14Apr
LENT'S OFFERING

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Grace crashes over me, it is the only way for God to reach me. I come to Holy Week feet stumbling, pride crushed, afraid to raise my eyes to heaven for all that I have done and left undone, said and thought. God simply whispers, "I am your light and your salvation. I am the refuge of your life." Psalm 27:1

Allow My love to be a hedge around you, strengthening and giving you the grace you need to live and love. I come to the Father in my weakness, stand in His Presence and hide in His cloak. The weight of His mercy nearly breaks me as He draws near to me, even in my sin. He loves.

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In this endless mercy my soul can hope. God asks me not to fear or be dismayed at my sin, for He is my God and He tells me He will strengthen me and help me, even holding me up with His righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 He comes gently, riding on a donkey, ridding me of my sin, taking it away and drawing me to His deep love found on the cross.

 I would look for a love less crushing, He would be broken for me.

Medicine from Sacred Scripture: 

"A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick 

He will not snuff  out." Isaiah 42:3

 

 

 

 
 
11Apr
LENT'S ONE FLOWER

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We are gardeners, all of us; we plant and harvest in so many areas of our lives, in relationships, in our spiritual life, in our families, in our physical world. We even reap and sow in our emotional lives. How interesting. "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping carrying seed to sow will return carrying sheaves with him." Psalm 126:5-6


Last night I watched a beautiful friend of mine, as she cried with sorrow over her daughter's illness. I wept. Such love and devotion mingled with the unknown and unexpected. We all struggle to meet life's demands with our meager resources, and yet here was my friend, sowing hope, while she wept.

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How can we meet the rush and demands, the excruciating expectation and overwhelming loss of our everyday lives and loves? It is all in acknowledging that we are planting. "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you." Hosea 10:12 


God digs deep in sadness and disappointment, in hurt and pain, causing us to seek Him. When we begin to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God, we will indeed find that He showers His righteousness and unfailing love upon us. These lingering days of Lent are an opportunity to ask God, "Am I planting righteousness, am I listening to you, have I taken anything out of my life that I might hear you better? 

 

If only I can imitate God's kindness, it is the one flower I am sowing.


Medicine from Sacred Writing:


"Let us endeavor to carry along with us a memento of the present fast when it is over."

 

John Chrysostom  Fourth Century

 
10Apr
LENT'S GARDEN

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I am still sitting before the fire looking at ashes, surely they must be good for something other than my stirring. Unprocessed emotion: hurt, frustration, unresolved anger, all these leap up in flames as the fire roars, but then, when all is silent and we are alone, these emotions leave us cold, confused and agitated.

How, in Lent, do I light a holy fire in my soul? I give God permission to clean out the ashes, as I grieve, adding my tears to the sorrow in my heart. Water and ashes make lye. Soap. God washes my soul with the very hurt that has wounded me; He purifies me with pain that I might be more His and less mine.

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 Then He asks me to take the leftover ashes, those that haven't refined my soul, and bury them in the garden. Some pain must just be let go of, taken out of our hearts as God asks us to move on, to grow and be changed. Ashes balance the ground's acidity; acidic items contain no oxygen so they must be combined with others to bring life. God adds joy and peace to the grief of our souls.

  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

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It all has to breathe, our soil and our souls; God's mercy mixes with our humanity, transforming us.

Medicine from Sacred Scripture:

 

"I pray that out of God's glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Ephesians 3:16-19

 
 
 
09Apr
LENT'S ASHES

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I am still lingering by Lent's fire pondering God's words. He is a consuming fire and the writer of Hebrews begs us not to "refuse Him who speaks." Hebrews 12:25-29 I am struck by the warmth of God's invitation and yet in awe of the demand to listen to His voice. 

"I have lit the fire of your soul and you are now warmed in My  Presence. No need to see yourself as a forsaken Cinderella guarding the gate of ashes. I have come."

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He startles me with His Presence; I had been busy stirring up the ashes of my sins and failures. Lent is never about wallowing, but always about transformation. I have a Father who picks me up and takes me in His loving arms. Here I give thanks, here I cry out to Him, here I listen and learn how to love Him and others. 

The fairy Godmother has not come, the King Himself clothes you.

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Medicine from Sacred Writings:

 

"If any one should have hay, wood, stubble, he increases the fire;  but if he have gold and silver he becomes the brighter. Therefore let us get together this kind of material, and let us bear the present things nobly."

