A Body of Living Water

Christ’s precious love binds in a beautiful way. Just as drops of water join and become one body, so do those who love God and share His love with one another. Soft flexible drops of water are transformed when they become part of something bigger than they could ever be by themselves and go where they could never go alone. The same is true when Christians come together in one accord. Romans 15:5-6 says it beautifully.

“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,  so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” NASB

Unity glorifies God, but it’s easier done with water than with people. Egos get in the way, and I’m afraid Christians are more like a sandy beach than a flowing body of water. Hard individual grains of sand stay on the shore or sink to the bottom while water flows freely over and around them. Personal agendas, theological debates, denominational differences, and the need to be right cause hearts to become hard, and that keeps the connection Christ has in mind from occurring.

There is beautiful hope and peace in the connection Christ desires, and one of my favorite verses is found further down in Romans 15. I believe it applies beautifully to the body of Christ as it flows from the Sweet Source of His precious love in a way that quenches a thirsty world filled with sand and panting for a cool drink of water.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NASB

Simon Marsh
Simon Marsh

 

Glass Houses

The saying goes, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.” I understand and agree with the lesson of the saw, but I think “People who live in glass houses don’t throw rocks” might be a better saying. Exposing my heart to others and allowing them to do the same, causes me to put down my rocks. Rocks come from brick barricades built to keep me from exposing myself to a world that might not understand or accept me. Facades work as well as brick buildings when it comes to hiding, and I’ve done more than my share of hiding behind both. I have also tossed a rock when threatened. Fear is behind all rock throwing, so those filled with fear don’t fare well in glass houses.

Glass houses represent openness and allow me to share my story and let others into my story. They are the dwelling place of honest communion, but they are not designed for comfort. I never watched the reality show “Glass House,” but I know it was designed to let the audience determine what happened inside a house full of folks competing to win a $250,000 prize.  It is more about exhibition than honesty, and that’s not what I’m talking about.

When it comes to God, He sees all and knows all. He loves me unconditionally and waits for me to realize that I’m living in a glass house. In Ecclesiastes 12:14, I hear words that remind me that nothing is hidden from God.

“For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” NASB

Proverbs 12:22 reminds me of why I want to live in that glass house. Love makes me want to delight God because He certainly delights me.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal faithfully are His delight.” NASB

My favorite verse, Psalm 51:6, humbles and brings down the facades and bricks around my heart. David captured the heart of God in a way that makes me want to open my heart as he did. He was not a perfect man, but he was a man after God’s own heart. That’s all God asked of him, and it’s all He asks of me. David knew the pain of living in a glass house, but he also knew that God teaches wisdom to those with open, honest hearts.

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” NASB

The television show encourages inhibition and exhibition because that’s what brings great ratings. God encourages honesty and acceptance because it brings wisdom, faith, and delight. Nothing is better for my heart.

Carlo Santambrogio and Ennio Arosio.
Carlo Santambrogio and Ennio Arosio.

Guilty, But Not Stoned

John 8 shows how Jesus dealt with a woman’s sin and a crowd’s thirst for blood. The Word of God and the actions of Christ were not, are not, and never will be like those of the world.

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?’ They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.’” NASB

I was humbled by the passages God placed in my path this morning. The lessons this week have centered around courtrooms and guilty pleas from my own heart and from the media frenzy that has played out during the trial involving George Zimmerman’s killing of Trevon Martin. The verdict came late last night as I was returning home. I first noticed online and turned on the television to get more details about the terrible case that is the best example of a lose/lose situation I’ve ever seen. There was no good solution to the case, and either verdict was bound to create havoc. I don’t know what will happen as a result to the actions of both men and the decision of one jury, but I know that it has divided, is dividing, and will continue to divide the nation.

The woman in John 8 is clearly guilty, as am I, as are we all. She deserves to be stoned to death according to the law. The Pharisees know that; the people know that; the woman knows that, and Jesus knows that. She was in the very act when caught, and Jesus knew about everything she had ever done. He knows the same about me.

Jesus reminded the crowd, and still does, that everyone is guilty. If He had taken a stone and killed the woman, He would have been within the letter of the law, and He was without sin and could have thrown the stone in good conscience. If He had taken that path, the crowds would have joined the Pharisees in stoning Him to death for claiming to have no sin. The religious authorities didn’t care what loophole killed Him as long as He was out of their way. The mob just wanted to satisfy their own bloodlust.

Jesus surprised the crowd and the woman by His actions. I’m sure they went away mumbling because a mob wants blood, but they didn’t get any that day. Jesus was saving His blood for Passover. The witness of Jesus is a witness of love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and hope. Jesus stays with the woman rather than leaving with the crowd or going in a different direction. If He had left the scene or looked at her with disappointment or disgust, she may have killed herself out of grief or run to her lover to find comfort in his arms. Jesus loved her and extended forgiveness to her. He did not condemn her because John 3:17 makes it clear that God didn’t send Him to do that.

