"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lent - Day 12 Sunday March 20

“Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but encouraging each other….” (Hebrews 10:25)

Habits are hard to form and easy to break. For example, I’ve always been a fingernail biter….ever since just a wee lad. Tried the stuff you buy at the drugstore, pepper sauce, scrapings of bar soap and even…ear wax. I know. I know. There have been brief periods when I managed to stop, but before too long had passed, I was back to chomping away. One finger at a time. I just cannot form the habit of not biting them, but it’s so easy to break the habit once it begins to form. To form a new habit, whether it be stopping nail biting, limiting the foods I eat, exercising more, whatever it may be takes awhile and I have to be diligent and serious. Even when I do want to go out for a run (or even a walk), I have to force myself to get up and go. But, once the habit becomes deeply ingrained in me, then it isn’t so bad. Like learning to drink skim milk. Sorta.

Church is that way. We go, enjoy a bible study group, a worship service, being around friends and think it will always be that way. But, one Sunday you are just really tired and decide to stay home. You go back the next. Then you spent a busy week at work, spent all day Saturday doing yard work and really just need a day to rest up before the job on Monday. So, you head to the lake. Or the golf course. Or the mountains. Or the recliner. The next week, it kinda works the same way. Before long, you are out of the habit of Bible study, but may still show up for worship. But, you might not know everybody like you did in your class, so you aren’t quite so comfortable. Before long, you just don’t go at all. Anywhere. After a week or two, folks aren’t calling saying you were missed. Oh, you may see them at Kroger and you think you’ll try and get back the next week, but you don’t.

The most important part of the journey I’m on right now is to stay in touch with God’s people. Through corporate worship, through Bible study groups, through individual worship and Bible study, just be around the family of God. Your family. My family. Our family.

This is my accountability place. This is my growing place. This is my learning place. This is my place of strength. How could I ever attempt to draw closer to God and discover His way for my life if I avoid His house and His people? Sure, God can speak to me directly, but more often it is through pastors, Bible study teachers, through music and through friends.

As you travel along, searching for God’s way in your life, please do not forsake God’s house and people. I’ve been there, done that and it was a time that I will never repeat. Dark days and many lonely hours without feeling the connection with God. Stay assembled. Associate yourself with Godly people.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.

Lent - Day 11 Saturday March 19

“In His time, in His time, He makes all things beautiful, in His time. Lord please show me every day as you’re teaching me Your way, that you’ll do just what you say, in Your time.
In Your time, in Your time, You make all things beautiful, in Your time. Lord, my life to you I bring, may each song I have to sing, be to You a lovely thing in Your time.” ~ Praise chorus

For about nine months now, I have been working on simplifying my life. Looking for those things that cause me to stress and withdraw from a 100% committed walk with God. If you haven’t read any of my “Simplifying” articles, I was feeling a need to slow down, spend more time in God’s word, more time with family, more time for friends, more time with in-depth Bible study – personal and corporate. Along the way, there were changes that have helped this to happen….but, somehow over the past couple of months, I was back to the hectic, crazed, stress-filled days of the past.

As a result of my simplifying process and in accordance with my personal journey during this Lenten season, I took a major….and I mean major step of faith yesterday. I quit a job. Yep, resigned. Adios. Au revoir. Auf Wiedersehn. I slept better last night that I have in a long, long time. Without going into details of the why and such, it was a move long overdue and God gave me the strength to do it. I trust Him to account for some loss of income, but I have no worries about it. He will provide for me and my family. He has promised that if I live according to His Will and follow His ways, I do not need to worry. You know…the whole sparrows and lilies of the field thing. And….the remarkable thing….especially for me…is that I have not a single worry nor regret. I know my world will be better. Happier. Less Drama. I am still rather astounded at what has transpired over the past 24 hours that I never saw coming. A true God-wink.

I may be looking for something part-time to do in the next months (I’m still at the Library part-time), but God will be leading me into His place for me. Now folks, that’s exciting for me. I have always tended to rush ahead of God in some things and it’s usually gotten me into a mess. Not doing that anymore.

Are there areas of your life where you need to simplify and make changes so that you can actually hear that still, small voice of God? It isn’t easy to make the changes necessary, but if you ask God (before jumping) first, then trust His leading.

