He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Isaiah 40:29
When my oldest son was in the fourth grade, I volunteered to help him and his friends make a piñata for their class Halloween party. The boys had a great time slapping on the newspaper strips drenched in the gooey flour paste. Each little narrow strip of newspaper was carefully slopped on the outside of a Mylar balloon until the boys thought they’d covered every visible speck of silver balloon. After getting the boys and the table cleaned up, I picked up the piñata to set it in the sun to dry. As I reached down to grab it, I nearly threw out my shoulder the thing was so stinkin’ heavy! Holy cow…how could something made out of such tiny strips of weightless newspaper collect into a creation weighing as much as a toddler? The best laugh of all came the following week at the party when it practically took a sledge hammer to break the thing.
I had the pleasure of taking a class yesterday about using Scripture with students of all ages. It was an excellent class and the instructor was so dynamic, passionate and enjoyable. One of the underlying themes of the class was that using Scripture and helping kids LOVE IT involves lots of little things. It’s not about unveiling the complexities and all the history, it’s about the little ways God uses His word to reach us, draw us in and shower us with His gifts. As I was driving home, I drove past a lawn decorated to the hilt with Halloween decorations and I remembered that silly jack-o-lantern piñata the boys made about ten years ago. That 30 pound piñata took on a whole new meaning as I began to realize that our journey toward heaven is a little like that piñata. The creation of that big, strong piñata, began with something that was tiny, weightless and quite frankly, of no value but yet, it became so much more!
We can get pretty caught up sometimes in the big stuff of life, like money, careers, politics, mortgages, position and on and on. It’s all legitimate and needs our attention for sure, but our journey to heaven is supremely about the little stuff. Jesus worked some breath taking miracles, He did some unbelievable healings and He orchestrated some amazing conversions but His message to His followers always focused on the little things we were to do if we want to follow Him. He took more than 600 Jewish laws and condensed them into TWO commandments for us to follow…talk about simplifying things! He used parables or stories of the common, to teach and reach souls for His Father. He even pulled some children onto His lap to show us exactly who we needed to imitate. Jesus was all about the little things!
Our lives should be like that piñata…a combination of little things, done lovingly for Christ in order to make us strong enough to withstand the blows of disappointment, difficulty and discouragement tossed in our path by the evil one. During the class yesterday I was touched right to my core when the instructor was talking about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. What we need to understand about that story is simpler than greed and jealousy and betrayal. It’s not a story of good son vs bad son. It’s about a little choice with enormous consequence. I was dawn to tears when the instructor spoke in a voice so peaceful and loving and taught that the oldest son was saying to his father, I want your “stuff” not a relationship…he was in effect saying, father, you are dead to me. In a voice, quivering with the anguish of the true meaning of the parable, the instructor reminded us that the father in the story is indeed our God and Father and many times we act just like the son demanding God’s stuff; His love, mercy and grace without wanting to work at a relationship with Him. What God demands of us is simple and small compared to what He blesses us with but yet we sometimes let days slip by without carving out that chunk of time to sit in quiet uninterrupted prayer designed to forge our relationship with Him.
What little things can you begin with? Can we begin with or add a few minutes of Scripture each day? Maybe it could be a little time helping a neighbor? How about a little time praying for that crabby co-worker instead of complaining about them? If there are a hundred steps between me and God, I know that if I take the first little step toward Him, He will take the rest toward me.
A seed to plant: Tear 5 narrow strips of newspaper. For each of the strips, plan a little thing you can do to grow closer to God. After you complete those tasks, glue the strips of newspaper together. Consider how much stronger those strips of newspaper are when glued together than they were independently.
Blessings on your day!
For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:33
There are a lot of things I wish I were; thin, tall, better at math and more focused in silent prayer. On the other hand there are a lot of things I’m glad I’m not; homeless, friendless, Godless and a mother Pelican. Yup, you read that right…I’m glad I’m not a mamma Pelican. Before you think I’ve lost my marbles let me tell you a story. The legend of the Pelican may be old news to many, a beautiful reminder to some and all new stuff to others. I’ve run across the legend of the Pelican three times very recently and three is a magic number for me. I always ask God to give me things three times if it’s really important so when the third reference to mamma Pelicans came to my attention the other day I knew right away what my next post was going to be about.
