What I’ve Learned from Lent and Easter

Lent and Easter are both over, and we’re at the beginning of a normal week. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned over the past forty days. It might not be what the church expected me to learn, but I know I have heard words from Jesus.

It’s because I have a burden. A burden for the person who comes to church alone for whatever reason. In our churches, we have a default setting. A setting where every adult is part of a married couple. And if people are different from that setting, there is pressure to conform. It’s not done purposefully, I know. But it’s done often enough that people who are alone can often feel like they’re the third wheel. It can happen with the college student who doesn’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and it can happen with the person who is widowed or divorced. It can happen with the person whose spouse doesn’t come to church or with the person whose spouse serves somewhere else. I think the last one is the hardest. You know your spouse is doing what Jesus has called them to do, but it is hard to see everyone sitting in couples. I won’t deny it.

People are generally oblivious as well. They ask if you’re going to celebrate a holiday with family not thinking there might not be any family to celebrate with. In fact, there is only one person I’ve ever known who has the gift of including a single person in their family gathering without making them feel weird. My college mom. From the first time I met her and her family, I knew I was always welcome. I remember fondly all the Sundays and holidays I spent at their homes when I was in college and across the country from my own family. They truly showed Jesus’ love to me.

But I digress. I was talking about Lent and Easter. Over the past forty days, I’ve spent a lot of time alone with Jesus–in prayer as I’ve worked through my Lent book. He’s brought me to the end of myself as I’ve asked questions that have been on my mind and heart. Especially this question. Why is the “church as a community” always talked about when all anyone ever wants to do is spend time with their own families, their own tribes. It’s frustrating to see things like “community” be given lip service when there are so many people in this world who are alone and hurting, people who are different from us, people we might not typically see.

Jesus reminded me that He saw them, and He still sees them today. He told me He sees all who are alone, even me when I don’t fit into church culture. It’s funny to talk like that when we’re told all the time not to try to fit into the world, but we also ask people to fit into a mold at church instead of loving and appreciating their differences. We’re all imperfect so loving other people is going to be done imperfectly until we go to be with Him. I know I’m imperfect, and I bet you all know you’re imperfect too. It’s overwhelming to think of all the mistakes I make as I try to be Jesus’ disciple in this world and make a difference, but not ever feeling accepted anywhere because I am so different.

But, maybe that’s the point. Maybe I’m not supposed to be accepted anywhere, not even at church. Maybe I’m supposed to love without any expectation of being loved back except, of course, by Jesus. And then, my eyes were opened, to all of the times Jesus was there for me yesterday even when I felt like I had failed. He was there when two children asked for me to play with them. He was there as I counseled my own son who had been feeling like a third wheel in the middle of “couple-land.” I was able to give him good counsel because of all the times I have felt like a third wheel even though I am part of a couple. Jesus was even there when I got in line behind a family taking communion together. Boy, that hurt, and I cried.  I won’t gloss over it. There’s nothing like feeling alone in the middle of a group of people. But, of course, I couldn’t admit it to said group of people. I was able to admit it to Jesus later on though, and that’s when He reminded me He was there, even through the tears.

So, that’s what I learned during this Lent and Easter season. I learned that Jesus is always there for me even when other people are clueless or selfish. I learned that “community love” will always be broken and imperfect at least until we are with Jesus. And I learned that Jesus wants me to pay attention to the burdens He puts on my heart even when I’ve been told no by a “church person.” Because God always provides a way even when it seems impossible.

Father God, help me to put into practice the things I have learned. Help us all to pay attention to who we meet so we can share your love. Help us not to be clueless and selfish and help us to reflect your love in a world that desperately needs it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

God bless you all!

Holy Curses

Another week has passed so it’s time for another post in my Lenten series from the book 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. I wasn’t sure I’d do the post at first. In fact, I had to read the entry several times to understand what the author was talking about. I’m still not sure I completely understand, but I had to put my wrestling into words, to write down the questions I’ve been considering about my faith.

