Wednesday with John – The Beginning

This week I begin two new group studies, one that includes the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and a second less formal one using the book of John. “Cherry picking” taught me more than I’d anticipated. It was hard to pick fruit based on a word search without forcing the issue. The Message passage from Matthew is still going to be my guide.  Instead of a word, these four questions will be my jumpstarters to read and ponder for Wednesday posts from John and Sunday posts from those Old Testament books.

  1. What’s the general theme of the passage?
  2. What does it say about God [or Jesus or the Holy Spirit]?
  3. What does it say about people?
  4. Is there truth here for me?

Excerpts from John 1:1-18 RSV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life [Or was not anything made. That which has been made was life in him], and the life was the light of men…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

This is the beginning of the relationship between God, Jesus and us. “In the beginning was [God], and the Word [Jesus] was with God.  God was first!  God did not create Himself and Jesus was not a product of God’s creation.  “And the Word [Jesus] was God.” God offered Himself as God-man so we might see “In him was life, and the life [of His own perfect image, Jesus] was the light of men” that darkness could not overcome. 

John’s witness is to show us we are like those people he speaks of; often content to NOT know more, because we think we already know.  That’s the darkness Jesus has come to shed His light on. The good news is “but to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”  The truth is the “light” we beheld is now the light held within usa because Jesus has become part of our flesh.

“No one has ever seen God;
the only Son, who is in the bosom [heart] of the Father.”
“He has made him known” to us.

a Matthew 5:14

Today’s Word – Temple “Walk”

1 Kings 6:11 Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, 12 “Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my ordinances and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. 13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.” RSV

Let me tell you how I’ve chosen to cherry pick this verse lest you imagine something far deeper.  1 Kings in the BibleGateway word search returned the most hits in the Old Testament for “walk:” 23 from this one book.  This passage was one that used the word “walk” more than once.  I am like a tourist, if you will, I’ve found one attraction to look at in this new place but I’ve got the whole chapter to walk me though what to see.  

Solomon is exercising his heart, his creativity and his wallet to build this structure.  The central part of this historic house, built for the Lord, was essentially a stand-alone sanctuary surrounded by many other rooms. I am thankful to have been compelled by my cherry picking to walk through this chapter and notice two things. The construction is unique in that the supporting beams of those external rooms were not directly tied into the structure of the sanctuary. Instead those beams rested on a ledger board much like we’d construct a deck against a house today, tied together but not an integrated part of each other.  That’s interesting. The chapter is filled with explicit details of the construction and grandeur of the structure EXCEPT for these 3 verses, and that’s interesting too.

The word of the Lord came to Solomon
concerning this house
you will walk in my statutes
and obey my ordinances and
keep all my commandments
and walk in them,

I will establish my word with you,
I will dwell and will not forsake my people.

Amid all the verses filled with mind-blowing details of how luxurious this structure was, then, there was still not an integrated connection between the sanctuary and those outer rooms of the temple.  God has used my cherry picking to help me see how IF has become the reality of THEN, now.

IF Jesus, THEN the statutes, ordinances and commandments are established as the permanent, integrated connection between the sanctuary and those outer rooms and this is the fruit of reality now “concerning this house.”

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?”
1 Corinthians 6:19

Todays Word – Watch

Watch: look at or observe attentively over a period of time.

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1-11 ESV

There is a qualifying phrase from my inspiration passage in Matthewa for the word watch:“Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” 

On one occasion,
while the crowd was pressing in on him
to hear the word of God,
by the lake of Gennesaret,
[Jesus] saw two boats by the lake
and he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

There’s a unique twist to this story that goes beyond a crowd of people that want to hear what Jesus has to say. They’ve come on this scene of tired fishermen wrapping up an unsuccessful day’s work. Jesus choosing to get into an empty boat seems like an intrusive move. The scripture indicates Simon and his crew end up in the boat with Jesus. I’m guessing they wanted to protect their property.  I am an observer watching to see how the end result of this story will show me the “unforced rhythms of grace” for a few tired men.  

I wish the story had told me what Jesus taught from the boat.  What did those fishermen know about Jesus and his ministry?  From their perspective they saw a crowd pressing in.  They saw Jesus climb into their boat.  For whatever reason, they came running and did what He asked and pushed out into the lake.  They heard the words Jesus spoke. It was probably those words and the two boatloads of fish that got their attention. Jesus often seems to work using circumstances and the powerful words  to accomplish the impossible.  “Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  The unforced rhythms of grace happen when we watch what Jesus does.  That’s what makes us aware of our sin so we begin to feel the fear of how it separates us from Him.  We don’t need a boatload of blessings or the special words we may hear to turn our circumstances into a testimony.  We need Jesus in our presence.  Jesus says “Watch what I do.a

aMatthew 11:28-30 MSG

Today’s Word – Work

There’s an important qualifying phrase Jesus spoke in that last passage I used from Matthew 11:28-29, The Message, that made the words “walk, work and watch” important: [with me].  OK, I admit this whole theme is going to be cherry picking Scripture and versions too.  I had some anxiety about that until I remembered this is THE Word of God.  It’s the baseline of truth and the reality of guidance for every day of life and it’s all fruit! That’s what I want you to trust.  I trust that the Holy Spirit is going to personally administer the application of His Word to each of us as needed.  

Colossians 3:23-25
Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.  MSG

We understand the definition of work.  It’s our individual activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to produce, to provide and to preserve our position.  Work is a job, but Jesus promises you confidence that your individual activity involving mental or physical effort [with me] is the work that will produce, provide and preserve your position and inheritance with HIm.

Work [with me] from the heart
for your real Master, for God.
The sullen servant who does shoddy work [with me]
will be held responsible.

Being a follower of Jesus
doesn’t cover up bad work [with me].
The ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.

Today’s Word – WALK

2022 begins with a transition that took it’s place in my mind just as 2021 was closing.  Three words from Matthew 11 in The Message Bible version of that Scripture were the catalyst: Walk, Work and Watch.  Those words are what I choose to begin looking for God’s Word to fill in the blanks of my own faith for 2022.  

Genesis 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”  RSV


“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden.”  “The eyes of both were opened.”  “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.”  “The Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

Where am I walking?  Are my eyes opened?  Have I found a way to cover up because I’m aware that God can see my nakedness? These are my questions as I read these verses. It’s so tempting to pretend I don’t have any questions.  I have faith!  I am a believer!  I am standing before friends, neighbors and the world wide web, for Heaven’s sake!  How could I have questions?  

The questions aren’t the problem, the cover-up is!  I couldn’t help but notice the phrase “among the trees of the garden” and think about the common saying “to not see the forest for the trees.”  This whole walk is BIG!  I can look at Adam and Eve and clearly see their sin and forget how easy it is to cover my own with faith. If I had only one question that could meaningfully direct my personal devotions, and this blog, over the next 360 days it would be the one the Lord Himself is asking me to read and ponder at the end of verse 9.

“Where are you?”

“New” Year’s Revolution

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

These words of Jesus are meant to be very personal but personal is different than private.  This is the year in which my husband of nearly 63 years was killed in a tragic accident, and life continues despite the confusion of learning all the things I must now do alone, AND, life is still impacted by a relentless pandemic.  The temptation has been to let grief lure me into believing that isolation must be like rest, right?  Not so!  Over this last year I have learned a “new” thing about the reality of grace.  The less private I’ve allowed my awareness of grace at work in my life to become, the more personal it has become to me.  

In this “New” Year of my life I am not relying on a New Year’s resolution, but on the revolution of recovery that Jesus offers me keeping company with Him and other people of faith.  We can learn to live the “unforced rhythms of grace,” together, walking and working with Jesus, watching how He does life so we can make living “freely and lightly” both personal and possible.  I hope you will join me in this New Year’s Revolution to “recover your life” and to “take a real rest.” Love, Shirle


“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real”and “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one.”
…the quotes are from the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

This Christmas I was reminded of the book The Velveteen Rabbit, first published in 1922, and discovered the quotes above woven into it’s tender story.  I know it’s not a perfect comparison but I saw a likeness to how God becomes real to His children and how in that relationship those children become real.  “It’s a thing that happens to you…because he loved you.”  The notable thing that caught my attention is that the caps in both quotes are not mine, they are the authors. Those capitals are the gift that pointed my mind to these other timeless Words that are a “Real” check about ”Real” love.

o you are a teacher of Israel,” said Jesus, and you do not recognise such things? I assure you that we are talking about something we really know and we are witnessing to something we have actually observed, yet men like you will not accept our evidence. Yet if I have spoken to you about things which happen on this earth and you will not believe me, what chance is there that you will believe me if I tell you about what happens in Heaven? No one has ever been up to Heaven except the Son of Man who came down from Heaven. The Son of Man must be lifted above the heads of men—as Moses lifted up that serpent in the desert—so that any man who believes in him may have eternal life. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that every one who believes in him shall not be lost, but should have eternal life. You must understand that God has not sent his Son into the world to pass sentence upon it, but to save it—through him. Any man who believes in him is not judged at all. It is the one who will not believe who stands already condemned, because he will not believe in the character of God’s only Son. This is the judgment—that light has entered the world and men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds are evil. Anybody who does wrong hates the light and keeps away from it, for fear his deeds may be exposed.  But anybody who is living by the truth will come to the light to make it plain that all he has done has been done through God.”              John 3:16-21 J.B. Phillips NT



To Put the World Right Again

He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:16-18 MSG

Merry Christmas from Shirle, 2021

God is still offering this world His annual reminder to celebrate Christ’s   birth, even disguised by what we call the chaos of Christmas.  This year in the midst of my very different kind of personal chaos I have been reminded that first Christmas was disguised by chaos too!  People lived in a world where harsh circumstances became the evidence they mistakenly used to form their judgments about God and each other.  They lived as separate pieces of chaos with no connection to one another.  Sound familiar?  But…then The Gift of Connection happened.

 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder and his name will be called  “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Jesus is The Gift of Connection!  He is the real Gift sent to us with God’s divine expectations…hoping we would recognize…and receive…the one Gift that could reclaim chaos.  The Gift that could connect old Words and Light to overcome darkness. The Gift that would find, and custom-fit, the unrelated shapes, mismatched patterns and varied colors of chaos together to become a perfectly designed whole cloth; every piece connected in just the right spot, at just the right time to become part of something eye catching and unique.

This Christmas, 2021, God still persists in reminding the world he chooses to make whole cloth from pieces of chaos so the world might see how the many parts of His Body and His church can fit together to become proof that His character and promises are made visible by The Gift of Connection and His perfection. Amen!

“All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.” ― Eugene Peterson 

Poetry by the Book Finale – Galatians 6:11-18

Poetry: Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style, rhythm and structure.a

See with what LARGE letters
I am writing to you with my own hand —
I bear on my body the marks of Jesus
by which[through whom]
the world has been crucified to me,
and I to the world.

Those who want to make a good showing in the flesh
would compel you to be circumcised
that they may glory in your flesh.
They desire to have you circumcised
in order that they may not be persecuted
for the cross of Christ.

a My poetry structure was created from the RSV Bible using sentences and phrases verbatim.