Be in the boat, so you can step in the s**t.

Reflections of Mark 6:30-34

The apostles return from their missionary trips, excited and exhausted. Their stories of healings and casting-outs explode from their mouths; they cannot contain their enthusiasm, they jump from one story to the next, so eager to let you know about all that took place.

You look at the apostles and see through their happiness to their need for quiet and to reconnect with you. You want to make sure they focus on the source of the power they’ve carried, not the activity of the power. How easy it is to get caught up in the results of God’s work through my life and forget the reason I have that power in the first place.

So you invite them to join you in a boat, to go away to a lonely place. A place of renewal and rest. The crowds that followed and required your attention kept increasing; not much opportunity for solitude and down time with their needs and diseases demanding attention. You couldn’t even eat in peace. The other side of the lake was the solution, a lonely place where you and your apostles could rest unmolested.

Or so you thought. It turns out the crowds were more wily than you expected. Figuring out where you were headed they beat you to the spot and were there waiting for you. If I had been one of the apostles, adrenaline no longer surging through my system, I would have resented the intrusion of the crowd. But not you. You saw them not as a claim upon your time or resources, but as sheep looking for a shepherd, compassion was aroused and you taught them many things.

I can relate to the apostles’ experience. I know the exuberance and animated joy that accompanies being used for the sake of the Kingdom. The adrenaline pumped agitation that carries me and fuels my enthusiastic recounting and remembering of the event or encounter. It is a great privilege and joy to be your hands and feet and in whatever setting we find ourselves, be it our home, our school, our workplace, or our pulpit, to witness your power move in the lives of others through me is a (super)natural high.

Ignatius in his spiritual exercises warns against getting caught up in the spiritual enthusiasm that accompanies such consolation of the Lord. It is often the enemy of our soul using our false self/our ego to carry us to places where the Lord is not leading. The way we discern what God, not our ego or even the enemy of our soul, is calling us to do is to follow Jesus into the boat.

In the boat with Jesus we are restored. In the boat we gain perspective. In the midst of our apostolic life Jesus invites us to come away with him, to take the time to review our activities and our reactions to such movements. We need to reconnect with the source, to remember He is the vine, we are the branches, without him we can do nothing. With him all things are possible.

We need to schedule such come away with Jesus times. They are essential if we want to continue to exhibit the power of God to heal and cast out the enemy in the world God has given us to love. These times might get interrupted; kids do wake up earlier than usual, disrupting your scheduled come away time; dogs do bark and need to be taken out for their morning walk; bosses do call unexpected meetings, the crowd did figure out where Jesus was headed and beat him there. But even an intentional short boat ride with Jesus will fill your heart with the ability to have compassion on the throngs that crowd your life and give you wisdom to teach them what you have to offer.

This morning my come away time was rudely interrupted. My dog pooped right in front of my chair, where I was reclining and enjoying just being with Jesus. The enjoyment ended pretty quickly, especially after I stood to chase her outside and literally stepped in her s**t, it covered my slipper and stank awfully as my foot smashed it into the carpet. The calm of my being with Jesus was replaced with cursing at the dog as I scrubbed the carpet. Such things happen. We carry on.

I was tempted to not return to my quiet time, but I did and this reflection is the result. May God have compassion on and through me and add his blessing to my words. Amen.

Truth Imprisoned

Some chaotic thoughts on Mark 6:14-29
The disciple’s work in your name was making some noise. King Herod heard they had been sent by you and were doing wonders. Herod had a curious heart, a heart intrigued by the preaching of John the Baptizer. John spoke truth to Herod, pointed out the ways he was not living correctly. Herod didn’t like this, but he couldn’t deny he wanted to hear more of what John had to say, because he knew John was holy and righteous. Did Herod think keeping John in prison, safe from Herodias, made him a holy and righteous?

He kept the truth locked up, close by, controlled. Didn’t heed it, but toyed with it. Keeping it safe salved his conscience. Herod had the truth killed because of his pride, but couldn’t silence it’s influence upon him. When he heard of Jesus and the work the disciples were doing, the same fear, curiosity and guilt arose.

How am I (you) like Herod? How do I (you) attempt manage God’s truth? How do I (you) keep God’s truth in prison; nearby so I (you) can listen to it when I (you) want, and shut it up when it gets too close? How does this fool me (you) into believing l am (you are) righteous?

