Baptism Sunday: If you’ve had a change of heart; Bring a change of clothes

Death is our greatest foe. We don’t like it. We don’t even like saying the word. Instead, we will use a variety of terms to describe death without saying the “D” word. 

Passed on, 

croaked, 

kicked the bucket, 

passed to his eternal reward, 

met his maker, 

checked out, 

pushing up daisies, 

called home, 

was a goner, 

bit the dust, 

gave up the ghost, 

left this world, 

no longer with us, 

bought the farm, 

with the angels, 

time was up, 

cashed in, 

crossed over Jordan,

withered away, 

gave it up, 

that’s all she wrote,

went to be with Jesus,

it was curtains, and 

promoted to Glory. 

I’m sure there are more ways to say it. We know it our head the cliché about death and taxes. We all have an expiration date. We can know it intellectually. Still, we humans try to avoid it. 

Maybe that’s why I love Easter (He is risen!) and why I love the meaning and symbolism of baptism so much. Easter tells the world that Jesus has defeated death (He is risen, indeed). Baptism tells the world that death has been defeated in us. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace. We were dead. Now, thanks to the Resurrected Lord, we are alive! Paul said it this way in Romans 6: We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4). 

We enter the waters of baptism as people sinking deep in sin. Death’s reality is only a matter of time. We are doomed, drowning in the all of life’s turmoils. In baptism, as the water is applied, it symbolizes that in Jesus we have new life! Jesus has washed our sins away! Death and sin have lost their power over us. We have a new community in the church and a new reality of life everlasting. I just love baptisms!

It’s news so good that we need to share it. That’s why we have public baptisms. We want the world to know, we have decided to follow Jesus. I’m a new person. The old is gone the new has come. Shout it from the mountain topes: Jesus has made me new!

It’s not too late for you to be baptized this Sunday at Central Church. If you have had a change of heart, bring a change of clothes with you on Sunday. Call the church and speak to a pastor today. We’d love for you to share what Jesus has done in your life in getting baptized this week!

Does the Church of the Nazarene need to be in Hospice? A Conversation Between her Family and her Doctor

Family: Is she dead?

Doctor: I’m not a medical examiner. She’s not dead, but she doesn’t look good.

Family: Are you telling us, she needs to be on hospice care? Keep her comfortable until she dies? Is that it, doc?

Doctor: I’m not a palliative care specialist either. I’m saying there’s a chance for her to survive but it won’t be quick or easy.  Radical surgeries and treatments will need to take place, and even then, there is no guarantee she will make it.

Family: What kind of surgeries are we talking about?

Doctor: Well for one there is a heart problem. It’s divided. It’s divided on so many levels. For her to get well, unity must happen. Someone Great once said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Family: Can’t you just fix it, Doc? Open heart surgery. Sew it up and make it better?

Doctor: It’s a big procedure. This heart condition didn’t happen overnight, and won’t be cured with a snap of the fingers. 

Family: What’s the remedy?  

Doctor: She needs to change her intake and training. A steady diet of the Fruit of the Spirit is the best medicine. The fruit of the Spirit each day keeps the carnality away. Instead of attacking her own, she needs to exercise patience, practice understanding and have a daily workout of prayer. 

Family: She’s lethargic, empty or maybe “stale” is the word.

Doctor: Not surprising. Does she talk about the “good old days”?

Family: All the time. She’s not the fireball she was in her youth. She tells when she would be showered with blessings. That doesn’t happen anymore. 

Doctor: A fresh anointing of the Spirit is the best medicine. But that takes confession of one’s failures and admitting short comings, that’s a remedy that is hard to swallow for many.

Family: That will cure what ails her?

Doctor: That’s a start. The daily infusion of the Holy Spirit and the cleansing power brought is the answer to many of these issues. She will also need a Ponce de Leon treatment administered as soon as possible

Family: Ponce de Leon? 

Doctor: Surely, you’ve noticed, she’s not getting younger. Like all things, there is a life cycle in churches and if a youth movement doesn’t happen soon she will die. It’s only a matter of time.

Family: We have noticed, how do we say this?  She’s not cool. At least not as cool as other places and that’s probably why her youth is fleeting.

