Welcome to my Lenten Blog!
From Ash Wednesday to Easter, I will be offering a series of daily reflections based on the Lectionary readings. I will check in with you each Sunday to post a batch of devotions for the coming week. As you read these humble insights, may you rest in the presence of Christ and find hope for your Lenten journey of faith.
Ash Wednesday- March 1, 2017
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6: 1-6
I begin most mornings working out on a treadmill at the local gym where sixteen television screens flash before my eyes. Each channel is a beam of news, weather, and captioned commentary. My gym-mates talk on their cell phones while pedaling bikes and lifting weights. Meanwhile, rock music blares and I keep running.
Screens, ringtones, noise, and movement are part of our modern culture. But as we begin Lent, Jesus beckons us to un-plug ourselves from the flash of life.
In our readings for today, we are invited to slip away to our “inner room” and “close the door.” It’s an invitation to meet Jesus each day, in the solitude of prayer. But for most of us, this is easier said than done. How do we begin to un-distract ourselves?
Consider creating an “inner room” in your home. Try removing all clutter from a spare room or corner and set up a small table with a cloth and pretty candle. Consecrate the space to the Lord and let it become your sanctuary from sounds and screens. Decide on a prayer time that works for you, even if it’s only a few moments a day.
In the silence, perhaps you might ask: Lord where are you leading me? What doors do you want to open? What changes do I need to make? Ask for what you need, and pray for the needs of others. When it’s totally quiet, you might hear yourself say: Thank you Lord…
In the inner room of your heart, there won’t be any flashy commercials or ring tones. Your only distraction will be God.
Lord, show me what an undistracted life might look like. Lead me to the pastures of your presence. Let me find peace in you.
March 2, 2017
Moses said to the people:
“Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom”
Deuteronomy 30: 15-20
The word doom, per Webster’s thesaurus means “ruined, cursed, sentenced or wrecked.” When a loved one passes away or we face a financial or health crisis, it’s natural to say: “What have I done to deserve this? I’m ruined!”
When I speak to grief groups, many of the folks who listen to my message are newly bereaved and the feeling of doom is palpable. Having lost a child myself, I begin my presentations by sharing some simple ways to make it through the first year of grief. Since I’m not a psychologist, I simply encourage the participants to make an important choice each morning: Choose to get up. Drawing from my own story, I offer this humble advice: “Take your first step, and then another and another. Even if you only walk to the kitchen, each step is a proclamation of hope.”
During these Lenten weeks, it’s important to remember that we are not a doomed people. When it’s hard to rise from our pain, Jesus gives us strength to carry our cross, even if it’s a short distance. As we move forward in faith, we are never cursed or wrecked. On the contrary, we are beloved children of God and the cross we carry is hope.
Lord, help me to choose life and prosperity, not death and doom. In the soft light of hope, let me carry my cross. Move me forward in the power of your grace.
March 3, 2017
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry. Isaiah 58 1-9
Each day, we are given opportunities to “set free the oppressed.” Recently, I was presented with one of the opportunities at the mall.
That afternoon, I was shopping at a large department store. I had just painted my bathroom and I wanted to find a few new accessories to brighten up the space. After rummaging through a bin of towels, I laid a couple of small rugs out on the floor. A young woman in her twenties was working nearby, her hair pulled back in a ponytail.
“Thanks so much for all your hard work.” I told her She looked a lot like my daughters and maybe that’s why I was drawn to her.
“My mama used to say that blessings can be found anywhere, even at work.”
“You must have a good mom.” I told her.
Tears began welling up in her eyes.
My mom died two months ago, she had cancer…
Private prayers rose within me and for a moment, it felt like she was own child. I hugged her and let her cry. “It’s okay” I whispered.
After a few moments, she regained her composure and dutifully began stocking sheets on a shelf.
“I like the blue rug the best.” The young woman said, pointing to one of the rugs I had spread out on the floor.
“Me too.” I replied.
As I left the store I felt grateful for our encounter. Like so many people, that young woman was oppressed by a very deep and private pain. My role that day was to share a mother’s love. Nothing more. In doing so, she was freed, at least momentarily, of carrying her pain alone. The blessing was returned as I never grow tired of being a mom.
In today’s readings, we are reminded to “set free” the oppressed. As we go about our daily errands and schedules, let us be open to the people we meet on our journey. Someone may need to be set free.
Dear Lord, help me to recognize that every moment has the potential for holiness. Lead me to those who are most in need of your mercy. Let my daily plans be interrupted with yours.
March 4, 2017
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails. Isaiah 58: 9-14
Renewal often happens in our weakest moments. I discovered this years ago, on the night before our first child had open heart surgery. While praying in a hospital chapel, a quiet terror rose up inside of me. What if something goes wrong in surgery? What if she dies?
Any parent who has surrendered their child to surgery knows that it’s a feeling of complete helplessness. Mothers are especially vulnerable to this unique brand of fear. We are like protective bears and when we can’t rescue our children, we defy an instinct to shield and protect our cubs.
“I will be with you…” I heard the Lord say as I knelt in the chapel. In the silence, I took a deep breath. Imagining the Lords arms outstretched to me, I could only utter a one-word prayer: Help…
My baby lived through the surgery and I learned an unforgettable lesson that remains with me all these years later. When we are weak, God will renew our strength.
Our blessed mother is a perfect example of this. When her son was crucified, the scriptures tell us that she “stood” before his cross. I don’t know about you, but I probably would’ve collapsed into a fetal position. How could any mother endure what she endured? Yet, in Mary’s weakest, darkest, scariest moment, her feet remained firmly planted. At the cross, she was given the strength to stand.
If your faith feels weak and unsteady, consider repeating these five words like a mantra: He will renew my strength. Think of our Blessed mother and trust that God will help you to stand.
Lord, when life gets hard, let me stand on the hallowed ground of faith. In times of weakness, be my strength.
March 5, 2017
The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being. Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Minnesotans are a hearty people. During our long winters, wind chills often dip to twenty and thirty below zero. Though we live in a land of frostbite, we call ourselves survivors. We know how to dress in layers and most of us pack blankets and jumper cables in the trunk of our cars. When the wind howls, we aren’t alarmed if our eyelashes turn to ice or our breath freezes into a white mist. In frozen solidarity, we inhale and exhale the frigid air of life.
Sometimes, the season of Lent can feel like a long winter. During these weeks, we must journey through the cold winds of sin and repentance. As we shiver at the cross, God wraps us in a blanket of forgiveness. There, he blows the “breath of life” into our “nostrils” and we inhale his mercy. We are survivors, alive and forgiven, waiting for Easter joy.
Today, imagine the Lord filling you with the breath of life. Close your eyes and take a deep, full breath. Quietly, reverently, exhale. Do this slowly for five to ten times. As you become more aware of God’s presence, invite the Lord to guide you in prayer.
Lord, Revive me. Let me inhale your presence and the peace that passes all understanding. Fill me with the promise of new life.