Leaving and Receiving

By Paul Knudtson

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Life involves both leaving and receiving. We hear about this in the gospel.

Disciples say to Jesus: “Look we have left everything and followed you.”

Jesus says, “there is no one who has left house or brothers and sisters or mother or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30)

 

I’ve thought about the kinds of leaving that this life involves at all stages:

  • Children leave the comfort of home and go to school with strangers, leaving toys, free time, and the familiarity of routines with parents.
  • Companies downsize and restructure, opportunities for advancement arise elsewhere, or working conditions become intolerable, forcing people to leave their place of work.
  • Seniors move out of their homes to go into assisted living, losing their independence and freedom.
  • The empty farm house where I grew up is a mere shadow of its former glory in the days when it thrived as an active farm. Leaving what once was, is painful.
  • Visiting family is colored by the question, “When are you leaving?” even before the suitcases are put into the spare bedroom.

And the leaving of this life is often painful.  That’s why the rich man in Mark 10 was “grieving.” He didn’t want to leave it all behind.

These words from Psalm 38 may express how we feel when we must leave something we love:

6I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; I go about in mourning all the day long.” “8I am utterly numb and crushed; I wail, because of the groaning of my heart.”

But the leaving referred to in the gospel is matched by a much greater receiving:

One who has left home and family . . . will receive “a hundredfold now in this age . . . and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:30)

Just so, our leaving needs to be balanced by the much more of the receiving.

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Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

It is like the leaving referred to at the beginning of Mark 10, that which refers to the creation story in Genesis 2. Jesus says,

“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.” ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.’” (Mark 10:6-8; Gen 1:27; 2:24)

It may be hard to leave father and mother, but one receives so much more through marriage and having a family of one’s own.

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I think of all that I have received by leaving my own father and mother for marriage:

I have children and grandchildren of my own along with a partner who is a witness to my life.

What a joy they have brought to us. Our five-year-old grandson at breakfast one morning said this to his dad as he was eating a piece of bread:

“I’m eating Jesus’ skin, right?” His dad replied, “Well, not really.” To which he replied, “It’s in the Bible!”

We rejoice each time a new child enters our family.  Our hearts are enlarged with each new person.

Such joys are part of the receiving that has gone with leaving my father and mother for marriage.

But the attachment to that which is precious can prevent us from receiving what is far better and far more valuable.

  • Attachment to parents has prevented many marriages from thriving.
  • The rich man’s attachment to money in Mark 10 kept him from following Jesus.

Mark 10 speaks of these attachments that one must give up: “house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields.”

What have you had to give up in life? What leaving has defined you?

What does Jesus ask you to leave in order that you may follow him?

Christian faith does not eliminate the pain of leaving that we experience in this life—in some ways it intensifies it, even as Jesus asks people to leave what others do not leave.

thThe rich young man in Mark 10 had to choose between his wealth and Jesus.

Either / Or — his wealth or Jesus.

What either/or defines your life of faith?

Yet, there is something drastic—seemingly reckless or irresponsible—in what Jesus calls the rich man to do—to sell everything he owns and follow him.  In my experience, money and possessions give one a sense of security. Who would want to give away this security?

But it is good to be reminded that not even money in the bank can give us ultimate security in this life.

One day this week as I thought about the struggles our families have faced through the years.  No one is immune.  I read the words of Psalm 36 that speaks of the much more that we receive from God.

5Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds. 7How priceless is your love, O God! Your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.  8They feast upon the abundance of your house; you give them drink from the river of your delights.”

Jesus invites us to follow him and to trust in him above all, and to find our ultimate security in him alone. He invites us to throw caution to the wind as we follow him on the great adventure of faith.

Oftentimes Jesus directs our attention to what is most dear, most precious to us, and even asks us to give this up in order to follow him.

He wishes us to find our ultimate security in him and in his love.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

Trusting in the Lord isn’t always easy for us, but Jesus doesn’t play it safe.

Sell it all and give it away, every bit of it, and come follow me.

Thomas Green likens the life of faith to learning how to float in the ocean. Floating rather than swimming. In swimming, one is in control, energetically swimming to a certain destination; when one floats, one surrenders to the current, allowing it to carry one wherever it will.  (Thomas H. Green, S.J. When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the BeginningsAve Maria Press, 2007)

 

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matt11)

Do you like to feel in control of everything in your life?  Are you a swimmer rather than a floater?

As we see early in Mark 10, Jesus calls us also to give up our self-sufficiency and to become like children.  To leave adulthood in order to receive the kingdom of God.

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Photo by ajay bhargav GUDURU on Pexels.com

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Matthew 18)

Kids know that they are not responsible for everything in the world. They don’t usually carry the weight of the world of their shoulders.

This week I watched a mother with three pre-school children walk into Safeway and then a few minutes later leave Safeway. She carried one child, followed by a boy and a girl following him. This girl, perhaps 3 years old, seemed completely lost in the wonder of being a child. She took huge giant steps as she walked across the marked cross walk leading from the store—then tried to balance on the cement parking bumper.

