The word Lent stems from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “lengthening of days.” www.Biblegateway.com says:
Lent is the span of time in the church calendar that starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday commemorates the beginning of Jesus’ 40-day fasting and temptation in the desert, and Easter Sunday commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after his crucifixion.
Lent, then, is generally observed as a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter. It is commonly observed by many Christian denominations–Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and others–although not every Christian church or denomination does so.
Even though it’s cold and snow still covers the ground (at least here in Kansas City), the lengthening of days is happening. Daylight savings time begins this Sunday. Days should get warmer and longer, even though winter seems like it will never go away.
Even if we can’t see it now, there are stirrings in nature, small buds appearing, seeds preparing to burst into beautiful flowers.
Like Spring, Lent should be a time of stirring, growth, a time to lengthen ourselves, to stretch ourselves to be better, more Christ-like.
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
During our Ash Wednesday service, Bishop Leo Michael, our pastor at St. James Anglican Church (who’s also my husband) said we shouldn’t boast about what we are going to give up for Lent because then we already get our reward. He advised to do these things in secret.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6
So, I’m not saying anything about my small sacrifices, but I will announce that I’m welcoming the season of Lent in order to strive toward becoming a better me.
Like seeds and tiny buds are stirring and growing, I hope, by Easter, to be strengthened, lengthened, and bloomed into someone a little more Christ like.
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:10
Have a blessed Lent Season!
Very happy for Christina, a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. I’m thrilled to have this up-and-coming author on my blog today. Christina will share a little bit about her faith walk and also about her soon to be best-selling novel: The Guardian’s Promise. Take it away Christina Rich:
There was a time when being a Christian meant I had to go to church every Sunday and Wednesday and every other day church was open. It meant I wore skirts. It meant I bowed my head and closed my eyes when I prayed. It meant reciting the sinner’s prayer every time I heard it and asking for forgiveness for all the things I had already repented.
To me, being a Christian was a bunch of rules and regulations. It was filled with the how tos and the how not tos.
Remember the Samaritan woman at the well? She came to draw water from the well and met Jesus. We all know how the story goes. Jesus asks her for a drink of water, which was akin to him asking for water from a leper. It just wasn’t done. And then, if that wasn’t enough, Jesus tells her that she should be asking him for a drink of water. Whoa! This poor woman, no doubt, about fell over. But it gets better. Jesus informs her of her indiscretions, as if she didn’t know. Surely this women is in awe. Who wouldn’t be?
But she realizes Jesus is a prophet, and maybe if she allowed herself to hope a little, he was the Messiah. But she couldn’t hope, because if he was then that meant she could never drink from the cup he offered. Not only is she a Samaritan, but…
Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
In essence, your rules, your laws will not allow me to worship you, Lord because I must worship here, while you are in Zion.
No, she didn’t say that, but I quite imagine her line of thought followed in a similar vein. I can also imagine:
Jesus dipped his chin to hide a smile. My dear, dear woman, do you not understand? “Believe me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you know not,: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.”
Her cheeks turned rosy with shame. Disappointment burdened her heart.
“But an hour will come, even now, when true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Gathering courage to speak, she inhaled a shuddering breath. “I know that Messiah will come, who is called Christ: when he comes, he will tell us all things.”
Jesus squeezed the tassels of his tallit in his hand. Father, thank you for times such as this. “I am he.” (Based off John 4)
Ari, the hero in The Guardian’s Promise, was raised a Levite. Much of his life was dedicated to studying the law. It was filled with rituals and rules, but then Athaliah came into power and destroyed the temple. Altars all over Judah were destroyed. His way of life changed. The loss of the temple represented losing God. Ari struggles with the loss and often wonders if God forgot about him.
A soft breeze rustled his garments, bringing with it the sweet smell of the henna blossoms hedged around the vineyards. He saw Mira, pure and innocent, in his mind’s eye, leaning over one of the small flowers inhaling the scent just as she had earlier in the day. His life’s blood quickened with the need to touch her fingertips. To press his lips to her brow. If only for a second.
