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Broken Thoughts from a Broken Woman during Lent 2019

After the feast, the over the top indulgence

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Comes bloating, the hangover, the off kilter feeling of having pushed a few limits best left unpushed. Grabbing that last piece of chocolate off the plate and holding it in your mouth, letting it melt there on your tongue until it’s gone, you or, should I say I, sigh.

After the feast, the leftovers, the crumbs, the broken pieces litter the table, the floor, the parade grounds, scattered morsels to be swept up by broom or wind.

Around me are those who feel like the leftovers, the crumbs, the debris left behind to be swept up and scattered on the wind.

As I see it, we are broken, but it is brokenness and how we respond to it that makes all the difference.
The laws of physics says that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time–and yes, for all the science buffs out there, I know there are exceptions, i.e. Electromagnetic waves.

In this season as I approach what many have termed the Passion of Christ, a season holy to Jews and Christians with both Passover and Holy Week linked, the lamb, the blood, the deliverance, the Feast, I find myself considering how best to occupy my space in this world.

Recently in my devotional time I discovered that the Hebrew word avanah עֲנָוָה translated as “humility,” literally means “to occupy your God-given space in the world—not to overestimate yourself or your abilities, and to not underestimate them either.”

What if I FULLY occupied my space?
What if I ceased comparing my space to others’ spaces? Could I learn to loosen control? Could I learn not to interrupt? Could I touch more hearts with grace rather than stepping on toes as the dance of life carries me forward?

What about you?
In 1989 we were traveling an unfamiliar route when exhausted we stopped for the night. Checking in at the desk, the clerk on duty applauded our decision to pause our journey, stating that we would not want to drive the treacherous stretch of road ahead with a sheer mountain cliff on one side and a raging river on the other. Ding! Ding! Ding! My overactive imagination revved up and kept me up most of the night.

The Hebrew Children recently delivered out of Egypt found themselves camped on the banks of the Red Sea, with mountains flanking them and Pharaoh’s army closing in from the rear. I understand their fear, their confusion, their grumbling…Believe me I have been there–ok, not exactly THERE, but certainly surrounded by insurmountable forces including my own overactive imagination of outcome. And just to be clear here I would have been quivering, eyeing the walls of water on both sides of me, as I crossed.

I AM NOT NATURALLY BRAVE! And yet I have done brave things–for me. I am not nor have I ever been an adrenaline junky. I have missed out on a lot of peaceful dreams while waiting for the other shoe to drop. And yet, as I grow as a believer in Christ, I have arisen on mornings to walk through the raging waters and fires of life.

I do this knowing I have a Savior who spent a sleepless night in a garden, weeping tears of blood over what awaited him before dawn, then rising to meet his betrayer.

On that morning in 1989 after stewing all night over the fearful canyon we had to drive thru, I got up, pulled up my big girl pants, and off we drove.

The absolute beauty of that drive still amazes me. Yes, there was the mountain wall. Yes, there was a raging river, but the road was good, and it was beautiful. I had lost sleep worrying about nothing.

Be Brave Today! Go Forth! [saying this to myself right now]

Full disclosure: Thoughts have entered my brain and even lingered there at times that would shock the crustiest among us. Words have exited my mouth that are reprehensible, filthy, hurtful, and frankly the very remembrance of them shames me, as they should. My actions over the years, well, let’s just say, do not reflect the person God intends me to be. Due to these facts, I am very careful in conversations to say, “Well, I would never do THAT!” ‘Cause I am here to tell you, my darker side …Well, IN SHORT, I AM A SINNER.

So, what are my options? What if I have improved ? What if I truly see how destructive my darker side has been to others and myself? What if I have genuinely put all that behind me? What if, I see myself as others do, as God sees me and want to close the door to that former person?

What if I am like the World Leader who having enticed another man’s wife into his bed, a man who was a soldier fighting in this World Leader’s Army? What if she became pregnant? What if this WL set the soldier up to be killed in battle and then married his widow? It was spring, a time when Kings go to war, BUT DAVID DID NOT. [2 Samuel 11:1]

What if a brave friend came to me as Nathan did to David and confronted me with my SIN? What if ? There are options, depending on my response* to the confrontation.