Use these next few weeks to examine your life and how you might calm your busy world. How you might have more time for God, His people, and those dear to you. How your overall attitude might be helped. I’m praying for you as you do this.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Lent - Day 10 Friday March 18

“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” (Psalms 24:1)

Nothing like getting a little dirt under your fingernails to make you feel better. These past few days have been absolutely perfect weather outside, but I’ve been stuck inside looking out from my job. It’s been a pain to hear people coming in and talking about how gorgeous it was outside and how sad they were for us that we were inside. Thanks. We need to hear that every ten minutes. But, today is my day off and after breakfast and coffee; I took a stroll in the back yard to see what was happening.

The Hosta plants are coming up, Cherokee and Confederate roses are greening up, all the irises are up, shamrocks are peeping through the pine straw, and on and on. However, the wild onions, thorny things, and other odd weeds are also growing as fast as anything. I stooped down to pull some of them up and since you can’t stop with just one, I kept pulling and yanking until a whole section was gone. Then, feeling rather garden-smug, I dragged some pots and soil from underneath the deck and planted some Spring Viola plants (of the pansy family) for the front walk. Coming in, I realized I felt good. That dirt smell kinda mixed with the good sweat smell. Dirt under the fingernails (at least those I have chewed down to the knuckle). It was good. The smell of new life. Rebirth. Nature. Creation. New Beginnings.

That’s part of what the Lent season is meant to be. A season where we closely examine the ‘dirt’ of our lives and begin to nurture a renewal. To bring forth new growth. To dig out the weeds and thorns that have grown up, almost without us realizing it, and leave plenty of room for God’s love to fertilize and bring our new lives into full bloom. With His colors.

The earth belongs to God and everything that lives here. Not only the roses, lantana and butterfly bushes; but, you and me. All things belong to Him. He is our gardener and cultivator. During this season, God is doing some pruning and weeding out in my life, and He may be doing so in yours. It’s not always the most enjoyable thing, but I do know that the final product will be a strong, healthy and beautiful plant called Jimmy (insert your name). Stay strong today, look for God’s work in your life and thank Him for creating such a lovely garden….plants and people alike.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Lent - Day 9 Thursday March 17

“So that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)

As happens, Satan has been throwing his best shots at me the past couple of days. Feelings of stress over what I perceive as so much needing to be done, anxiety overwhelming most of the waking day, the pointlessness of trying to keep up with writing daily, feeling the unreal and unmet expectations that I think other people put on me….and that I certainly put on myself. Just one of those times when I at least know that it is the ‘dark one’ trying his best to worm himself into my life and defeat me. That’s one advantage to age and maturity; at least it becomes easier to recognize that when you are a teenager or young adult. But, that doesn’t make the struggle any easier.

I have found myself questioning a lot the past couple of days. Not in a spiritual sense, but what good am I doing on this earth? I’m tired…oh, so tired….and, to be honest, I’m continuing to type these thoughts only because I hate the thought of giving up something I promised myself to carry to completion.

Friends and readers, let me encourage you to recognize when Satan is working against the good you attempt to do. It is a rough experience and can easily defeat you. The emotions that he throws at you will wear you down and cause you to question yourself and the good works you do. That’s what I’m feeling today.

But. There. Is. Hope. Because I just happened across a scripture this morning that is so powerful and so promising and so great. That is the verse at the top. Our God, Our Saviour, Our Holy Spirit will someday reveal himself to the world and they WILL be bowing down and proclaiming Him LORD. GOD. SAVIOUR. JEHOVAH. YAHWEH. I AM.

I can do no less each day as I go about my rather mundane world. From past experience, I know that by holding fast to God’s power, strength, and promises to me, these days of provoking by the evil one will pass. But, for now, I struggle. Pray for me as I pray for you as you encounter these days. No one is immune. They will come. But, we have the hope. Peace go with you.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Lent Day 8 - Wednesday March 16

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine.” (2 Cor. 13:5)

It’s been a week. I started this journey through the Lenten season a week ago, and I am detecting some differences in myself. For the good. Even though I have observed the season of Lent for many years, this is the first time I have done so in such a transparent manner. I don’t know how many of you are following along and taking it to heart, but I do pray for all of you. The period of withdrawal is not easy and can be lonely at time, but I have found God lurking in the strangest places just waiting for me to appear. Then, it’s kind of a spiritual “gotcha” moment when He jumps out and surprises me.

