Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

I purchased this book at the beginning of the year, A Disciple's Journal 2015: A Guide for Daily Prayer, Bible Reading, and Discipleship.  I've not been good a reading it every day, though when I do I really enjoy it.  Today's reading was especially for Ash Wednesday and I found it very interesting.

The scriptures are Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, Psalm 51:1-17, 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.  You can read them here.   The lectionary has one more reading from Isaiah, 58:1-12.

In Joel it talks about blowing the trumpet to announce the coming of the Lord!  It talks about returning to God with fasting.

In Isaiah, it talks again about blowing the trumpet and fasting.  This time it talks about fasting to humble oneself, to loose the bonds of injustice, to share your bread with the hungry and gather the poor in to your home.

In Psalms, it talks about being made clean.  This says "Create in me a clean heart," "Open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise."

In 2 Corinthians it talks about becoming the righteousness of God.  It says, "See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!"  Don't put obstacles in anyone's way so that no fault may be found with our ministry.  Being servants of God through the hard stuff.

And then in Matthew it talks about not putting on show in our fasting, our giving, our praying, but to do it in private and keep it between you and God.

They kind of all put this whole thing of 'giving up' something for Lent into perspective.  The whys and hows.  It quietly prepared me.

In preparing for Easter, I've decided to try to do through the lens of my camera by following photo-a-day project at Rethink Church.  Today's word is Announce and I loved how it played into the scripture readings.  I decided to look around me for announcements and here is what I found...

An announcement of spring coming in the middle of the snow.
An announcement of my husband's love for me.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Let's Be Transformed

I didn't get preach this morning so this morning as I listened to the sermon at our church, I remembered the sermon I had prepared last year, but never got to share because we had a snow storm, so I thought I'd share it here this year.

Exodus 24:12-18
Matthew 17:1-9

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration or Transfiguration Sunday.  It is the Sunday between the season after Epiphany and Lent.  The transfiguration was a time when human nature met God with Jesus as the bridge.  Today, we will think about the Transfiguration of Jesus and how it relates to the upcoming season of Lent. 

Jesus takes Peter, James and John high up the mountain with him to be witnesses of what is about to happen.  This transfiguration is a revealing of Jesus’s true nature.  Jesus is glorified.  These three disciples get to see who Jesus really is and then they hear the voice of God coming out of the cloud, “This is my son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

Jesus was revealed to them!  When they heard God’s voice they were scared.  They fell to the ground overcome with fear.  Can you imagine it?

Have you ever been that scared?  I will admit that I have.  My husband’s first deployment started about 3 or 4 months before the war in Iraq began. He left on a 6th month rotation in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. We knew when he left that war was coming and that he might not come home as scheduled.  I was scared when he left.  I didn’t know what to expect.  Then one night, the night the war was kicking off, I got a phone call.  It was my husband.  He was calling before the blackout, that’s when all lines out are turned off and there is no more communication for a while.  His words made my blood run cold.  He said, “I just wanted to tell you I love you one last time.”  That scared me to death.  It literally took my breath away.  I quickly told him I loved him and then he was gone.  I remember that I barely made to the room where my parents were sleeping in, before I fell to the floor crying.  I was that scared.

I think this must have been a little like how the disciples felt when they heard the voice of God. They had just witnessed light glowing from Jesus and then Elijah and Moses appeared and then, this voice came from the cloud.  It had to be overwhelming and frightening.  They were overcome with fear and fell to the ground.  Then Jesus came over to them and touched them and said, “Get up and do not be afraid.”   That reassuring voice of Jesus, “Get up, you have more to do.  Don’t be afraid, I’m with you. “  If we had read on in Matthew just  few verses, we would have heard Jesus tell them to wait to tell anyone about what they had seen until after his resurrection.  There was more preparing to be done before everyone was ready to have Jesus really revealed to them.

Back in Exodus, God called Moses to the mountain to receive the stone tablets but he told them to wait there. And the glory of the Lord settled on the mountain in the form of a brilliant cloud.  Now, I bet the Israelites were just as scared as the disciples at the sight.   Moses waited on the mountain for 6 days.  On the 7th day God called Moses from the cloud to come to him and Moses entered the cloud, went up the mountain and stayed there for 40 days and 40 nights.

