Surrender to God's Loving Hands

As the Gospel of John comes to a close, we are faced with our own mortality just as the early disciples were. Though our freedom to choose seems to change with age, time and circumstance, Jesus ultimately reminds us of our ultimate freedom to choose to entrust ourselves to him. Can we trust that his hands will hold us no matter what we face? what fears assail us? or circumstances befall us? John implores us to know this Jesus whose perfect love heals, restores and casts out all fear. We can test him with our lives in this and discover for ourselves that he is trustworthy and true.

John 21:18-25 (NLT)
“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”

22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” 23 So the rumor spread among the community of believers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

24 This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them here. And we know that his account of these things is accurate.

25 Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.

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. Journal what you hear and your response.

Where have you experienced being led to a place where you do not want to go? How has God been with you there? Journal about your experience and talk it over with Jesus in your prayer.

Quietly rest with God and any consoling words or images given to you in this time of prayer.

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What is Truth?

Pilot's question deserves serious reflection for all of us. How do we know what is true? What has Jesus been showing us about truth with his life? There is much to notice in this passage about the process used to discern truth in the trial before Pilate.
How do you listen for truth? How do you recognize it? We cling to this hope which Jesus promised...that when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide us into all truth...He will take from what is mine and make it known to you (John 16:12-14).

John 18:28-40 (NLT)
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

If you were a character in this story, which one are you drawn to? Enter the story and observe the unfolding of events from that person’s perspective. What are you noticing and wondering about? Journal your experience of the story.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

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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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Understanding the Father's Heart

We begin to truly flourish when we come to know the heart of Abba Father in our own hearts. When our lived experience allows us to taste the Father's love and compassion for us we become enabled to see the God's signs more readily around us. Our pain, sorrow and suffering can become gateways to discovering the heart of the Father and we need to be very gentle with ourselves in the process.

John 15:18-16:4 (NLT)
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. 22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. 25 This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’
26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.
16 “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. 2 For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. 3 This is because they have never known the Father or me. 4 Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

This text might evoke painful memories of hatred. Be very gentle and compassionate with yourself as they arise. Simply ask God for what you need and share the longings of your heart for healing in you or a situation.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

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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.

Chewing On the Words of Jesus

We have the opportunity to read labels before we purchase what we eat. We have the freedom to eat things that will bring health and energy to our bodies or just give us a quick satisfaction with no lasting food value. What is Jesus saying as he talks about this true food and true drink that brings eternal life? Are we any more ready than the Jews in the synagogue to chew on this truth that he is offering? Once again we are given the opportunity to use our free will to choose. Will you ingest the reality of Jesus and his words into your daily life and allow it to nourish and satisfy you?

John 6:52-59 (ESV)
 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

John 6:52-59TMG
At this, the Jews started fighting among themselves: “How can this man serve up his flesh for a meal?”  But Jesus didn’t give an inch. “Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always.” He said these things while teaching in the meeting place in Capernaum.

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 teaching? 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.

 

Listen To Live

Steeped in the love of the Father, we are strengthened to listen and enabled to become truth tellers and truth hearers. Each time we pause to listen, we hear words which are filtered through our interpretation of the tone of voice, the context in which they are spoken and our trust of the intent behind the voice. How do we check out if what we are hearing is true? This text gives us clues to how we can bring prayerful discernment to our filter of what we are hearing. Which words (tone, content, intent) lead to abundant life? and which words bring destruction and death?
Before you listen to these words of Jesus, become quiet and still before the Father and allow his love to meet you as you are. When you have found a re-connection to his love, begin listening to these words of his Son.

John 5:24-30NLT
 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. 26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. 27 And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. 28 Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.

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.

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

Truth Speaking and Living Water

Last week we wondered about who it is we are actually speaking to when we pray. This week we notice how Jesus graciously evokes the truth in his conversation with the woman from Samaria. This vulnerable and respectful truth-telling between Jesus and the woman reveals a way we can all access the life giving well within. When the truth of our story is spoken and met with compassionate love and grace we discover our spiritual thirst being satisfied. God taught this first to Moses in Numbers 20 when he asked Moses to draw forth water from the rock by speaking. God comes around this time in the flesh of Jesus. Through Jesus' engagement with this woman he demonstrates how we can all draw forth living water from within.

