March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday-Expectations

Last week we touched on expectations and how God often changes our expectations—for something much better. Miriam found her life dramatically changed when Moses returned, claiming to be the Deliverer. It changed even more during the Exodus wanderings and when she was struck with leprosy. In the end, she and all the Children of Israel found that they were blessed beyond their wildest dreams, but not in the way they expected. Some of the areas of NM are much like the terrain of the Exodus--rocky, desert with scrubby vegetation. However, in the midst of that seeming desolation, God provided food (manna and quail) and water (even from a rock)! God definitely exceeded expectations!

The disciples and crowd were filled with expectation on the first Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem to the cheers of the people. This was Messiah, the Deliverer who would cleanse the Temple and city and country of the hated Romans. Everyone was sure that Messiah would return Israel to her proper place in the world and all would be well.

God’s plan was quite different. When their expectations weren’t met, the people turned against Jesus, shouting ‘crucify him.’ Too often we box in God by trying to impose our plans for this event or that dream. Maybe we need to rethink our desire to control the outcome and let God have a little more chance to work!

A couple of weeks ago I attended a retreat where Bishop Frey talked a bit about our expectations of God. He reminded us that our God is a God of action. Throughout the Bible, we hear God say “I am the God who led you out of bondage,” I am the God who fed you in the wilderness,” “I am the God who redeemed you,” “I am the God who called you by name,” etc., etc. Despite that, we often have limits on our expectations of what God will do.

The Bishop reminded us that Jesus tells us not to limit our expectations just because it appears that God isn’t listening. In the parable of the widow and the judge, Jesus reminds us that it is important to continually bring our needs and desires to God in prayer.

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” (Luke 18:1-8)

Unlike the judge, who gives in because the widow nags, God gives us what we need out of love. When we give our dreams and desires and needs to God, amazing things happen. What God does with them, will be greater than anything we can imagine! I confess that I do try to outline for God the way things should go. When I remember and step back, then amazing ‘coincidences’ happen. Has that ever happened to you?

Bishop Frey used a favorite quote during his talk. (He admits he doesn’t remember where he got the quote and a quick online search finds several clergy claiming or using it in sermons and meditations.)
“Hope is the ability to hear the melody of the future.
Faith is the courage to dance to it today.”

Living out this quote is one way to move beyond our narrow expectations and embrace joyfully the promises and expectations of our loving God. We may need to let go of some of our plans and plots.

What expectations bind you? Are they expectations of yourself, your life, or even of God?

May your Palm Sunday be a blessing and greeted with the joy of these children and adults at a Wings party. As you enter Holy Week and follow Christ on his journey to the Cross and Easter, may you find renewed joy in your expectations.

See you next week-Easter Sunday!

March 21, 2010

Doing or Being

On our journey through Lent we sometimes take on new disciplines--more prayer or study or extra volunteer work. We can find ourselves so immersed in 'doing' that we forget to sit quietly and 'be' in the presence of God.

The story that often comes to mind when we think about the difference between “Doing” for God vs. “Being” with God, is about Mary and Martha of Bethany. The emphasis is often on how much better it is to ‘be’ in the presence of Christ, like Mary, instead of ‘being busy with many things’ like Martha. It’s not the doing that is really the problem, but the ease with which it gets in the way of being with God.

Miriam of the Exodus had to learn to balance her busy-ness with listening to God. There’s not much about Miriam in the Old Testament, so we have to read between the lines to tease out her life. That is what I did in Miriam’s Healing. We know that Miriam was the sister of both Aaron and Moses. She is best known for following the basket with Moses inside until it landed at the feet of Pharaoh’s daughter.

“[His mother] put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 2:3-10)
We know the story of Moses from movies like The Ten Commandments or Prince of Egypt. He kills an overseer for mistreating a Hebrew worker and flees to the desert. Miriam is left behind in Egypt. She decides (in my book) to be in charge of taking care of everyone even though her own faith slipped away. Doing takes the place of Being still and waiting for God.

The long years stretched out and receded in sameness. Aaron and I mourned the death of first Jochebed and then Amram. They died within a few months of each other. The gold from the Princess was used to purchase the services of the embalmer and a small tomb. My parents would not lie in the desert sand to be ravaged by wild beasts.

