Deane's Blog

Faith

he looked at me

Faith, LentDeane Watters5 Comments
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There was a crowd forming beside the road. A wild procession was slowly making its way to Jerusalem. Smiles radiated from every face because they thought this man was the next king! People shouted "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!" They were laughing and jumping and bowing, making merry in the most exuberant way. They even had branches to put under the feet of the donkey to signify respect for the one who rode on it. Jesus sat and solemnly made His way through the crowded road and allowed their praises to surround Him. He knew who He was. He knew where He was going. He knew what was next.

Hurrying, I stepped to the side of the road. I didn't want to miss this opportunity. It was a hot and dusty day.  People, in their excitement, had pushed and shoved to find a clear view of Him and I, too, longed to get a good look at Him.

But I got much more. 

I got a look from him.

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There are many ways to read a Bible passage. We can underline and circle and draw arrows to words that show more clearly what was intended by the writer. We can read what scholars have written about the passage to get more information. We can use cross-references to learn more. We can read books and listen to sermons. And after we study well, we can meditatively and prayerfully step into the story and see what else God might have for us.

That's what I did. It was Palm Sunday. Our pastor read the words we have heard every year reminding us of the happenings of that day and what the coming week held for Jesus. I have heard that story so many times. How could I find a way to see it with a fresh perspective?

I closed my eyes and asked the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to me as I stepped into that story. I found myself in the crowd. I felt their excitement. I smelled their sweat. I saw the procession far down the road. Soon he was right in front of me, passing slowly, on his way to his death.

What happened next is something I'll never forget. As he passed by, as I looked at him, as I searched his face, he turned and looked straight at me. His brown eyes bore into my soul as I realized that he knew who I was. He knew my name and my love for him. He knew my heart with its hidden pockets of darkness. He knew. He knew it all. And even with all this knowing, He loved me deeply. I knew it. I felt it.

His gaze said it all. It was a breathtaking moment and I blushed with joy while savoring His love for me in a fresh way while standing on the side of that dusty road. 

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Opening my eyes, I realized that this is who Jesus is. His kingdom is not about being an earthly king. It is about His wide, long, high and deep love for us. It's about His knowledge of our hearts and His doing what only He could do to save us. 

Have you ever tried to step into a Bible story? I encourage you to take such a journey, especially in the coming week. How would the story of Jesus praying in the garden become more real if you were one of the disciples nodding off to sleep while Jesus asked you to stay awake and pray? What might you hear in a new way as you sit with Jesus in the Upper Room and He tells you of His coming death? How might you feel as you watch as He is beaten and stripped, mocked and murdered? Sitting at the foot of the cross helplessly watching Him suffer, what would you see? What might you hear? How would you feel? 

 I would offer these options for stepping into a story: 

  • Become one of the characters in the story
    • Become Peter and feel how he felt after betraying Jesus.
    • Become the guard who beat Jesus; wonder at the anger.
    • Become Jesus' mother and weep.
    • Become John, the one Jesus especially loved. Lean your head against His chest in the upper room and listen to what He has to say.
  • Be yourself.
    • Interact as you: a part of the crowd, one of the children, one of the disciples, 
    • Let Jesus wash your feet.
    • Warm yourself at the fire as Peter denies Christ.
  • Be an observer. 
    • Watch as Jesus washed the disciples feet.
    • Watch as the guards came to take Jesus away from the garden on that dark night.
    • Stand at the foot of the cross and watch Jesus die.
    • Go with Mary to find the tomb empty. Run with her to tell the disciples the GREAT news that He had risen from the dead!
  • Once you know who you are in the story let it play out as the scripture tells it. What might you see, smell, feel or taste? What might Christ want you to see anew in that particular story?

As a result, this might be the most heartfelt Holy Week you have ever experienced. Slow down. Open the scripture and see what is there as you step in to find Jesus's actions and words spoken as though you were standing right there.

I didn't travel to Israel. I didn't make up something strange. I stepped into one of the stories in Jesus' life and I let it speak to me. I didn't make up something contrary to scripture. I just let the Holy Spirit guide my thoughts. And it was gloriously profound. 

