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

 

Especially Now

My thoughts for Monday School are all about Advent….this season of waiting and hoping.

I wrote part of this last year. I share it again because I’m even more aware of the longing……the deep ache within my heart…..

And I know I can’t be the only one.

“Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. 
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might;
come and save us.

Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.

How long, Lord God Almighty……….”     Psalm 80:1-4a

The nation of Israel cried out for hundreds of years waiting on the Promised One. My favorite Christmas hymn expresses the same longing for salvation.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The promise was kept.

Jesus came. Emmanuel.

He is here. God with us.

Jesus, come into our world. Come and change our hearts. Come into our brokenness and apathy. Come and shine your light into our darkness. Come and awaken within us the wonder of the babe in a manger.

The One who has come now asks us to come.

He invites us to peace and rest. Even now.

Especially now.

In the midst of the decorating and parties, Christmas programs and overindulging. In the traffic, long lines and shopping malls. In the middle of our desire to give out happiness in perfectly wrapped boxes. …….He asks us to come.

Come and reflect on the miracle of God becoming man. Come and remember. Come and follow Him with all our hearts.

Jesus says, “Come.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”       Matthew 11:28-30

I’m reading an Advent devotional from Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts. You can check it out here.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Negative Space

 

Done

The past week was the most difficult one of my Lenten journey. Not just in the remembering of the events of Holy Week or from my devotionals in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, but personally challenging in ways I thought were behind me.

That is part of the reason for my delay in writing this post. The words wouldn’t come. I’m unsure they’re going to come the way I want them to now but I will try.

We all know what a hard week feels like. Or months or years. Some of you are in the middle of a hard season and it’s been so long you’ve stopped keeping track.

All I know is that it felt like I was fighting to be okay. Not working hard to be okay. Not fighting to be victorious. I had to fight to be okay.  That meant not giving in to certain thoughts. It meant doing the things I had to do…..and following through with plans I’d made. Fighting meant being honest with myself and focusing on Truth. It meant resting but not isolating. It meant me not asking someone else to do what only God can do and remembering what He’s already done.

“We begin our Christian life by depending not upon our own doing but upon what Christ has done.

When you cease doing, then God will begin.”    Watchman Nee, Day 44, Bread and Wine

And I’m learning I’m able to make it through the hard weeks. Because He is with me.

“We go through that valley of the shadow of death with him. But with him. With whom? Him – the Savior – the Agnus Dei – this figure on the Cross.”  Thomas Howard, Day 36, Bread and Wine.

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.     1 Peter 1:3-9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O Come

“O Come Emmanuel” is one of my favorite Christmas hymns.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

I imagine the nation of Israel crying out for hundreds of years waiting on the promised One.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”    Isaiah 9:6

The promise was kept.

Jesus came. Emmanuel.

He is here. God with us.

Jesus, come into our world. Come and change our hearts. Come into our brokenness and apathy. Come and shine your light into our darkness.

The One who has come now asks us to come.

He invites us to peace and rest. Even now.

Especially now.

In the midst of the decorating and parties, Christmas programs and overindulging. In the traffic, long lines and shopping malls. In the middle of our desire to give out happiness in perfectly wrapped boxes. …….He asks us to come.

Come and reflect on the miracle of God becoming man. Come and remember the sweetest moments and seasons of our lives. Come and follow Him with all our hearts.

Jesus says, “Come.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

In response to the Daily Prompt
Mystical.

This Place

This is a special place.

It’s not just the beauty here. Or the sound of the ocean here. Or the sunshine and the salty air here.

It’s not the awayness or that I don’t wear shoes and I feel the sand in my toes here.

It’s not just that I’m resting here and not working here.

It’s all those things but not just those things.

It’s the love here. From the people here. For fifteen years here.

It’s God here and what He does here.

My heart is especially open here in this place. Because of all those things. The beauty and the rest and the people and the time spent. The conversations and fun and laughter.

There are tears here too. And sadness sometimes. And hard stuff.

Because real life has happened and the beautiful sunrises and the waves and finding seashells doesn’t change that.

