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.

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.

Lent 2020: Heart of Love

“This is the one!…He has a heart like mine,” God said. “It is full of love.”

I want a heart like God’s, full of love.

Instead, my heart is filled with anxiety, complaints, aches, and some truly yucky gunk, like anger and fear.

My heart needs a thorough cleansing. I imagine taking it out, holding it gently like a fragile, frightened bird. I imagine immersing it in a basin of warm, not hot, soapy water. Holding it lightly in one hand, I swish the water around it, over it, in it. I ask God to remove the ashy silt of sadness, to wash it clean of all impurities.

I need my heart to pump clean, healthy blood. To pump rich, fruitful love.

I imagine God behind me, putting His arms around me and gingerly slipping His hand under mine. His free hand continues the care-full cleaning process. When we are done, God wraps my heart in the fluffiest towel to dry it off before putting it back in my chest. His hand lingers there as His eyes on mine tell me all I need to know:

I am clean. I am whole. I am loved. And so are you.

Lent 2020: Celebrate Love

God’s people were safe. They danced and laughed and sang and thanked God — when there had been no way out, God had made a way.
“I want you to love me more than anything else in all the world — and know that I love you, too,” God told them. “That’s the most important thing of all.”

God did an incredible thing: He parted the Red Sea to save His people from onslaught by the Egyptians. His people crossed safely; the Egyptians did not.

So they danced and laughed and sang and thanked God. We need more of this in life, recognizing God at work in big and small ways and joyfully celebrating with our whole bodies, from tippy-top to tiny toes.

Sadly, the Israelites didn’t celebrate for long. They quickly got caught up in complaints of the moment. They were hot and dirty and stinky and tired and hungry and where was God? Did He lead them into the desert to die?

Of course not. But isn’t that just our way? We have short memories. We forget what God has recently done and blame Him for not doing more right now. Bummer for us.

God called Moses up onto a mountain to give him some rules, not because God is all about dos and don’ts, shoulds and shouldn’ts, but because God wanted His people to know more about Him, to understand His priorities. He loves us so much He wants the best life for us so He gave us some guidelines, starting with loving and being loved by Him.

We get into trouble when we separate God’s commands from God’s love. When the rules feel hard and jagged, when they’re imposed on us by others without the context of God’s Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love, the rules lose their meaning. Never let go of God’s love.

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: Listen to Love

You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children – with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

…Noah didn’t mind so much what other people thought, he minded what God thought. So he just did what God told him to do.

When we hear God whisper His Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love over us. When we receive God’s great big love with open arms. That’s when we stop minding what other people think.

The trick is, first, to listen. Get the gunk out of our ears and really tune in to God’s heart. To walk and talk with God as a best friend, as beloved children of our good, good Father, as the only true source of wisdom.

We listen to God through His Word, the Bible, but also through our circumstances, through wise people also listening to God, through His Spirit speaking straight to our hearts.

If Noah had listened to his own common sense, to his friends, to worldly wisdom, he would have missed God’s instructions. It made no sense whatsoever at all to build a gigantic boat in the desert. But God said it, and Noah followed through.

Hence, the second trick: to hold steady to God’s love as we listen and live what He says. Like His instructions to Noah, sometimes God’s words seem to make little sense. I can’t even begin to imagine some of the non-sense God might whisper to you, because it will be a) the same, and b) different for each of us.

But I’m certain of this: LOVE will be at its center.

 

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.

I Went Home.

Many of the Christian women writers, teachers, and preachers I follow have posted this week about John MacArthur’s deplorable behavior at a recent men’s conference. He was asked what two words come to mind when he hears the name “Beth Moore.” He replied, “Go home.”

Beth Moore has been a powerful Bible teacher for 40 years, teaching women since her Southern Baptist Church won’t permit women to teach men. Her reach has extended far beyond the Southern Baptist Church, however, through her books and videos and conferences. She is intelligent, well-read and -studied, dynamic, and one of the best preachers I’ve heard in any pulpit anywhere. Arguably, she is the Billy Graham of female preachers.

And John MacArthur et al quite obviously feel threatened by her influence, because they think it’s funny to publicly mock her. I purposely haven’t watched the video, because I have read it thoroughly described by several respected sources. And because I have heard and experienced similar words from men; some meant well, others used their words carelessly and, perhaps, unaware of their own bias.

For most of three decades, I’ve spent my career in the Church. I showed up day after day, year after year, in one, two, three churches, using my gifts, skills, and creativity in every possible way to express God’s truth to God’s people. Until I finally admitted that I was too tired and too hurt from banging my head on the glass ceiling.

I went home.

But I haven’t given up, and I will not be silent. As long as I have breath in my lungs, I will use whatever platforms I have to speak truth:

God loves me.
God loves and gifts all His people (male and female; white and POC; old and young; rich and poor; straight and LGBTQ+; throughout time and the world over) to share His love.
All God’s people are preachers, though only some use words.

I may never again step foot in a pulpit (though I don’t rule that out), but I will never stop sharing God’s love. I am a God-loving and God-gifted woman. Even from home, you can hear me roar!

For more of the story of my ministry experience, please read this post.

Read these posts from two women I respect:
Cara Meredith
Sarah Bessey

Cover photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash