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Ychoiceou may have noticed that for the past week I haven’t been posting the daily Lenten photo.  Finding God in the everyday is a good thing, but adding it daily to my lengthy to-do list wasn’t a good thing.  Instead of a spiritual undertaking, it felt like a daily a chore. When connecting with God becomes a burden, I can be 98% certain that I’m doing it wrong.

I didn’t announce that I was letting the challenge slide because I didn’t want to make a Big Deal out of it. We humans are pretty good at that (see above).

We all face Big Deal choices but I think they are fewer and farther between than we believe.  I need to convince myself and my son that this is true because he’s currently trying to pick a college and a major. At the moment, he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders and I can see why. He’s grown up in the era of standardized testing. Fill in one wrong bubble, and the consequences are dire. You’ll ruin your teacher, your school and your district.

Now the counselors are telling them about student debt and people graduating with degrees that won’t get them job.  Or they get jobs but still can’t pay off their loans. Sure, it’s important to know that these risks are out there but why do we so often believe that there is 1 good choice and 99 disasters?

Yesterday, I was at the funeral for a friend’s wife. As the minister talked about Shelly, he mentioned that she had considered becoming a minister.  Instead, she became a speech therapist.  That must have felt like a huge choice. Ministry or therapy.  Saving souls or helping stroke patients regain their speech. I can’t even imagine how Shelly made the choice.

But the funny thing is that for Shelly it wasn’t an either/or decision. She may not have studied ministry, but even when she was sick, the Love of Christ shone in her face.  She always had an uplifting word or a funny story to share.  She may have been a therapist but she ministered to everyone who knew her.

This is what I want my son to keep in mind. God gives you choices, various ways to use his gifts. Very seldom is it a choice between 1 good decision and 99 ways to fail. Therapy vs ministry. Orange vs yellow. You have His gifts in hand.

–SueBE

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sorrowThe Lent word for today is Sorrow.  I immediately thought of my sage.  From mid-winter through early spring, not much looks more sorrowful than my sage.  Silvery leaves droop and shiver in the breeze although only two feet away daffodils are in bloom.

I feel much the same way right now.  My father seems to be going down hill.  Eight years ago, he had two mild strokes.  He has COPD.  Oxygen deprivation to the brain does strange things and he’s recently started having hallucinations again.

Yes, I tell the doctor.  I’m sure he’s hallucinating.  Yes.  I know I’m a writer not a doctor, but I’m also 98% certain that small black-legged deer are not running through the wheels on his wheelchair.

God and I talk a lot during these times.  Well, mostly I talk and he listens.  I pray for healing although I’m not sure who I’m praying for — me or my father.  I pray for patience as I look for his missing shoe and find it wedged in his jacket sleeve along with a piece of cardboard and a urinal. I also pray for acceptance.  This might be the beginning of a downward trend but it might not be.  I’ve seen him go downhill before only to have him come back stronger in another day or another week.

But mostly, I’m thankful.  Dad may be confused, although he won’t admit it.  And he’s suspicious which he admits.  But he is not sorrowful and, for that, Lord, I thank You.

–SueBE

 

presenceWhat is that?  That would be my yoga mat.  When it isn’t at yoga with me, it is in the umbrella stand.  Yes, the umbrella stand is actually a pickle crock, and, yes, that is a hazard tape hung on a piece of bamboo.  I’m not sure why, but the boy put it there.  But you’re supposed to be focusing on the yoga mat.

Finding time to spend in the presence of God is tricky.  Since I work at home, there is always something that I could do be doing job wise.  And house work wise.  And family wise.  I may have the best of intentions but if anyone can find me — forget it.

This is one of the reasons that I love yoga.  Monday and Wednesday from 9 am to 10 am, I am in our city’s gym with 39 other yoga students and their yoga mats.  Yes, we stretch and push ourselves.  Yes, we focus on our breath.  But for 10 minutes at the end of each session, we simply are.

Each of us on our own yoga mat.  I know I’m not the only one who uses this time to seek His presence.  The lady next to me sometimes prays audibly.  There are people who cross themselves at the end of relaxation.  And I’m sure that I’m not the only one who uses this time to simply be and listen.

Presence.  It isn’t what I was expecting to get out of yoga but it has been one of the biggest blessings.

