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.

Bread for Today

Today's text is teeming with of treasures of truth. The gift of the Lectio Divina method of slow, prayerful listening to and meditating on a small portion of the text is that we awaken to our hunger for God. By humbly slowing down we discover our place of need. We make room for God's Spirit to work in us supplying food for our need while renewing how we think and transforming our how we act. Keep on bringing your real self and real needs to the text. Stay in conversation with God. Wrestle with the Scriptures. Freely ask your questions in prayer and make your needs known. This is a real relationship you are cultivating with God. Keep listening. God's Spirit will continue to speak long after your designated times of prayer. Stay alert, watching for the manna falling from heaven for you each day. And always, it is given with great love. Say thanks.

John 6:25-34 NLT
They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What caught your attention as you listened to the text? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you heard.

Was there a particular feeling you experienced as you listened to the story? Bring that feeling into your prayer. How do you need Jesus to meet you in that feeling?

Reflect on where you are noticing your hunger for God. What is truly nourishing that hunger?

Be still and savor any consoling words or pictures in your prayer.

    Tags: desire, food, hunger, listening, need, soul food

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.

Involving Jesus in Our Shame

John chapter 2 begins with a dramatic scene of the miraculous: water stored within ceremonial vessels becomes wine. Astonishing! This story invites further exploration with its many layers of metaphors. It is rich with community, family, friends, cultural norms and customs with threads of shame woven through it. The text invites us to prayerfully place ourselves into the story and allow it to unfold and intermingle with the themes in our own story. What do you want Jesus to know about your shame? What might happen if we ask Jesus to become involved in our personal or communal shame? Listen in to what Jesus tells you.

John 2:1-12 (NLT)
The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
5 But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
11 This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
12 After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.

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.

Were you drawn to anyone in particular in this story-text? How might they have been feeling? How are you feeling? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus.

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?

Listening for Desire

Still on their way to Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples arrive in Jericho. As they leave with a crowd following alongside them, a blind beggar interrupts their journey with his desperate cries for mercy. Once again, Jesus is willing to be interrupted and asks the question for a second time, "what do you want"? Why does Jesus repeatedly invite the same question? What does Jesus understand about desire that he keeps asking and listening for desire in his conversations with others?

You are invited into this same dialogue with Jesus. Are you willing to acknowledge and name what you want in his presence? Keep listening. He is calling you.

Mark 10:46-52 (NIV)
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

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

Think about a time when you were aware of your own desire or desperation for God to do something in your life. Ponder the how, what, when, where, why of that time.

What is a desire you are most aware of in your life right now?

What would be your response if Jesus said to you, "What do you want me to do for you"?

It's Hard To Imagine

Imagine with me, if you will, standing on a high mountain with Jesus and two of your good friends.
    
    Pause…and stay there awhile if you can.

    Okay, now imagine that Jesus turns dazzling white—He transfigures—before your very eyes. Then a couple of His colleagues (Elijah and Moses) from centuries past show up. And, to top it off, a voice speaks from a cloud.

    Pause…Now? I don’t think so.

    It’s hard to imagine being with Jesus that day, let alone honor His request to not speak about it until He had risen from the dead. Risen from the dead? What? I imagine it all seemed quite confusing and frightening to Peter, James, and John, even though they were there to experience it.

    It’s hard to imagine being invited onto that mountain with Jesus, isn’t it? But I believe that He extends a similar invitation today. Can you hear Him? “ Dear One, I see that mountain you are facing. Come, join me there.”

    He is risen. He is risen indeed. And I’m not just imagining that.

Mark 9:2-12 (NIV)
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?

Questions to consider in your reflection and prayer:
1. As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that seemed dazzling white to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Visit with Jesus about this.
2. Do you have any high mountains in your life? Name them if you can. Imagine you are alone (or with a couple of friends) there with Jesus. Listen to Him in the quietness of your heart. What is He saying to you?
3. Are there certain shelters you like to put up? Ask Jesus if you have any shelters that you do not need. Listen with Him in the shelter of His presence.
4. What transfigurations, if any, are you seeking with Jesus?

A Soft and Tender Heart

In our listening through the good news of Mark, we listen to the words of Jesus, both the ones easy to hear and the ones we may be tempted to pass by quickly. This text reveals the nature of our hearts.

As I leaned in to listen to Jesus' heart, I heard the following:

Come and hear.
All of you, listen.
Your willingness to come to me,
your willingness to hear me,
your willingness to listen, that is to act on what you hear,
these are the signs of a soft and tender heart.
Let me continue to heal your heart, so that you do not need to act out of a defended heart which hurts yourself and others.
Keep coming to me, hearing and listening to me above the noise of the crowd.
I will transform your heart. You cannot transform your heart, solely of your own will. I am the one who gives you the desire, will and power to obey what you have heard.
Keep coming to me.
Apologize and make amends when you act out of your hard heart.
Return to me. I will make your heart soft.
I love you.
You cannot do this transformation apart from me.
Keep coming.
Keep hearing.
Keep listening

Stop trying to fix the outside and allow me to transform the inside.

Listen in for the voice of Jesus for yourself today. What is he saying to you?

Mark 7: 1-23 (NLT)
One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. 2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. 3 (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. 4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
7 Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”
14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”
17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)
20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

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?

Reflect on your spiritual traditions, practices and rhythms. Which ones increase greater love and compassion within you towards God, yourself and others?
Make note of the ones that are most life-giving for you.

Are there traditions, practices and rhythms which drain life out of you? What fruit do you notice from them? Bring these into a prayer dialogue with Jesus. Is he inviting you to let go of any particular tradition or practice?

Invite Jesus to look with you into your heart. What do the two of you see? Spend some time surrendering/releasing what you are unable to fix to Jesus. Then turn your attention to where you notice softening, new growth and life. Welcome it. Nurture it. Return to it. God is at work!