To Lent or Not to Lent?

I grew up in a Baptist tradition which did not recognize Lent. After all, “Lent” is not a Biblical term and Baptists try to remain true to the Word of God.

Who made it up and what does it mean? I assume the Roman Catholic Church “invented” Lent for the purpose of helping us remember the pain which Jesus suffered on our behalf. The inner ache we experience for a favorite thing, of which we deprive ourselves, does go a long way to help us focus on Jesus’ suffering.  And why did he suffer?  He didn’t have to. He willingly suffered and died to be the sacrificial lamb to cleanse those of us who believe He is the Son of God. And then He rose from the dead to prove His identity as God’s Son!  Our belief becomes our ticket to heaven.

I received an email today titled, “Can Lent Be Happy?” from Kate Shellnutt, the Editor of CT Women.  She considered giving her article a title such as “Happy Lent” but thought that seemed inappropriate.  She called it grim and legalistic to force ourselves to give up something we enjoy.  Then asks, is that “really a God-honoring sacrifice?”  She explains, through prayer and the Holy Spirit, our hearts become transformed by the sacrifice we have made.

I am happy for those who do make the effort to deny themselves of a favorite something.  In so doing, they may find other things they were missing out on.

Personally, Lent as a time of focusing on Jesus’ suffering, makes me queasy.  While well aware of Christ’s suffering for my salvation, I find it too squeamish to dwell upon it.  I push Lent behind me, looking forward to Easter and the Resurrection which remain my focus for this time of year.  I decorate my house with trinkets of new life.  I do remember the Lord’s death adequately through Communion.  While living in Canada where I attended an Anglican Church, we celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.  Initially, I thought Communion every Sunday would inhibit the specialness of the ceremony.  But it does not.  It only makes it more special.

Happy preparations for Easter!

 

 

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Forgiveness Is Not Easy But Necessary

When someone has slapped you down repeatedly, even when you didn’t realize your denigration for years, how do you forgive?  The only way comes from recognizing how God has forgiven us. Each of us creatures have a sprinkling of less than righteous human characteristics such as tempers, sassiness, unpure thoughts, desire for retaliation, selfishness, egotism, among others.  These peculiarities keep us from achieving forgiveness of others which would ultimately bring freedom to ourselves.

When we say the heady, “If so-and-so can go to law school, then I can too!” it falls short of  saying, “If God can forgive a terrible sinner, then I can too.”  We are NOT God.  Yet, as Christians, the Spirit of God does dwell within us, making us capable of far more than we can imagine. Jesus does command us to forgive 70 times 7, usually interpreted as meaning endlessly. It goes along with the turn-the-other-cheek philosophy also taught in scripture .  We don’t need to punish the offending person as God has promised, “Vengeance is mine.  I will repay, saith the Lord.” Christ followers are forgiven, so forgiven people should be forgiving people.

Long ago, a relative disappointed and hurt me, until we realized she had Alzheimer’s.  Forgiveness came easily then, to just love her. Pity plays a part in the emotional side of forgiveness. It also becomes easy, though painful, to forgive when you watch someone fall into sin and see their character sucked out of them until they become a sham of their former self. Grace is behavioral from the spiritual side of forgiveness. Grace sneaks in as a gift and does not appear comprehensible to us until we come to recognize the grace of God in our own lives. Grace permeates our soul and gradually teaches us how to react.

Do you have a forgiveness story?

Bibliography:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_science_of_forgiveness_an_annotated_bibliography

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Loving, Healing Words from Dr. Michelle Bengtson, Neuropsychologist

Today I am sharing Dr. Michelle’s blog post.  I hope her words are as meaningful to you as they are to me!

 

How Do I Love You? 8 Ways to Love

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Divorce

broken heart: Broken red heart shaped lollipop. Closeup. Vignette. Stock Photo

How could things come to such an end?
Terminated by procrastination, lies, and deceit,
The beginning brought happiness, honesty, and hope.
The  world whirled in wonder, being spiritually attune.
But then there was hard work.
Mouths to feed and minds to educate,
Taking time and money.
It was working; at least, one thought so.
Crabmeat Benedict and singing
With The Cosmopolitan Singers
Brought connection, joy, and
Inferred affluence.
One didn’t like coming home to chores,
And chose to work long hours.
Or was it playing around?
To one, vows meant something.
With naiveté and generous forgiveness,
Life continued.  Until. . .
Death.  Of a child.
A new relationship ensued smothering
The grief.
Waves drowned the homefires.
Nothing mattered but finding happiness
In a new realm.
Lacking the desire of family protection,
Mistakes were made.
Budgets evaporated.
Integrity waned.
The end loomed.
God’s mercy — all that remained.

 

 

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The Contagion of a Smile

Perhaps everyone has already seen this ad.  If you have not, it definitely deserves to be seen!

I spent a few years traveling daily on the Toronto subway.  As an experience in itself with a culture of its own, the passengers remain silent except for an occasional, “Excuse me,” when inadvertently bumping into someone.  Or friends riding the rails together may have their own conversation including a grin or two.  When a young child enters the train, smiles likely will appear and riders many exchange a word with the child or parent.

