Broken Cisterns and Living Water

A friend, Judy, recently texted me about a video she watched on the Bible story of the Woman At The Well. Since this story has captured my heart deeply, and I’ve got a collaged art book in the process of being published on the subject, I asked for a link to the video. I enjoy finding out new things about any Bible story; each story is so multi-faceted. I don’t think any of us can exhaust finding treasures in just about any Biblical narrative. But this one, well, it’s very special to me.

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The teacher in the video, Lysa Turkheurst, was standing right in front of the famous well – Jacob’s Well. It is now within a plastered and fresco decorated room, religious paintings hanging all around, I guess for tourists. It was nice to see the real well, or cistern, for myself. It sure did not look like the well in my arid desert scene in my collaged book! However, Lysa explained cisterns in a way I had never understood before. Cisterns had to be plastered in order to really hold water and be a well. If the plaster cracked, then the water could leak out. Cisterns needed constant upkeep so the water wouldn’t leak out.

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Jacob’s Well where Jesus and the Samaritan woman met.

Jesus offers the woman “Living Water” springing up to eternal life. His offer is so radically different from an old well that constantly needs patching! He’s offering a spring of flowing water, not a well that can crack, leak and constantly remain on one’s repair list. This information greatly helps in understanding Jesus’ offer to the woman, and this gem of a verse in Jeremiah: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13 Had she heard that verse? Was she putting it all together?

I had made the woman, with a collaged dress, that looks like it has holes, because I wanted to speak of her holes or the broken places in her heart. She was trying to fill her holes with many relationships. This way of life is her “broken cistern” she’s been trying to plaster over.  Jesus doesn’t want to plaster over her holes, but wants to captivate her heart with an entirely transformative strategy – springs of living water.

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There is just so much in this epic love story. How kind of God to gently show me yet another facet to His planned encounter with the woman at the well!

And, it’s making me think about the cisterns in my life. When I spend hours and hours in bed resting because of the chemo pill, I cry out to God to be my spring of Living Water, or where I find my source of life. I sense His closeness in new ways as I drift in and out of sleep. When I get up and start moving, almost immediately there is a temptation to find my source of life in my doing. Making a painting. Collaging a new book. Getting a project going. Fighting cancer with a new and different smoothie.  I’m so American! My worth gets all entangled with doing something. I’m not saying it’s wrong to do, it just will not satisfy my deepest longings for love, worth and value by putting hope for those in my doing. 

Then, I end up back in bed, and I lie there calling out to God. I’m spending eternity with Him, so perhaps many hours with Him, in and out of sleep, before I pass on, may be just where He wants me.

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I’m Standing

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A year ago, I heard a man speaking about lying flat for many months, on the floor, on his stomach, in order for his back to heal. He was my favorite speaker at the prestigious gathering. He shared his journey of all the things he had done while lying still and off the merry-go-round of active life. He started his healing journey by watching encouraging, positive movies, then moved onto darker fair, and ended his movie-watching with toxic, twisted stuff from the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. He is a pastor.

After his watching, he realized he had kind of come to the end of the creative banquet he had explored; I guess, it was kind of like he started with green, leafy vegetables and ended with double fudge sundays with dozens of shots of tequila. (Just like in the movies.) I appreciated his honesty as he shared his journey. (We are talking thousands of hours of lying still!) I’ve wandered into strange lands as far as entertainment goes, so his story resonated with me.

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Marcia Carole, Watercolor

God has His own timetable in our stories; it’s seemingly slower than the western cultures’ clocks, and God was still there at the end of the “banquet.” I think God was there, waiting for the time together with the pastor, with a tender heart. I mean that. I don’t believe for a minute that God is as distant, aloof or unkind, as we often make Him out to be in our minds. He created you and me, for heaven’s sakes. The pastor found God to be quite full of grace, kindness, empathy, truth, beauty and goodness.

How? The pastor decided to read the whole Bible – or listen to it, I think. He had that kind of time on “break.” However, as I have seen in my own healing journey, he wasn’t really on “break.” He was in a considerably deeper season of pondering life, sorting things out, catching his spiritual breath. He stopped relying on his own strength while grabbing onto God’s heart. (He had no strength to rely on, and that actually put him in an interesting, less self-reliant “I am maybe, almost like God” sort of place.) He spent time praying – talking with the God of tremendous heart. Thankfulness for this God grew in his heart.

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Vincent Van Gogh, Oils

He found the God of the Bible to be courageous, full of grace, kind, empathetic, truthful, beautifully glorious, fierce, reasonable, generous, overwhelming and good. The pastor got to know God in new, more nuanced ways, and more importantly, he realized his heart was transforming, having spent the time together. His soul was better.

After many, many months, the pastor was able to get off the floor, and jump back into busy western life. And, you know what? He was just thankful he was standing. He started his talk off with, “I am thankful I am standing here before you. ” And, he meant it. I sensed his authenticity.

In my cancer journey, I’m learning to take nothing for granted. If I actually stand, walk with my neuropathy-pained feet, change my sheets, bathe, eat, brush my teeth, make ANY art, connect with a friend on FaceTime, chat with a daughter, play Go Fish with Calvin, walk to the mailbox, then I am thankful. And I mean it much more than before this season. And, I’ve been listening, more and more, to a man reading the Bible. Little by little, I am knowing my God better. My heart will never be the same.

PS. My grandson Calvin, age 5, often tells me he is almost as strong as his daddy. (Or almost as smart, tall, wealthy – he has $17 dollars, etc.) He lifts objects in my apartment to prove his claims – from pillows to books to chairs. I marvel at Calvin’s bravado, but, then I chuckle at myself. Don’t I show that same or deeper, bravado towards God? Saying, and even believing, “I’m almost as strong, smart, tall, wealthy…. as God.” Calvin is in good company.

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Sharing The Creative Call at a Conference, and I’m a wee bit healthier!

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