Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kicking, Screaming and Growing Closer to Jesus


My three year old saw a hawk the other morning. "I saw that when we were at the Willis Tower." While I'm lost on the reference to seeing the hawk there, I'm caught up in the ease of her words. I don't like the name Willis Tower. For me, this building will always be the Sears Tower. This new name has difficulty rolling off of my tongue.

Anytime I encounter change in my life, I usually go kicking and screaming. It probably has something to do with the fact that I like to be comfortable. Knowing what is coming... the predictable... that is a cozy place for me. And yet life continues to alter and I continue to throw a fit.

This past week has had a lot of moments where I carry my daughter kicking and screaming up to her room for a time out. (She is kicking and screaming, not me.) I want her to learn her emotions and opinions are important. The way we express them and share them, however, need to honor God. Why is it that the lessons I try to teach my children are always the ones I need to learn myself?

Every April, for the past few years, I begin to feel like I'm forgetting something. I can't quite pinpoint what it is that I am supposed to be doing. Something is missing. It always hits me just before April 27th. This is my dad's birthday. For as long as I can remember, I attempted to mark this day with a memorable card or a poem to bring my daddy to tears. Now, it's only a reminder that while I still don't like change, I've learned to quit throwing a fit and instead ask God "What do I do with it now?"

God has used this change in my life of no longer being able to talk to my earthly father to mold me. I've gotten a lot better at stopping my kicking and screaming in order to ask myself how I can honor God through this situation. When I feel the temper tantrum coming, it is a reminder that I need to stop and ask God "What do I do with this now?" "How will this change ultimately transform me to become more of the person you want me to be?"

I still don't like change. My first instinct will probably always be to throw a fit but I will continue to reach for Jesus outstretched hand, knowing this is what He wants me to do. Next time I am avoiding the swinging arms and feet of my little girl as I carry her up to her room, I hope to be prompted to look to Jesus. My goal is that we will all grow closer to Jesus together.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wanting to Want to Exercise


Most days it's not too difficult to convince myself out of exercising. I'm really good at making excuses. Really good. There's the basic "I'm tired" excuse or "It hurts" of course. Then there is "I just spent two evenings away from home so I'm not going to spend another hour away from my family." I like the righteous excuse of "I'm going to wake up early to read my Bible instead of exercise." (Only problem is that I sleep instead of doing either.) Establishing a balanced exercise routine is really a battle for me.

Here are a few things I do to make it harder to turn down a workout:

1.          Put it on my calendar. When I have a scheduled class or even a training plan for a run, it's harder to back out. When things are written in as part of my agenda, I tend to do the responsible thing and do them. Exercise included.

2.          I don't shower first thing in the morning. Take this morning for example. Since my race two weeks ago, I had run one time for thirty minutes. This comes off of a thirteen week training program of running at least three times a week, sometimes for an hour or more. Excuses have gotten the better of my schedule and running took a back seat. Considering the fact that I still have running goals in my future, I needed to get a run in at some point today. Saying "no" to getting clean this morning inspired me to get the run in prior to lunch. I strapped my youngest into the jogging stroller, thanked God for the good weather and left a little early to pick my middle one up from Kindergarten. Run complete and Ande enjoyed the time outside. (I'm clean now and so thankful that my little one cooperates in this way.)

3.          Set goals. This one is hard for me to do. But, once I am able to convince myself of a goal, I find a plan and stick with it. (It helps that races usually cost money and give me a nice take home gift as well.) I too easily fall away from exercise when there isn't a goal in front of me.

4.          Ask God for help. I'm learning to ask God simply to give me a desire. Whether it is a desire to get to know Him more, obey Him, or make the right choice when it comes to the best for my life, I need to ask for help. "Please give me the desire to get out there and run today." "Help me not to make excuses." The end result is usually one I am happy with. I like that I can ask God simply to give me the desire. Once the desire is there, the rest seems to work itself out. (And when it doesn't, I ask Him for help there, too.)

5.          Enlist accountability partners. I am currently involved in a boot camp class through my church which has helped me to stay active. Signing up for races with friends keeps me accountable as well. I know if I don't show up, I'm going to hear about it. With running, I can't complete the mileage if I haven't been getting it in on my own. Soon boot camp will end and I need to set up another plan. Weight Watchers also helps in a big way with this area, too. Knowing I have to get on the scale every Saturday morning (to weigh in front of someone) inspires me to sweat a little bit during the week.

Exercise is still not my first desire. I'm getting there. If I see someone running on the road as I'm driving to accomplish my errands, I find myself wishing it was me. I like the way I feel after my muscles heal from boot camp. A healthy lifestyle is worth it. First, I have to convince myself to want to do it.

