Lenten Reflections

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Be Love – Yes = Love

by Debbie Herbeck

Have you ever volunteered for something in a moment of impulse or great excitement, and then later regretted your decision? What was I thinking?? Fortunately for us, Jesus volunteered for the greatest, most daring rescue mission and He never had a regret, a pause, or a second thought. In the Garden of Gethsemane, despite the human fear, suffering and pain He was facing, He said yes to the Father’s plan: “Thy will be done.”

He was motivated and dominated by love—not love of a cause or a plan or an outcome, but pure and personal love for you.

I think YES is God’s favorite word. But isn’t His favorite word LOVE? It is because YES=LOVE. YES is the language of Love. It’s not just a word, but an action that is freely chosen.

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.” (John 10:17)

Look at the cross. This is what YES looks like, this is how Love speaks to us. Even though a bleeding, naked, dying man on a cross looks anything like victory, this is exactly how Love wins. This is true strength and power. But it doesn’t end at Calvary. Jesus’ YES culminates in resurrection and victory.

In contrast, Satan’s favorite word is NO—“I will not serve, I will only love myself. It has to be MY WAY and I will do everything to convince others to join my selfish campaign that rejects God’s way of Love.”

So, which word characterizes your life with God and your ability to love as He does? Maybe you’re struggling with lukewarmness, laziness or indecisiveness. Maybe YES seems impossible and scary. But we don’t have to be perfect to say “yes” to God, and He doesn’t expect us to be perfect after we say “yes”. He loves us as we are, even when our YES is a struggle.

There are many, many ways, great and small to say “yes” to Jesus. Sometimes we whisper “yes” and sometimes we shout it, but either way, one yes to God naturally leads to another.

As you meditate upon the crucified Christ in these next few weeks, let Him speak to you

and ask Him for the courage to say YES to these questions he is posing to you:

o   Will you take time to get to know me?
o   Will you listen to Me?
o   Will you follow Me?
o   Do you love me?
o   Will you love others for Me?

Let’s remember that every time God works powerfully in human history it is because someone, from the ordinary to the most extraordinary person, has imitated His Son in saying YES to LOVE.

 

Be Free – Will You Join Him?

by Elizabeth Muise

I’m not going to lie, I had a complete mental and emotional break down yesterday as evening enclosed the earth in darkness. I am one to have the emotions of an epic and agitated ocean, experiencing incredible heights and then crashing rapidly into a depth so dark it’s hard to see clearly. This darkness that I have so often silently suffered through has been the topic of reflection these past couple of days for me. I feel as if despair itself has come to wed me and hold me eternally bound (sounds dramatic, I know). My poor little heart cried out to God hopelessly. Will anyone ever understand the pain? Will I ever be free from these emotional chains I so desperately want to flee from?

And in search for this freedom, the Good Lord led me to this passage in Romans (8:18-21): “In my estimation, all that we suffer in the present time is nothing in comparison with the glory which is destined to be disclosed for us, for the whole creation is waiting with eagerness for the children of God to be revealed. It was not for its own purposes that creation had frustration imposed on it, but for the purposes of him who imposed it-with the intention that the whole creation itself might be freed from its slavery to corruption and brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God.”

What He said to me in the silence of my aching heart after reading this passage was this: “My little daughter, I do not ask you to suffer anything that I myself did not have to suffer while I walked this earth. If you wish to share in the freedom of my glory you must first bear the cross that I have so lovingly fit to your shoulder. Will you join me? Will you seek the freedom you thirst for by embracing the very thing you feel trapped beneath as I did during my passion? Will you help free your brothers and sisters from death by helping gain salvation for them through bravely partaking in my crucifixion?  Come, pick up your cross and follow me.”

And so I will courageously join our dear Savior by lovingly embracing and carrying my cross – whether it’s physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual –into freedom and glory. Will you join Him?

Song Suggestion: Even Unto Death

 

Be Free – Dare to Claim the Sky

by Melisa Carroll

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.


