Into The Stillness

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Psalm 46:10,11

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!  the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:10,11

Forever drawing me back

You watch

as I run frantically

from one chaos to the next

seeking to arrive, but never arriving

living the lie:

if I just do this, that, the next thing

then stillness will come

and I will find You

 

So I sit, exhausted,

in the cool of Your Presence

expectantly

needfully

trustfully

mind swirling dizzily with a thousand different stories

words held dormant

only now, in hindsight, truly heard

thoughts, prayers, questions, tears,

wounds, hopes, regrets and fears

past and present converging

in a weary, disordered mass

 

My body tense, on edge

aching with the madness

of this life’s demands

every muscle tort

every sinew straining to hear You

restlessly resisting the ringing of the phone

the traffic outside the window

the children on the way to school

the random, relentless tyranny

of things and sounds and

stifling banality

 

Undeterred You wordlessly gather me

into the Stillness of I AM

prying my fingers loose

from all I would so rigidly cling to

wrapping me softly in Your All-ness

kissing open my eyes

to a different, truer reality

truth and mercy,

in welcoming familiarity,

washing over my open wounds

 

You teach me again how to sink into You

as if it was something we’ve never done before

as if it wasn’t something I’ve learned and

forgotten in rapid repetition

only to run back thirsting for more

and finding the way back

along this old familiar road

through this gate that never closes

has become my only way home

 

And in the Stillness there is the Knowing

and in the Knowing there is renewal

and surrender

and in the surrender there is grace

to re-enter the fray

to live and fight another day

and in the grace

the sweet remembrance of our communion

and the promise of Your keeping

until I come hurtling

desperate again

into the Stillness

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Photo Credit: Wallaroo Images

A Tale of Two Adams

cupThe Garden

Stay here and watch with Me. My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.’ Matt. 26:38

It was not by coincidence that Jesus chose a garden as the setting for the greatest battle of His earthly life. Wasn’t it in a garden that His ancestor, First Adam, had rejected Life and condemned all his descendants to eternal Death?

And so here He was, Last Adam, with the stench of Death already assaulting his nostrils and circling His soul greedily. He who is Life knew that stench. He had encountered it more than once: lurking in the house where the little girl had lain pale and motionless; clinging to the open coffin of the widow’s son; and not many days ago permeating the rocky cave where Lazarus’ body had been laid.

He had seen enough of Death to recognize his sinister, menacing presence now hovering over His own soul like a vulture anticipating a long awaited feast. So this was what it felt like! This futile sense of inevitability, this hopelessness, this terrible aloneness! The very atmosphere seemed saturated with a creeping darkness, crushing heavily down on Him, flooding His soul with an ancient and irresistible grief.

The decisive hour of battle had come, an hour He had known would arrive since the Beginning. Did they understand what He had meant when He requested they watch with Him? The entire garden had been transformed into a field of intense battle, a battle that would determine their fate and the fate of all humankind. But even now He sensed the same sorrow that sought to crush Him was descending upon them also. Rather than watch, they would sleep, for sleep was humanity’s only respite for things beyond human control.

Burdened in spirit beyond anything He’d previously experienced, Last Adam fell on His face before Abba, releasing the tears that stung His eyes and burned His throat. Now would They enter the conversation They had so long planned. Now, depleted of all bodily strength, He would draw solely upon Abba’s steadfast love for Him. In no other way could He endure the imminent battle.


The Cup

‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me…..’ Mark 14:36

First Adam had rejected God’s fellowship by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree in the midst of a garden. The bittersweet fruit had given great knowledge to humanity: the sweetness of the knowledge of goodness, the bitterness of the knowledge of evil. Humanity now knew how to sin and sin introduced humanity to Death. Death was both the essence and the harvest of the enticing fruit. The soul-destroying seed of Death now dominated the descendants of first Adam, from one generation to the next, until……

Not a fruit this time, but a cup, was presented to Last Adam. No sweetness wafted deceptively from this putrid cup, no promise of false righteousness or god-likeness. Such enticements would have been wasted on this Last Adam. This cup was bitter with a bitterness never before tasted by any of First Adam’s descendants.

