“FORGIVENESS” — Lent, Day 16

Forgiveness
We bring out our best, we bring out our worst.
Each day is a celebration and a struggle.
Words pour out that we meant and we don’t–
once out, cannot be forced back in.

Eat those words, we feel in pain.
Regret, despair, angry, betrayed, hurt, sad.
We never begin this way, but time and life,
push us apart and we grow away from each other.

After all the fists made of words
tearing each other down and apart,
we pause, we think, we cry, we wait
and find that love in still there.

What makes us go on?  What draws us closer?
Forgiveness.
Forgiveness is taking each others hands after the hardest times
and walking together in the same direction.

Forgiveness is moving past what we have said in anger,
moving forward in the future.
Forgiveness is choosing to trust, choosing to stay.
Forgiveness is another chance to grow together.

I forgive you as you forgive me.
We forgive each other with the example
of ultimate forgiveness in front of us.

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DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, thank you for showing us forgiveness with the sacrifice you made.  Teach us to forgive each other fully and completely so we can move forward in harmony and love.  AMEN.

 

 

 

 

 

“EXILE” — Lent, Day 15

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A recurring theme in the Bible is exile.

Through multiple books of the Bible, we read about the Jews being exiled through many passages of time.  Perhaps the first exile could be attributed to Adam and Eve being exiled from the Garden of Eden.  Later the Jews wander for forty years in the desert after leaving Egypt. Again, later in the Old Testament, they are exiled to Babylon as the political situations fluctuate about them.

Later in the New Testament, Jesus and his family are exiled to Egypt during Jesus’ childhood to avoid the murderous intent of Herod.  Then, as we read through Jesus’ life and ministry, we recognize Jesus’ symbolic exile from Jerusalem to Nazareth.  When he later enters Jerusalem triumphant on a donkey (Palm Sunday), we know he will be hanging on a cross in thirty days.

What does “exile” mean to us?

Webster essentially defines “exile” as a separation from one’s country or native land for political or punitive reasons, but I believe that exile is much more than just a physical separation.   The emotional exile from those we love is much deeper; our spiritual exile from God is indescribable.

The question we must ask ourselves is:  is our spiritual exile self imposed?  Have we chosen to turn away from reflection, meditation and a relationship with God?   Does it matter enough to make changes and to seek God out?

Being in exile means we are in limbo.  As the Israelites wandered through the desert for decades, so we will wander until we find ourselves in a spiritual “home”.

The truth is–we don’t need to live our lives this way.  We can reach out, we can return.

Do we want to live in limbo?  Do we want to wander through life, exiled from what we believe in?    There is no reason to remain this way.  The Israelite’s exile  was partially because old covenant, but we have a new covenant in Christ and that is what Lent and Easter is about!

Grace and forgiveness! There is no need to remain in exile anymore.

DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, if I have wandered from you, bring me back to your light and grace.  If I have an unsure of my path, show me your presence and your glory.  Amen. 

“IN SICKNESS AND HEALTH” — Lent, Day 14

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Working in the health care field has its ups and downs (as every job does!), but one thing I have been able to witness multiple times are the patients who are in long-term relationships or marriages that come onto our floor as patients.

First, there was a tiny old woman years ago who stuck with me after all this time.  Her husband was admitted for some medical care and she came up to me at the desk and said with a shaky voice, “My husband is staying here overnight and I don’t know what to do…”

“What is the matter?  Does he need anything in his room?”,  I asked.

“No, no, he’s wonderful, but we’ve never been apart.  We’ve been married for forty years and we’ve never spent an evening apart. What will I do without him?”

I didn’t have an answer that would satisfy, simply said, “He will be well taken care of here”.  Inwardly I was struck by how lost she was without her husband.

Then we have patients who aren’t given a good prognosis.  They will spend the last days of their life in our care.  Many times we have spouses who camp out in the room of the patient.   We find them a cot to sleep on and they spend every waking minute with their loved one.  This, of course, isn’t restricted to husband and wife.  I will never forget a daughter who spent weeks on our unit, not wanting to leave her mother to die alone.