I never saw the princess again. A few years after Moses disappeared, the royal barge brought her body to be buried beneath the small monument that bore her name. A year later the old Pharaoh died. Grand ceremonies were held at the temple that bore his name and was inscribed with his exploits. Then his embalmed, wrapped, and sanctified body was taken to the secret burial place of Kings. When alive, each Pharaoh was Horus, son of Osiris. In death, the king became Osiris, in charge of all life in Egypt. It was very important that the ka of the King remain undisturbed even after death. The silent pyramids and their attendant monuments and mortuary temples all paid tribute to attempts to keep past rulers undisturbed.

The new Pharaoh was a harsh, proud man. I saw him from a distance once. He insisted on more marvelous feats of building and statuary in the Treasure City called by his name, Raamses. Men pushed beyond endurance died in the heat and dust.

I wept angrily to the One God. “Don’t you see us? Can’t you save us?” The faith of my parents seemed futile and foolish. With each year of God’s silence, I became more and more convinced that the God of Israel was helpless. The songs my mother had sung seemed empty memories of a hopeless people.*

When Moses returns to Egypt claiming to be the Deliverer, Miriam and Aaron have to change their lives. Still Miriam works at being the one in charge and able to 'fix' things. When Moses and Aaron are discouraged, it is Miriam who urges them not to give up.

“Pharaoh will not let the children of Israel go,” he stated in a dead tone. “He is so angry that he has ordered the bricks be made without straw.” Another groan of sorrow, “I have harmed the people I was sent to help. ‘Everyone will have to work to gather straw in the fields’,” he quoted. “The tally will not be less.”

I couldn’t suppress my gasp at his words. Aaron bowed his head in resignation. Zipporah stroked Moses hair in sympathy. The silence held hopelessness. My brothers looked like whipped puppies rather than messengers of the Living God. Anger helped me find my voice.

“Are you going to let one setback discourage you? Do you plan to quit after one attempt?”

“These are not things a woman understands,” Aaron’s voice was harsh and arrogant.

Hands on my hips, I faced my brothers, “If a woman gave up after one attempt at birthing a child, children would have ceased to be long ago. Women know more about perseverance than any man.” I turned to my youngest brother; “You are birthing a nation. It will not be easy. Do you think that the God who has preserved you this far will abandon you now?”

“My sister,” Moses looked at me, desolation in his eyes. “I threw down my staff as God commanded. At first, the cobra frightened Pharaoh. Then the priests used their drugged snakes to do the same thing. The King and all the court laughed. Pharaoh asked if I had other magic tricks to show him.”

“So you have given up because of a little derision? The laughter of men is more important than the will of God? The Living One said you would do great things, and that He would bring the people out with mighty wonders. Surely the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is stronger than the Nile gods, even Pharaoh.”*

Miriam, despite her busy-ness, was able to see beyond the immediate results and realize that God could act through the frailty of her brothers. How often do you and I get discouraged when things don’t go our way? Are you, like me, guilty of trying to 'fix' things for other people instead of leaving them in God's hands?
Miriam originally looked inward to find solace instead of seeking God when her life began to spin out of control. Many of us do the same thing. Keeping busy helps us forget the troubles. Our culture rewards busy behavior and we are expected to multi-task. It all leaves little time for God. Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part” (Luke 10:42) not because it is bad to make food for guests, but because Martha was “worried and distracted by many things.” Being too busy can distract us from finding time to sit quietly and focus on God.

In Miriam’s Healing, Miriam continues to be the organizing force that keeps things moving smoothly. She tries to ignore the urging from God that suggests she should stop, listen, and become the storyteller of the nation. Only after she is exiled from the camp with leprosy (Numbers 12) does she understand the power of the words of the story.

For a long time, I lay on my pallet of blankets. The peace lingered with me. I knew now that God had been with me even when I doubted and turned from him. In my darkest moments, it was the hand of the Living One that comforted me.

