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Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

Harry Edenfield, a Christian author, offers a thought-provoking daily devotional for this season of Lent.

Today’s verse is from Genesis 19:16: “But Lot lingered. So the angels seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”

Edenfield reflects, “Lord God, your servant Lot lingered in Sodom. Sometimes I love my chosen place too much. You urge me to leave my sin spot.

I linger.

I linger even if it may be injurious to my loved ones. Remember me: I, too, need an escort from the magnet of sin.

As we leave together, Holy Spirit, urge me to have no regret about the exit from sin. Urge me not to look back.”

Amen.

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If trees could talk! This beached and upended tree perpetuates an intricate Story despite its seeming demise, with its processed planked cousins in a heap to the right…

What story do YOU see here? An end, or a beginning?

A 180 in the sand where I stood, yielded these stories:

Thank You, God, for the old and new stories, perpetual stories, real stories, imaginary stories and the freedom to always create new stories that keep us, that keep life, alive and well and infused with Hope and Faith. That there is always beauty and love and New Life, no matter the level of mayhem, that life itself always springs from death and destruction. That salvation and rejoicing always come after the barrenness of grief, Lent and denial. That there is always light after darkness. Amen.

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Okay, so maybe I should have chosen something easier to give up for Lent like, um, “Driving over 80 mph,” or “Not listening to another tired Kardashian joke,” or “Cranking out another poorly edited blog.”

But, I didn’t. So you are stuck with me in the middle of 40 days of self-imposed hell. No, the church didn’t impose this on me – I take full responsibility. I am a glutton for punishment, and I like to experiment with stretching my limits. Plus it’s not a bad way to get a smidgen of a taste of the point of Lent, at the very least. How many Christians can really put their money where their mouth is, anyway? Not that any of us could, fallible as we are. I like to believe self-sacrifice makes us stronger in the long run.

In the meantime, I’m antsy as all get-out, and fit to be tied. Saturday’s 10K was a wonderful way to distract and run myself ragged. In the spirit of sacrifice, I went as far as to run (actually RUN) the first two miles, in full, with my iPod OFF. I learned something new, that I could search for meaning and purpose in my exertion by losing myself in other things, such as the laughing seagulls overhead (although they were probably laughing at who was going to nail their next target with the thousands of silly humans running amok). Then came the hills, the bluffs. Ouchie-youchie. My quads are still admonishing me. So to distract myself again today, I conquered the Big Knoll, three times over, with added speed, just to give them something to cry about.

Pleased with my time after the race, I was able to hoof it up the big bluff to get back to the start line to meet two of my offspring, who ran the 2-mile fun run. I ran with the younger one, who bested me when the finish line appeared. Never did see the eldest – he’s at the age where he was more into his friends (and girls), and would have died had I ran with him. Casanova was casually hobnobbing at the bananas-and-oranges table, sipping a Gatorade, by the time I flew through the chute.

This was followed by a glorious day at a community event, the biggest in our town each year, where you see things like the best creative things brought in from all over the nation; a little girl hula-hooping while eating a waffle cone; eating alligator bites (like popcorn chicken, except real alligator) with Cajun spices and hush puppies; the bubble machine blowing bubbles aloft outside the little-town toy store that sells old-fashioned educational toys in spite of the cross-town Wal-Mart that one landowner sold out to, and friendly dogs on leashes that don’t mind their tail being yanked by our little one.

He saw the array of sample funnel cakes outside a food vendor’s set-up. A small crowd gathered as the little boy got closer and closer to the delectable delights with great curiosity, waiting to see if he would snatch a piece to taste. He carefully extended an index finger toward each one, a hair away from swiping a finger off the powdered sugar and fruit toppings. But he didn’t, and when he suddenly turned to see where Mommy was, he spotted the delighted crowd watching him, and he shyly ran between mother’s legs to hide, while the crowd roared with amusement to behold the little child resisting temptation.

If only we all could be like that!

Later that evening, hours after I crossed the finish line, I received word I had crossed a professional finish line on a national level that  I’d been training for for a long time. Unexpected and spontaneous celebration ensued, and now I need a weekend after this weekend.

But I’d promised you, dear reader, to cover a few other things: The National Junior Dishonor Society. I endured attended last year’s ceremony at the middle school, and it was a solemn but entertaining event then. This year it was downright alarming. The girls’ skirts were shamefully short – I mean, near-cheeks showing as they paraded up the aisle to the stage in shoes they could barely totter forth in. The boys were stiff as glue, probably due to age-related gawkiness. It was painful to watch them during the procession. Even the president of the group blew it off for another event that day. The worst part was seeing all my child’s best friends up there, his name in the program, and his mysteriously not being part of the procession.

At the end of the ceremony, after openly sharing my panic, I was asked questions in the office like, “Are you SURE you dropped him off this morning? you SAW him go into the school?” “Did he go to the city with the Scholar’s Bowl team instead, and maybe he forgot about the ceremony?” They did an “all-call” throughout the school, and he sheepishly appeared in the office 5 minutes later. His excuse? “Well, my friends all said they go by weekly GPA to figure if you qualify, and I didn’t want to tell you about the D I got on one algebra assignment a few weeks ago, so I assumed I got kicked out. I was in class.”

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!

So his homeroom teacher and I sat on the now-empty stage with him and explained that they average by the semester, not the week, and that one lousy grade on one lousy homework assignment does not doom you for life. Then came the conjoint lectures about being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, asking an adult if you’re not sure and not going by your friends’ consensus, and finally, after careful mutual eye contact between teacher and parent, a parent-led lecture on what the rest of his weekend would look like, given his self-imposed absence and ensuing school-wide panic after the ceremony. Not to mention his not mentioning the D.

I admit I caved in halfway through the weekend, after considering that he is the youngest in his class, taking a high school credit course. And the fact that he did all the leaf-blowing after the race Saturday, dishes and other mundane chores to repent. He convinced me he had to break in his new hiking boots before camp in the Appalachians next week, so off he went squirrel hunting Sunday afternoon. Mothers, have mercy on your babies…

Also promised: The Great Potty Crisis at Special Olympics. We were proud of our disabled child participating and ought to devote a blog to it, but few pictures were taken this year. Next year, you’re on. It’s a tear-jerker, ‘specially the torch. I highly recommend your attending your local event. It was our 3-year-old, though, with the crisis. He was used to Mommy taking him into the ladies’ room at the park, and he pitched a fit because he had to go, Mommy was at the Dishonor Ceremony and hadn’t gotten to the Olympics yet, and Daddy had to take him to the men’s room. He is terrified of urinals, and squawked with great fervor, refusing to go in the men’s room.

What’s a dad to do? The guy thing, of course! So he hauls our tyke off to the woods beside the park and instructs him to do the wild thang, with great abandon. Tyke hesitated at first, convinced Mommy would pop out from behind a tree and shame him for not properly using a potty. But once he got going, he really got into it. Report has it that not only did he finally relieve himself, he discovered, with tremendous pleasure, that he could make his urine arc high into the air by squeezing his…okay, nevermind, I’m getting too graphic, sorry. Anyway, he was initiated into natural manhood that day by marking his territory in the city park woods. Hurrah. Yes, I gave them both a (light but) appropriate scolding upon Daddy’s big, smirking boasting about the event. I am outnumbered, 5 to 1.

And…what happens when you swallow a battery or other object (teaser from previous blog)? Plenty, if I am your therapist, you did it on purpose, and you’re in a hospital setting. You will wish you were back in the ER. Unable to elaborate on this one… Suffice it to say that a combination of humor, reverse psychology and a weekend of consequences for safety’s sake, adds up to one great brief therapy intervention and fosters a hasty recovery, and an even hastier advance toward one’s treatment goals. Never mind the jokes about “batteries running out” which are virtually unavoidable.

Some day, I will learn to write shorter blogs.

Thanks, God, for life’s distractions which take the edge off of life’s pains. Thanks for having a “Hold on my Heart” and getting me through Lent. Thanks for His sacrifice. And thanks for a wild, full week.

When, O Lord, shall I rest?!

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She bounded past the ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, rounding up the walkway, vaguely hearing a fountain gurgling in the courtyard beyond. Like a rebellious child arriving late to school, she came tripping past the heavy doors which stood open facing the busy avenue. The doors were, as she was taught in preschool, purposely shaped like hands clasped together, praying and pointing Heavenward. They were also ominously dark; she was grateful they were welcomingly wide open. Had they been closed, she might have turned away.

She sat in the very back of the cathedral, the very last pew. For once she wasn’t late, but nonetheless was still the last to arrive and did not wish to be conspicuous. Everyone occupied the rear pews…no one sat in the first several pews. In fact, those in the “front” were still halfway to the back of the vast, echoey sanctuary. She was in good company; no one wanted to appear overly zealous to be repentant today, Ash Wednesday.

Making the sign of the cross as she genuflected, she quietly pulled the kneeler closer and obediently dropped down for brief prayer. As she caught her breath, she never got around to praying because the bell tower loudly proclaimed it was 12:00 noon. This proclamation took longer than she had time for prayer, and as soon as the twelfth bell bonged, the officiant appeared from nowhere and everyone abruptly stood. Rats, inadvertent noncompliance again. She quickly rose with the masses.

