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We started off talking about our favorite types of stories. Our group had a big variety, from true crime to romance & mysteries to Christian fiction to true life “overcoming” type stories. Many of us read these stories to be encouraged or to escape from our day to day world or to “see how the other half lives.” The Lazarus story has a little of all of these types of stories.

Joanna Weaver suggests that the story has 5 lessons of note:

  • God’s will does not always proceed in a straight line.
  • God’s love sometimes tarries for our good and his glory.
  • God’s ways are not our ways, but his character is still dependable.
  • God’s plan is released when we believe and obey.
  • The “end” is nevr the end; it is only the beginning.

Each person selected one of these concepts and shared a personal story about it. Special thanks to each one who shared a bit of her heart this night.

We then reviewed the scripture, John 11:1-6, that Weaver recommended and identified the key points or words that jumped out to us. It is so important to remember that our world is much broader and wider than just the 3D world we access through our senses. (Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” We discussed three scriptures in this light: John 16:33, Hebrews 11:13-16 and James 1:2-4.

In the end, so much of our understanding and acceptance of our lives is dependent on our ability to trust God. Margaret Tennison says, “We only trust people we know. If you’re struggling to trust God, it may be because you don’t really know God.” There are many, many verses throughout the scriptures that talk about trusting God, but clearly, our favorite in the class is Proverbs 3:4-5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

I wanted the group to have a trust experience and so we tried a couple of well known trust exercises. One is called the minefield. In this one, one person is blindfolded and is verbally directed through a number of “barriers” (in this case, the other class members standing about). The key to remember is that we are just like the “blind” person who is only given one step of instruction at a time and must wait for the next instruction. We must trust that our guide will not allow us to stumble. The second exercise we did was a traditional “trust” fall in which the person falls back into the arms of another. This feeling of falling is important to experience … it’s just a hint of what God wants from us. We must be willing to trust his everlasting, unfailing arms.

I Walk a Crooked Path by John M. Flores. Special thanks for the use of this photograph.

We had a small class this past week and I was a bit surprised as I felt this chapter was one of the strongest ones. Ah well, I trust the Lord is revealing Himself to each and every person, whether they are attending class or not. God has a plan!

Each of us talked about the “hula hoops” we are trying to keep up… the roles we walk and the hats we wear. The list was quite long, over 50 different roles. I showed them a photocopy of woodcut of the hula hoop girl and we talked about the hoops that often drop. Sadly, although it’s often the role of housekeeper, sometimes it’s also our prayer warrior role as well.

As we discussed the Wilbur Rees quote about the “amount” of God we prefer to have… the comfortable amount that doesn’t require too much of us or make us afraid… we also realized in our discussion that we must take courage to go after “all of God.” If God were to ask us, “What do you want?” in the same way that Jesus asked the blind man on the road (Luke 18:41), would we say that we want all of Jesus?

We live with so much less of God than He intends for us to have. A powerful prayer is in Ephesians 3:16-19 that is particularly good when “personalized” … changing the pronouns to me, my and I. Try it.

First Things FirstWhen we talked about the “first things first” principle from Stephen Covey’s book and the image of the rocks in the container first, then the pebbles, then the sand and then the water, we each felt that nip of conviction that we are still trying to change the order of what comes first. We all “know” what is best but we don’t pursue it. That’s where the battle of our will vs. our emotions comes in.

For me, the essence of all of this is grasping the true importance of spending time with God. If we really “understood” (and I’m also referring back to this week’s sermon message on knowledge, understanding & wisdom)… we would take it all much more seriously. If we thought of prayer more like oxygen or a blood bag in a hospital – absolutely essential or we would die – wouldn’t we change our attitude toward it. Wouldn’t our will to do it grow stronger immediately? We reviewed 3 passages, 2 Samuel 12:13-23, Daniel 6:3-10, and Matthew 26:36-39, all life & death situations.

At the end of class, I gifted each person a small moleskin journal (if you don’t know what that is… ask me later or look it up on the web) … and we each journaled briefly a selected scripture. It was a very meaningful time for all of us.

See you Thursday.
Special thanks to Kreg Yingst for the Hula Hoop girl. To see more of his work, see his website.

Our time began with stories. I love stories. They carry messages of the heart in a way that “information” cannot. It’s one of the reasons Jesus used parables.

