Naming Our Shame Story

Today’s short text is set near the end of a 500-year story. The Hebrew people were rescued from starvation by entering into Egypt only to be delivered out of the ensuing Egyptian slavery into freedom. On the eve of taking possession of the promised land, the Israelites, are about to taste and eat of its abundance.

As you enter this story in prayer, your own story of shame may surface - or it may be the shame story of your people, your family, community or nation. Gently hold whatever emerges in your prayer before God who continually leads us out of narrow places (Egypt) in our minds, hearts and habits into His expansive places of freedom (the promised land).

Those who the son sets free, will be free indeed…John 8:36

Joshua 5:9-12 (NLT)
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day.

10 While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. 11 The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. 12 No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.

For Reflection and Prayer:
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.

If you noticed any place of tension, or some other sensation, in your body as you listened, gently follow it with Jesus.

Journal about your longing or experience of shame being rolled away in your life. Give that story a name.

Quietly rest in the presence of the Lord with any comfort or consolation given to you.

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Not Guilty

Not guilty echos forward into eternity. A prophetic voice foreshadows what it to come. Our Abba and his Son look upon us and declare “Not Guilty”. There is to be no more blood shed to atone for sin. That way is done. And it is done now. What might it be
like to live “Not Guilty” today?
- free of guilt and shame?
- of not being enough?
- of messing up or making mistakes?
- of taking out our anger laced fear on others?
- of finding someone to blame?

John 19 contains the reality of great suffering. Please be gentle with yourself as you pray through these texts. Christ is with you.

John 19:1-6 (NLT)
Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. 2 The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. 3 “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.

4 Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” 5 Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”

6 When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did a word or phrase stand out in particular? Meditate on this word, phrase or picture. Is there more God wants to say to you?

Place yourself in this conversation. Who are you? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What do you want to say to Jesus? What does he in turn say to you?

This can be a painful passage to pray with. Invite Jesus to minister to you in your pain or just be with him in his pain. Together you are sharing in his suffering and he in yours.

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Invited to Tell Ourselves the Truth

A bystander, an enemy and an animal are the various voices which chose to speak and coax Peter to live into his reality. Rather than enemies, they are gifts in disguise which invited Peter to tell himself the truth. Which voices in our own lives seem like enemies who are only trying to expose our secrets and sequestered shame? What if:
- we could befriend them?
- listen to them?
- and discern if they are inviting us to be known in order to integrate and live out the truth of our lives in freedom and integrity?

John 18:25-27 (NLT)
Meanwhile, as Simon Peter was standing by the fire warming himself, they asked him again, “You’re not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “No, I am not.”
26 But one of the household slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?” 27 Again Peter denied it. And immediately a rooster crowed.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What ‘shimmered’ 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.

Reflect on a time when you have been startled into reality. What was that like for you? Where was the gift in it?

Rest in quiet trust in Jesus’ loving presence. Savor any consoling words or pictures given to you.

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Fear, Shame and Denial

How many sermons and bible studies have called us out on denying that we know Jesus? Yet heaping shame upon our denial only serves to keep us stuck and entrench us further. As we learn more about the impact which trauma or the threat of a traumatic experience has upon our body, including our brain, we learn that denial is an autonomic response to a traumatic event. Let's shift the focus here to wonder. What might it have been like for Peter to witness 200-600 armed Roman soldiers come to arrest Jesus? Can we stay with Peter by the fire and offer compassion to a brave disciple who is grappling with his fear? What comfort might he need from Jesus now?

John 18:12-18 (NLT)
So the soldiers, their commanding officer, and the Temple guards arrested Jesus and tied him up. 13 First they took him to Annas, since he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest at that time. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had told the other Jewish leaders, “It’s better that one man should die for the people.”
15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples. That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. 16 Peter had to stay outside the gate. Then the disciple who knew the high priest spoke to the woman watching at the gate, and she let Peter in. 17 The woman asked Peter, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?”
“No,” he said, “I am not.”
18 Because it was cold, the household servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire. They stood around it, warming themselves, and Peter stood with them, warming himself.

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.

What feelings – either comfortable or uncomfortable - are rising up in you as you listen to this story? Where do you feel what you feel? Refrain from judging the feeling and gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. Listen for how he meets you in these feelings.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God’s compassion for you.

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How Am I Known?