Into this cup Death had poured himself in full measure. The One who is Life, from whom all created life had originated, looked deep into the cup of Death being presented before Him with no illusions. We cannot, in this life, know or understand the fullness of what He saw. But what He saw was the exact opposite of Himself. Every misery humanity has endured and continues to endure (for a limited time) since First Adam walked pitifully out of the first garden – pain, betrayal, hatred, war, sickness, despair – was contained in that cup. And permeating all was Death.

Life looked into the darkest recesses of Death, and with an enmity born before the foundation of the world, Life utterly abhorred what He saw.

So offensive, so thoroughly repulsive, were the contents of the cup to Last Adam, even His body of flesh convulsed at the thought of drinking it, as sweat and blood formed in great droplets that fell heavily on the ground where He lay before Abba. “Let it pass, let it pass, there must be another way!” He wept in anguish and distress. But even as He uttered such words, He and Abba both knew there was no other way.

The battle of all eternity now raged unconstrained, there in a garden called Gethsemane – ‘the olive press’ – on a mountain near a city – a city full of people unknowingly awaiting the outcome. Life and Death wrestled one another for victory. The prize was the future of humankind.


The Victory

‘…..nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’ Mark 14:36

First Adam had received Death on behalf of all humanity and consigned all humanity to Death. Defeated and unable to face its self-imposed catastrophe, humanity had removed itself from the holy Presence of God. The garden became a distant memory, a legend, a sad and incomprehensible tragedy whispered of softly around campfires and told to children at bedtime.

Angels gathered reverently to witness the unfolding drama on the garden battlefield, just as they had witnessed the departure of First Adam from that other garden at the dawn of time. One of them followed Abba’s directive to minister spiritual strength to this Last Adam as He wrestled with Death. It was the only angelic service permissible. All the host of Heaven understood that this excruciating battle was about humanity, and only the One who had willingly become human flesh could contest it.

Within Last Adam, human will struggled to surrender without reservation to what had been agreed in the Threefold Counsel of Elohim in eternity past. He knew this decision was ultimately His. Love does not force its will upon Another’s will. But equally, Love seeks the will of the Other.

He knew Death would waste no time in assuring His removal if He should drink the cup. Plans for his execution were already being put in place, but could not be carried through UNTIL and UNLESS He drank that cup. For what even His disciples did not understand, but all Heaven and Hell knew, was that He could not die as other men would inevitably die.

He had told them, but as so often happened, they missed His meaning. ‘I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.’  Satan had been consigned to the sidelines, waiting for the outcome of the dramatic event in this garden-battlefield. Yes, the evil one had come, having left Him for a season after that momentous encounter in the wilderness. Now he too was watching the crucial battle impatiently, unable to intervene, as his servant Death wrestled for supremacy.

Because Satan had nothing in Last Adam. Last Adam, unlike First Adam, did not know sin. And sin was the only entry point for Death, Satan’s great weapon of mass destruction.   Satan understood all too well this sinless Last Adam could never die, unless He Himself surrendered His own fleshly body to Death.

And then it was over. With one final, terrifying groan, with unspeakable anguish carved on His face and chilling resolve blazing from His eyes, Last Adam laid a formidable grip on the cup and drank it down……every last drop. Angels gasped. Hell erupted into grotesque celebration. Death gloated and licked his lips lasciviously.

But Abba smiled a brokenhearted, tear-stained smile.


The Conquest

The battle over, Last Adam arose to embrace His victory. He knew exactly the cruel nature of the execution Death had planned for Him. But fear of the coming suffering had never been the focus of the battle. The suffering of Calvary would arrive swiftly in the coming hours, but the battle for Calvary had already been fought, here in the olive press garden. The battle had not been about facing Calvary’s suffering; the battle had been about Life tasting Death …. willingly and sovereignly.

In the days to come those who could not perceive it yet, including Satan and his servant Death, would come to realise that which now looked like Hell’s grand victory was actually Hell’s resounding defeat. It had been here in an inconspicuous, lowly garden Endless Life defeated Endless Death and Heaven grasped victory over Hell….for all eternity hereafter. Calvary with its brutality, blood and ugliness would be the victorious demonstration of what had taken place here, in this garden, when Last Adam reversed the actions of First Adam.

Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given me? asked Jesus of Peter in the aftermath of the battle. The question had already been answered. First Adam, born to live, had tasted Death and sentenced all humanity to die with him.  Last Adam, born to die, had tasted Death so all humanity might live through Him. No one, human or demonic, had power to take His sinless Life, so He willingly laid it down (Jn. 10:18).

It happened in a garden. In yet another garden He would very soon demonstrate His absolute conquest over Death – by taking up again His Endless Life.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

If you would like to use this post as a Bible study, here is a list of some relevant Bible passages:

The Garden: 1 Cor. 15: 12-58; Matthew 26:37-45, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:40-46

The Cup: John 1:4; Romans 5:12: Heb. 2:9; Heb. 5:7,8;

The Victory: Luke 4:13; Jn. 14:30;Heb. 2:14,15; 2 Tim. 1:10;

The Conquest: Acts 2:24; Rom. 6:9; Jn. 10:18; Rev. 1:18

Beholding The Glory

Sunset Serenade

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me….. Jn. 17:24

We who follow Christ have been invited to be with Him, where He is, that we may behold His glory. We are conditioned by religious speaking and thinking to view the scenario presented in this passage as a future prospect, something that will take place after this present earthly life is over and we join Christ in a future glorious eternity.

But we have already entered the Kingdom of God. It is the Father’s good pleasure not to withhold the Kingdom from us. The Kingdom is not locked into a chronological order of events. It is outside time and freely available to all those who, through Christ, enter it. The Kingdom is now, here, present within us. (Matt. 13:11; Mark 1:14,15; Luke 12:32; Luke 17:20,21; Luke 22:29)

What if Jesus’ prayer to His Father that we might be with Him ‘where I AM’, beholding His glory, is not something to look forward to, but something to seize upon right now, this hour, this minute? What if that glory we long to behold is before our faces this very moment? What if, having had our faces unveiled, we are still seeing through veiled eyes and missing the splendor of Christ gazing right back at us? (2 Cor. 3:18)

Peter, James and John saw His glory with their earthly eyes. Many years later both John and Peter remembered every detail and wrote about what they had witnessed on the mountaintop with Jesus:

….we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

Could it be that the glory of Christ is manifesting among us right now? Might we be with Him, where He is, beholding His glory always, just as He asked of His Father? I believe so.

I believe that even as we work through the familiar routines of daily earthly life, our spiritual selves can be beholding the glory of Christ, drinking in His beauty and basking in His majesty.

His glory is not confined to another time and realm. His glory is ours to behold now and forever, when we choose to walk in and by the Spirit of God.

So impacted were the three disciples by the sight of Jesus, their rabbi, their teacher, in all the brilliant glory that was His as the Son of God, they did not speak of the experience until many days and events later (Luke 9:36). But there was something else Peter, James and John beheld on that mountaintop.

They witnessed Jesus walk away from the glory and back down the mountain.

Let’s take a selah pause to consider that for a moment. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the One whose Name is above all and whose glory is without end, walked out of His divine glory and back down the mountain into the sordid environment of a humanity that was plotting to murder Him. And He chose to do so willingly and determinedly.

Those three pairs of eyes that had beheld their Master’s face unforgettably transformed and bathed in glorious light on the mountaintop, who had entered the Cloud of glory with Him, would soon behold His face bloodied and battered from the blows of human fists. One of them would see His brow torn by thorns, His hands and feet pierced by cruel and heavy nails, and watch as He was executed as a common criminal on a Roman stake. And each of them would know and struggle to understand that Jesus, whose rightful, eternal glory had been revealed to them, had knowingly chosen this path.

We in the Body of Christ like to speak of glory in vague, ethereal terms. We have this idea it’s some mystical feeling that God chooses to let us into when we’ve been behaving ourselves. We rarely speak about or even consider the idea that true glory is somehow linked to suffering. But Jesus did. “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” He pointed out to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:26 NASB).