I could categorically deny it!
I could stuff it down and ignore it.
I could kill the messenger–David actually had that option.
I could cover it up with lots of good deeds and words.
I could rationalize it. I.e. ‘I was young and stupid. I was under a lot of stress. I deserved to get revenge. I didn’t mean any harm. They are just too sensitive.’ You get the picture.
I could hire an image consultant to put a new spin on my persona.

So many options. But in a world where everything could play out in the realm of public opinion and there is no ‘statue of limitations’ on what you did at any point in life, no man conceived option worked for me. Although I tried a few. I wasn’t good and I knew it. I could fake it in hopes of making it or I could decide not to give a rat’s patootie what I sounded or acted like and go on without a single consideration of anyone but myself OR I could be a David in his lowest and finest moment [Read Psalm 51] and choose God.

God, who forgives my sins [daily, past, future]. God, who separates me from my sins as far as the east is from the west…
God, who forgets my sins whether I do or not.
God, who loved the world including me to send his son to die for it.

Public Opinion still wields power as a false god in the world. But Jesus overcame the world. I may suffer ridicule and condemnation for my past transgressions or my current and future ones, but rather than bow to throne of Public Opinion which brings a deadness to my existence, I will bow to the God of Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness.

Echoing the words of Moses and paraphrasing, Today I have laid before you , Life and Death, THEREFORE ( I )choose LIFE!

And as my friend and former boss, Anne used to tell me ‘try not to get your picture under a headline in the Louisville Courier-Journal.’

The Hour I First Believed…

I have spent way too much time in my life chasing after people who caught my attention and seemed to have everything I did not have. It wasn’t so much that I wanted what they had as that I wanted to be included in their circle of friends, to be included so that others would view me as having value based on my proximity to them. It wasn’t that I had NO friends, but it seemed that I always fell short of the golden glow of popularity. It wasn’t that I had NO successes in school or life, but let’s just say I wasn’t Valedictorian or Homecoming Queen or Star Basketball Player…and somehow that seemed to be very important at the time. Of course, I blamed it on the fact that I was ugly, short, poorer than a church mouse, and believe it or not, that I did not have a boyfriend. I decided to change that status when I got to college and I did. Found my man and low and behold after 50 plus years still have him.

Unfortunately, I still found my self circling the ‘golden’ people working to fit in, wanting to get close enough to feel valuable, funny, and accepted. Sometime in my early thirties someone made the statement that ‘the person who loved the least in a relationship, had the most power’ so I adopted that attitude. I realized the formula worked fairly well but I did not like the effect it had on me. At the time my life was pretty much in turmoil in just about every area except education….I was acing that track…I was number one in my field of study at the University of Tulsa and I was owning it. I was also failing in my marriage, failing as a mother, and in general a pretty pitiful person. I hit a wall after I got my master’s degree, even though I got a really good job.

I met a woman at work who rubbed me the wrong way. She was always talking about her faith and God. Now don’t get me wrong I was attending church at the time. Why! I was even active in my church, but hey! She just rubbed me wrong. I suspect I do that to people now. I am ashamed to say, I even mocked her behind her back, rolled my eyes and even baited her. All the while my LIFE was in shreds. I was hurting others, people I loved, and they were hurting me as well. I found my self one step away from annihilation. Then Dorothy’s grandson David was hit by a car and left brain dead on the same day that his Uncle David had died in a car accident 16 years before. In the midst of my personal turmoil I witnessed how she responded and handled this horrific event and relived as her grandson died the loss of her own son. I watched as she and her husband comforted their son and daughter in law. What she had, I wanted but I had NO IDEA how to get it. I MEAN HEY! DID I MENTION I WENT TO CHURCH!

One night driving home from work, 50 miles on a two lane road, I sobbed so hard I had to pull over to the side of the road. I could not see. I prayed…not the first prayer of my life, but the prayer that saved my life. “God, if you are real as Dorothy believes, show me how to get through this time no matter what happens to my marriage or to me. Forgive me. Show me!” I did not even say Amen. As I sat there my tears slowed. I felt a peace within unlike any I had felt for a very long time. And as clear as a real voice in my head, I heard, Be Still and Know that I am God!

