Deane's Blog

Lent

he looked at me

Faith, LentDeane Watters5 Comments
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There was a crowd forming beside the road. A wild procession was slowly making its way to Jerusalem. Smiles radiated from every face because they thought this man was the next king! People shouted "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!" They were laughing and jumping and bowing, making merry in the most exuberant way. They even had branches to put under the feet of the donkey to signify respect for the one who rode on it. Jesus sat and solemnly made His way through the crowded road and allowed their praises to surround Him. He knew who He was. He knew where He was going. He knew what was next.

Hurrying, I stepped to the side of the road. I didn't want to miss this opportunity. It was a hot and dusty day.  People, in their excitement, had pushed and shoved to find a clear view of Him and I, too, longed to get a good look at Him.

But I got much more. 

I got a look from him.

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There are many ways to read a Bible passage. We can underline and circle and draw arrows to words that show more clearly what was intended by the writer. We can read what scholars have written about the passage to get more information. We can use cross-references to learn more. We can read books and listen to sermons. And after we study well, we can meditatively and prayerfully step into the story and see what else God might have for us.

That's what I did. It was Palm Sunday. Our pastor read the words we have heard every year reminding us of the happenings of that day and what the coming week held for Jesus. I have heard that story so many times. How could I find a way to see it with a fresh perspective?

I closed my eyes and asked the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to me as I stepped into that story. I found myself in the crowd. I felt their excitement. I smelled their sweat. I saw the procession far down the road. Soon he was right in front of me, passing slowly, on his way to his death.

What happened next is something I'll never forget. As he passed by, as I looked at him, as I searched his face, he turned and looked straight at me. His brown eyes bore into my soul as I realized that he knew who I was. He knew my name and my love for him. He knew my heart with its hidden pockets of darkness. He knew. He knew it all. And even with all this knowing, He loved me deeply. I knew it. I felt it.

His gaze said it all. It was a breathtaking moment and I blushed with joy while savoring His love for me in a fresh way while standing on the side of that dusty road. 

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Opening my eyes, I realized that this is who Jesus is. His kingdom is not about being an earthly king. It is about His wide, long, high and deep love for us. It's about His knowledge of our hearts and His doing what only He could do to save us. 

Have you ever tried to step into a Bible story? I encourage you to take such a journey, especially in the coming week. How would the story of Jesus praying in the garden become more real if you were one of the disciples nodding off to sleep while Jesus asked you to stay awake and pray? What might you hear in a new way as you sit with Jesus in the Upper Room and He tells you of His coming death? How might you feel as you watch as He is beaten and stripped, mocked and murdered? Sitting at the foot of the cross helplessly watching Him suffer, what would you see? What might you hear? How would you feel? 

 I would offer these options for stepping into a story: 

  • Become one of the characters in the story
    • Become Peter and feel how he felt after betraying Jesus.
    • Become the guard who beat Jesus; wonder at the anger.
    • Become Jesus' mother and weep.
    • Become John, the one Jesus especially loved. Lean your head against His chest in the upper room and listen to what He has to say.
  • Be yourself.
    • Interact as you: a part of the crowd, one of the children, one of the disciples, 
    • Let Jesus wash your feet.
    • Warm yourself at the fire as Peter denies Christ.
  • Be an observer. 
    • Watch as Jesus washed the disciples feet.
    • Watch as the guards came to take Jesus away from the garden on that dark night.
    • Stand at the foot of the cross and watch Jesus die.
    • Go with Mary to find the tomb empty. Run with her to tell the disciples the GREAT news that He had risen from the dead!
  • Once you know who you are in the story let it play out as the scripture tells it. What might you see, smell, feel or taste? What might Christ want you to see anew in that particular story?

As a result, this might be the most heartfelt Holy Week you have ever experienced. Slow down. Open the scripture and see what is there as you step in to find Jesus's actions and words spoken as though you were standing right there.

I didn't travel to Israel. I didn't make up something strange. I stepped into one of the stories in Jesus' life and I let it speak to me. I didn't make up something contrary to scripture. I just let the Holy Spirit guide my thoughts. And it was gloriously profound. 

Which story would you like to step into?

 

An Extraordinary Habit

Faith, LentDeane WattersComment

   

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. 

