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

In Paradise

Read Luke 23:39-43

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

In 2006 my ex-husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer from his addictions to smoking and alcoholism. The doctors gave him 6 weeks to live, but he endured for six months. Andy and I helped take care of his dad during the last months of his life. In that time, he faced his mortality and “worked out” his salvation as scripture describes in Philippians 2:12c, . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. CEB (John Wesley substituted the words “with utmost care and diligence” in The Wesley Study Bible notes 2012.)

His confusion had always been concerning the role of Jesus since he believed in God from childhood. As his time on earth began to wane, he grappled with how God could possibly completely forgive him of his sins. He and I spent lots of time discussing some of these issues. I reminded him of Jesus’ words to the thief  who professed belief in Jesus on the cross at the crucifixion, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” RJ finally understood that even a deathbed confession of faith would allow a person into eternity. This, thankfully, changed everything for him.

Most of us are not living with a terminal disease so we have the privilege of living for Jesus NOW! Every day! What a blessing in this Holy Week to contemplate the sacrifice of our Lord for our redemption and eternal life!

Because of the pandemic we may know more of personal sacrifice than ever before. Large events have been canceled, protocols have been initiated and adjusted, some of us have worked from home, and we have been unable to see older relatives and friends as usual. We have made sacrifices to meet in groups safely. Unfortunately, some of these changes may persist for longer than we would like.

In addition, your Lenten disciplines have hopefully helped you understand the amazing and unbelievable thing that God did for you through His Son!

What will you do now that Resurrection Day is almost upon us? How will you celebrate? Will you include a new Christian into your celebration? Will you serve the homeless? Will you take special time to cheer a person who is lonely or depressed? Will you commit to regular Bible study? Will you volunteer in your local church? or make a special  donation to a favorite nonprofit?

In whatever way you decide to celebrate, let’s remember Easter is about Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, including that eternal truth into our celebrations.  

Prayer: Lord, I can hardly believe all that you did for me through Jesus’ death and resurrection! Thank you, Lord; I love you because You first loved me. Help me share the joy of heaven with everyone I meet in some way. Give me opportunities to witness to Your greatness.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Worship Song suggestion:

“Glorious Day” by Kristian Stanfill

Blessings to you and your family this Lent,

Genie French Shaver

Lent Devotional 2021 #7

Blessings for a blessed Easter this Sunday!

The Great Healer

Read John 5:1-15

When Jesus saw him (the paralyzed man) and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” John 5:6 NLT

Over the years of dealing with arthritis, it has become apparent to me that I must take action to control the pain by exercising almost every day, either by walking, yoga or weight training. If I just sit down and quit moving, my pain and deterioration of my joints will only increase. Another example is Pastor Paul after his knee surgery. If he had not done the physical therapy, he would not fully recover from his surgery. This principle relates to the healing of the paralyzed man by Jesus in the book of John.

The question Jesus asks the invalid at the pool of Bethesda seems odd to us, “Do you want to get well?” Of course, he wants to get well!!! Jesus, why would you ask that?

The man responds, “I can’t, sir, for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” (v.7) This man made an excuse that others would not help him.  Was the man actively seeking healing during the 38 years he had been lying beside the pool? Had he become too comfortable with his plight? Did his condition protect him from social or emotional risk in some way? After all, as long as he lay by the pool paralyzed, he did not have to work, except possibly to beg for money.

Jesus chose to heal him in that moment by saying, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” At first, the man could not answer the Jewish leaders when they asked who had healed him because Jesus had mysteriously disappeared into the crowd.

Later, when Jesus saw the man in the temple, he said, “Now you are well; so, stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” (v. 14)Jesus implies the man’s inaction is a sin. We know from other miracles that sin is not always the cause of disease; for instance, the blind man in John 9. However, in this case, evidently it was. There were many sick people by the pool that day, but maybe Jesus chose this man to teach a point.

