Intervention.

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Create in me a clean heart, O God –Psalm 51:10

This is an intervention.

We’re worried about you.  You’ve been distant lately.  Whenever we try to talk to you you seem so distracted, unfocussed.  Like your mind is caught up in other things.

Have you gotten yourself in some sort of trouble?  Are you making bad decisions?  Have you forsaken us for something unhealthy?  Maybe it’s your actions that have been problematic, or maybe it’s your thoughts.  You know, unhealthy patterns of thinking are just as dangerous as their corresponding actions.

Okay, we’ll just come out and ask it:  Are you cheating on us?  Of course, we already know the answer.  We’re your parent, your brother, your spirit.  We know you best.  We know every thought before you think it, every move before you make it.

We’re your heavenly family, with bonds stronger than even those of your earthly family.  When you pull away like this, it hurts us.  It hurts the whole Kingdom.

So what can we do to mend your cheating heart?  How can we guide you back into the fullness of relationship—not just with us, but with your earthly brothers and sisters?  How can we help you be healthier?  Holier?

This is an intervention.  It doesn’t work unless you admit you have a problem.  We love you so much, and we want to give you room to ponder who you are, and who you want to be.

Why don’t you take some time to think about it, and pray about it.

How about, say, 40 days?

Have a good Lent,

Mitch

Holytrinity

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The Devil Came For My Soul — And Couldn’t Find It.

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The Devil came to me in a dream last night, dressed in his red suit and pitchfork and arrogant grin.  We were standing in a rocky, barren place.  He looked around and pointed to some rocks on the ground.

“Hungry?  Sure, you could fast and pray, I suppose.  But why not turn these stones into some bread?”

“Wait, I can do that?” I asked.  (I was kind of hungry)

“In this place,” he smirked, “you’ve got that kind of power.”

“Well, I’m not really a bread guy.”  I turned and yelled at the stones.  “Turn into Nachos!  And a Diet Coke!”  And sure enough, a great big plate of cheesy nachos appeared, along with a 44oz diet coke, light ice.

“That’s it?” the devil blinked at me.  “No hesitation at all.  Just diving in to a plate of nachos.”

I blinked back at him, my mouth full.

“Okay,” he said.  “On to the next”.  He snapped his finger and we were standing on the roof of my church.

“Now,” he continued.  “Throw yourself off this building, and God will keep you from hitting the ground.”

“God would do that?” I asked.

“Well, you believe that bad things only happen to bad people, right?  And you’re a good person.  Right?”  There was a gleam in his eye. “Surely God would save you.”

“Good point,” I said, and before his horrified look I stepped off the ledge.   The fall was not a little bit frightening.  As the sidewalk began to loom before me I thought, “any time now, God”.

But it wasn’t God that saved me, it was the Devil, and he was looking perturbed.

“Look, I couldn’t let you hit the ground.  You’d go splat and then you’d wake up from this dream, and I’m not finished with you yet.”

I looked around to see where God was…probably lurking there in the shadows ready to save a good guy like me at the very last instant.

The Devil grimaced and snapped his fingers. Suddenly, we were standing at the top of Mount Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas.  The Devil waved his arm across the plains around us.

“All you have to do is become my second in command, and all this –”  He frowned.  “Well, all this and lots more you can’t see from here, will be yours.”

“Second in command?” I asked.  “What does that entail?”

“Ah,” the Devil grinned again, “You simply have to agree that I am the absolute authority about what’s right and what’s wrong in this world.”

“Right and wrong?  Why would I think you’re the authority on that?”

“Because I believe exactly what you believe.  Every political opinion, every social issue, every theological, ethical, and moral concept, I believe exactly as you.”

“Well,” I thought a moment, “then in that case, I agree.  So, does my power extend out beyond Kansas?”

The Devil was no longer smiling.

“Do you not even care that you failed all three of my tests?  I mean, you conjured up junk food instead of fasting.  You hurled yourself off a building, naively thinking God would alter the laws of physics just to save you from your own stupidity.  And then you think so highly of your own view of the world that you’d bow down to it–to me–to yourself, instead of God?”

“Wait,” I said.  “What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about TEMPTATION,” the Devil bellowed.  “But you give in so quickly.  Where’s the fun in that?”  He tossed his pitchfork over his shoulder and sighed.  “You wouldn’t even know your own sin if it bit you on the back of the leg.

“You know what?” he continued.  “You’re so compromised you don’t even need a Devil.”  He heaved a heavy sigh and turned to walk away.   “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you don’t need a Tempter.”  He called back over his shoulder.  “You need a Savior.”

With that, I jolted awake.  The clock said 11:45am.

I crawled out of bed, feeling hungry.  What was that crazy dream I was having?

It was all fading away now.

Something about Nachos.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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I am giving up for Lent.

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Chocolate. Smoking. Facebook.
Soda.  Pizza.  Swearing.
Smart Phone. Complaining. TV.

What are you giving up for Lent?

Alcohol. Procrastinating. Fast food.
Shopping.   Salt.  Red Meat.
Caffeine.  Gossip.  Selfishness.

There are so many things people give up for Lent.  You could choose any one of them to help you focus spiritually this season, or…

You could just give up.

As in, “I give up!”

As in, “My hands are raised in the air, God.  This is me giving up!”

As in, “I surrender”.

This is not an easy thing to do.  Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?  He says, “My Father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) , and then,  My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:42

That passage is not about Jesus wanting to give up drinking for Lent! It’s about Jesus putting his life in God’s hands.  He gives up his own human desire for self-preservation, and surrenders himself into God’s will.

This is what I want to do, this year.  I want to try.  I want to give up for Lent.  For me, giving up means consciously resisting the urges I have to resist God.  I want to avail myself of God’s will as much as I can.