In the quiet of the ending night, God gave me a great gift. I saw the action of I AM from the beginning of time. The Ruach that breathed life into all creation, the EL who spoke to Abraham and wrestled with Jacob was the same I AM that now led the chosen people with the cloud of glory. My fingers itched to write the words. No longer did I doubt that the stories of the Living God would convert the people. Only by hearing of the actions of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could the congregation find unity and identity.*

Sick with leprosy, Miriam’s life had been taken out of her control. All her life she tried to ensure that everything was taken care of. God’s action of redemption of the nation brought about a greater freedom than she could have imagined. She still finds it difficult to let God be in charge. Only when she is struck with the dread sickness, can she understand that God has been in charge of her life all along. She did not have to do anything. She had to sit with God and let go of the busy-ness of her life in order to hear and understand.

Do you take time regularly to sit with God? I spent one day at the Botanical Gardens here and found it a very refreshing break and time with God. Retreats are another way to do this, but a daily or weekly discipline keeps you in contact regularly with the One who guides our steps. I invite you to find a time to be still and sit at the feet of our Lord with Miriam of the Old Testament and Mary of Bethany. Who knows what you will discover about your journey…?

*All quotations are from Miriam's Healing by Cynthia Davis. Available online from and the author.
Next week, on Palm Sunday, we'll look at how our Expectations of God affect our relationship to God.

March 14, 2010

Centering in God

How is your journey to simplicity this Lent? I’ve found that unexpected bits of life tend to get in the way of keeping to the discipline of a simple life. My focus has been pulled away from God and I’ve become distracted by the little things.

An image that has come to my mind is of the solar system. As planets must stay in their orbit, we are better off when we put God at the center of our lives. Each of us in on our own orbit around the SON, but sometimes we get distracted and start orbiting the little things in our life. These can be good things like our families or perhaps not so important things like our appearance or even things we have no control over like what we believe others think of us.

Leah is an Old Testament woman who also found that her life was complicated by the reality she was faced with. She was the older daughter of Laban in Haran. Her sister, Rachel, was “beautiful and lovely”. Poor Leah is said to have “weak (or tender) eyes.” (Gen. 29:17) That’s an odd description—what does it mean to have weak/tender eyes? Traditionally she has been considered to be less attractive and therefore undesirable.

Whatever the description means, Leah finds herself being used by her father to trick Jacob into a total of 14 years of free labor. Jacob wants to marry Rachel and agrees to work for 7 years in order to marry her. However, on the wedding night Laban substitutes Leah in the marriage bed.

In my book Beloved Leah Jacob is angry when he discovers the deception.

For the rest of the night I let myself forget the morning. I listened to his words of love and whispered them back to him. My exploring hands learned to delight in the feel of his body. Finally he slept in my arms exhausted by our lovemaking. I dozed lightly to awaken when the first light touched the tent. Not wanting the man to awaken, I lay barely breathing watching him sleep.

“I love you Jacob bar Isaac,” I whispered taking in every detail of his face and hair and body. “Thank you God of my husband for this night.” The illusion was nearing an end. He stretched and yawned then rolled toward me.

“My dearest love…” the words died on his lips when he saw my face not Rachel’s. The shock was quickly followed by fury.

Outraged, he demanded, “What have you done? Where is my Rachel?”

I cringed back from the rage in his eyes. Throwing himself out of the bed he rapidly wrapped his clothing around his body. He threw a tunic at me.

“Put that on,” the man snarled. “We will see your father and get to the bottom of this farce.”

Amazingly, my hands didn’t shake as I dressed. A calm of inevitability settled over me. Jacob grabbed my wrist. He stormed across the yard dragging me behind him.

“Laban, Laban bar Nahor come out and face me!” the furious voice resonated through the house. I was sure he could be heard to the ends of Haran.

Father must have expected such a greeting for he came out fully dressed, hair and beard neatly oiled and a calm expression on his face.

“My son, what is this?”

Jacob spun me forward into my father’s arms.

“You tricked me!” the words were level and hard. The brown eyes that were usually gentle and loving were glinting with rage.

Leah continues to live with her feelings of being second best and unlovable even though she is the wife who bears sons for Jacob. She and her sister even enter into competition for Jacob’s affections. “When Rachel saw she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister….[and] said ‘Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to here, that she may bear children through her’…When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.” (Gen. 30:1-9)

This competition eventually has disastrous results. The sons of Leah learn to hate their half-brothers, Joseph and Benjamin who Rachel does finally bear.