We realize that the man’s excuse kept him stuck. Jesus had confidence the man could be healed, move out of the past, and live into a better future. The miracle illustrates that we must work for our own healing, whatever that may be.

Inaction can be a sin. Are we taking action to make our healing happen?

Recognizing we need healing is the first step, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual ailments. Then we must be active in our own healing. That might be through prayer, research, exercise, doctors’ treatment, surgery, and help from friends or family?

Remember the promise of God in the book of Isaiah:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. Isaiah 43:2 NLT

Ask Jesus to guide you in your actions for healing.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, Jesus healed so many during His lifetime on earth. You are the Great Healer. Guide me in active measures to secure healing for my afflictions. Help me glorify You in my life through all circumstances. In Christ’s holy name, Amen.

Worship song suggestion:

“Way Maker” by Sinach, original songwriter

Original songwriter’s version.

“Way Maker” by Leeland

Leeland’s version with additional bridge.

Blessings to you and your family this Lent,

Genie French Shaver

Lent Devotional 2021 #5

Lucado, Max. You Are Never Alone. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020.

A Table for Five Thousand

Read John 6:1-14

Turning to Philip he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. John 6:5a, 6 NLT

Many years ago, I assisted with a children’s musical at a local church that told the story of the feeding of the five thousand. We used some “stage tricks” to make this miracle come to life for the audience. However, Jesus didn’t need stage tricks; He used the supernatural power of His loving Father to show the poor, the marginalized, the outcasts, and those without hope the power of a mighty God!

“A young boy” who had five loaves of bread and two fish offered his lunch, as meager as it was for such a large crowd. In the hands of the Son of God, this lunch fed five thousand men (as well as women and children present). Unbelievably, John’s gospel says the disciples collected 12 baskets of leftover food!

Jesus transformed that boy’s offering of food into something so much greater! The people present were amazed! They immediately recognized Jesus as a prophet.

One thing we as Christians sometimes overlook in this event is the deep concern that Jesus had for the welfare of his listeners. Jesus knows our needs and through God’s power provides for us. A few verses later (v. 35) in John’s account, Jesus amazingly declares one of His great I AM statements, “I AM the bread of life.” Jesus meets our needs when we surrender fully to Him.

Even in the midst of the impossible, Jesus cares and provides. Now that Jesus has returned to heaven, God requires us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to transform the world.

What meager offering can you make for Jesus to transform? A meal for a sick family? A hospital visit? Prayer for a friend in trouble? A few dollars to a homeless person? A telephone call of concern and love? Volunteering at your local church?

We offer the gift and then we trust Jesus for the transformation! In the midst of many questions and uncertainty, we can still praise our mighty Creator! We can thank Him for the transformation even before it happens! We may not witness the transformation for ourselves, but we must trust that Jesus will work His miracles through our gift!

Prayer: Thank you for the miracles of the Bible, Lord. Through them and Jesus, we see Your powerful and mighty hand. Help us to watch for everyday miracles and to give You thanks when we recognize one. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Worship song suggestion:

“Catch Me Singing” by Sean Curran

Blessings to you and your family this Lent,

Genie French Shaver

Lent Devotional 2021 #6

Matthew, the Tax Collector


Read Luke 5:27-32
“Jesus answered them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. . . I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but
those who know they are sinners and need to repent.’”Luke 5:31-32 NLT


On a routine grocery trip some years ago, I passed out in the checkout
line. I had to have medical help because there was no way I could leave the store under my own power. Like any medical emergency, sometimes our spiritual development needs immediate attention as
well. Though we need immediate help in emergencies, we also needour yearly medical checkups to maintain our health, too.

That is the opportunity that the season of Lent provides us. We need Jesus in emergencies of faith, but we also need our checkup of our faith that our yearly observation of Lent provides.


