Of Definitions and Covenants

One of the things I intended when I started writing this blog a few years ago was to always speak my mind, even if it was an unpopular view. That is, after all, what the point is of doing something like this—keeping an online journal of my thoughts, my beliefs, and assorted other random thoughts.

For the most part, that’s what I’ve done.

There is one story—one post—that I’ve held onto for a long time because I know what a volatile issue it is. I’m talking about the vast divide between people who profess a “Christian” faith and the gay community. There are many deep-seated beliefs held by Christians about gay people that are patently wrong. Likewise for gays about Christians. Unfortunately, it does not stop there from a Christian standpoint.

Many of the people who share my faith also share a view that (and I am not speaking of the loathsome Westboro Baptist “Church” here) homosexuality is chief among sins, and will be what will ultimately bring down the country, the world, and bring about the return of Christ to wreak vengeance on a gay-loving world. Or something like that.

Often, the approach of my fellow believers toward gays—both at gay events and in other forums, such as online, in newspapers, magazines, etc.—is to let those men and women know in no uncertain terms what fate awaits them should they choose not to change their evil ways and repent. Seldom–if ever–mentioned is the true message of Christ.

The problem that I have now—and have for many years—is that approach sounds nothing like Jesus to me.

Let me backtrack a bit—all the way back to the very early 1980s.

My first encounter with a gay person was in the 8th grade, shortly before I moved up to high school. I wrote about that day a while back here. For those of you younger folks, homosexuality wasn’t something much talked about then. It was a different time, in almost every way. For my part, and also for many of the kids I hung out with, the word “fag” was tossed around almost haphazardly, without any concern for what it meant (many of us didn’t have anything but a rudimentary understanding of what homosexuality was, or how it was practiced. I include myself in that number).

We just said it, and it was almost a…good natured insult. Never considered was the fact that it could have been hurtful to anyone. It was just something we said. A lot.

I still regret what happened that night in my friend’s backyard, and I probably always will, to an extent. I’ve asked God’s forgiveness for my part in it, and I wish I could find the young man we hurt and ask for his, but that is not to be.

So what has happened since then is that I have come into contact with a great many gay men and women at various jobs, and at the junior college I attended back in the 1990’s. With each encounter—and with each friendship developed—I began to notice something.

Each one of these men and women were people just like I was. They ate, and slept, and got dressed, and showered, and pooped. The only difference I saw was that they were drawn to people of the same sex and I was not.

They loved the people they were with, and in many cases had been committed to them alone for long periods of time. I worked with one lesbian couple that had been together for decades—almost as long as my parents were before they died.

What had changed in my heart over the years (and this is way before I became a believer) was that I no longer cared about whether or not these people wanted to do the same things I did with the people they were involved with. It occurred to me it was none of my business.

I dealt with and related to them on a personal level, based on how they treated me and others and not who they slept with (or didn’t). It worked out pretty well, and I made a couple of good friends over the years.

When I came to belief in 2000, I was in a place in life where I didn’t work with or know anyone who was gay (that I knew of, anyway). I began to grow and deepen my faith, and it was so interesting to see that the Jesus I came to know through scripture and discipling was not the same one I’d heard about over the course of my life before knowing him.

In the course of time, I became somewhat involved with a young woman I worked with, and we began to spend time together with a group of friends of hers—many of whom were gay men.

I did not make a secret of my faith, and they respected it. I treated them just like I did everyone else, and I began to notice something the more time I spent with them. The gay community—at least to the extent of my involvement and casual friendships with these men—was way more of a community than the straight people I’d hung out with prior to that. They supported each other unconditionally, and seemed less interested in judging themselves and others than they did in simply living their lives.

I didn’t preach to them, and they didn’t try to convert me. They were a lot of fun to hang out with.

One time in particular, one of them told me, “It means a lot that you’re here. I don’t think anybody’s used to that with people like you.” I assumed he meant straight people at first, but then I realized he meant Christians.

I told him that I just loved God, and that scripture says I’m supposed to love people, too. He smiled and gave me a hug.

Eventually, though, things began to change a little bit, and I started to struggle with some of the things I saw. It culminated in an evening where the young woman I was involved with and I were at a party where we were the only straight people, and things started happening around us. It started making me feel really uncomfortable, and I told the girl that I wanted to leave. She didn’t. That was the night we decided to “take a break,” which we never recovered from.

After the party that night, I didn’t spend much more time with the group of guys, as I didn’t spend much more time with the girl.

