Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Lent Experience

Here is how Lent went for me.

I started out with the intention of giving up worry. .I soon found, however, that you can't will worry away; you can't stop worrying simply by deciding not to. At least I can't. So, I began to look for ways to eliminate things that contribute to worry as well as add practices aimed at helping me deal with worry.

First, I decided to pray. The bible says, "don't worry, pray." But some days this winter were so dark and desperate for me I couldn't pray. I didn't know what to say. So, I asked for help. I asked my family and friends and I reached out to a member of the prayer team at NEC. And while peace  was hard to come by some days it was a comfort to know that my prayers would be heard even if I couldn't speak them.

The bible also says to pray with thanksgiving. So, I started a gratitude journal. This is not as easy as it sounds, at least not for me. After one whole week I had just five entries in my journal and four out of five had to do with coffee. I like coffee. But I soon learned that when you look for things to be grateful for you will find them.

Finally, I decided to give up the Today Show. I like the Today Show but it has a way of filling my head with worries I don't need. So,.two weeks ago, I turned it off. At first, the quiet was uncomfortable; lonely. But over time I learned to live with it. What is wrong, I told myself, with being uncomfortable? What is wrong with feeling lonely for a few hours?

What I have learned through the Lent Experience--my Lent experience--is this: if I get rid of something, God will replace it. If I create space in my life, God will move into that space in ways I hadn't imagined. But, maybe that's because, as Barbara Brown Taylor points out, that space was meant to be filled by God all along. - Kelly Jenkins Lin

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Resurrection and Sacrifice

John chapters 20 and 21

When we think of Jesus' resurrection, sacrifice seldom comes to mind. After all, death was defeated. His ordeal was behind him. The grief of those who loved him was replaced by joy. Surely at that moment when Jesus was reunited with those he was closest to, they had no thought of sacrifice.

Yet even that unique sacrifice which saved us all did not put an end to sacrifice. At the very moment those closest to him were awed and overjoyed by his return, Jesus knew He must leave soon for heaven. The very people he shared his time on earth with, who had just seen him restored to them, were going to have to give him up all over again. Their rejoicing would be cut short by a painful farewell.

They must have longed for him to remain. But to fulfill his plan, it was necessary for him to go. For their own sake, and that of everyone dying to hear the news of what he'd done, it had to be this way. Before he left, he even warned Peter, one of those closest to him, of the sacrifice he'd be called on to make in the future.

In order to change, to become what they were meant to be, those closest to Jesus had to learn to offer everything up to God willingly, as he did. They had to submit to the Father's will, as he had, so they might grow to be more like him. Just as Jesus' ultimate sacrifice was required to overcome death, so theirs would be necessary to transform their own natures. - Ray Beere Johnson II

Dear Lord, work in our hearts so that we, like Jesus and his disciples, can make the sacrifices necessary to transform us. Help us to live in the promise of new life that Jesus' sacrifice - his death on the cross and his resurrection--have made possible for us. Amen

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Get Lost!

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.- Luke 19:10

I like to get lost. Not horribly, about-to-fall-off-the-face-of-the-universe lost, but enough lost that my heart begins to race and my palms start sweating and I have to pay attention to where I am going.

Sometimes, I try to get lost on purpose. Driving along a familiar road, I will intentionally turn left instead of right; or walking through the woods I will purposefully turn down a 
less-traveled path. This is not normal, I know.

Occasionally, when I try to get lost, I hit a dead-end and have to turn around. Other times, I get so lost I have to ask for help to get back on track. But, more often than not, getting lost on purpose allows me to see things I've never seen before and experience things I might not otherwise get to experience. And it gives me a chance to test out my inner compass: that thing inside me that tells me where I am and how to get back to where I want to be.

Living sacrificially can be a lot like getting lost on purpose. When you choose to give up something, you are choosing to turn left instead of the same old right; you are leaving behind the tried and the true and choosing to live on grace alone.  

Going without, you will have to pay attention to where you are going as it can get scary. There will be times when your heart will race and your palms will get sweaty and you will get so lost you have to ask for help. But, as Lent has taught me this year, if you stick with it you will see sights you have never seen before and experience things you never dreamed possible. And, if nothing else, you will see where your inner compass is pointed and how to get back to where you want to be. - Kelly Jenkins Lin

Heavenly Father, As we stumble along trying to live a sacrificial life like Jesus, teach us what it means to live by grace alone. Help us to pay attention to where we are going so that we might experience the wonders of Your love and find out where our inner compass is truly pointed and, more importantly, how to get back home again. - Amen

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Ultimate Sacrifice

John 18:1-19:37

When Jesus was arrested, he was abandoned by his disciples. One of his closest friends denied knowing him. He was dragged around, handled roughly, and mocked. He was examined by powerful men, any one of whom he could have awed with a word, but held his tongue, knowing what was coming.

He was questioned by Pontius Pilate, and even though Rome did not hesitate to put 'barbarians' to death, Pilate wanted to free him. But Jesus refused to answer, to work with him, to do anything to escape the fate awaiting him. He was whipped, beaten, and mocked by Roman soldiers who were used to breaking men's spirits with such brutality.

Then Pilate made him a public spectacle, powerless, a figure of ridicule. Finally, he agreed to order him killed. They forced him to carry his own cross, and marched him out to die. Such an execution was not meant to be a merciful end; it was designed to be as painful and terrifying as the Romans knew how to make it.

He endured everything they did, without complaint, then asked his Father to forgive them for what they had done. When he had hung there, in agony, for hours, he "gave up his spirit". Even then, no one else could take his spirit from him. He had to give it up, to deliberately yield to death.

