We have chosen some fasts perhaps. Read a little more Scripture than we normally do.
Offered our hearts to be cleansed more…opened our minds to be renewed more.
Contemplated the events of Holy Week from a new perspective, and now we celebrate.
This year our family is doing something on Easter that we haven’t done in a very long time.
We will all be together.
For the past several years this has only happened one time every year. One short few hours on Christmas Eve when all the whole tribe is in one place together at the same time.
I dare say as my tears flow every Easter and as they are surely spilling out even as I type those words, we do not stand a prayer of a dry Easter here in Austin.
It has been a “pinch me I must be dreaming” day for this mom and I can say that we did not rest….not for a moment.
And God willing and the creek don’t rise, we get to do it again in May for a wedding and June for a birthday. More than I could ask or imagine.
We packed all the life and fun and togetherness in that we could.
But I want to end this journey through Lent as we began so I will turn the last few thoughts of this to the first Resurrection Sunday.
All four Gospels spill out the details as if they were telling it for the very first time.
To the hardened, cynical eye it may sound like they are telling conflicting stories, but this is not the case.
Just as each one of us here in my family could give you the story of the events of today as we visited a zoo, children’s museum, ate various meals and hopped in and out of cars, our stories would be all true…but from different perspectives and angles. The details would be inconsistent from one to the next.
The one thing we can definitely know is that the grave is empty.
Jesus is alive and he didn’t look like something that crawled off the set of the Night of the Living Dead.
He still bore the marks of crucifixion in his hands, feet and side but He was healed from the other wounds inflicted on Him.
No scars from the crown of thorns…no scabs from the scourging…no bruises from the beating.
Just Him…alive and triumphant, but always and forever bearing the proof that our sins were nailed to the cross forever.
Russ and I have been trying to attend the Wednesday Lenten Services offered at the nearby Lutheran Church as our schedules permit.
This past Wednesday, he was out of town so I put on my big girl pants and went by myself.
Being long time church attenders and just knowing we humans are creatures of habit, it is always a bit dicey to choose a pew.
Some people find this irritating in the Church, but I don’t mind it. I understand.
We tend to gravitate to certain places to sit – whether it is the coffee shop, a favorite restaurant or the church.
I scanned the rows and decided to slip in to one that was semi full.
I moved down to leave room for any late comers, but as I was scooting the gentleman at the end of the group already seated turned and very kindly said to make sure I left room for one as his wife would be coming soon.
I left space and as I sat down, the couple in front of me both turned to look back and see who was now behind them.
Being self-conscious I asked if someone else usually sat there and they were so sweet and laughed in agreement that we don’t want to upset the apple cart in the church pews.
Then they introduced themselves by name to me and shook my hand. I told them my name and they made some small talk with me offering some information about their own lives. I did share that I belong to FCC and they tried to think who they knew that went there as well.
As we chatted, the wife of the gentleman next to me arrived and she caught on that I was a visitor so introduced herself and her husband. She also chatted a little with me.
People who really know me are not at all surprised by this since total strangers who I have not even made eye contact with are drawn to share their life story with me, but I do have a different point to make here.
When the service was over, they once again asked me to repeat my name and then said it was nice to have me attend and repeated their names for me.
No big deal, right?
But it was huge to me.
I was alone and missing my husband.
I felt vulnerable and unsure of myself.
And with just a simple conversation, I felt welcomed and included.
I added four names to people I know and some information about their lives and history in this community.
It made me realize how important it is for us to do the basics of greeting people and introducing ourselves.
Our church pastors and staff work hard to bring people to Christ, but it is also our job as ministers of the Gospel to reach out, literally one on one, and make an intentional effort to be welcoming and kind.
Sharing a little bit about who we are and making room for strangers to make a connection.
Whether it is in the context of a service at the church or out in the community, we are the extension of the hands and feet of Christ.
He took time to talk to people, to share Himself with others and to listen to what they wanted to share with Him.
I pray for God to help me be more outward focused at church and in life <3
I left you on Monday and Tuesday with some of the thoughts that I took down in notes from the Intentional Church Conference held at FCC last Saturday.
As I mentioned, we only attended the morning sessions as we had places to be and people to see, but it was a packed house and great event for the half day we were able to participate.
Looking back over my notes and even the highlighted points from Monday and Tuesday posted here on the Journey, I step back and have to ask…but what does that look like for me?
I have a degree of influence through the roles I am allowed to fill as a Sunday School teacher and co-leader of some of the prayer ministries at my local church.
I work two days a week in the public setting of a sweet little shop and have been honored and blessed to be given the opportunity to have my own consignment business of clothing in there for the past nine months.
This has opened the door for me to meet people in that industry in person and through customer service calls.
At least once a week on average, I am the resident adult for the band of brothers and little miss thing…and I still am the voice in the heads of three Reimer kiddos who, like it or not…live under the sphere of my prayers and moods and love and angst.
There are friends and acquaintances and mentors and mentees who swirl around my days like beautiful butterflies landing and taking off and I miss some opportunities with them, and I catch a few and relish in the fellowship.
I have my husband who is my best friend and partner and chief supporter and needs me to be the same.
And on the other side of this screen, on any given day of the week, unknown faces stop by to read the things I have tapped out on these keys.
So as I look at what living on mission is for me, I realize I am not called to change church policy or hold up signs for or against decisions being made in the political arena.
For the most part, I know how to love my people well – I just don’t always have the time or energy to do it.
I know what is right and I know what is wrong and I know that if we all could just figure that out and do it, the world would be better.
I also am keenly aware I have no power or authority to make people choose to do what is right.
I am not good at overlooking blatant sin and defiance of God and His Word and so I struggle with how it looks to welcome everyone and make them feel like they belong even when they seem to be thumbing their nose at everything I believe to be true and right.
So I need help.
And I think that is what the biggest takeaway from the conference was for me.
Each of us must examine ourselves and our devotion to Jesus.
We need to crack open those Bibles we keep holding up, and read and let it sink in.
Meditating on what His ministry looked like.
Not coloring it in with modern political correctness nor American moralism, but truly asking the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and hearts until the Word of God burns in us a fresh passion for Jesus.
And then, humbling ourselves and asking Him to change and transform us through the power of His Word so that we can walk out into the sphere of real influence He has placed us in…
for me personally…
to look back over that list I made up there at the top and ask God for His eyes and His heart for each group.
And I mean – each group….the ones I already think I love well and the ones that are….
hard to love.
I cannot do this without Him.
We, as the Church, cannot love the people God is sending us to minister to WITHOUT Him.
So my biggest takeaway…
What am I doing today to spend more time seeking God so that I can be on mission with Him to seek and save the lost?
And then make it intentional in my life to do more of that and less of the stuff that distracts me from the only thing I can do each day to share the Good News of Jesus Christ that this world so desperately needs.
Last night I attended St Paul’s Lenten service and this prayer of confession was in the bulletin.
I hope they don’t mind me sharing – there is no author credited.
Confession and Absolution
You asked for my hands, that You might use them for Your purpose.
I gave them to You, then withdrew them, for the work was hard.
You asked for my mouth to speak out against injustice. I gave You a whisper that I might not be accused.
You asked for my eyes to see the pain of poverty. I closed them, for I did not want to see.
You asked for my life, that You might work through me. I gave a small part, that I might not get too involved.
Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve You – only when it is convenient for me to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so and only with those who make it easy to do so.
Father, forgive me, renew me, send me out as a usable instrument, that I might take seriously the meaning of Your cross. Amen
If you prayed that prayer with a sincere heart, I must remind you as we were reminded in the service.
You are forgiven.
Don’t waste the following moments regretting how you have fallen short.
Receive the forgiveness of our Grace-filled God and leave your guilt and shame at the Cross of Christ.
