Stormy Seasons: Hold On to the Promises

I had the blessing and privilege of God walking me through lessons to share for September’s New England Ladies’ Retreat recently. Several have asked that I share my notes. It seemed easier to clean them up a bit and post them here. They are not in narrative form, fully edited, or in tight order. Rather, they are a bit of rough journaling from my time with God as we poured over His word and I asked Him what we needed to learn. I am hopeful they provide a starting place for you to tuck in along side me as we are gathered by God to His heart. Perhaps I will return to them and be granted the opportunity to study even more, polish them into order, and share the lessons in full that God brought me.

The wonderful ladies from Massachusetts and Rhode Island who organized this event selected Celebrating the Seasons as the theme, and asked a dear sister, Betty Oliver, and I to share the lessons. From their plan, I felt moved to choose Stormy, Summer, and Drought. Betty studied and spoke on Winter, Spring, and Autumn.

I am humbly blessed by your presence as we walk this journey together.

Lesson One: Storms…Hold On to the Promises!


THE CONDITION: stress…the feeling of being buffeted by all side, like a whack-a mole—you get one draining situation resolved, and another pops up…tension, fear, unpredictability, damage, despair, loss of direction, a broken heart

Types of Storms:

In the natural world, there are all types of storms, just as in Life:

Windstorm, rainstorm, thunderstorm, monsoon/hurricane, tornado, blizzards (white and blinding…can’t see), ice storm (where the roads and paths we walk and drive on become treacherous and near impossible to navigate)

Some of our life storms, and if you haven’t lived them, you’ve witnessed them, or you’re caught in the refuse spewn from the storm’s eye…

…disease…suicide…paralyzing depression or anxiety (you or your loved ones)…addiction (drugs, alcohol, pornography, food, technology, work, play)…fertility challenges…parenting difficulties…relationship issues (marital, friendship, church family)…infidelity…unemployment…rebellious children…loss of a loved one…major financial bills all at once…

Even some of the comparatively minor storms cause damage, exhaustion, worry, fear, frustration. like when all of your major appliances make a death pact and cease working the same month (yes, we had three one month—dishwasher, washing machine, and computer)

Some storm seasons are long and drawn out. The land becomes flooded, or at the very least, so sodden, it can’t grow anything. To walk on it (let alone, cultivate it), is to damage it. Sometimes roads wash out, the power fails

Don’t you feel that way sometimes? Like your power is out?

Some storms are brief and violent, leaving a path of destruction that we must clean up, and some are short-lived, and just leave us with a feeling of weariness or relief that we “dodged the Big One.”

Some storms that come, you know they’re coming. You see them on the horizon, or receive fair warning, either by looking at the sky, or heeding the forecast of those who watch the atmosphere. Other storms come up suddenly, their mounting clouds have been obscured by the beauty of rising peaks or forested green. These storms can catch you totally off guard.

These storms happen in our family, our churches, our relationships.

The Challenge: “Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”…without losing your grip, getting lost in the storm

The challenge is staying faithful. Trusting. Not losing your soul. The goal is ALWAYS to guard your salvation in Christ!  Matt Redman You Never Let Go

What do people do in storms? Types of Storms

Leave, tie things down, prepare by gathering what they know they’ll need and hunker down, with no intention of leaving

What do you do in your storms?

What do you choose to keep tied down in the storm? And with what do you tie it?

Do you leave? Sometimes you have to, then you come back and help pick up the wreckage.

Some storms you need to leave, because they are not yours to weather. Such as…

Addictions….you cannot make that person’s decisions for them. You can support, advise, and, oh, you can love, but you cannot change. That is the Spirit’s work, alone, with the tortured soul.

As you have hit ‘storms and stormy weather’ in your life, ask yourself: What lessons has God taught you?

Is this a storm I need to leave, and return when the air is calmer? Or is it God’s will that I stay and hold on while the tempest rages?

Our Response: Take a stand!…“Hold on to the Promises”…change your grip (tighten or loosen)…praise God and trust Him

In living through storms, I go to the only place I can trust…God’s heart, as revealed in His word:

Let’s take a look at some Biblical Storms:

When you are in a storm, I want you to take a good look at the storms of God’s people. Look at the “great cloud of witnesses”  Read Hebrews chapter 11 with new eyes, read of the deep faith, of the horrible storms and of the hope that we can celebrate

Their storms? Slavery, infertility, a family member tries to murder another, building a boat to house a family and a zoo for the rain that had never before fallen, persecution, mistreatment, destitution…

Think of the first century Christians and their storms of persecution, of political and social exile…

Let’s look for a moment at Paul. Prison (Paul—prison epistles)

Boy, did Paul ever have a storm! (AGAIN!….Seems like God placed him in the middle of several storms, literally and figuratively!)  Prison. Think about that. This is NOT a story…It is the Truth. It is History!

It appears to have been a house arrest in Rome. He was allowed to live by himself, though was guarded by a soldier and not allowed to leave.
What we can learn about storms and faith and the work of God from Paul’s imprisonment:

Surely the weary apostle spent some sleepless nights praying for the regeneration of these evil hearts. In spite of all this heartache, however, Paul could still muster a generally jubilant spirit. “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice,” he would write (Philippians 4:4). As unpleasant as his circumstances sometimes were, he could affirm that the things which had happened to him had worked for the “progress” of the gospel (Philippians 1:12).

“Progress” is from the Greek term prokopen, derived of two roots (pro, “forward,” andkopto, “to cut”). Originally the word was employed of “a pioneer cutting his way through brushwood” (Vine 1991, 334). Paul views his troubles in the most positive light possible; they were like an advance party, preparing the way for the success of the gospel.

