The Allure of Lent

Therefore, behold, I will allure her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14

 

It’s the scripture that calls me into Lent. Always.  I’m hearing it again. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been so quiet here.

path in woods

The Middle Eastern desert is a wide open place, a quiet place. It is the visual description of what fasting does for the soul.  Fast and you create a wide open space that used to be taken up by something else.  In Hosea 2, the prostitute Gomer is being allured away from her crowd of lovers…to her true Husband.

 

We move fast, subconsciously even, from emotion to self-medication.

 

Loneliness? Reach for the phone. Anxiety? Swing open the refrigerator. Tired? Find the bottle opener. Feeling unloveable? Turn on the tv. Drown the voices. We search wildly for bread where Bread is not.

 

These are the coping mechanisms that once made sense as children but now loudly crowd the soul.

 

Lent is about pushing out and making space between emotion and self-made satisfaction. It is about God alluring us into quiet emotional discomfort, sitting down in the sand and hands empty, asking our soul’s One True Lover for Bread.

………………………………………………………………………………….

He loves you, my friend.  Deeply. He longs to lure you away from subconscious reactions you use to meet your own needs. This Lent, what are you pushing away in order to hear the call to the desert?

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Day 16: Confession

We in the church have got something to confess.  And it’s pretty ugly.

 

But ugly things have to come into the light in order to be transformed.

 

Evangelism has been used by some to be an answer to church growth.  Not a good news offering, but doling out good news in order to receive something else in return.  More buts in the pews.  We hunger for bigger and we need to be validated and we try to build our kingdoms into the clouds.

 

Small churches fear their doors being shut, their bank accounts have dwindled and so they start searching for the lost sheep, not to bring them home to Jesus, but to build their future.

 

And the church has adopted a marketing mindset as if it went to business school.

 

And can I raise my hand?

 

Can I confess that I too so desired to tend to the future of an institution and that I lived frustrated when people I loved came into God’s Kingdom but found another Body of Christ to call home?  I was building my own kingdom, my own tower of Babel.  And I have looked the disappointment in the face, called sin, sin and stood at the foot of the cross.  Cross-shaped evangelism is never about “me.”

 

I am called to be a good news flinger regardless of outcome.

 

I am called to love and give Jesus without strings attached.

 

I too confess.

 

Tim Keller in the short book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness (the best 99 cents you could spend today) says this, “It is quite possible to do all sorts of morally virtuous things when our hearts are filled with fear, with pride or with a desire for power.”

 

Ouch.

 

It is nearly impossible to be free to love when we are carefully concealing motives behind our backs.

 

It’s Lent and it’s time to sit in front of the cross.  It’s time to confess.

Dear friend, we’re such a mixed bag, aren’t we?  Today we can lift our faces up to our Abba and thank Him for grace and ask Him to show us ourselves in the mirror.

 

Pretending perfect shields us from the throne room of Truth where resurrection happens.

We’re on a journey to Cross-Shaped Evangelism this Lent.  Would you like to come along?  Put your email in the “Connect” box and press subscribe.

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Need to catch up?  Press here.

Linking with the raw and wonderful Emily Wierenga here:

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Day 8: Celebrating our Smallness

There is a great comfort in the knowledge that the world does not revolve around us.

 

We rest in powerlessness.  We celebrate our smallness.

 

We have no ability to change a mind, mend a heart, plant truth, make the thirsty drink.  Our only power comes in one simple, but world-changing gift: an invitation.

 

We are invited to open the great doors to heaven itself, march right up to the throne and open our mouths, confident we will have the full attention of the God of the Universe. Hebrews 4:16

 

And all this would be completely audacious, if we had not been given permission, through the blood of Jesus, His Son.  And you are right, friend, “permission” is not quite the right word. Perhaps it is closer to joy…His complete and utter joy that He can share the work of resurrection with His adopted children.  And how does he share?  He shares the work through giving us this simple though profound task…again, the asking.

 

The funny thing is that this is what He was wanting to do all along…bring in more children.  He just can’t wait to get his hands on more adoption papers!  He loves to take in the new ones, lean down gently to wash their faces, whisper new names in their ears, and place the seal of His love to mend broken hearts.

 

He invites us to pull heaven down toward earth with our asking.

 

And this is where we bring all the news of those lost lambs, the ones whose stories we have begun to fall in love with.  Because He is the only one who can truly search and rescue, the One who knows where they hide and what sent them on their self-defeating journey in the first place.

