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Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

This was the 4th word of Christ. Delivered April 6,2012 at Jarrettown’s Good Friday Service

 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

After Jesus saw his mother, and spoke his third word, it is written that darkness filled the sky. From twelve until three, darkness descended on the whole land. It wasn’t a sunset or and eclipse. First there was sun; then there wasn’t.

I can’t help but wonder, those who weren’t present at the crucifixion thought as they worked in their fields or washed their clothes in the river? What did they say and do as they ate their mid-day meal in the dark? The Bible doesn’t say the day turned to night—with familiar stars that might provide people with some comfort. Not night. Darkness.

For three hours.

Then, as abruptly as the darkness descended, the sun reappeared and Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ” Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? “ [Eh-lo-eye, Eh-lo-eye, lama sub-ACHT-en-eye.]

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This saying is traditionally called “The Word of Abandonment” and is the only one of Jesus’s final statements that appears in more than one Gospel.Not only does it appear in Matthew, it is also found in Mark 15:34. It is the opening line of Psalm 22, a psalm about persecution, the mercy and salvation of God.

I find it interesting that these are the first words Jesus makes which refer to himself rather than others. He’s asked his Father for forgiveness for others, told a thief of his salvation, and guaranteed a safe future for his mother. Then darkness covers the land and Jesus cries out to his Father—“Where are you? Why have you left me?”

Jesus is facing death by himself. He sounds so…alone. So… human.

I’ve always felt that the darkness was the moment all our sins were placed on Jesus. He took on his Apostles’ sins. He took on Pilate’s sins. He took on Judas’ sins. He took on the thieves’ sins. Through time and space, he took on my sin and your sin. For three long hours, he took on all sins from all people, from all time.

And it appears that it severed Jesus’ intimate relationship with God.

Jesus, though he walked on earth, walked with God. He prayed to God; he worshiped God; he served God. Jesus told the Jewish leaders in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” He goes on to say, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me.”

And now, as he takes on our sin, he cries out in his abandonment.

What about those who weren’t present at the crucifixion? The men working in their fields—the women washing clothes or cleaning up after the meal? They had no idea what Jesus was doing for them at that moment.

And today, though we have grocery stores to provide us with food and appliances to clean our clothes and our dishes—are we really so different from them? Can we truly claim that we understand what Jesus was doing for us?

One of Jesus’ final acts as he took on all our sin, was to demonstrate how sin separates us from God.

Just as Jesus felt alone from God as he bore the weight of all sin, we too are missing an intimate relationship with God when we are in the midst of sin.

When we feel lost and alone—separate from God, it is sin that is the wall.

But we can rejoice. Because Jesus took on our sin, that wall doesn’t have to keep us from having a personal relationship with God.

Jesus suffered—He felt alone and abandoned. He felt human. But He died and rose again so that we might know the Father and be with him in paradise.

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So I’d like to share some of the things I learned about this project. For those of you who haven’t been following my blog, here’s the lowdown. Instead of giving up something for Lent, I decided to DO something for Lent. The act of doing, rather than sacrificing seemed to align with my thought process a little better. So the assignment was to randomly select a Bible verse (accomplished via this site), and write about my thoughts, feelings concerning the scripture verse. I don’t pretend to have any formal knowledge or Biblical training. My only education related to the Bible would be the Old and New Testament class I had to take at Carson-Newman college–and we won’t discuss the grades I got there. Let’s just say I’m glad we are saved by grace and not acts.

After I started the process, I realized that in fact, I still was giving up something for Lent: my time. And for a working mother with three kids, that is a sacrifice. Wanting to go to bed, wanting to knit, wanting to watch a show and instead writing on some scripture that I had NO idea what I was supposed to say, was a sacrifice.

And humbling.

I’m one of those people who has an opinion on everything and is willing to share it with everyone. But some of these scriptures were really hard. There were times I really wanted to hit the refresh button and get a new “random” scripture. But that would have been cheating. I had to believe that there was something about the verse that I got each time that was either supposed to teach me or my readers (all six of them since Viagra and I broke it off ).