I feel a point has come that I need to request your discretion regarding my thoughts in coming weeks. These are my experiences and I choose to share them in a public forum, however, that does not mean they need to be discussed with my family. Chat amongst yourselves, give me a call or email, but, please leave my family out of the talking and questions. You know, the "Why would Jimmy say that? Did that really happen?" You know. Thanks for your consideration.

After this first week, I feel like it is time to evaluate my path, my motives and my faith. As the scripture says, “….to see if it is genuine.” I guess my primary concern is that there are those who might think my daily postings of my journey may be from some sense of pride and accomplishment. That, my friends, I can strongly attest to being not true. My family comes from a strong Mennonite, Brethren, Methodist (and now) Baptist background and we were taught from early childhood about the dangers of pride and ego. That is part of my heritage. Several generations back, one of my great-grandpas, Hans Herr, was a Mennonite minister and in reading some of his sermons, I can sense the struggle between the sin of Pride and the Way of the Lord among his congregation and community in Pennsylvania. "Ve don't question ze Vill of Gott," he would have said.

Even though I love my jobs, working in the secular world can be difficult during this season. Many times the general nature of them leads me into situations where attitudes, lifestyles and language is not where I am comfortable. Except for the years I served as a full-time Minister, I have always worked in the secular world, because I feel that is God’s calling for me in this season of my life. It takes all the strength that God can pour into me at times to hold firm and remember who I belong to…..while giving obedience to my earthly employers and doing a good job. For that reason, I have to periodically evaluate my faith and make sure it is still on target. Pure. Genuine. Strong.

You may be in situations similar. You can easily get caught up in the glamour of the world (and it can be a glamorous place, if we’re honest), and lose a smidge of our faith along the way. I’m working especially hard to not falter during this season. To stay strong. Be the example of a Man of God (see “Being God’s” – yep, I’m unashamedly always trying to get a few more book sales out of the deal….). So today, I’m going to be examining my faith from all angles to make sure I’m strong and safe in the arms of God. Will you join me?

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Lent - Day 7 Tuesday March 15

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

As I set out on any journey, be it to downtown Atlanta, around the Square in McDonough, to one of the beaches in Florida or to any other location in the world, i need to figure out how to get there. Having grown up in Atlanta and Henry County, I do pretty good in navigating around, also, there are a few other places that I’ve been to enough to feel somewhat comfortable in traveling and finding my way. New York City, Washington D.C., several cities and islands in Florida are all within my comfort zone. However on a mission trip to New York several years back, I did manage to get a van full of white teenagers lost at 9 p.m. in the midst of Harlem. Talk about God’s protection of the idiot student pastor!

I’m currently planning a trip to England for research on a book I am writing. Ain’t got a clue about anything over there, excited about going, but am reading every book, map and train schedule I can get my hands on. Nothing is scarier than being in a situation where you don’t know where you are, what to do, and just want to get back to something familiar. Knowledge is a comfort.

As I journey through Lent, writing these thoughts each day, I’ve been surprised on a couple levels. One is that I actually do know scriptures by heart. I guess all those years in Junior and Intermediate Sunday School, plus the many Bible drills I was in, are paying off. However, for every verse that pops into mind on particular days, makes me realize how many scriptures I don’t know that would prove so helpful. I have the standard verses to fall back on during times of spiritual learning and travel; John 3:16, Romans 8:28, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 41:10, Jeremiah 29:11 and so many more. Those pop into mine and your heads easily. However, as I search and read the Bible more during these days, I find so many treasures of scripture that I’ve never known. Are they new? Are these some of the ‘jots and tittles’ that we hear about? Are they not in the particular version of the Bible I use? Nope. They are there and have been for all time. God gave these words to man by inspiration and they have stood the test of time. Scriptures to Guide. Direct. Encourage. Comfort. Strengthen. A book written by God, not a person. The only standard for life direction you can depend upon.

Let me encourage you (as I encourage myself) to spend more time in God’s Word (especially during this Holy Season of Lent). This is the time to learn more, grow more and draw closer to our God. Just an extra verse a day, then a chapter, then two. Before long, all you want to read is Scripture at the expense of all other books. I spoke with a grown adult man a couple years ago at Salem who mentioned that the only book he reads is the Bible. “It’s the only one I need. The only one that interests me,” he said. WOW!

And this scribe can add no further words to that. I’m praying for each of you and hope you are gaining just a tidbit from these musings.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.

