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I went to bed Saturday night with the excitement and anticipation of a child awaiting the arrival of the Easter Bunny!

I knew, that when I awoke on Easter Sunday, coffee with

cream

awaited my taste buds!

For the first time since before the season of Lent I would not just have the habit of my morning hot and steaming cup, but also the enjoyment of the taste!

Hubby was making the coffee that morning, and asked how many cups I wanted. The anticipation was so great that I knew one cup would not do. He decided to double his regular amount as well. Of course this meant that the waiting for it to brew also took double the normal amount of time!

You know how they say that a watched kettle never boils? Well, let me tell you, the same goes for a watched coffee maker!

Once I was pouring the hot, steaming dark into my cup of cream, the rest of my senses awakened with delight. The marriage of the white and black into a caramel cup of visual wonderland. The steam was beckoning my inhaling of nasal delights. And my hands sought the warmth pushing through the ceramic mug. All that was left was to lift it to my lips and enjoy.

And enjoy I did! It was such a treat for my senses.

I also made a realization … this Easter Sunday treat created such a delightful start to my Sunday.

I feel embarrassed to admit that I had not looked forward to Sunday like this in … too long.

This omission of cream in my every day morning coffee, although such a miniscule sacrifice, did give me a fresh appreciation of what Jesus sacrificed. Everything about the Easter story was clearer, more meaningful to me. Not because I had omitted cream from my coffee, but because I had participated in sacrifice. In a sense I awoke on Easter Sunday feeling as though I had gone to the tomb and found it empty.

I had participated in walking the final steps with my Lord, and that was even sweeter than cream in my Sunday coffee. It has made the six to seven week walk to the cross, to the tomb and out …

my walk.

” … stay here and keep watch with me.”
Luke 22:38b

“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:13

 

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Tomorrow we celebrate Easter Sunday!

The season of waiting and preparation ends as the sun rises on Easter Sunday, proclaiming the rising of the Son of God, many years ago.

Because of sacrifice of Friday, and the separation of Christ from His heavenly Father, we are READY for Sunday! Not because of anything that we have done, but because of the sacrifice of Christ.

There are still those who have not grasped what Easter is about, why we Christians hold dearly the image of a man on a cross. They have not seen that man from the cross emerge from the tome of their own sins, whole again.

The most viewed post of this week refers to this. In the post, Looking for Cameo Appearances, we are reminded that we are to share the news of Christ’s appearances. Really, we are to share that Christ is everywhere, in everything, and His purpose in life was to give us life that never ends, and, more than that, life today that is with Him.

Also this week :

A Good Good Friday

Mary’s Story of Pain

The Sixth and Final Week of Lent

Prayers Offered in Faith

Happy Easter!
Carole

 

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We who have given up, in sharing the sacrifice of Christ, this season of Lent have almost made it to the finish line.

Five weeks ago I expected to be drooling this week in anticipation of having cream in my morning coffee again …

but, something has happened …

I don’t miss is anymore.

Four weeks ago I realized that doing anything for love was more difficult than I ever imagined possible.

Three weeks ago I was convicted to not make fun of people stumbling from their pedestals, but to pray for them.

Two weeks ago I realized that Lent had nothing to do with my sacrifice.

One week ago I understood the weight of the sacrifice of Christ, knowing that He was doing for all … those who would accept the gift, and those who would spit on it.

Week 1 of Lent I shared of my giving up of something that hurt.

Week 2 of Lent I shared of willingness to do anything for love.

Week 3 of Lent I shared of laying ourselves aside to pray for others.

Week 4 of Lent I shared of how it is not about my sacrifice.

Week 5 of Lent I shared of how Christ sacrificed, for all! The really, really evil and the not so bad.

And now, the final week of Lent.

By now, if you have sacrificed something for this season, you might be craving to resume your habit, your favorite thing, your desired spice of life.

But I think we are in for a surprise this coming Sunday, when our season of sacrifice turns to feasting and celebration.

I think that when we are faced with that thing we have missed, we will discover that it is not as good as we remember it to be. I think that we will discover that, whatever ‘it’ is, it no longer feeds our craving as it once did.

There is only one thing that satisfies the craving …

the craving for hope …

that Lent has reminded us we crave for most.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

 

 

 

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“Stanley?” was the unexpected response I was texted from my daughter.

I looked at her response, and pondered at the question.

