Tag Archives: Scripture

Augustin Hirschvogel: Sandals with Classical Ornaments

The Road to Emmaus

There’s a story in Luke’s gospel known as the Road to Emmaus.

A pair of Christ’s disciples were walking from Jerusalem to a nearby town after the terrible Passover during which He was crucified. Jesus joined them, although they didn’t recognize Him at first. They were discussing His crucifixion; they didn’t understand it.

This is a snapshot of my own walk with Jesus.

Jesus came alongside me when I didn’t know Him, or expect Him (indeed, I had rejected Him as a younger man, effectively rendering Him ‘dead.’). With the people walking on the road to Emmaus, He slowly and surely revealed Himself to them by showing them from Scripture why it was ‘necessary for the Christ to suffer these things.’

The invited Him in when they reached their destination and remained ignorant of Him until the moment they broke bread with Him. In other words, they didn’t know Him until they had communion with Him and were in relationship with Him. Then, the gospel says, they finally recognized Him.

He immediately vanished from sight (into the realm of faith) in the same instant.

God is like that for me. He reveals something and then, in the twinkling of an eye, departs until next time. But He has left His Spirit behind, to guide me, establish me and build me up (or wear me down) until I am deemed ready for the next encounter with Him.

My heart is a trumpet, 
Listen to it sing.
My heart is a torch,
Watch it burn.I gave you feet for a reason,
Now, use them to follow Me.’

Read more poetry here.

Image: Augustin Hirschvogel: Sandals with Classical Ornaments via Wikimedia Commons

The Dandelion

[A 3-minute read]

At the end of its blossom cycle, the dandelion waits for the breeze. It has come again to the pinnacle of its existence. Life-giving nutrients have poured in from the earth, navigating the tubercles, the hair roots, the secondary roots, through the tap root anchoring the plant firmly in the soil.

Day after day, the plant has turned its happy yellow face to the sun, combining water and minerals from below with carbon dioxide and sunlight from above: creating energy. By osmosis through its veins, nutrients get to each cell. I am like the dandelion. My water and nutrients come through my system and into the blood, also moving through veins, deposited in each cell of my body.

The dandelion is all potential and no pretense. When it is ready, it goes. There is no hesitation. The dandelion is faith in action. It is what I would be if I had no doubts. Although I too have potential, I’m often held back by pretense.

Each of the dandelion’s 2,000 seeds has the potential to produce anther plant. There is no pretense in this either; it knows what it is about. It is following God’s command to ‘reproduce after its kind’ The dandelion is certain of its identity, and unconcerned about its future.

A seed may land just a hairsbreadth from its parent, or on a calm sunny day ride a thermal for half a mile. But it matters not to the seed. When it goes, it is ready to go, and it flies without fear. It is ready to go be a dandelion.

The future of the seed is held in the nature of its landing place. If there is good soil with good growing conditions, it prospers. If not so good, it may still prosper, if it is hardy enough. But, if it lands in stones, or water, or on pavement, or becomes some creature’s meal, it will not sprout at all. The seed’s potential to be a dandelion will be lost.

I see myself in this too, spiritual being than I am. Because I have imagination, I unwisely concern myself with my landing pad. My brain insists on knowing about the landing pad before the launch.

However, faith does not work that way. Faith is leap first, look later.

As it is, God has yet to let me down when I leap. In spite of His faithfulness it always seems that, as I ripen into seed, I question whether what He’s prepared will be good, or at least good enough. And – is it safe to go?

In those moments, it is important to remember my advantage over the dandelion. God plants the seed, but I can do my part to help Him prepare the soil. By staying close to Him, by fixing my heart on Him, I remain able to follow His command to be fruitful and multiply.

Yet the dandelion has an advantage over me. It is not a thinking being with doubts and fears and anxieties. It never questions whether God will disappoint. It never ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil like I did. It knows no shame.

The dandelion boldly pushes ahead. It always has more than enough seeds to fulfill what God asks of it. You know what? So do I. The secret is choosing to let Him work and only help when He asks me to.

Not all my seeds may find the best landing place. But I can improve their odds, and that is the best advantage of all.

 

If you liked this essay, you might also like this poem.