And to be perfectly clear about it I am not in any way suggesting there’s glory in suffering for suffering’s sake. Some Christians throughout history have tried to get closer to God by putting their bodies through various kinds of self-inflicted suffering, mistakenly in my view. They have whipped themselves, starved themselves and even had themselves crucified in an effort to become holier. Punishing our bodies is not God glorifying – it is self-glorifying.

The scriptures do not teach us to deliberately seek out suffering for Christ’s sake. What they do teach us is that in whatever suffering God allows to come our way, we have the privilege of entering into the sacred fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, because He suffered in our place. We can add nothing to the suffering of Christ on our behalf.

The quest for personal glory is deeply embedded in every one of us. It goes to the heart of the human condition, having been deceptively planted in us in the Garden: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it, you will be like God…..” (Gen. 3:5)

Jesus, as the last Adam, actively and purposefully walked away from His legitimate claim to glory, in order to identify with us in our suffering, saying:

He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. (Jn. 7:18)

The glory He sought was His Father’s, not His own. He reversed the ancient downward spiral of self-glory-seeking established by the first humans, a pathway that has caused countless wars, claimed unknown numbers of human lives and caused untold misery for all humanity.

We are living in an hour when Christ followers are enduring suffering and martyrdom on an unprecedented scale. It is not for us, relatively safe in our Western style Christianity, to pontificate about who are the ‘real Christians’ and who are not, based on our own doctrinal views and opinions. Christ knows who are His, and draws them into His fellowship of sufferings in a holy place that is hidden from all those who prefer to embrace a Crossless Christianity.

There is no glory without the Cross. If we are to behold Him in His glory, now, not as some future promise but as a present reality, it will be through spiritual eyes that have not turned away from His Cross, and through lives that have tasted the fellowship of His sufferings.

His glory can be known and beheld by us, we can be with Him where He is, for He is the great I AM, Lord of time and space. He has opened up a new pathway back into His divine glory and invited us to join Him there, where He is.

The glory is His, but we may freely partake. It’s our destiny. Glory!!

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Rev. 21:11

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.  Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

From the Archives: The Gift

thegiftFor the third time, the ageing Pharisee circled the strangely shaped object lying at his feet.  No one could tell him who had left it unsolicited outside his door, or even when it had appeared.  Wrapped in the skin of a lamb and crudely labelled with just one handwritten Hebrew word, “chen”, its appearance was a total mystery to him.

Suspiciously he pushed against it with his sandalled foot, at which the object shifted effortlessly across his floor.  “It can’t be heavy then”, he mused.  “Whatever its contents, they are obviously of little weight and therefore of minimum value.”  Cautiously he reached forth his right hand, prodding roughly, but the lambskin cover gave no hint of what might be hidden inside the parcel. 

“It doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before” said the old man to no one but himself.  “It’s very shape and form are completely unfamiliar.”   Unfamiliarity was not something the Pharisee was comfortable with, in any form.  “It is not an occasion for gift giving, so why should someone bestow a gift on me?” he reasoned.  “Furthermore, I am a highly respected member of this community.  Everyone acquainted with me knows I am a learned and upright man well versed in the law, and of excellent reputation.   It is evident that all I could possibly need God has richly bestowed on me.  Who would dare, therefore, to assume I have need of this unwanted gift, whatever it is?” 

Thus were his thoughts as he circled the object yet again.   Finally he stopped circling long enough to contemplate the word scribbled across the lambskin.  “Grace…” he articulated quietly lest anyone should hear.  “Grace? What under God’s heaven could that possibly mean?  The handwriting is rough and unskilled, like that of a poorly educated person.  I am not even sure the letters are correct.  Obviously this is a hoax being played by someone with a jealous grudge against me.  There may even be something inside that would harm me or my family.  But I am too clever for such foolishness.  This questionable gift is unworthy of me and I have no need of it.” 

Calling decisively to his servant he said: “Take this away from my home and consign it to the rubbish pile.”  “Excuse me, sir”, replied the servant, “but you have not opened it.”  “I have no need to open it”, snapped the Pharisee, “perhaps some fool will open it, but I will not!” And the servant obeyed. 