Some of the verses really made me think (Oh, NO! Don’t mix thinking and faith–that just isn’t right!). Some verses that on first glance, made me think I wouldn’t have ANYTHING to say, turned out to be the most interesting and prolific entries. Others that I thought would be a piece of cake, left me speechless (I know, that’s hard).

The other thing I learned is that I can’t count. Somehow, I always seemed to be ahead (rarely) or behind (usually) of where I thought I should be. Don’t ask me; ask the Tennessee Public School system.

The process was frustrating. There is nothing more inspiring that having a million really important things that have to be done immediately, that cause a writer to have a million and one enlightening ideas that can’t be acted upon. There is nothing more uninspiring that having nothing on your plate– no children, commitments or obligation, and nothing but an empty screen and open keyboard to suck every creative thought from your brain. Let the phone right with a new deadline and the creative juices flow. I never did (and probably never will) solve that process but I certainly got to practice.

Someone, I think it was Rick Warren, or maybe my grandmother, said that if you pray to be a certain way–more patient, a better writer, a better parent, that God doesn’t give you the skill or trait. He puts you in situations to develop that skill or trait. So when I pray to be more patient, I’m put in situations that require me to practice patience. If I want to be a better writer, He gives me assignments that require me to stretch. When I prayed to be a better parent, He gave me challenging children. And as frustrating as it is–it works. I am infinitely more patient in my thirties than I was in my twenties. I’m sure I’ll be even more patient when I turn forty (okay, I might have already seen 40–more than once). I am a much better parent with The Baby at 2 than I was with The Boy and The Girl when they were two.

Me, during Nanowrimo

Practice makes perfect. Having a topic and assignment forced me to write or admit that I wasn’t writing. Every year (and by that I mean the last 4 years) I participate in Nanowrimo. Every November, writers from around the world (yes the whole world) get together to encourage, bribe and cajole each other into writing a 50,000 word novel. I completed the assignment 3 of the 4 years. Where the novels good? Hell no. Of the 50K words, I’ll probably end up keeping about 1500 of them. Actually, I’ll probably keep all the words, I just have to put all of them in an entirely new order. The whole roomful of monkeys writing Shakespeare idea.

The point of Nanowrimo and my Lent assignment is that a writer doesn’t need plot, structure, characters or dialog to write a novel. What a writer needs is a deadline. For twenty years, I stopped writing because, well, I could. I didn’t have a deadline. And it isn’t just writers that are prone to this trait. Do you need to lose weight? So do you carefully monitor your food intake and calorie output all year long or only three months before swimsuit season or the important reunion? Do you look for jobs with better pay, benefits and opportunities while you are employed or after you are laid off? Do you pay your bills as soon as they arrive or right before they are due? We need deadlines to accomplish things.

As Christians–and people in general–we have an ultimate deadline: death. Hollywood has cashed in on our end of life deadline by making The Bucket List. Web sites, self-help gurus and groups are springing up all over, encouraging all of us to create and complete the items on our personal bucket list.

Even before I started my Lenten project, I tried to give myself self-imposed deadlines in order to keep writing. It is much easier to accomplish something when you have to do it everyday. Habits need consistency. Studies have shown it takes approximately 12 weeks to start or stop a habit. And it is most successful when it is practiced everyday. Can you really quit smoking by only smoking every other day? Do you lose weight eating healthy 4 days a week and eating whatever the other three? Can an alcoholic be sober every other week? So my self-imposed deadline was to write everyday–even if it was only 15 minutes. I really REALLY try to do it here because it provides a record and accountability. While I do write many (many, many) words for my job, I don’t feel like they “count” because…well, just because. I wanted to say, “because they are boring” but that isn’t always true. Some of my stuff is very interesting (I hope) to my audience. I wanted to say, “because I’m doing it for someone else” but that also isn’t true. My work writing is, to some extent, done for me. More importantly, my personal writing–this blog my short stories, novels and non-fiction works are to some extent, written for you (you being the global you of society as a whole). I think I want my blog to be what “counts” because it is my Hebrews 11:1 NKJV. I particularly like the New King James Version of this verse–maybe because it is the format I first found the scripture. My writing is faith in action. My entries are the substance of things hoped for– the evidence of things unseen.