 

John Chrysostom    Fourth Century

 
08Apr
LENT'S FIRE

"Come, I will wrap you in light; you will be warmed by My Presence. The fire of My love will burn bright in your soul."

The invitation is exquisite, isn't it?


"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with Me." Revelation 3:19-20 




Never have I considered the call before the invitation. I want to be invited to dine with God, I'm not too keen on His rebuke and discipline. God calls us to honest relationship where we respond to His voice and submit to His discipline.

Repentance is the call to turn to God, to rend our hearts, to rip them from attachments and illusions restoring them to their rightful owner. Rending is not pretty, it is to remove from place violently, to split or tear apart or in pieces by violence, to lacerate mentally or emotionally. Tear yourself from all that keeps you from God that you might hear His invitation to dine with Him.

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The flame that warms also purifies. Have you allowed God to wash you clean this Lent?

Medicine from Sacred Scripture:

"For He will be like a refiner's fire or launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver." Malachi 3:2-3

 

 

 
 
07Apr
LENT'S CROWN

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Footprints of mercy 

fill my soul 

as the King of heaven 

walks within.

Holy love 

lights the way

Trembling, I follow.

dhallenbeck 

 

 

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Medicine from Sacred Writings:

 

"A merciful man is not arrayed in a vest reaching to the feet, nor does he carry about bells, nor wear a crown; but he is wrapped in a  sacred vestment, and is anointed with oil, not composed of material elements, but produced by the Spirit, and he bears a crown of mercies, for it is said, "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits- 

who crowns you with love and mercy."

Psalm 104:1, 2, 4

 

John Chrysostom    Fourth Century

 

 

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04Apr
BRIDGES OF LENT

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Mercy is like a bridge, it connects us to God and to others. As God pours His mercy on us we are given the grace to go and do likewise. "He has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8  We have two choices every time we meet, greet or grieve someone- we are compassionate or we judge.  God's requirement is the very essence of a life of love; walls melt under the weight of that kind of grace.

 

I, on the other hand, have a very different internal wiring. My heart's response is so far from the heart of God; if compassion and forgiveness is God's signature, mine is wary regard. You wouldn't think so if you first met me, but Lent is never about appearances, it is about the heart. 

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I am learning my bridges are under construction; my travel has been prohibited to my old wooden path of defensiveness, judgement and hurtful words. I am to walk in His ways, asks for His grace and allow Him to make my heart new. How refreshing to allow mercy to open a new fountain in me, one filled with His grace and kindness.

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Trusting and resting in His love and abiding Presence, the thaw begins. "Come to Me and you will find streams of living water flowing from Me to you." Correcting my perceptions in His presence gives the interior freedom to respond with compassion.

More construction in my soul... how is yours going?

 

Medicine from Sacred Scripture:

 

"Show me Your ways, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior and my hope is in You all day long. Remember, O Lord, Your great mercy and love. 

Psalm 25:4-6

 
 
02Apr
SKIING LENT

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My first run of the day left me face down in mushy spring snow; conditions were not what I was expecting. I ski like I live my spiritual life: fairly capable when I know what to expect, but trip me up with triggers and unknown territory or terrifying change and I crash gloriously as I cannot see my feet beneath me, nor the ground shifting as I go. 

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I sin in the unfamiliar as old patterns, bad habits and frantic coping mechanisms kick in. Deep beneath my awareness I have "crossed my skis," not lining up my actions with what God asks of me. What if we considered that our thoughts, words and deeds need to line up with God's request to, "act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him"? Micah 6:8

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To learn to ski you take lessons from teachers, you practice, you fall down and pick yourself up, set your skis straight and try again. You cannot begin again unless you straighten your skis every time you fall. This is true in our soul as well. We can learn to be holy, set our feet on the path God gives and ask for grace to begin again as we become stronger and steadier on our feet, able with His help to walk in His ways.

If we are to leave Lent changed, sin must go and grace must come. There is One who can help.

Medicine from Sacred Scriptures:

 

"Behold, I make all things new." Revelation 21:5

 

 

 
 
31Mar
TOUCHED BY LENT

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Soppy, slushy, shivering rain fell all morning as my spirits failed to rise. How interesting. I often wait for someone or something to lift my spirits when I have One of whom I can say, "But You are a shield around me, O Lord; You bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud and He answers me from His holy hill." Psalm 3:3


I rush, I race, I do not make time for the Holy to touch me. Yet He shields me, still He loves me, wrapping me in His embrace. "My child, let me hold you, draw near; you have no need to worry or fear. I am here and I delight in you." God desires to lift my weary chin, to comfort my lonely heart and bestow His glory on me.

