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Starting with a Gray Smudge

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Somewhere in my little girl, growing up years, I began to believe my Baptist church was “doing it right. I placed a high value on being “right,” in my faith, overlooking and often ignoring Jesus’s plea for righteousness through him.

And so that little girl mind of mine grew up with some pretty self-righteous thoughts about what the church should believe and do. And I was going along just fine, until I fell in love with a boy whose family was Methodist on one side and Catholic on the other. I wasn’t worried, the Methodists were ok. They had a fabulous midnight Christmas Eve service.

Anyway, I married that boy, and two years later sat in a hospital with his grandma. She didn’t always know why her Catholic faith did what it did, but she followed through with it.  And so, in my early twenties, sitting with grandma while her husband had surgery on an Ash Wednesday, I was cocky and pressed into the moment, all too smug to walk away with the answer I got – she didn’t know what the gray smudge on her forehead meant.

It only confirmed what I had thought about this faith that seemed to hold Jesus at far too far a distance. And wasn’t I doing much the same? I didn’t have answers for why I did nothing to prepare myself for the remembrance of my Christ. It had never been suggested, and if it had I clearly wasn’t listening.

This day would mark the day God began to do some heavy work on my heart that continues still. That day in the hospital with grandma made a small crack in the tarnished mirror that until then, had only reflected my “right” image.

God filled my years thereafter with beautifully varied women who taught me to respect and listen to those whose worship and adoration looked different, the subtle suggestion that I might find something I was missing in the listening. Slowly I awakened to the enormity of the Trinity.

Today, I’m gratefully sinking into a time of focus, of fasting and of prayer. Although not taught to, I recognize my need to join those ancient practices of traditions, recitations and rhythms. I’m becoming more fully aware how very wise and beautiful it is to be joined in unity with other believers, returning to God through the reading of the same text, during the same season, teaching me the power of repentance and forgiveness and rightness with God first, then with those God has placed with me on this earth. And it seems completely appropriate in this time of national division and confusion that those who call Christ savior and friend would remember him together.

So even if you don’t understand it all, you can start with something. You can start with a prayer to know God in a way you don’t right now. To notice someone that needs a little help and give it without expectation. To forgive and then to forget. To live simply for forty days and be surprised at how much lighter you are, focused on Christ with clearer thoughts, attention, and devotion to the only one who deserves it. Your submission to the ways of Christ will come a little easier. And while you will may find yourself in a similar place of forgetfulness a year from now, you will also remember the sweetness of communion with your Lord, his teachings and their familiarity, his washing of dusty feet, of breaking his body, pouring out his blood, for even this very day.

In this season of returning to God, let us remember him, together, one body, one spirit. Let us learn from each other, remembering Christ’s sacrifice for us all. Let us worship him in these days, undistracted and simple.

Although I’m not Catholic, I am observing Ash Wednesday as a starting place and the forty-plus days that follow. If you want to know more about how you can observe these days more fully, I’ve listed a few resources below.

For an additional article on why Christians should observe Lent:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/how-lent-can-make-a-difference-in-your-relationship-with-god/

For a guide on the observance of the Stations of the Cross:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/the-stations-of-the-cross-a-devotional-guide-for-lent-and-holy-week/

To experience a silent retreat during Holy Week with a printed guide to help you:

www.sustainablefaithindy.com/

Posted by Janna Lynas with

In the Waiting

Reflections on 2 Samuel 24

Is your marriage not what you’d thought it would be? Do you have thoughts in your life of this isn’t fair?  Maybe your career hasn’t taken off like you thought it would or you’re still single and pictured yourself married and a parent by now. Maybe you’ve struggled with your own health or the illness of a child.  Maybe financially you’re still struggling and you are waiting for God to rescue you from it. Waiting for Him to make it better. Bring redemption. Bring the answers. Waiting on the Lord is tough stuff. I think it gets even harder as we become a society more and more set on instant gratification and dinner served in seconds shooting out of vending machines. We are a world of conveniences. Waiting is never convenient.

In today’s passage, we see David has been promised the thrown but he has to wait for Saul’s rule to end for the opportunity. Saul doesn’t like the idea of that and is literally hunting him to put an end to his life. You would think David would be doing the same so the victory promised him could begin. But he doesn’t. He is given the perfect opportunity when Saul unknowingly comes in to the cave where David and his men are and David spares his life. Why? God had told him he will reign. Here is what makes David different. He waited. He wanted his choice to be within the realm of God’s goodness. This is what sets him apart and why God called him a man after his own heart.

David desired to stay in the will of guide for his life. His life tells us he wasn’t perfect at it but he consistently tried. When we are in the waiting we tend to do several things. One, we take matters into our own hands. We get too impatient and we do things on our own. We rely on our own power, our plan, our drive. Secondly, our own desires blur the clarity of the will of God for our lives. It becomes about us. I’ve never been this happy or this feels so right. Finally, we begin to justify our choices when we confuse the coincidences of our lives with the will of God. I remember about 8 years ago I was offered a job I had only dreamed about. It was with a ministry I loved. It was something I had prayed for. It was doing God’s work. I was sure the opportunity would never come again. Yet I felt this tug in my heart. As I looked at the hours and the work it would require and the ages of my children and demands of my family, it became clear I would not be able to do both well. is word told me to put my family first. Not my own desire. Not my own satisfaction or happiness. It was really tough at the time. I felt defeated and like I would never have the impact I’d long for. I felt like God would never be able to use me outside of my home. But my faith told me He would. My faith told me He loved me and would use me. My faith trusted His sovereignty and His timing. It was not easy. Six years later that same organization came to me. This time with a position that worked with my family.  Flexible hours even. The desires of my heart aligned with His will.

In our scripture, David was able to wait on the Lord because of 3 main reasons.  One, he trusts the sovereignty of God. Two, he believes his unrelenting love for him. Third, David abides in the word of God. Those same three things are what I had to keep my focus on 8 years ago. It reminds me of a sermon I heard from The Summit Church in North Carolina,  “ The way to achieve the purposes of God is not by compromising the commands of God.”  Pastor Tim once said that God will not ever bring to your life something that is against His word.

Do you know how easy it would have been for David to justify killing Saul?  The thrown was promised to him. So many of us would have seen him walk through the hole in that cave and thought God had handed Saul to us on a silver platter. We may have even uttered the words, it was a God thing. That wife you know that’s been unhappy in her marriage, God did not bring that handsome, kind, flirting co-worker at just the right time. Satan did.  It’s not fate. It’s temptation. God doesn’t bring things to us that will take us from His purpose, His goodness, His word, His will. God’s will always aligns with His word. Always.

To wait on the Lord we have to recognize his unrelenting love for us. We have to trust His sovereignty. We have to ensure our hopes are in His word. Then we have to lay it at His feet and wait.

 

Posted by Jen Harris with

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