So, the phrase this week is “holy curses.” The author connects this phrase with the  Scripture where Jesus curses the fig tree for not having any fruit on it and says for it never to have fruit again. Then, He and the disciples walk by it again later, and Peter remembers what Jesus had said. The fig tree had withered because Jesus had cursed it. The author calls it Jesus’ only “destructive miracle.”

But, wait a minute. I thought cursing was a bad thing. And sure enough, the four other times in Scripture where this Greek word was used talk about how we’re to love our enemies and not curse them, about the cursed who won’t be in heaven, and about the taming of the tongue which can be used to curse others. I especially liked the reference from James 3:9-10 because I’ve been in a class studying this book of the Bible. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

By this example, I’m pretty sure God is telling us not to curse. He wants us to live together in community with His love at the center of our hearts and beings. So, what does the example of the withered fig tree mean? The author uses two verses from John 15 which talk about bearing fruit. Verses 5-6 say, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me  you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

I quote these verses and say all this to come closer to what I think the author means and to come closer to the questions I’ve been asking myself. As part of our faith, Jesus wants us to bear fruit. The things we do for our faith are not necessary to come to faith. They are what is supposed to come afterwards. I agree with and understand all of that.

I guess my question is what exactly is that supposed to look like. Does that mean we take every class or go to every activity that the church offers? Do we bear fruit in our families, in our jobs, and with our friends? Do we take the risk of letting the guards on our hearts down so we can wrestle with the things Jesus taught us? Do we deny self in our pursuit to bear fruit? I believe the answers to these questions come in pieces and are all related to the denial of self. One person’s fruit is not the same as another’s. So many people I know are doing so many different things for God, it’s almost impossible to count them all. Among my friends, I know someone who is living a life dedicated to her family and to the children in her classroom. She doesn’t make it to church all of the time, but I know she would be there for me if I ever needed her. I have another friend who runs a ministry to the least of these. Some of the people she ministers to are not welcome in churches, but I believe she is bearing the fruit Jesus wants to see. And, finally, I have a friend who has opened her home to me more times than I can count. When I was in college, she let my car stay parked at her home for more than six months while I was recovering from mononucleosis on the other side of the country. I believe all of these examples are examples of the fruit Jesus wants to see in our lives.

And that makes me wonder. Do I bear the fruit Jesus wants to see? If I were to be honest, there would be many times I would have to say no. Times when I’ve used my tongue unwisely. Times when I haven’t loved like I should. Times when I’ve not denied self. Times when I’ve been hypocritical. I look at these words and feel deeply inadequate to this task Jesus has called me to of sharing His love. Have I borne the fruit Jesus wants me to bear? Have I shown His Name is the only Name that matters? I won’t know the answers to these questions until I am with my Lord and Savior, but I hope that by considering them now, I would consider my words and behavior each and every time I consider the question what would Jesus do. And I hope, that by writing these questions down, you would consider them too.

God bless you all!

Holy Gets Angry

Today, I’m going to spotlight the second of the phrases I found in my Lenten book, 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. The phrase is “holy gets angry.” There aren’t many instances of Jesus getting angry in Scriptures. I am sure though we are all familiar with the most quoted instance of Jesus’ anger with His clearing of the temple. Until now, I had always heard sermons of why Jesus cleared the temple–the religious establishment was cheating those who had come to worship. But, I had never paid attention to the words of how he had cleared the temple. So, I went back and read the verses that stated the how.

John 2:15-16 says, “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

The other Gospel writers covered this instance and at least one more–one at the beginning of his ministry and the other towards the end. Jesus was seriously angry about this–serious enough that it was covered in the written accounts of his ministry.

But, anger is not a nice emotion, right? It’s not nice just like grieving isn’t nice, and people don’t know what to do with it except maybe to tell people they shouldn’t be angry about a particular situation. Now, I agree. There are many instances where we shouldn’t be angry. Anger can have a negative effect on emotional and physical health. Getting angry can result in violence you really don’t mean to happen. It might be the result of a misunderstanding. Or it might be the result of a legitimate situation. God knows we get angry just like we grieve, and He doesn’t condemn us for it. It’s part of who we are as humans.

