Lent 2018

“Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ. In him– in his suffering and death, his resurrection and triumph, we find our truest joy” (from the devotional Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter).

That’s the reason for all the fasting. For me, it’s been a tradition for the past few years to fast from social media. This year, I’m adding Netflix to the mix.

I don’t want it to be merely an exercise in going without. I want that space normally filled with Facebook, Instagram, and all those Netflix shows to be spiritually useful.

My prayer for all you who participate in this Lent season is that you will find Jesus in all the space normally given to television or food or social media. I pray the deprivation will open your eyes in a new way to what Jesus is saying to you in the days and weeks leading up to Easter.

May all of the sacrifice of Lent lead to an Easter where our hearts are captivated all over again by God’s own sacrifice in sending Jesus to us and for us.


It’s Good to Be Back (in Social Media Land)

Today was my first official day back on social media since February 28, which just so happened to be my birthday as well as Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. That’s the first day of Lent.

As usual, I gave up social media for Lent. It was fantastic. I enjoyed the absence of political rants and Facebook drama and passive aggressiveness which makes me seem absolutely normal in comparison. I almost didn’t come back.

But here I am again, posting about all the places I go during the week, sharing all the diverse music I’m listening to, and again trying not to judge people’s grammar (and rolling my eyes constantly in the process). I might even post a pic or two of food and/or beverages I’m consuming to make you infinitely jealous.

I do like keeping up with friends and what’s going on in their lives. I had felt completely out of the loop for a month and a half. I honestly have no idea about who’s gotten engaged or married or pregnant. I don’t know how I survived all those years without social media.

Oh wait, yes I do. I had a life. Or at least I had books.

Social media is good and well as long as you keep boundaries and don’t let it run your life or determine your self-worth. I believe that it’s best to keep it positive and uplifting. It’s so much easier to sit behind a keyboard and tear someone else down through a post or comment than it would be to ridicule them to their face.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people who claim Jesus as Lord will unleash political diatribes against those on the other side of the spectrum instead of heeding His words to love and pray for your enemies and to do good to those who mistreat you. Again, social media makes it easier to do that.

You may not always agree on everything, but it costs you nothing to be civil and show respect to everyone. And yes, Jesus meant what He said about loving your enemies.

I intend to do my best to keep things light and fun with lots of pictures of my geriatric feline, plus random and odd memes that strike me as funny.

That’s all. You can go back to your hilarious videos of cats in shark costumes riding on roombas.

An Easter Prayer

“Lord God,
You loved this world so much,
That you gave your one and only Son,
That we might be called your children too.
Lord, help us to live in the gladness and grace
Of Easter Sunday, everyday.
Let us have hearts of thankfulness
For your sacrifice.
Let us have eyes that look upon
Your grace and rejoice in our salvation.
Help us to walk in that mighty grace
And tell your good news to the world.
All for your glory do we pray, Lord, Amen” (Rachel Marie Stone).

Happy Easter, everyone! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!


Good News on this Holy Saturday

“On Holy Saturday I do my best to live in that place, that wax-crayon place of trust and waiting. Of accepting what I cannot know. Of mourning what needs to be mourned. Of accepting what needs to be accepted. Of hoping for what seems impossible” (Jerusalem Jackson GreerA Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together).

“To be sure, it was not Easter Sunday but Holy Saturday, but, the more I reflect on it, the more this seems to be fitting for the nature of our human life: we are still awaiting Easter; we are not yet standing in the full light but walking toward it full of trust” (Pope Benedict XVIMilestones: Memoirs 1927-1977).

I purposely avoid watching and/or reading the news like the plague.

I know it’s good to be informed and to know what’s going on in the world. I also am coming to trust what’s presented to me as news less and less these days. I’m fairly certain that the people in charge of reporting the news are less interested in getting at the truth than in promoting their own agenda.

I also know that tomorrow we celebrate the best news of all time.

Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed.

Those words will echo around the world in places of worship ranging from a few followers to massive sanctuaries crammed with thousands of people. Tomorrow, more than any other Sunday of the year, we will see people who wouldn’t otherwise be caught dead in a church who are trying to figure out this Jesus for themselves.

The best evidence for the gospel of Jesus Christ is people who whose lives match what they profess with their lips. The worst are those who praise Jesus with their words on Sunday then walk out the door and deny Him by how they look and act no differently than non-believers during the rest of the week.

May we celebrate the best news of all of the resurrection by not only talking the good news but living it out as well. That’s the best way to celebrate Easter Sunday that I know of.


This Blood’s for You: An Easter Toast for 2017

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song” (Pope John Paul II).

Once again, I raise my glass and drink to all of you outcasts and loners out there.

Here’s to all of you with perpetually plastered smiles on your faces whose cheery dispositions hide a world of pain that few know about. You may project eternal optimism, but inwardly you feel you’re in the middle of the deepest darkest valley.

Here’s to you who know all too well the meaning of being alone in a crowd. You’re always the one feeling left out in all the conversations and the one who never gets invited to group activities.

Here’s to you who never quite fit in anywhere and who always feel unwanted. Maybe you feel closer than ever to simply giving up on everything.

Here’s to you who feel invisible, rejected, undesirable, outcast, and alone. Jesus died for you. Jesus saw you in your darkest and at your worst and loved you enough to die for you, then and there.

You are no longer unworthy because Jesus considered you worth not a little or even a lot but all of His precious blood shed on that cross.

