Between the items I didn’t get to on my weekend to-do list, and the ones I already know I’ll miss or mess up this week, I feel frazzled. On my commute, I tell myself I’ll do better and this week: I won’t skip workouts, neglect friends and family, and fail at writing. All my planning berating only reminds me just how behind I’m starting off today.
There’s a picture of the person I want to be in my head and she takes a lot of time, effort, and work. (She of course makes it look effortless) She has time for everyone in her life and for herself. If she only gets up earlier, tries a little harder, and learns from her mistakes, she can be real.
Today, as I exited the freeway and parked in front of my office, I remembered a verse someone read in church yesterday that I wanted to look up. I figured it would be a good idea to start there before doing anything else. I opened my computer and looked up Lamentations 3:20-29
“Surely my soul remembers, and is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope.”
Here’s what stood out to me this morning-
–His lovingkindness and compassion never fail. They are new every morning.
Every Monday. Every day, I get to start over and He isn’t disappointed or frustrated with me and my shortcomings from yesterday. He looks at me with kindness, no matter how unkind I am to myself.
–The Lord is my portion. All the stuff I think I have to do and achieve to secure the life I want are not what I am actually sustained by. He is my portion and He’ll give me what I need to do. Bonus- He’s portioned controlled. If I take on only what He’s asking, I won’t have more or less than what I need.
–Wait, Seek, Be Silent, Mouth in the dust. I love that image! Mouth in the dust. It’s like the writer is shouting “JUST STOP AlREADY AND BE QUIET!” People like me need that:) Why is it so hard to just stop? Why do I start ever week thinking I can get to everything if I rush? If I just wait, seek, be silent, and literally put my big overused mouth to the dust, He’ll help me handle the things I’m trying to control. Then, and only then, do I have the hope being the person I believe He wants me to be.
Ahhhh….That’s better. Monday. Mine feels a little more manageable. Hope yours does, too.
Lent has never been strongly encouraged in the churches I’ve been a part of, but I have participated a few years here and there. As yesterday came and went, I still couldn’t decide.. “Do Lent?? ..Don’t do Lent??” My main struggle was over my attempt to honestly avoid using it as a form of “Self Help.” I didn’t want to give up something I’d been meaning to cut back on, or use it as motivation to achieve a goal. Getting bikini ready for spring (oh, and Jesus) seemed a bit disingenuous. Maybe you can give up something you love and think of Jesus, but I just usually end up mostly dwelling on “How many days are left??!”
Lent was designed to prepare a follower of Christ for the celebration of Easter. Through prayer and reflection, we sacrifice things in order to identify with the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness without food, water, or companionship. I thought I’d read the story to see if it sparked an idea for a more intentional practice. What jumps out first is it opens with, “Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness.” He was led there by the Spirit. If I’m going to do Lent, I should at least pause and ask God if it is something He is leading me into.
As soon as the 40 Days were over, the Devil starts in on Jesus by tempting Him to turn stones into bread. He wanted Jesus to lose faith and resolve that God would provide and fully support Him during His journey. When looking for something to give up, we can ask ourselves:
What keeps me from trusting God with my life? …Is it my calendar? Obsessive complaining? My finances?
What things keep me from being grateful or noticing His provision on a daily basis? …Pinterest? Comparison to others? Shopping? TV?
Next the Devil tries to test Jesus’ trust that God will protect Him. I could spend forever on how our culture, myself included, is obsessed with safety and struggle to trust God in this area. We might ask ourselves:
What things am I doing on my own because I don’t believe deep down God will come through?… Am I a workaholic? Can I attempt to give up worry with the words I say to myself and others? Am I too focused on something I want that I don’t have?
What crazy things do I do to control situations? How am I holding on too tightly to things and people I love? …What could I stop doing that would teach me to entrust them to God? Do I snoop on Facebook? Do I hover? Is there an outlet I use to channel my fear?
The final temptation is fascinating to me. Jesus knows he has a very tough road ahead of Him. Since He will soon go through great pain and suffering on the cross, the Devil tempts Jesus with an easier road. He offers Jesus the illusion of a shortcut and wants Him to lose faith that God knows best. We can ask:
Where am I distracted from or full-on avoiding the life God is calling me into?
What things am I doing or not doing because I am struggling to believe God’s way is best?
Jesus went straight into the wilderness from His baptism where God told Him, “You are my Son and I love you.” Immediately after, Satan is right there casting doubt on Jesus’ identity.
What keeps me from believing I am fully loved by God… Social media? Certain people in my life? Lies I dwell on?
What could I add in that would help my heart and mind believe I am His and fully loved ? ..Reading, praying, memorizing Scripture.