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I find I can only crawl through Lent now to my Father's lap and let Him touch my sinful heart and heal my hurtful ways. It seems I am an unlikely soul to come so near His holy hill, yet when I cry out, He not only hears, He draws near.

 

How is your journey this Lent? Are you elated, deflated? Let God's love rest upon you, embracing your soul.

 

Medicine from Sacred Scripture:

 

"We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our hope and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you." Psalm 33:20-22

 
 
 
28Mar
TEENAGE LENT

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My teenager walked through the door today saying, "That hurts my soul." Could this be Lent? As we live these days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, could it be as simple as, "What hurts my soul?" And then to learn what heals my soul?

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Bad wiring hurts me. I think, react and live from unconscious motives and defenses. Comforting ourselves with chocolate, sugar or alcohol can hurt our souls as we numb our feelings with societally correct anesthesia. Anger, pride and arrogance clog our hearts as mercy and kindness cannot flow freely blocked by these raging emotions.

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Flowers and sunshine, unexpected coffee with a friend and a funny movie all heal me. Confession restores beauty to the soul, giving rekindles mercy in us and prayer brings us to God's heart of love where our souls can be refreshed and renewed, giving us hope and grace.

May Lent teach us what hurts our souls, and may we have the grace to remove it.

Medicine from Sacred Scripture:

 

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things... 

And the God of peace will be with you."  Philippians 4:8, 9

 

 
27Mar
LENT'S JOURNEY TO LOVE

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So many paths, so many ways to go. This Lent I am simply trying to listen for God's voice and follow. It isn't easy. Have you noticed, if Someone says, "rejoice again I say rejoice, let your gentleness be evident to all, " Philippians 4:4-5 that all harshness in you is  revealed. We call it "chippy" here, a kind of brittle, harpish response to the most innocent of requests.

Or He will lob another one at me, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other." Ephesians 4:32 Then comes the real guilt-kicker, "Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy." 1 Peter 1:16 The key seems to be with whom am I walking? It is almost as if God takes me by the hand and saying:

Now, Child, let's get a few things straight:

 You forgive because I forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

You are gentle, for you know I am always near. Philippians 4:4-5

You are holy because I who call you am holy. 1 Peter 1:16 

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We follow a God who loves us, and holiness comes as I walk in obedience and great love of Him, almost as if I become like Him because I spend so much time with Him! My heart is emptied of sin and chippiness as I love and obey, obey and love. "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have a sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart." Ephesians 4:22 From the depths of my heart's purity flows love.

How are you living and loving these Lenten days?

Medicine from Sacred Writings:


"Grace of soul is supplied out of our own moral choice... 

the beauty of the soul proceeds from obedience to God." 

 

John Chrysostom   Fourth Century

 

 
26Mar
POLITICAL LENT

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The Wall Street Journal this morning spoke of the harsh winter harming gardens. Can this matter in a world where Russia annexed Crimea and a mudslide has devastated a small town near Seattle? It matters. One can only face the world and the tragedy and joy of it with the strength and beauty of one's own soul. I am, in a sense, captain of my own ship, and swear allegiance to God and, in this season of Lent, remove from my boat all that is not under His reign.

On the Ukrainian minesweeper, Cherkassy, on Donuzlav Lake, men made choices of allegiance and, regardless of personal politics, there are lessons to learn. Watching other vessels being sunk, their way blocked, and a stand-off impending, the captain of the ship ordered a dozen sailors to disembark. Their commitment wavered. Trapped in this world, with its insane joy and heart-wrenching tragedy we are asked, "What is your loyalty: to self, sin and pleasing the world and others, or to God, holiness, doing His will?"

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Flowers come, even in Crimea; the captain and fellow officers stayed on the Cherkassy, flying their flag till morn, then they disembarked. Do we have the courage to throw from our vessel all that does not cry, "Holy, holy, holy," within us. The damage of winter will be pruned, one way or another, we will cut off what does not bear fruit in us, or He will. John 15:1, 2

May pruning of the unholy in us be at His bidding, and for His glory.