Have you ever felt under ‘house arrest’?  Tethered, boxed in by your circumstances? Not entirely impotent, but frustrated, just short of being able to exercise your own will? Perhaps you identify with Paul. Let’s see what God can teach us here.

Here’s what we can celebrate…not the pain, the suffering, the damage, but the hope within storms, the promises that raise us above the storms!

Keep a Holy Perspective:

Phil 1:12-

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

There is holy purpose in storms.

Know that Your Victory in Christ, Over the Storm, is a Shared Victory-a Weapon of Encouragement.

So, Satan has weapons? Flaming arrows? (Eph. 6:16 in addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.) So do WE! In Christ, our weapons outperform his. They do more than merely deflect, the promise is that they are extinguished!

Col. 2:15 He has disarmed the enemy!

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

We have more than just holy garments of protection. We have an offense that has already been victorious and will continue to be!

 1 Cor. 15:53-57 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[h]

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”[i]

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Phil 1:14 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. I wonder…how does a fellow Christian’s imprisonment inspire confidence, and not fear? It’s the same as watching someone take the first step onto a rickety bridge over a chasm. Once they cross successfully, you feel empowered. So, let us look at the great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) and march forward through the storms!

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Phil 1:27ff

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel (Our continued faithfulness to God inspires others in the storm, just as much as those that are in a storm inspire us to persevere. Both help us SEE God and the strength of His Spirit.)  (28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ (This is a purposeful grant, to suffer for Him.) not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

14 times in Philippians the words “joy” and “rejoice” occur. From prison. That’s quite a storm in which Paul discovered and lived the joy.

My Harper Study Bible commentary states: Of all the churches Paul had founded, none was so near and dear to him as the church at Philippi. The letter to the Philippians breathes an atmosphere of perfect love and mutual confidence; these were friends who had often helped Paul with their gifts (4.15, 16) and had not forgotten him now that he was in prison.”  We can learn from this. Paul was in a storm, and his fellow believers ministered to him with gifts, remembrance, and staying faithful, making sure the positive, uplifting news of steadfast faithfulness was shared. Church!: We can do this!

Let’s look at another storm. Acts 1 Jesus had been crucified. Then He’s back. Then Jesus leaves!  Acts 1

Who here has been left? Sometimes people leave because they choose to;; sometimes it is their turn to go Home, and they finish the race ahead of us; sometimes we are left because people change, church communities change, our circle of friends change; sometimes a spiritual leader must leave us; sometimes God has other plans for those we count on that do not involve being a constant physical presence for us…

No matter what the leaving is, it can cause deep pain at the most, and a spirit of unrest and detachment at least. Let’s look what happened when the Savior of the World left His closest friends and co-ministers. Let’s learn from the leaving of Jesus.

*Jesus told them “Don’t leave! Wait (Luke 24:49-53, Acts 1:4)…interpreted as “I have a plan. Wait for the promise of God.”

*The disciples still didn’t understand the purpose of this storm, or of Jesus. They still expected a restoration of the earthly kingdom.

*They stayed in Jerusalem. (Lk. 24:52, 53) Upstairs, “joined together constantly in prayer”  (Acts 1:12-14) 1 Thess. 5:17: Joined…together…constantly…in prayer. Let the power of those 5 words and their example take roots in your soul!

From A Holy Experience, the blog of Ann Voskamp:

There is faith that accepts no fast, next day delivery, but rests that the new order of things waits on the hands of God, not the hands on the clock.

There is faith that stands or falls on the truth that the future with God is more fulfilling than anything forecasted by either the fortunetellers or the fearmongers. (The power of sin and worry and fear over us is always the power of deceit over us.)

There is faith that in the midst of the setbacks, God is setting up everything for the comeback of your joy. Ann Voskamp July 19, 2014

Arms outreached JOY

Scriptures to Hold on to During the Stormy Season:

 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight** in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:7-10 (NIV)

**the RSV says “I am CONTENT”

Paul’s storms: 2 Cor. 11:16ff

16 I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. 17 In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. 18 Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. 19 You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! 20 In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. 21 To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!

Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.

Praising God in the Storms: Yikes! Really? How? And, quite frankly, for WHAT?

Just what can we CELEBRATE in our storms?

*God’s power, His character, His faithfulness

*He is ABOVE all of this. (Romans 8:31-38 If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any chargeagainst those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.)

Ephesians 1: 18-23! 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

*HE has the way out! Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more ABUNDANTLY than all that we ask or think, to HIM be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen!

Job 1:21 (lost all his farm and children) Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped.  And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

  1. 2:9-10 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.


As we close this session, ponder this for a moment… even if you are not buffeted by a storm at this time, even if you are not living in a stormy season at the moment, you have a holy role in every storm. Be a …

Storm Helpers:

*Throw SALT on the icy roads: Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost is taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.” Matthew 4:13

We PRESERVE when others are floundering. We preserve faith, love, trust, wisdom of God. We MUST be that salt that is freely cast by God, to continue to save men and women, to continue to save faith and belief!

*Light the way! (*lighthouse, lamp, floodlight, match pics*):

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.”  Mt. 4:14

Ps. 119:105  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

*Speak truth against the lies of the enemy. Counteract the lying arrows of defeatism, distraction, rebellion, devaluing with the truth of God:

*Offer their WORTH, again and again (Matthew 6:26  “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
Isaiah 14:13-16

*Offer HOPE: Ephesians 1:15-23, Romans 8:28, 31-39  Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

*Offer confidence in God’s wisdom and promises

*Be the chain of strength that anchors them to Christ, the true and trustworthy anchor of our souls. Hold on to those that are suffering their storms. (*pic of grasping flood victim*)

*By anchoring them to you and the church, you are anchoring them to Christ’s body—to Christ Himself.  Be that arm that holds them securely.

