Lenten Reflections: Fasting Criticism, Making Space for Grace

Chole identifies several groups that were in proximity to Jesus as He was dying on the cross.

Perhaps two people were silenced by grief or gently sobbing.

The others were taunting Him, mocking Him and reveling in His [apparent] inability to save Himself or be rescued by the Father He claimed close connection to.

They had no idea that His death was a last act of willing submission and laying aside of His power, position and possible retribution against those who had put Him there.

Love held Him to the cross-not nails or impotence.

So today I fast criticism.

I will fast judging others based on half-truths or even whole ones that cast them into a role other than as an image-bearer of our God.

Every single person I meet is bearing up under some kind of burden. Every face I see has an untold story behind the smile, frown, scowl or tears.

And every single human being is known and loved by the God who made them and the Savior who died to redeem them.

Today, fast criticism. From the clerk moving slowly to the homeless vet on the streets, consider carefully that Jesus knows them by name. Today, seek to know more, assume less, and air prayers for Jesus’ ‘least of these’ boldly in the presence of your shared Father God.

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: Letting Go of Masks and Making Space for Authenticity

Today’s fast is appearances.

When my kids were young we watched a movie in which one of the female characters worked hard to keep up a perfect appearance in hopes of “catching her man”. But all her efforts were undone by a child who saw through the fake.

“Does your face hurt?”, asked the little girl, referring to the obvious strain required to try to keep that smile exactly right.

I’ve often thought about how much energy I’ve wasted trying to pretend that I’m something I’m not.

It’s especially tempting to put on that “holy habit” when I walk through the doors of church or gather for a women’s ministry event.

Wear the right thing, say the right thing, never let my guard down or confess to struggling.

I am guilty of affirming and rewarding others who look like they have it all together while sometimes ignoring or marginalizing those who are clearly having a hard time. This only perpetuates the ongoing pressure to “measure up” lest we be found wanting.

But Jesus does not ask me to “fake it til I make it”.

He invites me to come with all my mess and lay it at His feet where He will turn ashes to beauty and bring fruit from barrenness as I abide in Him.

I love, love, love what Alicia Britt Chole says: “Our reality doesn’t frustrate Jesus. Our hypocrisy does.”

So for (at least!) one day fast facades.

Take off the mask. Be real.

He already knows. ❤

**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.**

Some Words For a Wounded Heart

I cling fast to words that speak aloud what I’ve only thought.

I collect sentences that eloquently express what I can only feel.

I pull them out on days when my head and heart are doing battle and I can’t find any middle ground.

Reading reminds me I’m not the first soul to travel this way.

Others have been here before and left breadcrumbs.

Read the rest here: Words For a Wounded Heart

Words To Help A Wounded Heart

I’m a little tender today.

It’s my mother’s birthday-the first one she will celebrate in Heaven and the first we will mark in her absence.

So I’m turning again to quotes that help my wounded heart.

Reading reminds me I’m not the first soul to travel this way.

Others have been here before and left breadcrumbs.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/09/22/saved-bits-for-a-broken-heart/

It Has Been Years-What Is Wrong With You?


If you think that time makes a difference to a mama’s heart that’s missing a child who ran ahead to Heaven without her, you don’t know as much as you think you know.

Time does not heal all wounds-especially the kind that shatter a heart into a million pieces.

It takes time for the wound to scar over, but it doesn’t undo the damage.

So if you are wondering why your coworker still takes the day off on his child’s birthday or the anniversary of her child’s homegoing, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Years disappear when those milestones loom large.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/09/14/its-been-years-whats-wrong-with-you/

Contour Lines Of God’s Grace

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

~Julian of Norwich

Truth is this life is not easy.

There is joy. 

Absolutely amazing awe-inspiring, breath-taking joy.

But there is also suffering.

Read the rest here: On Suffering and Redemption

Repost: In Love’s Service Only Wounded Soldiers Will Do

I wrote this last year around this time. I was planning my daughter’s wedding and coming off an extremely stress-filled and difficult year.

Little did I know more wounding was in store.

And now we find ourselves collectively fearful of an invisible enemy. We are holding our breath, waiting to see what the worst will be.

In this hour of need, we wounded soldiers have something to offer our frightened friends and neighbors. Suffering well gives us authority to offer true compassion and genuine love.

Let’s be the light.

❤ Melanie

So often we hide our wounds.

Sometimes it’s because others have shamed us into covering up.  Sometimes it’s because our hearts have been stomped on by folks who might mean well but really don’t understand what it’s like to live every day with a messy and unfinished story.

But there’s no shame in being broken. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/27/in-loves-service-only-wounded-soldiers-will-do/

It’s Been Years-What’s Wrong With You?

If you think that time makes a difference to a mama missing a child who ran ahead to Heaven without her, you don’t know as much as you think you know.

Time does not heal all wounds-especially the kind that shatter a heart into a million pieces.

It takes time for the wound to scar over, but it doesn’t undo the damage.

So if you are wondering why your coworker still takes the day off on his child’s birthday or the anniversary of her child’s homegoing, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Years disappear when those milestones loom large.

