Miracles: Water into Wine

The wine ran out, and Yeshua’s mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
John 2:3

 

Music drifts across the cool autumn air, tumbling between the village homes, dancing over the harvested fields and dipping in and out of the rows of the now empty grape vines.
It tickles my ears, teases me, beckons me.
The whole village of Cana has turned out for the wedding. The feasts have gone late into the night and the traditional ceremonies are taken up each morning.
I have resisted the temptation to join in, for certainly someone would turn me away. But I can’t restrain myself any longer. Especially since I heard he is also here.
I don’t enter the town through the main road, crowded as it is with wedding guests coming and going. Instead, I slip between the baker’s house with its warm smell of yeast and oil, and a small, smelly pen filled with bleating sheep, most likely waiting to take their part in the feast.
I keep my head covered and my face hidden, hoping no one will recognize me. A quick glance at the merry goers tells me I should be safe, for I recognize no one.
Except him.
He strides down the street with a small group of young men. Not long ago, I had been privileged and delighted to be near the lake when he invited several of them to join him. A few are beyond the typical age of being called by a rabbi, yet they left their father’s boats and followed him. I fall in step next to some others who trail behind, not part of his company, but intrigued enough to shadow them.
As we walk, hushed murmurs slither about the townspeople. Not loud enough to be heard above the music, but seen in their faces as they discuss a matter, in an ear, behind a raised hand, in a turn of a head. With furrowed brows and pursed lips. What was causing dismay on a day of celebration?
The rabbi pauses outside the gates of a large home and a woman approaches him. Is it about the hushed secrets? As casually and indiscreetly as I can, I work my way forward until I’m close enough to catch the conversation.
“…no more wine.”
The comment darts like a hummingbird among the young men.
Eyebrows raise. Eyes widen. Mouths open.
How could they run out of wine?
Did the host not purchase enough?
Had they not expected the whole town to turn out?
I strain to hear the rabbi’s response. After all, what is he to do? He is a guest.
He looks down at the woman, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Mother, why should that concern me? — or you? My time hasn’t come yet.”
Ahh, his mother. But again, what does she expect him to do?
Yet she laughs. Then turns to the servants who accompany her. “Do whatever he tells you.” They give polite nods and wait for further instruction. The rabbi watches as she slips through the gates and disappears into the courtyard.
I hold my breath. Is he going to do something? There had been talk. That he had powers from God. But no one had seen him do anything in public yet.
Yet.
Others in the street slow and stop, adding to the gathering crowd.
The rabbi turns back to his small group of men and says something only they can hear. Oh, to be privy to his private comments. He then looks to the servants and to a row of tall jars standing along the wall next to the gates. To these he nods. “Fill them with water.”
Surprise blossoms on their faces. It quickly vanishes and they hurry away. Throughout the village, music still plays, conversations still buzz and laughter still breaks by those unaware of the crisis. Those of us who are aware, wait.
The servants return, carrying barrels of water, which they pour into the jars, then hurry away again. Three times they pour, until the six jars are filled. The rabbi steps closer and inspects each one. “Now draw some out.”
Again surprise covers their faces. And hesitation. But one of the servants plucks the ladle hanging next to the jars and dips it in. Another servant presents a cup to which the liquid is poured. Deep, rich, red liquid. Sparkling in the afternoon sun.
Gasps escape from the lips of everyone watching. Including mine.
Another smile plays on the rabbi’s lips. “Take it to the man in charge of the banquet.”
The other servants open the gates wide for the one with the cup to enter.
Of course the others follow. But slowly, because each one pauses to look into the jars and wonder at their contents.
I remain behind as the rabbi and his men go inside; I dare not be bold enough to enter the home. I glance around. From the folds of my cloak I pull out the chunk of bread I lifted from one of the servant’s trays when she wasn’t looking. I edge my way closer to the nearest jar and peak in. Dark red liquid reflects the sky above. I dip a corner of the bread into it. Red quickly soaks in. I bring it to my lips and taste. Spicy rich flavors fill my mouth.
Inside the house, the music pauses and hush falls.
I quickly retreat and climb up and sit a wall where I have a view of the gates.
Then a burst of joy, a shout carries through an open window. “Quickly, call the bridegroom. Bring him here.”
The rest is lost in the jubilation as the celebration starts up again. The musicians take up a lively tune that make one’s feet itch to tap and move.
The gates open and the servants return, shooing away those dipping fingers and tasting the wine. They pick up the jars and take them into the courtyard.
The news scampers with delight about the townspeople. Loud enough to be heard above the music, shouted from one to another across the street, proclaimed from the corners, told with awe and wonder.
From my perch on the wall, I watch the gates as I nibble on the rest of the wine soaked bread.
And wait.

