Monday, March 9, 2015

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 11

Photo:  Linda Cannon

Sadly, one area in which we lose our ability to truly see the Cross is in religion. We go through a myriad of spiritual gyrations, disciplines and dances in an effort to perform the dance of good enough until we drop, hopeless and exhausted, never really having any assurance that we got a passing grade. 

The simplicity of the Cross is hard to embrace. So we play connect-the-dots on our perceived path to salvation, hoping that if we can clean up, be good enough, say enough prayers, perform enough good deeds... Well, there you go, you'll be in!  But when is enough enough?

Jesus has told us, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." (John 14:6). It is not what we do. But what God has already done in His unmeasurable love, grace and mercy. "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him" (John 3:16-17).  God has already paid the price for our sin and condemnation -- all we need do is accept His free gift of salvation by giving Him our lives. 

Photo:  Linda Cannon
Religion is man's reaching up to God. But nothing we ever do will be "good enough."  So let go of trying. Instead, grab hold of Jesus, accept His gift to you. See the Cross in the field of your futile efforts of connecting the religious dots... And rest in the assurance of eternal and abundant life in Jesus Christ when you ask Him into your life as Lord and Savior. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 10

Lent – a time of releasing, giving up.  I read a posting on Facebook that challenged the readers to give up their “gadgets and technology” from sundown one day to sundown the next (sort of like a technology Sabbath).  Giving up my internet, my iPad, and (gasp, she breaks out in a cold sweat as she writes this) my (dare she actually put it in print) attached-at-the-umbilical-cord smart phone?”  Seriously?  How will I live, breath, manage?????  I shake just visualizing this barren wasteland of unplugged!

This also got me to thinking (a dangerous endeavor)… how can I go about giving up not simply the toys/tools of my life, but the underlying disease for which I use these implements of distraction… yes, I’m going there.  BUSY-NESS.  How do I give up, release, let go of this lifestyle that is wearing me down, stealing my joy, and probably killing me softly?

Fully admitting it is my own hand which feeds this ever-hungering monster that I call my daily calendar, am I at a point where I can even stop?  Am I addicted to busyness?  To the maddening pace of rushing like a crazy woman from job to school, meeting to gym, office to client, lunch/dinner with friend to church activities?  Is living in such a manner that I am perpetually frazzled, frayed, tense and tired – and barely ever feeling 100% -- giving any glory to God, giving my best to my beloved husband, treasured family and friends, and all my varied responsibilities and positions?  Barely making deadlines, being so worn out that procrastination becomes my only guilt-ridden method of stopping, falling into bed only to fight through a night of classic stress-related, Technicolor, detail-crammed dreams where I find myself always late, lost or frantically not ready… I say I don’t want to live this way, and yet every call, appointment, and commitment is one I have chosen to add, selected to feed the beast of “just one more thing.”  I have struggled for years with this disease.  How often have I joked that my life is like a hamster wheel, and someone has fed my hamster crack!

Dear God, I crave YOU.  I am hungry and thirsty for your peace… I want so much to stop the thought fest in my brain long enough to pray, really pray and hear You.  I confess I have no idea how to be still before You in order to know You.  Yes, I read my one-minute daily devotional and listen to sermons on the radio and podcast, pray during my commute, catch a quick video on the internet and hear the Sunday sermons... but we both know that has nothing to do with spending quiet time just with You, reading Your word, just being still.

Be still, cease striving, the Hebrew word says to sink, relax, let drop, abandon, refrain, forsake.

Okay… I am clueless, Papa.  But I come before You and ask Your help because I do want to cease striving, drop everything at Your feet, forsake all else in order to gain You.  And yes, I am warped enough in my sick little brain to think, “Uh-oh, is He going to put me in a coma or break my leg so I will stop?”  Not that I would be surprised, because I realize in my rebellious heart sometimes You have had to take unusual measures to get my attention.  But as the Michael Smith hymn goes, I am desperate for You.  So take my iPhone, my tablet, my Google calendars, my multiple email address, blogs, my shattered and multi-tasked, wrung-up self and my 24/7s.  Teach me how to live each moment as You would have me live.  I pray for the eyes, wisdom and discernment to choose not the easy good-from-bad but the best from the good.  Whether this is a season of activity or a season of rest, help me live it so I know it is on Your time frame, and not my own. 

Instead of constantly looking at the clock, let me instead rest my gaze on the Cross.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 9

Photo:  Linda Cannon

I am a very stubborn, independent, proud and self-reliant woman. I do not like to need or depend on anyone. I will do it myself, thank you very much. I will handle it and most of all control every step of it along the way. I will forge my own path in the darkest of nights, through the midst of any storm. That's just the way it is. That's just the way I am. Period. End of conversation. 

Or is it?

Tonight I drove for 90 minutes smack dab in the middle of an ice storm to get home -- normally a 15 minute ride over 10 miles of suburban side roads.  I don't freak about driving in bad weather, but my knuckles were firmly clenching the steering wheel the whole ride and, in the morning, I have no doubt whatsoever that I will probably find permanent indentations there. I pulled into the driveway and breathed a sigh of relief and a quick prayer of thanks for a safe ride. 

As the ice-encrusted driver door slammed shut creating a frozen symphony of shattering icicles, my eyes caught the first glimpse of it. There it was... the Cross. Covering the path I had taken to get into the driveway... shining and as big as life. The Cross was with me, every inch of the way. Through every red light, every turn, every slippery corner. 

Why am I so worried, fearful and obsessed with letting go? Giving the control of all life's issues to Him (like I ever really had control anyway)? Every mile of my path is covered by the Cross.

Today I give up control to You, precious Lord. Today I will trust in and rely upon You, acknowledge and obey You. Please direct my path this day. Amen. 

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 8

Photo:  Toni Campbell (see note below)  
Is your Cross ever hidden by the "full" of your life?  Has the comfort, the plenty, the ease of a life with warmth and food and the general necessities met taken up all your shelf space... Yet still you find your heart barren, longing for more?

You look, but see nothing. You go through a closet crammed with clothes and shoes and jewelry and purses, yet proclaim you have nothing to wear. You stack your shelves (and credit card debt) sky high with your instantaneous "I'll feel better once I have this because I really need it" self-centric pleasures. But no sooner is it out of the designer bag than you weary of it (like a two-week old Christmas toy long forgotten) and are on to the next magic distraction that will momentarily fill your longing but soon gather dust on your heavy-laden "self shelf"

It is the season to strip away all that hinders you from seeing, hearing, and giving first place to The One Who was nailed to the Cross... Sacrificing all for You. 

Today, empty your self shelf. Unburden yourself, unchain yourself from whatever needs to go. For it is only when we empty our shelves of self that we will clearly come face-to-face with the Cross... and our Savior... THE ONE AND ONLY fulfillment of every need now and forevermore. 


Photo Credit:  My friend Toni Campbell -- she wrote of this photo:  "I asked a volunteer to take a picture of our empty shelves in The Pantry to share online with our request for food donations.  Look at the pipes above the shelf.."