So, with that negativity against anger, is there ever a good reason to be angry? To get angry, yes, but to stay angry, no. That’s where forgiveness comes in. Anyway, I did some thinking before coming back to writing this paragraph, and I realized that Scripture shows us the way. God wants us to use our anger on things that affect others. I’m not talking about a hashtag campaign on hot-button issues like abortion or poverty either. I’m talking about getting down in the trenches with someone who needs help and getting angry when the church refuses to help. I’m talking about not condemning a person for their “sin” and instead loving them in Jesus’ Name. We all sin. There is not a one of us who sins less than the other. In fact, the only person who never sinned was Jesus, as we all know.

I’m talking about walking with the person who is being abused, walking with the woman or couple who is facing an unexpected pregnancy, walking with the person who is not the same race or income level as you, or walking with the person who is addicted. God doesn’t want us to stay in our comfort zones. He wants us to get in the trenches with those who need to see His love.

I guess that’s why I get angry when I see news coverage on any of the hot-button issues. There is never a solution, only angry words offered–from both sides. Even from Christians. What happened to sharing instead of greed? (And don’t tell me only one side is greedy. I’ve seen greed on both sides.) What happened to hope instead of despair? And finally, what happened to love instead of condemnation? When I consider the answers to these questions, I get angry at others and at myself. Because, we’ve all sinned in this way. I think that’s when God gets angry too. We’re not living the way He wants us to live.

So, as I finish this, consider the answers to these questions in your life. And then, when you get angry, are you angry because something hasn’t gone your way or are you angry on someone else’s behalf? How can this anger then be turned to show Jesus’ love in our sphere of influence?

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

God bless you all!

“Higher, Further, Faster” (With God as my Co-Pilot)

It generally takes me awhile to go and see a movie. Between not wanting to be in the crowds on opening weekend (That’s my introvert self talking.) and looking for the cheaper showings (I hate how much it costs to go to the movies nowadays.), waiting for a couple of weeks seems to be the norm. But, last Monday, I saw K. M. Weiland’s blog post of 4 Pacing Tricks to Keep Readers’ Attention in her ongoing series of The Do’s and Don’t’s of Storytelling According to Marvel. It focused on Captain Marvel, the most recent Marvel movie. I was entranced when I read the post. I could go see this movie, learn some tricks for my own writing, and be entertained at the same time. Seemed worth the price for a ticket so I headed to the theater last Thursday afternoon.

The movie was worth penny I spent. Not only was I entertained; not only did I learn some tricks I could use in my own writing; I also saw some of my own life in Carol Danvers’ life. No, I haven’t been to another planet. No, I haven’t had amnesia. And no, I certainly haven’t gained super powers. But, I’ve gone through a lot of the past year not knowing who I was. I was no longer a homeschool teacher, and there was no natural niche where I felt I fit. The parts of my life were in pieces with parts not being acknowledged by other parts. I’ve had a difficult time working my way through it.

But, back to the movie. There was something happening every fifteen minutes or so that kept me in the story. That, in writing terms, is called pacing, and the movie was a great visual example of it for me. And it wasn’t just random. It was something that moved the story along and brought Vers (Danvers’ Kree warrior name) to our technologically challenged planet. She had decisions to make at each point too.

I also liked how they began the story in the middle of the action, but were also able to combine character development with it which made sense and didn’t feel forced. Her character arc combined seamlessly with the story as it should have since this was an origin story.

There were two things though that felt off during the movie, but not off enough for me to take my good rating away. The first was the jarring nature of the flashbacks where the Skrull commander repeatedly “rewound” Vers’ memories forcing her to pay attention to details she originally hadn’t focused on. It reminded me of the skipping of a record player each time it happened. (which should tell you how old I am, 🙂 ) But, in its defense, it was a different way to do a flashback which made it memorable.

The other thing that bothered me was the characterization of the villain. Even if it wasn’t already known this particular character was going to be the villain, it was easily figured out by the way he behaved toward the heroine. I didn’t see very much good at all in the way his character was presented even before his villainy was on the movie screen.