Ari gripped the neck of his tunic in anguish and threatened to rend the garment in two. Even when Jehoiada sent word of his imminent freedom, Ari knew he could never return to the temple and the duties he’d held before Athaliah’s murderous rampage. Life as he had known it had ceased to exist when he had left the gates of Jerusalem. And as hard as it had been to abandon his beloved city with all haste in her time of trouble, it would be even more difficult to leave this village and the friends he’d made.
Blowing out a breath of air, Ari released the fabric and prayed for peace to settle his anxious heart. Although he had not forgotten even one day to meditate on the Lord’s law, at times he doubted whether God had remembered him. Had the Lord abandoned him altogether? Had the Lord forgotten Joash? Had the Lord forgotten His covenant with King David?
“Do you remember your promise to David, Lord? ‘Your house and your kingship shall ever be secure before you, your throne shall be established for evermore.’” He shook his fist at the heavens before bowing his head in remorse.
Questioning God’s faithfulness did not set well in his soul. He knew once the questioning began, it would soon fester and eat away at his heart. Ari fought the urge to bury his face into his hands. Instead, he stared into the great void and waited for some sort of reprimand from God Himself.
The quiet was only interrupted by the bleating of a goat. Still, he waited, for God’s peace to cloak him. Just as he was about to give up and seek his sleep, a star streaked across his vision and faded into the dark night. He recalled a psalm memorized from childhood.
If the Most High, in all of His greatness, cared to name even the stars and knew their number, would He not remember Ari?
“Forgive me. The unknown is like torment.” He paused. “If You hear me, O Lord,” his voice a mere whisper to his own ears, “grant me Thy guidance. Thy wisdom. Courage. I am Your servant, Most High, humbled before You.” Whether bound to another man’s house or in freedom. He inhaled the warm, henna-scented night air. An ache throbbed in his chest at the fragrance so much a part of Mira. Could he love her? Could she love him? Of course, it did not matter if God did not will it. Closing his eyes, he bowed his head. “I will go where You lead.”
God spoke to Ari in such a clear, yet gentle manner. How like God. In what seemed liked Ari’s most trying time, when God seemed so far away, He was showing Ari that worship wasn’t about burnt offerings and sacrifice, it about a relationship in truth and in spirit.
Thank you Christina,
For a great historical, inspirational read, I highly recommend: The Guardian’s Promise by this very talented author, Christina Rich.
Rich Maffeo is one of my favorite Christian authors. He blogs over at The Contemplative Catholic Convert. I found a lot of spiritual wisdom in his well-written, inspiring blog post today and asked his permission to reprint it here.
Here’s the blog in its entirety:
I published this essay in my book, Lessons Along the Journey. I re-posted it to my blog about a year ago. The incident below occurred decades ago, but from time to time I talk with people who, like Robert, cannot (or choose not to) believe God’s great love and forgiveness could be directed toward them. To everyone else, yes. But not to and for them. After a more recent conversation along these lines, I thought to re-post this again. There are still many Christians who need the reminder.
I think that if God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as higher tribunal than Him. — C. S. Lewis
MY VERY OWN FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER
The shadowy figure darted behind a tombstone and peered steadily into the darkness. When he was satisfied no one had spotted him, he thrust his shovel into the fresh grave — again and again. Soon, his spade thudded against the casket. A few minutes later, he lifted the corpse onto his shoulders and grunted.
Dr. Frankenstein would be pleased.
I’m surprised I still remember the 1950s horror film. Dr. Frankenstein zapped the cadaver with a bolt of electricity and brought the dead back to life. Unfortunately, the monster ended up terrorizing the countryside.
Have you noticed how our culture seems preoccupied with death? Surf the TV most evenings or browse the sci-fi section in online streaming sites. The titles may surprise you. Even some Christians seem preoccupied with restoring life to things that ought to stay dead.
Robert is a good example. He has a bad habit of digging around in graveyards — mostly his. He called me some time ago in a state of depression, “How can God forgive me?” he pleaded. “You don’t know what I’ve done.”
That was not the first conversation I’d had with him over the same theme. I’ve lost count of the times Robert has called for assurance of God’s forgiveness. And each time I remind him of Scripture’s promises, he responds with his characteristic, “Yes, but.”
As he spoke, a mental image of the Frankenstein monster formed as Robert again dug up his past — a past covered by Christ’s blood. I watched him piece together one old sin after another, assembling them into a monster that terrorized him and his family.