Lent - Day 6 Monday March 14

”I will give thanks to YOU, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

I used a lot of my day on Sunday to take stock. Not a bad thing, all in all. After a God-inspired sermon on the ‘less than favorable’ persons in the lineage of Jesus (Tamar – a ‘loose woman’ who seduced her father-in law, and Rahab – a Gentile prostitute) I got to thinking about what Pastor Marcus had said. If these type of people are a part of Jesus’ family (and I certainly have some bizzaro-world people in my family), then why would I ever doubt God accepting me? Also, I had the chance again to use a gift of keyboard music that God gave to me for worship enhancing, was truly marvelous. Somedays, the only places I can feel God’s presence is at keyboards; acoustic piano, electric piano and computer.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had some problems with self-esteem. I tend to let people intimidate me (usually unintentionally on their part). Their position in the church, as community leaders, their appearance and their intelligence. They may be influential people in my life who I do look to as mentors and encouragers. But still, intimidation. I have a problem to stand up to them when necessary, allow them (at times) to run over me, and after a period of time, I don’t feel it worth the effort, and sometimes….I just don’t care. But, at times, I have allowed them to crush my spirit. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.

However, in recent years, I have begun to get over this. One big reason is for the simple fact that - I. Am. Over. Fifty. I truly don’t care what you might think of me. I’m discovering the joy and delight of making it to that milestone and the freedom to live my life as I want. (Think Tawanda in “Fried Green Tomatoes” in the grocery parking lot.) If I want to sing showtunes in the middle of Kroger with friends, along with an impromptu dance, then so be it. I don’t care. And yes, that’s been done. The other thing is that I can look back at so many experiences where God has led me, encouraged me, taught me, chastened me, but, always always been by my side.

One of my hopes for these next few weeks of examining myself and searching for a closer walk with God is to realize that God made me. Jimmy. James. James Douglas DeHart Cochran. From the Price and Herr lineage of Lancaster County, PA. He made me just as he wanted me and no one has the right to make me feel less than a child of God. To make me feel like a Tamar or Rahab in the family tree.

Do you struggle with this? As the Psalm says, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God had breathed life and His spirit into me when we were first conceived. First Conceived. Join with me and claim this scripture and stand as a child of God. Quirky. Odd. Funny. Serious. Sinful. Nerdy. Whatever. Just always let His light shine through you. We are family. Unconditionally accepted.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.

Lent Day 5 - Sunday March 13

“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry…” Matthew 4:2

After Jesus’ baptism, we read that he left the Jordan River and went to an area of wilderness to spend time in fasting and prayer. After that period, Satan came to tempt him. Part of the Lent season is traditionally spent in some type of fast, or denying some degree of sustenance in order to be reminded not only of this period in Jesus’ life, but also of his pain and suffering at the end of his life. Traditionally, a Lenten fast is no meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays in between. Other days may consist of one large regular meal, and a couple of very small meals. In addition to this, one may decide to totally give up something precious (like chocolate, coffee, soft drinks, or other items) in order to use the recurring desire for these items as a reminder for prayer or service.

The Scripture above tells us that after the 40 day and night period, Jesus was hungry. Some translations use the word famished. Ya think, Skippy? I mean, Jesus was human and spending that long a period of denial affected him greatly. For me, the phrase “affect me greatly” is not even in the ballpark. I would be begging for food and drink from the first person I saw, and would have no qualms about selling my family and friends in order to get it. I would be beyond grumpy and snarky with hunger; whining and crying at one moment, lying in a fetal position under the nearest rock the next.

Folks, after period of time when we are strongly following God, tuning in to Him, seeking Him, Satan will be busting at the seams to get us back in his hands. You may have heard of the mountain top to the valley experience. Satan knows to strike us when we are weakest. At our point of the greatest weakness. If we are trying to limit our time on Facebook, chat rooms, dating sites, etc., Satan may easily begin using those same sites to lure us back to inappropriate places. If we are trying to stay away from movies, tv shows and music, Satan is going to be lurking behind that one movie that we just have to see, and we get sucked back in. God’s power is all-powerful. More than Satan. More than anything. However, Satan is powerful, also. He will wait until our weakest moments and whisper quietly, “yoo-hoo…let’s go over there and do that….it’s okay…we’ll have fun. Plus, everybody else is there, too.” You go, try it, and unless you can react as Jesus did in his temptations, you lose the battle.

