What Is Lent?

In 1996 I was startled as I attended an Ash Wednesday service when a pastor placed ashes on my forehead to remind me of my mortality. “All come from dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20 NIV

In my childhood as a Methodist, nothing like this had ever been done. Tears formed in my eyes that day since I had already lost my dad in 1990 to cancer. Sometimes we “church people” just plunge into Lent on Ash Wednesday without really helping people understand the “why.”

For centuries, Lent has been a season of repentance and self-sacrifice for Christians as we remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is the 40 days leading up to Easter (excluding the Sundays). Many Christians give up something during the 40 days and replace it with prayer/meditation.

In the last 10-15 years, many creative people have suggested new ideas for the observation of Lent:

  • adding a daily prayer walk
  • committing to a regular act of service to a charitable organization
  • giving a household item of some sort to a charity box (delivered after Easter)
  • helping a person or family in need
  • volunteering at your local church.

Christ took the punishment of our sin on Himself so that we would not suffer the punishment that we deserve. God actually ordained that for His only son! Absolutely unbelievable!!!

Let’s commit during this sacred season to grow in our devotion to this amazing God who was willing to send His only son to die for our sins, breaking the bondage of sin for us to give us eternal life!

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that You have loved me enough to send Your son to take on the punishment that I deserve. Thank you that Jesus was obedient to fulfill that destiny for me and all humans. May His transforming power through the Holy Spirit empower me through the next 40 days of Lent. May I become a more devoted disciple and show that through my actions to other people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Worship song suggestion: “Graves into Gardens” by Elevation Worship & Brandon Lake

Blessings to you and your family this Lent,

Genie French Shaver

Lent Devotional 2021 #1

Jesus’ Purpose

Read Luke 4:16-21

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that the captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. Luke 4:18-19 NLT

I remember realizing my purpose when I first saw the movie The Miracle Worker about Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. Before that, I had vacillated between the idea of nurse and teacher. Seeing the way that Annie Sullivan helped transform Helen’s life, convinced me that I had to be a teacher because I wanted to make such a difference in people’s lives.

What is your purpose? Why are you here? How has your purpose changed since the pandemic? What adjustments have you had to make? What lessons have you learned?

Jesus declares His purpose in a time of Roman occupation from His traditional Jewish education. This teaching takes place on the Sabbath after his return from the temptations in the desert for 40 days. News of Jesus was spreading in the Galilean area where he had taught.

While attending synagogue in Nazareth, He demonstrates His knowledge by turning to a passage in Isaiah that applies to the Suffering Servant described in a longer Old Testament passage (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

His last statement recorded in Luke 4:21 confirms that He is the Suffering Servant Isaiah described.  The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!

Part of Jesus’ purpose was “to bring Good News to the poor.” The “poor” are referenced 62 times in the Old Testament and 20 times in the New Testament. By “poor” this text means people with little financial assets.

But in the Beatitudes Jesus speaks of “the poor in spirit.Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3 ESV) Other translations of the Bible reveal Jesus probably means those who are “humble” and “realize their need for Him.”

Another part of Jesus’ purpose is to heal. During his ministry he healed countless people from many afflictions: physical, mental and spiritual. A third part of Jesus’ purpose is to proclaim the captives and the oppressed will be set free.

How will you participate in Jesus’ mission through the Holy Spirit this week? Will you donate food to the poor? Will you pray for those who need healing? Will you encourage people who have been treated unjustly?

Prayer: Lord, I pray You will guide me to participate in Your purpose this week. Help me recognize when You have presented me with an opportunity and help me act on it! Break my heart for what breaks Yours. In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

Worship song suggestion: “All the Poor and Powerless” by All Sons and Daughters

Blessings to you and your family this Lent,

Genie French Shaver

Lent Devotional 2021 #2

The Nelson Study Bible NKJV: Concordance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007.

