Monthly Archives: June 2012

Speaking Truth in Love

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I was asking a wise friend for advice about what to do in an awkward situation I had been put in.  Should I say something? (aka “speak truth in love.” aka speak my mind.)

Her: “Do you love them?”

Me: “Wow. No, I guess I don’t really truly love them.”

Her: “Then you should shut-up”

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.   If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhereSo, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (1 Cor 13:1-3)

Love is the precursor.  Love is the foundation.  Love is the essential element.  No good will come if love is missing.

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It’s become a commonly used phrase these days: “Speaking Truth in Love.”  But I feel like the people who say those words are often being more about speaking “the truth” and less about the “love” part.  The Bible is pretty clear about this: Love is the essential hallmark of God’s people.

This phrase “speaking truth in love” comes from Ephesians 4.  It’s part of a passage about the Body of Christ working together and growing into health, maturity and love.

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. The Old Way Has to Go   (Eph 4:11-16 Message)

I had the privilege of being on staff at my church for 9 years.  During that time I had the honor of working side by side with our senior pastor.  I learned many things from him.  And there is one that totally changed my life: His pursuit of God’s Love for people.  Our pastor and wife carry heavy burdens.  People’s lives are messy and pastors are looked to for all kinds of help.  Sometimes people treat them poorly and expect huge things from them.  For almost a decade, I watched our pastor agonize over each person and each situation.  I think most people would consider him to be “quick to speak.”  But I got to see the hours he took to pray and pray and pray before speaking to people.  What was he praying for?  Love.  He wouldn’t speak a word until he was fully in love with each person in the situation.  He begged God to open his eyes to see people who He sees them.  Sometimes I felt like things simmered for too long and I would beg him to intervene.  But he wouldn’t act or speak unless he had love.  This is one of my favorite things about our pastor.  And I think it’s one of the things hardly anyone knows about him.  How could they?  He would have to betray confidence in order for people to know how much he pauses to pursue God’s Love.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:25)

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God is a multi-tasker.  Or rather a multi-being.  He is Truth AND He is Love.  He is good AND He is righteous. He gives perfect Justice AND He gives full Mercy.  All at the same time.  All. At. The. Same. Time.

But we humans are little.  And isn’t it true that as we walk out our Faith, we sometimes lift some concepts higher above others?  Like when we are actually being more about “Speaking the Truth” and less about the “in Love” part.

This is why we need the empowering and indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is why we need to study God’s Word.  This is why we need to stop being products of our human cultures and totally be of His culture.  We need to whole-heartedly choose to pause to pursue God’s Love for each other.

Some people defend Loveless speech by saying that are a “truth-speaker.”   I totally relate.  I am someone who will call a spade and spade.  Truth is important to me.  BUT in God’s culture, Truth is bankrupt without Love. (1 Cor 13:3)

If we haven’t paused and begged God to fill us with His Love for the other person, we do not have His support to speak.

This week I happened to be on the receiving end.  I was spoken to by a person who did not love me.  It makes my stomach hurt.  I think we all need to do a study on what Godly Love actually is.  (Hello 1 Cor 13. I think I’m going to be diving into you and digging for a deeper understanding of Love.)

I know for sure I’ve also been on the giving end of “speaking truth” without love.  It’s easy for me to speak up when others don’t feel able.  I grab the bull by the horns.  But how many times have I taken the time to pause and be full of love?  It is time to aggressively add the art of “pausing for love” to my life.

May we all, the whole Body of Christ, embody the Love of God evermore.   Let’s be afraid of being bankrupt without love.  So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (1 Cor 13:3)

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are Psalm 69; John 10:22-42

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Rain. And being ruined for anything else.

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We live in a place that has long rainy Winters. But when the Summer comes it is glorious.

I crave those Summer days.  All. Winter. Looong.  And then all Spring long.  And then all June long. Most years Summer doesn’t arrive until after July 4.  Then rainy Fall arrives October 1st without fail.

The thing is, despite the long wait for Summer, I don’t want to live anywhere else.  The reason is: I love the green.

I was walking in the rain today and realized: I’ve been ruined for the non-green.  I don’t think I could handle living without this glorious green!  I think people who live other places are really missing out.  But to have this kind of green, you must have rain. Ergo, my view of the rain has changed.  I don’t like it… but I guess I kind of love it.

