Tag Archives: devotion

Blind Sight

I used to be very afraid of the dark. Leaping from the bedroom doorway to my bed, sure there were monsters waiting to grab my ankles from under the darkness.  As I grew older it became a point of pride and a sign of strength to be the one of my friends in our night time capture the can game to venture into the dark, and defend the mound alone. Deep down, I was still terrified, and would tremble at the sounds and imagine all kinds of evil waiting to pounce upon me.  I was never comfortable with the night, until I realized during one of my readings at youth group, that God clothes himself in darkness, and Moses braved the dark, to see the glory of God.  I wanted to desperately see God as a teenager, and so I staged my own version of the Cherokee Indian Rite of Passage hoping that God would meet me in the way he had met Moses on Sinai.

In the legend, the young Cherokee boy is taken outside the camp, blind folded and led deep into the woods where he is placed upon a stump to sit all night. He is not to cry out, or to move but is to brave the sounds and creatures of the night. In the morning when the rays of dawn break through the darkness, if he has bravely stayed his watch without fear or crying out for help, he is considered a man.  When the blind fold is taken off, he is astonished to see his father was seated on the stump next to him, keeping watch over his son all night, and protecting him from harm.

After reading this story, I decided to brave the night, and test my Heavenly Father’s care for me, with a few modifications.  I only made it to the back side of the pasture, and vowed to keep my eyes closed instead of using a blindfold.  I had waited until the house was very quiet, crept downstairs and out the back door.  There was no moon that night, and the stars offered little guidance as  I made it to the secret spot and sat in the darkness trying to hear something other than my pounding heart.  Once my heart stopped racing I was fascinated by the various sounds and rhythms the night offered.  It had it’s own song and cadence.  I was amazed at what could be heard in the night. Pictures of sounds became vivid in my mind, and a landscape that was so different from what my eyes had memorized during the day emerged.  I was delighted to discover I could make out familiar movements of the livestock, could gauge distance from the way their hooves moved in the dirt, and even the munching of grass hoppers on the timothy stalks next to me was discernible.  I had discovered a new world and it was strangely comforting.  They say that when we lose one of our primary senses, the others senses become heightened.  That night I found I could “see” with my ears.

My thoughts turn to our devotional reading from Mark 10 and the familiar story of blind Bartimaeus.  Is that how he had survived all these years?  He had learned to listen to footsteps, and discern hearts by the way they walked?  Whether the sandal-ed  feet  brought charity or a swift kick to the side?  Which feet to lean towards, which ones to shy from.  We find Jesus thronged with a crowd as he makes his way to the road outside the city, there must have been something about the movement of the feet that caused Baritmaeus to beg answers rather than coins. Who is approaching?  Why the commotion?  What is happening?

And when he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.  And many rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried out the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.  Mark 10:47-48 AS Version

Bartimaeus had likely heard many stories from those who passed his begging spot on the road from Jericho.  How this Nazarene was unlike any man anyone had ever seen. He may have even wondered, “can anything good come from Nazareth?” That is not the city of the prophets, or the great ones. Yet the stories must have come jingling like alms to his heart. A deaf mute cured, a paralytic healed, lepers cleansed and a man blind from birth now sees!  Rumors of the Messiah must have swirled around him awakening hope that He would come to his town.

Something must have taken hold in his heart from the tales of the wayfarers  because Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus with the phrase reserved for the Messiah:  “Son of David” and pulls on the covenant promise of mercy…”have mercy on me!”  He will not be silenced, until the Son of God stands still and asks the dangerous question:  What do you want?  In that moment Bartimaeus’s faith through hearing brings him sight.  ” My Master, that I might see”

Isa 42:6-7  I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;  to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.

In one moment, Bartimaeus went from the prison of darkness, into the glorious light of Messiah’s love and fellowship.  His mantel of his old life left lying on the ground, we find him accompanying Messiah on the road.  He became a disciple of the Way, a joyful testament to the glory of God breaking in to the darkness of sin and despair. Though he was blind in the natural, he could see the reality of the mission of Christ with his spirit, and he believed! Nothing would silence his cry for mercy.  No matter how many times we was told to shut up, and pushed aside he knew the wretched state of his existence and the Messiah was his only hope. His desperation moves me to consider my own blindness.

