The Cry of My Heart

The day had arrived. The newborn lambs that I began bottle feeding in March had grown big enough to head to market. As the sun came over the horizon, my regular morning chores included some extra play time in the pasture, a few pictures snapped by the hubby, one last combing of their wool, and a few final hugs before the trailer backed up to the door of the barn. As Littlefoot, Andy, and Olive were sorted from the “herd”, panic began to set in. I use the term “herd” quite loosely since the remaining lambs amounted to two younger ewes, Peanut and Annie. The older lambs boarded the trailer reluctantly, but it was the little girls that became hysterical.

Crying and bleating, I was certain that Peanut was going to jump the fence. I released them from their confinement into the pasture, filled their feed troughs with grain, and put out fresh hay to try to calm them. Nothing worked. For the next hour they raced from the pasture into the barn and back out again, running in circles, climbing up the rails of the fence, and all the while crying, crying, crying.

I wanted to cry with them. Not only was I a little sad to see the other lambs leave the farm, but I could relate to the depths of their distress. Their frantic baas were the sound of my soul.

Life has been stressful, challenging, and draining. My heart breaks, my head hurts, my emotions are raw, my soul feels dry. And I find myself bellowing the words of the ancient song writer in Psalm 13.

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

I added my own lyrics…
How long, O Lord? How long?
How long will this virus rage and disunity spread?
How long will our hugs and handshakes be forbidden and our smiles masked?
How long will truth be silenced and lies run rampant?
How long will relationships be broken and hearts remain hard?
How long will you look the other way?
How long will you sit on your almighty thumb and let the enemy steal, kill, and destroy?
How long, O Lord? How long?

BAA. BAA. Baa. Baa. Eventually the lambs calm down, as does the shepherd girl, and the song writer…
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

It’s okay to cry out to the Lord. It’s good to get real with our heavenly Father and bare our soul. But don’t stay in panic mode. There is hope.
Why, are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43)

Erin Jacobsma


Safety Rules

Safety / sāf-tē / noun

  1. The condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss
  2. The action of keeping safe

There seems to be a lot of talk this year about safety. Actually safety has been a hot topic for a long time, just ask any business that’s regulated or been investigated by OSHA. The change comes in what we are trying to be safe from.

The “Stay Safe MN” slogan grinds my gears every time I see it, so I’ve been evaluating my angst about safety. Many catchy phrases popped up in my Google “safety” search: safety doesn’t happen by accident; safety isn’t expensive, it’s priceless; when safety is first, you last; safety rules are your best tools.

Most of these slogans were promoted by employers trying to limit insurance claims and other problems at their business, but there are many things that we do to keep ourselves and others safe. Babies are strapped into car seats, boaters wear life jackets, bikers sport helmets. We remove snow and ice from our sidewalks, we clean splattered bugs from our windshields, we secure the handrails on our stairs. Steel-toed boots, leather gloves, hard hats, ear muffs, and goggles are all tools of safety. In the name of safety, my husband is required to wear high visibility clothing at his job, and we buckle up every time we get in a vehicle, (which, I might add, was instrumental in my daughter’s safety a few months ago.) Choosing safety isn’t stupid.

So why does the push to stay safe make me cringe?

First, we have to trust the item or action that provides safety. This is different for each person. Not everyone wears their seatbelt, safety glasses, or helmet. Although some safety measures are regulated by law, not everyone complies. Our confidence, or lack of, will determine our actions. It will also have consequences. King David declares in Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Where is my trust?

Second, I question if we worship safety? Safety, and security often dominate the prayers that I hear from the kids in my classroom… keep us safe on our way home, keep us safe at school, keep my friends safe, my family safe, etc. One would wonder if we live in a hostile country where our safety is in question day in and day out. At one time, I forbid the use of the word safe during our prayer time so we could think beyond our physical security. There is so much more that we could pray about. Instead of praying for safety, lets pray for courage. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and of self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) I believe that God is concerned with our physical well-being. Scripture tells us that he watches over the sparrows and flowers and knows when each hair falls from our head. But I also believe that our priority is to seek Him, not safety. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Third, do we serve a God of safety? Is following Jesus a protection guarantee? Is a life that’s free from pain our reward for faith in God? Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) That doesn’t sound very safe. Jesus also said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Regardless if you have had similar thoughts or different ideas regarding safety, may we all take heed from words found in Philippians chapter 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always… let your reasonableness be known to everyone… do not be anxious… let your requests be made known to God… with thanksgiving… and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Learning From Mistakes

His name is Blue. But there’s nothing blue about him. His coat is black and brown, peppered with gray. Even his eyes are brown, not blue. He’s a spunky, energetic hound that loves people and attention. He was born to hunt and most often you will find him with his nose to the ground. He’s not even my dog. He belongs to my son, but he has taken up residence at our farm for close to a year and loves the wide open space. In dog years, his age is close to mine so when he started howling at 6:00 in the morning to go to the bathroom… well, I can relate.