John 4:11-18 (NLT)
11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”
13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”
16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.
Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”


For Reflection and Prayer:
What spoke to you as you listened? What feelings seemed to accompany this? Journal your thoughts and impressions.

Where, if anywhere, have you noticed thirst lately? What does thirst taste and feel like when you notice it? Take this into your prayer.

Consider having a gentle conversation with Jesus about any experience or thought this Scripture has raised up. Rest in the awareness that He knows the truth.

To Be Understood

St. Francis of Assisi taught us well in his prayer-poem-song, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace. One stanza speaks of our desire to seek to understand another before being understood ourselves. It is a noble desire and one which becomes increasingly possible as the realization of God's infinite understanding of us personally. lodges deep within our own heart and soul. The gift of being experientially loved, known and understood by God becomes a gift and it changes us from the inside out. Our natural response becomes one of worship and a humility forms within us which seeks to truly listen and understand another.

May you pause and savor anew today, being loved and understood by the One who made your heart.

Psalm 33NLT
1 Let the godly sing for joy to the LORD;
    it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
4 For the word of the LORD holds true,
    and we can trust everything he does.
5 He loves whatever is just and good;
    the unfailing love of the LORD fills the earth.
6 The LORD merely spoke,
    and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
    and all the stars were born.
7 He assigned the sea its boundaries
    and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
8 Let the whole world fear the LORD,
    and let everyone stand in awe of him.
9 For when he spoke, the world began!
    It appeared at his command.
13 The LORD looks down from heaven
    and sees the whole human race.
14 From his throne he observes
    all who live on the earth.
15 He made their hearts,
    so he understands everything they do.

20 We put our hope in the LORD.
    He is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD,
    for our hope is in you alone.

For prayer and reflection:

What phrase or word spoke to you as you listened/read?

How does it feel to have God understand everything you do? Dwell with this thought in your prayer. You may want to journal your conversation with God.

What emotion does this Psalm raise within you?

Is there anything you want to ask or say to Jesus about this text?

Walking Hand in Hand

Walking hand in hand can evoke fond memories of a loved one, such as a special friend or trusted adult. There is a mutuality which unfolds as the pace is set by one and matched by the other, so that the movement occurs in graceful tandem.
Today's Psalm invites us to ponder the mutual companions of love and truth walking in tandem with us, all the while attending to us. It is God's perfect, unfailing love which enables us to be unafraid and unashamed of truth and courageous in it's presence. When you begin your prayer today, imagine love and truth as your faithful companions while you enter and dwell in God's presence. 

Psalm 89:14-18 (NLT)

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.
    Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.
Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship,
    for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation.
    They exult in your righteousness.
You are their glorious strength.
    It pleases you to make us strong.
Yes, our protection comes from the Lord,
    and he, the Holy One of Israel, has given us our king.

For Prayer and Reflection:

Is there a word, a phrase, an image or something else that stood out to you as you listened? Try being there with Jesus for awhile.

What color comes to mind when you consider any or all of these phrases? Righteousness, justice, unfailing love, or truth. Try drawing and coloring a picture of them...is the Spirit expanding your knowing of Jesus in this?

Reflect on your experience(s) of "walking in the light of your presence, Lord". Journal your reflection.

Nurturing for Deep Roots

Have you ever wondered what causes a plant to become deeply rooted? In your life, how do you and the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, cooperate together to nurture deepening spiritual roots in your own life? Who and what are you rooted into?

Jesus begins teaching the crowds with parables conveying deeper truths within a story. His methods evoke desire in those who truly want to hear and understand. Listen and notice what Jesus is saying to you.

I pray that your roots may go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. Ephesians 3:17 NLT

Mark 4:1-20 NKJV
And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. 2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:

3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

9 And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
The Purpose of Parables

10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that

‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.’”
The Parable of the Sower Explained

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear or feel as you listened to the text?

If you were to give close attention to the sower (the farmer) what do you notice about the sower's character?

How have you experienced the seed planted within you?

What has nurtured a deepening rooted-ness of that seed within you? What has not been helpful?

It can be helpful to reflect on the fruit of one's spiritual practices. What do you notice? Which practices help you become more loving of God, yourself and others? More compassionate? More peaceful? Is there a new spiritual discipline which you are feeling led to explore or practice?