Tag Archives: Jesus

At the Name of Jesus, Advent 2

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me.” (John 15:26 NIV)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.” (John 14:16 ESV)

(Advocate, sometimes translated as helper, comforter or counsellor, is parakletos in the Greek of the New Testament, and means the one who stands beside you in a court of law)

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At the Name of Jesus, Advent Day 1

For this Advent season I will be sharing a little artwork based on names of Jesus in the Bible, and relevant verses to ponder.

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27 NIV)

Landscape of Love 96: Well

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Here is our shortcut to the underswell, our drawing up of the sweet holy water, the bucket swaying seductively with its load of comely coolness. And the holy man wipes the sweat from his forehead and sits half shaded, so we cannot quite make out his face, as he asks for someone else to serve him. We sashay over, unabashed, until meeting those thirsty eyes makes an honest woman of us. And all of us fall at those feet, pour out our fragrance, weep on them, dry the sweet sinless flesh with our dusty hair, and run to fetch clean, pure water, that we both offer up and drink down, and which sets us free from all unholy desires. We no longer hold our chin up, but level, no longer sink into the sand in shame, but see our worth. We leave our brazen boldness behind and seek to be desired differently, stumbling in our haste to tell of this treasure, thirst slaked by meeting the Truth face to face.

 

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from Pixabay

 

Landscape of Love 94: Shoreline

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Weary feet sinking into dark demerara sand, and the sweetness pushes up between my toes. Waves crashing and rolling unstoppably to kiss where my legs and ankles meet, soaking the joining places. Wind whispers stored in abundance in the emptiness of scattered hells, softly saying, “the sea, the sea,” remembering all the forgotten words of Iris and all the writers who have stood here before and listened. And you, dearest you, cross legged a little way back, cooking breakfast on the brazier, looking over to where I am. The smile that breaks into dawning across your face, lights up the sky, and catches the dull ache of my heart in your net, lifting it, like the seagull suddenly caught above us in a thermal of grace.

 

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from Pixabay

Veil of Tears 108: Wrestling

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So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” Genesis 32:24 NIV

Wrestling was quite popular in the UK when I was small. Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy were what passed as celebrities back then, which really just meant they got to open supermarkets and appear on Tiswas. They seemed like gentle, wobbly giants to me, and whilst partly staged, the matches were not at all like the colourful over-the-top theatre that we now see in the WWF so popular in the States.

Wrestling with ourselves and with God often seems less dramatic than you might imagine as well. It can feel dark and lonely, those long nights where you are not sure if you are in a half Nelson with yourself or your maker. Where you are so tired, so worn out by the fight, that your aching spiritual muscles don’t know if they can take the stretched pain any more. And at the end, when day finally breaks, you may be left unsure if you have encountered God or not, unsure what his parting words may mean, and finding yourself with a lifelong limp for your troubles.

But to be sure, every genuine and determined seeker after the heart of God will experience such troubles. We will wrestle with our conscience, with our desires, with our ideas about who God is, and perhaps most of all with our egos.

And whilst we sit and lick our wounds, or nurse our confusion, or feel the dull ache in our thigh, we may find we too have come out of the other side of the night with a new name, a reconciliation on the horizon, and a new identity as an overcomer. Interestingly, it is our ability to overcome which is also the reason we are given new names by Jesus in Revelation.

Might our new names be fit for celebrity wrestlers, I wonder? But the ring in which we continue at times to struggle has no cameras, no bunting or fans, no glitter-spangled leotards (thank God), no energy for chutzpah. Instead it is endurance, sticking it out, holding on in the dark, keeping the faith, hoping against hope for our blessings when life has bodyslammed all the wind out of us, these are the ways to real victory, though the fight takes its toll and the dawn light may at first seem cold.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

Veil of Tears 105: Unwashed

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The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.” Mark 7:1 NIV

There is an apocryphal story that surfaces on social media every so often of a pastor, newly appointed to a church, and largely unknown there, who turns up at a service a week before his induction disguised as a tramp. He is covered in ragged clothing and he smells. Though one or two people are kind, he is given a wide berth, snubbed and generally made to feel unwelcome, before being asked to leave. The following week he comes in as the new church leader and tells the congregation what he did to shame them into seeing the unwashed with new eyes.

I doubt the story is true, and I’m not sure that shaming is a particularly kind teaching method, but the fact that this could be true, ought to get everyone thinking who participates in any kind of community that professes to have Christ at its centre.

I don’t believe there is any record of Jesus ever being disgusted by anyone’s outer appearance, gender, race or hygiene. The only thing that seemed to revolt him was the stink of self-righteousness that he found most strongly radiating from the religious people of the day, from the Pharisees in particular. He spent time with tavern keepers, lepers, prostitutes, homeless people, disabled people, loose women, the deranged and the possessed. In short, with all those the “good” people deemed unclean and would not associate with.

