You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2Corinthians 3:2-3
Vernal Equinox comes from the latin words for spring (ver), equal (aequi) and night (nox). It occurs in the month of March—usually around the 20th and 21st—when the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis reaches a particular position as the Earth circles the sun. From our perspective, it looks as though the sun makes a trek from the southern sky to the northern sky, and at the equator on this day, the sun is directly overhead at noon and gives equal twelve hours of day and night.
The arrival of Spring typically falls sometime within the period of Lent (since the earliest date that Resurrection Sunday/Easter can fall is March 22, it may actually mark the end of the Lenten Season—although this is a rare occurrence).
Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before beginning his public ministry. It marks the period of days starting on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Resurrection Sunday/Easter.
Lent comes froman old English word meaning lengthen, indicating the time of year when the days are becoming longer.
Spring. Lent. A time to cultivate.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it is a time to cultivate, to plant, and often the time of spring rains (Deuteronomy 11:14, Hosea 6:3, James 5:7).
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens
…a time to plant…
With the passing of what we hope is our last freeze here in Central Texas, my husband and will tackle our yard: setting up and testing our sprinklers, raking fallen leaves from our live oaks, persimmons, and cedar elms, cutting back and mulching the butterfly garden, bringing our potted plants out to their warm season locations, and planting vegetables in our raised bed garden.
As I dig into the rich dirt and settle the tender plants into their new home, I can’t help but think about the virtues—the character qualities—that our Heavenly Father wants to cultivate in our hearts. Things like:
a Heart of Listening – (Proverbs 19:27)
a Heart of Worship – (Psalm 95:6)
a Heart of Thanksgiving – (Psalm 116:17)
a Heart of Faithfulness – (Psalm 36:5)
a Heart of Wisdom – (James 1:5)
a Heart of Repentance – (Psalm 51:17)
a Heart of Forgiveness – (Matthew 6:14)
Over the next seven weeks, throughout Lent, Resurrection Sunday, and beyond, we will dig a bit deeper into these seven virtues and what it might mean to allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate them in our hearts.
This month we celebrate Valentine’s Day, the day to express our love to our significant other. At our church we hosted a Galentine’s event—to celebrate the relationships we have with the beautiful women around us.
At the event, we took a moment to and allow God to speak into a place that this month may painfully remind us of—rejection.
We’ve all experienced rejection in some way and so did the four women whose stories I told that night. Their stories demonstrate how God sees them and loves them when others rejected them.
Hagar, the maidservant of Sarai, the wife of Abram experiences rejection through oppression and subjugation.
In Genesis, we’re told that God promises Abram a descendent, despite the fact that Sarai cannot have children. As he and Sarai wait and wait and wait for God to bring about the promise, they get a bit impatient and take the matter in their own hands.
Enter Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant who Sarai decides to give to Abram to have a child with. Hagar indeed gets pregnant and gives birth to Ishmael. This causes all kinds of problems between Sarai and Hagar, who is now Abram’s second wife.
Hagar runs away. But the Lord sees Hagar and he sends a messenger to her. She’s told to return home. She’s also told her son will be a great nation.
Hagar calls God El Roi – the God who sees me
And she calls the place where the messenger met her labeer lahia roi. The well of the Living One who sees.
God visits Hagar again after Sarah’s son Isaac is born and Sarah makes Abraham send Hagar and Ismael away into the desert. God finds Hagar weeping for she fears for her son’s life. God again reiterates his promise that Ishmael would be a great nation and Scripture says God was with the boy as he grew up.
God sees and loves you in the oppressive and unfair situations you may find yourself in.
Leah, the first wife of Jacob (Abraham’s and Sarah’s grandson), experiences rejection through deception.
In Genesis we’re told Jacob is promised Rachel, Leah’s younger sister as a wife for seven years of labor. However he’s tricked into marrying Leah first. He doesn’t love Leah—he loves Rachel—and he quickly marries Rachel for another seven years of labor.
This causes all kinds of problems between the two sisters.
The Lord sees Leah is unloved and gives her children. There’s a bit of a pregnancy contest between Leah and Rachel (who at first cannot have children). They even include their maidservants to provide children for Jacob.
But we can see a hint of Leah’s transformation in the names she gives her sons.
The first son is Reuben – which means see a son. Leah says God has seen her affliction but she truly hopes her husband will now love her.
The second son is Simeon – which comes from to hear. Leah says God has heard she is unloved
The third son is Levi – which indicates attachment. Leah says at last her husband will be joined to her.
The fourth son is Judah – which means praise. Leah finally receives God’s love for her and praises him, despite her husband’s rejection.
God sees and loves you in the places and relationships where you feel unloved.
Tamar, the widow of two of Judah’s sons (who’s the fourth son of Jacob and Leah) experiences rejection through unkept promises.
In Genesis we’re told Tamar marries Judah’s eldest son Er and when he dies, she’s given to the second son Oman, who also dies. Judah is a bit concerned about giving her to his youngest son, Shelah—so he sends her back to her father’s home. Tamar expects to be given to his youngest son but she never is so she lives as a widow. Years go by. It becomes apparent that Judah has no intention of securing her place in the family by providing an heir for her neither through himself or his youngest, as tradition dictates.