During this season of Lent, I am trying to further purify my life. Input = Output. Be more aware of my environments and what enters my mind and body. My body = God’s temple. I am diabetic and have a liver disease. I know how I should eat, but don’t always do it. I know I should exercise, but don’t do it. Satan uses my weaknesses of food to wreck God’s temple inside me. I have to do better. I need accountability. Prayer. Accountability. God’s strength in the face of temptation. (as I yearn for that bag of crunchy Cheeto’s in the kitchen). I urge you to work on staying strong in the face of temptation as you travel this journey of God’s Love and as a new heart is being created in you. Don’t forget our earlier days of this trip.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.

Lent Day 4 - Saturday March 12

“He went about doing good ….for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38)

To preface my question today, I ask that you not get all quibbly about dates, and accuracies of time frames, and seasons, and all that….just hang a bit loose with me for a bit.

Suppose you knew that you were gonna die in 30 days. Basically, a month. Four weeks. Would you even want to know? Stop and think for a minute about what you would do these next days – would you do anything differently than normal? Would you quit your job and sit at home in a bleary-eyed funk? Would you spend quality time with family and friends? Would you travel and spend every cent you have? How would you handle these next [very] few weeks?

We have a pretty clear picture from the Scriptures of what Jesus’ schedule was during that final week, but not so much for that last month. I think it was a lot like the scripture above. Jesus simply continued to go about doing good. No fanfare. No marching bands. He simply did what He was here to do. Love. Heal. Teach. Encourage. Disciple. We’ll get to that last week when it’s time, but for now, think about those last weeks leading up to the cross.

Hmmm. What would I do? I’d like to think that I would go out with my chin up, head high, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. I’d like to think I would spend my time witnessing to those I come in contact with each day with whom I have failed to share my faith. I’d like to think I’d at least stand up more for my faith. This happened to me yesterday. I had a meeting with someone who became extremely negative about specific churches, specific Christians, and even the church universal. I was most uncomfortable because I took it as an attack against me, my church(es), and my faith. This isn’t the first time this type of encounter has happened in this way…there have been quite a few, but it struck me particularly hard this time. I sat there and listened and took it. Partly because others were in the room, but that’s just my excuse. I just sat there and took it. These folks know of my Christianity and of my belief in God and my love for the church. I just sat there and took it. I just sat there and took it. And then I left; angry at them, discouraged, anxious and angry at me. I just sat there and took it.

I didn’t go about doing good. I did not defend the beliefs I have. The God in whom I believe, serve and love. I was not a witness (other than the fact I did not punch someone in the face and call them all manner of names that I should not even know).

If I had only 30 days to live, I would count my life a failure if I did not go back and have a chat to speak up for God’s work in my life and in those around me. Plus, I am not even guaranteed those 30 days. I’m not even promised the rest of today. Or tomorrow. Will I confront (in a loving way) this individual next week? I hope so, I’ll let you know. This is the type of transparency I am going to have to have with myself and with you if this journey is to mean anything to me. If I am to grow. Today I pray for the strength of Jesus in my life to go about doing good in His name. And, I shall pray for you.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.

Lent Day 3 - Friday March 11

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Sometimes it seems like everything in my life is dirty. My car is always dirty, my shoes constantly need brushing (I gave up on polishing years ago), my laundry is never caught up, there’s always some type of cobweb-condominium being built in the corners of my home office, the screens to my computers are inches deep in dust. Get the point? The marvelous thing is that when any of the above actually get cleaned…I have a whole new perspective. Such as, I keep thinking how I need a new car, until I wash mine…then, WOW! What a nice looking car! I think I’ll keep it! Same with the laundry. I’m always out of socks or my favorite thrift shop logo t-shirts and head out to buy more, but then I’ll do a load of wash. Woo-hoo! There’s that raggedy old Harley 1998 New Mexico race shirt I love so dearly.

My heart gets dirty much the same way….by not taking care of it and protecting it as I should. Remember all the noise and confusion I mentioned yesterday? Well, not keeping a quiet time creates a small smudge on my heart. Then, perhaps I read a book that isn’t the most appropriate. Smudge. Watch a questionable television show or movie. Smudge. Smudge. Laugh at a joke that isn’t what I should hear, but I want to be ‘accepted.’ Smudge. Maybe (on that rare occasion) a word slips out in anger, frustration, or pain (when pinkie toe hits end table in the middle of the night). Smudge. Smudge. Smudge. Before very long, my heart isn’t very clean and God can’t be seen very clearly. And I don’t feel so great. Not so ‘set apart.’ Not so holy. Not so ‘light on a hill.’ Like God don’t really care so much about me.