 

We come, we ask, and we celebrate our smallness in the shadow of the throne.

 

(The next few days, I will be sharing prayers and Scripture that we can whisper in His ear. Perhaps along with my church, you will want to print off and create a binder of these PDF files to encourage your heart for these, your “persons”?

Want to continue on the journey towards Cross-Shaped Evangelism?  Put your email in the “Connect” box to the right and push “subscribe.”  Easy.

And again, friend, perhaps you have a story you desire to share of the passion for good news bearing.  Please submit it using the “Submit Your Work” area to the right.)

 

 

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Day 5: Accepting our Limitations

Today we have a treat, a guest post by Paula Gamble, a spiritual director from the Pacific Northwest.  She leads ReFresh retreats and blogs here.

 

She has a beautiful Lenten Series.  Here’s an excerpt: 

Unhurry Up into Easter: A Lenten Pilgrimage

 

Hi friend!  I’m so glad you’ve decided to come by today.  Here is a chance to drop your shoulders, inhale deeply and enjoy a few minutes resting with Jesus.  All photos are my husband, Andrew’s, and were taken on his retreat in Wellston, Michigan.  Enjoy a renewing Sabbath, take a walk around the Lake and come on a five minute retreat with Paula Gamble.

 

Lean into God’s love, centering your attention and focus toward Him.

 

Find a quiet, comfortable space.

 

Take a clear glass of water…swirl it a few times, set it down and watch it settle.
As you do, pray God will settle your own soul. If any distractions (to-do’s, people, etc) come, simply utter, “Lord, settle my soul” and refocus.

 

Once you feel more settled, move on.

 

Evaluate honestly how you are as you come into His presence.

 

With what are you most preoccupied?

 

Quietly lift these things into God’s hands and pray:  “Help me to be open to what you want to reveal to me today about Your Real Self and about my real self.”

 

Notice what stirs your soul as you interact with the following: “Remember,” the priest said as he marked my forehead with ashes, “you are from dust, and to dust you will return.” All my growing up years I liked the feel of the priest’s thumb making the sign of a cross an inch below my hairline, but honestly, I had no idea what he was talking about….not until three decades later.

 

Out of curiosity (perhaps desperation) and a sense that I really wanted and needed a renewed focus on God amidst the busy/crazy frenetic pace of my life, I attended an Ash
Wednesday service. It was during this service that I finally heard it: The priest shared a homily in which he said, “We put ashes on our forehead to remind us of our creatureliness – that we are limited and cannot do it all.

 

Unaware I had come into this church service with even physical stiffness from the stress of my current pace of life and ministry, upon hearing his words, I felt a literal lightening of
my body, soul and spirit. “Oh thank goodness,” I uttered silently. I felt the permission to feel okay being human – unable to please everyone and fulfill their expectations, unable to know everything, unable to finish everything I started, unable to “fix” myself or others! I don’t think I have ever experienced such liberating freedom! So this, of all days, [in the beginning of Lent], is a magnificent day to celebrate our frail, limited, finite humanness!

 

Ash Wednesday is a time for us to remember that we are made from dust – from dirt fashioned into humanity – and apart from God breathing life into our nostrils, we are nothing (Acts 17:28).

We are made from dust and to dust we shall return means that we need to learn to   embrace our creatureliness. We reconcile with ourselves that we are finite, limited, and contrary to all the advertisements and sermons and societal pressures and demands, we cannot do it all, know it all, or be in two places at the same time. Indeed, we are not omniscient, omnipresent nor sovereign… though I admit that sometime I forget this little
fact. I so easily “trespass” on God’s turf! Ash Wednesday is the chance for us to remember that God is God – and we are not. It is a chance for us to affirm that we cannot grant everyone’s wishes, we might often be prone to forget things, we can’t always complete our to-do lists, and we don’t have unlimited resources to live and work at a pathologically busy pace.

 

Does hearing this liberate or frustrate you?

 

What do you do when you encounter your finiteness and
limitations ?

1. Do you have a hard time saying no?
2. Do you have a hard time asking for help?
3. Do you pretend to know something when you don’t really?
4. Do you make more lists or have you given up?
5. Do you readily acknowledge that you sometimes are selfish -but that this does not separate you from the love of God?
6. Or do you heap a condemning pile of “shoulds” and “oughts”upon yourself and those closest to you?
7. Do you get angry when there is an interruption or when you cannot control a situation?