That means trying, at least, to give up some of my worst habits.  My overwhelming desire for comfort. My fear of speaking and acting in faith.  The pain that has me looking at the world through jaded eyes.

I want to give all that up!  Release it into the cosmos.  Then I want to listen obediently.

I do not expect God will lead me to a cross.  But I expect God will lead me.  And giving up is my sign of willingness to follow.

Along the way I may eat a little chocolate.  I may complain a bit.  I may stumble and fall, for the journey to the cross is not always easy.

But I will rest in the knowledge of the One…

Who never gives up on me.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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SUPRISE! ASH WEDNESDAY!

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Today is Ash Wednesday, and it’s earrllyyy this year!

This is the earliest we’ll have Ash Wednesday for at least the next decade.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still humming Christmas songs.  I’m still finding decorations in corners of my house. I’m still paying holiday bills, and now I’m shocked to find Lent knocking at the door.

Wow.  Really?  Ash Wednesday doesn’t really lend itself to being a surprise party.  You know?

But if this Holy Day has sneaked up on you the way it’s sneaked up on me, then what do we do about it?

How can we invest ourselves in a season of Lent that has come a week or two too early for our personal preference?

Here are three ideas for dealing with an Ash Wednesday Surprise:

  1.  Be gracious.  If you’ve ever had a surprise party thrown on your behalf, then you know that the best thing to do is to act like this is the best thing ever!  Even if you weren’t ready for the shock and awe, there’s an art to being a good guest of honor.   If you find yourself at an Ash Wednesday Service tonight, try to remember that this is for you.   This is how our church helps its members begin some of the most valuable preparation work we do all year.
  2. Be present.  You may be asked to set aside some of the life-practices that have been weighing you down.  Even if you might not be quite ready for the self-denial that comes with Lent, you can temporarily set all the stuff you’re carrying on the pew next to you, can’t you?  If you need to pick some of it back up after the service and take it home, not quite ready to give it up, that’s okay.  There’s still time.  But for the moment, let go and let God.
  3. Be marked.   You will likely have the opportunity to have the sign of the cross imposed in ash on your forehead.   It will be there the rest of the day–when you go to the grocery store, as you drive through Taco Bell, as you interact with friends and family and total strangers.   The funny thing is, it may publicly represent some deeper meaning than you’ve even allowed yourself to feel so far.   That’s okay.   Let it do it’s work on you.   Look in the mirror often tonight.  Rub it off on your hands so you can see the ash on your fingers.   Ash Wednesday can be powerful, so let it do it’s work.

Even if today came as a surprise to you, you can do these things, can’t you?

You can be gracious…

you can be present…

and you can be marked.

And then, you can begin.

Have a great Lent,

Mitch.

 

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Magic Words

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I long to find the perfect words.

Words that will open every door.

Words that will make sense to folks on the left and the right of me.
Words that will keep a Church from the threat of schism.
Words that will bring the world to its senses.

“OPEN SESAME!”

(Nothing).

I wish God would put magic words into my mouth.

Isn’t that what the Holy Spirit is supposed to do?

Words that will bring people back to Love.
Words that will make things clear.
Words that will cut through every artificial barrier.

“PLEASE?”

(Nothing.)

. . .

I spend so much time trying to choose my words,
trying to search for the right thing to say,
trying to be eloquent,

And so little time trying to JUST BE.

Hmm.

Maybe I should try THESE words:

“SPEAK, FOR YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING.”

(Welcome to Lent)

 

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Have a great week,

Mitch

This Little Piggy

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The sign in Piggytown said:

“This Sunday:  All Church Footwashing!”

Here’s how the pigs responded:

This little piggy went to market,
for a pedicure, so she wouldn’t be embarassed when the time came.

This little piggy stayed home,
so he wouldn’t have to deal with it.

This little piggy raised a beef
at the ad board meeting, about how inappropriate it was.

This little piggy had no
clue it was even happening.

And this little piggy went WHEE! WHEE! WHEE! All the way home
from church, because she finally understood forgiveness and Christ’s call to servanthood.

——————

Now I don’t know about you,
but this little piggy tends to avoid those moments of Grace
that can only come through a little vulnerability.

There’s not much time left to this year’s Lenten Season,
so if you’re looking for forgiveness or the call to servanthood,
it’s about time to get your foot in the door.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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The Ash Wednesday Fairy

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Are you ready?

Are you ready for the Ash Wednesday Fairy????

You know the drill…

Early on Wednesday morning, we all set out plates piled high with chocolate and hamburgers and all the other foods people give up for Lent…

And we set them out for the Ash Wednesday Fairy to steal, and take back to her lair and burn on a big bon fire.

And on that day only, if you come across somebody who is smoking, you get to yank the cigarette out of their mouth, and stomp on it, and yell, “Give it up!” before running away giggling.

And late in the evening, when we’re dozing after dinner, the Ash Wednesday Fairy sneaks in through the heating vents, and when we’re not paying attention, she smudges our foreheads with the ashes from all the food and cigarettes and stuff she’s burned.

And then, of course, we give each other presents to signify the beginning of Lent. But since Lent is a time of self-denial we don’t really give presents, we just wrap up empty boxes in newspaper.

What a great day.

At least, it could have been, if Ash Wednesday had a better marketing department.

Instead, this Holy Day is a time of quiet and reflection.

A time to begin a more solemn journey.

A time to set aside the things that distract us.

A time to be touched with the sign of the cross, with ashes made from last year’s Palm Sunday celebration.

No gifts.  No fairies.  No complicated traditions, even.

No one even gets mad at you if you forget to go.

Make of it what you will, then, this week’s Ash Wednesday, but keep this in mind:

As you and I begin this Lenten season,

A mark of ash is all we need…

to mark the occasion.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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