Jesus invites us to leave the burden of adult life for childlike, joyful, carefree living.

Is Jesus saying these words to you?

“Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”

Psalm 127 adds:

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.”  (v.3)

Jesus looks at us, and loves us, and wants us to be free of all the encumbrances that we are so attached to and that prevent us from finding our rest and security in God.

  • Childhood traumas
  • The painful memories of hurt, abandonment and loss
  • The fear of an uncertain future
  • Unresolved conflicts, broken relationships, estrangement
  • Health worries
  • Financial strains
  • Death and mortality

At the heart of this rest is knowing that we are God’s beloved.

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The disciples had taken the plunge of discipleship, as Peter reminds the Lord: “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”

But the gospel is not simply about leaving; instead, the gospel is about leaving in order to receive much more in the company of Jesus:

“a hundredfold now in this age . . . and in the age to come eternal life.”

Conclusion

Though it is hard or impossible to conceive of such a thing, we will one day be asked to give up what is most dear to us—our very lives.

We may think that it was cruel of Jesus to ask that rich man to give up everything he owned, and that it is cruel that God should require all the leaving that is required of us in this life.

But we need to always remember the “much more” quality of the gospel.  We will receive a hundredfold now in this age—and in the age to come eternal life.”

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A Letter From the Past

By Elaine Knudtson

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I wrote myself a letter in 1970 that I found in my closet just last week.  “Live in the moment,” I admonished myself.  “Enjoy one second at a time.”

Does life consist of the seconds?

“I’ve been through an awful lot, but no more than anyone else,” I told myself. “My problems are great, but not insurmountable and my joys are exalted, but they very quickly pass. I am a teenager.”

Foolish, pious young girl.  What did I know about life:

“There is much misery and the threat of death, but these things have a habit of looming so large in our minds that we completely destroy the sensitive place in our hearts reserved for soft, simple things in life.”

I was at the beginning of the race.  Ready to be part of the generation that would change the world.  Lofty goals, high ideals, full of promise.

But last month I retired.  I retired and they deleted me before I was even out the door.

I’m obsolete, the vision of the past, easily replaced, quickly forgotten.

My influence evaporates.

Friends promise reunions, but they are still in the race and the promise will be  forgotten and

“Let’s get together” becomes, “I ought to call her.”

Guilt replaces good intentions.

I’m disconnected.  Just another senior fumbling for change at the check out.

The senior reflects; the teenager hoped:

 

“I don’t know how it happened, but I found myself walking amongst thorny shrubs.  I was in a patch of wild roses.  Only the month before the bushes had been full of bright pink flowers.  Now the flowers had faded and died.  Only the seeds were left. The seed was shaped like a tiny red apple.  It was homely, without vivid color or the soft curves of the pedals, but no matter how much I wanted that seed to blossom again, it would not.  It would take a cold winter and the warm thawing sun in the spring to bring it into bloom.”  (Elaine, 1970)

Could it be that the seed will bloom again in this new chapter of my life?

The teenager focused on the future; now as the elder, I see it was not the prize at the end that shaped my life, but rather the way I ran the race.

What would I tell my teenage self?

Elaine044

Learn to love those you hate

Honor the humble and the meek

Serve those you lead

Value your weaknesses

Be cautious of your strengths; pride                   weakens you.

You will not change the world; make   sure the world changes you for the better.

“I know the plans I have you for,” declares the Lord.  “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “And will bring you back to the place from which (you began).” Jeremiah 29:11-14

 

 

Trust the Water

Hans Kung, a leading 20th century theologian, writes in his 2009 book What I Believe:

In the act of saying “Yes”, venturing fundamental trust, risking trust in life:  in that way and only in that way I can go on living my life. . . .And the unbounded joy which I experienced was similar to the joy I experienced as a child while swimming, when for the first time I had the experience that the water really supported bodies, even mine, that I entrusted myself to the water, that all alone–without support or any aids–I could trust myself to the water.” (chpt. 1)

Peter saw how Jesus trusted the water on the Sea of Galilee.

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, “It’s a ghost”, they said and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied,” tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “Why did you doubt?”  Mt. 14:25-31

This same story appears in Mark, without Peter’s request; the richness of Matthew is that it gives us permission to go beyond our comfort zone, even if we fail.

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“Trust the Water” by Elaine Knudtson

I stand on the edge of the shore between now and then,

Letting the water tickle my toes, but I’m afraid to go farther.

I trust the land.  I can control my exit:

  • I know the resting places
  • the curves in the well worn paths
  • the dark valleys to avoid
  • the hidden off ramps

It’s comfortable, safe, predictable.

But I’ve come to this place and there’s no turning back.

The water is inviting.  They say its cool, refreshing, peaceful.

It’s the reward for leaving the land and coming to the end of the lenten journey.

