The invalid

The Healing at the Pool (John 5: 1-8)

 1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.[b] 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

 7“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

 8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

I was listening to an online sermon a short while back that was about this incident (an Aussie evangelist named Tim Hall), and it made me think a lot.  The story goes that every once in a while, an angel would stir the waters of this pool, near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem.  If you were fortunate enough to be the first person in the water after it was stirred, you would be healed.  John does not specifically mention other instances of healing, but considering how many people would hang out around the pool waiting for the water to stir, having no idea when that might be, suggests it had to have happened at least a few times.

On the other hand, the word also could have spread through a sort of middle-eastern grapevine, and not actually ever have happened.  Maybe it was some sort of mineral spring, and the stirring of the water was brought about through some sort of underground venting of air, or water of a different temperature that would cause the water to be disturbed.  In any case, John only relates the point of view of the invalid.

I just love how Jesus asks him “Do you want to get well?”

The invalid doesn’t know who Jesus is at this point, and as far as John relates, Jesus does not identify himself–he probably just stepped carefully over and around the other sick and injured people and made his way this particular man.  Think about what that must have been like for a minute.  Here is a pool, surrounded by men, women and children in varying stages of illness, and probably dying in many cases.  There would have been a lot of people, on a lot of mats.  There would have probably been moaning, and crying.  Praying, too.  Probably lots of that.  And all these sick, diseased, and dying people waiting for something to maybe happen.

I would imagine no one would want to be anywhere near this place–it had to have been like a leper colony (and I would hazard a guess there would have been a few lepers there, too).  Yet here comes Jesus, walking right into this place of sickness, right to this particular man.  And asking him if he wants to get well.

Tim Hall mentions that a lot of times, we’re like that invalid, waiting most of our lives for the water to be stirred. 

I think that’s so true.  Of course I can only speak for myself, but in thinking about it, of course I’ve done that.  I’ve certainly felt like an invalid for a large portion of my life, at least, a spiritual invalid of sorts.  I’ve sat back and watched as things happened in other people’s lives and wondered why they hadn’t happened in mine.  Wondered why every time things got stirred up, I was always the last one into the water.

I guess the question is: Did I want to be well?

The answer is that sometimes I didn’t.  I was comfortable in my sickness, because I knew it, and knew what to expect of it.  I knew all too well what life was like as an invalid, and was truthfully not that interested in the alternative.  What would happen if the water was stirred and I got into the pool?  How would my life change?  What would healing feel like?

And how would I stir the water?  Somehow I always knew it was wrong to simply sit there and wait for it to happen.  Yet that is what I did. 

People say that God helps those who help themselves.  I’m not really even sure how true that is, but I think it’s true that Jesus wants us to be active participants in our own healings.  He will not arbitrarily step in and just go “Bam!,” like Emeril.  And while he will kick things up a notch, he won’t do it unless we ask him to.  I think one of the greatest gifts we receive from Jesus is the opportunity to choose Him over ourselves, to “lean not on our own understanding,” as proverbs says.  And he desperately wants us to lean on His.  Every time I wonder if that’s true, I try and think about Calvary.

Who would do that for anyone?  I wouldn’t.  And who’s water would I stir?  The truth of that is I’m too concerned with watching the damn pool for myself.  I suppose the question of the day is how do I get around that?

I ask Jesus to stir the water of my pool.  I ask Him to take my hand and help me get off my mat.  And if I don’t get the answer I want right away, I ask again.

                                                             And again.

                                                                     And again.

Jesus rewards perseverance.  You find that everywhere in the bible.

So, comfortable as I am on my mat, waiting for waters to stir, I can’t spend the rest of my life there–I’ve already been doing that for more than 38 years.

So do I want to get well?

Yes.  Yes.  And yes.

Stir my water, Lord.

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Verse of the day

Actually, psalm of the day would probably be more accurate.  From The Message:

Psalm 51

 1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
   Scrub away my guilt,
      soak out my sins in your laundry.
   I know how bad I’ve been;
      my sins are staring me down.

 4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
      it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
   You have all the facts before you;
      whatever you decide about me is fair.
   I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
      in the wrong since before I was born.
   What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
      Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

 7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
      scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
   Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
      set these once-broken bones to dancing.
   Don’t look too close for blemishes,
      give me a clean bill of health.
   God, make a fresh start in me,
      shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
   Don’t throw me out with the trash,
      or fail to breathe holiness in me.
   Bring me back from gray exile,
      put a fresh wind in my sails!
   Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
      so the lost can find their way home.
   Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
      and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
   Unbutton my lips, dear God;
      I’ll let loose with your praise.

 16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
      a flawless performance is nothing to you.
   I learned God-worship
      when my pride was shattered.
   Heart-shattered lives ready for love
      don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

 18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
      repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.
   Then you’ll get real worship from us,
      acts of worship small and large,
   Including all the bulls
      they can heave onto your altar!

Articulation is…..