 

And herein is the point of our faith: Despite our humanness and in the midst of our fickleness, as we try to navigate the busy swirl of modern life that does not always bring out the best in us…we are loved!

 

Ash Wednesday is a magnificent day to celebrate that God, fully knowing our humanness, is not worn out, disappointed or mad at us. Gently he invites us to come to him…to return to him…to open our hearts to trust his love in the midst of our restlessness, jealousies, and compulsions to look, feel and be secure.


Some say that the more we travel on this journey toward intimacy with Christ, each of us must gain the ability to embrace our limitations. In fact, it might even be considered a mark of maturity – no need for the ego to overcompensate with a candy-coated illusion of “togetherness.” If we want to deepen in our relationship with an infinite God then life, at least our life of faith, will have more ambiguity, not less. We will encounter the paradox of the Certainty of Mystery, of living unanswerable questions and of feeling deeply loved in the midst of our incompleteness. Our measurement of our maturity is, perhaps, stopping the charade of goodness, and the striving to be infinite … and to let God be God – the One who loves us in the midst of our finite limitations.

 

What are you expectations of yourself today?

 

Are you weary and burdened by the ongoing limitations of your humanness?

 

Good.

 

Jesus invites: “Come to me..“(Mt. 11:28-30)


~~~~~

As you consider these words: What word or phrase stands out to unnerve or ignite you?
What might you like to say to God in response?
Then take 3-5 minutes in silence to listen to what He might want to say to you.
Trust Him to open your heart toward fully receiving and living into His love.
How do you feel knowing that you are finite, limited, not created to do it all, have it all, be it all?
As you leave this space, ask God to help you be aware of your humanness… and in the midst of it, to stop, embrace your limitations, and trust His love that embraces you.
Amen

This is Day 5 of the Lenten Series: Cross-Shaped Evangelism.  If you would like to catch up, click here.

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Would you like to continue to join me? Add your email address to the connect box on the right and push subscribe.  Easy.

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Day 4: Pruning so Good News Blooms

Pruning, though painful, causes growth.

We’ve got obstacles that need to be removed and this is where the life-long work of pruning comes in, removing the sin, scooping out the suffocating fear, redirecting the anger, having our minds renovated by the Scriptures and frankly, at times doing major site work with those traumas that need shovels and back hoes and bulldozers….and friends to help in the process.

 

Here I draw a helix…a circular pattern over and over and begin cutting it out:

 

An early theologian said wisely that all through our life, we are in a maturing cycle (I’m just drawing a circular pattern.) But here’s the cycle: purification…that’s the cleaning out pruning phase, illumination…that’s the phase full of AHA moments, full of the struggle of wrestling, of learning from the Word, and then comes the glory and joy of UNION with God …which is where we are headed anyway, …and then back to purification in a never ending cycle.

 

And, perhaps we get stuck in our maturing as branches on the Vine believing that Christianity should be one way or the other.  I get addicted to the adrenaline rush of illumination, the growing, phase…because who likes purification really.  Or, I get so focused on union and forget that in order to develop that close communion with God, the cleaning out and the gulping up big glasses of the wisdom and the Presence of God alive in the Scriptures makes the union possible, makes the union strong.

And then, perhaps the Christian life is not a ladder going higher and higher as we strive and strain toward a distant God, but more this cycle: purification, illumination and union over and over and over as we throw off everything that hinders in a deeper surrendering, a deeper resting into a God with His arms wide open waiting to receive us all this time.

 

And it is in the deep surrender that the fruit comes naturally.

Friend, this Lent are there places in our life that need tending, pruning and healing which will transform your somewhat tentative good news to morph into hope-filled, Jesus-saturated, power-plugged good news?  This is one of the major questions I hope you will listen for this Lent.

Summer Gross

Are you wanting to catch up on the Cross-shaped Evangelism Lenten series? Click here.

Want to have the 40 day journey slipped straight into your inbox? Add your email to the “connect” box on the right and press, “subscribe.  Easy.
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(I am borrowing the fabulous helix idea from Syliva @ the sylvr pen at which she talks about a pilgrimage in circles.  Brilliant, Sylvia.  And thank you.)

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Day 1: Cross-Shaped Evangelism

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. 

Amen.

 

