Doing Great Things

Mar. 2, 2012

Luke 22: 25-27

Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

While in the later elementary school grades, I remember a unit about careers. We talked about who we might become. That evening, I shared this conversation at the dinner table. My Mom asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I thought being the President of the United States would be a good job. My Dad laughed and said this would never happen. Mom responded with I had a better chance of being President than he did.

As a teen, I had great ambitions for myself. I really did think I could change the world. I wanted to move away from the rural area where I grew up and do things that would get my name into history books.

Has my life become jaded because I no longer expect myself to be President or have a line in history books? I pray not. I think I’m more realistic in recognizing my “world” appropriately. How I impact others has changed.

Reticent of a fifth grade recess debate, the disciples are having an argument about who is the greatest disciple. Imagine the possible conversation:

John: “Of course I’m the greatest. Jesus loves me the most.”

Peter: “Did he give YOU the keys to the kingdom? I don’t think so!”

Andrew (Peter’s brother): “Peter, you wouldn’t even know Jesus without me. Remember, I found him first.” (John 1:40)

Now, read Jesus’ answer carefully. If Jesus had a favorite, we don’t find out who it was. Instead of identifying the greatest or most important, Jesus focuses on how the greatest or most important should conduct him or herself.  With this response, Jesus summarizes his own life and ministry.

Greatness must serve lowliness. No matter what rank a person serves in human eyes or by human estimate, the role of a Christian is to serve in a lowly, humble way. It’s not about the titles in front or behind your name. It’s about daily choices. It’s not about being the greatest person in your field, occupation, company, etc. It’s about expecting to help those who may not be able to repay you. It’s about giving more of you than receiving.

It’s about turning our expectations upside down. It’s not about how much money you make but how you can impact those who don’t make what you make. It’s not about your name in a history book because you humbly understand that someone else’s accomplishment must be remembered.

Accepting that the greatest thing I can do is not aspire to be known for being great is difficult. Honestly, I want people to recognize and acknowledge my greatness. This should not be my main aspiration. I make sense of this for awhile. But then self-greatness creeps into my thoughts. Humbleness is not always easy to live. Service gets old. Thank goodness it never wore Jesus out. Forget about this, Jesus says. Go change a life through serving. This is what is great in God’s eyes.

So, get out your service towel. Whose feet can you go and wash today? Find greatness in serving without recognition. Summarize your life not through awards and recognitions but in how you serve others.

Let us pray: How great is our God! Sing with me, how great is our God. And all the world will see, how great is our God! Amen.

Blessings –


P.S. – Have you found some meaningful “40 for 40” things to do this Lent? I’d love to hear about what you’re doing!

A Desire to be the Greatest

Mar. 1, 2012

Luke 22:24

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest.

With a group of 12 people, there will often be 12 opinions. So it sometimes was with Jesus’ disciples. Some of the disciples knew each other before they were called by Jesus to be in his small group. Simon Peter and Andrew were brothers. They were from the Sea of Galilee and fishermen. James and John, also fisherman, were brothers. I’m guessing the fishing docks around the Sea of Galilee were small enough the brothers knew each other.

In case you don’t have siblings, let me share a sibling secret. We don’t always agree. Well, at least that’s how it was in the house where I grew up. Sometimes my family members have strong opinions. I realize not every family may have as opinionated members as mine.

Should it surprise us that the disciples reduced their dinner discussion to who was the greatest? Let’s overhear a few other “greatest” conversations:

On the school play ground: “I’m the fastest runner.” “No, I am.” “No you’re not.” “Yes I am.” “Well, my momma can run faster than your momma.” “Doesn’t matter. Your momma isn’t pretty like my momma.”

Group of young moms: “I had the most awful night ever. None of my kids slept.” “That’s nothing. Mine didn’t nap yesterday or sleep last night.” “Well, you don’t know what it’s like to be a single mom.” “No, and you don’t know what it’s like to have a lazy husband. He’s another child to take care of.”