How badly do I desire mercy?  How blind am I to the reality of the condition of my heart?  Do I know that I am but a beggar on the side of the road, without the eyes of my understanding being enlightened, that I might see the hope of  the one who calls me to come to Him. ( Ephesian 1:18).  Lord, I ask with the cry of Bartimaeus, have mercy on me…Master, open my eyes, that I may see.

blind-man-healed

On Jordan’s Banks

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”  And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Mark 10:35-36

What a dangerous request. A moment ago he had “loved” the rich young ruler….to death.  Agape love, self sacrificing love.  He loved him with the truth, with the honest reality that he lacked the greatest thing in the world, that was a death to self and a life lived in the Messiah standing before him. Now the boys are pulling on their intimate attachment to the Rabbi, and asking for position, power and influence in eternity. I could feel the Master’s gaze upon them, seeing into and beyond the moment.  Loving them.

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Mark 10:38

The word baptized in the Hebrew that corresponds with this passage is only mentioned once, it is the world tabal, and it means to dip, plunge, to immerse oneself into.  It happens to be at the dark waters of the Jordan with Naaman the leper commander of the King of Syria.  Angry that a messenger was sent to tell him to take a bath in a muddy river he storms off in his self-righteous indignation talking to himself:

 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Jehovah his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper.  Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. 2 Kngs 5:11-12 NKJV

Humility is the theme of today’s devotion, and I have come to find it is the most elusive attribute and the costliest of all garments.  How often I have come to my Lord demanding attention to a need, or request of selfish gain and when he “loved” me enough to withhold the object of my desire, I pouted and stormed at His righteousness.  I have raged  with leprous pride ,ambition and envy.  Stumbling from the soreness in my flesh, longing to be free in my soul, yearning to know peace but refusing the unclear waters of the Jordan. Refusing the messenger of glad tidings from the heart of Father, because it didn’t come by direct revelation.  Because I didn’t approve of the wording, or the method of the messengers of grace.  I have been like the Zebedee boys and I have stormed off like Naaman, reciting the attributes of my own ways and means over the direct instruction of my God.  I have often refused to wash and be clean, and blamed my God for my lack of wholeness.

 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?  Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 2Kings 5:13-14 NKJV

The Spirit moved me to the banks of the Jordan to stare into the murky water.  The water of the ways of the mystery of God’s dealings with man.  So often shrouded in darkness, bathed in lightning, and trumpets and smoke, and mud. What does it mean to wash? I run my hands under the water of the Word and wait.

The word for wash in the above scripture is rachats.  It means to wash the whole or part of a thing, means wash basin, and there in its root form, it means trust. Like a servant who washes his master, trust.  Like a mother who washes her baby, trust. Like the way the healer washes our wounds, trust.  For the kindness to succeed, trust is the necessary response of the recipient.

I sat quiet for a long while staring at the invitations to the Jordan that have been extended time and again and my justifications that have kept me soul sick and ineffective.  It was always about trust.  I could feel Him Agape me.  Love me to the truth of the matter, the root of my leprosy was that I didn’t trust the nearness and goodness of God.

Oswald Chambers said that the root of all sin is the suspicion that God is not good. I was horribly suspicious of what I could not see.  The call to step into the muddy water in full trust of his goodness provoked terror.  I could feel the Spirit whisper to me:  “Would you be clean?”

Father, I wait on the banks of the unclear, unknown waters of your ways.  I declare my ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts. I yield my prideful heart to you.  Wash me, and I will be clean. Save me, and I will be saved. Feed me and I shall eat.  Call me, and I will come. Make me whole precious Healer, as I place my trust in the goodness of your heart alone.oak_creek_fall

Bottle Broke

Mar 10:13-16

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

The encouragement for this time of devotion today is to :  become like a child.”  The text taken from the familiar passage in Mark 10 of Jesus cradling babies, and giving piggy back rides to the toddlers.  You can almost hear the contagious laughter of children echo on the way.

“Come on, Jesus is here, let’s play! Last one to the Rabbi is a rotten egg!”

The verse says he was greatly displeased as his disciples rebuked the parents for bothering the Master with such a trivial thing as holding their children, touching them, and blessing them.  They didn’t get it yet.  It is what we all need. To snuggle on the lap of our Abba.  It is what Jesus came to do, reconcile us, not to a set of traditions or rules, but to the lap of our God.