Now, I enjoy finding how stories match up or finding threads that run through the Bible and 40 days is one of them.  In the story of Noah, it rained for 40 days and then Noah waited another 40 days before opening the window of the ark. Moses was on the mountain for 40 days (this happened twice with Moses).  Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days and so on.  And, Lent is a 40 day observance. 

Lent is a time when we draw near to God.  It’s time to reflect on our lives and our relationship with the Lord.  It’s a time for sacrifice, it’s a time for renewal.  If want, we can take these 40 days and use them to be transformed ourselves to be more like Christ.  Isn’t that what we are called to be?  

In Leviticus, we are told to be holy (19:2 it was discussed the week before) and then in Matthew, Jesus tells us to be perfect (5:48).  Lent is time for us to work on this.  There are many ways people observe Lent.  Some people give something up.  They give up chocolate, soft drinks, eating out.  Now a days, people try to give up Facebook or TV for the 40 days, though this year, I’ve heard of people just giving them up on Sundays during the 40 days. 

Some people add something to better themselves, a discipline.  Such as fasting once a week, adding daily Bible readings, more prayer time, exercising, eating healthier and so on.

Whichever way you go about it, the purpose is to spend the 40 days focusing more on God, strengthening our relationship with Christ, developing good habits that will help lead us to a our own transformation.

Christ was transfigured that day on the mountain.  His true self was revealed to the disciples.  Now it’s our turn.  We can‘t be transfigured but we can be transformed.  We can reveal through discipline who it is that God created us to be, a child of God, a Christ follower, a servant to others.  We can use these 40 days, which start this Wednesday, to transform our lives for Christ.  Will you join me? 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Do you meditate?  I've tried but am never very successful.  I can't ever get my mind to quiet down, but this morning I started reading a book on meditation with your camera and it started out talking about centering.  It gave a little exercise to get you started and for the first time in my life, I was able to quiet my mind and just be present and just listen.  It was the most relaxing feeling.  It felt so good.

Often when we think of people meditating we think of sitting cross-legged, hands open on knees with two fingers touching chanting Ooommmm....  some new age thing or Buddhist practice but anyone can meditate and we probably all should. 

The definition of meditate is: "think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation." 

Too often people see the word spiritual and think of anything but religion.  Some people think of new age type stuff and are frightened away by it, but religion is spiritual and meditation is away for us to let the spirit in, or maybe to open ourselves to the spirit.
During this time this morning I felt revived and felt... maybe... a sense of direction, a sense of peace.  I think I'm going to work on incorporating meditation more regularly into my life.  I can see where it can change things.  I can see where it can help in different aspects of my life.  The big one?  Letting go.  I could feel certain things I've been holding onto start to slip away.  I'm not saying they won't come back but it was nice to know that I can let go and let God have 'it'.  

So, do you meditate?  When you do it?  in the mornings?  in the evenings? throughout the day?  How do you do it?  sitting in a chair?  lying down?  eyes open or shut?  music or silence?  I'd love to hear what you have to say!  Please share!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


When I started out on this journey of Lay Servant Ministries, people asked me what 'level' (for lack of the right word right now) I planned to go to.  Local Lay Servant?  Certified Lay Servant?  Lay Speaker?  Certified Lay Minister? (That one is really a stand alone but it was there.) My reply was that I would go until God told me to stop.  The problem is, how do I know when God says stop?  I've heard a slow down, wait till it's time once but how do I know?
Borrowed from the Upper Room Facebook Page  Go 'like' them you'll be blessed.
I really try to listen, I do.  I listen to what those around me say.  I listen to the scriptures.  I listen, but I have a hard time trusting what I hear.  I have a hard time knowing what's God and what's not.  How do we discern that?  I took an 'advanced course' on this very thing and maybe I need to take it again because I don't think it took!  I hear conflicting things all the time, from the people around me and also from inside me, in my thoughts.

So... I'm going to work on that silence thing. I'm going to try to listen more.  

Speak, Lord.  Your servant is listening.

I borrowed this one from the IntentionLiving Facebook page.  Go 'like' them!

Update: I am a Lay Speaker which is as far as Lay Servant Ministries goes.  I'm just not sure if I am supposed to go beyond that or not...