*Realize that it is neither within your power, nor your responsibility to stop someone else’s storm. But you can be the one that encourages.

*Be sure you are anchoring them to Christ, not to you! or even the church (despite the fact that it is Christ’s body?)

*Wash Their Feet* 

The real Jesus turns to our questions of whywhy this sickness, who is to blame — and he says it like a caress to the aching,You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.” (John 9:3 MSG)… “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:5 NLT).

That’s the grace touch of Jesus: The dark is not your fault, the dark is not the heavy night that weighs the worth of your soul, the dark is not about blame.

The dark is about bravely being a canvas for light — about courageously letting your dark be a canvas for sparks of God glory, a backdrop for ambers of mercy in the midst of your fire. Ann Voskamp August 12, 2014

From Ann Voskamp with Betty Moore

Lord, so knives can make heads roll
and terrorists can execute the unimaginable
and divisions can split up the middle of our streets & our towns & our hearts & disease can go devouring like some starved epidemic —

but we can feel the warmth of it on the nape of our bared, bowed necks, we can feel the beating warmth of it pounding like a victory march in the chambers of our praying hearts:

There is a Light that shatters the dark, that shards the dark, that pierces the cowardly dark right to the wall of an eternal pit,
and the diseased doomed to death walk straight out of hospitalsLight
and the pleading streets of pain feel justice roll & hope run like water
and the warring wounds of this world are dressed with a world of tender prayer
and you can bet that There. Is. A. Light. in every single darkness
and the darkness can never extinguish it, the darkness can never smother it, the darkness can never, ever, no matter what, suffocate the relentless coming of an emancipating Light.

And all the brilliant people, all the people looking for the Light, said? AMEN

Light shines in the darkness A. Voskamp

Posted in Deflecting the Weapon of Discouragement, Ladies' Retreat Lessons 2014 Ganderbrook, One Another, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Learning to Expect the Unexpected

I am seaside today, in John 6, at the end of a long, hard, amazing day, and full of questions more than answers. Do you ever have days like that? Days full of a roller-coaster ride of emotions and outcomes? Days that seem to pack a week of living into 24 hour period? Like an old wine skin about to burst, the hours wear on, and each drop threatens to burst its wearied sidesOahu sunset crop 2011 TApgar

This day began so awfully. A beloved disciple and leader for Christ was lost in a heart-wrenching and violent manner. Then, at the point of emotional exhaustion, there was a faith-building miracle that swept over thousands of souls.

Evening has finally come. The disciples crawl into a boat and start across the sea toward Capernaum. Jesus has bid them to go on without him, and finally dismissed the crowd on the hillside that lingered. He retreats to the mountain by Himself. After all the day’s activity, the crowd’s response to this miracle worker who claims to be God, is to take Him by force and make Him king. It isn’t His time, and it isn’t His Father’s plan, so He steps aside into the shadows to pray. Dimond Hill Farm 2013 TApgar

While I wait for Him to finish, I am wondering…

Does Jesus withdraw from the world, from us, from me when we try to make Him something He is not?

In what ways do I try to force Him into my own mold and try to capture Him into my life the way I see fit and when I think He’ll fit best?

My eyes shift out to sea and I am in the boat along with the disciples. It is dark. The water’s chop is becoming larger and the wind whips up against the boat, making it painfully difficult to make headway.

I have a boat. It’s not a fishing boat. It’s a modest 17-footer motor boat in which we play in the sun on a little lake tucked into western New Hampshire. I am not a fisherman, as comfortable on the sea and with its fickle temperament as I am on land. I am wary of the waves. When the clouds hang dark, the inviting blue of the water becomes a stern and unsympathetic grey. When the wind whips up, and slows the momentum of the boat’s progress, the shore seems farther and farther away. It is unsettling, especially as you watch a storm draw closer from over the hillside.

I would never be in a boat, in a windstorm, at night. You can’t see what’s out there. I admire the men and women who fish for a living, who live this daily and take it in stride.  Such were some of the disciples. These men row with the wary respect due the sea that they know well, and with knowledge and experience to navigate the waves safely.

Climb in this boat with these fishermen turned fishers of men. Hang on to something because it’s not a smooth ride. What do you see? Not much. By a flicker of oil lamps, perhaps, you see the shadows of those that row, squinting in the wind, muscles straining against the opposing pull of the waves that rise against the keel. The spray from the waves stings your face as the waves beat against the boat. Up and down we rise as the sea roils black and contrary. It is somewhere between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM. Dark. This trip is taking longer than it should. Where did these waves come from, and would they Please. Just. Stop.

“When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened (struck with fear, to be seized with alarm).” John 6:19

Matthew and Mark add another perspective. “They were terrified.”

Matthew and Mark use a word which means, among other things, “to cause one inner commotion, to take away one’s calmness of mind…render anxious or distressed”

Hmmm…Have you been there? In a storm? Without calmness of mind? Anxious…distressed…seized with alarm…?

Relationships are stormy. Parenting is stormy. Church fellowship is stormy. Illness is stormy. Work is stormy. Growing up is stormy.

I find it interesting, don’t you, that the disciples were not afraid of the wind here. It is not the same storm as when Jesus is asleep in the boat with them, and rises to calm it, and their fears.

So what were they afraid of?

It is dark or toward dawn—black at its worst, grey at its best. They are preoccupied by the struggle of moving forward, and dealing with the opposing forces of the wind and waves that are obstacles to them reaching their destination.