At the nursing home: “I had to walk a mile to school every day and a mile home.” “Well, I had to walk two miles to school every day. I’m from northern Wisconsin where we always had six feet of snow.” “I had to walk over two miles, each direction uphill. With no shoes.”

Three CEO’s: “Our profit for last month was 10%! Finally, things are turning around.” “When are you going to get your act together? We’ve already had 10% growth for three months in a row.” “Our profit sharing checks for last year were the biggest ever. Soon, everyone will expect us to always have that kind of profit every year.”

At a clergy gathering: “It’s been such a stressful month. I’ve had two funerals.” “I had three funerals and the organist quit.” “One of our furnaces broke down. A teen was caught looking up porn on a church computer and my 16-year-old daughter is pregnant. Try to up my life.”

Isn’t it interesting how our “greatests” are often defined by either how difficult life has been, the rotten situations we are working through or what great accomplishments we’ve achieved.

What did the disciples use for their measuring stick, for what was the greatest? Who healed the most? Caught the most fish? Understood Jesus’ mystifying teachings the best? Brought the most people to one of Jesus’ teaching times? Been ridiculed the most? Is the farthest from his family?

What would our families look like if we stopped trying to be the “best” and instead simply loved? How would our communities change if we could drop multiple generation rivalries? Why do we put so much energy into being the “greatest” rather than helping someone who isn’t the greatest?

What would Jesus prefer us to focus on instead of being the greatest? We’ll find out his answer tomorrow.

Let us pray: How strong, O Lord, are our desires, how weak our knowledge of ourselves! Release in us those healing truths unconscious pride resists or shelves.  Amen.

Blessings –


Being Strong-Willed

Feb. 29, 2012

Luke 22: 21-23

(Jesus said,) “But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

One of the problems of looking at these passages is remembering the context in which a verse or verse was said. So is the situation today.

Jesus has just shared the communion cup with the disciples. In other gospel accounts, the disciples also question who the betrayer is. In Matthew and John’s Gospels, Judas is identified as the betrayer.

Listen to Jesus’ words again. “The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed.” Jesus accepts and realizes that this train is going one direction and it will not be turned around. Maybe the disciples don’t quite understand what lies before him in the next 18 or so hours. But in his own way, Jesus says, “Doesn’t matter whether Judas betrays me or not. What must happen to me must happen.”

Most of us have probably observed a strong-willed child. This is the child who makes up his or her mind and is going to do or say whatever they have decided. No matter what … they know what they are going to do. I remember hearing a story about a strong-willed child, who was determined to do something he knew his mother would not approve. He went to her and said, “You might as well put me in time-out because I know I’m going to be naughty.”

As I observe parents frazzled by their strong-willed child, I try to assure them that someday, they will appreciate for their child’s personality traits. The traits that are driving them nuts right now – conviction of their opinion, not willing to change their course of action, desire to follow-through – will be traits that in the not-so-distant future they will admire. The traits just are so much more admirable when they are 22 and in a career job than when they are 3 or 4 and seemingly naughty and will not listen.

Thank God Jesus was convicted of what he needed to do … and did it. Thank God Jesus wasn’t wishy-washy about his desire to follow his Father’s will for him. Thank God Jesus could look at the bigger picture and see how his short-term challenges would change humanity. In essence, he took our time-out so we don’t have to. Thank God Jesus was strong-willed. I would have wimped out.

Let us pray: Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God; all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood. Amen.

Blessings –


The Missing Loaf of Bread

Feb. 28, 2012

Luke 22: 19-20

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

As a pastor, there are many meaningful aspects of the Christian faith. Near the top of the list is the Sacrament of Communion.

As Rick and I planned our wedding, we decided our first “act” as a married couple would be serving Communion during our wedding service. With our closest family and friends in attendance, we invited those who wanted to share in this Holy Sacrament to join us.

To make this even more special way, I asked our mothers to help with the preparation. Growing up, my Mom canned lots of grape juice and I asked her to provide a jar. Likewise, I asked Rick’s Mom to bake a loaf of homemade bread. My Mom offered her Mom’s silver dishes. This was great!