Here’s to all those nobodies whom God has called to turn the world upside down. You who were once far off and strangers to hope and desperately awkward and ashamed are now sons and daughters of the King and joint-heirs with Jesus to the Kingdom and– best of all– the beloved of your Abba.

Here’s to those who finally belong and who finally fit in and who finally are learning how to embrace all of who God made them to be and to find that in comforting to the image of Christ they become their very best and truest selves.

Here’s to you.

The Sacrament of the Present Moment

“[W]e grow in our knowledge of Christ-with-us by, first of all, constant expectation of him in the place where we are, wherever that may be. ‘The sacrament of the present moment,’ as it is sometimes called, is from the human side nothing but the invocation, expectation, and receptivity of God’s presence and activity where we are and in what we are doing at any given time. Then we steadily grow in graceful interactions with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They gradually take up all of our life into their trinitarian life (John 17:21–24).

Among the many misunderstandings Jesus had to counteract in his teaching was the one that held the kingdom to be some gigantic event in some special place. This was human thinking about human kingdoms, which always fit that description. He was constantly faced with people who wanted to know when the kingdom of God was coming. When is the big commotion? He patiently replied that the kingdom of God was not that kind of thing. It was simply God reigning, governing. It is not a special event you could see happening over here or possibly over there. ‘Now look,’ he said, ‘the kingdom of God is right here among you’ (Luke 17:20–21, paraphrase). His main sermon line was: ‘Get a new thought! The kingdom of the heavens is available to you from right where you are!’ (Matt. 4:17, paraphrase).

from Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge by Dallas Willard

One of the greatest temptations in the spiritual life is to always be expecting God’s activity, but in some undefined future setting. I love the idea of the sacrament of the present moment, that the kingdom of God is here and now because God is actively working here and now.

Where you are right now is where God wants you to be and where God wants to use you in this very moment. And God specializes in using people just like you.



Advent Thoughts in April

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken” (Dietrich BonhoefferGod Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas).

Ok, so I goofed. I meant to type in Lent quotes, but reverted to Advent quotes instead. Blame it on the lack of sleep. But this one applies not only for Advent season but for all seasons in which we feel excluded or weak or broken.

There is never a time when God is not the Emmanuel, God with us.


Fixed Hearts

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (Collect for Fifth Sunday of Lent, Book of Common Prayer).

I’m getting a little ahead of myself (and a couple days early for this collect), but I do so love this one, especially the part about “swift and varied changes” contrasted with “our hearts may surely there be fixed.”

That’s the key. Everything else is fleeting. From one moment to the next, you can never count on anything to be the same. Just when you’ve gotten used to something, it changes and becomes something completely different.

But Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s that place where our hearts can surely be fixed and can finally find rest.

That’s comforting and assuring during this season of Lent where we seek to find our bearings again and to be reoriented to the Truth that does not change with the culture or with passing trends or societal norms.

In a frenzied and frantic world, He still leads us beside still waters and restores our souls. Even in the midst of the deepest darkest valleys, He’s with us and His rod and staff still guide us.

That’s what I’m hoping and praying you and I find during this season of Lent and Easter– rest. Not lots of good naps (although they are still the best way to pass a Sunday afternoon), but times of refreshing where you are rejuvenated down to the core of your very being. That’s what I want for all of us.


Fourth Sunday of Lent Eve

“Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

In case you were as much in need of a reminder as I am, here it is. Tomorrow is the fourth Sunday of Lent leading toward Easter Sunday.

It’s not about cute little bunnies or chocolate. It’s about the fact that Jesus walked out of the garden tomb on that Sunday so long ago to show the world that sin, death, and hell were forever defeated.

I love what Peter Marshall said about the tomb being rolled away not so that Jesus could get out but so the disciples could get in.

My prayer for all of us is that we are reminded that we still need the hope of Easter now as when we first believed and as much as the first disciples needed it. May we live out the hope as those who fight not for victory but from it.

“I imagine Lent for you and for me as a great departure from the greedy, anxious antineighborliness of our economy, a great departure from our exclusionary politics that fears the other, a great departure from self-indulgent consumerism that devours creation. And then an arrival in a new neighborhood, because it is a gift to be simple, it is a gift to be free; it is a gift to come down where we ought to be” (Walter BrueggemannA Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent).

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great” (John Chrysostom)

Trying Less and Trusting More

“Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer, Second Sunday of Lent).

Why is it that the harder you try not to laugh the more you end up laughing? It seems especially true when you’re in a place where laughter is completely inappropriate yet you just can’t help yourself.

I know for me sometimes that the more I try to do good and be good, the more I find the not so good showing up in me (or to use an old fashioned word that’s definitely considered politically incorrect, sin).

Christianity isn’t about trying harder and being more moral or keeping rules for the sake of keeping rules. It’s not about God helping those who help themselves (which isn’t even in the Bible– Benjamin Franklin said it). FYI, if we could help ourselves, we wouldn’t have needed God or faith or Christianity to begin with.

Christianity is all about those who know they can’t help themselves (in every sense of the word). It’s for all those who’ve tried and failed so many times they’ve lost count.

Christianity is about how Jesus has already done for us what we could never hope to do for ourselves. It’s His resurrection power that enables us to live right because it’s His life in us.

It’s about God promising to finish the good work He started in us long ago and keeping His promise because God is a Promise Keeper.