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100 posts categorized "Lent"

Lenten Devotions: "Piece of Paradise"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

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'Adam and Eve' photo (c) 2007, artschoolgirl27 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/First Sunday in Lent

March 9, 2014

"I thought that I had a soul/It turned out to be just a hole in my life/Just a piece of paradise/
Just a piece of paradise
/ Wouldn't that be nice

Everybody’s searching/They were taught to work the land/ Broken hearts and broken hands in their lives/ 
Some want cool and summer breeze/ Some just wait for death’s release from their lives/Just a piece of paradise/Just a piece of paradise
/Everybody’s searching/Wouldn't that be nice”

--Lyrics from "Piece of Paradise," by Peter Mayer, Roger Guth, and Jim Mayer

There are seven words in this song that capture my imagination, “Just a piece of Paradise--everybody’s searching.”  I can hear at the same time the hope and promise of paradise while Peter’s realistic commentary cuts to the heart of the matter: “everybody’s searching.” My sense is that Peter is correct in his observation that everybody’s searching.

All you have to do is look at the topics listed on the magazine covers at the airport to realize that we are a people who are looking for ways to increase our happiness, get more money, , and ward off dementia and other diseases.

Peter accurately diagnoses this issue as a spiritual problem. Evidently something has happened that has made him realize that whatever he thought was, his soul "turned out to be just a hole in my life.”

Today, the Christian Church takes a look at the story of paradise lost in the first few chapters of Genesis. Adam and Eve had the peace of paradise and also their own piece of paradise, but they let it slip away.

In 1526, Lucas Cranach the Elder painted  the quintessential painting of what happened in paradise on that particular day. During my visits to London, I always stop in at the Courtauld Institute to see the painting that is at the top of this devotion. Cranach was a contemporary of Martin Luther’s and assisted him in a great many ways. One day, I was at the National Gallery in London looking at Cranach’s “Cupid Complaining to Venus” when I saw the similarities between Venus and Eve. The Cupid/Venus painting was done in 1525, just a year before Adam and Eve. Compare the neck of the two ladies, the arm and even the fruit of the tree.

Whenever we talk about this account of Adam and Eve in Paradise people always suggest that the fruit they ate was an apple. I think the apple gets a bad reputation from this association, but there is a piece of redemption in all of this as well. If you take an apple and slice it sideways you’ll find a star at the center. So, it is the comedy of the Gospel that the fruit which seems to symbolize what is often called “The Fall” and sinfulness also contains the Star that shown above the Christ Child’s manger.

Cut_apples

Years ago, when Peter and I both lived in St. Louis, he often would sing the song “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” during his Advent/Christmas concerts.

Today, I commend Cranach’s work “Piece of Paradise,”  the first three chapters of Genesis, Matthew 4:1-11 and these verses of “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.”

Divine

40 Days of SNAP: 87 Cents and the End of a Journey

'Jar Full o' Pennies' photo (c) 2008, Jeffrey - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Herman family, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) living in California's Central Valley, have decided to follow a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget during Lent. They blogged about their journey and shared their stories on the Bread Blog. The family's SNAP challenge has ended—Ivan Herman offers these final thoughts.

By Ivan Herman

87 cents. That’s how much we had left on our SNAP budget at the end of the month.  87 cents.  Not much room for error, and not much of a cushion for frills and extras.

On Thursday we had run out of milk and fruit.  We had $9.27 left in our budget.

I took my son to the grocery store in the afternoon.
$3.49 for milk
$1.95 for six bananas
$1.99 for a whole, fresh pineapple (score!)

I tallied it up in my head: about $7.50, and figured I could buy only two Fuji apples on sale at $1.49 per pound (it came out to $.97).  I asked Robin to pick the two apples.  He plunked two into the bag, then grabbed for a third.
“Sorry, little dude, but we don’t have the money to buy a third apple.”
“But I like apples.”
“Yeah, me too.”  (sigh)

$8.40 for milk and fruit.
$530 for 4 people over 40 days.
$1.10 per person, per meal.
Only $.87 left over.

We ate frugally, but were still able to eat a balanced diet. How easy it would be to miss the target!

