The Power of Unity

Our community has faced much adversity and while in many cases adversity may cause division; here it seems to unite us. Perhaps that is unique to smaller communities, or perhaps it is unique to these wonderful people. But regardless, I know that in times of need – we bind together as one. We truly become “the body of Christ,” his hands, feet, arms reaching out in action and love.

There have been life altering accidents, families stricken with devastating illnesses, and children, too many children have fallen victim to cancer. In each and every case, the rally cry is sounded; Pray for —– ! And the prayers rise up in unity. I am reminded of Chapter 4 of Nehemiah as he leads the remnant in the reconstruction of the city walls while battling the naysayers and the outsiders seeking to destroy not only their confidence but their faith.

We too face a daily battle of naysayers, the lies of the Enemy who seeks to destroy our faith by using adversity to taunt and tease us. He must be unaware that our strength comes from the Lord, who empowers us to rise above these temptations – especially when we are bound together in unity. God gave Nehemiah a practical strategy to protect his workers and families from fear and distraction all while leading to the completion of the wall. It is a pattern that also allows us to complete God’s work in the same manner. Look briefly at these verses from Chapter 4 of Nehemiah;

8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble again it.9 But we prayed to God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. . . . 13 Therefore, I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families with their swords, spears, and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for you brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” . . .  16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.  18 . .  and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.

Nehemiah recognized God as their protection, yet he also realized God had equipped them with what they needed to accomplish the work and overcome the enemy. The key was in unity; supporting on another always armed for battle. Today we are armed for battle with the sword of the spirit, the shield of faith and the full armor of God. Just as the Greek armies became almost indefensible when they assembled together, linking their shields together and forming a protective barrier around with weak or wounded; we too have that power as we unit in faith through prayer.

I think that is what makes this community so special. We pray in unity. 

Two weeks ago, my home church hosted a prayer service for very special little girl that will shortly be turning five years old. Only a few weeks ago her life was happy, carefree and totally fun. Within the span of a week she was diagnosed with a somewhat rare and aggressive form of cancer, underwent surgery to remove a kidney and was preparing for chemo treatments. It has been a whirlwind of emotion for her family. A Facebook page, Pray for Elli, was established and the outpourings of love, hope and generosity have been nothing short of amazing.

The prayer service was open to all and MANY responded. Those that were ill or had any contact with someone ill were requested to remain at home and join in prayer from there. Many prayers were offered but one special prayer was lifted on behalf of Elli based upon specific matters that her mother requested we address. Below I share that prayer in hopes that 1) you too will join us in praying for Elli; 2) that it will bring you comfort in a time of need; 3) that is will guide you as you pray for others facing similar issues; 4) because God nudged me along to share this with you. 

A Prayer for Elli based upon Psalm 23

Father, we praise you O God, for you are Holy. You are mighty. You are our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Provider, the One Who Sees, the One Who Goes Before and Our Mighty Fortress. We love you LORD, and thank you that you hear our prayers.

Gracious and merciful Father, we come to you with repentant hearts asking that you search our hearts and cleanse us of all impurity within us. We confess that we have sinned, sometimes not even recognizing it and at other times, pretending that it is trivial and does not matter. But LORD, we desire to be righteous in your sight and it is the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus, that brings us into righteous fellowship with you. It is His blood that cleansed us, makes us acceptable in your sight and allows us the privilege of approaching your throne. So on behalf of your precious child, Elli, LORD we come to you; united, believing, faithful, full of hope and expectation. Hear our petitions on her behalf, O LORD!

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

LORD, you are Elli’s Shepherd; her guide, her protection, her provider. Just as a faithful shepherd guards, protects, feeds, waters and tends to every need of his flock in order that they may thrive; we know that you are Elli’s constant companion. You guide not only her, but her mother as she makes decisions for her, as she advocates for Elli’s welfare and treatment options. You guide her physicians and treatment team as they work together to determine the best course of action to defeat the enemy, cancer. Elli, shall not be in want nor in a need that YOU, the Great I AM, her very Creator cannot provide. There is nothing impossible for you. We ask that you provide physical protection for Elli’s heart. That her heart will remain strong regardless of the possible side effects of her treatments and therapies. In fact, we ask that her heart not only retains its current functioning but actually improves over the course of her treatment. Strengthen her physical heart, just as you strengthen her spiritual heart. Allow her to truly feel your presence. You are Elli’s shepherd, she shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

