The joy of Easter brings what the human heart has always needed: new life! God does not merely offer an upgrade if we trade in the old model. Instead, God takes the shambles of our lives – the pain, the disappointment, the regrets, and even the mistakes – and brings restoration! This is the power of resurrection.
When we began the Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, February 10, I had no idea what I would encounter. We frequently talk of “giving up something” for Lent. Although this is done with seemingly holy intentions, “giving up something” typically becomes another self-affirming exercise in our illusion of control. Whatever we give up (e.g. chocolate, soft drinks, or even attitudes), we choose it. We make the decision. In this way, what starts off as a spiritual discipline ends up as a confidence booster. “Good for me,” we say to ourselves. “I did it for forty days!”
During this Lent, I gave up being with my father. I did not choose it. My dad did not choose it. And neither did God. Our bodies, created in God’s glory for God’s purposes in this world, are subject to aging, illness, and frailty. This Lent, in an entirely new way, I am forced to encounter this reality: “from dust we came, and to dust we will return (Genesis 3:19).”
In her book, Gospel Medicine, Barbara Brown Taylor writes:
Sometimes I think absence is underrated. It is not nothing, after all. It is something:
a heightened awareness, a sharpened appetite, a finer perception. When someone
important to me is absent from me, I become clearer than ever what that person
means to me. Details that got lost in our togetherness are recalled in our apartness,
and their sudden clarity has the power to pry my heart right open. I see the virtues I
have overlooked, the opportunities I have missed. The quirks that drove me crazy at
close range become endearing at a distance… If the relationship is strong and true,
the absent one has a way of becoming present – if not in body, then in mind and spirit.
My dad and I shared an absolutely strong and true relationship. And now, in mind and spirit, he remains present with me. I, along with my father’s incredibly large network of family and friends, gave up being with him during Lent. In Easter glory, he has gained eternity in paradise with our Lord. Together with all of the saints, we await that day when we are resurrected in the body.
God’s Easter promises are impacting me in an entirely different way than in previous years. I am trusting that God will continue His work of restoration in me, taking my prayers, memories, and heartache, and bringing about new life. This is the power of Easter at work within me, indeed in all of us!
With resurrection hope,
Have you ever noticed the kinds of situations that compel you to pray?
For many people, the high moments prompt shouts of “hallelujah” and “thank you, Lord!” It happens when we are made aware of exciting news, or even relief to a distressing circumstance. We are right to pray during such times!
For many others, the low moments bring us to our knees. When the wheels fall off the wagon, and despair arrives like an unwanted houseguest, we ask God for help, for strength, and even for intercession. We are right to pray during these times as well.
But what about life “in between,” those moments when we neither sing the blues nor dance a jig? If we pray to God during the highs and lows of life, then we ought to examine our prayers during the seemingly tranquil times linking them all together. A sampling of these prayers may be tissue-thin, because an ordinary, ho-hum day too often drives us toward more entertainment, more consumption, or more work.
What if an ordinary Sabbath day led you to more prayer?
Our ministry theme, “RESToration,” invites us to take seriously God’s gift of holy rest. During January, we have reflected on the value and purpose of Sabbath – a weekly “Stop Day” – for the sake of living within the rhythm of God’s love. Our fast-paced lives long for peace and balance, and we move closer to experiencing this when we remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
In the season of Lent, “RESToration” will emphasize prayer. A life of prayer, firmly grounded in connection with God, stabilizes our otherwise chaotic life. How beautiful is a prayer emanating from a place of quiet Sabbath rest!
To help foster prayer and holy rest during Lent, I invite to consider becoming a “Lenten Prayer Partner.” If so, you will commit to two things: 1) praying daily for your Lenten Prayer Partner and 2) asking weekly if he/she has kept the Sabbath. The purpose is to promote more intentional patterns of prayer while also holding each other accountable for remembering the Sabbath. It’s simple: contact the church office by Monday, February 8 at Noon to sign up; the church office will match you with another FUMC member and then notify you about who your Lenten Prayer Partner will be.
I looking forward to discovering how God will bring about ongoing restoration in our lives through prayer and holy rest.