Snowed In

Virgina finally got her snow storm.  We have about 8″ topped with a sleet covered crust. It glistens, it shines, it’s beautiful but also dangerous to drive on.  It’s a Sunday. I don’t like missing church but it doesn’t have to mean missing worship.

Waking early I did some stretches by the back window and enjoyed the white washed scene  Then I used the Lent devotional to worship. Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of lent but are used to celebrate the Resurrection. Each Sunday of lent the Resurrection of Christ is highlighted and Christ is praised for what this accomplished.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Brought to glory.  A wretch made a treasure. I sang this song alone with just the dim light of a rising sun coming through the window and tears brimming as I reflected on the truth that I was a wretch. I was a mocker who scoffed at the cross.

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
Knowing that the passion of Christ accomplished so much for the whole world and me personally is hard to fathom. I was a mocker, I believed that hell was on earth and heaven was a myth. To dust we return was the end of not only the body but the soul as well.  But it’s not, for our souls there is an eternity waiting and we choose where we will spend it.
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

 

Looking for the Loophole

Walking the dog with phone in hand I look out of habit for the Facebook app. Then I see I have google plus on my phone, maybe I’ll look there and see what’s up with whoever is posting. Then I think no that’s too much like Facebook and would be cheating…then I see twitter and think, maybe i’ll learn to use twitter and see what’s up there. I’m looking for a loop hole. Another way out of really denying myself to draw closer to God.

A loop hole, a way out of following what I promised or what is required. What I’ve promised to give up for lent is not a law. I don’t expect that I will gain a greater acceptance from God for giving up anything, but I do expect to gain deeper communion with God. And I’m seeing the constructs that keep me from that. I am seeing how much I fill up these voids in my life with empty practices, the peering into others lives in Facebook distract me from my own life and family right in front of me.

The Pharisees looked for loop holes, they asked Jesus who their neighbor was hoping for an easy answer but Jesus told them whoever is in need, whether they belong to their little club or not, is their neighbor. The rich young ruler was looking for a loop hole, look at me he said i’ve followed all the commandments, yes but, Jesus replied, one thing you lack. His loop hole was his obedience but he still held onto his wealth and that kept him from true communion. What loop holes do I look for everyday? What easy answers? What am looking to hold onto when God is calling me to give it up?

I am a Martha pleading with Jesus for help in my daily tasks yet neglecting the one thing. I want to be a Mary and know that whatever is needed will be provided as long as I sit at Jesus’ feet. He can redeem the time. I want to be generous and give of my wealth, he will give back pressed down and overflowing.

Last night I received ashes and was reminded that I will return to dust that this life is fleeting and that I have choices to make. Jesus paid an unthinkable price so that I could live forever, yet I’m given a brief time on earth to live for Him.

And I think this is it this is the only life I have and I grope and claw for the best I can get right here and now. It’s not though, the best is yet to come and i’m traveling towards a greater understanding these next forty days leading up to the cross.

I’m ready to take a hard look at my heart and see what made it necessary for the sacrifice that saves. I want to turn away continually from the sin that separates. My Haughty eyes, my lying tongue, selfishness all of it I want to turn away from and turn to the everlasting arms of a Father who sent His son to suffer on a cross for me.

I want to learn what it’s like to have a faith worth dying for.

These coptic Christians who never denied the faith even though it meant losing their lives and leaving their families. Ann Voscamp writes eloquently about their faith and how we can pick up our cross, remember the martyrs and how they remind us that we do have a faith worth dying for, and we can pray for our enemies, real enemies.

So while I suffer a coffee headache and work through not checking on my facebook friends I’ll pray not just for my relief but for the whole world. I’ll suffer through killing my apathy, slaying my pride andI’ll cry out to God to fill me up so I”ll pour over and spill out His love to those around me. My neighbors are everywhere so I’ll serve the needy and I’ll give of my wealth and seek justice.

Won’t you? There are no loop holes in this faith.

Lent

I’ve been leading up to this post here and here and now with Lent just a day away I’ll talk about what lent is and how I plan to observe it this year.  I think I finally understand where the word Easter comes from and the history of some of our customs surrounding Easter.

Easter

The name Easter has Germanic and Anglo-Saxon roots and comes from the name given to the goddess of spring named Eoster.  Easter was originally the celebration of spring and fertility, hence eggs and rabbits.

The church Christianized the spring festival and adopted some aspects in the passover or paschal celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection. But the purely Christian and religious part of Easter comes not only in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection but also the 40-46 days preceding Easter.

