Tag Archives: Lent

The Forgiven Girl: Part 3 in a Seven-Week Bible Study for Women

Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this seven-week Bible study based on Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. We’ll be studying the stories of seven incredible New Testament women. It’s the perfect way to journey through Lent together.

The Woman Caught in Sin: The Forgiven Girl

Read: John 8:2-11

The woman could not escape. Two men held her arms tightly as they pushed her in front of Jesus. “Jesus!’ the teachers of the law shouted. “Look at this woman. We caught her sinning. Our law says she should be stoned. What do YOU think?”

So begins the story of The Forgiven Girl, in Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s HeartIt’s hard to imagine the feelings of that poor woman, who was dragged and disgraced, not just in front of Jesus, but in front of an entire crowd.

And let’s not forget the significance of where this awful scene took place. This shame-filled act happens in the temple courts, instigated by the religious leaders. In other words, this woman was judged, and already condemned, in the church, (another name for which could be ‘sanctuary’) by the church-goers (another name for whom could be ‘Christians’) of the day. Shocking isn’t it? Surely nothing like this would happen in our church, by our Christian friends, would it?

Let’s find out…

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The Thirsty Girl: Part 2 in a Seven-Week Bible Study for Women

Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this seven-week Bible study based on Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. We’ll be studying the lives of seven incredible New Testament women. It’s the perfect way to journey through Lent together.

The Samaritan Woman at the Well: The Thirsty Girl

Read: John 4:1-29

Israel, March 2015. The coach pulls to a stop, the doors open and we all spill out, cameras at the ready. We are British and America tourists, anxious to capture a photograph to prove that we’re standing beside the famous Jacob’s Well.

It wasn’t in the middle of a field, as you might expect. The well where Jesus sat, over two thousand years ago, and had that holy conversation with an unknown Samaritan woman, is now located in a church which serves to preserve this holy site.

We dropped a stone down the deep, deep shaft, and heard it splash 135 feet below. It was Betsy who turned the crank to wind the bucket back to the surface. And she tasted that water. I tasted that water. My sister tasted that water. We all tasted that water: the very same water that Jesus drank, all those years ago.

Don’t you think that’s incredible! After more than two thousand years, Jacob’s Well is not dried up. The water is still flowing. And if that’s not a picture of God’s never-ending, everlasting, soul-quenching love for us, I don’t know what is.

Let’s find out more about our Thirsty Girl…

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The Trouble with Holy Week

I will not buy a glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. I will not. Even though I know how delicious it is, and I really do want one. I turn away from this tempting stall even though I can smell its juicy, ripe fruit from here, and try to focus.

I’m standing in one of Jerusalem’s tiny, fascinating, cobbled streets. This route is called the Via Dolorosa. I’m one of a group, trying to listen to our tour guide as we follow in the last footsteps of Jesus. The triumphal procession and celebration of Palm Sunday is long gone for Jesus. What lies ahead is horrific, and unbelievable, and unimaginably cruel.

These are the very streets through which Jesus dragged his heavy cross, stumbling under its weight, bleeding onto the cobbles, while people watched and laughed and cheered.

We’ve just emerged from the darkness of an underground room, the place where Pilate condemned Jesus to death. We’re ready to go where Jesus went. I’m behind my sister-in-law and I hear her whisper to my brother, as she slips her hand in his:

Let’s follow the footsteps of Jesus.

2016-03-22 09.15.41

I’m already feeling emotional as I really think about where his footsteps would take him.

But as soon as we emerge on to those busy Jerusalem streets, that’s when I see the pomegranates, and the scarves, and smell the coffee. And that’s when I lose my focus.

The narrow, winding alleys are simply filled with life, and color, and busyness, and sound. Everywhere I look there are stalls filled with things I want….

I see that fruit and suddenly, instead of thinking about the sour vinegar- the last drink that Jesus would have-  I’m thinking about that freshly squeezed pomegranate juice I could have.

I see a myriad of colorful scarves, blowing in the wind, and suddenly, I’m not thinking about the crown of thorns that Jesus wore- I’m thinking about the pretty blue scarf  I could wear.

I see the little Israeli coffee stall and suddenly, I’m not thinking about the smell of blood and sweat as Jesus fell to the cobbles under the weight of his cross- I’m thinking about the delicious aroma of freshly ground coffee mixed with cardamom seeds.

Let’s follow in the footsteps of Jesus, she said.

But I’m terrible at it.

It’s so very hard… to walk with Jesus through this Holy Week, to truly contemplate the meaning of Maundy Thursday, and to experience the grief of Good Friday. But for Jesus, it was the only way, the only way, to that empty tomb, to Resurrection Sunday.

And if I wanted to, I could skip right through Holy Week. I could jump straight from Palm Sunday to Easter morning. I don’t have to go through any of it… because Jesus did it for me.

Help me, God, amidst the busyness and distractions of Holy Week, to try to remember that.

