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: Letting Go of Premature Resolution and Learning Obedience

Obedience is not a moment: it is a process connected by countless moments. Jesus neither started nor finished obeying in John 12. Thanks to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and John’s pen, what we witness in John 12 is a deeply significant (but not stand alone) moment in Jesus’ journey of becoming ‘obedient to death-even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:8).

Alicia Britt Chole

One of the things I regret most in life is when I’ve had the opportunity to be honest about my own struggles but refused to share because I thought it was “holier” to act like I never had a hard time taking hold of God’s promises or living out my faith.

Holy is hard.

Being set apart for the purposes and glory of God is going to involve some real wrestling.

But it’s the every day habit of leaning in, taking hold and choosing obedience (along with the Holy Spirit’s enabling power) that will ultimately give me strength to obey and follow even when the path is dark.

Someone said, “Faith is a long obedience in the same direction”.

I love that.

Each day, sometimes each moment, I must choose obedience. It doesn’t come naturally.

I can’t rush it though. I have to bring my confusion, my hurt, my questions to Jesus and allow Him to guide my heart toward understanding (or if not understanding, trust IN SPITE of doubt).

If I try to fake it (prematurely “resolve” the issue) then I’m doomed.

Doubt and fear will surface again and sweep me off the path of obedience if I don’t acknowledge them and deal with them.

So for today, think about what doubts, fears, questions and concerns you’ve been sweeping under the rug.

Drag them into the light and allow the Lord to help you deal with them.

**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.**

Through The Fog and Dark: A Poem

Through the fog and dark and limits of my sight

I hear birds singing

as they welcome the day

I still can’t see.

Read the rest here: Through The Fog And Dark

Grief Is A Forest of Sorrow

One of the things I realized early on this journey was that I did not possess the vocabulary for the deep pain, unbearable sorrow and relentless longing I was experiencing.

So I sought out quotes, fellow travelers and groups of others who shared this awful path.

It helped.

It didn’t take away the pain but it gave me words to express it. It gave me courage to believe I could survive it.

I will never forget those who chose to come back with a torch in the dark and light the way.

There are so many ways to describe grief.

So many ways individual hearts walk this path.

For many of us there’s a sense of being locked in time, stuck in space, unable to leave the moment one received the news or the few days before and after.

It’s maddening that the earth still turns, the sun still rises and people go on with life when in so many ways our world is frozen in place.

Read the rest here: Forest of Sorrow

Lenten Reflections: Making Space For REAL Light

Today’s fast is artificial light.

Without reading ahead I kind of stepped on today’s reflection. Chole describes John’s prison questions this way: “the distance between what John thought Jesus would do and what Jesus actually did was straining John’s certainty of who Jesus was.”

Oh, my! How well I can identify with this feeling!

I’ve told anyone who will listen that when Dominic was killed I dragged a lifetime of what I thought I knew and understood about God into the light of child loss. It absolutely strained my certainty of who Jesus is.

And my questions made some folks uncomfortable just as John’s question makes some Bible teachers uncomfortable.

Too often we want to shush or shout down the hearts that are simply trying to make some sense of things that neither make sense nor seem (on the surface) to reflect the loving heart of a Faithful Father.

A key invitation of our spiritual journeys is to be emotionally honest about our uncertainties. Questions such as the one asked by John are signs of a living, growing, active faith, not evidence of a dying one. Jesus’ calm response to John echoes to us today: ‘Recall what I have done in the past. Accept me as the Great I Am of your future.’

Alicia Britt Chole

Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “Hall of Faith”.

For today’s Lenten exercise, Chole suggests laying aside screens and electric lights to read that chapter by candlelight this evening.

I highly recommend it! Do it aloud if you are able.

Speaking the names, the circumstances, the journeys of those whose hearts trusted the heart of the Lord who made them and who led them but who also allowed hardship, disappointment and even death, is breathtaking and heartbreaking.

But it puts my life in context of His bigger story.

Redemption, restoration, re-creation and the ultimate Sabbath rest of eternal glory and perfect relationship.

God needs nothing, asks nothing and demands nothing, like the stars. It is life with God which demands these things…. You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however you want to look at the stars, you will find that the darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require it nor demand it.

Annie Dillard

**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.**

I Can Be Fierce Without Being Fractious

It’s funny how child loss has, at the same time, made me more yielding and more steadfast.

I give in without a moment’s hesitation to other people’s choice in where to go for lunch, what to do for birthdays, how to arrange this or that at church.  My brain simply doesn’t have the capacity any more to argue over trifles.

But I will stand up to a lion for the sake of love or to protect a hurting heart.

Read the rest here: How To Be Fierce Without Being Fractious

Empty Hearts Can Be Filled

There is no shame in being hopeless and broken.

God loves the broken.  Christ came for the broken.  It’s the broken and breathless who long for the Spirit to blow life across their wounded hearts.

It’s the hopeless and fearful that run faster to the safety of their Shepherd.

It’s the worried and weary who are thankful for a Burden-bearer.

Christmas is the story of Hope entering the world, of Light shining forth in darkness, of Love overcoming death.

A heart has to be looking to find it.

A heart has to be desperate to believe it.

A heart has to be hungry to come to the table of everlasting bread.

Read the rest here: Qualified by Hopelessness: An Empty Heart Can Be Filled

Christmas 2021: Why I Still Put Up a Christmas Tree

Yesterday I confessed that I was already exhausted and we were barely into December!

But I managed to drag the tree down from the attic and adorned it with the faith fortifying ornaments I’ve acquired since Dominic left us seven plus years ago.

I didn’t finish making things sparkle but I did make a dent in it.

Tomorrow is another day but tonight I will sit and savor the twinkling lights that remind me darkness doesn’t win.

❤ Melanie

It’s a question every hurting heart has to answer if you celebrate a traditional western Christmas:  Will I put up a tree this year?

christmas-tree-melanie-edited

I had a few months of lonely travel through the Valley of the Shadow of Death before I had to answer that one.

Dominic left us at Easter, so by December I had learned that wishing didn’t make anything better nor did it make decisions disappear.

As Christmas drew near, I just could not bring down the usual decorations from the attic.

So I didn’t.

Read the rest here: Why I Still Put Up a Christmas Tree

You Can Be The Difference!

It’s so easy to withdraw and hide.

It’s so easy to decide that since the world isn’t what I want it to be, I’ll just ignore the greater “out there” and create my own little corner filled with people and things that suit my preferences.

But that’s not who I’m called to be.

Read the rest here: Be The Difference

The Moment the Light Makes it Through Again

A couple of years ago, I had a grace-filled, heartwarming visit with another bereaved mama who came all the way from Maine just to hang out with me. And that was so, so good.

As she and I shared over coffee and tea, shopping and meals, lounging and walking we found so many ways in which our journeys have been similar even though the details are really very different.

One is this: There was a distinct moment along the way when each of us began to see light and color again in the midst of our darkness and pain and it was a turning point.

Read the rest here: There’s A Moment When The Light Makes It Through Again

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