Psalm 143:8

Even before the alarm starts buzzing, my body is already stirring, waking from a deep sleep. Finding my first thoughts, I lie there with my mind already searching for clarity in the darkness. Why should I get up? What is big enough, exciting enough, hopeful enough to make me willing to put my legs over the side of that warm bed and slip quietly out of our room?  A thought, that feels like a call, comes to mind. Something is waiting for me! Someone is waiting. That idea is enough. Out I go. Grabbing a steaming cup of coffee, I wonder what He has for me as I slip into my chair with my Bible and notebook.

Every day I wonder. What will I read? What will I hear? What truth will solidify in my mind and heart as I open myself up to the word of God, as I open my heart to God himself. What resolve will become stronger? What promise will become clearer?

I come expecting to I find Him. He's there in the Word and He has plenty to say.  His love meets me and I get to listen and  talk to Him about the things that concern me, about the ones I love, about the friends who have asked for prayer.

Every day I come.

I heard a friend say recently that she marvels at the verse from James 4, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." You can almost hear the melody in those words, the welcome, the wonder. He is always with us and as we reach out to him, in repentance and humility, we can recall it! As we slip into the chair, Bible in hand, He is there with us.

Have you felt the power of a rhythm that keeps you in step with the music, even when you aren't sure what the next step should be? Have you found the ability to sing the words to a song that would not show up without a melody?  Have you been surprised by the ease with which scripture gets memorized and stays forever when attached to a familiar tune? The rhythm carries the content.

This is the capability of rhythm; the strength of habit.

I don't always feel like getting out of bed. But the rhythm carries me. It keeps me going even when my feelings don't wholeheartedly agree.

We all live rhythmically because there are schedules to keep, jobs to get to, households to run and we all need to eat and sleep! We have routines that keep our lives somewhat predictable and moving forward. I'm sure your days are often consistent and somewhat predictable in their schedule - unless you have a newborn in the house!

There are other spiritual rhythms that I am working on because I do not want to leave that part of my life to chance. Some of those steady pulses include:

  • Going to church on Sunday mornings.
  • Planning ahead to not do my regular "work" but instead to read, rest or do fun activities on Sunday afternoons, learning to practice a Sabbath rest.
  • Trying to remember to sit in silence with God for just a few minutes at times throughout the day, hoping to develop my hearing of God's voice.
  • Visualizing God as personal and warm, here close to me, as I think about Him and talk with Him.

Do you have rhythms that help you along?

Since today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, it might be a good day to think about these things. What might you want to do differently in these forty days before Easter? Is there a practice you'd like to invite into your routine that will enable you to  feel the love of Christ and remember his journey to the cross?

Today I encourage you to intentionally introduce an element into the rhythm of your day that will encourage the flow of your spiritual life. It might become an extraordinary habit that carries you for years to come.

It doesn't mean that you will immediately jump out of bed the moment that alarm goes off. But it can mean that as getting up becomes a welcomed part of the rhythm of your day, it may become easier and the rewards are everlasting.

 

 

 

Lenten Devotionals

LentDeane Watters2 Comments

I am often asked what I am doing for Lent. Not one to "give up" something, I do enjoy entering into it for a more focused study of Christ's journey toward the cross and resurrection. I will make three recommendations this year. Two are the same as last year. One is new.

For the past several years, Brian and I have used this book for our morning devotions during the forty days before Easter: Jesus, Keep me Near the Cross a collection of writings from a variety of authors edited by Nancy Guthrie. Timothy Keller, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Alistair Begg, Francis Schaeffer and Joni Eareckson Tada are included in this compilation. Brian especially enjoys the variety of writers from classic to contemporary, each with strengths and wording unique to their place in time and writing style.

40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole has become my favorite Lenten devotional. Every day Chole invites us to prepare our hearts for Easter by featuring  "a devotional based upon Jesus' life, guidance for reflection, suggested (and occasionally surprising) daily fasts, an inspiring quote for prayerful meditation , an optional and somewhat academic sidebar chronicling the historical development, practices and images of Lent, and a suggested Scripture reading with journaling space." She packs a lot into each chapter. I enjoy the challenge and new information she offers.

My new read this year is Jesus Journey by Trent Sheppard. This book focuses on the humanity of Jesus, the Word who became flesh, and enables us to look at him in a new way. At the end of each chapter we are invited to Ponder, Pray and Practice on the topic of the day, giving us opportunity to think, write and act in a more thoughtful way as we consider what we have just read.

Lent starts Wednesday. Have you picked something to do for this special time of year? Do you have a unique practice that helps you set these days called Lent apart from common ordinary days? Do you have suggestions for us?  Please leave us your ideas in the comments!