Even though we see the worst of patients and we are often saddened by their prognosis or mistakes they have made that bring them to this point in health, the fact is — loyalty is underrated and becomes very apparent when people are in need.

It’s very easy to be there for each other when things are going splendidly;  it doesn’t take much from us to stick around during the high times.  The reality hits when we are going through something, when physical, emotional or mental. The quality of love we have for each other, our loyalty is an important virtue.

We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.
G.K. Chesterson

In the Bible one of the greatest displays of loyalty is in the friendship between David and Jonathan.  (You can read more about that friendship here: https://rcg.org/youth/articles/1004-jad.html).  Even though Jonathan was charged by his father to find (and kill) David, Jonathan remained loyal to David to the end of his days.

Sometimes we can relegate loyalty to the back burner to avoid confrontation.  If someone is mistreating our spouse or friends, loyalty can be viewed negatively as it may require taking a stand.  However, when we fight for the people we care about, we show them how much they mean to us.

Never underestimate the power of loyalty in relationships.
After all, through our good and bad times, God always remains loyal to us.

DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, show me how to be loyal to my friends and family.  If they need my help, give me strength and wisdom in navigating difficult situations.  When my partner needs my support, help me to be aware of it and to stand by them.  AMEN. 

“Choices” — Lent, Day 13

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We are the sum of our choices.  Some are consciously made and some are made for us, but the majority of our daily decisions come and go with unconscious effort.  The proverbial forks in the road are not entirely noticed as we are swept into routines, habits and the auto piloting we all sometimes slip into.

As it goes the choices we deliberately make always seem to hold the most weight.  Most of the time we look back on the negative ones, analyzing their outcomes and ruminating on possible alternatives.  The what ifs.  Hopefully in doing this one can be objective, forgoing a sense of regret or feelings of bitterness.  The futility of changing the past aside, looking back and looking in can be a necessary step or steps needed to move forward, to learn and assist in future situations we find ourselves in.  Hindsight is foresight after all.  Ultimately, our schemes fall into the greater One, but to trust in this can be tricky when caught in a whirlwind of struggle.

It is easy to dwell on the bad choices made, but it’s important that we can reflect on the good ones too.  Perhaps there one may find a map or a set of directions.  The map of things done right.  May we allow ourselves to be steered by God toward deeper feelings of joy, accomplishment and success.  May we all choose wisely, or at least choose to choose wisely the next time.  The path with heart is there and always has been

DAILY PRAYER:  Lord, grant me wisdom as I face difficult (and easy) decisions in my life.  Steer me towards the path you have laid out for me.  I trust your plan for my life. Help me to learn from my mistakes so I can break free from unhealthy patterns and habits that may control me. AMEN.

-Matthew Duke

 

 

 

 

 

“FRIENDSHIP” — Lent, Day 11&12

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Life is a series of unending lessons. One of the greater (and more painful) ones to learn is: surround yourself with people who will lift you up.

Friendships can be difficult. It’s simple enough to become friends with someone in a light-hearted and “easy” way. However, when you go through difficulties in life, when you make a mistake, the strength of your friendship will be put to a test and then the true worth it will come to light.

Will your friends remain after you hurt their feelings? Will they forgive you and choose to love you despite your failings? Or will they move on because the friendship doesn’t matter enough to them?

Do your friends encourage you to be a better person? Do they call you out on your mistakes with love?

Alternatively, are you there for your friends when they need you? Do you ask for forgiveness when you’ve made a mistake or hurt them?

Even though marriage is a sacred relationship with vows made before God, the Bible has surprisingly some very strong descriptions of what comprises a friendship.

In Proverbs, we find honest truths about the characters we surround ourselves with:

Some friendships do not last, but some friends are more loyal than brothers. (18:24)

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (13:20)

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (22:24-25)

The apostle John goes even further to define true love (and friendship!) as this:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (15:13)
The fact is, we are deeply influenced by those around us. Who we spend time with affects us. We mimic the ones who have a profound influence on us and we ourselves must be aware that we may sway our friends as well.

