At the time of writing this, we are almost two weeks into the Lenten season of 2023. Some people have already given up what they’ve given up for Lent, others are deep into extra prayers, services, and readings; while others are somewhere in between.
In the weeks leading up to Lent I began to feel a sense of anxiety. What book would I read this year, what app was I going to choose to help me stay on track with additional scripture readings, and what was I going to give up for 40 days of torture. My regular daily schedule had already left me feeling overwhelmed, how much more could I take on in the name of Lent?
I attended a women’s prayer breakfast that focused on preparing for the season of Lent. I started the morning with racing thoughts about how I would ready myself for the holiest season of the liturgical year and ended the day with a sense of peace and surrender.
I was reminded that Lent isn’t about filling my already busy schedule with “holy activities”. Lent is about temporarily, or perhaps permanently removing things from my daily life to make room for being in my own desert time with Jesus. It’s about joining Jesus in remembering through our prayers, fasting, and almsgiving that God is who sustains us. God is who we live for.
This year for Lent I decided to put aside my false idea that I, or anyone else needed to pack our schedules with activities, no matter how holy they may be.
In order to be with Jesus in the desert we might need to do less things.
We might only make it to church for regular weekly Sunday services and Good Friday. It’s alright if we only maintain our regular bible reading and prayer times. So far, slowing down for Lent has allowed me to have more time to engage in reading the book that I’ve chosen and time for reflection. My time isn’t spent trying to attend church concerts, compline services, Easter choir practice, and whatever else I thought needed to be part of the season. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities, they are a beautiful and blessed part of Lent. My point is simply this: it is alright to include rest in our time of Lent.
What are you fasting from during Lent? Do you feel its absence has brought you closer to God?
What have you learned about yourself during Lent?
Is Lent a time of rest for you, or do you sometimes feel overwhelmed with all the seasonal activities? What can you consider removing or reducing from your schedule to make more time for rest?
This morning I was reading Mark 5: 21-43. It’s the story about Jesus tending to the deceased daughter of a synagogue leader named Jairus and another story about a woman who is healed by touching the the garment of Jesus.
These are stories of Jesus’ miracles that I have read many times, but after this most recent reading I realized how much bad advice and instructions the disciples and others gave Jesus. Thank goodness Jesus knew what his purpose was and was fully aware of the power of God.
When Jesus was on his way to Jairus’ house some people informed him that the daughter had died and not to bother the father. Jesus didn’t listen, instead he knew that they were upset and experiencing grief, anger, and disappointment. Instead of accepting defeat and going away, he continued on and entered Jarius’ home to find everyone crying and distraught. When it came time to heal the daughter Jesus kicked those who were laughing at him out of the home. With only his selected disciples and the parents of the young girl in the room Jesus healed her.
When Jesus had been on the way to Jairus’ house he was interrupted by a woman’s actions. We find the disciples giving Jesus bad advice when he asks in a crowded space, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples give the side eye and remind him he’s asking a ridiculous question considering all the people pressed up upon him.
The woman, realizing she had been healed by her faith after touching the hem of Jesus’ garment speaks up and he tells her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go and be in peace from your suffering.”
Had Jesus listened to those around him, neither of the miracles would have taken place. Those whose faith turned to doubt weren’t trying to hurt anyone with their words, they were being somewhat realistic. But what I think we can learn from these two incidents is that giving advice that seems realistic, but is rooted in a lack of faith is not good for others.
Before giving advice to others ask yourself:
Is what I’m going to say rooted in my own personal insecurity, doubts, and fears? If so, remember: spread faith not fear.
Were you asked for advice? Sometimes it’s alright to give unsolicited advice, but before doing so ask yourself if it’s the right time and the right situation for doing so. Also avoid giving advice about something you are not knowledgeable about.
Did you pray about it? If the situation is quite serious and could have grave effects on a person’s life bring it before God in prayer. Ask God what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. Giving advice is not something we do in our own strength.
Be open to the other person’s response. Not everyone accepts advice even when they’ve asked for it. Be prepared for what you have to say being rejected or ignored. You’ve done your part and leave it at that. You can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to do, no matter how much you care.
Acknowledge when you are wrong. There are times when we have given bad advice. This is why we need to be careful with advice giving. If you have done so acknowledge that you were wrong, and when necessary apologize. You can’t take back what you have said and done, but you can always make amends.
Let’s not be like the disciples and the doubters who almost blocked the miracles and blessings from God with our unnecessary and unasked for advice.
I don’t know about where you live, but here in the mid sized city I call home, we have now been in a pandemic state of emergency since March 17, 2020. Slowly, and possibly too quickly, our Province and city are beginning to “reopen” businesses and services with the intention of, as they have said, “get the economy going again”. It’s important to remember that businesses are being given permission to reopen, not because it is necessarily safe to do so, but because we have an economy that our government is worried about.
Returning to work and aiming to resume “normalcy” is a hot topic that brings out the anger, frustration, and fear in people. Some fear for their lives, others fear for their bank accounts.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
Further into this chapter of Matthew Jesus tells us not worry about our lives: what we’ll eat, drink, or wear; but this is often easier said than done. I don’t want people to think that they are faithless if they have concerns about the essentials for life and living. People are worried about something during this pandemic. It might be their family, their health, their finances, their employment status, the house or rent, and the state of the world.
