Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Not So Fast

The woman is ready to close the deal. She is tired of trudging the long dusty road to the well and back, day after day after day.  If there is a way to quench her thirst without ever seeing the well and the bucket again, she is all for it.

One would think that Jesus would jump at this perfect opportunity.  That He would be just as ready (or more!) to close the deal, since He knows the vast implications on the woman’s eternal destiny.

The woman recognizes her need and is ready to receive His free gift. What more could one ask for?

It turns out the way of eternal life is full of sharp curves and unexpected twists.

Instead of closing the deal, He dumps a conversational ice-bucket over the woman’s head, bringing her back to reality she may not be quite as ready to face.

Go call your husband and come back here.


First go, get your husband and bring him here.

The sand is shifting under the woman’s feet.

Husband?? Why is He asking me about my husband?

This conversation is becoming a little too personal for her taste. Too personal for anyone’s taste, especially if one has a history.

And this woman has history worthy of Herodotus. Or Madame Bovary. Or Lady Gaga.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Got Thirst?

Our thirst is meant to take us to a place where we can’t get to on our own.   

I can’t manufacture the wholeness and satisfaction in and by myself.  You can’t manufacture it by yourself.  I can’t do it for you. You can’t do it for me. Much disappointment, anger and resentment in this world would be lessened if not eradicated if only we grasped this and released ourselves and each other from such impossible responsibility.

When we try to quench it on our own, it only intensifies the craving.

Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again and again… but…

Sometimes it takes an entire lifetime to get to this ‘but’.

who drinks of the water that
I will give him
shall never thirst;
but the water that
I will give him
will become
 in him
 a well of water
springing up to eternal life.  John 4:13-14

If there ever was a paradigm shift, it’s right here.

These kinds of statements got Jesus in trouble. And it’s these kinds of statements represent a door of hope for all the thirsty souls who have tried everything and feel like they are at the end of the rope, hanging by the last loose thread.

I can't imagine any person, living or dead, making such claim and being taken seriously.


Never thirsty?

Become IN him (or her!) a well…

Bursting forth

Into life…

And more life..?

Yeah, right!

But, something about Jesus, something about the person who spoke these words and the way He said them made Svetlana take Him seriously. And if taken seriously, only a fool would turn down such an offer.

Svetlana may be all kinds of things, but she certainly is not a fool.

Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fear Of Missing Out

Recently I was on a plane sitting next to a woman who was describing the dizzying array of her globe trotting adventures. She had a long list of must-see places that she was in the process of checking off.  I caught her on her way from Machu Picchu to her home in Georgia, with the next day flight to a resort in Mexico. 

And she was already talking about the great pyramids of Giza and Sydney Opera House.

It was truly impressive. I marveled at her energy, because I was getting exhausted by simply listening to her. 

Then, without even knowing where it came from, I blurted before I could stop myself…

I think I might have been trying to find a connection in my own life to her quite un-relatable experiences…

Or, I might have just been bragging about the newly acquired addition to my urban dictionary.

Have you heard of FOMO? I said and immediately wanted to kick myself in the teeth.  But, I stuck my foot in my mouth and it was too late to take it out. What was I going to say, Never mind?, and switch the topic to weather?

No,  the young woman replied, not quite sure where this conversation is going.

Well...   I proceeded slowly, it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  I always  feel like I have to try every dish set out, fearing I may miss an opportunity to experience an exquisite combination of flavors and textures… even after I am not even hungry anymore… even if  I am already quite full…I just have to try it…even if it makes me miserable later… It’s FOMO… Fear Of Missing Out.

At that point, I stomp on my own foot,

You idiot! Just shut up!

I look up, knowing for certain that I have offended the young woman and her quiet husband sitting across the isle from us, listening in on our conversation.

But her big brown eyes are wide open, ablaze with recognition.

I know EXACTLY what you are talking about!

I glance at her husband and he is nodding gratefully.

The woman adds sheepishly,

It’s kind of what I am doing with all this travelling… I am afraid I will miss out on something incredible, and important, and I feel like I have to see all, and nothing is ever quite enough…her voice trails off. Then she looks at me,

What about you? What's your FOMO? What are you afraid that you would miss out on?

Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again…

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Jesus knows something a lot of us have a really hard time grasping.

The kingdom of God is not about comparison and competition.  It’s not about who’s bigger and who’s greater, it’s not about polls and ratings, score-keeping and one-up-men-ship. As if the universe is the giant see-saw and the only way I can go up is if I put you down.

For it appears that God has a knack  for the so-called losers, for the overlooked and insignificant, a special soft spot towards all the trampled upon and useless.

