I’m one of those people that loves the season of Lent a wee bit more than I love the Christmas season. Christmas is filled with hustle and bustle which I typically avoid thanks to Amazon(!), while Lent speaks for me to be still and I do enjoy my “being still” times. The symbolism surrounding Lent pulls me toward a 40-day journey of being more present with the Holy Spirit, with myself and with others. Our church, Shady Grove United Methodist Church, had an Ash Wednesday service on, yes, Valentine’s Day, which was also the first day of Lent. The significance of receiving the ashes on my forehead reminds me of my sinfulness before God and of my human mortality. Both my sinfulness and my mortality have been triumphed through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This year I’m using Alicia Britt Chole’s book, 40 Days of Decrease, to guide me through Lent. Alicia’s Prologue to the book was enough to make me realize that this one would make it into my “game changer” stack of books. She starts the Prologue with a description of her medical diagnosis, a surgery, and a good prognosis, coupled with her body not responding well to the surgical invasion. Organs shut down and, as happens to all of us in times of crisis, Alicia entered the desert and, as we all tend to do, she found Jesus there waiting. “Deserts unclutter the soul. The hot desert sun vaporizes all manner of luxuries. Then the cold, shelterless nights expose the essential guts of life. God asked me to fast mental and physical strength. He invited me into holy weakness.”
She continues, “Jesus fasted omnipresence and clothed Himself with flesh. He fasted being worshiped by angels and accepted the disregard of man. He fasted the Voice that birthed planets and submitted to the silence of thirty hidden years. We are duly thankful, challenged, and inspired by Jesus’ forty-day fast from food in the Judean wilderness. Perhaps, we should likewise be grateful, awed and humbled by his thirty-year fast from praise, power and potential in Nazareth. It takes a great deal of strength to choose weakness. Jesus lived a truly uncluttered life and died a focused, eternally fruitful death. How I long to follow His example.”
And, that, folks is just the Prologue! So, exactly, what is the point of this Poured Out blog post. Since beginning the book on Wednesday, I’ve had the opportunity to see so many people pouring themselves out and I simply want to use this post to “Shout Out the Poured Out”!
I’ll start first with our church, Shady Grove United Methodist Church. Twice a year, this congregation makes over 900 quarts of brunswick stew by a recipe that has been around for a long, long time. This bi-annual event takes weeks and weeks of planning, cooking beef, cooking chicken, purchasing ingredients, peeling and dicing potatoes, peeling and dicing onions, waking up well before the chickens wake up on the day of the stew to start cooking the stew and stirring and stirring and stirring the stew. And, then, the yumminess is dipped into containers and the end result is this right here:
Next, I’ll move on to Kim, a lady who lives in Stanly County, NC, and just happens to know Adam quite well because she works at the home where Adam lives. Kim loves our Lord and she loves the young men that she works with on a daily basis. Adam loves going to church with Kim and Adam also loves the guitar that Kim’s husband plays at that missionary baptist church filled with people who love ALL people–you know the song–Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world–oh yeah, and He loves the same big children, too! Adam FaceTimed with us today–Saturday, February 17th–at 9:00 AM. He was up, dressed and saying “church”. I thought Adam had his days mixed up, yet, he knew exactly what was going on. Kim had previously told Adam that she would come pick him up Saturday morning to go with her to that wonderful missionary baptist church because, as she put it, we just wanted to gather and fellowship on Saturday. Yep, that’s right . . . fellowship.
And, as I type this blog post with a heart overflowing, Adam is at another church in Stanly County this evening enjoying the Valentine’s Day Banquet and Dance sponsored by Special Olympics Stanly County where I am certain that Eric, one of Adam’s roommates, will wow the audience with his imitation of Michael Jackson’s infamous Moonwalk.
The stillness of this Saturday evening has culminated in these beautiful examples of the love of God being poured out so that all may catch a glimpse of the Savior. This poem, by Howard Thurman, is from our Ash Wednesday service bulletin:
FOR HOLINESS OF HEART
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart. Here is the citadel of all my desiring where my hopes are born and all the deep resolutions of my spirit take wings. In this center, my fears are nourished and all my hates are nurtured. Here my loves are cherished, and all the deep hungers of my spirit are honored without quivering and without shock. In my heart, above all else, let love and integrity envelope me until my love is perfected and the last vestige of my desiring is no longer in conflict with thy spirit. Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart. Amen.