I came barreling out of seminary, fresh out of Victoria Heard’s church planting course with various evangelism methods ready to be fired on the unsuspecting.  I was ready to build a church.  I believed if I had enough enthusiasm, the people would come flitting, moths to the flame.  (And yes, friend, I know you are cringing with me.)

 

Love, true self-giving, cross-shaped love, was completely out of my league.

I was approaching evangelism through the lens of business model  success. Church growth, it’s sometimes called.  Ten years later and I have been weakened, wizened, humbled. The cross is no business model.  The cross is the giving up (dying) to our own imaginary ideas of success and how they might build our kingdom and slowly prying open one finger at a time, letting outcomes slide away.  Only then can we open our hearts, love our neighbor and let the Holy Spirit guide the process of precious ones to Jesus.

 

 

The first step to cross-shaped love?  We must be made whole before we can learn to love with God’s persevering love.  If we haven’t dealt with our own stuff… If we don’t know how we might attack or abandon during the knock-down drag out crucibles in a relationship, we cannot be trusted with the heart of another (though thank You Jesus, He can always redeem our very human messes!)   Through the healing power of the love of God, we slowly become a safe person.

 

Only people who have sat in front of the cross, drank huge drafts of grace, can themselves become pointers to Jesus.

 

 

The second step to cross-shaped love is to become an image of the Father’s love.  Our world is weighed down with a  screwed-up idea of God, and really, why would they want to come within His reach?  We have a whole lot of unhealthy Christian stereo-types to overcome. To do that, we have to build time-tested trust and love them in their language, just as our Father wooed us.

 

Third, if they are beginning to show curiosity, we park ourselves in front of them, asking  questions about their journey. We listen and we listen and we listen and then we slowly share.  We open our hands with little pieces of our story, little pieces of Jesus’ story…just as much bread as they are hungry for that day.  And then, when they are ready to change, truly change their lives, we walk with them to the foot of the cross to meet the One who gave His all for them.

 

And you, friend, I see you smiling because you know that this transformation usually takes years and a team of loving people.  I might have the privilege of walking with them through the first stage and they will need you to listen and stoke the fire of their curiosity.

 

Cross-shaped evangelism means years of prayer, years of self-giving friendship, years of listening and availability.  Why? Because we are not just pray- the- prayer type people.  Jesus’ asks us to make disciples, not pick projects and leave them outside their door with a flimsy invitation to church.  He shows us the way.

 

He built relationships of mutual care.  Jesus feasted at their dinner parties or invited them over to his place with a wave and a “Come and See!”  He walked beside them on miles of dusty roads and then knelt down to wash their dirty feet.  He taught and loved and challenged and stayed present.  And in the midst of all that messy life, Jesus offered good news to the poor, bound up broken hearts, released prisoners from darkness, and brought new life to one bowed- down life after another.  (Isaiah 61:1-3)

 

That is the type of love I need to be transformed by, the type of love I want to hand out one cup of living water after another.  That is good news.

 

Together let’s sit in front of the cross and learn.

Summer Gross

Over the next 39 days, we will be following a journey together deeper into these concepts.  Wanna come along?  Ash Wednesday to Easter, we will be taking a macro-lens look at cross-shaped evangelism.   If you desire to receive the reflection in your inbox, find the box at to your right under the word “Connect,” add your email address and push the subscribe button.  Easy.   And maybe you have a cross-shaped evangelism story to share?  Please use the box under “Submit Your Work” and I would love to share your offering.
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And you, friend, if you want to share this journey on your site, here’s the button embed code:

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(I’m linking with the beautiful Jennifer Dukes Lee with her new link up #tell his story. Check out her gorgeous new digs.)

and with Ann (without the fanciful “e” 🙂 Voskamp, of course, so thankful,





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Fierce for our Freedom

An Eastern Starling flew down our chimney sometime in the night and started fluttering around our firebox, enclosed by the brick in the back and a glass front .  She kept fluttering around, getting herself stuck around bricks and trying to fly back up the black Alice in Wonderland hole where she came from. 

I couldn’t take it any longer.  I was having a birthday brunch for a friend in about an hour and couldn’t imagine cake and candles and joy with a bird in captivity clanging around in the room adjacent.  Or at least, that’s what I told myself.

