Lent – Day 34

Today’s Thought: It sure is windy out there…

The 40 days of lent are coming to an end, as Holy Week begins tomorrow. This morning I’m forced to turn my attention elsewhere as the deadlines of my seminary work loom large… books to read, research to explore, papers to write. The demands of the day have begun. I know you’re facing your own set of deadlines.

It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.” — C.S. Lewis

Try to come out of the wind sometimes today, and I’ll promise to do the same.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Lent – Day 33

IMG-2747

Today’s Thought:  Who do you think Jesus is?

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 

“But what about you?” [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  (Matthew 16:13-16)

In John 6, Jesus has gone up the mountain with his disciples as a large crowd of about five thousand (!!!) gathers because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus looks out over the crowd and then he turns to Philip.  The gospel writer tells us that what happens next is a ‘test.’

Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” (v5-9)

Jesus takes the five loaves and the two fish from the young boy, divides it among the five thousand—giving them as much as they wanted—and they were satisfied!

This is an example of the test Jesus administers over and over throughout the gospels. It only has one question:  Who do you believe I am?  When Jesus asks Philip where they can buy bread for all those people, Philip doesn’t say anything to indicate his belief that nothing is beyond the power of Jesus. He doesn’t reveal any faith in Jesus’ ability to solve this problem.  Instead of answering Jesus’s question about “where” bread might come from, all Philip can think about is “how.” And he limits his possible answers to the “how” of this world—a world absent the living power of God incarnate though Jesus. (Likewise, Andrew focuses only on what he can envision through earthly power.)

Just a few short chapters back, Philip was the one proclaiming, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote” (John 1:45). Yet, when his faith is tested, he forgets that the one of whom Moses spoke has promised to always take care of his people. Even when more than you were expecting show up for dinner.

Friday’s FaithfulTo know the Cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ Who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. It is, then, to know Christ.  ― Thomas Merton

 

Lent – Day 32

picture

Today’s Thought:  Can faith and questioning co-exist?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

There have been many times when I’ve read Hebrews 11:1 and felt immediate guilt about the long list of questions I have about the Bible and God. If I really have Christian faith, doesn’t that mean I’m supposed to stop asking so many questions? Aren’t I just supposed to have faith?

Oftentimes, those feelings of guilt originate with the Christian community we grew up with—the faithful around us who told us to stop asking so many questions. I don’t know about you, but that just made me want to ask more questions! Were they afraid of questions? Worried that others would assume they were lacking real faith? Which brings up an interesting question:  Why do questions equate to unfaithfulness for so many Christians?

Author Sarah Bessey writes:

“Just when I think that this time I’ve settled something once and for all, I find a new angle or a new question arises or I read something that pushes against my answer – relationships, encounters with God and Scripture, circumstances even – and I’m left again, wondering. Perhaps this is the shift we’re really talking about – not settling down on our answers, building temples their weight was never meant to hold…. my catalog of right answers grows smaller every year.”  (Bessey, Out of Sorts)

It was a game-changer for me to read authors like Sarah Bessey, Rob Bell, and Rachel Held Evans—questioners who also had deep faith. To know it’s not only okay to question, but to keep questioning, and to keep adjusting the answers, is a truth reaffirmed by my seminary professors and fellow students. Questioning doesn’t even mean that you’re having a faith crisis or some dark night of the soul. It means we can strengthen our faith and sharpen our insights even in the blurriness of not-knowing. Admitting we have questions, yet still believing there’s a God in heaven… that’s real faith.

Thursday’s TheologianI pray that when people, often well-meaning, try to quiet your questions or placate you or numb you, you would remember that God has not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit of love and power and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).  –Sarah Bessey, Christian author and lay theologian

Lent – Day 31

Today’s Thought: Waves

I found this quote from Catholic priest and author Henri Nouwen, and it struck a nerve. Painfully so.

“Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down. Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves. All the time and energy I spend in keeping some kind of balance and preventing myself from being tipped over and drowning shows that my life is mostly a struggle for survival: not a holy struggle, but an anxious struggle resulting from the mistaken idea that it is the world that defines me.”

Wednesday’s Wisdom: A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? (Mark 4:37-40)

Join me in meditating on these words today, and remember: God is in the boat with us.

Lent – Day 30

IMG_2742

Today’s Thought:  ‘New’ is a process.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

I remember reading those words from the Apostle Paul about being a “new creation,” then taking a look around me one day and wondering why my big box of new hadn’t arrived yet. Surely it should be here by now!

It has taken years of making mistakes, rebuilding, more mistakes, worse mistakes, starting over (multiple times), and seriously… where-in-the-world-was-my-brain mistakes, for me to realize that becoming a new creation through the love of Christ isn’t accomplished in a single altar call. So if that’s what you’re expecting, well… You might want to sit down for this.

