Saturday, April 28, 2018

Writing in Order to Speak It Out!!!

During the Lenten season,  February 14 - April 1, 2018,  I was asked to speak at two church events.

The first 'ask' was to prepare a reflection (which would be given during the time of a Gospel sermon) at a Woman's Mass at the church where I facilitate evening Bible Scripture studies. The Gospel passage was from John 4, an account of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at a well in Samaria.

I did not write out that message other than in 'bullet points' I used when speaking from the podium. The Holy Spirit took care of the rest! 

The second request came as 5 of us planned a half day retreat at the same church. The retreat would culminate our Scripture study of the Book of Acts - such a tremendous study!

I was asked to share the same reflection as I had done at the Woman’s Mass. In preparing, I ended up revising the reflection, not the message,  to be more in tune with our retreat theme.

The last sentence in the Book of Acts, as Luke writes of Paul, is this:

“He remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”(NABE)

STM Bible Studies Retreat
Saturday, April 21, 2018
Theme: “Proclaim the Kingdom of God Without Hindrances”
 (Book of Acts)
Reflection:  Lynn Severance

There can be a variety of reasons we may feel hindered in ‘proclaiming’ the kingdom of God. Some that come to my mind are:

  1. As I am not a priest or pastor, what could I say that others would find credible? 
  1. Those in Scripture who did ‘proclaim with vigor’ cause me to feel I am not as they were in the ways I communicate.
  1. We can question ourselves and our own gifts when we compare ourselves to others.

We will find answers if we go to the One who gave each of us unique gifts that are meant to be shared.

Isaiah is one of the books in the Old Testament that is filled with prophecies. We read of their fulfillment in the New Testament. Here is a favorite of mine.

They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. (Isaiah 49:10) NIV

Isn’t this what we are seeking when we want to proclaim God and who He is to us? We need guidance. We need confidence that how we are led by the Holy Spirit, is the way He wants us to follow. We each have individual unique God given gifts that are our ways of proclaiming God’s Kingdom.

In the New Testament book of John, he shares about a woman we know only as the Samaritan woman at the well.

It was on one particular day, in the heat of that day at noon, she came to draw water from the well. There she met Jesus but she had yet to recognize him for who He is. Jesus, however, knew all there was to know about her (even the gifts she had yet to recognize in herself). 

John 4:14    
Jesus said to her:
those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. . . .it will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. 

Just as Isaiah foretold: He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.

The Samaritan woman had walked through the dusty roads of her town that day to get to the well around noon. The morning hours were (in her mind) for the women unlike her, ones with families who used those morning times to share of their lives and, most likely, gossip. Perhaps they had even gossiped about her! 

She had walked through many dusty roads in her life. 

There was a dusty emptiness in her heart, a tired heart not yet aware of how to rightly satisfy the deep needs in her soul.

It was at a ‘well’ on that one day, an ordinary day (or so it seemed ) that all that changed for her.

We read in the Old Testament these words from Proverbs 18:4b

The wellspring of wisdom is as a flowing brook.

We read in the New Testament Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman: 

“. . .those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. . . it will become in them a spring of water gushing up . . .

Isn’t that what we are promised when we come to know Jesus? 

He is the flowing, living water gushing up and his wisdom is what we seek if we are to ‘proclaim the Kingdom of God without hindrances”.

Jesus’ life had been one lived, at times, in dusty turmoil as he walked dirt roads under the hot sun proclaiming the Kingdom of God. He, and what he had to share, was often rejected but He knew what his Father had asked of him. What the Father gave him to share is what he preached. 

For each of us he suffered a journey through a dusty road that led to betrayal, a false trial, scourging and ultimately condemnation to death via Crucifixion. It was a road that led to our deliverance from sin with his victory in a Resurrection defying death. It became a reconciliation for us to our God. It opened the doorway to the wellspring of Living Waters that He is for us.  

