Lent

“Save, now!” – A Palm Sunday Reflection

I wake up and I know I need this week to be different. In these days of global pandemic, of soul searching, of anxious uncertainty, I know need this week, this Holy Week, to be one where I lean in and linger long and listen well.

I hit play before my feet hit the floor and the words begin to settle my soul. The podcaster puts aside her own words this week and speaks the Words of Scripture. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are her special “guests” today as they begin to tell us what happened in this week thousands of year ago, this Holy Week.

Certain phrases strike me like they never have before:

The crowd gathered.
A simple phrase, yet one in such contrast to our current reality. No crowds will gather on this day, not physically at least. I picture this scene, the complete opposite of social distancing.  

If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” Tell Him, “The Lord needs it…”
I consider the ways God has called me, often to things that don’t make sense to others. In words and actions they ask, “Why are you doing this?” and in reality I, like these disciples untying the donkey, don’t really know. The full picture isn’t clear yet, but this much I do know: the Lord asked; I will obey. The Lord needs it.

He went to the temple, and he looked around at everything.
He sees. Oh, he sees. He sees all the thing that break our heart, they break his as well. We can imagine what he saw that day in the temple… his response to come in the days to follow. In this day, he seems to avoid action, but really, he’s taking it all in and as he does, he weeps.

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace?!?”
Heartbroken, longing to give his people peace, yet seeing all the ways they turn the other way. Downcast heart, I can hear him asking these words to me as well as I flirt with the things that promise peace and give only the opposite.

Do not be afraid, Your king is coming.
Oh, friends, the King is on the way! He is not absent. He is not turning his face away. He came on that first Palm Sunday and he will come again in ALL his glory and there won’t be enough palm branches to wave or coats to lay down to honor him enough.

“If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
The Pharisees, they tried to stop the praise, tried to stop the crowds and the disciples from bringing honor to their King. But when a King comes, one worthy of all honor, glory, and power, the praise can’t be stopped. May I live my life in such a way that I make the stones keep quiet. And so we say, 

Hosanna!
A cry of honor and celebration. Literally, it means “Save, now!”  Yes, this is the collective cry of our hearts this day. Save us! Save us now! Save us as the only One who can. From sin. From disease. From addition. From pride. From broken relationships. From anxiety. From all this and more. Save! Now! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 

Hosanna in the Highest! 

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Lent

Holy Week Tuesday: Giving Up Hypocrisy

Reading through the events of Tuesday of Holy Week it’s easy for me to get annoyed and even judgmental of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other religious leaders of the day.  It’s easy for me, on the outside looking in, to think, “They were clearly astonished and amazed by Him, why wouldn’t they just believe?… How could they not see how he was the very One they had been waiting and longing for? … How could they be so rude, arrogant, stubborn?”

Jesus describes their hypocrisy this way:

 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.  Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues.  They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ (Matthew 23:2-7)

Humility is tough. It’s hard to admit that you’re wrong.  What I find fascinating about my own heart, is that while fighting against those who judge others or those who say one thing and do another, I’ve found that I am doing the very thing I’m fighting against.  I may not judge the “sinner” like the Pharisees of our time… but sadly, I can often be found guilty of judging the Pharisees themselves.  In fighting so hard for grace for all, I forget to extend it to those who perhaps need it most… for only once we’ve experienced God’s abundant, life-giving, freeing grace can we then extend it to others.

So today, on this Tuesday of Holy Week, I give up my own hypocrisy.  I give up saying one thing and not actually doing it.  I give up offering judgment instead of grace… to EVERYONE, not just those who I see “worth it”.  I give up doing anything simply “for show”.   I give up thinking I’m better than those who think they’re better than everyone else.  Oh, that pride is a tricky thing!

Keep me humble, Jesus.  As we continue down this road to Calvary and my road through life, keep my eyes focused only on You, not concerned with the people around me, except to offer them grace.  May we be overwhelmed by the freedom that comes in trusting You to be God, and realizing that we don’t have to be.  Help us give up our hypocrisy and, in doing so, be better able to point to You and Your great love for us ALL.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen

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Lent, Prayer

Giving Up Complaining

Lord,

Forgive me when my words are filled with complaints… to You, to others, to no one in particular. Forgive me when I get focused on the things that aren’t going the way I would like or imagine and get my heart focused instead on the many ways in which you have blessed me.  Forgive me Lord when my words which express desire for more or different get in the way of showing the world your abundant grace and joy.  Forgive me for the ways these complaining words have damaged relationships, hurt people, or given an inaccurate picture of You.

