Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On Lent

a sad yet honest evaluation of my past Lenten experience


A week ago, the season of Lent began.

The first time I heard of Lent was in high school. A couple friends, one Catholic, one Methodist, were talking about the things they were giving up for Lent. This Southern Baptist girl was intrigued. I decided to assimilate this tradition into my own faith. Why not? That first year, I gave up listening to the radio in the car.

A year later, I went away to a non-denominational college. There, I realized that Southern Baptists did not have the corner market on truth. Shocking, I know. The idea of Lent surfaced again, and my university even had a service on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday? All of these new terms! Second year of my curious participation, I gave up chocolate. In the honest evaluation that 8 years distance brings, I admit that the chocolate thing was more about a hope to lose some weight than about sharing in Christ's sufferings.

And on it went. Some years, I "did" Lent, giving up something that seemed to carry too much worldly weight in my life; some years I didn't do anything. It was all rather haphazard, which I suppose is the expected result of hopping onto a train without bothering to find out the destination.

A month or so ago, I started seeing ideas and resources for Lent pop up in blogworld. Again, that desire to be a part of something beyond myself, something that would pull me in closer to Jesus, awoke. I asked Aaron what he thought about participating in Lent together. He thought it was a good idea. We looked at several different guides and landed on one from Matt Chandler's church.

I finally see some lines being connected.

Lent is a season of preparation. Lent is to Easter as Advent is to Christmas, a very helpful comparison that I understand just this year. The sorrow of Lent prepares our hearts for the joy of Easter, just as the anticipation of Advent prepares our hearts for the gift of the Christ child.

In no way does Lent earn me a better standing with Christ. It is not about works, it is about the work being done in my heart.

As I voluntarily join in the sufferings of Christ (however small my offering is), I am reminded of him.

As I see my weakness in sacrifice, I lean on His strength within me.

As I ponder the weight of sin, I become ready to dance with head thrown back on the day we celebrate the victory over sin and death.

For 40 days, I am given the purposeful chance to drink the cup of suffering Christ drank. To identify myself with the man Isaiah called "a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. " To remember that had Christ not descended into the darkest chambers of hell, I would have no hope of emerging from that pit myself.

The dark makes way for the light. Without contrast, how do we even know what to call the light?


"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. " -1 Peter 4:12-13

Somehow, someway, suffering is inexplicably forged to our joy. This is the purpose of Lent.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Greed

Different life circumstances bring different struggles.

We were married in the summer of 2009 and moved into an sweet cottage the day we returned from our honeymoon. In this season of married life, the sin of greed keeps popping up within me like a stubborn Jack-in-the-box. I shove him back down for a while, but it's not long before the tinny music starts again and he thrusts the box lid aside.

Having our own place. What a gracious gift. Yet all gracious gifts may be marred by hands that do not offer back to the Giver. A disfiguring I have certainly done. Clutched this home to my chest and called it "my own." Taken wild amounts of time to fill and arrange it, and then more days to curate and maintain it. Having a home and possessions are not, of course, inherently wrong, but I know the intent of my heart, and more often than not, my motivation is ugly.

I told my best friend yesterday, "I need to constantly come back to the source of truth. I find that I believe our culture over the Word of God, and the deception is so subtle, I don't even see it at first."

Possessions and wealth are a perfect example of that deception.

I am re-reading Linda Dillow's book, Calm My Anxious Heart. I read the chapter on greed this morning. What a refreshing realignment. God is so good to bring us back to Him, to draw us into His heart and say, "Child, this is how I want you to live."

Here are my underlinings from the chapter. I hope they encourage you, wherever you may land in this battle against greed.

"Give a man everything he wants and at that moment everything will not be everything."
-Immanuel Kant

"That for which she longs gradually become that to which she belongs."

"Proverbs 30:15 says, 'The leech has two daughters, 'Give! Give!' they cry.' In other words, greed is a bloodsucking worm. Greed is insidious. Greed is disgusting."

"Need must be created, discontent stirred up."

Four principles on wealth found in Scripture:
1. Everything belongs to God.
"Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand." -1 Chronicles 29:14
2. Heart attitude is the issue.
"Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them." -Psalm 62:10
3. God comes first and possessions come second.
"We are told to 'keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you' (Hebrews 13:5). Has your house, your dining room set, your beautiful new clothing ever said, 'I will never leave you?' "
4. Possessions are to be used, not loved.
See Luke 12 for a warning that hits our culture dead on.

"Happiness is getting what we want; contentment is wanting what we get."

For me, greed is not an issue that I can solve once and never reconsider. Perhaps if I lived on a desert island with only coconuts and a hammock. But I don't. You and I live in the richest country of the world. That's not a guilt trip; it's reality. My surroundings mean that I have to continually spring-clean my heart for greed. Open up the closets and peer back into the furthest shelves. What is hiding within?

To be a woman who truly believes that her treasure is stored up in heaven! I have lived weeks where the honest desire of my heart landed more on cute antiques and stylish fabrics than on the treasures of heaven. Yet I see Christ pounding the anvil; His hammer is hitting my soul, and that is hope.

We are His workmanship. He is making us into His image. It is a timely process; it is a painful process; it is a joyous process.

Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies,
and not to covetousness.
Turn my eyes away from beholding vanity;
and quicken thou me in Thy ways.
-Psalm 119:36-37

Quicken thou me in Thy ways.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

2 cupcakes are better than 1, and spring is nice too


I am always wistful to see the day slip. Our little house gets a lot of light, and at certain points in the day, the rooms seem to glow. Light feels like spring, and I don't want this almost-spring day to fold into the winter of night.

Before I left work today, I bought two cupcakes. One for me, one for Aaron. You see, we have tea together when I get home from work. It is our connecting time before we plunge into the craziness of our night, and yes, I probably got the idea from Downton Abbey. Well, lo and behold, I walked in the front door, and there is no Aaron. I walked around the house calling for him, which takes about 10 seconds. Our house is small, and I'm pretty sure the walking around part was extraneous. I could stand at the front door and say something, and he would hear me from any of the other four rooms. 10 seconds later, still no Aaron. I called his cell phone. He was at a friend's house watching the KU game.

So what was there to do but eat both cupcakes? I ask you, can you think of any other possible solution? Then I ate a Lindt truffle. I was then presented with a fork in the road. And I ate more chocolate with it. Cliche figure of speech, bad joke. Check, check. The choices? Stay on the couch with the truffles or take a walk.


The almost-spring day with lots of sun won.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks naked trees are so very beautiful?


The first daffodil!


Here is what happens when I take pictures for the blog. I end up taking pictures of twelve-ish random things, with each click thinking, "oh! I can put that on the blog." Great idea, until I have twelve random pictures with no good way to transition between them. Therefore, I give to you the kitchen curtains I made Wednesday.


The curtains seem like spring too, don't they? There. I knew I could connect it all somehow.

And with that, my friends, good night.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Do you ever feel like you're living in an episode of the Jetsons?


Many are the wonders of technology. I don't like a lot of them. But, Google Plus Chat is a gift from heaven. These are my girls, (there's a new one...do you spot her?) and thanks to Google+, we can all talk together. Amazing! From Thailand, Dubai, Colorado, and Missouri, we can hear voices and see faces.

Wow.

What a gift.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

packing



I loathe packing. I hate it with an entirely unreasonable passion. It's just putting clothes and stuff into a bag. Easy. In theory.

I think it's the stuff part that gets me. All the random little things that I'll need while gone, but how to anticipate which little things? Aaron always packs my phone charger. So that at least gets taken. There's no guarantee anything else will make it in the bag. If you know me in real life, you are chuckling at the irony of me always having my phone charger. You know, because I can't live without my phone charged and at my side.

This time I'm going alone. Well, with friends, but without Aaron. Which always brings a weird combination of dread and excitement. Travel, friends, break from work = exciting! Leaving Aaron = dread. He made me a travel pillow, people. Would you want to leave a man like that? Didn't think so.


Instead of packing, I wrote him letters.


I'm bringing four books and only counting two. Bible and journal are givens. Two books is a vast improvement on my usual count. Anyone else out there pack 12 books and forget their underwear? Every time?


An unrelated subject which I have to share with you: Downton Abbey. Have you seen it? Oh my goodness. We may have watched the rest of season 2 online before it aired on PBS. In the McDonalds' parking lot no less, because our internet won't stream video. We just couldn't sleep at night without knowing if Mary and Matthew were finally going to get together. Downton has made me an Anglophile. I am drinking tea out of dainty teacups and wishing I could wear high-waisted skirts and lace-trimmed blouses. I also made scones and crumpets. Heaven help us. Can we just move to Yorkshire and trim 100 years off the calendar?


Maybe I should go put the tea-kettle on straight away. That's another thing. Those Brits are always saying charming things like "straight away." I wager they're great packers too. They seem a very organized lot.

To Georgia!

But first, the suitcase.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

standing in the shadow


Yesterday, I sat with a table of girls in the high school commons. These are not the girls that normally come to K-Life. I only knew one.

"Why are you wearing a boot? What happened to your foot?" I asked her. Sometimes it surprises me how much is offered after one question. How strong is our desire to be known, and how eagerly some stories slide out of timid mouths. She told me of a fight, a bang-up between her uncle and some other man, and in the process of getting the little kids out of the way, she got hurt too.

I asked the names of the other girls. Some answered and some didn't. Trust isn't always given at the first inquiry. The f-bomb fell a couple times. Banter back and forth about teachers, classes. An Algebra book shut and pushed aside.

"Y'all should come and eat pancakes if you want," I said as I stood to leave. "They're free, and we're here first Wednesday of every month."

Great. They need the red stain of a Savior's blood, and I offer pancakes.

Where does one begin?

At home, Aaron and I pray.

A verse, one that heralded the beginning of God ministering to man, one that I love so much I pasted it to strips of old wood, one that gives me goosebumps just to imagine, came to mind:

"The people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death
on them a light has dawned." (Matthew 4:16)

That light is my hope.

Pray with us, will you? Pray for these in our small town, and those in your small town, your big town. All the ones who have yet to see the light of a God who knows the names of the hidden, the sins of the wicked, the fears of the weak, and yet calls them all,

"Come."

Aaron has this crazy vision. He wants us and our team to know the names and faces of every single middle and high school student in our town. That's 900 some people. I gape, but his reasoning pierces my heart, "Every kid deserves to hear the Gospel."

Yes. He is right. Every kid deserves to hear that the light has risen upon the graveyard, and it is dark no more.