Jesus appeared to his apostles a few times after his Resurrection. He let them know that He soon would be returning to His Father. They panicked. How could they do as He asked without him present with them?

As we read in Acts, He said He had to return to the Father so He could send his Holy Spirit to dwell within each of them - His Spirit, the wellspring of living waters continually flowing and gushing up and with wisdom to meet each of their needs. 

Once we come to know him; choose to accept him and all He did for us,

He dwells within the well of each of our hearts. 

He is ever ready for us to meet with him there. He will reveal the unique gifts we have that will help us know how to share - not compare ourselves to  anyone else - but recognize and accept gifts we have been given to proclaim the Kingdom without hindrances.

But we walk dusty roads in our lives. There have been and are events and challenges in each of our lives that can get us so tied up in turmoil in our minds, it can become more than a dusty road but one huge whirlwind of a dust storm. 

We grasp for answers in a panic much as the apostles felt when Jesus told them He had to leave. We scoot here and there in our mind wanting understanding, relief, answers. The noise of turmoil is deafening. It can block out the still small voice in our heart that is wooing us out from the mind-blinding turmoil. And don’t we, as women, love to be wooed!!

The Holy Spirit dwells within the well of our hearts
 not in our minds. 

He longs to meet with us in that quiet place where we can hear him.

It was quiet when the Samaritan woman met Jesus at the well. It was just the two of them. He knew her needs and the words that He would say that He wanted her to hear.  And she did hear. Her life and life direction was changed that day  - just an ordinary day (or so it seemed). 

Later this morning each of us will have some quiet time to reflect, time to be alone and, if desired, to journal the thoughts that come to us.

Let’s pray for one another that we each will meet the Holy Spirit in our heart and allow him to bring us refreshing waters of wisdom and guidance. He alone can share with us what He wants us to know. 

May each of us approach that time knowing He will have something to say and we will be quiet enough to hear!   


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Excerpt #37 Let All Creation Sing!

19. Let All Creation Sing! 

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. 
Praise the Lord. (Psalm 150: 6) 

When God created his works of creation, He declared everything He made as very good (Genesis 1: 31). In Psalm 150, every part of God’s creation is exhorted to give him praise. God is immutable, incapable of changing (James 1: 17; Hebrews 13: 8). He looks upon the good in his creation, yet acknowledges the evil that exists from the ways mankind has marred his work.

 In Hannah Hurnard’s book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places, the heroine, Much-Afraid, is on a journey guided by her loving Shepherd. As she travels, God’s creation is prominent in the lessons she learns as she encounters flowers, waterfalls, rainbows, mountains, and deserts. 

My perspective thrives when I read this book. It handed me strengthening lessons before chronic illness became my constant companion. Now, insights go deeper with each reading, encouraging me to stay focused and strong. 

One lesson connects to Psalm 150. 

Much-Afraid discovers a single small flower in the desert. It is sustained by keeping its face toward the sun and drinking an occasional drip of water coming from a leak in a pipe. The flower’s name is Acceptance-With-Joy

Unlike mankind, all other creation dwells contentedly in being. Its existence breathes out its praise. Mankind alone chooses if he will respond. From a worldly perspective, this is often viewed merely through one’s accomplishments.

God asks that we be content in him. He looks on each heart’s intent. There is a place and a balance for both accomplishments and stillness. I am not to shy away from tasks He equips me to perform but they do not identify me. He does. I often need renewal in understanding this as there are limitations to what I can now do. 

I want to accept with joy each season in my life. My Creator asks that I turn my face upward to be nourished by him. Throughout all seasons, one constant remains for me.

 I am his.

This is my praise and He declared everything 
He made as very good!

Lord, I join in the chorus of your loving creation that praises you with joy! May you delight in the gift of songs that breathe out our thanksgiving. Amen.

Lynn L. Severance. “Seeking the Light of God's Comforter When Challenges Dim Our View” 19. “Let All Creation Sing!” Redemption Press.