I can’t help but be reminded of the Israelites who grumbled their way through the wilderness, longing to go back to Egypt… forgetting the slavery they endured there. (Exodus 16, Numbers 11) Your provided freedom and they grumbled that it took so long.  You provided food and they grumbled that they wanted something different.  You lead them and gave them guidelines to help them live the best life possible and they grumbled.  Lord, I confess I do the same. Forgive me of my grumbling.

Replace my complaining spirit with a spirit of praise… a heart that longs to bless Your name and the many ways You provide for me, lead me, care about me, and use me.  May I not be conformed to the complaining pattern of this world but may my mind be transformed and renewed (Romans 12:1-2). Like Paul, may I learn contentment and praise in every situation, coming to you with any worry, concern, or fear, presenting requests with thanksgiving to Your glory by your grace (Philippians 4).

In the Mercy and Name of Jesus,

Amen… let it be so!

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Lent, Prayer

Giving Up Half-Hearted Prayers

A couple weeks ago I was in the store and decided to buy a baptism card.  That might seem totally normal, except I don’t know anyone being baptized soon.  In short, buying that card was a way to trust that God was going to answer one of my prayers for 2016: that I would get to see the salvation of souls… that I God would make me a disciple that makes disciples. Buying that card was a way for me to tell my heart to trust God that He will answer my prayers for new people to know the love of Jesus this year.

So often we I pray for something to happen, but then don’t actually expect God to come through. Sadly, at times, I pray for things and then find myself shocked when God actually answers.

Today, I give up half-hearted, unexpectant prayers.  When I pray, I’m not checking something off my list… I’m standing in the very presence of the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe!  I’m bringing my praise and my petitions before the One being in all Creation who really can make things happen and LOVES to do it.  I want to learn to pray with persistence and passion, but most of all, with expectation. While God may not come through in the WAYS or the TIMES I might desire or expect, He WILL come through; I can count on that! It’s in His very nature to be faithful to His children even when we’re not.

“…if we are faithless, He remains faithful—
for He cannot deny Himself.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:13

My God will show up and I don’t want to be left surprised. I want to be able to jump up and down, celebrate, saying,
“I knew You’d come through. I knew You’d show up. I knew I could count on You!”

… because we can!

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Lent

Giving Up Waiting for the “Perfect Weather”

Later today I will get a chance to be back on my college campus where I spent 4 of the most formative years of my life thus far. During my sophomore year I was a Resident Assistant on a freshmen girls’ floor. Our Resident Hall Coordinator, Jackie, picked a theme verse for all the RA’s in our dorm to center our year around. One of my most well-worn and favorite t-shirts of all time was our dorm shirt from that year with this verse printed on it:

“Those who wait for perfect weather will never plant seeds.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4) 

Whether it’s in trying something new, sharing our faith with someone near us, asking for forgiveness or having a tough conversation, we often feel the need to watch and wait for the PERFECT opportunitity. Solomon gives us some wisdom here that perhaps the “perfect” time may never come. 

Today is the day to plant. This is the week to sow some seeds. 2016 is the year to stop watching the sky, and to put a plan into place. 

The past few weeks God has been increasingly showing me the urgency of sharing the good news of His love.  It’s scary to think how people might respond but scarier yet is the outcome if I never even try.  I know I won’t get it perfect, but that’s what I love about the amazing grace found in this verse.  By God’s grace I can simply start planting.  

For the sake of accountability, I’m going to put it out there that my neighbor Jordan is one relationship where I feel God telling me to “stop waiting for ‘perfect’ weather”.  He doesn’t know Jesus and that makes me sad.  Unfortunately until recently, not sad enough to do anything about it. Today and the days ahead are each days God is calling me to plant seeds in his life and watch the way he waters and grows them.  We’ll see where God leads, but I think my goal is to talk to him at least once a week these next few weeks and then invite him to one of our services during Holy Week or Easter.  I often make excuses about inviting people on days like that because working in the church I am often super busy on those days as well and wouldn’t have opportunity to be as hospitable as I would like.  This year, I’m choosing to not wait for perfect weather and just see what God does! 

