Lenten Reflections: Christ in Me, The Hope of Glory

We began this journey forty days ago with the idea “Decrease is only holy when its destination is love” (Alicia Britt Chole).

The aim of Lent or any other period of fasting or self-denial is not to thin our waists but to thin our self-reliance and our self-importance to make room for the power and sustaining grace of Jesus-to open our hearts and our souls to His love.

When I force myself to face my own helplessness to sweep away sin, sift through selfishness and sort out bad habits and unholy thoughts I realize how utterly dependent I am on the work Christ wrought on the cross.

Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise. 16 If I am doing the things I have already decided not to do, I am agreeing with the law regarding what is good. 17 But now I am no longer the one acting—I’ve lost control—sin has taken up residence in me and is wreaking havoc. 18 I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. 19 I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do. 

Romans 7: 15-19 VOICE

So today I am celebrating the fact-the historical, spiritual and eternal FACT-that everything necessary for life and liberty and hope and eternal salvation has been accomplished.

Christ has died.

Christ has risen.

Christ will come again.

Dominic is dead. His body lies a mile down the road and six feet under the earth.

But that’s not the end of his story.

His spirit is alive with Christ and one day his body will be resurrected in glory.

And one day-one glorious Day-“every sad thing will come untrue” (Child’s Storybook Bible).

I can’t wait!

Lenten Reflections: Refusing Shame-Christ Died For This

If you’ve ever woken in the night only to have every thing you’ve left undone or done poorly or done selfishly line up like pointing fingers across your eyelids then you know the power of shame.

If you, like me, have buried a child, you know the long hours between when you hear the news and can once again touch the earthly shell of your loved one drag on and are fertile ground for what ifs, should haves and could haves.

Shame is a powerful emotion. It declares me unworthy of love, affection and even consideration.

Shame is undoubtedly what drove Peter back to his old fishing habits having denied the Master he swore to love unto death.

And shame can keep me prisoner behind walls of self-protection that aren’t really effective at all.

But I don’t have to accept those feelings, I don’t have to listen to those voices and I don’t have to live behind a stone rolled in front of my past.

Christ died for this…He not only bore my sin but also my shame. He not only died to bear my punishment, He rose to declare the debt has been paid in full!

Jesus did not merely dust me off and iron out a few of the more stubborn wrinkles in my life. He saved me because I was in desperate need of saving. I am alive only because He lives.

Alicia Britt Chole

When the women went to the tomb only to find the stone rolled away and an angel declaring the Good News, their lives were changed in an instant. There was no longer any need to live in the despair of death and fear.

And when I receive the new life God offers me in Christ, I am changed in precisely the same way. It certainly isn’t as earth shattering (literally-there was an earthquake!) nor as dramatic (no angelic visitor here) but it is just as real.

The women didn’t feel like they needed to keep visiting that tomb repeatedly to prove to themselves Jesus had risen. It was fact and they lived in light of what they knew to be true from that moment forward.

I don’t need to keep revisiting my dead sins and past mistakes either.

Jesus has carried them away.

I am free to live in the resurrected life I share with Him.

Is shame standing watch over any dead things in your life? Jesus died to forgive you-follow His example and forgive yourself. Fast guarding that tomb. Let an earthquake or an angel roll away the stone so that you can see that nothing is there anymore. It is empty. Jesus conquered it. Jesus removed it. All that is there now is light and hope.

Alicia Britt Chole

Lenten Reflections: Fasting Escapism, Being Present to Pain

Once the stone was rolled in front of the tomb there was no more denying the fact that whatever the disciples thought Jesus was going to do was not at all what He did.

None of them thought the story was going to end like this and yet here they were having buried their Master and their dreams.

Most of us can relate to a time when we thought our dreams were God’s dreams and we were on the path to victory only to round the next bend and head straight to defeat-or worse.

The eternal weight of the space between Jesus’ death and resurrection will only be known on the other side of this life, for the scriptural references are filled with both majesty and mystery. Though Jesus’ full assignment in those days is beyond comprehension, the disciples’ disillusionment is not.

Alicia Britt Chole

It can be tempting to try to distract our hearts from the pain of failure, dashed dreams, death, rejection or other hard-to-process feelings.

But that’s not how to heal.

