Wash It Away

I’ve been quieter about my Lenten journey this year. It’s not been on purpose. I didn’t plan it that way is what I mean. The last time I sat down to write, the internet was out. At first, I was irritated about the inconvenience of it. By the time we found out it would be a couple of days until a new piece of equipment arrived, I was over it and enjoyed no internet.

One of the purposes of my Lenten journey this year was to spend less time on social media, my phone and laptop. I realized halfway into the season that I had not done well with the “less time” part. Then we had no internet and I was forced into it. And it was good.

I was less distracted so I read more. And studied more. I had longer conversations with my family. I listened better. I thought through ideas fully. I felt more at ease and it seemed easier to move at soul-speed.

Then the internet was up again and it all went back to how it was before. The restlessness. The wasted time. The countless distractions.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Internet or not, we are bombarded with opportunities to look, like, scroll, watch, read, post the perfectly filtered photo, create the wittiest caption, comment, and check stats. For what? Why do I give in to the distractions when I know it’s not what I need?

I believe the question is one each of us needs to ask ourselves, wrestle with, and answer honestly. And it won’t do any good to put it out of our minds and ignore it. Why do we allow such unnecessary distractions? Are they doing any good for us? There may be some good in it and because of it. I read many inspirational posts throughout the week that remind me of truth and encourage me. But we all know our screens aren’t filled with all things encouraging. It’s too easy to compare or envy or become less and less content with our lives. And we really need to be concerned when we care more about our social media presence than with who we are in real life with the people God gave us. We need to ask how we can use social media for the good of others; how we use it wisely; how we can prevent it from stealing valuable time and real connection with real people.

These are questions I’m asking.

So I’m deleting a couple of apps from my phone today, because having instant access to all the distractions is part of the problem for me. This is a start and it will help, but I plan to keep asking the questions. I will keep wrestling because I don’t want to give in to a distracted life.

If you’re one who has found out how to do this well I wish you’d share with the rest of us. We can all learn from one another.

I’ll leave you with beautiful thoughts from Jan Richardson. She blogs at The Painted Prayerbook. This is from one of her 2012 Lenten posts.

“….we carry so much that can serve to insulate us from recognizing and being present to the God who is always present to us, and who still perceives our beloved shape beneath the layers of grime that cling to our souls. The distractions we build our lives around; the harm we cause others or ourselves; our inability to see ourselves as God sees us: how might we allow God to wash all this away, not so that God can see us more clearly, but so that we can see the God who makes a home within us?”

 

 

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

 

Love Me Tender

Eleven days into my Lenten journey and I realize I’ve slowed down……a little. I’ve allowed for more quiet time in the morning….reading, praying, listening and reflecting, but I’m still trying to find a consistent soul-speed.

I’m reading a daily online Lent devotional and the Gospel of Mark during my Lenten journey. This week the story of a man with a withered hand in Chapter 3 struck a chord. Or maybe it hit a nerve.

Jesus walked into the synagogue and noticed a man with a withered hand. Some versions say his hand was shriveled. Others use the word deformed or crippled. Whatever word described it, the man’s right hand was useless. The same story in Luke 6:6-11 says Jesus asked the man to stand in front of the crowd.

Jesus wanted the people to see the man and his gnarled hand. Perhaps some in the crowd were moved to compassion. Some wondered what Jesus would do. The Pharisees and scribes looked for a way to accuse Jesus.

In all three Gospel accounts of the story, Jesus questioned the crowd.

“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm?”

“If your sheep fell into the ditch on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you lift it out?”

“On the Sabbath should we save someone’s life or destroy it?”

The four words at the end of verse 4 in Mark’s version say it all.

“But they were silent.”

No answers. Not a word. Only silence. The religious leaders were unyielding. The sight of the disabled man and the pointed questions did nothing to soften their hearts. They were consumed with the idea of catching Jesus in breaking the Sabbath.

I wonder about the onlookers, though. The other ones in the synagogue. Why didn’t one of them answer Jesus and say, “I would rescue my sheep” or “It’s lawful to save a life any day of the week.” Had they heard the man-made rules about Sabbath for so long they forgot what God said? Were they scared into silence? Afraid of what the religious leaders would do if they spoke up?

Verse 5 says, “And Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart….” 

Then Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand and it was restored.

Such a work of mercy should have tendered hearts and caused amazement and faith, but they wouldn’t be moved. They persisted in unbelief and set out to destroy Jesus. The ones determined to uphold the law missed the whole point of it: to love God and love people.

Are our hearts hard? Are we unmoved? Do we value man-made rules and traditions over people? Are we determined to move our agendas forward even when it means hindering others’ journey toward God? Are we holding onto status or position or reputation instead of trusting God?

Father, show us our hearts. Reveal the deepest places – the ones we try not to see. Make our hearts tender so we are moved by what moves You. May we love you wholeheartedly and may we see those around us the way You see them.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26

 

Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash

 

 

 

She Was Seventeen

I was at the funeral home last night, gathered with extended family I don’t see often. A lot of us together in one place. There were moms and dads, and brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and cousins…..lots and lots of cousins. We’re happy to see each other, even under the circumstances, and we say so.

