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Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

Lent, Day 3

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 [NIV]

PresenceThe author of Brave Faith speaks from a place of introvertedness and “showing up.” As an off -the-chart extrovert, I am taking a different tack. For me, this devotion speaks more to Presence. Being There.

I have been working on prayer within the silence, connecting to my internal/eternal relationship with God . . . within. Bravery then can also be stopping the “external noise” long enough to hear, feel, and be in the moment.

So much of my time is spent thinking about what I did earlier today, yesterday, and a week ago OR pondering what I will wear tomorrow, what time I should get up, or what my plan is for the day. I have been losing the now; losing an opportunity to experience Presence. After all, God=I AM. Present tense, not I was or I will.

There is a type of courage that is required in the moment, letting go of what I did or did not do; letting go of what I plan to do or say. It’s the old phrase come to life: I am a Human BEing, not a Human Doing.

Our church is currently going through a terrible time as our beloved pastor has stepped down due to discovered infidelity and possibly more. It’s heart churning for everyone. But even worse are the attacks and the “I told you so’s” and who knows what else on social media. Personally, I know very few facts, but many are quick to surmise what was and when and who. Taking the Presence to this situation, I choose instead, to place him and his family and our church, into the moment. I cannot change what was and I don’t really know what tomorrow will bring, but there is this time now and invite my God into them, into us. I choose to feel unconditionally. And God will sort it out.

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Day Two – Lent

2 Timothy 1:7   For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. [NLT]

Mary Geisen quotes author, Annie Downs, “There is no formula and there are no rules. There is the Bible, our guidebook for all things, but other than that, being brave is organic and spiritual and a unique journey for each person.”

Geisen adds, that we can usually identify moments of brave faith when we are most uncomfortable. In other words, we have stepped out of our “box,” our comfort zone and we are navigating new terrain. One’s comfort zone can be large or small, but whenever we step out, it’s a step of faith.

I have always been tuned in to people’s feelings. Unfortunately, my response is usually to make them feel better, to make peace, to avoid conflict. I will be the chameleon. And although that can be a useful tactic, there are also times when I need to stand strong. Instead, I want to be liked, to be appreciated. I don’t want people to be angry with me and so I will adapt to the moment, edit my words, and so forth. It’s the way of the cowardly lion.

Some of this discomfort happened this year after the U.S. election of Donald Trump. I have never been a political person before, but this was a turn of events that frightened and angered me. I decided to get out of the comfort zone of being apolitical, of being an “independent,” and of not alienating people who were more conservative and happy with their new president. It has been a painful process to lose connections, to be mocked for my opinion, to be called a liar, to be called out for not matching the views of many evangelicals. My faith in Jesus Christ has been questioned publicly because of my political stand.

I continue to pray for wisdom and for truth and for protection for our country. I don’t feel particularly brave in this arena, but it is definitely uncomfortable.

 

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Ash Wednesday, 2018

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. 

Day One of Brave Faith hits home right away, “As a middle-aged woman, my days of being daring seem to be slowly waning.” She’s got that right. What could be next? Retired from full time work, the last thing I expected six months ago, would be me sitting here in Zambia, Africa at the Villages of Hope. It doesn’t feel particularly brave or courageous to travel here and spend six weeks. Not now, but it did at first.

I am seeing a change from within. It’s not me being more spiritual or praying more or hearing the voice of God speaking of great things to happen. It’s a kind of walking, step by step. It’s being present with the Presence of God. Here or at home. Here. Now.

Being afraid is a mental box in which we can choose to live . . . or not.

A pastor friend of mine once told an allegory of a man (or woman, of course) who was confined in a cage for some long time. At one point, the cage door swung wide open and the prisoner was free to go, but did not. The cage was safe and familiar, though confining. Outside, anything could happen. Wild animals might eat you. The wind might blow and the storms could come. Lightning might strike. And yet, what was really there? A meadow, as far as the eye could see.

Fear keeps us in the cage.

I am no longer young, but I am saying this today : I do not want to live in a self-imposed cage or box of fear or disappointment or “if only’s.” I am a child of God.

 

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When my husband died in December of 2014, one of the songs that resonated deeply within me during those initial months of grief, was “You Make me Brave.” I didn’t feel so very brave, but I believed God’s Presence was the core of whatever courage I could muster.