Our text for today refers to Matthew, the tax collector. Tax collectors often conspired with the Romans to take advantage of people for profit to themselves and the Roman government. This form of oppression from the Roman government was deeply resented by the Jewish
people. Therefore, tax collectors were hated and considered
disreputable, “classed with sinners, harlots, and pagans.”*

When Jesus asks Matthew, also known as Levi, to follow him, Matthew must have felt surprising joy! This call would release him from his despised profession. It also served as an affirmation of his abilities to
follow a rabbi, which was an aspiration of most young men in Jewish society.

Matthew must have been wealthy for he proceeded to celebrate by throwing a party in Jesus’ honor with his other tax collector friends as guests. As usual, the Pharisees questioned Jesus’ attendance at this party. The Pharisees “seemed” healthy spiritually, but their rigid adherence to the Law kept them from yielding their hearts to God and
recognizing Jesus as the Messiah.

Jesus’ reply in verses 31-32 was significant then and now, as we
consider our repentance during Lent. When we are spiritually
unhealthy, we definitely need more of Jesus and His teachings to help us heal. Repentance means change, a turning from our sinful ways. That is our goal in the season of Lent, to grow spiritually through change.

What sinful behavior do you need to repent for? Procrastination?Addictions? Hateful speech? Lack of commitment? Laziness Cursing? Disorganization?


Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to my sin. Show me where I need
repentance and change in my life. Help me have mercy for others as You have granted mercy and forgiveness to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Worship song suggestion:
“I Will Follow” by Chris Tomlin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgqD_HQQir0


Blessings to you and your family this Lent,
Genie French Shaver
Lent Devotional 2021 #4


*“Occupations and Professions: Tax Collector.” The Zondervan
Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

The Samaritan Woman

Lent Devotional #3 The Samaritan Woman

Read John 4:4-26

He had to go through Samaria on the way. John 4:4I

I will never forget about 20 years ago a friend expressing concern, as I traveled some back roads in Weatherford, that I was driving through a black neighborhood in town. I was caught off guard mainly because I didn’t think that area was dangerous.

Many African Americans in the United States feel like the Samaritans who were outcasts in the society of Jesus’ day. It was a little different because the Jews could not have hated the Samaritans more! Most Jews avoided the Samaritans at all costs, most even making a longer journey around the area to avoid traveling through the region of Samaria.

Jesus did not.

(Biblical vector illustration of Jesus talking with Samaritan woman at the Jacob’s well)

Jesus chose to travel through the area for reasons that become more apparent as the narrative of John 4 unfolds. Jesus had a purpose in Samaria that would be revealed in His interaction with the Samaritan woman.

Women during the Old Testament and lifetime of Jesus were only valued for bearing children, food preparation, and homemaking. Most “arranged marriages” by Jewish fathers were the only way a Godly woman could survive because women did not work outside the home. Otherwise, she became a beggar, or worse, a prostitute just so she could live. Men did not speak with women in public or spend time alone with them. When Jesus stopped at Jacob’s well in Samaria toward midday, he sought to satisfy his thirst.

The Samaritan woman was there at about noon, probably to avoid gossip. Most of the women of the village would have come in the early morning. Jesus spoke to her even though it was against the social norms of his day.A discussion ensued of “living water” which was a healing conversation. She recognized Him as a prophet even before He revealed Himself as the Messiah.

After they parted, the woman told everyone she knew about the incident. Many people believed because of her testimony!

How often have you shared your testimony about Jesus? This week let’s watch for opportunities to share our testimony, as the Samaritan woman did after she talked with Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, help me be brave. Give me the opportunity to share my testimony with people who need to hear it this week. Help every person that I interact with to see You in all that I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Worship song suggestion: “More Than Enough” by Jesus Culture featuring Kim Walker Smith

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8D5-YOBK0

Blessings to you and your family this Lent,

Genie French Shaver

Lent Devotional 2021 #3

“Samaritan.” The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

#Samaritanwoman #Jesus #marginalizedpeople #women

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.