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” NASB

The Christian witness isn’t about condemnation or judgment; it is about love, forgiveness, grace, and hope. Christ is the perfect example to follow when witnessing, and the woman in John 8 is a good example when it comes to sinning. She knew very well the humiliation and guilt that comes with sin, but she also felt the power of love and forgiveness; so do I. She heard Christ’s heart when He told her to go and sin no more. If she was changed by Christ’s precious love, she went in a new direction after her encounter with Jesus. The same is true for me.

Christ didn’t add an “or else” at the end of His request. He didn’t promise to gather the crowd and help them stone her to death if she sinned again. He knew then, knows now, and will always know the struggle sin presents for each of us. He loved the woman and saw more in her than she or the crowd were able to see. He does the same for me and bids me to do the same for others. It is what witness is all about.

I don’t know what the woman in the scriptures did after her encounter with Christ. I don’t know what will happen in the coming days as a result of the Zimmerman trial, but I do know that the world likes a reason to pick up stones. The mob screams revenge and is thirsty for blood. Jesus offers another way. 

Photo from the epic miniseries “The Bible”

Guilty, But Not Stoned

Cross Examination

When a witness is called to the stand, they are often asked to testify in regard to the character of the one they represent. As witnesses go through cross examination, they often fall apart. Taking the stand does not ensure the character of the witness will be left in good standing when the dust settles. I know my own heart doesn’t fare well when God puts it to His Son’s cross for examination as He’s done this week. Good witnesses are not the ones with the strongest opinions or the ones with the most elaborate details about what occurred. The best witness is the one who sees and hears the truth without the filters of self interest. God’s witnesses are the same.

I am very adept when it comes to rationalizing, and I can be very selfish when it comes to getting what I want. I can be even more so when it comes to getting what I believe I need. God showed me yesterday that my arguments are convincing indeed. He listens to all of them and gives me all the space and time I need to convince myself, however, He is not going to change His mind or heart during my exhaustive presentations. He listens and waits for me to see my argument in His light.

When I stop my flowery delivery or determined debate and look into the heart of His Son, I see His precious love and am silenced and humbled by the cross examination that takes place. In the light of Christ’s love, my arguments miss the mark. My flowery speeches wilt, and I turn to God and beg for His mercy and forgiveness. In the courts of this world, my stance stands firm and prevails; but it’s not in the courts of this world I wish to dwell or prevail.

God makes it crystal clear that it is, and always will be, up to me to choose the courtroom I prefer. The world offers talented lawyers and luscious loopholes that tempt me to stay and win my case, but I will lose His presence in the process. God offers mercy, forgiveness, grace, hope, and love; but He will not accept my arguments no matter how eloquent or elaborate they may be. He sees His Son’s precious love in my heart, and He will accept nothing less from me if I am to go the way He wants me to go. I can let Him lead me on His path or leave Him and go on my own. I can be my own witness on my own path and become my own judge and jury, or I can follow where He leads and be His simple witness.

Being God’s witness doesn’t involve convincing anyone to do anything, and that includes me. It is a simple path that requires only that I love Him with all my heart and soul and mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself. His Holy Spirit will help me understand how to do both, but I must first stop my arguing, get off my stand, stop leading and allow myself to be led by His beloved Son.

Simply Enough

I am studying Luke 11 this week, and I am struck by the simplicity of verses 2-4

“Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. ‘Give us each day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’” NASB

I love the simpler version of the Lord’s Prayer Luke offers and have been reminded this week that my prayer need not be complicated. A simple “Have mercy,” “Forgive me,” or “I love You” is more than enough. I talk far too much when conversing with friends, and I do the same with God. Learning to listen is the first step in being the simple witness of love God needs for me to be in this world.

Effective prayer is simply stopping and looking up in love or need to One Who hears my heart before I stop. He just wants me to stop so I can hear it. That usually means hearing what I don’t like to hear, but that’s a beautiful side effect of effective prayer.

The word for Father in this prayer is the familiar word for father similar to daddy. I’m sure it shocked some that Christ would use such a word when praying and encourage others to do the same. It is a word that touches His heart and mine and reminds me that I am His daughter, and I always will be. Uttering and understanding that word alone is enough to get an answer all my prayers.

Picture Credit bellissimanh
Picture Credit bellissimanh

Learning Turn

Learning often involves a curve, but this week it involved a turn. Learning rarely, if ever, comes in a straight line for me. That bothers some folks, but that’s okay. The quality of learning which most intrigues me is that it never stops. I thank God for my desire to learn and for my creative spirit. I’ve hidden it at times because it has gotten me into trouble, especially in school settings (as both a student and a teacher:) I learned to conform as a child, but not when it came to my teaching. A dear friend reminded me several years ago that a sacred imagination is a great thing. I see the same spirit in the girls, and I hope to help them see it as a beautiful gift.

