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.

Lent 2020: See What We Can Do

“Look!…See what we can do with our very own hands!” They were quite pleased with themselves.
But God wasn’t pleased with them…. They were trying to live without him, but God knew that wouldn’t make them happy or safe or anything.

God gave us bright brains and capable hands and put us in groups to accomplish life together. And we need to remember that He is the source of all good things, including all of our creative abilities.

We may not be building the Tower of Babel, but we do stuff all day long. Lots of intricate, complicated, amazing things. Have we lost sight of God in the process? Better question: How do we keep sight of God in the process?

When people got cocky and tried to build a tower to heaven, a tower that would speak volumes about their abilities rather than God’s provision, God gave them the gift of languages. Quite a gift, and also a confusing problem, especially in the beginning.

Communication still gets confusing. We often communicate ineffectively, and it gets in the way of our ability to accomplish things.

However, when we look to God for His plans. When we seek to honor Him rather than ourselves. When we honor one another and the beautiful gifts they are to us and to the world. Then, I believe, God will make clear our communication and we will work together to do all the amazing things He has dreamed for us.

 

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: Receive

I’ll take this emptiness…and I’ll fill it up! Out of the darkness, I’m going to make light! And out of the nothing, I’m going to make…EVERYTHING!

These lines specifically refer to God’s original act of creation. Yet God continues to create, every minute of every day as we experience them.

Sometimes we feel empty, dark, alone in the nothingness. Sometimes life hurts, or simply feels mundane, repetitive, unexciting.

Ash Wednesday begins this liturgical season of Lent, in which believers world-around and throughout the ages have focused on the suffering of Jesus leading up to the cross and, in God’s final word, resurrection. Talk about a time of emptiness, darkness, and nothingness…Jesus in the grave. How the disciples must have mourned. How we join them during these six weeks.

Enter God. He says, I see your emptiness, and I will fill it. I see your dark, and I offer light. I see your nothing, please accept my everything.

God holds His hands out, full of grace and truth, and we only have to receive.

It helps to know that even when we feel empty, dark, and nothing, that’s not reality. God is always with us. He longs to comfort, to be our constant companion. If we will recognize His presence and receive.

Receiving sounds simple, but we have trouble with that one, too. It reminds me of one of my favorite prayers in the Bible, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Lord, I receive. Help me receive more fully.

 

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

I’ve been reading, studying, digesting, listening to and learning from the Bible over my entire life. I’ve been glad and mad, confused and convicted, by its words. I’ve had conversations and arguments with God and others about what it says and doesn’t say. I’ve read scores of books about the Bible. I’ve attended Bible studies, taken classes on the Bible—I have a seminary graduate degree—and written about the Bible.

One of my goals for 2020 is to interact with a different translation of the Bible. I need to shake things up. I’m still studying and reading and writing about the more traditional/adult versions of the Bible, but the Spirit is nudging me to bring some joy back into my dedicated time with Him.

So here I am, during Lent, picking up one of my very favorite Bibles: The Jesus Storybook Bible.

We discovered this Bible when our youngest son was four years old. As I read the first few stories aloud to him, I delighted in the words and illustrations. This is no ordinary kids’ Bible. This is a work of art.

I have since recommended this Bible to everyone I know who is even slightly at all interested in the Bible. Because of my enthusiasm, our church preschool gives one to every graduate and our sanctuary pew racks contain copies, indicating to families that children are always welcome. It is also our go-to new baby gift.

This Lent, I’m going to read for five minutes a day, as many stories as that allows, and then write for another five minutes about what stood out to me, and then I’ll share posts a few times a week. A sort of lectio divina light, playing and creating with God. Play with me?

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