Stanley was a cat that we once had. He was black as night, soft as silk, had beautiful amber eyes and …

was completely evil …

no, really, he was evil!

I admit that I love cats, and had never met a cat, before Stanley, who I ever would have called evil … but he was.

He would bite and scratch and hiss and I think he even growled.

He would reach out and puncture our feet with his razor sharp claws if we walked too closely to him.

When the dog would be sleeping peacefully in her chair, the cat would stealthily sneak up, scratch the dog’s nose and run away.

He was evil!

But, we adored him anyway.

And then, one summer night, more than six years ago, he sneaked outside as I was letting the dog out. I called him and he turned around to face me, and I am certain that, in a non-verbal, feline way said, “I’m leaving and I won’t be back.”

We heard the coyotes that night …

we always say he ran off to teach the coyotes how to be truly evil.

And he came back.

Recently, hubby said, in a most untypically mysterious way,

“check out the deck.”

There on the deck was a mostly black, tabby cat.

I took a quick pic (the one on this page) and texted it to our daughter.

Then came her response,

“Stanley?”

Because the cat had moved, the picture I took was blurry, and what was a tabby, looked like a black cat … like Stanley.

I was intrigued that after all these years, she would think that Stanley was still alive. Then I thought about every time I saw a black cat in our neighborhood, or saw a picture of one from the local shelter. I too always looked closely to see if it might be our cat.

Why do we keep looking for our evil cat?

Maybe it is because we loved him …

He was ours, and we cared for him, and fed him and kept him warm and safe …

even though he seemed to resent our actions.

As I pondered my daughter’s text, I was reminded of the season of Lent.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep.

As all sorts of people were listening to Jesus, there were also Pharisees scoffing and saying, “this man spends time with evil people.” They said it because outward appearance was of such value in their society. What you wore, what your job was, who you hung out with … hum, not that different from today really!

So, Jesus goes on to tell his story. 

“What would a good shepherd do, if one of his ninety-nine sheep went missing? Of course he would leave the rest and search for the lost one until he finds it, and happily brings it back.”

He then continues,

“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

When Jesus went to the cross, he didn’t just do so for the souls of the good, the righteous, the pretty on the outside. He suffered, he sacrificed, for all! The really, really evil and the not so bad.

But, in God’s economy, is there a differentiation?

Romans 3:23 reminds us,

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

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There I was, just hours away from turning (gulp) thirty-nine with six years experience (OK! I was turning 45!),

and I was not feeling the love.images-2

Hubby and I had just had one of those knock-down, drag-out fights that NO happily married couple would ever admit to having participated in … publicly.

My parents, in fair health, and only in their late sixties, and just seventy had declared that NOPE, they were done traveling, no need to prepare a room for them … I would need to go to them.

So I did what any other hormonal woman (do we women ever grow out of hormonal?) in my shoes would do …

I declared to the trees, and the squirrels, and the birds, and any other creature that was listening (oh, please tell me that no neighbors were listening), that I was unloved, and that there was simply no person on this planet who was willing to sacrifice for me.

Lets face it, what I was doing was holding my very own pity party, and it was not pretty!

Between self pity and sobs I kept hearing in my head :

“Lift your eyes up”

And so, I did, to the sun pouring through the trees in my private cathedral sanctuary.

Then, words came pouring in, like the light through the trees :

“I lift my eyes up … to the mountains”

Hum, no mountains in view, but towering cedars straight ahead.

“Where does my help come from?”

Now, that’s a question that resonated in my self pitying heart and soul!

“My help, it comes from the Lord

the Maker of heaven and earth”

Ah, so this is the benefit of having committed scripture to memory! Once learned it is there forever, ready at a tears notice to flood our minds with encouragement, with truth, with promises.

The pity party did not end immediately, but my need to uncover why that specific verse came to mind, when it did, diverted my attention away from my poor-me attitude.

And that is what this season of Lent is about …

taking our eyes off of our own desires, our own wants, our own sacrifices …

and lifting them to our help

our maker of heaven and earth.

The One who was born, was conceived to sacrifice for us … for all of us.

Our eyes need to keep focus on that which is, on who is

higher, bigger, greater

that ourselves.

My pity party was coming to a close.

My eyes, no longer blinded by tears of self pity, were seeing clearly who my help is … no doubt about it!

Lent is about the One who sacrificed His all, for us all.

 

 

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Everyone’s seen it!

