Well Water/Tuesday with Tom for 3.21.17

“….but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I will give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14(NIV)
I don’t know many places a person can go to get “well water” at a home any more. I remember having it only a couple of times way out in the country, far from my home in town. Oh my, the mystical nature of it; so cool and refreshing. In my mind it is still the best water I ever had.
In another translation the word “bubbles” replaces “welling.” In this story, a rather long one, Jesus reveals He knows everything about the Samaritan woman. In all that He knows about her, her past really doesn’t matter compared to her future in Christ, does it? I think what He sees/hopes for her is joy rather than happiness, those things eternal rather than temporal, those things that change the core of a soul.
Way back then she may have thought He might help shorten her trip or frequency to the well. Today I am reminded of the movie “The Shack” based very, very closely on the novel a few years back by the same name. In the book “Mac” has a meal with the Holy Trinity characters at the dinner table. As he finishes his beverage he says it was the best meal he ever had. Of course it was. Look who prepared it.
It brings me back to the well from which I drank out of a tin cup on the back porch of that relative’s home so long ago. That well water quenched my thirst like never before. To the Samaritan woman (and all of us) there is a Well Water beyond imagine just for the asking.

Tending the vineyard,
Tom Welch

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Just a pinch of Simon/TWT for 3.14.17

“As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene named Simon, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross.” -Matthew 27:32(TEV)

Each Lenten season I try to make it to Stations of the Cross on Fridays. I am always struck at the moment we read of Simon being forced into service for this complete stranger. In each of the gospels where this point is referenced it speaks to being “made to do it.” I wonder, though. It isn’t that I wonder if the interpretation is literal. Simon may have been moved by fear more than anything else, but in his act of obedience a kindness was shown to the Prince of Peace. I wonder what momentary wave of grace our Counselor and Redeemer must have felt.

Thankfully for us today we have the luxury of not being forced into obedience that has a byproduct of producing kindness. Rather paradoxical, isn’t it, that such was the case for Simon?  We can show a kindness that eases the weight of a crushing burden in another we may never know about. It could be a hunger of some sort we can fill, assisting the weak in some way or simply giving away a bundle of flowers to a complete stranger in the grocery store.

Just a pinch is all it takes. What a world of difference it can make.

Tending the vineyard,

Tom Welch

 

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Live Oaks/Tuesday with Tom for 3.7.17

….to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; they they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” -Isaiah 61:3-4(RSV)

These words “oaks of righteousness” came to me recently as I marveled at Live Oak trees completely covering a road as I drove down it with a friend. Live Oak trees aren’t good for building furniture or really even giving a good burn in the fireplace. What they do best is provide long arms of green shelter and shade year-round. Sometimes they line a path whose end we may not see clearly.

What else is noteworthy here is their steadfast strength to withstand even a hurricane. When the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina these particular trees stood firm. If you are like most of us, there comes a time when we need Live Oaks of Righteousness in our lives. They are most readily found in a community of faith. My prayer, dear reader, for us today is that we find that community and stick with them. As you do, see who comes to stand in the collective shade provided, to walk down a path in the midst of uncertainty and all the while doing so giving praise and thanksgiving because of the collective outstretched strength that each give the other along your path.

I bet at the end of your own path of life when looking over your shoulder sometimes you provided the shelter….and sometimes you walked through the sheltering arms of love, righteousness and truth others gave you.

That makes for a beautiful tree of life.

Tending the vineyard,

Tom Welch

 

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In First-Person/TUESDAY WITH TOM for 2.28.17

“…..So then, as often as we have the chance, we should do good to everyone, and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith.”  -Galatians 6:10(TEV)

Do you ever find yourself rooting through old letters? With the increasing use of email we are finding fewer and fewer hand-written letters. It’s just not the same when I pull up a letter from archives on my laptop verses finding a letter in a drawer. I came across one as I was cleaning out some stuff recently. It is a now priceless piece from a soul now departed.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians this chapter is full of encouragement. We can assume many to whom he wrote knew him in first-person. He speaks of reaping what we sow; of doing the next right thing amidst the temptations of life. There might be a spot in your home where you may have some old correspondence that speaks to you today more clearly and dearly than when it was first written. Take a minute to go to that spot. Maybe the letter you open will bring you back to center.