Doctor: Pardon me for saying, but your attitude is part of the problem. Who needs cool? She doesn’t. Skinny jeans and smoke machines aren’t the answer. Instead of cool, she needs to get warm. Friendly. It takes empathizing with today’s youth, and recognizing the complexities of living in today’s world. It’s welcoming all saints and sinners. It’s being a family again. Not a perfect family, whose family is? But a satisfying, loving, serving, forgiving family. 

Family: Are you saying, she needs a makeover?

Doctor: There’s no question she needs to be made new. But I know a Specialist, we call Him “the Great Physician,” He specializes in revitalizing dry bones and springing life from barren ground. 

Family: Will she make it, doc?

Doctor: I guess that’s up to you. The Great Physician can make it happen. Will you allow the healing and help to begin?

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

In Bible times, discerning God’s will was easier than today. I’ve never… 

  • heard God’s audible voice like James, Peter and John (see Matthew 17:5)
  • seen God write on the walls. (See Daniel 5). 
  • received an angelic message like so many people in the Bible.
  • had a donkey talk to me. Not an actual donkey, anyway. I’ve had a few people that one could argue had donkey-like attributes, but never had an encounter like Balaam in Numbers 22.
  • experienced a vision or dream where I could outright proclaim was a message from on high and not the pepperoni pizza from the previous night.
  • walked with Jesus. Literally. In Galilee. I was born approximately 1950 years and half a world away to hear with my own two ears the words written in red in my Bible. I haven’t been able to ask Jesus a direct question– like the Pharisees, the disciples, Pilate and even the devil—and receive a direct answer.

Some people have had those things happen. Not me. I do believe God wants what’s best for me (insert quote from Romans 8:28 here). God has a plan and a future for me (insert Jeremiah 29:11 here.). Clinging to those verses while realizing that God hasn’t directly voiced his plans to me through any of the above methods, allows me to conclude that God is not like an architect. He’s more like a football coach.

Architects draw up blueprints (FYI… I thought if we wanted one of our boys to be an architect, then we would have to name him “Blue.” Blue Prince –blueprints… get it?  Karla didn’t think it was funny either. Our sons’ names are Alex and Ben and neither one of them is an architect. I rest my case.). Architects draw up blueprints and builders follow them to the letter. Blueprints (for the most part) are inflexible. If the builder doesn’t follow it exactly there could be big trouble. The goal is to build a strong, beautiful building. If the architect is competent, following the blueprints precisely is the way to achieve that goal.

Football coaches draw up game plans. The good coaches know that a game plan must be flexible. If the defense lines up all of their players to stop the run, let the quarterback throw the ball. If the defense is expecting a pass, let the QB run it. The game plan might change as the circumstances of the game changes. Game plans change in mid-game, if needed, in order to win the game.

God is more like a football coach than an architect. God leaves room for wrestling over a decision, reading Scripture, talking with trusted Christian friends, using our brains, and seeking His peace in prayer. The plan for your life might not include a hard and fast decree (like in an architect’s drawings), instead it might be more flexible with two equally good options. God promises to help you discern the game plan and move confidently forward in either endeavor. 

When making big decisions you might not have an angel telling you to high tail it to Egypt because a crazy king wants to kill your baby (like what happened to a young couple from Nazareth years ago), but as you earnestly seek the Lord’s direction, God’s peace will come. Paul knew this to be true when he wrote to the church at Philippi these words: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

There is a word for experiencing a “peace that passes all understanding” and enjoying the adventure (sometimes unknown) along the way. It’s “faith.” Faith that Jesus will get you across the goal line as you hear those glorious words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”  With that game plan, you cannot lose. 

Who is My Enemy?

Jesus said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43). 

No Joke. Love your enemies. Before voting on the appropriateness of Jesus command to “love our enemies” (FYI…there is no vote. Jesus said it. Period.) can we answer the big question: Who is our enemy?

Internationally, our enemies have been Russia (we’ve never trusted those guys); China (not sure we can trust those guys either); and Iran (terrorism’s #1 sponsor for years). There’s probably a couple of other countries in the mix, but for simplicity sake, let’s stick with Russia, China and Iran. Jesus says, “Love them.” No problem, Jesus! It’s easy to do. I love Russian, Chinese and Iranian people. They aren’t their government. They are people. Let’s not blame innocent people for the bone-headed decisions of their governments. Loving them is relatively easy. “I love my enemies,” I say, as I firmly pat myself on the back.

