This Lenten season someone said Texans don’t have to do penance, because during this last week we’ve been deprived of enough already. That made me smile. Though I see no need to do penance (Jesus has taken care of my sins already), I see this season as a time for sin awareness. It’s good to be reminded sin is so awful in God’s sight that it cost the life of our Savior. So I’m reading through the Gospels again during the 40 days of Lent, this time from the Message version. This adds only two or three chapters a day to my regular Scripture reading and gives me a fresh look at Jesus’ birth, perfect life, baptism, death and resurrection, all for me. Our merciful Savior has gathered our imperfect lives into his absolutely perfect, sin-free life, as he once pictured, like a hen covering her chicks, ridding us of all shame and guilt. What could be more wonderful!
Though I’m still boiling my water, at least I have water! With electrical power off and on for days and no water except what I had saved in buckets, I’m grateful. So many in the Dallas area are still without power. This has been one of those humbling experiences when we are forced to realize how vulnerable we are. We think we’re so independent and in control when we certainly aren’t. It would help if we would heed the God-given warnings. Though this was record-breaking cold for Texas, we’ve had some cold spells that taxed our electric grids before. Will we remember this disaster by next winter? I’m not so sure. The sun is shining. The outside temperature here is 67 degrees today. Can it be we were shivering in minus zero degrees a few days ago? Was it all an illusion? Hmm…
We take so much for granted in this country—electricity, heat, water, food and shelter. This Texas Arctic blast has been a good reminder to appreciate what we have. It was minus 3 degrees here one morning. Our Texas houses weren’t built for this kind of cold! With my electrical power going off and on and several days with no water, reality strikes. We Texans are scurrying around every time our power comes on to shower (if we have water), to heat up something and to charge our phones and laptops. Whatever we can get done in a short amount of time. I’m thankful to have a wood-burning fireplace with plenty of wood. I’m not complaining. Some people have had no power for days, so I feel blessed. Now we wait for the thaw to see what damage has been done to our water lines. Pray for us!
Our pastor has encouraged us to have a personal testimony prepared, short and to the point, so we’re ready when the opportunity comes. I’m finding it difficult to explain why I believe in God, because I can’t not believe in him. God is more real to me than my next-door neighbor. I have a two-way relationship with him that goes back to childhood. God knows every mistake I’ve made and every sin I’ve committed and loves me anyway. He doesn’t judge me; he just loves me. I can live my life joyfully and peacefully because he loved me enough to die so I don’t have to suffer guilt and shame. He freed me! And that’s why I’m still working on my testimony. What can be more important than sharing that wonderful good news with others!
Did you ever wonder what’s the best position for prayer? You’ve probably heard the saying, the most fervent prayer is the one prayed by someone hanging upside down in a well. As we can be thankful that experience is unlikely, how should we pray. This came to mind because C.S. Lewis thought kneeling was the best, even though with his osteoporosis, he couldn’t in later life. I can relate. When I kneel, the pain in my knees distracts me, cutting prayer time short. Though I agree with Lewis that kneeling can instantly put me in a prayerful attitude, my main issue is not the position I’m in, it’s ridding myself of distractions. That’s why, though I talk to God throughout the day, setting aside a special time for focused prayer is especially important, no matter the position.
My school-teacher neighbor had driven home from work and stopped to pick up her mail. As it happened, I was at my mailbox at the same time. We have the rural type mailboxes out on the road in front of our houses. We waved and retrieved our mail. She held up her mail and said something I didn’t quite hear so she repeated. She said, “Do you want my bills?” “No,” I yelled back and waved my mail. “Do you want my junk mail?” We laughed as we went back to our houses. Just a quick encounter with a neighbor, but during these times, a precious moment. How often have I taken our neighborhood get-togethers for granted. How often have I taken my neighbors and friends for granted. Help us, Lord, to remember the lessons learned from this year of quarantine.
Are you still trying to overcome on your own? You know what I mean. All those ideas on how to trick yourself into doing better, whether it’s how to keep your resolutions or hold your tongue or control your thoughts. And then finding in the long term none of them work? Maybe that’s not your problem, but I have to admit it’s been mine. I’ve had to learn if I want to experience the Christian life as it was meant to be, the only way is to stay close to our Savior. Repentance means a total radical life change and that can’t be done on our own. Looking to ourselves to measure if we’re more righteous today than yesterday is self-defeating and discouraging. Pray with him, meditate on his words, stay close to him. Walk with him in faith that he has already done for us what we couldn’t accomplish on our own. Our righteousness is in him.
As I was having my morning coffee, I noticed through the large half-moon window in my living room wave after V-formation wave of geese flying overhead. Were they going to the lake around the corner from my house or farther on to Lake Texoma? Not sure. It’s early for them to be headed north, but that’s the direction they were headed. Geese migrate to southern Texas but they don’t usually fly back north until around April. (Some geese hang around on the Texas golf courses, even through part of the summer, which doesn’t make golfers too happy.) I hope the unusually warmer winter hasn’t confused them. I feel like yelling out the door, Hey, wait, it’s only January!
As I was driving in to do my grocery pickup, I saw some guineas alongside the road. That’s not a sight I see every day. As I drove on, I wondered what you call a “flock” of guineas. I know you call a number of geese a gaggle and crows a murder, but what about guineas. FYI, they are called a confusion of guineas and their babies are called keets. Now I’ll bet we both know something we didn’t know before. They are funny birds, not like chickens. (New owners who don’t know this are in for quite a surprise.) They make loud, annoying chipping sounds constantly, and they can fly really well. So they like to roost in trees and roam around wherever they like. That’s why not only do I have to watch out for loose cattle, donkeys and horses, I have to slow down for guineas! I love living in Texas!
When we think of Jesus as the mediator between us and the Father, making our prayers perfect before presenting them to God, we might have the tendency to believe our prayers are somehow not worthy. That is not the case at all. Our prayers are precious to God even in their imperfections. As the Holy Spirit and our Savior lift our prayers to God our words are strengthened and affirmed. They become what we really wanted to say from the heart and couldn’t quite manage.