——————————–

The child wandered aimlessly through the household dregs unceremoniously piled at the edge of the village.  He often came here to explore when mother was busy and his absence would go unnoticed for a short time. Looking for nothing in particular and anything in general, his searching eyes came to linger on an unusually shaped object half covered by a pile of worn out wineskins. 

“What could this be?” he exclaimed loudly, his anxious fingers clearing away muck and debris so he could see it more clearly.  Excitedly he extracted the object from its hiding place, lifting it high into the morning sunlight.  His young eyes could not understand the unfamiliar Hebrew lettering scrawled across the lambskin cover.  “No matter”, he thought, “this lambskin will serve me well and I am favoured this day by God to have found it”. 

With unchecked enthusiasm he tore open the package only to find something he had never before seen.  Startled, he considered the nameless, unknown object for the briefest of moments. Then, breaking spontaneously into song he began dancing unselfconsciously, holding his new found possession high above his head.  “Treasure”, I shall call you “treasure”!” he sang.  “This day is like any other day for me.  It is not a feast day, and it is not a day to receive gifts, yet here by God’s providence I have found the most mysterious of gifts.  This day I have done no good deeds, this day I have deserved no reward, yet on this day has God bestowed on me an unknown treasure.  I cannot read its name and I do not yet know its purpose, but one thing I do know, it’s now mine!” 

And the child ran shouting through the village gladly showing all he met the treasure he had found on this day like any other day.

——————————–

The greatest thing most of us lose as we grow to ‘adulthood’ is the ability to receive innocently. I came to Christ and was born again in my early teenage years, but even by then the circumstances of my life had robbed me of the ability to receive.  One can embrace the free gift of salvation then spend the rest of life trying to pay for it. 

It was not until many years later the Lord confronted me with the penetrating question:  “Why do you not receive My love freely?”  Why indeed!  Forget about having an answer; I wasn’t even aware the question had existed!  That day my life changed as I asked the Lord to show me how to freely receive His love in childlike innocence.  He hasn’t let me down.

Learning to receive freely is a humbling process.  It entails dying to our former concepts of who we are.  Some believe they have everything they need to handle life.  They are self-assured, strong and opinionated.  Many more believe they are worthless failures at life.  They are self-conscious, ashamed and fearful.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  Christ has come to change who we think we are into who He says we are.  The Father’s grace is freely given regardless of past history or present circumstances.  But learning how to receive it is a life time journey that some will choose never to embark upon. 

When Jesus said “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” He was referring to the innocence with which a child receives an undeserved gift.  Most healthy children I know when given a gift do not tip toe around it suspiciously.  They do not waste time enquiring what does it look like, they rip off its cover to see for themselves.  They do not agonise over what to do with it, or whether they deserve it.  They grab it with both hands, shake it, rattle it, embrace it and run away to play with it. 

Hidden within each of us there is a Pharisee and there is a child.  Many in the emerging Bride of Christ are simply Pharisees being healed.   I willingly raise my hand to claim that one.   Children know how to receive.  And so do reformed Pharisees.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Deep, Deep Love

 Come’ You said. That was it, just: ‘Come’.peterandjesus

So here I am, in this place of no return. Looking back I can see the boat: familiar, safe, beckoning. There are faces I know within that boat, that’s the hard thing. People I’ve called friends. But they’re in the boat, and I’m….well, I’m outside the boat now. There’s history in that boat – my history. I’ve spent more years than I care to remember inside the comfortable boundaries of that boat and others like it.

I look around into thick darkness. It’s tangible. I am all too aware it seeks to smother me. In the darkness there is an eerie wind howling, menacing and ominous.  ‘You are a fool’ it moans, with razor sharpness that cuts through to my naked soul. ‘Return to your place of safety and your natural realm or I will overcome you and carry you away into my gloom. You do not belong here.’