Psa 131:1-3

  A Song of Ascents; of David. Jehovah, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, Or in things too wonderful for me.
 Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child with his mother, Like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, hope in Jehovah From this time forth and for evermore.

David sings out over the kingdom the state of his soul. The place of contentment with his status in life.  His identity wasn’t wrapped up in positions, or titles, or honor. Whether Shepherd or King he had learned to quiet his soul and hope in his God.  He actually uses a very strong word…weaned, to describe his inner state of being.  No longer needing the breast and demanding to be fed when Elshaddi (which means many breasted one, incidentally, signifying the ability of God to provide for the needs of his people. All powerful, all providing) was near, but quiet and leaning for the simple sake of intimacy and companionship.   Weaning is a messy business.

I will never forget the day our littlest one experienced the horror of this reality of weaning.  It is a place of humor and fun now that our little Honey Bee is an adult, but at the time it was traumatic and world shattering.  The Gardener and I were in a hurry somewhere, and our car was packed to the max with car seats, diaper bags, groceries, and the volume was steadily increasing as the contents of her bottle were fading, she was demanding her ba ba be filled, and with one well aimed fling towards the back of her dad’s head, she made her point.  In one lightning move, The Gardener grabbed her bottle and promptly threw it out the window.  “All gone, your done!”

The look on her face has been frozen into my memory and still brings a chuckle to my heart.  Her eyes went from astonishment, to terror to anger in a fast progression. As she grasped the severity of the moment, her little lower lip was sucked under her front teeth, her eyes brimmed with tears, and she was not about to give us the satisfaction of seeing her cry!  She was mad.  But, that was the end of her bottle.  Soon the joys of sippy cups filled with juice, and straws filled with bubbly things replaced the desire for the powdered formula she had clung so tight to, delights that she never would have experienced without the intervention.

Abba knows there are times when we need intervention as well.  He knows that sometimes things, people, ministries, titles, that have become toxic to our growth can be taken away from us slowly, graciously, and at other times they must be ripped from our hands and hurled out the window if we are ever to move to maturity.  But, I have learned that as The Gardener did for the Honey Bee, God does for us.  That night when he tucked her into bed without her beloved bottle, he gave her something more precious than a substitute for comfort, he gave her the tangible presence of his love, the safety of his arms as he read her favorite story and reminded her of what a good, big girl she really was, even if she couldn’t see it for herself yet.

Whenever God withholds something from us, he always gives us himself. He never weans us without providing the place of intimacy and fellowship where we can run like David and learn to lean upon him. Finding that we long for the Giver, more than we do the gifts.  As paradoxes go, this one is pretty awesome in that once we have stopped craving the childish wants, we discover a world of delight has opened for us that we can only attain, by becoming a child.  Not a child of the flesh, but a child of the Spirit.  Leaping into the arms of Christ with simple faith that our needs will be met, our lives attended to because he is the Good Shepherd of our souls brings with it the very keys of the Kingdom.

Father, where I have grasped at power and position and fame of my own making wean me.  Throw out the pacifiers of selfish satisfactions and teach me how to rest upon your breast. Give me the yearning to know your heart above all other sounds, and to sit quietly and wait for the strength that is promised to those who know how to be still.Are-we-alll-gods-children

 

Between The Rock & The Cross

The Crucified Life is the theme of today’s Lent devotional.  As I turn to the familiar passages in Mark 8 I remember my story…OUR story, the Rock and I.

Mar 8:34  When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

I was done with  pretending.  The Gardener and I had duked it out verbally over the current condition of our existence for the last time and I was done.  I was cleaning toilets at the local hotel and he was gardening over an acre of our high desert, wind swept, hillside ranch land for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) we had started as a last ditch effort at “making it”.   It was 2008-09 and everything in the world that I could call mine had either been auctioned, sold, or re-possessed.  Our reputation, credit and place in community leadership was gone.  I was driving to work by the charity of my friends in a loaner two tone Geo Metro he had salvaged from the dump for a hundred dollars.  We jokingly called it the Crack car, thanks to being profiled by local law enforcement as one of the many drug runners to live between our village and the large resort town where I worked.  Working the midnight shift I must have been pulled over by every local, county and state officer around until they realized I was just a hotel maid working the late shift and they would wave at me as I passed their canyon pull out hiding spots.