So we know how important friendships are–what now?
Is it time for you evaluate the friends around you?
Is the loss of a friendship, though painful at first, perhaps a gift?

If that dear friend of yours hurts you–remember that none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. We have a chance to edify and to lift each other us up instead of engaging in gossip or negativity. (Believe me, this was a painful lesson for me to learn!)

Believe the best about people. Pray for their short comings. You are not the standard. We all need grace.
Lecrae

DAILY PRAYER: LORD, teach me how to be a friend who can be relied upon and trusted. If I am lonely, bring me to the friendship where both of us can challenged and encouraged. Remind me that we all need grace. Amen.

“REST” — Lent, Day 10

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Life is busy.

If you’re not running around at work, trying to focus and do your job efficiently, odds are you’re run off your feet at home surrounded by needy children and a messy house.

Things can very quickly spiral out of control;  those errands that keep being put off start become very overwhelming.  The grocery run can be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Some nights feel as exhausting as the days.  We may lay down with our bodies tired, but our minds are awake and worrying, thinking with anxiety of all that must be done and all the needs that must be fulfilled.

So not only do we need physical rest, we also need mental and emotional rest.  When Jesus walked on earth, we know the conundrum that he was fully man, yet fully god.  Even though we cannot wrap our finite minds around this concept completely, we do know that Jesus (despite being fully god) needed times of rest and restoration as well!

In Mark 6, Jesus and disciples spend time ministering to crowds of people:

30 The apostles returned and met with Jesus, and told him all they had done and taught. 31 There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his disciples didn’t even have time to eat. So he said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves to some place where we will be alone and you can rest a while.” 32 So they started out in a boat by themselves to a lonely place.

Jesus recognized that he and his disciples needed time to rest and recharge in order to continue with their ministry.

In the same way, we need time to ourselves, to commune with God and to restore our own strength.  Not only should we do this physically, Jesus also assures us that he is there to provide for us, to take our worries and fears and to carry them for us.

28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” (Matt.11)

For myself, I have struggled in the past few months to balance my work life and my role as a parent and as a wife.  My husband and I have also been facing possible changes in our life which has been tiring as well.  As I have been spending the time daily to write for Lent, I find myself refreshed and ministered to by sitting by myself, playing worship music, reading the Bible and meditating.

We cannot minister to those around us and be servants if we are tired and worn down.  Many people believe that attending to one’s personal needs is selfish, but if we burn our candle at both ends, there will be nothing left of us to give.

Take the time you need to relax, to pray, to meditate and to be quiet.  Take the time to prepare yourself for another day, another week.

DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, when I am tired and weary, teach me to stop, to slow down and to rest in YOU.  Thank you for carrying my burdens for me.  Teach me to leave my worries in your hands.  Amen.

“ANOTHER DAY” – Lent, Day 9

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It is the peaceful time of day.
The busy toddler is sleeping.
Our activities during the day have ended.
The home is quiet and relaxed.
This is the time to sit and think,
to meditate on the day that has been–
and tomorrow, the day that will be.

In our life it becomes easy to live from day to day,
exhausted, worn down, wishing for the sleep at night.
Children change everything,
bringing happiness and tiredness.
Blessings, exhausting blessing.
Quickly we can forget to thank God for the day,
for all the precious moments that have passed by.

Work, children, school, careers, relationships…
we can be eclipsed and overwhelmed by all these.
Taking this quiet time to listen and rest and remember
is truly living life, is enjoying the day.
Let us sit in the peace, let us talk and laugh,
let us cry and hope for a better day,
let us celebrate the good days.

Let us live our lives to the fullest we can.

DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, thank you for the good days and the bad days.  Help me to remember and be grateful for each day that passes.  Help me to live in the moment, yet slow me down to meditate and consider my blessings. AMEN.

“MY HUSBAND” — Lent, Day 8

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I have much to be grateful for, but when I consider my life and all that I have, the one thing that stands out so clearly to me is the better part of me—my husband.