Around my feet the deep feels strange and unsteady. These feet have only ever known the certainty of firm, unyielding earth beneath them. From the day I learned to walk my feet have trusted the earth, adjusting their step to her terrain, finding their stability in her constancy and firmness. Daily life has been simply a matter of one step in front of the other. The waves now lapping at my ankles offer no such partnership. They are unpredictable and hostile. ‘Look at me,’ the sea hisses, ‘and remember the countless numbers of your kind for whom I have become an unwelcome graveyard. Fear me, for I cannot be trusted. I can swallow you and bury you where you will never be found!’

The muffled shouts of my companions, safe within the boat, are growing faint. With every trembling breath the outline of the boat grows smaller to me. I had fleetingly assumed one or two might venture to join me here. Did they hear Your invitation to come, or did the wind and the sea hide Your voice from them?

Or was it only me You called to step out of the boat and meet with You here?

I don’t know. I do know the loneliness out here is overwhelming. You have led me often into crowds, but never into such loneliness. I am keenly aware of my isolation and I do not like it; it lays bare my vulnerability like nothing I’ve ever experienced. In the crowd I know who I am. Out here I have no measure of myself.

My friends want me to be where they are….in the boat. Behind me, some of them cry out: ‘Come back with us, you will die out there!’ They would feel better if I returned to the boat. It would prove they were right not to leave it. Others remain silent, and though I can no longer see their faces, I feel their eyes burning into my back. I don’t know what they’re thinking, but still they stay in the boat.

You have me now between a rock and a very hard place. The safety of the boat behind me, the menacing darkness surrounding me, the unpredictable waters beneath me.

But ever before me: You!

I am afraid of this hard place You have summoned me into. It’s unchartered, fickle, precarious. But this one thing I know: I cannot go back. I can never go back. I am between earth and heaven now.

My anxiety is not hidden from You. I am aware of Your searching eyes, willing me onward. Yes, I falter and I stumble, but You gather me up in Your arms. ‘Have faith in Me! I am able to keep You even in this unfamiliar environment’. In Your voice I hear no hint of displeasure, only reassurance.

How many times will I, glancing uneasily down into dark, rumbling water, be momentarily overcome with fear? How many times will I lose my footing and begin to sink? ‘Countless!’ You reply. ‘And countless the times I will gather you up again!’

Come!’ You said.

One simple word. But in that word ten thousand times ten thousand promises. Promises of faithfulness, and life, and endless tomorrows together.

Come!’ You said.

So here I am in my foolishness; here I am with my faintheartedness and my smallness. Here I am, stripped of everything that I know to be safe and conventional.

Because I saw You, walking on the water!

And You desired me to be with You. And You make me to walk on water!  This dark, moving water is deep, but not as deep as the Love that calls me onward.

How can I ever go back?

You are not in the boat; You are on the water. 


 

You may assume this is about the disciple Peter bravely stepping over the sides of his Galilean fishing vessel and onto the waves to be with Jesus.  But this is not about Peter. It’s about you. And me. And every faithful Christ follower navigating their way through twenty first century discipleship.

We have been taught to think of walking on water as one of Jesus most outstanding miracles. If we are honest, every one of us would like to walk on water, as Jesus did, and as Peter did briefly. But why? What purpose would it serve apart from making us feel elated for a short time?

The water was not Peter’s destination – Jesus was.

The truth is that walking on water, in a spiritual sense, is exactly where many of us following Jesus now find ourselves: outside the boat in a hostile, unpredictable environment, with nothing on which to safely lean except His abiding love. Many others are still contemplating the risks of abandoning all they have called ‘safe’ to follow Him on the wild and windy water.

All those in the boat had already responded to Christ’s call to ‘come’. They had followed, leaving their fishing nets and their lifestyles to become His disciples. But when Jesus gave the invitation to follow even further, out there in the wind, the sea and the darkness, only one was willing.

Sometimes we think we’ve given everything, when all we’ve really done is build a new and bigger safety net of security around ourselves.

Have you heard the invitation to come into deeper waters with Jesus? Can you trust Him to be your sustenance and possibly your only means of survival in a new and unknown place? Has safe, conventional, institutionalized religion become too small a boat to contain you or your God any longer? Are you ready to let go and go….anywhere as long as you can be with the One you love where He is? Even if no-one goes with you, even though it may cost you reputation and relationships or break your heart in other ways?

