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Posts Tagged ‘Word’

Understanding Light

Word, God, Life, and Light. From the beginning, and yet misunderstood.

Art by Jenn Bowers

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [or understood] it. [John 1:1-5, NIV]

Of course, the key here is beginnings. None can seem to agree when it all began, whether you are a traditional biblicist, big bang theorist, or some conglomeration of the two. But if we can simply agree that there was a beginning, sometime, then it might be easier to agree that “something” was there at the beginning. At the least: light, a manifestation of energy (but I am no physicist, so please, excuse my simplicity). I just like these ideas swimming around in my head.

Light, the spark of life then.

Now, the difference between an old believer like me and someone else is that I have made that leap of faith to believe in an intelligence at the beginning as well, an order, a motivation, or an intent from which sprang Word (or identity). For it is Word that establishes boundaries or describes a thing and thereby, gives it a name.

Most translations of this verse imply that darkness (what is that? Is it like anti-matter or the absence of light?) cannot extinguish or overcome it, as though it’s a battle of some kind. But if darkness is not light, how can it begin to understand? But I wonder, is darkness dynamic at all? I don’t think so. I believe I may have given the idea of darkness too much power and ability.

And yet another implication or long-standing interpretation of this verse is that the Word is Jesus, the son of God, the physical reflection of God, the ideal human, the template for the rest of us, present in the beginning in a form unknowable or understandable from without because, quite honestly, of the darkness. But Light is strong and the Word is astute and Life came forth all the same and whether we understand it or not, every human has the Light, for we were created from it. What we have lacked over the centuries perhaps, is the Word, the identification of Light – Jesus.

This is the time of year when the sunlight grows shorter and shorter for those of us in the northern hemisphere, but soon, as the Earth continues is lopsided rotation, the days will grow longer again. This is the time of year that we see the change in light. It’s a symbolic representation for the coming of light.

Let’s celebrate the coming of Light, God, the Word, and Life.

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It’s not the perfection but the imperfections of our lives that make place for the Word, the divine message, the working out of becoming more like Christ. When I try to act like Christ on my own, I crowd out the essence of my formation and transformation within.

I John 1:10
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Our new church is starting a series of services that are being coined “Deeper.” I like this characterization of the process of becoming, of making place, of re-engineering our interior maps. In order to have a deeper relationship with our God, we must be more courageous–that is, courageous about revealing the truth, or better said, revealing the lies we tell ourselves.

In the deeper place, the sins are equally prevalent as the ones people can see on the outside: the over-eating, the lusting, the coveting, the breaking of laws (both small and large), the deceptions. Those manifestations found root inside first.

The first lie is the one we tell ourselves.

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Photo by Kimberly Kinrade

If hearing the word is like looking in a mirror at oneself, then it must be familiar when it’s happening. I look at myself and I recognize who it is. In the same way, I must be able to recognize truth. But then . . .

James 1:23-24
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

The idea of turning around and forgetting my own image is disturbing. But isn’t it true? How often I see photographs of myself and I am shocked by the person reflected. When did that happen? The other day I did a video spot and found my neck was doing a great Katherine Hepburn impression. Maybe, what I see in a mirror is not the whole truth after all.

But that sends me off point. What I’m really trying to catch is the idea of recognizing truth in one moment and then forgetting it the next. This happens to me every day. Writing echoes to the scriptures, as I do here, is the same.

I have epiphanies and revelations as I contemplate the word, pray, and write. I hit on a crucial truth, a flowering, a rush; and then I grab my bags, get into the car, go to work and I am someone else. I am the habit woman. I have already forgotten what I saw, what I learned, what I felt.

For a season, I was quite faithful at praying the hours, but I have lost the steady practice in recent weeks. I understand why this ritual has value though, it makes me stop what I was doing, just for eight minutes, and regroup around the Holy Spirit. It was a time to remember, to reconnect, to look into the mirror of the word.

Oh Lord, forgive me. This verse is me. Teach me how to carry your reflected truth with me throughout the night . . . throughout the day.

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What is the Word? Some say it is the Christ Himself, some say it is the “whole of divine revelation” and some say it is the Gospel message. There is agreement however, that this Word is an instrument of disclosure and exposure.

Hebrews 4:12a, 13
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, . . . Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

My first image is that of Adam and Eve who are the first to experience the penetrating power of “the Word.” Not long after the eating of the notorious “apple,” God comes seeking them in the garden, calling out even, “Where are you?” They hide. We are still trying to hide today.

People smile at the ludicrous behavior of Adam and Eve, after all, how can they expect to hide from their all-knowing, all-seeing God? And yet, we believe we can cover up our own sins, thoughts, and actions. We put fig leafs on our brains and our hearts.

I think God knows all along what is happening within. The real problem is getting Human to face the truth of ourselves.

People have asked me why we should bother to pray if God knows everything and I maintain that prayer is really about our own discoveries. What is important? What is a hindrance? Where are we kidding ourselves? What is the desire of the heart?

Sometimes, God uses the Christ through the Holy Spirit to cut through the bull crap with a sword — the sword of truth. Like the “refining fire” that burns up the dross of our hearts, so the sword must sometimes cut away the dead stuff that prevents us from growing and healing. Like irrigating an infected the wound, it may hurt in the process, but the repair will move more swiftly later on.

