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Daily Encouragement - February 23

“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”

Your face, Lord, do I seek.

Psalm 27:8 NRSV

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,will save it.

Mark 8:34-35 NRSV

Last week, I made a momentous decision.

Frankly, I’m almost ashamed to admit that it was such a significant decision for me, but it was. People had begun to ask me what I was giving up (or taking on) for Lent, and I didn’t have a good answer. So I told them I was still giving it prayerful consideration - which was the truth. It wasn’t quite the whole truth, though. That would have involved my admitting that I really didn’t want to give up anything else at this point. The last 11&1/2 months have felt to me like one Great Big Fat Lent that never quite made it to Easter. A lot has already been given up by most of us, everything from the sublime (like hugging your grandchild or singing in worship) to the ridiculous (like trying on clothes before you buy them) and everything else that lies in between (like having friends over for dinner or going to a concert). When it comes right down to it, I just wasn’t much in the mood to make a Lenten sacrifice. Yes, I do realize how childish and selfish that sounds...but I’m trying to be truthful here, folks. And that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about how I was feeling with regard to a Lenten sacrifice.

Then, last Monday, I sat down to do some worship planning for the next several weeks, and there it was, staring me in the face, like the punch line in a parable that forces you to realize, “Ouch! Jesus is talking about me here!” The verses were Mark 8:34-35, and they slammed into me like a direct hit. If any want to become my disciples, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. “Deny herself.” Those were the words that wouldn’t let me go. The next verse didn’t get any easier: there is Jesus, talking about losing our lives for his sake, and here I am, balking at giving something up for 40 days. Come to your senses, Susan. Nothing you can give up will ever hold a candle to the sacrifice that Jesus made for you, so quit your whining and ask God to show you what you should give up this Lent. And so I did.

It didn’t take the answer long to arrive. Just a couple hours later, someone told me he was giving up FaceBook for Lent. Since I don’t do FaceBook any more, that didn’t work for me. Neither did Instagram, or Twitter, or Etsy. Then it hit me: Amazon. You have grown far too attached to Amazon during the pandemic. Time to cut the cords for a while. I clasped my hand to my heart (literally), just thinking about it. No, no, I thought, not THAT. Don’t ask me to give up THAT.

And that’s when I knew; I had to give up Amazon for Lent. Not just buying things on Amazon, mind: I’m also not putting things in my cart for later; I’m not even looking to see if Amazon has whatever I’m

needing/wanting/imagining. Now, on to the next step (taking something on): every time I’m tempted to search for something on Amazon, I’m going to memorize another Bible verse about the danger of getting tangled up in “our” possessions. (It’s not hard to find those verses, folks; the Bible has lots and lots to say on this topic.) All I can say is, this might not be life-changing in the spectacular sense, but it’s certainly been life-altering so far. Best of all, it’s been freeing. Now I have some mental and emotional space in my life that’s been freed up to search for God’s face..instead of searching Amazon. And that’s got to be a good thing.

“Jesus Calls Us” UMH 398, stanzas 3 & 5

Jesus calls us from the worship

of the vain world's golden store,

from each idol that would keep us,

saying, "Christian, love me more!"

Jesus calls us! By thy mercies,

Savior, may we hear thy call,

give our hearts to thine obedience,

serve and love thee best of all.

Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood

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