Why I Practice Lent

I can remember the first time I decided to practice Lent. I was working at Focus on the Family Canada, and our whole department agreed to participate. I didn’t want to feel left out so I got on the band wagon and we all picked our vice.

I chose CHOCOLATE, and it was the first thing that came to my mind.

I am not sure I understood what I was doing.

It was more of a Let’s all do this together and see if I can stay away from having a piece of chocolate every single day, not to mention chocolate cake, brownies, ice cream and more.

I remember finishing and not feeling any different.

What did I actually accomplish by abstaining?

Nothing.

Why?

Because my heart engaged for the wrong reasons.

It wasn’t about taking something away to embrace a more intimate relationship with Jesus; it was proving I could actually do it!

Now I am sure God didn’t hold it as a sin against me, but I missed the point of the exercise by a long shot. I didn’t become a noticer, an observer or reflective, I was just a on the side participant.

The last several years as I have practiced Lent my heart has grown bigger. This year, in particular, my soul has enlarged more than ever, and I think I finally am beginning to get the point. As I have traveled the past 40 days on the journey crossward of Jesus life, the windows of my soul have opened up. I’ve noticed things I didn’t grasp in the gospels before.

I realize the depth of my own sinfulness.

It isn’t a condemnation realization, it is more of a how much I really need Jesus MORE every moment of my life!

To do otherwise would create a separation from what God desires for my life.

In my pilgrimage, this is what I have discovered…

There is no Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane in the book of John.

WHAT? How did I not see that before?

It is nearly embarrassing after loving Jesus for decades and reading the Bible. My daughter-in-love Julie encouraged me when I confessed this to her. She told me we tend to look at the harmony of the four gospels and see them as one instead of individual books. Bless her for trying to make me feel better. I am not sure it worked. Note to self: If I am going to be a Bible teacher and writer, I need to be a better student!

When I scrambled over to read in the book of Mark Jesus prayer to God in the garden, I saw something I hadn’t clued into before. Alicia Britt Chole in her brilliant book 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger a Different Kind of Fast, helped me to see this in a new way.

Jesus asked God three times if there was another way for him to accomplish the mission. I learned it isn’t about being unwilling it is about being obedient. Jesus surrendered his desire to do it another way, and that’s what obedience is. God doesn’t hold it as sin for our unwillingness but whether we will obey or not. GRACE pure grace.

Lastly, as I traveled with Jesus to the cross, I realized how complacent I could be at times and take for granted the sacrifice God made for me. However, this year because I chose to engage, be a noticer, observer, and reflector and this is what happened to me…

I genuinely grieved as Jesus rode on the donkey into Jerusalem knowing what was to come and how people can turn on you at any moment.

I agonized with Jesus in the garden and empathized for what he had to do and how his own friends couldn’t watch and pray with him. Where would I be in the garden? Asleep?

I wept and wrestled with Peter’s denial in the early hours of the morning as he was asked three times did he know Jesus. I cried because I wondered if I would do the same.

So why is this year different for me?

My heart has softened because I see my own terrible brokenness in a new light and the only one that can help me is Jesus. The cross is the pathway to being forgiven, and the resurrection is the power that lives in me because of the cross. This is the promise:

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:19,20

Ironically, today is Good Friday and my birthday. Somehow the mingling of my birth and the remembering of Jesus sacrifice moves me profoundly. It causes me to be grateful on a whole new level.

And by the way, I gave up chocolate and desserts. But it’s different this time. And I am grateful God is so patient with me after all these years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resolutions: When You Blow the First Day of the Year

New Year. New beginnings. New start. New chapter. New Resolutions. This is what the first few days of a new year represents or at least is what we traditionally talk about and think about on the first days of January.

I’ve made some serious strides this past year to move my phone away from arms reach before I go to sleep so that when I wake up in the morning it’s not the first thing I grab to start my day.

It had been ruling my life for too long and I made some intentional choices to make 2016 different. I’ve been doing pretty well and wouldn’t you know it, today the first day of 2017 I failed.

I blew it. I went backwards instead of moving forward.

I couldn’t believe it! I wanted a do-over immediately.

I had left it too close to my bed and I unthinkably made the choice that I didn’t want to. Sigh… it happens.

For several few moments I was berating myself as I talked to God and wondered how I slipped so quickly. I had a flash of genius, and the word GRACE came to mind. I could start again in a moment. Whew! The day could be redeemed, the year can start over. I am grateful.