On a day when we celebrated the institution of our Lord’s Supper, the feast at my own table looked a bit more meager. At the Maundy Thursday service, as the bread was broken, I hungered for it, both physically and spiritually. The fridge at home had only a half-loaf of homemade sourdough, and some leftover simple drop biscuits. But the bread, juice, and wine at the Lord’s Table held the promise of abundance.

Now Easter is upon us, and abundance is at hand.  May our “Alleluias” in grateful praise bring glory to God as well as food for those who still hunger, for “Alleluias” are not just sung and spoken in devotion and worship, but also acted out in compassion and justice.

Ivan Herman is associate pastor at Carmichael Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif.

Lenten Reflections: The Missing Station

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Bread for the World activists begin their Lobby Day at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Friday, March 29, 2013
Good Friday

Lectionary readings:
John 18:1-19:42
Hebrews 4:14-16

By Adlai J. Amor

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrew 4:14-16)

Growing up in the Philippines, Good Friday always meant Via Dolorosa or Via Crucis – the Stations of the Cross. My strict Anglo-Catholic aunts always made sure that we did not forget that. To avoid being called irihis (heretics), my siblings and I would piously accompany them to church. There they would join other women fervently praying while kneeling on the bare floor before each of the 14 stations.

I never fully understood the value of their ritual or what those images meant. All I knew was that they prayed the Lord’s Prayer, the full rosary, and the Hail Mary in each of the 14 stations. I have flashes of those images: Jesus bearing a cross; Jesus with his mother, Mary; Jesus crucified; and Jesus taken down from the cross.  After the first station, we would be fidgeting on our sore knees— and grumbling that it was cutting into time that we could have spent playing.

It was only when I matured as a Christian that I understood the meaning of Via Dolorosa. It is simply a recreation of Christ’s passion. It is Jesus' ancient journey walked today. The practice of Via Crucis originated in early pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

Franciscan monks were said to have first started erecting chapels depicting scenes from Jesus’ last days. For a long time, only Franciscans—who were given control over the holy sites in Jerusalem —were allowed to build such stations. The chapels eventually evolved into sculptures, plaques, or paintings housed inside the sanctuary—as it was in my aunts’ church. 

Originally, there was no set number of stations but by 1731 the norm was set at 14 stations.  Of this, only 8 have direct biblical references. The others are considered embellishments—Jesus falling three times; Jesus taken down from the cross and laid on his mother’s arms.

But whether based entirely on scripture or not, Via Dolorosa has become one the most popular  devotions for Catholics. Prayed in the spirit of atonement, it helps devotees go through their own Lenten pilgrimage by meditating on the scenes of Christ’s suffering and death.

To this day, I still have to find a good explanation of why the Roman Catholic Church settled on 14 stations in the early 1700s. But in the end, mathematical exactitude does not really matter. It is our faith that matters. Whether we experience this ancient devotion today or read Jesus’ passion in the Bible, it is worth remembering that without Jesus suffering and dying on the cross, we would never have been saved.

Three days later, Jesus’ journey will end. Then we can celebrate the 15th—and missing—station: Easter and His resurrection.

“God as we walk through this day may we remember: Beyond sin there is love inexhaustible;beyond death there is life unimaginable; beyond brokenness there is forgiveness incomprehensible; beyond betrayal there is grace poured out eternally. May we remember and give thanks for the wonder of your love. Amen.”  (Christine Sine, Mustard Seed Associates)

Adlai J. Amor is Bread for the World's director of communications and a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.

40 Days of SNAP: Lenten Discipline, Permanent Change

Photo by flickr user Dyanna Hyde.

The Herman family, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) living in California's Central Valley, have decided to follow a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget during Lent. They will be blogging about their journey and sharing their stories on the Bread Blog.

By Susan Herman

I’ve lost four pounds. It’s a good thing; I had them to lose.

Before I go any further I’ll assure you that the kids have not lost weight during our SNAP challenge. About the only thing they’re hurting for is Goldfish crackers. When I take one of them to the store and explain that I’m trying to get the best ratio of nutrients to dollars, thus skipping the snack aisle and the $7.49 carton of colored crackers, there’s usually a pause.

Followed by, “But we’re OUT. We need MORE.”

And as it turns out, I broke down Saturday and bought a small package of the Pepperidge Farm goodies anyway, in honor of a glorious sunny day and family ramble in the Sierra foothills. So our kids are not deprived.