Grace & Peace

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Miracles: This Man

This man. Jesus.

“Men of Isra’el! Listen to this! Yeshua from Natzeret (Jesus from Nazareth) was a man demonstrated to you to have been from God by the powerful works, miracles and signs that God performed through him in your presence. You yourselves know this. This man was arrested in accordance with God’s predetermined plan and foreknowledge; and, through the agency of persons not bound by the Torah, you nailed him up on a stake and killed him!
“But God has raised him up and freed him from the suffering of death; it was impossible that death could keep its hold on him.
Acts 2:22-24 (CJB)

As Oak Hills embarks on a series on the miracles of Jesus, I too want to take a closer look at this man, the one we call Savior, Messiah, the Christ. But I’d like to get up close and personal, to see the dust he raises as he walks, to see the sweat upon his brow, to see the emotion in his eyes. I’d like to hear to hear the murmurs, the cries, the arguments of the crowds. I’d like to see the miracles, talk to those Jesus healed, touch their healed bodies, hear their testimonies, and wonder at it all.

Yeshua (Jesus) went about all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and weakness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:35-36 (CJB)

I follow from a distance. For what would this Rabbi, this healer, this prophet have with me? But I, I want what he had to offer. So I follow. I have followed him from one little town to the next. Down dusty roads. Up steep inclines. Through ravines. Across rocky terrain. And I’m not the only one. With each town, this man, Jesus, adds to the number of people following after him.

If news of his arrival reaches the town before he does, which is often the case, the crowds come out to greet him. I usually find a place, something I can climb up, somewhere I see over the mass of humanity and watch. They bring with them everyone who is ill, those suffering from various diseases and pains, and even the demon possessed.

And he stops. He listens to each one. He touches them. And it happens. I’ve seen it. A lame man walks. A blind woman sees. A child with a withered hand is made whole. Even the ones tormented by evil spirits are freed. So many. So many. It’s amazing to watch.

I squint my eyes in the hot afternoon sun, shading them with a grimy hand, trying to get a glimpse of him through the swarming, pressing crowds. Several of his disciples stand around him and urge the people to leave some room, to keep a space cleared for him, to provide a place where he can teach. But the people are desperate. They are lost, overwhelmed, hurting, sick, broken, hopeless. And his words have Life. Power. Promise. So, they press in.

This town is different than the others. Natzeret. The crowds say its where he grew up. Surely the people must be excited to have him home. Undoubtedly they will have some sort of feast in his honor. Certainly he will do great things here.

He is speaking, but in this place, unlike the hillside outside the last town, his words do not carry enough for me to hear so far away. Against my better judgment, I slip between those in front of me. For my efforts I receive a jostle, an elbow in the face, a shove backward. But I’m not angry. They suspect who I am. And if they don’t, I know they, like me, must also want what he has to offer.

I cast a quick glance around the area, then scramble up and perch on the side of a nearby cart. I can see better, but instead of hearing him, I only hear the murmurs of those around me.

“Where do this man’s wisdom and miracles come from?” one man asks. But it’s skepticism in his voice, not curiosity.
“Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?” a young woman comments.
An older woman nods. “Isn’t his mother called Miryam? and his brothers Ya‘akov, Yosef, Shim‘on and Y’hudah?”
Heads bob up and down. And another woman adds, with a sweep of her hands toward a young women standing with a couple of older girls. “And his sisters, aren’t they all with us?”
A older man crosses his arms and glares toward Jesus and his disciples. “So where does he get all this?”

The murmurs work their way forward, jumping from lips to lips, until they reach the front.

From my adventageous position, I see him with a furrowed brow. He slowly turns, eyes moving from face to face. “Who will come?” he calls.

The crowd buzzes, but no one steps forward, no one cries out.
No one? No lame? No deaf? No demon possessed? Don’t they want healed? Don’t they want what he has to offer?