It makes me think of my relationship with God.  He’s not a magic vending machine that dispenses perfect lives.  He actually allows painful things to come my way.  I don’t like it… but I guess I kind of love it.  I see the beauty He brings about in my life through these pains.

Just like the green of my city has ruined me for living anywhere else, the redemption of God in my life has ruined me for living any other way.  I love being loved by Him.  I love being His daughter.  I trust Him.  Yahweh is good.  Yahweh is Love. He is powerful and sovereign. He is alive and in action.  My God is the King of all things.  He is my Savior and Father.  Despite the rain and the pain, I don’t want to live any other way.

 Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”  Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:61 & 66-69)

If I stopped following Jesus, to whom would I go?  I’m totally ruined. And I love it.

How are you? I’d love to hear about your journey.

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are Psalm 67; John 9:1-41

Changed vision

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I walked past a lot of people at the Mall yesterday.  They were walking, chatting, eating, smiling, shopping, planning, dreaming and living life.  A new feeling smacked at my heart but I don’t know a word that encompasses it.

I’ve been hesitating to write about it because I feel this will be easily misunderstood.  So bear with me here.

The feeling that hit me yesterday: hatred of the unfairness, jealousy, regret, sorrow, and yet also gratitude.

Each step I took yesterday was full of pain.  My legs have been numb again this week and my hips have been burning.  My hands have been throbbing piercing weights and I’ve had a headache clouding my mind and heart.

For years I didn’t realize how good life was.  For the most part I was healthy and pain-free.  I had energy and passions.  My life was good and full of adventure.  But now I feel tethered and caged by this illness.

Yesterday I wanted to tell people to love their lives and not take their days for granted.  I was so jealous of the women who were playing with their kids.  The families spending money on frivolous things and not on medical treatment.  The people walking without cringing.

This sickness has changed my vision.  My perspective on life is so different.  I took so many things for granted.  Legs that walk.  Hands that hold.  A mind that thinks.  The joy of life.

And yet, I am still alive and my illness is being treated with a hope for recovery.  And so, I am grateful.  The tunnel I am in is somewhat temporary.

I know several people who are very ill.  Painful medical treatments, constant oxygen tanks, wheel chairs, hospice care.  I wonder: how painful is it to watch people live when your life is so impaired?  I wonder: how hard is it to be happy for anyone when your life is so full of grief?  Their view of life is so smothered with pain.

It isn’t within the reach of a well person to know what an unwell person knows.  It isn’t within the reach of a young person to know what an old person knows.  It isn’t within the reach of a male person to know what a female person knows.  We are who we are.  We only know what we know.  Yet, I wish I’d lived bigger when I had the ability to do so.  I wish I’d taken all the opportunities that came my way.  I have been too cautious.  I have been too lazy.  And now I’m in a season where I feel like the dancing smoke of a candle just put out.

Last night I was woken over and over again by a level of pain I’ve not known before.  I was taken over by pulsing waves of pain through my back and arms and legs.  Today the pain continues.  Today I want to tell my yesterday Mall-walking self to enjoy the freedom I didn’t know I had.  I didn’t imagine it could get dramatically worse over night.  I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to realize how great my life was.

This is not about “bucking up” or rallying.  I’ve had some well-meaning people tell me the best thing I can do is buck up and get out of the house and go and do things.  (Why do we humans think this kind of advice is good to give?)

This is not about comparing our lives nor saying “there’s always someone worse off.”  (Does anyone really have a lasting perspective change using that type of comparison?!?!)

I’m not sure what this is about yet.  It’s a new view of life for me. For now I’m just trying to care for my kids and feed us all each day.  That alone exhausts me.  But I am not the first to walk through something like this.  So grateful to have God’s Word and His promises and His character to hold on to.

My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me.  O LORD, do not stay away! You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!  Then I will declare the wonder of your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among all your people.  For he has not ignored the suffering of the needy. He has not turned and walked away. He has listened to their cries for help.  (Psalm 22: 14, 19, 22, 24)

Deprivation and Freedom

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My doctor has slowly been removing things from my diet.  No more gluten, dairy, or sugar.  Last week my assessment showed I was still consuming something that is bad for me.  Nothing hides from her diagnosis system.

“What are you drinking?” she asked.

“Um, water. Coffee.” I was pretty sure I hadn’t had anything else.  I was desperately hoping she wouldn’t take my coffee away!