What do you do to ensure you get some exercise in?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Foolish Arguments



Apparently, I like to fight with children. It's not the standard arguments you would think of either. "Clean your room" or  "Do your homework" are not what I am referring to. I find myself engaging in the simple "these are the facts" kind of arguments. I answer 4 to the question, "What is 2 + 2?" The child insists it is 5. The grass is green. The sky is blue. Vegetables are healthier for you than Oreos. It doesn't matter what the truth is. The kids insist on being right.

For some reason, I feel it of the utmost importance to convince little children that I know the truth. After all, I am older and wiser. Or am I? At times, our argument will go on for an extended period of time before the light bulb goes off in my head. What am I doing arguing with a 3-year-old? The bottom line is that I am right. The truth is simply the truth. At some point, they will learn the truth. Arguing with them is not going to convince them. These types of arguments are foolish.

My fourth grader came home today and informed me that she and her friends had a discussion on evolving. Her friends told her that we came from apes. She said, "Umm... no we didn't." "Yes, we did," they responded. This went on a few times before she informed me that she just walked away.

"I was the only one who didn't think we came from apes, mom". I told her how smart I thought she was for walking away. Arguing with her friends was not going to convince them of the truth. They will only accept the truth when they are ready to believe. No amount of arguing is going to convince this. I told her I thought it was great that she spoke the truth. Had they been willing to listen, it could have opened up a whole world of conversations. It was encouraging to hear that my daughter was bold enough to speak up for the truth and wise enough to walk away from the foolish argument.

A day from my teenage years quickly popped into my head during my daughter's conversation. One day during my high school Biology class, the teacher asked who believed in creation. I quickly raised my hand. As I scanned the room, I was the only one with my hand raised. The only one. It shocked me. How could I be the only one that believed in a Creator?

I went home visibly upset that day and passionately shared the account with my parents. The next morning, I found a note from my dad on the bathroom counter. He asked me what people would rather see when someone talks about God. He had a picture of a smiley face and one that was angry. Along with these, he listed the lyrics to "My Faith has Found a Resting Place". These words continue to pop into my head when my faith is questioned.

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

Refrain
I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.


Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.

Refrain

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s Name,
Salvation through His blood.

Refrain

My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.

I do believe we are to be bold for Christ. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 2:7) Jesus died on the cross for us. He wasn't ashamed of us... so much so that he was shamed for us. Why, oh why, are we so ashamed to stand with Him?

While we need to give answers for the hope that we have, it does no good to argue until we are blue in the face. Few, if any, are convinced in this fashion. "Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful." (2 Timothy 2:23-24)

The truth is that God sent His only Son into the world to die on a tree for my sins. It is because of his blood and resurrection that I am able to spend eternity in Heaven. "I need no other argument. I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died. And that He died for me."


Monday, April 23, 2012

Disappointed


Disappointment is so rampant in my life. It occurs numerous times on a daily basis. I feel like I walk around discouraged and defeated. When will I ever learn my lesson?

Quite often, I inform my husband that I would do so much better living the Christian life if only I could eliminate people. Of course, I follow up my comment with a laugh because I know that is impossible. I wouldn't be living if I weren't surrounded by others. God created us for relationships.

I am tired of hurting, though. That is the reason I want to give up. I want to quit loving at times. When I open my heart to people, it is more than likely that it will get broken. No one is perfect. So why do I find it such a shock every time I am pained by someone I've invested my life in?

Some days I just feel alone. Reality is that I have people who love me and care about my feelings. It is just that their actions or neglect leave me curling up in the fetal position in an attempt to escape the pain. All too often, I focus on the source of my pain.

I have just joined an online study on the book, A Confident Heart, by Renee Swope. In the first chapter alone, I have found so much encouragement. In particular, the quote of Isaiah 49:23 reminded me of why my outlook on relationships gets so askew.

"Those who hope in me will not be disappointed." Hope in Him. My eyes too easily come off of God. I look to my husband for hope. Disappointment. I look to my children for hope. Disappointment. My extended family. My friends. Even the church. Disappoint. Disappoint. Disappoint. "Those who trust in me will not be disappointed."

Sounds like a promise of truth to cling to. Especially when I'm feeling  let down by this world. Trust in God. He doesn't disappoint.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dear Daughters: Loving our Neighbors

My Dearest Daughters,

As I pull into the driveway, I see the pile of garbage at the curb that our neighbors left behind. I feel the pain rising up in my chest. It's not because I formed some lasting bond in the past one-and-one-half-years with these people. My heart aches for you.