Medicine from Sacred Writing:


"So too must we show our will; for we also sail a voyage, not from land to land, but from earth to heaven. Let us so order our reason, that it be serviceable to steer our upward course, and our sailors that they be obedient to it, and let our vessel be stout that it be not swamped amidst the reverses and despondencies of this life, nor be lifted up by the blasts of vainglory, but be a fast and easy vessel."

 

John Chrysostom    Fourth Century

 
 
 
25Mar
ROUGH LENT

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Roughed in. Wires, walls and plumbing are all in place as we continue with the plan for our bathroom remodel. God has plans, though we don't always understand, He promises, "I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 This isn't prosperity gospel preaching, nor is it obsolete Old Testament adage inapplicable to our lives. It is God's desire.

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God desires to bless, encourage, to lift up and strengthen; when life or people crush the hope God plants deeply within, we can be sure it's the hand of the enemy. Jesus says, "The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy; I have come that you might have life and life abundant." John 10:10 Yet knowing His heart for us requires silencing passions, vices and voices, including our own, that we might hear Him. This is Lent.

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God holds blueprints in His hands; we can draw close and ask: "This? Did you intend this? How am I to build here, what supplies do You have for Me?" Lent is to lose our souls from our attachments in order to hear the Good Shepherd's voice. Accepting His knowledge of me, I can relax and, with His grace, begin to know myself, His deep love for me and His call on my life: to be His, a child of the Father, loved with an everlasting love and called to live in love, remain in love and love, even in rough places.

Medicine from Sacred Writing: 


"And I will be to you a Father, and you shall be to Me sons and daughters," says the Lord. See how from the beginning the prophet fore-announced our present high birth, the regeneration by grace? "Having therefore these promises, beloved." What promises? That we should be temples of God, sons and daughters, have Him dwelling and walking in us, be His people and have Him for our God and Father."

John Chrysostom   Fourth Century

 
 
 
24Mar
HOME FOR LENT

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The big boys, the adult men, the grown children? What do you call them, those who tower over you and fill your home with laughter and noise and the sound of their voices once again? It is pure joy here as our hearts expand to take in their presence.

I wonder if that is how it is with God? I wonder if Lent's lament is His heart calling us? Might He miss us as we are caught in sin, self and the world? If He truly is with us and sings over us as He holds us in His arms, then perhaps this whole experience: life, family, church, friendship, is just a way to remain in Him, bringing our true selves, our presence and laughter and tears to Him, that He might delight in us in our present situation.

We come alive in His presence, in His love; somehow a deep joy has crept into my soul, into the wiring and construction that God is doing in me. He woke me with a shaft of light penetrating my heart and mind and said, "Walk in the light as I am in the light and you will have fellowship with others."1 John 1:7 "First is His call: "Walk in the light: let Me be your traveling companion, let Me bring you Home to the Father." And how? His blood purifies us from all sin and He speaks to the Father for us.

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As we walk in the light, and Jesus purifies us from our sin we are able to be in fellowship with one another. The beach stretches before us, we can walk alone, or, as God's love flourishes in us, we have the grace to be in fellowship with others. God desires authenticity in His presence and in the world, in this way can we be His children and ambassadors in His Kingdom of Love.

Our boys leave, taking their true identity to live in the world as our children; we can go to the Father, claim our true identity and then live in the world as His children.

Medicine from Sacred Writing:


"I promise you a kingdom: and let present things be the ground of your trust, your trust in Me."

 

John Chrysostom   Fourth Century

 
21Mar
OLD AND NEW OF LENT

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Live wire hangs from the ceiling as all that was old has been removed and awaits the next phase of construction. It is messy, loud, distracting almost debilitating. Rough places will be smoothed,  walls mended as the full renovation takes place. And so it is with me.

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Materials lie all around as the workers make their  way through the process and I find it all reflects my soul. There is so much to go, and many beautiful gifts God would like to bring, one being charity: love of others; a kind liberality and helpfulness especially towards the needy or suffering; a gift for public benevolent purposes; lenient judgement of others. Each plank might represent kindness, love, helpfulness, lack of judgement-all a gift for the public;  God's purposes in the world surely include my contribution of kindness.

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So this is my Lent: switching off selfishness and pride and judgement, literally taping off the old ways if need be, and reaching for mercy, kindness, love, helpfulness. The "live-wire" had to be capped to have the source of that power closed off. Could it be I need the same in my soul?

Is there anything old in you that needs to go?

Medicine from Sacred Scripture:

 

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." Colossians 3:12

 

 
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