But what about the “enemies” that we don’t label as “enemies”? These folks go by different labels, such as: liberals, conservatives, progressives, fundamentalists, Vaxxers, Anti-Vaxxers, BLM protestors, MAGA supporters, Republicans, Democrats, Mask-wearing sheep, Covid-Super-spreaders, LBGTQ+ supporters, LBGTQ+ “what-do-all-those-letters-even-mean?” wonderers, etc. Pick your hated label bearer and sneer.

We don’t like what they are supporting or doing. We think that they are wrong. Biblically wrong. We think we are right. Biblically right. We hate everything about them. We hate how they think. We hate how they behave. We hate the positions that they hold. We don’t trust them. They have secret meetings. Hidden agendas. We think they are hurting our country, church or future existence. If they get their way, we are all in trouble. We might not publically state that we hate them, but we hate them all right. Maybe we wouldn’t kill them, but we hate them. We don’t want them showing up at our parties wearing T-shirts or hats supporting their views. We don’t want them living on our block putting up yard signs and flags. We don’t want them in our church touting their false perspective? Why would they be in our church? They clearly can’t love Jesus.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He wasn’t simply talking about international politics and people we would never meet. He was talking about that guy down the street with the sign in his lawn supporting the groups we don’t like. He was talking about the lady singing in the choir on Sunday and attending opposing political rallies on Monday. He was talking about that (you choose): Double-mask-wearing-full-of-fear-Dr-Fauci fan or Only-wearing-a-mask-if-skiing-or-robbing-a-bank extremist. Jesus point: Love all of them. Every single one of them.

Loving people that hold a different view than me is hard. Loving people in the church who say, do or believe things different from me is downright awkward. Loving people, who might not be labeled as “enemies” but I treated them as such, is much harder than loving our stated (but never seen) international enemies like Russia, China and Iran.

Wouldn’t it have been better if Jesus would have said, “Be sarcastic, mean, and rude toward the people you don’t like, just don’t say you ‘hate’ them.” Or “Don’t call the people you hate “enemies.” Give them a different label, but keep on hating.” Or how about, “Love your enemies if there’s an ocean that separates you both.” At the very least, Jesus could have said, “Try to stomach your enemies and avoid them whenever possible.” We could probably abide by those rules. But love them? Really love them? Love them like I love my kids or grandkids? Love them like I love a long-lost friend? Who can do that? Not me. I hate those guys. Only Jesus can love like that.

Jesus, help me to love my enemies (no matter how I label them).

Hey Oprah, call this Prince

Oprah interviewed Prince Harry and Meghan on Sunday and 17 million people in the USA watched. Ever since, Karla has been anxiously waiting for Oprah’s interview request since she is also married to a Prince. Our wedding (33 years ago tomorrow) was a slightly less formal affair than Harry and Meghan’s nuptials. Oprah hasn’t called, but if she does this is what I will tell her:

1) Our Prince story did not begin with kissing a frog. I was a summer intern at a church in Alanson, Michigan. She was the summer Pellston Airport station manager for Simmons Air. No frog smootches were involved, but I did ask for the pastor’s permission to ask her out (thanks for saying yes, Rev. John Carr). 

2)  Our Prince marriage did not include castles. We’ve lived in an apartment, three parsonages, three homes owned by us (well, owned by the banks) and one borrowed condo for six months (thanks Jeff and Paula). Houses don’t matter. A home matters. I’m thankful that we’ve tried to make our house a home where Jesus’ love reigns. 

3)  This Prince has never garnished the reference of “your Highness.” Karla has called me many things in our marriage, but “Your highness” isn’t one of them. My memory isn’t always great (she may say, “Hey, you big dummy, don’t you remember when…”), but I don’t ever recall a time when she has called me an untoward name, nor I to her. (The “big dummy” reference was a joke). 

4)This Prince isn’t a great rescuer of damsels in distress. Once Karla had a flat tire at VG’s Supermarket. She should have called AAA. Instead, she called her Prince, who promptly put the spare tire on incorrectly. Before arriving at the tire shop, the spare tire flew off the chariot (a 1997 Mercury Villager) and landed in the tire shop lawn. Our mini van laid stranded on Center Road, a hundred yards away. Please refer to the above statement on “no untoward names” and be more impressed by Karla’s great restraint. 