This time, though, I could not find fault only with my friend’s needless despair. With seamless precision, my thoughts propelled me toward my own graveyard where “Yes, but” is etched on several tombstones.
Like Robert, I know Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness. So why do I dig around in my past, piecing together my own monster? Why do I permit the creature that Christ put to death be resurrected and wreak havoc on my life and hurt my relationship with God and with others?
I know why. Sometimes I doubt our Father’s trustworthiness. I am skeptical that Christ’s sacrificial death could cover my despicable sins. So, I revive my past, lifting each sin onto my shoulders as if to say, “Lord, if you really knew what I’ve done, you would never forgive me.”
On the other end of the line, Robert’s litany of reasons why God was angry with him gained momentum. With each passing thought, he dug himself deeper into the Yes, but pit until I couldn’t take anymore.
“Robert,” I interrupted.
He stopped talking and I reminded him again — myself as well — of the promises which stand more sure than Earth itself, of promises more secure than any anchor, of promises that transcend all of our “Yes, buts”:
“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “[Therefore], now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Scripture after Scripture, promise after promise swirled though my mind and slipped across my tongue. I don’t know if they helped Robert, but I know they helped me to once again place my monster back into the crypt. By God’s grace, I will leave it there. Life is too short, and the laborers too few, to waste time and energy carrying a dead man around on my shoulders.
God says to the penitent: Forgiven. Satan whispers: Guilty.
Whom will we believe?
I’ve been hinting at it, but didn’t want to share the news too soon. Now I can because I finally got the signed book contract in the mail! Doing a happy dance! YAY!!! My first book contract!!! And with a major publisher! Thank you Harvest House Publishers! Thank you editor, Kim Moore, who listened to my pitch at the ACFW Writer’s Conference last fall and had faith and confidence in me and in this project!
So why is Jake holding the contract with me?
We are co-authoring this devotional book! So excited to be working on this project with my son.
And, I’m still working on my novels. Finishing up final edits on #2 and working on #3. Thankful to God for this gift and hope for more book contracts in 2014!
Haven’t blogged much lately due to holidays and writing commitments, but I have been splashing photos and news on Facebook about Jake (my NFL player son).
A fantastic Romans 8:28 story! (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.)
Even if you saw this on Facebook, here’s the story behind the story.
We’ve all had those moments when life is going great, plans are coming together, sun is shining, and bluebirds are singing on our shoulder, then BAM! We get slammed with the unexpected. Instead of bluebirds, feels like life is giving us the bird.
Happened like that a few weeks ago for Jake. He was cut by the Houston Texans. As a mom, my heart went out for the uncertainty he felt regarding his career and future. (And given his career is in the NFL, unfortunately he’s had these moments before).
I prayed for him, asking God for His perfect plan for Jake’s career and life (as I do for all of my children.)
Side line note
Secret to life as I know it:
1. Pray Submit yourself, your situation to God.
3. Trust. Trust God can work all things for his good. (Romans 8:28)
4. Thanks. No matter what your feeling, give God thanks for hearing your prayer. Because He’s God and you’re not, trust He will take care of things and don’t forget to thank Him.
Then let go!
That secret to life has never failed me. And it’s what both Jake and I did.
Then, BAM! Jake was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs on practice squad. I live in Kansas City! How cool is that? What are the chances?
While I relished in the mom role again (doing Jake’s laundry and feeding the big boy), as always, I know that God’s plans are always even better that we can imagine.
So….after only one week in Kansas City, The San Diego Chargers signed Jake onto their roster. While I loved having him here, I kind of thought he’d get snapped up fast by a team who needed his skills.
And of course, the move is great for his career.
Imagine, being cut from a losing team, then getting picked up by a winning team now in the playoffs. Jake is playing more and has a greater role in the offense with the Chargers.
Jake (#81-Tight End) had a fantastic game this past Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Really good plays and outstanding blocks! Chargers won!
See how happy Jake and his teammates are. Photo from http://www.chargers.com
So, this Sunday Jake will play in Denver against the Broncos. Please keep him in your prayers and cheer on #81 and the Chargers!
And back to Romans 8:28…God can work all things to the good, even for a kid diagnosed with Type One Diabetes in high school who wondered if he’d even be able to continue playing football. God has a plan for this guy, who also spends his time encouraging youth with type one diabetes.