It was five years later before I was involved with anyone else, and that was with the woman who would become my wife. As we grew into our relationship, and our marriage, it was around the time all the gay marriage propositions were going through the process of becoming law. I hadn’t thought about the fact that gay people couldn’t (or could) be married over the course of my life prior to that, so it was interesting to see all of the various things on the news, including the Chik-Fil-A controversy of a year or two ago.

It occurred to me that while so many of my fellow Christians were up in arms about the potential legalization of gay marriage, I just…wasn’t. It didn’t matter to me what these folks wanted to do in the privacy of their own homes, and it seemed fair enough that they should be able to get married, if it made it easier regarding insurance and benefits, etc. I never felt that if they were able to marry it would threaten the sanctity of my own marriage. How could it? How could two men or two women marrying each other make my own union any less holy in the sight of God?

What did occur to me, though, was to wonder if all these people who complained, and protested, and cried out about how gay marriage was a danger to the family felt the same about divorce. Why is it we never see news stories about millions of people marching to protest how common arbitrarily ending a marriage has become? God is also very clear how he feels about divorce–perhaps even more clear than about gay marriage. And while all these people were spouting off about how a word is defined, it occurred to me to wonder about how a marriage is defined? What does it mean to these people?

Certainly, I am not trying to say that divorce is never the right course of action, because sometimes it is the only course of action. It’s just that people are often so…arbitrary about it. The statistic you hear all the time about 50% of marriages ending in divorce? I believe it. Why wouldn’t it be true? It seems that few people understand what a covenant is these days. To me it suggests a sacred promise, and the rings my wife and I exchanged are a symbol of that promise. In short, I got married to her because I wanted to, because I knew I didn’t want anyone else, ever.

And last week, I think I realized what marriage really was. It’s spending the night before Valentine’s day in the ER with your husband, while he practically yells and pounds chairs and walls in his pain. It’s spending the day itself in a chair next to his bed, and praying for him. It’s holding his hand and making him think of other things. It’s sleeping (sort of) sitting up rather than going home, even for a little while. It’s devotion to the person with whom you made the covenant, and that is what my wife showed me last week, and it made me love her all the more, if such a thing is even possible.

So while I understand the biblical reasoning behind the stance so many take on whether or not homosexuals should be able to marry (based on the “biblical” definition of what marriage means), the conflict I feel comes from feeling like if people are devoted to one another, and are willing to make a covenant saying they are going to mean it for the rest of their lives, it’s hard for me not to want to just let them.

And also last week, my adopted state of Arizona has passed (and sent to the governor–who vetoed the legislation) SB1062, a law that in essence allows people who refuse service to someone a defense (‘deeply held’ religious beliefs) in the event they are sued for descrimination or something of that nature. Of course, while legal recourse may ostensibly be what the law is about, the unspoken subtext is that it would also give others what they feel is license to treat gay people and their potential business in an unfair and descriminatory manner. I believe that is it in a nutshell, and is also what has millions of gays and pro-gays in such an uproar once again. They’re crying foul, and likening the legislation to the old Jim Crow laws from decades ago. While that may be a much lengthier discussion for another time, it does seem to me that while the “Jim Crow” battle cry is closer to pro-gay hyperbole than anything else, there is also a great deal of potential for descriminatory ugliness with this law, because people are people, and prone to do bad things with ambiguously worded legislation such as this.

With all that in mind, I think perhaps it is not just what some Christian folks are saying, but how they’re saying it. The arguments are the same, and probably always will be. Scripture decrying homosexuality is referenced, and gays along with supporters throw up scripture they feel counters their Christian counterparts efforts in the same regard. It gets uglier all the time, and nowhere on either side of the discussion is the real message of Jesus referenced.

It seems like this to me: if the bible is true, and it tells us that God is love and that all people will know we are the disciples of Christ if we love one another, then how are we showing the people who do not know his love the face of Jesus by so often treating them with open hostility? How does feeding gay people fettucini alfredo or whatever it is make you a participant in whatever sin you feel they’re committing? I mean, I get it, but I don’t agree. This legislation is like…giving people already inclined to do so the right to treat others shabbily. There may be a place for some similar type of legislation, but this particular law is not going to go over well, not with the social climate surrounding this issue what it has become.