I could tell Andrew didn’t care.  “Let the bird die and then we’ll carry him out to the ravine,” he said calmly without looking up from his book.  There is a big difference between Andrew and I.  Andrew came from a hunting family. My first morning sleeping over at my in-laws, I got up bleary-eyed for breakfast and while pouring breakfast cereal, saw three freshly skinned rabbits in the sink.   Pink, shiny, fleshy things destined for that night’s casserole.  The beagles were snoring exhausted on the front porch, big smiles on their face.

I couldn’t do it.  The thought of this vulnerable bird beating around against the glass dying in my house. I dared beg my pastor husband who was Monday-morning-tired to help.

He rolled his eyes and then came to my (I mean the bird’s) rescue.

After banging around in the garage, Andrew trudged into the fireplace room with his largest steelhead catching net, opened the glass front and positioned the net across the front.  The bird walked in and then, unconvinced her freedom came in the form of black plastic netting, promptly walked back into the firebox. 

Hmmmm. New plan of attack.

A few minutes later, the bird herself flew out from around the net and into the office/playroom, furiously beating her wings on the windows.  Over and over, Andrew kept flushing her out of corners where she would get herself stuck.  Next, she flew behind the huge computer cabinet and into the corner behind the fish tank.  Stuck again.  I ran to get the broom and tried the help flush.   More flying furiously from corner to corner.  I was adamant she had to go before the brunch…even more adamant that she had to go before kids came home from preschool.  I couldn’t bear to see the horror in their eyes.  I was completely determined.  This bird was coming out alive! 

Friends, here’s the undercurrent: the entire time, I’m getting seriously emotional…(and I am not even pregnant, a clear indication something else was going on here.)

I remember saving a songbird from the mouth of the neighbor’s cat when I was eight and making her comfortable in a shoebox until our friends’ vetrinarian dad could come home from work and diagnose the problem.  More weapiness.  (I swear I’m not usually such a drama queen!)

The bird then flew across the small room into a bookcase and got stuck there.  What now?  Do we reach in?  “I’ll get some gloves for you,” I said.  Plastic? Too thin.  “My canvas ones are out in the garage,” Andrew said. 

I’m nearly crying by now.  Protected by yellow suede gloves, Andrew reaches into the bookcase, brought out the starling and carefully carried him out the backdoor, proclaiming to the bird as he released him, “Be free!”  I dissolve into weeping.

Oh.  So that’s what this was about.  Freedom has been the theme of my Lent.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” Galatians 5:1  This is a sign that God has a word for me.  It’s been happening over and over for six weeks. 

This is just a tiny picture of the kindness and fierceness that Christ has for our freedom.  He wants us to be healed of the gangrene in our spirits and be resurrected new creations.  He wants to fiercely show our other lovers (as the Old Testament prophet Hosea teaches) the door, kick them out for good, afraid to slink back into our lives when we’re vulnerable.

My sister wrote about her healing in a memoir in which she talked about a word that I’ve always had trouble with: “wrath.”  She wrote that she once gave God permission to send his wrath against everything that was standing in the way between herself and God.  Wow, now that’s gutsy.  I looked inside myself, do I have that kind of guts?  Am I fierce like the Living God for my own freedom

…or do I just kinda wanna be free?

If Andrew and I had kinda wanted the bird free, she would still have been fluttering around in the flu. 

We had to be fiercely focused on the end goal. 

Sometimes it just takes fierce courage and a little healthy wrath. 

 

photos from ellemoss: check out her beautiful etsy shop

Summer Gross

joining with Jennifer Lee Dukes @

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Fasting From Chaos

I live deep in chaos. I envy Brother Lawrence, the Carmelite monk from the 1600’s with his hundreds of monastery dishes stacked.  He slipped easily into practicing Your Presence, soaking in divine love.  He made cathedrals of the ordinary while wiping the Provencal stew off of brothers’ plates.

While I do dishes, I have the piercing cry of a child yearning to be held, the tiff in the other room that needs a referee, the turkey call practice, (Please!  Stop calling turkeys!  I’ll bet you’ve never yelled that!!!) the piano banging.  Life jumbles and the phone rings, Pandora randomly picks my music, and I have notebooks around the sink designed for all the things I know I will forget.

It is hard to shovel in a blizzard, my friend joked watching my life.

 

I envy the clink and the swish and the silence.  I want to soak my hands deep into God’s Presence.

Einstein said aha moments flowed unencumbered during his daily 3 B’s: riding on the Bus, soaking in the Bath or laying in Bed.

Imagination sparks just like prayer when brain waves settle.

Neuroscientist, Dr. Dan Siegel explains that the brain was not meant to multitask.  When we tangle wires, anxiety sparks.