When everything was known though, when Carol was about to know and knew who she was, and when Yon-Rogg was shown to be the villain, some of the best scenes of the movie sizzled on the screen. I could see the good writing. I could see the good characterization. I could even see that the revelations were handled crisply and cleanly.

And the part about it relating to my own life? I saw my life coming together as a whole through watching this movie. That might be a funny thing to say about a secular movie, but bear with me. I felt awkward with the thought at first. How could my faith life, my writing life, and my life in general come together through watching a secular movie? That’s when I thought of the addition to today’s post title, “Higher, Further, Faster” (With God as my Co-Pilot). I had thought I needed others’ approval for what God was calling me to do, but I really don’t. I just need to do what God is calling me to do on whatever path He sets me on.

So, that’s it for today. Highest recommendations for the movie! Can’t wait for Avengers Endgame in just a few weeks!

Holy Grieves

For almost a year, I’ve wrestled with the question of whether it’s okay to grieve in church. If I’m honest though, it’s been longer than that. I’ve just been thinking about it in particular over this past year and wondering if it was okay.

Sometimes, I think I’m the most human person in the world when I go to church. I weep when I grieve. Tears come easily though I do my best to hide them, and there aren’t many people who understand when I try to tell them. So, I keep my thoughts and feelings to myself when people ask what’s wrong, or I just don’t cry at all even though I want to. And all along, I think I’m a terrible person because it seems like I’m the only one who needs to grieve, and God must think badly of me because I grieve so openly. As you can see, I internalize many things about grieving.

But, I’m going through a book during this Lenten season as I’ve mentioned before, 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. One of the more recent entries had the answer to my question, and I’m using two of the words in that entry for the title of my blog post, “Holy grieves.” The author provided the translation of the word Luke used when he was describing Jesus riding into Jerusalem. When Jesus cried at the sight of the city, He was wailing. Yes, that is the translation of the Greek word–lament, wail, cry–all of those words. He grieved for Jerusalem. He grieved for all its inhabitants. He grieved for all of humanity.

I read the author’s words and felt better about my question. We’re all familiar with the Scripture where Jesus weeps at Lazarus’ death though he was about to be resurrected. But, the other instances, I had never heard them explained so clearly.

We don’t do a good job though of wrestling with this in the church. The author of my book calls it “wrestling with the mystery of the Incarnation,” and I think that’s appropriate. We use words that are easier for us to understand though they cut open the heart of the receiver because we don’t understand the point and the purpose of grief.

Here are some of those words quoted directly from the author. “You shouldn’t cry, grieve, wail, or weep. God is in control. He works all things for the good of those who love Him…so there’s no need to feel___.” (Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease) I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard those words spoken to me or have spoken them to others. We’ve lost the art of just sitting and grieving with each other.

So, I wonder what I should do in church when I hurt. Should I weep and feel awkward and lacking in faith after I do so? Should I keep it all in and not share it with anyone? Or should I remember this sentence from the author of my Lenten book? “It is never weakness to grieve where God is grieving.” (Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days  of Decrease) Crying is not a sin, and grieving is not a sin, and I think I finally understand what God has been trying to teach me.

May all of us who are believers grieve authentically knowing that our Lord and Savior grieves with us. Praise God that “holy grieves!”

God bless you all!

An Interesting Question

Recently, I became involved in #writingcommunity on Twitter. Last week, I saw a poll that posed an interesting question I want to explore further today. What was the question? It was this. Are all writers introverts, or are they a combination of introvert and extrovert? I was also interested in how these personality temperaments affected writing so I read many of the comments as well.