–SueBE

forgivenessThe word for today is Forgiveness.  Admittedly, forgiveness is something that I need to work on.  While I am confident that God will forgive me, because he’s just awesome like that, I’m not always fantastic about forgiving other people.  Don’t worry, I see the problem with this but that doesn’t make actually forgiving any easier especially when some of the the people I need to forgive are impossible to avoid.  AND the things for which I need to forgive them are ongoing.

I know that I’m not the only person with this kind of a problem.  I’m certain of it because our Sunday school class is studying . . . forgiveness (see the study material to the right).  As we read the Bible and discuss forgiveness and faith, we also tell stories.  I’m amazed how similiar some of them are to my own situation — yet many of these people suceeded in forgiving day after day after day.

Clearly, I have something to take to God in prayer. I can’t do this on my own.

–SueBE

 

mercyI’m not sure why it is but I also feel God’s mercy as I see the earliest of the spring flowers.  These are crocus and they will bloom right through the snow.  They are almost done blooming but then we’ll have the daffodils and forsythia.

What is it about the bright yellow, the violet and the white that makes me realize that in spite of the bleakness of my soul, I am truly and deeply loved?

–SueBE

confessionThis probably wasn’t what the editor’s of Alive Now had in mind when they chose “confession” as a prompt.

But I have to confess — if this is how you approach me, you probably aren’t going to get what you want.  I don’t respond well to hysteria, in part, because for generations this is how the women in my family got their way.  They could, as a group, go from calm to complete hysteria in moments.

Because of this, when someone tries to rant me into helping them out with something, they very seldom get the help they need.  It may very well be a legitimate request but as soon as I hear hyperbole and the emotional black mail begins . . . I’m sorry.  Are you still talking to me?  I quit listening.

Is it something I need to change about myself?  I’m not sure.  I’ll be taking it to God in prayer.

Calmly.

No rants involved.

–SueBE

BelovedLittle did I know that Pastor Sean’s sermon would play into the Lent Photo Challenge.  The word today?  Beloved.  The sermon topic?  The Prodigal Son.  At right is a detail from a painting, The Prodigal Son Returns, by Soichi Watanabe.

About once a month, Pastor Sean delivers a sermon accompanied by a slide show.  He used this image as one of the slides.

The good news for all of us is that God loves us in the same way that the Father loved the Prodigal Son.

The son asked his father for his inheritance.  He wanted to have access to it even before his father died and it wasn’t because he had a business opportunity.  He squandered it on wine and women.  When his money was gone, a famine struck the land and he had to take a job feeding another man’s pigs.  When he realized that he envied the pigs their supper, he decided to return home.

Before he could even ask to be taken in, the Father ran out to greet him.

That is how God loves us.  We cannot earn this love.  We often squander his gifts to us.  Yet, he rejoices when we draw near. We are truly beloved.

–SueBE

FocusFor those of you who have never used one of these before, it is a loupe or jeweler’s glass.  It magnifies small objects, such as gemstones. This particular one comes complete with a light.  It is my son’s and I’ll probably wonder off with it if he doesn’t put it up.

When I was a kid, the closest thing that I had access to was my grandfather’s magnifying glass. I used it to look at text and rocks and flower petals.  I examined fabric and coins and the mortar holding the bricks in the fireplace.  I loved getting to see the details in all of these things and how they often managed to look familiar yet also mysterious from this up-close perspective.

Something else that has the same effect if the love of God.

When I’m dealing with my fellow human beings sometimes I only see their flaws and their short comings.  I think that I know them. When I hold them up in prayer and look at them again through the lens of God’s love, they look very different.  They are more nuanced and complicated but also amazing.  God’s love helps me to Focus on the things that God would have me see so that I see that spark of Himself in the people around me.

–SueBE

 

restoredI love taking something old and a bit awful and making it new.  That’s what we did with this cabinet.  When we got it you couldn’t even tell what the wood was because coloring pages were taped and glued all over it.  Our plan was to sand it and stain it but after we got the pages off we discovered it was plywood.  No worries.  We simply spray painted it with the air compressor and added new hard ware.  It still isn’t perfect but that’s okay, neither are we.

And that’s the beauty of belonging to God.  We don’t have ot be perfect because He is.  We just have to be His.

–SueBE

seedsYes, we are fallible.  Yes, we get things wrong.  But with God’s grace all things are made new.  We have a new beginning.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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