Following The Leader…

After hearing about all they had done, Jesus tells the apostles, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). The apostles listened and set out in a boat with Jesus away from where they were. However, word traveled and when they arrived at the deserted place, it was no longer that, for the crowd had followed.

Now it may seem like the apostles’ condition was no better in terms of stepping away with Jesus and getting some rest, but this is not the case. While the place that was to be deserted is now busy with a crowd of people, all in need of good works, we do not read about the apostles, who had been ministering to the needs of others prior to getting in the boat, forging ahead. They do not take it upon themselves, nor does Jesus tell them or lead them, to change course or carry on and keep working without rest. Rather, Jesus takes over, as always, ministering to the needs of the people.

Jesus takes care of both the apostles’ needs and those of all in the crowd—those who follow him. Just the same, when we seek to follow The Leader, one way or another, all that we honestly need is taken care of and provided, and the work, or rest, for us to do becomes clear.

Jesus sees all that is going on, and knows what is best.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

                                                                                                – Mark 6:30-34

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Packing for the Trip…

From the first days of school I remember carrying with me a lunch box and backpack. Over time, the backpack got bigger and heavier as the items needed for each day became more numerous… a variety of school supplies for writing, calculating, and measuring; more books and folders; outer wear, sports gear, etc. A major part of being prepared and ready to go each school day, which eventually turns into each work day, involves packing for “the trip.”

It is hard to imagine going out for even a few hours, yet alone a whole day or more, without taking a bag and bringing along some provisions. However, Jesus instructs his disciples to carry only the clothes they are wearing on their backs, refraining from the business of traveling with a packed bag. He tells them to focus not on what they think they need—security (food, luggage, clothing, and money), but rather on what is really needed for any journey worth taking—trust.

While security offers a path that is thought to be safe and perhaps predictable, it often comes at the expense of what is good for the soul. On the other hand, trust, when placed appropriately… prayerfully, leads to a path that not only preserves the glory of God within, but also lifts the soul to new heights.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

– Mark 6:7-13

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For Goodness Sake…

Whether the day might seem to be stale or crying out with possibility, there is goodness to be experienced as well as exercised. As with many things, it is a matter of choice, and while the world may offer plenteous choices, oftentimes they can be boiled down to simply two. As Abraham Maslow stated, “In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.”

When Jesus went back to the place of his roots, the people could have stepped forward, received his words, and taken them to heart. However, according to the Gospel of Mark (6:1-6), the majority overwhelmingly chose to cling to the past—the known, barring them from even giving his words and his way a chance for consideration.

So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. – Mark 6:5

Despite what he encountered, within an environment so rigid and resistant, we are told that the glory of God was still at work through Jesus for those who were open to it… for those who had faith.

In Psalm 34, verse 8, it is written, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in the Lord.” Like Jesus, we are called to be unwavering in our efforts to taste and see the goodness of God, as well as to allow it to live through us. Like Jesus, we need to let go of I, me, and mine… you, them, and us, and to truly let God be front and center, leading the way.

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Cloaked in Courage…

A long time ago, there was a woman with an illness for which there seemed to be no cure. She tried everything she could possibly try within the realm of conventional or traditional practices. However, the only changes were negative as both the condition of her health, and her wealth, continued to suffer.

After being through so much over the course of many years, the woman was moved to try something not only different, but also bold and new. It would take courage, especially given the times in which she lived and her status in society. It would also require a great leap of faith. However, as nervous or afraid as she might have felt, when she considered all things, deep down she knew that trying more of the same, would only lead to further suffering. She came to see that she needed to do something different, so she did, and it made all the difference.

Oftentimes, steadfastness can be confused with, or perhaps too tightly associated with, choices that are “conventional” or “traditional.” Yet, when looking through the eyes of faith and one’s experience along with tradition, and Scripture, God’s steadfastness is not stagnant, nor is it ever tied to the “rules” of the time, space, or place in which one might find themselves.

In many ways, and as seen through all of Scripture, including the life and ministry of Jesus, God is always present as well as constantly evolving. At the same time, God calls each of us to evolve, too.

