Come and See

Skepticism can run a mile deep in me. I’ve come to a place in my life that reflects what a true Missouri girl would say. “Show me”. But even when shown I’m still watching intently for some slight of hand, hidden agenda, inconsistency, etc.

I’ve been reflecting this morning on the words of Nathanael in the Bible: “Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.”

John 1:45-46 NIV.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Nathanael is my kind of guy. When he was approached by Philip telling him he had found the messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael’s caution alarms sounded and his skepticism wheels began to turn. I would estimate that it was all motivated by him going around the block one too many times with the people he had seen coming out of Nazareth. During his time, a Roman army garrison was located there. The very army that oppressed his people. He had probably seen the injustices and watched the politics played out as some of the Jews tried to “make the best” of the situation by compromising their morals and betraying their countrymen all in an effort to win the favor of their unwanted residents. So hearing that the Messiah, the one who was supposed to set all this wrong right, came out of that town set off a huge red flag. Thankfully he did find it within himself to check out the claims he heard, and when he encountered Jesus, Jesus told him “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Jesus recognized the truth that Nathanael wanted. He only wanted what was real. Nothing fake for that man, and Jesus assures him that his desire for the authentic would be satisfied with Nathanael seeing greater things than he could have ever imagined.

Jesus gets where we are coming from, and He understands our struggle with vulnerability. Especially in a world where vulnerability can often mean opening ourselves up to hurts that cannot be imagined. But He also calls us out to take the chance to believe and to hope. Knowing that His hope does not disappoint.

Nathanael had a choice that day. He could have declined the invitation to look, to go and see. It would have meant a life of the ordinary for him. If he had stayed where Philip found him and said, “I’m out”, he would have never encountered the one of whom he wondered “How do you know me?” One encounter with Jesus rocked his world of skepticism. It opened his heart to the vulnerability of believing and enabled him to receive things he probably never imagined possible growing up a boy in Cana just doing the daily ins and outs of life.

I find myself this morning sitting at a crossroad. Do I ball up in my corner and shut out the possibility of encountering something incredible? Or do I open myself up once again to feel. Feel not only the hurts that vulnerability can bring, but the joy and love it brings as well, and to experience the joy of being known as well as knowing the life that God intends for me.

I am really grateful that God saw fit to put this interaction between Nathanael, Philip, and Jesus in the first chapter of John. It gives me hope that in my times of questioning what is real and what is not, God doesn’t just mark me off for my struggling to believe. Instead He makes a point to clarify exactly where He has seen me in the past and where He plans to take me in the future when I acknowledge who He is: my God, my King, and the Teacher of how to get where He wants to go. He doesn’t give up on me. He encourages me to get up and move on. He’s got plans for me, and they are good. Whether I see it in the present or not. His invitation to me is the same as Philip gave to Nathanael, “Come and see”.

Leave the Heavy Lifting to Him

Athleticism is not my forte. Especially when it comes to upper body strength. My 15 year old son had been working with a personal trainer to learn the ins and outs of weight lifting. He thought it was hilarious to see his 48 year old mom not only needed a spotter for the Olympic bar, all of the 45 lbs of it, when bench pressing, but could not even do one rep. Being that weak is just something he can’t even fathom. I told him over and over that I couldn’t do it, but he just had to see. I obliged, but I’m not a fan of the feeling of the struggle of a heavy bar on my chest. I had him promise to get me out from underneath it the second I told him I was overwhelmed. Which was within seconds of him helping me get the bar off the stand.

I’ve found myself on a spiritual weight bench lately. Struggling with a bar that I am in no means able to press on my own. For the observers out there it may look silly to see someone who has walked with the Lord as long as I have struggling under the weight of issues that appear to be the size of a bar with no weights. What’s worse is the feeling I get as it lays on my chest. Anxiety has risen its ugly head more than once in the past few weeks. Creating discomfort in the physical that reflects the condition of the mental and spiritual side of me. I’ve sat here this morning contemplating the place I’ve found myself in. I’m sure what I’m trying to lift was never meant for me to press on my own. I need for my “spotter”, the Holy Spirit, to come put His hands on the bar and lift this weight off of my chest. There’s no shame in admitting that I’m unable to lift it alone. The problem comes when I think it is all up to me and refuse to ask for His help and His healing of the things that I cannot fix on my own.