For my part, I can’t do it anymore. I can’t treat people that way, and I never really could. Maybe some of it is my California-ness regarding gay people carrying over into my life in Arizona, but it’s really more about not wanting to feel like I’m any better than anyone else because my sin is different. I am not better than anyone else. I am the same. In my dotage, I’ve found it so much easier to treat people kindly. I would rather make them their food or a cake or floral arrangements, and then tell them God loves them and died for them. I want people to know the Jesus I do. Whether they’re gay or straight or…whatever. I do not now–nor have I ever–felt my marriage (or any marriage) could be threatened in any way by who else can get married.

I wonder, though, how many gay men or women are known by the folks protesting gay marriage?

I also wonder how many Christians are known by gay people?

If we don’t know each other, how can we expect anything to change in either direction? Jesus talked to people. Walked with people. Ate with them. Probably fished with them, and laughed and drank and danced. I believe that in the end, the Eternal Kingdom will not be filled courtesy of those who spoke out against the things God hates the loudest. I think souls will quietly slip in thanks to the people who have shown them the most love.

To that end, because I am loved, I will try to be loving. I will choose to show people the Jesus I know by telling them about what he’s done in my life. I will tell them about how I am incomplete, and wounded, and broken, and still sin, but am loved in spite of the things that queue up to keep me from Jesus. I will explain what scripture means to me as I understand it, and I will tell people what I think if they ask me. If I love Jesus like I say, I owe them the truth.

I just have no intention of shouting it at them, or telling them God hates them because of their sin. Brand me a heretic if you must, but I feel that if God hated people because of their sin, he would not have redeemed them from it. You don’t die for people you hate.

And to see so many people caught up in the definition of a word and how it threatens them rather than simply getting to know people and telling them about Jesus just doesn’t make any sense to me. I can’t understand how telling people they’re damned for what they do in their bedrooms is going to show them the Jesus I know that has changed my life and could also change theirs.

To be clear, I am aware of the mentions in the bible of homosexuality, and that it is addressed as sin. While it is true that God hates sin, it would be errant–once again–to imply that he hates homosexuality more than any other type of sin. And that he hates homosexuals more than anyone else. Sin is sin. If God hated homosexuals, he would also hate every other type of sinner, and probably all Christians. The bible doesn’t say any of that. Homosexuality is not something I indulge in, and whether or not I “approve” of it does not really even matter. I think the bible makes it clear what God thinks of homosexuality and what it entails, and I acknowledge the punishment for it is the same as any other sin–all other sin. Omission of mention by Jesus is not the same as approval. While Jesus himself may not mention homosexuality specifically, he did come in fulfillment of Old Testament Law, and prophecy, not to nullify it. I think where we go awry is when we start classifying sins, and justify ours as less terrible than homosexuality.

It isn’t. No one is righteous, no not one. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9) Certainly not me.

We’re all different, but we are also all the same. We need God. We need Jesus if we are to be freed from our chains and our sins. God knows it, and Christians do, too. Yet if we can condemn someone else for what they’re doing, then we don’t have to think as much about what we’re doing. All of which means that we can take comfort in our own perceived righteousness, while we decry the unrighteousness of gay men and women as if it were anything different than sins that we have committed, now, and throughout history.

Take a look at Matthew 5: 27-28. Go ahead. Read it and come back. Still here? Good. Let me repeat what I said before. Sin is sin. No one is righteous, no not one. How can I justify condemning a gay person with my own words, while justifying my own actions as a lesser sin. To God, they are the same. The punishment is the same.

Let’s talk about those Old Testament laws for a few minutes. You know the ones. Many people will talk about how scripture also mentions other things as being sinful that people don’t seem to care about anymore, like eating shrimp and other sea creatures for one example (take your pick, there are many others). They will tell you that those old laws–like the ones that condemn homosexuality as well as other sexual sins–do not matter or apply anymore, because the world is a different place. That’s partly true, and I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Those laws again, from the Old Testament. Taken specifically, there are three different types.

Laws pertaining just to the (ancient) state of Israel. They are pretty specific.

Also ceremonial laws (many pertaining to sacrifice, and diet, and things of that nature), which were superseded by the New Covenant, fulfilled in the person of Christ.

Lastly, moral laws. It is only the moral laws of the Old Testament which remain and are held as truths by most Christians based on the validity of the Ten Commandments. I won’t go into every piece of scripture here, but at least to address the dietary laws and some of the other laws that seem to apply mainly to those of the Jewish faith rather than Christians: take a look at Mark 7:19, Acts 15: 5-29, etc.