(Photo used under CC licence from PiccoloNamek at Wikimedia Commons)

Anxiety or rest?

Anxiety? Or Rest?

(A three minute read)

Every apparent trial or setback is an opportunity to see God’s grace in action, if I choose it. Or, it can become a source of anxiety, fear and frustration.

Here’s an example

Less than six weeks after moving to London in 2018, I suddenly could not not not find my wallet. I looked everywhere, twice. When I finally realized I seriously could not find it, I had a choice. The choice was about my point of view, not about what to do.

My mind seems to automatically veer toward a worst case scenario. My wallet ‘is missing’ or ‘has been stolen’ or ‘is lost’. If I declare one of these to be true I kick the door open to fear, anxiety and frustration.

But wait a minute. I knew none of those things for sure, so why decide one of them is true? The only thing I knew with 100% certainty was ‘I can’t locate my wallet.’ Inventing the why of it is useless speculation, which takes me away from the truth.

So let’s forget the why, and stick with the what: I can’t locate my wallet. That gives me two paths. I can abdicate choice and react to this, or I can choose to respond to it.

This only effective choice started with the one thing I knew, ‘I can’t find my wallet.’ The circumstances of my separation from it were an enigma. The reason for not finding it, I didn’t know. The circumstances of me finding it again (if I did), also unknown. A circumstance of me finding it at all, who knows? It was all a mystery.

I’m not naturally comfortable with mystery. I can feel fear from the possibilities of ‘missing’, ‘lost’ and ‘stolen’, so I’m foolish to let them drive my action. Feelings aren’t signposts. They are paint thrown on the signpost so I can’t find the way.

Reaction versus response

When I react to the mystery, I abdicate choice, creating anxiety, fretfulness and stress. Reaction is something without thought or process: the doctor taps the tendon across my knee with a rubber mallet and my foot jerks up.

In reacting, the speculation I dwell on becomes a ‘reason’ or ‘a reasonable explanation’. Even though it may be grim, it gives me the illusion of control. However, the reality remains, and the mystery remains. Nothing is gained.

Choosing to embrace the mystery and declare only the truth (I can’t find it) is to trust God that the matter will work out. It’s a response instead of a reaction, and I can rest more comfortably without an answer.

In this scenario, I rest, and wait. Yes, there’s an answer – God’s answer – but it hasn’t arrived yet. I don’t pretend to have control. I’m under no illusion. And nothing is lost.

By having faith, God’s promises can do their work. 1

The response of faith means I accept that all this will work for my good. In reality, there’s no trouble, and no need to fear. My ID can be replaced. My debit card can be canceled and replaced. Maybe the £30 inside the wallet was found by someone who really needed a meal or a kip, instead of a fix.

The response of faith means I trust that God can use all these circumstances for my benefit (and perhaps the benefit of others), even if I don’t see it at the time. 2

Response is something done in relationship, with thought, care and love. It opens me up to God’s grace, so I can be at peace. Reaction defies grace because there’s no relationship involved. It is brute, visceral and unthinking.

Response invites grace because it opens the heart vulnerably, to the full goodness God wants to pour into my life. This is because I choose to trust Him and rely on Him.

Grace wins out

When I was out of contact with my wallet I became dependent on God’s grace whether I liked it or not. After all, the contents of my wallet – my ID, my permission card to reside in the UK, my transit pass, my bank and credit cards, my US driving license, my cash, the other items – represented all my earthly power. For a while, it was all swept away, leaving me dependent on grace. So why not partner with that grace – go with that flow?

At the highest level, I’m not dependent on money, or government documents. I’m dependent on God to safeguard my true identity and give me provender. He gives me life. He gives me breath. My true identity is in my relationship with Him, not with human agencies.

I may have lost contact with my wallet and all it represents. But, because I have a relationship with the Lord, I myself stood unchanged. What passed for earthly control was gone, but the kingdom of God remained at hand. I made the wise choice and grasped it.

After all, it’s much more enduring than the pieces of plastic and paper I use to temporarily navigate the world. And to me, more real.

My wallet? I still haven’t a clue. But I’m comfortable with the mystery.

1. ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ Hebrews 13:5
2. ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!’ Psalm 139:6 (NLT)