Spurgeon, the black cat

Spurgeon

When I was a child, a man we called Mr. Spurgeon came to visit on his horse pretty frequently when I was visiting my maternal grandparents, who must have been friends with him for many years. He was well-known in that little town which was a suburb of Fort Worth. After my mother’s death, I found a newspaper article about the local drugstore that had Mr. Spurgeon’s picture with his horse! My sister and I looked forward to his visits at my grandparents’ home. Only recently did I make the connection between Mr. Spurgeon and my cat Spurgeon, named by my older son.

As an adult, my older son studied many theologians after his conversion experience. One of those theologians was Charles Spurgeon. His interest provoked me to read some of Spurgeon’s writing.

So when my son found a beautiful 13 pound black, long-haired cat at PetSmart after he married, he named him Spurgeon. I loved him from the very start. He is one of the most beautiful cats I have ever seen.

My son and his wife had their first child not long after they adopted Spurgeon. After about a year, they decided the cat and the son plus a little brother on the way were too much to handle. They asked me if I wanted to take Spurgeon. I jumped at the chance because I had an aging female cat who was very aloof.

Fortunately, she accepted Spurgeon and they became friends. She died in 2011 and for a while, I only had Spurgeon. He is now 12 years old, still healthy and doing well. I am so thankful for him this past year during the pandemic when I was staying home so much. He has provided many hours of comfort and company. My lap belongs to him whenever he demands. He has accepted a stray cat that needed a home after being injured. For that, too, I am so thankful!

New Beginnings

This Is a Day of New Beginnings

This is a day of new beginnings,

Time to remember and move on,

Time to believe what love is bringing,

Laying to rest the pain that’s gone.  Brian Wren, 1978

A newer hymn in the United Methodist Hymnal No. 383 celebrates new beginnings, whether it be a New Year, a baptism, a personal transformation, or a change of any kind. The British poet, who also served as a United Reformed Church minister, wrote this poem for New Year’s Day 1978 at Holy Family Church, Blackbird Leys, Oxford.

The hymn is partially based on 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (NIV)

On January 20 every four to eight years the U. S. experiences a new beginning: a peaceful transfer of power to the winner of the recent election two months earlier.  Some people rejoice at their candidate’s win; others grieve the loss of theirs.

History has been made today on many fronts – an inauguration during a pandemic, a black-Asian woman inaugurated as Vice President, a 22 year old Youth Poet Laureate reading, and a shutdown of Washington, D.C. for everyone’s security.

Historians are comparing this Inauguration Day to Hoover’s departure from the Presidency as Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office and instigated unprecedented programs to bring the U. S. out of the Depression. I’m praying Joe Biden’s administration will be able to heal the nation in the multiple crises that the country faces: the pandemic, racial injustice, unprecedented political divisions, and socio-economic inequities. Many who have fought their battles in our country and have gone on to glory must be rejoicing with us today! God be with us!

“History of Hymns: Hymn Sings Praises of ‘New Beginnings.’” Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. May 22, 2013.

BEHOLD, I AM DOING A NEW THING – ISAIAH 43:19

The Godly Chic Diaries

2020 just proved holiness will outlive putting our identity in short-lived happy — I feel like I just came out of 2020 as a literal warrior. I’m stronger, better-focused, more-determined and more joyful than I’ve ever been…

There were moments, where I whispered angrily, “God where ARE you? And I’m telling you I felt His hand settle over my heart and reassure me, “I’m here”, HE is Oh, so close. His arms wraps around me and my muscles release the farce of their strength. A kiss on my forehead, and my mind let’s go of the need to make sense of everything or to worry when it can’t. My heartbeat twins with His, and I am floating, suspended in the safety of sacred connectedness. In this place, I feel the reality of this scripture: “In all their affliction, He was afflicted, And the angels of His presence saved…

View original post 198 more words

The Music of Christmas

“Joy to the World” has been my favorite Christmas carol for as long as I can remember.  The poem is an updated version of Psalm 98 by Isaac Watts who thought the singing of psalms as the only text for singing in the Anglican church was boring. Isaac Watts was so passionate about his dislike of the songs sung in his church that his father challenged him: “Well then, young man, why don’t you give us something better to sing?”