LORD, as Elli proceeds with her treatments, surround her with a sense of refuge, a quieting of her spirit, anxiety and fear. We know, Father, that this is a scary time and hospitals can be a frightening place especially for one so young. But we praise you LORD, that you have already provided Elli with such a wonderful hospital and loving, devoted caretakers. As Elli faces these next days and weeks of treatments, lead her calmly and securely through it by minimizing any discomfort. We boldly ask LORD, that the previous issues with constipation will be gone! That it will no longer be a problem. She has experienced many unanticipated side effects and complications from earlier treatments, so LORD, we ask that you bring to her mind and body the peace that she discovers as she walks through your beautiful creation; the stillness that calms her as she sees the miracle and wonder of nature; revive her just as she is refreshed in the waters of a stream. Restore her spirit, mind, and body with the living water you offered to the woman at the well.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Father, we confess that we do not understand why things happen, especially as they negatively impact those we love. But we trust you, LORD. We know that your plans are always for good, that your love for us is beyond our comprehension. And we believe that in this, yes – even in Elli’s cancer, that this will glorify your name. Tonight as we gather together as the church, the body and the bride of Christ, your beloved children; we come in faith believing that this very moment glorifies your name. LORD, use Elli and Carla as instruments of faith. As Elli and Carla walk this path, grant them the grace to keep their eyes on you, trusting in you, acknowledging that all things are possible through you and because of you. May their every word and deed be a living testimony to the glory and power of God Almighty.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.

LORD, it is not the valley that frightens us. It is the shadows that lurk within it, shadows that seem to taunt us, question us; shadows that appear larger and more overwhelming than their true substance is in reality. But you have spoken, Father. A shadow cannot harm us! It is a deception, one that the evil one sends to distract us from our very source of our protection and comfort. Even when that shadow IS the shadow of death, Christ reminds us that HE has conquered death! “O death, where is your sting?” We approach your throne, O merciful and mighty God, confident that you walk before Elli, beside Elli and even behind Elli; hemming her in with protection, assurance of your love, and comfort. Father, just as the the rod and staff were tools the shepherd used to protect and care for his flock, may your Spirit guide and protect Elli as she journeys through these dark times. And in name of the One that conquered death, the sacred and Holy name of Jesus Christ, we declare a long, healthy, Spirit-filled life for Elli. May her life be a living testimonial of your power, strength and love.

Father, Elli faces a difficult treatment, one whose very name hints of the Evil One. When this shadow falls upon this family, may your Holy Spirit rise up in glory, light their path and cast these shadows away. We ask your protection from any further ill effects of her treatments. We ask that doctors be amazed at her progress. We pray for such limited side effects that there is no need for blood transfusions and if the transfusions are essential; protect her from any blood borne pathogens. As Carla and Elli walk through this valley filled with shadows, protect them and comfort them.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Father we thank you for the assurance you give us that we can be secure in your love, protection and redemption, even in the midst of the darkest circumstances – you are with us. Your presence is so deep and abiding that we may rest, truly rest in the knowledge that you alone are our provision, our security, our healing, and our blessing. And it is in this confidence that we ask that Elli truly feast at your table of provision. We ask you to stimulate her appetite, stir up within her a desire to eat, allow her body to crave those foods that will provide her the nutrition her body needs to fight this battle successfully. Anoint Elli with your healing oil, whether through modern medicine or your divine hand’s direct touch. We ask you to anoint her with healing ridding her body of every trace of cancer or any infectious disease. Restore her to a whole condition one that overflows with energy and zest for life; a wholeness that exceeds any that we could ask our imagine. Pour out your healing to overflowing.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

LORD, it is in the confidence of your faithfulness to us in the past that we have hope for the future. Your love for Elli is as sure and steadfast today as it was on the day you began to knit and form her together. Your love for her is unchanging. Father, we ask that you grant our petitions for Elli, not out of our righteousness, but out of your righteousness and great mercy. We pray that her life will be long, healthy, happy and wholly devoted to serving YOU, the one true God. Hear our prayers, LORD. Hear our prayers.

In Jesus Name we Pray.