This week is the beginning of Lent and when I enter, I always hear the words of Hosea 2:14, “I will now allure her into the desert (a place set apart, no distractions), I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”

Sunday night I forgot and indulged.

Sunday night I crawled onto the couch exhausted after a day of ministry and mothering and clicked on the Academy Awards to find out which movies to put onto this year’s Netflix queue.  Then, I opened my laptop and began designing a winter wedding inspiration board for a cousin on Pinterest (short white fur cape, feathers and birch bark candles: yum) while simultaneously instant messaging a (lovely ) long lost friend in Minnesota.  Looking up occasionally between pins and bleeps, I would register dresses and soundbites, then gape at people flying high above the stage.

Hours later and I found that all this time, surrounded by this mass of media, I had been holding my breath.  Indulging had not created rest at all, but stress.

How can I practice the Presence of Christ when I am consumed?

I recently shared these words of God-correction: that the reason I believe God desires we should keep our alcohol intake to a minimum was so that we could be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, so that we could be listening to the Word always speaking. Get tipsy and I can’t hear God.

It seems that this concept needed to flow across the different forums of my  life.

In answer to the chaos, a word keeps pinballing around my mind: Kenosis.

Kenosis is humble self-emptying in order to submit to God’s will for the purpose of union with Christ.  This is the journey.

Yes, I want union with Christ…and I’m positive this self-emptying is the only way.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and lose their life?” Mark 8:31-38

Do I want Christ enough to turn off my smart phone/laptop/radio and carve intentional cathedrals of quiet?  I hear You say, “Be still and know that I am God” and remember a quote from an Eastern Orthodox saint who said, “Find peace in your own soul and a thousand will find it.”  If others are grasping for peace, can I show them to the Way, Truth and Life when I myself am drowning in media, disconnected to the Source?

The fast of self-emptying, of humble stillness, is the God-alluring invitation to the desert … to put down roots, drink deeply of the present I AM.

This is what Brother Lawrence would say we all can practice in the midst of our ordinary.

Summer Gross

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The Fast which Exposes the Dragon

Lord, how do I fast from selfishness?  How do I take apart my DNA, unwind the axis and find where selfishness has hidden, beg a surgeon to take tweezers and pluck original sin?

And now here’s my honest question: Do I even want it out?  And another: What will it truly cost me?

A more telling question: what will it cost me, my Love, my little child-loves, to leave the self rule running rampant?  Tim Keller (in the Meaning of Marriage) says that selfishness is the main issue behind every pang in marriage.  He says trying to fit together two going their separate directions creates a dance discordant.  I’ve started watching, seeing the selfish act afterwards when it is too late to do anything but repent.

Before Ash Wednesday I ask You about the fast and You usually point to the rooted sin, that which will not exhume except from daily focus, constant practice, self-denial connected to accountability.  40 days in the wilderness.

This year I see the shortcuts, the ways I huddle around “me” time growling at anyone who snatches at it, the way I believe I am right, always right and see the sin cancer fog clear.  And greed is selfishness run amok when others are fighting just for daily bread. What kind of fast will grasp the hoe, root the self-god out?

Romans 8:13-14 says, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Tomorrow morning, my husband will sweep across my bangs with one hand, wipe a cross of ashes wide.  I will stand with the children trying to keep order and whisper in their ears, trying to make sense of mystery.  He will get down on his knees, press burnt palms across their unwrinkled foreheads from last years Palm Sunday where we all cried, “Hosanna” not realizing what it would cost.  And with his Adriatic sea blue eyes, the ones I’ve watched over nearly 20 years grow wise, he will look into mine, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

I am dust, and to dust I shall return.  How easily I forget.

And I gradually understand, this dragon cannot be slain by any weapon I have in my hand, but only exposed and conquered by the Spirit’s work. My fast will be to lay down daily on the surgeon’s table, beg for Spirit’s intervention:  To journal, search scripture.  To listen.  To pray.  A fast of increased attention.

I pray the dangerous prayer, the one I know will be answered, the one that will send the Spirit riding to deliver, sword flashing:

 

Come Spirit

undragon me,

wipe scales with knife

separate Your daughter vulnerable

from selfgod

clinging in an unholy worship.

Undragon me.

I wait, listen, search the heavens for the Coming.  He always comes when I call.  He promises.  He promises you too, friend, dear one.  He promises you, too.

Summer Gross


What will your fast be this year?

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