Listen Up

 

The-Woman-At-The-Well

Don’t talk to me.

Yes, you read that right. Don’t talk to me. When I give you my time, don’t waste it. Don’t try to tell me what I need to do. Don’t tell me what might be helpful. Don’t pretend that you want to enjoy my company.

Just stop.

Stop the long held belief that in order to love someone you have to fix their problems. Stop sharing information with others that was only meant to be shared with you. Stop showing up to the relationship like we are living in the past.

I don’t invite you into my space to have you tell me how to think. I don’t open my heart to you so that you can share it with others with no regard.  I don’t make time to see you to have you talk right over me and ignore what I have to say.

Don’t talk to me, oh no, listen.

Listen, with all that you are. Listen with as little preconceived ideas as possible. Listen, and seek, to understand. It’s a quality long lost in this instant social media, texting world. I’d rather sit with you over a cup of tea and hear your heart, while you hear mine – rather than text you all hours of the day. Slow down. Let’s not share information, let’s share conversation. Let’s unite by loving one another and hearing our stories. Not talking, but listening.

Of all the examples of Jesus life and how he interacted with people, this one I gravitate to the most. Read with me.

“… He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

 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.”

The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
 He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”

 “I have no husband,” she said.

“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”

“Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”

 “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

 “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
 The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.” (John 4: 4-30, The Message)

Oh, I am that woman.

The woman who hides herself away from the crowds at midday in shame. The woman who suffers in isolation and loneliness. The woman who understands that for this man to greet her, speak to her and acknowledge her presence in such way – is a voice validating who she is.

She matters.

Think I am reading too much into the text? Think again. The context reveals that this woman was so isolated that she chose to go to that well midday, in the heat of the sun, to gather water to drink. Often gathering water was done very early in the morning or very late in the daytime due to the extreme heat. Why not gather water with others? Wouldn’t having others there mean someone could help her carry the water jars back to town? Why not go at the same time as the other women gathering water?

Fear. Crowds. Damage control.

What makes sense to us on the outside, looking in, makes absolutely no sense to the one who is alone. She found solace in the midday sun, for it was there in the quiet she could avoid the talk of the crowds. The nonstop chatter of their voices as they spoke about her life and the things she had done. The whispers of gossip cloaked as righteousness, “Oh, you should pray for her.” How often we deceive ourselves into thinking that with our talking we are helping the other person and seeking their good.

Are we?

Just reread her encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus begins by asking for a cup of water. A simple request. He invites conversation by indicating his need, he’s thirsty. Can she help?  The Samaritan woman was immediately taken aback by His request. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t even supposed to acknowledge her presence. It was just the two of them at that well – she a Samaritan and He a Jew. He had every religious right to ignore her. He was obligated to. He was righteous. He had opportunity. Yet, rather than invoke his religiosity, he embraced the grace, compassion and generosity of God.

“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.”

Jesus knew immediately that He had an opportunity and he harnessed it. He chose to draw upon the generosity of God as He asked this woman to draw that water for Him to drink. He was thirsty and He could have drawn some water Himself, rather He begins a conversation with a woman who had been abandoned by society, choosing instead to say to her, “I see you.”

I see you.

I see you as you hide here at this well. I am here. Let’s talk – no, you talk, I will listen.  I asked for water but what I really want is to give you living water. I didn’t really need the water. I needed you to see that you are worth listening to. I don’t care about the customs of this day, I care about you. Now. Today. Always.

Drink.

Oh, how she wanted to drink. She asks Jesus, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” Perhaps she was only thinking physically at this point – wanting this living water that welled up so that she would never thirst again. Never taste that dry, cottony mouth we get when we are parched. Perhaps she didn’t want to travel this road ever again – never having to place herself at this well where the local woman gathered. She already felt this place of scorn and shame as an outsider. “Give it to me,” she asked, but Jesus replied, “Go call your husband and then come back.

Ah. Yeah. My husband.  “I have no husband.”

Oh. Truth. They spoke such truth to one another. Stop. You’ve heard this story a hundred times. Listen with fresh ears. They spoke such truth to one another. Total strangers, yet deeply honest with one another. Jesus went on from this moment of raw truth and spoke life into her heart. He used this moment as a turning point, saying once again. I see you. No matter one, or 5 men, whom are not your husband, I am here – with you now.

I see you.

As this woman begins to wrestle with the uncertainty of this stranger – you can almost sense her heart on her sleeve. Exposed with the truth of her deepest soul, her sins and her shame – rather than run from it, she embraces it. Let that sink in. She didn’t deny all the men she had been with, rather she accepts the truth. Ownership.She grasps the utter humanity of this moment- and speaks. Real talk.

Not cloaked in righteous indignation or proclamation. Not professed concern passively masquerading as love. Not a well intended, “I will pray for you” spoken as we move quickly back into our own life and it’s circle. Don’t be like those disciples who questioned why Jesus would be with “that kind” of woman. No. Jesus never talked to people this way. He stepped in when most of our footsteps may tread in another direction. He moved towards those in need. He comforted them. He listened. He loved.

Don’t you want that too?

To be heard. To be comforted. To have your most deepest longings accepted. Jesus had every societal, religious and moral right to ignore this woman. Culturally, that’s how it was at this time. Yet, Jesus didn’t let religious pressure, or cultural norms or even His disciples determine His path – He let God lead Him. Jesus Christ paved a new path.

Be Jesus. 

Listen to the hearts of those around us. Go to their wells. Hear what’s really going on in their life. Share their suffering. Comfort these losses. Empathize. Drink in their experiences and see life through their eyes.

Don’t talk to me.

Don’t talk to me not unless you plan on having an honest conversation. Don’t talk to me one way and speak another way behind my back. Don’t talk to me with your criticism and your judgement.

I don’t invite you into my space to have you tell me how to think. I don’t open my heart to you so that you can share it with others with no regard.  I don’t make time to see you to have you talk right over me and ignore what I have to say. Just stop.

Listen up.

 

Confessions Of A Wayward Spirit

Wayward, yep, that’s me.

If you could sum me up with one word, it’s wayward. Synonyms for wayward are willful, headstrong, stubborn. Okay – that’s enough. Ouch. I don’t really want to sit and consider this truth recently revealed to me. It is too uncomfortable and too raw for me to see clearly right now. But there it is, just the same.

Don’t even try to tell me you don’t see it in me. Don’t try to talk me out of it. I know it’s true. The conviction of this truth was spoken by someone I trust and it’s rocked me to core. They didn’t quite say it like this, but man, God did. He hit me across the head and said, “Shelly, what are you doing?”

I have disguised this reality of who I am with acts of selfless service or moments of deep pain shared with intimate friends. My safety stayed in the story of who I am, but it also kept others at bay – at arms length. I don’t think I was trying to be manipulative or intending to lead others astray, but one’s heart does determine the actions that we choose, doesn’t it? Justify, wrestle and debate all you want – but there it is.

"But the bad things people say with their mouth come from the way they think. And that’s what can make people wrong. All these bad things begin in the mind: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual sins, stealing, lying, and insulting people. These are the things that make people wrong. Eating without washing their hands will never make people unacceptable to God." Matthew 15:18-20 (ERV)

It’s not what we do that determines our acceptance to God, it’s what we think. What we meditate on. How we handle situations. The ways in which we really love one another. I can’t say it any other way, I need help.

I need help to love when my mind tells me not to. I need help to forgive when my heart tells me no. I need help to trust in the plan of God, rather than relying upon myself. My wayward, stubborn, forceful self.

I’ve tried for most of my life to control the pain that lies deeply in the recess of my heart and mind. I have done lots of inner work to grow. I have become more and more vulnerable and transparent about life. I yearn for intimacy and because I do, I am wayward. I lust, I long, I linger on thoughts that get in the way of my faithfulness to God.

I have found freedom but I haven’t found forgiveness.