So I noticed another problem I have on Saturday night.  In the grand scheme of things, held up to my other quirks and idiosyncracies, this one is probably not as glaring as some, but it was nonetheless something important, I think.  Something I needed to know about myself.

It’s difficult for me to articulate my needs.  Very difficult.  Maybe not so much when it’s something like a pepper shaker, or a glass of water.  But otherwise?  Very difficult, indeed.

There was this meeting for a ministry I’m involved in, and when it came time to talk directly to the leaders about not only their “performance,” but what we’d like to see from the ministry and them, and how we could possibly improve on our own areas that needed improvement, I clammed up for a few minutes.

One of the other team members had spoken shortly before that about asking God for help in improving the ability to deal with conflict in a workplace situation.  That was like a light going on in my giant head.  I tried to do that while I was sitting there, and the thought just sort of came to me to “just say it,” as in just say my need.

So I did.  And it was awkward, and it came out a little rough, but it came out.  Whether or not that need is fulfilled by the leaders remains to be seen.  It just made me wonder, though, why it was so tough to tell them (and anyone, for that matter) what I needed, or wanted, or even hoped for.  I don’t know.

Is it because I feel like they weren’t listening, and wouldn’t help me even if they were?  Possibly.  Prior experience with this couple had not left me feeling particularly heard, and being heard is one of my “things.”

But that didn’t feel like all of it.  Is it also because deep down somewhere, I still feel like when I ask someone for something I really, really need, I don’t deserve help?  Maybe some of that, too.

And in that way of thinking, is that something I believe of God as well?  That I don’t deserve his help?  Well, it’s hard to argue the truth of that one–I don’t.  Nobody does.  But isn’t the truth that you don’t help those you love because they deserve to be helped–you help them because you love them.  And if I believe in my heart that I am loved, whether it be by God, or my friends, it should not be so difficult to ask for their prayers, or to tell them what I need from them as friends, or leaders.  It should not be so difficult to articulate me needs to the Lord.

Anyway, I guess it’s a lot of things.  It gives me plenty to pray about, for sure.  And it lets me know where a few more places are I need God’s light shed on, places that are in need of healing.  So I guess it’s good I went to that meeting–I didn’t want to.  My first instinct was to say “screw it,” and walk away….

Verse of the day

This morning I read from Zechariah.  Wasn’t sure exactly why, until I saw this verse from Chapter 1:

Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty

Zechariah 1: 3. 

Return to me, and I will return to you. 

No matter where I go, or how far from Jesus I feel, if I but return to Him, he will return to me.  Amazing….

I read more after that, but I think that was the part I needed to see the most.

struggling a little

Something happened a few weeks ago, and I’m not sure exactly what it was.  All I can say is ever since then, I’ve felt like my old self again, and that isn’t a good thing.  I think it started at the last regular evening of Healing Prayer.  I didn’t receive prayer–I led a prayer session.  So it was actually after the prayer session, on the way home.  We talk about being triggered all the time, but it didn’t really feel like that.  It hadn’t been a particularly emotional session, but the person receiving the prayer that night got a few good truths from the Lord, and more importantly, some direction.  It was nice to be there for that.  But I got to thinking on the way home, something like I’d done a bad job, and should not have been leading at all.  That the Lord could not use me in such a context.  That my prayers were feeble, and did not matter.  Many more like that.  I didn’t recognize it as an attack at the time, though I’m able to see that now, with the 20/20 vision hindsight provides.

On second thought, I guess I was triggered. It had nothing to do with the guy in the session.  I recognized it as my own stuff coming up to bite me in the ass once again.  Yet I was not able to get rid of it this time, and even though I recognized the previously mentioned statements as lies, they felt true that night.  They still feel true.

The next week Healing Prayer had our end-of-season party, and I thought about trying to talk to one of the guys there, but wasn’t quite able to do it.  The context didn’t seem right to get serious, and I had a small sort of…run-in with the person in question.  Not really even a run-in, but I tried to talk to him once or twice and found him extremely cool, and nearly aloof.  Not approachable at all.  This is something we’d had difficulty with in the past, but I thought those times were in the past.  And that probably small event, became something larger, because it seemed to reinforce everything I’d been thinking about myself just a few days before.

So instead of talking to someone else, or trying to pray about it, I just went home feeling pretty much the same as I had been going in, and rather than trying to combat the lies I’d been hearing in my heart, I let them be, figuring I’d just get over it.  Of course, rather than helping, this only reinforced them.

So where I’ve been this week is feeling completely apathetic about nearly everything.  Haven’t been praying much.  Don’t care.  Haven’t been reading much.  Ditto.  Eating badly again–so what?  I have a vacation coming up, and I should be excited about it–I’m not.  I hate that I feel this way about everything, because it feels like weakness, and I hate feeling weak.  It reminds me of being a kid.  I’m not a kid.

Anyway, I hate writing this kind of thing.  But maybe part of strength is knowing the areas where you are a little weaker, and being able to ask for help.  I feel like I need a little help with this one.  And even now, I’m getting a very strong inclination not to post this, not to ask anyone to pray.  So that’s why I’m going to.  The previous lengthy paragraphs are so you can have an idea about how my mind’s working, and where I am right now.