God, I take great heart knowing your truth cannot be imprisoned or killed. My pride cannot silence it, you persist in chasing me, poking me, stirring my conscience. We know the end of the story for Herod, even at Jesus’ trial, he was still seeking truth and not recognizing it even though it was staring him in the face. God, I don’t want to be like Herod, your truth trailing me, and me being blind to it or trying to force it to coddle me and my vanities.

Truth, I know there are areas in my life where I heed you, others where I put you in prison. Break free, Truth. Chase me down. Stare me in the face. You do not serve at my beck and call. “If I make your word my home I am indeed your disciple, I will learn the truth and the truth shall make me free.” So be it. Amen.

Will you join me in setting truth free so we can be set free?

Jesus sends you out for your sake

Thoughts on Mark 6:7-13

You called the twelve together. Well that’s getting to be the norm, gathering us to hear your explanations of parables and such. This time is different. You’re sending us out, (wait a minute, me? Matthew? the former tax collector?) and you’re telling us we have the same authority as you do over unclean spirits! What?? I’ve watched them tremble before you, rant, rage and scream at you. I’ve witnessed you cast them into a thousand pigs who ran off a cliff. And now you are telling me I have this same authority? 

You send us out to the surrounding villages with very specific instructions. It must be a short journey since you tell me to only take my staff and my sandals. No food, no money, no backpack, no change of clothing. I’m to stay at the home of folks who welcome me, and if they won’t offer me hospitality, I’m to leave with a warning. OK.

So, I do what I’ve seen Jesus do, I tell people they need to change their way of living. Most of what they’ve been doing is contrary to the things Jesus talks about. God isn’t just about keeping the rules, he cares about your everyday life, your withered hand, your donkeys that need water, your hunger between meals. He looks beyond your actions and what you have to do to survive and sees the true you, the you that longs for purpose and belonging. He calls you friend. I find that as I talk about these things I truly believe them. My voice takes on authority, I’m speaking from experience, not theory. I get excited about the task.  

I cast out demons and anoint the sick with oil. People are relieved and made well. It’s awesome. 

All right, Lord. Here’s my takeaway, I am to speak to others what you have spoken to me. As I do so, the person that is converted is me. I buy what I’m selling, to put it coarsely.

You do care about the places in my life that are withered and dry, you want me to experience life fully.

The chores I must carry out to make life run smoothly matter to you. You bless me as I tend to my business and my family.

You want to feed me with food that satisfies and nourishes at all times.

You know the compromises I’ve made, the corners I’ve cut to ensure my well-being and you call me to leave these behind and trust you to make sure I’m provided for and befriended.

It’s all awesome. Thank you and amen.

Be among the few Jesus can heal

Thoughts on Mark 6:1-6
You go home, your disciples accompany you, you teach at the synagogue and some people were astounded. Their wonder turned to distrust. “Isn’t he the local boy we all know? He’s the carpenter’s son, what credibility does he have? etc.” That often happens: your spirit stirs the hearts of listeners, they are soft and receptive. Then the head, the suspicious mind gets involved and the window of receptivity slams shut.

You grant me a vision of a life that is useful for your kingdom; a vocation that offers people the chance to know and be known by you. My heart gets stirred. I make a list of possible things to write, retreats to offer, groups to gather…and then my suspicious head gets involved. “Turning that retreat talk you gave into an article or a book will take a long time, it’s hard work. Who’d want to read it anyway? Inviting people to join a small prayer group might offend them. No one would come. Your time will not be your own, it will be committed to the regular time and place. What if you don’t want to meet that day? etc.”

I close my laptop and pick up my knitting.

You weren’t offended by their being offended. You were limited in what you could accomplish and you marveled at their unbelief. The greek word for marvel means to “admire, to pay regard to one’s external appearance.” You looked at their resistance, without surprise, and saw how their ‘protective, suspicious’ mind kept them safe, maintained the status quo, no disruption to their schedule, their known way of living. The few you did heal were changed, they now had to adjust to a new lifestyle.

Their unbelief was respected and you went on to other villages to teach and heal.

Gosh Lord, I don’t want my unbelief to cause you to pass me by. I don’t want my investment in my current lifestyle to be the reason I am not ‘taught and healed.’ How do I keep my heart and gifts sensitive to your stirring?

Debby, my child. Just trust me, trust what I see in you. Believe in yourself as much as I do. Just do it. I’m asking you to remain faithful, I’m not asking you to be successful. Let your guard down and follow me. Be among the few I heal…

From Thayers Greek Lexicon: Offended: To see in another what I disappove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority. Marveled: to admire, to pay regard to ones external appearance.