The poll results were interesting. Of those who responded, 65% said they were introverts, 10% said they were extroverts, and 18% said they were a combination of both. Now, this is not a scientific sample by any stretch, but it was interesting. In case you were wondering, I fall fully into the introvert camp. I’m more comfortable and get my best ideas when I’m alone which is why this week will be such a special treat. During the day, no one else will be here except for me. Both of my children are out-of-town, and my husband is at work so I have plenty of time to be alone with my thoughts. This is a good thing. In fact, I will, more than likely, have to drag myself away from my notebook or computer for possible interactions with people. Or maybe not. I haven’t decided yet. 🙂

But, back to the poll. It didn’t surprise me that the majority of responses came from those who were introverts. In fact, I would say that most writers write alone. Writing is generally not considered a group project. There were writers though who said they were extroverts or a combination of both. And it made  me wonder. It made me wonder how they could sit at a computer and write for the amount of time it took to produce something since their energy gets renewed by being around other people.

I believe it comes down to this. In my experience, writers, of all types, have a tendency to be more self-aware. This can apply to temperament as well. With that being said, I believe everyone can write–introverts and extroverts. It just takes an awareness of when we need a break whether that means we go and do something else while still being alone or whether we go and see other people to be re-energized.

So, I guess my question should really be ‘Can people write whether they are introverts, extroverts, or a combination of both?’ And to that, my answer would be an unqualified yes! Because, I don’t want to put people into one group or another as being able to pursue a certain profession. That’s wrong. We are all human beings whether we are introverts or extroverts, men or women, white or black, Democrat or Republican, citizen or immigrant, or married or single. We, especially those of us who are believers, should love every person we come in contact with and refuse to demean them. Isn’t that what Jesus did?

God bless you all today!

Dancing in the Dark

I’ve been reading through my Lent book for the past ten days, and I’ve learned a lot about different kinds of fasts. This book doesn’t just talk about fasting from chocolate or the Internet. It goes down to the very basics of my faith, of our faith. In case you’ve forgotten, the book I’m reading is entitled 40 Days of Decrease, and the author is Alicia Britt Chole. Today, I want to talk about one of the fasts she suggests, one that reached down into the core of who I am.

It happened the other day. I was reading through the day’s entry, and I read such words as uncertainty, unknown, and mystery. Oh, this is something that’s easy, I thought. Wasn’t I writing my first thriller/mystery book? Then, I got to the day’s fast, and it hit me right in the gut. The fast was avoidance. What did I do when I faced the unknown, unknowable, uncomfortable, or unavoidable? If I was being honest, I would have to say I avoided it.

When I disagree with people or when they make me uncomfortable, I don’t stand up for myself. I don’t speak at all. I just walk away, many times with tears in my eyes. I don’t know how to address the conflict because I was never taught how.

I read back over the section again. It had nothing to do with what genre I wrote in and everything to do with what I thought about my faith. It asked questions I was not prepared to answer, but ones I knew I needed to answer. Here are the questions. “What does uncertainty trigger within us? What defaults do we gravitate toward when facing the unknown?” (pg. 44, Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease) Even though I write about mystery, I don’t embrace it like I did when I was younger. I do my best to solve it because that’s what the readers want. But, we can’t do that with our faith, and I believe that’s what the entry was trying to say. We’re not going to understand everything we say we believe no matter how much we might want to.

So, this fast of avoidance actually brought out two facets of my faith and my personality. The first is directly related to my faith. Chole says it well in the book. “Mystery is a given for relationship between the Infinite and the finite.” (pg. 44, Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease) I need to admit to myself I won’t ever understand everything about God or about my faith. I think that might be the only way I can fully embrace the work God wants me to do in this world.

The other thing it brought out was my tendency to want to control everything in my life, not just my faith. When a situation comes along I can’t control or when a situation turns out badly or not to my liking, I avoid it for as long as possible. I don’t want anyone to see my control slipping, and I definitely don’t like being in the middle of conflict.

God has convicted me about this issue though through reading this entry. He wants me to revel in and celebrate the uncertainty of life and faith. When I read what Chole says in 40 Days of Decrease, the first word that came to mind was ‘Yes!’ God told me, ‘This one is meant for you.’ “As we follow Jesus into uncertainty, we are free, in the words of Gerald G. May, to ‘join the dance of life in fullness without having a clue about what the steps are.'” (pg. 44, Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease) That was a conviction and a push my faith needed. May we all dance in the dark through good times and bad, through laughter and tears, and through certainty and uncertainty. May we all, me included, have the courage to live in the fullness of uncertainty and not avoid it.