Another part of the culture of a subway ride happens during the freezing winter.  Shivering riders gladly squeeze onto a tight bench seat pressed up against strangers, sharing body heat. I remember that as a strange yet welcome experience.

With all the cameras which had to be a part of creating this situation, everyone on the train had to be an actor.  Yet the fabricated experience portrays what could genuinely happen.  In fact, though I cannot recall a specific situation, if a couple of giddy school girls chatted and laughed together, some nearby could easily smile at them.

This staged encounter demonstrates contagious laughter which could happen naturally as in a flash mob of musicians in a mall at Christmas.

I, who carefully watches what enters my mouth, have not had a Coke in years.  Hummmm. . .

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A Memorial to Janet Eva Presher Herne

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Janet’s 80th birthday party, Sept. 10, 2016

When 4 years old,  my big brother, 15, met Janet, 14, at church. They dated for 3 years, then wanted to marry, but, at their ages, could not without parental consent.  I remember our Dad preaching to them all afternoon one Sunday about reasons they should wait to be older before marrying.  When he finished with his exposé, he asked if they had any questions.  David said, “Just one.  When will you sign our marriage license?”

So they married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony under our Grandmother’s rose arbor.  To try to beat the chase (as we did back in those days), David had positioned his car to drive through relatives’ backyards to a side street, and be ahead of those cars in pursuit of them.  Since our Dad was privy to the plan, we were the first car behind them.  I remember being frightened about the shoes tied to the back of their car because the nails were making sparks on the road!  I feared the sparks could catch their car on fire or explode the gas tank.  But all went well.  Daddy gave up the race after a few miles, but some cars did follow them all the way to the hotel in Wellsville where they spent their first night.

At her loss, so many memories flood my mind!  They lived in an upstairs apartment in a house owned by a great uncle.  Since their new sofa could not maneuver the staircase, they had to hoist it up by rope to a second floor window!  Through that same window, we saw a group of church people on the lawn below banging pots and pans — a chivaree or horning.  That means friends came to congratulate them on their marriage and expected to be invited inside for a drink and some goodies.  Unfortunately, Wikipedia includes some incorrect data for my town’s version of a chivaree.  It was intended as a happy, fun surprise for the new couple.  I don’t remember if Janet had any treats that night, but I do remember her being a very good cook and housewife.  I watched her make dill pickles one day.  She picked up the full crock of pickles with brine to move elsewhere.  Even though very strong, she lost her grip on the crock.  It crashed to the floor and she managed to cut herself fairly badly.  I immediately ran home, just a few houses up the street on the other side, for my mother to come be her nurse.

Eleven months after their wedding, Kathy came along.  I became an aunt at only 8 years old!  Kathy was my living little dolly.

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In my youth, our church held a Halloween party.  I remember the darkened room with strings hanging from the ceiling as cobwebs, peeled grapes in a bowl representing eyeballs, and other disgusting things to feel in the darkness.  First we had to guess the identity of everyone present in costumes.  There was an old man who sat on a chair with one leg propped up on another chair and a cane in his hand.  He never spoke but remained totally silent and motionless.  A woman, dressed as a hunched-over witch, carried a broom, ran around the room, and cackled but did not speak.  We tried to guess for the longest time who they were.  We mistakenly guessed at their identities as we assumed these two were among our high school friends.  Nope.  They were a few years older than we.  Yep!  You have guessed their identity.  It really cracked us up that a married couple came to our party and had us bewildered.

I had no serious dates in my small high school.  My dating life began in college.  Too bad we didn’t have email in those days!  And since the expense of phone calls exceeded my budget, I had to rely on the US Mail for Janet to answer my questions and give me advice on dealing with boyfriends.

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When it came time for my own wedding, who would be my Maid of Honor?  Three people could easily have held that honored position:  Janet, Kathy my niece, or Sharyl, my cousin 4 months younger than I, but we acted more like twins than cousins.  Since we sang duets at church and school and 4H Achievement Days, we made matching outfits for our prime time appearances.  I couldn’t pick one over the other, so I had a Matron of Honor – Janet, a Maid of Honor – Sharyl, and a Maiden (under 14) of Honor – Kathy.

While pregnant with my first child, Janet also found herself expecting their fourth.  My baby was due at the end of September and hers at the end of December.  By that time, long distance phone calls did fit in our budget.  We burned up the phone lines with pregnancy information.  September came, and things did not look good for Janet, yet she never said a word to me about her problems!  Her little one, Isaac, who had ceased living in utero, aborted the day before Karin’s birth on September 28.  While we celebrated, they mourned in silence.  More than a week passed before I learned of her grief.  Today, Janet MET little Isaac!  What a reunion that must be!

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The spring after my mother died, I drove east from St. Louis with my two kids – Karin and Greg –  to tour Gettysburg and the Amish country of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We bought a miniature pewter horse and buggy as a momento.  Following that tour, we continued north to my hometown.  When we showed the trinket to my jokester brother, David, he set it down, then sat a few feet away and beckoned to the tiny object saying, “Come pew-ter, come pew-ter.”

