The well

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The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”  Jesus said to her, “I Am—the one who speaks with you.” … The woman put down her water jar and went into the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” They left the city and were on their way to see Jesus. ~John 4:25-30 (CEB)

What was the woman at the well needing? Healing, love, closure. What was it that Jesus was offering her at the well? Real love.  Not temporary, momentary love, but deep lasting love that could satisfy her for all time. She had tried to heal her broken heart, one messed up relationship at a time. Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter. “Where have you been looking for love?” In all the wrong places.

There is no condemnation in Jesus’ questions. Without addressing the hard questions healing cannot happen. “Come to me “, is his reply, “I can give you that true love you long for. Come to me and you will never be hungry or thirsty again. Come to me and I will heal your broken heart.” No matter what we are broken from aren’t these words that need to be heard?

What was the response the woman had to Jesus’ words? She immediately went to tell others what she had found. She wanted to share the good news. She went back to the same people who had probably been critical of her situation. The same people who probably didn’t know that underneath the behavior was deep pain. The woman at the well had found healing, closure and a new life. She was unable to contain the news. It bubbled up from her.

When we look to heal our brokenness on our own or through someone else, we find ourselves going again and again to the wrong places. There is only one Source. When healing is found and joy is complete we find we can’t keep this miracle to our self.  Good news must be shared even to the ones who never understood our pain.

Heavenly father, I thank You for giving me a real love that touches the depth of my soul. I thank You that healing can happen when I take the time to ask the tough questions. Amen.

Moods

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But now thus says the Lord,

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name,

you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not

overwhelm you;

when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

~Isa. 43:1-3 (NRSV)

It is so easy to let my moods hold power over me. Sometimes it just sneaks up behind me and grabs on tightly. I struggle for patience. Soon I am snapping at those closest to me.

“Are we condemned to be passive victims of our moods?  Must we simply say:  ‘I feel great today’ or ‘I feel awful today,’ and require others to live with our moods?

Although it is very hard to control our moods, we can gradually overcome them by living a well-disciplined spiritual life.  This can prevent us from acting out of our moods.  We might not “feel” like getting up in the morning because we “feel” that life is not worth living, that nobody loves us, and that our work is boring.  But if we get up anyhow, to spend some time reading the Gospels, praying the Psalms, and thanking God for a new day, our moods may lose their power over  us.” ~Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen.

Reading God’s Word reminds me who walks through the storms with me. He will not let me be overwhelmed. When I am in the midst of fire, He will not let me be burned. God knows my name. He formed me and created me. My moods have no true power. They do not have to define my day. “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (Isa, 41:13)

Heavenly Father, I thank You for this new day you have given me. I thank You for the house I live in, the food I have in my cabinets, and the love of family and friends. I thank You for Your Word from which I can draw strength to face the day. I thank You also for the reminder that my mood does not have to hold power over me. Amen.

To be present

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Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone show asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. ~Matt 7:7-8 (NRV)

Praying was something I always felt that I did not do well. I still have a lot to learn and I don’t do it as often as I should. It is interesting to note that the disciples never seemed to ask Jesus how to preach, teach communicate or how to multiply loaves. What they did ask Jesus was to teach them how to pray.

Why would the disciples ask this question? Perhaps the disciples saw the special relationship that Jesus held with his father and they longed for such a relationship in their own lives? I too long to have the confidence, peace, security, and love that Jesus had with God. Jesus also modeled how important prayer was; in fact his whole life seemed to be built around praying. Often Jesus slipped off to talk with God, especially in stressful times. Jesus wanted to have time with God and even enjoyed being with Him.

Just what is prayer? “Prayer is not primarily saying words or thinking thoughts. It is, rather a stance. It’s a way of living in the Presence, even enjoying the Presence. The full contemplative is not just aware of the Presence, but trusts, allows, and delights in it.” (Everything Belongs, by Richard Rohr)

How important is praying? “If action is missing and there is prayer, the Church lives on, it keeps on breathing, but if prayer is missing and there is only action, the Church withers and dies.” (Letters to Dolcidia: 1954-1983 by Carlo Carrletto)

Does God even listen when I pray? “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jer.33:3 NRSV)

If I do not knock, God doesn’t reveal Himself to me. If I don’t ask, He will not answer me. But God is always present, even when I am not, even when I cannot feel this in reality. The one condition that precedes every kind of prayer is my being present to God with conscious awareness. Present where I am.

Heavenly Father, I long for relationship with you. I long for Your confidence, peace, security and love. Help me to be present with You in this moment. Help me to feel your Presence. May my every moment be built on prayer. Amen

Not who I am

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

~Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

One hard lesson that has been a long time coming is that I am not who I feel I am. If I felt bad then I must be bad. That the panic I feel inside must mean that something is wrong. The hard lesson learned is that you can’t always trust how you feel.

