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Posts tagged ‘Lent’

Abiding: Lessons from a One Year Old

Driving home, my mind was all awhirl. A mix of emotion and fear, fear of what the unknown future held for my precious daughter, waiting at home for me. Sofia was almost a year old.  Every now and then, when I’d least expect it, fear over what the future held, would creep into my psyche, playing games with my heart and mind. I’d long felt I’d already accepted her diagnosis of Down syndrome. Yet for some reason, a battle would erupt in my mind, threatening the knowledge that God was and had been so faithful to us, throughout my pregnancy, her birth, and her first year.

Were we doing enough to keep her safe from unwanted germs that might send her into the hospital, like we’d been advised? What if she was hospitalized? What then? Who’d be there to provide help or support? How would she be treated by others, as she grew? In a world professing to love diversity and celebrate differences, I’d already felt pangs of pain, seeing the fear on some people’s faces, once they realized she was “different.” Heartwrenching. A sucker punch to a mother’s soul. What would her world look like when she became a young woman?

Questions better left at the foot of the cross. After all, God tells us not to worry about tomorrow, because today has enough trouble of its’ own. Most days my heart was peaceful. But every once in a while, those punches would come, knocking the wind out of me.

Returning home I’d run to see my daughter, to hold her, as if holding her tight in my arms would protect her from the fears waiting to threaten her little world…my fears. A mother’s fears. Looking into her beautiful blue eyes, bright with energy and happiness, the world outside faded away. Nothing else mattered. Holding her close, breathing in her joy, feeling her little fingers wrap tightly around mine, made everything better. Fear didn’t exist here. Squeezed out by love, the love of a little child for her mother. It’s not an understatement to say the gauges of my heart returned to a place of peace and trust. Trust in the God whose faithfulness had brought this amazing little person into my life. He’d taken care of everything. Nothing else mattered. Not tomorrow. No fear.

Perfect love drives out fear. I know I’m not alone. My husband experienced the same. Talking about it with him made me realize how similar the human experience is for each of us. Talking with other parents in similar situations, the story is much the same. Being in the presence of their child, their beloved child, the fear melts away. There may be exceptions, but I find it interesting so many people share the same experience.

Why? I’ve often wondered. Made in the image of the God who created us, could it be that what we see and experience in those moments of truly being present with our children is a reflection of God. His Beauty. His peace. His goodness. His faithfulness.

Jesus tells us, Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” ……………………………………………………………..John 15:4,5,9,11 NIV

Jesus commands that we remain in Him. Abide in me. Dwell in me. Then, your joy will be complete. The joy that filled my world, being in the presence of my daughter, is only a glimmer of the fullness we experience when we remain in the presence of Christ. A heavenly, divine portion of joy and peace is waiting for us. It is ours, when we choose to dwell in the presence of the divine.

Silence. Reflection. Meditation on the Word. Open ears, open heart. Praise. Thanksgiving. A meager offering of our hearts laid out before the only One who can fill us. We’re never asked to go it alone. Day by day abiding is necessary to live this life of faith. Dwell with me, He says. What goodness He brings when we do.

Voices

We are what we believe we are.  – C. S. Lewis

Voices

A middle-aged man, hair slightly thinner than a few years before, turns to yell at his young son, “C’mon! I told you to run faster. What’s wrong with you?” Anger followed by disgust, a shrug of disappointment for all to see. Head lowered, the boy moves slowly before slumping down on the bench where his teammates sit. Each of them fully aware it could easily have been them. It was a close call. They wouldn’t have made it to the base before the ball did, either. No one could have. Now wounded and shamed, the boy doesn’t even look up when his name is next called.  

 

 A little girl carefully cradles the enormous cereal box in her arms. It’s her favorite, the kind she likes to pretend are cookies when she hosts tea parties for her animals. Too big for her little hands, she quickly loses her grip and the box tumbles to the floor. Cereal spills out into a messy pile on the newly cleaned tile. Immediately she begins to pick up handfuls, tiny handfuls that match the size of her tiny hands clasped together. Scoop by scoop she tries her best to clean up the mess she’s made. “What are you doing?” the woman’s voice shrieks, as she rounds the corner. “I told you. You are not to touch. Look at what you’ve done. You’re always making a mess.” The voice grows louder and louder. Every word hissed tears, like a ravenous animal, stripping away piece by piece, a part of the little girl’s soul.