Galatians 5:1 says “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.” His intention was not for me to prove my value or worth by taking my turn on the weight bench of life pressing the heaviness of the enemies’ lies and attacks.

It’s high time I owned up to the truth like I did with my son. I’m not a weight lifter. So I’m not going to get on that bench any more. Whether it be physically or spiritually. I’m going to leave the lifting to the expert. The one who took care of it all on the cross. When He lifted my freedom up in conquering the weight of my past, my sins, and the things I am too weak to bear.

A Desire for the Immensity of the Sea

I’m a midwestern girl. Born, raised, married and will more than likely grow old and die in the same midwestern state. Once every few years I get a hankering to experience something outside of my normal hills, trees, and humidity. So we hop in our car and drive to the ocean.

The ocean is intimidating to me. I guess it’s the unfamiliarity I have with it. I’ve learned I don’t know what I need to know to really be “safe” in it. Things like a “warning flag for dangerous animals” really does mean something… hello jellyfish stings. Riptides exist and could kill me. I can get farther from the shore than I care to be, quicker than I thought I could, and experience waves bigger than I want to experience in a short time with a boogie board and a 9 year old girl.

So my respect-for/ fear of the ocean is probably healthy for a landlubber like me.

But one thing about the ocean that draws me back to dip my toes in it time after time is it’s immensity. Usually my first few minutes of visiting the ocean is spent standing at the edge with my mouth slightly agape in a smile. “Wow” usually slips from my lips. I stare and focus as far out as I can to see ships that I know are bigger than my house but appear to be the size of a bobber in a pond near where I call home. I think of all the sea animals that are out there, how I’m just one little dot on an enormous map looking out at something that connects me to another small dot(person) standing on their shore miles and miles away who doesn’t look anything like me, talk like me, have customs like me, etc.

I know, I know, I probably analyze things too much. But it’s only for a second, then it’s to the business at hand, wading in the water looking for shells and crabs amongst the waves that crash against my legs and knock me around.

So I read a quote this morning from a book I’m reading about discipleship of women. The quote is, ““If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and assign them tasks and work but rather teach them to long for the immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint- Exupery. It really struck a chord with me. Just like my occasional venture to the ocean is brought on by a desire for adventure, our spiritual lives are spurred on by the desire for something much grander and more splendid than the lives we trudge through on the regular. My lack of excitement in my pursuit of God is often fed by my contentment to stay in the safety of my spiritual “mid western” state. It’s easier at times to stay far inland where the risk of something much bigger than me is far, far away. But God has put in each of us a desire for “the immensity of the sea”. Not only does He want us to stand on the shore of experiencing Him and admire His greatness, He wants us to explore the depths of His oceans of love. This takes leaving behind the comfort of my predictable life and pursuing the direction my adventure guide, the Holy Spirit, leads me. That’s not always comfortable or familiar, but it is oh so very good!

There are times this exploration leaves me a little shook up by the waves knocking against my legs, but if I persist in my exploration of all His goodness I will find treasures that few people experience. It is then, when I explore Him in His greatness that I understand that there is nothing bigger than Him and His love for me. It will take a life time to explore, a lifetime of inexplicable treasures and joy for me as I pursue to understand the “immensity of His sea”.

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”

Psalm 8:1-4 NIV

One In The Crowd Of Billions

Something so deep, so defiling, so personal… something not really fully understood… carrying this long held affliction has taken its toll.

Pressing forward with insurmountable odds against her she goes to the only one she knows is able to fix the broken inside of her. She reaches out to simply touch the Healer in hope that He is enough to fix what no one has been able to fix so far.

How often have I found myself sitting in her sandals? Reaching out with the last ounce of who I am to touch the Healer? How often have I pressed through the crowds of circumstances, the crowds that overwhelm believing that if I can just get a my hand to touch the Master of all, I will find His very presence is enough to stop the bleeding issue that has been a part of me for years?