Mamma pelicans have a blood red tip to their beak and legend says it’s symbolic of a behavior. When a mother can’t find food for her young, she will thrust her beak into her breast and allow her young to be fed from her very being. Talk about the ultimate self-sacrifice. What strikes me as truly amazing is that this particular bird is not noted for its beauty or performance in any way. It doesn’t have a notable song or a sweetness that would make it a popular species. By many standards Pelicans would even be considered a nuisance without noble purpose. Does that story remind you of anyone?
Pelicans can be found in Church art because they symbolize the same kind of self-sacrificing love and blood shed demonstrated by Jesus Christ himself. The blood of the new covenant was shed to give each of us life; eternal life and life to the fullest. Like the Pelican, the gift comes from a surprise donor…not one of nobility and notoriety but one of humble, simple and underestimated greatness. How often we judge by appearance instead of by truly important standards.
During this Lenten season let’s give up judgment and comparison and try harder to see the things that simmer below the surface. Let’s also remember the magnitude of the gift given to us by Jesus on the cross.
A Seed To Plant: In your prayer time this week, find an image of a Pelican and a crucifix, pray with them pondering the great gift of self-sacrificing love they represent.
Blessings on your day!
…return to me with all your heart…Joel 2:12
I’m gonna start todays post with a couple words you don’t often hear together in a sentence…happy Lent! We tend to look at Lent through the lens of deprivation, restriction and sacrifice but I’m going to suggest today we flip that right over and take a new look. The middle lovelies and I were watching a little YouTube clip about Lent and a couple things reached out and grabbed us; I’d like to share those things as well as a few other little tidbits that just might help make your Lent a happy one!
*Deacon Ralph Poyo came to Westphalia for a visit last month and he said Lent is completely about Jesus and drawing close to him so if you want to “give something up” then make it something you don’t want to “pick back up” when Lent is over. We need to give up those things that take our focus off Him so if they are coming between us now, they will probably come between us later so why not ditch ‘em!
*Lent should always include more still quiet prayer but to that add some extended learning and share the good news of Jesus with three people a week in some way. It could be an act of service, a positive message or a simple; I prayed for you today. Don’t keep Jesus to yourself…share him.
*If you want to re-focus on Jesus, walk around for a day (or an hour) with a popcorn kernel in your shoe. Every time it pokes your foot say “Thank you Jesus for making me think of you; please bless_________.”
*Don’t complain, argue or whine for a week (or a day) (or an hour) pick the one that fits. Those three behaviors are the greatest form of selfishness. Give up having your own way, the last word and the attention.
*It’s more about giving up sin and temptations that lead us to sin than giving up chocolate!
*Think of Lent as the buildup…the anticipation…the warm-up for the greatest crescendo of our faith…The Resurrection. The more we prepare, practice and ready ourselves for the amazing event, the more exciting, rewarding and awesome Easter will be.
*How much time do you spend preparing for Christmas or a wedding or a graduation? There is planning, organizing, shopping, decorating and new stuff involved. Now…how do we prepare for Easter? It’s the holiest day of the year and sometimes all we do is buy plastic grass and dye eggs. Using Lent as a preparation time is more powerful if we give some serious thought to what we’re preparing for…celebrate it like it’s a big deal…because it is!!!
We can’t waste Lent…not one day of it. Everything you do should be for one purpose…to draw you closer to Jesus. He wants us to return to him with our whole heart so do everything this Lent out of love for the one who loves you more than you can imagine.
A Seed To Plant: Whatever you’re planning to do during this Lenten season, pick one new thing that has never been a part of your Lenten observances before. Check out some online resources; there are hundreds of ideas out there to help make your Lent wonderful.
Blessings on your day…and Happy Lent!
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