Lent

Some sources state that the meaning of the word lent goes back to an Anglo-Saxon word meaning spring or the month of March in which the majority of the forty days of lent fall.  Other sources say that Lent comes from the Latin Quadragesima meaning forty as in the forty days before Easter. In the early church it was a time of preparation for baptism or for repentance and fasting. According to this website:

Lent is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter.

The fast in the early church was during the 40 hours before Easter Sunday then later the fast was lengthened to a few weeks then a month, but it wasn’t until the Council of Nicea in 325 AD that the Lenten period became the 40 days, not including Sundays, before Easter. This time was often used to prepare new converts for baptism and a time for all Christians to focus or refocus on Jesus’ death and resurrection and to immerse ourselves in the gospel message.

I will spend these forty days focusing  on the gospel of grace through denial, devotion and discipleship.

Focusing on grace through practicing spiritual disciplines seems at first counter intuitive. After all the definition of grace is unmerited favor; the free gift of salvation not earned but accepted. Yet, I feel this pull to use this time leading up to Easter to purposefully bolster my faith through the working out of my faith.  I expect to experience grace in new ways as I know in and of myself I am powerless to accomplish any of what I intend unless it is truly of God.

I also hope to find some personal answers along the way. Answers to questions I’ve been asking about what direction to take in a number of areas in my life.  If devoting time to prayer(devotions) and fasting (denial) and discipleship yields direction I’ll be very grateful.

Denial 

Fasting is a way to increase our hunger for God.  I want to live the next seven weeks with an awareness of my most basic need. I’ll strip away the outward indulgences that feign satisfaction so I can seek to fulfill the truest longings of my heart.

I’ll be eliminating distractions that take up time and money so I can devote myself to prayer and service. I’ll deactivate my Facebook and Instagram accounts and will unsubscribe from all but a few blogs. I want to live with cash only for the barest necessities and eliminate some of the luxuries I spend money on so I can donate more to good causes.  I’ll give up yoga classes, a month of essential oils, buying new books, and some other items I consider luxuries.  I also will give up my netflix shows and only watch TV if it’s a family event.

I’m not sure exactly how this will play out, but I anticipate a struggle where I’ll need to cry out to God. I have many comfortable habits that distract me from seeking God for direction and help, and many coping mechanisms that divert my attention from my true duty to serve God and others.

Devotion

As I strip away the outer things I’ll have more room to devote myself to prayer and to seeking God above all and before all things.  Through daily devotions I hope to develop ears to hear from God.

I found this resource that looks helpful towards that end:

Journey to the Cross

I’m also reading through the new testament. Reading how the early Christians devoted themselves to God and one another is provoking in me a desire to do the same.

Discipleship

When I first jotted down my 3 d’s of lent I meant to write discipline but disciple came out on the paper. I went with it.  I hope to practice my own discipleship as a student of Christ by sitting at His feet and listening to His word.

I want to grow in humility so I can learn from others. I want to be a student of the cross through devotion and denial for the purpose of living for God in all that I do through lent and onward.

Will you be observing lent?  What practices do you follow?

Winter Will Give Way to Spring

As I sit here watching the snow fall lightly on the deadness of winter I wonder if I’ll be able to keep the plans of denying, devoting and discipling during lent. I wonder if, as the winter that seems endless finally does give way to spring if I will experience newness in the same way. Will contemplating Easter restore to me the joy of my salvation?

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What dormant dreams will come to life? Or will all that’s stirring beneath the hard cold exterior never emerge? I hope that what I pour into these next 40 days of lent will bear fruit. I pray God will bless my meager plans.  I hope that what I spend will satisfy. I know though His thoughts are not my own:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55

As the rain and snow water the earth will God’s word water my soul and will I recognize His work and purpose in my life?

I want to enter into a deeper communion with God and His word in the days leading up to Easter. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and I’m kicking off the season of lent this year with some grand plans held loosely yet determinedly.

Want to follow along?  You can by clicking the follow button in the side bar.

 

My Portion and My Cup

If you read my last post it was a celebration of 30 years without a drink. Thirty years free from the bondage of addiction.  While that’s a huge burden lifted it certainly doesn’t mean I’ve been free of trouble the last 30 years.  Getting addiction out of the way left life on life’s terms, as they like to say, and that’s a whole ‘nother hurdle.

In the six years after getting sober I had a baby, finished my associates degree got married, had another baby all while moving from Massachusetts to Virginia to West Virginia and back to Virginia.  Phew.  Learning how to be a mother and a wife and sometimes an employee without drinking was not easy.  I prayed a lot, God heard my prayers and led me to Jesus.  My husband and I both became Christians.

I stopped living for myself and began an everyday odyssey in which I  live for Jesus and his glory. I’m still trying to figure out what that means.  I stumble and fall as often as I stand tall.