I am still trying to earn my way. Working to change my thoughts. Change my behavior. Change my life. Change, change, change. I, I, I. Ugh! There’s my wayward self striving so hard to fix things that were never mine to fix in the first place. Rather than accepting the powerful truth to let go and have God handle the situation, I hold tightly with these hands so bound they choke my spirit.

God is the only one who knows someone else’s heart. It doesn’t matter what I see, my perception is skewed. God is the only one who can work in all things to bring about healing and hope. Not any new idea or thought I have. God is the one one who loves me more than I love myself. Yeah, love myself.

I see through my own brokenness – don’t you?

Do you find it difficult to love when you hurt so? Do you consider blaming others rather than looking in the mirror to your soul?  Do you think you can handle it all yourself and that you don’t need anyone?

Don’t believe that lie – not for one minute. I need you, and friends, you need me. We are a people who need. Who want. Who long. Who desire. It’s the human condition. The question is, are you a kindred wayward soul like me, or are you a faithful and faith filled overcomer?

I admit there are times I am a faith filled overcomer. But not today, not tomorrow and not in the future. Not while I keep lying to myself. Self deception is the worst of all. We believe things about ourselves that are not true. Then we act upon them, digging ourselves deeper in layers of fear. Before we know it, we fool ourselves and life an unauthentic, unproductive and joyless life.

It ends, today.

Right now I admit, for all to see, read and hear, that I am a wayward, stubborn and self serving soul. My life has been upside down for so long, I don’t even recognize  the right way up very often. I admit, I need help. My heart is so full of pain and insecurity, it’s difficult for me to hear positive, loving and kind words. I have turned from the rejection I fear will come – and try to nip it in the bud.

Self condemnation is a terrible place to live.

Don’t live there my friends – I know it well. It’s a lonely place to be. Give flight to your words and let them come. Speak the truth of where you are at. Confess whatever you might need to and walk this journey with me.

Let’s move into the direction of God’s love. Let’s ask Him to change our hearts and our minds. I don’t know how He will, but certainly know He can. He’s done it for me before, it’s time this wayward woman asked Him again.

Join me?

"Your word is like a lamp that guides my steps, a light that shows the path I should take." Psalm 119:105

 

In the Quiet

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There is a place I know that speaks directly to my heart. A plot of land that’s covered with tiny cabins in the woods. I go to this place and leave every care at the gate. Somehow I can focus, or refocus, on what’s most important to me. Even if I am surrounded by wonderful friends, I seek out solace in the quiet wherever I can find it. Why?

In the quiet, God speaks.

Have you ever found yourself in a place where the sounds of life deafen your ears? You try to balance yourself, to listen as you grab ahold of the things that you think will keep you grounded. Straining to hear the slightest whisper of hope. Relief. Freedom. Searching for answers to questions that you don’t how you to ask.

No?

Well, it’s just me then. I’ve spent the last few years living in moments I will never be able to replay or even repay. There has been much, oh so much, to be thankful for, but there has also been so much pain. The sound of silence became an echo in my heart of the quiet voice of God. He spoke, but I didn’t always listen. I found myself worn out, burned out and seeking out hard answers to the questions that tumbled around in my heart.

I have been awash in grief for some time. Maybe you have too. We grieve for many reasons in life, loss doesn’t allude itself to only one source of pain. Loved ones, pets, jobs, homes, physical disabilities and mental capacities. So much of who we are and what we do can bring us such joy and – such pain.

We need hope.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind.” Isaiah 61:1

Today, let’s be quiet, be still and meditate. Allow this verse to settle into your soul and come to know the One who spoke it, Jesus Christ. This is the good news and your good news – there is comfort and liberty when you call upon the name of Jesus.

I don’t know your story, I don’t know your pain – but Jesus does. Let Him speak. Find some quiet. Turn off the TV, the social media, the phone – walk away from whatever you are doing and bring yourself to a place of stillness. Feed your soul. Look to the One who is anointed by Almighty God to bring good news to the world, to your life and for your heart.