"I wish he didn't have to move." These are the words that sting my heart over and over as the curbside trash reminds me once again. No one will be knocking on our door to play outside with you. The tears are flowing now because I wonder if I attempted to hold too tightly to my own life as I denied you the pleasure of the times I didn't realize were so limited.

I used to dread the possibility of the doorbell ringing. It interrupted my alone time and peace. His request meant I couldn't keep to my agenda for the day. While I tried to embrace the moment, I kept them at an arms distance with fear that my safe life would be invaded with requests I couldn't maintain.

Now I realize it was only for a season. Honestly, I can do anything for a season. That's why I worry that I let you down... and him as well. It was such a short time that you had the chance to play with this boy. And every moment he interacted with our family was an opportunity to be Jesus to him.

Did we achieve this? Will he think back on his time here on Arden Place and remember us as the neighbors who lived a little differently? As he recalls the instances where he became part of our family each week, will He love Jesus more for it? Fond memories can do a lot as we get older. Will his drive him to Jesus?

It isn't even so much that you formed a close bond with our now former neighbor. It was just the excitement of having another child across the street to play with. The fact that someone wanted your time. That, and you had a lot of fun together. He was a nice kid. It showed in the fact that he intentionally came over just to say goodbye.

I wish I could promise you that we will see him again. Honestly, I just can't say for certain. Our worlds unexpectedly connected because they became our neighbors during that Blizzard of 2011. In the year-and-a-half that they lived here, I learned a lot. I was so used to growing up with my closest neighbors a mile in each direction. Being neighborly did not come naturally. I like to protect my down time here at home and that is to my fault. It was a growing experience for me. I learned when to say "yes" and when to say "no". I learned that not everyone thinks the way I do and God loves us all. We are all unique and there is something worth loving in everyone and learning from them as well.

Some people come into our lives just for a season. I believe this was the case with them. They may surprise us and contact us in the future. I hope so. It would be nice to see you smile and laugh with your unlikely friend again. But know this: I am changed because they were our neighbors. I will live more intentionally because of our interactions with them. And I will teach you to do the same. After all, this is how Jesus calls us to live.

"Jesus replied, 'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself." - Matthew 22:37-39

I love you,

Mommy

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Balance in Life and a Blog Hop


Have you found balance? Please share tips and tricks! And if you're seeking balance, what are the areas you find hardest to juggle?

Oftentimes, as Christians (better yet, as Christian moms), we find ourselves in the role of martyr. We neglect ourselves as we strive to serve those around us, believing this is best for everyone involved. Unfortunately, the more we disregard our own needs (all in name of righteousness, of course), everyone seems to suffer.
Every time I abandon the practices that are necessary to maintain balance in my life, it is out of the belief that I can do life on my own. In my own power, I reason that I should be the best wife in the world, super mom to my children, a best friend to everyone who wants one and the most selfless servant that has ever lived. Until I crumble, that is. And I will. I break down EVERY time. All because I try to do it in my own strength.

Inevitably, when I quit taking time for myself, Bible study, prayer and meditation take a back seat to the responsibilities of life. My relationship with God suffers. Therefore, I no longer have the lifeline that is so vital to my existence. Jesus' words ring true in my life: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)
Not only do I cut myself off from The Vine, I allow my health to suffer. I give no concern to what I goes into my body and this always effect the output of my mouth. When I feel lousy about myself (because I can't possibly find time to exercise or plan to eat healthy) my self-esteem drops. With low self-esteem, every little frustration causes my anger to erupt.

A few months back, I woke up in the morning and decided to reclaim Saturday mornings as my own. Thankfully, I have a husband that fully supports these refueling moments. He embraces the daddy-daughter time, knowing that I will come back a better wife and mother. These mornings for me lately have been focusing on my physical health. I hope to perfect my time alone to include meditation, reading and writing in the future. These are what truly fuel my soul. For now, I find no guilt in grabbing small moments for these purposes throughout the day. I like people but I need time alone to be at my best.

I am learning that there really was a season in my life where consistent, weekly, scheduled time alone needed to be pushed aside. Thankfully, that was only a season. Martyrdom and I don't mix well. Probably because I'm too quick to remind everyone of the burdens I am carrying. Being a true martyr doesn't come with complaining.

For me, finding balance in my life is pushing aside the complaints along with the false title of martyr. I need to embrace my roles as wife and mother. This is much easier to do when I remain in The Vine and give thanks for the many blessings He has given me. It's not selfish. Even Jesus went away from the crowds to spend time alone with God. I'm simply following His example.