When you are finished, write one to a friend yourself on a tablet of paper, put it in an envelope and put it in the US mail. Not every letter we write will hold up through the ages as these letters from Paul.  But you know, the letter you write may be just as precious to your recipient as it was to the Galatians who knew Paul.

It’s something to hold on to when we know the writer in first-person.

Tending the vineyard,

Tom Welch

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Time-Out Corner/TWT for 2.21.17

We have thought on thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple. As is thy name, O God, so is that praise unto the ends of the earth.” –Psalm 48:9-10(KJV)

Once upon a time I spent a few days at a retreat house.  Most of the time there was silent. The first morning we began prayers by singing (a Capella  in four-part harmony) “Love Devine All Love Excelling” by Charles Wesley to Prichard’s Hyfrydol. That was quite a beautiful wake-up call as those were the first words said that morning and quite a surprise to me to be among such gifted singers. Unless we make time to still our soul I don’t think any of us can effectively weather the storms of life. My prayer for you is you find that time this week.

Sometimes the glory of the Lord comes in the deep recesses of a searching soul, perhaps in an outdoor chapel at a favorite campground or in the magnificence of a cathedral. Sometime it comes upon us in a wave of grace amidst unexpected loss. As Charles Wesley wrote: “… all thy life receive; suddenly return, and never more thy temples leave. Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee.” So, dear reader, sometimes going to the “Time-out corner” isn’t so bad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwso5lke6Fk

Tending the vineyard,

Tom Welch

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Grace Notes/TWT for 2.14.17

“Perserve me, O God; for in thee do I take refuge…..Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth; My flesh also shall dwell in safety. For Thou wilt show me the path of life: In thy presence is fullness of joy; In thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” –Psalm 16:1 & 9-11(ASV)

In recent days I’ve heard from two people who question life events; one of recent tragedy and one of happiness to come amidst uncertainty. My soul heard a longing for answers; even for peace from within each of them. There may be times when we struggle on “what to do” to ease such anxiety, doubts, or the search for answers.

In your mind’s eye see yourself as a first grader clasping your hand in that of your favorite relative as you strolled down a sidewalk. Take a second to find that place. Are you there? Did you not find happiness in that moment? I bet your heart was full of joy. I think that’s what God wants for each of us; to feel that confident joy.

The older I get, the less I know……other than to turn to God and sit quietly when trying to find peace whether for me or for others. I couldn’t give answers to either of these precious souls. What I could give them was love and share a holy silence with them for a moment, and that I did. Sometimes I think the greatest grace is just to connect rather than to understand.

It is in those moments of grace I think we should take note.

Tending the vineyard, Tom

 

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Whirlwinds/TUESDAY WITH TOM for 2.7.17

“The voice of thy thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lightened the world; The earth trembled and shook.” PS 77:18(ASV)

Recently I experienced a literal tornado for the first time. After the storm a first responder shared with me that for all practical purposes I should not still be here. You know what was interesting after the storm? The night sky was breathtakingly beautiful and clear. With the loss of electricity we were completely void of artificial light. The winds were calm, just as they had been only ten minutes earlier. As I prepared for sleep I thought how the “earth trembled” earlier that night as the house was shaking.

You know, there are times in our lives when the voice of God speaks to calm us in the whirlwinds of life. You might find yourself completely surprised at the suddenness of it all. When there is no artificial light, those things of the world than distract us, we can find God and the majesty of His thunder and His truth. So dear reader, when the assaults of life come, look for the pure Light of the World. In Him there is no darkness at all, nothing artificial, nothing temporal; only those things eternal.

Tending the vineyard,

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