ReThinking Advent, Day 2: Bound

Bound is an interesting word.  When I looked it up in the dictionary, I was reminded that it has multiple meanings.  The one that first came to mind for me was the verb which means in bonds or chains; restricted, confined, detained; compelled or obliged to act behave or think in a particular way, as by duty, circumstance, or convention.  Within the context of Advent, I was thinking that before the death and resurrection of Jesus, we were bound by the law. The death and resurrection of Jesus would fulfill the law and ultimately unbind us from our sin. This promise is made way back in Genesis 3:15.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.

So initially, I thought my picture would reflect some kind of bondage…a chain or rope, perhaps.  But, as I started thinking about the other meanings of the word “bound”, I changed my mind.

Bound (verb):  walk or run with leaping strides.

Bound (noun):  a leaping movement upward.

The same word.  Completely different definition.  You cannot run or leap upward when you are restricted and confined.

As we anticipate the coming of Jesus, let’s remember how He was born into the world to un-bind us.  This should make us bound with joy!

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:6

Advent Photo-a-Day

I haven’t written since my Lenten Photo-a-Day project. Sadly, I didn’t even finish it. I seemed to lose my voice after my friend suddenly passed away in March. There were a couple of times that I tried to write again, but it all seemed so trivial. Nothing seemed worthy of “moving on”, so to speak. Then, I got an email that ReThink Church was having another photo-a-day project and I though that this might be the time. I think Kevin would think so anyway.

The purpose of this project is to enter this season of Advent with intention and awareness — to watch and wait for that wonderful something God is sending our way not just at Christmas, but every single day.

Today’s word is “Go”.

Mt. Adams, Washington State

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
(Isaiah 2:1-3 ESV)

Click here if you are interested in learning more about the Advent Photo-A-Day project.

ReThinking Lent – Day 46: Far

It’s an appropriate word for today as all this week, I have been frustrated and asking myself how we have gotten so far from the Gospel.

On this Good Friday especially, we need to remember that Jesus came to fulfill the law.  It was finished on that cross in Calvary.  Just before he was sent to die, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 13:34

This was consistent with the answer he’d given the Pharisees when they asked him:

 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:36-40

We get so wrapped up in our politics and religion and being “right” that we forget to love people.

How have we come so far from the Gospel?

Distant CrossGary Phillips

Distant Cross
Gary Phillips

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

Matthew 15:8

 

ReThinking Lent – Day 45: Cup

I have a reputation of having a “glass half empty” personality.  It has turned into somewhat of a joke.  A few years ago, some friends gave me a half full/half empty glass. I maintain that my glass is not half empty — it’s the wrong size glass.  Or, whether is half empty or half full, there’s room for more wine!  Jokes aside, it sort of stings when people say that about me.  It’s not that I’m not optimistic — it’s that I have been bitterly let down by people over the years, so I try to protect my heart by trying to expect less.  Truth is, I still expect a lot from people and continue to be let down because people are people.  We are flawed.  Imperfect.  Incapable of being everything that others expect or desire.  There will come a time when we will always let each other down, despite our best intentions.

The Gospel implications are that while people will always let you down, Jesus never will.  I think about what Jesus must have been feeling on that day so many years ago as he prepared to have his last meal with his friends who he knew were going to let him down.  He knew what the next 24 hours or so were going to bring.  And, while he knew that in his divinity, he would defeat death,  in his humanity, he still had to endure the physical, emotional and spiritual pain that awaited him on that cross.  I often wonder if he was afraid.  He had to be.  And, yet…he did it anyway.  He did not let us down.

I’ve been reflecting a lot over the past week or so, since I found out my friend had passed away.  I’ve been looking through old photos and remembering fun times spent with he and his wife.  As I sat there on my living room floor the other night, laughing and crying as I went through photos and cards and old ticket stubs that I’ve saved over the years, I realized how many amazing people have been a part of our lives.  Each person is somebody God saw fit to put in my life at a particular time and place.  Some are lifelong friends.  Some are people I’ve met as an adult who have become like family to me.  Others are people I’ve lost touch with over the years.  But, each has made me the person I am today.

My cup isn’t half full or half empty.  It overflows.

