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The room was dark. I rolled over on my mat, but the moaning, the breathing, the smell of humanity packed into this small room was too much for me. Here we were, descendants of a great king and now we had descended to this new low. Herded like cattle to be counted by some ruthless ruler.

“At least I didn’t have to opt for a stable,” I thought as I lay on my back and stared into the darkness. It seemed heartless, yet somehow humane for the innkeeper to send that young couple to his stable. Afterall, she was pregnant and looked like the baby could come at any moment. At least they had a roof over their heads.

I lay there in that packed room, remembering the fatigue, the tired eyes in the faces of that young couple. I was sure they had traveled far, like all of us, to be counted.

“To be counted,” I whispered to my self, letting the words escape my mouth with my breath. I just wanted to matter to someone; we all wanted to matter. I just wanted to be hopeful for something better.

I closed my eyes and tried to sleep amidst the groaning humanity that surrounded me. We were all packed into this small inn, brought together by fear of a king we did not believe in. At that moment I heard the faint cry of a baby. “It must be that young couple,” I thought. It bothered me that this child was born in a stable, yet I smiled at the thought of new life. In this, the least of all places, there was hope.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” – Micah 5:2

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone in the inn near the stable where Jesus was born as told in Luke 2:1-7 (NASB).

© 2019 CGThelen

Where do I place my hope dear Lord? Do I expectantly anticipate the day when I can see you face to face? Am I like the Magi who traveled a great distance based on your sign, your prophesy? Do I have the same hope as they did? Their hope was fulfilled, made real when they came face to face with Jesus, the new born king. May I read the yet unfulfilled prophesies in scripture with the same faith.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” – Micah 5:2 (NIV)

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” – Revelation 14:12

© 2019 CGThelen

He wants to put a new song in my heart, but I do not know the words yet. He wants to make me anew, but I do not know who I am or who I should be. I am being transformed into something I have yet to see. All I can do for now is praise you dear God, that you have set me on solid ground; that you have given me a solid foundation to stand on; a firm place to rest; a place to be still and know you are God. Without you I would remain in the depths of the mud and mire, stuck in the slimy pit. My trust is in you God. You are my hope.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. – Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I fight the words from within

Feelings that make me weep

Whispering, “You’ll never win.”

Memories I don’t want to keep

Struggling to control thought

Trauma replays in my mind

Emotions make me distraught

I seek relief I cannot find

“Lift yourself up,” others say

Yet inner strength does fail me

While trials linger on each day

From this pain I long to be free

My weary eyes gaze skyward

I pray God will lend a hand

Doing it myself is truly absurd

Trapped in this troubled land

Step by step I learn to walk

With faith in God as my guide

Being self sufficient is all talk

Since now in Christ I do abide

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

© 2019 CGThelen

In Ezekiel 40-47:11. Ezekiel is shown visions of the temple of God. What struck me about this passage was the description in Ezekiel 47:1-12 where Ezekiel is shown water “coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar (verse 1).” The water starts as a trickle from the altar and soon becomes a mighty river. Ezekiel is told the water eventually flows into the Dead Sea where the “salty water there becomes fresh (8).”

Because of the fresh water, there are a lot of fish and “Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows (9).” The passage describes fruit trees growing on both sides of the river because of the water from the sanctuary. Verse 12 tells us: “Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” I find this passage as a vision for what our churches today should be in this world.

Like the water from the altar, we should flow out of churches each week and press into the Dead Sea culture around us. Our fresh water faith in Christ should push back the brine with living water. Where ever we flow, we should support trees that bear fruit, bringing nourishment and healing to people we encounter during the week. With the living water we carry, “Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail (12).”

© 2019 CGThelen

Without God, our life is formless and empty. We hover over the surface of the deep, the pit of despair. Deep in our darkness we cannot see, but the Spirit of God is there, hovering over the surface. God is our hope. He brings order to our formless and empty life. In our darkness we feel the Spirit’s presence. We only need to reach out to God, to cry out to him to bring order to our life.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. – Genesis 1:1-2

© 2019 CGThelen

My father. He’s a hard man. We didn’t part on the best terms. I said some things I shouldn’t have said; awful words thrown at him like poison darts. I intended to hurt him.

“What does this Jesus know,” I grumbled to myself. “My father would never take me back. He would never forgive me.”

I rolled over on my mat and tried to forget standing in the crowd listening to this Jesus teach with stories. The afternoon was hot and I laid down to rest a bit to get out of the heat. People in my village told me I should at least go and listen to him. They were right. I had never heard anyone talk like that.

I tried to clear my mind, but his words replayed in my head:“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Repent. How could that even happen to a serial sinner like me? The Pharisees told me I was too far gone, that there were not enough sacrifices to cover my sin. Could my father really care that much about a nobody like me, the lost sheep, the black sheep of the family

How could he be so joyous over a totally lost person like me repenting from sin? I get it, I mean in the sense that Jesus talked about in that story about the lost coin. If I found that coin I lost last month I’d be filled with joy. But I hardly think I have that much value, certainly not the value of a silver coin. I don’t think my father would waste time searching for me, someone with such little value.

I rolled on my back and stared at the ceiling. All I could think about was how I squandered so much of my life, my time and my resources on worthless things. I felt like that son in the story Jesus told, the son who took all his father’s inheritance and spent it on wild living. I too would willingly be a slave in my father’s house just to share in his abundance, just to have a small portion of his wealth.

Unable to sleep, I left my mat and walked to the front door. The rotted wood door creaked when I opened it and flakes of plaster fell from the wall. I stepped outside then sat on the front step and watched the people milling about the neighborhood. I looked down the street and noticed the shadows of people moving on the walls of the buildings. A dusty haze lingered, stirred up from the movement of people and animals. I imagined what it would be like to see my father on the street spot me sitting here, then run arms open to hug me. No one was ever that excited to see me. Could it be possible?

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who heard Jesus tell the parables in Luke 15.

© 2019 CGThelen

Sorrow fills me

Tears well up inside

Flowing down my cheeks

Pooling on the floor

Jesus wept

Death returns once more

Grief fills my soul

So much living remained

Cut short by the grave

Jesus wept

Deep hurt inflicted

The memories return

Sadness overtakes me

The pain, too much to bear

Jesus wept

Memories haunt me

Violent outbursts

Directed at me

Muscles tense, I recoil

Jesus wept

Hope has vanished

Stricken from this place

Emotions overwhelm me

All seems so pointless

Jesus wept

I see him weeping

I see his love for him

I see his love for me

He knows my pain

Jesus wept

He weeps with me

Tears pool on the floor

But his are tinged with red

Love for me so deep

Jesus wept

There is life after pain

There is life after hurt

There is hope in sorrow

There is life after death

Jesus rose

His love abounds

He wipes away my tears

His grace is sufficient

His hope eternal

Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” – John 11:35-36 (NIV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

© 2019 CGThelen

I sat down after a long day to rest my weary body after a day of toil in the fields. My young children came to me and a I greeted them with a hug. How blessed I felt as I gazed above the heads of my children in my embrace at my beautiful wife preparing our evening meal. She smiled at me. Suddenly this moment was interrupted by a knock at the door.

My wife frowned as I glanced at the door. Once again their was a knock. I sighed and released my children as I stood up. “Who could that be?” I looked at my children gazing up at me with a curious look. They were as puzzled as I was about who was visiting us at this hour.

When I opened the door I was surprised to see the widow from down the street with her two boys. One of the boys held an armful of empty jars.

“Well, good evening,” I greeted her. I did not know her, but I had heard of her plight — how her husband died and now his creditors were likely to take her sons as slaves to pay for the debt left by her husband. I was sure she was looking for handouts to avoid the fate of her boys. In my mind I thought they were getting what they deserved. It was a consequence of taking on debt. I wasn’t about to give up what what I earned. By this time my children gathered behind me by the door as my wife looked on from the table while she continued to prepare our meal.

“Please, can you spare a few empty jars?” She asked.

“Empty jars?” I didn’t expect that request. “What do you want with empty jars “ I asked. She certainly did not have anything to put in them.

“I am only doing what the prophet Elisha asked me to do.”

“Elisha?!” My eyes widened. “Is he at your house?”

“No, I went to him and pleaded for help to save my sons from slavery.”

“I’m aware of your situation,” I replied. “As are most people in town, yet this is all your ask for?”

“It is what the man of God told me to do.”

I nodded. I had a lot of respect for Elisha and I wasn’t about to argue with his instructions. “Children. Go get a couple empty jars from your mother.”

They immediately ran to the table where my wife already had two jars waiting. She smiled at me and nodded in agreement. When I took the jars from my children, I noticed they were the jars my wife’s mother made for her. I glanced at her, unsure whether I should give up these special jars. She smiled again and nodded.

“Here you go,” I told the widow as I handed her the jars.

“Thank you,” she replied with tears in her eyes. She handed the jars to her son who held them tightly in an embrace. “I hate to impose, but do you have any more jars you could spare?”

I glanced back at my wife. She reached toward the shelf behind her and grabbed a jar that was given to me by my grandfather. She looked at me and I nodded. “Son, go get that other jar from your mother.”

My son retrieved the jar and I handed it to the widow. “I’m afraid this is all we have to spare.”

“Thank you so much,” she said as she handed the additional jar to her son who carefully added it to his armful of jars.

“May I ask what the prophet intends to do with these jars?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “After I pleaded with him to help, he said, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ Then I told him I had nothing except

a small jar of olive oil. That’s when he told me, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

I nodded at her as we exchanged a stare. Behind her eyes I saw hope. She revered the Lord like her husband.

“Thank you for the jars,” she said with a slight smile.

“You’re welcome,” I replied.

I began to close the door, but paused as I watched her walk to the next house with her two sons. I admired her faith, her trust that this prophet would work a miracle for her.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who encounters the widow at his door asking for empty jars based on 2 Kings 4:1-7 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

Shattered

Broken pieces

Scattered all around

Void of any shape

A broken vessel

Unable to hold

Fragile clay pot

Smashed against

A cold, hard floor

So many pieces

Yet God’s hand

Patiently shows

Porous clay edges

Now exposed

Readily absorb

His love and grace

One by one

His compassion

Glues pieces together

Little by little*

He rebuilds

Restoring this vessel

To serve him

Until one day

It is complete

A vessel worthy

To hold his love

Filled with hope

Cracks still visible

Brokenness still evident

But held together

By God’s love and grace

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

*Thanks to Jennifer Arimborgo and her post http://feedingonjesus.com/2019/08/27/little-by-little-2/ for inspiring this poem.

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