Mar 8:35  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

I was desperately trying to save my life.  We were less than broke.  Our thriving construction company within a matter of months of the stock market crash went from prosperous to bankrupt seemingly overnight, and somehow it became a muddy mess in my soul about the way abundant life was supposed to work out to those who were serving God with a pure heart.  Evidently I wasn’t or else this wouldn’t be happening.  Obviously, there is sin in my life, and if my husband was any man at all (so they told me) he wouldn’t be gardening he would be flipping burgers or doing what was necessary to -“by GOD provide for his family!”

“God has me here right now honey, I don’t understand it, I don’t know why, but he has me in the dirt.  He has my face down in the manure and the muck, fighting off the rattlesnakes and figuring out who I am and who HE is.  He is breaking this strangle hold I have had on my life, our life…it belongs to Him, we belong to HIM….We are going to be ok. It is going to be ok.”

Mar 8:36  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

I stared at The Gardener standing next to the sink in his ripped up blue jeans, his gloved hands holding his newest batch of seedlings  he had poured hours into coaxing to the surface.  Hours of tending and patience that I wanted, I needed, I felt I didn’t get….I wanted to crush them…I was jealous of plants.  The 800 sq feet of living space seemed to suck the air out of my lungs.  I needed space, my old life had space.  Four thousand square feet of Victorian home space, office space, money space, friends space…faith space. I was done pretending I was ok with this.  I screamed to know why my prayers had not been answered, why we had not been protected, didn’t God take care of HIS own?  We had done it all right by the standards:  Tithe, works, offering, volunteering, missions, hospitality, generosity, good employers,teaching-why were the heavens brass?  It was so silent.  We no longer had a church family to turn to, my closest friendships were shattered, and I had lost my faith.  I felt completely and utterly alone, inside and outside.

” I don’t know if I believe anymore that there is a God.  I don’t know if I believe there is anything else in this life but suffering, and sorrow, and pain and then….then you just die, and you are dirt and worms eat you and there is nothing more…I don’t even know if I can believe you, and really I don’t want to hear about a God who treats his people this way. ”

Mar 8:37  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

The Gardener put his seedlings on the table and turned to me with a fire in his eyes and a set in his jaw that I had come to know meant business.  He pointed to the door and said in a voice that was thick with resolution, and will and faith.

“Get out.  Get out of this house!  March your butt down to that garden, and you sit on that bank and you watch that sprinkler go around until you get an answer to this.  I don’t care if it takes you all night.  DON’T move, until you know what you believe.”

I was shocked.  How dare he talk to me like that and ORDER me to get out of my house!  He didn’t move.  I laughed sarcastically.  “Go watch sprinklers?!”  Yeah, that is the answer.  The room closed in tighter and I needed air.  “Fine.  I’ll go.  Hope I don’t get bit by a rattlesnake, it will be your fault if I die!”  and I stormed out the door, letting the hinges ring with the slam. I defiantly marched to the side hill threw myself down on the bank and dared God to move me.  “Here I am.  The Gardener seems to think you talk out here in the middle of snakes, and grass, and manure..so…TALK!”

Mar 8:38  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

I was ashamed of the way God had dealt with us.  I was ashamed to say I believed in ONE who seemed to throw his children under the bus when they needed him most.  I sat there and watched the sprinklers go around thinking how stupid this was, but it was better than fighting inside.  Click, click, click the sprinkler shot out the cool water, the plants opened their leaves, the dirt received and the process was repeated.

I don’t know how long I sat there watching the revolution of the water but as the hard dirt was being penetrated by the drops of water, my heart was beginning to soften and I was shocked to find tears flowing from my eyes.  A movement to my left revealed the Gardner had quietly entered through the lower gate and was slowly moving among the corn, fertilizing, pulling suckers, stealing glances up the hill to where I was sitting…tending me.  Tending my space.  Guarding me from intrusion so God could rain upon me, interceding for me.  Like the Great Intercessor does.

Something was different.  I looked around and noticed there was something new in the sound of the water falling on the dirt.  Below me in the terrace, the once hard, dry dirt was black with moisture.  I found myself smiling over how wet the plants had become…they received what they needed through no effort of their own. They were planted, tended, pruned and harvested by The Gardener, and they would do what God had designed them to do, bear fruit.  Familiar words began to whisper in my soul:

Joh 15:1 -5

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

“Without ME, you can do nothing!”  I suddenly knew that for the first time in months.

“Ok, I whispered, “what do you want me to do?”