Have you been noticing a current theme in devotions and writings seems to be geared toward hospitality?
Maybe it’s just me but I have seen a couple of studies coming out, several books by authors I follow and even in my April devotion series, it is all geared toward our call to open our hearts and homes to welcome both friends and strangers.
It has definitely hit home with me…pun unintended, but always welcome when I write.
Russ asked me earlier in the year how I felt about hosting a gathering for a group of colleagues from out of town the first week of April.
As I always attempt to do when he suggests something, I said sure.
(He may have examples of the times I have not said “sure”….but for the most part, I really to attempt to be a team player…for the most part.)
So the past two weeks, the reality of what my “sure” meant has been sinking deep into me and I have been busily eyeing our home as if I was a complete stranger who has never seen the inside of this place.
True to my over thinking nature, I never picture this as an amiable guest walking through the door, thankful for a place to spend a few hours and have some good food and conversation.
I view our dwelling as if we are about to be put through a rigorous home inspection.
Suddenly I see marks on the wall, the chipped paint near the latch of the inside of the edge of my closet.
Dust that would rival the surface of the moon appears in thick layers as the sun filters through winter smudged windows and I find myself rearranging knick knacks and texting pictures to our sister Sonja, who has a degree and mucho skills in interior design to have her suggest how I can tweak the display.
Oh, this happened.
So this morning I was so delighted for God to speak into my heart through the devotional reading that was set on His Kingdom calendar just for me, just for today, just for where I am in my reading.
Based on the surprise guests who showed up at Abraham and Sarah’s tent in Genesis 18, the author of the devotion talked about hospitality and what really matters when we open our homes to others.
It isn’t the cleanliness, the decor or the impressive spread we put out for our guests.
It is the heart behind it all.
So I pray this morning that our home will be a safe place where all who enter feel loved and welcomed and cared for.
Not just tonight.
The Lord has done great things for us, hasn’t He?
We have been given everything in Christ and it is a great joy to share it.
I am so thankful for the kindness of God to remind me of what matters most.
Now I just need to vacuum all the lamp shades and I think we are good…just kidding.
Be sure look for strangers to entertain as you go along the journey today.
The sun is shining here and it is a most welcome sight after several days of cold and rain and sleet and gray skies for miles.
But I am not fooled.
It is uncomfortably cold out and I will be donning my long black thermal coat in a half hour to head out to work.
I bought this calf length garment a few years ago and then we have had fairly mild winters so it didn’t get used a lot. I am often moving so fast and am so highly caffeinated that some winters I barely grabbed a coat at all in my rush out the door.
However, the Polar Vortex as we have dubbed this winter trend, has had me pulling that baby out on the daily.
A couple of Saturday’s ago we were going to watch Graham play basketball and since the bleachers are rather crowded, I just grabbed my short jacket for the day.
Every time I got out of the car, the wind and cold enveloped me and I regretted not grabbing that calf length protection I had become accustomed to. I felt the cold and realized how insulated I have become during this unusually harsh winter.
My heart can get like that.
Commercials on TV, the evening “news”, Facebook rants.
Driving amongst cars who all seem to be in an incredible hurry and also feel they must share with the world all manner of disgusting decals.
Every one is offended and offensive and the issues are blurred and confusing.
While politicians argue about their agendas, our interstates are crumbling and laws that are supposedly making life better are forcing us into a world that opposes everything I know that God has said to be truth.
And I want to wrap something very protective around me so that I can stop feeling misunderstood, judged, marginalized and silenced.
But God tells me to take off the protective layers of cynicism and bitterness, remove the self-righteousness that would make me feel buffered…and to put on the flimsy things that will make my heart seem exposed and vulnerable…
As the signs point more towards the winding down of all things here on planet Earth, we know that people will go from bad to worse…and the hardest struggle the people of God will have is to remember that we do not conform to this world, but to the image of Christ who always was and always will be …
This is how we love Him…by loving others well <3
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It is your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12 – 14 The Message