In the quiet, God speaks.

 

Wearing our weariness

wearySometimes, we just need time -time to feel, to process and to heal.

Not quick platitudes of prayer and offers to listen, but some real, deep, one on one time. Sigh. Can you feel that tension where intimacy calls you name? This past year my personal life has not afforded me much time to truly let down and recover . To take some time and let the calming peace wash over me. Oh no, not at all.

So, rather than wait for it to somehow magically appear. I made a decision that perhaps years ago I wouldn’t have. I took the time myself. I disconnected from life, from the blog, from Facebook and really tried to being a season of listening. My heart was calling me to focus and to make time for myself.

You can’t listen if you don’t slow down to hear.

I’ve spent my life working in many fashions. Caring for people, teaching, organizing events, managing blogs to grow community and being focused on pathways to inner growth. Moving in and out of life with some renewal and hope of lessons learned tucked away – growing older but hopefully just a tiny bit wiser. Regardless of what I have learned,  I continued to stumble about in my own sin and shame filled insecurities which has extended for a lifetime.

Man, am I tired.

Emotional growth and healing take time and energy. Focus. Purpose. I am confident caring for my father in law was pivotal in helping me see things my heart had been saying for some time.  I needed to slow down, find some balance of where moments of time stood still – and cherish them. It was time to sacrifice the perfectionist tendencies of my heart and accept the reality of the life I have been given. Treasuring time together for the gift it is. Becoming a caregiver I found that I  had been given a precious gift as well.

I learned to listen. I learned to hear. I learned to really be in a moment. I thought I knew how to do this before, but I was kidding myself. This was transformational! Each and every day with Basil I needed to ride the waves of whatever happened that particular day and just be  Now that the experience  is gone as he has passed on, I find myself looking for the focused life I was living when Basil was alive. Walking in those days where nothing else mattered except loving those around you.

This was paramount!

I learned to really love and experience unconditional love. Walking in pure love grounds you. I learned to accept people exactly where they were at and love them irregardless of their circumstances. I realized I could love more than I ever thought possible. How my life begin to change!

I found it wasn’t my own strength that carried me through the days, oh certainly not! It was the presence of something stronger and mightier than myself. God soaked me in moments of quiet everyday that revealed His presence in the pain. He was real. He was alive. He was with me. I understood that my ability to love was in direct correlation with my understanding that I wasn’t alone.

Oh goodness, I am not alone.

Neither are you, my friend. He’s with you too! No matter what you are facing. No matter what you are dealing with. No matter what your life story is at this very moment. God is present.  He wants to make His Presence known to you. Let me say that again, God is present and He wants to make His Presence known to you. Perhaps, you don’t know Him – or maybe, you want to know Him more, experience Him deeply in your life. God’s invitation to you, as well as to me, rings out from the heart of Jesus –

“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).”

Oh, how I want rest!

I am weary. Aren’t you? Don’t you tire of the daily demands that are placed upon you? Don’t you tire of expectations you place upon yourself? Don’t you ever just want to let it all go? It can’t be only me! It’s a dry and weary land when the demands of life overwhelm you my friends. But, there is hope. You don’t have to handle it alone today, tomorrow or  anymore.

For a long time I lived in denial. I thought I had given my heart to God and followed Him, yet I clung to things I had learned long ago. Thinking that those were the things that would bring me rest and relief. I worked harder. I gave more. I sacrificed precious time that I will never have again. Don’t be me. The regrets can consume you. The fear can paralyze you. The anxiety can stop you.

Come to Jesus. Come to know Him . Come to rest in His love. Accept His invitation. Today you can walk a different life, right now. I don’t mean your life will be perfect, but I do know the provider of peace Himself, Jesus, will walk with you.  There is hope and calm assurance in knowing you aren’t alone. Because you aren’t, my friend. There is nowhere where His Presence can’t be. There is nothing outside His reach. There is no one that His love can’t fill.

