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!

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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)


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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,



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!


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.

( 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.

 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.


Posted in Facing Jesus, Jesus, Sharing Jesus, Studies in John, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What You Can Learn from Watching a Conversation

I have crossed the sea, in a boat full of seekers, and we are gathered on the northern shore. I have spent weeks here, shifting position, renewing my journey. My motivation remains the same: shift the focus from the externals of faith, the structure of church, back to Who I love and the One who authors my faith.

As I sit here on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I am seeing my sometimes-self in these people that pursued Jesus. Oahu sun

A crowd of people pursued Jesus after witnessing the miraculous feeding of about 5,000 people with a little boy’s lunch. This story widens my eyes and faith every single time. I am glad to return here, and watch again, how Jesus draws His beloved to Himself.

Jesus recognizes that the crowd seeks Him out because they view Him as a source to fill a physical need. It’s interesting to me that He calls them on that: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” v. 26

I wonder how many times humans draw close to God, to ‘church’ because of a physical or emotional need: shelter, food, belonging, a wholesome activity calendar, reputation…Then, on a good day, they get down to the business of the work of God.

I wonder how often I do that?…

The people ask Him about labor…activity…pursuit. How interesting that He does not choose to nudge them toward action in this moment. Time enough will come for that later. In this moment, what they needed to hear (and, apparently, what we need preserved for all time so that WE may feed upon this grain of truth) is this: the labor of God is belief in His Son.

All Jesus tells them to do at this point is to v. 29

Sometimes belief is the hardest work of all.

Sometimes acts of faith, the Doing, the activities, the ministries, the living a certain way are easier than believing.

This audience is still looking for a tangible sign. Well, if the truth be told, I would too. In fact, there I days I am. There are days I crave (and beg for) a ‘flaming arrow’ of verification, a wet fleece, parted seas. Some days I long for a loaf of bread and a few fish to turn into a banquet for thousands. Because of the conversations I have with others, I am pretty sure I am not alone in this.

I am listening to Jesus’ lesson here, and how He speaks to hearts that seek.

First, He knows His audience. This was not a rabbinical committee of temple leadership. This crowd was a remnant of those, that for some reason, had remained in the place where Jesus fed them. They were perhaps those that had cried, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” v. 15 As I watch the conversation unfold, I can see that Jesus speaks to the people who have followed him differently from his closest disciples the religious leadership. He always tailors the conversation to particular needs. There is no ‘one size fits all’ evangelistic checklist imposed on any interaction.

Second, He helps the audience knows themselves. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” v. 26 The embarrassing truth is, Jesus always knows our hearts and motivations, no matter how deeply we bury them underneath justifications or a flurry of activity.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 RSV

Ouch. However, with hearts that are seeking, Jesus never stops there. He uses those human yearnings and impulses as starting blocks of the race to Him.

Next, He steers them in the right direction for now and future pursuits. He gives them a life principle that will serve them well in every aspect, with every question of faith and living: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” v. 27

This will work to the doer’s benefit, every time. He shares a Truth that holds up under all circumstances. In that truth is an action plan and a guarantee of reward for following it.

Finally, He fields their question and distills His message to the simple truth: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” v. 29 He follows it up with a response to their “Prove it!” He explains the truth of what they have lived.

Then comes the bread conversation. Bread is a big deal to this audience. Not only is it 100_3702crucial to survival, it is a daily reminder of hope and dependence on God. If we visit here with our 21st century abundance and western attitude of excess, it is difficult to fully grasp the power behind this conversation. Even those of us who craft bread by choice, for pleasure, and wrap ourselves in the process of rising dough, it can be difficult to fully receive the impact of Jesus’ lessons about bread.

 “So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” V. 30-31

The audience knows this They have a rich heritage of faith and a corner of their believe rests on the bedrock Moses and the desert wanderings. They remember their history. They were provided for.

Jesus IS bread from heaven…He took one of the foundation stones of their faith and one-upped it. The manna rained down from heaven was such a blessed gift of God’s miraculous grace. It was proof of God’s constant care for a people that were homeless and bereft of even the most basic provision. Jesus removed the wonder from the gift itself, replaced the honor where it was due, to the Giver, then revealed to His audience that HE was the true bread from Heaven. Not only that, but that His flesh must be eaten, and there was even MORE: If it is eaten, we will not die!

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” RSV

Strip away a millennium or two of hindsight, and do you see how frighteningly preposterous that was?! There are some wild Truths that Jesus asks us to believe, but they are Truths, nonetheless. Faith in them reaps even wilder, astoundingly beautiful rewards: deep, heart-grounding faith that sustains us through all of Life’s storms, and the promise of eternal life in the holy companionship of God.

There is so much more to this bread conversation. It is a conversation God began with His people long before Jesus became the living Bread. Just think of the riches God reveals to us in such a simple thing: bread.  Seeds must be buried, and then their shells are broken in order to extend the roots downward and stalks upward that will grow to provide the grain. Grain must be gathered, and broken again, to transform it into flour, which is made into loaves. The Israelites made it in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one’s thumb, and as large as a plate or platter hence it was not to be cut but broken. Broken again. There’s a lot about breaking in this life with God—breaking of will, breaking of ties with the world and our sins, breaking of the loaves that then are consumed for sustenance. His Son participates in the breaking with us. It is He who is broken instead of us, and then shared to provide us real life in Him.

Against the backdrop of lapping waves, and then the walls of the synagogue, Jesus speaks of being the bread of life, and that we must consume Him. This is not a word that implies a casual relationship between us and our sustenance. “Consume” is an unambiguous, all-encompassing term for how we are to interact with Jesus. Too often, we choose to nibble a crumb, while moving down the buffet, instead of consuming.

We’re packing up our satchels again, dusting off our feet, preparing to move on. You are welcome to join me under the warmth of the Galilean sun, as I gather what has been shared with me here: how Jesus would have us speak life-truths to others, how belief is the work of God, how there is a lot about breaking in our walking with Him.



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