I invite you to read the first part of this post again, but this time it is you, not Peter, walking on water.

Do you identify?  Take courage.  He will not fail us.

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8294eajUgTQ

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

This Month’s Featured Song: Lord I Thirst

 

Горная река

 

Inspired by Psalm 42

Lord I thirst

I hunger and thirst

my tears have been my food

both day and night

I pour out my soul

where is my God?

my soul hungers and thirsts

 for the Living God

 

 

I am weary

I am broken

yet shall I praise You

I will remember You

and I will offer up

a prayer

to the God of my life

 

 

And in the night

I hear Your song

Your lovingkindness

commands my days

deep calls to deep

send your billows over me

my soul hungers and thirsts

for the Living God

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2010 to 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Love. Uncomplicated.

Electronics laboratoryThe doctor’s manner was courteous as we entered his consulting room, even if somewhat abrupt. Mr. P and I are no strangers to medical waiting rooms with their clinical atmospheres, hushed tones and oh so efficient receptionists. This day we had sat for an hour and a quarter past our appointment time, but the building was state of the art, and the padded designer chairs (for once) comfortable. There was even a purpose built coffee shop, presumably to appease bored patients not content with the water cooler and brightly coloured magazines. It was obvious from our luxurious surroundings that this medical specialist was doing rather well for himself.

Mr. P is my thirty year old eccentric, electronics obsessed, Jesus loving, gentle giant of a son. He also happens to carry a few other man-made labels, including Asperger’s Syndrome. I shared a little about some, er, more adventurous moments from Mr. P’s childhood in an earlier post here. Going anywhere with Mr. P can be either an excruciating exercise in embarrassment or a not to be missed opportunity to learn new and inspiring wonders, depending on which way you choose to look at it. This occasion was to prove no different.

We were there to have Mr. P’s rather painful knee checked out by the orthopaedic specialist. Far from being a reluctant companion, Mr. P was enthusiastically looking forward to his encounter with the learned gentleman as he sat, chatting incessantly, beside me in the waiting room. Perhaps this would turn out to be an opportunity for Mr. P to share with the doctor his vast understanding of intricate medical procedures gained by watching his favourite TV hospital reality shows. I had seen him do this in other medical appointments, with various and interesting responses from the doctors in question. No matter how they react Mr. P is not fazed. Nothing can daunt his very high regard for the medical community.

The first thing Mr. P did as we entered the consulting room was place his very large, very heavy backpack on the floor between the doctor and his desk. (Mr. P never leaves home without a bag full of computer parts, gadgets and latest garage sale finds – just in case they’re needed. And, like most aspies, aka Asperger’s sufferers, Mr. P has little regard for other people’s personal space.) Obviously annoyed, the specialist instructed him sharply to move his ‘accessories’ to another part of the room. Things hadn’t started well.

Next there were some probing questions which Mr. P. tried hard to answer without reverting too much to the medical terminology he’d learned watching RPA (Australian reality hospital show). “Tell me how much this hurts”, said the specialist as he squeezed the knee in question at several different locations, “on a scale from one to ten”. “Five” said Mr. P thoughtfully, ‘six’, OK that one’s an eight”. Numbers are something Mr. P can handle. He stores numerical information in his brain like a hard drive stores data. He doesn’t always manage to put his shirt on the right way round, but he can tell you the length and weight of the world’s longest ocean liner or the exact height of Kilimanjaro.

This isn’t going too badly, I thought, relaxing back into my chair a little.

The esteemed orthopaedic surgeon is now concluding his examination. Looking down at his notes and mumbling somewhat incoherently he begins to verbalise lengthy, detailed instructions to Mr. P.  Most importantly Mr. P is to keep a written record of pain levels several times a day for five days to be brought to the next appointment.

Mr. P looks confused but nods his head wisely, not wanting to disappoint his medical friend by letting on he’s not able to carry through this plan. Mr. P and I both know he can barely write his first name, let alone keep the very exact written records the doctor is requiring. I also know that as soon as Mr. P gets home and starts tinkling with his latest electronic project – did I mention he builds his own computers? – the doctor’s instructions will be history.