It was the morning of our wedding. One of the first things I did upon arrival at the church was to set-up Communion. I put the carefully polished dishes on the altar. Out of a blue Mason jar, I filled the pitcher with my Mom’s homemade juice. All we needed was the bread. I was confident Rick’s Mom, Ersel, would bring the bread.

About 10 minutes before the service began, my sister Denise came into the kitchen and asked about the bread. I sent her to Ersel. Barely a minute later, Denise returned with a little exasperated look on her face. Ersel had forgotten the bread. Worse yet, she had not only forgotten the bread; she’ forgotten to bake the bread.

Fortunately, Denise had brought a couple ham sandwiches for her kids. The buns were small. They had butter on them. But they would do. The little village of North Freedom did not have a grocery or convenience store. The closest store was eight miles away and the service was soon to begin.

During Communion, we carefully rationed the bread so we had enough. Ersel was very apologetic after the service. How could have she forgotten? Things happen. After that, I kept a loaf of bread in the freezer at church in case there wasn’t bread on a Sunday morning.

“Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said. That’s why we celebrate Communion. As I fondly remember the missing loaf of bread from my wedding, I pray that I remember each time I serve and receive Communion how special this meal is. Jesus taught the disciples to remember. This weekend, as we celebrate the meal during worship, I pray we remember why we celebrate this meal.

Let us pray: He joins us here; He breaks the bread. The Lord who pours the cup is risen from the dead. The one we love the most is now our gracious host: Come, take the bread; come, drink the wine; come share the Lord. Amen.

Blessings –


Pruning Vines for Good Fruit

Feb. 27, 2012

Luke 22: 14-18

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God”

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Try to imagine being one of Jesus disciples gathered for this Passover meal. Ever since your group arrived in Jerusalem the previous Sunday, there has been great tension. Well, at first, people were so excited to see Jesus and actually threw an impromptu parade for him.

But since then, it’s been more than a bit dicey. It didn’t help when Jesus went to the Temple. Even though he’d been to the Temple a thousand times before, something snapped this time. He’d overturned the merchant’s tables, upset the money changers tables and created quite a spectacle. It was Passover week; a week they were guaranteed to make a lot of money! Now, they had to quickly find a spot outside of theTempleto set up shop.

The things Jesus has been saying has everyone concerned, confused and well, just a little more than on edge. His words are, at times, downright scary. As a disciple, you signed up to be a part of a movement that would positively change people’s lives. Even you are wondering how much of this you should or must put up with. It is time to cut bait? But it seems Jesus really is the Messiah.

You were optimistic that this Passover meal would be a refreshing break from the tension, the anger, the uncertainty. But Jesus’ words are even stranger tonight, if that is possible. Why, who would say they are never going to drink again … until God’s kingdom comes?

In John’s gospel, Jesus is even more particular in what he says in relationship to the fruit of the vine. At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” How can Jesus be the “true vine?” If so, where is the fruit?

Soon, I’ll wander out to our garden and prune our grape vines. I have little experience in growing grapes, other than trial and error. But I have learned this. A healthy spring trim of the vines means better grapes at harvest. The idea is that in trimming, a significant amount of branches are removed. This forces the nutrients to go into producing higher quality grapes than supporting a bunch of unwieldy vines.

Once again, Jesus is speaking in metaphorical terms. His life is going to soon be severely pruned. But in doing so, great fruit will be made available to all human kind. When Jesus recognizes his Father as the gardener, he’s acknowledging that God is doing the pruning. God is allowing the greatest pruning ever … the loss of life … to happen. But in doing so, much fruit – many lives – will be redeemed forever.

The best fruit comes when extra branches are removed. Few of us like it when we’re “pruned;” when a loved one dies, we loose a job, a family health concern arises or we experience financial challenges. Imagine Jesus thinking that his pruning would not be necessary. All of eternity would have been changed.

Jesus’ words and actions can often be confusing for us. They don’t always make sense. Sometimes, they can be downright scary. I pray this time of Lent will allow us moments of his peace.