The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou, one of the most famous American poets, wrote this poem in 1969. Most people interpret this poem as a message about racism and slavery (which was likely Angelou’s intention), but during this Lenten season, I’m inviting you to try a different lens with this poem: that of being enslaved to sin. I encourage you to read the poem a few times and then think about how different lines in the poem reveal something about the nature of sin and slavery. How often, when we feel weighed down by our sins, can we barely see through our “bars of rage”? Are we blinded by our anger with ourselves or others? Do we let our sins take our aspirations and turn them into a “grave of dreams”? Most importantly, in those moments where we are feeling like our “wings are clipped” and our “feet are tied”, do we open our throats to sing praise to the King? Do we call out to Him who can set us free? Do we ask Him for the grace to be like the free bird who “names the sky as his own”? We are daughters of Christ- the “sky” and the Kingdom of God is our inheritance. Don’t let the fetters of sin keep you from daring to claim what is rightfully yours! Take advantage of the multitude of graces available to you this Lent to break those chains that hold you down, seek the freedom that God so desires to give you, and “dare to claim the sky”.

Song Suggestion: I Am Set Free by All Sons and Daughters

 

Be His – Into the Desert

by Emily Messiter

It seems as though I woke up on Ash Wednesday morning and flung myself into the desert. I had planned out my Lenten sacrifices and was ready to buckle down and prove that I could survive forty days without some of my favorite worldly comforts. This is the desert, I thought, and I can tough it out.

But what happens when, in those places where my idols once were, there is nothing but my own pride and striving? It’s a hunger and exhaustion unlike any I’ve felt before. After days of trying to be strong enough, perseverant enough, and holy enough, I finally fall to my knees and lift my eyes from my own weakness and shortcomings. That’s when I see Him, bent down to be near me. He meets my wandering gaze, takes my hand, and raises me from the dust. I scramble once more, trying to gather myself to somehow present my success: I’m staying off of Instagram! I’m praying every night! I said no to that brownie! But as He gazes into my eyes, I know that, while He acknowledges these offerings, His thirst is much deeper. Even more than He wants my idols pushed aside, Jesus wants my whole heart. He made me to worship Him alone, and He longs for me to know the abundant joy of living as His own.  

So I will live out this time in the desert, but now I know I am not alone. I will be fed not by my prideful striving, not by a crafted idea of what a successful Lent looks like, but by Love Himself, by the streams of living water that only want to refresh me and bring me new life in the Resurrection.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” // Hosea 2:14

Song Suggestion: Brokenness Aside by All Sons and Daughters

 

Be His: I Stare at the Crucifix

by Rin Jandernoa

I stare at the crucifix and ask Jesus,

“Why?
Why did you do this?
Why did you not eat for 40 days?
Why did you go into a desert, where there was nothing else to focus on besides temptation and your excruciating hunger?
Why did you forgive them as they drove nails into your skin?
How does all of this affect me now?”

 2018 years after Jesus’ death, and somehow his suffering, death, and resurrection have the same lasting impact today as they did when he was physically going through all of it. 2018 years have gone by, and the truth of him opening the heavens to us is just as real today as it was when he was breathing out his last breath on a cross of mockery and shame. 2018 years have gone by since he called out to his Father in desperation for humanity to be forgiven; for us to be forgiven; we who don’t deserve it, though we live with the assumption that we deserve that and more. 2018 years have gone by, and details get lost. Truth gets twisted. The weight of Jesus’ sacrifice has become a story that gets told more often for comfort than for a call to action. But his story is a call to be a people that respond in love to the love that altered the course of history – of our story, forever. A call that says, “If you just believe me, if you just follow me, if you deny the temporary promise of comfort and pick up your cross, if you do as I do and forget about your own idea about how to live, then life is yours forever.”

I stare at the crucifix and attempt to fix my every thought on him, knowing that there is no other way that I can begin to learn how to be his.

Song suggestion: Ever Be by Kalley Heiligenthal

 

“You are making me like you, clothing me in white. Bringing beauty from ashes, for you will have your bride. Free of all her guilt, and rid of all her shame, and known by her true name. And that’s why I sing your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips…”