January often is a chance to reflect and make some changes and many of us chart out goals and resolutions. I’ve preferred for many years now to choose a word rather than make resolutions because as I just demonstrated resolutions don’t seem to work for me.

I don’t know who started the trend but choosing a “one word” has caught on like fire and it has given purpose and direction for those of us who have abandoned the resolution making.

Facebook and Twitter is strewn with others sharing their chosen word for the year and it is inspiring to read. Choosing a one word for me has been about “being” rather than “doing.” When I make resolutions it becomes more about doing than creating a momentum of purpose of who I hope to be. I’ve been a human doing rather than a human being more than I’d like to admit.

My one word has become not just a theme for the year but also a pilgrimage. God has surprised me many times as I’ve watched the word we’ve chosen together come to life and intersect with my journey.

I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about my word for 2017 and have had many conversations with God about it not sure I want to pick this particular word. It challenges my comfort zone and scares me at the same time. I’ve made the decision to go with it because it won’t go away and when I pray it pops up over and over.

The word is (drumroll) DARE!

What I discovered as I intentionally dug into the word DARE the definition is: to have adequate or sufficient courage for any purpose; to be bold or venturesome; not be afraid; to venture. (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)

When I mined just a bit deeper, The expression to dare in the Scriptures never has the meaning of “to defy” “to challenge” or “to terrify” It is always found as the translation of tolmao “To manifest courage(International Standard Bible Encylcopedia)

My spirit soared as I read these words and I cross-referenced the many places in the bible “dare” is found. I cling to the thought “to manifest courage.”

I can do this.

DARE can be my one word for the year.

I have many new ventures ahead and am not sure all what or how my one word will cross over, but I am trusting that this is the word God has chosen for me for 2017.

I am confident He will help me “manifest courage” for each assignment. I believe God will empower me as he directs my steps. Right now, that means finishing my second book of which the deadline is creeping up and I am having to dare to make schedule changes and saying no more often to hunker down and write.

To not leave my “one word” out there all alone to take on an ambiguous meaning, I like to choose a Bible verse to punctuate my yearly one word. I’ve been studying 2 Timothy and here’s the encouragement that Paul gives to Timothy in the first chapter.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

The Message Bible says it this way,

God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.

That seals it for me. God will help me “manifest courage”

As I dare…

to live intentionally and purposefully.

to grow spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically

to equip and empower others.

to share my faith more in 2017.

to live in humility

to judge less and give more grace

to forgive and be kind and compassionate

to love well

and that I would trust God dare to so much more.

Will you join me and the many others in choosing a word for the year? For inspiration and help you might want to check out oneword365.com It’s a great site to get you going.

I DARE you!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinderella, Redemption and the Noise of the Election

My father has affectionately called me his Cinderella for as long as I can remember.

My story unlike the fairytale Cinderella, is not a tale of servant girl to living happily ever after with her prince. Rather it is a tale of experiencing brokenness to understanding redemption and what it means to walk out what the word redeemed means everyday of my life.

Part of my understanding of redemption is what you might call coming of a mature “spiritual age.” In other words, it has taken me a long time to get it. And still, I don’t do it perfectly or like Paul said, Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)

I long to live the concept of Jesus redemption to the rest of the world.

This isn’t going to be a weighty post or a deeply theologically one that would make you hit the share button. But rather a reflection of redemption in contrast to all the noise that seems to be quite deafening lately.

It’s been really hard to not jump in and join the rants and raves on social media with our own country days away from a historic election. I’ve read and listened, watched and prayed on what seems to have imploded. It makes me sick and sad all at the same time and I wonder, just wonder what God sees when he watches.

Today, was a fresh reminder of that as we had our windows repaired and the two men who came to the house. One had an accent and I asked him where he was from. He hesitated and said he was originally from Mexico. As we began to talk, he shared with me how he loved his job but he was sensing hate and fear recently when he showed up at various homes. It made him nervous he said as lawns were littered with signs of campaign supporters that he knew were disparaging about his own heritage. It made me sad and I assured him he was welcome to his own thoughts and opinions in my home.

And so today, as the noise continues to try and crowd out learning what it means to live walking out being redeemed in Jesus, I offer these thoughts.

God is in the process of redeeming all of us with the noise and madness of our world.

It signifies just how patient He really is. I actually struggle with God’s patience at times. And yet, I know it is a part of the narrative that is being written of redemption.

I ask you, can we walk as redeemed human beings and to our very best ability practice the virtues that reside in the hallows of our own personal redemption?