Which story would you like to step into?

 

Have You Been Offended Lately?

FaithDeane Watters1 Comment

If you come to this little blog site to find a "warm and safe place in which to rest your soul" I welcome you today. It is always good to find a place that is comfortable and kind, a place where you feel known and cared about. This is the place!

But today I want us to consider something that isn't particularly warm or safe.

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Feeling offended seems to be a common ailment in our society, our homes, our churches and unfortunately, in our own hearts. 

Recently someone close to me said, "I was so offended when ..." I've heard it at church. I've read it in the newspaper. I see it in the news. 

It usually starts with , "Can you believe he or she said that?" It goes on to explain why the feeling is justified.

How many times have I, myself, said those words, so quick to take offense? More than I want to count. And yet, I know better. I know I walk on dangerous ground when I hear, receive, and harbor resentment. 

                                                                  Proverbs 19:11  

A person's wisdom yields patience, it is to one's glory to overlook an offense.

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I want to be known as a wise person...no, I want to be a wise person and this verse tells me that patience is one of the crops yielded from a heart of wisdom.

In Matthew 24:10-12 Jesus says, as he is warning about signs of the end days, "Then shall many be offended and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another, and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."

When I read the words "betray", "hate", "abounding iniquity" and "love waxing cold" I want nothing to do with them. They sound like deadly venom to a soul, to a family, and to a body of believers.

So what are we to do?

Francis Frangipane has written extensively about this problem.  When offended,  he first tries to listen and consider what he's being told. What might be true about what is being said?

He writes, "Humility listens even to a harshly spoken word and without reacting, rescues the truth within the criticism. The result is that we discover an area we had not seen and instead of being offended, we become more Christlike."

We can get offended by more than just direct criticism. We can be offended by what someone tells us that someone else said. We can be offended by what someone says, even if it is not directed right at us. Sometimes we are offended by what people don't say! But our reaction can be the same.

First, pray. Then ask, "What can I learn from this?" We can use this as an opportunity to grow in love like Christ who, as He died, prayed, "Father forgive them."

The Bible tells us in Matthew 18:15 that we can go to the person and talk with them. Take a friend and gently explain how you feel. Sometimes the person will explain or apologize. Other times they will refuse to acknowledge that they have hurt you. Either way, you have done what is right.

What we are NOT to do, is to tell everyone we talk to how this person has hurt and offended us. We would do well to NOT rehearse what was said and why we have every right to be insulted.

We should also pray, asking God for the willingness to do the work that releases the person from the chains we have put them in...the binding requirement to pay for what they have done/said/thought.. 

I had two aunts who supposedly never talked for years after one said something hurtful about the other's husband. Think of it. Sisters who had a lifetime of no communication even though they lived close. They let unkind words move them into a stubborn stance that led to a lifetime of fences and walls. That's the danger, I think. One might have been right and the other wrong, but someone should have either apologized or forgiven before the years stretched into decades.

But I don't have to look back those many years to find examples of offense. I just need to look into the mirror and realize that it is hard to give things up that hurt me. It is easier to lay down in the softness of feeling like I am right, justified in my lack of forgiveness. But that softness soon turns to spikes as we realize the true consequences for staying "offended."

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  • loss of relationship with that person
  • lack of honesty with God 
  • negative outlook
  • lack of thankfulness
  • a continuing of my brokenness
  • a broken unity
  • letting sin get a foothold
  • losing our capacity to love
  • unforgiveness given free reign

I encourage us all to examine our hearts and ask God to help us choose to stop taking offense. If there is a specific situation, He will help us resolve it quickly and quietly, so we can bring honor to him and be able to move on in freedom.

 

 

 

 

What's Your Word for 2018?

Word of the Year, FaithDeane Watters7 Comments

 

I woke up late one morning and instead of going right to prayer with my Bible open, I went straight to my morning walk and then on with my day. I found throughout the morning there was something that kept pulling at me, a thought or an image, but I didn't actually pay much attention to it. Soon I remembered I hadn't gotten up early enough for my usual quiet time and maybe I could stop and do it now.  But when the thought would come, I would by-pass it with what ever I was doing at the time and before I knew it, the day was over and it was time to go to bed.

