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Posts Tagged ‘living water’

water flowingWhat does it mean to you, this never ending water?

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [John 4:13-14, NIV]

This week begins a series of devotions based on the word, Reflect. And one of the best ways to reflect is to ask ourselves questions. What do these words really mean to me?

beaverIf the water from the Christ should truly be as a spring of water welling up within me, then why am I not continually refreshed? Is it the fault of the water? I don’t think so. Instead, there’s some pesky beaver damming up the stream. I’ve allowed a lot of sticks and mud and stones to get in the way. Despite tearing it down, the industrious beaver will rebuild overnight. (Please, don’t think I’m picking on beavers in particular, it’s just a metaphor.) My point is that keeping the water flowing is a daily task. And only when the water is flowing can we actually drink.

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Photo by Erich Lessing

Used by permission
© Erich Lessing

I keep trying to understand the movements of these ancient peoples. I guess I’d have to go back to school in Old Testament studies to really comprehend the places and names and how they correlate to today’s maps.  And yet, even with my limited knowledge, I enjoy making the small discoveries, like the meaning the place Isaac lived after Abraham’s death and its relationship to Hagar [Genesis 16:7].

Genesis 25:8-9a; 10b-11
Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre . . . There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi [Well of the Living One Seeing Me].

I’m assuming the name of this well was carried down by word of mouth because of Hagar. She saw God through the Angel who told her to return to Sarai, her mistress, and to believe in the future of her son, Ishmael.

Now, after all that Isaac had been through, both he and his half-brother, Ishmael, bury their father near the great trees of Mamre, and Isaac moves his household to this undoubtedly plush area near the river and the primary trade route between Egypt and the north. Isaac, too, wanted to be seen by God. I want to be seen by God too. Don’t we all?

Don’t we all want the intimacy of being seen, being known, being embraced by a loving God? This is, after all, the promise of Christ all along: despite it all, God sees you and accepts you . . . accepts me. Just so.

Come to the well and drink. Be seen. And, of course, once that “door” is open, I can see too. (Like the old refrain when having one’s picture taken in a crowd: if you can see the camera, the camera can see you.)

God is not looking through dense shrubs or hiding behind the clouds. God is within through the Holy Spirit. That is Well of the Living One Seeing Me. Right here.

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Water baptism is controversial among various denominations, from dunking to sprinkling, from adults to infants, required or not required, and so on. But, according to Peter, it can be symbolic, it can be a moment in time when the person says, “Yes, from this day forth . . . ”

I Peter 1:21a
. . . and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.

I suppose then, if parents want to mark a day for their babies (at Christenings and dedications and such), is that a bad thing? Does the infant have an unclear conscience, not really. Is the day meaningful for the child, no. But it can be important for the parents on behalf of the child and whatever has gone before that child’s birth. Perhaps they need to mark a moment in time to let go of former circumstances or negative thoughts about the child, this bundle of life that has changed their lives forever. Perhaps they need to make a pledge that day, to move forward and not look back. I like the idea although I doubt it’s a concept shared with young parents. Wish it were.

Now, as to adults and baptism . . .

When I made the decision, some thirty years ago, to become a follower of Christ, I was “all in” except for the church thing. It took me several months before I could go through any of those motions or rituals. My childhood experiences with people of the church and its liturgies had been discouraging. Eventually, I did attend a church in Manhattan, an anachronism to say the least (beehive hairdo’s, long black dresses on the women, knee thumping gospel, etc.). But after some weekly exposure to the Pentecostal teaching, I was drawn to being water baptized as an adult.

Even then, with little understanding of Christian norms, I knew it was a symbol; it was a personal gesture; it was an act of submission to God; it was an agreement between us; it was my pledge to let go of everything that had gone before and to move forward with God and Christ. It was a “yes.”

Do I believe I could be a Christ follower without the dunking pool? I do. Did it seem odd and a little ridiculous at the time? It did. Was I self-conscious of its process? I was.

But I am not sorry I did it. And in a way, I’m thinking water baptism should be considered as an act that can be done more often, much like communion, as an expression of intent, an agreement, a promise.

This, too, then is a “start-over.” It makes a lot more sense when we re-examine the baptisms that John the Baptist ran before Jesus had even started his ministry. It was a gesture of hope back then too.

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Chicken or the egg: I come near to God first or God comes near to me? It’s a circle for a reason, there is no beginning or end to God-nearness.

