Lent Day 8: When we tell God He’s not enough

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Each day I choose to give in to fear and anxiety, I am telling God He is not enough. It all begins with a choice doesn’t it? Faith is an everyday active choice of opening our eyes to what’s right in front of us and actively saying:

Despite the circumstances, the uncertain road ahead, the panic and indecision that threatens to smother my soul, I am choosing right now this day to open my eyes to the gifts you have given me today. I am making a conscious choice to live a life that says, “You God, are more than enough.”

When we are preoccupied with everything that might happen if we make a wrong choice we make ourselves God. We are telling God that He’s not big enough to make something wonderful come out of it. When we wake up under a cloak of fear, we rob the people around us. We are less than God wants us to be. The people I care about deserve more than that. I don’t want to rob them or myself of being less than what they deserve: A conduit of God’s love and grace. I don’t want to miss what God has for me today.

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The Christian life more than any other, should be full of optimism, hope, life, joy…….laughter should come easy. (Thankfully most of the time, that is one thing that does come easy for me.) Lent for me this year is becoming a process of emptying myself of all the junk that threatens to pollute my spirit and replacing it with what God wants to put there.

When I started this 40 day journey I didn’t know where it would lead. I still don’t know if I have enough words to do this 40 days straight. It’s a process of waiting each day until the Holy Spirit moves me to write. Honestly, today I felt pretty empty. But God showed me how incredibly vast my fortune was. I couldn’t ignore it.

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But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:33,34

 

And thank you Elaine, for the “Mini-Daffys” they make me smile……..

Lent Day #7: Confession

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I have never been to confession as the Catholic’s do, but I see the value in it. There is something about confessing to another living soul…..the words hanging out there in the air like dirty laundry on a neighborhood clothesline. I confessed some things this morning in prayer. In my prayer closet. It was between me and God. But right now I want to confess this to my readers.

I have been a “hater.”

A hater of certain physical things about myself that I can’t change. Turning 55 has brought new challenges that I have been grappling with over the past year. I used to be able to cut back on a few meals, or sugar, or exercise more, and lose the extra 5 pounds. My body did what I commanded it to do. Now it argues with me and refuses to budge. I have to work extra hard just to stay in the same clothes. Just the other day I tried on something I had planned to wear on vacation. A year ago it was very comfortable, now it’s snug in the middle. Again.

And there are other things as well. I won’t list them all. The point of it all is that this morning I made peace with myself. I stared into the mirror…….the magnified side, that is. And I confessed to God that I was sorry, because after all, He created me. From two living breathing souls I came into being; two wonderful people who I will forever be grateful to for having me.

I came here with my own special blend of DNA that no one else has. What a miracle. The truth is, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

So forgive me Father for being a hater. Of myself. I am embracing a gift today, one my Mom gave me. She always says, “We need to do the best we can with what God gives us.” So today, I will pull my hair back, put my face on and go to the gym.

Thank you Mom. And thank you God, for that power inside myself that has always made it possible for me to never give up.

Ever.

Amen.

But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” Romans 9:20

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

 

Lent Day #6: Living with Loss

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Part of being human is actively living each and every day with a certain amount of loss. We carry it about like an anchor. It’s like paddling around in a boat that we know is leaking, taking on more water, more loss with each passing day. We look at that picture and it hurts to see the smile, we only feel the pang of passing years too many. More water, more loss.

We get so used to it we don’t realize just how much we are taking on until it gets to the alarming level and now it’s chilly and covering our legs.

It’s crucial now to do something.

At first glance it seems there are only two choices, we either bail faster or give up to despair. There is a third and best answer and that is to find the repair kit to fix the leak. God is the repair kit. Not only can He fix the leak that enables us to stay afloat, He can also repair the damage that was caused by the taking on excess water. He can take our pile of losses.

We don’t have to let our bad choices, past regrets, missed opportunities and the loss of so many people we held dear completely overwhelm us. Satan loves nothing better than to taunt us with all that. To get us to focus on how badly we screwed up, and how there is nothing we can ever do to fix it. To get us to dwell on everything we don’t have instead of everything we do have……right here and right now.

During this Lenten season, try to be still and listen to what God wants to say to you.  Let Him quiet your fears. The loss has happened and it will continue to happen, but the Holy Spirit can fill that sorrow flooding your heart and tearing down your soul.

And each day we live, He is actively working toward our healing. The culmination of which will be complete perfection when at last we stand before Him. Jesus lived His whole life in the shadow of the cross, yet He didn’t waste a single moment dwelling on it.

He loved, he laughed, he healed. He knew the end of the story. And it was the happiest ending this world has ever seen or will ever see. And we can be part of it!

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Lent Day #5: The Wilderness Echoes

And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Matthew 4:1

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Sometimes you just have to go out like Jesus did.

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you need to go out and let the wilderness speak its grand silence………………

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Sometimes we just need to be reminded that He is still in control, because the flowers are still blooming.