 

Blessing to you all, Mimi

“The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

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Satisfied With Life

We lost another great man.
His death didn’t make the national news or headlines. He wasn’t a “celebrity”. But this week we lost another hero. A beloved family man, faithful Christian, steward of creation, loyal citizen and humble military veteran completed his earthly mission. His loss will be felt by many, especially his family. When I reflect upon his life, I am reminded of Abraham,

“Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people.” Genesis 25:8

Our dear friend indeed had a ripe and satisfied life. While some measure life according to material possessions and professional success, the richness and satisfaction of his life was found in the immaterial, the irreplaceable, those unquantifiable traits like love, loyalty, faithfulness, reverence, honor, humility, generosity and the desire to leave everything a little better than it was when he arrived. He achieved it.

While it is true, he did achieve success according to the world’s standards, it was attained through honest, hard work. It was not attained in order to flaunt or live a lavish lifestyle. In fact, he lived a modest life with no fanfare or display. He lived a life of service that was not limited to his military career but was a thread running throughout his life. Quietly, discreetly often unknown by anyone except perhaps his devoted wife – he labored, served and shared generously with others. The life he lived served as a powerful example and his children and grandchildren continue to follow that pattern.

That is his greatest legacy. Truly a life well lived and well loved. images (5)

Are you satisfied?

Does your life reflect contentment with who you are, what you are, the blessings you possess and the fact that regardless of your financial status, you are considered among the wealthiest most affluent people on the planet? Most importantly, will your legacy be one of self-less service, commitment to family, and faithfulness to the God that created and gifted you? On this Memorial Day weekend, as we pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much that we might live (and live abundantly in this country), let us also reflect on what contribution we are making and what legacy we will leave.

Goodbye, dear friend and thank you for your legacy. You most assuredly have heard, “Well, done, good and faithful servant. . . ”

Mimi

Faith Lessons from Freddie

Three years ago, almost to the day, a stray dog showed up at our home. We live in the country, surrounded by woods and acres of farm land – literally not another house in sight. So, the appearance of strays is not uncommon. Thoughtless people find it secluded enough to feel safe in “dropping” these animals without being detected — not that they would care if they were seen.  2013-09-19 08.08.13[0]-1

We’ve adopted a few strays over the years but they seldom stay more than a few months or a year at best. Just long enough for me to grow attached and then they leave as mysteriously as they arrived. But this dog was different. First of all he was terrified and he was wounded. He refused to come anywhere near the house or us. He stayed about 20 yards from the house in the edge of the woods. We couldn’t get close enough to determine what was wrong with him but it was apparent that at the least, one front leg was broken. He wasn’t particularly cute, but the fear in his eyes broke my heart. We began to put out food and water, leaving it a safe distance from the house but not too close to his comfort zone.

After a few weeks of providing food, water and a totally non-threatening environment, he would allow me to come near him and even pet him. My husband, or any man – would send him hiding in the bushes. Within six  weeks or so, he became comfortable enough to take his meals beside the garage and would let us both come near him but he was still skeptical of other men. This sweet dog, with no identification other than the cruel marks of a previous owner, desperately craved affection. The first to win him over was our 5 year old granddaughter. The dog had just begun eating near the house and when she arrived, and immediately ran to him. We were cautious not sure how this dog would respond. But he met her embrace with eager “kisses” and lots of tail wagging.

She asked his name to which we responded, “He doesn’t have one.” She quickly pronounced him as ‘Freddie’. And that sealed his fate. Freddie was adopted as one of the family. He has been with us ever since. He still bears the physical and emotional scars of whatever trauma he was subjected, but you won’t find a more loving or loyal dog. To a great extent he has overcome his fear of men but is wary on occasions. But the greatest testament to the power of love is his devotion to my husband.

While he is my steady companion as I work in the yard; he adores being on the farm with the hubby. Each morning as the farm truck takes off to begin the day’s tasks, Freddie faithfully races along. Yes, I said races along. In spite of a very crooked and arthritic front leg he runs faster than I think should be possible. And after a short cut across the pasture, he typically meets my husband at the barn. Freddie stations himself beside the truck (or under it depending upon the weather and his mood) and remains there until the work is done and his master returns home. Then once again, the race is on to see which one arrives first. This scene may replay a half dozen or more times per day depending on what is happening on the farm but regardless of the number of trips — Freddie is there, right beside his master.

