Archives for February 2021

What Is God Calling You Toward This Lent?

Lent began this week.
Lent
Lent, for any who are not so familiar with this time in the Church calendar, is a time to practice self-denial for the purpose of becoming more unified with Jesus.
Lent is a 40 day period in which we set aside time to gaze at the crucified Christ in order to awaken a sense of our sin, a sense of guilt and sorrow over our sin.
Lent
Why? In order to feel shame and a sense of not-enough?
Not at all.
Rather the purpose is to awaken a gratitude for the forgiveness of our sin and what that cost.
Again, why? In order to feel warm feelings of thankfulness and look-what-was-done-for-me?
This is also not the end towards which we are heading.
Rather the final purpose is to awaken and motivate the works of love and justice that are done in gratitude for the forgiveness of our sin, done to the glory of God.
Lent
Glorifying God is the end.
Before we can get to the glory, however, before we can get to the gratitude or the sorrow or the guilt or even the sense of our sin at all, we must begin with time.
Time.
Time spent gazing at Jesus.
Time spent gazing at Jesus’ life and, more specifically during this season of Lent, at his cross.
Before anything else at all can happen in our life-with-God, we must begin with a sacrifice of time.
Lent is, as I said in the beginning, a season of giving up. A season in which we practice the habit of denying ourselves in order to become more like Jesus.
I want to offer you a challenge this year. A challenge that I will be attempting right along with you.
Give up something for 40 days.
Not a purposeless sort of giving up, but a giving up for the purpose of gaining more of God.
Speak with the Holy Spirit about this before deciding. Sit for a time in silence before God and listen to what he might want to say about this.
Lent
What does this look like?
Perhaps it is giving up something in order to spend more time with God. Such as a show. Or a few minutes of sleep in order to be still before God.
Perhaps it is giving up something in order to become more aware of God’s presence. Such as fasting from food periodically or for a time. Or a podcast in order to have some silence in your day.
Perhaps you have been living in a particularly indulgent way lately and simply need to exercise your spiritual muscles of self-denial. Such as giving up one of those indulgences.
Traditionally, Sundays are feast days even during Lent. They are kind of a mini-Easter. Practically speaking, this means that whatever you are giving up, you gain it back on Sundays. Celebrate that and give thanks for the good things God has given us.
Will you join me?
Lent
Find a way, some way, any way, to spend time gazing at Jesus during these 40 days of Lent.
If you, like me, have been distracted lately, giving God only a part of your heart, join me in doing whatever it takes to return to him with your whole heart.
Listen to the promise he gives us through the prophet Joel:
Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
Use these 40 days of Lent wisely, using the rhythm of this season to return wholeheartedly back to the Lord your God.
He is waiting.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

all photographs are copyright 2021 Made Sacred

Waiting with Eyes Wide Open

We all go through times of waiting.
Waiting
Hoping
Perhaps all of our lives are spent waiting.
Patient
My waiting usually looks impatient and discontent.
My waiting usually is spent trying to arrive.
If all of our lives are supposed to be made sacred, how can this waiting become sacred? How can this waiting become beautiful?
If all of our lives are meant for God’s glory, how can we lean into this waiting instead of resisting and pulling back?
Lean in
Expectancy
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch theologian, writes about waiting as an active kind of waiting.
He speaks of those at the beginning of the Gospels (Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, Anna) as waiting with a sense of promise. A promise that allows them to wait. Nouwen says that the secret of waiting is the faith that something has already begun.
Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it. ~ Waiting for God
It is a waiting that knows the waited-for thing has already begun.
Like planting a seed and waiting for it to emerge. Like seeing the plus sign on the pregnancy test and waiting to hold the baby in your arms.
It is a knowing that there are beautiful things happening in the darkness. It is a knowing that even though you cannot see, it is growing.
Growing
Becoming
It is a giving up of control because none of us quite know what we are waiting for when God is involved.
Rather than waiting for a job or a baby or a spouse, we are waiting for whatever God chooses to give. We hold our expectations and dreams lightly, with cupped open hands, knowing that whatever comes is ultimately the best thing of all.
It is a giving up of control but it is a gift of surprise and adventure, of something even better than what you had imagined.
Eyes wide open
It is a waiting with eyes open and breath held in expectation. Expectation of beauty and excitement.
Sacred waiting
This is a waiting I can lean in to. A beautiful, sacred waiting that glorifies God.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credit: Final photograph of crab apple blossoms by Kirk Sewell; all other photographs copyright Made Sacred 2021

edited from the archives, as I work on the release of my book, Beyond the Front Door, this week!

A Sneak Peek Just for You!

AbidingInChristCover

A sneak peek just for you, my subscribers, from one of the chapters of my new book, Beyond the Front Door, which will be available on February 10. Enjoy!

Our culture has instilled in us a pride in our busyness.
We brag about how little free time we have, how many vacation days we have built up from disuse, how many activities in which we have involved our children. We feel, in fact, a sense of shame if we don’t have work or play scheduled on the weekends.
We run and we hurry and in the middle of our running and hurrying we wonder how in the world — how in this fretful, busy world — we could possibly still feel empty. So we ramp up the running and the hurrying in an attempt to drown out the loneliness.
Why is it so hard to jump off this carousel?
We want to cram more and more into our schedules. Regardless of how full our lives are, however, we are increasingly empty inside.
“Busyness acts to repress our inner fears and personal anxieties, as we scramble to achieve an enviable image to display to others. We become ‘outward’ people obsessed with how we appear, rather than ‘inward’ people, reflecting on the meaning of our lives.”
We do not, however, need to prune our lives of all busyness.
The truth, it turns out, is more nuanced than that.
The truth is that busyness is not always a negative occurrence as long as you have regular rhythms of stillness in place in your life as well. The problem comes when you have a life that is full of busyness with a complete dearth of any times of stillness.
Jesus’ own life shows this rhythm of ministry busyness and alone-with-God stillness. A rhythm in which both busyness and stillness involve an intimate connection with God.
When we read the gospels, we discover his almost constant action throughout — coming, going, crowding, teaching, healing — and Jesus is regularly withdrawing from all of this activity, regularly going to a place of solitude to pray.
Rhythm.
When our lives are full of work and activity with no times of respite, we become exhausted and anxious. When we have an overabundance of time, we become bored and struggle to find purpose in life.
Rhythm.
God taught us about rhythms at the very beginning of the nation of Israel.
In the same passage later quoted by Jesus as the Greatest Commandment, Moses is giving instruction about when they arrive in the Promised Land.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Moses tells the people they should keep God in their hearts and minds, they should talk about God, talk to God, listen to God, both when they are still and when they are busy.
… when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way …
This is why these disciplines of silence and solitude and lectio divina are so necessary to our lives.
Having rhythms of being alone with God and his Word are the way we are healed by the Holy Spirit from this illness of being busy.
Daily rhythms, as well as longer monthly and annual rhythms, of being still are the way we put ourselves in a place where God can fill us up with himself.
Having rhythms of taking time out of our busyness to gaze at the Lord, taking the time to sit at his feet and learn how to abide in him, making our home in him, this is the cure for our illness.