And the ocean won’t take away real life.

But to be with people that love you and know you and that you feel at home with in this place…..this place you love….. is good.

And it can heal you.

Because these people you love…..they love you back.

And God uses these people and this place to show you His love.

Because when you walk beside the ocean and the waves crash around your feet and you look toward the horizon and can’t see the end of it……….you see the vastness of it all. That God created it.

God feels big and that feels good.

And He loves you with an everlasting love.

In response to the Discover Challenge Finding Your Place.

Epiphany

Today is Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. Epiphany is an ancient celebration of the revelation of God to mankind in the person of Jesus Christ. It is commonly linked to the story of the Magi’s visit to Jesus.

This is celebrated all over the world in a variety of ways. In Greece, swimmers dive for a cross in a ceremonial blessing of the waters. Epiphany is celebrated with Three Magi pageants or parades in Lithuania and Poland. “Wise men” meet and greet children in Manila, Philippines.

threekings7n-2-web
Mariela Lombard for New York Daily News

In Germany, children dressed as the three Magi go around singing and asking for donations for charitable causes. Festivals take place in Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and other countries. And until three years ago I had never even heard of this uniquely wonderful celebration!

How fitting is the name of this observance? Epiphany. A moment of sudden revelation, insight or leap of understanding.

Matthew writes that the Magi came to Jerusalem and asked about the King of the Jews. The star, his star, led them to where they needed to be and when they saw the child, they bowed down and worshiped him. (Matthew 2:1-12)

In a leap of understanding, they realized that this child wasn’t only King of the Jews but Savior to the world. Their journey had brought them to this place of worship and rest.

This sudden revelation or leap of understanding isn’t just for wise men. It is for ALL who seek Him. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…..”

Love is here.

Hope has a name.

The good news and great joy the angels told the shepherds is true.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls….”      Matthew 11:28-29 NIV

Sanctuary

The ocean is the sound of infinity, of healing, and refuge. I leave next month to go to one of my favorite places. The conversations on the seawall with family and friends, the sun and sandcastles, the breeze, the shell collecting and laughter, the stars and sea turtles. It’s all beautiful and wonderful.

We’ve stayed at the same place on the same beach for fourteen years.

It’s the place I’ve been healed, my marriage restored, and Truth revealed. There – I’ve learned to love more and judge less. There I think deeply, pray passionately, laugh wildly, and cry too.

It’s more than a beach. It’s a safe place from all the noise and responsibilities. There I’m unhurried and patient. There I can read for hours. There, nothing demands my attention. The only plan is to make no plans.

This sanctuary is a special place…….where I meet friends again, stay barefoot most of the day, and let the roar of the ocean cleanse my soul. It’s the otherness of the place that makes me unusually open to God, His creation, His word and His people. God has touched me in significant ways in that place.

I return from this mid-year refuge, refreshed and renewed. More than that…..mended. God takes the broken pieces of my heart and mind, my soul splinters, my ruined strength and puts them back together.

I come back restored.  Rested.  Ready to do normal life again.

And wait until next time.

The sound of the surf, the big washing machine of ocean, sometimes seems to rinse out my brain, or at any rate, it expands me and it slows me down.                                          

 Anne Lamott

Favorite Place

Come

“O Come Emmanuel” is one of my favorite Christmas hymns.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

I imagine the nation of Israel prayed that for hundreds of years waiting on the promised One.

The promise was kept.

Jesus came. Emmanuel.

He is here. God with us.

Jesus come into our world. Come and change our hearts. Come into our brokenness and apathy. Come and shine your light into our darkness.

The One who has come now asks us to come.

He invites us to peace and rest. Even now. Especially now.

In the midst of the decorating and parties, Christmas programs and overindulging. In the traffic, long lines and shopping malls. In the middle of our desire to give out happiness in perfectly wrapped boxes. …….He asks us to come.

Come and reflect on the miracle of God becoming man. Come and remember the sweetest moments and seasons of our lives. Come and commit or recommit to following Him with all our hearts.

Jesus says, “Come.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30