Judah visits the land where Tamar is now living. When she learns of his visit, she hatches a scheme. She pretends to be a prostitute, he hires her services, and unbeknownst to him, she gets pregnant. But she’s shrewd. She has a few of his items as pledge for payment, but he never pays her because she returns to her father’s house with his items.
When her pregnancy is discovered, Judah condemns her to death. But Tamar presents the items and declares the owner the father. Judah realizes he has not done what is right, but she has—so she is innocent.
God does not speak in the story, but in a sense he sees her situation. Tamar’s place in the family is secured by the birth of not just one son, but two sons, Perez and Zerah. God has replaced the sons Judah lost and provided for Tamar in doing so.
God sees you and loves you when you’ve been lied to and betrayed.
Ruth, a foreigner and widow, refuses to experience rejection through separation.
In the book of Ruth we’re told that a family migrates to a foreign land because of a famine and there they take wives for their sons, Ruth being one of them. Sadly, the patriarch and his two sons both die, leaving three widows, all childless. The mother-in-law bitterly decides to return to her homeland and attempts to send her daughters-in-law back to their father’s houses. One goes back. The other, Ruth, refuses. She declares her love for Naomi, saying where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
In a series of bold events, Ruth seeks out the protection of a kinsman of her late husband, who just happens to be Boaz who is descended from Perez, the son of Judah and Tamar. He has the ability to secure Ruth’s future and the future of her widowed mother-in-law if he chooses.
God does not speak however, Boaz tells Ruth may the Lord bless you for what you’ve done—which is her bold loyalty and devotion to Naomi. As the story progresses, Ruth boldly challenges him to be the one who fulfills that blessing. And he does so. He takes her as a wife and she gives him a son, Obed, who is the grandfather of the future King David.
God sees and loves you when in times you find yourself to be the outsider and the outcast.
Beautiful lovers of our Lord. Our God is the one who sees you, he provides for you, he protects you, he redeems you.
He loves you with an everlasting love. So this month and every month, celebrate the greatest love of all, God’s love for each one of us.
We’re in the last week of the sugar fast—ours wraps up Friday—which is convenient because we’ll be spending some time with family and friends over the next week.
But such is our overall health and spiritual wellbeing, that we’re planning to do another again, starting the week of Lent and finishing right before Palm Sunday weekend when the kids are planning to visit. Because I truly want to solidify the new habits, the new patterns, the healthy practices and approaches to eating into a lifestyle.
We had a moment this weekend that truly sums up the Sugar Fast experience.
We celebrate communion at our church by gathering in small groups, praying, and taking the elements together. We prayed. We ate the bread (the small wafer) and drank from the cup (a small bit of juice). When the juice hit my tongue, I was amazed.
I couldn’t help but exclaim: “That’s the sweetest thing I’ve tasted all week!”
Isn’t that the goal of the Sugar Fast? Isn’t that what we desire most of all? For Jesus to ever and always be the sweetest thing we taste.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
I had hoped to post at the beginning of the fast, but between taking down Christmas and packing for a trip to see the grands (and daughter and her husband), the days slipped by. So I’m writing this as we drive.
I also started an online class by Bible Project on Genesis 1-11. It is my intention to read through the first five books of the Bible at a slower pace this year and Bible Project launched their new classroom program. It’s about 40 hours of instruction with video discussion, notes, and checks for understanding. So far I’m loving it. But it does create the challenge of balancing learning with my writing.
Back to the sugar fast. I’ve been reading out loud to my husband Wendy Speake’s daily devotional from her book. She provides much needed refocus and encouragement.
For traveling we packed apple slices, trail mix, and veggies for snacking. We also have easy to heat up lunches and dinners along the way (the benefit of traveling with our camper). It was a challenge to by pass the rolls when we ate at Texas Road House with friends. But we managed. I find it much easier to stick to the fast with my husband doing it as well. I’m less tempted to cheat because I don’t want to have to tell him I did. Road House menu does provide a good selection of combining a protein with lots of veggies. Thankfully our daughter is on board with the healthy eating reset which making our sugar fast much easier during the visit.
What am I missing most this week? My creamer. I love my morning cup(s) of coffee with Bliss vanilla or carmel creamer. It’s like a cozy hug. Instead I’ve been using unsweetened almond milk with vanilla extract to flavor it. Sigh. But in the spirit of Wendy’s encouragement, I’m trying to let Jesus sweeten my morning and be that which I’m thirsting for.
How are you doing? Have you started? Do you plan to start? I would love the hear. Drop a comment and share your challenges and struggles.
"The Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary.
Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching;
he made me willing to listen and not rebel or run away."
"We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life."
— Governor Gertrude Lang (Joanna Gleason) in Mr. Holland's Opus
"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
"...to be little with God is to be little for God."
"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."
"He became what we are that He might make us what He is"
Saint Athanasius, 295-373
"It is the Christ in you, who recognizes the Christ in me...From now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us will be holy ground."
Henri J.M. Nouwen
"…I have no better answer than the example of Jesus, who knew above any of us the wisdom of the Father and yet who felt a strong need to flood the heavens with requests."
"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried."
"The well of your incompleteness runs deep, but make the effort to look away from yourself and to look toward Him."