I learned that sibling rivalry had taken root among the boys. One day I interrupted a wrestling match between Judah and Gad. I scolded my son for taking advantage of his brother’s smaller size.

“He’s not my real brother,” he told me in a whisper.

Appalled, I sat him firmly on the ground. Kneeling to look in his eyes I asked, “Who told you that?”

“Simeon,” the dark eyes look at mine innocently.

“We are all one family,” I said with a slight shake of his shoulders to emphasize the words.

“Simeon says that we aren’t really brothers to Dan and Napthali and Gad and Asher and Joseph,” he persisted trying to convince me.

“You all have the same father,” I told him, “and that makes you brothers.” I had to force the words out because I too wished that Rachel had never offered Bilhah to Jacob and that I had not entered the competition by giving him Zilpah.

Looking at my son, I repeated, “You are all brothers. Besides you should always treat the younger and weaker with kindness.”

Throughout her life, Leah struggles with her self-perception as an unloved and unattractive woman. It is easy to let ourselves get caught up in the cultural messages that say we need to be lovely and accomplish great things. When that happens we forget to be content with having God as our Center, like planets around the sun. Leah discovered that true beauty was the love she had to give and had nothing to do with her appearance or what she did (or did not do).

“For too long, I raged against Rachel and against Jacob for not loving me,” she said. I wanted them to love me for being beautiful. Too late I have learned and understand that they loved me for who I am.”

Jacob bent his head to kiss his wife’s forehead. “You are my faithful Leah. You are the strength of the family,” he whispered.

She seemed almost beautiful as she smiled softly up at the man.

“My husband, God is your strength. He will be with you to bring you to Egypt and back. Your God always keeps his promises.”

Turning her head, she admonished the eleven men still crouched near the bed.

“My sons, you are all my sons, though I didn’t bear you all. I have raised you and watched you grow into good men, true husbands and loving fathers. Do not forget the God of Israel, your father, when you are in Egypt. Remember and teach your children how He showed grace by redeeming your anger and restoring your brother to you. Joseph has forgiven you. Accept that gift. My God has forgiven you as he has forgiven me. Do not be afraid. Trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He has promised to bring you back to this land as a mighty nation. Let go of the remaining fear and grudges against your brother. Do not continue to blame yourselves. The mighty hand of God has turned our evil designs and anger to great good for all.”

When we get caught up in the cultural messages, it might be time to step back and take a deep breath and seek God instead of the latest beauty aid or another job to finish. A friend reminded me of a discipline that works to help her re-center with God. She takes time throughout the day to say the Jesus Prayer. It is short enough to be done easily and is actually a great relaxation aid, when done in rhythm to breathing. Before you feel stressed and over-stretched, sit quietly.

The Jesus prayer is just one example of a prayer that can be said while breathing. Many psalms lend themselves to the practice. Breathe in deeply, expanding your diaphragm, on the first half of the verse and out fully on the second. Below are some examples.

Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God-Have mercy on me, a sinner.
The Lord is my strength and my song-And he has become my salvation.
Thy word, O Lord is a lamp to my feet-And a light unto my path
The Lord is my Shepherd-I shall not want
It doesn’t hurt to do this more than once at a time and to return to the prayer regularly throughout the day. Sitting quietly in nature or with a picture of some relaxing natural scene sometimes helps me to relax and re-center, too.

Next week Miriam will offer thoughts on our busyness that separates us from God.

*All quotations are from Beloved Leah by Cynthia Davis. Available online from and the author.

March 7, 2010


Simplifying our lives is the Lenten discipline we are looking at this year. We’ve explored quieting the noise in our lives by taking time to be with God, like Rahab of Jericho. The P-Q-R-S-T principle can help us with that. Instead of giving up something like chocolate, we looked at the life of Naomi and saw how she was finally able to fill her hungry soul with a relationship with God.