Have you seen it?

That video that has been shared and re-shared on every form of social media.
The one of the young man who was seated on that pedestal
seated so very high …
high enough to cause a commotion
when he slipped

he fell

as though he had been positioned there for that very reason

To fall

As though he, and all the gifts endowed in him by his Creator
were taken up to the highest of heights
so that those
who padded that seat for him
who padded it with the currency of this world
who padded it with all that this world calls satisfying

could watch how all that had padded his seat

weakened the foundation of his life

causing him to fall.

His reminds me of another story
of another young man
with great gifts
and great purpose

but

this other young man
he had always walked in the presence of his Creator
he always lived with His Father’s Word in His heart

and so

when he spent some time in a desert place
with no friend nearby
with no bread to fill his hunger
with no place to rest his head

he was surrounded by evil

by temptation

but he did not give in
because
though before him
were the things that would feed his physical needs

He knew they would starve His soul

And so
when temptation came His way

His physical weakness was His strength
because He had nothing to fight with
but the Word of
his creator
his sustainer
his father

So he lay himself aside

for the Creator to speak

This account, from Matthew 4, is what Lent is to represent.

It is one of laying ourselves aside,
so that the Word
the work
of our Father might become more important than

US

And, that young man
placed up on the pedestal
and encouraged to believe that he could have it all
in his own strength …

maybe we who follow the One who was tempted in the desert,

ought to offer up prayers for this young man
rather than ‘shares’

After all, in the words of John Walton :

“He’s just a young fella,
hardly experienced with living”

“Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.

The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: “Since you’re God’s Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.”

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to really live.”

For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the Devil said, “They’re yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I’m in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works.”

Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”

For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, “If you are God’s Son, jump. It’s written, isn’t it, that ‘he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone’?”

“Yes,” said Jesus, “and it’s also written, ‘Don’t you dare tempt the Lord your God.’”

That completed the testing. Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

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Last week I spoke of my first week, of my first experience of participating in Lent (Week One of Lent), by eliminating cream from my daily, morning coffee.

Withdrawal from what one loves can feel like a real sacrifice … until one remembers the One whose sacrifice yours is a symbol of.

This past weekend I saw a video (below), and before it was finished, I found myself thinking, what a beautiful sacrifice of love.

And sacrifice for love is what Lent leads us to understand.

Gerdi McKenna is a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer, just this past February, in South Africa.

I cannot imagine what that news must be like.

I cannot imagine what it is like to walk with one close to me, through the journey that breast cancer leads.

Gerdi is a loved woman.

Watch the video, below, to see just how loved she is :

What a personal sacrifice!

But, for those who participated, what seems to have taken the edge off of the very personal sacrifice is the fact that they were doing it for one they loved.

Isn’t that just how love is?

We would do anything for those we love!

And that is what Lent reminds us

That Christ would do anything for love!

But I won’t do that

Even that …

Most awful, horrible act of being sacrificed physically on a cross,

And of being separated from His Father.

That is sacrifice for love!

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738357ae884a5272698e5dee5e8f2913As this is my first year ever participating in the giving up of something for Lent, I thought I would share about the process in writing.

Okay,

Lets get real!

I am writing about it, so that I am accountable to not give up early …

I am so week!

Deciding what my symbolic sacrifice for this season was not easy.

I considered chocolate, but I do not eat it daily, so I didn’t think it was enough of a sacrifice.

I considered wine, but my only daily wine is spelled w-h-i-n-e, and that would be difficult to acknowledge when I do it, because, I probably whine far more than I actually realize.

I considered giving up writing, but through my preparations I have my daily devotions.

I considered giving up my morning coffee, but it is those around me who would be making that sacrifice.

I was through my consideration of giving up coffee that I found my sacrifice …

cream in my coffee.

I love my morning coffee. One cup. Freshly ground. Steaming black poured into creamy white, to the perfect shade of warm brown. Ah, that first sip! warm. creamy. satisfying.

The night before I fill the machine with fresh water, measure the beans into their cup, and set the timer. Anticipation begins the moment I set that timer.

Some mornings I awaken before my alarm, before the heart-stopping whirl of the beans being ground, and lay in bed, in eager anticipation of that first sip.

Obviously this daily ritual is one I truly love and enjoy. It is daily and I love it! So it seemed the best ‘sacrifice’ to make.

“The joy has left my life!”