I’ve lost weight by abandoning my habit of drinking a glass (or two) of wine at 9:45 every night. You can’t use SNAP benefits to buy alcohol, and because our simulation has us using only our dedicated food stamp-like budget for all the food and drink we consume, the Two Buck Chuck had to go. I have taken to substituting water or iced tea in a wine glass so I can still go through the ritual of shaping my hand just so and swirling.

Someone asked me recently whether we felt our Lenten discipline was producing permanent change. I told her I hope to say a permanent goodbye to those four pounds, and maybe give them a few more neighbors in Lost Pounds heaven. But I hope for more than that.

Continue reading "40 Days of SNAP: Lenten Discipline, Permanent Change" »

Lenten Reflections: Write It on Their Hearts

Photo by flickr user Mumu X

March 28, 2013
Maundy Thursday

Lectionary readings:

Jeremiah 31:31-34                
Psalm 89             
Luke 22:7-20                 
Hebrews 10:16-25

 By Kathryn Sparks

Littered landscape
Tent home
Grieving mother
Lost child

Heart, write it on my

Worried earth
Hungry tenant
Furious father
Lonely babe

Heart, write it on

Defenseless greens
Overturned shelters
Cold caretakers
In between brothers

Heart, write it
Heart, write
Heart,

And they shall be my people!

Nowhere but in the full and final forgiveness could I hope to understand:
“This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God…

we are made

New.

Kathryn Sparks is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet.

Lenten Reflections: Answering the Church Door

Isaac_eating_fruitWednesday, March 27

By Amanda Bornfree

Her eyes held a weariness that I hadn't seen before. She was tired. She sat quietly, with her shoulders slouched, as she held her young boy in her arms. He was restless; hands scratching his head, eyes wandering up toward the ceiling. I could tell he was not eating well. Neither was she. 

I was working late at the church and was the only person to hear the buzz that came from the side door. I had immediately welcomed in the young woman and child. Now, we were in the church’s kitchen. My head was dizzy, from work and the surprise of the unexpected visitors.

It was an early autumn day. No one was yet used to the sky darkening shortly after 5 o’clock. The heat of the summer days was dwindling and the idea of colder days approaching made bodies crave sustenance.

I found three cold apples in the refrigerator, a quarter block of sharp cheddar cheese, half a loaf of bread and some caramel dipping sauce. There was a can of French onion soup in the cupboard. I made her a bowl of soup with shaved cheese on top. She dipped the bread in the broth and fed it to the boy. When he was through, she ate. They were quiet, as most of us are when we eat. I sat across from them at the wobbly coffee-stained kitchen table. Once she had enough, she thanked me and told me about her situation.

40-for-1000_logo_blogHer mother had kicked her out of the house three days earlier. She didn’t share the reason. She was 17 years old and her son was almost 2. She used to come to our summer youth programs when she was 10 and 11. She was trying to reach a teacher that was a member of the church. She mentioned the teacher’s name—I knew her. I had actually spoken to her earlier that day on the phone. So we called her up. After all of the caramel sauce and two of the apples were gone, the teacher arrived. The young woman thanked me again. The little boy had stopped scratching his head and gave me a smile before he rested his cheek on his mother’s shoulder.

I exhaled as the teacher thanked me. At the time, I didn’t really understand why I was receiving so many thanks, but now I thank God for blessing me with the stamina to work late that evening. Now, I’ve realized the importance of that simple act of feeding a mother and a child. And, once again, I thank God for blessing me with the ability to do that, and much more, for women and children.

Amanda Bornfree is a consultant in Bread for the World's church relations department.

Photo: Isaac, enjoying fresh fruit. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

40 Days of SNAP: Help? Help!

Children enjoy a snack at an after-school program in Washington, D.C. (Mark Fenton)

The Herman family, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) living in California's Central Valley, have decided to follow a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget during Lent. They will be blogging about their journey and sharing their stories on the Bread Blog.

By Ivan Herman

Church members keep coming to me and asking, “Pastor Ivan, is there any way we can help you and your family? Can we take you out to eat or bring over a casserole for the freezer?” I give a variation of the same answer every time: “Thanks, but no thanks.” “That kind of defeats the purpose of the Lenten discipline.” I know they mean well, but when you find someone who is fasting from chocolate for Lent, do you offer them a Snickers?

