Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lent: Look Up to the One

Throughout the Lent season, I will be reading through different devotionals and sharing, here on my blog, some of the highlights from them.

PSALM 130

1   Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
2       Lord, hear my voice!
      Let your ears be attentive
           to the voice of my supplications!
3   If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
           Lord, who could stand?
4   But there is forgiveness with you,
           so that you may be revered.
5   I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
           and in his word I hope;
6   my soul waits for the Lord
           more than those who watch for the morning,
           more than those who watch for the morning.
7   O Israel, hope in the LORD!
           For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
           and with him is great power to redeem.
8   It is he who will redeem Israel
           from all its iniquities.

Devotional

As we travel through this Lenten season and are going about our lives it is easy to be weighed down by the burdens that we each face. It is easy to get discouraged and in this Psalm we see that this is where the psalmist is crying from. He is crying “out of the depths” to the Lord that his voice may be heard. But yet at the same time we are also reminded that...


When we come to the end of Lent as we celebrate the resurrection on Easter morning, there is no other that will hear our voice or “redeem Israel from all its iniquities” but the one who went to the cross on our behalf, Jesus Christ. (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)

Prayer

Lord, who hast mercy upon all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore Thee,
a heart to delight in Thee,
to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ's sake, Amen.
— Ambrose of Milan, 4th century bishop
Quote: "One can thus find in Christ strength and comfort against all vice and bad habits. . . . And they are called true Christians who incorporate the life and name of Christ into their own life, as St. Paul says in Gal 5, 24: "And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof." For Christ's Passion must be dealt with not in words and a show, but in our lives and in truth. . . — Martin Luther, "How to Contemplate Christ's Holy Sufferings"
Doodad 
And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1:51

As we look within ourselves this Lent...






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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Devotions For Lent: Ash Wednesday


About Lent
Lent is the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday until Easter. It is a period observed by Christians as preparation for Easter, involving fasting and penitence.
Christians started observing Lent in the fourth century, with strict self-denial and self-examination marking the period. A central practice of fasting included the exclusion of luxury foods like meat, dairy products and eggs. Today, Catholics refrain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. 
There’s no Scriptural requirement to observe Lent—ultimately, it’s just the six week lead-up to Easter Sunday in the church calendar—but many Christians find it helpful and inspirational to observe the Lent season in some way. Generally speaking, when people observe Lent, they commit to a spiritual activity—prayer, Bible reading, reflection, self-denial, service, etc.—that will sharpen their understanding of Jesus Christ’s own sacrifice as described in the Bible’s account of the first Easter.
Besides fasting, Christians may also voluntarily refrain from "bad" habits during the 40-day period – anything from eating chocolate to watching TV -- as a way to imitate Christ’s life.

Lent is 40 days to represent the 40 days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert after he was baptized by John the Baptist.

This year, Lent begins on
Ash Wednesday, February 18 2015
(That's Today!!!)
and ends
Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lent—the season of reflection leading up to Easter—provides an excellent opportunity to embark on your own devotional journey.
Here are some options:
Once a Week Devotionals through Christian Aid (An organization, working to bring an end to poverty around the world - tackling its root causes as well as its effects.)
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Throughout the Lent season, I will be reading through some of each of these devotionals and sharing, here on my blog, some of the highlights from them. Feel free to use any of the above, or stop back here to read what I have to share. As I get started , and with this being Ash Wednesday, I want to just share a short excerpt of the introduction from the Christian Aid Devotional.
Introduction
When Jesus went into the wilderness, it was not an easy experience. For him, as for the Israelites after their exodus from slavery in Egypt, it meant being vulnerable to all the dangers of the wilderness: hunger and thirst, exposure to the elements, with nowhere to hide. It meant being alone, with only God to turn to. 

"IN THE WILDERNESS" CANVAS

Isaiah, in a passage that is often read on Ash Wednesday, spoke eloquently about fasting.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord
 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I
(Isaiah 58:5-9)
 How can we best respond to the invitation to count our blessings today and throughout Lent?
Lord Jesus, 
May this be the fast we choose- 
 
  • to hold in our hearts the women who walk miles for water that we turn a tap on for, 
  • to never take for granted the food that we eat, however plain it is 
  • to complain less and campaign more, 
  • to share our bread in gratitude, that we have bread to share. 
And as we count our blessings, 
  • Inspire our giving, our acting and our praying that, just a little, they may help to lose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, and to satisfy the needs of the afflicted. So may all who fast share in the feast of life. 
Amen.



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Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Love Chronicles: My Story

We each have a story...
I actually feel like I have 2 stories...
let me explain.
 Everyone's story reveals not only where they have gone in his/her life, but defines much of who they are today. I believe that my "first" love story actually began before I got saved, but is one that continues on, even today. My "second" love story came later in life and it also continues to this day. Both are extremely important stories to me.
I think it's important for each person to know their story and tell it, if only to one person. 
I love how this video, made by Chic-fil-A, depicts this.

