Tuesday, February 21, 2012

(Contemplating the Cross 
devotionals link below)

My best friend in the 4th grade was a member of a devout Catholic family – they never ate meat on Fridays, and faithfully embraced the Lenten season by giving up various and sundry things. Though as a Baptist girl I was often intrigued by the ways they practiced their faith, I never could figure out how my friend’s sacrificing gum for forty days honored the death of Jesus on a Cross. 

After celebrating Lent for myself for a couple of decades now, I’ve begun to understand their Lenten practices a little better, and realize that like many religious rituals from my own past, the true nature and purpose of the event may have gotten lost along the way.

Lent actually has a colored history, with controversy about how it originated, how long it is to be and what a Lenten fast is to consist of. But today believers from all streams would agree that Lent is a to be a season of soul-searching and repentance, a time to reflect and prepare our hearts for a fresh revelation of Christ’s redeeming love. 

In Day One of the prayer pilgrimage from my book, Contemplating the Cross, I wrote:
The journey to the cross is one of introspection. It is a time for mourning over the sins we have committed that nailed Jesus there. In Scripture ashes were often a sign of repentance. Many people begin their journey to the cross on Ash Wednesday (first day of the Lenten season) by having a cross of ashes put on their foreheads to symbolize their repentance of sin and need for a Savior (Job 42:6, Jeremiah 6:26, Matthew 11:21).
I have come to love Lenten seasons for the opportunity they provide for me to pull away from the noise and busyness of the world, to change my normal patterns and focus more intensely on the reason for my existence – the glory of Christ, who gave His life for me. 

Our family has celebrated it in many different ways through the years – from different types of food fasts to things as simple as fasting from TV and radio. In each case the purpose has been the same. We lay aside something that has meaning to us in order to pursue a greater gain in the presence and person of Jesus, our Lord. 

Often we have used the devotionals from my book, reading them aloud to each other, observing moments of silence and then taking turns praying. Many have shared with me that reading the narratives together as a family greatly impacted them and made Easter the most meaningful they’d ever had. 

When my son was younger, I provided him with a journal and a sketchpad to write verses and prayers or to draw pictures of the things on his heart as we read. It is a great way to teach our children the beauty of contemplation in God’s presence (and ourselves as well!)

If you’ve never celebrated the Lenten season in some special way, I want to encourage you to make plans to do so – I can guarantee you will be glad you did. The Lord loves to reveal Himself to those who seek His face by focusing on what the cross of Calvary really means. 

This year Lent begins on FEBRUARY 22 and ends on April 7. Traditionally Sundays are not considered part of Lent, since Sundays symbolize the resurrection. This explains why the actual time Lent is forty-five days instead of forty.

I pray you will walk through this very blessed season with a greater awareness of the amazing love on Calvary and the price Christ paid to restore the glory of His name in hearts and lives throughout history and across the globe.

If you'd like to follow my book, Contemplating the Cross, click here for the daily devotional links.  Or if you prefer a hard copy, or one for your Kindle or IPAD, they are available on Amazon.

In Him,
Tricia Rhodes

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Time in a Bottle

Chris, Me, Mom, Dad, Carol--Vintage 1971
I came of age in the early seventies, when flower power and polyester suits were in and the Viet Nam war was out, when Weight Watchers and microwaves had just come on the scene, and some say rock and roll was in its prime.
Ever the dreamer, I often curled up alone, losing myself in the ballads of singers like Joan Baez and Linda Ronstadt and Jim Croce, a hard luck guitarist who died well before his time. One of the last songs this troubadour recorded was a tribute to his newborn son, Adrian James, called Time in a Bottle, in which he wrote of yearning to save everyday till eternity passes away just to spend it with you.

College days
Wouldn't it be nice if we could bottle it?  Time, that is.   

I read recently about a man named Clive Wearing, who has the most profound case of amnesia ever documented. For him, every moment in time is suspended, isolated from all that has been, and all that might be.  He has no past to savor, no future for which to prepare.  Over and over again, he picks up the journal they've given him in which to record his experiences, and writes the same thing:  I've just woken up for the first time.

I haven't been able to get that phrase out of my mind.  What would it be like to know that this was the only moment I had? How would it be to encounter every experience as if I'd just woken up for the first time?  

The lovely canyon on my daily walk
I've thought about this at traffic lights and on morning walks.  I've considered it while cleaning bathrooms and studying statistics and cooking and eating and showering and folding the laundry. 
I've pondered long this idea of what it might mean to own only this moment. I've tried to plan days, pregnant with possibilities...and laid my head down, weary with regret in the shadow of night.  At what point in these hours past, did I begin to lose touch with the moment at hand?

The tragedy for Mr. Wearing is that once that moment is gone, he cannot enjoy the fruit of having cherished it.  He has no memory, none at all.  Memory comes like a rope, let down from heaven, to draw one out of the abyss of unbeing, wrote Proust.  

But it is this moment--the one that is here and now, the one that can feel like nothing or everything, the one that can explode with joy, or pierce with pain, or dull with monotony, or arrest with intrigue, or fill with frustration--that we have the capacity to remember.  And it is in clinging to this moment, the only one we ever own, that we make a memory.

Do you see it?  Memory is what draws us out of the abyss of unbeing, what makes us alive--even to the simple wonder that we breathe, and that this too is gift.

We embrace this moment, and store these memories, and we remember...and worship the Giver of life for what has been.  Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.  Remember the wondrous works that He has done...1 Chronicles 7:11-12

We remember...until we see His hand, His goodness, His faithfulness...and this moment begins to matter more than all the others past.  This is what it means to be.

Engagement picture--1974

Jim Croce's song Time in a Bottle became a huge hit two years after he died, the same year that a young couple named Bill and Gloria Gaither came on the music scene, releasing their own song about time.  We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch, as it slips through our fingers like sand.  Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.

And so it is.  And because of who He is, so it will always be.


My Journey:  I am calling my focus this year "a return to God-centeredness,"  which means a return to the one thing that sets everything aright, that guarantees my good and His glory.  It truly is because of who He is that I start afresh each day of 2012. 

Practically, I am engaging in lectio divina through the Psalms, each day asking the question:  What does this tell me about You, Lord? 

Some tools for embracing God's Word:

Reflective reading--click here
Meditation--click here
Scripture study using the online program Studylight--click here

I am also going to try to memorize 1 Peter.  If you'd like to join me, I will be providing memory cards each month.  Click here for the first two sets--Each one is about 9-10 verses! For tips on how to memorize Scripture, click here.