Lenten Thoughts: Self-denial

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Lent mode, self-denial, has been an on-going theme in my life. I’ve been living without some indulgences due to money crunching. Living on a budget forces us to really think about what is necessary, what can wait, and what can’t even be considered.

Doing without crowded my mind on my way to work. I passed the gas station where I occasionally stopped for a tasty cappuccino. Before I knew it, I was driving by McDonald’s and I’m almost positive I heard a hazelnut iced coffee screaming out my name. But I just kept driving; and thinking as I drove.

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As a child, I heard of people speak of “giving up” chocolate or pizza for Lent. This year, Church Leaders were recommending to the faithful that they give up technology (computers, internet, and texting). I had trouble then and now making the spiritual connection between the items given up and God.

Did you give up something for Lent? Why? The purpose of giving something up is to make room for something else. Just as when we fast, we forego food to focus on God. Pondering these concepts, I was reminded of the time when the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out the demon by the power of Beelzebub. Through the story we’re warned of the danger of simply casting out something, in that case evil, without filling it up with something of God.

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When I was in college one of my dearest friends challenged me to consider self-denial. She made reference to Jesus’ instruction to the disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross (Mark 8:34). While many point to the cross as burden or pain, it has also been suggested that it is about mission and purpose. Understanding this began to help me put the pieces together.

I guess it could be about chocolate or the internet if the pursuit of those things keeps me from fulfilling my purpose. To know that, though, I believe I’m going to have to know what my mission is. Many years ago, as I began my ministry I felt directed to verse in Colossians as a guide for me as a pastor and as a person. Paul wrote: 2My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ (Colossians 2:2).

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These days, I have more time to live into what I think this verse is calling me to do and be. Each day as I reflect, I’m shone the things I have planned that can keep me from fulfilling my purpose. If I am going to live as true follower of Christ, I’m going to have to give those things up, deny my selfish interests, and live on purpose for Christ. Personally, I find this is something I have to do daily, just as Jesus invited me to do.

Do you know what your purpose, your mission is? Have you thought about what is holding you back from fulfilling your calling in Christ?

Set it down and let Him fill you up!

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Lenten Thoughts: Remembering

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In the movie “The Sound of Music”, when Julie Andrews’ character is comforting the children in the middle of a horrific thunderstorm, she sings a song. Don’t they always when it’s a musical? The song she uses to bring them comfort is a recounting of all her “favorite things.” Maybe you remember a few: raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. She simply remembers her favorite things, and then she won’t feel so bad.

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Remembering. It’s a biblical principle. In the Old Testament God’s people are told to make a pile of rocks, and the children are to ask why are they there. The adults are then to tell the story of God’s protection and provision. This way the story would not be lost from generation to generation.

I read an article this week that made a very bold claim—or at least I thought it was bold. The author stated we forget because we anticipate we are going to forget. And if I could remember what magazine it was in, I would put down the whole quote. In essence: we forget because we don’t remember.

Perhaps that’s why there are so many references to remembering in the Bible, two hundred thirty three according to biblegateway.com.

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Memory is a fickle thing. In my work with my little lady who had Alzheimer’s, I marveled at how she wasn’t able to remember our immediate conversation but she could recount wonderful stories from her youth. She could tell you her recipe for homemade bread, but as she made it she couldn’t recall if she put in the yeast.

One day she had been in her room for an unusually long time, so I quietly peeked in the door to check on her. She was sitting on her bed by the bedside stand with her Bible open on her lap, her fingers running over the page as she read and reread Psalms. It reminded me of a time when I visited a woman in the hospital who was very close to death. Her lips were moving, but no sound was coming out. I leaned in close and heard her softly repeating the Lord’s Prayer. She was no longer conscious in this world, but her spirit was totally in touch.

Have you watched the news lately? It’s not for the faint of heart. There isn’t much “good” news being report. So we need to remember. What has God done for you, now or in the past? Where have and do you see his hand? Life is going to get harder. So unless we become more intentional in our remembering, it will be very easy to forget.

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Shrove Tuesday Thoughts

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Why do you diet? When I was younger, a certain number (whether it was clothing size or poundage) was the goal. I had a friend who was so tiny and I just wanted to be like that. Small equated with beautiful. Now, it’s not about size or number, it’s about health and the ability to keep up with my grandkids.
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Why do you give things up during Lent? I’m following a devotional guide that was published for 2006. It makes the days off a little. Like today’s was about Shrove Tuesday. I learned a few things. For example, this was the day that those observant Christians would clear out the cupboards of the foods “not permitted” during lent. Those would include fat (hence the name Fat Tuesday), eggs, meat, and milk. It was the day of celebrating before the more solemn time of confession, reflection, and preparation to receive the joy of Easter.

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A few years ago there was quite a stir in the baseball town near me. Opening day was on Good Friday and good Christians who happen to be good Indian fans were in a quandary. How would they ever be able to enjoy a game without having a hot dog? Some went so far as to ask for special dispensation from the church. Isn’t that just like us?

We look at dieting as giving things up to get to a magical number, instead of what it is. Our diet is what we eat—all the time and every day. We either have a healthy diet or an unhealthy one. And it’s all about the long run. Spiritually, we need to adopt the same understanding. A verse came to mind while I putting this together. It’s originally found in the Old Testament, and Jesus picks it up in his teachings. The Shema tells us we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus adds that we are also to love our neighbor as our self. Now that’s a spiritual diet we can live with!

Imagine it. How would life look if every choice we made was determined by whether the outcome would move us closer to completely loving God? Not just during Lent, but when we’re on summer vacation, or whenever. And you might be getting ready to assure me that you do that already, and have done it since you became a believer. Be careful how you justify yourself, Jesus may call you to deeper service (see Luke 10).