What ways do you pursue balance in your life?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday's Uncomfortable Silence


The first time I went to the Good Friday service offered by my church, I was very uncomfortable. The room was dark and lit with candles. As I sat in silence waiting for the service to start, I soon realized the silence was intentional and this was the experience offered. I continued to squirm in my seat as the eerie quiet forced me to reflect on what Jesus did for me over 2000 years ago.

Silence and darkness are not an environment I welcome. These days, it is rare to find those moments where we can just reflect. Noise is so commonplace that if I walk into the house without my children, I reach for the television remote to break the silence and feel a bit more comfortable.
We want to be comfortable. Especially in America. This Lenten season, in particular, I have realized that comfort is a big obstacle in my relationship with God. For it is in my uneasiness that God draws me closer to Him. In the silence, I can hear the voice of God.

Tonight, Southfield Community Church is offering a Good Friday service at The Warehouse at 7pm. There is no childcare provided. Those in attendance will be forced to reflect on the pain and suffering Jesus went through for one purpose alone. I am still far from comfortable when I attend but I know I will experience God.

If you are unable to attend a Good Friday service, can I challenge you to spend a few minutes in uncomfortable silence reflecting on what Jesus did for you? The remembrance of this weekend is not only the foundation for our faith, but for our life and for eternity as well.

Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost. We've all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong, on him, on him.

He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn't say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off— and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, Even though he'd never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn't true.
Still, it's what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul, he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many "righteous ones," as he himself carries the burden of their sins. Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly— the best of everything, the highest honors— Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Isaiah 53 (The Message)


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Uncomfortably Satisfied

I would have fallen asleep.

"Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:40-41 NLT) The last part of this verse really sums up my relationship with God. I desire Him. Truly, I do. And yet, I fail miserably. All too often, I choose comfort. 99 times out of 100, I'll take the easy way out. That's why, assuming I had the privilege of being asked by Jesus to pray with him the night he was arrested, I believe my tired body would have won.

A couple of years ago, I felt challenged to give up something for the Lenten season. This was a first in my life. I didn't grow up participating in the practice of Lent. I understood that every day was to be lived for God so I never really understood what was so special about people giving up meat on Fridays. Not to mention the fact that many of the people I knew who participated in this practice could not explain to me why they did it.
As an adult, conversations continued in seeking the explanation behind this season called "Lent". People I love and respect were able to back up what they believed with what they practiced. And maybe, a part of me was finally able to admit I was a bit self-righteous. I quit judging and spent a little more time listening. After truly examining my heart and admitting I was a more than slightly uncomfortable with this out-of-the-norm-practice for my life, I got real. I decided my reasoning that we were to sacrifice daily for God was a cop-out. Maybe it was time for me to experience a bit of discomfort. It didn't matter what others did or why they did it. All that mattered was whether or not I was willing to step out of my comfort zone in order to experience more of God.

"You satisfy me more than the richest feast." These words in Psalm 63:5 convicted my heart. I was faced with whether I truly believed this verse. If I was completely honest with myself, I had to answer "no". Given the choice between sweet foods or my Savior, the actions of my life spoke volumes as to who (or what) was on the throne of my life. So, for a Lenten season, I fasted from sweets. It was a growing experience that drew me closer to Christ. Every time I found myself reaching for desserts, I was faced with "What truly satisfies?"
Reintroducing rich foods into my diet on Easter, I found myself back to the old ways of relying on food to fill my emotions. Where do I turn for comfort? In times of stress, is the pantry or refrigerator the first place I turn? I found it to be no coincidence that Bible verse after Bible verse spoke to my heart and had me thinking about my relationship with food as well as my relationship with God. "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing." (Psalm 34:10 NLT)

This year, I didn't give up anything specifically for Lent. My understanding of this practice is to focus our minds and hearts on what Jesus did at Calvary for us. As we find ourselves reaching for the forbidden-fruit-for-a-season, our eyes should be turned to God as we talk to Him in prayer and remember the reason behind the abstinence. It was months ago that my heart was convicted to dethrone desserts as the god of my life.
Now, I realize that some may find my reference to chocolate as a deity extreme. After all, everyone needs to be able to enjoy a little celebration every now and then. While I agree, our celebrations should not come at the expense of our relationship with Jesus. (Not to mention that my celebrations occurred all too often as well as alone.) "You say, 'I am allowed to do anything'—but not everything is good for you. And even though 'I am allowed to do anything,' I must not become a slave to anything. You say, 'Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.' (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) ...They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead." (1 Corinthians 6:12-14)
"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need." (Luke 12:31) This is my calling: to seek God above all else. ANYTHING that creeps into this position outside of God is an idol in my life. I'm quick to say I live for Jesus. But are my actions shouting louder than my words in contradiction? When Jesus is asking me where I stand in my relationship with Him, would I rather have the rich feast or the riches of God? What is it that truly satisfies my soul?

