I Got A Rock

by Kristen Torres

I love to watch the classic Peanut Gang movies every holiday. In “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”, when Charlie Brown goes trick-or-treating with his friends wearing a ghost costume with a few too many holes, he has the same unenthusiastic response as he leaves each house, “I got a rock.”  Unlike Charlie Brown, I love collecting rocks! Whether it be a casual walk, a hike in the woods with family, a vacation spot, or simply a memorable moment, I love to find just the right rock for the occasion!

stagnantRecently, I had the opportunity to go on a staff retreat…a true retreat. While taking some personal time to reflect and practice the presence of God, I meandered through God’s glorious creation and, of course, collected a couple of rocks. One rock was found near a pool of stagnant water and the other one near a vibrant stream.

In Altar’d, we are reminded that “in the symbol language of Scripture, a rock is the symbol for Jesus and water is the Holy Spirit.” (p. 170) Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38) flowing

On my walk and talk with the Lord, I listened…a lot. I thanked Him that His Spirit in me does not look like a stagnant and mucky pool of water (rock #1) and I recognized, once again, the precious gift of Living Water flowing through me (rock #2).

Near the end of the trail, when I found a patch of moss shaped like a heart, the Spirit led me to hum the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Over time, I’ve found many rocks for my collection but none more precious than the Rock of Ages.

moss

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace;

streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come;

and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God;

he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!

Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;

here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

Leaning In

Last weekend, we were able to visit our daughter and her family in Louisiana. Theirs is a busy life full of the activities of four children, ages 3 months to 7 years. I love my time with them.

Their 7 year old, Jonathan, is my first grandchild. He is a typical first child and all boy. I’m not sure there is anything he thinks he cannot do. “I’ll do it Nana!” or “I can do it Nana!” filter our every conversation. His tremendously strong will has served him well and, yes, there are so many things he can do – all by himself! However, there really are some things his seven year old self cannot do and there are some things that he could do better with some help and instruction. God has His hand on him and I know He will use every dab of who he is to make Jonathan the man He wants him to be.

When Sunday came, he opted to miss children’s worship and sat by me in “big church.” He sang, completed his handout from Bible study, and, as the hour went by, he continued to scoot closer and closer to me. Soon, he was tucked under my arm and leaning on me with the weight of his entire 7 year old, strong willed, active body. “Oh how I love this boy!” I whispered to God. My heart was full and I could feel the peace in his. That may be my favorite memory of the weekend.

When I came home, back to my Altar’d challenge, that phrase “lean in” continued to jump out to me. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, in Altar’d, said “When I live by faith in Jesus, I live by the faith of Jesus. Jesus expresses His own faith through me when I rest the weight of my personality on Him. Lean in.” (Page 52)

Instead of leaning in, I surely must be pushing in. All me. That is a picture completely different from what I experienced with Jonathan. So much of me is like my oldest grandchild. I might as well be saying “I’ll do it God,” or “I can do it God!” Even my obedience to Him is a task I have given to my flesh. “I am choosing to obey. Now do it flesh!”

Oh, but Philippians 2:13 says “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

The Message says it this way. “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God Himself willing and working at what will give Him the most pleasure.”

My flesh has deceived me and made me exhausted as a result! This pocket of flesh is crucified in Him – I’m leaning in!

When did Jesus Suffer?

“Jesus had no unrighteousness because He never let unrighteousness take root…But as a human, He had needs and instincts through which unrighteousness can enter. This is why He could be tempted.” (Altar’d, page 115)

Because He never let unrighteousness take root, He did not sin. In Altar’d, Jennifer Kennedy Dean writes, “Sin has no access to God and He is completely immune to it”,  (Altar’d, page 111). That is true. However, Jesus was fully human and sin DID have access to Him.

Jesus was tempted. The most notable account is in Luke 4 when He was tempted by the devil for forty days. Certainly, that was not the only time He was tempted. Those human needs and instincts were with Him for His entire life on earth. I guess I’ve always thought of Jesus flicking temptation away like a pesky flea. The temptation came because He was fully man but at the same time He was fully God so in my thinking, He did what God does and it was over.