Jesus doesn’t bite the woman’s bait. He ignores her question and answers the unspoken one, echoing from her heart.

Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again… John 4:13


That’s all of us,. We all alike, sooner or later, get thirsty… again… and again…

Every. One. Of us.

No exceptions.

Men and women. The strong and the weak.  The smart and the stupid.  The beautiful and the plain. The rich and the poor. The fat and the skinny. Jews and Palestinians. Christians and Muslims. Religious and atheists. Athletes and actors. Politicians and constituents. 

The pulpit and the pew. 

Stick any label you wish on any person who ever lived and you’ll discover a thirsty soul underneath.

Even the person whose life appears so amazingly wonderful on their Facebook page or on the cover of a magazine.

Temporarily we may quench our thirst. For a short while, we are looking good. We are managing just fine on our own, thank you very much.

But then it hits us.

GOD! I am thirsty… and nothing, nothing that this world has to offer quite satisfies…

Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again…

But, we feel like we have to try, to taste every well there is in order to make sure we didn’t miss out on something. 

There is actually an acronym describing this condition plaguing our race not just from the dawn of social media but from the dawn of humanity. 

Have you heard of...




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Appointment with God-in-Disguise

In that very moment, the woman is entering the stage of human history, front and center, by engaging in a seemingly random conversation with the thirsty Stranger, and she doesn’t even know it!

She is dropping Jacob’s name in the face of the Eternal Son of God standing in front of her in the beat-up body of a tired Galileean... as a value-added to her thirst-ridden existence... as a one-up-menship trump card meant to put this preposterous Stranger in His place.

Who do You think You are, Mister? You don’t think You are greater than our highest and the best, flawed and imperfect as he may be, do you?

Good question. Just minutes before Jesus asked the same, with a slightly different inflection:

If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink’…

It’s this who that matters most of all.  

One can only imagine what goes on through Jesus’ mind as He humors the woman.

Aaaah, Jake! Love that guy! So passionate! So intense! Wouldn’t let go… so eager, but couldn’t wait… just couldn’t wait… he had to get it in his way… on his timetable…… Until… of course… I remember that night we wrestled and I had to do what I had to do… it hurt… both of us… I wish there was a different way…but he finally adjusted his pace after that… not rushing ahead of Me all the time…finally stopped scheming and manipulating, as if I need his help to bless him…

He looks at woman, His love reaching deeper than her thirst…

His love reaching deeper than her need for validation… valuable to Him as she is, no name dropping, no list of accomplishments, without any achievements and awards.  Beyond ruined reputation, beyond hurt, beyond disappointments, beyond the emptiness left behind after each futile attempt to quench her thirst with the leaky bucket…

 For, in His eternal divine planner...

... in the Son of God’s everlasting schedule...

...there was an entry in His own handwriting... 

...a high-importance appointment flagged in His Stephen Covey’s Day-Timer,

Samaria, Jake’s Well
Facetime with Svetlana

Render bucket useless…

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lame Claim to Fame

When we are at the end of our resources, when all our human buckets have been exhausted and the soul remains empty…

…it is hard to imagine that somebody, somewhere… anybody, anywhere could have access to a thirst-quenching well… that there even exists on a map a well of water that satisfies this soul-craving…

Where do you get that living water?


Paris? Chicago? Timbuktu? New York City?



Isn’t that the question we all ask when our self-sufficiency is neatly stripped down? When all our gifts and competencies turn out to be quite inadequate for the immense task of life?

When we feel we wasted our opportunities and failed miserably? When we become weak and powerless? When we are seen as just useless used-to-be-s?

Of course, some of us are too terrified to admit weakness and powerlessness.

Some of us can’t accept that we could be quite useless… so we feel compelled to engage in a little name-dropping.

To a little one-up-men-ship...

A little added value to my hopeless predicament… ... my lame claim to fame…

The woman rakes her brain looking for the greatest man she could think of in that moment… the man who knew the thirst and who dug this very well…

The patriarch Jacob... whom Angel of the Lord named Israel after they wrestled all night long, the match that left Jacob with a dislocated hip .

Jacob the father of the nation.

Jacob the liar and the cheater.

Jacob the supplanter.

Jacob the cripple.

Jacob the well-digger. 

This is the man she chooses as the highest and the best in her universe.

She drops his name like a trump card, looking square in the eyes of Jesus:

You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Well is Deep

Oh, you are one of THOSE… she thinks, scraping the garbage heap of her memories… Overpromise, underdeliver.  I know your type, the smooth-talkers good with cheap words that flow freely...