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And nature is still doing what it does best……….

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By glorifying the God who created all things.

That’s what we saw today, that’s what we were reminded of. That no matter what, everything will eventually be okay.

Now and forever. And though there are always thorns in life, we needn’t be distracted by them.

For the beauty of hope always grows right alongside.

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For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…….2 Corinthians 4:17

Lent day 4: When Evening Falls

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“God has to work in the soul in secret and in darkness because if we fully knew what was happening, and what Mystery, transformation, God and Grace will eventually ask of us, we would either try to take charge or stop the whole process.” St. John of the Cross

Of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, I assume there were nights as well. (I don’t think Jesus checked into a Holiday Inn Express with free breakfast buffet at dusk) I have lived in the desert about 20+ years now and though I have always wanted to spend a night out under the stars, I never have. I imagine creeping things coming out that I can’t see. Sometimes I can hear the coyotes doing their nightly song and dance and though a part of me loves to hear it, it is a bit eerie as well. Usually it means something is being chased or is caught.

My mind wonders about those nights Jesus spend out there under the very stars He placed in the sky. Did He sleep on a flat rock watching the sky as He prayed, or did He seek shelter in a cave? I like to picture Him out there. I want to fill in those blanks. I can’t imagine that Satan left Him alone at night. He probably stepped up his game just like he does with us.

Everything is more uncertain in the dark of night. Worries and fears loom larger than life. We wrestle with real and imaginary beasts in our minds and hearts but the battlefield plays out in our soul. What did Satan whisper in the dark to Jesus? What kind of counterfeit offering did he bring to the table, because he always does. He always comes up with a second best plan which will always seem very attractive because it’s easier. And it’s not God’s.

I know one thing. Jesus chose God’s plan so that we could too. I believe that’s what He was thinking about each day in the desert as He walked along, kicking up plumes of dust and gravel; as thorns pricked his sandaled feet and tore at His garments. It’s what He was thinking about as He paused to rest, soaking His feet in a desert stream while seeking relief from the relentless sun. As He sweat and grew more hungry with each passing day.

As Satan kept coming back with better offers, one more attractive than the last.

And in the morning when the sun rose again as it always does, the shadows shrank back and He found the strength to press on. Because He saw your face and mine.

 For his anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a life-time: Weeping may tarry for the night, But joy cometh in the morning. Psalm 30:5

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Lent day 3: For the overworked and underwhelmed.

My future belongs to Him

 

My post today is for all the “doers” out there. You know who you are.

While the rest of us are sitting around scratching our heads trying to figure out which direction to go, you’ve already finished the task and finished it well. For you, there is a line drawn out for every day, and each day you put yourself at the end of it while propelling others forward.

While we ruminate, pontificate, busily arranging our words by the light of the blue screen or the bedside table, you “doers” are working behind the scenes and on the front lines, doing all the stuff that wouldn’t get done otherwise.

And they aren’t just meaningless tasks to you, for love is the force that motivates each one.

You might think what you do isn’t noticed.The world may not applaud you for it seeks the loud, the brash, the flashy. And though your glory sings as bright as the sun, too much of the time it reverberates against empty walls. It can be a lonely place. You make it look so easy and effortless that when you finally collapse against the burden everyone around you is shocked into silence.

You find yourself identifying with the Psalmist when he questions, wondering where your help is coming from. You long for the times when life was simple. You crave that rest for the body, mind, soul and spirit that Jesus talked about.

Know that He understands. In fact, He was one of those “doers” while He was on earth. There were times when He longed to get away from the demands of life, the press of the crowds. And He did. He knew the value of hiding Himself away for a time to be with His Father.

I don’t know about you, but I can really identify with that Jesus. As much as I like the group I work with, there are times when I would much rather work with a roomful of cats or dogs. I don’t think Jesus ever felt like that.

But He did feel like you. Right now where you sit, stand, or work. Sit idle for just a moment. Take a breath and expect that peace to come. He will hollow out a little place of peace in your soul so that you can go on. He has promised it, and He never breaks His promises.

And take heart, for everything you do has the weight of eternity behind it, God says it will last forever.

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42

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Wandering, Lent Day 2

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“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

I have a feeling Satan didn’t waste any time trying to tear Jesus down on His way out into the desert. I can imagine him doing just what he does to us. Using our own humanity against us. Reminding Jesus of all that He lost, all that He left behind, all that He still had to suffer.

Can’t you just hear him?

I can’t believe you actually went for this crazy plan……..these people aren’t worth dying for…….God wouldn’t care you know, if you turned just one of these tiny little stones into bread.

He tries to defeat us in our minds first. Then he goes for our physical needs. Our humanity. What’s your weakness today? Right now. Mine was insomnia and worry last night. I stared at the ceiling fan going around and around and looked at the clock which taunted me. I was feeling fearful about the future and sorrow crept in. Tears came in the dark.

