A Blessed Life

Nearing his final Passover, Jesus takes the basin and towel and bending his knee he blesses his beloved disciples as he washes their feet. One by one. In Hebrew the word for bless is BRK (Barak) and it literally means to bend the knee. This week as you pause to pray, you might listen for where God is inviting you to bend your knee to receive or to serve. They go together in living a blessed life.

John 13:1-17 (NLT)
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,[c] to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
•  13:1 Or he showed them the full extent of his love.

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.

Place yourself into this scene. Who are you? What feelings and thoughts are going on inside of you as this scene unfolds? Talk it over with Jesus in your prayer.

Where have you or long to experience Jesus loving you in such a humble way? Journal about that experience or your longing.

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

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When Jesus Comes to You

Today we share a journal paragraph as a way to demonstrate how we can place ourselves in the scripture story and simply begin a conversation with Jesus. This excerpt brings the writer to an inner discovery of her motives, agenda and deeper longing within her soul.

In the crowd I feel absolute exhilaration as I watch to catch a glimpse of this Jesus. I have heard so much about him. I know Lazarus died, was buried and now is alive and walking around. My heart is bursting with hope. What might this God man actually do to free our people? Will he be like Moses? Even more than Moses? I want more than this life I'm living. I want Jesus to fix our pain, our mess. Fix it now, Jesus. Do what we ask of you. Make it all better instantaneously. We will worship you if you keep doing these miraculous things.
I don't understand why you are riding a lowly donkey. It doesn't seem fitting of your stature and the dignity you deserve. That's ok, we will eventually get you what you need...

I'm beginning to feel the lure of wanting to make you popular, Jesus. I really have no idea clue who you really are. Who is this man who comes in the name of the Lord?

John 12:12-19 (NLT)
The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:
15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.”
16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.
17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear or noticed as you listened to the text? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you heard.
Place yourself in this crowd. Who are you? What are you witnessing? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Is there anything you want to say to Jesus or do for him? What does he in turn say to you?
Where have you noticed Jesus coming to you? Journal what that was like for you.
Savor any consoling words or pictures God gives you. Simply rest in God’s presence.

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A Still and Quiet Soul

Strong bonds of attachment develop between a mother and nursing infant as the baby learns that her needs for safety, nourishment, being held, companionship, and care will be met. Especially important are the eyes brimming with loving delight that the baby sees in the eyes who see her. Deep inside her soul, she knows love. Her trust is the fruit of this knowing love. Together the mother and babe learn the dance of trust as the babe expresses her needs through cries and the mother learns to interpret them. As the infant matures the time will come when the mother and child begin the process of weaning. This too is a delicate dance and cannot be rushed. A contentedly calm, weaned child: still, quiet and resting in her mothers embrace is the fruit of the loving trust established between them.

The fruit of loving trust is a still and quiet soul.

Psalm 131 (NIV)

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

For Prayer and Reflection:

Is there a word, a phrase, or an image from this passage that holds your attention? Rest with Jesus with that for awhile.

What concerns might you be holding that most keep your soul from rest? What do you notice about your soul when it is quieted? How does this quieting come to you?

Is there a sound, a color, an image, a smell, a taste, a texture or something else which helps you rest your soul and/or encourages your trust and hope in the Lord?

Often Christians are prodded to "mature" quickly. Give yourself permission to be that nursing infant with God. What do you need for trust to be reestablished between you and God? Keep bringing this into your prayer.

Love Un-numbed

The long, painful path to the cross has come to an end. We have felt the weight of dwelling in these texts which extended beyond the church calendar. We have chosen to allow the text to shape and change us. 

After much dialogue with his Father, Jesus discerned the time to choose and allow the humiliations of his enemies.  We observe the provision of a companion, an advocate for Jesus in his suffering. And we witness what love looks like un-numbed.

Mark 15:16-20 (NLT)
16 The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 20 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.
21 A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) 22 And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 23 They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.
24 Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. 25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
29 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. 30 Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”
31 The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.

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. Is there a color you associate with this word?
Bring your own experience of being mocked into your prayer with Jesus. How is he with you in it? Does have something to say to you?
Be with Jesus in his humiliation, either at a distance or by his side. Is there something you want to tell him?

On Our Way...With Jesus Leading The Way

Jesus and his disciples are embarking on their last trip to Jerusalem. A conversation unfolds between them as they journey together.  It is a raw conversation, full of unedited honesty. The disciples must have felt quite loved and comfortable with Jesus to say out loud what they were thinking in their hearts. From a distance, it is easy to judge these disciples as self centered and absorbed and certainly we can see ourselves in them. Yet, Jesus meets each of them in their disconnect and models the wisdom of true servant leadership. He understands that radical honesty is where transformation can begin.

Jesus, our servant leader, journeys with us, tenderly takes us aside, reveals what is to happen (most often, as it is happening), invites us to ask for what we want and calls us together when we are offended by one another. Every action Jesus takes is serving our own transformation into his likeness and building his Kingdom here on earth. He invites us to serve alongside with him.

Listen in on the conversation...

Mark 10: 32-45 (NIV)
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
As you listened to or read the text, was there a word, phrase or image which stayed with you?  Be still with them for a while. Ask Jesus about them. Is there more that Jesus says to you?

What do you want Jesus to do for you? What is underneath your desire? Jesus longs for you to know your own heart as well as his heart. How are they intertwined? Have a conversation with Jesus about it.

How have you experienced being served by Jesus? By others? How might Jesus be inviting you to serve with him in this season?

How is Jesus leading you today? How is he collectively leading those who you are with in Christian community together? What is your prayer as you seek to follow his lead?

A Made for the Movies Kind of Story

Today we have before us a story of deceit, guilt, manipulation, allure, partying, bravado, saving face, ugly hatred and bitterness of heart. When truth is spoken, conviction is rejected and hardness of heart and arrogance spawn actions that result in the evil act of murder and gloating. Such a sad, horrific story and yet one that can provide a mirror into how our hearts could be if left to nurse a grudge, to deepen in bitterness and hatred.

Where is the hope, the redemptive story line? We are left to complete it ourselves, examining our own actions and heart intentions. How do you hear the Words of truth? With humility or resentment?

Mark 6:14-29    New Living Translation (NLT)
The Death of John the Baptist

Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.”

When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.” For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

Herodias’s chance finally came on Herod’s birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!”

She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?”
Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!”
So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!”

Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb.

For Reflection and Prayer:
•    What did you hear as you listened? Read?
•    What do you feel as you read this story?
•    Is there something in this story that touches something in your story?
•    What might you have conversation with Jesus about from what you heard?