I like Jesus

Tonight we had a beautiful Dinner and Bible Circle together with a few traveller friends, and read through John chapter 2. We each took turns sharing our thoughts on the chapter, ideas that stood out to us, questions. It was deep and fun and beautiful as these Tuesday nights usually are. In the chapter we read are two stories from the life of Jesus that I really love. Two stories that give me an image of Real Life Jesus. Not some ‘holier than thou’, soft-focus, walking-six-inches-off-the-ground Jesus; but a Real True Person.

The first story is about Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding, at the behest of his mother. As I understand it, Jewish weddings in this era could be week-long affairs with plenty of eating, drinking dancing and joy. Jesus changing water into wine as we noted in our circle, was probably not a life-saving miracle. No-one had their sight brought back, or their ability to walk restored to them. The party just went a little longer, and perhaps the host’s face was also saved. The fact that the wine Jesus created was the best that there had been at the party is such a great part of this story for me. This whole story gives me a vision of Jesus as a man who liked to party! He wasn’t scolding people for drinking so much, or being a wet blanket. He was helping the party kick on deeper into the night!

The second story is the one of Jesus driving out those who were selling animals for sacrifice in the Temple. The Message version of this story has Jesus chasing the animals and sellers out, telling them

“Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” (John 2:16)

We discussed how the area that these people had set up their market was inside the Temple - most likely in the area called ‘The Court of the Gentiles’, the closest that non-Jewish people could get into the Temple, the closest they could get to the Holy Place, to worship God. This was meant to be a quiet area where people could contemplate and worship God, not a busy market, full of animals and buying and selling. In Mark’s version of this story, Jesus tells the people selling in the Temple

“Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17)

This vision of Jesus is angry - angry about injustice, about outsiders not being welcomed in, about people excluding others from access to God, anger on behalf of the outsider. This is a righteous anger, a good clean anger. This is a Jesus who is emotional and deep and cares about those who want to step closer to God, and doesn’t want to see them excluded by those on the ‘inside’.

When we had a few minutes meditation during our Circle time, I imagined this man, the one who extended a party with really excellent wine, the man who overturned tables and threw coins to the ground in anger, chasing sheep away. I thought that this man is someone I would have liked to be around. I think he would have challenged me a lot - like some of my closest friends often do, in the best ways. I think I would not have understood many of the things he said. But still…I think I would have enjoyed being around this magnetic person who could enjoy a party, who wanted to welcome outsiders in towards God, and who got emotional and was a Real True Person. I thought, maybe for the first time - I know I love Jesus, but you know what? I also like him.

I like Jesus.

(A post by Ro.)

More than you can imagine.

 Ro in the garden harvesting miraculous fruit that came from tiny seeds.

Ro in the garden harvesting miraculous fruit that came from tiny seeds.

We had a Devotion Circle on Monday about the kingdom of God. The realm of God, the reality of God. This shining thing that is just behind our eyes, that we sometimes can’t see in the trudge and dirt of everyday existence: the annoying interactions, the misunderstandings, the thousands of bridges we have to build to get to one another. 

We looked at three verses from Matthew 13, about the treasure hidden in a field, the mustard seed, and the yeast exploding in a whole lot of flour. 

As we went around the circle discussing each verse, here are the insights that emerged:

The examples Jesus used are hidden, tiny, not immediately apparent. They involve waiting or time, they are organic, beautiful. They need the right conditions (the seed needs soil, the yeast needs flour), but then they grow without effort. In the case of the seed and the yeast, they are alive and reproduce, they rise. They are common, ordinary examples, or dreamy ones, in the case of the treasure (who doesn’t want to find a treasure?). Each can become more than what it is, effortlessly. 

Dallas Willard says that Jesus was looking at a “God-bathed and God-permated world… in which God is continually at play and over which he continually rejoices.” (The Divine Conspiracy)

The kingdom is always right there, at hand, and we have the chance to step in, to engage in this reality where the tiniest of things burst into God-breathed life. Where small works or moments become much more than they could be, if God’s spirit was not breathing and moving and working around and behind them.