Learning should be fun. I had a lot of fun learning alongside my amazing students for thirty-three years. I loved learning from them as much as I loved helping them learn. Children are the very best teachers, and my sweet granddaughters have taken teaching to a whole new level. They teach me something new every day and remind me that delight should always accompany learning.

Mylah is almost two and listening to her learn to talk has been an especially sweet blessing lately. She shocked me yesterday. When I picked her up and gave her a big hug, she said clearly and seriously, “Is it done raining for now?!” I laughed and told her that I certainly hoped so. We’ve had the wettest summer ever, and I’m as ready as she is for some sunshine! She gets a sheepish grin when she is speaking and realizes her words aren’t coming out the way she wants, but she just loves it when the words come out clearly as they did yesterday. There’s nothing better than watching her and Lillyann grow and learn on a daily basis; I thank God for my little live-in tutors:)

Learning can be painful at times, so it helps to have those in the path who are learning the same tough lessons and understand my heart. I am here to hear the stories of others and learn from them, and I’m also here to allow others into my own story. It is what witness is all about. That was the beautiful lesson God taught me this week. When the service at church this morning involved the elders sharing their stories with the congregation, I had to grin at God’s timing. He’s definitely the Master Teacher. My learning took an important turn upward this week, and I found myself a little closer to God and to those in my path because of it.

Love and Truth Go Hand in Hand

Nothing in this world is more powerful than the truth told with love. God is love, and Christ brought His love to earth with an honesty that promises freedom if I take it to heart. My relationships and witness must rely on the same love and honest communion if I am to walk in God’s kingdom and help others do the same. Love lives in truth, but truth isn’t always easy to accept. The lessons of late have been about the trust necessary to accept the truth with love.

I wonder how our judicial system would change if all witnesses were asked to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth with love. I wonder how God’s world would change if His witnesses did the same. The truth isn’t a problem unless I struggle with love. Love isn’t a problem unless I avoid the truth. They are a bundle that God will not allow to be broken. Satan would say take one or the other, or better yet, forget both and go with lust and lies because they are much easier. Many do just that, and I’ve been tempted to do the same because my heart can’t process love and truth without His help.

Christ gives the Holy Spirit to ready my heart for the beautiful combination of God’s love and His truth. With the Spirit’s help, my heart can accept love and truth as they are. Without it, love and truth become what I want them to be as I fit my wants and needs into both. God doesn’t allow any bartering when it comes to love and truth; He knows there is only one way to have the peace He desires, and that is the two together. The early believers were called “The Way” because of their belief that Christ was the way, the truth, and the light. The world sees its way as the better way. I am guilty of the same. Taking the easy route when it comes to love and truth cause me to miss the joy  God’s beautiful combination brings to my heart.

God asks me to be His witness by accepting His love and His Son’s truth in a way that frees me to serve and love Him and others. The only control I have is saying yes to a truth that defies definition and a love that cannot be described. My futile efforts to understand and control lead to misery, but my willingness to believe that God is who He says He is leads to a freedom unlike anything I’ve ever known. Religiosity offers safe boundaries, rules, and definitions that have good intentions at their core, but God’s love and truth will not be confined or defined by anyone. God simply wants me to accept and express His love. It’s what being His witness is all about 🙂

Open Heart

Remembering Mama

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Mama died four years ago today, and I think of her everyday. She was, and still is, more than a mama. She and I were kindred spirits who understood and loved one another in a special way. Mama wasn’t like everyone else, and neither am I. Since her death, I’ve come to love who I am, and I know she would be very happy about that. She was always trying to warn me that I was different and not to let that hurt me when others didn’t understand. Unfortunately, I’ve let a lot of people hurt me and even more convince me I needed to be someone other than who I am.

Being loved just as I am changed all that, and that love has enabled me to love myself just the way I am.  Mama was trying desperately to tell me something before she died, and I believe it was to not give a flying flip what other people thought and to just be me:) I’m sorry to say that I’ve allowed my fear of disappointing others to guide my heart for most of my life. Christ’s precious love has changed all that since mama died, and I’m happy to say that my heart is finally wide open. I am free to be who God created me to be instead of who I or others think I should be. That makes sense to mama and me; but if it doesn’t make sense to you, that’s okay too:)

The lessons in witness have been about being who I am, loving others as they are, and letting the Holy Spirit do the rest. I used to think I had to be who I could never be and get others to be the same. It sounds silly now, but that’s the story of my life. I eventually do get it, but it takes me a little longer than most:)

Mama’s name was Mary, and God placed another Mary in my path yesterday to remind me that being different a good thing in His eyes.