In the book, Invitation to a Journey, M. Robert Mulholland Jr. writes about God's desire that we be conformed to the image of Christ. This is not an easy task as that conforming must take place in the places that are very un-Christ-like! Our call is to come out of brokenness into wholeness. This means we must die in those broken places in order for God to transform us into the image of his Son.

Who wants to go through the process of dying to the things that already hurt?

Mulholland goes on to explain using a picture of God standing at the closed doors of our hearts where we have shut him out. The love and grace of God will knock and knock and knock, wanting us to open the door, to face the truth of our brokenness, but he will "not force open the door."

God watches to see the door move from within.

As George MacDonald writes: 

 

 

This image reminded me how sometimes I feel a nudging toward something... like, being alone with God. Or perhaps giving someone a call, choosing to not be offended, stopping to pray, not letting that unnecessary or unkind word come out of my mouth, letting fear harass me, my desire to nestle in with a bad attitude or the need to forgive someone (the list could go on...) but I resist. I'm busy and I have things to do so I push away the gentle soft suggestion and continue on my way...and say the thing or hold on to that which should be let go.  It is subtle. It is not pushy or loud. It feels like my own thought that I can quickly un-invite.

But the picture of God at the door of my brokenness has opened in me a stronger desire to be open to opening the door when I sense the Spirit's asking. It seems to be something I resist. I naturally want my way in those hardened areas.

In Proverbs 8:34 Wisdom calls out: Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

If I want to grow wise, more mature in my faith, more like Christ, it is time to identify those moments and nod a yes to what I'm being asked to do.

In Revelation 3:20 the Spirit earnestly announced that the church in Laodicea was lukewarm in their faith. They were so tasteless He desired to spit them out! He wanted to discipline them and find them earnest and willing to repent!  He went on to say, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door. I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." 

He's knocking at the door of their brokenness, their sin, their places so unlike Christ. And somehow I see him asking me to open some doors that have comfortably remained closed these many years. Deeper places of the heart where he asks me to not be afraid or unwilling to trust him.

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So my word for this year is OPEN THE DOOR. I know it isn't a word, it is a phrase, but it is my choice for a reminder to be open to a deeper "yes" and to stop the resistance in areas where I am unsure, unclear, lacking in confidence or unwilling to welcome Christ.

It's a big task, a lifelong one. But for today I have this image: my hand is on the door. Will I pay attention and be willing to respond so God can do His deeper work in me? That is my desire.

 

 

 

 

Do you have a word? I'd love to know it and why you have chosen it. Please leave it in the comments.  Maybe I'll make you a cute word-picture like mine!

 

Hungry for More?

Faith, RecipesDeane Watters2 Comments
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One night, as we sat in our cosy little breakfast nook, my husband and I dipped our spoons into steaming bowls of homemade soup. As we slurped away, Brian commented that it  was really good soup and I had to agree. Somehow the buttery, creamy base was a perfect compliment to the crunchy wild rice, sliced mushrooms and tender chicken. Paired with slices of sourdough bread slathered with butter; we enjoyed a tasty meal for a cold November evening. This deliciousness invited us to want for more.

Just the thought of those combined flavors and the nice satisfied feeling I had after partaking in that soup's offerings brings back some strong desires to get that recipe out and make it again because we want for more. 

I can't help but think through how my tasting soup relates to my tasting God's goodness.

Audrey Assad offers an idea. 

(Click title to listen.)

I Shall Not Want

From the love my own comfort...From the fear of having nothing...From a life of worldly passions.

Deliver me, O God.

From the need to be understood...And from a need to be accepted...From the fear of being lonely

Deliver me, O God...Deliver me, O God

 

And I shall not want, no, I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want...When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want

 

From the fear of serving others...Oh, and from the fear of death or trial...And from the fear of humility

Deliver me, O God...Yes, deliver me, O God

 

Our needs and fears seem to overshadow any of God's goodness but the refrain, reflecting Psalm 23, tells us that His goodness provides and  I shall not want. 

