We will be wearing green, even though no one will actually see us outside of our immediate family…but tradition is tradition.
If you can believe it, with all this extra time at home on my hands, I managed to get behind in my daily Bible reading…so this morning I did some catching up and I found a great little message in the opening pages of 2 Samuel.
King Saul has tried numerous times to kill David, even though David has done nothing but honor and support him. In a fierce battle with the Philistines, Saul dies. David will no longer be looking over his shoulder for the flying spears of this mad man.
He will be able to finally step into the role for which he was anointed so many years before and what is his first official act?
He mourns the death of Saul and his son, David’s beloved friend, Jonathan.
He writes a song of lament and teaches it to the people and in it he gives honor one more time to the fallen King of Israel.
In verse 23 of Chapter 1, he calls them “loved and delightful”.
Sure Jonathan, who had saved his life and tried to defend him, but Saul?
And in this we can see something about this man described as “a man after God’s own heart”.
David could mourn the death of a man who swore to be his enemy because he never made Saul his own enemy. His grief was pure and clean because his heart had been pure and clean.
He proved over and over again that he was loyal to this King because this king was a king because of the Sovereignty of God.
David waited well because he trusted God’s timing and reign over all the kingdoms of this world.
We are in a time of waiting, my friends.
We are waiting for an experiment of extreme disruption of life as we know it to see if we can avoid a national disaster.
We are waiting for the powers that be here on earth to make decisions and direct the course of business, education, health and the economy.
And during this time, the people of God…the ones who are desiring to be known as having His heart…we have choices to make each and every day.
Will we do what we need to do, what we are asked to do…but with a heart of faith that God is Sovereign over all?
Throughout these days when we are confined to our homes and the new way of doing things, we will have choices to make throughout each day with how we will direct our hearts and minds and activities.
I pray we choose to use the examples of those men and women of faith who have gone before us and we are proven at the end to have waited well.
In honor of St. Patty’s Day, here is a sweet Irish prayer for you and yours that applies to this time as well as any…
May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand <3
This month my goal was to exercise five days a week.
The plan was to do it first thing unless I had to be out of the house at a ridiculously impossible hour of the morning. On those few days, I would make it up while the little two were napping or when I got home.
I failed miserably, but not completely.
February started off with yet another virus hitting me hard which forced a delayed start to the plan. I even waffled in the second week, trying to figure out if I needed a different February goal.
I even took my laptop with me when we went away for a few days near the end of the month, thinking I could at least salvage the last week. But the “free” WiFI where we were staying was trapped in some kind of internet snag and was down more than it was up.
I did walk a lot during the month, either with Russ at an indoor facility or outside when the temperatures allowed it.
I did exercise with weights and cardio in our basement more than I would have.
But I definitely did not meet the “at least five days a week” goal.
Here is what I learned:
<3 I don’t like to exercise. I have to do it because it is good for me and detach myself completely from the sense of liking it as being my motivation.
<3 I do better if I set my socks and tennis shoes by the sink so that I see them when I brush my teeth first thing out of bed. My sleepy self forgets it is a choice and just goes on the motivation of my awake self the night before.
<3 I found out that when I opt for a more challenging workout, it keeps my interest better.
<3 That being said, I also tell myself I can do it for twenty minutes and if I want to quit…at least I exercised twenty minutes more than I would have.
<3 I do feel better and am more productive when I exercise regularly, but I forget that good feeling so quickly so I have to self-talk about it when I am waking up in the morning.
<3 I wish I was a person who did love to exercise and that I didn’t have to jump through hoops with myself to get me to do it. But for me exercise is a discipline and it most likely always will be and if I want to up my chances of remaining active and healthy in this “fourth quarter” I need to make the effort to get myself going and do it.
So there is February, in the books.
Looking back I would say I had a 50-50 success rate with the goal..and it was a short month so I have that going for me.
Now to continue to build on that habit and look ahead to what I want to grow into in March…stay tuned.
February is winding down and we have begun the forty days of Lent that will lead us to Easter.
I am filled with spinning ideas and thoughts for how to mark this season well.
I attended the Ash Wednesday service at a nearby Lutheran church yesterday at noon and listened to a very good teaching on fasting.
We often associate some kind of fast with Lent and I know there are a multitude of ideas and suggestions and helps out there, but I found the reinforcement of information about fasting to be helpful so I wanted to pass this along to you today.
The pastor who spoke is Eric Trickey of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and these are from my notes but completely giving all credit to his sermon, unless otherwise noted.
He started off with our addiction to comfort by referencing the origins of “Fat Tuesday” and he said this, which I absolutely loved the way it captures our culture and me as a true comfort junkie:
“We are Fat Tuesday people living in a Fat Tuesday world.”
Isn’t it the truth?
We have all the comforts and conveniences and choices at our fingertips 24/7.
We have to force ourselves to exercise so we don’t gain weight from all the excess of life.
We want what we want when we want it and we grow impatient quickly with any delay.
And yet, as he pointed out, we are surrounded by emptiness and craving and an insatiable desire for more.