Grandmother. Special Thanks to Marion C. Honors for the use of this artworkThe question that generated those stories was “who was the first Christian in your life to live in such a way as you could clearly see Christ?” … in other words, an authentic Christian. Some of the stories we heard were about:

  • a grandmother who was joyful, kind, uplifting, and always encouraged her grandchildren to say their prayers;
  • a “foster” mother and father who took in a little girl and raised her because her blood parents couldn’t provide for their daughter;
  • a daughter who came to Christ before the mother and “demonstrated” her faith in such a way that it drew the mother to Christ;
  • an aunt who was known for her gentleness and quiet spirit;
  • a former teacher known for her calm in the midst of a storm, her direct line to the Lord throuh prayer, her “glow;”
  • a woman who demonstrated Christ in practical ways, serving through parenting a large family and fostering over 17 children;
  • a priest who showed me unconditional love.
  • Each story was powerful in its simplicity and confirmed the power of a “Mary heart.”

    Then we discussed which areas of our lives we are hoping will be our truly “growth areas,” and where we can demonstrate our faith in authentic ways. These are areas where we want “more” to show: love, compassion, gentleness, wisdeom, intimacy, forgiveness, faith, joy, order, graciousness, peace and calm. My sense is that these were some of the same areas that we recognized in our “stories of the saints” at the beginning of class.

    Jesus washing the disciples' feetIn John 13:1-17, we learn of the service Jesus performed for his disciples–washing their feet. This was an expected example of Christian love. This was a service that was generally considered “beneath” his station. We talked at length about the areas where we might serve in today’s world. There were plenty of examples like working with the poor, or in a nursing home, or with the mentally ill, or with prisoners, with orphans, with people who are sick (e.g. HIV), or doing someone else’s task for them “secretly” or just “turning the other cheek” when we are offended by another person.

    Joanna Weaver liked to talk about Christ-centered service as being either “on the way” (coming across opportunities in our daily lives) or “out of the way” (going outside our normal path to meet a need). Mark 1:29-34 is a good example of the first type of service and Mark 6:30-34 is a good example of the second. We talked about our own areas of responsibility and how these opportunities might manifest. Will we respond?

    Acts 3:1-10 tells the story of Peter and John who responded to a beggar asking for money by saying, “silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you….” and then proceeds to heal the man because what Peter “had” was the Holy Spirit. So often, we do not respond to service opportunities because we don’t believe we have what is needed. We make judgments about our own abilities or compare ourselves to others thinking, “I could never do that.” I believe that we all that it takes within us to have intimate relationships with Christ. Nothing is missing. And as we build upon that intimacy, the rest comes along. We are able to serve with grace. We are able to serve in all stations of life, whether above or below. We can do the very thing we thought we could never do. We are serving in our immediate circle (families, friends, neighbors, church, work) and we are serving in the greater circle of life (community, nation, world).

    Remember, both are needed, living room intimacy and kitchen service. This week, the Lord will bring an opportunity to us. Come to class next time ready to share your service along the way.

    Special thanks to Marion C. Honors, CSJ, for the use of the artwork called Grandmother. For more information about her work, see her website, http://www.marionchonorscsj.com/index.html.)

With lesson #5, we began our discussion with the “God-shaped hole” in our hearts and how we “fill it.” Some of the answers were no surprise: food, mindless activity, “personal downtime,” noise, animals, busyness, reading, talking, etc. In all of these cases, we were managing to crowd out any opportunity for a meaningful interaction with the Lord.

We all understand the basics: intimacy with God follows the formula that Weaver describes as “prayer+the Word+time=intimacy.” For some, one aspect of these was easier to practice than the other, but putting them into a viable combination is still the way. Each of us selected one of the primary areas that is a barrier for walking out this formula and then claimed one of the scriptures to counteract that barrier. For instance, for busyness, the favorite scripture was Psalm 90:12. But we also discovered that different translations are more powerful than others. For this one, a more contemporary version works very well like this: “Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise” from the New Century Version.

Oftentimes, before we are Christians, Satan convinces us that we “don’t need a savior.” And then, after we are Christians, Satan convinces us of a more sinister lie, that we “don’t deserve a savior.” The group talked at length about these lies or scripts from our past and how damaging they can be to our walk. We then reviewed the very powerful metaphorical scriptures that give us strong word pictures to remember our true relationship to the Lord.

John 15:5 I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing.

Romans 8:15-16 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.

This week, I challenged the group to really appropriate these images … to really appropriate time to be with the Lord. This book and this study will only be just another “nice study” if we don’t seriously make some changes in our behaviors. We say we want intimacy, but what are we doing to make that happen? This study is just another way he can hold up a mirror to show us the truth of ourselves… in a loving way. Remember the story of “My Heart Christ’s Home.” The Lord is waiting there for us. Let us meet Him there.