Tag Archives: Saviour

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-day Lenten Road to Easter

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

[Adapted from the Archives]

“How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.”Henri Nouwen  (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church even came on my radar as a thing. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a different life of meager means and lavish love. It was in those days that we responded to an invitation to church from neighbors. A weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God. In fact, years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I thought it would be a survey course on Christianity.

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism.]

My first experience with Lent, for instance, was through a college friendship. One Wednesday long ago, I caught up with my best friend after she had disappeared from our usual daily routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons on Lent – on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – Preparing for Ash Wednesday – Pastor Kirk Thorson

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to (or if I should) incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking has changed. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God, and our corporate and personal need for Him, more clearly, then I want to integrate some measure of Lenten practice into my life.

Month-long fasting (one part of Lent) has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of our Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

As I write this, my penitent friend with the ash smeared on her forehead comes to mind again. Decades later, on this day, I’m sure, wherever she is, she has a new ashen cross applied. Reminding her of the sin in her own life that Christ paid for Himself with His death on the Cross.

[We like our foreheads clean, don’t we? Being reminded of the dark and dirty smudge of sin in our lives is not something we want to carry around with us publicly. Especially in this post-Christian world of ours. Even with the message of the Cross as the only response to that sin…it’s just too public, too culturally “in your face” so to speak.]

Many may see Lent as extra-Biblical and therefore unnecessary to add to our countdown to commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For me, at least, it gives a bit narrower road to walk for forty days – examining our own frailty, our sin, and the brevity of life alongside the magnificent perfection of the life and love of a wholly surrendered Christ.

Ash Wednesday and Lent as Means of Grace – Ryan J. Pelton

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily until Lent from A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ll be going through that as part of my reading these 40 days until Easter.

Also for the past several years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was a gift from a good friend during our years living overseas. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle with prayer and fasting. This is a power unleashed in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, I will be reading A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering to pray and reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

May the days of Lent roll on naturally into the rest of our days…

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort – Deb Mills Writer

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort

Lent Resource Guide – Calvin Institute for Christian Worship

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax

Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart – Part 3 – Constancy

[Today’s blog is Part 3 of 3 – excerpts from a talk given at an ISBC Women’s Ministry Holiday Dinner with the theme: Vintage Christmas – Matters of the Heart. See Part 1 – Capacityhere; Part 2 – Caringhere.]

We’re talking about matters of the heart – the kind of character our Godly mothers, grandmothers, and great-aunts demonstrated…that we learned and want to pass onto to our children and grandchildren.

…which takes us to the last character trait to consider…for us in this generation, and for generations forward (when we will be considered vintage…but God isn’t).

Constancy

No matter how old we are, we have people in our lives who are constant. They are those we count on; those who always show up. No. Matter. What. They are faithful to God and faithful to us. Let’s just take a moment to think, even looking around us, at some of those dear women in our lives. Let’s remember those who aren’t with us anymore but who taught us how to be constant in our love and in our lives.

When we lived overseas, we were daily reminded of how only God could work the miracles that must be worked for people to receive the truth of the Gospel. Our neighbors were steeped in a very different worldview. They saw Jesus as a good man but the Saviour. The fact that we desperately need Him to restore us to a holy God was foreign to them.

Every day…every single day…God called us to show up with His love and His word…in those places and for those people. That constancy was tested every day because it would have been so easy just to stop showing up.

One of the verses from God’s Word that kept us going was Galatians 6:9 where Paul encouraged believers, saying, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap a harvest if we do not lose heart.”Photo Credit: Pinterest

God has already promised us that His purposes are not thwarted; He will complete His work; He will finish what He started in us.

God calls us to keep showing up…following His example in our own lives.

This is how we get to “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). By showing up, time after time, with whatever gifts we have. We don’t have to be rockstars of any kind…we have a God who equips us to be exactly what is needed in any situation. Our constancy radiates His greatness. We can count on Him.

A few years back, I discovered a Christian sister, by the name of Kara Tippetts. We never met but she wrote in her blog in such a way it was like receiving a letter from a dear friend. She wrote about her walk with God through a relentless cancer. Over the course of her diagnosis and treatment, she adjusted to a very different life. However, she continued to show up. For her family. For her friends. For all of us who watched for every report of her life and how God met her each step of the way. She modeled showing up…and emboldened those in her life to show up for her…in all that hard.

Photo Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

Just shy of her 40th birthday, she finished her race and went to be with the Lord. Leaving behind 4 sweet children and an adoring husband.

It was both terribly sad and gloriously beautiful.

In the last months of her life, she managed to write three books…three books!!! The last one was a dialog between her and her friend, Jill. By that time, it was all Kara could do to show up, the disease had so done its ill.

This is what she had to say about constancy…even in the hardest of situations…

“If God asks us to do something, then He’s also going to show up to carry us through it. And when we walk in community with one another, we will be kept.”