Jesus knew that in a crowd of hundreds pressing in to get a glimpse of the “Miracle Man” there was one: One whose desperation had driven her to bring the one thing that no one can fix to Him, The one who dared to believe there was a solution to a situation that all other indicators pointed to the word “impossible”.

He looks at me with that same heart of love and sees me in a crowd of billions. His power released to fix the “impossible” in my life.

The desperate woman may have never fully pictured what it would be like to finally be free of the plague she had endured. But Jesus told her a great place to start. “Live well, live blessed!” Freedom has come!

His intentions over 2000 years ago for a woman of no significance, Just One in a crowd of hundreds, stands true for a woman in a crowd of billions today. He focuses in on that One to set her free to live a life blessed and free.

I am the one in the crowd reaching out.

You are “The One” too.

“Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague”

Mark 5:34 MSG

Weed or Good Seed And the Harvest to Come

After a 3 year hiatus, we planted a garden this year. Rich and I are amateur gardeners. We’ve played around with it off and on since we’ve moved into our current house. Each year we flub up something and talk about how we “should have” done this or that. Making mental notes on how to improve the next year.

Most of the time we hit July and our garden needs a desperate intervention, i.e. push mowing, then tilling (maybe), etc. And we somehow get some veggies out of it. This year is the first time we’ve actually been on top of it. Things are looking pretty good. Probably the biggest mistake we did this year lays at my feet. Too big of gaps between rows and then not marking what I planted in a few rows. So we had a couple of rows that we weren’t sure if we were getting weeds or carrots and beets. And I really couldn’t remember if I bought any other seed that I threw in it. I guess that comes from my classic inattention to detail and Rich’s obsession with it. (It’s a good thing opposites attract.). I think we finally have it figured out what’s in the two rows. It’s just taken some time between sowing the good seed in the ground and watching the plants come up. Maybe even a little of learning to discern what a beet plant looks like (since I’ve never planted them before in my life) and what a weed is.

Every day we’ve been home this past month has been characterized by our signature stroll through the garden and around the yard looking at our plants. Rich and I get a cup of coffee and walk around looking at the state of things and discuss our mystery rows. It hit me a couple of days ago that things are looking pretty good, and our daily attention and maintenance is finally paying off.

In years past, I’ve thought about how God has a thing for Gardens. A Garden was the home he had for Adam and Eve. A Garden was where Jesus went to pray, and garden illustrations i.e. parables are frequent in the Bible. So after hooking up the water sprinkler for the morning watering I looked at our mystery rows and began to think about one of those verses in particular. “And don’t allow yourselves to be weary or disheartened in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you’ve planted is coming!”

Galatians 6:9 TPT

Rich and I were a little disheartened a couple of weeks ago while trying to till the garden. Is that a carrot or a weed? It may have been a rough month trying to figure out which was the fruit of good seed and which was a choking weed but I think I’ve finally got it figured out. Thank God for iPhones and Google.

So in traditional Garden/ spiritual parallel form, it came to me. I’ve walked with the Lord since I was a teenager. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to sow Good seeds into my life and the lives of those around me. But somehow in the ins and outs of life I’ve sat back and looked at what’s coming up in the garden of my life and wondered. “Is that a weed or a plant from good seed?” It all looks a lot alike and I’m getting tired of trying to figure it out. In fact right now it looks like all I’m getting in my life is a bunch of weeds where I had tried to plant good things. (That’s a huge bummer). My daily walk about the garden of my life has been discouraging to say the least. But God!!

His promise to me is that the good seed I’ve planted is going to reap a good harvest. And I can trust Him to help me sort out the weeds in my life so the good stuff will flourish. The biggest thing is that I don’t get discouraged in planting the good seeds in my life. That I simply don’t give up! It may take some time. It may involve sweat and tears. It may be harder than I anticipated when I started. But His goodness is there causing the seeds to grow.

It won’t be long I’ll be kicking back with a fresh watermelon and sliced tomatoes from my garden, not the produce aisle at the store, and in God’s timing I’ll be surrounded by the good fruit of what I have sown in my life, my family’s life, and my friends. It’s just the way God works. What He promises He does! Guaranteed!