Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Ten, Saturday

In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Mark 1: 35-39; 6:45-56 and Luke 5:16

Jesus often withdrew to lonely, solitary places and prayed.

In the first chapter of Mark, we are reminded of Jesus’ ministry throughout Galilee. He proclaims the good news of God, and calls the first of his disciples. “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men” he pronounces to Peter and Andrew, James and John, all who were fishermen by trade were now fishermen by ministry. He goes on to Capernaum, teaching in the synagogue, driving an evil spirit out of the man who was violently distraught and sets him free. He heals Simon’s mother in-law and many others who were sick and demon-possessed. More and more examples of his outstretched arms of love.

But, very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. When the disciples found him, they urged him to return to the towns they had served the day prior, but Jesus leads them instead into nearby villages to share the good news.

In the second incident, after the feeding the five thousand, Jesus sends his disciples across the lake ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismisses the crowd. Immediately thereafter, Jesus leaves them all and went into the hills to pray.  Since the disciples didn’t really understand what had transpired in the miracle of the loaves and fish, their hearts were hardened. So, when Jesus is coming alongside them walking on water while the wind was howling and they were straining their oars, he had to reassure them of his presence amidst their terror. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” When he climbed into the boat the wind died down and the disciples were completely amazed.

Do you notice the contrast between the calm, peace-filled Jesus and the anxious, fearful disciples? In the first story the disciples are ecstatic with what they had witnessed, and they wanted to see it all again. On the lake, they were frightened by both the wind storm and the ghost they thought was walking on the water, who was actually Jesus. From ecstasy to fearfulness…the inclination of the disciples was diametrically opposite of Jesus, who was consistently centered, focused, and peaceful.

If it was Jesus’ regular priority to distance himself from the crowds, disappear from the noise and confusion of his surroundings, in order to pray…how much more we should consider the same. We live in a loud, busy, complex world, and our lives mirror our culture in so many ways. If we never find a healthy distance or create life-giving boundaries from the cacophony of this world, we will never hear the symphony God longs to play for us in our hearts and souls. Choose today a solitary place and pray.

Behold Jesus in a solitary place; believe in the same priority for your own soul; belong to those who long for his deep companionship; become that child of God who longs for ever more time alone with Jesus.

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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.