Monday, April 13, 2009


During March, my daughter, Beth, led a mission trip to Antiqua Guatemala for Ambassadors for Children. My husband, Rex, and I also went to Guatemala on a medical mission with People Helping People. Beth was in Guatemala from the 7th to the 14th; we were there from the 14th to the 21st.

On March 14, we were like “two ships passing in the night,” in the Guatemala City airport as Beth and her team were checking in to ticketing to leave Guatemala, at the same time that our team was arriving. There is no crossing over from the “departures” side to the “arrivals” area, and there wasn’t even an opportunity to wave at each other through a window. To be that close to my daughter in a foreign country and not give her a hug was pure torture.

When traveling out of the country, one’s passport is a traveler’s most precious possession—even more valuable than my aerosol hairspray, which was confiscated at the new Indianapolis terminal. I didn’t carry this document with me to the clinic site or while sightseeing or shopping, but I was always a bit anxious when it was not on my person.

While I tend to be a worrier in my normal life, beyond the U.S. borders I develop the mind of a Stephen King. What if our bus is ambushed by bandits, we’re robbed and abandoned on the side of a winding mountain road, without currency or documentation? Or what if a volcano erupts and…

Even more important than a passport issued by our government is our spiritual passport, given to us by God: GRACE. We are birthed into grace when we are born, for God’s grace permeates everything. It’s like air which is necessary for life, but we can’t see it. Or like water to a fish: invisible, but essential.

No need to purchase this passport: just say “yes” to God’s free gift of grace. While not tangible or visible, you can “feel” and “see” it in the way a grace-filled person demonstrates grace to those around them. This spiritual document can’t be lost or stolen. There is no expiration date; no need to renew it or pay for it, and then wait ten weeks for it to arrive in the mail. And, best of all—no ugly mug shot that you’re stuck with for ten years; our image is a reflection of Christ.

As we observe Holy Week, remember that the events of Christ’s last week of life—his entry into Jerusalem, the Passover meal taken with his disciples, his passionate prayers in Gethsemane, his arrest, beatings, trial, conviction, crucifixion and burial—were all a part of God’s plan to redeem us. Our passports are stamped with Jesus’ blood.

On Easter we celebrate God’s unlimited, uncontainable, unrestrainable Grace, as demonstrated in our Savior’s resurrection.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Ephesians 2:8 NIV

FASTING - March 7, 2009

I am not a big fan of fasting. I tried it once, but only due to peer pressure. Eons ago, a pious person in my Bible study group decided it would be spiritually edifying to fast during an overnight retreat. I’m not talking eight or even twelve hours; no, twenty-four excruciating hours of gnawing emptiness—to help us focus on God.

Oh, I fasted, and survived, but my eyes were more on my tummy than on God. And I was so famished when it was time to “break fast,” that I ravenous gorged on donuts that a thoughtful Martha among us supplied. I learned two spiritual lessons from this rigorous discipline: 1. fasting is definitely not my mug of mocha, and 2. greasy pastries hit the empty tomb like a tub of rancid lard.

In Old Testament times, the Israelites engaged in fasting—laced with “attitude.” God sounds slightly sarcastic in the following response to the fasting of his Chosen People:

"The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won't get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?” (Isaiah 58:3-5 The Message)

Actually, God sounds A LOT sarcastic—and angry. I think these are good words to keep in mind if fasting for Lent, whether for extended hours, or in refraining from chocolate, pop, alcohol, or some other addictive substance or activity.

If you’re primarily giving up desserts just so you can fit into your bathing suit over spring break, I strongly encourage you to rethink this. I have a hunch that this motive falls into the “unspiritual attitude” category that brings out God’s cynicism. The object of Lenten denial is to express devotion for God, not adoration for the Sun god of Daytona Beach.

I’ve occasionally given up chocolate, Diet Dr. Pepper or desserts for Lent, but I must admit to mixed and self-serving motives. To my relief, God provides another fasting option; a “doing” fast rather than a “denial” fast:

"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families." (Isaiah 58:6-7 The Message)

Our Savior would say a rousing “AMEN!” to that:

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least
of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 25:40 The Message