Crossing the Threshold

What You Need to Participate in this Devotional Time:  

     Chenille Pipe Cleaners (or You can opt to use something like Play-Doh)

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Contemplative Activity:

This week we entered into the sacred season of Lent.  To start off our time together, you are invited to take chenille pipe cleaners and shape them.  As you shape them, think about:  When you think of the Lenten Season what comes to mind?  It can be representative, abstract, symbolic.  There is no “right answer.” It is more about the process than the outcome.  It does not matter what these pipe cleaners end up looking like.  Hear me when I say that It does not matter what these pipe cleaners end up looking like.  Really.

Take some time to prayerfully shape your chenille pipe cleaners before you read the devotional below.  Let your time with the pipe cleaners be prayerful, meditative, and contemplative.

After you have shaped your pipe cleaner and given some thought to what this season of Lent means for you, continue reading, continue scrolling down.

                     Crossing the Threshold (Acrylic on Door)

Then move into the lesson:

As I shaped the pipe cleaners, I made a wandering path.

Over and over, again, the theme of journey and the story of the Prodigal Son keeps surfacing in my mind, as I think about the season and meaning of Lent. 

Read Luke 15:1-2, 11-24:

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them.  A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.  When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.  He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!  I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.  Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 

As we rapidly approached Lent and now as we have crossed the threshold into the season of Lent, the theme of Lent as a journey keeps washing over me.  I am the prodigal daughter making my way homeward.  As a kid, I never knew what the word prodigal really meant.  I did not understand that it had the connotation of extravagant or lavish.  This story has taken on new meaning for me. 

We are all prodigal children living extravagant and lavish lives especially in comparison to the rest of the world.  And yet there is a God who loves us, who is watching and waiting, to run out an lovingly meet us wherever we are, as we come to our self, and head homeward bound.  Home in this sense, for me, is about getting back in line with Godly purposes and kingdom values.  Lent, for me, this year is a journey – a journey of simplifying.  Taking time for intentional prayer.  Giving up things like alcohol and cussing.  And whenever I falter on my fast, I will donate 1$ to charity.  (I already have $6 set aside, so prayers are appreciated.)  This helps me to refocus my extravagance in the form of generosity for the least of these.  In emptying myself, and through a sifting of priorities, I am making space for God’s presence and grace.  I am also committing to writing these weekly devotionals, and treating my body as a temple bu committing to regular exercise.

The other text that comes to mind when I ponder Lent is from Philippians 2. 

Read Philippians 2:1-11:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited, 

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form, 

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name, 

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father. 

This God in the person of Jesus Christ emptied himself for our sake, and just like the Father of the prodigal child, meets us where we are.  Jesus shows us how and leads us to be about kingdom living.

For me, this year during the Lenten Season, I will be focusing on this theme of journey.  I am the prodigal daughter.  I need to simplify in all aspects of my life and focus on the essentials, and I need to endeavor to draw closer to God who is already drawing close to me.

Just before Lent, I started a piece that I did not know at the moment would be part of a Lenten discipline.  A few years back, there was some construction done at our house where a window was put in, in the place of the door.  I salvaged this beaten up door, and it has been sitting in the garage greeting me each day as I go in and out.  Last Sunday evening Chris was at church for a concert.  I opted to stay home.  I felt drawn to the door.  Over and over again in those few years, Chris had wanted to throw out the door.  Yet, I knew at some time I would want to paint it.  Last Sunday evening, I lovingly wrestled the door from the garage to my studio.  It still had dirt on it from when it was taken down, a few years back.  I started by washing the door, cleansing and scrubbing the door.  Then I began to paint with no agenda and no plan.  

This Lenten Season, symbolic of this journey motif, I will be journeying with the door.  I will be painting the door, with no agenda or plan, guided and open to where the Spirit leads.  This painting will be more about the process than the outcome.  As I do a weekly devotional, it will include images of the door, in process, along the journey.  The painting of this door will sacramentally act as an outward expression of my inward Lenten journey.

What I have learned from the door so far:  If there is truly hope for transformation and growth in our lives, we must first acknowledge and bring to light the dirt in our lives.  I could not just paint over the dirt.  The dirt would have shown through and also caused the paint not to stick properly.  So in this Lenten journey, I have to start by owning up to the dirt in my life, the junk.  Before we can be a new creation, we must acknowledge our need for grace.  I, then, surrender the dirt, those things that separate me from God, self, creation, and one another.  This act of repentance, of turning toward God and acknowledging I do not have it all together and am in desperate need of a savior is the first step in growth and transformation.  Then what do we do with the dirt in our lives?  We allow the healing waters of unconditional love and forgiveness to wash over  us.  We seek healing and wholeness and for God to use us as we are cleansed by God's power, love, and abiding presence.  FInally, I have crossed the threshold of this journey, but I have no idea where I am going.  As I meander, wander, and weave, I am open to where the Spirit leads.  Painting with no agenda or plan is challenging and a bit like enering the wilderness, the desert.  And yet, it is refreshing to paint in this way.  As I paint, may I connect with the Holy.  And may God's amazing grace continue to transform me into who God is calling me to become.

Let us pray:  Creator God.  Thank you for loving us.  We come to you at the beginning of this Lenten journey.  We lay ourselves before you -- all of our self.  Search us.  Know us.  Meet us where we are, flaws and all.  Heal us.  Forgive us.  Help us to grow and transform into the new creation you have called us to become.  And help us to find joy in the journey.  In the name of the one who gave it all for our sake, we pray.  Amen.

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