April Fools!

Lauren is patient. Lauren is kind. She does not envy, she does not boast, she is not proud. Lauren is not rude, she is not self-seeking, she is not easily angered, she keeps no record of wrongs.


In all seriousness though…you may recognize these words as part of the ‘love verse’ in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. The verse goes on to say that love protects, trusts, hopes, and always perseveres. “And love never fails.”  This truth, my friend, is no April fools joke.

I was challenged on a retreat once to put my name in the place of ‘love’ in these verses and ask myself if I dare read it out loud to my closest family and friends…or even to strangers I interact with today. Needless to say, I was humbled.

Love is a gift from God. The first attribute listed in the fruit of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit enables us to bear this fruit of love. My love is not even close to perfect. Sometimes I’m patient, but not always. I am not always self-seeking, but that tends to be my fallback. However, I follow a God who’s love is perfect and endures forever.

My only chance at unselfish love is through a relationship with Christ. Jesus’ love restores me daily. But I must put Him first. By spending time in prayer and Scripture, I am reminded of a grace and transformational love that is quite different than what the world offers me.

In the First15 devotional, Craig Denison writes:

“Of all the wonders our Creator provides us, boundless and unadulterated relationship with Jesus vastly exceeds them all. Jesus is the best thing we will ever know. His love restores, satisfies, transforms, and heals. His grace empowers and brings transcendent peace. His nearness resolves the great fears of our hearts. And his Kingship calls us to a right lifestyle of living for heaven rather than a pursuit of that which is worldly and fleeting.”

1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us that the message of the cross may sound like foolishness to some. Yet, it’s through Christ’s death and resurrection that God’s power and wisdom is imparted to us. In his Lenten devotional, Drawn to the Cross, Henri Nouwen suggests that in a world with so many false promises, we should seek to be “fools for Christ.”

So this April 1st and Lenten season, as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, I am reminded that Jesus is my only hope. My favorite song these days is “Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me” by CityAlight:

“What gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer…My steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace. To this I hold my hope is only Jesus…oh the chains are released, I can sing, ‘I am free.’ Yet not I, but through Christ in me.”

On this April Fools’ Day, I pray that being rooted and established in love, we may have to power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for us…so that we might experience the fullness of life that only He can give. (Ephesians 3:18)


Re: Lent

In regard to Lent…
If you use e-mail to operate the logistics of your work and life, you surely see ‘Re:’ in your inbox daily. ‘Re,’ of course, means ‘in regard to.’  ‘Re:’ signals that someone has replied to an original message.

In a Lenten devotional (The Beauty of Weakness: A Walk Toward Easter) provided by our church, Christ Community Leawood, I keep coming across the theme of ‘Re.’

I am reminded by our pastoral staff that Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) is a season of reflection and renewal…a time to slow down and take a look at my life and my spiritual walk. A season to identify sins that hinder and recalibrate my habits in a way that leads to a deeper dependence on God.

Christians often use the days of Lent to fast from something significant in their life. This self-denial may come in the form of giving up anything from chocolate to caffeine to social media – or maybe even a more poignant sacrifice. The overall point of this personal sacrifice, according to Associate Pastor Jordan Green, is to “loosen our attachment and recalibrate our contentment.” Jordan writes that by denying our own strength or pleasure, “we might more clearly know the sustaining work of our Lord.”

As we have begun the annual observance of Lent, it is wise to take this opportunity to respond to an original message ourselves. We respond to the message of God’s unfailing and steadfast love – the very same love that Moses and the Israelites sang of thousands of years ago after their miraculous exodus through the parted Red Sea.

“…Who is like you — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? …In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them…” Exodus 15: 11,13

We respond to the message of this same God who who kept covenant and steadfast love to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9) and sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to die on our behalf because he so loved the world. (John 3:16)

So how are you using this season to respond to God’s original message of love?

It’s no coincidence that so many of the themes of lent start with the prefix, ‘re.’ Dictionary.com tell us that ‘re’ is, “a prefix…with the meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or with the meaning “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion.”