She noticed that the graceful trusses several stories high overhead sported a design of the Star of David. The stained glass at the front and around the sides looked ashy like the day outside, gloomy and humid. Warm, but dismal. Her eye was not drawn to the detailed pictures on the stained glass, but rather to the things that had nothing to do with why she was there: the creaky old hardwood floors, the sad reality that not enough bulletins had been printed for today because they didn’t expect as many as might should attend, and the discrepant accents of the officiants (one was notably Yankee with nasal tendencies in reciting the NeeCeene Creeeeed, the other drawled through the service with perfect Southern dialect, complete with a multisyllabic AH-may-yen).

They exhorted her to put away her thoughts and memories of days now behind.

They can make the entire float rock when they rock together in rhythm with the music...

It was a freak cold that night, but the next day was in the 70s. They keep the Christmas lights on the trees downtown through Mardi Gras.

Parades rolled night and day for the past month.

Dig the beer can on this dolphin's nose...

And don't forget the TaTas...

Secrets to catching the good stuff include holding an upside-down umbrella or hat, standing 2-3 deep (the maskers always tend to be looking into the crowd, not directly below in the front row of people), and having a handicapped child in tow.

Mardi Gras Booty (from ONE parade)

It was a drive-by service, to be sure – in and out in 25 minutes flat. There was even a monk-like sung Psalm – she at first thought it was piped in while they strode forth to the altar to receive a cross-shaped smudge of ash on their foreheads. But after she had been dutifully ashed and turned the corner to make her orderly way down the outer aisle to return to her pew, she saw it was an actual dude in a black robe up in the balcony holding the Book of Common Prayer, singing Psalm 51, just like the Psalms were meant to have been sung. Cool!

The hypocrisy did not evade her: she was painfully aware that the slap-quick service included, as is customary, an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading…which included the verses about Jesus teaching that we are not to appear as though we are openly fasting or suffering or giving alms or whatever it is we should do in secret to the Father…and the irony of receiving an ashen cross on the forehead, being sent forth for the rest of the day to bear this mark in public. LOOK AT ME! I WENT TO CHURCH MID-WEEK AND ENGAGED IN A HOLY ACTIVITY! DID YOU?! And yet, she has seen each denomination do some of the same thing in different ways, and each denomination find scorn in the other (smug one-upmanship). Or find comfort in the one that challenges them least, then they get stuck but think they are secure.

She thought, too, about how some denominations pooh-pooh the ritual in some churches, and likewise, how the ritualized churches pooh-pooh the loosely-structured, more casual worship of non-denominational churches. But they all do the same thing…basically. One cannot say that a ritual like, say, communion, is more meaningful when it is done less often, or that those who take communion each week have fallen into a meaningless routine. Meaningless routine can sneak upon us like a thief in the night, in whatever way we (WE!) think is best to worship Him.

She then thought of her spiritual journey which brought her from this very church at birth, to other denominations and churches through various phases of her life, and remembered that He hasn’t changed, His word remains as is. Man can create their variations of worship, but it all boils down to our relationship with God, from our hearts, and man is not to judge. There is no way he possibly can. God gives us His Word to go by…and in that we can know what He expects – and it is okay to worship this way or that way – it is our heart He sees, our intent. An ages-old ritual can be tired or fresh, depending on the participant…just as can the more modern, less-structured formats can incite zealous fire yielding to years of unhealthy comfort.

To her, it was old ritual seen anew, with refreshed meaning in the act of repentance…an exercise in evaluation the journey past, the current state of the heart, and the intentions for the future. The message was the same whether coming from an evangelical bent or a formalized, old-church ritual.

What’s old is new. And vice versa.

Man is naturally a hypocrite (Paul summed it up nicely in his exposition of doing what he willed not to do and not doing what he willed to do). As long as men and women worship Him in any fashion, there will be hypocrisy. It is the curse of human nature…unavoidable, and certainly no excuse to avoid Him.

She knew God was looking at her heart, though, and there was nowhere to hide. She had to take inventory of the ways she had erred to excess in worldliness, in sin, in indulgence, in thoughts and feelings and actions…and it was high time to turn the steering wheel back over to Him, to apologize and sacrifice. Those who don’t believe in God, surely find themselves in positions to do the same with those whom they’ve disappointed. It is only human to humble ourselves when we reach a point of over-indulgence in folly, and folly is never known until hindsight. It is how we little children grow and develop, and is quite natural, and good. He rejoices in our growth process.  It is how we draw nearer to Him. It is how even our stumblings are occasion to celebrate.

So what did she give up for Lent?

That shall remain between her and Him!

What she wants to know is, what in blazes (no pun intended) was burned to create the sticky ashes glued to her forehead?!

All she knows is it is Her privilege to sacrifice so little for what He sacrificed so greatly, for us all.

Are you stuck? Change! Move! Vamoose! You may move, but He won’t, so don’t be afraid.

He will be wherever you land, waiting for you, as always.

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