“What else? You had something else… four days ago.  Sunday.  What did you drink on Sunday?”

Sunday?  Um.  Water in the morning. Coffee at church. Water at the birthday party. “OH! I had an iced coffee with soymilk in the afternoon.”

“Yes, that’s it. Soy.  No more soy.”

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I immediately felt bad.  I felt like I’d been caught misbehaving.  Called out. Reprimanded. Condemned.

But this is not what my doctor was doing.  She wasn’t searching for something “bad” I’d done.  She was looking for things that are making me sick.  She was scanning my body for things that are hindering my healing.

Why was my gut response to feel condemned? Shouldn’t I feel happy to identify harmful behaviours, attitudes, and consumptions?  Shouldn’t I be excited to have the problem areas revealed?

These diet restrictions are keys to freedom and life and health and energy.  They are not a punishment of deprivation.

And I find myself asking:  Is this how we humans view God?  When He points out a problem, do we feel bad?  Like we’ve been caught misbehaving?  Called out, reprimanded, condemned?  Shouldn’t we feel happy to identify harmful behaviours, attitudes, and consumptions?  Should we be excited to have our problems revealed?

God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.  (John 3:17 & 16 The Message)

Why do we humans feel so condemned by God? The things He points out are things that are keeping us caged.  His Ways are keys to freedom and life and health and energy.

I’m thinking about a friend who doesn’t want to know God.  She says the Bible is judgemental.  She says she loves her life and doesn’t want a higher power or people who serve a higher power to condemn the way she lives.  I understand what she’s saying.  I hate being judged too.  But what she is feeling is not Truth.  And because she can’t get past feeling condemned, she has become totally resistant to the gentleness, goodness, and love of God.

And I’m thinking about me.  I react terribly to people who point out my problem areas.  I rebel against judgement and condemnation…. whether it exists or not.  I take it as a personal attack.

Somewhere alone the way I adopted a false belief… that love = warts and all.  There is a piece of Truth in that statement… because love does see past problems.  But real love doesn’t love the problems.  It doesn’t love the things that keep its loved-one bound up.

We humans are holding on to things that are hurting us.  And we get defensive and hurt whenever anyone points at those things.

It is no good for me to keep having soy products.  No soy milk and also no tofu, soy sauce, edamame, or any soy products.  Soy is affecting my health.  It’s time to let it go.

In the same way, there are some things in our spiritual and emotional lives that are affecting our health.  It’s time to let them go.

He has Freedom for us.

Father God open my ears to hear you point out the things that need to go.  Give me the courage and confidence to let go of those things and fully embrace the good things you have for me.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10 NLT)

What is your reaction to criticism?  How do you allow God and people to speak into your life about things that are not good?  I’d love to hear your story.

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are   Psalm 63, 64; John 7:32-53

But I have principles

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I’m growing my hair out.  It has been short for the past couple of years but now I’m growing it long again.  I really really like my short do but it has to be trimmed regularly. So every few weeks I hack at my hair to tame the mane.  It really is a mane.  Wavy and curly and big.  I have to keep it trimmed because in the blink of an eye it can get totally out of control.  But that annoyance is not the reason why I’m growing it long.

A couple of days ago I asked my hubby if he liked my hair short or long.  He said he didn’t mind.  He always says he doesn’t mind so this time I pushed him on it.  Finally he said, “I don’t want you to do things just to please me.”

I got to share with him that my heart is all about pleasing him.  Who else is there to please?  Who else would I do my hair for?  Who else do I dress for?  If not him, who?  I’m totally happy to grow my hair if it’s what he likes.  I’m totally happy to wear outfits that he likes.  I’m happy to do things that please him.  Not out of obligation or requirement or of being controlled.  It’s out of love.  I may not end up being “stylish” but if I’m beautiful to him, that’s really all that matters.  Yes, I’m totally an awesome wife.

Then our conversation moved on to color. 

I don’t dye my hair.  There are three reasons:
1. Dying hair is expensive.  Even home kits are more than I’m willing to spend.  I’d rather use the money for other things.
2. I quit dying my hair about 7 years ago when I kicked a lot of toxic products out of my life.  I don’t want to have those chemicals soaking into my head.
3. I want to embrace aging.  I hate that aging is not respected in western cultures.  Silver hair and wrinkles are trophies!  I want to celebrate aging.  I want to proudly wear my foxy silver hair!