The adage holds true that the longer I live the less I know or am sure of.  But thankfully, though I’ve wrestled with doubt and have questioned God’s wisdom, have been tempted to step away not only from church but Jesus too I keep coming back, or God keeps showing  up and bringing me back.

I want to run after the things of the world, I want nice things, and amazing experiences, but what if my calling, my purpose is just here just now. What if the next great experience is learning to be content with what’s right in front of me.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m waiting and listening closely for God’s direction.  Psalm 16 is speaking to me teaching me to stay close and trust in God’s wisdom, protection and provision.

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.

This coming week Ash Wednesday will kick of the Lenten season, which is the forty weekdays leading up to Easter, or Resurrection Sunday.  I have plans to observe lent this year.  I’ve been reading up on what that means and I’ll be posting what I’m doing.  I plan to spend a lot of time reflecting on what God has done in my life, what He may want me to do and how to move forward after Easter.

Do you observe lent?  How does that make a difference in your life?

 

 

Rememberance of Faithfulness

I didn’t really want to write this post, but I kept feeling a nudge to mark this time and remember the goodness of God in my life.

In Joshua 4 God told Joshua to command the priests of Israel to choose 12 stones from the river Jordan and set them up as memorials to remember God’s faithfulness in delivering them across the Jordan River on dry ground.

“In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

The hand of the Lord is powerful.  He did deliver me from a desperate past so that I might remember Him and boast in Him and Him alone.

“26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”1 Corinthians

I was the epitome of foolish. Between the ages of 15 and 20  drugs and alcohol were what I lived for.  I was constantly after the next high whatever that may be.  When I drank I drank till I couldn’t remember. I woke up in places I didn’t remember going to. I drove in this condition. When finally I was arrested for drunk driving I was in a black out driving the wrong way on a one way street.  I spent the night in jail.  I was an embarrassment to my family and pitied by what few friends I had.  God surely was protecting me during those years.  I should have been dead.

( Can I just say as an aside that remembering my past gives me so much gratitude for the lives my children are living. They know nothing of the heartache of addiction and while they have and will have their own trials of mistakes and hardship I am so very grateful that they have not followed the path I did early in life.)

Eventually, after a few false starts, I was able to achieve sobriety. I accepted I was an alcoholic who could not control herself after the first drink. I believed in God and I started praying daily the alcoholics prayer of step 3:

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!

It’s a beautiful prayer. I prayed it every morning on my knees and God surely did direct my steps. Difficulties of my own making remained but I was slowly coming to depend on God and He did with me what He willed.

We think we are in control. We think we make decisions and chart the course of our own destiny and whatever happens is our will in action.  The mental wrestling of God’s will and ours is exhausting but I am comforted that He holds my life in His hands and that the past was part of His plan.  Despite my weaknesses and my mistakes and what I may have meant for selfish gain He has used my life for good and the good of others.

While I often look back with regret I strive to turn that regret into stones of remembrance of how God drew me out of despair and set my feet on solid ground.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Truly the grace God has poured out on my life is astounding.  I eventually married a man who supported my sobriety and we started a journey that led us to the Christian faith.  Here is where God’s word started to speak into our lives and brought us into a fuller understanding of how Jesus is savior and has dominion over our lives.

I don’t go to AA meetings anymore though I highly recommend them.  They can be a source of much encouragement and support. I don’t talk much about being an alcoholic, though I think I have to remember that I am because I could easily slip.

I talk about it today because today is my anniversary.  It’s been thirty years since the last drink. Thirty years sober. I believe God had His hand on my life from the very beginning, bringing me through many trials, allowing me to make horrible mistakes so I could eventually appreciate not only the salvation of my soul but also the opportunity to live for Him in this world.

I do have “stones of remembrance” I few pieces from my past that help me remember.  A bowl from a pottery shop I worked in one summer in the midst of my drinking years is a remembrance of that time and also a sweet reminder that God is the potter of my life shaping and forming me into what He will.

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I lived near the beach when I quit drinking and I also have shells, beach glass and drift wood I’ve collected and a poem I wrote fairly recently that reminds me I was broken.

Beach Glass
pieces of a drunken night
shattered glass shattered life
never to be whole again
sharpened by the brokenness
tossed about in sand and sea
a fraction of what could be

sharpness dulls over time
edges soften through the grind
of sand and salt and the constant rub
that wears the edges of a life
till landing on the shore
a piece transformed from before

time has smoothed the brokenness
separated from the rest
now a treasure to caress
lonely fingers find a store of
beach glass on the shore

Do you have stones of remembrance of the times God has delivered you? Maybe you weren’t an alcoholic, but surely God’s worked in your life.  Let him have the glory and tell it to your children.