Let us pray: We gather here in Jesus’ name, his love is burning in our hearts like living flame; for through the loving Son the Father makes us one: Come, take the bread; come, drink the wine; come share the Lord. Amen.

Blessings –


When the meal becomes more than a meal

Feb. 26, 2012

Luke 22:11-13

(Jesus said,) and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

A few years ago, two pastor friends and I went to a Seder (Passover) Meal lead by a Jewish man who also considers himself a Christian. What an interesting and fascinating meal! We ate matzah (unleavened bread), drank “wine” and sipped matzah soup. The leader helped us understand just when during the Seder Meal Jesus took the hidden bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples and said the bread represents his broken body. And one of the last drinks of wine became the cup that Jesus identified as his blood shed for all humanity.

The last few years, we have celebrated an abbreviated version of a Seder Meal on Maundy Thursday at Midland where I serve. It has become a tradition, in which we see how the Christian tradition comes out of Jewish roots.

Born and raised as a Jewish man, Jesus would have celebrated the Passover meal his entire life. But his last Passover meal was different. Jesus used this meal to help explain what his life meant and represented. It is at this meal that Jesus teaches the disciples how to continue to remember all he taught them through what Christians call the sacrament of communion. For Jesus, this Seder meal wasn’t just a meal. It was hugely symbolic for folks to remember his life and his purpose for eternity.

When I serve communion – whether in worship or individually with a shut-in or another person – I feel this is one of the great privileges in my role. Before Jesus left his close friends, he wanted to make sure they were spiritually fed. Yes, their tummies were full after eating the special Seder food. More importantly, he wanted the guys to have symbols and special ways to remember him long after he was gone. Jesus didn’t let them down.

So many times, I’ve remembered this great act with friends and loved ones. I recall sharing communion with my 102-year-old Grandma Deaton as one of the most special times I’ve served communion. Another deeply meaningful time is when Rick and I serve the folks attending our wedding.

We often have unique and special traditions at holiday meals. That’s what Jesus did at this Seder meal. It’s a tradition that continues until today. Thanks be to Jesus for this deeply personal and often meaningful way for us to remember his sacrifice for us.

Let us pray: Let us be bread, bless by the Lord. Broken and shared, life for the world. Let us be wine, love freely poured. Let us be one in the Lord. Amen.

Blessings –



Preparing for the Passover

Feb. 25, 2012

Luke 22:7-10

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters.

A big holiday was coming for the Jewish people. They call it Passover.

Every spring, the Jewish people remember how Moses became their leader and lead them out of slavery fromEgypt. Because Pharaoh was so hard-hearted, it took ten dramatic plagues affecting the Egyptian people but not disrupt the Israelite’s lives before he let the Jewish people go. The last plague was the most intense. God told Moses to instruct the Israelites to slaughter a lamb, dip a leafy branch in its blood and mark their doorposts with this blood as a sign to God. They were to roast and eat the lamb with bread made with no yeast and bitter herbs. The Israelites were to eat hurridly, with their sandals on their feet, staff in had, ready to leave quickly. God told Moses the Israelites would remember this night forever.

In the middle of the night, the Israelites heard terrible wailing from the Egyptian’s houses. In every family, the eldest child had died, including Pharaoh’s house. But the Israelites were safe. God had seen the blood on their doors and passed over their houses. Finally, Pharaoh allowed Moses to lead God’s chosen people out ofEgypt, away from slavery, back towards the land God had promised them.

It’s spring and time for Jesus and the disciples to slaughter a lamb and recall the first Passover. Jesus and the disciples are in Jerusalem. He sends Peter and John to make the preparations. First, they must find just the right place to hold the meal. Jerusalem was a big city. Where will they find a place? Jesus has already made arrangements.

Growing up, my sisters and I raised sheep. Every spring, a family fromChicagowould come to our farm and slaughter a lamb. The Dad would carefully butcher and skin the lamb, keeping it in one piece. He would collect some blood. My sisters and I would watch in fascination as he skillfully and intentionally prepared the lamb.

He came to our farm usually the weekend before Easter. I didn’t quite know why. My Mom said he was Jewish. Looking back, I now know what he was doing. He was preparing his family’s lamb for their annual Passover meal.