Ahhhh…I see myself here. (Do I have company?) Hawaiian Sea 2011 ApgartT

Suddenly, in a totally unexpected manner, Jesus strides along toward the boat. He’s walking, not struggling. He means to pass by them. Maybe there wasn’t room for Him in the boat. He was comfortable sloshing through those turbulent waves like they were nothing. (Mark 6:48, 49)

The disciples are struck with alarm and a feeling of anxiety and distress overwhelms them, so much so that they cry out in fear. Definitely gone is that calmness of mind and focus. They don’t even recognize Him for who He is at first.

“Take heart,” He says. “It is I. Have no fear.” Then they were glad to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.  John 6:20, 21

(There is more that happens in this boat. Please pop over here another time: )

The wind ceases. They are where they need to be, with Whom they need to be.

Here are my other questions…

Do I, in my struggles, not recognize Jesus when He comes? Is it because He arrives in unexpected manners, totally out of the ordinary?

What can I do to recognize Him more?

I recognize people by spending time with them and paying attention to them when I am with them.  Isn’t it the same with Jesus?

I should remember to expect the unexpected. Jesus doesn’t fit into my human mold. He shows up in events, in circumstances, through people, in ways I cannot imagine, that break all the rules. I need to get used to that.

And I need to get used to Jesus treating the waves like they are nothing. Because, to Him, they are.

Do you notice here that Jesus doesn’t offer a discourse on how to row better against the wind? He doesn’t offer solutions, as in actions to take. He offers only Himself. That is enough.

“It is I. Have no fear.”

It has been quite a boat ride. I have learned a lot on this part of the journey, but I am ready to have firm footing on land for a while.

I will be thinking about these lessons for a while.

Next up: a conversation about bread…

Blessings on you as you journey. Be on the lookout for the unexpected ways Jesus shows up!


All scripture quotess from: Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1971

Posted in Facing Jesus, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What You Can Learn from Listening in to a Conversation

Sometimes you stay longer in one place than you intended. It may be because what’s there is so  sweet, you don’t want to leave. Other times, your feet get mired by one distraction or another and it takes a while to untangle the vines.Grapevine tendril ApgarT 2014

I’ve been untangling the iron tendrils of the world, and mulling over where they’ve had me tethered… 

Still at the temple,(John 5) I am watching the conversation between Jesus and those who spent a lifetime pouring over God’s words and discussing their importance. Those in charge.

As always, Jesus has something to say to those that professed to be ‘religious’.

“You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to Me; yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.” V. 39,40

I cannot move past this verse, spoken from the lips of God’s Son, and it has me looking at this from all sides. By “this” I mean the coming to Him.

Just prior to this soul-excavating two-by-four, He says something else:

“…you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He has sent.” v. 38

These men have poured the hours and days of their lives into knowledge about God and His promise of redemption, and yet His word remained lifeless on the ancient scrolls–unrolled for study and dialogue, and rolled back up until the next discussion.

I have more in common with them than I think, sometimes…
Like them, I go to the right places, digging deep into scripture on my own or in a class, but in the process, I forget the Person. “... it is they that bear witness to Me.”

Even Jesus knew that devotion to the study of God is not the same as abiding WITH God. Bible by Kaylee

After pulling off the chokehold of the vines of responsibility and distraction, I have gathered the blessings of coming to Jesus and abiding with Him. What richness I found that renewed my soul! In the quietness of this moment we have together, breathe them in with me:
Coming to Jesus’ side is coming to a place of STRENGTH!

“Everyone who COMES TO ME and hears my words and does them, I will show you what He is like. He is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundations upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” 6:47-49

The message: Dig deep. Lay your foundation into the bedrock that is Christ. Not scripture. Scripture points TO Christ

Coming to Jesus is to come to God, whose Place is one of compassion, healing, and love.

“Yet it was I who taught E′phraim to walk,

I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of compassion with the bands of love,

and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,

 and I bent down to them and fed them.”  Hosea 11:3-5

Breathe in those words of deep, deep love. Wouldn’t we rather be here than anywhere else?

This place with Jesus is our intended residence!

“When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne…Then the King will say to those at His right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Mt. 25:31-34

Jesus calls us to Come, and has waiting for us, exactly what we need.

“The apostles returned to Jesus, and told Him all that they had done and taught.  And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.”

This happens immediately following a long, very difficult day. They had just lived through the beheading of their beloved coworker, John the baptizer. Can you imagine the gruesome vision in their heads? They must have been broken hearted, and terrified. Still, they took care of their friend and came to Jesus to report on their work in His name.  He recognizes their need for pause and refreshment, compassionately bidding them, “Come.” Not “Go, take a break, regroup, then return to Me and the work at hand.” He uses the word “Come.” Come with. Come alongside. This is the same word Jesus uses in Matthew 4:19 for “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” It’s an ‘along with Me’ word—a word of presence, of companionship and teaching.

Did you ever have an exhausting, horrific day or season of your life? (Are you having one now?)

Look what Jesus does here:

He invites them to come away with him for rest from the pressing crowds and separation from the emotional and political turbulence that was John’s death. They hadn’t even had time to eat, let alone regroup and refresh. You’d think, being Jesus, that He’d choose to exercise His power and clear off that secluded place He had promised them for rest. Yet a great throng followed them and beat them there.