This week we look at our possessions--do they control us or do we only own what we need? We all have possessions. Even if I don’t drive a BMW or shop on Rodeo Drive, I do own things. Our culture encourages us to think that more is better and that expensive equals superior quality. Abigail is a woman in the Old Testament who learned that this is not true.

When we first meet Abigail (I Samuel 25:3), she is the wife of a wealthy man, Nabal of Carmel. David (not yet king) is hiding from King Saul who wants to kill him and seeks a levy from Nabal for protecting his flocks. When Nabal rudely refuses, David orders “every man gird on his sword.” He heads out to destroy the man and his holdings. Abigail hears of the incident, intervenes, and saves Nabal’s life.

My Abigail is the fictionalized story of Abigail that I wrote. Abigail leaves the safety of her home to intercept David, with only one servant to guide her. She realizes that his wealth will not protect Nabal from the enraged warrior.

Our route climbed upward across the terraces owned by Nabal. The vines looked derelict, barren of their load of fruit and leaves. When we reached the last field, Paliel turned off the path into the wilderness. My heart caught with fear. I glanced back. Below me was the safety of the house and compound that was my home. The tent for Nabal’s guests shown white in the distance.

“I have to do this,” under my breath I reassured myself. “If I do not intercept David bar Jesse everyone will die for the slight my husband offered the messenger.”

“Is the wife of my master tired?” Paliel paused when he heard my voice.

“Lead the way,” my nod was firm.

A moment later the house was lost to view.

“How will you find the son of Jesse?” I asked.

“He will find us,” the reply was not entirely reassuring.

I glanced around at the trees, wondering if we were being watched. “How?”

Paliel saw my fearful look and tried to smile reassuringly even though he began to trot more rapidly. I had to grab a tuft of mane in order to keep my seat. My veil slid off and hung down my back. A few minutes later we burst from the trees onto an open, rocky plain. My guide stopped abruptly. I was glad I had a tight hold or I would have slid off the donkey when she stopped suddenly.

“He is coming,” Paliel indicated the mass of men marching toward us.

“Which is David?” My eyes scanned the approaching army. To my untrained eyes it looked like thousands of men.

“On the right,” without raising a hand, the shepherd directed me.

I saw a broad shouldered man. He had red hair just as Abel told us years earlier. The leader raised his hand and the men halted, almost as one. It was an impressive and frightening sight. I was startled when a man jogged out of the trees on our left. He approached David with a salute. I saw the young outlaw turn toward us. One hand rested on his sword, but I could not see his expression. My heart pounded.

“Pray the God of Israel gives you words to turn away his rage,” my guide muttered under his breath.

“Yes,” I barely breathed the word.

A moment later some impulse drove me to urge my mount forward toward the silent, watching men. From the corner of my eye, I saw Paliel take a step to stop me. Already I was beyond his reach. David took a few stiff steps in my direction. His hand never left the sword.

“What trick is this?” The first words from the man who filled my imagination were hard and cold.

Again I followed my intuition and slid off the donkey. I took one step. After a salaam, I took another. Now I could see his unusual blue eyes narrowed and watching me. Quickly I lowered my own and flattened myself onto the rocky ground in a position of abject humility with arms extended before me.

“Who are you?” Rock crunched as the man stepped close.

“Forgive your handmaid this impertinence,” I had to raise my head slightly to speak. “My husband is as his name. Nabal is a fool.”

There was no reply from the outlaw leader, although a quickly stifled chuckle came from his troops. I could see his bare feet not far from my outstretched hands. The rock under me was hard but I dared not shift my position.

With a deep breath I tried again. “Your maidservant did not see the messenger you sent to Nabal. It is known to me how my lord protected all the property of my husband. The man is foolish and blind to the generosity and kindness of my lord.”*

Abigail tells Nabal what she did “and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And about ten days later the Lord smote Nabal; and he died. When David heard that Nabal was dead…[he] sent and wooed Abigail, to make her his wife.” (I Samuel 25:37-39).

David has nothing to offer Abigail except his love, but she is happier with the expatriate and his band of followers than with all the wealth Nabal could offer.

David held out his hand to me. I jumped to my feet and almost tripped in my eagerness to be away from my family before anyone said anything to embarrass me. My fingers shook as I extended them to meet the broad palm. The torches by the tent lit his face. In the blue eyes I read desire. A wave of warmth flooded through me.