Lent is not about getting fit, organizing a closet, or checking off the “I read my Bible” box. We have a greater opportunity to identify with Jesus as He struggled to affirm His identity and trust His father with His life before going to the cross.
To Lent..or Not to Lent. I still need a bit more time to sit with my own questions (welcome to my crazy head). I’ll be late about it, but the end result will be better. If you need ideas, blogger Rachel Held Evans put out 40 Ideas for Lent 2014 you may want to take a look at. I’d love to know what you are giving up or adding in this season.
Last week I was invited to speak at APU and at Forest Home. Since I didn’t feel I could pull off two separate talks, I spoke about the book of Esther at both, each with a different take away. In doing so, I feel like I’ve been living with her story for the past month or so and figured I might as well get a blog out of it:)
If you haven’t read it recently, please do. It’s ten chapters and reads through like a short story. We meet young Esther in the middle of her already tragic life. Both her parents have died and she is forced to live in the King’s harem. Eventually she has to risk her life by meeting with the King to save her people.
What fascinates me about Esther is that it is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God. He literally doesn’t “show up” in the story at all. There are no miracles, no speaking to anyone, no tangible representation period. One writer I read described it as an “unreligious book” since there is no mention of temple, the law, not even a prayer is spoken…
I appreciate this context because I find it is more like the setting we live in. God doesn’t usually show up in our lives the way we read about in scripture. He doesn’t perform spectacular miracles or speak to people in the way we often wish He would. Just as Esther must have looked at her circumstances and wondered, “God are you there?” We, too, wonder the same thing.
When we read Esther’s story from our vantage point, it’s crystal clear that God was working behind every circumstance to accomplish His purpose. We can see His hand moving behind the scenes in the smallest details at each turn. Since Esther wouldn’t have known this in the moment, she had to live by faith. For her, this meant making decisions and taking action without knowing the outcome. I believe we call this courage.
There’s this moment in Ch 4:16, when Esther decides she is going to put her life on the line. She tells her uncle to have everyone fast for three days on her behalf and then she will go to the King. It occurred to me this week that Esther didn’t wait for the results of the fast, she committed to her plan regardless. She didn’t fast in order to hear what she should do next, but made her choice ahead of time and fasted as a request for success. There’s a big difference.
God doesn’t always expect us to wait for confirmation or signs. Sometimes, we are meant to seize the moment and trust Him to be in the details on the other side. Just as God doesn’t tangibly appear in the book of Esther, she doesn’t say anything about Him, either. It’s only by her action that we see where her trust lies. In the same way, I wonder if our ability or inability to use courage often reveals something about our own faith. In a way, courage is an outward expression of an inward belief. We either trust Him with our steps or we don’t.
Easier said then done;)
…. What about you? Any thoughts on courage or taking action?
Wow! My brother’s wedding was amazing! Everything was beautiful and perfect, it truly was. Thank you for blessing me with my family and for gifting us such a wonderful day. I guess it’s not a big deal that my brother is four years younger than me. I mean, on a scale of world problems it’s very tiny. I guess in my world it’s rather BIG… tough to quantify these things…who can really say? It would’ve been nice to have at least had a date. Boyfriend, maybe. Or even an escort like in “The Wedding Date” with the guy that looks like a cute version of Sylvester Stallone. Something along those lines doesn’t feel like too much to ask. You being God and all. … But really, WHAT THE HECK? Have you forgotten me? Are you torturing me? No… that doesn’t sound like you….I know, you are probably working on my character…again… Which by the way I feel good about and would love to avoid more future growing experiences if possible. Not that you’re asking.
Lesson One: Answering if I’m still single, who I came with, or hearing awkward well-meaning encouragement laced with pity six times that day in many variations was you working on my humility.
Lesson Two: Having my foot stepped on the second I took my shoes off. (What exactly is the connection between the two?) I did a pretty good job cursing under my breath as opposed to shouting amongst friends and family. Good skill to have.
Lesson Three: Breaking off two relationships this year closer to the wedding than I would’ve liked was you… hating me?? Wait, no. You love me. I have no idea what the lesson is. You’ll have to be more clear on this one.
Lesson Four: Having Grandpa save the day when the couples song played was a reminder that love comes in all forms and I have a lot to be thankful for.
Most handsome man at the wedding!
Lesson Five: Standing in my fourteenth wedding. You want to root me from all love of money.
Lesson Six: Having the rest of the bridal party tell me they thought I was only 24. Awesome! I look good! Or, I come across as immature. ..hmmm…
Lesson Seven: Catching the bouquet! Assuming the superstition is real, things are about to look up for me! Wait, that’s probably bad theology. Is that a problem?
We found a love in a hopeless place
Lesson Eight: Seeing Mark happily commit his life to a wonderful girl and begin a life together centered on you reminded me to wait for great. It does exist.