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SMC Women's Ministry

Be inspired. Be honest. Be You.

Lenten Baggage
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This Lent, I thought I was going to skate through it, my bag was packed with all the necessary stuff I thought I would need, but I emotionally packed for a different Lenten trip.

I packed compassion, love, concern, a focus for the hurting ones in my life.

I knew I was going to meet grief head-on, and for the first weeks of Lent I did, I met grief head on, but not my grief.

I was prepared to go into spiritual battle for the hearts of my “people” that had been crushed into a million pieces by death, diagnosis, abandonment, unbelief, major loss of hope.

I packed my Lenten suitcase with God’s love to pour out over everyone in my life that needed to be reminded that He never lets them go.

I didn’t pack my bag to be ambushed by God who scheduled a deep cleansing, a scrubbing away of that sore in my heart, a spring cleaning of my heart.

I hadn’t packed all the armor that was needed to soothe my wounded places.

I had forgotten to remember….

I had learned that Lent was not about giving up watermelon (which was my standard answer when asked “what are you giving up”).

It was a time of preparation and repentance, but what was I suppose to prepare for and was I suppose to repent for all my daily sins or just the BIG ones?

It became very confusing, so this year I was giving up ME, and focusing on everyone else.

I was going to dwell in the country of their grief, not my own, but the space that my dearest and best have been inhabiting.

Lent 2019 has seemed to be a slow heavy walk through sadness, hopelessness, and grief.  Too many close to me were slogging down that dark trail into a darker valley and I was their companion.

I was caught unaware when God gave me a HARD STOP, and forced me to look at my losses, grief that has been grieved well, but then stored in the deepest part of my heart.

It was time to scrape the scab off, expose the ugly to the life giving, healing light of God’s love.

It was time to allow God to pour over my heart His love and mercy and fill it with His peace

And it hurt.  The scab was deep, rooted in avoidance, denial, and too much pain, but it was necessary.

Kate Bowler wrote in her blog that, ‘To observe Lent is to prepare for loss.  We will hear in Scripture the story of a man, once active and strong enough to stride the length of the Holy Land, suddenly deprived of his freedom and friends and now rejected and despised, esteemed not.  We embark on a walk for this holy season that will end on Golgotha, where an innocent man in the midst of his agony will cry because he believes his Father has forgotten him.”

We prepare for the loss, we know that Sunday is coming!  And we know the end of the story.

So I continue towards Jerusalem, reminding myself not to forget to remember.

There are many walking beside me, some limping along, some struggling to keep up, some striding in great confidence, but we all need help carrying our burdens.

I am walking hesitantly with Jesus holding my heart tenderly as he applies the healing balm of his grace, but I am walking.

As we approached Jerusalem the crowd stood at the gate and cried in tear-choked voice: “ We are lost in his death.”  Upon the hill the angels sang:” We are found in his rising!”  Ann Weems “Lost and Found”

 Walking towards Jerusalem, my baggage adjusted, my load lightened, facing the rising Son!

 Susan Disher

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What Does Lent Mean To You?
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I “grew up” Catholic. My Dad and I would go to mass occasionally—sometimes there were spurts of more regular church going. If I’m being honest, I loved going to mass and I also really hated it. It was such a long service and I could never understand what the priest was talking about in “sing-song” manner.

I distinctly remember Ash Wednesday because my Dad would have us go to mass and we would leave with ash crosses marked on our foreheads. My Dad would always pick that night to insist on going out to eat.

I remember being so embarrassed showing up with ashes on my forehead. As I look back, I wish that I knew what I know now so I could have embraced why we, and so many others, did what we did and what it stood for.

My Dad would always give something up for lent, like meat, and I was expected to give something up as well, but never understood why. As I have grown in my walk with Christ, I now know why it is significant to sacrifice something and it’s so much more than just not having sweets for an extended amount of time.

When we stop and think about all that Jesus sacrificed for us, anything we could go without seems so inconsequential. Can we really go without social media? Ice cream? Television? Yes. We are merely uncomfortable. Would we give up our lives and endure immense suffering for people we will never meet, that will let us down over and over again and they may not even acknowledge our existence? Now that is sacrifice.