Through all our ups and downs, six years of them, he has shown his love to me in a very tangible and real way.  His gentleness, kindness and compassion draw people to him and truly are the traits that have kept us bonded together.

Marriage is often used as a comparison tool to the relationship between Christ and the church/community.  It’s not hard to see why:  the same principles apply in both situations.  Our marriages grows stronger as we trust and respect each other, as we worship and pray together.

As I look at my husband and thoughtfully consider his character and our relationship, I am struck by how my husband is such an example for me in his giving and servant attitude.  I am convicted to be more giving, to be more willing to help in various ways as we walk through life together.

At home we see the best and the worst of each other.  When we continue to walk together even through experiencing the worst of each other, we fulfill the commitment we have made to each other in marriage.  Our love has grown stronger and more powerful in ways I would never have imagined.

In this marital love there is such comfort, there is easy intimacy.  We don’t second guess each other or our relationship–we can simply love and exist in the knowledge that even though times are hard, we will be there for each other no matter what.

What a blessing it is to be married to my first (and last) boyfriend!  I am thankful that we were brought together to love each other, to learn from each other and to face life’s challenges on the same team.

May I continue to grow to be a woman who supports and loves her husband as we journey through life.

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“Love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself.”
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, thank you for the blessing of my spouse/partner and my marriage/relationship.  May I grow in my love and respect for them as we journey through life together.  Teach me how to love them as you have loved us.  Amen.

“SPRING” — Lent, Day 7

There is something so moving and beautiful about the four season weather.  Today, after an admittedly short and warmer winter, the weather felt like spring.  It was grey outside, but warm and birds could be heard chirping and singing to each other.  There was an almost imperceptible change in the air, as if the earth is turning over in its sleep, tossing as spring approaches and it must wake up.

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In many ways we view spring as a time of new beginnings.  We enter into a different solstice, days grows longer, Easter is a celebration of resurrection and life… There are myriads of reasons why spring is a time of refreshment and excitement.  After a grey and dismal February, we look forward with anticipation to the warm spring and summer months.

Without the grey and cold of the winter, would spring feel the same? Would we welcome it with such open and eager arms?

In the same way, Christ is our spring.  Often we emerge from spiritual darkness or even a depression in need of refreshing.  We may be returning to the fold after a long trip away or we may just need a restoration of our heart and mind.  Without the struggle and the difficulties, we may not find ourselves wanting or needing change or renewal.

Are you approaching a spring time in your life?  Do you find yourself in need of a revival in your spirit?  The great news is that Easter and Lent is a beautiful time to reach out, to celebrate new life, to find community and to be renewed.

For behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
-Song of Sol.2:11-12

DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, thank you for the nature you have made, for the seasons that celebrate your glory.  Bring renewal and refreshing into my life as Easter approaches and we celebrate your resurrection.  Amen.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d — Alan Bradley

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd (Flavia de Luce, #8)Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The most recent installment of the Flavia de Luce series by the inspiring Alan Bradley is a big step for Flavia and the series.

After her stay at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy cum boarding school in Toronto, Canada, Flavia returns triumphantly to her homeland: England and her beloved estate Buckshaw.

Alas alack, Buckshaw has changed and so has our heroine. Father has taken ill and is hospitalized, Buckshaw feels uninhabited, and Flavia has her freedom to visit dear friends and strangers–who of course, end up murdered.

TTBCHM is a bit predictable: prior to the “big reveal”, I guessed quite easily who had perpetrated the crime. That being said, the novel was still entirely engrossing. There is a bigger focus (again, as with the previous novel) of Flavia growing into herself, while still remaining the precocious girl that she is.

My chief complaint about this novel was the very apparent lack of chemistry used in a practical way. Throughout the series we have been treated to Flavia’s intellect and her practical use of chemistry in her sleuthing and every day activity. However, chemistry does take a backseat in this chapter of the series, which was a little saddening.

Of course, there is no de Luce novel without a touch of mourning and sadness…and I will end off there before spoiling any potential reader.

4/5 for another great Flavia novel. I eagerly anticipate the next one and the arrival of Flavia on television (eventually).

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