I have to humbly admit, that the above six words were exactly my thoughts that first day, that first morning of Lent.

Coffee without the cream is terrible! It does not look right, it does not smell right, it does not feel right in your mouth, and it does not taste right!

I chose the right thing to give up … because it hurt.

So for this first week of Lent, I have started each day with a cup of hot, black coffee … and I have not enjoyed it one bit! With each sip of it, I have said in my mind,

“thank-you”

Thank-you to God, for the real sacrifice of his son. Cream in my morning coffee pales in comparison to that sacrifice.

“And a voice from heaven said,
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.””
Matthew 3:17

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This past weekend the time sprung ahead one hour, causing all sorts of sleep issues for everyone who must live our lives by the movement of clocks.

One mom said,

“I love this time change … said no parent ever.”

b99fd3b64e2c2ec300b72a01b07b1d54But all is not dire when it comes to the approach of spring!

Just this weekend the sun felt so warm.

The snowdrop bulbs are in full bloom in my garden.

Daffodil and Hibiscus and tulip plants are coming through ground.

Grass is growing.

Buds are forming on the flowering fruit trees.

Kids played on the streets until 7:00, when the sun sunk below the horizon.

Just last week, as I let the beast out for her morning bladder emptying, I was serenaded by the dawn chorus of the birds in the trees surrounding our house. Their music drawing me onto the deck to absorb it straight in to my soul.

A few years ago we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) moved two Forsythia trees from a hill in the front of our house to a raised section in the back. They are perfectly situated to observe and appreciate from our dining room table. As a lover of the awakenings of spring, I have been known to say, on a daily basis,

“have you seen the yellow trees are blooming?”

Hubby and kids roll their eyes, or finish my statement before I am able to complete it. It has become an ‘inner circle’ joke, that will, one day, be remembered with laughter when I am long gone. And I am okay with my memory being connected with the new growth and blooming of such a free spirited and beautiful tree.

Sometimes I marvel at the newness of spring, in the midst of the Easter and Lent season. A season when things that have long died, come alive with beauty, newness and hope of the days to come. A parallel on Earth, to that which Easter represents … a dying so that life might come again.

Spring is coming!

Though the time change this weekend pushed the sun’s rise until later in the morning, I know that in no time at all, I will again awaken to light filtering in through the bedroom windows. That is the hope that spring provides.

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Today is Ash Wednesday.

It is the first day of the forty days of Lent on the Christian calendar.

As I write this post it is Tuesday and I am anticipating a dinner of pancakes. Although I did not grow up in a Christ-centered home, this was a practice in my home growing up, and I feel a great sense of nostalgia in participating in this tradition.

Tuesday is often known as Pancake Tuesday, Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) or Shrove Tuesday. It is the day before the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a day of partying and feasting before participants give something up for the days leading up to Easter. I guess it could be compared to the human practice of I’ll overeat on Sunday, and start my diet on Monday.

As one who has not practiced the exercise of Lent, Ash Wednesday was something I had to research a bit to get an understanding of it’s significance.

The name Ash Wednesday comes from the reminder in Genesis 3:19,

“You are dust, and you will return to dust.”

In some churches, to truly mark this day, the tradition is to have a cross drawn, with ashes, on the foreheads of the parishioners on this day.

But what is Lent? Easter is on the calendar as Good Friday and Easter Sunday, what’s with it being a season?

Lent is the season of waiting, of abstinence, of sacrifice and of preparation for the Holy (Easter) Week.

Many people omit, or give up, something that they enjoy on a regular basis, for the forty’ish days leading up to Easter. Frequently we will hear of people giving up chocolate, alcohol, meat, cigarettes, fish, sex, television, shopping etc. For some it is a time of giving to the poor, in time or resources. For others it is a time of ‘adding’ to their regular schedule, practices such as increased prayer.

Whatever practice one might choose, it is done as a means of sharing in the sacrifice of Christ.

Now, I love chocolate, but I do not believe that giving it up is comparable in any way to the sacrifice of Christ. So, if you do practice Lent, don’t get too pious about your sacrifice … whatever we might do is infinitesimal compared to the rejection, imprisonment, scourging, crucifixion, death, and separation from God that Jesus experienced.

It is, though, a good reminder of all that Christ has done for us.

It is a reminder to pray.

It is a reminder to love others (as He has loved us).

It is a reminder of grace …

because we are not obliged to join in the suffering …

but we reap such benefit!

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