Our individual and communal stories always hold the possibility for a divine reset. How we see ourselves, one another and God opens us up to the wonder of possibility. Just what might God do?
Perhaps we all need the mud washed out of our eyes to receive and extend mercy and compassion - to see and be seen and become known for who we truly are.

John 9:1-12 NLT

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. 4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. 5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7 He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!
8 His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”
But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”
10 They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”
11 He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”
12 “Where is he now?” they asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied.

John 9:1-12 TMG
1-2 Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”
6-7 He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). The man went and washed—and saw.
8 Soon the town was buzzing. His relatives and those who year after year had seen him as a blind man begging were saying, “Why, isn’t this the man we knew, who sat here and begged?”
9 Others said, “It’s him all right!”
But others objected, “It’s not the same man at all. It just looks like him.”
He said, “It’s me, the very one.”
10 They said, “How did your eyes get opened?”
11 “A man named Jesus made a paste and rubbed it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ I did what he said. When I washed, I saw.”
12 “So where is he?”
“I don’t know.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which “shimmered” for 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.

Using all of your senses, place yourself in the story. Who are you and what are you witnessing or experiencing? Write out the story in your own words, allowing the story and conversation to be your prayer.

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

When I AM is Hidden

Throwing stones.
John chapter 8 opened with the stone throwing scene where the religious law enforcers where ready to publicly shame and kill a lone, defenseless woman. 59 verses later, the chapter closes with a crowd throwing stones to shame and silence the God-man Jesus.
What is underneath this tendency to throw stones at that which offends us, or which we do not fully understand or support? What if we stopped to simply look, listen, pray and wait to see where the eternal and always present I AM is hidden in all that is before us? How might this change how we are in this world?

John 8:48-59 (NLT)
48 The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”
49 “No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. 50 And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge. 51 I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”
52 The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
54 Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”
57 The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM]” 59 At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

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.

What feelings – either comfortable or uncomfortable - are rising up in you as you listen to this story? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. Listen for how he meets you in these feelings.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God’s everlasting love and eternal presence.

When Compassion Clothes Shame

In the midst of the religious exposition and exploitation of a highly vulnerable woman, we witness Jesus' embodied compassion in action. He is literally and figuratively teaching us how he goes about clothing the naked vulnerability of shame. We hear and see how Jesus responds in word and action to accusers.

This passage may trigger a traumatic response in those who have been exploited in similar ways. If this is you, be most compassionate with yourself. Ground and care for yourself in this present moment by placing your feet on the ground, tapping your arms and taking some deep, calming breaths. If you can, seek to find a safe place in your prayer where you most connect with the loving compassion of Jesus. Always you have freedom to step away from the prayer if that is what you need.

John 8:1-11 (NLT)
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

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.

What feelings – either comfortable or uncomfortable - are rising up in you as you listen to this story? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. Listen for how he meets you in these feelings. Ask for what you need. Ground yourself in the present moment.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God’s compassion for you.

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.

Fleeing the Presence of Jesus

In their struggle to stay present with Jesus, these beloved companions eventually surrender to sleep. Jesus roused them as his betrayer approached, and in this text we witness the progression of fleeing the presence of Jesus. First the loved ones cannot stay internally present in their prayer, now they can no longer bear the fear and shame before them. One by one, they act out compelled by fear and shame, and eventually physically flee from Jesus. In the drama, chaos and contradiction of it all, Jesus is the only one who stays present to the reality before him. That day he said to them,

"Every day I was with you"

Today, he says to us,

"I am always with you"

Would you like to bring your fear, pain and shame and be with Jesus again in this moment?

For every child of God defeats the evil world
by trusting Christ to give us the victory.

1 John 5:4

Mark 14:43-52 (NIV)
Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Did a word or phrase speak to you as you listened to or read the text? Dwell with it. Be quiet with it. Gently bring it into your conversation with Jesus.

How have you experience betrayal, even being betrayed by a "kiss'? Can you share the pain of the betrayal with Jesus? How is he with you in it?

We all move in and out of living in the awareness of Jesus' presence with us. What helps you stay present? What distracts your from his presence? When do you notice yourself compelled to flee the present moment? Be gentle and kind with yourself as you explore these themes with Jesus. Come back to a safe place with Jesus, when you become frightened by your thoughts or memories.