The Passover tradition is not always a part of the Christian tradition. We do remember the night Jesus and the disciples shared in this meal, known as a Seder Meal. We call this Maundy Thursday and celebrate it the night before Good Friday.

Lent is a season of preparation, a time when we take 40 days to prepare our hearts and minds for what Jesus endured for our sake. I can envision Peter and John carefully making sure everything was just right for their Passover celebration: the right room, food, dishes, linens, etc. May their preparations for this special and highly symbolic meal inspire us to carefully prepare our hearts and minds for understanding why Jesus became the sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the earth.

Let us pray: Your only Son, no sin to hide, but you have sent him from your side, to walk upon this guilty sod, , and to be called the lamb of God. O Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God. I love the holy Lamb of God. O wash me in his precious blood – my Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Amen.

Blessings –


The Betrayer

Feb. 24, 2012

Luke 22:1-5

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money.

In this journey through Lent, I am going to use the story of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion from Luke’s gospel as our study text. Every day, we’ll study a couple verses of scripture and explore how these words fit into our daily lives today. On a few days, we’ll look at the words and phrases Jesus said from the cross from the other gospel accounts.

We begin at the beginning of the 22nd chapter of Luke. During the three-year ministry period Jesus lived, he called a group of guys to be his closest friends. We call them Jesus’ disciples. These are the guys Jesus ate with, traveled with and experienced life with. In return, these guys left their families, their businesses and their occupations to be with Jesus. It was always Jesus intention to share his life and teachings with this group so that the message of Jesus as the Messiah would continue after his death.

Each of the 12 disciples is unique and would be interesting to study. In the last hours of Jesus’ life, we see one of these close friends, Judas, move into a pivotal role. He is the one who arranges with the local religious leaders and temple guards a way for Jesus to be arrested … for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15), an average amount of money for the time. With friends like Judas, who needs enemies?

Biblical scholars debate how close Judas was to Jesus, his role in the betrayal, etc. Some scholars say Judas wasn’t the bad guy. Rather someone extremely close to Jesus had to turn him in. It happened to be Judas.

When we read this passage, often our thoughts go to naming a person who has betrayed us. Most of us know what it feels like to have someone we trust hurt us; sometimes so deeply that it is nearly impossible to speak about. Even if the incident happened a significant time ago, emotions often remain raw and just beneath the skin.

It’s much easier to dwell upon those who have betrayed us rather than those people whom we have betrayed. In our defense, we think or say, “But …” as we rationalize our actions and position. Who really wants to admit that we’ve been fickle, short-sighted, self-centered or indignant in our dealings with close friends?

There’s one other way to look at these verses. Have we, like Judas, betrayed Jesus and his place in our lives? Ouch. We do it with no compensation of 30 pieces of silver, so it really isn’t so bad, we rationalize. We justify our actions, reducing the argument to the fact that at least our actions didn’t lead to Jesus’ crucifixion. So, we can’t be as awful as Judas. Our rebuttal is that if God hadn’t hung us out to dry, we would not have had to betray Jesus.

Isn’t it interesting the web our minds can weave?  Thank goodness that like Judas, Jesus is willing to overlook our betrayals. Jesus doesn’t hold forever grudges. Jesus can quickly move beyond our hurtful thoughts and actions. If you’re not sure about this, look at your hands. Do they have holes from spikes in them?

Let us pray: I was so lost, I should have died, but you have brought me to your side, to be led by your staff and rod, and to be called the lamb of God. O Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God. I love the holy Lamb of God. O wash me in his precious blood – my Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Amen. 

Blessings –


“40 for 40” this Lent

Feb. 23, 2012

Galatians 5:313

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Traditionally, there are three aspects folks concentrate on during Lent: service, prayer and fasting. Today, we ponder service. For me, Christian service is always rooted in what God has already done for me. Christ Jesus took my spot on the cross. I receive the gift of grace freely, without any cost to me. This is offered to me simply because of God’s great love for me.