Cup Overflowing
Colleen Masserang

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

~Psalm 23:5

Supporting Wounded Warriors and their Families

If you’ve been following my Lenten Journey on this blog, you’ll know that today’s photo theme is “Help”.   I thought it was a perfect time tell you about a fantastic ministry that we are helping to support here in Bethesda, Maryland. It’s called Loaves & Fishes, sponsored by the Bethesda United Methodist Church where our family has been worshiping for almost a year.

Some of you might already know that Bethesda Navel-Walter Reed National Medical Center, which treats injured soldiers, is located just a few miles from our house. Loaves & Fishes Ministry was born in the fall of 2010 when the people at BUMC decided to engage in an intentional outreach with wounded servicemen and women at Bethesda Naval Hospital/Walter Reed.

Loaves & Fishes is serving an important unmet need – providing food, fellowship and other assistance not only to recovering veterans, but also to their families. Due to the often extensive nature of their injuries, these young men and women are here at Bethesda Naval Hospital for six months, a year, or longer. And their families make incredible sacrifices to be here with them during that time. The Loaves & Fishes ministry provides important resources to these servicemen, servicewomen, and their families.

The BUMC congregation has been serving a monthly meal for patients, their families, and the staff for the last year now. And there are plans to expand the Loaves & Fishes Ministry in 2013 to include a ride program to help family members get off campus, and the program is planning to add an outreach to longer-term rehabilitation patients living in the new barracks at the hospital.

So what is our part in this? It’s kind of a Forrest Gump thing. Lloyd’s going to run.  (I’m going to volunteer at one of the transition points).

Two teams with 12 runners each from Bethesda United Methodist are participating in a 200-mile relay from Gettysburg, PA to Washington, DC. You can learn more about the relay race at www.americanodysseyrelay.com.  We start on Friday morning, April 26th, and run all night until we reach DC sometime on Saturday.

The goal is to raise $1,000 per runner. Every dime – 100 percent – raised in this effort goes directly to support the wounded soldiers and their families, and the church is providing receipts for those who want to them for next year’s taxes.

If you are interested in helping the Loaves & Fishes outreach, please just follow this link to the church’s online giving page.  You will see a space to enter your donation to the Loaves and Fishes Ministry.  In the field next to the donation amount, please make sure you type in “Lloyd Brown” so that your generosity will count toward his fundraising goal.

No gift is too small, and as I said above, 100 percent of donations are going to a great cause.

For several years Lloyd has been fortunate to train and run. He has finished four marathons, a few triathlons and ultra marathon relays. These have been fun and challenging – a true blessing to him and our whole family.

It is through the sacrifices of our service men and women that we are able to have the freedom to pursue these things. When Lloyd takes off on this relay in April, I know that he will be running with gratefulness in his heart. It will be an honor to do to this for a ministry that is serving those who have given so much for us.

Thank you for your support, and please let us thank you on behalf of the veterans and families that will be served by your support of the Loaves & Fishes ministry.

Abiding in Him,

Stephanie & Lloyd

lloyd running

 

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Romans 15:1, ESV

ReThinking Lent – Day 43: Help

This is my dear friend, H.  The story of the beginning of our friendship is summed up in the scripture below.  We lived through some seriously hard stuff together and I think that am positive that were not for Jesus in our lives, we may not be friends today.  But, we are.  In fact, she is like a little sister to me and I know she will be in my life forever.

 

395235_10151301332705571_1622072023_n

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2, ESV

 

ReThinking Lent – Day 41: Rejoice

How do you pick one verse for this word?  There are so many things to rejoice in throughout the Story of God.  And how do you choose one photo?  That’s what I tend to take photos of the most — the things that make me rejoice in God’s creation.  Family.  Friends.  Pets.  Nature. The Beach.  Music.  Sunsets.  Art.  Good Wine.  Bacon.  It’s all worthy of praise and proof that God cares about all of the details in our lives (and I have pictures of all of it).

That being said, I’m going with baseball.

Sunset over Nationals Park.  © 2012 Stephanie L. Brown

Sunset over Nationals Park
© 2012 Stephanie L. Brown

Rejoice always

1 Thessalonians 5:16

 

I also want to share a song that always makes me rejoice.  I dare you not to dance.