Darkness Falls

Last Supper.

Garden Prayer.

Betrayal.

Arrest.

Mocked.

Beaten.

Spit on.

Insulted.

Denial.

Trial.

False accusations.

Questions.

Ridicule.

Not guilty.

Crucify him!

Stripped.

Scarlet robe.

Crown of thorns.

Mocked.

Stripped.

Beaten.

Burden of the cross.

Place of the Skull.

Hands pierced with nails.

Feet pierced with nails.

Slowly dying.

Agony.

King of the Jews.

Cursed.

Defended.

Forgave.

Forsaken.

Broken-hearted.

Breathless.

Dead.

3 hours of darkness.

Earthquake.

Temple curtain torn.

Acknowledged.

Side pierced.

Blood poured out.

Legs broken.

Buried.

Night comes.

Darkness falls.

Foolish or Faithful

This year Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day, and now Easter will fall on April Fool’s Day. Two Christian holidays overlapping two non-religious holidays. This year I can’t avoid talking about the irony of Easter being on what the world celebrates as a day for acting like a fool.

Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the source of our faith. It is a day of faith and love. At almost the opposite end of the spectrum, April Fool’s Day is a holiday giving opportunity to play pranks and jokes on people, a day of fools and folly.

Christians celebrate Easter on the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This is why it changes each year. We don’t have an exact date when Jesus died on the cross, but we do know that his death was on a Friday around Passover which makes three days later the Sunday after the vernal equinox full moon.

The origin of April Fool’s Day is debated. Some people believe that it dates back to 1582 when France switched to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian calendar. On the Julian calendar, New Year’s day was celebrated around April 1 and with the Gregorian it was changed to the current date of January 1. When people celebrated the beginning of a new year on April 1 that year, they were called fools. And you could say the rest is history.

So now that I have the when explained, I want to talk a bit about what Easter is and why it is marginalized and commercialized by so many. I believe 1 Corinthians 2:14 explains it perfectly. It states “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

In contrast to “the person without the Spirit”, a person with the Spirit is a born-again Christian. Someone who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit because they have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. God has the Holy Spirit speak to us to give us his wisdom and guidance as told in John 16:13-14 (Jesus speaking), “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”

Why do some “not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God”? In my experience the things of God have been the exact opposite of my selfish desires so I considered them utter foolishness. I thought why would I want to do something that would get me nowhere, give me no credit, and give me nothing tangible? I was fooled by the commercialized fun of April Fool’s Day and the sweet treasures of the Easter bunny. The bigger the trick the better the fun. And I didn’t know anyone who didn’t love to be the “winner” by finding the most eggs and getting the biggest basket with the best gifts.

Then somewhere in my 20s I started wanting something more. I started questioning if there was more to this man they call God. Being raised by parents who only followed a worldly religion of celebrating commercial holidays, I was only exposed to the storybook fantasy of a god who swoops in and saves the day. I soon found myself disappointed and lost when my sinful actions took over my life. I questioned the purpose of life. I began to regret the wasted time I spent living for myself.

I became a Christian in my 30th year of life. That’s a LOT of years following only my selfish desires and having little regard to how I achieved them. I started accepting the truths of God because I was able to discern them from lies but only after I accepted that life on earth was hopeless without the guidance and wisdom from my Creator. I began to realize that I was trapped by thinking I was a pretty good person and didn’t need anyone telling me any different. This selfishness was holding me back from healing from past hurts, overcoming strongholds, and most of all, it was keeping me stuck in sin. But as Jesus said, the Holy Spirit guided me through the muck and showed me that life is beautiful when you give it to God.

I am beyond thankful that God captured my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect by any means. I still do foolish things but I have hope because Christ died on the cross, and God raised him three days later to then ascend to sit at His right hand. Why does that give me hope? Well frankly because I lived a full life without God as my savior and through his grace I survived. It is only because of God’s grace that I am alive and able to share my life with others. God is my father, Jesus is my savior and the Holy Spirit is my guide.

This Easter I’m guessing there will be parents pranking their children with tricks in their baskets. I pray that there are even more parents that glorify the name of God by sharing the true reason we celebrate Easter and how we can honor him for his sacrifices.

So how about you? Will you be foolish or faithful? I leave you with the encouraging words from 1 Peter 4:1-2, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of his earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”

 

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/april-fools-tradition-popularized

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

If you’re following along, I’m in the middle of a self-imposed challenge to keep 2 rooms in my house clean enough that with 5-minutes’ notice I would willingly invite guests into my space.

This experiment started with a thought I had one day that the discipline I demonstrate in the way I keep my house is a reflection of my spiritual discipline. So I wanted to learn what God might say to my heart, as I stretch myself to do something different, and actually clean my house regularly.

I’m about half way though my 66 days and last week, the wheels came off!