As often as I try to graciously say “no,” I must also find a way to graciously say “yes.” Jeremy said, “I took your daughter out for an ice cream at McDonald’s. I hope that doesn’t ruin your budget.” Wyn said during a Stephen Ministry devotional, “Here’s an onion. You can do a lot with an onion.” My father, during his vacation, said, “Even people on SNAP have granddads who give grandkids treats.”

But then there is our dear friend, Crystal. She and her husband, Jeff, know what it’s like to be on SNAP. Some years ago when their first child was born prematurely, Jeff had just been laid off from his job. They had no income, no significant savings, and were consumed with daily running back and forth to the hospital to care for their new baby girl. When applying for assistance to cover the cost of the medical bills for the baby, the social worker told them they could apply for SNAP. “How are you putting food on the table?” she asked them. Extended family and church friends had been graciously providing them food, but their need was evident. While it was only a matter of a couple months before Jeff was back to work and they were off SNAP, in their hour most filled with need it was a difficult decision to say “yes” to SNAP. There is such a stigma attached to asking for food stamp help.

A few Sundays ago Crystal approached my wife, Susan, in the church parking lot. She thrust a brown paper grocery bag into her arms without asking. “Take it. You’ll need it.”

Inside the bag was a handwritten note:

Ivan and Susan,

Well I thought this could help you in more ways than one. Besides the simple fact of needing more food than money can buy, any extra food can always help.

But also in my life I have found it to be easy to be on the giving end of help. It is a hard thing to ask for help from a friend, family member, or stranger. But when your family is in need you have to push aside pride and be willing to take a helping hand.

So this is our gift to you, some food for thought.

Crystal

Annie Lamott’s newest book, Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers distills our conversations with God into these simple words. She said in an interview that “Help …is the great prayer, and it is the hardest prayer, because you have to admit defeat — you have to surrender, which is the hardest thing any of us do, ever.”

Even among generations there is a marked difference in the ability to ask for help and the perception of SNAP. A March 3 article in the Sacramento Bee explored the need among seniors. There is a growing population who are seeking food assistance from food charities, yet who won’t seek help from SNAP.  “So many are eligible for CalFresh food stamps, … but they look at that as a welfare program as opposed to a nutrition supplement.” River City Food Bank saw the number of older adults seeking assistance rise by 25 percent in 2012.

I’m convinced Crystal is right. It is easier to be on the giving end of help than it is to ask for help.  I don’t always ask for help when I need it.  But I do pray that when I ask for it, that I will have the wisdom and ability to push aside my pride to do so.  I also pray there will be assistance programs like SNAP to provide that help.  And when I don’t ask for it, yet still need it, may there be generous hearts with overflowing brown paper bags that come unbidden.

Ivan Herman is associate pastor at Carmichael Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif.

Lenten Reflections: Growing and Thriving

Twin babies preemies

Photo: Pat Donahoo's twin daughters, courtesy of Pat Donahoo.

Monday, March 25

By Pat Donahoo

Babies! Whether it is mom, dad, grandparents, aunts or uncles, we all get so excited about babies. When we hear the news of expectant parents we throw parties and buy gifts and start planning what the life of the child will look like. We think about bright eyes and chubby cheeks and smiling, happy faces.

I planned all of those things for my first pregnancy, too. Then, at seven months along, I began to have problems with my health. In spite of a blizzard outside, I was sent to the hospital for tests. A quick x-ray (before the day of sonograms) showed that there were, in fact, two babies. Oh no! I need a second crib and a second car seat and twice as many clothes and bottles and diapers…..Well, at least I had two months to prepare.

40daysTen hours after my x-ray, in the middle of the blizzard, I went into labor. The doctor said not to wait, to get to the hospital immediately because the babies were coming too soon and we needed to be certain to get there before they were delivered. They arrived two hours later—about 12 hours from the time I found out there were two of them. They lost weight, had breathing problems, had to be fed intravenously. It was 16 days before I was permitted to hold them in my arms.
 
Scary? Challenging? Yes. But within a year they had each gone from weighing just three pounds to falling within normal development range. Because they had to be on oxygen those first few weeks of their lives they had to be tested for possible vision problems later. But, after those initial challenges they grew and developed normally and there were no residual difficulties.