5) Our Prince marriage did involve slaying the three-headed-dragon. Every healthy marriage must slay the three-headed-monster “me, myself and I,” so that “we, us and ours” remain.

5)  Our Prince marriage isn’t a fairy tale. No matter what you may have thought about Oprah’s interview with the Royals, one thing became clear: Married to a Prince is no fairy tale. Karla would agree. Our marriage didn’t begin with “Once upon a time” and it hasn’t been “happily ever after.” There have been joys and sorrows (more “joys” for sure). There have been ups and downs (more “ups” for sure). Life hasn’t always been a picnic, but neither has it always been a famine. It’s been life. In our lives together, we’ve determined to face each challenge hand-in-hand, trusting Jesus all the way!  

Every marriage (Prince Harry and Meghan’s, Karla and me and everyone else) would do well to live by this verse pulled out of the middle of the love chapter: Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  1 Corinthians 13:5

Hey Oprah, we are available!

What Good Doctors, Football Coaches and Followers of Jesus have in Common

The new Detroit Lion’s football coach (you get 10 extra credit points if you know his name) said something often said about doctors and pastors, but he was talking about football coaches. He said, “You’ve gotta be able to listen to other people’s opinions and you gotta take it for what it is. And you know what? You may not agree with it and it may not be the right answer, but you take it in anyway and you listen to it.” (Detroit News, March 3, 2021). He’s right. To be a good coach, doctor, pastor or follower of Jesus in any way, we’ve got to be a good listener.

Listening is a skill not everyone has acquired. I’ve heard it said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. We need to listen twice as much as we talk.” That’s probably not the reason our anatomy’s configuration, but we do need to listen more.  It’s hearing the other’s story; putting ourselves in their shoes; and imagining life as they have experienced it. When we do that, our perspective may change. Like the coach said, in the end we still might not agree, but as we listen to the stories of others, we non-verbally communicate that we care. People may not need our opinion, but they do need for us to hear them.

God is a good listener. Over and over again in Scripture, we are told that God hears us and hears our prayers. God hears all prayers– even the dumb or lazy or contrary prayers. Still God listens. Listening is a part of loving. When Jesus was standing in the cemetery as Lazarus laid dead in the grave, he began his prayer this way: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.”(John 11:41). We should be continually grateful that God hears us when we pray. Moreover, in our desire to be more like Jesus, in light of this reminder of a God who hears, we must hear and see the needs around us too. God listens. We should listen too. 

The 2020s may go down in history as the decade of noise. Everyone is talking. Few are listening. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone knows what’s best in just about any given situation (no expertise required). And most everyone loves to share their “expertise” and opinions. The volume rises (both in noise level and social media posts), as people perceive that they are not being heard. Let’s not add to the overwhelming volume of chatter. Instead let’s listen to those with whom we agree and disagree and go first (not to social media) but to the One who hears all our prayers. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17

By the way, listen up (pun intended)! The Detroit Lions Head Football coach is Dan Campbell. 

In Trying Times… Try, Try, Try again!

Important information before reading below: English 101. The word “Try” can be a verb as in: “I know I can jump over this puddle if I try.” “Try” can also be a noun. “I made the jump on the seventeenth try.” “Trying” is an adjective too: “My failed attempts and wet pants from jumping the puddle was trying my patience.”

Try, Tried, Trying 

At one church I pastored, we tried to have a “Single Mom’s Day.” The day was designed to help alleviate all of the troubles a single mom might have. We advertised all over town that we had free oil changes for her car; laundry facilities; free haircuts for moms and kids; free counselling; play activities; a prayer room; and plenty of free food. He had lots of volunteers to make it happen. The whole shebang. We had everything we needed for a great day… except single moms. One lady showed up. One. We tried.

Those same volunteers, came back with a new idea. “We want to try a Biker Sunday.” They rallied the troops (mostly the same people from our failed Single Mom’s Day). We got the word out to the Biker bars: Games. Prizes and of course plenty of free food. The whole shebang. The day for the Biker Sunday arrived and it rained cats and dogs. Only a small handful of Bikers showed up. We tried.