For those of you thinking, “why don’t you let that poor dog ride?” Trust me, we’ve tried. We’ve bribed, cajoled, physically put him in the truck — but there remains a fear that we’ve been unable to erase. He prefers the freedom of running along beside us, to the confinement of even an open truck bed. There are other emotional scars; he won’t wear a dog collar or anything around his neck. (We’ve become really clever at giving him meds.) He’s suspicious of anything in your hand; dog brush, medicine, walking stick and he’s terrified of loud noises. Especially guns and thunder. And it took months, and some cold weather, to get him to sleep in his cozy dog house. So you get the picture; Freddie had a rough life. In spite of his past, he loves us.

Here’s one of the many Freddie faith lessons. Last week the hubby was literally racing the clouds to get his hay baled. It was one of those weeks that the weather taunts farmers just to see if they’re touch enough to handle it. The clouds were black and thickening at a rapid pace and with each drop of a hay bale, the distant thunder rumbled. Where was Freddie? Under the truck? In the garage (his favorite thunderstorm sanctuary)? NO. He ran beside the tractor keeping his eyes fixed on the hubby. Round after round, bale after bale that sweet Freddie kept pace with his master, assured that as long as he was there, Freddie was safe. Even hubby got concerned for him running so much and tried his best to take him to the farm shop for shelter. But Freddie refused to leave. As the last bale dropped, the first of the rain began and hubby, tractor and Freddie headed for the house. And once again, Freddie found sanctuary in the garage – but not until his master was home.   Granny's bd 003

You see, Freddie has learned a valuable lesson that we should all emulate. He knows that his Master brings him no harm; he desires only what is good. He understands that things he may find unpleasant (medications . . .) are temporary discomforts for his long-term benefit. He knows that he is safe as long as he remains beside his Master. Where his Master leads, he will follow – no matter how long, how far, how hot, or even how scary the circumstances may appear. And most of all, Freddie knows that he is loved. Oh how he is loved.

God sent Freddie to us just about 3 weeks before I retired. And even though I anticipated retirement eagerly, I had never been at home all day. I have always worked and my days were busy. I think God knew that I could use a companion, someone to keep me company as I gardened, someone that needed me. Someone that has brought us all much joy.

Each of us has some emotional, spiritual or physical scar that reminds us of an unpleasant episode from our past. The evil one uses those scars to taunt us and instill fear, shouting that the future cannot be good because we are unworthy and unlovable. But the good news is, our Lord, our Master, our Savior, our Redeemer loves us regardless of our past! He rescues us, restores us, provides for us, fights our battles for us and protects us. Yes, He loves us more than we can imagine. In our eyes we see a scruffy, maimed, damaged, frightened stray. But God sees something beautiful. Let Him adopt you and transform those scars into something wonderful.

In His wonderfully transformative grace,

Mimi

 

 

 

 

A Garden Table Setting with Azaleas, Roses, and Snowballs

It’s been a difficult week. Friends struggling with serious health conditions, a little one suffering in the hospital, so many needs, so many prayers lifted. And I have faced my own physical challenges as well. But today, today this wonderful bit of sunshine brightened my day just as did a walk through my garden. I hope you enjoy Mary’s post just as much as I! Just follow the link and prepare to smile! May it brighten your day . . . and your perspective.

Mimi

cropped-buttercup-013.jpg

I’m at the Table with Azaleas, Roses, and Snowballs~ Snowball Viburnum that is, in a celebration of spring flowers! Spring has in been in bloom for several weeks now, pollen has started to wa…

Source: A Garden Table Setting with Azaleas, Roses, and Snowballs

Even This?

Mondays are frequently dreaded, especially by those facing the prospect of another day on a job less that desirable. My Mondays are eagerly anticipated because for me, it is another day of “retirement.” Mondays are no less busy but certainly more self-directed and filled with activities of my choosing, not necessarily dictated by a professional agenda. So, my morning scripture writing really was an eye-opener as I thought about women returning to their jobs (or perhaps just clocking out from their night shift), moms trying to juggle everything for the last minute mad dash or the stay a home mom facing another week of chores and to-do’s that never seem to all get completed.

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Colossians 3:22 – 25 states, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all you heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.”

We easily get bogged down in daily tasks and routines, whether on the job or in our everyday tasks at home, sometimes feeling like a slave to them. While Paul indeed addressed those who were literally slaves to a physical master we often lose sight and feel trapped as slaves to our jobs, children, homes, possessions . . .  Our scriptural truth should liberate us from that mindset.