Hunger. Tasting. Desiring to be satisfied. All are human realities. But everything that we hunger for, everything we taste, fills us for a longing for more.

Except our Heavenly Father. 

1 Peter 2:2-3 "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."

How can we taste His goodness and find it to be so great that it shows us a glimpse of Him and satisfies our longings?  It seems that God has His ways of showing Himself. Do we have eyes to see and senses that taste and know?

  • A start would be to sit daily with our Bibles open to study deeply and chew on His amazing Word.  
  • Perhaps there's no money for a Christmas tree and one day you see the pastor driving up the long lane with a beautiful long-needled tree secured on top of his car. Ah...a glimpse of God!
  • Perhaps your loved one is very sick and people come in to pray and sing and recite beautiful verses over you. There He is again.
  • Perhaps your house floods and your church family pulls together $17,000 in one Sunday to help you get started on your way back to normal.
  • Perhaps a husband dies in an accident and the wife looks out the window and talks to God, trusting Him as sovereign.
  • Perhaps you have no job but at just the perfect time, your next door neighbor calls and tells you one of his employees has quit and, would you like a job? Ahh the goodness of God shining.
  • Perhaps your child is very sick and your church family prays, visits, brings meals, babysits for you - for several years. Thank you God for your goodness!
  • Perhaps a careless word was sent in your direction and you took great offense at it. But God gave you the grace to forgive and not hold on to the offense! His goodness is beautiful.
  • Perhaps you give birth or adopt a baby and you look deep into those eyes and see in them one so fresh from God. Taste such delights from His hand!
  • Perhaps you risk and share the gospel with a salesman on the phone. You feel you messed up the words but God uses those offerings in ways unseen. Oh the joy of seeing and tasting His goodness.
  • Perhaps you feel Him inviting you into a ministry far away. It is a big invitation but you say yes. You leave everything and go. Glimpses of his beauty speak volumes on a daily basis as you only have Him to rely on.
  • Perhaps you travel to a beautiful place...a national park or a rain forest or an ocean or the mountains. You see the beauty he has created and can only imagine the Creator of all this and find yourself mesmerized by such immense beauty. Inside you are somehow deeply thankful and greatly satisfied.
  • Perhaps your daughter has been found murdered and somewhere deep within comes the desire and the grace to forgive. Oh nothing but the goodness of God can allow such freedom.
  • Perhaps your church has been invaded and terrorized and many are killed. But your faith remains firm and God is your solid rock and extreme comfort.
  • Perhaps you see the frolicking of deer, the twittering of the birds, the chewing of the squirrel and the silence of the forest. Hello beautiful God! These are lovely gifts given by your hand. 

Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts, "Do I have eyes to see it's Him and not the thing?"

Do I? Do we?

When we taste your goodness we shall not want. We can only worship and sit in amazed thankfulness.

 The satiating of this kind of hunger is a far cry from tasting a delicious bowl of homemade soup. It finds and meets a deeper longing, one we absolutely cannot satisfy by our own doing. Only God can give us himself through Christ. Only He stops that excruciating poverty of spirit we cannot fix in any way except to come to Him and be filled... so full that we just don't want anything else, except more of him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

 

And if you're interested, here's the recipe mentioned above. Delicious. (Just ask Brian.)

 

Chicken, Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

 

Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 45 minutes

 

3 14.5-oz. cans chicken broth

1 cup chopped carrots

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained

½ tsp. dried thyme, crushed

3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

3 Tbsp butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey

 

1.    In a 4-qt Dutch oven combine 2 cans of the broth, the carrots, onion, celery, wild rice and dried thyme. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 40-45 minutes or until rice is tender but still chewy, adding mushrooms during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

2.   Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1 can of broth. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more; stir in cream. Add cream mixture to rice mixture, stirring constantly. Stir in chicken, heat through. If desired, sprinkle with additional black pepper.