Can we in our bantering back and forth choose carefully to state our opinions with both courage and yet let them be sprinkled with kindness?

There is a line in the recent remake of Cinderella where at the end of the story her prince discovers his mystery princess and asks,

Who are you?

She steps forward and says,

I am Cinderella, I’m no princess I have no carriage, no parents, no dowry and I don’t even know if that beautiful slipper will fit. But if it does, will you take me as I am?

For some reason as I watched this, the word beautiful word redemption came to mind in the midst of all that is screaming at us. And I saw myself presenting myself to the Prince of Heaven asking the same question.

Will you take me, as I am each and every day? To which He whispered yes and I pursued His promises later in the day to fill the ache of not feeling at that moment redeemed.

You are my treasure. Exodus 19:5

I rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

When you are serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. Jeremiah 29

As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart. Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:3-4

This is the redemption God longs to give to us through His son Jesus as we present ourselves with all of our flaws and failings so that we may give back in our world.

He longs to redeem us to Himself and create in us a new person full of all the virtues that His redemption represents every single day.

There is a catch.

We have to be willing to admit our need for redemption and choose to live it out with His truth and grace.

Redemption then comes full circle and each day we can wake up with confidence believing that our lives matter and our own realization of our redemption in Jesus can make a difference to all we encounter. Yes, even in the messiness of what’s taking place, we can bring the essence redemption.

 

What Do I Do When the Big One Hits?

My sister and I were waiting in the ferry line with the wind howling and rain pelting my small SUV. We were on our way to Vancouver Island where I was going to be the speaker for a women’s weekend  at Camp Qwanoes.

We both had to go to the bathroom and wanted to wait to see if there would be a break in the storm. The loud speaker kept reminding us of the obvious – extreme winds, the BIG storm that was moving in and the ferry which would be delayed, again and again, and again.

Finally, after we couldn’t stand it any longer we braved getting out of our car in the high winds and blowing rain to go to the ferry terminal to take care of the bare necessities and grab some dinner. Once we’d practically been blown off the asphalt strip weaving in and out of cars we found shelter inviting us into the warmth and bustling terminal with other passengers who had the same thing on their minds as we did, bathrooms and food.

The ‘BIG ONE,’ the storm of the century was supposed to hit the island with predicted 100 mph and we seemed to be heading straight into what they were calling was yet to come, the aftermath of a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean. I had told my husband before I left that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to which he replied, “You have to go, you are the speaker!” Oh right, I forgot. Sigh…I gathered my courage and remembered God was the God of the storm and this was my assignment and headed to the ferry terminal with my sister who was as nervous as I was.

The weekend started and as Friday moved into Saturday morning and the morning moved into the afternoon and the afternoon moved to the evening, we noticed that the weather seemed calm and mild at the camp. Funny, where was the storm?

What was going on?

We soon learned at dinner that something miraculous had happened.

The camp staff had fervently prayed all week that nothing would interrupt the women’s weekend.

They prayed specifically that the ferries would run on Friday and Sunday for the women to arrive and depart.

They pleaded heaven’s doors that the power would stay on and that God would do what He does best breaking down walls and transforming hearts through worship and His word.

They prayed believing that God wanted to do above and beyond what we could even imagine.

And God moved.

He destined that the camp would be the eye of the storm.

We heard reports that the ferries stopped running on Saturday due to the magnitude of the storm. The power was cut-off in the cities around the camp, but the small community where the camp was, the power never even blinked once.

As I listened to a camp staffer, Gretta, relate the miracle, I couldn’t help but have spiritual goosebumps.

God did something significant for all of us on the weekend.

In the sessions we talked about storms in our lives and how they can cripple our influence. We spoke about being misunderstood and harboring unforgiveness and the need to let go and lean in because we don’t always have control when a storm moves in.

God gave us a physical in our face visual reminder that as we surrender to Jesus in obedience there is one place and only one place we can be safe. Jesus, who holds us in the very eye of the storm, He is our shelter.

And when the BIG one hits we are to do just three things.

1. DON’T PANIC – RUN to the shelter which is Jesus – stay close for He is the eye of the storm. Listen to worship and feed on God’s Word. Lean in close and listen for the next steps.

2. DON’T TRY TO FIX IT – TRUST – only God knows the big picture and He always, I mean always has the last word! Stay in the eye of the storm and don’t get distracted by the chaos. Just like the meterologists this past weekend who were dumbfounded that their computers weren’t accurate with this supposed “storm of the century.” God knows. He sees. He knows the outcome. He can do anything!