Where can you do some planting today, giving up focusing on the weather and instead focusing on the people right in front of you?!?

Let’s go plant!  

 

Lent

Giving Up Social Media

Many of the things I’ve given up this month have been intangible concepts.   I’ve found though that sometimes there are very tangible things that get me in situations where those feelings, emotions, fears or insecurities I’ve been blogging about the past few weeks are either born or quickly grow. One of those places is through social media and technology in general.

It’s nothing new, we all know it, yet we still feel the need to check our phones every 10 minutes (or 2) just to make sure we don’t miss anything. In reality, by doing that I’ve found myself falling for countless lies that Satan uses to steal kill and destroy my life.

Our insecurities get fueled when we see others who seem to have the picture perfect Pinterest life. We feel that pity-party coming on when we see a friend having a good time …with someone else.  Jealousy tries to join the party as we come across the 18th post about a friend’s Valentine’s Day engagement. We isolate ourselves even more while believing the lie that we are getting connected. And perhaps, one of my biggest struggles, I waste a lot of time, one of the only resources we can’t get more of.

So, while its not a permanent solution, I am going to give up social media for a while.  Maybe just today, maybe longer.  I’m going to choose to ignore how many people read this post.  I’ll refrain today from scrolling through page after page of what my friends are up to, giving up that felt need to “be in the know”.   I’ll block out a few of the things that tempt to fill my mind and heart with unimportant or even unhealthy things.   Oh, there is a lot of good in social media, but sometimes we just need a break and a few extra moments to focus on Jesus. And for me, today is one of those days.

Jesus, use this day away to let me focus in and hear YOUR voice louder than the rest.  Remind me of who I am and who You are.  Help me give up the felt need to be constantly connected to the world around me and be “in the know”, but rather focus on my connection with you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. … The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I [Jesus] came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  (John 10)

… And yes, this post and any Facebook/Twitter posts related were all written and scheduled BEFORE today. 😉  

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Joy, Lent

Sunday Joy: I Choose Joy

Joy is a facinating thing to me.  I don’t quite understand it and am thankful that it is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in my life and not something I have to muster up on my own.

But until recently I think that’s how I treated it…as something I must make happen.  People would say something like “choose joy”– a phrase I’ve heard, loved, and even used for years–but sometimes I wonder if my “choosing joy” really was more like “acting-like-nothing’s-wrong-and-putting-on-this-happy-Christian-face”.  (Which, by the way is not really joy at all.)

I knew I had experienced joy–true genuine joy–before and I knew I wanted more of it in my life, however I think a few weeks ago I finally understood it a little more.

In talking with a friend about a certain situation throughout the course of a day, my attitude had much improved about this situation from earlier in the day.  She commented, “You sound happy.”

I knew what she meant, but it still didn’t seem quite right. In fact I was anything but happy about the situation, and I suddenly realized, I wasn’t happy, but I WAS joyful.

I began to wonder if maybe “choosing joy” isn’t really a choice between “joy” and “sadness” as I had always supposed it to be.  No, more often than not, that just ends up with the fake smile plastered on your face.  Maybe, the choice is rather between joy and HAPPINESS.  Those are really the things that are at times in competition with each other.

As I talked about earlier this week in the post about giving up the pursuit of happiness, my definition of what will make me happy in life is first of all very unlikely to actually come through. More than that, the pursuit of happiness often ends up stealing my joy not fulfilling it.

Joy and sadness or pain or struggle on the other hand I’ve found often go well together. Because joy is not dependent on circumstances but rather on Jesus, our Joy-Bringer. And from what I’ve come to learn about this amazing God is that He loves to bring joy in EVERYTHING.

Habakkuk said it this way:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-18‬)

So, as I told my friend the other day, at least in that situation: Happy? No. But by God’s Grace, I’m was filled with joy and for that I’m thankful!