God Loves You. No Kidding!
It’s easy for me to forget what life was like before I gave my life to Jesus. After all, I was a teenager and that chapter of my life seems like a long time ago. My memory is made hazier because I don’t remember a time when I was not surrounded by Christian people who loved God and gave themselves generously to Christ’s work, and, I might add to me. I wasn’t lucky; I was blessed.
I’m reflecting on this now for two reasons. The first is that we find ourselves in the season of Lent, a time in the Church calendar when we acknowledge our human frailties and our dependence on God for all that is good. I didn’t choose my parents, or the home I grew up in, or any of my natural talents or weaknesses. I was born to and with them, and I count them all as signs of God’s grace. (Yes, I am even learning to give thanks for my ‘weaknesses,’ as, little by little, I’m discovering what it means for God’s power to be made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:8).)
For me, Lent is also a time when I reflect on my identity as an image-bearer of God, and how, through the cradle of family and friends, as well as opportunities, I was “loved into loving God back,” as the pastor of Canvas (New Worshipping Community), Kirk Winslow, likes to say.
The more sobering side of Lent, of course, is to reflect on what I’m making of my life now, and whether my priorities and practices are in any way living up to the graces I have received.
The other reason I’m reflecting on this now is because our presbytery is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. A sizable team of people have been meeting for months, considering how to give thanks communally for God’s faithfulness over the years. I have been fascinated with where their conversation has taken them, and the places they have landed.
Instead of one big bash, where we feast and celebrate 50 years of mission together (which we will also do on October 14), the planning team has decided to celebrate our anniversary by lifting up one story at a time, one life that has been transformed by God’s grace at a time.
Indeed, our Director of Media, Tom Dykhuizen, has been commissioned to create short videos of interviews with people from all around our presbytery. The interviews aren’t focused on presbytery projects, but on the personal stories of our sisters and brothers in faith.
The series is called “50 Years: The Voices of Los Ranchos.” I think you will find these interviews beautifully inspiring and give you multiple reasons to celebrate our life together.
One of my great joys is hearing what congregations are doing in worship and mission. The other day I asked pastor Kim Skilling of First Presbyterian Church of Anaheim what they were doing to observe Lent, to which she responded, “Oh, we’re doing something fun.”
Not having heard the words “Lent” and “fun” mentioned in the same sentence too often, I asked her to explain. Then she reminded me that Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day and Easter fell on April Fool’s Day. She said, with a chuckle, that she was teaching a series entitled “God Loves You. No Kidding!”
As I reflect on the Lenten journey, and the multiple graces I have received, I realize that among the greatest is walking with people who love God and are called according to his purpose. In the face of frailties, many of which are deeply personal, and to which this season of Lent invites my attention, I’m grateful to hear stories of how God is at work, transforming us day by day and using us in his love.
To be part of a larger family of faith helps me see the bigger picture of what God is doing to redeem this world, and to learn how I might play a more fruitful role to that end. As we travel through Lent and begin our celebration of 50 years of mission, I’m eager to hear your stories of faith and to be inspired all over again to faith and good works.
We’re going to have a great year celebrating. God loves us. No Kidding!