Of course, if one does not hold the Bible as truth, then this would make little sense. And there’s the rub.

Then Jesus enters the picture, and everything changes.

As believers, we are called to share him and his truth with people. So while the biblical principles of the Old Testament make it clear how God feels about all different types of sin, there is hope, and in a world that seems to have so little, that is indeed something.

I posted a picture on Facebook not long ago I’d seen online of a group of Christians (mostly men) at a Gay Pride event, and they were holding signs and wearing shirts that said “I’m sorry.” They were apologizing to gay people for the treatment they’d received at the hands of standard bearers for Jesus. In the picture I posted, a gay man in great physical condition wearing tighty-whiteys gripped one of the shirt-wearers in what looked to be a very emotional bear-hug.

Bear Hug

I thought it was a great picture and that it was a great way to actually show Jesus to people who needed to know him instead of just telling them they were on the Amtrack to hell.

I got a bit of an ass-chewing from a couple of people to the effect that treating gay people as if their lifestyle was OK was the same as personally condoning and supporting it, and that wasn’t right–as if because I was a Christian, I should tell them they were going to hell.

I can’t convict someone of any sin, and I wouldn’t want to if I could. Jesus does that. And it isn’t my function, as a believer, to punish people for sin. Let him without sin cast the first stone?

That ain’t me, man. I’m a mess.

I’d rather tell someone I’m sorry, then hug them and tell them Jesus loves them.

I will leave the condemning up to God.

Shut The Front Door, Because This Horse Has Left the Barn

I think it’s great that I live in a country where an African-American man can be elected president. Especially considering we are not yet two centuries removed from legally being able to own other human beings. It’s about time, really.

I think the President has done some good, and gone a long way toward advancing civil rights, and given people the opportunity to be judged not on the color of their skin, but the content of their character.


I also think the President is a little bit screwed, because none of that is what he will be remembered for. He will be remembered for getting the entire country’s panties in a bunch by stumping for (and ultimately getting passed) the Affordable Healthcare Act, or whatever the heck it’s actually called.

He will be remembered for clearly acting on the tip of his advisors in steamrolling this (now) clearly flawed legislation with a great deal of hidden language through the process. He will be remembered for remarks he made that if people did not want to participate in his great agenda and keep their current health plans, they could (millions of cancellations later, they still can’t).

He will be remembered for gently petting the back of Iran with one hand, while holding Israel back with another.

He will be remembered for getting the Nobel Peace Price for not really doing anything.

Clearly, I am not a fan, but that’s OK. Just because I do not agree with you and did not vote for the President, does not mean I hate him, his party, or you.

I don’t.

I just think people are soon going to be jumping from the bandwagon they were clinging so tightly to.

Or maybe they won’t. Maybe the country really has finally screwed the pooch badly enough it cannot recover. Maybe this country is being pulled in so many different directions in the name of tolerance and an unashamedly liberal agenda that is no longer the greatest country on earth, No longer the most powerful nation in the world.

Maybe change will come, finally.

It probably will. But no one said it would be change for the better.

Believe that. 

The Songs Remain the Same

A friend got me thinking about music this morning.

He had a Facebook post yesterday where he mentioned the Counting Crows album August and Everything After. Later, his wife gave it a pretty good recommendation, mentioning how much it meant to her in the 1990’s.

It made me think about some of the music I listened to back before I was old and decrepit, and what a huge part of my life it was.

I remember my sister gave me a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA back when I was 15, and I played the heck out of that thing. I liked all the songs, but “No Surrender” was especially powerful for me. I remember walking around my high school shortly after my dad died and listening to a copy of the album I transferred to tape, and looking around at everyone and wondering how I would get through this. Mom was sick, too, and it just seemed like it was too much. That song made me remember I didn’t have to give up.

I mostly kept my act together, but eventually I did fall into a bit of a tailspin, and it lasted for a while. I was sad, and it seemed like there was nothing I could do to shake it. My parents were gone, I was 18 and broke, and I began to withdraw from everything.

Thankfully, the 1990’s happened, and with the advent of that decade, came a lot of really good music. I slowly began to climb out of my self-imposed dark period thanks to a few good friends, and my CD player (CDs may not sound as good as records, but they’re easier, that’s for sure).

I remember listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers Bloodsugarsexmagick and it was just impossible to not want to get up and jump around. It was funky, and awesome, and it just rocked. I listened to it a lot at work when I was closing up the projection booth at night.