Watering the garden. Cooking meals. Offering money to someone in need. Inviting someone over. I don’t know that I could spend my life on all the little things that take up my time if I didn’t believe that each one is a tiny keyhole into something that God will breathe on and cause to live. Teaching kids. Making tea. A kiss on the forehead. Washing hair. Reading aloud for hours, and hours and hours.

Welcome to the reality of God, Jesus says. It’s right here, but you have to look for it. You have to remember that it is here before you. It isn’t transactional; you don’t get exactly what you put in. It is a whole plant sprouting out of the tiniest of seeds. It is so much more than you can even imagine.

(A post by Rae)

Adam Clarke's description of God.

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I have been reading a book called Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard, and I came across this description of God, written by Adam Clarke, who was a 19th century Methodist theologian. I know, like all theologians, he was imperfect and skewed by his culture and worldview. But this description is pure beauty. God is:

“The eternal, independent, and self existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only by himself, because infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived, and from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind.”

Just reading it fills me with peace.

Illimitable in his immensity.

Indescribable in his essence.

Infinite goodness.

Eternally just, right, and kind.

I think I’ll keep reading it slowly, all week.

Community is like an ox.

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I love the birds near my house. They wake me up every morning with singing. Or squawking. Or crowing. They remind me that I am in a living world, that it flies, creeps, crawls, and sings with life. 

I have other reminders. The snails in the kitchen, the ants in a line along the wall. Mold on the baskets, moss in my motorbike seat. A little white dog, snores from my family members. Plants that need water, white flowers falling from the tree. All of this is life. Life that changes, grows, moves, bursts, buzzes, lifts, explodes. 

One of my favorite verses is “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4) It reminds me every day that messes are from life. Misunderstanding is from life. Life breeds, smears, and eats all the cheese. Life finds the chocolate stash. Life rains and wakes you up too early. Life accidentally steps on your new sprouting lettuce when it was playing a game with a lot of other chubby lives. 

Where there are no oxen, no life, no explosive, inconvenient growth, you do not have to buy new shoes or take the kids to the dentist, or apologize, or make amends, or try so hard to understand someone from another culture, or stretch your brain to empathize, or wait, or cook food day in and day out. 

An empty stall is clean and peaceful. And… empty. Nothing is happening, nothing is making a mess but nothing is coming back at the end of the day snorting and dancing its way into the stall, bringing in the sheaves, spilling its food, bringing stories and songs and a rich harvest.

Community is the ox, the life…it is better to have the ox. A good rule about life is that if it is messy, it probably means it is full of life. 

~ Rae

Holy and dearly loved.

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I’ve been reading Colossians a lot lately. Over and over again. Today it’s this verse.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

Deep sigh. Going into the day with a hug all around me, loved. The sparkle in a friend’s eye when they delight in me, the cries of my children when I arrive home after being away, an arm around my shoulders, God standing behind me- what does it mean to be holy and dearly loved? Set apart, not flailing in an impossible sea. Held. Unarmed because I am already protected.

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Today I put on fisherman pants and one of Chinua’s T-shirts. Then those got wet on the motorbike when I drove through a rainstorm. So I changed to leggings and a top that used to be really beautiful but is now rather faded and a little torn. Clothe myself. Put on compassion. Pull it on, really think about it, really get ready for the day with kindness like a pair of pants, with humility like my glasses that I wouldn’t leave the house without. Gentleness. Patience. I’m ready for anything now. Ready to look around the world at my brothers and sisters and really see them.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

This reminder carries the tiniest, gentlest bite. Forgive how? As the Lord forgave you. Bear with one another… how? Why? He bears with you and more. He listens when you are being a total jerk. He doesn’t walk away during your rants. So you can bear with one another. It’s possible. You just need to tap into being dearly loved…

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Love is the superhero cape that you tie on last, or the cloak that swirls around you, protecting you. When you truly love someone, you smile at their ridiculously beautiful tiny human ways. You love them, you love them, you love them. When you love you enter into the warm realms, the Kingdom of God, a place so rich with belonging that everything else fizzles and falls away.

And it doesn’t mean that the warm realms don’t have hard things, hard truths. Not even belonging can keep regular human consequences away. But God will be there, and we can do all things with him in our midst.

I pray that today you know you are holy and dearly loved.