With a visible sigh, he shakes his head. “The only place people don’t respect a prophet is in his home town and in his own house.”

The crowd buzzes all the more loudly, like a swarm of angry bees. He says nothing more. He leaves, followed only by his disciples, and heads into town.

As the crowd disperses, I remain where I am. And I wonder.
Why could this man not perform any miracles in this place?

Grace & Peace

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On Prayer

One thing I continually come back to.
A conversation that truly never ceases.
An ongoing discussion.
A time of wrestling. A pouring out of pain.
A place of refuge. A sanctuary. A place of peace.
Cries for courage. Pleas for help. Appeals for justice.

Invocation.
Petition.
Intercession.
Supplication.
Call it what you will.

Prayer.

The thirst, the longing, the yearning, the hungering.
For more. For life. For mercy. For blessings. For gifts.
For He who is all in all. He who is our everything. He who is all we need.

It seems the more we consider, explore, study, learn, and practice,
the more we discover how much more there always is.
For prayer is not the thing. But the means, the method, the vehicle, to know
He who is beyond all knowing (Ephesians 3:18-19),
He who is unsearchable (Romans 11:33),
He who is beyond comprehension (Psalm 147:5),
He who is inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8).

Yet we are invited in.
To step behind the veil into the most holy place (Hebrews 6:19)
To confidently enter his presence (Ephesians 3:12)
To boldly approach his throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16)
To seek his face (1 Chronicles 16:11)
To pray about all the time and in every occasion (Ephesians 6:18)

He tells us to call to Him
and he will tell us unsearchable things we do not know (Jeremiah 33:3)
How great is that? How awesome? How unfathomable.
That our God desires our company and our conversation.

May our discussion with our Father, our Creator, our Author, our Perfecter,
continue
Pressing in, pressing on, to consider, explore, study, learn and practice.

Let us fall in step with the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.
The Psalmists, of course, in their poems, prayers, and songs in the book of Psalms
and so many others…
Prayer: Does it make any Difference (Philip Yancey)
Speak, Lord (Vic Black)
Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer (Max Lucado)
Fervent (Priscilla Shirer)
Power of Praying series (Stormie OMartian)
Draw the Circle (Mark Batterson)
Prayer (Timothy Keller)
Method for Prayer (Matthew Henry)
How to Pray (C.S. Lewis)
Prayer (A.W. Tozer)
Breakthrough Prayer (Jim Cymbala)
Power through Prayer (E.M. Bounds)
Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers (Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrave)
Sacred Pathways (Gary Thomas)

And let us pray, because our Savior did and does (Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:24-25))

Our Father in heaven,
    may we keep your name  holy in all we say and do
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, in our lives, in our hearts
    as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need, 
and forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
    but rescue us from the evil one
for yours is the power and glory and the honor forever
Amen

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Diversions

I started to write about distractions that interrupt my writing. But as I reviewed those things keeping me from writing, I realized they were diversions rather than distractions.

Distractions are pesky little critters that sidetrack me from what I’m working on. Draw me away from what I purposed to do. Divert me from the way set before me. Things like piles of laundry. Dirty bathrooms. Social media. Emails and text messages.

But diversions are what take me off my schedule. They are a part of life. In fact, they are what make up life. They may be planned (like a much needed vacation) and they may be unexpected (like an illness). Or a little bit of both. I cruise along in my writing goals, make some headway, see some progress, then suddenly there’s a diversion. And I have to reassess, replan and reengage.

During our planned trip to Pennsylvania, while spending time with family and working through dad’s task list, I still managed to finish the chapter synopsis for Mists of Time, (except for the final scenes, which I hadn’t finished yet) and the final edits of Wonder: Contemplating the Mysteries of God. I scheduled my writing time around the planned diversions.

When we returned home, I had a mini stay-retreat (as opposed to a stay-cation) when the guys went to Colorado for the weekend. Along with catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while (scheduled around my writing time), I also finished the final scenes of Mists of Time, wrote the synopsis, ordered a proof copy of Wonder, and set up some online marketing (Facebook page posts at this point) for Wonder‘s release in November.

Then the guys returned and the unplanned but expected diversions crept in. Good diversions. Life. Things I didn’t want to miss. But still, drawing me away from my writing goals.

