Lenten Reflections: Fasting Formulas

Listen carefully to Chole’s words here (read them aloud once or twice):

The church is both afflicted and exhausted by the dizzying notion that God-given power should be exercised in every God-given moment. Jesus makes it clear, however, that [can does not equal should]. Jesus’ voice flattened armed soldiers, yet He permitted these self-declared enemies to stand up again. Jesus had angels at His disposal, yet declined to dispatch them. We dare not mistake these choices for passivity, resignation, or weakness. This dimension of strength was the fruit of power fully submitted to love.

Alicia Britt Chole

Jesus voluntarily chose to drink the cup of sorrow, pain and sacrifice.

It was not a foregone conclusion.

It was a genuine struggle during which He submitted His will to the will of the Father for the sake of love-love of His Father and love for us.

Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted him so high, and has given him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus “every knee shall bow”, whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why, in the end, “every tongue shall confess” that Jesus Christ” is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 J. B. Phillips Translation

There are times when power and authority given by God should be exercised. There are times when laying down that same power and authority is the surest way to further Christ’s Kingdom.

There’s no “one size fits all” formula that I can apply to every situation.

I must, in love, submit my way and will to the Father and, through prayer, discern the course of action He desires.

Demanding my “rights” and “standing up for what I believe in” may or may not be the testimony for this moment or this movement.

I’m afraid that a great deal of the church’s time is spent campaigning in the public square in an attempt to protect itself.

It may be that our Shepherd would call us instead to live lives of humble submission to the Father’s will even when it becomes uncomfortable, or worse.

Restricted freedom can come in a wide variety of forms: physical limitations, emotional challenges, dysfunction in those near us, decisions of those over us, laws that limit religious freedom, and economic downturns that affect our budgets and seem to threaten our dreams. Today consider the restrictions you are experiencing…Fast formulas and instead spend time in prayerful discernment asking God to show you His way.

Alicia Britt Chole

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Lenten Reflections: Fasting Apathy-Making Space for Holy Anger

Today’s Fast: APATHY

In a society drowning in bad ‘news’, apathy can seem an attractive alternative to absorbing the insane amount of planetary pain the Internet brings to our attention every waking moment. However, the antonyms of apathy are not absorption, activism or even emotionalism; they are sympathy, sensitivity and concern.

Alicia Britt Chole

Holy gets angry.

When the things that break God’s heart break mine, it’s natural and right that my spirit cries for justice.

Jesus drove the money changers from the temple because they had turned the space God intended as invitation for prayer and seeking into a space of convenience. “Holiness”-meeting the requirements of the Law and its sacrifices-was being used as an excuse to exclude the very ones the Lord was wooing.

Hey-I get it.

I’m overwhelmed every single day by the enormity of pain, suffering and injustice that greets me when I open my computer.

But like I’ve said over and over and over-I may not be able to do great things but I can do small things with great love. I may never do anything that makes headlines but I can do something every day that makes headway into the life and heart of those around me.

Apathy is an excuse. It’s not one God rewards.

Where is God leading your heart to take action?

Who is God placing in your path that needs help or encouragement?

What part of your immediate sphere of influence can be changed if you choose to get involved?

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Maundy Thursday: Loving Service

There are some congregations that still practice “foot washing” in remembrance of Jesus’ humble service to His disciples.

It’s a beautiful tradition but hardly captures the reality of what it was like to wipe dust, dirt and dung from the feet of (probably) sweaty men with unkempt toenails and calloused soles.

Before the cross, before that ultimate defining act of sacrifice and love which required His willing death, Jesus showed us how to LIVE. He could have given a lecture on love and humble service but He didn’t.

He chose the lowliest task to demonstrate that love is DOING something. It’s doing whatever needs to be done for whoever God places in your path.

I’m often guilty of thinking this task or that task is beneath me- hoping someone else will do it and I won’t have to. I need to be reminded often that’s simply not true.

Today is the day on the church calendar when we pause and reflect on the Last Supper, and the last words of Jesus to His disciples.

A year’s worth of sermons is contained in John 13-17 but this week I have been drawn to just one verse:

[Jesus said] “Now I am giving you a new command—love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. This is how all men will know that you are my disciples, because you have such love for one another.”

John 13:34 PHILLIPS

Read the rest here:  Maundy Thursday

Walk Gently Among Your Fellow Humans

One of the most interesting (and best) pieces of advice on relationships I ever read was this:  Imagine the person with whom you contend as an infant or a very elderly individual.  

Try it. 

Pick someone who rubs you the wrong way every which way to Sunday and think about him or her as a tiny baby or a frail and feeble grandparent. 

I’ll wait.  

Did you feel some of the hostility melt away when the image of your “thorn in the flesh” as a helpless human came into focus?

It works every time for me.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t have to address any underlying issues between me and whoever.  But it does tame the mean and vengeful out of me.

It makes me tender when I talk to a friend or family member about a testy topic.  It helps me be kind to the cashier who has picked now to count out her drawer just as it’s my turn after I’ve been waiting in a long line.  It moderates my reaction from road rage to a more appropriate and safe, “Oh, well!” when cut off in traffic.

It makes it easier for me to be gentle. 

Gentle:  1. having or showing a mild, kind or tender, temperament or character; 2.  moderate in action, effect or degree; not harsh or severe.

~Google Dictionary

Truth is we are surrounded every day by people who are one unkind word away from falling apart.  We drive down the highway with strangers whose lives are filled with pain.  We work and eat and worship and play with folks who carry wounds we know nothing about.

walk gently tree bark

I don’t have to understand everything about someone to appreciate that there is more than meets the eye.  All of us have scars and secrets, stress and strain, unmet needs and unseen struggles. 

So I try to give the benefit of the doubt, assume the best, extend grace, be humble, choose love.  

I want to walk gently among my fellow humans.  

At minimum I hope to do no harm.  At best I hope to encourage another heart to hang on and keep trying.  Most of the time I probably fall somewhere in between.  

be soft

 

 

 

 

When It’s Hard to Give Yourself Grace

My little congregation is hosting a volunteer team blessing us with a new roof for our leaking sanctuary.

What would have been absolutely impossible if we had to rely totally on our own resources is happening right now!

The week after my daughter’s wedding.

fiona and brandon down the aisle

Which means that I am especially exhausted as well as depleted emotionally, mentally and physically. 

I’m simply unable to participate like I want to and feel I should.

I’ve brought food up to the church each day but I can’t stay to help serve because my family is still doing leftover wedding tasks.  My heart is torn between what I know I have to do and what I would like to do.  And it’s impossible to do both.

It’s so much easier for me to extend grace to others in similar situations.  I am often the first to say, “Don’t worry about it!  We’ve got it covered!”, and mean it.  The last thing I want to do for any struggling heart is add to the burden.

Yet here I am, knowing full well that the smart thing, the right thing and really the only thing I can do is accept the same grace from others I’ve extended in the past and I can’t stand it!

I’m pretty sure it’s pride stopping me from admitting my limitations.  I’m pretty sure it’s selfish ambition that goads me into trying to finagle a way to be in two places at once.  I don’t want to be the one person who didn’t show up all week, meet the volunteers and tell them face-to-face how very much we appreciate them.

How my heart can twist things!

These past six months have been hard ones.  Goodness-the past almost two years have been one crisis after another, more travel away from home than in the decade before, more heart-stopping, mind-blowing moments and challenges than any other season since the first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

And still I will cling to my pride.

I need to accept the abundant, overwhelming, free-flowing and never-ending grace of Jesus.

I do no one any good by refusing it.

Least of all me. 

god opposes the proud humble hands

 

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