What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. This is the ultimate lesson I have experienced this Lenten season.
It started out with me deciding to pursue fasting on Wednesdays. This was a huge deal. I don’t skip meals. But fasting for my relationship with Christ is about letting go of my need to control, and relying on my dependence on God. This purpose has stuck with me since Pastor Kelly Brumbeloe led staff chapel in a message about fasting where she explained the purpose of fasting is “to increase our awareness and reliance on God.”
So this Lenten season it seemed like a good idea to try. Plus I had been reading about the health benefits of intermittent fasting so it became a bonus two for one deal.
On Ash Wednesday, I was able to stay busy and fasting went fine. I went to bed early to take my mind off my routine of nightly dinner and mindless tv watching. On non-fast days, I had been following a 16:8 schedule (eating in an 8 hour window), usually 12-8pm. But Thursday morning I felt entitled to eat breakfast. The remaining weeks were easier. I derailed one week when I battled a stomach bug. Even though I didn’t focus too much on my reliance on God, I did feel His power and presence at work. I knew it was only due to God working in me that gave me determination, stamina, and focus.
Throughout Lent I was practicing to sing in the choir for Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. The heavy music of highlighting Jesus’ suffering and death was somehow a comfort to me. I totally connected with “sorrow and love flow mingled down” from the hymn “When I survey the Wondrous cross”. Extreme sadness is felt along with extreme passion and conviction.
During Holy week, I felt a personal attack of betrayal in my family. Strong personalities, young adults, wanting what we want came crashing down in a crushing blow. The pain in my heart felt unbearable at times. Staff Chapel during Holy Week was a personal journey through the stations of the cross. It was a time to take your mind off your own pity party, and focus on the one who experienced the ultimate suffering. Part of the stations of the cross experience is recognizing our own pain, and giving it over to God.
The prayer at station 12 highlighted my exact need and pain: “Be present with us when others betray us or forsake us that we may find ourselves in your eyes and not theirs”.
Praying this prayer turned my feelings for revenge and anger, into a change in direction. Suddenly it was just me, looking at Jesus for my sense of self. In Christ I find my identity. In Christ, I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. In Christ, I can sow love even among those who betray me.
Easter is the celebration of all things being made new. This Easter I felt that renewal in my heart and soul, and I take joy that God will continue to work in me.
I have many stories I have had the privilege of hearing and watching about things being made new. As we speak, my prayer partner is recovering from a 12+ hour surgery to once again repair an open wound in her intestines. This has been a battle for several years, and often difficult and painful. But this time the prognosis is quite good, and each step forward is a victory.
My dear, dear friend who has been my concert buddy and confidante for almost 30 years has been battling lymphoma since December. She has endured chemotherapy with some intense but mostly mild side effects. And it’s working. Her latest scans showed shrinkage.
A beloved Pastor was hospitalized in crisis with heart failure and was put on the heart transplant list. He and his family waited days and weeks, hoping for new life. They were aware and humbled that for him to get a new heart, someone else had to die and donate their heart. This is week number 2 with a new heart and they do not take this opportunity for granted.
A father of one of my kids’ former basketball team has stage IV liver cancer. He has been battling it well with a positive response from chemotherapy. But he is not yet cured. Later this summer he will have the opportunity for a cure by one of his children donating up to 70% of their own liver. The liver can regenerate. And donation from a family member has the best prospects. The son is a young adult and healthy and he can regenerate a full liver with just 30% left. The father can have his cancerous liver removed, and grow a full healthy liver from his sons’ donation.
God is so good. He continues to work with me and show me that He makes all things new….even me.