James 4:8
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Brian McLaren, in his latest book, Naked Spirituality: a life with God in 12 simple words, uses the word “here” to begin his journey with God: “I am here, God is here, I am here with God.” This is how I imagine mutual nearness, like a dance or a mirror exercise in which no one can tell who is leading, who is following. It’s a unity.

And when I have awareness of God-nearness, I am also quickened. I see myself more clearly, I see places within me that are not connecting, like sunspots, they are of a different heat but the wrong kind of intense activity. They are my inner Adam and Eve hiding in the garden [Genesis 3:8-10].

It is only when I am near that I can understand and see what needs to be purified, what needs to be cleansed. There is cleansing by water, this removes the surface problems, the obvious issues, this is relatively easy and although it may take time, it is not particularly painful.

But the second, the purification of the heart, this is the inner cleansing and there is no quick fix to sins of the heart. The deeper they are stored, the more intense the process.

As I prayed over this passage, the old song came immediately to mind, Refiner’s Fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy. Like purifying gold, there must be fire. This is not some fiery hell at all, it’s white fire, it’s holy, it’s laser specific, it’s the power of God released into the heart of the matter.

They say mothers no longer remember the pain of childbirth once the child is born: the wonder of the living outshines the suffering. So it is with the cleansing fire of God.

If I want to be close, then I have to be willing to be transparent and clear.

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There comes a time when a person’s principles will separate him/her from certain friendships or situations, either by choice because the circumstances are unpalatable or by the pressure of others. The question is whether the separation is a wall or a space.

II Corinthians 6:16-17a
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.

Even though Jesus supped and interacted with “prostitutes and tax collectors,” these folks were not his daily diet. He still had to seek out solitude and silence. He needed time with God, his heart’s true home. He also needed time with his close friends with whom he shared his himself.

This scripture reference has been used for centuries to justify the creation of exclusive “societies” in the name of holiness. Convents and monasteries became the ultimate separation and for years; they thrived until humanity called out for help and slowly they came out and brought their faith to the world around them. It was a difficult change, a time to learn balance between separation and service.

There are other ways to separate. Simply an attitude or affiliation can be a dividing wall. For some, it’s like a badge of honor to maintain a list of things they don’t do: watch R-rated movies, listen to secular music, dance to a beat, look at nude paintings or sculpture, drink wine, beer or any alcohol at all, send their children to public schools, take communion in a particular way, baptize in a particular way, pray in a particular way, and so forth. The walls become thicker and taller over time. Unfortunately, if anyone crosses over or digs a hole through the wall, he/she is considered a reprobate. The wall is fortified.

Some of the extreme examples are the groups who have created compounds in the name of “community” where rules dominate, families inter-marry, and women are considered chattel once again. There are churches where membership is a complex ritual. There are religious groups where the “shepherds” determine whether two people marry or not, or whether a family should buy a car, or how much should be tithed. Yes, these are extremes, but their is separatism all along this continuum. They become an oppression.

How or what people do in the name of God can be diverse. How an individual is led to worship and honor God is a choice. But when these practices become a source of intentional alienation, something is wrong.

It is my heart that my life would be a flowing stream that can break down walls but also create pools and coves of safety. I don’t ever want to become a stagnant pond in the name of “holiness.”

He [she] is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he [she] does prospers. [Psalm 1:3]

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John 4:10
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

How many times have I said this in hindsight: “If only I had known…” I have made a lot of stupid choices coming up. For instance, I think back to my senior year in high school (which I’m going through again with my son). Our family was very poor but I was such a really good student, I could have gone to any university, but I didn’t think it was an option, so I stayed in-state. If only I had known….

When I was working toward becoming a professional actress/model in my twenties, I had a zillion head shots taken, but I never even considered getting my hair and make up done professionally. It would have made a huge difference. If only I had known….

When we adopted our children, in first and second grade, one of them really struggled with basic concepts. It took over 3 years for us to figure out that he had a learning disability. He lost much valuable time. If only I had known…

My mother, who was extremely difficult and “eccentric,” came to live with us her last three years. It was during this time we discovered that she was bi-polar and probably had been all of her adult life. I can’t help but think how her quality of life (and ours) would have been improved with proper medical attention. If only I had known….

The Samaritan woman was faced with a choice and an opportunity to “know.” She could have walked away and ignored this Jewish man. Instead, she asked the next question. To know, we must ask. To learn, we must listen. To discover, we must look. To create, we must experiment. To love, we must risk.

Then, we too, can drink “living water.”

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