Life was clicking along great. My husband was helping, I was experiencing satisfaction in the work of my hands, and peace in my soul.  God was speaking truths to my heart.  It was AMAZING!

Then I got sick.

We came back from the Believe Middle School conference, where we spent the weekend with the BEST MIDDLE SCHOOL KIDS IN THE WORLD along with around 8,000 of their friends from across the country. My souvenirs were a headache (I love you guys, but you’re music is loud) – and a cold.

If you’ve never heard of CIY’s Believe Conference, check it out HERE!

My cold was nothing special, a small fever for a day, laryngitis, coughing. All the usual symptoms of the spring-time plague.  But with it came the kind of self-pity that lets you justify laying around on the couch while the rest of your life falls apart.  And it did fall apart.  Not a dish was washed for a week.  Floors went un-swept – and I didn’t lift a finger, except to whine and point to my tissues as my husband walked by.

Of course I shared with Gene, and then there were two of us sniffling and dragging around the house. Once the cold ran it’s course, I realized I had once more let things get out of control, and there was quite a bit of effort needed to bring the house back into order.  I was quite disappointed that I hadn’t been able to fulfill my commitment.

I sat down the next day with my journal in hand and asked, “OK, what can God teach me from this?”

One of the things I love about God is that He is so quiet, strong and steady. He just waited for me to finish beating myself up over my failure.  He waited for me to finish mourning that I had been unsuccessful and waited for me to run out of words.  When I finally finished writing and put down my pen, my heart heard him add His two cents:

Speaking English puts us at a disadvantage sometimes. In English we typically define “perfect” as without blemish.  But the idea of perfect in scripture is less about being without blemish and more about being complete.  Having everything you need.  So a puzzle is perfect when all the pieces are in place.  A Birthday Cake is perfect, when all the candles are lit and it is ready to function in its role.  And my house is perfect when I have my priorities in place, not when it’s spotless.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul asked God to take away something Paul viewed as a “thorn”, but God declined, telling Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So, when I am at my weakest, God has put all the pieces of the puzzle into place so His power can do its thing.

You see, my 66-day journey is not about having a spotless place to live, its about taking one step closer to the One who’s power is perfect when I’m not.

 

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 1

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2

On my journey to explore holiness and housekeeping, it’s been 7 days into a 66 day experiment to keep two rooms in my house “5-minutes to clean”. If you missed my first article, check it out here.

Just to recap, I’m exploring the idea that how I discipline myself with my housework is a reflection of my spiritual discipline, so I’m attempting to keep two areas of my home clean enough to be company ready in 5 minutes, and more importantly – look for the spiritual lessons I can learn while doing so.

I‘m happy to say, the first 6 days were a great success! I loaded the dishwasher after daily meals and wiped down the stove every day.  I gave the floor a quick sweep and even cleaned out the refrigerator, because clean on the inside is important too!

As I approached each task, I prayed, seeking wisdom and insight. There was such a sense of peace, and I felt closer to God than I have in a very long time.

Waking up in the morning to a clean space was a new adventure for me, and I have to say, I liked it a lot.

Now you may have noticed I started by saying I’m 7-days into this journey and the first 6 were wonderful.   This is not a typo.  Because you see, on day 7…my husband came home.

He was traveling the first week, so my first 6 days were solo.

Gene’s been home for 10 hours now and there are shoes, a suitcase, and dishes already out of place. You see, he did not sign up for my little experiment, nor did he know anything about it.  It took me about 2 hours before I started to become stressed, and short tempered.  That new-found peace evaporated.

What happened? Can my sense of well-being really be so precarious, that adding 1 person into the mix makes my house of cards come tumbling down? What does that say about me?

So I sat down with my journal to uncover what God was trying to teach me through this little hiccup in my experiment. There are SO MANY lessons I could pick out, but here is what He said to me that day.

People are messy. But that’s not a bad thing.  It was so easy to keep my life in order when I was on my own.  Without distractions.  Without conflict.  But neither was there any laughter when Gene wasn’t home. There wasn’t anyone to share the victories, or help carry the burden either.

With a little conversation, I laid out for Gene what I was trying to do, and now, I’m not the only one loading up the dishwasher! So even though people can be messy, the burden is lighter when it is shared.

Here is my lesson from God. People are messy but worth it.  What good is a clean home, if there is no one to share life in it?  I think God views us that way too.  I sure know I’m a mess!  But God still wades into a relationship with me, bringing his patience and Grace every day,  God said it Himself:  “two are better than one…a chord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecc 4:9-12)

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 1
20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

20 Minutes Till Clean

When I married, over 30 years ago, I was young, foolish, and oh so unprepared for the responsibilities of a household. On top of it all, my 2 new sisters-in-law were straight from Marvel Comics and Better Homes and Gardens! They were Wonder Woman and Martha Stewart (before her prison time that is).