“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”
-John 16:33

Lent lasts forty days, plus six Sundays, and starts with Ash Wednesday. It represents the period that Jesus was being tempted by the devil and laying the groundwork for His leadership.

“And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him”
-Mark 1:13

It is also a time of spiritual preparation for us as followers of Christ, which leads up to Easter and is a period of prayer, devotion, and discipline. We cannot become disciples of God without discipline, hence the word itself. Because of this, I think it is important to study Jesus’ life on Earth leading up to His ultimate sacrifice and resurrection.

Easter may be the most important event of all, as His death and resurrection also signify the death of our old selves and lives and the beginning of our newness in Christ.

“The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in His love.”
-Zephaniah 3:17

Lent calls us to up our discipleship to a new level. We are to help others in any physical or material need. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus always, but Lent should teach us to go above and beyond in our efforts to be a good and faithful servant. We are meant to transform from the inside out and it is much more than just a mental metamorphosis.

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
-Phillipians 3:10-11

Let us take this opportunity to pray fervently and to meditate on what lent truly signifies.

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~Erin Duff

I've got that Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy down in my heart! (and thoughts on Lent in 2019)
Lent 2019 Mother Nature Network

Lent 2019 Mother Nature Network

I have learned a lot about Lent since I started attending SMC. I really didn’t have many Lent take-aways from my childhood and adolescence in my little church growing up – and probably because I just didn’t really understand the significance of it. Reflection was not a tool in my toolbox at that point in my life. And refocusing on Christ wasn’t a big thing, because I hadn’t any life experience at that point that would draw me away from Him or lead me to question Him. *Sigh* the good ole days.

But, oh boy, have I been in the wilderness in adulthood! I have been tempted and tested and tried. I’ve been worn down and exhausted beyond reason. I’ve been hurt, broken, defeated. And I did not handle it like Jesus a good bit of the time. I’m thankful to have re-established my relationship with Jesus, so that’s not a constant pattern any longer. Make no mistake, some days I still don’t handle things well, because of selfishness or impetuous reaction or just not being connected enough to God.

So, this year, coming out of a season of darkness (Praise God!), I decided to make a really concerted effort during Lent toward fasting from negativity. Trusting really, truly that He is good and finding reasons to rejoice, even if my moment or my day or my week are less than stellar. I could have given up sugar, or social media, or any number of things. I could have taken on a literal fast (hard pass – I’m just not there yet). But I have felt led to fixate during this time on being joyful, regardless of external circumstances or stressors in my life. After all, He calls us to joy.

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless. (Galatians 5:22 TPT)

(Read this next line in your best Southern voice) Can I just tell you something? I have felt joy bubble up and emanate forth from the top of my noggin down to the tips of my toes. I haven’t felt that way in a long, long time. And some of my external circumstances have been a cause for joy as well (even though some things have changed; really most things have stayed the same). I could sit and argue the finer points of which came first – chicken or egg style – but I won’t, because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am choosing to remain obedient in honoring how He wants me to live. I can feel it in my bones, and I feel like I’m wearing somebody’s crown jewels around my neck like a badge of honor. IT’S AMAZING!

My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! (John 15:11 TPT)

You love him passionately although you did not see him, but through believing in him you are saturated with an ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory. (1 Peter 1:8 TPT)

Yes! Yes to all of that!!!!

Look, I know it won’t always be like this. There will be seasons that rock my little boat again. But I’m working in these 40 days to make it more of a lifestyle than it has ever been for me, in the hopes that it will carry through after Easter Sunday. I have felt this joy before on Easter Sundays past (it’s my favorite holiday because it is remembrance of the BEST GIFT we’ve ever been given – the joy often leaks out of my eyes those days). I’m just so thankful I’m living in that same joy now leading up to the day.

To know that I am loved and chosen and needed by our Creator God, and that He has a plan for me (whether I have it figured out or not), has finally resonated so deeply in this season that  I can’t not be joyful. My prayer for you, Friend, is that you know this very same thing – and that you feel it (in His time) as strongly as I do right now.

We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God! (Hebrews 12:2 TPT)

May the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty in Heaven, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fill you with more joy than you will ever be able to contain.

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Love, Jess

*featured photo credit goes to the Mother Nature Network