 

 Dad.” The word is choked out through falling tears. The young woman walks hesitantly towards her father, buried beneath newsprint spelling out the important things of the day. Only his hands are visible, but she knows he’s there, behind that paper sitting in his chair.

Heart broken, devastated by a young man who claims to care for her. His actions don’t match his claims. Time after time, she’s questioned in her heart, is he the one. Love shouldn’t hurt this bad. Does he really care or is he just playing an easy game with her heart, her very being? Months have gone by and she needs answers, she needs perspective. She approaches the only man she can, to ask for advice. The choice to step into potentially hostile, foreign territory is never easy, but she’s desperate. So she approaches slowly, tears streaming down cheeks. “Dad,” she says again quietly. “I need to ask you something.” Embarrassed at even having to talk of such things with a man who’d never before cared, but there is no one else to ask.

“There’s this guy,” she begins. “He seems like he cares for me. We’ve been close for awhile now.  He acts like he cares, but then he….” “Can’t you see I’m busy!” the voice roars from behind the newsprint. “I don’t have time for this,” he says rustling the inky paper in his anger. I don’t have time for you, she hears. Stunned, the young woman is shaken. Baring her soul through tears, she’d allowed herself to be vulnerable. A mistake. One she won’t make again. Broken, she quietly walks away, tears dropping like crumbs on a path. Waiting for someone to care, someone to notice.…………………………………………………………………..

Angry voices that take up residence in our heads. Voices from the past that cut us off at the knees, immobilizing us. Making it almost impossible to take one step further. We all have them. From childhood, maybe the voices belonged to our parents. People set upon this earth to pour life into us, who rather than encourage, strip away the substance of our tender souls. Maybe the voices are classmates, kids on the playground who for one reason or another, found easy prey to mock, in an effort to make themselves look bigger and better. Husband. Wife. Boss. Co-worker. The voices are there. Voices that morph into an angry crowd shouting relentlessly that you are not worth ___. Fill in the blank. You’re not valuable. Who’d ever want you? You’ll never amount to anything. Why try? You’ll just fail…again. Like always. Voices that when listened to, are powerful deterrents in our lives, keeping us from the life we were created to live.

The Voice

 I find it interesting that movies that seem to become wildly popular often feature a hero that stands strong in the face of injustice, battling to make things right either for the love of his life or the greater good, sometimes both. Often the hero willingly gives the ultimate sacrifice, leading to death. Something in us draws us to a hero that rises above the status quo and stands strong in the face of evil, risking all for freedom, for love. A sacrifice of love that screams, you are precious to me. You are worth everything. I would die for you.

Does such a hero exist today? In our modern cynicism, most of us choose to believe heroes like that only exist in fairy tales and movies. Yet in our struggling lives, we long for one that is real. We ask is there one who could love so profoundly, one to whose voice is worth listening? Is there anyone who longs to speak life into us?

Overwhelmingly the Bible tells us that there is one. His name is Jesus. He is that hero. He is that voice. He invites us into a life he paid dearly for, sacrificing his own, that we might experience a life fully redeemed. Life to the full, he calls it. A voice of truth crying out for all to hear, inviting us to experience life with him. The cost has already been paid, on a cross two thousand years ago. When we accept him into our lives, we begin life anew.

Jesus invites us into a relationship with God, not just as acquaintances, but as sought out, dearly loved, adopted children. He lovingly calls us his Beloved. Chosen for his good pleasure; the apple of his eye; and heirs to his kingdom. We are more than conquerors in him; with a royal heritage; we are a royal priesthood; and when he looks upon us he sees the pure, unblemished, beautiful bride of Christ.

The question we’re left to ask is, “Whose voice are we listening to?” Are we giving ear to those voices in our heads bent on destruction. Why give ear to voices that seek only to tear us down?