There’s no way I can adequately repay God. It’s impossible. Trying to re-compensate God is a futile act. Nothing I do or give would ever cover the cost of Jesus’ life.

I do choose how to react to what God has done for me. I can accept this great gift and appreciate it. Another way to express appreciation is to give and serve of myself to others. Jesus did this on the last night he was with the disciples when, as they gathered for the Passover meal, he removed their sandals. Then, he washed their feet. Typically, this dirty job is reserved for the lowliest servant of the household. Really – who wants to wash a bunch of dirty feet? It’s not on my bucket list.

Jesus modeled Christian behavior and service as he did this. Then he told his closest group of friends, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:14-17)

Lent is an appropriate time to wash other people’s feet; maybe not literally, but figuratively. I’m challenging the Midland folks to do a “40 for 40” campaign this Lent. Think of a way that you can spend 40 minutes a day in service for the 40 days of Lent. What can you do to show God’s love to your community and the world? How might you serve God for 40 minutes between now the Easter? Here are some suggestions:

  • Volunteer at school for 40 minutes
  • Read to school children during your lunch break
  • Assemble care packages for needy people
  • Volunteer at the food pantry
  • Call or visit someone
  • Run an errand for a shut-in
  • Take a meal to someone
  • Have coffee with a grieving person
  • Babysit for a young mom
  • Come up with your own ideas!

You do not need to do the same thing for all 40 days. If 40 minutes seems unrealistic, make it four minutes or 14 minutes. Just wash other people’s feet. Creatively determine how you can quietly show God’s love to others and be a witness of the love you’ve experienced from God. I look forward to hearing what you did during your “40 for 40” campaign.

Let us pray: Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you. Kneels at the feet of his friends, silently washes their feet, Master who acts as a slave to them. Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you. Amen.

Blessings –


Ash Wednesday 2012

Feb. 22, 2012

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Today is Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent. This is a season of the Christian Year when Christians focus on simple living, prayer and fasting to grow closer to God.

For those of you who are visual learners, here is a video that explains Lent in a little over two minutes. The video goes fast. If you feel it goes too fast, I suggest taking 4.5 minutes and watch it a second time.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter, excluding Sundays. It begins with Ash Wednesday, where we recognize our need for forgiveness, ask for forgiveness of our sins and return to our loving God.

During Lent, Christians historically have focused on three spiritual disciplines:

  1. Service through giving to the needy – Serve God these next 40 days by doing something for Christ.
  2. Prayer – intentionally spend more time with God. One way to do this is to start a prayer rhythm. Say a prayer every time before you brush your teeth, check your e-mail or get out of bed. Before you have a conversation with someone (whether in person, via the phone, e-mail or texting), say a prayer for them.
  3. Fasting – eliminate something in your life that pulls you away from God. Historically, this is a specific food. It can also be limiting use of electronics, TV, etc. Another option is to give up an activity such as worry. Think about what you need to let go of or “fast” from to focus on God. What clutters your calendar and your life? How can you simplify your life for the next 40 days?

Life can zoom right by us. It seems the days and weeks fly by quicker each year. I’m glad there is a season of the year which encourages me to slow down, pace myself, reflect upon my inner and outer life. Lent is a gift for each of us.

We will choose how we embrace this season of the Christian year. Begin today, on Ash Wednesday, with some time to reflect upon how you might use this season. If possible, attend an Ash Wednesday service. Ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. I use ashes from last year’s palms of Palm Sunday as a symbol for reminding us how quickly palms waved in joy became ashes of sorrow.

Let us pray: Dear God, in praying ashes to ashes and dust to dust, we remember that you created us and all the earth. For the next 40 days, we want to grow closer to you. Bless me and my family. May we extend love to others. Forgive us for the ways we have hurt You, others and ourselves. Help us forgive each other. May we be encouraged by You to relish this special season and allow ourselves to be drawn closer to You, Lord God. Amen.

Blessings –


I invite you to journey through Lent in a daily devotional. You can sign up to receive this daily devotional in your e-mail inbox. Please share this link with others you think would enjoy journeying through Lent via this devotion.