“Come, my love, walk with me,” his words were soft.

My doubts disappeared when his hand closed around mine. I forgot my family and friends who watched our departure. We strolled away from the tents and campfires to the outer edges of the camp. It was quiet beyond the men and their families. I reveled in being with the young warrior even though he did not say a word. Gradually, though, I felt the suspicion and hurt spoiling my delight as Abel’s words returned to circle around like ravens. My footsteps slowed and I tugged at my hand. We stopped beside a tree. David turned my shoulders gently so that I faced him. My heart beat rapidly when he took my face between his palms.

“Abigail, tell me what troubles you,” he pleaded. The blue eyes were very tender. “I can sense that you are worried. Your family will be safe.”

“It is not that,” half ashamed I mumbled a reply.

“Whatever troubles my Abigail, I will make right,” the man’s voice caressed me.

Gentle thumbs stroking my cheeks almost made me forget my distress. The way my name sounded on his lips was so different from the cold way Nabal addressed me as ‘Wife’ and never spoke my name.

“You…you…have another wife,” after a stumbling start I blurted out my discovery. Immediately I sought to absolve my companion. “I did not know that Michal is here.”

David lifted his head. He stared past me for a moment. Then he pulled me to a seat on his lap under the tree.
For several minutes I forgot that there was another wife, even if she was a child.

“As a great leader you should have many wives.” Although it hurt me to say the words, I knew that my husband would be expected to make alliances. “Many wives will prove that you are wealthy and powerful.”

David shrugged. “Such are the contingencies of politics. The road the Almighty set me on is not without pitfalls. There are those who urge me to attack and take the throne by force. I know that is not the right way. The Holy One will show me the time. That is why I need a wise and lovely woman to walk beside me as confidant and lover.”

His words made me blush in the darkness.

Very softly I answered, “I will do my best,”

“You are the bride I chose for myself,” tenderly the man assured me. “I AM has given me blessing in you.”

When the strong arms drew me close, I surrendered to the delight of his kisses. Ahinoham was forgotten. I thought I could reach up and touch the stars they seemed so bright and close to the ground when David drew back.*

Possessions can gain control over us. Too often we try to keep up with the Jones’ rather than keeping it simply to the necessities of life. Abigail learned that having David’s love was more important than all of Nabal’s flocks and fields. More importantly, when in danger she was able to remember that it was God who provided all that was needed.

“I forgot,” in the darkness of my self-imposed covert I gasped in repentance. “When I was a child I knew that I AM was in everything. Then I lost sight of the greatness of the Living Lord. God is the One who created me and the One who gives me all I need.”

With the realization came a lightening of my heart. I breathed a petition, half praise and half awe as I lifted my head. “We are not forgotten. The Almighty knows where we are even if David does not. Even though we are surrounded by enemies we are protected. God you raised David to lead men guide him here to save us.”

I wiped my eyes with my sleeve. It was strange that amid the danger and fear I found faith again.*

Last year our home was broken into. It was an upsetting experience. What I discovered was that the things I most regretted losing were not those of relatively greater monetary value. The items I still get a twinge over are the pieces of jewelry that were handed down from mother to daughter for several generations. They weren’t worth a lot—no giant diamond rings—but they were a link to my past.

In looking at simplifying during Lent, possessions are an important piece of the puzzle. A question I need to ask regularly about the ‘things’ in my life is: “do I own my possessions or do they possess me?” If I am able to hold ‘my property’ lightly, I will likely find myself closer to a simple and more holy life. Jesus warns us “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21). Later in the same passage, he reminds us that God cares for the lilies and birds. “Your heavenly father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 7:32-33)

No matter how poor we may think we are, there are many in the world who have much less than we do. I wonder if there is anything I could give to a Thrift Shop or other organization that would benefit others. What could I simplify from my life and not miss at all? Is there a part of your possessions that need simplifying?

Next week we’ll visit Leah, a very misunderstood woman who doubted her own worth.

*All quotations are from My Abigail by Cynthia Davis. Available online from and the author.