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.

What the World Needs Now

On Monday before the mandatory shelter-in-place began, I had to run a few errands that included picking up a prescription at the pharmacy. Surprisingly, the line was short, with two people already being helped at the counter and one person ahead of me. She was covered head to foot: a colorful rag-style hat on her head, sunglasses, long pants and jacket with a buff pulled up over her mouth and nose. She didn’t make eye contact.

I arrived just in time, apparently, because suddenly there were several people behind me. An older lady two behind me leaned forward and called: “Hey, I really like your hat. It’s so colorful it’s making me smile.” Hat gal turned, lowered her sunglasses and buff and smiled as she said thanks, adding that we all need to find opportunities to smile in these uncertain times. We resumed our line-standing.

After a beat, I turned to thank the woman who offered the compliment, adding that we all need a huge dose of human kindness as everyone feels the weight of stress. My simple comment led to a line-long conversation: how we can be kind to one another; what shelter-in-place will mean and what constitutes “essential services;” price-gouging and TP alternatives; the beautiful art we might expect as a result of people in quarantine expressing their feelings; and “at least I can walk my dogs,” which led to a discussion about pets.

As each person left, they waved goodbye to our little crowd, wishing us well. In a matter of moments, having acknowledged our shared experience and at least a few of our feelings about it, we became a community. Neighbors rather than strangers.

It was an example of how uncertainty can unite people in beautiful ways. We may be alone in our own homes, but we’re in this together. Let’s find creative ways to care for ourselves and others, to share kindness that will unite us when this eventually passes.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.
–lyrics by Jackie DeShannon

Cover image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay 

Lent 2020: What Matters Most

But I can’t stop loving you.

Wow, in a time of unprecedented bad news, that’s the best news ever. No matter what, God can’t stop loving us.

No matter how much of a schmuck I may be today–even though I want to be kind and loving and super-duper, I’m sure I will also whine and think mean thoughts and put myself first–God will always and forever love me. He can’t stop, because His very nature is love.

No matter what. It doesn’t matter. God’s love matters. Love is all we need, love is all there is.

God’s love coats me like the dark-morning full moonshine, like the spring sunshine pouring through trees, bringing flowers to life. God’s love flows over me like the breeze, flows through me like breath. God, I breathe in your love, your presence, your grace.

Help me to live in your love today.

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.