Donna was a woman finishing her degree, working full time, raising 3 boys and whose house was always spotless!  Lucy, was Super Mom – attending every football and basketball game, feeding her family organically before that was trendy, and again, with a perfectly clean home. Me? I couldn’t cook and half the time I had to wash dishes just to try!

I adore my two sisters of the heart who are 15 and 20 years my senior. Through the years they took me under their wings, taught me how to cook, clean, and other life skills. One thing I haven’t mastered from them though, is their self-discipline. You see, my house cycles from tidy to chaos like the tides come and go. I clean it up…I mess it up….I clean it up….I Mess it up. I can’t even lay the blame on kids because we don’t have any. It’s all us.

I call it “20 minutes till clean” and my friends know to give me 20 minutes to get things in order before they drop by. For years I’ve been ok with that philosophy….lately though I’ve been thinking…

You see, God has filled the world with mirrors of the spiritual realm. For example, God is faithful, like the rising of the sun, and even our families are designed to teach us about our relationship with our spiritual Father.

So, I can’t help thinking that my philosophy of housekeeping is a reflection of my spiritual health. To my shame, I can see the parallels to my story. My spiritual life is good for a while, then I mess it up, God comes and cleans it up, and I mess it up again. Over and over God and I do this little dance. Doesn’t He ever get tired of cleaning up my mess?

The bigger question is, do I tolerate my God life being 20 minutes from clean?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am NOT saying you have to be perfect before you come to God, or to stay in a relationship with Him. Jesus did all that work! And we stand perfect and blameless before God, wrapped in the righteousness of Christ! – Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

It’s more like the Holy Spirit is tapping me on the shoulder and inviting me to the next level of depth in my relationship with God. I can hear Him saying… “it could be even better. Let’s try something new…”

He’s been talking to me through the scriptures. Here are a just a couple to think about:

  • “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way”  (Col 1:9-11)
  • and again “just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written ‘Be holy because I am holy.'” (I Peter 1:15-16)

Can I honestly say to I live that way? Not so much.

So here’s my plan. I’m going to let my discipline in the physical realm remind me to pay attention to my spiritual discipline. If I fail, I’ll learn to lean more fully on God’s grace – win-win!

I’m told it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit. That means my target is May 15. I’m going to pick 2 rooms – my kitchen and the bathroom.

Instead of 20 minutes till clean, my goal is  to keep them 5 minutes till clean, and each day when I’m doing dishes, sweeping or dusting, I’ll think about my relationship with God, I’ll look for ways to be more holy, ways to be more like Jesus every day.  Check back and see how I do!

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2
20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

My House Is a Mess

Is your life mess free? Mine isn’t. Have you ever tried to find joy in the midst of a mess? Difficult, isn’t it?

I’d like to give you a glimpse of a season of actual, physical mess in my life. I wrote  this shortly before biblestudyjourney.com launched. One day in late October 2017:

My house is a mess, and I’m sitting with a cup of tea, staring out the window and trying to convince myself to enjoy the journey.

My house is a mess. There are boxes behind the love seat in my living room, piles of wood flooring and tools against the dining room wall, piles of clothes and bedding in the spare room, larger furniture items in the basement, carpet partially pulled loose from the family room floor, and bare sub-flooring in the upstairs hall.

My house is a mess. The project planned for one room grew to include 5 more. The project that we expected to take a few days has turned into months. In addition to the mess, business trips, vacations, conference, retreat, and publisher appointments have all interfered with writing goals and website development.

My house is a mess. My desk and bookshelves are back in the office (a.k.a. the third bedroom) waiting to receive the contents of those boxes stacked haphazardly behind me. They have to wait. This website launches in a few days. I don’t have time to unpack boxes. My house is a mess; yet, I’m drinking tea and staring out the window.

My house is a mess. I’m sitting here because my head is tired. I need a break from my computer. I’m sitting here because working on the house is frustrating me since there’s so much to do and so much I can’t do yet, and it is lower on my to-do list than this website launch. My house is a mess. Yet, I sit, sip, and stare… And tell myself to enjoy the journey.

When I was in high school, I went backpacking in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico. It was a difficult journey, but what fun! And what beauty! Majestic mountains and fantastic views. Lush valleys and lazy creeks. Not to mention the things I got to do: rock climbing and repelling, horseback riding, panning for gold, climbing a telephone pole, making friends, meeting challenges, and conquering fears. That journey was difficult, but full of fun and memories and growth.

So I’ll sit, sip, and stare while I look back at the past six months and remember the challenges and the fun. Most of all, I’ll take time to thank God for the things I’ve learned and the help He’s given. Sometimes in the midst of a mess, you just have to sit with your feet up, sip your tea, and stare out the window while you remember to enjoy the journey!

(In case you were wondering, my floors are still not done, but I have hope!)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

∼Philippians 4:4

What’s your current mess?
What can you enjoy (or thank God for) in the midst of that mess?

 

[Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™]