My husband bought a new toy while in Colorado. A sailboat kayak. Something we saw years ago at a home and garden show in San Antonio. Since then, he’s wanted one. So he was very excited when his uncle found a used one for sale at an incredible price. Too good to pass up. Obviously, he brought it home.  And he was eager to get it out on the lake to try it out.

 

Me, I love kayaking and it’s hard to stay home and write when he’s out on the water. Especially Canyon Lake, my favorite place on the planet (right along with Guam and the Grand Tetons, but closer and with less bears). So, of course, I go.

 

Our youngest had one week left at home before returning to college. So, of course, I wanted to spend time with him before he left. We also had to make preps and plans to move him into his first apartment. Oh, and August always has birthdays to celebrate.

I’ve also had the joy of sharing wedding plans and preps with our son and future daughter-in-law. I’ve had a lot of fun hunting for treasures and discussing ideas with her as we eagerly look forward to the big day.

Life is good. Life is full. And oh the good things make it hard to pull away and write. With Mists done, I’ve been working on several proposals to send to agents and editors and I still need to finish (each one asks for something a little different). I’ve also noted areas in Mists to edit/change and I still need to finish. I have the second book in the series outlined and sixty percent of it written and I still need to finish. I have the first book of another series roughly outlined, ready to flesh out. And I still need to finish.

And since they won’t write themselves (well, they kind of do, when I actually sit down at the computer, but that’s another blog altogether), I have to choose wisely how and where I spend my time. So many stories, so little time. I set my goals. I make my plans. Knowing diversions will come.

Good diversions. Things I don’t want to miss out on.

Yet still, so many stories, so little time.

A quick end note, diversions have the capacity to help the creative juices. While kayaking, I came up with the location and new beginning of one of my very first novel series ideas. I’m kind of excited. It’s like that first love that slipped away come back to visit again. Or, is it another diversion from the things I’m working on?

Distractions. Diversions. And so many stories. So little time.

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Living Wisely and Well

     Recently, a sweet friend left this life and stepped into the presence of our Lord. We, along with a crowd of family and friends attended her celebration of life this past weekend. And surely as I’m sitting her, I know there was a great crowd of witnesses welcoming her home. For she knew, as cancer ravaged the clay vessel of her temporary dwelling, she had an eternal home with a heavenly body waiting for her.

Although we celebrate the indescribably and glorious joy set before her, we also mourn, as I know she must have when she first received her death sentence, her diagnosis of cancer. We mourn because we have eternity set in our hearts and we long for death to be swallowed up in victory. We mourn because we know we have been created for more than this, more than suffering, more than disease, more than death. So we groan (and mourn) with all of creation, awaiting redemption, awaiting for all things to be made new.

As I joined others in the worship and the message (my friend wanted the focus to be on our Savior and not on herself) we couldn’t help but contemplate, appreciate, participate in the bitter blessing she was given to live out in her finals years. For she was more aware of the coming day when her life on this earth would be done.

We all know our days have been numbered and the Lord knows each one, but we are not always privy to that news. Too often our life here is done before we had the chance to do it well. We are too busy striving, too busy planning, too busy worrying to truly live.

Jesus had a few words to say about that. And they comfort us when things are hard. They seem a nice thought for one day, when things settle down. But now. Well, we’ve got this and that and the other.

My friend however, knowing she was not promised the years to come, lived life big, lived life abundantly, lived life colorful and lived life well. In doing so, she also died well.

As I wiped the tears from my eyes, my heart was challenged, my soul convicted, my spirit confronted. How will I live each day? That thing I’m afraid of, will I take the leap? (my friend went skydiving!). That thing I’ve been putting off, will I do? (my friend did the things now she knew she couldn’t do later). That conversation I’ve been avoiding, will I speak? (my friend always asked the hard questions).

The choice, as I consider my friend’s life and death, is to do as she did, to set aside the Chayei sha’ah, the fleeting life, and embrace Chayei olam, the lasting life. To live life well.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. 
Psalm 90:12 (NLT)

Scriptures referenced:
crowd of witnesses – Hebrews 12:1
clay vessel, temporary dwelling, eternal home, heavenly body – 2 Corinthians 5:1-4
eternity set in our hearts – Ecclesiastes 3:11
death to be swallowed up in victory – 1 Corinthians 15:4
groan with all creation – Romans 8:22
Lord knows each one – Psalm 139:16
Jesus had a few words – Matthew 6:25-34

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