There are so many more things I could accomplish if I could survive without sleep, exercise, and food. The hours added to my day would be incredible. However, those particular rites of human existence are what fuel me to be creative – to be physically, mentally, and emotionally fit for the tasks at hand. More importantly, I rely on my devotional time each day for spiritual sustenance.
I love The Parable of the Lost Son found in Luke. For many reasons, I have found it useful often in my life. As the middle, strong-willed, independent child of my family… this parable has brought me much peace in times when I had to repent, humble myself, and come back home to my Father God. However, due to a discussion in the Disciple One class I help lead, a deeper conversation about this parable got me thinking about it in a different light.
At forty, I often conjure up this image of wrapping myself in bubble wrap, strapping on a helmet, and sticking noise-cancelling headphones in my ears to protect myself from committing to anything else that day. On my desk at St. Luke’s, I have a whimsical drink coaster a friend of mine gave me years ago with a picture of a blonde-haired woman wearing an enormous smile with a quote bubble above her head that reads, “Stop me before I volunteer again.” No gift has ever defined me more.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sad′ducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
I remember when I truly didn’t fully understand the meaning of Lent, thinking that Lent was about just giving up things. Then I learned that the practice of giving something up for Lent is a way of entering into the wilderness with Jesus, and we are to focus on getting into the life of the Spirit, denying our ways and embracing God’s. Plus, Lent is about adding “God things,” so I went to Google and found this list and felt sharing this would be helpful to everyone, just as it’s helpful to me.
Marie Kondo is an organizing consultant whose best-selling book and Netflix series, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” touts her method of decluttering to find the things that you own that bring joy to your life – and tossing the rest. She instructs putting like items in a single pile before holding each item to see how you react, listening to what each thing says to you about joy. It’s like giving treasured friends your undivided attention and delightfully incarnational!
I have not traditionally given up an item, a favorite food, or a bad habit during Lent. I understand the value, admire the stories, and truly appreciate the sacrifice demonstrated – especially when it’s something I can relate to, such as giving up coffee, chocolate, or candy. Embarrassingly, I admit that I want to give up something – but each year I do not. So, for a while, I have instead tried to start something that will instill a valuable life change – reading through a portion of the Bible, exercising, committing to daily Yoga, and I once tried learning a new language…
About a year ago, I saw a post on Facebook that one of our church members had been reading a book called “The No Complaining Rule” by Jon Gordon. It intrigued me, and I decided to read it and find out how I could help my staff with daily problems. The book talks about how mindlessly complaining to other random people and being angry and frustrated without going to a source that can actually help you is not a way to fix a problem or concern.
I never doubted the call, but I really wished it was a wrong number. Years earlier, I had made a bargain with God. Like Hannah’s prayer for a son in 1 Samuel 1:11, I said if He would send the right person into my life, I would give our family back to Him. When I met Wendy some months later and we married, it was an answer to my prayer. We attended church with our friends at Elk City UMC, our kids went to school together, we had purchased 20 acres north of town and were planning to build our dream home. Life wasn’t just good; life was great. Then God called Wendy into ministry… let’s just say I wasn’t happy about it.
A few weeks ago, Stephanie and I travelled to Sterling, Kansas to visit her sister Heather and family. Earlier that day, the family’s 90-year-old farmhouse was lost in an electrical fire. No people were hurt but most of their belongings were destroyed. We went simply to show our love and offer our support during their time of need and hurt.
While walking through the charred remains, we saw a burned wooden cross still hanging on the wall. Heather told us the cross was built from wood salvaged during the May 2013 tornado in Moore…