So for those of you who read my slop, toss up a quick prayer.  I’m trying to do that myself.  I guess it’s a good thing I’ll be getting back to “talking to someone” later on this month. Good times!

There’s nothing worse than feeling completely powerless.  Not that I felt powerFUL before.  But still…

Stuff I like #11–Prayer

A while back, I had lunch with the gentleman in charge of the single’s ministry at CVCF. I’m on the planning/leadership team for that ministry, and to say that it’s been a chore so far would be the understatement of the year. Now, I understand that ministry is never easy, I do. And nothing good is easy. I understand all that. But the single’s ministry has thusfar transcended all types and categories of annoyance for me. It has been passion-sapping, to tell you the truth.

Anyway, back to the lunch. One of the things we discussed was about the people on the team finding things they’re passionate about to do. And something about passionate people being attracted to other passionate people (not in a romantic sort of way). So I didn’t really go looking for it, but over the course of the last year, I think I found the thing I’m most passionate about, that I love doing more than any of the other ministry type things I’ve done.

Praying for people.

Whether in the context of a theophostic Healing Prayer session, or simply just praying for people, I love doing it. I feel empowered doing it. I feel right doing it. I feel that when I’m praying for someone, I’m closer to doing what God has for me than any other time. I’m not claiming any extraordinary power, by any means. I’m no healer. No pastor. Not even a lay counselor.

But when I pray for someone, or for the church, or simply just intercede during a prayer session, I feel so incredibly in touch with the Holy Spirit. It’s awesome. Of course, I can’t attest to whether or not my prayers mean much at all to the people I’m praying for, all I know is it’s the closest I come to Jesus.

I still feel a little awkward in a prayer circle, or at a prayer meeting, and sometimes I probably run off at the mouth a little too much. Something I’m working on. Only prayed at the altar for someone one time, but it was a really moving experience. Many of the deacons and elders were at a retreat of some sort, so we small group leaders got drafted to pray after the service for those who wanted prayer. I sat there for a minute or two, and it seemed like nobody was going to come over to me, which was OK, because I was pretty nervous. But then a slender woman a few years older than me made a beeline for me, and I got up to greet her.

Turns out she was very ill with lung cancer, and I was at a loss for a moment. Then I just asked God how I should pray for her, and after a moment got a pretty clear indication of the way I should go. I could really feel the Holy Spirit–the air was practically crackling. I think it moved me more than her, but I haven’t really been the same since then.

There’ve been a few opportunities since then, and it’s been thrilling every time in a different way. I get to see Jesus do amazing work in people’s lives (and make no mistake, it’s all him).

Then last week after soaking prayer (where someone comes in and plays worship music) before Healing Prayer began, a woman I hadn’t seen in a while came up to me after the music stopped playing. She’s someone I’ve always been a little intimidated by in regard to prayer–she’s just this amazing, powerful, Godly woman, who’s overcome a great many personal difficulties just to so much as walk around. Anyway, she came up me and asked if I had any anointing oil. She didn’t know what had happened during the worship time, but something had, and she wanted to pray over it and seal it.

I told her I’d left it up front, but I could go get it if she’d like. She said that she would.

So I went and got it, and sat down next to next to her, put my hand on her shoulder, and leaned in to pray so she could hear me–the room was filling up, and it had gotten a little noisy. I felt tentative as I began to pray, and stammered a bit to start. I asked God once again how I should pray, and immediately got the sense I should just pray.

So I did, and as I prayed, I felt the tentativeness leave, and was able to continue. While I spoke quietly next to her ear, I could also hear her praying in mine. Like the time at the altar with the sick woman, it was totally electric for me. And at the end of it, she gave me a hug and left.

And I realized, I want to do this. It feels right. I want to pray for people. I enjoy praying for people, and I enjoy witnessing the Holy Spirit at work in people’s lives, and in mine.

So that’s what I like most. That’s what I’m passionate about. I’ll see where it takes me.

morning constitutional

Today was a pretty good morning. Took Sumo on a slightly different route. The walk was 10 minutes longer, and a little more strenuous. My hope is to get to the point where I can jog at least half the way, and hopefully complete the route Kris and I used to jog.

Not sure how conducive jogging is to prayer, but I’m sure I’ll find out eventually. The thing about this morning is that I realized there are actually several areas of my life I have not consecrated to God. The main thing was my health, and my intellect (such as it is). I had read Mikey’s blog on the mikeyshow page a while back, and he talked about asking God for help in his diet, with controlling his appetite, and just generally eating better. It’s had dramatic results in his life, and he’s lost a lot of weight. So I tried to do that this morning, and while I did eat a croissant for breakfast, I only ate 1, and most other times, it would have been two (if something is 2 for 1, you have to eat both of them!).

The new dosage of my blood pressure medication has had good results, too. Hopefully that, combined with the exercise, will lower it even more. All I know is that I feel pretty good today.