He hung around with them, befriended them, taught them, healed them and forgave them when it was necessary. He and his crowd of travelling followers, often dusty and sweaty in the Middle East heat, were no doubt a bit wild and unkempt like the prophets of old, like John the Baptist who heralded Jesus’ arrival clothed in camel’s hair and with bits of honeyed locust in his beard. They were social pariahs, not the goody-two-shoes keeping-their-noses-clean puritanical religious elite.

You know what else? I don’t think Jesus’ robe was white that often. I think he probably needed (by our western modern running water standards) more trips to the river (bath/laundrette) and that he and twelve other blokes walking miles across the whole of Judea, with or without the hundreds of other followers of this strange parochial Rabbi, probably sweated and whiffed a bit on occasion. I think some of them probably swore now and again. I think that they were human and I like that idea.

I also think that if we get caught up in constantly cleaning ourselves on the outside and worrying incessantly about whether we are in a state of grace nor not, that we will spend too much time washing and confessing and not enough time relating and laughing with, learning from, adoring and pondering God. Besides which, if we leave our feet dusty, perspiring and tired, and admit they are made of clay, we might just find our Saviour-friend taking them in his hands over a bowl of water, giving us rest from our toil and removing the burdens from our striving shoulders.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

Veil of Tears 103: Incarcerated

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So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.” Genesis 39:20 NLT

Today is Nelson Mandela Day (18th July). Whenever I read about people like Joseph who were imprisoned on false charges or unfair accusations or lies, or even those who have committed small crimes but been given horrendous sentences, I think of those 27 years of imprisonment that Mr Mandela underwent. He must have, like Joseph, and like Jeremiah in his cistern, have wondered if he would die there, the hope of release must have seemed forlorn and unlikely.

Others of us are imprisoned in different ways of course, in abusive relationships, tough marriages or in bodies that make us feel less than human. Many of my friends with severe M.E. are living in a world of one room, weak as they are, unable to feed or wash themselves, let alone get outside. I see my wheelchair as an enabling thing, but then, I am not confined to it all day like so many people, who perhaps feel imprisoned.

Still others of course, feel imprisoned by debt, by circumstances, by their pasts, or even by guilt and regret. There are so many things that can make us feel that desire for liberation from the chains that hold us back. And many of my fellow Christians will proclaim that by Jesus’ blood we are free, we are saved from all these bondages. And that is undoubtedly true in a whole heap of ways. But knowing that is not always tantamount to securing the tangible reality of it. And some of us are kept in our small or difficult circumstances, indeed in our real prisons or penitentiaries, for a very long time, long after we have come to faith. This is not because the power of God is not working in our lives, but because it is working unseen. Invisible miracles happen in prisons of various kinds every minute of every day.

Rays of sunshine can penetrate the heart wherever we are. Hope can live in the most arid and desperate conditions, and faith can flourish in small and impoverished circumstances. There is fruit still there to be borne. How many times do we hear of prisoners finding Jesus whilst behind bars? And how can we deny that miracles happened in that small cell on Robyn Island, where a peaceful, gentle and wise humility was created from a passionate rebel heart? If we give our yes to love, to God, then powerful transformations can occur in these cells of isolation. The desert fathers and mothers understood this well, self-imposing constrictions, as monks and nuns continue to do today.

Indeed, as citizens of heaven we might well say that our very bodies and our present circumstances are our cells, fidelity to which, as Abba Moses counselled, was the way to spiritual knowledge. “Go, sit in your cell,” he would say, “And your cell will teach you everything.”

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

Landscape of Love 90: Circus

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The plates spin and the sweat beads on the brow under the harsh yet inadequate lighting. The speed of each circle on its axis all within a greater ring, enclosed and concentrated, the fear, the tension, the potential for ceramic disaster feeds contagion, and the audience all hold plastic chair edges with clammy curled fingers. To one side of this manufactured solar system, something star-like catches my eye, bright Middle Eastern warmth clothed in white. Up, out of my seat, flown to in outrageous love and melded with, heart to heart. Everything else flung to the purgatory of periphery. Here is the centrifugal force pinpointed, centred, begun. Here is the life-changing, heart singing, joy-giver. Here is the main attraction and the ringmaster, in whom all things hold together. Knock those plates flying! Come as partying Greeks and dash them to the ground! Spin and struggle and juggle no more! Hold fast only to the one thing that matters and be love, oh be love!