“Die.  Let me have your expectations of who I am, and let me show you the truth.”

I could feel him begin to pry my hands off of my life.  The Gardener had moved up several terraces tending as he went.  He looked at me, and smiled at my teary face.  He knew.  He knew what I was just discovering. Our life was in the garden of our God, and He is the vine dresser, he is the planter and he is the one who enables the yield.  The secret to kingdom living is an upside down paradox of faith.  Lose to gain, die to live….This time between the Rock and the Cross was a gift to me, if I would surrender my life, my will, my rights to my own way and humbly cling to the Savior who made a covenant with me in the sacrifice of His life.  Letting him prune me from my flesh, and grow me in the Spirit.

I felt The Gardener sit beside me in the grass, as the sun was setting behind the hills, casting its shadow across the valley.  He placed his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close.  I loved the way he smelled of earth, and water and sunshine.

“I am so weak. I don’t know how to die! I don’t know how to let go and just believe.”  The Gardener pointed to the trellis at our feet holding the young tomato vines upright.

“He’s got you.  The Holy Spirit will lead you to the Cross.  That is His job.  You just need to be.  Let him do the work he promised to do in your life. Trust Him, He loves you.”

I grew to love our time in the desert.  I found that it is in the desert that God speaks the clearest, and the best place in the world to be is between the rock and the cross.  Here, the good work of the Kingdom is established in our lives.  This lesson in abiding love, in allowing my self to embrace the cross that I might truly live has become a theme and a value in my life.  The wind of the spirit blew around the word abiding and reminded me of it’s picture root.  One of the words for abiding in Hebrew is the word kul (pronounced ‘kool’).  The letters of this word are the kaf   k and the lamed, l. These letters paint this beautiful picture of the yoked life.

The kaf is the picture of the palm, open, releasing, vulnerable, giving, and the lamed is the shepherds staff, which speaks of leadership and authority. Together  these letters form a picture of abiding that means “to be tame for the yoke”.

Jesus tells us in Mathew 11: 29-30 to take his yoke upon ourselves, to learn from him.  Why?  Because. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.   He is our inheritance, and we are the joy that was set before him a Bride and a Body that the Father gave him.  We are to submit our will to his as he submitted his will to the Father.  Jesus was tame for the yoke, abiding in the knowledge that he was the Beloved of the Father, only begotten Son in whom He was well pleased.  When we abide in His yoke, we also have this as our testimony.

Father, help me to stay under the yoke of the cross.  Help me to yield to the pruning and not draw back when you shear away those branches that are sucking spiritual life from me.  I long to present unto you a life of abundant fruit, pleasing and satisfying to your heart. Help me not be afraid of the north winds of life, but use them to stir up fragrant prayer as incense before you.  May the comforting south winds of days of peace not be taken for granted, but may I steward my time wisely before you.

Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; Blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.

Let my beloved come into his garden,

And eat his precious fruits. Song of Songs 4:16

Hus-detail-image-released-to-public-domain-by-its-author

 

 

 

Dust, Ashes & Bread

Today is Ash Wednesday, the official start of the calendar for Lent, and I know nothing about this tradition.  Having relegated it to “those people” who worship “over there”, I find myself a long lost cousin three times removed at the family table.  Which fork goes with what dish?   I look at the family album of our common faith and marvel at the way the symbol of the ashen crosses on the foreheads of the penitent resonates in my heart.  Repentance, confession and mortality are  holy ground themes of personal burning bush encounters in my life, and I am strangely saddened that I had not participated with others of the ecclesia in this outward sign of an internal reality.  The reading from the Gospel of John 6:32-35/47-58 rivets my heart to the page.  There in the midst of a massive throng of people ready to “do the works of God” the religious “right things”, they ask The Bread of Life for a sign.

 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD FROM HEAVEN TO EAT.'”  John 6: 30-31

He had just told them in the preceding statement that the only “work” of God was to believe in the ONE the Father had sent.  Here they are, “those people over there” not willing to accept the simplicity of the reality of the tabernacling God.  Not willing to believe that salvation could be so very simple.  “Those people” who if they weren’t so blind would have known He was the answer, the life, the light, the desire of the nations, the prophets promise.  “Those people” demanded that God prove himself on their behalf,  ” show us a sign and then we will believe”! I scanned the crowd on the hill horrified to find myself seated in their midst chomping on a loaf of bread nodding assent to the argument. Right!  Show me a sign!

