Monthly Archives: November 2016

Throwing Stones

dsc_0714By Judy Villanueva

John 8:1-11

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

What is it about human nature that wants to stand over others and cry out for justice? Even children seem to have an internal sense of fairness and tattle loudly when someone breaks the rules.  What is glaring in this story is the complete lack of love with which this woman is thrown down before Jesus.

I wonder what Jesus was thinking as he wrote in the sand?  Did he kneel down and write as a way of helping the crowd slow down and really see the woman?

Did he want it to sink in that they were not so different than she?  I wonder what the woman was thinking. She was caught in the act!  She knows how this works.  I imagine her looking down in shame unable to meet the eyes of her accusers and bracing for the first stone.  Instead, crouched in Jesus’ shadow, she hears him invite the one without sin to throw first but, rather than receiving blows of judgment, she hears rocks fall to the ground and feet shuffle away!

Can you imagine her first taste of grace as she looks up at Jesus and hears him say, “Where are your accusers?  Does no one condemn you?  Neither do I condemn you.”  We are people in need of mercy, and yet, are terribly prone to judge one another with harshness. It’s not that discerning right from wrong is a bad thing.  On the contrary, it is a necessary thing if we are to grow in godliness.

We do harm when we stop seeing people and just see their acts, when we forget that we are not so different from those we condemn, and when we mistakenly believe we are in any position to throw stones.

The only One in that position did not pick up a rock.  Nor did Jesus set the woman free without exhorting her to leave her life of sin.  We tend to do one or the other — we either forgive and condone sin or,  judge and condemn it.  The truth is, we need  mercy AND justice and it is only crouched in the shadow of the cross that — remarkably, undeservedly, and thankfully — we find both!   Amazing and beautiful grace!

“Lord, I confess that I, too, judge others harshly. I ask for grace to fill my heart and your help to love people and forgive acts. Thank you for daily graces and your heart that keeps setting me free. Amen.”

What about you?

Are you a grace giver or a stone thrower?

Do you tend to forgive and condone or, judge and condemn?

Have you had an encounter with amazing grace?

Have you received God’s gift of forgiveness and love?

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Look at Me!

dsc_1148By Judy Villanueva

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1Samuel 3:10)

My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words; Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart, for they are life to those who find them 
and health to one’s whole body. (Proverbs 4:20-22)

I was ready for the challenge!  I was twenty-three years old.  She was a baby.  I had a college education.  She had determination!  Suddenly, she made her move and crawled as fast as she could for the electrical outlet!  She looked over at me and reached out her dimpled hand in defiance!   I sternly said, “Look at mommy!  Don’t you dare touch that outlet!” We had been here before — many times — and each time I’d watch her teeter between wanting what she wanted and yielding to my voice.  To her credit, she looked at me and stalled for about ten seconds before she touched it!

“Look at Me!”  It’s a directive that parents use to get their child’s attention.  It is meant to entice the young one away from one focal point and onto the parent in order to give needed correction or guidance.  Babies, of course, cannot appreciate the good intentions of the parent and simply want what they want!  Sadly, even grown up, we tend to get focused on things that don’t bring life or worse, are harmful to us. Submitting our desires to God and turning to Him for direction is essential to maintaining a balanced and healthy spiritual life.

The problem is not so much that we want this or that, but rather that our hearts get so filled up with good things (and not so good things) that there is little room left to want God.

Can you hear God when He calls you to look at Him?  It might be a still, small voice, an internal nudge or a louder invitation, like an ulcer, or a life that is falling apart.  If we are not in the habit of “listening”, His might sound like one voice among many.

There is a fine-tuning that happens each time we hear and obey God. The sound of Him becomes clearer!

Likewise, we can deaden our sense of Him by ignoring His prompts and turning away from His face.

Looking for God, listening as we make decisions or walk out the front door is necessary if we are to be helped to want what is most worthy of wanting!  Do you want God?  I do, in theory!  But, too often, I really just want what I want and depend on His kind, steady voice to help me turn away from things that distract me and look at Him.  I want to be aware of God in the middle of my day, especially when He says, “Judy, look at Me!”

I need to feel the sound of Him correcting, directing and helping me find my way to His will.

I need to hear His voice say “I love you” in my every moment and learn to want Him most of all.

“Father, I thank you that you are a wise and watchful parent.  Help me to hear you call when I am in heading away from your will and in need of redirecting!  Keep finding me!  Amen.”

What about you?

Can you hear God when He calls to you?

How do you look at God?

What sorts of things help you hear His voice?

Are you learning to want God, most of all?

There is nothing more orienting than looking at God!  It finds us!

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