So Lent is a time when we are invited to intentionally find ways to deny ourselves of things that we have the rights and access to that are good things, so that we can draw deeper from God the better things that will feed our spirits and cleanse our souls to live more purposefully the life He redeemed for us.
He defined Fasting as, “the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”
So Fasting is a giving up of something, beneficially used to meet a physical need, that is a normal part of your daily life for the purpose of increasing the addition of pursuing more of what feeds your spirit.
He used the obvious choice of a food fast of some kind and recommended starting small with skipping a meal or two and using that meal time for prayer and meditation on Scripture.
My own thoughts here regarding alternatives to fasting from food:
While I do understand that there are many other kinds of fasts you can choose, including from a favorite food or beverage item or from things like social media and television, I highly recommend an actual meal fast of some kind during each week for the purpose of replacing the time spent on food preparation and consumption with prayer and scripture meditation.
We can overcomplicate something that Jesus modeled clearly in the wilderness as He faced temptation and defeated it.
Pastor Trickey reminded us that fasting is not used to manipulate God in any way, as in “I am fasting so You will move in this setting or situation,” but rather to seek balance in the ways we have been conditioned to have our needs meet ASAP and to help reveal the things that have become idols in our hearts and minds.
I loved it when he pointed out what we can expect. Because the reality of doing without food is you WILL experience levels of discomfort and the minute you do, you will want to bail on the fast for the common good of yourself and all those you love.
Among the things that will happen when you are hungry physically are:
Anger – doing without food makes us grouchy and as we struggle with that, we begin to see how comfort has become our buffer and filter instead of inner strength of the Spirit at work in us
Pride – we can proud of our fasting and “holiness” or our concern about what others think of us because we are fasting can reveal the ugly side of our man-pleasing nature
Self-Pity – as we fast and pray and yet face struggles that do not lessen in spite of our desire to draw closer to God, we can feel sorry for ourselves and become resentful towards God
The revelation of “your part” of the problems around you – as we read Scripture or face conflict with family, the fasting and drawing near to God opens our eyes to our own contributions to the sins and troubles around us.
As we fast and turn to God in prayer and bible reading, we make ourselves available, in a weakened state, to hear more clearly from God. We also begin to recognize the things we have been turning to and defaulting towards INSTEAD of God…and these are our functional idols.
As we read Scriptures from this place of humbling; while our tummies are rumbling and our minds are trying to forget that we will have to wait several hours for dinner, God begins to speak to us through His Spirt, and we are more able to receive conviction as we open our heart and mind to His Word.
We may read a passage about judgment and immediately think of someone who needs to hear this, but as we mediate and pray for God to speak to THEM…or lead us in how we can speak to THEM…He speaks to US.
When 3:00 rolls around and we become that Betty White in the Snickers commercial, we must draw on His strength to keep our tempers in control and our words kind and gentle.
When we are feeling light headed and yet the demands around us are increasing in weight, it is by prayer and calling on His power at work within us that we press on, realizing suddenly how much we really always depend on Him…we just thought we were self-sufficient in our own abilities.
My favorite slice of advice came at the end when he said, “Abandon the outcomes of your fast to God. Let God reveal to you what the fast is about.”
We will falter and fail in being “perfect” in our fasting and this is where God will meet us and we will be ready to listen to His Word to us.
So for anyone who might be considering some kind of fast during this season of Lent, here is my prayer for us:
Lord God, as we enter the season of the calendar of our faith called “Lent,” I ask that You would guide us into quiet places of humility and self-denial so that we could draw nearer to You and learn from You.
Lord, we know and understand that fasting is not done to earn Your favor. We believe Your word that says we do not deserve Your favor but that it is a gift of grace that You have bestowed on us.
Our desire is not to impress You or any human around us, but rather to place ourselves more openly in Your Presence by denying the feeding of our flesh and desiring the feeding of our souls and spirits on Your Word.
Father God, I ask that You would give us hearts to seek after You and I pray that as we, each one, ask You for the best way to do this during the season of Lent, You would grant us clear direction and wisdom to hear the fast You are calling us to.
Our desire is to not only hear from You, but to obey You and we know that this is also a grace gift of the Holy Spirit.
Thank You for leading us through Lent and for the promise that You draw near to us when we draw near to You (James 4:8)
We look forward to this journey with You and we dedicate this season to Your honor and glory.
This week I came across a journal from 2018 and discovered that I had chosen a “word” for the year.
I vaguely remember this. Just kidding. I remember it well.
My word was “simplify” and as I read through the pages, I realized how I actually did become aware of my tendency to overcomplicate E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.
While I can’t say I think about the whole process I worked through that year, I can see today where the effort to focus on the concept of what it means to simplify has impacted me with some changes that are positive.
A couple of examples are:
I know I have become far less annoying placing my order at a restaurant because I forced myself to simply read the choices and remind myself this is not my last meal on earth and even if it is, so what?
I find myself more frequently recognizing when I hit a stall in my daily tasks and I can self-talk to my inner child with a firm “Just do the thing that needs to be done and quit procrastinating.” I realize that as a result of my 2018 effort I have improved skills in parenting myself.
