We’re in the season of Lent right now. It started Mar 5 this year and will end at Easter. It is a period of 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter (which is on the first Sunday after the full moon, after the Spring Equinox). Lent is a time to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before He began His ministry. There He was tempted by the devil three times but He overcame by the power and Word of God. I haven’t studied this but I feel it also points to an even greater temptation He felt…to NOT go to the cross. At the height of this very human feeling, the night before He was betrayed and led to the cross, He pleaded with God to take the cup (of God’s wrath) from Him, but still said “Not as I will, but as You will.” Words are insufficient in describing that kind of submission and obedience and trust in the Father.
Back to Lent…Christian observers of Lent originally fasted from any kind of rich foods (i.e. wine, meat, fat, sugar) for 40 days to commemorate Jesus’ period of fasting in the desert. This, in a way, lead to some serious binging of rich foods the day before Lent started…which brings us modern day festivals like Mardi Gras. I think the spirit of Lent is kinda lost in that….but anyways, we were encouraged by our pastor to observe Lent by giving up something that takes up undue attention and time in our lives so that we can make more room for God. To give something up so that God can fill it in with more of Himself. To break holds that things or people or practices might have in our lives so that we can have a better hold on God.
This year, I’ve chosen to give up Facebook. I’ve given this up in past Lenten seasons as well but I haven’t been as thoughtful about filling the time that would otherwise be used Facebooking with things of God. This time, I aim to pray for someone or pray over a situation every time I have the inclination to check Facebook. I must say…I pray a lot more now. Ha. But it’s been really good. There is less anxiousness through the day when I’m lifting everything to God in prayer. In submission and trust in God. I really want to keep this habit up even after Lent is over. Prayer is so critical to a life of faith. It is more powerful than any human word or action. It reaches out to and taps into the power of the Creator of the Universe! And because really, Facebook is SUCH a waste of time in comparison!
Last week I attended the screening of “We Were Children” and also had the privilege of hearing the stories from those whose parents had gone through residential school. The film follows the story of two Aboriginal children, Lyna and Glen, as they endured residential school in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, respectively. These schools aimed to “kill the Indian in the child”. The effects of physical, emotional and sexual trauma they survived through persist into all aspects of their adult lives. It was such a heavy film to take in…I’m still processing…but here are some thoughts:
The First Nations “problem” we perceive to have today is just the symptom of the incredible brokenness the residential school survivors carried. Many of these children were separated, sometimes forcefully, from their parents from the age of 4 to 18. The schools forbade touching, provided no affection, taught no social or life skills and the rich family-oriented culture they were taken from was effectively erased. In addition, attacks and abuses were heaped on physically, mentally and spiritually. No one believed you even if you told them you were abused because “why would the priests do that”? So you carry the shame, the hurt, the guilt, the anger, the injustice, the rage, the helplessness and hopelessness in silence. Upon “graduating” you were tossed back out into the world but now have no idea how to cope with the new freedoms. No ideas how to be in relationship with others. No idea how to be a husband or a wife or a mother or father. Many turned to alcohol to numb the memories. Many took their own lives. Many left their own wounded children in their wake. And the children of residential school survivors are the First Nations elders we have today. They’ve faced abuse of all sorts simply because their parents (the survivors) didn’t know anything else and many have passed that brokenness on…so the generational curse really does reach into the third and forth generations.
One lady from the Haida tribe shared about her memories from before she was taken into residential school. Their one tribal law was to respect and honor each other. And so they did…everyone’s conduct hinged on this law. Families were tight and loving. Homes were clean and decorated with flowers and seashells. Everyone took care of each others needs. It was a happy time.
Apparently, the atrocities seen in this film is still considered to be a mild version of what some have experienced. I can’t imagine. Also, I was horrified to learn that Hilter’s concentration camps were inspired by the Canadian residential schools. And even more sickened by how these schools were run by various “Christian” churches. What terrible terrible representation of God and His love!! But I am reminded that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) The end of the Story has been written and Christ will conquer. All who trust in Him will not be victims but victors.
Back to our First Nations…how does healing begin?? How does healing reach those wounds from generations back? For those of us bearing Christ’s name, how might we be agents of reconciliation today? The end of the Story might already be written but right now we get to be part of the action. Hearing the stories from Christian First Nations that night bore witness to the incredible power of healing from God. How do we fit into this picture, this journey of healing? That’s what I want to know…and be part of.