I started with the 23rd Psalm which is the one thing I always fall back on when I can’t sleep:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”……and then I stopped. Do I really believe that? Do I actually believe that God is all that I need in every single circumstance, no matter what? It’s easy to believe that when everything is going smooth. When everyone I care about is okay. But is my faith real enough to believe that even though I can’t fix people and situations I can still feel peaceful because God is in control and loves them even more than I do?

The gentle purr of the cat resting on my shoulder lulled me. I thought of Jesus in the desert. I believe that He was thinking of us during those 40 days and for us, He didn’t give in.

And right now today, He is interceding for us still. He has been through His desert so we wouldn’t have to. But so many times we put ourselves there anyway don’t we?  

Jesus focused not on what He didn’t have during those 40 days, but what He did have. And I can see HIm stopping to rest in the shade, tired and weary and seeing these little flowers and thanking God for His perfect plan.

Because all He could see was the victory at the other end. All He could see was me.

At every moment you have to decide to trust the voice that says, “I love you. I knot you together in your Mother’s womb.” (Ps. 139:13); “Stop wandering around. Instead, come home and trust that God will bring you what you need,” “For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you;” “The root choice is to trust at all times that God is with you and will give you what you most need.” Henry Nouwen

Lent: Into the Desert

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Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,  being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. Luke 4:1-2

Growing up in the Baptist Church, we didn’t celebrate or think much about Lent. That was for Catholics or Episcopalians. In recent years, I have grown to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of Lent, those 40 days leading up to Easter. I don’t necessarily “give anything up” it’s more like scouring out a little space in my soul that says, “These days are different, significant……set apart, pay attention to what the Holy Spirit might be preparing you for.” Like a Spiritual yield sign if you will.

At any rate, I will be doing something I have never done before on this blog. I am going to really, really try to post something each of the 40 days leading up to Easter.

Don’t worry, the readings will be short and the intent will be to lead us all closer to the Cross, right along with Jesus.  I don’t know about you, but I have felt like I have been in and out of the wilderness ever since January 4. Thankfully, I have companions in it and for that I am extremely thankful. What’s your wilderness today? Be comforted, God is walking with you.

It is necessary that at the beginning of this fast, the Lord should show Himself to us in His mercy. The purpose of Lent is not so much expiation, to satisfy the divine justice, as a preparation to rejoice in His love. And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of His mercy—a gift which we receive in so far as we open our hearts to it, casting out what cannot remain in the same room with mercy.

Now one of the things we must cast out first of all is fear. Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves. If we were terrified of God as a terrible judge, we would not confidently await His mercy, or approach Him trustfully in prayer. Our peace, our joy in Lent are a guarantee of grace.

And in laying upon us the light cross of ashes, the Church desires to take off our shoulders all other heavy burdens—the crushing load of worry and guilt, the dead weight of our own self-love. We should not take upon ourselves a “burden” of penance and stagger into Lent as if we were Atlas, carrying the whole world on his shoulders. Thomas Merton, an excerpt from his essay, “Ash Wednesday.”

Wearing ashes on my heart

Confession

I love the idea of getting “Ashed” for Ash Wednesday. I wish my protestant church would start doing it. I guess I could find a Catholic church on my break, but I probably won’t. If I were really honest I would have to say a bit of me would be embarrassed to wear that smudge all day. I am afraid people would be coming up to me all day saying I had something on my face. I guess that means I need to wear them more than anyone.

I am not going to give up anything specific, but I am going continue to try leaving more and more of myself at the foot of the cross.

I will willfully try not to be a ball of anxiety most of the time. At any given time, my left eye will start to twitch…..that is a sure sign that I need to improve in this area. As Elaine tells the kids on her bus over and over again, anger is a choice, so is anxiety.

I will continue to stumble along the Way carrying my own small cross to calvary. I will  fail and I will fall, and when I get there I will  leave things at its foot and then turn around and snatch them back up again. But I will most definitely keep on going, with my eyes on the hope of the empty tomb.

I have recently started reading the Bible through in a year. I am using the YouVersion on my IPhone, Old Testiment/New Testament plan. So far I like reading both side by side for the contrast. I am wading through Exodus…..endless sacrifices, endless rules, endless geneologies. I find myself skimming through it and yet I know it is all there for a reason. I am comforted by the human element in all the stories.

I love when Moses tries to get out of going to fetch back the Israelites from Egypt….I love the exchanges between He and God, how he tries to wear God down, and how God in his infinite love and mercy, finally gives Moses a concession by allowing Aaron to be his spokesman.

And then in Matthew, when Jesus tells Peter that He will be killed there and Peter recoils in horror. The thing that struck me about that was Peter was so focused on Jesus’ death that He doesn’t even take note of the fact that Jesus also said that in three days He will rise.

Just like all of us, focusing on the ashes of death, the big negative and completely skipping over positive, the happy ending to the story.

The Resurrection hope that belongs to us all.

Keep your ashes close today, wherever you wear them.

Blessings and peace to you today, Lori