I don’t believe God is going to punish us or turn a blind eye towards our pandemic problems. He is our father, he understands our fears. What I do think God will be concerned about is how we handle these fears.
It’s important not to neglect our spiritual self during these troubling times. When we feel fear, don’t forget to take a moment to stop and ask yourself, “Why am I afraid”, “What am I afraid of” and “How am I handling this fear”.
Excessive worry and fear cloud our judgment, leading to poor decision making and additional stress. The key point to the Do Not Worry passage in Matthew is found in verse 27 “Can any one of your by worrying add a single hour to your life?” We know the answer is, no. This is why excessive worry is a waste.
If you’re wondering what we should be doing instead of worrying, here’s what Jesus tells us is a better choice, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
How do we seek first God’s kingdom during this COVID19 pandemic? Here are some ways.
Seek and speak truth: Don’t spread conspiracy theories, fake news and false information about COVID19 on your social media pages or in person. Be a person who speaks truth and knowledge.
Check on Yourself and Others: Do a self examen every day. Things change rapidly during a pandemic and it’s easy for us to become frustrated, angry, nervous, or confused. Check your feelings on a regular basis. Ask yourself, “how am I really doing?” Be honest with yourself. Check on your friends and family. See how they are doing? They might be coping better or worse than you, what matters is that you care about them. You don’t have to “fix” someone or cheer them up, all that is required is for you to be present when you do reach out to them.
Pray: Pray about what to do, how to live a life under lockdown, quarantine, sweaty masks, and social distancing. Ask God to guide your decisions and next steps. Don’t make any major decisions without praying first. Trust that God will guide you in the right direction even when if it means taking a difficult, unpredictable path.
Acknowledge the Experts: God most certainly wants us to trust him and activate our faith, but nothing makes a Christian looks more careless than dismissing experts who know what they’re talking about. Science is not the same as religion, scientists are supposed to develop new theories based on new and emerging evidence. As a nouveau corona virus scientists and the medical community are still learning about it; let them do their job, they know more and have more information than we do. God is not a fan of pridefulness. When the experts say there can be no church gatherings, there’s a reason, they are not on a mission to attack or destroy the church. Remember how Christians often say the church is more than a building? Well, now is the time to prove it.
Embrace technology: By embracing technology you can view Sunday sermons online, have virtual bible studies, and visit each other via apps like Zoom, Google, Facebook Chat, and Skype (to name a few). By embracing technology you can continue “meeting” together. It often feels more pleasant to meet in person, but for now, this is the next best thing.
Seek Help: God didn’t design humans to do things alone. If you need help with anything find a way. The need might be helping your kids with school work, learning how to use an online tool, or finding a place that provides help in the form of food, shelter, and finances. Whatever the need is there might be someone out there who can meet it. Be brave and put the word out that you need some help.
Work on personal development: Allow this pandemic to build your resiliency and character. Are you an impatient person? Try learning to be more patient while waiting in the long lines designed around social distancing and store capacity. Maybe you are not comfortable being alone. Now is a great time to learn to enjoy your own company. Do you have issues with being controlling? Well, this pandemic is a great way to learn that you can’t control everything; things have been changing constantly and it is mostly out of our control. Whatever plans you made a couple months ago are now uncertain.
Whatever your circumstances are during this global pandemic, please remain safe and remember we can survive this if we all work together.
With a rise in the number of people who have the corona virus (COVID-19) comes an increase in panic and desperate actions aimed at protecting one’s self from the illness.
I’m not sure about where you live, but in my small corner of the world people have taken to stockpiling large amounts of toilet paper in response to their fear of catching the virus. So far, no reputable health organizations have mentioned the need for toilet paper as a precautionary measure against catching this virus. Instead, they have been constantly reminding people to wash their hands as the best form of prevention.
The slightest cough or sniffle has sent people into a state of worry. Those wearing facial masks in public have been looked at with suspicion and fear.
What disappoints me most about the myths and rumours surrounding COVID-19 is the number of Christians I’ve seen who are taking part in sharing misinformation on social media. As Christians we should be known as people who are credible; people who take the time to check facts and are aware of their sources. It would be unrealistic to think that we will be 100% correct every time we share information, but in our eagerness to share with others it is important to take the time to stop and consider why we are sharing posts and Tweets?
It’s good to ask yourself if you are sharing something that is helpful or harmful? But most importantly, question if you are sharing something that is true.
I have seen Christians share posts misinforming others that things like garlic, holy oil and water, and all sorts of snake oil products will prevent catching COVID-19. During times of panic we as Christians are called to bring a sense of calm. Jesus was not a man who panicked. It was always the others around him that were filled with anxiety, worry, fear, and desperate actions. When Jesus encountered people in fear, he reminded them to call on God to bring a sense of inner peace. We are not called to do the opposite either – ignoring serious situations or going into a state of denial; instead, we are to pray for wisdom and knowledge when faced with unpleasant situations.
Pray to God and ask him to guide you to speak words and share information that is meant for the health and benefit of others.
“For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6