But can I trust it?

  • Its deep, dark, unknown
  • There are docks and buoys to mark the safe places, but I want to go beyond the ropes into the vastness of the reefs where the colorful fish swim across the coral.
  • I know there is a beauty and adventure for those who dare.  But I’m new at this, and I’m afraid.

I look behind me and know the road has been closed.  It only goes one way,  and I can stay here on the shore until I’m ready, but the day is waning and I see others beckoning me to join them.

They are my friends, my family, my mentors, who assure me the water is fine.

It is the water of experience, faith, community, “koionania”, “logos”, the “word made flesh”; and it is good, it is “tove meode.”

And so I leave the shore; reach my arms to the heavens and fall into the water. so that when you come to the shore, I will be able to call to you,

“Come and join me.  You can trust the water.”

 

 

Its Place Knows it No Longer

 

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15As for mortals, their days are like grass;

they flourish like a flower of the field;

16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

and its place knows it no more.

   Psalm 103

 

 

 

 

I think of my grandfather’s farm site, the place where my dad was born and grew as a boy. When I was but six, dad went to work dismantling everything that stood there. The barn was taken down and its lumber was reused to build granaries at home in our yard. The house and other buildings were dismantled. Everything was cleared away and the land was broken and crops grew where the buildings and corrals once stood. Now those who drive by that old farm yard on the road see no trace that of the yard and buildings that once stood there. The house and home have disappeared completely from the face of the earth.  As Psalm 103 says, “it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”

Recently, my siblings and I decided to sell the land that had been in the family for over a century; land that had belonged to our grandfather.  This decision affected all of us emotionally.

“I think I am experiencing grief at the sale of the land. I am in mourning. Perhaps we should wear black. I will be OK I think, but it is still painful. It is a big loss. My head and my heart are out of sync. I am happy that we still have each other.”

I feel that I know that land like no other. It is my land, and I even feel that that land knows me. It has seen me from my earliest years. I was a baby, a boy, then a teenager on that land, in that place. I became familiar with every slough and every slope; I spent Saturdays as a boy exploring the rugged hills of the coulee together with my brothers.

The farm, this plot of ground, this place has always existed in my mind as my geographic center or North Pole—the place from which I looked out on the world. Even when I moved away from home, this place remained the imaginary and emotional center of my universe.

Now all of that has changed—and I am struggling to understand how to get oriented in my life without such a North Pole. I feel like I must now live in a landscape that looks the same as before, but which now can no longer be defined in terms of North or South, East or West. My old compass no longer works—the needle turns back and forth aimlessly, unaffected by any magnetic field. That piece of earth was where my life began, it was the place from which I looked out on the world, the center of my geographic sense of the world—and continued to be the place within my imagination that was my center.

What has happened in this community  is the story of what has happened across the prairies as a whole. Farms have gotten larger and the rural population has diminished. Dozens of small rural churches now stand empty on Sunday mornings. Small towns and villages have lost stores and the railway.

With such profound changes, I sometimes wonder what sense of rootedness my children and grandchildren will have. They are disconnected from their ancestors, their heritage, and the farm. What this means for the future or regarding the meaning of my family’s history from generation to generation, I do not know.

PRK

 

One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. . . For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter; he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling and set me high upon a rock. . . . What if I had not believed that I should see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  Ps. 27:5, 7, 17

 

Contemplative Pilgrims

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Thoughts for the journey

Thank you for joining us!  As we retire, we bring together a collection of stories, poems and reflections to share with family and friends.  Wisdom is gained as we encounter the spiritual in scripture and through the “logos”–the Word made flesh.  It is our hope that you will find encouragement for the journey.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Being a Child

Reflections on Genesis 1 and 2

By Elaine Knudtson

Children squeeze, tease, ignite hope and leave. . .

But I remember –

The way they folded into a ball in my arms and tucked under my chin like a soft                 plushed toy;

The smell of new skin and vellum—is that how we smelled in the Garden?

Did we tuck ourselves under God’s chin and fold into a child, soothed by the beat of His heart?

Could we sense His love, hope, excitement?

Did we bring Him joy,

Or did He fear that we would soon leave?

What love; to bring life into the world, knowing it is only for a moment.  But oh the sweetness of those moments.

It is enough to risk the pain.  It is a call to seize the moments.

Memory is the album of our life.  I choose to remember beauty, truth, peaceful pastures, quiet respite between the storms.

I forget the pain of leaving and remember being tucked under Your chin and carried as I listen to the beat of your heart.

 

 

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining us!  So much of life is below the surface and intuitive.  What we believe to be deeply personal and unique is often universal.  The spiritual is ignored until the pressures of life exceed our capacity to make sense of any of it.  Out of the struggle emerges wisdom and a connection to the Logos, “The Word made flesh”.

As we retire, my husband and I are collecting our poems and reflections to share with our family and friends.  We offer it as an encouragement and hope for the journey.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Waltoncontemplative