The Voice – Jesus’ voice – is speaking love to us today. Perfect, unending, unconditional, unfailing love. We are of infinite worth to him. God proved his love to us by giving his life for us. You were worth dying for. I was worth dying for. Give ear this Lent to the life-giving voice of truth. The Voice that leads us into the abundant life we were created to live.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Photo courtesy of dreamstime

Swallowing Rejection

Rejection. An unwelcome part of life on planet earth. I haven’t met a person yet who isn’t affected by the rejection they face. Wounds run deep from some rejections, others maybe just a surface scratch. Either way, we’re all marred by rejection. Some of our most vivid memories come from those we received as children. Memories of being the only one not chosen for the team; left out of a birthday party; ignored or snubbed by a friend, or worse still by the one who’s supposed to help build your impressionable spirit – a parent.

As a parent, I’m deeply aware of the rejections my children face and will face. I can still remember the ache in my heart the first time my oldest came to me, “Mom, he hit me.” Silence. “I thought he was my friend.” I knew this was a momentary clash and their friendship would sustain the hurt. It has. They’re still friends. Nevertheless, the sting was still real.

One way or another, rejections follow us into adulthood where we face even more each day – on the job; from a spouse; or waiting in line at the store with other busy people rushing through their day. It happens to everyone. It happens to you. It happens to me.

In one of the books I’m reading for Lent I was surprised to read in the very first entry the author talking about this very thing – rejection. Henri Nouwen is refreshingly honest about the impact of the rejections he faces each day and his desire to not let them define him. I don’t know why I found his words so moving. Perhaps it’s his willingness to open his life up to scrutiny in hopes that someone will see themself and commit alongside him to let go of these rejections, making way for a divine healing of sorts.

Nouwen writes, “I have slowly become aware of what my Lenten practice might be. It might be the development of some type of ‘holy indifference’ toward the many small rejections I am subject to, and a growing attachment to the Lord and his passion. I am constantly surprised at how hard it is for me to deal with the little rejections people inflict on each other day by day…This atmosphere often leaves me with a feeling of being rejected and left alone. When I swallow these rejections, I get quickly depressed and lonely; then I am in danger of becoming resentful…But maybe all of this is the other side of a deep mystery, the mystery that we have no lasting place on this earth and that only God loves us the way we desire to be loved.” (Lent and Easter – Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen)

If you’re facing rejection today, rather than swallowing it, why not give it up to the only one who is big enough to swallow it without resentment – Jesus. Even though he experienced the ultimate rejection, he never rejects us. Only he can take it upon himself and all while loving each of us perfectly, as we were created to be loved.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him.”
1 Peter 2:4

Photo courtesy PhotoXpress.com

Living the Half Life

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

As a follower of Christ, I seek to deepen my relationship with him – most times. Sadly, I don’t live this out at all times. Lent provides an opportunity to look inward to expose those dark areas that have taken up residence in my heart. Like exposing an open wound, this is a painful process, but not one that’s in vain. Jesus talked to his disciples about cutting away what wasn’t fruitful on the vine. Not for the sake of cutting, but that the vine would ultimately bear much greater fruit.

Yesterday, I took cutters to the misshapen hydrangea tree in my front yard. The tree badly needed pruning. Although it’d grown in stature since first planted, it was uneven and vastly overgrown. Pruning the branches, at least three feet off of some of them, was painful for me. Those branches had yielded full and fragrant blooms last summer. Although I knew it had to be done, the question of whether or not it would bloom fully again this year made me hesitant.

God, however, is never hesitant to prune out the areas of our lives holding us back from bearing the fruit he created us to bear. He knows the process is painful for us. Thankfully, in His infinite wisdom He also knows all that we can be, even if we haven’t a clue. And so, he prunes. We, unlike, my hydrangea tree, have a choice to make. As we go through a season of pruning, we can stop in our pain and refuse to go any further, never to experience the life God intended for us to live.

Or we can choose to let go of whatever darkness is hindering our relationship with God. He doesn’t expect us to do it alone, but with his help and in his strength. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 Jesus goes so far as to say that without him, we can do nothing. We simply cannot be fruitful apart from him.

As the spring sunshine warms my hydrangea tree, shining its rays on the newly sharp cut edges, the tree will burst forth with buds that will grow into emerald leaves. The pain of the cutting will disappear into a multitude of sweet fragrant blooms. Like the sun’s light, God’s light shines healing rays of truth into the hidden areas of our hearts that are most in need of healing and growth. We were made to live fully in the light of God’s love and truth, free and abundantly fruitful. Anything less is living the half life.

Photo courtesy PhotoXpress.com