Lent 2020: I Pray…

“Did you know that God is always listening to you? Did you know that God can hear the quietest whisper deep inside your heart, even before you’ve started to say it? Because God knows exactly what you need even before you ask him…. So when you pray, pray in your normal voice, just like when you’re talking to someone you love very much.”

Well, that’s really great news, Jesus, because we hear so much bad news. The world, our lives, have filled up with so much uncertainty that we don’t always know what to say. We don’t always know what to think or how to feel or even what to do next.

I’m so grateful that God is always listening. I’m grateful that He knows the quietest whisper deep in my heart. I am grateful that He knows what I need, because I’m not always very good at knowing what I need.

Jesus, I pray for all those who are sick; comfort them and their loved ones. I pray for those who serve the sick. Thank you for the helpers. Keep them well so they can continue helping. I pray for those who feel anxious. I pray for those who have lost jobs. I pray for those who are working from home, especially if they’re also caring for little ones. I pray for parents who are suddenly cast in the role of school teacher. I pray for students who feel the weight of isolation, doing their best to learn using new formats. I pray for the bored and confused children cooped up at home instead of playing on playgrounds. I pray for the scientists working on cures, and I pray for world leaders to be wise in their recommendations.

I pray for peace. I pray for unity. I pray for the whole world to feel your presence. I pray for your Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love to reach every person and fill up every heart.

Amen.

 

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Reading: March 2020

One might reasonably expect that a bookish individual would, during a pandemic that requires shelter-in-place, escape into a stack of books. I am realizing, slowly, that all reasonable expectations might as well hurl themselves out of windows.

Harsh, but also sorta true. The world has spun off its axis and, while I’m mostly fine, there are moments, hours, days when nothing at all feels right. I could, I should, take advantage of this abundance of time to read, to write, to create. Instead, I tumble headlong down the black hole of social media. I start and stop various projects, leaving trails behind me. I read, just not as much as I could.

As this becomes the new normal, at least for now, I’m inching toward adjusting as well as one can. I’m reading more, finishing rather than merely starting projects. Appreciating both the sunny and rainy days as they come. Being gentle with myself and others.

How are you holding up? How are you filling the days? Perhaps I can offer some suggestions.

GoldGold by Chris Cleave
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cleave is an exceptional writer, stringing together words in gorgeous ways to tell engaging stories. I loved Little Bee. Gold was entertaining and I ripped through it, but it wasn’t nearly as compelling as his previous book.

The Garden of Small BeginningsThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I adore Abbi Waxman! This one wasn’t quite as good as The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, but it still grabbed me from the start and kept me engaged till the end. I have a brown thumb, and still this made me want to garden. Spring is here- let’s do this!

The Magician's AssistantThe Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As the COVID-19 quarantine came down and I didn’t have sufficient library books, I combed through my shelves to find something I hadn’t read that could take my mind off current events. This fit the bill. It wasn’t as good as State of Wonder. Also slightly predictable, with an anti-climactic ending. Still, Week #1 of containment done and this helped.

Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning GodMiracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God by Sarah Bessey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve now read all of Sarah’s books and this is her best. Oh-so-vulnerable, gut-wrenching, thoughtful, loving… I cried with her all through Rome, and hope I will always keep the image of her heel-crushed tulips carefully woven into the Easter cross, right where they belong. Bravo, Sarah, for writing your journey so that we may be blessed through your suffering.

“…learn what it is to be an ordinary miracle” (202)

“May you be swept off your feet by the goodness and welcome of God, the ferocious love and friendship of Jesus, the delight and disruptions of the Holy Spirit. May you love because you were loved first” (211)

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry GirlsThe Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shelve this one under “the sins of the parents will be visited to the third generation” (Exodus 34:6-7).

During shelter-in-place, I’m learning to use my library’s online services. This book was available now to read on Kindle so I clicked on it. I’m glad I did. Fully developed characters, a compelling, multi-generational family story. So sad and yet hopeful.

View all my reviews

Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases. 

Cover image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

Lent 2020: We Need Him a Lot

…the people God uses don’t have to know a lot of things, or have a lot of things–they just have to need him a lot.
Jesus called out to them, “Let’s go!”

My creative collaborator and I created a day-by-day prayer card to guide our church and unify our prayers during Lent. Of course we had no idea how the world would change from the time we created it to its actual season of use. I’ve been struck repeatedly at how God directed the choice of prayer prompts to specific days. For example, our first week of shelter-in-place included praying for patience, trust, hope, joy, love, and faith; the second week began with perseverance and also included kindness, humility, and flexibility—all qualities we need heaping doses of these days.

I tucked the prayer card into my Jesus Storybook Bible as a bookmark/prayer reminder. Today while I read, I couldn’t help hearing my working-from-home pastor-husband on a call discussing the numbers of people in our church and community who need help as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and how our church is preparing to mobilize in response. The conversation moved on to our local and global mission partners struggling to meet the needs of those they serve, and who quite sadly may be unable to continue by the time the pandemic has run its course.

Today’s prayer prompt is to pray for those who need help…

Jesus, we all need help. We all need you a lot, now more than ever. Help the helpers, Lord, and be extra-especially present to all those who need help in body and soul. Amen.