Becoming that new creation doesn’t happen in a blink of the eye. Becoming that new creation is a continuous, oftentimes lifelong, journey. It’s showing up every day and learning—many times the hard way—what it means to let the old self die on the cross with Christ, while the new self walks with the resurrected Christ. This quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran minister and theologian, says it perfectly:

“God was never about making me spiffy; God was about making me new. New doesn’t always look perfect. Like the Easter story itself, new is often messy. New looks like recovering alcoholics. New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t actually deserve it. New looks like every time I manage to admit I was wrong and every time I manage to not mention when I’m right. New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness and every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyway. New is the thing we never saw coming—never even hoped for—but ends up being what we needed all along.”

I am a Christian. I am a new creation. And, I’m still working some of the kinks out… but now I do that with God.

Tuesday’s Truth: “Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.” ― Dr. David Platt, Southern Baptist pastor and author

 

Lent – Day 29

IMG_2741

Today’s Thought: Grief.

In his anguish [Jesus] prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief. (Luke 22:44-45)

This scripture from Luke takes an honest look at suffering. The suffering Jesus felt—in all his humanness—at the thought of what he would go through on the cross. The anguish the disciples felt after hearing Jesus speak repeatedly of his impending death. Jesus was their Messiah, their King, and his death wasn’t part of the future kingdom they’d hoped for. Jesus found them sleeping because of grief. If you’ve ever cried yourself to sleep, you know the depth of the disciples’ sorrow.

Everyone grieves, but no one wants to talk about it. And because we try to ignore it, we never know how to handle it when grief hits us or someone else. I’ve had my own opportunities to sit with grief and the well-intentioned (but often poorly-worded) sentiments of those who don’t know what to say or do, but who want to make everything better. The thing is, grief doesn’t work that way.

Many years ago, a good friend of mine drove me home from the hospital following a 15-hour day spent waiting for my youngest child to come out of a difficult surgery. I vividly remember the two of us sitting on my living room floor eating pizza from a box, my friend reminding me to take a bite in between bouts of crying and spewing out everything I was afraid of and angry about because of overpowering, breathtaking grief. I don’t remember her asking a lot of questions or giving me any earth-shattering insight or advice. I do remember her giving me food and making sure I slept. I remember her presence.

What can you do to help the grieving? Stay close while they swim in those deep, murky waters, and don’t worry about saying wise things–they can’t really hear you under there anyway. Then, when they’re ready to crawl out on dry land again, be there with a towel (and maybe a pizza). Just be there.

Monday Meditation: The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

 

 

Lent – Day 28

IMG_2738

Today’s Thought: You’re pregnant!

Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. (Colossians 3:10 NLT)

Congratulations! Bet you weren’t expecting to hear that this morning, were you! One of my sweet nieces just received news that she, her husband, and son will be welcoming a baby girl in August. New babies are so exciting! Anticipation like no other builds over the course of a short nine months as we wonder what this new life holds. What will her personality be like? Whose eyes will she have? How will her existence impact the people around her and the world beyond these walls of home?

But, back to you. You’re pregnant too! Yes, yes, YES you are! The question is, what are you pregnant with? Is it compassion? Perhaps even empathy? Is it happiness? Or, maybe—unfortunately—the heaviness of sadness is filling you in this season of your life. Maybe you’re full of questions, like “why?”

My niece doesn’t have to tell anyone she’s pregnant; it’s obvious, and not just because she has a growing tummy. From Day 1, she has radiated love and kindness. Mostly because she was already ‘pregnant’ with those qualities before she became pregnant with her baby girl.

What pregnancy news are you sharing with everyone around you? What has filled you, your life, your soul, to the point that everyone knows you’re pregnant with it before you ever say a word?

Think about it.  And have a gloriously ‘pregnant’ weekend filled with life overflowing!

 

Saturday’s Scripture-in-Sync

Old Testament: And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)

New Testament: I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

 

Lent – Day 27

IMG_2737

Today’s Thought: Bless you.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

My husband has been suffering from a bad cold this week, and I’ve spent a good amount of time saying, “Bless you.” When I taught high school, I would say “bless you” to my students even when they burped, coughed, or hiccupped! “I didn’t sneeze,” they would say.  And I would tell them, “People aren’t blessed enough these days. Take all you can get!”

This quote from author Barbara Brown Taylor conveys the urgency in making time to bless others:

“All I am saying is that anyone can do this. Anyone can ask and anyone can bless, whether anyone has authorized you to do it or not. All I am saying is that the world needs you to do this, because there is a real shortage of people willing to kneel wherever they are and recognize the holiness holding its sometimes bony, often tender, always life-giving hand above their heads. That we are able to bless one another at all is evidence that we have been blessed, whether we can remember when or not. That we are willing to bless one another is miracle enough to stagger the very stars.”

May the Lord bless you today, and may you bless someone in return.

Friday Faithful: “The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings.  Some people have many blessings and hoard them.  Some have few and give everything away.” –Mr. Rogers