I listened to Metallica’s …And Justice for All even more. There was a time when my car was broken down and I didn’t have the money to fix it. I had to get up really early and walk 5 or 6 miles to meet someone for a ride to this factory where I worked. That CD was—and is—one of the best metal albums of all time. And it kept me awake at 4-something in the morning.

Eventually, I was able to pull my life together, and get my head out of my arse spiritually. I think the first Christian band I ever heard was Third Day, back in the mid-1990’s. I went to one of Greg Laurie’s “Harvest Crusades” at Jack Murphy Stadium (I think it was before it became Qualcomm), and Third Day played the song “Thief,” and “Love Song,” and one more I can’t remember. I wasn’t a believer at that time, but that music stayed with me.

I still listen to that first Third Day CD today, and it means a little more to me now. Third Day was also the first concert I took my wife to, back when we were dating. Love that band.

I don’t only listen to Christian music, by the way. There’s still a lot of great music out there—too much to stick to just one genre. I had a CD of My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade that I literally wore the heck out. Such a good album.

I also like Aranda’s Stop The World (listen to ‘Satisfied’), and Matisyahu’s Live at Stubb’s and Youth CDs.

There really are far too many to name, and the albums I mentioned here are only a very small sampling. Some of the most fun Jen and I have is when we’re just laying in bed and listening to music. I love that.

I’m gonna put on my headphones and get to work now.



Yesterday, I had the youth lesson (we’ve been alternating doing the lessons monthly). This week we talked about things Jesus said about himself:

I am the bread of life.
I am the light of the world.
I am the Good Shepherd.

Along the way, the conversation meandered quite a bit (as it always seems to with youth), and we ended up talking about heaven, and what it would be like. What we would do, and see, and feel. The conversation got a little loose–as you might expect. It reminded me why I started grad school–to be better equipped for those sorts of conversations. We reminded them that what we believers have to go on regarding Heaven is what the Bible tells us about it.

I remembered a description of Heaven and getting there I read in a book by Randy Alcorn a while back. It was called “Dominion.” It was a pretty interesting read, and was on the surface a suspense novel about the unlikely friendship that developed between a journalist and a detective when the journalist’s sister and niece are murdered in a neighborhood rife with drugs and gang violence.

The novel also explored Heaven and how things might be there between a person’s death and the return of Jesus to Earth. It also posited that each person has a personal protector in the form of an angelic bodyguard (of sorts). This protection does not always take the form the person protected might desire, but the angels depicted always do battle on behalf of the person under their care.

The book got me thinking about heaven, and angels.

Also that we spend much of our lives learning about Jesus on earth, why should we not expect to learn even more from Jesus once we reach our final destination?

And what about angels? The Bible talks about legions. But do we really have them around us all the time?

Do they really protect us? Do battle for us?

There is scriptural evidence they do—(Daniel 3 and 6, lion’s den and fiery furnace, respectively).

Angels also strengthen and offer encouragement (they strengthened Jesus after his temptation: Matt 4:11. They encouraged imprisoned apostles: Acts 5: 19-20. They told Paul he and his shipmates would survive the coming shipwreck: Acts 27: 23-25).

Angels are often used as answers to prayer by God (Daniel 9:20-24, 10:10-12, and in Acts 12:1-17)

And, I think most importantly, Angels care for believers at the moment of their deaths (as with Lazarus in Luke 16:22). That’s probably one of the most meaningful truths I’ve learned in my few years of studying.

It gives me hope, and even some solace for things gone by. I wasn’t with my mother when she died, but I heard her offering up prayers not long before, when she could still speak. It’s comforting to think of angels carrying her into “Abraham’s bosom.”

Yes, I did have to look up the meaning of that last part, after I read Luke 16. Luke is talking about the custom of reclining on couches or cushions while at table, which was something Jews at the time often did. This brought the head of one person almost into the bosom of the person who sat or reclined above them. So to be “in Abraham’s bosom” meant to enjoy happiness and rest, as in Matt 8:11 and Luke 16:23, at the banquet in Paradise. Sounds pretty good to me.

I haven’t personally had much experience (or any experience, really) with angels save one time, and that was only indirectly, courtesy of a comment made by someone I did not know. Allow me to explain.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was part of a slightly charismatic prayer ministry at my old church in San Diego, and my main function (and main gifting, as it turned out), was intercession for the people being prayed for. I have no idea why this turned out to be so, because never in my life had I been any sort of warrior.