Now come on, helpers. Let’s go do what we can do!

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Lent 2020: Walking Like The Wise Men

The three Wise Men…rode their camels across endless desserts, up steep, steep mountains, down into deep, deep valleys, through raging rivers, over grassy plains, night and day, and day and night, for hours that turned into days, that turned into weeks, that turned into months and months, until, at last, they reached…Jerusalem.

During our church’s Christmas Eve Family Service, we use The Jesus Storybook Bible as our Scripture readings while children in costume act out the roles. The Wise Men’s scene makes me laugh as kids follow the leader this way and that, up and down and around the aisles, back to front and front to back, and back to the front once again.

These days I feel like the Wise Men, walking my dogs endlessly through our neighborhood—up and down steep hills, across bridges beneath which gentle streams flow, past neighbors’ green lawns or along the paved golf cart trail at the local country club. This way and that, day and night, day after day, weeks turning to months, changing it up to keep us all interested. It’s the only time we leave the house during shelter-in-place.

Walking feels necessary, a balm to body and soul, keeping anxiety at bay. Enjoying the blooming of flowers, the sun and breeze on my skin, the repetitive movement. Laughing at the pleasure my dogs take in endless loops.

Even as I walk away, I know my road will always lead me back home. Still, as I read again this description of the Wise Men on their journey, I realized that my walks can lead me to Jerusalem. To Jesus. To a treasure hunt for gratitude right smack in the middle of a world-wide crisis.

I am grateful: for the beauty of nature right here in our walkable neighborhood. For my dogs. For my husband who often walks with me. For the many, many neighbors we have met along the way—at a six-foot distance (a leash length)—people we don’t regularly see in the middle of the work-a-day week. For acts of kindness. For time to rest. For laughter. For our health. For all those who serve others selflessly. For technology that keeps us connected when we can’t meet together face-to-face. For online yoga and library resources. For family. For home. For Jesus.

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Lent 2020: Light in the Darkness

Mary and Joseph named him Jesus, “Emmanuel” — which means “God has come to live with us.”
Because, of course, he had.
This baby would be…a Light to light up the whole world. Chasing away darkness. Helping people to see.
And the darker the night got, the brighter the star would shine.

Our county implemented mandatory shelter-in-place, and within days the Governor of California put the whole state on lock down. For how long: two weeks? Three? Two months? Longer? What does that mean? (Social media has lit up with people asking: “Can we do this, or that, or the other?” To a mixed bag of responses). What will it mean for life once the ban lifts?

People have begun putting Christmas lights back up as a way to spread cheer. I love the idea, although I’m not sure who will be out and about to see them. Still, we seek light in the dark.

Whether we like it or not, we’re all at home. Which makes me so grateful for the reminder that Jesus, Emmanuel, has come to live with us.

Years ago someone prayed for me that I would be aware of Jesus dancing for joy in the heart of my home. I’m praying that for myself–and for all of us–in these uncertain times.

We don’t know how long this will go on. We don’t know what will happen after, how businesses and jobs and students who can’t be in schools will be affected. Uncertainty can lead to fear. I’m choosing to focus on the bright light of Jesus, joyfully dancing right here in our midst.

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Lent 2020: The Wonderful Stories

All day they listened to stories about the wonderful things God had done for his people….How he rescued them — no matter what, time after time, over and over again — because of his Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

Stories are my favorite. I love to read. But during scary times, I can’t read scary stories. Or sad stories, for that matter. During scary times, I need happy, playful, light stories. Stories of love and laughter.

Ezra read the Law to God’s people and they cried as they recognized how far they had strayed from God’s intentions for them. When Ezra saw their tears, he changed his approach. He read the happy stories, the stories of God with them, protecting and providing for them, loving them no matter what. And they had a week-long party, a festival in which they ate and drank and shared with those who didn’t have food and drink, celebrating God’s goodness and love.

It’s not our job to tell people what to do and not do. That’s God’s job. But when we hear from God that we’ve blown it, we’re also not to wallow in shame and self-pity. Acknowledge your sin and move along. Celebrate God’s forgiveness. Celebrate God’s presence with you. Celebrate God’s love.

Because he has loved and forgiven and protected you once again. So get on with that celebration, because God is good all the time. All the time, God is good!

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Lent 2020: God With Us

Things were not looking good for God’s people….But God had not left his people. He was with them and he was looking after them.

We have not been conquered as a nation and taken exile into Babylon, but we have also never experienced anything like the quarantine in effect due to COVID-19.

It’s a strange new world. The things that make up our typical routine have rapidly been stripped from us: school, work, daycare, sports, even sports on TV, restaurants, libraries, public gathering places, parks.

Also, houses of worship. I can’t remember a Sunday when my pastor-husband has been home on a Sunday except for vacations or illness. What is a church without a community gathering? We’re currently in the discovery process, one we couldn’t have imagined.

It’s easy to feel all the feelings. To be anxious, fearful, bored, frustrated. It’s easy to feel separated from God, especially when we can’t meet to sing His praise or pray together with others.

But God has not left us. He is with us wherever we are. He is looking out for us, whatever the situation. The days ahead won’t be easy, but we can take comfort that God will be with us in them.

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.