Isn’t he cute? Follow Jake on twitter @sugarfreejb82
Isaiah 40:28-31 says, Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
The dictionary describes wonder as, “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”
Wonder is often associated with Christmas, in regard to the wonder of the season, the “beauty” and “awe”.
In the song, (Mary’s Song), Breath of Heaven, Mary uses the word wonder to tell of her unfamiliar and unsure situation, traveling into the unknown, feeling her unworthiness to have been chosen by God to give birth to a baby who will become the savior of the world. After reading this, click the link below to hear this beautiful song.
Wonder. Amazing how this words meaning can change through the power of prayer.
I’ve been in a phase of waiting, “wondering,” for so long. I’ve submitted my “wonders” to God in prayer, then done my best to leave them with Him, trusting He would answer according to His perfect will.
Then, praise His Holy Name, I’ve seen real true miracles unfold around me, and I am in WONDER at how much He truly cares about the small as well as the big things in my life. I have so much to share, and I will, but can’t yet. So just for now, I’ll share one part of an answered prayer.
I have a book contract! In a day or two I’ll share the entire beautiful, and wonderful story.
What do you wonder about? Pray, then leave your wonderings with God, trust that He loves you, hears your petition, and will answer, according to His will. Then rejoice in the peace He will surely give you. And thank Him. By doing so, I am certain you will experience the WONDER of His Love! I have and am so thankful!
A few days ago I opened up Facebook before tackling my daily writing and posted a few quick inspiring words about a Christmas phrase that popped into my mind. I did the same thing the next day.
Before I knew it, I was writing them into my Facebook page each day and completely enjoying it.
Spur of the moment devotionals.
Sundays “Christmas phrase” filled me with joy, well, because it was “Rejoice” and also it actually matched Sundays reading and sermon at church. While I didn’t have time to get on Facebook before church, a little girl in the pew ahead of me inspired me to write yesterday’s devotional and I posted it on Facebook last night. I love it when inspiration comes together like that.
Here it is:
A wonderful Christmas word, but not so easy to rejoice when we don’t exactly feel joy in our hearts.
Today in church, Neena, our gifted singer and musician, came down from the choir loft to go to the communion rail with her family. Celeste, her beautiful granddaughter caught sight of her and was instantly transformed. Her face lit up and her hands shot out in full rejoicing mode.
A bored, antsy child became overwhelmed with joy because of the love she felt for her grandmother.
We should be like Celeste. Knowing that God is always before us, we should let go of our anxiety, throw up our arms and rejoice.
Celeste knows how much Neena loves her. As God’s children, if we truly understood how much He loves us…if we could only trust in his ultimate wisdom and care, we could truly rejoice like sweet Celeste.
Take that one big issue or problem that your thinking about right now. Find a quiet place. Then completely, fully, submit that problem to God. Then rejoice, knowing that His love for you is greater than you can ever imagine.
This morning I thought I’d put these devotions on my blog, too. Today starts “Nine Days Before Christmas” so I’ll be posting a new short devotional each day from my blog and Facebook. And I’m thinking, after Christmas, maybe I’ll work on them some more and put them together for my next devotional book. (more exciting news about why I said “next” will come soon.)
Today’s devotional was really short:
…and the soul felt it’s worth
Those words to my favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night, always send chills through me.
Again, those words with what precedes them. “…and he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
This devotional today is going to be super short because the power in the words are the words themselves.
Really think about that phrase from that song. “And he appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth.”
Does your soul truly feel its worth?
If not, has he appeared in your life? Have you asked him to appear? Find out the true “magic” of Christmas when you invite him to truly appear.
1928 BCP, 1928 Book of Common Prayer, Adventures in Wyoming, Anglican Church, Anglican Church in Wyoming, Bishop Ken Kinner, Bishop Leo Mchael, Blog, Casper, Casper Anglican Church, Church of the Holy Family, Church of the Holy Spirit, Church of the Morning Star, Colorado, Confirmations, Deaon Bill Brummett, Episcopal Visit, Greeley, HCCAR, Holly Michael, Holy Catholic Church Anglican Rite, Holy Trinity Church, Lander, Lander Anglican Church, Lander Wyoming, Leo Michael, Meeteetsee, Sheridan, Sheridan Anglican Church, St. Gabriel's Anglican Church, St. Johns Anglican Church, Wind River Reservations Wind River Canyon, www.writingstraight.com, Wyoming
My husband, Bishop Leo Michael and I have been on a whirlwind Episcopal tour of our Wyoming churches with a final stop in Greeley, Colorado.