Ice crystals under a magnifying glass

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Psalm 145:18-19

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.

These are getting harder. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve done so many of these or if I’m starting to feel that I’m entirely out of my element. As I’m writing these I’m thinking, “I don’t have any expertise in this! Who in their right mind should follow my spiritual teachings.”

He has risen

He has risen

Lord, I can’t even count correctly. Lent is supposed to be 46 days. Or 40 if you don’t count Sundays. I thought I was writing one a day and several times when I counted, I thought I was up to date. At one point, I think I was even ahead. But now I’m either two days ahead or 4 days behind.

I often wonder if God is near. I know in “theory” he is–but I’m a practical kind of girl and really wonder if God has any tolerance for the more mundane aspects of my life. But David is telling us in this passage that the Lord is near to all who call on Him.

I struggle with the fear aspect of the second verse. I don’t know if I fear God in the classic sense. Fearing God seems very Old Testament. It is more a sense of fear of disappointing Him. I feel that God has given me (and you) so many gifts and talents and to abuse them through apathy, or frustration, or whatever, I’m doing a disservice to God. The Boy is a fabulous comic book writer/artist. When he was younger, he’d made a few comic books that we’d made color copies of and had given out to friends and family. He was fortunate enough in middle school to have been picked to do a comic strip for the school paper. I thought it was fabulous! I would have LOVED an opportunity to have my talents recognized in middle school. Him? Nah. Didn’t want to do it. He said it was stupid and “gay” and he declined. I was so disappointed.

Now I know I’m not God by ANY stretch but comparing God to parenting is the only thing I can wrap my head around. Here was my wonderful, talented son being recognized and given a fabulous opportunity and he WAS TURNING IT DOWN!!!

I worry when I don’t write that God is feeling just like I did. He’s up there thinking, “I gave her all this talent and she’s just wasting it!” That’s the fear that I have for God.

But I can rejoice (and you can too) in that God hears our cries and saves us. He wraps His arms around us and comforts us. Verse 17 confirms His love:

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.

As our time of Lent comes to a close and we get to rejoice in the coming Easter, remember all that God has given us. He has sacrificed His most precious Son that we might have a relationship with Him.

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Mark 12:30-31

30 “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

To me, this is basically the entire point of the Bible broken down into two scriptures. Get rid of the 10 Commandments. Forget about the scriptures in Leviticus. The begats don’t matter. If all Christians practiced these two commandments, the world would be a much better place. Consider how we would be obligated to behave as if we loved God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Think about it–could we allow people to starve? to go without medical care? to have unsafe drinking water? to sleep knowing the bonuses the bank executives got? to watch someone lose a house? We haven’t even gotten to the second commandment and we are starting to squirm.

Aren’t we tasked with serving the least of our brothers?

Actually though, I think the second verse is potentially more damning. Love your neighbor as yourself? I’m guessing it isn’t the dysfunctional, self-deprecating, therapy-seeking, guilt-filled love that I’m still working on, eh? Didn’t think so. Projecting my lack of self-esteem onto some of the PTA moms who live in my neighborhood might be very therapeutic. I’m looking at YOU, Demers. I’m done with how put together you are, pulling up to the school in your nice, shiny car. If you don’t stop making the rest of us look so inadequate…okay, you can stop laughing, I can’t even type it with a straight face.

No, I’m guessing that isn’t the type of love I’m supposed to display. But I do think that God doesn’t want me gossiping about my neighbor. Or stealing from her. Or saying hateful things. I’m guessing I need to do everything I can to lift my neighbor up–to meet her needs, to make sure that she is able to shine in the best light.

Isn’t that what I want for myself?