Those volunteers were relentless. They wanted to do another Biker Sunday the next year. “It rained last year, pastor, let’s try again.” “Biker Sunday 2.0” was on. Those same volunteers and the same massive organizational effort was given to get the word out and have a great day. The big Sunday came and, believe it or not, it rained harder than the previous year (what’s harder than cats and dogs”? It rained “elephants and rhinos.” Even fewer bikers showed up. We tried.

Did I say those volunteers were relentless? “Let’s give it one more try,” they said. “Surely it won’t rain us out three years in a row.” Biker Sunday 3.0 was a perfect day. Hundreds of bikers showed up. There was plenty of food, games and prizes. Best of all, dozens of people accepted Christ. The first three failed tries were worth it. I’m glad the volunteers kept trying.

We would all agree this year has been trying. It has tried our patience. Tried our endurance. Even tried our faith at times. Trying times call for the followers of Jesus to keep trying and giving the “ol’ college try.”

Are you dealing with trying people? Irrational people? Keep trying to be kind. Have you tried to love an unlovable person? Keep tryingTried to forgive? Keep trying. Is hybrid school trying your fortitude? Keep trying to be focused. Are you wanting to throw up your hands and quit? Keep trying. Don’t stop trying. The verse that kept those volunteers going when Single Mom’s Day and Biker Sundays failed is a good verse for us. Galatians 6:9: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

In these trying days, try, try, try again. Keep on trying! Don’t ever stop trying to live into God’s glorious future. Who knows the harvest may soon come if you give it one more try. Keep on jumping the puddle—you’ll make it to the other side!

Let’s NOT go “Back to Normal”

With the Covid nightmare end in sight (no, we are not out of the woods, but, yes, the end is coming) the Big Question people are asking is: When can we get “back to normal?” By that phrase, they mean: When can we stop wearing masks? When can we hug our grandchildren? When can we go to a ball game? Sit in a crowd? Not be socially distant? Be normal

This may surprise you: I hope we don’t go back to normal. I’m not talking about masks or crowds. I’m talking life

For many people, “normal” wasn’t good in 2019. Pandemic shutdowns and the quarantines of 2020 simply exposed the ugly truth that “normal” wasn’t working. Talk to any social worker, school psychologist, pastor or just about anyone else, and they will tell you that 2020 has been mentally and spiritually taxing on everyone. More than likely, you know someone who committed suicide in the last year. Read that last sentence again. That is NOT OK. Some of those individuals, concluded that the pressures of this world were too much, may have been pushed over the edge by the events of 2020. But they probably didn’t get to their mental state solely based on the events of the last year. More than likely, in 2019 and long before, they were walking toward this lonely destination (most suicides happen when the people are alone). “Normal” wasn’t working for them and 2020 exposed it. 

It’s not just the tragedies of suicide and a lack of mental health awareness and care that have exposed the fallacies of the old normal. The angst that led to the capitol building insurrection; the racism that George Floyd’s death sadly once again revealed; the societal trajectory toward godlessness; and the reality that social media has made us both more informed and more isolated than at any time in history– all show the old “normal” was not working. 

As more people get vaccinated and the pandemic restrictions loosen, let’s determine to not go back to the way things were.Instead, let’s do all we can to notice God’s children who are lonely in the crowd. Let’s hear the ones who have been shut down, shut out, and shut up by the old normal.  Let’s care for those whom society has missed.  Let’s keep pointing all to the One who said, “See, I am doing thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19). Let’s not go back to the old normal, let’s work for a new, better, hope-filled normal.

P.S. If you know someone struggling with life today, don’t wait for a vaccine. Call, text or (heaven forbid) visit. Sit with them. Listen to them. Cry with them. Point them to Jesus. 

King Sized Miracles Still Happen

Hear ye! Hear Ye! The Princes are now sleeping on a king!! On Tuesday, Karla and I put together a new king bed, box springs and mattress. This was no small accomplishment given our ancient history.  As we were gathering the 107 pieces to assemble the aforementioned king size bed my mind went back to two previous occasions and shuddered:

The Great Entertainment Center Fiasco of 1988. As newlyweds, we had decided to purchase an entertainment center to hold our wedding gifted TV and VCR. It was mass produced of questionable quality, pressed wood, and assembly required. Sadly, the photo on the front of the box did not match the assembly instructions on the inside of the box; neither did the number of screws match the number of holes to place such screws; and the phrase “some assembly required” should have been replace with “mechanical engineering degree from MIT required.” All of which produced our first post-wedding day spat. 