God’s blessings on you all today!

Enough?

I hesitated before deciding on this topic for today. Who likes admitting they don’t think they’re enough. I don’t, and I’m sure y’all don’t either.  My Lenten devotional was what convinced me. It suggested that today’s fast should be a “tidy faith.” We should doubt and question all we need to, and our faith would be stronger for it. It made sense to me, and since my courage has been growing, I’m going to write it all out no matter who might like or dislike it.

A long time ago, I left the church, and I left my faith. Oh, I said I didn’t. I said I was still a Christian, but for the most part, God wasn’t spoken of in my home except in our homeschooling curriculum when we began homeschooling. With what I thought of as my own strength, we moved through such things as death, moving, illness, hospital stays, moving again, and a miscarriage. Drastic changes, to be sure.

But then, I found my faith again, and I found the church I attend now. I’ve written about this before. In the almost seven years though since I found my faith again, I’ve wondered about something. I’ve wondered if I was enough in God’s eyes. I know, clearly, the things I’m not enough of. Not pretty enough. Not wealthy enough. Not with my spouse enough. Not Christian enough. (I wasn’t raised in the church.) Not knowledgeable enough about the Bible. Not in the “in crowd” enough. Not good enough to pray out loud. Not good enough to teach. Not good enough to serve. (At least not in the places where my gifts lie.)

Now, these haven’t happened all of the time. There have been seasons for each where I’ve been enough, and some where I haven’t. I’ve been tempted to walk away during the times when it hasn’t been enough because, as I’ve already said, who likes feeling like they’re not enough. It was especially difficult when I started thinking if just my presence was good enough which made me want to ask this question. Is just my presence in a church to worship enough? Does God value my worship enough for me to come to church even though I might feel lonely for the presence of other people in my life? Does God value me enough as a daughter to value my worship?

I know He does now, and I will never let others take away His love again.  That is how much my faith and my relationship with my Lord and Savior means to me. I’ve prayed, studied Scripture, and just talked to God more in the past almost seven years than I have in a long time. The growth I’ve experienced has re-established my faith in ways I didn’t expect. God has been there for me countless times.

But, there is that pesky thing called “meeting together as a church body.” God wants us to do this, and it’s called for in Scripture. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” So, meeting together to worship. The times when I’ve felt the most lonely and wondered whether my presence was enough. I could easily give up corporate worship. In fact, there are times I feel closer to God when it’s just Him and me. I don’t feel the judgment of other people for not being enough, and it’s calm and peaceful in my heart and mind.

God called me to corporate worship though, and I want to acknowledge and fulfill His call on my life. So, even though I may never “do” another thing for God or serve Him in the church in any capacity or even be acknowledged during a service, I am enough because God says I’m enough. Worshiping Him with my presence is enough.

God bless you all!

Lent as “Sojourn”

I started something new today on Ash Wednesday. A book called 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole focusing on the 40 days leading up to Easter. I’ve never done anything like this before for the time of Lent. In fact, I’ve never really gone through the whole period of Lent thinking about Jesus and His journey to the cross. Last year, I did read a devotional, but I started it late and with everything going on, I don’t think my focus was fully on it.

Not this year though. I have an insatiable hunger to know my Savior better. To know what it really meant and means for Jesus to go to the cross for me. This desire does not mean I will be doing activities in the church all of the time though I will do some activities. It does not mean I will adopt the attitude of being better than anyone else. I am the “worst of sinners” as Paul says in I Timothy 1:15. What it does mean is Jesus will be the focal point of my thoughts every day, and I will make a point of spending time with Him every day. Now, it might be argued I should be doing that all of the time, and I admit it. It’s true. But, Lent is giving me an opportunity to let the world dim and let Jesus be first. I plan on taking that opportunity.

So, Day 1. It was an introduction like one might expect for a book like this. It talked about the practice and history of Lent and of fasting. There was one thing that intrigued me though, and that’s what I want to focus on today. “Lent as sojourn.”

