Go and prepare {Day 20 of 40 Days of Lent}

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
(Mark 14:12-16 ESV)

It was the day the Passover lamb was to be prepared and the Lamb of God knew his time was coming. By this time the following day, he would be on the road to the cross and experience the separation from the Father with whom he had eternal companionship since before the world was created.

He knew this was the last extended time he would have with the disciples – those who were the closest to him on the earth. There was so much to say to them to teach them and to encourage them for the days ahead.

So he sent two disciples into the city. They were given cryptic instructions to lead them to the place God had prepared. We don’t know if Jesus made the connections in secret ahead of time to a avoid the attention of Pharisees bent on his death or if this encounter was arranged by God in his providence.

What we do know is that the disciples were told to go and prepare.

And they went and prepared.

Then, they experienced an unparalleled time of sweet communion with their friend and teacher who would soon be their Lord and Savior.

We, too, must go and prepare if we want to experience communion with Christ. Our Bible studies and quiet times can’t be an afterthought at the end of a hectic day or something to check off a list at the beginning of the day. We need to prepare the place, prepare our hearts, prepare our minds and, yes, prepare our mornings to sit quietly with the Word.

Go and prepare.

It can be as simple as getting up a little early so your usual routine fits a little better. You may want to have a specific time and place for your time with God.

Maybe you need to turn off the television early and catch the “must see” show on demand or on the network website or on a thousand other places online.

Whatever you need to do to find the time to sit quietly with the Word – do it!

Go and prepare.

He will meet you.

***

Need some help settling into a routine? Visit my friends at Hello Mornings for a host of tips to help night owls embrace the morning.

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These (hopefully) daily devotions for Lent have turned into daily devotions for March, which is technically not Lent but is the month leading up to Easter. They are based on the 40 Days of Lent reading plan available at YouVersion. The plan was graciously provided to YouVersion by Journey Church.

Sheep stories {Day 18 of 40 Days of Lent}

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you …

He handed the young mother two cans of peas, smiled and asked her how she was doing. They chatted for just a moment before she moved on to the next station in the food pantry line. He turned to the elderly woman and handed her two cans of peas.

She sang while she washed the dishes. The mission had fed a couple hundred people that night. She wished there weren’t so many, but she felt blessed to have given them some food.

… or thirsty and give you drink?

It’s Day 21 of her water-only experience during Lent. She thought about the latte and the chai tea and the Dr. Pepper. She sighed and sipped from her water bottle. One less latte was $4 more for a well in Africa.

Hot and humid. Welcome to July in Central Pennsylvania. It’s hotter for the firemen, he thought as he loaded his cooler with ice and water bottles as he headed down the street where the fire police were directing traffic around the scene.

And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you …

She was nervous when she walked into the room. There were so many women here – so many successful women who blogged and wrote e-books and had thousands of Twitter followers and probably made everything Pinterest perfect. Then, that blogger came over. And said hello. And asked her to sit at her table for dinner. God is good …

The man looked cold as he limped down the street. So he pulled the car over and offered the man a ride. The man was so grateful. He only needed to go another block, but he had just finished his shift at the box store and as just too tired to walk any further.

… or naked and clothe you?

She clicked the button on the web site. Another month of sponsorship meant another month that a little boy halfway across the world would have clothes, food, education and medical care if he needed it. She whispered a prayer that he wouldn’t …

The kids were growing so fast, it seemed like she was taking a bag of clothes to the church every other week. But there were plenty of families who visited the clothing closet giveaway. Certainly they would be able to use them.

And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?

She picked an ornament off the tree at church. She imagined the little girl when she opened the present from her father. She brushed away a tear at the thought of the father there in his prison cell being told that a gift had been given to his daughter on his behalf. Neither of them would be alone this Christmas.

He laughed as he moved a piece on the checkerboard. It was a useless move. The old man was going to win again. How could he do that? He must have a lot of time to play with the other men here in the nursing home.

***

Where have you seen Jesus lately? How can you become more aware of the needs of the least of these?

***

These (hopefully) daily devotions for Lent have turned into daily devotions for March, which is technically not Lent but is the month leading up to Easter. They are based on the 40 Days of Lent reading plan available at YouVersion. The plan was graciously provided to YouVersion by Journey Church.

A word for the writer girls {Day 17 of 40 Days of Lent}

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

(Matthew 25:14-30 ESV)

You almost miss it

As I’ve grown and matured (in some ways but not others), I’ve come to love the fact that the ESV version of the Bible uses the word “talents” to describe the amounts of money given to each of the servants. For me, it offered an analogy to one of the areas in which we have been given tremendous blessing by God. Our responsibilities may come in the form of family, work and community. And yes, God expects us to be responsible over that with which he has entrusted us.

But, he also entrusted us with talents. He gave each of us skills and abilities to carry out the work he predestined us to do.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

When we use our talents for the good of others and for his glory, we are the servant given the five talents and the servant given the two talents. The amount isn’t important. What is important is our faithfulness in using the talents we have been given in a way that shows we understand it is a gift from God and not of our own doing.