The Wallpaper Debacle of 1990. The parsonage for the Bad Axe Church of the Nazarene was a curious abode. The most interesting feature was a six-foot underground hallway connecting the church building and parsonage. This hallway also meant the parsonage basement was the church fellowship hall and the parsonage first floor, half bath restroom often served as the restroom facility for the church’s fellowship times. With such usage, Karla decided the restroom needed a wallpaper upgrade. The tiny little restroom (think: phone booth size) was more crooked than anyone in Washington. In other words, the project was small but tricky. The job consisted of baptizing the wallpaper in the upstairs bathtub, then delivering it to the main floor restroom (without dripping glue on the green and gold circa 1964 shag carpet). As the duly appointed wallpaper runner in this process, I was rarely successful. The wallpaper was either too wet, too dry or had ripped in transit. We learned this important fact that day: Wallpaper projects account for 68% of divorces in America (That’s a number I just made up). Thankfully, our marriage survived the Bad Axe restroom wallpapering project of 1990.  

From those two projects early in our marriage, we learned to stick to the things we know best. Karla handles small home improvement projects. I preach. We’ve kept this rule, until the 107 Piece King Bed Construction Project of 2021.

We laid out 106 of the 107 pieces (one washer was a no show). We assembled the necessary tools: a provided Allen wrench and another thing-a-ma-bob (sorry for the technical jargon). We took a deep breath and began. What happened next might be considered a miracle on par with the splitting of the Red Sea. There were no disagreements. No tears. No items thrown in disgust. The bed, box springs (no assembly required) and rolled up king size mattress, which came in a tiny box, and exploded into king size following a few snips of the plastic wrap, were all in place. Easy Peasy.

I did not sleep on the couch (neither because the project was incomplete nor by upsetting my bride with my handy man ineptitude). Instead, we slept in our new Prince worthy king-sized bed. 

The 107 (technically 106) piece King-size Bed Project of 2021 proves:

1). Karla has learned great patience during our soon-to-be-celebrated 33-years of marriage.

2). Rob has learned his best attributes are encourager and final bolt tightener. 

3). God still work miracles.

I can’t say with certainty that there was divine intervention in our bed assembly project, but I am praying for far greater miracles in your homes. This last year has been difficult on our families and marriages. But know this: God loves you. God loves everyone under your roof too. God still works miracles. It doesn’t take 107 pieces (106 technically) to figure that out.

This Lenten 2021 Fasting List Might Surprise You

Usually in the season of Lent, Christians’ fast. We give up things like chocolate, Facebook or coffee. Little did we know mid-way through Lent 2020, we’d give up things far more important than sweets or soda. We stopped meeting together. Stopped seeing each other. Stopped so many things at the beginning days of the pandemic. We sat home on Easter Sunday. Thanks for nothing Covid-19! None of those things we stopped doing were on our fasting list on Ash Wednesday 2020. As we embark in a new season of Lent, maybe in our pandemic-fatigued minds we are thinking, “Lent 2021– Let me count the things I’d gladly give up.”

Let’s give up: masks, social distancing, Zoom meetings, on-line learning, hybrid school schedules, and all other things “Covid” for Lent 2021.

Not so fast (pun intended).

Obviously, we aren’t out of the Covid woods. We still have a few hurdles to jump before this race gets back to normal. Instead of dropping our guard, here are a few suggestions of things we could give up in Lent 2021:

Fast from jumping to conclusions.

Fast from skipping gratitude.

Fast from running our mouths before using our ears.

Fast from stomping on people’s feelings.

Fast from hopping to negative talk.

Fast from leaping to one’s favorite news channel.

Fast from flying off the handle.

Fast from bouncing our initial thoughts on social media.

Fast from shooting ugly looks at those who happen to disagree with our opinions.

Fast from firing off gossipy or rumor-mongering emails 

And while we’re at it: 

Fast from always expecting to get our way.

Fast from limiting what God can do.

Fast from all those things that get our eyes off Jesus

Instead let’s win the race and do what the author of Hebrews calls us to do (in the Lenten season or not): 

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

(Hebrews 12:1-3)

Lent 2020 didn’t end nearly was well as we had hoped. Lent 2021 might end far better than we imagine if we keep moving upward with our eyes fixed on Jesus.