My hubby subtly hinted that I should start dying my hair again.  All of a sudden the totally awesome wife disappeared.  In her place stood a tweaked, defensive, self-absorbed woman.

Dye my hair?!?!  What? Am I not beautiful enough how I am? Am I an embarrassment?!  Geez.  So much for celebrating aging!  So much for protecting my health from chemicals!  So much for the sacrifices I’ve given to make our budget work.  Blurgh.  The only words I could get out were, “You want dyed hair, you’ll have to work out a way to pay for it.”

Oh man.  I am the worst wife ever.  Good thing I’m married to the most amazing man in the world.  Good thing he’s patient and has over-the-top-amazing self-control.  Good thing he loves me and chooses to overlook my craziness.

I think this situation is a spiritual metaphor.

I love God.  My heart is to please him. Who else is there to please?  Not out of obligation or requirement or of being controlled. It’s out of love.

Until He asks me to do something that goes against my deepest convictions and principles.  Or dreams. Or comfort zone. Or plans. Or personality. Or giftings. Or pretty much anything that is “His idea” vs. “My idea.”

Blurgh.  Ok.  I’m ok.  It’s not that I’m an awful human being… this is just another layer of ridiculous selfishness being peeled away so I can be free.  I never like these revelations about my self.  But I do always like the change God brings.

The deal is: I have always been a woman of principle and conviction.  And honestly, those principles have served me well.  They’ve guided me, protected me and spurred me on.  But they also have served as idols in my life.  Sometimes I will stick to my principles even when I know to let them go.  I have hurt people I love because I put my convictions before them.  I have missed out on some awesome opportunities because of my principles.  And at the end of the day, I don’t want to have a “cause” or a “principle” or a “soapbox” that is about anything but God and His Love.

So I may end up dying my hair. Yikes.  The truth is: my vow about hair dye is waaaay less important than my covenant with my husband.  And my principled-life is less important than the Life I have with Yahweh.  Serving and honoring and obeying and loving God is more important and more wonderful than anything and everything else.

If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms. (Luke 17:33)

I have a feeling this is going to be a deep lesson in the coming months.  Ha. I bet I’ll get to work on this every day.  Let’s see how long it takes me to let go of my principles and follow God’s Spirit instead!

Let that life go. Selah.

How are you? What is God speaking to you these days?

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are  Psalm 52; John 4:1-26

I hate routine but I have a daily craving

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I am most alive when I’m dreaming big and taking each day as it comes.  I love creating an over-arching strategic vision and then having the freedom to invest in the vision with the unique content of the day I’m in. I’m highly productive when I am my own task master.  I’m driven and passionate when I can make the plan and then have the freedom to modify and improve the plan.  I am gifted with creativity, adaptability and entrepreneurial pioneering.

I don’t thrive in routine.  I don’t thrive in schedule.  I don’t thrive in day-after-day sameness.

Welcome to my current caged existence:
– A long-term treatment plan for a rogue  and widely misunderstood illness.  No end date. No guarantees. No strategic vision to reach for.
– A daily routine of medications and supplements.  Nine in the morning on an empty stomach. Two others that are alternated on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Three with breakfast. Two before lunch on an empty stomach. One with lunch. Two with dinner. Five before bed on an empty stomach.
– A strict diet that has to fit in between my meds schedule. No spur of the moment delights. Just veggies and meat.  Well, mostly veggies with a little meat.
– Two small children who need to be fed, changed, loved, taught, mentored.  A husband who works long hours and is craving the big visions and crazy adventures I used to take him on.

Yet, there is a constancy that brings me life.  There is a daily habit and discipline that makes me fly.  There is a day-after-day devotion that stirs my passions like nothing else.

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” (Psalm 27:8)

It’s amazing how Yahweh is the fulness of everything I crave.  He is my source.  He is my heart’s beat.

My daily Bible reading doesn’t feel like a routine.  When I don’t have that time I feel off-kilter.  I’m a flower hungry for the sun that beckons its petals to open each day.

I love doing a schedule of readings that keeps my progressing through the Bible.  I love the flow of God’s Word and the heart journey it takes me on.  And I love reading together with my church family. I love hearing what jumped from the passage to them.  I love being part of a collective journey with unique beings.