I have become less attached to holding on to things just because we might need them some day…including thoughts and memories that are not helpful or productive.
I wouldn’t have attributed growth in these areas to this one word focus experiment if I had not captured the process in a notebook.
In the same way, this morning I was reminded of another year when I decided to start every morning’s journal entry for my quiet time by writing these words right after recording the date.
“The love of Christ compels me”
I realized this morning where I got the idea when I read Oswald Chambers’ writing in My Utmost for His Highest.
He talks about this verse from 2 Corinthians 5:14 in his devotional writing for February 4.
Using the life and ministry of Paul, he points out that Paul cared not what others thought of his words and actions because his motivation was always from the perspective of God’s love for him.
I remember how writing the verse every day helped me remember that my self-centered DNA can mix this up and cause me to derail in every attempt to serve well the God who saved me.
Because my human nature wants to twist that and derive all motivation for honoring God by transposing the Scripture to read…
“My love of Christ compel’s me”
But the verse reads…“
The love of Christ ….Christ’s love… compels me
The pressing forward that drives me needs to be the knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ.
His love for me.
His love for others.
His love for God.
The love that belongs to Him.
The love of Jesus Christ produces the drive and motivation in me that propels me forward throughout each and every day.
That is what I desperately wanted to engrave on my mind and heart that year.
And to do so means that I have to listen to one voice and one voice only.
I am thankful God gives me the power of His Spirit in me to stay focused.
Oh sure, I get distracted and I get off track.
I make mistakes and blatantly rebel or childishly argue with the Spirit.
But my heart is set on being compelled…forced to act…based on the love of Christ and so I thank Him for grace and mercy…for do-overs and repentance when I mess it up and get it backwards.
My one desire is that the things I do are done in compulsion; as in “I can’t NOT do them”…because I am so aware of the love of Christ.
In this, I have to understand and accept that my actions will not always please others.
So I also have to pray that if I offend, it is only because the work of love on the Cross of Christ is so evidently displayed in me that the offense is His.
And if I realize that my offense was because I got off track, then I need to apologize and seek forgiveness and work toward healing and restoring relationship with the offended party.
I am a sinner, saved by grace, compelled by the love of Christ and empowered by His Spirit to bring glory and honor to His Name wherever He places me today. I don’t know how to do that and so I ask for help and guidance; fully relying on the God who called me, to show me the way.
I pray you are seeking Him each and every day and that you know deep in your soul how much He loves you <3
I call him my Achilles’ Heel….that third grandchild with the big eyes and the big heart and the big gap in his smile.
For some reason, sandwiched in between his larger than life two older brothers and the girl child miracle that is Caroline, Joel just has a way of non-competition and generous love that melts me.
Oh, he is 100% human, and without adequate amounts of naps and ‘nacks….he can turn his nickname Joely Bear from the image of a teddy to a grizzly in a heart beat.
But even when he is having a meltdown, everybody knows who will have his back and her name is L.O.L.A.
He adores his little sister and the feeling is mutual but sometimes girlfriend can’t help being two years old and she can wound his tender heart as a result.
Yesterday Joel came out of preschool proudly toting one of those shiny gold stickers that looks like a badge.
Apparently they had a visitor from the local fire department and were each given one of these treasures.
I pick him up on some Tuesdays while Mommy and Caroline are getting home from Bible Study.
He told me he was saving his sticker to give his sister and as soon as he saw her, he told her all about it and then deputized her as a miniature fire marshal and we headed off to McDonalds to celebrate.
As I was driving, Caroline called my name and was trying to hand me something.
At the stoplight, I reached back and saw what looked like a wadded up candy wrapper. I took it from her wondering how she managed to sneak a treat and then realized it was the sticker from Joel. She must have pulled it off and it tore and she just rolled it in a ball…easy come, easy go.
I quickly looked into the far back via the mirror and saw the face that makes me wish life was never hard or hurtful for this little man.
I commiserated as best I could from the front seat and told him I knew that probably hurt and did his teacher give him two?
No, Lola…just one.
I told him I was very sorry Caroline had ruined it, to which he responded quickly.
“It’s okay Lola. I wanted her to have it.”
The message he conveyed in that moment; and backed up with his behavior toward her throughout the remainder of the day, exhibiting nothing but loving kindness was this…
I knew when I gave it to her she probably would do what two year olds do, but I love her so much I wanted her to have this wonderful gift from my morning at school since she couldn’t be there with me and I was thinking about her when I got it.
In his child like way, he exhibits beautifully what God does for me all the time.
He gives me wonderful gifts every day and most of the time I tend to waste them…not appreciate them…not be thankful for them.
Yet tomorrow He will do the same thing.
He will give me new mercies because He loves me.
Not because I deserve them or earn them or even use them wisely.
He just loves and gives because that is who He is.
And as I cry still this morning thinking of that sweet and loving little face in the back of the van, I pray God would make me more child like to extend the same kind of love and mercy and grace I have been given…even if the recipients tear it in small pieces and wad it up and hand it back to me.