Spoiler alert: I did not immediately become BETTER, still letting God work that out in me.

What I did become WAS HIS! That is when I knew that the saying I had been relying on in all my relationships that the one who loved least had the most power was WRONG! Oh, it works if you want manipulate people, but NO ONE CAN OUT LOVE GOD AND HE IS ALL POWERFUL. So my goal is to become MORE LOVING of others and MORE LOVING to others…some days are better than others.

As the first few months of my new faith took hold, I sought out Dorothy and we became the best of friends. As I applied all I was learning to changing me, as I let God lead, as I opened the Bible and studied, I found myself hungry to know more. And low and behold, events occurred that changed my closest relationships and changes began to happen that I had only dreamed were possible. None of that came without some pain and suffering, but it allowed me to love my husband through a very difficult hurtful time in his life. Without God I could not have done that, but God gave me a new appreciation and love for the man I had married. He helped me to be a better mother, still screaming at the top of my lungs at times, but still better…and they all made it to adulthood.

I am sharing this because my granddaughter opened up and shared and I felt it was time for me to share this story. Perhaps that is what Lent is about, looking deeply at our journeys of faith or for some lack thereof and telling God how we feel. He knows anyway. Perhaps Lent helps us focus on what Love really is and HOW POWERFUL AND BLESSED THOSE WHO LOVE REALLY ARE…Whether they are in the Popular circle or Not.

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Vanity, Vanity…Giving up a Sense of Entitlement for Lent

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Sense of entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace. from “20 Things to Give Up for Lent”, Pastor Phil, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, March 4, 2014

A fact about Entitlement:

It is a relatively new word; the first known use of this word was in 1942.

The full definition says a lot:
a. the state or condition of being entitled
b. a right to benefits especially by law or contract
c. a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group and the funds supporting the program
d. belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges by reason of birth, family, accomplishments, need or (my words not the dictionary) just because I think I deserve special privileges because I think I do.

While there may be pro and con arguments regarding a-c of the definition, I treasure the rights I have as a citizen of the United States based on the Constitution and I believe that human rights should be defended throughout the world. So here during this Lent season, as I consider the Word of God in Philippians, I know that I must dig out the weeds of vanity, selfish ambition, concern for my own interests which lead to a sense of ENTITLEMENT and I must seek to have the same attitude that Jesus did. I am always moved by these words:

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose.

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.

Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but

emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.

He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!

As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 NET)

Even though Jesus existed as fully God, he did not demand EQUALITY. HE gave it ALL up, all the privileges of BEING GOD, took on the form of a slave, human form with all its fleshly needs, all its mental anguish, its heartaches, its fragility.

HE Humbled Himself…and was obedient to the death…death on the most horrific form of execution Crucifixion.

So, giving up Entitlement means that I must take on an attitude that does not demand to be First, or maybe even equal. It means that I need to be concerned for the needs of others and be faithful to carrying my Cross daily without comparing it to anyone else’s.

After all, in Jesus heart He always knew Who he was…He was One with the Father and One with the Spirit. And by His Blood, by my belief, and baptism I am an heir of God.

What more could I ask? “Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.” (Lyrics and Music by Norman J. Clayton)image

Toe Tapping, Eyes rolling, Horn Blowing…Giving up the Dance of Impatience for Lent.

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Here I am eight days into Lent, continuing to struggle to give up guilt (those gut wrenching flashbacks require constant vigilance), fear, need to please, and envy. Eight days and so many more to go. Why continue on the list of 20 supplied by Pastor Phil? Because these eight have exposed only the tip of an iceberg that keeps me from fullness with Christ. I doubt anyone looks at these internal monsters as sacrifices, but indeed whether I cling to them or they cling to me, they interfere with my relationship with Jesus. If I allow them to continue to hold me captive, I deny the full power of the Cross. I allow them to replace Jesus in my life.