The Stones Under my Fingers

Even though the sun is shining today, it’s cold in this pit. I knew it would be. I already had the chills when I read the sign announcing One Way Crypt.

One Way Crypt

We’re underneath the house of Caiaphas. descending into its lower depths by the stone circular steps. But this is not the way Jesus came in here. There was only one way in for him. And only one way out.

Jesus was lowered through a narrow hole in the roof. There would have been nothing careful about it. He was dangled on a rope, dropped in the darkness on the cold stone floor. And left. Alone.

Hole in Pit

This is the pit where Jesus spent the last evening of his life. It’s just one of the many prisons underneath the house of the High Priest. But it’s the deepest. And probably the darkest.

And as I run my hand over these rough, icy stones I wonder…if they could speak, what would they tell of a young man from Galilee?

Wall of pit

Did he run his hands over these same stones too? Because those were powerful hands!

Weren’t they the hands that first molded the mountains and swelled the seas? Weren’t they the hands that scooped up dirt to give sight to the blind; that commanded a storm be still; that healed the lame with just one touch?

And if all that is true, then surely this pit did not need to be a One Way crypt at all. There would have been several ways out for Jesus. He could have dissolved the stones with his little finger; molded a stairway in an instant, or commanded the pit disappear.

But he didn’t.

I doubt if he even curled those powerful hands into fists and pounded on these walls, as I surely would have done.

In a moment I’ll climb those steps and leave this horrible place. I will probably sip on a cappuccino and maybe browse the gift shop, as tourists do.  I’ll sit in the sunshine where it’s light and warm. My escape from the pit will be an easy one.

And his could have been too.

But instead Jesus chose to wait until they hauled on that rope, and dragged him through that narrow hole, his body banging and scraping and bleeding against those icy stones….on his way to the cross.

And it’s not until I’m actually here, in this horrible pit, that I realize the enormity of the choice he made.

The one way. The only way.

And that it was for me.

So When Does Lent End?

So when does Lent end?

Forty days just seems like a long, long time to me. And it’s not even as if I have given up chocolate, or cookies, or anything related to my stomach.

I simply gave up Facebook for Lent, and along with that, I committed to being on my knees at 7.03 every morning, along with hundreds of other women who are inspired and challenged by Ann Voskamp to do the same.

I’m not doing very well with it. If truth be told, I’m not a morning person. I reluctantly, and sometimes downright begrudgingly, crawl out of bed two minutes before seven, and plop to my knees in between the curtains at the front window. It’s dark out there. And cold. And I love my bed. And some mornings, I never even make it.

But God is always there, covering me with grace, and goodness, and forgiveness; waiting there to greet me.

And every morning, I look out of the window into the quiet street before the sun comes up where the street lamps are still lit.

They shine on a big, grey heap of snow on the ground that refuses to melt.

I look at my neighbor’s house, where the Sale Pending sign hangs. They have lived here for 28 years. But it’s time to move into assisted living.

And I look at my other neighbor’s house, the one that always looks so pretty from the outside. But inside, behind the door, I know there are tears, and fear, and sadness, brought on by a sudden, unwelcome diagnosis.

And there I kneel, on the hard wooden floor, feeling sorry for myself because I had to get out of bed. Feeling sorry for myself because my knees feel a little like they did when, as a teenager, I crawled in the dirt for that one week when I picked potatoes on a far-away farm.

And I can’t quite figure out how it is, that God can continue to bless me in so many ways, when I am such a pathetic pretender.

How God can step in with wonderful and undeserved surprises such as the news of my first book becoming a finalist in one of the most prestigious Christian Book Awards; or being interviewed for the first time about being an author.

But I can only assume that this is my God of grace.

And it’s enough to keep me on my knees.

Where Hope is Hiding…

I sit in front of the window on yet another freezing cold Michigan morning. Snow lies thick and deep outside, as it has done for weeks, stretching as far as the eye can see, and covering the ground in a blanket of white. Winter is not yet ready to release her grip, and the shovel and snow blower stand at the ready.

But underneath that icy blanket, hidden deep in cold and dark, hope is living. She is simply asleep, waiting for her cue. And when the time is right, when she feels that little bit of warmth that whispers Spring, she will push her way through the dark and out into the light.

And she will not be alone.

When the snow is still melting, and the grass is beginning to reclaim her green, thousands of little shoots will rise. Like the advance of an invincible army, they will bravely break the soil, and daffodils and tulips will stand together and dance in the wind. And although it’s hard to imagine that now, it will surely happen. They are just waiting for their time.

And where would be the surprise of Spring without the weariness of Winter?

Where would be the beauty of the butterfly without the cold of the chrysalis?

Where would be the reality of resurrection without the grip of the grave?

And so we wait.

Through Lent.

Through Winter.

Through snow.

But we wait in hope. New life is on the way.

Garden Tomb

Taken in The Garden Tomb (Resurrection Site) Israel 2013