The routine that is bringing me life these days: 
– Following a daily reading plan and reading either in the morning when I first wake or at night just before sleep.
– Listening to a Pandora worship station after breakfast. The kids dance and play while I do my morning chores singing.
– Blogging about my journey and relationship with God. Keeps my eyes looking for Him moving in my life.  Keeps my heart focused on being His daughter every day.

How about you? Do you have daily time with God?  How do you read and study the Bible?  What do you do for prayer times to chat with God?  Have there been times when days, weeks or months have gone by without having time with God?  What do you do to keep connected and growing in your relationship with Him?

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are  Psalm 51; John 3:1-36

A highlight from today’s readings: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

Looking in the mirror and seeing problems

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The Church is Yahweh’s idea. Jesus founded it, built it and leads it. The Holy Spirit maintains it, unites it and fills it.  And by “it”, I mean “us”.  Me. You. We are the Church.

I’m a Church lover.  I am passionate and dedicated to being an alive and active member of the Body of Christ.  I am a fully vested part of the local church.  I am all in.

I love Matthew Barnett’s blog posting today.  It’s about the Church and one of the (many) problems we have: Division and Factions.

What I love most is that Matthew Barnett is not an “outside” judge.  He’s not speaking from an inactive, external point of view.  He’s a fully vested Church lover.    I get sick of hearing people complain about the Church but stand at a distance.  The way for the Church to be healthy is for all the parts to be engaged and active!  (1 Cor 12, Eph 4, Rom 12)

There are many beautiful and awesome things about the Church.  I am proud to be part of it.  But there are many things that are not good on any level.  We should all be looking in the mirror and searching for anything and everything that needs to be worked on. Yes?

It starts with me.  It starts with you.  We need to be, individually and collectively, more like Jesus.

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. (1 Cor 1:10)

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Church Gangsters…Warning, Pretty Hardcore Posted on June 6, 2012 by

I’ve seen it! The devastation of street gangs in a city. We’ve picked up kids on a bus from a housing project, only to have to run a separate bus a hundred yards down the street to pick up kids from a rival project. It would be so simple to combine these routes. However, there are too many fights and divisions on the bus. The division is over hate which has no reasoning behind it.

I often wonder how a few yards can separate communities that should share so much in common. Both communities could rally together concerning fighting poverty or better schools but instead the fight is over something small and meaningless. Kids are raised in camps taught to despise and divide. Usually, it’s over some small beef that took place years ago which simply lingered. Gang division destroys generations.

But there’s something worse. Church gangsters. People fighting over methods and strategy. Blogging about what they don’t like in a minister or ministry based on certain doctrine. It’s the same attitude of Bloods and Crips, raising up a group of people to divide and usually it’s over method, style, or someone else’s success. We should be rallying about Jesus dying on the cross for mankind and cleansing us from our sins. Repentance and confession that lead to salvation.

My heart breaks as I see this play out. The conflicts of street life have entered the church. Pastor, that comparison is too extreme? No, it’s not. People die over this, leave the church, live bitter or angry all in the name of being right or more spiritual than the other group.

A kid was coming to our church. For the first time in his life he was on fire. He found a home in the church. His mother pulled him out of church because we had guitars in worship and wore jeans. The boy never went to church again and we lost him to the world. Street gang thuggery at its finest.

It’s time that we rally around eternal life and what we agree on. Even if we disagree on some things, how in the world is picking on someone who disagrees with you on theology going to change anyone?

It’s time we agree on the important things and leave the gangs of religious camps. The worst thing about arguing over non-essential differences is all the time that could have been used making a difference. I know many people find comfort in their little camp of “Believing their right” but it’s damaging, it hurts people, and has got to stop. Gang mentality amongst ministries might be worse than street gangs because we know the Bible and should know better.

It’s time that the church refuses to “Conform to the world” of gang culture and be famous for our incredible unity on essentials not random things that have no eternal value. Let’s turn in our rags of spiritual camps and come together and change the world.

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How is your relationship with the rest of the Body of Christ?  Do you see unity or disunity in your heart?  Are you part of the whole Church or do you find comfort in a cliche or faction?  These are tough questions but they are worth asking.  Have you looked in the mirror lately and considered what you look like? Are you a beautiful part of the Body?

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are Psalm 50 ; John 2:1-25