I hate it when that happens. I clear out my morning, my day, or place, or activity so that I can decompress and rejuvenate, then the people come, or a need arises, or husband, kids, friends, mother, strangers, brothers or sisters in Christ…they press in with their needs and wants and expectations. Apgart 2014

Jesus does something interesting here I almost missed. In inviting His beloved disciples to rest, He moves into a situation that at first looks absolutely draining, but ends up turning the world upside down for a while, and their faith with it. “Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them.  As He went ashore He saw a great throng, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” Mk. 6:33ff

He takes over the work for a while. Maybe the disciples stayed slumped in the boat while He taught, or resting on the hillside. Maybe they dragged themselves on shore to provide crowd management, as always. No matter, Jesus took over for a while. Then He feeds them from almost nothing. You know the story: 5 loaves, 2 fish. Thousands fed.

Forget about the filling of bellies. Think about the filling of souls. THINK about it!  Those disciples got exactly what they needed. What a faith-building experience that drove the needy to Jesus who provides! In their exhaustion and fear, in the middle of an oppressively difficult day of training, Jesus bid them “Come” and gave them- and in the process, others- exactly what was right for them at the time. Totally different from what they were expecting, it took a long while for what He really did for them to sink in. They didn’t get it at all at first, and their hearts were hardened. (v.52)

Gulp. I’ve been there. Has that ever happened to you? Longing for rest, God places more on our plate. We don’t get it at first. Quite frankly, we rebel against it.  Then, with the passage of time, He gently nudges us toward understanding of the gift He gave us in all of that.

Coming to Jesus and abiding with Him is living in a place where His grace is deep and the pull of the world can be cast off.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Our bodies may not rest, but our souls will. It is promised.


I’m back to the temple sit in John 5, the tangled vines released and laid down at my feet.  I am ready to move on. With Him. Alongside Him. Vines cast aside T Apgar 2014

Some things to ponder…

Whether we are church leaders, officially, or leaders of our families, our friendships, our marriages… we need to come to Jesus and abide with Him. The responsibility that comes with this privilege is to help those we lead in the Coming to Jesus.

If we mentor another precious soul, or are a camp counselor, or a Bible class teacher…we need to come to Jesus and abide with Him. The responsibility placed in our hands by God is to guide those we lead in the Coming to Jesus. Not to me. Not to the lesson agenda. Not to the structure of church activity. To Jesus. Those are worthy tools, but they are just tools to keep us clinging to Jesus.

I am thinking, too, of the danger we place each other in by treating God’s word as an academic study. How challenging it is to share and gather knowledge about God without reducing Him, His Son, and His plan to a scholarly outline! This is the peril that comes with the gifts of our Christian schools and universities, and of our Bible classes, is it not?

Let us train ourselves to love the presence of God and abide in this life here, with His Son, Jesus.

Blessings on your journey to and with Him.

“LORD, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwells.” Psalm 26:8

Lily hope T Apgar 2014

Posted in Facing Jesus, One Another, Sharing Jesus, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What is it You Want?

I have been stopped for several days now, in Jerusalem, trying to get to the temple. There’s a conversation unfolding there (in John 5) that has grabbed my attention.  However, God has not allowed me to get close just yet. He has had another work in mind for my heart. In life and study with God, I find that I sometimes think the direction I am going is so clear, the destination so obvious, that I plow forward of my own accord, disregarding some precious ground of opportunity along the way. Sometimes I cause God to have work very hard to unlock MY focus and reestablish HIS. Does that ever happen to you?

Apparently I have a stop to make before I join that temple conversation. 100_4461

It is the Sabbath day of a feast, which like any holiday, brings throngs of extra people to town. There is a multitude of humanity pressed in by a certain pool of water. The crowd is at a standstill. It is the bottom layer that I see. It pulses with need, pressed in, straining to get closer. That is where I find the expectant and hopeful faces, etched by years of agony. Bobbing above this layer are the occasional faces of mothers, fathers, and brothers, lined with the burden of caregiving. Sprinkled into the crowd are the rubber-neckers, the “hey-while-we’re-in-town-let’s-go-visit-that-pool-and-watch-what-happens” kind of folk.  It’s hot, and smelly, and claustrophobic. The air is riddled with sighs of despair, groans of pain, murmured petitions for help. Squinty eyes, hands shading foreheads from sun. “Is the water moving yet” the constant question. “Is there hope for relief?”

In the middle of this all is where I find Jesus.

Don’t I always? Don’t I always find Him in the middle of the muck?

Here’s the interesting thing to ponder…

Jesus had no obvious reason to be there. He was not ailing. He was not taking care of a family member or friend that could not move of his own accord. There was feasting to attend—a scheduled set of events and obligations.

But we do find Jesus there. On purpose.

Jesus looked upon that crowd pulsing with disease and want. He saw the helpless individuals trapped in bodies that had failed them, at the mercy of their fellow man’s grace, and totally without subsidized health care.

Why he chose who he chose, I’ll never know, but he began a conversation with one individual, a man who had been ill a lifetime—38 years worth. Jesus knew him. He knew he had been lying there a very long time. Hopeful, but helpless.

He begins a conversation with a question: “Do you want to be healed?”

That man has been lying there for who knows how long. Others are cutting in front of him, time after time. The crowd is big, and needy, and unhealthy.  The possibility of a sarcastic retort is bubbling up in my mind, including a rolling of his eyes. “No, thank you. I am just here for the view, taking a little break from the feast!”

But no, this man responds to Jesus with respect, and answers the question by summarizing his situation:  “Sir…I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” There is no demanding, no rant of complaint, no begging, just a respectful commentary of need.

Jesus always seeks the hearts that know they need Him. And He always finds them. 100_6457

His response to this man, the one He’s singled out of the crowd, is “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” At once, the man is healed, takes up his pallet and walks. Jesus slips away.

The next day, the location changes. Jesus is where He is expected– in the temple. The man that was healed is also there. Jesus finds him and finishes their conversation: “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may befall you.” Then the man leaves and tells his story.

