These days, I’m finding myself drawn to more ancient forms of Christian faith. Not that there’s anything wrong with today’s “mega churches” or “mega church wannabe’s” with their well-produced Sunday morning productions of feel good “face-melting” worship and practical advice for a better life (at least according to our Western culture’s version of success).
But some of today’s more popular “mainline” faith practices seem to either explain away the mysterious and difficult elements of life and faith or avoid talking about them all together.
So…. when I was a part of those types of faith communities – they weren’t so very much into the cycles of the ancient church calendar such as Ash Wednesday and Lent.
I mean, why would we want to focus on that 40-day season of hot parched desert and relentless temptation if the whole purpose of our faith is to use God to make our lives on earth pretty and prosperous?? Why not just wait to get all happy on Resurrection Sunday? (That happy stuff brings in bigger offerings, anyway).
But as wonderful as that human success-driven church culture can seem, there’s something exhausting and simply fake about trying to live as though God’s purpose is to bring glory to me and not the other way around.
So, I’m now a part of a small community of believers that meets in the middle of an old downtown area and for the first time in my life I took my ashes on last Wednesday and entered in to relating to Christ’s suffering through a season of lent.
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. But I’m finding this season to be authentic, rich, and freeing though difficult and somewhat anti-cultural.
The most beautiful thing to me about this practice is that it tells me that it’s ok to walk through periods of mystery and tension in life with ashes on your head and maybe even in your heart.
So, as I was trying to decided between more gym time and God time or more mirror and makeup time this morning, Maker whispered this “Would you rather” question to my spirit:
“Would you rather hide your flaws and pretend to be perfect or reveal your flaws and be perfected?”
In our insta-filtered culture it’s so easy to trade quickly clicked airbrushed appearances for the hard work of authentic change. But we have a choice – difficult but achievable by our Maker’s strong Spirit in us – to rise above cultural norms and admit our weaknesses, pains, and flaws instead of covering them. And, in return, Maker blesses us with HIS strength, healing, and perfection.
Maker God, may I choose this moment and the next to live in Your light – even when it exposes my flaws – rather than running for the cover of the filtered pretense that the world offers…. In Jesus Name!
“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” – Ephesians 5:8 NLT
Dad gets there every morning before anyone else so he can have the coffee made and be at his post by the door to greet the little ones with his infamous “high five” from “Mr. Jay”. He starts his day by hanging his hat on a hook before he goes about his business.
Over the past few weeks, Dad goes to retrieve his hat at day’s end often finds that one of the teachers has “kidnapped” it. Dad then must go on a hunt – sometimes complete with ransom notes and clues – to find it.
On the last day of school before Thanksgiving, the hat was still on its hook – but it had been turned into a turkey!
At age 82, Dad is showing me that there is an alternative to growing old. We can choose to grow young by never taking ourselves too seriously and not missing opportunities to make someone else smile.
Listen. Be still. Be present. Be aware. (This is not an easy task in today’s world filled with these little screens in our hands).
And…. Don’t limit the way He speaks to a sermon, Bible verse, or some seemingly theological insight. He may speak to you through a friend, a movie, the top 40 on the radio, or -most often- a quiet whisper to your own soul.
Remain consistent. Sync your every step with the Maker of your soul.
And notice…. I didn’t say (nor did the Bible) that this is a two-step plan to happiness or to the Westernized world’s version of success.
God’s best may not feel good in the moment. It may not look good or smell right or put you in the limelight.
But it will create a stronger connection to our Creator and to His most favorite creation, other people.
And… in the end, isn’t that all that matters?
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Jesus, Matthew 22:37-39
But finally I knew the marriage was dead and draining the life from both of us. And the only way for either us to have a chance at surviving was to create a necessary ending.
Even though I know that, for me, leaving was the only choice left and became a matter of survival – sometimes the “what if’s” and “if only’s” begin to drop anchor on my soul.
I see friends celebrate anniversaries by sharing social media posts about how they stuck with it through the hard times and prayed and fasted through the tough spots…. As I keep scrolling, I start wondering…. Should I have prayed more? Should I have endured more? Improved myself more? Fasted more? Covered the house with more anointing oil although the place was pretty much slick with it?
But I have to step away from the shoulds about the past or they will shroud my present.
So I blogged the blurb below as a reminder to myself and hopefully an encouragement to others….
You prayed about that decision like crazy. You probably even delayed what your God was telling you to do because of what other people were telling you to do.
Now…. let’s give ourselves the grace to move freely forward… leaving the “would if’s” and “should of’s” and that piece of ourselves wrapped up in that other person in the hands of our Maker.
“… Until we let the Christ who consorted with hookers and crooks to be our truth, the false, fraudulent self motivated by cowardice and fear will continue to distance us from abiding restful union.” – from Brennan Manning’s writing, The Furious Longing of God. (Read it and weep…. Seriously! Reading or listening to this book will likely bring tears to your eyes as your heart grasps grace).
Have you ever tried to earn God’s favor? I know i have! So I’m lovingly saying this to both of us: STOP IT!!! (And, yes. That was intentionally bold, in italics, and all caps!). Let’s just rest. It’s time you and I stop working so hard for the unfailing love we’ve always had from our Maker God. Grace works so we don’t have to.