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: 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.

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: Trust & Watch

God knows you can’t do anything!… God will do it for you. Trust him. And watch!

I am such a Moses – easily overwhelmed, a total scaredy cat, prone to arguing with God about things I’d rather not do, bargaining for a more comfortable approach.

What I love about the Moses story is that God allows Moses some concessions (aka, the company of his brother, Aaron), but over time, Moses trusts God more, becomes increasingly confident in what God will do, and needs Aaron’s help less.

By the time the Israelites have exited Egypt and reached the Red Sea, Moses is in full stride. Now, rather than God telling him not to be afraid, he assures the people that with God on their side they have nothing to fear.

I tend to think of myself as an open book: completely and vulnerably me, I trust most people most of the time. But I don’t like feeling risky-vulnerable, open to hurt. It’s quite vulnerable to admit that I can’t, on my own strength, accomplish much at all. That I must rely on God.

And yet it’s also freeing. Some things I can’t change. I just have to trust God and watch what He does. I put my hope in Him to do more than I can ask or imagine. Again and again, I put my hope solidly in His hands.

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: Magnificent Dreams

God had a magnificent dream for Joseph’s life and even when it looked like everything had gone wrong, God would use it all to help make the dream come true.

What do you dream for your life? Are your dreams coming true?

As a little girl growing up in Southern California, Disneyland was heaven on earth and I wanted to live there for eternity. I thought I could achieve my dream by being the person inside the Donald Duck costume.

As an adult, I’m thrilled to say I left that dream in the dust. Now I can’t imagine having to lug around a heavy costume in the sweltering SoCal summer heat.

Unlike Joseph, most of us don’t receive prophetic dreams about the greatness God has in store for us. Still, God indeed has great plans for all of us and He will use all our experiences, even the bad stuff, maybe even especially the bad stuff, to make those dreams come true.

Life often doesn’t turn out as we expect. And that’s okay, because so long as we’re still kicking God isn’t done with us.

We may not get to use dramatic gifts like interpreting a king’s dreams, or sit second-in-command of a major world power. We may have an oh-so-ordinary life, doing our work, growing a family, and loving our neighbors. Maybe our reality doesn’t even look like that, maybe it’s harder, soaked with illness or loneliness.

In the end, what God really wants for us, what makes a life a magnificent dream, is to love Him fully and faithfully, whatever that looks like today. Remember: The Redeemer loves you with a magnificent love and He will use everything, even the gone-wrong events, to make His dreams for you come true.