jesus speaks boldly here.

“…I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you.

“I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” I don’t know these men well, but I can guess what that means. Growing up in a household with a tradition of faith, they have traded the leadership of Abraham, which led hearts to God, for following the leadership of their fathers, which led to tradition and an attitude of spiritual entitlement.

“…if God were your Father, you would love Me…”  I wonder if their father, the leaders of their religious life, ever guided them to love God? How easy it is to teach only behaviors and forget to mold the heart toward God.

“…you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” OUCH! No filter here. Jesus knows He has to be specific. I trust that He knows the timing and need for such a bold statement. It comes from knowing the hearts of men. I trust that I do not have the same complete, unfaulted perspective.  I know that as God’s children, we are called to share His truths—truths that bring hope and grace, and truths that make us face our sins in a way that helps us recognize the need for His hope and grace. It’s a fine balance between speaking boldly, truthfully, and assuming we know exactly what hearts need, flinging an arrow in their direction. That’s God’s job.

“…He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God!”

Well! I sure hope Jesus has scoped out all the temple exits from here. This is not a happy crowd, and they have gone to gather stones. I think I’ll move on.

Today’s takeaways for me are 100_8187

*There is hope in conversation. Even if the dialogue is testy, embrace the opportunity to have the conversation about spiritual things.

*Examine my conversation to be sure that I stop short of making my words into God’s words. Deliver God’s Truth. See to understand the perspective of my audience (my children, my coworkers, my husband, my fellow Christians, strangers…) and try and match the truths I share with what is important to them.

*Live the ‘thens’. Because I want the “Ifs” to be true, I need to live the “thens”: Continue in God’s word. Don’t become stagnant. Allow the Son to make me free and God to be my Father.

*LOVE God. Truly love Him, and teach and encourage others to LOVE Him. This is more than just obeying or acknowledging His sovereignty-it’s a relationship that breathes, that lives, that responds.

*Be brave enough to hear His words for me and let them craft me into being of God.

What is God teaching you through this journey? I invite you to slip your lessons here below and share them. 100_8229

I am moving on now, and the streets are littered with sounds and movement. There are people lining the edges of the paths, pitiful, with nothing. Unable to take care of themselves without aid, they cry out, hands outstretched.

Jesus pauses…

Posted in Jesus, Sharing Jesus, Spiritual Transformation, Studies in John, The Walk, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Learning from Silence

Two thousand years later, and nothing has really changed. Surroundings and circumstance, may have, and certainly tools and population have changed. But in the human heart, it remains the same.

I am wandering the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem, poking my head in and around the 100_7879temple, listening to conversations. Two things are quite clear here about Jesus:

He has an impeccable sense of timing.

It doesn’t bother Him that people don’t understand Him. He calls to Himself, those that seek Him.

I have to laugh as I listen to these conversations. The people couldn’t agree on what to do with Jesus. Arrest Him, because they don’t understand Him, and they fear He is an enemy of their neatly arranged lives? Recognize Him as a prophet? Push Him away or draw close? Follow Him or stand off to the side and mutter to each other about Him?

See how things never change?

The purpose of my own journey here is to throw off the confining box in which we have placed Jesus. By ‘we’, I mean the church…the world…you…me.  Believers and scoffers alike, we tend to confine things to our own boxes. Think of it like organizing our lives in ways we think help us better manage it. One trip to The Container Store after perusing Pinterest, and we’re ready to put the mess that is us into manageable chunks. We define areas of our lives: clothing, crafts, finances, food, tools, toys, church, work, leisure, family…

While walking down the worn and dusty paths of the holy lands, one thing I notice is that the human heart beats the same over millennia. It wrestles the same. It hopes the same. It despairs the same. It fears the same.

There will always be division where Christ is concerned.  While it is true that God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), we humans are a people of confusion.

On this journey, I am asking: What of Jesus here? What of His character connects with mine, or convicts it?  If I am to live Him in this world, what does that look like?

So, the recorded history of my Savior says this:

*He doesn’t let the confusion bother Him. He recognizes it for what it is, and stays firmly grounded, pointing the hearts of those that mangle God’s truth to the One who wrote them. He knows that, underneath it all, the Author of their faith is his Father. Their Father. Our Father. Jehovah. They have just covered it up with human distortions.  See…nothing in human hearts changes over time.

7:16-18 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me;if any man’s will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 

*He points out, not how they have misconstrued the finer points of the law, not how they need to adjust their rules of doctrine, but He points out that they have missed the point of the law.

“If on the sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?  Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” v. 23-24

I learn a lot from what Jesus doesn’t say. I begin to understand how to be discerning in living God’s laws. What is the difference here between keeping circumcision on the sabbath and healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Circumcision was a direct act of obedience to God’s direction. Healing was an act of compassion and witness to God’s power and love. Jesus doesn’t say either ‘work’ is wrong. He doesn’t tell them to stop circumcising on the sabbath, if need be. What He does do is draw their attention to the purpose of His actions. Could it be that an act of compassion and power on the sabbath carries the same weight of importance and obedience as a sanctifying routine?

Still pondering Jesus’ silence, I join Him again in the early morning. A crowd has suddenly arrived at the temple gathering. They don’t look happy. Their faces are, perhaps, a little defiant. A little smug. A little self-righteous. (John 8:1-11)

They surround a woman, whose face I can’t quite see. They demand that Jesus weigh in on the application of God’s law given through Moses. They’ve got Him, now, I can see it in their eyes. This should be interesting. Even though I already know whose side I am on, I am intrigued by the collision of religious practice that’s about to happen. If Jesus is who He claims to be, God’s Son, then how can He deny the truth and exactitude of God’s law? They whip out the law, and wield it as a sword, just as they’ve been taught. Only this time, God’s Son offers silence. Given a tool of His Father, He chooses not to pick it up as expected. He had every right to. The tool was not false, or weak, or broken.

Instead, He chooses silence.

People have spent the gift of time trying to guess what Jesus wrote on the ground, as if it were significant. Whatever it was, it had no effect on the crowd, because the accusers keep pestering Him with their agenda. I do wonder, not what He’s writing, but what He’s thinking. All I know is what I see, and all I see is His silence, then His response. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” He does not sidestep the law. He raises the level of its responsibility.100_7895

Check your own heart first. See that you need grace as much as anyone else. See that you need Me, as much as anyone else. Extend that grace, the one that really isn’t yours to give or receive, to others. It’s Mine, and I give it.

This journey has taught me a lot. If I love this Savior, and commit to letting Him live through me, then I must allow my spirit to conform to His image:

*Don’t let the confusion bother me. The hearts that pull God’s Truth like taffy and make it unrecognizable will always be there. Stay firmly grounded in the core of what I know is true: God loves, deeply, richly and eternally. He has plan, and its unfolding will not look like any human scheme. Don’t get tangled in foolish arguments of doctrine, and don’t own them as my own. Share the big Truths of God’s, and let Him sort out the rest when the time is right.

*Seek to understand the intention of God’s commands as they reveal His character. Let them draw me nearer to Him in understanding instead of using them as a weapon or a box.

*Weigh compassion and grace along with obedience. Dismiss neither. Live both.

I am grateful for your company. Blessings on your own journey. I invite you to share here, in this quiet place, the grace that you have gathered.

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