Follow the Trail of Tears

Tears are one of our places of greatest vulnerability. In spiritual direction we are encouraged to follow the trail of tears because our tears are a sure sign of the Spirit's presence and activity. Yet many are unable to cry or have not cried in years. Others wonder that if they begin to cry, they will drown in a sea of sorrow and never be able to stop. Finding a place of hospitality for our tears, in ourselves or another, can open up a possibility for healing, comfort and renewal. It takes courage to begin to feel our pain. Sometimes we need the help of others to contain and safeguard our overwhelming grief.

John 11:28-37 (ESV)

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[a in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

For Reflection and Prayer:
1. If there was a word, a phrase, or an image that sought your attention as you listened, stay with it and listen deeper with Jesus.
2. Place yourself in the story and notice which character you most relate to/with and rest into Jesus’ posture toward you.
3. If any of the emotions expressed in this passage (e.g. consoled, troubled, moved) touch you, linger there and pay attention to what else this may stir in you.

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Called By Name

Most of us can recall the sound of our name being called as a child - by a loving or frustrated parent, a delighted grandparent, a patient or anxious teacher, an exasperated sibling or playmate, an inspiring or demanding coach. Each call out told us something about our self. Were we welcome, delightful, acceptable, worthy or capable in that moment? Did that calling compel us to respond in trust and courage to that voice?
Listening for the voice of Jesus will ask us to examine how we hear him call us by name. Is the voice of love, hope and life calling us forward?

John 10:1-10 NLT
“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, 7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Listen  In a comfortable, quiet place, slowly and carefully listen to or read the Bible passage. Notice any words or phrases or images that seem alive to you at the moment. Allow yourself to stop and hold them in your heart before God.
 
Meditate  Repeat the words or phrases slowly to yourself. Or linger with the image. Allow them to interact with your inner world of memories, ideas or concerns. Ask yourself what meaning they may have for you.
 
Conversation  Share what you are discovering with the words and/or images and how they touch your heart with Jesus. Ask Jesus what the Father is saying to you through this prayer time.
 
Contemplate  When words or pictures are no longer needed, allow yourself to rest on Jesus’ lap. Feel the strength and tenderness of the Father’s love for you. Allow it to pour into your heart and fill you up. Linger here, resting in God’s compassionate care for you.
 
Cooperative Action  Ask Jesus to show you what the Father wants to do from this prayerful reading time with you. If you desire it, ask him to cause that change to happen by the Spirit’s power and your obedience working together from this point.

Belonging to the Bridegroom

Have you had an experience where you knew deep within that you belonged to God? If you become real quiet, can you remember where you have most felt a sense of belonging? That your life mattered and you were wanted? Sometimes we do not have a storehouse of nurturing memories to draw from. It is helpful then to vulnerably trust the longing to belong which God has placed within us. Bring these consoling memories and longings into your prayer as you listen to the following passage. John's inner knowing of who he belonged to gave him great confidence to walk in humility and trust the Bridegroom's voice.

John 3:22-30 (NIV)
22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus.

Share your longing to belong with Jesus. How does he meet you in this longing?

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

How Do You Hear God's Voice?

The Lord's voice can become a powerful force in our lives - not in a fear inducing, paralyzing or threatening way - but in a gloriously transformative, healing and liberating way.
Can we imagine that learning to listen and hear God's voice could bring such depth of life, wholeness and peace?
Or be as simple as slowing and quieting enough to listen?
To pay attention?
Or to even believe that using our own voice can be one of the means to discern God's voice?
Pause again today, to listen...

Psalm 29NLT

Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings[a];
    honor the Lord for his glory and strength.
2 Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.
    Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea.
    The God of glory thunders.
    The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;
    the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf;
    he makes Mount Hermon[b] leap like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
    with bolts of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks[c]
    and strips the forests bare.
In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”
10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace.
Footnotes:
29:1 Hebrew you sons of God.
29:6 Hebrew Sirion, another name for Mount Hermon.
29:9 Or causes the deer to writhe in labor.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling affected you as you listened to the text? How did it affect you? Bring this into your prayer with Jesus.

This text is rich in metaphor and imagery. Does one metaphor in particular reflect a place or season of your spiritual journey now?
Does God have more to say to you about that season or place? Do you have more to talk over or say to God?

How does God’s voice come to you? Sound to you? How do you discern God’s voice from other voices?

What Do We Usually Do?

Steeped in this text, we witness the typical form and pattern of life effectively lived apart from God. Thinking they are powerfully in control, the Jewish ruling elite make perfectly executable plans. Pontius Pilate, the appointed governor, leads and decides without pausing to pay attention to his own discomfort and dis-ease with the decision before him. As much as we want to blame all of them for the horrible treatment of Jesus, we can see our own similar patterns of behavior. If we are truly honest with ourselves...

we make elaborate plans without consulting God;

we disregard certain information, often living on autopilot, doing what we always do while not paying attention to the signals of new information, or the prompting of the Holy Spirit within;

we chose to satisfy the "crowd", either consciously or unconsciously, and betray the Still Small Voice within.

Perhaps God is inviting us to consider giving up old patterns of doing what we usually do and allowing the Spirit to do a new thing in us.

Mark 15:1-15 (NIV)
Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.
14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.


For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Try drawing your prayer if you are so inclined.

What do you notice about ‘making plans’ in the text? How do you ‘make plans’? What have you noticed when you invite Jesus to ‘make plans’ with you? Talk with him about it.

Perhaps crowd pleasing, or people pleasing is a temptation for you as you make decisions. How is Jesus guiding you in discernment as you face choices?

Be with Jesus in this story, either at a distance or by his side. Just be with him.