 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary,  for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:38-42 NASB

All the commentaries have a different take on this story, but the meaning for me yesterday was crystal clear. It’s okay to be who I am even if I or others do not understand. Mary and Martha are very different, and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is thinking that others should be like me or trying to get God to make them do what I want them to do or be who I want them to be. I’ve always loved Mary and can relate to her in this story because, like her, I would most likely be caught sitting at Jesus’ feet and not paying any attention to whether or not it was the proper or right thing to be doing. I know the dishes have to be washed, and I’ll eventually get to them. I’m listening to Jesus right now, and that’s all that matters:)

I wore mama’s favorite Fourth of July shirt yesterday. She used to say, “Doesn’t this look good on me?” when she wore it. I always smiled and said, “Yes, it does mama. Yes, it does!!”

Gigi & Lilly on the 4th

Offense is a Fence

The lessons this week have been difficult to swallow because they dealt with offensiveness, and that always offends. Offense builds a fence that divides and keeps me from connecting as God desires. Sometimes the offense is a tall fence with razor sharp barbed wire on top, but it can also be the underground variety covered by a beautifully manicured lawn. Those offenses are the most dangerous fences because I don’t recognize the offense until I feel the shock. We love fences and put them everywhere. I need a fence around my property and my heart to keep it safe and secure, don’t I?

Paula Deen and Alec Baldwin have been involved in the lessons this week, but so have I. It’s always good to remember not to throw any rocks. Paula Deen’s actions were deemed more offensive by the media, and I imagine that has to do with the depth of the foundation of the fence when it comes to racial slurs. We can all get on that bandwagon without worry. Whatever the offense and no matter how tiny the fences we build may seem, fences keep us from connecting as God desires. They all hurt, so it’s best not to judge anyone’s offense but simply make it a habit to be mindful so as not to offend. That was the lesson God had for me last week.

My ears, eyes, and heart were battered by the noisy din of discord in the media all week, and it left me wanting to run to the mountaintop and hide! God reminded me that I added a rock to a fence myself last night, and that humbled and sobered me in a powerful way. A friend posted a church billboard addressed to the governor of my state. I’m not a fan of his, so I responded with a smile. The message was, “Gov. Perry, God here. The voice you hear in your head is not me. Take your meds.” Seemed funny at the time, but that was before I read this response to her post from a lady who suffers from mental illness, “Another stupid joke at the expense of the mentally ill. We are such an easy target. This church has its head up its insensitive ass.” Her response left me ashamed of my reaction and showed me that neither my head nor my heart was where it needed to be.

I did a lot of judging about judging last week and was feeling pretty good about myself, but God was faithful to finish me off with the painful truth about the inappropriateness of my response to what seemed to be a very harmless joke. The danger lies in that electric fence I don’t notice until I’m zapped. I deleted my smiley face and replaced it with this response, “Thank you Pamela for the reminder and the lesson I needed. Prejudice is insidious, and our society is very insensitive when it comes to mental health. Easy targets are easy to hit, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to hit them :(“ Lesson learned and humility gained.

Openness and honesty is the only way to tear down or dig up a fence. God simply asks me to tear down my fences and be willing to have relationships with those who are not like me, to hear the life stories of others, and be willing to tell mine honestly with love. Honesty and  learning come with painful zaps, but the humility that results helps me understand and draw nearer to God, my truest self, and those in my path.

Fences in the yard are okay, but my heart doesn’t need one around it anymore.

Fences

Intersecting Lives

My life is meant to intersect with the lives of others while walking in the world. Sometimes the intersection is only for a moment, and sometimes it’s for a lifetime. The place of intersection provides an opportunity to share my heart and hear the heart of another. Busyness and fear cause me to miss the connection if I am not careful. I am lucky to have friends and family whose love enables me to reach down and up in ways that change my heart. Love changes everything, and that makes each intersection an intercession if I’m heedful in the moment.

People will always come and go in my life, and some will connect in powerful ways. Those who allow me to be who I am stay near my heart even when they are no longer present because of geography or circumstance. Clinging is comfortable, and it’s natural to want to hold on to beautiful connections and moments. Allowing others to come and go is much more difficult. I’ve always done the best I knew how when it comes to connecting, and I believe that is true for most of us. It’s important to let others be who they are and be who God wants me to be. It’s the only way intersecting lives can become beautiful connections. If I stay the course God has in mind, my life will intersect the lives of many. If I veer off His path, I will miss opportunities to love as He desires.

Only God sees the way intersecting lives come together and produce the harvest He has in mind. I look forward to understanding it one day myself. For now, I can only rely on God to open doors and give me the courage to walk through them. Kindred hearts are what heaven is all about. The euphony of lives touching one another in love is sweet music to God’s ears. The clanging cacophony of discord breaks God’s heart, and it sometimes makes me want to run and hide. The sweet love I feel when my life intersects with another as God desires gives me hope and allows me to open the door to my own heart a little wider.

Intersecting Lives