It’s just as painful today as it was on THAT day when a bereaved parent has to face an unavoidable reminder that his or her child is gone, gone, gone.

I’m not diminishing anyone’s loss when I say this but child loss is unique.

If we lose a spouse, we cannot replace that person, but we can enjoy the same type of relationship with another one.

When we lose a parent, we cannot replace that individual or that relationship, but we all know age eventually makes a claim on every life. We anticipate (even if subconsciously) that younger folks will outlive the older ones.

A parent’s heart is not equipped to outlive their child.

And yet, some of us do.

“IT’S so WRONG, so profoundly wrong, for a child to die before its parents. It’s hard enough to bury our parents. But that we expect. Our parents belong to our past, our children belong to our future. We do not visualize our future without them. How can I bury my son, my future, one of the next in line? He was meant to bury me!”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

So if the bereaved parents in your life need extra space, extra grace, extra accommodation on those days when the loss is unavoidable don’t be surprised.

What SHOULD astonish folks is that we are able to function as well as we do on all the other days of the year without additional help.

We get up.

We go on.

That’s the real surprise.

Scripture Journal Challenge: Unshaken and Unshakeable

If there is one phrase that describes child loss it’s this: Utter destruction.

When that deputy showed up at my door and the words he spoke sank into my brain, my world imploded and exploded at the same time.

There was nothing left that made sense except the hands of the two children who happened to be home that night.

I held on for all I was worth because I was certain if I let go I’d float away into nothingness like an astronaut whose spacesuit tether is cut in two.

Living this side of 2000 plus years of Christianity, it’s easy to forget that Paul probably felt much the same way when the religion he had embraced, had vigorously defended (to the point of putting “heretics” to death) and had trusted to frame his life and understanding of the world was swept away on the Damascus road.

Not only did he endure three days of blindness, he endured three years in the desert as the Lord helped him connect the dots between what the Scriptures (remember-there was no New Testament yet) said and what He was doing in the world through Jesus, His Son.

Then as he took this Gospel-the Good News- to others, he was subjected to prison, beatings and more. Often he despaired even of life ( 2 Corinthians 1:8).

Yet Paul kept on going. He clung to the promises of God that no matter how much he suffered, the comfort of Christ was enough to help his heart hold onto hope.

All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. For even as His suffering continues to flood over us, through the Anointed we experience the wealth of His comfort just the same. If we are afflicted with such trouble and pain, then know it is so that you might ultimately experience comfort and salvation. If we experience comfort, it is to encourage you so that you can hold up while you endure the same sufferings we all share. Remember that our hope for you stands firm, unshaken and unshakable. That’s because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so you will also share in our comfort. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 VOICE

Paul doesn’t simply receive the comfort God offers and hoard it. He doesn’t pile it up in a corner and keep it to himself. No! He declares that the comfort he receives is meant for sharing!

A pastor friend says, “Your misery is your ministry.”

I think he’s right.

Child loss has been my greatest challenge, my deepest pain and my most profound misery.

But is has also been the very place God has met me with the greatest comfort, the deepest compassion and the most profound revelation of Who He is.

So it is with suffering; it never leaves you the same. You run into the traps of temptation that greet every sufferer and are left with a cruel harvest in your heart and relationships, or you run toward the comforts of grace, which shine most brightly in the darkness of suffering, and reap a harvest of blessing. Yes, you may continue to suffer, or its effects may remain, but you now live with a changed heart, a sturdier faith, and a joy that suffering cannot take away.

Paul David Tripp, Suffering

The comfort I have received is now mine to give to others.

In spite of everything I’ve endured, my hope remains unshaken and unshakeable.

QUESTIONS:

  • What specific comfort have you received that you could share with others?
  • Is God placing people in your path who need that comfort?
  • How might you do that? Where can you share your story?
  • If you are already sharing, do you edit yourself so that the hard places don’t seem so hard? Why or why not?
  • Are you afraid to share the darkness you felt/feel because you think it undermines God’s reputation?

PRAYER:

Father God, open the eyes of my heart so that even in the darkest place, the most desolate path, I see Your light and feel Your Presence.

You don’t ask me to deny pain or to pretend that things are “just fine” when they aren’t. You only ask that I bring all my broken bits and heartache to You. When I choose to do that, You are faithful to minister love, grace, mercy and comfort to my spirit and renew my strength.

Help me hold onto hope. Help me to lean into love. Teach me to trust Your truth even when it’s hard.

Take my life and turn it into a testimony of Your faithfulness. Make my misery a ministry to others. Give me beauty for ashes.

Amen

In Love’s Service, Only Wounded Soldiers Will Do

So often we hide our wounds.

Sometimes it’s because others have shamed us into covering up.  Sometimes it’s because our hearts have been stomped on by folks who might mean well but really don’t understand what it’s like to live every day with a messy and unfinished story.

But there’s no shame in being broken. 

And we have no obligation to pretend for those that are uncomfortable with our wounds and our sorrow.

In fact, there is no greater invitation to the good news that Jesus came to redeem and restore than a person whose life makes plain that they are depending on Him for that very promise.

only wounded soldiers will do

 

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