So on this eighth day of Lent, I continue on my journey by giving up that incredibly difficult companion and time waster IMPATIENCE. If I spent the time I waste complaining about being stuck in traffic or in the line at the grocery store where the cashier has to do a price check and cannot reach anyone in that department, if I spent that time connecting with Jesus, praying or lifting the spirits of those others stuck in line with me…If I chose to honor Christ by not letting my thoughts turn stormy when I am delayed by weather. If I chose to allow God’s action to take place rather than plowing into the waiting room of life like a Momma Elephant in charge mode, as in taking “charge” of things left best to God’s timing.

He gives strength to those who are tired; to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy. Even youths get tired and weary; even strong young men clumsily stumble. But those who wait for the Lord ’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired. (Isaiah 40:29-31 NET

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If I choose patience, not toe tapping, eyes rolling, horn blowing impatience, I choose to allow God’s perfect timing. I choose joy in the midst of circumstances I may not understand; I choose waiting with faith in the Christ who always is waiting for me to catch up and catch on to what living a life in Christ really means. He wants to take off my fake chicken wings and exchange them for the wings of eagles…He wants to teach me to fly not to squawk and scratch.  If….Imagine all God could do in my life…or in yours.

“Yet whatever else it may be, Lent should never be morose – an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. Instead, we ought to approach Lent as an opportunity, not a requirement. After all, it is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges.”
– the editors of Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

No Matter What Your Eye Color Envy Dims Your Light…Giving up Envy for Lent

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“Envy – I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.” from “20 Things to Give Up for Lent”, Pastor Phil, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, March 4, 2014

When people are tempted, they should not say, “God is tempting me.” Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone. But people are tempted when their own evil desire leads them away and traps them. (James 1:13, 14 NCV)

The temptation to Envy finds its origins in ungratefulness and dissatisfaction. Writing those two words saddens me because I realize how pathetic they sound. They paint a picture of a “victim of her circumstances” rather than a “beloved child of God” and one who is “more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus” her Lord. Envy denies Christ’s Blessings. Envy says, “You have not given me as much as You have given her.”

Clearly there is a reason why God included “Do not Covet” in His ten basic steps to a full, happy, blessed life. The definition of covet: “to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others” expands the reasons God knew envy leads to the troubled, angry, resentful state of covetness…and the news is full of tragic outcomes.

Giving up Envy for Lent requires facing the fact that I do envy others. Duh! It also requires facing the fact that Envy isn’t about admiring what someone else has or has accomplished but shouts “WHY NOT ME?” or worse “THAT SHOULD BE MINE!”…Envy throws the blessings of life in Christ in the face of God, like a ungrateful child.

ENVY destroys Love.
ENVY destroys Self.
ENVY destroys Happiness….you name it…ENVY destroys.

Most of all as I continue on this inward journey this Lent, Envy separates me from Christ. image

Instead of Envy, I will practice gratefulness for all the many blessings God has provided and continues to provide as I live abundantly in Him. I want to be more like Paul as he wrote to the Church at Philippi:

I am not telling you this because I need anything. I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NCV)

All I have , all I need is in Christ Jesus, my Lord.

Please, Please…Giving up the NEED to Please Everyone for Lent

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The need to please everyone – I can’t please everyone anyways. There is only one I need to strive to please. from “20 Things to Give Up for Lent”, Pastor Phil, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, March 4, 2014

Admittedly, I have lived my life trying to please everyone and sadly failing. So here I am on this third day of Lent 2014 giving up “the need to please everyone”. Even writing that causes a little quiver of anxiety…probably giving that up later…because I realize how great a grip “pleasing” has on my life. The roots are deep, so yanking them up is painful.