Photo Credit: Just Show Up, Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

Completely cared for by God Himself.

He is faithful. His infinite capacity fills our small hearts; His perfect love magnifies the care we offer to others, His steadfastness gives us what we need to be constant.

In His strength and love, we become the women of that adage: “When her feet hit the floor, the Devil says ‘Oh no, she’s up!’” The evil one battles with us to fail…but we will not, with our eyes on God.

From Genesis through the whole of Scripture, we see the word “shield” and that God is our shield. Against any evil. When we take God seriously and put our lives wholly in His hands we become a force to reckon with – whether we’re 14 or 50 or 82. We will experience attacks from the evil one – he doesn’t want us to be successful as Christ’s image-bearers. We may even take friendly fire from other believers. It happens, and sometimes the enemy is us…but God take what was meant for evil and make it for good in our lives. We have His promise.

Photo Credit: FBC Mt. Pleasant

Hear the Word the Lord: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full of armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.Ephesians 6:10-11

 

Brent Curtis, a Biblical counselor and author of a favorite book of mine The Sacred Romance, wrote about how God demonstrates His own constancy when we show up for someone:

“God graciously showed me this several years ago while I was in the midst of an intense, three-year spiritual battle on behalf of a client.

One night, David (not his real name) called me on the phone at three in the morning, in the midst of painful spiritual torment.  We talked and prayed and I began to read from the Psalms.  Finally, I could hear by his deep breathing that he had fallen asleep.  As I lay on my dining room floor…something wonderful and strange took place.

In my heart, I heard a voice say, “Brent, forget about the battle.  You’re here with me now.  Rest.”  I looked up, actually expecting to see God in some way, or perhaps an angel.  What I did see was the light in the room change.  I find myself wanting to say it grew more distinct, almost more personal.  I only know I discovered that my hand was raised in the air in worship.  I didn’t decide to raise it.  I am not, by any means, an expressive person in the charismatic sense of the word.  It was simply as if there was no other appropriate response and my hand acted accordingly.  For several minutes I basked in what I can only describe now as God’s warmth and love toward me.  The epiphany ended with me reading the Twenty-third Psalm and others it seemed the Lord had chosen to assure me that I was not alone in the battle.”

When we live with capacity for Him, caring for others, and constancy in being there, we may, at times, come under attack, but we will never be alone.

The Old Testament prophet Zephaniah reminds us of this: “The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in His love. He will delight in you with singing.”

No matter what your situation…even when you feel God has been “too quiet” in His love…or you have been waiting such a long time for something…God’s love is constant, trust in that, and God is in the waiting, with us, Dear Ones.

[Special thanks for the ISBC Women’s Ministry and the opportunity extended to me to speak at their holiday dinner. The sweet beauty of the Vintage Christmas displays was surpassed by the faces and hearts of the women present. They would make their grandmothers proud. I was unable to get images of all the women so will leave you with a few more images of just some of the tables. Blessings.]

5 Friday Faves – Star Wars Christmas, Jimmy Stewart’s Prayer, Hamburger Joint, Liz Wiseman on Accidental Diminishers, and Pulling Up

It’s Friday. Well…it was. As I write, it’s pre-dawn on a snowy Saturday morning. Our first snow of the season fell last night, and more is expected today. Our youngest son and I took in the VCU Holiday Gala last night, walking to and from the parking deck in falling white loveliness. It’s been a family tradition for us for a few years now, but with precious babies and a heavy work schedule for Dave, it was just Dan and me. Still, so much fun.

That’s pretty much how this week has been. Unexpected alterations of days and the emotional highs and lows that came with them. Still…Friday came (and went…oops!). Welcome to Saturday, and hopefully you will find something here to lighten your load, make you smile, or remind you that we are all in this together.

1) Star Wars Christmas –Beyond the Guitar continues to surprise and delight with his latest arrangement. A mashup of Star Wars themes and Christmas carols. So fitting in this season and as Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits the big screen in a few days. Shout-out to the video directors – Tyler Scheerschmidt and John Shutika. If you love all things Christmas and Star Wars, you’re in for a treat:

2) Jimmy Stewart’s Prayer – What should come to mind is actor Jimmy Stewart’s classic portrayal of the consummate good guy, George, in the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). However, a short film entitled Mr. Krueger’s Christmas (1980) has a particular scene in it that is riveting. In the scene, Mr. Krueger finds himself present, along with the shepherds, at the birthplace of Jesus. It’s reported, Stewart did this scene in one take saying he only had one take in him. He talks to Jesus in this scene and at one point drops to his knees, overtaken by the moment, and stammers, “I love you…you are my closest, my finest friend.” Take 4 minutes and watch this sweet scene:

