Friday, February 22, 2008
Recall watching a film or cartoon where a person is unexpectedly dropped into a desert and as a result of dehydration and extreme temperatures would begin to see mirages. The sun-scorched person would be stumbling through scalding sand dunes crying, "Agwa, Agwa!" Their situation was desperate and they needed someone to step in and help. They needed an oasis.
Usually the lost desert wanderer's mirage would have elements of a sanctuary from the heat of the desert: cool clear water, waving palm fronds and plates of fresh fruit awaiting their consumption. Imagination would create and oasis of whatever the overheated person would desire in their dehydrated condition. Physical thirst can cause a person to become delirious, faint and even need serious medical attention to restore fluids and electrolytes necessary for the healthy functioning of the body. The impact of dehydration affects not only the body, but also the function and imagination of the mind.
In actuality, mirages are photographable phenomenon that result in refracted, mirror or water images to be seen. The real image of a mirage can be interpreted by the human mind as whatever fantasy a persons' imagination can create. A mirage is, minus the imagination, the refraction of light, heat and water.
The Old Testament account of Moses and the rock in the desert and the New Testament account of the Samaritan woman and Jesus are filled with images of water, rocks, thirst, and choice. The people in these situations are thirsty. They need to develop the ability to ignore or turn away from their false mirages or spiritual barriers and look to God for security in the desert of life.
The Israelites' had plenty of real life experience while they were slaves in Egypt. Although they had wanted to leave Egypt, they were fearful that God had brought them out of slavery and into a desert filled with coyotes, and sand storms only to be left there to die. Moses and Aaron did their best to support and lead the Israelites, but their insecure faith in God took its toll. Their fear of the unknown future was becoming a barrier in overcoming the mirage oasis that Egypt had become.
1-2 Directed by God, the whole company of Israel moved on by stages from the Wilderness of Sin. They set camp at Rephidim. And there wasn't a drop of water for the people to drink. The people took Moses to task: "Give us water to drink." But Moses said, "Why pester me? Why are you testing God?"
3 But the people were thirsty for water there. They complained to Moses, "Why did you take us from Egypt and drag us out here with our children and animals to die of thirst?"
4 Moses cried out in prayer to God, "What can I do with these people? Any minute now they'll kill me!"
5-6 God said to Moses, "Go on out ahead of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel. Take the staff you used to strike the Nile. And go. I'm going to be present before you there on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock. Water will gush out of it and the people will drink."
6-7 Moses did what he said, with the elders of Israel right there watching. He named the place Massah (Testing-Place) and Meribah (Quarreling) because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because of their testing of God when they said, "Is God here with us, or not?"
The Israelites had chosen to follow Moses and Aaron out of Egypt, but their choice to leave slavery had not totally prepared them to trust that God could lead them to the joy and comforts of their promised land. God was their Jehovah Jirah, their provider, but they often needed reminding of exactly how they had been provided for time and time again.
The Israelites were fearful for their lives, as they had wandered in the desert. It was hot, uncomfortable and each day was uncertain. They looked back to their days of slavery and forget why and what they had left behind. They were looking for what was familiar in life to be their oasis, even if it was false oasis of slavery.
God provided for the Israelites physical needs with manna and miracles like water pouring from a rock as Moses hit it with his staff. They were living an unpredictable existence. They needed to trust God with everything in their lives: where they were to live, what they were to eat and even what they had to drink. They were in the position of total dependence upon Moses, Aaron and ultimately – God. Looking backwards to Egypt had become a spiritual barrier in Israel's physical and spiritual journey to the promised land.
1 Corinthians 1-4
1For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3They all ate the same spiritual food (manna) 4and drank the same spiritual drink (water from the rock); for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
Like the people of Israel, we all need reminders of how God has provided for us. Just as God provided food, shelter and water for the Israelites while they wandered in the desert, God provides for us too. God's provision however is not limited to our physical needs for food and water. The "rock" that provides for our spiritual hunger and thirst is Jesus Christ in word, action and deed.
The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4: 5-30 understood the meaning of both physical and spiritual thirst. She traveled to the well at the hottest time of day to avoid contact with the people that often would gossip about and judge her actions. She was able to seek out and quench her physical thirst with her solitary daily travels to the well, but she was spiritually, relationally and emotionally dehydrated. The Samaritan woman knew the actions of her past and present had caused her current situation to be as it was, one of loneliness and isolation.
This woman had to cross many barriers in order to begin her conversation with Jesus. She overcame ingrained prejudice that was prevalent between the Jews and the Samaritans. It also was against social custom for a man to speak to any woman other than his mother, wife or sister. She took the risk of speaking with Jesus, in the midst of great scandal due to her other relationships with men. It would have also have been expected for her to keep her distance from an outsider. Jesus was a Jew, a man whom she was not related to, and he was a stranger.
What was the reason the woman at the well was willing to cross these barriers? Was her loneliness what pushed her beyond her comfort zone or was it her thirst for something real?
" How much are we burdened by need, by death, by sin. Even when suffering under terrible evil we don't devote our energies to getting to the root of it. Instead, we skim off the nearest misery from the surface of our distress an bring that to God, saying, " Help me here, and then I will be happy once more!" As though that could help. As though that could make a difference to our twisted natures… Something must happen on a deeper level if lasting change is to occur." ("Jesus is the Victor" Blumhardt, Pg.9)
The Samaritan woman traveled a great distance with Jesus that day. She stopped looking backwards, crossed her comfort zones and let go of her fear by letting God know who she really was. She could have easily skimmed off a surface barrier or sin and tried to present shallow issues to Jesus as the root of her problems.