I shift uncomfortably back to the edge of my chair. The doctor knows he is speaking to a person with significant cognitive disabilities. Is it impatience I sense in his voice? Or is that a slight hint of contempt I’m detecting?   Ah, now I understand! The specialist is a busy and important man with many patients to see today. He really doesn’t have the inclination to deal with someone who obviously isn’t, well, whatever passes for ‘normal’ in his world. Perhaps if he makes it difficult enough Mr. P and his mother will take their knee problems to another practitioner, relieving him of the burden of having to treat someone who, to his mind, is going to be a little ‘different’.

I explain to the specialist that Mr. P, who lives independently with drop in support, will have a problem completing the pain diary. But no alternative is offered and the appointment is over. Mr. P and I are moving towards the door now, and I am already focusing on how to assist Mr. P with a task he can’t complete.

It’s then it happens…. one of Mr. P’s magic moments as I’ve come to call them. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve witnessed these moments, but still they always take me by surprise and leave me shaking my head in awe of my unpredictable, radical, amazing God.

As the doctor moves to close the door behind us, Mr. P turns, all six foot three and 240 pounds of him, his face beaming from ear to ear, looks him in the eye and holds out his right hand. In an instant the medical man, moments ago so professionally aloof, is fumbling with confusion. He is above spontaneously shaking hands with patients. It isn’t done in this practice, thank you very much! He is the one supposedly in charge here, but in the twink of an eye the tables have been turned by a young man half his age….a young man with disabilities that have prevented him picking up on the nuances of social interaction that are crystal clear to most of us.

Unable to move forward, the man tentatively takes Mr. P’s outstretched hand and shakes it weakly, then nervously goes to close the door. But Mr. P is not finished with him. And there’s no getting past that massive frame filling the doorway. “I want you to know you are a very good doctor. Thankyou for seeing me today” says Mr P. sincerely, looking directly into his face with unconcealed admiration.

There He is again! My Jesus. Doing that thing He does. Proving one more time how He LOVES to choose the (so-called) foolish to confound the wise; outrageously choosing to pour out His abundant grace all over the mighty of this world, using human vessels none of us would think to choose.  There He is!  Scandalously disarming this proud, condescending, highly educated man with not so much as a ‘may I?’ There He is! Reaching brazenly in – beyond that tough outer crust, beyond the cold detachment, beyond the walls this man has spent years building around himself – to tenderly touch his fortressed soul with His pure, uncomplicated Love. Who is this God who so deliberately chooses the fragile, the powerless and the marginalised to shout out His love to the universe?

Stealthily, unnoticed by the world outside, God has visited this man today to bless, love and affirm him. He has come disguised inside a gentle unquestioning giant in whom He has found a safe place to rest His all-embracing Love. Struggling to find words, the doctor makes eye contact with Mr. P for the very first time this day, muttering quietly and awkwardly: “thankyou, that is very kind of you.”

The moment is over within seconds. Mr. P is light-hearted as we walk away, not noticing the tears threatening to spill out of his mother’s eyes. As I drive him home his conversation returns to his latest electronic project, the new equipment he needs to save up for and how good life is.

It’s simple, this gospel we carry. So simple we can hardly bear it. God is Love. No wonder He chooses the base and despised of this world as his Love vessels. They don’t complicate things. They simply take Him at His word and get on with life. By Kingdom standards, it’s those who build emotional fortresses around themselves that are truly disabled, not those the world calls disabled.

Mr. P does numbers, he does them well. Better, Mr. P does Love - like no one I’ve ever known. The Mr P’s of this world are all around us, especially chosen by the King as His Love bearers extraordinaire. But it’s so easy to miss them. They do their magic quietly while most of us are occupied with what we think are life’s main events. Then He moves them on to be poured out again over the next unsuspecting, needy soul. They don’t need the accolades others crave. It’s enough for them that they are loved by God and that God chooses to love through them. They leave the rest to Him.

Simple.

Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 1 Cor. 1:27-29 NLT

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.