Yet that is what I did, and it came to pass that in the course of my involvement with that ministry, I interceded for many prayer sessions where the people being prayed for were dealing with sexual brokenness issues of one sort or another, and my presence there seemed to often comfort or calm these people so they were better able to receive ministry, and a word from the Lord.

Occasionally, there would be observers who would come to our church to see what the ministry was all about, and if it was something that could be facilitated and done effectively in their churches and other places. Following the prayer sessions (there would be a person “leading” and “co-leading” the session, and often one or sometimes two intercessors seated behind the person being prayed for and…sort of watching over the prayer session. That was mainly my function.

At the end of the prayer time, we would sit in a circle and “debrief” the various prayer sessions that had occurred (no details specific to the person prayed for would be shared, only what God had led the people involved in the session to know. Sometimes this would come in the form of a comment, or the relation of a picture they’d seen, or sometimes a song or verse of some kind would occur to them).

Over the few days since I’d finished the Alcorn book, something I’d heard at one of these debriefs following a prayer session occurred to me again, and made sense like it never had before.

There had been an observer that night—a young girl of about twenty—and she had sat in on one of the other groups’ sessions–not mine. At the debrief, everyone was offered the opportunity to share something, if they so desired. When it came to her turn, she asked if what she shared had to be something from the prayer session she’d been involved in.

No, she was told. It could be anything God showed you.

Even right now, she asked?

Even now.

She pointed directly at me, and said, that man…has wings.

Before you get your panties in a bunch, she was not saying (and I am not saying) I am any sort of angel. Clearly I am not. I think what she saw may have been my guardian—my protector and encourager, as in Daniel and Acts. Standing behind me.

It would certainly make my part as an intercessor make more sense. I’d never doubted God’s ability to equip any person for anything. It just didn’t seem like he’d want to equip me. I’d never been able to fight, or defend anyone, not even myself.

That man has wings.

Not my wings.

Anyway, yesterday made me think of that incident once again. Also came the thought it was good to think on things like Heaven. When I’m doing that, it’s harder to think about the earth, and all the shiny things that can steal my attention from the places it belongs.

I feel blessed and am very happy to be part of that ministry. I believe it’s where God wants me–for now, at least.

These kids (my 11 year-old son among them) make me think, and remember what it’s like to feel wonder, and to see the face of Jesus anew.

If you want to serve, really serve, and be both challenged and blessed–serve with the kids.

It’s worth it.

The Thirst: A Parable

Imagine you wake up one day and realize you’re in a desert—and you’ve been living there your entire life. The first thing you notice on waking is how incredibly thirsty you are. Your thirst is maddening, and there is nothing near to quench it. You have no water. You have no food. You have nothing. You look around, then, and you see there are people all around you, and they’re waking up, too.

Everyone looks confused, and no one has any water. Off ahead in the distance you see what looks like a collection of tents or tarps and you join the others in walking toward it because it seems like if people are gathered, there must be water.

You begin walking across the sand, and it’s hot on the bottoms of your feet, which are clad only in faded green flip-flops. The sand gets under your feet and between your toes, and it grates in more ways than one. You notice everyone wears the same foot gear, and has the same shuffling gait. The tents grow closer and you realize they’re really just pop-up tarps, each covering a space like a stall at a swap meet.

You walk down a wide aisle between the tarps and look around. There are dozens of stalls, each with a vendor standing behind a card table holding rows of cups or bowls. A few have boxes about the size of a honeydew melon. Most of the vendors have at least some length of line in front of their tables. Each vendor is hawking their particular product in a loud voice, extolling its virtues and trying to get you into their line. They tell you their product will give you what is lacking in your life—it will make you full, and quench your raging thirst.

You can’t see into the cups, but from what they’re yelling, most offer a drink of some sort, a few have food, and others appear to sell an experience or feeling. These vendors appear to have some of the shortest lines, so you queue up and wait your turn. There has to be water up there somewhere.

No one in line talks much, and those who do mutter almost unintelligibly. You get almost to the front of the line and you see the vendor has a pretty young woman standing behind him, and behind her is a tent. It isn’t difficult to figure out what his product is. The men in this particular line hand over their money and disappear into the tent with the young woman. You’re next, and while you forget about your thirst for a moment while you’re inside the tent, by the time you get back outside it’s back, and worse than ever. You head over to the next stall.

Someone must have water.