If we pay close attention to what the disciples did in the wake of Jesus’ death, we see modeled a better way:

  • They gave themselves permission to bury the dream. It’s important to acknowledge and commemorate loss. That’s one of the reasons we have societal rituals surrounding death. It’s not about hopelessness, it’s about accepting reality. A heart needs to mark these moments.
  • They returned home to rest. “Rest is essential-a need, not a luxury” (Chole, 204). So often we seek frantic activity when faced with loss. We move our bodies in hopes it will distract our minds. But it never works. We may be able to push off the pain for a time yet it won’t be ignored forever. It’s so much better to give our bodies and souls the rest they need so we can process pain from a place of relative strength rather than exhaustion.
  • They didn’t isolate themselves. The disciples remained in community with one another. They intentionally maintained relationships. It is so easy to look for the nearest corner where we can lick our individual wounds. But telling, retelling and sharing our sorrow creates space for mutual healing.

Most of us will not see the resurrection of our dreams within three days. In fact, some of our dreams are sown for future generations to reap. Even then, obedience is never a waste; it is an investment in a future we cannot see. When we dream with God, our dreams-even in burial-are not lost; they are planted. God never forgets the ‘kernel of wheat [that] falls to the ground and dies’ (John 12:24).

What grows from that painful planting is God’s business. But sowing in faith is ours and, like the early disciples, our faithfulness is never sown in vain.

Alicia Britt Chole

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, part of me wanted to run away too. There were moments when I thought if I could just get started and keep going I’d reach someplace where the pain couldn’t reach me.

But that simply isn’t true.

I had to face the fact my son wasn’t coming home. I had to face the reality that I’d live the rest of my life in expectant hope, waiting for the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to redeem and restore.

Like that kernel of wheat, I had to choose to plant my dreams in the soil of God’s faithful love, extravagant grace and abundant mercy, trusting Him to make them grow.

Lenten Reflections: Relinquishing My Voice and Choosing Silent Meditation          

We live in a noisy world.  If we happen to be in a quiet place, we bring our noise boxes with us our pockets. 

Does anyone go anywhere without their phone?

Connectivity invites us to constant interaction with others and only the rare, out of the way, unconnected corner leaves us to contemplate our own thoughts or our own feelings. 

Yet we need to seek silence.  We need to sit with our inner selves and reflect on the work of Christ in our hearts. 

If the enemy forces us to give up quietness, we must not listen to him.  For nothing is like quietness and abstinence from food.  They combine to fight together against him.  For they give keen insight to the inner eyes.

Abba Doulas, c. 3rd Century

Grief is brutal.

Dominic’s death and burial so closely following the pattern of Holy Week has led to superimposing my own experience on that of the disciples and Mary. 

When Christ was declared truly dead, taken from the cross and laid in a borrowed grave it surely must have felt as if there was no hope.  This Rabbi, this Miracle Worker, this Man of God who claimed to be the Son of God had not stopped evil men from wrongly accusing Him, wrongly convicting Him and wrongly putting Him to death. 

I don’t have to imagine how that felt. 

Dominic was killed late Friday night/early Saturday morning.  Days of silent waiting filled the space between when I knew and when I could finally see his body. 

If I could have filled that time with distracting noise I would have. 

But there is no sound that can drown out grief. 

I often imagine the company of those who loved Jesus sitting silent in a room together each with his or her own thoughts.  What was there to say?


Today, Chole invites us to fast our voice-spoken and written-and to make space to hear our own thoughts as well as the still, small whisper of the Lord.

It’s no coincidence that communities honor the fallen with a moment of silence. 

In that sacred silence we are drawn together and also forced to face our separate sense of loss, fear, hope-or lack of hope- and mortality.  It is an exercise we frequently shun but should instead embrace. 

Today I encourage you to sit in silence with your own loss, with the hope and light of the gospel, with the promise that every bad thing, every wicked thing, everything the enemy means for evil will one day be irrevocably and beautifully be undone and redeemed.

Have you ever been silenced by a painting, symphony or play? Have you ever been moved so deeply by an experience that words failed you and the only worthy offering was silence?  In fasting our voice we are focusing-not remotely emptying-our minds to behold Jesus with love….Join the disciples today in beholding Jesus in His death.

