I like the imagery of Lent as a journey. It makes sense as we walk with Jesus toward the cross. Lent is a spiritual season of the church during which we prepare for the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. It begins on Ash Wednesday, which was yesterday. Even though we walk toward the same end, our Lenten journeys are very personal. So, below, please find several thoughts on Lent from some important writers. Take what you need. Share what you don't. It might just be the map for someone else's Lenten trip.
“At start of spring I open a trench
In the ground. I put into it
The winter’s accumulation of paper,
Pages I do not want to read
Again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the suns, growth of the ground,
Finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise,
have been inattentive to wonders,
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse,
of mind and body, I close the trench
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.”
― Wendell Berry, New Collected Poems
“These special holidays give rise to various liturgical calendars that suggest we should mark our days not only with the cycles of the moon and seasons, but also with occasions to tell our children the stories of our faith community's past so that this past will have a future, and so that our ancient way and its practices will be rediscovered and renewed every year.”
― Brian D. McLaren, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
“We suffer these things and they fade form memory. But daily, hourly, to give up our own possessions and especially to subordinate our own impulses and wishes to to others - these are hard, hard things; and I don't think they ever get any easier.
You can strip yourself, you can be stripped, but still you will reach out like an octopus to seek your own comfort, your untroubled time, your ease, your refreshment. It may mean books or music - the gratification of the inner sense - or it may mean food and drink, coffee and cigarettes. The one kind of giving up is no easier than the other.”
― Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love: Notes on Following Jesus
“The cross is not the suffering tied to natural existence, but the suffering tied to being Christians. The cross is never simply a matter of suffering, but a matter of suffering and rejection for the sake of Jesus Christ, not for the sake of some other arbitrary behavior or confession.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”
― Will Rogers
“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”
― Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers
“You’re not likely to err by practicing too much of the cross.”
― Alexander Whyte, Bunyan characters in the Pilgrim's progress
“The Lord bestows his blessings there, where he finds the vessels empty.”
― Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
“I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self, and live wholly to Him.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon
It is my Lent to break my Lent,
To eat when I would fast,
To know when slender strength is spent,
Take shelter from the blast
When I would run with wind and rain,
To sleep when I would watch.
It is my Lent to smile at pain
But not ignore its touch.
It is my Lent to listen well
When I would be alone,
To talk when I would rather dwell
In silence, turn from none
Who call on me, to try to see
That what is truly meant
Is not my choice. If Christ’s I’d be
It’s thus I’ll keep my Lent.
--For Lent, 1966 by Madeleine L’Engle
Serving a small church is a peculiar joy. One of the great things to watch in a small church is the deep, time consuming, abiding commitment of a few faithful folks. It is harder to be committed to a church that is going through a difficult time, especially in the faces of the mega church. There is always somewhere you can go that "has a lot to offer" and "has so much going on", and many of them won't ask much of you. It can feel a little like being Boston Red Sox fan from 1918 until 2004. It can feel thankless.
I was struck by Chuck Swindoll's words, "More than once, Jesus deliberately addressed certain issues that quickly diminished the number of onlookers. It was commitment that thinned the ranks." Commitment isn't easy, it isn't popular, and although it can LEAD to fun, that kind of faithfulness can also be complicated and time consuming.
And yet, of the traits of God, faithfulness is one of the most often mentioned in scripture. Read Psalm 136 and you will read that "his steadfast love endures for ever" 26 times. So, if we are going to respond to God's faithful love, it makes sense that it should be with faithfulness.
So thank you, thank you to all those who continue to be committed to the work God is doing through us at Brightwood Christian Church! For those of you who have felt a little like you want to stay on the sidelines, DON'T! Now's the time to dig in deep, because God has a lot in store!
Valentine's day is almost upon us. It is my least favorite of all holidays. The world explodes with candy hearts, but instead of love in the air, I think there is only money. I'm a happily married woman with over 20 years of marriage, and as romantic as the next gal. I think that is exactly WHY I don't like Valentine's day. It is a time that people talk excessively about something they exhibit negligibly.
It did begin as a holiday of faith, celebrating St. Valentine. But the story isn't cute enough to put on a candy heart. Read more here. Even so, I certainly find myself thinking more about the love of God than love songs this time of year.
Which is why I like to reflect on Robert Heinlein's definition of love from Stranger in a Strange Land. "Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." Occasionally, we may think about how avoid God's wrath. Valentine's Day is a good time to think about what we could do to make God happy.
What does the Bible say makes God happy?
Psalm 147:10-11-Those who wait for his loving-kindness
Proverbs 11:1- Justice in business
Proverbs 12:22- Those who deal faithfully
Jeremiah 9:24- loving kindness, justice and righteousness
Matthew 3:17- Jesus
1 Samuel 15:22- obedience
This Valenine's Day, skip the chocolate and give God what will make Him happy. That's how we love Him.
Rev. Jana Quisenberry is the minister at Brightwood Christian Church. She's an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN, She now resides in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, two children, and dog, Sookie. Pastor Jana loves the church, science fiction, and coffee.
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