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Matthew 6:24

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Now that I’ve changed the name on some of my images, my view count has dropped off significantly. Apparently sushi is a very popular search term and some of my images are particularly appetizing. Changing their names to “notAnInterestingImage.jpg” and “WhyDontYouReadMyBlog.jpg” aren’t as attractive search words. Go figure.

You should be reading this blog

SomethingGraphic. wordpress.com is the best blog ever!

Maybe this should be an image on every page.

I’ve just started taking a non-fiction writing class. You know what–everyone is a writer. And when I was talking at dinner about writing (AKA getting published) someone else said how they wanted to be published too. Seems you can’t throw a book without hitting a writer.

All day I am constantly torn between writing something that isn’t work related, doing work that actually pays and making sure that the kids receive the proper amount of love and affection. Not that The Boy wants love and affection–he just wants access to Comic Life. But The Girl and The Baby are still a little dependent on me. I know that won’t last forever, so I am really conflicted when The Baby cries, “I want my Mommy!” At the end of the day, I often feel that I haven’t satisfied any masters–my writing remains undone; my work doesn’t measure up; and the kids think their mother is attached to a computer 24/7.

When Jesus was speaking about money versus God, I don’t necessarily think he was actually referring to money. I think he’s talking about the material world and the spiritual world. You can’t live in both worlds. So how do I do this when I have to live in the material world. I can’t float through the world not worrying about money or work. I can’t roll around in the grass with the kids and plan that God will take care of me. I have to be in the material world.

I need to learn to live in a world as though I am a tourist. God wants me to enjoy this stay, but to realize that I’m NOT STAYING. If my focus is on what God wants for me, everything should fall into place. When I’m struggling with priorities I need to consider what is going to count in the long run.

Do I know the ultimate balance for all of this? Of course not! It’s 11pm and I’m writing. I have class tomorrow and I haven’t done my reading. But I’m trying.

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Psalm 4:8

8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

I imagine David making this musical arrangement complete with electric guitar, bass and keyboard. He probably had some backup singers to accompany him during the interludes. And a sax–you can’t forget the sax.

This psalm was written as a song–a celebration to God and in honor of his greatness.

At the same time, it is also a song for us, a song meant to give us comfort and remind us of the peace that God offers us.

I love watching The Baby sleep. She is so content, so unafraid. So unlike me. As adults, we realize that there are indeed, things that go bump in the night. There are scarier things than the monster under the bed. But The Baby doesn’t have anything inside her to fear. She knows that all her needs will be met. She sleeps the sleep of angels. The Boy and The Girl are getting older–they are losing some of that faith. They are learning to be afraid.

Maybe this is why Jesus tells us to have the faith of a child–a young child. Open, ready, accepting. If we had that kind of faith, we would realize that the Lord lets us dwell in safety.

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Hebrews 4:12

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

I think this verse is meant to comfort me through all the entries I’ve made over the last 34 days. Some of the verses made me quite uncomfortable.  I feel like I either don’t have the knowledge to relate to the verse properly or I don’t agree with what the verse says. It does cut between my soul and spirit. I feel like there is a dilemma between my head and my heart. Does everything in the Bible still apply to today?

We were even talking about this in church on Sunday. The sermon was about how God had punished someone more severely than we would have expected. Basically, He killed them because they lied. Pretty severe, eh. So is that Bible story telling me that if I lie, God might strike me dead? You have to admit, there are some pretty conflicting stories that we have to wrestle with. It can challenge our faith–especially when those who are unchurched challenge us on specific Bible verses. I’ve found that interesting over the years–someone who isn’t a Christian picks out one verse from the Bible and says, “I can’t be a Christian because the Bible says ‘such and such.'”

As I’ve said in the past, I think that the Bible is like an onion. It has layers. His word is alive and powerful in all of us. I think as we deal with our fellow man, we need to be aware of how God wants us to represent him. Do we want to be like Westboro Baptist Church? Or someone full of hellfire and brimstone? Someone condemning or tolerant? What is our desire to show others who our God truly is?

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