Lord, I embrace your Word and your Sword.

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Mortimer's First Garden

While some folks may focus in on the correct/rebuke others portion of this verse, I’m much more drawn to the idea of talking, sharing with people with “great patience.” With patience as the umbrella, even a correction would be done with utmost concern and gentleness. That makes sense.

II Timothy 4:2
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

I hate “sparring” about verses in the Bible. Face it, there are tons of people who know the scriptures a lot better than I do and they have committed themselves to memorizing hunks of useful phrases, ready to debunk (correct/rebuke) and possibly even “expose” me and my understanding or interpretation of the words. I don’t go there anymore.

But I’m thinking today that “preach the Word” may actually mean “preach Jesus” moreso than expound on scriptures. For me, that means to speak about Jesus and his life, to explain the concept of a Christ in this world, to share the impact of Jesus and His Holy Spirit within me, to give the gift of what I personally know. When I add the words from scripture to my personal story, when I share how those words helped me understand the truth of the Christ in my life, then it’s a package of love. I am not a leader/teacher/preacher. I am no Timothy. I am just a follower of that Way.

But, what is preaching? Is it part of my role at all? Is it just proclaiming, teaching, exhorting, advocating, and admonishing or can it be all of these things? When I purposefully add “patience” to any of these definitions, the tenor of the words is much softened. It’s more like explaining or story-telling to a child, spoken with patience and even love. It’s not self-edifying, it’s not deprecating or sanctimonious. It’s not screaming or challenging. It’s not clever. That other kind of preaching/teaching is incompatible with patience, or at least, in my mind, they are not easily partnered together.

Jesus is patient; has been and will be throughout time. God is patient. Love is patient.

The other day, I read a cute story to some kids at the library in which Mortimer the mouse planted a seed and was quite disgruntled the next day when there was nothing to show for it. We all know that seeds take time to sprout. Why aren’t we as loving and patient with the Word?

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I appreciate the Amplified translation of the Bible at times like today, when the words that nudged my spirit were enriched further by this translation and its multiple English equivalents. Consider what it means to have the Word at work within us: a superhuman power.

I Thessalonians 2:13
And we also [especially] thank God continually for this, that when you received the message of God [which you heard] from us, you welcomed it not as the word of [mere] men, but as it truly is, the Word of God, which is effectually at work in you who believe [exercising its superhuman power in those who adhere to and trust in and rely on it].
[Amplified}

Two other verses that support this idea poetically come from Isaiah 55:10-11:

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

God’s Word, the message and the man, Christ Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is inside me and part of my being. I invited my God to share both with me. I believe in the Presence and its power to evolve within and to evolve me.

Sometimes I bemoan how slowly I have grown in the things of God. I mean, it’s a little discouraging to think I’ve been at it for 30 years or so and this, this human self, is all I have to show for it. But maybe that’s just the “other voice” speaking condemnation. I know I am far from the perfection that God craves for Human and yet, I am closer now than I ever could have been if I had continued on the first road.

Actually, I’m pretty sure I’d be dead if I had continued resisting the wooing of Christ.

No. My spirit is alive and thriving in my union with the Holy Spirit. OK, so I had a slow start, so what?! We are back to the tortoise and the hare and I’m going to embrace that tortoise part of me again today.

There is a promise that is coming to fruition within me. God’s Word within me is still growing and producing fruit. My life will accomplish what God desires and my life will not return to dust void.

I acknowledge the work of the Word within me. I thank you.

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A believer, grafted to the tree of faith, still has some responsibility despite all that grace. I do, after all, need to participate in the tree… “be a tree” and not something else, like a mushroom or a dandelion.

Romans 3:2b
First of all, they [the Jews] have been entrusted with the very words of God.

When I accepted Christ, I agreed to give up some things in exchange for the embedded words of God. Those words have power and can transform a life. I agreed to keep them safe by treating them reverently.

Oh, it’s not like the “words” will go away if I am faithless. I can even cast them aside and God will not be changed in any way. But I will have broken trust… it’s a type of betrayal, a broken covenant.

God is teaching me about God through those words. And Jesus is teaching me. And the Holy Spirit is teaching me. And as I learn, I become a stronger part of the tree.

An image that comes to my mind is the great tree in the movie, Avatar. It was a life force, a home, a safety net, a fortress, a symbol… it was all of these things and more to the native peoples. And so is the tree of life for me. Unlike Pandora’s tree which was destroyed by evil, our tree of life lives on forever. But it really thrives when the parts contribute to the tree with love and joy and obedience and faith and truth and confession.

As a believer, I have been entrusted with the words of God. They are only seeds. The life of those word-seeds must be planted and nurtured to manifest.

Similar metaphors are used throughout the scriptures to help us understand. Do we? Do we take these gifts seriously? Do I? If I truly understood the words of God to be like the metaphors that Jesus used about the kingdom (e.g. a mustard seed, yeast, treasure in a field, a pearl [Matthew 13]), would I sell everything to gain the full value of this treasure?

Oh Lord, give me a love for your words that will bear much fruit. Give me wisdom and understanding. Help me to be a better caretaker of your truth.

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