How can preemie babies thrive? Why is it that some babies go full term and still struggle? The truth is there are a whole host of reasons. One of those reasons can be addressed: nutrition during the 1,000-day period from the start of a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday. I was blessed to have nutritious food, vitamins, and excellent medical care during my pregnancy. When this unexpected challenge came along my daughters were healthy enough to be able to overcome those early difficulties. How different might the outcome have been without that safety net? If they survived, they might still have had physical or learning challenges. Full-term babies without the proper care face those same challenges.

During this time of Lent, as we journey toward the cross we may travel in despair, or we may remember the rest of the story and the hope that the events at the cross birth. As we face this challenge of child nutrition, will we give in to despair or recognize the hope that lies in the fact that we can do something about it?

Pat Donahoo is executive director at Disciples Women.

Lenten Reflections: What Makes a Champion?

Three-year-old Mary plays near her house in Kamuli, Uganda. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Friday, March 21

By Amanda Bornfree

There’s a stillness that comes over me during the season of Lent. This stillness is soft yet strong, and each day, the stillness becomes stronger.

During this Lenten season, my attention is not only focused on my own spiritual growth and that of my community, but also on the growth of the 1,000 days movement. How does one become a champion for maternal and child nutrition? How does one become a stronger advocate for such an important cause?  What makes a person willing to stand up? These are the thoughts I have during moments of prayer and reflection. I know there’s not one answer.

40-for-1000_logo_blogIs it purpose coupled with perseverance? Does one become a champion by chance, or is it strictly a calling? Is a champion’s stance enhanced through experience, or from study and research? Is a champion someone who has landed at the intersection of compassion and courage? Perhaps a champion is someone who believes in moral rights and defends them? Or maybe a champion is someone who just does what needs to be done—someone with a good heart and common sense? Is it clearly our duty as Christians to be champions? Is it in our nature as Christians to be champions?

As the questions and thoughts come, I return to the stillness with my heart wide open. I’m not anticipating that any particular answer will come, or even any answer at all. I’m simply preparing myself to be moved by the Holy Spirit, to be open to playing the role that’s needed in order to shine light on the 1,000 days movement and to fight hunger and malnutrition.

I ask that you, too, during your moments of stillness, look inside yourself and become a champion for maternal and child nutrition. As a woman of faith, I believe it is in our nature to be champions for this cause.

Amanda Bornfree is a member of Bread for the World and a consultant in the church relations department.

Lenten Reflections: Do It Now

'give' photo (c) 2010, Tim Green - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ecclesiastes 11:1-10  
Mark 10:17-31
2 Corinthians 3:7-18

By Phil Hanna

The gospel lesson for today is the familiar story of the rich young ruler (though only Matthew calls him young and only Luke calls him a ruler) who asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life.

Jesus answers that he must observe the commandments.  But he does not list all of them.  He omits the first four, which concern our relation to God, and lists the next five, four of which tell us what not to do to our fellow humans. The one positive commandment—honor your father and mother—he puts last, rather than the first, on this list. He omits the commandment against coveting. Is this because he thought the man was too rich to covet anymore? And he adds to the ten commandments one about not defrauding people. Is this because he knew the man got rich that way?

When the man claims he has followed all of these commandments since his youth, Jesus adds another new one. He tells the man to sell all his many possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.

The man is unwilling to do this. Like most of us, his possessions make him comfortable. Like most of us, he will make a will, and only give away his possessions after he dies.

The call to us to “Do it now!” is too hard for us to follow.

The Teacher in today’s chapter of Ecclesiastes was full of “Do it now!” In verse 1, he tells us to send our bread (that is, give our money) upon the waters (that is, send it out even if we are not sure where it will end up). In verse 2, he tells us to send what we have to as many needy as we can, now, because disaster may prevent us in the future. In verse 3, we should be like the clouds that are full; let our goodness fall as the rain falls. In verse 4, he criticizes those who want to wait for perfect weather before sowing or reaping.  If we always wait for the perfect time to do something, we will never do anything.

There is work for one and all

Do it now, do it now.

Hear the Master to thee call.

Do it now, do it now.

. . .

Can you help an erring one?

Do it now, do it now.

Stay not for “tomorrows sun,”

Do it now, do it now.

M. M. Lightcap  

Phil Hanna is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet.

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