We smile and hug each other, ask about our families and can’t believe he’s driving already or she’s graduated college. We wonder at the children growing up and getting married and having children of their own. We ask “where did the time go” or say “how time flies.” Funeral homes make us more aware of time. More thankful for it, too.

After we catch up with each other, we remember. We think of the ones who aren’t with us. We think of the good times, maybe the hard ones too. We laugh and share stories. My cousin shared long ago stories about his brothers and sister, of growing up with lots of cousins and playing on Sharrott Hill. Then he recalled something about Mom and told me the story.

IMG_5522He was in 2nd grade and she was 17. She took him and a bunch of her other nephews to see a movie called The Blob. He remembers having nightmares that night. He told me Aunt Jan was always so much fun.

My cousin told me a story about Mom I’d never heard.

I’m glad I was there to hear it.

Reflection

 As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.   Proverbs 27:19 NIV

 

I planned to write more on this and include some thoughts about the end of my devotional readings from Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter.

 

But the thing about a proverb is it says what it says without needing any help from me.

 

 

Reflecting

And So I Began 

I began this journey through the season of Lent today, this Ash Wednesday. I must confess I know very little about Ash Wednesday or Lent and some of what I do know has been learned as recently as today from my Google searches.

Since accepting my friend’s invitation to join her on this journey I’ve wondered why I was intrigued by the idea. But as I reread her invitation I remembered. Like her, I need to take some time to “reflect, repent and re-order what may have gotten off track.”  This is an opportunity…..a concentrated time of reflection…..a looking deep within and asking God to reveal what is there. A time of remembering God’s faithfulness and a refocusing on Jesus.

But why now?

I’m not sure except it seemed like the perfect time.

And so I began today on this journey where I’m learning as I go.

The introduction of “Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter” says that “Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy.”

I think I’m going to be.

 

 

The Road Taken

Bread and Wine

I’m joining a friend of mine on a journey of reflection during the season of Lent beginning March 1.

Her invitation is found on her blog, A Life Giving Moment, in a post called A Journey Through the Season of Lent and I want to extend the invitation to you. She says what she says beautifully so I encourage you to visit her blog and see if you’d like to join us.

We are reading through “Bread and Wine – Readings for Lent and Easter”. I will share my thoughts weekly…….some on her blog and some here.

The book can be ordered through Amazon, other online stores or through the publisher listed on her website. If you decide to join us please let me know so we can stay connected and encourage each other.

The photo courtesy of Bouf16 @ Pixabay

The 2016 Rundown

I look forward to 2017 with even greater anticipation than I did 2016. And 2016 didn’t disappoint. It was a wonderful year of growth and I did a lot of new things. In one of my January posts, titled Rising, I reflected on the amazing things I saw because I made a change and decided to do something new.

Some of the “first evers” for me in 2016:

  • Ate the Paleo Diet for 12 weeks
  • Ran an 8K in May
  • Ran the Spartan Race in Nashville in August
  • Ran a 10K in October

I chose to take on these physical challenges and have learned from all of them. Mostly I learned the importance of training and doing it with others. There’s something special about being part of a group working together toward a tough common goal. I wrote about it in my post Together.

There were more new things for my family in 2016. In February we moved from our home of 13 years into my newly renovated childhood home. Our home is beautiful but there were some adjustments for us. We are no longer in a rural area and it interfered with my morning runs. I lost my running groove…..or so I thought. I just had to embrace the new and wrote about it in Embrace the New.

Throughout the year I continued issuing my Live Like it Matters Challenges but I wrote more than ever about my childhood and the legacy my parents left. Living in my childhood home has brought a flood of memories and it’s been a wonderful gift of healing, new perspective and renewed gratefulness. Some of those posts are Memory, Groundwork, Quitting, and Mama.

We went on our annual trip to the beach with many of our favorite people. It’s a special place and does our hearts good to be there. I highlighted it in my post This Place.

My son moving to Texas last year for a job, then moving to Colorado this year provided a lot of inspiration. His courage to take bold steps into the unknown is fascinating. We visited him in October and it was one of the best trips ever. I wrote several posts as a result of the trip: Possibility and Shine are two of them.

I was finally able to put into words some of the difficulties of 2013, 2014 and part of 2015. I’d start the posts, then stop. Try to start again, but no words. They just wouldn’t come. More times than not, something is worked out within me when I write and I knew I needed to write about these things. At last something broke inside of me and the words came for the first post called Linger. It took months for the other healing posts to happen but I found the words. I’ve received more comments on those posts than others because everyone has experienced loss, grief and heaviness. Those posts are called Gone and The Dark .

We had a great holiday season. We gathered with family and friends several times. On Thanksgiving I ran my 2nd Turkey Trot and significantly improved my time. Our son came home the first week of December so we celebrated Christmas with the extended family early. Christmas gets more and more special with each passing year.

God is good and 2016 has been full of blessings. But what God did within my own heart in 2016 is the most momentous. He has given me a clearer view of what’s important. I want to love extravagantly because that’s the way He loves me.

Now I will let Him teach me how to do it.

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