Everything, every task, every chore, every action should be an honored service to God, Jesus Christ himself. Each dish washed is Christ’s plate, every pile of laundry – for His broken, bruised and naked body. Every diaper changed for a precious infant lying in a feed trough surrounded by animals. Each sip of water for a thirsty child in the middle of the night, a comfort to the dying Savior on the cross. On and on, our daily actions should be a celebration that honors us to serve our Lord Jesus. For Jesus himself reminded us that, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Look for the face, hands, eyes and feet of Jesus at every turn today. No matter the task let us embrace it as if it were just for Him. Cleaning the toilets? Yes, even this. Dealing with a hostile customer? Yes, as if for him. Even cleaning up after the 3rd student developed a stomach virus in class?! Yes, even this.

Even this.

In God’s Merciful and Abundant Grace,

Mimi

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 ESV

 

Reflections on Good Friday

Attending last night’s Maundy Thursday Service was deeply moving and challenging. The intimate setting of our sister church and the smaller crowd enhanced the deeply personal story. It was almost as if being there, stepping back in time, experiencing Christ our King, our redeemer, our Savior serving me the wine and bread, washing my feet. There are no words to describe unless you experience it. Humbling indexis far too inadequate a word. And with the soberness of that moment firmly in my mind, this morning I was greeted with an unexpected scripture for my devotion.

Anticipating a few verses highlighting the events of Good Friday I was instead challenged with                        I Thessalonians 5: 12 – 15;

“12 Now we ask you brother, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the LORD and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone.” (NIV)   Emphasis my own.

What an appropriate scripture for this Good Friday. While not the typical message, it focuses on Jesus’s mission on earth; not only to save us from sin but to save us FOR a better life. One full of compassion not competition.  One of respect and honor to all (even our enemies). Not divisiveness and hatred. One of encouragement not criticism in order to elevate our own status.

Jesus endured all this and more on Good Friday: humiliation, physical abuse and torture, rejection by the previously adoring crowds and worst of all -abandonment and denial by those closest to him. And in this, all this, not once did he cry out in anger or rebuke. Not once did he climb down from that cross as challenged to do.  Neither did he call down the legions of angels available to him.

He did none of this. No retribution, no curses, no final words of revenge. Only words of forgiveness. He quietly completed this part of his mission just as he began it. In love, compassion and utter humility – so that through out acceptance and faith we could live in that same way for the Kingdom of Heaven. In our current era of making to the top at all costs and mud-slinging politics at its worst; his message needs to be told, lived out loud for a lost and dying world to see and experience.

On this Good Friday reflect not only on what Jesus saved us from, but what he saved us to become.  A good place to begin in Romans chapter 8. Seventeen power packed verses. Here are just a few to contemplate.

Romans 8: 1, 2;  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 5, 6a: Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace . .

Jesus died to give us LIFE. Abundant, peaceful, loving, eternal life that begins now.

“I have come that they many have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Good, very good Friday.

In Christ,  Mimi

Thirty-One Days of Beauty

If opinions were formed solely based upon the news media it would appear that we are surrounded by ugliness, greed and despair. Sadly, I fear many do form their opinions based upon only what they hear.

I choose not to live that way; surrounded by negativity, filled with anxiety, consumed in fear and seeing no hope for a better future. As I have shared previously, one of my favorite scriptures is found in Phillipians 4:8.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

So, in the spirit of looking for those things lovely, excellent and praiseworthy; I’m sharing a piece I discovered in one of my old journals. There isn’t a date attached to it but given the nature of some of the wording, I’m betting it was in the fall of the year. As we journey toward Easter let us search for the beauty each day. It will not be hard to find.

Day 1               Corkscrew ginger curls

Day 2               The gap from the loss of the first baby tooth

Day 3               Work-worn leathered hands

Day 4               Feet that bring you good news

Day 5                Eyes as they light up with recognition

Day 6               Cafe Au Lait skin

Day 7               Legs that wobble in first steps: whether baby or rehab or age

Day 8               Winesap apples ripening on the tree

Day 9               Hummingbirds that fiercely protect their territory

Day 10              Kitchen full of friends and family

Day 11               Silvered hair of wisdom and years

Day 12              Timid smiles through braces

Day 13               Story-time with a child

Day 14              Baked goods shared in love

Day 15               Eyes aglow from serving another

Day 16               Faded and tattered Mickey Mouse rediscovered

Day 17               Fog hovering over the pasture just after dawn

Day 18               Unique and original color combinations of fall

Day 19               Freckles

Day 20              Sound of a child’s first solo

Day 21               Perfect rosebud lips covered with chocolate

Day 22               Smile of anyone and everyone

Day 23               Meal prepared together

Day 24              Sound of my hubby’s breathing as he sleeps

Day 25               View from my porches

Day 26              Grandchild that effortlessly falls asleep during the drive home