As Jesus spoke to his beloved disciples on the night he was arrested, I am living in a new light these days. For in my own strength, I will fail. It's with my eyes on Jesus that I will truly experience the fullness of the best He has for me. "Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:40-41 NLT)
What is it that you feel you can't live without? The only answer to this should be Jesus. In the end, He is all that will matter.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Peter: Faith or Failure?

It's easy to focus in on Peter as I read the account of Jesus' final days here on earth. He'd be a big part of the media coverage today, don't you think? Peter was Jesus' right hand guy. His faith in Jesus enabled him to walk on water. At the last supper, he was bold in declaring his unwavering commitment to Jesus. And wasn't it Peter who drew his sword and sliced the ear off of the guard who falsely arrested Jesus? The cameras certainly would have been clamoring to get footage of this disciple.

Needless to say, they would have been just as quick to plaster his face all over the place declaring his apparent hypocrisy. Peter was one of the few Jesus asked to stay awake and pray with him before his arrest... only his weary eyes and body won out over his bold speech. I could envision the major television networks battling to air the footage of his betrayal not only once... but rather three times. If these moments in history were recorded today, we would flip through the channels hard pressed to find reports of his walk-on-water faith. Every station would replay the moment Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink.

Should our focus be on Peter's faith or failures? I always remember being taught that Peter was able to walk on water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. He began to sink when he took his eyes off of Christ. It seems that Peter's boldness and confidence was present whenever he was close to his Lord. Without hesitancy, he proclaimed his loyalty. He was quick to defend Jesus in the garden. When he wasn't near to Jesus, however, Peter denied knowing Him. His failures were highlighted and his faithfulness dwindled when his eyes were off of Christ.

This is the pattern in my own life as well. When my eyes are on Jesus and I'm reading the Bible, praying, attending church, and having conversations with other devoted Christ-followers, I am bold and confident in following hard after God. As this world starts to get the better of me and commitments overtake my life, my loyalty diminishes. Fear replaces conviction and soon I find myself timid and struggling to make it in my own strength.

As we approach the foot of the cross, I need to be reminded of the power Jesus gives us. He was broken so we could have hope. He gave up everything to have a relationship with me; with you. This holy week keeps the cross at the forefront of our minds. As it does, let us remember Peter and the example he gave in the power and bold confidence we can have with Jesus by our side.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Holy Week?

"We are supposed to reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ every day." This was the thought I was raised with and the reason I never really thought twice about the practice of lent or other spiritual disciplines I heard my friends participating in. As a matter of fact, this Sunday, my thoughts were interrupted when my pastor referred to this very week as "holy week". I couldn't recall if I had ever heard that term before in my life.

Why is this week any more "holy" than another week? Is there really something special about Palm Sunday and all the days leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday? After all, isn't Jesus' death and resurrection just as important on the 4th of July and Thanksgiving?

In the four years since I lost my dad to cancer, my thoughts are invaded with memories of him almost every day. There are a few days, however, that cause me to reflect on his life a little more intentionally (his birth date, death date and Christmas, in particular). These dates and occasions prompt my heart to reminisce.

It's not any different with this holy week. Palm Sunday. Good Friday. Easter. They are all prompts to remember. These occasions can challenge my heart and soul to think more intentionally on the life (and death and resurrection) of Jesus.

Does it really matter what religious practices had my participation in the past? When I found myself struggling with the term "holy week" because my denomination didn't label it as such, I embraced the challenge. I can utilize this week to prompt my heart to reflect more purposely. I can embrace this week as a "holy week" for one reason: to draw me closer to the cross.

The cross, my friends, can never be reflected on enough. God loved me so much that He sent his one and only Son to die for ME (and for you). This sacrifice should overwhelm my heart and bring me to my knees. Jesus blood has made this life (and the life to come) possible. And the power we find on Sunday enables us to share in it all with rejoicing.

Will you join me in being intentional this week? Set aside time each day to stop and reflect on what was happening to God's-Son-who-knew-no-sin-and-yet-became-sin-for-us over 2000 years ago. They were declaring Him king on Palm Sunday and gawking at His crucifixion they had shouted for on Friday. Can you picture yourself in the crowd? Where would you have been? Is there a Biblical figure you can personally identify with from this story?

Open up to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and read the account of this week we are remembering. Allow God to penetrate your heart. Define where you stand in your relationship with Him. He publicly declared where He stood in His relationship with you. We have the cross as our reminder. Who is Jesus to you?

"We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God's side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don't walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message." - Colossians 1:15-23