I falter a lot. Sometimes I’m strong, but often I’m not. I’m human. As are you. We all stumble, feel guilty and have to ask God to forgive us. Over and over and over. And He does! The strength to stand up to the temptations of daily living is what I’m seeking during this Lenten journey. By remembering that God is Love. God loves me. Without question. What do you need to do so that your heart stays clean?

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Lent Day 2 - Thursday March 10

Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

I don’t know about you, but when I am looking forward to something, I tend to clam up. Whether it is a test, a meeting, a trip, a doctor appointment, a new job, whatever, I withdraw into myself to prepare myself. Not everyone does this, I know, it’s just how I roll. The problem comes because I rarely find myself in a quiet place (physically or emotionally) so that I can seriously, honestly think. My world seems to always have a television on, a CD playing, an iPod in my ear, people surrounding me, computers running, noise, noise, noise. From waking up to going to bed. Noise and distractions. My mind constantly spinning about things happening, things coming up, things I’m responsible for, things I’m not responsible for. No quietness.

In my book, “Being God’s,” I write about taking scuba lessons a number of years ago. To this day, it is still the most awesome experience imaginable. When you submerge under the water to a depth where you don’t hear any surface noises, the quiet is amazing. Words cannot describe the silence unless you’ve been there. The only sound is the quiet shussh-ing from the oxygen valves and regulators as you breathe. The beauty of the underwater world is staggering and it is impossible to not experience the presence of God. That was the first time I understood the full meaning of the verse above – “be still, and know that I am God.” It happens every time.

As we journey through this season we cannot grow and learn of God if we are not quiet at some point in our day. Some point where we can focus on Him alone. God. Jehovah. ahweh. Creator. Love. My journey has to involve more quiet time; not just to read a scripture and a devotional from a book, but to be quiet and feel who God is. Who is He to you? Do you know? Really? Ask me the same question and I have a difficult time answering. I know God made the world, sent His Son, and gave me a future of hope. But, those are “church” answers. When it comes to answering who God is to me in real-life terms, sometimes I stumble. I falter and fail. I’m sometimes just not sure.

After almost 60 years in church, it’s hard for me to come up with answers that aren’t taught in books written by theologians with far more degrees than me. Even though I’m a journalist and author, that can be my worst fault sometimes…I read too much and tend to take someone else’s opinion to heart without testing it against the Scriptures. That’s what I’m going to be working on this season. Discovering who God really is to me. On my journey. I challenge you today to really concentrate on who God is in your life. In your family. In your world. In your job, school, community. Test your thoughts against the Bible and not against friends, Sunday School teachers, church leaders, and family members. Who is God to you. Then we can continue our journey through Lent toward the Resurrection of our Christ.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.

Lent Day 1 - Ash Wednesday March 9

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes on Him will not die for eternity, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

As we begin to prepare out hearts for the Resurrection of Jesus, I find the easiest spot to begin is at the beginning. And that beginning is Love. God. Loved. Us. More. Than. Imaginable. To draw closer to Him, we have to put aside ourselves and let this Love fill our bodies, souls, mind, every fiber of our being. In my experience, this is sometimes easier said than done. There is a whole lot of Jimmy to get (and keep) out of the way before God can take complete occupancy. And, this same Jimmy, can be pretty selfish about "his space." As I look at the love-gift of God, Jesus, I know I do not deserve it. Never can, never will, yet God still gave it. That's the beauty of grace which we'll chat about during the next 40 days. For now, on day one, I encourage you to just focus on this one truth. God loves you. Don't worry about your warts, poor grades, lack of a job, stupid mistakes you make...that's all overshadowed by those three words. God. Loves. You. Don't let the term Ash Wednesday scare you away. For those of you (including myself), who may choose to attend a service where ashes are applied to the forehead, it is simply a sign of humility before God. Ash Wednesday is a day of reflection on what needs to change in our lives if we are to be fully Christian. It begins my journey to be a more effective Christian by Easter Sunday. Don't forget to remind yourself today. God Loves You. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.