Why did he willingly suffer all this? Because with his death, he defeated death once and for all. The very nature of death would no longer be the same. By offering himself as a sacrifice, he transformed our greatest enemy into something we need not fear. - Ray Beere Johnson

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Peter's Denial

John 18:15-27

When I think of Peter, I think of a chameleon. Chameleons change their appearance to match their background, to blend into their surroundings. That’s what Peter is trying to do in this courtyard, but Peter had a problem - he couldn’t blend in, he stuck out. He was a Galilean, so he looked different, talked different, probably acted different. Sort of like if someone heard me say, “Sorry”. They would say, “You’re not from here, are you?” As much as I’ve tried, I just can’t say sorry like people in the East - I was born in Wisconsin.

Like Peter, we can be chameleons. When I was growing up I was one thing to my friends, one thing to my parents, one thing to my church, and pretty soon I didn’t know who I was. That’s Peter’s problem. Just when Jesus is revealing himself and who he is, Peter is concealing himself. So when Peter is asked, “Who are you? Aren’t you a disciple?”, he can’t answer the question.

Maybe Peter is afraid of being caught and turned over to the authorities. But that’s not really likely. After all, he’s talking to servants and girls. What are they going to do, and with what power? It’s more likely that he feared who Jesus was. He saw his Savior, weak, suffering, in pain, and probably wondered, “Was this who I was supposed to identify with?”

Just like Peter the disciple, what we disciples fear the most is not getting caught, but taking on Jesus’ way of living. We are afraid of what Jesus will ask of us. Deep down we want to avoid the kind of following Jesus is asking - a following that will involve suffering.

This story ends with a very important character - the rooster. The rooster brought Peter back to attention. I imagine that Peter heard it and at that moment saw what he had become, and felt the guilt of his denial.  Maybe that rooster helped him answer the question - are you a disciple?

We need a rooster, something, or more likely someone, to draw us to the attention of who we really are, to honestly reveal and remind us that we are followers of Jesus. So often I have run from that, but more and more I’m learning to seek the counsel of trusted others who will honestly tell me if what I do and say matches up to what Jesus is calling me to.

So as we walk through this week, are we willing to stop concealing and start revealing the truth about ourselves? Are we willing to answer the question, “Who are you?  Are you one of his disciples?" -  Jodi Koeman

Lord, help us to stop concealing and start revealing the truth about ourselves. Give us strength and courage so that when we are asked, "Are you his disciple," we can answer proudly and confidently: "Yes, Yes, Yes.”- Amen

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Friend Who Carries

Mark 2:1-5
Have you ever been foolish for a friend? Not foolish with a friend, like on spring break in Florida, but foolish for a friend?

 In this passage, Mark tells of four men who wanted healing for their paralyzed friend so much they dug a hole in the roof to lower him down in front of Jesus. Jesus healed the man because of the faith of the friends. The Paralytic had friends foolish enough to carry him to Jesus.

 I am part of a circle of friends that carries each other to Jesus. They carry me when I can’t walk, like when anxiety strikes and I can’t catch my breath. They pray my prayers when my heart is too hard and bitter and all my strength is gone. They call me out of dark places. They nag me until I take baby steps toward wholeness. They are foolish enough to stick with me, even though I am a failure.

 We all need friends like this. We need a friend who will sacrifice their own well-being, so that we can get to where we need to be. We also need to be the kind of friend who foolishly carries others. Society tells us it is foolish to put others ahead of ourselves. How will we ever succeed if we keep sacrificing for others? Jesus says just the opposite. He says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he that lay down his life for his friends.” Then Jesus did just that. He laid His life down, so we could be healed.

 Out of His sacrifice we find the power to be friends who carry each other. Through the Spirit we are transformed from selfish, broken people into people who love. Redemption flows from Jesus to us and then through us into the world. - Jill Perrin

 Jesus, today we remember you are the friend who never fails. You sacrificed your life so that we can be healed. Help us through the power of the Spirit to follow your example and carry each other. Amen

For more on Jill's Lent Experience, visit her blog Sacramental Mothering at

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Home Stretch

Luke 19:35-38 and John 14:29-31

Palm Sunday ushers in the final push towards Easter. Jesus enters Jerusalem amid shouts of joy and waving palm branches, the object of Israel’s latest hope for salvation. Finally, a savior has come.

I was reminded on Sunday that I like to celebrate Palm Sunday with pomp and circumstance and continue the celebration by fast-forwarding to Easter morning. I like keeping Easter in a pastel palette. This is especially true when my Lenten Experience wasn’t at all what I had planned.

I have the gift of hindsight; I know joy is coming. However, it is a mistake not to live out every painful moment of Holy Week. In true Jesus fashion everything gets turned upside down. The colors of this week are red and black. The shouts of joy quickly turn to jeers when the people realize that Jesus isn’t what they want Him to be. The first clue is his arrival on a donkey. He isn’t the war hero they desire. Instead, Jesus’ Kingdom will come through service. Jesus wages war not with swords and shields, but with foot washing and prayer and finally, by laying down His body, broken for me. His body and blood poured out, so that I can partake in His kingdom.

He will rise on Easter morning victorious over sin and death, darkness turned to light. The celebration is sweeter when I enter Jerusalem and walk the road to the cross with Jesus. It is sweeter because I learn that you can’t have joy without pain. I learn how to bend down and serve. I learn that when I give myself away I fill up. I learn the unforced rhythms of grace that bring freedom. I learn Jesus’ kingdom is unlike any other. Mostly I remember the pain Jesus suffered in my place. I am humbled once again that Jesus, Lord of all creation, would die for me. - Jill Perrin

Lord, As we go through this week, help us not to skip ahead. Help us walk to the cross with You so that we can experience Your love, grace and mercy fully, coming to Easter morning with joy and gratitude. Amen

For more on Jill's Lent Experience, visit her blog Sacramental Mothering at