 

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from Pixabay

 

Veil of Tears 100: Aging

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in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed,” Ecclesiastes 12:3

It seems appropriate to pause on our hundredth day of looking at human misery and hope and wish ourselves a happy “century” by looking at old age. Here we have dear Eccles again, with a humorous metaphor of the aging body as a house or mill that is slowly coming to a frail halt. The limbs begin to shake, the back bows, the teeth are few, and the eyesight is not what it used to be. No it is not much fun getting older.

And yet… the Bible also tells us that there are compensations:

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness,” (Proverbs 16:31 NIV) How different from the world’s insistence that we dye away every sign of grey and trim every unruly hair! The worldly, fleshly view places all the value and glory on the young, the good-looking, the fit and healthy, but it misses the treasure as always, of wisdom and insight and experience. We are forever asking questions about how to “do” church better, what vision to follow, how to be better disciples of Christ. Do we stop and ask the advice of those who have seen far more than we have, who have watched trends come and go and who have settled into a deeper place untouched by the ungodly ways of shifting culture?

Not all older people have chosen the path of wisdom of course, and one can find many who are entrenched in bitterness or so set in their ways that there is little good advice to be gleaned from their conversation. But so many have wonderful stories, almost whole lives to share with us, if we will just take the time to listen, to really listen, to watch the gleam in the eye and see the years fall to one side as they speak their histories and tales.

Another advantage to getting older is that we start to care less about the opinion of the world and of others, we hear the critical voices far less, and this can set us free to hear the deeper, more affirming word of God in our lives. It really can feel like a liberation to realise that we are no longer beholden to this temporal kingdom and can look further into an eternity that begins now and is all about love and encouragement. And sometimes, just sometimes, we meet an elderly person so close to that newness burgeoning within them, that their skin is translucent, not with age or frailty, but with becoming. And that is a signpost to heaven.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

99: Trying too Hard

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What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 2:22 NIV

It is good to work. If you are blessed with having found work, especially the work you feel God prepared in advance for you to do, as Paul expresses it in Ephesians, then you are a fortunate person indeed. The writer of the book of Eccles (as you know by now I call it) is not keen on the idea of work, labour or storing things up for oneself. He rightly tells us that we can’t take any of it with us when we die, that life is short and that most of it seems pretty pointless.

He’s not the cheeriest of chaps, really, old Eccles. I am not sure I’d want to spend a great deal of time with him. I don’t think he’d be one of my choices in that game of fantasy dinner guests. And yet, when I am feeling low, I agree with him. If I am down and exhausted, the thing I’m most likely asking myself is “What’s the point?” It can feel like all the pain and effort, all the trying, all the striving, is all for nothing. Even the things that I enjoy doing, like writing and art, seem like just so much chaff blowing away on the wind.

Perhaps the best thing we can do with this realisation is to embrace it. There really is no point storing up earthly wealth, so that ambition can be let go. Being poor is not a lot of fun though, and debt leads to a great many problems as well as terrible stress, and perhaps this wasn’t something that preoccupied the writer of Eccles that much as he is widely believed to be King Solomon, who wasn’t exactly short of a bob or two. So, once needs are met, we might say, there is not much point chasing after wealth or status for its own sake.

So what is worth striving for? What is worth going after? Fame? Wisdom? Pleasure? No, our advisor doesn’t find these things worth the trouble either. So what then? What is that pearl of great price that Jesus mentions? That treasure that is so great that we should immediately go and sell all we have to procure?

When I think about this, I think of Moses. He lived to the ripe old age of 120 with none of his faculties diminished, after having spent 40 years maturing, another 40 regretting a crime and becoming humble, and finally 40 years serving the Lord faithfully. And yet at the end of all that, he did not get to enter the Promised Land with his people.

We might well say his reward was to come later. That he was to enter a different Promised Land and walk with his God. Yes, that’s true. But for Moses, that eternity had already begun. He was already walking with God, and more intimately than with anyone else who had come before, it seems.

he said, “Listen to my words:

“When there is a prophet among you,

I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,

I speak to them in dreams.

But this is not true of my servant Moses;

he is faithful in all my house.

With him I speak face to face,

clearly and not in riddles;

he sees the form of the Lord.” Numbers 12: 6-8 NIV

Likewise, when Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus sits at the feet of Jesus to adore him and learn from him, Jesus calls this “the one necessary (or needful) thing.” Relationship with the Lord, then is the key to the meaning of life. This is where we begin our eternity and how we are led deeper into it. In gazing more and more at the Lord of all things, into the heart of love itself, the more the peripery, the other fields, the lesser pearls, all fade into nothingness and we can be sure that we have found something meaningful under the sun, something worth pursuing, worth going after. And the best thing is that it is not something we need to strive for, but something that we simply choose.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NIV

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay