Do you ever wonder exactly what God wants you to do, especially when you have so many options and demands to manage?
So often, we want big directional signs from God. But God just wants us to pay attention to what He places right in front of us. I learned this early on in ministry when I had dreams to do big things for God.
However, when I looked at what was right in front of me at that time, I saw my neighbors, Ken and Mary. They lived right down the street and were known for their amazing hospitality, adorable farmhouse, and parties that stepped out of the pages of a magazine. Mary was alive with creativity and always thinking of ways to bless others. Ken adored living out his retirement years helping his bride create a haven for family and friends.
But cancer swept in and before long, Ken laid Mary to rest in the arms of Jesus.
I remember seeing Ken not long after Mary’s funeral. I knew I needed to stop and say something. But what? When I reached Ken, I just gave him a hug. “How are you, Ken?” Tears filled his eyes, “Not so good. The silence is killing me, Lysa.”
And with those words, I knew this interaction with Ken was an assignment from God. He was stirring my heart more and more as I began to sense I was to invite Ken over for dinner.
I started having this argument with God in my mind, God, he’s going to expect food. Cooking isn’t in my Top 10 talents. I mean, sometimes we just order pizza and call it a night. My cooking doesn’t even come close to Mary’s. Are you sure about this?
But Ken hadn’t asked for an amazing meal. What made his heart ache was the silence.
So I smiled at Ken and said, “Well then, you must come to our house for dinner. I can’t always promise it will be tidy and I’m certainly no great cook, but one thing is for sure — my house is never silent.”
Thus started a tradition — Monday night dinners with Ken.
We never had candles or tablecloths or even a properly set table. But the noise of our family was an orchestra of comfort and healing to Ken’s lonely heart.
Being knee-deep in the realities of small children made me feel like this wasn’t my season of life to make a difference to the outside world. But God used my offering of what little I had!
We just did life and let Ken join in. I would often ask about Mary’s ways of doing things, and his face would light up at the opportunity to keep part of her alive. And slowly but surely, as we all made time for these special dinners, we recaptured the sacredness of relationships that so often gets lost in the rush of our days.
One night, as Ken was leaving our home, he stepped off the sidewalk to make his way over to a bush in full bloom. He tenderly picked up one of the flowers and pressed his face close, breathing in its scent deeply. He then looked back at me standing in the doorway and said, “Don’t miss this. Don’t rush through your life, Lysa. Make time to stop and breathe it all in.” I’ve never forgotten that.
Eventually, Ken met someone who could cook, got remarried, and moved away. But my family and I still preserve that sacred space for Monday night dinner tradition. We invite coworkers, acquaintances, and friends who feel like family to join us. We take time to talk. Laugh. Process life. Breathe it all in. Although our to-do lists and schedules tug at our attention, we don’t allow anything to take priority over these moments. I refuse to let the people I’ve been entrusted with get my “less” instead of my “best” because I’m distracted.
I’m so thankful God entrusted me with that small assignment to give Ken noise all those years ago. A little gift placed in the hands of a big God can change the world. It changed ours, and it changed Ken’s. It’s amazing to me that what started out as a simple gesture to help a grieving neighbor became one of the greatest ministry blessings to me and my family. And I’ve done a lot of “breathing it all in” like Ken instructed ever since.
What kind of traditions do you hold dear in your family now or from your family growing up?
During the time of Jesus, the Feast of the Tabernacles was an important occasion in the life of the Jewish people. If you were the type of family that attended this festival, then you most likely had traditions to go along with it. Little did the Jewish people know, though, that this particular year the Feast of Tabernacles would be quite different — because at this one, Jesus was going to reveal who He is.
John 7 takes place during the Feast of the Tabernacles and you can feel the controversy, confusion, and speculation that came with Jesus attending the festival. He made some bold claims that concerned the Jewish leaders of the day.
Everyone seemed to have an opinion about Jesus. Some people flat out didn’t like Him. Some people wanted to believe Him but really struggled to understand His words. Some people stuck by Him. I wonder how Jesus got through this time in His ministry. Saying things that were true but so hard for people to understand. He was astounding them with His words. And the people did not know how to take it.
In verse 8 Jesus says He isn’t going to the festival. Then in verse 10 He sets out for the festival. If we read verse 8 in its original Greek, we get a better explanation of what seems to be a contradiction. The Greek gives the sense that Jesus said “I am not now going” which would explain why He did not go with his brothers but instead went alone at a later time.
The Feast of Tabernacles, during which the action in John 7 takes place, is sometimes called the Feast of Booths. Two aspects of this feast were front and center for the Jewish people: water and light.
The Feast of the Tabernacles was the most joyous and the longest festival in the Jewish calendar — it lasted eight days in the early fall. It was a time to celebrate the last of the year’s harvest and was also a time to commemorate God faithfully providing for His people during the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness.
The festival was characterized by three major events:
- Participating in a procession of palms;
- Observing as the priests daily poured water from the fountain of Siloam onto the altar;
- Illuminating four large menorahs each night in the temple courts.
After a sacrifice, the very next thing that would happen in the morning was pouring the libation of water upon the altar. And the last thing that would happen at night was the torch dance; it lasted up until dawn. Water and Light.
In John 7 we see a bit of controversy. People wanted to seize Jesus. Common sense might tell you this was the time to back down and take a back seat for a while — let the crowd simmer down. But that is not the direction Jesus chose:
"On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me[a] and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.' He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified."
There is no official “I AM” statement here, but take note of what Jesus does say about Himself. This is the first time Jesus said this kind of statement in front of a crowd. But it is not the first time He said it. He said it first in His encounter with the Samaritan woman recorded in John 4.
Keep in mind the two major elements of the Feast of the Tabernacles — water and light. The priests knew the symbolism of the water because they knew the Old Testament Scriptures well. Isaiah 55:1 says: “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.”
Every morning during the festival the priests would proceed from the Temple Mount down to the spring of Siloam. They would travel down with a large golden pitcher and draw water with it. When the priest got back to the Temple Mount the crowd and the priests would greet him saying, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”
Every year during this festival they would do this. They would say these words. But, this particular time, it’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard because the well of salvation was in their midst and they didn’t even recognize it.
Never again will we be thirsty if we come to Jesus to drink. Bread last week. Water today. The living water Jesus spoke of is the gift of salvation, fullness of life. A free gift to us but a gift that cost Jesus His life.
It grieves me that there are so many people in this world going to a well day after day to fill up their bucket with water that won’t last. You always get thirsty again. You always need water. You need it — Every. Single. Day.
What wells do you think our culture tries to draw water from on a regular basis? What wells are you tempted to draw satisfaction from on a regular basis?
Do we look to work, family, education, various achievements? If we are honest with ourselves, we find a flickering and fleeting sense of satisfaction from these, but none of them can be the full source of satisfaction in our lives. They can quench part of our heart but never reach that deep thirst of the soul. Only Jesus can do that. Jesus is the source of satisfaction that will not leave us wanting.
There is nothing you have to do to obtain the fullness of life; you just have to receive it. The Holy Spirit who comes upon us at our salvation is miraculous. This doesn’t mean we will always feel content and never feel dissatisfaction. The promise that Jesus gives us is enough. The way I’ve seen Him work in my life and bring living water to my soul in the driest of seasons is enough for me to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting Him. And step by step, my soul is beginning to feel hopeful again. Like I might be able to make real progress in this journey.
So I hold onto the faithfulness of my God. And unlike the priests of this time drawing water from a well that will never satisfy, I look to Jesus and say, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” Amen and amen.
Adapted from Finding I AM: How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart © 2016 Lysa TerKeurst. Published by LifeWay Press®.