Tag Archives: Living Water

Northernness

18 Aug

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
   so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
   for (D)the living God.   Psalm 42:1-2

Starting in my chest, an undefinable longing slowly rose until it grew so acute I could taste the yearning.

Last night I was editing photos from a trip to my hometown on Lake Superior, and my soul was there – not just imagining, but really standing on the beach.  The crisp lake air pushed ripples toward the the shore, over the smooth pebbles and down into my heart.

C. S. Lewis called it Northernness.

He had several experiences as a child he couldn’t describe his heart was so overwhelmed.  “Later in life he would call this sensation Joy, which he defined as ‘an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.'”

As and adult, waves of Northernness crashed over him as he read ancient Norse legends (hence the directional nature of the term).  “I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale, and remote)…. Pure Northernness engulfed me [with] a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of northern summer.”

David called it thirsting.

He so yearned for more of God that he used a most desperate metaphor from his desert culture – a panting deer.  A deer pants for one of two reasons: either it is overheated (deer hide out in the forests during the day to avoid the heat) or the deer has been running (again, not a common occurrence, because deer are smarter than to unnecessarily run in the heat of the day).  The implication is the deer is stressed and super-desperate for water.  The sun is either blazing down excruciatingly, or the deer was forced to run – most likely from a predator – and must have water now instead of waiting for dusk.  In both life-threateningly grave situations the deer cannot not seek out water.

God uses his creation to speak to me.  Ankle deep in icy water, I hear His voice through the splashing waves, and my heart aches, flying free and twisting into knots at the same time; undefinable, but definitely not elusive.  Thirsty Northernness pushes me into His arms–  the only place my soul is satisfied.

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Ready for Sunday

While I can cultivate a desperateness for God in my relationship with Him that comes close to the overwhelming moments described above, I don’t think I can “make them happen”.  I’m sure these are “deep calling to deep” – His Spirit inside me calling to Him.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t pursue Him!

Nowhere in Psalm 42 does David pine for the royal courts or the accoutrements of being King of Israel.  What he longed for was his God, and specifically, to lead others in worship.

My prayer is that I would be so desperate for Him, the living water, nothing else will satisfy my craving.

Lewis quotes taken from C. S. Lewis, An Examined Life, by Bruce Edwards, pp. 254-55.  Edwards is quoting from Surprised by Joy, The Shape of My Early Life, by C. S. Lewis.

While David is not listed as the author of Psalm 42, the commentaries I read to find the author’s name believe David wrote this psalm while he was hiding from his son Absalom who was trying to usurp the throne.

Bread and Water

14 Jul

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

My phone was eligible for an upgrade – so off to the store I trotted, birthday and Christmas money saved for months safely stuffed into my pocket.  I was a little incensed that the clerk opened the box unceremoniously in front of me.  Part of the fun of buying something new is opening the box and being the first one to handle the pristine item.  The feeling passed quickly, however, as he expertly transferred all my contacts, and presented me with my sleek, new super-phone.

The new phone has some cool features, but my real reason for upgrading is the camera.  I’ve become fascinated with phone/app photography.  I was excited to show my new tool to friends with the same interest.  Raised eyebrows and nods of approval all around.  Except for someone new to the group.

“Why didn’t you wait for the next model coming out in 3 months?  The camera will be even better, the storage capacity enormous, and the processing time next to nothing.”

I knew about the upcoming product, but I’d decided the wait wasn’t worth it.  I was happy with my new camer… I mean phone!  Still, a little wistful feeling crept into my happiness when I realized that my brand new (quite expensive) purchase was already outdated technology.

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Dissatisfaction can be a good thing.

Our bodies need replenishing.  Yesterday’s manna is gone (or moldy!), and we need to eat again today to satisfy our hunger.  The water I drank before sitting down to write this post has been absorbed into my hydration-thirsty cells.   I need more to satisfy my thirst.  (Right now.  brb!)  Bread and water.  Hunger and thirst.  They are part of our human condition.

Jesus contrasted the living water He promised the Samaritan woman with water drawn from the public well.  The Greek word for well in the passage, more correctly translated cistern, describes “a receptacle for water conveyed to it; distinguished [from a different Greek word, translated spring], which denotes a place where water rises on the spot.” (1)

Because rainfall was extremely scarce in Israel (much like in the Midwest this summer!), people had to dig cisterns to collect every bit of rain in order to have water during the dry season, while those who lived near a spring had an endless supply of fresh water, no matter what the weather or season.

Water in a cistern would sustain life, but spring water was far more preferable.  Cisterns dried up, the water they held was stagnant or muddy and lukewarm, and pride or self-sufficiency replaced dependence on God.

Living water from a spring was sweet and clear, cool and refreshing; it flowed continuously from deep within the earth without the aid of human back-breaking labor.

This is the context of the offer Jesus made to the woman at the well.

Of course she wanted living water!

Walking to the cistern everyday to get water was hard work and the water she collected was sub-standard– warm and muddy from last month’s rainstorm.  She definitely wanted the water upgrade Jesus offered!

But Jesus shattered her mental water jar on the nearby cliffs.

He wasn’t talking about water at all.  This Living Water fills on a more basic life-level.  It truly satisfies and also causes a deep yearning for more and more of the same.

Jesus wasn’t saying that she, and we, only need one drink from the spring of Living Water to be satisfied, but that once we know where to get a drink, the desire to go back to the cistern evaporates like a puddle on desert clay at noon in July.  We no longer thirst because now we know where to find the Living Water.

But just like the lesson of the Old Testament manna,  taking an extra-big drink of Living Water won’t last through tomorrow.  (You will have to get up during the night, though!)   Carrying home an extra supply of water in a jar also won’t last until tomorrow because it won’t be fresh – it will stagnate.

The spiritual parallel supports two main points:

  1. a holy dissatisfaction with substitutes for our relationship with Christ; and
  2. a daily (or hourly) need for relationship-building with our Lord.

Our thirst is satisfied in Him, the Living Water, and yet we are also unsatisfied and thirsty for more of Him.  We have tasted the fresh water and know where it comes from– so we can’t help but return.

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Ready for Sunday

Sometimes when I get focused on a task or a project, it feels very inconvenient to stop and eat.  I can keep going for a little while, but when my energy begins to dry up, I wish I’d stopped earlier to fuel my energy.  How many times have I continued to forge ahead on my own, when I know where the Source of my strength lies?

Why do I wait until my tank is on E before stopping for a long, cool drink?  And why do I trade the stagnant water of my own efforts for Life-giving Water?

As worship leaders, it also goes beyond you and me.  Not only is it impossible to lead others to the spring if we haven’t been there lately, but if we travel without stopping for Living Water, we will shrivel up in the heat and not be able to lead anyone.

The condition of my parched yard and gardens in the hottest and driest summer in a century is a graphic reminder of what I am on my own.  Desolate.  And the day lilies I water everyday, that exists in the same harsh summer, display the glory of the One who satisfies the thirsty.

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(1) Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary quoted in the cistern article on dictionary.com

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