How many times did I demand an outward sign of his love?  How often have I been “one of those people”  who failed to know him, to believe him, to trust that he was the one sent from the Father.  I have often failed to do the “work” required of God. I have often refused to believe.

Jesus catches my gaze in that crowd as the syllables of his declaration of being the Manna that came from heaven, not like in the wilderness of collective memory…greater, begin to pierce my heart.  I choke on the bread that seems stuck in my throat-

 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.  John 6:35

The crowd begins to mock, What?!  How can this man be manna?  How can we eat of his flesh?  I think back to Communion Sunday, the way the bread and cup had felt in my hands, tasted in my mouth.  ” Take eat” he would say the night before the cross, ” this is my body, broken for you…remember me.” I had held the remembrance of the greatest love a being could know, a laying down of life, in my hands. Did I savor the mystery?  The Manna?  Did I know the blood of the new covenant flowing in my veins? Did I walk away asking for another sign of his love?  Something more tangible than symbolic?  Was I one of “those people”?

The Spirit blew around my archeology gear and invited me back to the dig site with a question.  “What do ashes have to do with bread?”  Shovel in hand I turned the pages not surprised to find myself back in Genesis. He promises to declare the end from the beginning and here we find at the beginning of our family legacy of doubting the goodness of God the connection of bread and dust and ashes.

 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”  Genesis 3:19

The next mention comes from the man who bears the testimony of friendship with God.  Daring to bargain with his friend for the lives of the lost, a groan close to the heart of the ONE who gave himself as the Bread of Life to ALL who would hunger to eat.

  And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes: Genesis 18:27

Ashes.  The Hebrew word is epher.  I feel the moment joined with a holy presence.  I hear the delighted anticipation of the ONE who is about to bestow a great gift to someone who could never repay, is undeserving, yet because of HIS great affection is found worthy.  “Open it”  I pause at the packaging.  Knowing the moment will forever change me.  This is only day four and I hardly recognize the woman who stood at the start of this journey…”Go on, Open it”.

Ashes-

Epher,-

Aleph*Pey*Resh =The strong opened head.  It is a reference to grain.  I begin to smile as I nod in knowing. Yes, of course it is, the beginnings of bread.

The pictograph (A,E) is strength, strong (p) is a picture of an open mouth, the (r) is a picture of a head. Combined these mean “strongly open the head”. The heads of grains are scattered on the threshing floor, a smooth, hard and level surface. An ox is led around the floor crushing the heads, opening them to reveal the seed inside. (The aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet which symbolizes God is the picture of an ox.  Coincidence?  I think not.  This is a strong statement of who is doing this threshing all to reveal the seed!)  Bread is made from the crushing of the seed.  Our Bread, our Eucharist would go into Gethsemane which means…yes…the olive press….another stone wheel turned by an ox to crush the olives to produce the oil…to be crushed by the weight of our sins.

But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.-Isaiah 53:10

There the “if” of the Messiah’s willingness stands so innocent.  There is no shadow of the tormenting midnight wrestle of the second if-“If it is possible take this cup”  There is no hint of the greater Adam’ s sweat that would fall as blood and the words that would ring through eternity, “nevertheless, not my will….but yours be done”.  There the bread of life whose name means salvation intercedes for me, for my salvation.

We see him in the pen on ink, the oil upon the canvas laboring in the travail of his flesh, surrendering his will to the Father.  But there were three companions of his heart who were invited to be eye witnesses of this fellowship of suffering, the first fruit pressing of the new covenant.  Three were invited to share in this bread of friendship on the threshing floor, and they slumbered through the grinding, their hearts heavy with sorrow.

What would we have known of suffering well, had they stayed awake?  “Those people” should have known better...those people….are…me!  What would the world know of the love of my God, the closeness of his fellowship to the hurting, if I had stayed awake through the Father orchestrated times of threshing in my life? Surrendering my will, and trusting the goodness of my God?

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.  He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.  If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will the Father honor.  John 12:24-26

My heart whispers in the shadows of Gethsemane…”Keep me awake, teach me how to pray, show me how to live, I am just dust and ashes, feed me with yourself, you the Manna of God, give me this bread that I might feast forever.  Help me to remember you and believe. That others might see the outward sign of the inward mark of a circumcised heart broken and poured out.  Adam Abram 2008