A dear friend of mine is moving. She expressed how overwhelming packing feels. It feels that it is more than she can do. When talking about packing up her stuff she said that even though she felt like running to bed and pulling up the covers she knew that she had to do something even a little bit. Once she got started she found it got easier. If she listened to how she felt and believed her feelings were reality, she wouldn’t have gotten anything done.

I like the way Henri Nouwen talks about feelings not defining who we are in his book, Bread for the Journey, “Our emotional lives move up and down constantly.  Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos.  A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings.  Mostly we have little control over these changes.  It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.

Thus it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life.  Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us.  As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are.  We are and remain, whatever our moods, God’s beloved children.”

Another good friend of mind says we are taught to trust our feelings but some days it isn’t so simple because we don’t seem to be thinking clearly, too much is coming at us or depression has set in. What do we do in these times we can’t trust what we feel? In Philippians 4:18 it says “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

On days I can’t think clearly, I try to set my mind on things that I do know to be true. I know that God loves me and that I am a beloved child of God. Not everyone knows this and I count myself lucky to know this truth. I think on good, lovely admirable things that I know; those things I have stored in my heart for such a moment as this and I keep moving one step at a time. Like my friend who is overwhelmed with packing, each step I continue to take I seem to move away from the confusion.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the good moments in life that are stored in my heart like a picture album. I thank You for the truth that I am Your child and that I am so loved by You. I thank You that Your Word is planted in me so that when I need words of comfort they surface. I thank You for the Holy Spirit that lives in me, prodding me towards the things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Amen.

Response

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Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty- handed. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” ~ Matthew 1:46-55 (CEB)

Jesus says that our load should be easy and our burden light… but there was a time that I couldn’t understand what this meant. My load was not easy and my burden was anything but light.

I had found myself in a place where I knew I had been saved but I was working hard for everything else. Life shouldn’t be about trying-hard. Seeing who Jesus is is not to make us try harder but to help us learn to let go. What happens when we let go of trying to live right? What happens when we learn to let Jesus work through us?

My  response to understanding what it means to remain in Christ and letting him work through me is that I grow in faith and overflow with thankfulness. When I let Jesus be who he is through me I find I don’t have to try so hard. When I allow him to work through me the work I am called to do becomes easier. Remembering what he has done for me makes me thankful and gratitude lightens my steps.

The acting and the struggle are in the letting and remaining. When I dare to believe what is truth and decide to live out of that truth, faith and thankfulness are the natural response. If I search in the Bible for an example of how this might look, I can turn to the story of when Mary was told by the angle that she would be the mother of Jesus. We don’t see Mary worrying about what she will do or what people will think. Instead we see that Mary’s response is praise and worship.

I want to live continually in a time and place where I am so in touch with God that I can sing God’s praises as easily as I breathe out air. I want to be so sure of the truth that I cant help to sing of God’s glory. I want a faith that looks like Mary’s.

Heavenly Father,thank You for examples of what faith looks like. Thank You for examples of how to be Your vessel. May Your praises always flow through me to lighten my step. May my knowledge of Your good news lighten the loads I am called to carry. Amen.

A neighbor, not like me

A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?” He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”  But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” ~Luke 10:25-20 (CEB)

I grew up watching Mister Rogers.  One of my favorite parts was him singing “won’t you be my neighbor?” I would have given anything to have a neighbor like Mister Rogers living next door to me. He was after all looking for a neighbor. But I never really knew my neighbors growing up. We moved too often to get to know any neighbor really well.

Getting to know your neighbor sometimes requires that you are the one to seek out a relationship. You can’t rely on the other person to be the one to do the seeking. Often times these days our closest friends come from school, church, the work place or other group of people similar to ourselves and this seems enough. Our own circles seem to complete us. When we stick to familiar ground and people we know we cannot grow in our understanding of others.

“We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another.  There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.

There is a lot of road crossing to do.  We are all very busy in our own circles.  We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of.  But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbors.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen

It is hard to think that today we still keep ourselves separate from people who are different from ourselves. Only when we cross the road can we widen our horizon of understanding. The more variety of people I meet the more understanding I have for others. I don’t always agree with other views but my world has been enlarged beyond myself. Sometimes though I learn that I may have been wrong in a pattern of thought I have held.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for always pushing me out of my comfort zones. I thank You for the people You have put in my life to help me to grow more in Your understanding of the world around me. May I walk this journey with Your eyes and Your ears and may I have Your heart in all my dealings with Your people. Amen.