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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Inspired by . . . sacrifice

The rising sun and the warmth it brings is my personal benediction and feels a lot like resurrection after a week of sacrifice.

Freezing cold temps, no power, no water. Sleeping on couches, not being able to flush toilets, buy groceries, or wash dishes. Dealing with illness when everything is closed, and it seems like there is no one to help.

The suffering has felt like sacrifice.

But none of this has been by choice. The weather descended in layers of beauty that left tragedy in its wake.

We haven't chosen to go without. To be ill.

Don't get me wrong. The suffering is real and God is there with us in it. Protecting, growing, healing. Because God is both just and merciful, all suffering will be redeemed. But as much as I would like to, I can't count the suffering of the past week, the going without, as sacrifice.

True sacrifice involves choice.

Lent dawned with frigid temperatures and the realization that we faced at least four more days of cold. It was hard to focus on Christ's journey to the cross when we were harvesting snow for water and trying to control a 103.8° fever without the help of a doctor. I was thankful for @briannashowalter 's devotional A Field Guide to the Beatitudes, which reminded me right at the beginning that "humility ushers God's kingdom directly into our lives."

If we're not careful, suffering can make us prideful.

Over the next few days the lack of those things we take for granted; utilities, our favorite foods, good health, kept reminding me of the importance of the liturgy of Lent.

And here is where I stumble with my words. Because I don't believe that there is one way or a right way to "do" Lent.

Jesus chose to die for us. He wasn't a victim of circumstances or of the will of men. He willingly laid down His life.

"Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father." (John 10:17‭-‬18 KJV)

In a similar way, we make a choice to enter into His suffering. We can't truly enter without repentance: acknowledging that our sin separates us from God, being regretful of our sin, and commiting to change by turning away from our sin into the arms of a loving and forgiving God.

But how we do this is as unique as our personal walk with Him is unique.

It can look like intentionally doing meditative or creative things that bring us into His presence. It can look like intentionally not doing certain things to free up time for prayer, reading scripture, and Lenten devotionals.

Whatever you believe God is leading you to do, or not do, during this season the reward and goal is greater intimacy with Him!

God can and does bless us through worldly suffering. But there is a special blessing that comes from sacrifice.

"But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed."(1Pet 3:14)

Seven days into this year's Lenten journey the sun is high and the temps are climbing back into the 70°s. Even so, I realize I am a long way from the resurrection. Even though I'm physically and emotionally tired and still fighting a head cold, my spirit needs to be reminded of its poverty. I need to experience the liturgy of Lent so that I can fully embrace the JOY of resurrection.

The rhythms of the Church calendar dance in harmony with nature. As life begins again in the darkness and slowly reaches upward toward the warmth and the light, so we move slowly and hesitantly through the days of Lent, up toward Jerusalem, and the final death which gives life eternal.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Inspired by . . . the face of Christ

"For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2Co 4:6)

One of my Advent readings last year was All Creation Waits by Gayle Boss. Each day, Boss shared about a different creature and how they adapt and wait through the long winter. The black bear wakes up in the spring, a new mother. Unaware that new life began within her and was birthed to her as she slept.

The Northern Cardinal with his bold red suit and pretty mate, who draws our eye so quickly against the winter white or drab brown landscape. Who knew how carefully they calculate their body weight each day. Eating enough to stay alive and warm but not too much, lest they be unable to fly quickly away from danger.

If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, creation speaks loudly of God's invisible attributes. His everlasting power and deity. (Rom 1:18-21)

Creation is a large and necessary part of God's revelation to us. But it is not a complete revelation. The first chapter of Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God's revelation, the stamp of God's very being.

Creation speaks, without words, pointing us to the Creator - Jesus Christ. In Him everything in heaven and on the earth was created, visible and non-visible. (Colossians 1)

Jesus is not a better revelation - He IS the revelation. There is no salvation apart from Christ. (Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16; Eph 2:8-9)

Truly, the things of this earth become strangely dim when we look full on His wonderful face. For the glory of God is revealed in Christ alone.