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said…taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves….they all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Here’s another gem from BSF…from the passage in Matt 14:13-20 about Jesus feeding the crowd of 5000. Firstly, the 5000 count refers only to the men. So if most of them have wives, and a couple kids, then the number is really more like 15,000+. Secondly, how is it that out of maybe 10,000 adults, no one thought to bring extra food? I bet that many did have extra provisions. But when Jesus asked the disciples to see how much food they could round up, most people thought it better to save what they had for themselves. I’d probably do the same thing really. And so, my thoughts wander to the person or persons who gave up their loaves and fish. They had no idea Jesus was going to turn their little snack offering into a massive miracle. The crowd ate until they were “satisfied”…and there were still TWELVE basketfuls of leftovers. Can you imagine being part of that??? “Jesus took my little snack and miraculously fed 15,000+ people with it!! Incredible!!”
So I’m wondering with the little I have…if Jesus asked for it…would I give it up or hang onto it for myself? How often have I held onto the bit that was “mine” for fear of losing it and refused to offer it to God. What blessing have I missed out on because of it? Not that I should be giving to God in hopes of getting something in return. But what does my actions (or non-action) say about my heart attitude? Or about my trust in Jesus’ provision? Hmm. Convicting.
Jesus replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
In BSF recently we looked at the faith of a Canaanite woman who sought Jesus’ healing for her demon possessed daughter. Now, I’m no scholar and haven’t looked very deeply into the original Hebrew text or cultural context etc, but my understanding of Jesus’ reply is that He wasn’t being rude or demeaning. The “dogs” He refers to would be like a little household pet, not the big, mean, scavenging, rabies and flea infested dogs of the street. So He’s kind of saying, “It’s not right to feed the pets before the kids, even if both are loved.” I’m going to leave the contexting at that…because what impressed me the most was the woman’s witty and humble response, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall…”
What blew me away was that she had faith even fallen CRUMBS from Jesus’ table would be enough to bring healing to her daughter. Do I have that kind of courage? That kind of faith? What do my prayers tell me about how I see Jesus? Do I believe He is who He says He is? Am I really just asking things within the bounds of what *I* think is probable or do I really believe He can do more than I ask or imagine?
Lately, I don’t. But I’m trying to.
That was the view presented at our discipleship group a few Sundays ago. And I think I agree with it….that people who claim to be followers of Christ should quite naturally be the ones compelled to follow His commands, example and teaching. Because only those who have the Holy Spirit will be capable of recognizing what is in line with His teaching or not, and only they have the power to live it out as God transform them from the inside out. So the ones who aren’t followers, who don’t have the Holy Spirit, well why should they be held to Christ’s standard?
The Western world developed on Judeo-Christian principles and back then, it can safely be assumed that everyone believed in God and followed Biblical teaching. Encouraging, upholding, rebuking each other in accordance to the Word was part of the community norm. Times have definitely changed and believers are in the minority…but somehow, we keep trying to push the “Christian way” onto everyone else…and it comes across as judgmental, unloving and ungracious. Which is totally not lined up with who Jesus or God is.
I don’t believe Biblical principles and instructions are to be blindly followed by Christians just for the sake of following them though. I believe most Biblical principles have very solid reasons to be followed for our own physiological, emotional and spiritual well-being. Granted some of those benefits primarily applied to that period of history or that area of the world….but many are still relevant and applicable today. Taking the time to look deeper into why God may have laid down certain boundaries will result in a deeper understanding and appreciation for those boundaries. While we look at our decisions and actions within the tiny context of the world immediately around us (i.e. “I’m not hurting anyone
that immediately comes to mind“), God sees the WHOLE PICTURE and works His boundaries for the benefit of all, the environment included. So I think those principles that benefit us physiologically and emotionally CAN be shared even with those who do not follow Christ. Spiritual boundaries/benefits are harder to express and share….even though a lot of physical/emotional boundaries are tied to spiritual well-being too. But hey, if asked, be prepared to answer in gentleness and respect!
So, my take-away from that discussion…be loving, compassionate and gracious to all. Celebrate what’s meaningful in the lives of all whom we care about; mourn with each other; walk with and talk with them for as long as you are welcomed. If asked your opinion on something, then share honestly and openly, have discussion, but don’t expect any kind of compliance to your thoughts, and respect each other regardless. If someone won’t accept you then just shake the dust off your feet and move on. (And I might add, this goes both ways…those who are secular shouldn’t be forcing their values onto others who seek to live as Christ taught either.)
Thoughts on this? I know I’ve just scratched the surface.