Each year during Lent, as we withdraw, quiet our hearts, and break our regular routine, we are invited to reflect, again. We are invited to repent, again. We are invited to recalibrate, again. We are invited to renew ourselves, again. As a matter of fact, our God of love and amazing grace invites us into renewal every day of the year, not only during Lent.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:4-5

‘In regard to’ Lent, will you respond to God’s original message of love through the disciplines of reflection, repentance, and recalibration? There’s no better place to start than in Scripture and through prayer. On Easter Sunday, let us celebrate the Risen Lord our Savior with a renewed heart, mind, and spirit.

Deck the Halls?

I hadn’t planned on posting another entry so soon. But I had a few personal thoughts about Lent and figured I would go ahead and share…

Lent is here. This church season doesn’t exactly usher itself in with excitement like the Christmas season, does it? No one is decking the halls 40 days before Easter (as much as Target would like us to). The beginning of the Christmas season (Advent) is filled with lots of merry, hot chocolate and anticipation of a joyful holiday season. Not sure about you, but I haven’t gotten any beautiful Lent cards with families posed on the beach. Perhaps that’s because during Lent, our faith experiences the lowest of lows before we celebrate the highest of highs on Easter Sunday. Our God, in the flesh, had to die a painful and humiliating death on the cross before He triumphantly rose from the dead three days later. But, just like Advent and the Christmas season, Lent is also an important season of anticipation. Instead of anticipating the miraculous birth of Christ, we are anticipating the even more shocking and miraculous resurrection of Christ.

During Lent, we are encouraged to spend time reflecting on God and searching out those areas of needed repentance. After all, a risen Christ is a bit more meaningful when you can put your finger on a few solid reasons you need His forgiveness. It’s a tradition during Lent ‘to give something up’. I say tradition because you won’t find any red letters in the Bible with Jesus telling us to give something up for Lent. As a matter of fact, there isn’t anything in the Bible telling us to give something up for Lent. But, in my humble opinion, there’s nothing wrong with human tradition if it brings us closer to God. I look at the practice of giving something up in two different ways, neither of which has the point of deprivation in itself.

The first reason I would understand giving something up for Lent is to experience a bit more ‘want’ in our lives. When I run out of a certain product at the grocery store, I just go buy more. I realize that I am incredibly blessed to not have to experience much ‘want’. Perhaps by giving up chocolate, for instance, for the 40 days of Lent, one can experience want and desire in a new way. And eating the ears off that chocolate bunny on Easter Sunday is all the sweeter as you celebrate and relish in the life of abundance that Christ offers us.

The second reason (and my preferred motivation) to consider giving something up for Lent has nothing to do with deprivation either. Instead, I like the idea of making more room for God. Yes, we can certainly benefit from this practice year-round. But, by giving something up for Lent that takes up time or emotional energy, I can make more room for God in my day. Or perhaps giving something up might allow space and time to take on a new spiritual discipline like daily prayer or spending time in scripture. For instance, giving up social media might alleviate a good bit of time in one’s day for contemplation and prayer. Each time I think about checking Facebook, I could, instead, spend an extra moment enjoying being in the presence of God, examining myself, or maybe even praying for guidance as to how I can better love and serve those around me. Luckily, Sunday is a day of rest and feasting (a so-called free day in Lent), so I could still check my Facebook to see if anyone has posted a good Justin Timberlake video or potty trained their child.

Anyone who has ever stayed in our guest bedroom knows that because of the multitude of windows, the light shines bright way too early in the morning. In addition, our most recent guest commented that the abundance of natural light shows a few too many imperfections as she looks in the mirror. I will tell you that any one else only sees her beautiful face. But it made me think…Jesus is the Light. Perhaps by letting in a little more Light each day during the 40 days of Lent, I will find a few (or a lot) more imperfections. But on Easter Sunday, I will, no doubt, be beautiful in God’s eyes. Perhaps the warm sunlight in March and April will be my reminder that, metaphorically speaking, I’m going to deck the halls of my soul with His Light over the next 40 days of Lent.