Words are cheap. The truth, however, has a price tag, she discovered. A price tag, that few… so very few seem willing to pay.

Sir, she looks at Jesus…. The tired, the thirsty, the empty-handed Jesus who just minutes ago asked her for a cup of cold water. There is something different about this man, but she can't quite put her finger on it. 

Sir, she wants to say, You are out of Your mind. You have no idea what You are talking about. For, this soul thirst… this unquenchable dehydration of the heart is… she scrambles for words to capture the impossible predicament of the human heart, and decides it’s hopeless. So, she addresses Him like she would a mentally disabled child. It may sound condescending, but clearly He needs to be reminded of the simple facts of the present grim reality.

Sir, You have nothing to draw with…

You are empty-handed. You don’t even have a beat-up, dinged bucket in Your hand.

… and the well is deep.

This well, sir, is deep. Deeper than…

… the loneliness of a foreigner far away from home…

…. the dejection of an unloved woman while her husband is in another's arms…

… the fear of a child lost in the dark of the splintered lives of adults…

… the powerlessness of a man to make good on his promise…

... the despair of the beloved comedian who couldn't find a drop of water anywhere to quench his thirst in all his success, in all his friends, and family, and fans, in all his accomplishments, in all his wealth... in all the gifts that this world can offer... including his own gift of bringing happiness... and the world?
Do You have a bucket for THAT well Sir?

Who do You think You are Sir? 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

From Beggar to Giver

Jesus doesn’t bite the bait. He doesn’t go into politics.  He doesn’t go into the us-vs.-them debate that proves to nobody in particular who’s-right-and-who’s wrong.  He doesn’t get entangled in the centuries-old battles that feed the mucky pool of today’s fears and prejudices and hatred.

Because He knows - He understands - that there is deeper hunger, deeper thirst that no well of this earth can satisfy.

So, He answers that question, the real question. The unspoken cry-question of the unquenchable thirst of the woman’s heart made evident by her empty life-bucket:

If you knew the gift of God…

If you knew who it is who says to you,

‘Give Me a drink’,

You would have asked Him,

And He would have given you

…Living water. John 4:10

Suddenly, the One asking becomes the One offering. 

The beggar becomes the Giver.

If only we knew… the gift… of God…

If only we knew WHO it is who says to us…

‘Give me a drink…’

If only we knew that it’s O.K. to come…

That our thirst is meant to draw us to come…

Empty-handed and brokenhearted…

With our useless buckets upturned…
To come…

…To Him..

And ask…

I am thirsty.

I am hungry for love.

I am desperate to be known and loved…

I am at the end of the rope…

All my wells are dried up…

And my heart is parched and unquenchably thirsty…

I am at the end of this fraying rope of my fraying life…

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's Complicated

Clearly the man was real and not a figment of her imagination or the trick of the blistering sun.  As real as the well was real and as real as her thirst. And His thirst.

But, the moment she heard Him speak – Would you give Me a drink - she forgot all about the well, and the empty bucket in her hand and her thirst as well as His.

The man spoke with an unmistakable accent.  He was a Jew!

This instantly complicated the matter. As borders and nationalities tend to complicate matters in general.

The Israelis and the Palestinians.

Russians and Ukrainians.

Serbs and Albanians.

You can pick just about any border and suddenly things get complicated. And it’s much better to keep the safe distance because it can get really really messy and really really complicated really really fast.

And, in this case, it was as messy and complicated as it gets.

But the Man didn't stay away.

He didn't keep a safe distance. He intentionally, deliberately took this detour

How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans. John 4:9

A Jew. A Samaritan.

A man. A woman.

This Man, however, didn’t seem to care. 

He didn’t appear to be concerned about the appearances.

He didn’t seem to be afraid to get close – as close as His lips on her bucket.  

This man is criss-crossing every line there is back and forth.  He is pushing the envelope beyond anything this woman ever experienced around any other man, Jew or Samaritan.

The woman shifts her weight from one leg to another.

What's his deal? She wonders, not realizing it's only going to get even more interesting. 

Friday, August 08, 2014


How did it all get so complicated? She kicks the dirt under her feet, creating a trail of little puffs which quietly settle as she moves on. Where did that sense of winning the cosmic lottery disappear?

All she could see now is this vast desert… All she could feel was being held captive by this wretched no-man-land.

Neither here.

Nor there.

One foot here.

One foot there.

Both arms outstretched, grasping here and grasping there. Left empty-handed. 

Belonging nowhere. A stranger. An outcast. Her thirst growing stronger…moving her… pushing her deeper and deeper…

Despair has no bottom.