God reminds me as I write that I am not giving up being pleasing or even pleasing others I am giving up the NEED to please, because it is that need that separates me from Christ. That need implies I am responsible for a myriad of things, other people’s happiness, their attitudes, the flow of traffic, world peace…ok, I know I am exaggerating, but suffice it to say the NEED to please everyone undermines my Faith in God and pleasing Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)

My need to please people increases the possibility that I entertain popular cultural and societal shifts that move away from God’s precepts or simply strife to ignore them so as to not appear “intolerant” or a “religious nut.” Clearly, the evil that can permeate culture is not a 21st Century phenomena and giving up the NEED to please, humbling myself, seeking to please God will open up my prayer life and the forgiveness of Christ will wash over me and cannot help but splash on those around me.

if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NET)

Giving up the Need to please people, requires that I turn my “pleasing” ways another direction toward the One who Died for me. Relying on Him, rather than relying on what I do or say to please people and maintain homeostasis…I admit my arms are tired of juggling, my heart is weary from failure to please, the weight on my mind over others’ attitude pounds…So Lord Jesus, I lay the NEED at your feet. I have sinned before you by trying to control my world through pleasing others. Work in me to rid the imbedded roots from my life so I can draw closer to you. Amen

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Fear Less, Love More…Giving up Fear for Lent

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“Fear – God is on my side. In him I am more than a conqueror. (see Romans 8)” from “20 Things to Give Up for Lent”, Pastor Phil, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, March 4, 2014

You are from God, little children, and have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world’s perspective and the world listens to them. If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because he loved us first. (1 John 4:4, 5, 15-19 NET)

365 times, one for every day of the normal calendar year, God proclaims in His Word, “Fear Not”, “Don’t be afraid”, or some version of the same. Fear crowds out love. Fear focuses on the temporary. Fear separates us from Christ. And so today on this second day of Lent, with the help of Christ Jesus, my Lord, I cast out fear. I give up the panic over growing old, senile, and feeble, the fear of what non-Christians say about the Church and Christians, the fear of death, the fear….oh, my goodness, I have entertained so many. Know what fear has held me captive long enough.

In 1 John 4, God clearly says, “LOVE drives out fear” and so when tempted to fear, I need to replace that fear with love, first the knowledge of that I am loved by God and then to extend love to others. Nothing can keep me from aging and eventually dying, but LOVE, God’s Love can dispel fear. As Romans 8 reminds us “if God be for us, who can be against us.”

Lord Jesus Christ, Draw me closer to living a life that LOVES as You Love. A Life that draws me out of the shadows, the hiding places and into your light. Help me GIVE up Fear this Lent and extend the grace of a loving life to others and myself. Amen.

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Fat Tuesday

Today marks the final hurrah for the self-indulgentimage gluttony of body, mind and spirit that can so easily imbed itself in our lives. And truly, I am feeling fat but not sassy. The following devotional from Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Old Bridge, NJ really hit home. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Tomorrow I am challenged by Pastor Phil’s list and I hope you are too to really draw closer to Christ by daily giving up that in my life that separates me from Him. Gotta expand it to 40 but I suspect that is possible.

20 Things to Give Up for Lent
FEBRUARY 27, 2014 BY PHIL

Last week we talked about all the wrong and right reasons to fast for Lent. We are less than a week away from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Many Christians “give something up” for Lent, but it usually has very little of impact on their life and walk with Christ. The reason is that we usually give stuff up for all the wrong reasons.

With that said, I want to offer up 20 things you might consider giving up this Lent. And these are things to give up not just for Lent, but for the rest of your life.

Guilt – I am loved by Jesus and he has forgiven my sins. Today is a new day and the past is behind.
Fear – God is on my side. In him I am more than a conqueror. (see Romans 8)
The need to please everyone – I can’t please everyone anyways. There is only one I need to strive to please.
Envy – I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Impatience – God’s timing is the perfect timing.
Sense of entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
Bitterness and Resentment – The only person I am hurting by holding on to these is myself.
Blame – I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
Gossip and Negativity – I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic bringing other people down.
Comparison – I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.
Fear of failure – You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward.
A spirit of poverty – Believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack
Feelings of unworthiness – You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139)
Doubt – Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize.
Self-pity – God comforts us in our sorrow so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Retirement – As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.
Excuses – A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.
Lack of counsel – Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
Pride – Blessed are the humble.
Worry – God is in control and worrying will not help.
God has so much more in store for you. But so many of these things above are holding you back from walking in the full destiny he has laid out for you. Today is a new day.

So there you have it. What else might you add to the list? Please share in the comments below.

God’s blessings,
Pastor Phil

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