By 1719 Isaac had collected his new hymns in Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament which included “Joy to the World” based on Psalm 98:4, 7-9:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! . . . Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Though the text of “Joy to the World” does not mention the name of Jesus, the first verse certainly applies to Christ’s birth and the last verse refers to Christ’s second coming.

Another reason I have loved this hymn is because it was arranged by Lowell Mason from George Frederick Handel’s (1684-1759) works according to the United Methodist Hymnal. The simplicity of the opening descending scale has always enchanted me as well as the sixteenth figures’ mesmerizing celebratory effect in the chorus.

Until I took the time to research this hymn, I never knew how this  hymn by Lowell Mason evolved. Lowell Mason, who served as an American choral director, composer, and educator in 1836, likely took the phrases of “Joy to the World” from phrases of The Messiah, Handel’s most famous oratorio. After publication in Modern Psalmist in 1839, the melody was named ANTIOCH and has become one of the most beloved Christmas Carols of all time!

Let us rejoice at the birth of Jesus, the Christ, this Christmas, even in a pandemic!

Adapted from 101 More Hymn Stories by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1985.

The Music of Christmas

“In the Bleak Midwinter,” a beloved Christmas hymn in the United Methodist tradition, originated as a poem (1872) by Christina Rosetti who lived from 1830 until 1894. Christina turned to writing after battling health problems from the age of 16. She came from a highly artistic family. Her father served as a professor of Italian at King’s College, London and her brothers were both nineteenth century artists who began the Pre-Raphaelite tradition.

This exquisite poem was set to the tune of English composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) in 1906. We still sing the hymn in much the same form as then.

The song reminds me of 2009, which was my oldest grandson’s first Christmas at four months. Texas had snow on Christmas Eve that year, and my older son and his wife with my grandson came to spend the night since our celebration was to be at my house. Travel from their home would have been difficult the next day. What a glorious day it was to have my first grandchild with me on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! We took pictures in the yard and so enjoyed the White Christmas though he was too young to really understand!

Rosetti, having grown up in London, described a typical winter there even though Bethlehem would not have had snow. The song reminds us of the baby born in a manger, the snow symbolizing the purity of the baby Jesus covering the sins of the world.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

The first stanza points to the desolation of the world humanity has always lived in, but this year the poem points us to the desolate consequences of the pandemic on our world.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

The second stanza alludes to Jesus’ second coming in a day only God knows. But His first coming was as a tiny, defenseless infant in a lowly manger to show God values all people no matter how poor they may be.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

The third verse refers to the proclamation of angels to the shepherds and concludes with the intimacy of mother and child.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

The fourth stanza poses questions about what gift the different visitors could bring baby Jesus, resulting in the conclusion that Jesus really just wants our hearts as His most precious gift.

May God bless you this Christmas week as we contemplate the precious gift God bestowed on the world so long ago. May we share the good news this Christmas!

Sources:
Hawn, C. Michael. “History of Hymns: ‘In the Bleak Midwinter.’” Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church. https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-in-the-bleak-midwinter

The United Methodist Hymnal. New Jersey: Cokesbury, 1989.

Nature in action!

On a cool day in October, my older son’s family was visiting with me outside. As my son, his wife, and his two sons were preparing to leave, my son noticed a walking stick on the back fender of my car. The insect was almost imperceptible as it was only slightly lighter in color than my gray Toyota.

Walking sticks, also called stick bugs, are actually herbivores, which means they eat leaves. Their color is designed to camouflage them from their predators’ detection. Bats are most often predators of walking sticks, even though bats hunt by echolocation rather than sight.

The size of walking sticks ranges up to 12 inches, with females growing larger than males. Walking sticks can live from 1 to 2 years.

My grandsons had a great time prodding the walking stick to see it move. Thankfully, they were gentle and did not scare it, so it only moved a little. I am so thankful that my whole family appreciates God’s creation so much to take the time to observe it closely!

Source: National Geographic – San Diego Zoo