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Janet and her daughter-in-law, who would be moving into my mother’s home, had disposed of my mother’s belongings in one way or another, leaving the memorabilia she didn’t know how to handle in her own living room for me to sort through.  Going through all those photos, letters, momentos, etc., the genealogy bug took a chunk out of me.  I had to know more about what I saw and read.

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Also on that visit, my kids noted Janet’s footsteps, as she walked around the upstairs of her home, were quite audible from downstairs, so they dubbed her “Aunt Thumper.”

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A fond memory of that era happened when David and Janet travelled to see western towns and cowboy territory.  David, a wannabe cowboy, dressed in western clothes, boots, belts, and bolo ties.  We knew they were traveling, but had no idea they would be visiting us!  I looked out my St. Louis kitchen window to see David and Janet getting out of their smart little, convertible red sports car in MY driveway!!!  I ran outside and into their arms!!!  They only stayed a few short days, but what fun days we had!  Whatever we did, did not compare to the joy of just having them present!

We lost David just before Christmas 1995.  Karin had already flown home from college in South Carolina to our new home in San Diego.  Greg, in college in Michigan, rode with Michigan cousins to my hometown for Uncle David’s funeral while Karin flew east with us.  As with my parents’ deaths, I could not bear to stand in the same room as their body.  I stayed in the room where people entered the funeral home.  But Janet, who did not like public notoriety, was a trouper for her husband.  He suffered with MS for thirty years.  Phenomenal describes the attentive care she gave to her husband for so long!

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A few weeks later, we brought her to San Diego to have a taste of California living.  Then, when we moved to Naperville in Chicagoland, we brought her there over St. Patrick’s Day and, from a restaurant high over the river, showed her the Chicago River turned green.  We moved from Illinois to Burlington, Ontario.  She made the effort of driving the three-hour drive, partially in heavy highway traffic which she hated, a couple of days before Karin’s wedding to help me with last minute preparations for the big day.  I drove those three hours often to visit her.  Green Acres Restaurant (now a new name) in Bolivar served the perfect breakfast with salt rising toast.  With each visit, we had at least one meal at Texas Hots in Wellsville, NY, the best Texas Hots anywhere, and another meal at Sprague’s Maple Farms and Pancake House in Portville, NY, where most dishes boast of homemade maple syrup as an ingredient, while an owl hoots as you eat.

She and David did their share of traveling — to Europe and to the Caribbean.  Their traveling began because David won several annual trips sponsored by one of the companies he represented.  Barbados won their favor for Island living.  They even took my mother and Aunt Winnie with them on one of their trips!  What a fabulous thing they did for both of them!  Janet had a yearning to see Alaska.  I had hoped I could take her there someday.  But that did not happen.

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Janet, though underspoken and shy, made herself valuable to many organizations — especially to the Bolivar Historical Society’s room in the Bolivar Library where she worked many hours doing projects to support the society along with a close friend.  The two of them made an unrecognized benefit to the community:  they scrubbed dirty and moss covered tombstones in the area cemeteries.  They did not want to be recognized for their work as it was a labor of love.  I call them the unsung angels in our cemeteries.

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When the New Year Begins with Troubles

God is in Control. Mary DeM

The New Year’s beginning lacks uplifting moments.  In fact, my last post about the coming New Year having disappointments and sadness portends too much fact.  We have barely completed two weeks, and my heart breaks with the events of this year.  I have known for several weeks that a very dear, dear relative has cancer without much time left.  She has lived a long, good life wherein she has always been happiest while serving others.  I learned this week that a couple whom I love beyond words had a court date this week for a divorce.  I don’t understand how that could happen!  I missed all the signs that their life together did not bring them happiness.  Yet what could I have done to improve their situation?  I prayed for them daily, but for something other than the real root of the dysfunction.

Joy

Later this month I am enveloping myself in a writing intensive course to kickstart my desire to publish legacy stories.  The leader of this course has asked each of the twelve students accepted into the program to come up with, not a New Year’s resolution, but a single word to describe what we want out of this year.  Considering my circumstances, mine came easily:  STAMINA!   I need stamina to survive the slings and arrows of life destruction.  Honestly, I do not see myself struggling to survive.  I know God is my co-pilot and will guide me through these rough waters.  Life will go on.  I have complete trust that God controls each situation.  Everything will work out for His good and His glory.

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I will share with you an incident I recently experienced.  Since my daughter died, I have had similar visions of God communicating with me.  This time, the vision came of my mother looking like she did when I was very young.  She said they know my dear relative is about to leave this world;  “We are watching out for her and will care for her.”  “We” = “the cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12: 1-3.  That “cloud of witnesses” includes our beloved family members who have preceded us in death.  I told my precious relative that story.  She responded she had told her children that day — “Soon I will be in the cloud of witnesses watching over you.”  God gave me stamina to listen, absorb, share.

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