3. DON’T BE TEMPTED TO GIVE UP – BELIEVE and don’t lose hope. Keep praying. He is our refuge.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord do not abandon those who search for you. Psalm 9:9,10

As my sister and I drove home from the camp to catch the ferry we saw a rainbow like no other. I couldn’t help but thinking how God sheltered us on the weekend and how His promises are faithful and true and that’s the reason I know I can run to Him, trusting and believing that He is in control over even yes, the storms in my own life.

 

 

How Cleaning My Oven Took Over My Day

Yesterday my calendar said, “Writing Day.” As I proceeded to get organized to sit down and make my favorite cup of tea, I was woefully distracted as I waited for the water to boil. I stood by my stove and made the mistake of leaning down too closely.

I have a confession, there has been problem in my kitchen. It has been lurking for several years. Nearly seven to be exact and I am now going to make a full confession.

I haven’t cleaned the inside of my oven since we moved into our house.

Please don’t judge me.

I hadn’t thought it looked too dirty until it was sparkly clean and besides I regularly wipe it out if I spill something, at least mostly. Just for the record, my oven is well used and I like to keep a relatively clean kitchen but the oven door is closed 99% of the time right?

Instead of writing (and that is why this blog post is a day later than scheduled) I set the dial to clean the oven. You are probably thinking, if this is a self-cleaning oven why couldn’t you write while it was cleaning?

Sounds logical.

Practical.

Reasonable.

Somehow because I decided to get that oven clean, everything else  screamed for attention and then I made a decision. Monday is going to be a cleaning day so I can feel better about the house when I really sit down to write. Did I tell you that I am a recovering perfectionist? More on that later.

As I was wiping out the charcoal dust after cleaning the oven I noticed some extra stubborn baked on spots that needed a little soft scrub and muscle. I was scrubbing and scrubbing when God gave me a picture of my own heart. There are crevices that are months and probably years old that I have turned on the self-cleaning button thinking that it was fine.

He reminded me that sometimes I have to get a little ‘Holy Spirit Soft Scrub’ and put some muscle into those stubborn spots of bad habits and wrong thinking patterns. I have to linger and scrub, wash out the scum, wipe, scrub and repeat several times until the remnant of my burnt on habits are gone. I have to pray and pray some more. Take captive those thoughts that would stick to the old places already baked on. Have you ever noticed that when you bake how one and then another layer of oozing dessert or a casserole might fall on an already burnt spot making it more difficult to get off?

One of the burnt on baked on places in my heart is falling into negative thinking. It’s easy for me to clean around everything else and wipe right over the crusty habits believing I am okay. I whine. I justify and it doesn’t work, because God cares about my whole heart, not just the places I think are clean.

I realized that the way I think represents a few crusty baked on places in my heart. Life has thrown some curve balls as of late and I can’t fix any of it.

Frustrating!

The negative thoughts pile on one another and it can build and build until it screams for attention. God showed me through a simple once every seven-year chore of cleaning my oven. It may take longer than it took for me to clean it but I am making a choice to stop long enough to pay attention to the crusty places and what needs to be surrendered in my heart.

Here are three simple steps to attack those burnt on places in our hearts.

  1. STOPYes, we might even have to set aside something planned, something good, something needful to take a step back and pay attention.
  2. CONFESSBe honest with yourself AND God. Sometimes I think that we think God doesn’t know about the crusty baked on places in our hearts. HE DOES! And the beautiful piece is that He still loves us. His love isn’t based on how thick or crusty those layers might be.
  3. SCRUBand then scrub some more. Make time to reflect and use the tools God gives us. Scour those places away by renewing our minds with His promises and pray over wrong attitudes and thinking patterns. Get feedback, honest feedback, not from someone who will tell you what your feelings want to hear, but someone who will help hold up the mirror and be brutally candid.

As I was leaning into scrubbing the baked on crusty junk, it was hard. My shoulder hurts today from pressing in. It’s the same way when we work at getting rid of old habits, it can hurt and it might take a while. Lean in and know that God will reward your efforts and your desire to please Him with a pure heart.

After David had sinned and repented, he wrote this, Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 (God’s Word Translation). That’s what I am asking God right now. After the scrubbing happens and the crusty places are removed that God would clean me up, create new thoughts and renew in me a faithful spirit. How about you? What crusty baked on places are layering up in your heart?