And to think that she used to believe that God cared.  That He cared for her… That the Almighty Creator of the Universe would bother Himself…with somebody…like… her…

So thirsty.

So lost.

So… insignificant and… worthless.

A garbage heap of useless.

The tears welling up from deep down and the scorching heat of the mid-day are playing with her vision.  She is almost there... and she sees... what looks like a man… sitting at the well.  

I am seeing things that don’t exist! I am going insane! There can be no man at the well at this hour!

The ground under her feet is shifting as she feels like she is losing the grip on her mind.

But then the chimera opens His mouth – His lips cracked and parched just like hers. He is talking! He is talking to her. A simple, obvious request using ordinary, commonplace words.

Give Me a drink. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Just Another Ordinary Day?

She assumed it was going to be just another ordinary Wednesday… or was it Thursday?

Here we go again. Same old, same old, she thought as she rolled out of the creaky bed into the predictable drudgery which blurred one day into another. Swirling the same yesterday’s dirt with her broom like she did the day before and the day before that.

Waiting for hours to pass, until the scorching heat settles the dusty streets from all its swirly noises and all the juicy gossip eagerly exchanged at the hearsay market. Sheltered by the bristling sun from the bristling tongues, she would finally step outside and leave the rickety protection of her house to get the water she needs…

…to quench her thirst… ah so thirsty…

…to wash her dirt… feel so dirty…

It hadn't always been like this though.

She had dreams. She truly did. Now she calls them illusions.

She had hopes.  She honestly did. Now she calls them hallucinations.
She had… faith? Now all that was left was bitter cynicism.

She used to feel like she was actually the lucky one. 

The mixture in her blood made her… how shall I say? Different? Perhaps, uniquely equipped to enjoy the best of both worlds. Back then, she felt like she won some cosmic lottery and her jagged heritage lines have fallen to her in beautiful places. That she could appreciate, that she could savor like no other the goodness of the Almighty God poured out generously beyond limits and beyond borders.

The mixture in her blood carved her features that made her look elusive and exotic. No other woman quite like her. This gave her an irresistible appeal, a magnetic attraction among men but it also awakened deeply buried insecurities and thinly veiled jealousy among women.

Somehow, for quite a while, she managed to remain oblivious to both.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Energize Me

It doesn’t say that Jesus was grumpy but it does say that He was worn out. He got worn out by the journey just like the rest of us.

So, being tired that He was, He pushed Himself just a little more… a bit further…He spread out the remnants of His energy like I scrape the sides of the butter dish to use up the last bit and stretch it out over a piece of French bread, barely reaching the ends?

Or did He reached out for a quick-fix…?

…Grabbed an energy drink? Got a double-shot of espresso?  (Not that there is anything wrong with coffee, especially not squared!)

Actually, He did none of that.

He did something so old-fashioned and ordinary. Something borderline boring and old-people-ish.

He sat down. He… rested. He leaned back against the wall, stretched out His tired legs and closed His eyes for a moment.

I need to remember this.

Tired = take a break.

Sit down.


Take a nap. 

It may feel like such a terrible waste of time. With so much to do.  So much to accomplish.

Gifts to utilize.

Opportunities to cease.

But, you may find that you actually need it, ‘cause you never know what adventure could be waiting for you around the next corner. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Are We There Yet?

Nobody knows when and how the bustling epicenter of busy religious activity turned into a breeding ground of score-keeping, comparison and competition.

Perhaps at some point the show became more important than the substance.  The PR more important than prayer.  The reputation more important than the relationship. 

But, Jesus wouldn't engage in the game.  He would have none of it. He let the religious professionals to their own little charts and score boards, He gathered up His crew and headed north, out of Judea and... straight for the Middle-of-Nowhere. The Wasteland of In-Between.

I find this so incredibly counter-cultural, so counter-intuitive - leaving behind thriving, successful ministry on the upswing and ...? - but I won’t go there. 

We see Him on the road for several hours already and by now He is worn out by the journey.

Worn out by the journey…

Journeys are tiring. We just returned from a long international trip and it was exhausting.

The act of leaving.  All the decisions: What do I take? What do I leave behind?  Who are my travelling companions? Counting the baggage we all carry on - theirs? Mine?

The upheaval of change. 

The loss of familiarity.

The hope waiting at the destination.
The art and the science of travelling light.

Then, we are in transit.
Neither here nor there. Firmly planted in mid-air for what feels like f-o-r-e-v-e-r. The destination not in sight.


Everyone is exhausted and a little grumpy.