The Life You Say You Want

At times we may approach the bible as a self-help manual."What do I need to do to be saved?" We might pick apart the text deciding what fits, what's impossible, and what we can and must do. Often this approach leads to despair, continual shame and self-loathing. What if we approached this sacred text honestly and humbly as we are? What if we simply gave ourselves to wonder, allowing the stories to soak in like morning dew watering the seeds of life God has already planted in our heart? Such a gentle, beneficent pace can give us the space we need to grow in the discernment and wisdom needed to discover the desires of our heart, those desires planted deep within by God.

   Do we know what our heart truly wants? Do we need the Spirit's help in sifting through our wants and desires? Do we need to hear ourselves say aloud, what we truly want? And what do we need from God to help us choose life? We can courageously take these questions into our prayer with God. Always, we can listen and live into the answers.

John 5:31-40 TMG
If I were simply speaking on my own account, it would be an empty, self-serving witness. But an independent witness confirms me, the most reliable Witness of all. Furthermore, you all saw and heard John, and he gave expert and reliable testimony about me, didn’t he?
34-38 “But my purpose is not to get your vote, and not to appeal to mere human testimony. I’m speaking to you this way so that you will be saved. John was a torch, blazing and bright, and you were glad enough to dance for an hour or so in his bright light. But the witness that really confirms me far exceeds John’s witness. It’s the work the Father gave me to complete. These very tasks, as I go about completing them, confirm that the Father, in fact, sent me. The Father who sent me, confirmed me. And you missed it. You never heard his voice, you never saw his appearance. There is nothing left in your memory of his Message because you do not take his Messenger seriously.
39-40 “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture? Talk it over with Jesus in your prayer.

Where are you currently finding life? Where is life being drained from you? Bring this refection into conversation with God.

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

The God of the Living

Riddled with questions, this passage invites us to sift through the questions in our own lives - both the ones asked of us and the ones we ask of ourselves. The ancient practice of the Examen - a prayerful reflection which over time aids in discernment - can help us see what brings life and what takes life from us or keeps us in dead and despairing places. 
The reflection questions which follow this passage can guide you in the practice of the examen.  Perhaps it is one you feel led to incorporate into the season of Lent.

Mark 12:18-27 (NIV)
Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What word(s) or phrase in the passage calls out to you?

What parts of your day are filled with life? What in your life is life-giving and to be celebrated with God?

What parts of your day are dead or filled with dread? What in your life is life-taking and could be surrendered to God?

How have you experienced the power of God in your life?

During the season of Lent, Christians may set aside time for cleansing the body and spirit. Lent is also a traditional time of spring housecleaning. What in your life may desire cleaning so that spring and new life can begin?

Hungry for God

After the exuberant praise of the day before and time to ponder and pray about what he carefully observed in the temple, Jesus returns to his Father's House. He knows what it is like to experience physical and spiritual hunger. He knows the desperation of finding food which will satisfy and the deception and obstacles in finding it.

Jesus still longs for us to find free access to God in our prayer, our worship, our praise.

Mark 11:12-19 NIV
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you notice as you listened? A word, a phrase, a feeling? Continue to listen or pay attention to that with Jesus. What else is He showing you?

What, if anything, surprises you about Jesus in this passage? Does anything about Him in that resonate with your own story? Have a fun discussion with Jesus about it. Does He show you something new about Himself or about you?

This passage points out that those who wanted to kill Jesus feared Him. Do you have points of contact in your life with this? -with people who hurt you that might actually fear you? (Or vice versa). How does this affect your perspective of people you encounter or live with? Where might Jesus be with you in these encounters?

What "tables" in your own heart keep you distracted from your prayer, worship, and praise? Ask Jesus to give you new perspective on them. What does he show you?

Pause. Be still. And remember again that your heart is a house of prayer. Join the prayer which Jesus is already interceding on your behalf and the world's.