Alicia Britt Chole

Lenten Reflections: Choosing Reckless Love

I love, love, love the song “Reckless Love” but I have friends who find even the title offensive.

I tend not to get into debates with folks over things like that but this is one gauntlet I’m happy to bend down and pick up.

Because the word “reckless” has more than one meaning.

In this instance the lyrics don’t refer to crazy, undisciplined, random action but instead to abundant, overwhelming, extravagant action unrestrained by concern it may be rewarded in any way.

This is the love of God in Christ demonstrated by the cross and resurrection.

It was also the love shown by Joseph of Arimathea when he boldly petitioned Pilate for Jesus’ body, prepared it according to Jewish burial customs and placed it in his own (costly and newly hewn) tomb. By doing so he was declaring Jesus’ death an honorable one-an act that was akin to blasphemy or treason since Jesus had been labelled an enemy of God and of the Roman state.

It was totally reckless.

Joseph risked his reputation and possible his freedom to honor a dead man…Joseph of Arimathea gave Jesus his resting place. It was a treasured, costly space reserved for himself, but Joseph gifted it to Jesus. Further, Joseph gave this risk-laden treasure to Jesus at a time when Jesus could not-from Joseph’s perspective-do anything else for him.

Alicia Britt Chole

I’m ashamed to say that I often withhold love, help and encouragement from others because I deem them unworthy or I fear being taken advantage of. What if they can’t return the investment?

Without getting into a theological debate, Jesus’ sacrifice was and is sufficient for ALL sin. His blood was poured out without regard to merit (because for whom would He have then died?). His love IS reckless-abundant, overwhelming, extravagant-without concern for whether or not it will be reciprocated.

And this same love is poured out on me and can be poured out through me if I respond to the Spirit’s call.

So today’s fast is withholding.

What part of my heart or life am I withholding from the One who died to save me?

What gift has He extravagantly given that I am hoarding?

Where am I damming up His goodness, mercy, grace and love instead of pouring it out on others?

Joseph’s actions stir something within me: an ache possible too deep for words….Whatever part of me I have reserved for me-for my self-I long to give it away to Jesus. When we offer to Jesus the place we have reserved for ourselves, He surprises us by filling that space with His resurrected life. By offering his resting place to Jesus, Joseph transformed a tomb from a place of death for himself into a place of victory for his God.

Alicia Britt Chole

Lenten Reflections: Proximity Does Not Equal Intimacy

Hey friend-I’ve been there.

Many of us who’ve spent decades in church can attest to filling a position because it answered a need deep inside of us rather than because of our love for Jesus.

It’s entirely possible to be near the things and people of God-even God Himself- and not be attentive to or aware of the Presence of Christ.

There were lots of folks around the cross.

Some were paid to be there-for the Roman guards it was just another day at work. Some were there against their will-the two thieves were going to be crucified somewhere it just happened to be next to the Son of God.

Some wished they weren’t there as they watched their son (Mary) and beloved rabbi (John) die. Some were just walking by and were either curious or not depending on their dispositions.

Today Chole invites me to think about where I am in relation to the cross-am I near but not listening?

Am I “doing” but not “loving”?

Is my body occupying a pew or a pulpit while my spirit is far away?

Paid to be close to Jesus: nearest and yet farthest away. The paycheck can change your perspective whether paid in cash or praise. The soldiers valued Jesus’ stuff more than His life. As they kept themselves busy around the cross, they numbed themselves to His voice.

Today, fast God-as-job. Whether your check comes from a church or not, consider ways in which you, too, may be near in body but absent in spirit, taking care of Jesus’ stuff but now attending to His voice. Proximity does not automate intimacy. Only love transforms “near” into “for”.

Alicia Britt Chole

Lenten Reflections: Living Like Jesus Already Knows My Heart

I did not grow up in an ultra-religious family although we were most definitely Christian.

So unlike some of my friends, I didn’t have a bunch of rules surrounding lifestyle choices that are not explicitly addressed in Scripture (i.e. length of dresses, makeup/no makeup, movies, music, etc.). But one thing was definitely impressed on me: You didn’t take the name of the Lord in vain-not even with “softer” stand-ins like “dad gum it”.