So, I'm sharing those stories here, with you, today.
This is part 3 of my series, called

“The Love Chronicles”.  

My life(love)story - how I met Jesus
 As I shared in my last post, I was blessed to have been raised in a loving, Christian home. So, I had a great start in being introduced to who Jesus(my Savior) and God(the Father) are. I was a very shy and sensitive child. So, in one sense, I was very  receptive to hearing about Jesus, yet in another sense, fearful and unsure about who I was. A few events in my life played a major role in this. The first of these was when I was about 5 years old. I was just starting kindergarten, when I had to have major surgery. I had, from birth, a kidney malformation, which caused some issues, which required the removal of half of one of my kidneys. I was hospitalized for about 2 weeks and have some pretty clear and vivid memories of that experience. The surgery was successful, but emotionally, it put me in a place of fear and loss of confidence.
The second event that had a great influence on me was going into middle school. Being so shy, I made literally no friends. Of course, there were classmates and kids I talked to on the bus, but I truly had no friends to invite to my house or hang out with. I remember being very emotional at this time of my life...cried at the drop of a hat. (That may have been the reason I had no friends.) It was probably the hardest time in my life. It was also the time when all those wonderful changes and hormones were going crazy, so I was also overwhelmed and confused by those changes, too.(It didn't help that my parents, who were busy with two careers and two teenage boys to keep an eye on, never gave me 'the talk' or really let me feel comfortable to share with them what I was going through) 
Then, the summer between my freshman and sophomore year came, and it was a big one for me. I actually was approached by a new girl in my class(who was a friend of an old friend I knew from elementary school). She actually wanted to get to know me and hang out with me. It was a shock for me, but she pulled me out of my deep shyness. We spent a lot of time together that summer. I also got my first real job that summer, babysitting 2 young children, full-time. Before then, I really hadn't spent a lot of time reading the Bible or seeking God. But, one afternoon, while the kids were taking their naps, I opened up the Bible (out of pure boredom) and something I read must have touched my heart deeply. I don't even remember what verse it was, but I knew I had to turn my life over to Jesus. I remember praying for Him to come into my heart and life at the kitchen table of that house, where I was babysitting. 
Things really started happening, after that. Our family changed home churches and our new church's youth group were going on a huge week-long biking trip through Virginia and Shenandoah National Park. We road our bikes together(about 25-30 teens) through the mountains, ate camp food from a trailer that followed us, and slept in churches and Christian school buildings. It was awesome!! I think I bonded with other believers and gained some self-confidence that summer, too! In the fall of my sophomore year, I was baptized and felt the Holy Spirit fill my life. I slowly began coming out of my shell. 
High school was a great time, for me. I enjoyed good friendships and even though I was shy around the guys, through my friends, I was asked to the prom 3 years in a row. I never dated, though until I was a freshman in college. 
I chose a Christian college that was out of town, but close enough that I could go home to visit, if I got too homesick, which I did on a few occasions. During my college years, I would have to say my relationship with the Lord really ebbed and flowed, as well as did my dating life. I made some really unwise decisions in who I dated, mostly due to my low self-image at that time. I felt like if I wasn't dating someone, then something was wrong with me. So, my choice of suitors was not too strict. As long as they professed their belief in God, it didn't matter to me what they did or how they treated me. During that time, I did find myself seeking God, through a committed prayer life and some Bible classes that really made me think.
Then, after graduating college, I decided to sign up for a short-term(1 year) missions assignment in Ohio. I worked as a teachers aide with deaf and hearing-impaired children in the public school system. It was a challenging experience, mostly due to living in a group home experience with 4 other short-term missionaries. We all had come from very different backgrounds and had completely polar-opposite personalities, and the adjustment was not easy. But, again, God used that experience to grow me in my faith. 
After that, I began gaining deeper walks in my faith, as I took different positions in the workforce...as a therapist, counselor, mentor, and administrator, all that pointed towards a walk of serving and loving others in Christ. Some of those positions again, were extremely challenging, especially emotionally, as I would step down from one job, only to be offered another. Yes, God always opens a window, whenever He closes a door. 
And my faith has grown so much over the years. I feel like my relationship with my Savior is secure, even though I still may waver in the strength of my faith, He is always there to pick me back up and I can count on that. I feel blessed beyond my imagination! No matter what may come into my life, He is always with me! 
He will carry me through till the end of my story! And I know that once my story ends, I will be with Him in Heaven forever!! 
What better ending to any story could I ever have?

My Other Story: 
This story has had the second biggest impact on my life. I've shared this a few times in the past. You can find it by clicking on the words below...
--

I actually could even say I have a third story, which is the birth of my son(and only child), and becoming a mother. The impact of that experience still affects every part of my life...and even my other stories of my relationships with my husband and with Jesus. I've shared some of that in a post that I wrote back on Mother's Day of last year.


I hope this inspires you to also share YOUR story. If you have shared or decide to share it on your own blog, please let me know in the comments section. I would love to read it!! Thanks again for stopping by!! Have a blessed week ahead!!





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