The woman who suffered with hemorrhages for twelve years certainly had faith. We can also surmise that she had been praying all that time too in addition to seeking medical help. However, her healing only came when she listened deep within, took courage, did the unconventional, and touched the cloak of Jesus.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to Jesus,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?'”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
approached in fear and trembling.
She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.
Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” – Mark 5: 25-34,

Back to the Garden…

Sometimes when you dream
Your dreams come true.
In extraordinary ways
Suddenly, a day can be so amazing.
And sometimes when you yearn, you burn the air.
And then you are not the same.
And the world is. – Mindi Dickstein

Many dreams begin from broad aspirations. They may also include visions of idyllic outcomes along the way. Yet life seldom works that way.

In the beginning, there was the Garden of Eden. It was sheer perfection, beauty beyond comparison. Then it was lost. However, it was not irretrievably lost. While it would never be the same again, the Spirit behind it would always be reachable, always waiting to inspire, embolden, and strengthen those who might seek to live in it.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God. – Isaiah 49:4

As we go through life, it is hard to go after one’s dreams and to work at being the best version of you, you can be. Many things may warrant our attention. Sometimes they can pull us in directions that are unexpected or unwanted. However, even within these tangents, the Garden of Eden often lies. The key is to remember, it is up to us, in each situation, even in the ugliest of ones, to search for the truth, beauty and knowledge that it may hold within, and to do all we can to let it grow.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott

 

Sowing Seeds…

If I take a stone and throw it across the top of still water, immediately I can see the ripples caused by the impact of the stone. Depending on how quiet my surroundings are, I might also be able to hear the impact. Furthermore, having previously experienced the sight and sound of a stone skipping across water, even if I could not see and hear the affect, I would still be able to envision it. The way the mind works is interesting, and our ability to remember, to make associations, and to imagine, can be of great value.

As we enter Father’s Day weekend, I find myself thinking about the fact that so much of life comes down to what one values. Whether working independently, with a partner, or in a larger group, it is always that which is valued most, that has the greatest impact on what you sow, and therefore, what you reap. In chapter 4 of the Gospel of Mark (verses 26-34), Jesus is essentially telling the crowds, when you sincerely respect and value God, what you sow, that is both your words and your deeds, reflect God’s ways, producing more than you can envision and reaching much farther than your wildest dreams.

Whether or not you can see the ripples in the water or the fruit from the seed, have faith, they are there.

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Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

– Mark 4:26-34

 

On the Edge, Greatness…

At the beginning of the week, as I looked out the window and scanned the back yard, I spotted a doe, yes, “a dear, a female deer,” at the edge of the grass path that leads to the woods. Although tempted to step away to get my camera to try to capture the moment, instead I stayed and watched. For quite some time the doe just stood there in its peaceful, patient way, nibbling at the leaves of a branch. Every so often it lifted its head to glance all around, surveying and taking in the environment with its big, beautiful, pensive eyes. Then, in what seemed like a flash, it was gone, heading off deeper into the woods.

Thinking about this experience, I am struck by the faith that is needed to go into, or to return to, the wilderness. Yet, it is this very same faith that calls creation to the place that is less familiar, less comfortable, or perhaps altogether unknown. Even more, it is the same faith that assures us, moving us toward peace and patience, and helping us to know, we are never alone.

True faith awakens and arises us, calling us closer to the edge, and whispering: Come. Come deeper into the mystery that is God.

In Every Age by Janet Sullivan Whitaker

Long before the mountains came to be
and the land and sea and stars of the night,
through the endless seasons of all time,
you have always been,
you will always be.

In ev’ry age, O God,
you have been our refuge.
In ev’ry age, O God,
you have been our hope.

Teach us to make use of the time we have.
Teach us to be patient even as we wait.
Teach us to embrace our ev’ry joy and pain.
To sleep peacefully,
and to rise up strong.

In ev’ry age, O God,
you have been our refuge.
In ev’ry age, O God,
you have been our hope.

You have been our refuge
You have been our hope.

OnTheEdgeGreatness