He is God! The Almighty Father cares for you. He sent His only son because His love is beyond anything you have ever experienced. God loves you and wants to give you rest in your everyday life.

Come.

The unspoken, broken.

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When words won’t come.

The searing pain that cuts so deep, bores into wounds laid bare long ago. Your tender heart is raw and exposed.. With each effort to speak the words of pain and prayer to the only One who can heal them – you find yourself – unspoken. Without a word. Without a way. Without a wandering moment of hope.

You ache to put into words the pain that torments your soul. You long to find solace in the strength of letting go. You  keep looking for the clearing up ahead – grasping for words to alleviate this pain.. For you know when you begin speaking words of truth, you often find light, you find grace, you find peace.

Time stands still.

At eternity seems to hold you as the quietness echoes in the caverns of your soul. Your broken, weary, grace starved soul. You wrestle to discern the longings that are buried there. The broken places of insecurity. The abandoned places aching to belong. The desperate cries of a wounded heart for the deepest need of all, love. Thoughts erupt from the darkness that you try to keep at bay. You find yourself asking the question that plagues a desperate soul – to speak, the unspoken, broken, “how long?”

Really, how long oh God?  How long will this pain endure? How long must I wait for your answer? How long until the days of liberation and deliverance? I know that your Mighty Hand can choose to deliver me in one breath, yet, here I am.

How long. Oh God? 

I can hear some of you whom are reading this now. “Don’t ask that question. Accept God’s provision for you. Don’t doubt the Lord. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Just pray and you will feel better. Crucify those doubts that keep you from growing.”Before you decide that I am asking a question that should not ever be asked – speaking of the unspoken, broken that lives within each of us. I’d ask you to open your Bibles to Psalm 13 and read along with me:

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.”

Friends, it is precisely our unspoken, broken that brings us into a deeper and authentic relationship with God. The Psalmist queries the LORD asking Him how long, well then, so can I and so can you. Don’t question whether you can doubt. Allow yourself to be in the moments that the LORD provides. Sit in the spaces where even the Lord is quiet. Go ahead, ask.

How long?

In your personal darkness it’s okay to ask God to look on you and answer you . Bring all your thoughts to God, every one. Your doubts, Your fears. Your insecurities. Let your heart be exposed and vulnerable. Choose to dig inside the scary places. Engage the painful waiting. Believe in the One who can save you.

Sometimes in our walks of faith and community, we see pain and struggle as weakness. We look for quick fixes. Easy answers. Familiar prayers. We celebrate victory while those who linger in darkness among us, remain on the outside. Let’s set aside the lie that we don’t suffer. Go ahead, ask – “how long?”

When I gaze upon Jesus hanging on the cross, I realize that God’s plan was never easy. Remember what the LORD did to sacrifice Himself for you. So -when the words don’t come for you, as they often don’t for me. When you find yourself weighed down by the old battles you once had victory over. When your unspoken, broken shackles your feet and you feel all hope is lost.

Look at Psalm 13 again, and know you aren’t alone.

Read that again. You are not alone. Do not fear the questions that you have within your soul. Let them out. Give them voice. Let the LORD answer them for you. Don’t give them power over you anymore. Be real, be authentic, be broken.

And speak it.

Trust in God’s unfailing love for you (Psa 13:5). Read that again, trust in God’s unfailing love for you. His love is for you. Not just me, or anyone else in your life. but you. YOU. It is God’s love that we trust in. Not how well you observe His laws, quote His Scripture or even how you might be serving others.

Gods love is His gift to you which can carry you forward. His love can lead you out. His love can empower you. His love can give you the words to speak your unspoken, broken. Don’t hide any longer my friends. Don’t let yourself be complacent anymore. It’s going to hurt, deeply, to rattle your comfort zone. It’s going to frighten to share those things you’ve been holding onto. Don’t let yourself miss out on the power of God.

You can keep on asking how long oh God – and He looks right back at you and ask, “how long, my child?” How long will you remain silent? Speak your unspoken, broken and let your God lead you to salvation.

How long?