Usually, when I start something like this, I consider it a project. It’s a natural thing to do. All of my writing endeavors are projects, things I want to do my best to complete. Last year, I even blogged through a devotional wanting to prove to myself I could write every day for 100 days.

But, this is different. I don’t want to be keeping track of how often I’m reading or writing in the journal part of the book. I don’t want to measure my “success” by whether I spend enough time with Jesus. And today’s entry focused on that. “Lent as sojourn.” The author defines sojourn as a “temporary stay at a place.” “And a “stay” is about presence, not productivity.” (pg. 3, 40 Days of Decrease, Alicia Britt Chole) I want to be present during this experience. To stay with my Savior as I get closer to Him.

I might not write or post about every day in the book, but I wanted to record what I was doing so I could remember what I was thinking and feeling on March 6, 2019, at the beginning of Lent.

I want to end this by quoting Psalm 51:17 which represents what I want to take away from Lent this year. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

God bless you all!

The In-Between Place

Creak! The exit gate from my complex begins to open. Creak! It opens slowly, not usually at the pace I’d like it to open. Creak! It finally opens all the way, and I’m able to leave my apartment complex with my car. I always have to take a deep breath while I’m waiting for the gate to open. My impatience to be on my way can disrupt my peace of mind if I let it, and it has on any number of occasions. Just like waiting in general, to be honest.

I started thinking about this the other day when I met a young couple about to have their first child. We did all the normal chit-chat expected of people meeting for the first time. Then, the wife said something that I think is fairly normal of people in this life situation. She said, of their impending birth, “I guess we’re going to be adults now. We finished our conversation, and the couple walked off. I was left thunderstruck though I know it was a normal kind of thing to say. But, did that mean my own children weren’t adults at the ages of 19 and 22? Did that mean single young adults or married young adults who don’t have children weren’t really adults? I know there are many young people who are living at home longer and who are putting off getting married, but…really? Why do we say our young people don’t have the capability  of being responsible or contributing to society before they are married or have families. It made me mad, and I’m neither sad or childless. Then, it got me to thinking of the in-between place my sons and I are both in right now, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

So, the in-between place. It’s like when I have to wait for the gate to open. There’s nothing to do, but wait. But, I think there’s a way to flourish in the waiting without hurrying to the next phase. My older son and his girlfriend get it. He graduates from college this May, but she has a few more years to go so they’re gonna wait until she finishes. My son knows he needs to start working and making money. They also know they’re not ready to be married yet. I don’t know about you, but that sounds responsible to me.

My younger son doesn’t have a regular girlfriend yet, but he also knows he’s not ready. He needs to prepare for his career and make his faith his own. But he’s responsible too. Does everything he’s asked, takes care of his classes and his part-time job, and is a genuine pleasure to be around. Yes, he and his brother play video games, but it’s certainly not all of the time, and it’s after all of their other responsibilities have been fulfilled.

I’ve already talked about my waiting place and how I’m  doing things to establish the next phase of my life so I won’t go into that further. But, I do want to ask a question. Do churches recognize this as a time where young people can flourish and have responsibilities? (beyond working with the youth group or having a college/singles ministry within the church) If the church is large enough, they might have a college and/or a singles ministry which can give young people opportunities to minister.

But, in general, I don’t think churches recognize this. Their college students were just their kids a short time ago, and it’s hard for people to get out of that mindset. When these students still have parents within the church, it’s even harder. I believe that’s why many young people leave the churches of their youth. So, they can be seen as adults.

This in-between place though shouldn’t be a dead and stagnant time for young people in their churches. It should be a time when students and single people are given increasing responsibilities in the church and taught about leadership. They should be mentored by others and able to flourish. That was the experience I had in college and as a single person, and I pray that happens for my own sons.

As I end, I ask you to think about this untapped potential in our churches. These young people want to change the world, and we have the opportunity to tap this energy for Christ. Because, they will find a place to expend it. If not the church, then where?

Have a great day, everyone!