We have to put work into our talents. There are precious few people in the history of the world who have been able to translate their God-given talents into works of beauty simply by their existence. They are the Mozarts and the Michelangelos of the world.

The rest of us have to work to build on the foundation God gave us when he knit us together in our mother’s wombs.

I’m looking at you, fellow writing women. God has given us a gift of words, but we struggle with them. We agonize over them. We’re enthralled by a lyrical turn of phrase and repulsed by the vapid words that fill so much of our world.

One day we’re inspired and the words flow freely, traveling a strange and mysterious course from our brains through our fingers to the keyboard in a rhythm and speed that defies even our own recognition. I love days like that – days that I write without even looking at the keyboard or the screen and I’m startled at what has come out on the page.

The next day we’re in the desert. We can’t out two words together. Our words are jumbled. Our thoughts a mess and our fingers clumsily hitting every key except the one we wanted.

On both days, we are serving God with our talents. We are putting his gift to us to work as a gift back to him.

That doesn’t mean we have to randomly insert a few theological phrases into a blog post or toss a Jesus fish emoticon at the end of a sentence to give it an “official” Christian stamp.

Are you working at becoming better? Are you fair and accurate in what you write? Are you gracious in your interactions with those who comment on your blogs? Are you committed to excellence – not perfection, but excellence?

Does your writing reflect the mind of the Creator or is it a carbon-copy of the world? Does it lift up or put down? If you’re dealing with a difficult issue, have you dealt with it in a redeeming way?

For years, my writing was confined to newspaper pages and the journals I sporadically kept since college. It’s blossomed, though, in the past few years as I started blogging – creating different forms of writing for a different audience.

I’ve grown in my art even more as I have been among writers in community – specifically, the Allume community and all the bloggers I’ve met through that conference. We sharpen each other. Too often, I don’t tell them that. I silently read their posts and think, “That was stunning.”

So, writer girls, let this be your encouragement for today.

Keep going!

Use the talent God has given you to share the message He has given you to share. Who knows but that he brought you to this time and place – with that talent – for that specific message?

God will use your message in ways you can’t imagine. He sees your words and he speaks over them.

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

***

These (hopefully) daily devotions for Lent have turned into daily devotions for March, which is technically not Lent but is the month leading up to Easter. They are based on the 40 Days of Lent reading plan available at YouVersion. The plan was graciously provided to YouVersion by Journey Church.

I wish we’d been ready … {Day 16 of 40 Days of Lent}

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

(Matthew 25:1-13 ESV)

Continue reading

Who then is the faithful and wise servant? {Day 15 of 40 Days of Lent}

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Continue reading

An anchor in the storm {Day 14 of 40 Days of Lent}

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. Continue reading

Amen, Lord Jesus. Let it be. {Day 13 of 40 Days of Lent}

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. Continue reading

Two women, two pews apart {Day 12 of 40 days of Lent}

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

(Mark 12:41-44 ESV)

She tries to be a good mother. Proverbs 31 is her guide. Continue reading

Simplifying the complicated {Day 11 of 40 Days of Lent}

But, wait. What happened to days 2 through 10?
As tends to happen with me and any series I start, too much life intervened and I didn’t have time to post. My new goal is to post every day in March using the same plan. The original plan skipped Sundays, but I’ll be including them to make up for lost ground.

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. Continue reading

Hello, my name is Judas {Day 2 of 40 days of Lent}

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

(John 12:1-11 ESV)

Laughter rang through the house as the men reclined at the table. Scrumptious smells filled the room as Martha cooked and served and hustled and smiled.

Her brother. Alive. In the company of the teacher.

Mary, the quiet one, watched the scene the way people-watchers do. She saw the details. The way Lazarus handed the bread to Jesus. The way the disciples leaned in to hear the conversation better. The way Jesus turned to include even the quietest one in the conversation.

Maybe, just maybe, she saw a hint of contempt flash across the face of Judas.

Soon, the house filled with a scent deeper and stronger than the peppers and spices of Martha’s kitchen.

For reasons maybe she never fully understood, Mary had broken open a jar of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus with it.

One by one they sniffed the air, turning their heads to follow the smell and finding Mary at the feet of Jesus, pouring the perfume and wiping it with her hair.

Only one reacted – and that with contempt.

What a waste!

Why wasn’t this sold for the poor?

“Leave her alone!” came the response. Crisp. Clear. Unambiguous.

Leave her alone.

As much as I want to be Mary, I’m Judas.

Judging people’s actions by my own tainted ideas of right and wrong.

Who needs a gas-guzzler like that? The mom with four kids under 8 who all need to sit in car seats.

How can they spend that much money on a dinner when there are people starving? They’ve been blessed and are generous with their money among many local charities.

Don’t they have anything better to do with their time than play video games? They’re just relaxing after a long day at work.

Judas scorned Mary for what he saw as waste. Jesus praised Mary because Judas’ idea of waste was really an act of love if you took in the whole picture.

How are you like Judas?

How can you be more like Mary?

These (hopefully) daily devotions for Lent are based on the 40 Days of Lent reading plan available at YouVersion. The plan was graciously provided to YouVersion by Journey Church.