So, how’s your diet going this Lenten season? What have you gained by filling up and focusing more lovingly on the one who knows you best and loves you most?

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Advent: From Our Fears Release Us

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In my quiet time this morning, I was reflecting on Psalm 3:

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Fear. Fear bordering on paranoia. Bullying.
I read a news clip this week of a teen who killed herself because her peers had been bullying her. My heart ached, for her, for her family, for those peers.
What if this psalm had been breathed into her? What if God, God who could enable her to lay down in perfect peace in the presence of her enemies–and sleep–had been made real for her?
How real is he to me?
Save us, God, from our fears.
The words to an old hymn are in my head now:

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart. (Charles Wesley)

Oh that we could come to know the Perfect Love that casts out all fear.

Do No Harm

First, do no harm.

Quick! Where’s that from?

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Hippocratic Oath? That’s what I thought.

Nope. After doing a little online reading, I found it’s not in the original Greek version. There’s a phrase in the Latin that might come close. It is believed the phrase came into acceptance somewhere in the 17th century.

Why does this matter? What drove me to even look?

I’m glad you asked.

Yesterday, on my drive to visit some folks who are completing a drug rehab program, I had a heart to heart with God.

At first I was trying to anticipate conversations and how I would respond. Okay, I confess I think these kinds of thing through for all kinds of encounters. I’m an old Girl Scout: I tried to always be prepared.

But the rehearsals in my mind were going nowhere.

So I stopped—talking not driving.

And I confessed how foolish I felt and I asked God what I needed to do.

Yes, I’m a trained pastor (two different Masters degrees for that) and a trained counselor (Masters degree and all kinds of continuing education), but we’re facing a giant of an enemy in this heroin epidemic.

This must be how David felt when he faced Goliath. (Okay, go ahead think current Pepsi commercials. See video below if you’re unfamiliar.)

God, I don’t know what to say. I want to offer your kind of lasting, life-changing, life-giving help. How do I do that?

 I know, not a very eloquent prayer—didn’t even say Amen at the end.

But God heard. And God spoke: Do No Harm.

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This is a huge request for an ESFP with ADD. I am not like my introverted friends who think and then overthink and maybe think some more before they open their mouths to speak. I think out loud. Words tumble out of my mouth faster than I can check them.

How do I do that?

Here’s what I did:

I listened. A challenging thing for an ESFP with ADD.

Listening requires intentional focus. Trust me: this requires more energy than a 30 minute workout at CURVES.

But I did it.

And I shared what I knew to be true.

This included some of my own struggle, but also a couple of my foundation scripture promises and fundamental counseling truths.

I’m not sure if we slayed the giant…but we did some serious damage. I left those appointments whoopin’ and hollerin’ for Jesus.

These were divine appointments and I was just along for the ride.

Check back for the next post where I’ll share one of those fundamental counseling truths.  (How’s that for a teaser?!)

 

**ESFP is a Myers-Brigs Trait Inventory designation (MBTI). When I take the inventory I identify as an Extrovert who takes in my surroundings through my Senses, makes judgments through my Feelings, and organizes Perceptively (which is kind of like no organization at all—think scattered).

If you want to check out the test just google it. You can take it online and receive your information.

**ADD is a psychiatric identification, Attention Deficit Disorder. My brain typically runs in scatter mode. I act before thinking. I get overwhelmed by too many instructions. I am highly distracted…squirrel!

 

 

Book Review: Intentional Warfare

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The goal of this book is to increase awareness of believers’ daily spiritual battles. Life, for the believer, is about battle training and being battle ready. According to Ms. Scro, being ready doesn’t happen overnight and only as we intentionally continue to grow.

This book has a great balance of scripture and personal experience. It is practical and pragmatic, not a dry how to book.

Included with each chapter are exercises that give the reader opportunity to train and try the principles being taught.

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I especially appreciated the format the author used. WARFARE is not just the theme, it is the outline and checklist for readiness. I like this because it makes it easier to learn the points and put them into practice.

The author also included an appendix that contained a list of her favorite books on prayer, spiritual warfare, and other related topics. I find these helpful in understanding what and who has influenced an author.

I recommend this book for believers seeking to go deeper in their understanding of and need for being spiritually armed and ready.

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Ordinary Moments with God: Laughing at the Unexpected

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I get the munchies sitting at my desk. I’ve been trying to eat better. I was debating between baby carrots and banana chips this morning. Banana chips won.

I reached into the cupboard looking for the opening bag, but I couldn’t find it. So I threw this bag in my lunch bag and headed out the door.

Later when the munchies hit, I pulled out the bag. I kept trying to rip off the top. Isn’t that the way most of these bags open?

Where was the tab? I didn’t want to ruin the zip closure. I like zip closures.

Why wouldn’t it it open?

I was about to grab my scissors when I realized: I already opened the bag. The pull tab couldn’t be found because it wasn’t there.

I opened the bag and poured out some chips to snack on–all the while laughing at myself.

The bag didn’t open the way I expected. I’m used to tearing off the top–so something must be wrong with the bag.

The answer was staring me in the face, but I couldn’t see it.

How many times do I respond the same with God?

Truth be told? Way more than I care to admit.

The verse that came to mind as I contemplated not trusting in my expectations was Proverbs 3:5-6

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If I want to get things right, surrendering my way of thinking, expecting, and understanding is the way to go. His path not mine.

PRAYER: God, I get so used things being certain ways. I’m comfortable with the familiar. Turning loose of what I know and understand is not easy, but it makes the most sense in the long run. Direct my paths and help me to be more “open” to the unexpected. Amen.