Day 27              Receiving a new or deeper spiritual insight

Day 28              Homemade cinnamon rolls

Day 29             Treasures from the pockets of a 6 year old boy

Day 30             Spouse

Day 31             Generations worshiping together

Begin today. Be intentional and look for thing of real beauty. Enduring beauty. Do not be overwhelmed by negativity. We have a hope that is lasting. A hope that is enduring. A hope that brings us peace; his name is Jesus.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

In his beautiful grace,

Mimi

 

 

 

Ash Wednesday: What about Lent?

“What are you giving up for Lent?”

That’s a common question within the Christian (or at least the church-attending) community. It’s asked with the same intensity and passion as, “When are you getting that root canal?” Both are viewed as something to be endured rather than embraced.

Growing up as child and even entering into young adulthood, I didn’t hear much about Lent. Ash Wednesday maybe, but not Lent. Perhaps it was my denomination, or my church’s congregation or the pastor(s) during those years but not much attention rested upon the practices of Lent. Even now, I’m not certain about the correct terminology of Lent. Is Lent “celebrated,” “practiced,” “participated in,”? Personally, I prefer “celebrated” because like all means of grace – it is worth celebrating.

My first real encounter with Lent came as a young adult through discussions with other Christians whose churches  were apparently more participative in Lent. The focus was on “what to give up for those 40 days.” More than a few chose to give up “chocolate” hoping a side benefit would be to lose a few pounds. One friend shared that when she was younger she had worried her mother was an alcoholic because every night before bed her mother would drink one glass of wine. The daughter was re-assured, however, when she realized that her mother – a devout Catholic would give up her nightly wine during Lent with no physical withdrawals. I smile about that now.

There was no particular “aha” moment for me in discovering the beauty of Lent, instead there were many – mainly as the result of my personal Bible study and relationship with the Lord. God seems to require so little of us in relationship to what He has done and continues to do for us. There seems to be so little sacrifice on our part. Surely there is more he desires from us. And it was over the years of study, prayer, guidance through the Holy Spirit and powerful teachings from pastors and fellow believers that I began to find the real purpose of Lent. At least the purpose for me.

While I love the New Testament and the freedom it declares with the revelation of Christ and his eternal kingdom, I equally love the Old Testament which provides the backstory of why the New Testament story was needed. It is in the book of Isaiah that I find my meaning for Lent. Isaiah 58 is subtitled True Fasting in my NIV translation.  Here you will find the prophet taking the kingdom of Judah to task for their hypocrisy. He confronts them about their outward appearances of worship/fasting but their interactions with others; the the poor, the oppressed, the needy – reveal their true character. (Reminds me of Jesus’ taking to task the religious elite and calling the ‘white-washed tombstones’, i.e. pretty on the outside but downright nasty on the inside.)

According to Isaiah and Jesus, fasting/worship/Lent has less to do with what we give up and more to do with how we replace it.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have

chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

and break every yoke?

Is it not to share you food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer

with shelter –

when you see the naked, to clothe

him,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Isaiah 58: 6 – 7

Jesus reinforces this notion in the parable of the empty house or the seven spirits. (Luke 11:20-28 and Matthew 12) The house was swept clean of all “evil” things – yet it was not replaced with good and righteous things making it even more vulnerable to future attack. It’s not so much about what we give up; it’s more about how we replace it. If we “give up” something that steals our time and devotion to God, then we must replace it with something that draws us nearer to Him.

One of my greatest “thieves” is the idiocy of commercial television programming. While I don’t watch a lot of television, I do find it a time killer during these cold wintry days that keep me inside far too long. Excuse. The worst part is, there is very little worthy of watching. So as I watch, I complain about it. Easy solution. Turn it off. Limit it. And fill that time with something, “true, noble, right, pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

What am I giving up for Lent? lent

Television.

What am I replacing it with?

Prayer, more prep time for Wednesday night Bible Study, preparing meals to share with families going through a touch time, baking a batch of cookies to share with someone “just because”, sending those get well, birthday, and thinking of you cards that I always “intend” to send. And the list could go on.

Lord, help me to be less of me and more of You.

In his mercy and grace,

Mimi

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10