By the time I had kids, I had done considerable Scripture study and managed to draw up a list of “do’s and don’t’s” that might put the most strict holiness traditions to shame.

But something I’ve learned in the decades since is that whether or not I’m participating in mocking Jesus has more to do with my heart attitude than *just* my outward behavior.

Now it is absolutely a fact that my external, observable acts flow from internal, unobservable attitudes. But they are not always as congruent as one might like to think.

By an act of will, I can look holy while still harboring very unholy thoughts, beliefs and attitudes.

Sincere Prayer

When I try to appear holy, act as if my omniscient, omnipresent God cannot see my heart and compare it to my outward appearance, I am mocking Jesus. I am making His sacrifice small-behaving as if my own sin is inconsequential.

It’s not a thought that comes naturally to me because I tend to justify and rationalize my own behavior.

But every single time I choose self over my Lord, I am mocking Him as surely as those who struck Him, called Him names and dared Him to come down from the cross.

Today, Chole invites us to consider all the ways we may join in on the acts that we read about and are grieved over-the many ways others mocked Jesus in His last hours.

Is it not odd in a generation that rarely blinks at fictional violence sold as ‘entertainment’ that we spend relatively little time considering the all-too-real suffering of our Savior?…Fast mocking Jesus? Who would ever do such a think in the first place? Perhaps we would when we, like Annas’ official are more concerned with saving face than honoring truth. Perhaps we would when we, like the religious leaders, act as though Jesus is blindfolded and cannot see what we are doing. Perhaps we would when we, like the guards, use one of Jesus’ names in vain. Perhaps we mock Him more than we know.

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: In Christ Alone My Hope is Found

We all have blind spots.

Every one of us has fault lines buried deep within our character. Often it takes life-altering and worldview shattering events to reveal them.

That’s what happened to Peter.

After proclaiming his loving loyalty even to death, Peter went from defending Jesus (cutting off the servant’s ear in the Garden) to denying Him (three times before the rooster crowed).

Peter wept because Peter loved. Peter’s illusion was not that he loved Jesus. Peter’s illusion was that he loved Jesus more than he loved his own life.

Alicia Britt Chole

Earthquakes are scary but they reveal underlying and undetected weak areas in buildings.

Emotional earthquakes are just as frightening because they reveal underlying, undetected and unacknowledged weak spots in my heart, character and relationship with Jesus and others.

None of this is news to God. He already knows.

Then the question becomes: What am I going to do with this newfound knowledge? How am I going to release my will to the will of the Father? Can I choose to be pliable under the Potter’s skillful hand?

Peter could not see his fault line. But Jesus did. In the same way, we do not fully know our hearts. But Jesus does. Today, fast self-confidence and rest deeply in Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will ‘guide you into all the truth’ (John 16:13)

Alicia Britt Chole

Am I truly trusting in Christ alone?

**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 Fear, Believing Jesus

There is SO much meat in today’s devotion/reflection/challenge.

Once Jesus had wrestled His own will to the ground, submitted fully to the Father’s will and accepted that He would have to drink the bitter cup, and firmly faced cross-ward, He was safe from intimidation.

As Chole points out “Fear is intimidation’s oxygen”.

My enemies-spiritual or physical-can exploit whatever I fear and leverage it to intimidate me.

Jesus was totally free.

Safe and secure in the center of the Father’s will He was free from manipulation and intimidation. He was NOT safe and secure from pain or sorrow or trauma (He did not escape any of those things) but He chose to rest in the promise that no matter what man did to Him, His Father was in control.

Oh, how I long to be completely free of fear and thus free from the power of others to intimidate and manipulate me!

It’s so hard when I know precisely how painful the worst IS to resist the enemy of my soul’s taunts. Satan will tempt me (like he did Jesus in the wilderness) to test God and try to escape pain by whatever means are possible, even if they are outside the will of the Lord.

So I remind myself that Jesus (because He was fully God) KNEW what was coming, could feel what was coming (because He was fully man) and yet clung to His Father’s good, good character and love.

Fear is a liar and a bully.

But God’s perfect love casts it out when I listen to His song over my heart.

What do you fear? Being misunderstood or misrepresented? Being unwanted or unneeded? Illness or injury? Today, seek to fast intimidation by not letting fear bully you.

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 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.**

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