So it’s no mistake that I was drawn to the devotional book, Brave Faith : A 31 Day Devotional Journey, by Mary Geisen which I discovered at LifeLetterCafe.com.  It’s a year old or so, but I think I’m finding it now for a reason. You are welcome to join me in this journey, the first 31 days with the author, and the final days of Lent on my own.

What does it mean to be brave? Or How do we become brave? Can anyone be brave? Is brave faith Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? Or normal?

One thing Mary G. prepares us to understand in this study, brave faith is not a one time deal, it’s ongoing. It is us. It is you and it is me. Let’s look and see.

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21 Days

Today is the last day of my 21 day full fast (or juice fast I should probably say) and tomorrow I will transition to the Daniel Fast, basically a vegan diet through the end of Lent. It has been an illuminating time. We humans spend a lot of time dealing with the business food: planning, purchasing, preparing and finally eating, but then cleaning up and storing what’s left. My days were less preoccupied. My time in prayer was without hurry. Being faithful to alone time with God was much easier. The discipline was worth it.

My challenges in walking out God’s truth have not changed as much as I had hoped. But I have been more aware of my choices and tendencies throughout the day and for that I am grateful. My heart has been open and quicker to forgive. It’s a process.

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” [Matthew 6:16-18]

Today is a day for giving thanks. Spring is upon us. As the shoots begin their journey upward, so does my soul climb.

 

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Self Absorbed

It’s a confession. Self-absorbed says it all. Not so much that it’s all about me, just spending way too much time and energy on how “me” is doing. How do I look? How’s my weight? Should I cut my hair? Should I meet a man? How will I support myself? Worries and questions are like a drumbeat within.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? [Matthew 6:25-26] 
My prayer time has been wrapped in the structure of the Lord’s Prayer. It keeps me on track and gives more focus to my time alone. But if it is true, that I am committed to “Your will be done,” then one would think I’d have a freedom. And for the time I sit in my chair and keep my eyes and heart on God, I feel it. But then I have to take a shower and feed the dogs and cats and clean the cat box and get dressed for the day and and and and. Your will be done loses resonance. The old “honey-do” list is a “me gotta do” list. “Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” [Luke 10:38a, NIV] 
I know. I know. But like Yoda says, I do not do.
Practicing the presence of God is a discipline. But I’m pretty sure my self-absorption gets in the way. It is a choice, a conscious one, that must be exercised throughout the day. Can I teach myself to be absorbed with the Presence instead? Can I look for Jesus in the eyes that I meet, look for the Holy Spirit all around me?
Breathe.

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I’m not sure why I’ve been so dense about this scripture for so long. Did everyone get this and me just today? Sigh.

 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” [John 3:5-8, NIV] 

For some reason, I always associated being born of water as baptism. It is one of those symbolic acts that we are encouraged to do, from death to life kind of thing. In some churches, it is even mandated.

But today, I just realized that we are all born of water. I mean, human beings are born of water through the womb (hint: water breaking and all that). We are all the same in this way: humankind. We are all born with tremendous potential for all things possible in our three dimensional, time-constrained world.

However, how are we born of the Spirit? Is this that conversion experience when we accept Christ? That’s certainly an implication from scripture but I’m thinking some careful study might be good here as well. But accepting the reality of Jesus and the reality of the Holy Spirit, may only be the starting point. I think there is also a revelation of spirit that is needed. The Spirit is all around us. Heaven is all around us, for lack of a better term for that “other.” It is not a place as we know place.

Being born of the Spirit requires a certain relinquishing the body, not being so concerned about its state of affairs, recognizing the fleeting nature of the body, and cherishing instead the spirit within whose true home is heaven, with God and in God and through God.

Our spirit birth can be easy or difficult. We make it less difficult by practicing the ways of Jesus and thereby manifesting the “fruits” of Spirit. We agree to the paradoxes of going the extra mile, loving our enemies, and praying for those who persecute. We give thanks in all circumstances, for they are too are merely a moment. We journey the life of the flesh in anticipation of the birth in the spirit.

Can we dwell in the spirit now? Not really, but we can engage there through the Holy Spirit and in our relationship to God. Prayer is a key component and being still and meditating. These are ways to center down into those places. Sometimes, in worship, we are experience the Presence. The more self-less we are, the more likely to enter that Place.

Spirit of the Living God, breathe on me.

 

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