Surprised by Christ's Presence

Has Jesus ever startled you? Suddenly showed up in a place or situation you weren’t expecting? Join the disciples behind the locked doors in this passage and experience with them as they behold a living, breathing, healed Jesus. Receive His peace. Feel His breath. Ponder the power of healed wounds.

John 20:19-23 NLT

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

If something captured your attention - a word, a phrase, an image - let this simmer in you and allow the Spirit to expand its meaning for you.

Notice any place of consolation or desolation that you experienced as you listened and allow the Trinity to minister to you there.

This text is full of tactile and sensory observations. How is it for you to place yourself in this story? Which of your senses are affected? Bring this affect into conversation with Jesus.

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The Father Loves You Dearly

Plain talk: the Father loves you dearly.
It's that simple.
For many of us, it seems to take nearly a lifetime or an unbearable sorrow or an excruciating trial to come to know this in the depths of our being. Yet this is the love which heals, comforts and transforms us at our core where head knowledge becomes heart knowledge. Be extremely gentle and compassionate with yourself in the process. We cannot make ourselves get there. Yet we can, moment by moment, surrender to the love of the Father and rely on God's love to take us there.

John 16:25-33 (NLT)
 “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. 26 Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, 27 for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. 28 Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”
29 Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. 30 Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”
31 Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? 32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

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? Pause to listen to it. Bring it into your prayer

Is there a place where you are feeling scattered or alone? What do you need from God in that place?

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

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Training In Discernment

It is midway through the Feast of Tabernacles. The boy who stayed after the Feast of Passover amazing them with his understanding in the temple at age 12 is back as an adult providing foundational instruction in discernment. They marvel because there has been no formal training in the interim. At this Feast to celebrate God dwelling with them in the wilderness they fail to see God dwelling with them in the person of Jesus.
How can we be aware of God and know His will? This passage provides numerous guideposts in discerning God's will. It begins with our desire to want only the will of God. Listen slowly. Wait unit you really hear the heart of Jesus in his words, demeanor and intention.

John 7:14-24 NLT
Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15 The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?”a they asked.
16 So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. 17 Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. 18 Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. 19 Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”
20 The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”
21 Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. 22 But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) 23 For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? 24 Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”
a from the Greek word gramma meaning: a letter, writing, letters of sacred learning

For Reflection and Prayer:
What caught your attention-a word, a phrase, an image or emotion-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 conversation? Bring that feeling into your prayer. How do you need Jesus to meet you in that feeling?

At the “remembrance of God dwelling with them in the wilderness” Jesus is teaching on discernment. Prayerfully reflect on your own discernment – where have you noticed God’s presence with you or God’s word to you?

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

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?

Quiet...shhh....

Awaken from deep rest: Jesus brings quiet stillness to the storm around him. How is it that he could be undisturbed by the raging storm? He invites us to live in that place of shalom with him. Yet how do we arrive there? What habits and rhythms help us be still and quiet with God? Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, silence, solitude, Sabbath and practicing living in the presence of God over time can be deeply transformative. A spiritual companion or director may aid us in growing in these practices. Often it is our fears which keep us running from the quiet and still place in our heart. We are afraid of what we might feel or hear. Like a tender, safe parent, God longs to draw us close and heal our fears so that we can dwell with God in a place of shalom - peaceful, contented, whole and well - both inwardly and outwardly.

Can you hear your Abba, gently drawing you close and whispering tender, comforting words into your soul? shhh...shhh...shhh...lean in to listen...

Mark 4:35-41 NIV
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase, or image which shimmered for you as you listened to the passage? Have a conversation with Jesus about what stirred in you.
Place yourself in the story. How is it intersecting with your life right now?
What helps you arrive at or return to an inward, quiet, still place with Jesus?