 Today’s Take-aways:

I have a lot to learn here. There are things I MUST let God make me better at:

*Go where the people are. Those who are spiritual invalids—blind, paralyzed, lame—seek them out. Sometimes they are far outside the safe circles of church fellowship, sometimes they are right in the pew next to me (scooted over at a safe distance). There are hearts that don’t see the hope in God’s truth, or are paralyzed by fear, apathy, or sin. Others are limping along and just need the strong shoulders of encouragement and service to rise up and walk. Be that.

*Become a question-asker. Find out whose heart is open to the work of Jesus by asking. We don’t know if we don’t ask. I have a brother in Christ who makes a point of asking total strangers (usually fellow passengers on an airplane) what their goals in life are, and what they are doing to achieve them. He pries open the reluctant doors of their hearts with unexpected questions that create opportunity. That’s a little scary for me, but I’ll bet I can start with asking my brothers and sisters in Christ, and my friends and family. If I practice with them, I’ll be better at starting conversations with those I don’t know that need to have that conversation.

*Take a look at the way Jesus finishes the conversation with the man whose life He touched. “See you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” Listen to His words. What are they really saying? Affirm what I have done! Reflect and affirm! Underline and boldface it for yourself. AND….Sin no more. Go forward. Jesus asks us, every day, what do we want? “I know it already, but you tell me in your own words. Do you want to be healed?”

Then, “Rise. Walk.” By His direction, under His orders: Rise. Walk. Whatever you do, whatever ails you, or whatever you want, get moving! Then, affirm what I have done for you. Remember Whose you are and by Whose power you move, then go forward as I have directed you!

*God is big on remembrance. He wove a structure into the lives of His people from the earliest times, because He knows that one fault of His imperfect beloved is their habit of forgetting. When time and activity stretch the distance between our salvation and today, the freshness of His grace, and its impact can become dull. IT is not dull, our perception of it is. So, like the man at the temple, walking on healthy legs in temple worship for the first time in 38 years, listen to the words of Jesus: “See, you are well!” Remember the Before, to appreciate the After. This encounter with Him will always be your touchstone.

*After Jesus celebrates with the man in greeting, and cautions Him about how to move forward, the man goes away and tells his story. Not anyone else’s story, but his story. I can do that. I can tell others the effect Jesus has on my life. I don’t have to impress them with doctrine, I don’t have to recall book, chapter and verse, I can just tell my story. Everyone has a story. forsythia

Whew! Now that I have spent time at this pool of healing, I am ready for the walk to the temple. I can hear the murmur of Jesus’ words, and He’s saying something powerful. See you there…

 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:11-13 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Posted in Facing Jesus, Gratitude, Memorial Day, Sharing Jesus, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When the Questions You Ask Aren’t the Ones You Need Answers To

Sidle up, Friends. It’s time for a little rest on this dusty journey. Grab a stone, shade your eyes from the noonday sun and look up.   You can tell a lot about someone by the way they talk to others. We’re in John 4, at an old well–a well that has seen generations of God’s people coming and going. Our Savior is taking a rest, and sets His wearied body down. Along comes a woman–an ordinary woman going about her daily business of water-gathering. Jesus starts a conversation by asking her for something simple, yet deceptively complex-a drink of water. There were a lot of social protocols attached to the getting of water in those days… River in Jackson NH 2011 apgart

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.  The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that you,  a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria? For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”

I love how Jesus doesn’t even really answer the woman at the well’s initial question, the question she thought was the most important to ask. He doesn’t get sucked into that conversation. He steers the conversation toward Himself. Now this would be quite off-putting for any of us to do. No one’s heart or mind stays open to the words of an arrogant conversationalist who must always be the focus of the dialogue.
Somehow it’s different with Jesus. Because it’s supposed to be different. This is the One Conversation that we should have that is always, ALWAYS turned to Jesus.
The Questions: What on earth are You doing with me, Jesus?! You are not following the rules! Who ARE you?
He leads her heart and mind a bit, until it’s ready. Then…
The Answer: I am He.

Sometimes, the first questions that pop into my head aren’t the ones I really need answers to. What are my first questions?…Why?  How?  When?

Maybe they need to be Who?

Not Why is this happening?  How will it unfold? When will it change?

But Who will walk me through this? Who will grab ahold of its edges and peel them back to reveal what is needed? Who will choose the right time, and Who will help me wait?

Not Why do we do things this way? How should it look? When should we start?

But Who will help us see it? Live it? Whose eyes and hands and feet shall we use?

Have you ever had a faith conversation with a skeptic, particularly one who comes from a religious tradition? They are often relentless in their questions that hinge on the perceived externals of faith. Like this woman, they say

Question 1: Why aren’t you following the rules? How is it you are even speaking to me, let alone asking me for something? What ARE the rules?

Watch Jesus. He massages her curiosity. He knows her heart. This one…she needs to be led, with dropped crumbs, as though leading a skittish bird to hand. She’s missing the point.

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

I wonder how often I stand beside Jesus, asking Him a question, without remembering, without really KNOWING the Gift of God, and to whom I am speaking? Is that why I get my questions so wrong sometimes? It’s not that He doesn’t hear my questions, He just knows me so well, that He tries to guide my heart to asking the deeper, more needed questions-the ones that have the important answers to unlock the power of His grace and majesty. These are the questions that point to HIM. 

Question 2: What you offer is impossible, and it doesn’t fit with what I think you’re saying. You don’t have a jar, the water is out of reach, and by the way, where do you get that living water?

Question 3: (She doesn’t even give Him a chance to answer her second question before she’s peppering Him with another. I am so like her!)  Are You greater than those leaders in the past on whom we place our confidence?