So much happened on this trip, many testimonies of God’s love, even a great writing related story, but that’s for other posts. For this post, pictures will best share our week’s adventures.
First stop: Left early in the morning from Kansas City and arrived at Casper, Wyoming in time for dinner at Bosco’s Italian Restaurant with Bishop Ken and Priscilla Kinner…
…there we met Wyoming Senator John Barrasso and his lovely wife, Bobbi. We showed them a picture we’d published of them in Koinonia, the Holy Catholic Church Anglican Rite publication.
The next day, requiem Mass for our beloved Deacon Bill Brummett at the church where he faithfully served, Church of the Holy Family in Casper.
Then on the road to Lander, Wyoming…
Our Church of the Morning Star does not need stained glass windows. God provides the beauty:
Then followed Bishop Kinner and Priscilla to Meeteetsee, Wyoming…
Then, back to Casper for a service at the Church of the Holy Family with reception of new members…
And then on to Greeley, Colorado, our final stop before heading back to Kansas City.
All in a week’s work! Well, can’t really call it work. It was a wonderful time. Loved visiting with our church family and welcoming new members. And the views weren’t bad either.
PS. If you like these photos of Wyoming, check out my friend’s Kristina’s blog, My Wyoming Adventure
#89, Betsy Byrne, big dreams, Bishop Leo Michael, diabetes, Dreams, Faith, football, God, Holly Michael, Holy Catholic Church Anglican Rite, Hope, Houston Texans, Isaiah 40:12, Isaiah 40:27, Jake Byrne, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Nick Byrne, Prayer, Proverbs 3:5-6, Rajun Cajuns, Saint James Anglican Church, St. James Anglican Church, T1, trust, trust God, type 1 diabetes, Type One Diabetes, www.writingstraight.com
Big dreamers must be equipped with bucket loads of trust; trust they will see their dreams to fruition. They need to mix that trust with hard work, confidence, and a little brain power, too. BUT the most important ingredient needed to bind all of this together to really whip that big dream into a reality you can sink your teeth into: God!
We must trust in God. Have confidence in God. And use the brain power He gifted us with to know that ultimately, we can do nothing without Him.
I never understand how people disregard the power and strength of God while struggling to make their dreams become reality. Last night, during a Bible study at our church, St. James Anglican, our facilitator, Dan Hartshorn, drew our attention to Isaiah 40:12 which describes God: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span.
Now, if you can measure the waters of the earth in the hollow of your hand and measure the heavens with the span of your hands, you have some really big hands! And these big hands are not only big, but loving hands. Why would we ever want to do anything without those big hands helping us? Seems pointless, really.
I’ve been working hard to finish a third novel and prepare for a very important writer’s conference. I’ve got really big dreams that I want to become reality.
My son Jake, a rookie in the NFL with the Houston Texans has big dreams too. He’s playing a very important pre-season game tonight (Texans vs. Dallas Cowboys) where he will be put in to play the entire game to really prove himself. Both of us realize that we need to rely on God’s power and strength so much now. Jake is a type one diabetic. He will surely need God’s strength tonight and always. Please pray for him. #89
Funny, but reading the above verse, verse 12 in Isaiah 40, I read a little lower to verse 27 and had to text it to Jake. It begins with God addressing Jacob, so appropriate for my Jacob, too: 27 Why do you say, O Jacob and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Jake’s text response: “Love it! Thank you. I should be good to go for this one!!”
Yeah, I think we’ll all be good to go, trusting in our God.
Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will direct your path!
And thanking God for daughter Betsy getting an internship this week. (below, left of big brother Jake)
…and getting ready for the next football game. younger son Nick (University of Louisiana-Lafayette-Ragin Cajuns), also a tight-end, will play against the Arkansas Razorbacks this Saturday! We’re pretty excited about that, too! Go Nick!!!
God bless you all and I really appreciate your prayers and support!