You wait in the line, and then you hand over your money. The vendor gives you a plastic goblet with a small amount of thick liquid clinging to the sides and bottom of the cup. You tilt your head back and the fluid slowly slides into your mouth and down your throat. The air around you becomes tinted with violet and then slowly adds other colors, and soon an entire rainbow floats across your view. It’s so beautiful you forget about how dry your mouth is and how you haven’t eaten anything in who knows how long. You begin to drift off and the next thing you know you’re laying on your back gazing up at the bright blue sky, and the thirst hits you like a mallet to the throat.

Was that it? You think. It seemed like only a few seconds.

You realize after a moment the rainbow isn’t coming back, so you get up and decide to try another table. After you dust yourself off and step into the next line, you notice a vendor at a table some way off from the others has no line at all (not to mention not shade covering his table)—and a large glass pitcher in front of him that appears to be completely empty. He has no glasses or cups—nothing to drink out of. He is yelling something, and looks very intent, but you can’t hear him.

“What’s all that about?” you ask the man in front of you.

“He yells,” the man says, “and that’s about it. Sometimes people will get in his line, and they hold that empty pitcher up like it’s full of cold water. They guzzle nothing. Then they wander off and you don’t usually see them again.”

“I guess I’ll skip it,” you say, and then ask what the vendor in this line offers. This line is the longest of all, and you figure there has to be water.

The man in front of you says he’s heard the vendor does have water, and then he falls silent. You do, too, because talking takes a lot of energy, and your throat feels like it’s full of sand. He gets to the front and hands over his money, and is handed a short glass with a tiny amount of water in the bottom. He tips it back and then asks if that’s it.

It is.

As you step up to the table, you see the man go to the rear of the line and begin waiting again. You hand over the money you have left and are handed your cup. The ounce or two of water merely wets the back of your throat, and after the small drink, you actually feel thirstier than before. You realize there will be no more water or anything else until you figure out how to get more money. You’re broke, and thirsty, and completely out of hope. You want to cry, but there is not even enough water for tears.

You can’t get anything else to drink so you decide to walk over the where the man with the empty pitcher is stationed. As you draw nearer, you hear his sales pitch delivered in a voice so full of emotion it’s almost like a scream.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”

You draw closer still and you realize that you want to hear more, and you want to see the speaker’s face. You begin to walk toward him and it seems so far to the little table. Your feet drag through the hot sand and you wonder if you can make it. You’re so tired, so thirsty, and so hot. Then the vendor looks toward you and his eyes are piercing. You realize he’s looking directly at you and then he speaks again, and this time his voice is a plea.

Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Rest sounds wonderful, you think. The man continues.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

You realize two things at once: you’re suddenly standing in front of the vendor, and your body must have found a hidden reservoir of moisture, because you’re weeping heavily and without shame.

“I’m so thirsty,” you cry. You look into the vendor’s face, and his eyes are kind and brown. He’s weeping, too.

“I don’t have any money,” you tell him. You see the pitcher on the table is not empty at all, but filled to near overflowing with water. Beads of condensation run down the sides from the cold. You want some desperately.

“You don’t need money,” he says. “The water I offer cannot be purchased, and does not run dry.”

Can that be?

You reach for the pitcher with trembling hands and you make contact with the cold glass. “Please,” you whisper. “Please help me.”

“Drink,” he says.

You raise the pitcher to your lips and drink directly from it. The water is the coldest and most refreshing you’ve ever tasted. You drink and drink and drink. The water spills onto your chin and your shirt and the tears roll down your cheeks as you drink. It fills your stomach, your chest, and it swirls within you. You feel…alive, and nothing else around you in the marketplace makes any sense at all. You understand that rest for your soul does not mean sitting on a couch with a cold one. It doesn’t mean never having to work again.

No. It means knowing who your father is, and accepting his rest. It means you know of the water that lives within a person, and you feel it flowing within you.

“Father,” you whisper. Thank you. Oh thankyouthankyouthankyou.

Then you open your mouth and praise flows out of your mouth like the water flowed in—your words are all in a rush and cannot seem to get out fast enough. You praise the vendor, praise the water, praise the maker of the water. Thanks and praise and praise and thanks.

“What do I do now?” You ask.

The man points toward the far side of the market and says “Go. Tell them of the living water, available to everyone. Tell them what they thirst for can be found here. Tell them they’ll find rest for their souls, and what they’re meant to do. Bring them to me. Bring them all…”

You take a step, and your life begins.