Mr. Krueger’s Christmas – 25 minute complete film

Jimmy Stewart’s Other Christmas Movie – Jeff Westover

3) Hamburger Joint – We all have our favorites, right? What’s yours? I have a few favorites, but when we lived and had babies in Kingsport, Tennessee, it was Pal’s Sudden Service. Both of my biological children probably have Pal’s hot dogs and fries in their original DNA. Their business model (see links below) is very forward-thinking without settling for trendy. Not just about the quality of the food but also about service and employee training. Pal’s is a total carry-out restaurant. You order not over a speaker but face-to-face with someone. By the time you round the building, in your car, of course, the food is ready. It’s so good, I doubt many folks get back on the street without grabbing a one of their fries out of the bag, and definitely not without their first long sip of Pal’s sweet tea. So good. Have you ever experienced Pal’s? Or another favorite? Please comment below.Photo Credit: Pal’s Sudden Service

You’ve Probably Never Heard of One of America’s Top  Burger Chains – David Landsel

Pal’s Sudden Service – Taking Fast Food to the Next Level – Gary Pisano

Pal’s: America’s Least-Known Well-Run Burger Chain

Using Pal’s Sudden Service Model Can Make You Famous for Service, Staff Retention – The American Genius – Roger Jones

4) Liz Wiseman on Accidental Diminishers – Who hasn’t read Liz Wiseman‘s book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter? Well, maybe you don’t need to read it. If you work with two or more people, this gem of a book is an excellent assist in helping you be better able to work wiser with those two or more. Revised since the original publishing in 2010, Multipliers continues to be timely. in a recent Leaders Get Read podcast, Wiseman was interviewed again about the the two ends of the spectrum at work – the multiplier and the diminisher.Photo Credit: Slideshare

Give it a listen especially if you haven’t read the book – she gives a great synopsis of the concepts. At 18 minutes into the podcast, Wiseman talks about the accidental diminisher. Those times when all of us, even being well-intended, do or say things that diminishes another person. I do that sometimes in tweaking a plan or decision made by another colleague or friend. Tweak, tweak, tweak. It happens in my direction when someone, even one who I know cares about me and what I bring to the table/relationship, communicates that I’m not needed or my input isn’t desired. Tricky. On a good day, this actually frees me to focus on other things; on a bad day, it causes all kinds of anxiety, insecurity, and paranoia (it’s true…hard to believe, I know).

Leaders Get Real Podcast – Interview with Liz Wiseman

Monday Morning Moment – How an Accidental Diminisher Becomes a Multiplier – Deb Mills Writer

Liz Wiseman’s Leadership Book On Multipliers – and the Story of a Multiplier in Our Lives – Deb Mills Writer

5) Pulling Up – Given my #4 fave, this has been a week where I have struggled with some low points. There were occasions where it’s possible I was an accidental diminisher (very sad face here) with people who should never be diminished. [Well, no one should ever be diminished. Full stop.] Then, also had a few experiences of being diminished myself. For me, in such situations, a downward spiral begins in my thoughts and emotions. Maybe you struggle with this as well. Often this shows up at bedtime and I find myself trying to sort out how to fix a situation. Finally sleep comes…and resolution begins when I “pull up”. Dave coined this phrase with me, and the family has taken it on as a reminder too. As with an out-of-control plane spiraling dangerously toward the ground, the pilot has got to figure out a way to “pull up”.

Photo Credit: Aviadarts

Two Scripture passages help me:

Bring every thought captive to what is truth.We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:5

Focus your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, admirable… – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

Pulling up may mean going to that person to sort things out. It can also mean just correcting course in our own thinking.

A God-send in this situation was finding an old lyric-rich and musically outstanding musical still available from the days of cassette tapes (1994). Saviour – the Story of God’s Passion for His People – the dvd is in my Amazon shopping cart right now.

Saviour – the Story of God’s Passion for His People  – composed/written by Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell (musical actually starts after 9 minutes of the above video – it is all magnificent; the solos depicting God and his creation are not to miss).

YouTube Video – My Heart Belongs to You – Whitney Phipps & Larnelle Harris [from above cantata]

YouTube Video – Larnelle Harris, Steve Green, Steve Amerson – “Kings of the Earth” [from above cantata]

Saviour – the Story of God’s Passion for His People – DVD

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Micah Eckerd – Actually friend Joshua Griffin took the shot, but this is ALL Micah. Just makes me smile. A friend & a tree.

Harvesting Olives by Machine – If you’ve ever seen olive trees harvested by hand, such a machine would be amazing to have. We had an olive tree in our yard in North Africa, and just the work of pulling olives off that one tree gave us pause – thinking of all the olive groves near us and the hundreds of trees loaded with fruit.

A Spontaneous Christmas Pageant – No Rehearsal, everyone who wants to participates and this one with the script in rhymePhoto Credit: TheresaEcho