Maya Angelou said, " Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible."
God calls us to move past our own barriers to clarify the past, give hope for the future and make the present workable. If the woman at the well had allowed prejudice, social customs, or fear of someone different keep her from speaking to Jesus; she would have missed the truth that would quench the desire of her heart – acceptance and true love.
When a climbing rose bush is trimmed back in the spring, the cutting points of grow back the quickest. The vines climb higher and more twisted than they were the summer before. If the roses aren't contained, they will take over the entire flowerbed; maybe even the whole yard over time. Jesus desires for us to expose the roots of our sin so that the thorny vines don't crawl in and around us. The root of sin needs to be exposed and removed so it can't take control of life and trap us in a thorny mirage.
The Israelites needed to be freed from Egypt in their hearts as well as in geography. They could not enter and thrive in the Promised Land if their minds, hearts and memories were still living in Egypt. They needed to become barrier free in their ability to trust God to provide for all their needs. The woman at the well displayed the courage to break personal and cultural barriers in order to draw close to Jesus. She took Jesus gifts of acceptance and love and carried them past the barriers of wounded relationships to the people she thought would never speak to her again.
Somehow, someway, the people of the Samaritan woman's' village listened to her story about Jesus. Her conversation with Jesus had changed her and freed her from her past. After they heard her story the villagers also they went searching to hear about the man who, " …knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out." The villagers sought to quench their spiritual thirst and went to find Jesus. God provided real food and water for the Israelites in the desert, and Jesus provided spiritual water for the woman at the well. Jesus was no mirage. Jesus was and is the messiah we all are searching for.
"It's one thing to see the path, another to change and walk down it."
The living water of God's love gushes out in a river that is abundant enough for everyone:
Enough for the Israelites;
Enough for the Samaritan woman;
Enough for confused disciples;
Enough for anxious teenagers;
Enough for overworked teachers;
Enough for lonely widows;
Enough for stressed-out professionals;
Enough for the drug addicted and alcoholic;
Enough for single parents;
Enough for me.
(The Abingdon Worship Annual, 2008, Pg. 43)
Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water."
Come to the water. Come to Jesus.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Joy comes in the morning, but sometimes at noon.
The day is just starting and I need a glimmer soon.
Hours of talking revive and restore,
shedding new light on what was before.
Before all the tissues, the tea and the talk.
Before we were learning how to toddle and walk.
Understanding brings hope to the center again.
A new day is dawning and it's ten after ten.
Copyright T.L. Eastman 2008
Original Art from the blog Until my last breath
Written at a place of unknowing. Now that I know - all is seen.
Indian Elephant enters the room.
Talking to me, talking to you.
She brings up the topics we don't want to see,
don't want to reason,
and don't want to be.
How could something so large be so ignored,
with nerves exposed and tears on the floor?
Why do I care so much what you say?
Tomorrow will change you mind anyway?
Remember the dreams that captured our hearts when we were feeling lost in the dark?
Recall the hope that nurtured and fed,
when we wandered in silence,
in fear and in dread.
Revive the joy that I once say on your face,
in your mind and surrounding your space.
Indian Elephant lives in this room.
Where self has become a barrier –
Like a silk divider in a hidden room.
Creating shadows and hiding clutter –
What would it look like if we could really see each other?
How could something so painful, so fearful, so small
grow to fill the space of our context - our friendship and maybe our fall.
Like a splinter that makes it difficult to touch,
move or work with anything in our lives that we love.
Feeling lost in this place of unknowing.
What am I walking into? What am I showing?
Feeding the fear that pounds in my brain,
needing shalom to wash over me again and again and again.
Failing to understand where we took a wrong turn.
How could I miss all the lessons I thought I'd learned?
Indian Elephant can't be ignored.
She just grows ever bigger with each glance and each word.
Instead of feeding anxiety and regret, what if we shared life sincerely,
than would be better, I bet.
Indian Elephant could live happy and free.
If you would really be you and you'd let me be me.
Copyright T.L. Eastman 2008
(Image original to www.Yardware.net - sorry address is faulty)
Sometimes circumstances make it necessary to go to higher ground...
It could have been the business of my day.
It could be that something got in the way.
It could be I just needed a break, but writing isn't something I try to escape.
The story I heard made me doubt:
who I was, what I was saying and my never ending need to shout.
In daily bursts of rhythm and prose.
Plus streams of consciousness that would curl Dixinson's toes.
What was I speaking for?
Who really hears?
I've got notebooks full of scribbling over many a year.
The pages speak of days long done.
Of battles fought and victories won.
How did this chasm grow so vast?
Was there an earthquake shuddering while my eyes were fixed on
composition lined pages flipping past?
Where did this impasse begin to grow?
While I was sharing with you my life, my dreams, my soul?
There's been lots of stopping and starting it seems,
on the whims of fuss and flurry that you try to redeem.
Redeem for something that is right and just,
only to find it was a facade it was.
You seek for what you were missing and search for still -
Is it a feeling or purpose that nothing will fill?
All this worry over me and you, with no words passing between us two.
Someone pulled the plug on the drain of our lives,
without knowing or understanding the cause of this great divide.
Water divided and I took the path to high ground,
only to turn and see waves crashing.
No connection to be found.
No more stopping on your behalf.
No more imposed silence to provide you a path.
No more mis-thinking that you are a friend.
No more wasted waiting.
This is your end.
Copyright T.L. Eastman 2008
Image of Stormy Sea from www.byzantines.net