That is not what scripture says!

“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

38blogphotoWhen I think of Jesus suffering, I think of Him suffering on the cross, which He did! But He suffered more than that. Scripture says He learned obedience through His suffering (Hebrews 5:8-9). Ultimately, all of the suffering made Him ready to be “obedient to death – even death on the cross” (Philippians 2:2) becoming the author of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). All that suffering was before the cross, in preparation for the cross!

In my un-altar’d state I try desperately to flick temptation away like I thought Jesus did. After all, I ought to be able to do that since He is in me. And here I am again, trying harder, instead of dying deeper. When I do that, I am still living under the law. The law tells us what we should be doing but does not provide the power needed to do it. “The law came to the flesh from the outside, demanding obedience but not providing the power to obey”, (Altar’d, page 119).

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.” Romans 8:3-4 MSG

As believers, we have the power of the Holy Spirit inside us. Jesus suffered in temptation but He overcame it by leaning in to Father God. His human flesh did not do it, so why do we think ours can? “His obedience was in keeping His man soul subjected to the indwelling Spirit,” (Altar’d, page 120). Our obedience is in dying to ourselves and yielding to that same Holy Spirit’s resurrecting power – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead! (Ephesians 1:19-20)

Jesus suffered in temptation. What does that mean to you?

Thirsty

thirsty Vincent has been in the garage for at least an hour.  He is bent over paper; paint and markers in hand at our new garage craft center.  His glasses slide down his nose so he peers over them like an old man, his hair sticking up in the back, paint smeared on his shirt and pants.  I check on him between loads of laundry and the unloading and loading of the dishwasher, between the refilling of Luisa’s straw cup.  Eventually, the back door slams.  He steps into the kitchen, creation in hand.

“Momma for you!”  He peers at me over his glasses with a big, proud smile.

I am struck speechless for a moment then exclaim, “I LOVE IT!”

I stare at the painting and the lesson hits deep in my heart.  You must grow weary with me, God.  Always having to be so obvious.  Having to send a child to bring home the point You’ve been whispering to my heart over the last few months.

In my son’s artwork I see streams running down from the cross.  Surely Vincent was not thinking of streams of Living Water as he painted his cross creation?

“Vincent, what is this a picture of?” I ask.

“Momma you know that place we go where we dress up?”

“Church?”  I reply.

“Yes.  This is church,” he states matter-of-factly.

I see the dome now and yet I ask him about the blue.

“That’s where we walk up,” he says.

He sees the blue going up, a sidewalk of sorts, and I see the blue flowing down.  I wonder if the brown paint ran out and blue was the next best thing?  Yet I know what God is trying to say to me through Vincent’s sweet creation.  Living Water.  Living Water.  Living Water.

“‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39)

Grown people.  Tiny humans.  Relationships.  My inability to muster enough self-control and strength to live the holy life I am called to live.  These things make me thirsty.  At times, they make me weary.

Disease.  Sickness.  Current events.  They suck the life out of us, literally and figuratively.  We just might collapse under the weight of it all.

In these times we need to remember to drink of the Living Water found only in Jesus Christ.

As Jennifer Kennedy Dean reminds us on Day 14 of her book Altar’d:

You must decrease and He must increase.  Let your littleness be absorbed by His greatness.  Let your weakness be swept away by His strength.  Let your failure, your fear, your struggles, your bitterness…. let it all be flushed out by the powerful flow of His life in you.  Take your eyes off yourself.  Fix your eyes on Him.  Hide yourself in Him.

In my closet I have a place of prayer.  Pinned to the wall are prayer requests, quotes, scriptures, and one tiny painting.  An orange cross, a blue stream flowing down, a reminder to drink deeply of the Living Water offered me in Jesus Christ.

Sarah, a native Texan, now lives in Birmingham AL with her husband and four children.  A licensed speech therapist, she now manages her home full-time.  With a cup of coffee by her side, Sarah writes about mothering, disability, and God’s good purpose in the lives of His children. You can follow her blog at www.morlandt.blogspot.com