Jesus does not stray from the point He’s trying to make. He has something to offer that is different from anything she’s ever had, and He’s willing to offer it to her.

Next, she responds with a demand, and it’s a demand with an expectation that when satisfied, this daily burden of water-drawing will be gone from her life.

But Jesus gets personal. She won’t, so He will. Let’s talk about your husband…s.JacksonNH covered bridge 2011 apgart

Uh-oh. I know that sinking feeling of  Jesus hitting my heart in the hard places.

She deflects His attention away from her to yet another religious argument.

Jesus is so patient. He finally addresses her question…sort of. He reminds her of what she should already know. It’s about salvation. Then He opens it up for her: God is seeking those that are His. (I love that He shares that the Father SEEKS those who worship Him!)

The woman mulls over her religious history… “I know that Messiah is coming…”

Jesus responds: I am the one you’ve been waiting for. I am He. He has spent the whole conversation trying to lead her to Himself. He has been bringing her past what she supposed was important to wrestle with, and led her to Who He is.

How often does He do this with me? What kind of questions have I been asking Him? Am I missing the point?

I laugh when I imagine the next few moments. The disciples arrive, carrying food from the city. They notice Jesus in conversation with this woman. Their eyebrows raise. (Can you imagine the knowing looks flying back and forth between them?) They see it. They marvel at it, but for some reason they don’t question Him about it. Maybe they’ve learned that this Man of God has the authority to not play by their rules. He’s a game-changer. Then the woman flees, leaving her water jar, and calls out to the people to come see this man that may be the Christ!

Today’s Take Aways… Rhododendron bee apgart 2014

*I really see myself in this woman. I am so grateful for Jesus’ patience in our humanity and often misdirected focus.

*Jesus knows our hearts. He’ll steer our conversations the way they need to go. Even if we don’t ask the right questions, He’ll give us the needed answers.

*Jesus will wait while we pepper Him with questions that aren’t of primary importance. He’ll answer them by redirecting our attention to Himself, then He’ll get personal. What’s REALLY going on in our lives? He sees that, and takes it, and uses it to move us forward.

*God seeks after us. He offers full satisfaction. How wonderful to be sought after and satisfied!

*This ‘living water’ He offers…it’s amazing! It means active…blessed…endless in the kingdom of God…having vital power in itself and exerting the same upon the soul. Soul refreshing!

I hope our stop has been restful. We  next stop in Jerusalem, after continuing on our journey through Galilee. This would be a good time to check the soles of your sandals, and fill up your travel mug with some of that living water.

May your day and walk be blessed. Enjoy your drink.

Posted in Facing Jesus, Prayer, Sharing Jesus, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Nighttime Conversation

What began as a stop along the journey to KNOW and BECOME LIKE Jesus, has turned into a lesson from God today on HOW TO BE WITH Jesus. Pathway to cabin apgart2013

We are on a night visit, and joining a man whose heart is beginning to have divided loyalties. He slips away, under cover of night, and knows exactly where to go to have a private conversation with a certain rabbi, away from the suspicious eyes of his fellow leaders.

I admire Nicodemus, and his earnest desire to understand. This evening, at great personal risk, he slips out from underneath what is expected of him as a ruler of God’s people, and he pursues what has been niggling at his consciousness…this Man…this Man is from God. Something is different about Him…No one can do what He does without being from God… He goes right to the Source. There is no postulating or philosophizing with a committee before he acts. He goes right to Jesus, acknowledging what they already know: “for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with them”. Then he listens. The interesting thing is, despite how enmeshed his life must be in the organization of faith, he’s not asking about rules or traditions or how to demonstrate his faith. Nicodemus draws near to the man, Jesus, makes a statement of confidence, and listens. Ocean bench Wallis Sands April 2014 apgart

Whenever you watch Jesus, you see that he gives each individual exactly what their heart needs. Sometimes it’s a rebuke, sometimes it’s a reminder or refinement of understanding. Still other times it is compassion or a basic need, like food.

What Nicodemus needs is the simple truth. He has already acknowledged the connection Jesus has with God. What he needs to know is buried deep underneath the traditional rituals and teachings. It is covered by the cloak of people management. Written in the law and the prophets, he already possesses the truth, the Son of God just has to connect the dots for him.

Jesus cuts right to the chase: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus had better pay attention! This was his job–ruling the Jews and keeping them on track to claim the kingdom that is their inheritance.

What is Jesus’ message to Nicodemus? Start over. Begin at a new kind of beginning. Be born anew. From above. Of all the messages Jesus could have given Nicodemus, He chose to speak of a sacrificial love that disintegrates the walls of separation, and gathers all mankind to Him. He speaks of salvation and hope. He speaks of the character of man, and nails it exactly. Then he acknowledges what Nicodemus already knows: “That which is true comes to light so that it may be clearly seen that His deeds have been wrought in God.”

Today’s Take Aways… (Tuck them in your heart!) Ocean bench Wallis Sands apgartapril2014

Pursue understanding. Nicodemus keeps asking questions. Do I do the same? Throughout scripture, recorded in the annals of secular and religious history and written in the lives of fellow sojourners on this earth, is evidence that this Man is from God. Do I also go right to the Source, and pursue understanding? The Source. Not a book, THE book. Not a conversation with a friend, to THE Friend. Do I ask HIM to help me understand? There is much wisdom to be gained by reasoning God’s word together, and leaning on the knowledge of well-learned others that walk with God. Ultimately, though, do I go to Jesus Himself and ask for understanding?

How to be with Jesus: Go to Him, open to hearing what He has to say. Lay down my preconceived notions. Ask Him questions. If I don’t ‘get it’, keep asking. Be relentless in my pursuit of understanding Jesus. Let Jesus connect the dots for me.

Sometimes you’ve got to remove yourself from the religious structure in which you are imbedded and take a mini-retreat with the Savior so you can really hear the Truth of what He has to say.

Don’t make things so complicated that others can’t see the basic simplicity of the gospel message (simple for us, so very hard for Him…) “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life…”


“My son, if you receive my words

And treasure up my commandments with you,

Making your ear attentive to wisdom

And inclining your heart to understanding;

Yes, if you cry out for insight

And raise your voice for understanding,

If you seek it like silver

And search for it as for hidden treasures;

Then you will understand the fear of the LORD

And find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5


Today’s Mile Marker:

John 3:1-21 Read it like you have never read it before.

See you in Samaria on our next stop…Be blessed (you already are!).


All scriptures, unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1952/1971

Posted in Facing Jesus, Love, Sharing Jesus, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Wedding Surprise

Dust your feet off, put on your best, and scoot alongside. Here’s our chance to be wedding crashers, without the chance of being thrown out by the bride’s family! Let’s tuck ourselves in at the celebration and watch.

Reading the gospel of John, chapter two, is like beginning to  examine a multi-faceted gem in a sunbeam. The result is a stunning realization that there is always more than meets the eye to our Savior.

I’ve made a stop along my journey in Cana, where Jesus, along with His new minted disciples, is invited to a wedding.  Weddings are wonderful affairs–such joy and celebration–until there is a glitch in the preparations. (I speak as a survivor. My daughter’s tented wedding reception took place on a farm. After cake- and guest-withering heat, we found ourselves in the middle of a major electrical storm. It’s always interesting being the highest point on a hillside, under tall canvas held up by a long metal pole.) CCeremonyapgart 2012

At this wedding is a particular family–among them the mother, the firstborn son, and a group of his students from the village. The celebration began like any other, with ordinary focus on the joining of families and weaving of community

I have never before considered the particular manner in which Jesus chose to act on His mother’s request to provide more wine for the guests.  How simple it would have been to just increase the wine, and miraculously fill those six empty stone jars. Yet Jesus chooses not to. Instead, He has them draw 120-130 gallons of water. Why the extra step?

Because as always, in all extra steps, Jesus teaches us. Why does it take so long to realize some of our dreams? Why are there so many diversions and side trips? Because Jesus has something to teach us. In delays and disappointments, extra hoops to jump through and off ramps, He continues to shape our hearts.

Our God is One of great contrasts. His holiness vs. our sinfulness. His unyielding love vs. our fickleness. His saving grace vs. our human perversion of Law.

I’ve been turning the brief conversation between Jesus and His mother over and over in my  mind…“When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.’  And Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

I never have been able to figure out why Jesus would respond to her this way, and then go on to do exactly what He said it was not time to do. What I notice today, though, is that Jesus, being both very human and at the same time Spirit, apppears reluctant to begin an unstoppable chain of events. Once started, there was no going back. I think I get that. We know what we have to do. We know what we are willing to do because the profit of our actions will be worth the cost. At the same time, we dread beginning because the ensuing action is huge, there is no exit strategy, and the sacrifice is great.

Through the years, as I’ve poured over the ancient words God has chosen to keep for us, one of the great constant Truths that He continues to engrave on my heart is that He is deliberate. There is nothing our God does without purposeful intent.

“Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine, but you have kept the good wine until now.

This extra step of water to wine was the “Great Reveal.” It was time to let the whole world in on the Secret. He has come. It really was the right moment. What better time was there to strip the cloak of inadequacy and offer the hope of grace? There is so much to teach us in a blink of an eye, in the empty jars-filled with water-now turned to wine: How much sweeter is the healing covenant with Jesus than the teaching-law of Law! Human hearts are the ultimate empty vessels, and God spent centuries shaping them to see the inadequacies of anything but His given grace. Seemingly satisfied with the house Merlot, we needed the lesson of contrast to awaken our hearts. Pay attention Children. I have come. This colorless liquid isn’t enough for you. Your house wine isn’t worthy of this celebration. Look at the difference–It is I who provides the best wine. I am the vine from which it comes. (And P.S….Guess Who is really the Bridegroom here?!”)

I am giggling a moment here, this side of the cross, envisioning the surprise of the servants, the wedding families, and the guests. They had no idea they had the best wine kept in their storehouses. What a surprise! And they thought it was just another family wedding…

Today’s Take Aways (tuck them in your heart today)…

I have a need. My wine has run out. Jesus is the one to fill that need. He is the one to satisfy.

Breaking with the custom of allowing the guests to drink freely of cheap wine once their senses had been dulled by the bridegroom’s best offerings, as always, Jesus does the unexpected. He underlines what God wants us to know, always: Your best isn’t good enough. It isn’t the best at all! I provide the best. Pay attention to the difference.

We sometimes have the best wine stored away, and Jesus will call it out at the right time.

God devotes time to shaping the empty vessels of our souls until we are ready for the New Wine.

God’s ultimate act of grace was revealed for all at a wedding, and ends at the arrival of the Bridegroom to gather His Bride.

Blessings on your day and journey back from Cana to wherever you walk today, and hoping that you know Him more.


All Scripture from the Revised Standard Version. Thank you, Matthew Henry, for your insights.


Water. What a marvelous teaching tool! From water to blood, there was the first escape. We are born again in the waters of baptism, after our burial with Jesus. Someday I am going to put on my galoshes and slosh around in the marvelous wetness and gather the blessings of God there!


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