As I shuffled to the garage to let him out of his kennel, a thought entered my mind that I should grab his shock collar. I dismissed the idea as quickly as it came. After all, we were just going out for a bathroom break not a morning walk. I opened the door to the great outdoors, and while I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, Blue took two steps over the threshold and then bolted across the front lawn. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon and I could barely make out what he was after. I hollered his name, and wished I had grabbed the shock collar. I knew we were in trouble when the dark object of Blue’s attention turned and revealed a white stripe down its back. The skunk tried to retreat, but the dog with a one-track nose was determined to investigate and see who this furry friend was. Within seconds, the “friend” became foe and Blue was squinting his eyes and rolling in the grass, and we were both regretting our decisions.

My eyes burned as I googled what to do next. I quickly changed clothes and rushed to the grocery store, while the dog was left chained to the tree to deal with the consequences of his decision. I returned with an arsenal of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, Dawn dish soap, and tomato juice. The bathing process began, and while the tail-wager appeared fresh and clean, the stink lingered.

I’ve been reflecting on several life lessons from this encounter with our striped adversary.

First, I’ve been contemplating whether the fleeting thought to put Blue’s shock collar on was actually a nudge from the Holy Spirit. The prophet Isaiah tells us that “whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Perhaps the Spirit was trying to save me some trouble and I ignored his voice. This probably happens more often than I care to admit. Thoughts enter my mind to call a friend, send a card, pay a visit, shut my mouth, walk away, let it go, and I dismiss the thought. Lord, help me to pay better attention, listen more closely, and do what you say!

Second, we are free to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices. The Bible records an abundance of examples of people who were sprayed with the consequences of their decisions… Adam, Eve, Cain, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, Judah, Joseph… and that’s just a few from the book of Genesis. And rarely do the consequences of our decisions only affect us. Just as I had to deal with the backfire of Blue’s choices, the ex-wife reels from her partner’s decision to have an affair, the father suffers from the choices of his prodigal son, the business owner agonizes over government decisions, and our world is still in turmoil from decisions made thousands of years ago. The stench lingers. Lord, help us make choices that honor you!

Third, God always provides a way out from temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” He is a Way Maker. We don’t fall into sin, we choose it. We can also choose to walk away. Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Fourth, no matter what we have done, what mistake we made, what opportunity we missed, Father is waiting for us with arms wide open, offering his grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Lord, thank you for loving us and cleansing us from all our filth!

May we be lifelong learners, who learn from our mistakes or from the experiences of a dog named Blue.

Erin Jacobsma

 


What Is Beautiful In Your Life?

“I’m tired, boss. Mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other.” These words came from the mouth of death row inmate, John Coffey, in the movie The Green Mile as the prison guard struggles with the possibility of Coffey’s innocence. I can echo those words; maybe you can too. I’m tired; tired of the ugly. Tired of ugly actions, ugly attitudes, and ugly words. Tired of ugliness in families, between friends, at retail stores and schools and meetings, on the news, on social media, in the church, and in the mirror.

Backstabbing, shaming, name calling, pot-stirring, belittling, aggression, passivity, apathy, defensiveness, self-righteousness… it’s all ugly. Ugliness seems to be running rampant while beauty seems to be in short supply. Or is that just what the enemy wants me to believe? Is my mind being trained to see the ugly rather than the beautiful?

A question was posed to me during a recent conversation that has been stirring in my thinker. “What is beautiful in your life?” I didn’t have an immediate answer. Maybe I’ve become too accustomed to looking at the ugly. Perhaps my rose colored glasses have been stained.

Beautiful, according to Google, means “pleasing to the senses or mind.” Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, thoughts… What is beautiful in my life? I started a list:

  • A cool evening breeze
  • Open windows
  • Marigolds full of blooms
  • Aroma of fresh cut grass
  • Baby birds chirping in their nest
  • The ‘pop’ of canning jars sealing
  • Buttered sweet corn
  • Rodent traps that did their job
  • Mask-free conversations
  • Friendly phone call dialed on accident
  • 60 years married for Mom & Dad
  • Forbidden hugs
  • Helping hands
  • Fresh Starts

The beautiful is there in the midst of the ugly. I just need to look for it. I think this is what Peter is talking about when he says “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Wouldn’t that be just like the devil to distract us with our own thoughts and senses, focusing our attention on the ugly rather than the beautiful.

It’s like weeds and flowers. A friend has been volunteering many hours pulling weeds around the church property, especially in the rain gardens by the highway. From the roadway it appears like everything is healthy and green. But take a closer look and the actual shrubs and flowers were overgrown with thistles and vines and weeds of all kinds. Some weeds were so big we had to confer with Gardener George that they were indeed weeds and not plants to be saved. As happens in most gardens, the ugly weeds and the beautiful flowers grow up side by side, and if nothing is done to control the weeds, they will soon take over. As sinful, selfish people, our default is weed watering instead of weed pulling. But we need to nourish the flowers (the beautiful) and pull the weeds (the ugly).

Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Our mind is a powerful tool. May it be said of us that we trained and renewed our mind to see the beautiful.

Erin Jacobsma

 


God is Good

God Is Good.

Are these three words foundational truth, or just a good catch phrase? Is this declaration dependent on circumstances, or unconditional? Is God good even when conditions are not?

Last week our family was thrown into the midst of a challenging situation. My daughter, Gretchen, and her boyfriend were traveling down a South Dakota highway when another car came into their lane, resulting in a head-on collision at 65 mph. Plans for fun and relaxation, quickly melted into seven hours of fear, panic, pain, sirens, needles, x-rays, scans, tests, prayers, phone calls, and tears. In the end, it was truly a miracle that the two of them walked out of the emergency department with many bruises and scrapes, but not one broken bone or life-threatening injury. I was able to take my baby girl home, tuck her in bed, kiss her goodnight, and tell Jesus ‘thank you’ a thousand times before I drifted off to sleep. God is good.

The following morning on my way to work, as I drove past the funeral home, my throat became tight, my stomach turned, and my eyes filled with tears, at the thought of what could have been. Rather than going about my regular Thursday activities, I could be pacing the floor in the ICU waiting room, watching my child cling to life with the aid of machines, or planning a funeral. By the grace of God, that was not to be. And again my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude. God is good.

Last week my family also enjoyed a productive day of outside projects in the hot summer sun. We were pleased with our accomplishments only to come inside to discover our thermostat hovering at 80 degrees. Further investigation revealed that the comfort of a cool home would not be a cheap fix. The compressor on the air conditioner was caput and repair was not an option. God is good.

This week, the multiple rains that poured down heavy in our area created a river through our ditch and also through our basement. Three sump pumps are laboring to keep up and the dehumidifier is running non-stop. The new dehumidifier… the old one died last week. God is good.

Now why in the world would I say that God is good even in the midst of pain and suffering, trauma and tears, struggle and brokenness? Because He is! I resolved a long time ago that God is inherently good and nothing in this world can add or subtract from that. In life, God is good. In death, God is good. In prosperity, God is good. In poverty, God is good. In wholeness, brokenness, ease, struggle, peace, pain, joy, sorrow… God is good.

Yes, at times life is hard, the struggle is real, and some days just plain suck. But God is good, all the time. Favorable life experiences don’t add to God’s goodness, neither do traumatic events negate His goodness. Goodness is a part of who He is, in addition to being omnipotent, faithful, loving, merciful, holy, omniscient, eternal, and perfect. He can’t not be good.

Psalm 100:5 states, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” For me, that is a foundational truth. It’s not conditional or questionable.

“O, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)

Erin Jacobsma

 


Show Me Your Scars

Scars. We all have them. If you disagree with that statement, tip your head and take a look at your navel. Regardless if it is an innie or an outie, your belly button is a scar resulting from a wound on the day of your birth. According to Wikipedia, “A scar is an area of fibrous tissue that replaces normal skin after an injury. It is the result of the biological process of wound repair. With the exception of very minor lesions, every wound results in some degree of scarring.”

Besides my belly button, I have other scars… two distinct marks run parallel to my spine carved by a surgeon’s scalpel, remnants of a 3rd degree burn coat the back of my leg, and a relic by my eyebrow occurred from the carelessness of my older brother. (I won’t name names J) Each scar has a story to tell. Some stories we enjoy retelling, while others we’d rather conceal. I know a young lady with scars on her legs and arms. She isn’t proud of them and doesn’t want anyone to know they are there. They are reminders of self-inflicted wounds to her body in an attempt to take away the pain of wounds to her heart.

Yes, some scars form on our skin and are very visible. Other times it’s our mind and heart that are affected. We are wounded within. And just as all people have a scar on their exterior, I think you would  have a difficult time finding someone that hasn’t been wounded on the inside. As is evident in our society, some people’s hurts are still gaping open, gushing, or oozing, while others have allowed wounds to heal and scar over.

Scars seem ugly and we attempt to reduce their appearance, but if you think about it scars are really beautiful. Scars signify healing. While a wound shows evidence of an injury, often bloody and gross, scars only form after a wound is bound up and completely healed. And as a friend reminded me, “Scars only form on the living.” Let that sink in.

Isaiah 53 speaks of a Man, Jesus Christ, who bears the scars of a sacrificial wounding. “He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus was wounded (flesh ripped open, body nailed to a tree, side pierced through) to bring healing and restoration and to bind up our relationship with God. Without Jesus’ wounds, we would never experience healing and right relationship with the Father.

Psalm 147:3 says, “He (the Lord) heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” I often have a picture in my mind of a doctor suturing a deep cut and wrapping gauze around the injury when I think about binding up wounds, but as I’ve been thinking about scars, these words are a beautiful picture of the healing and restoration that God does in our lives, even if it does leave a scar.

So tell me about your scars. Do you have battle wounds that you are proud of, souvenirs of a victory from the past? Marks that are thick with life lessons and transformation? Maybe your scars are buried deep within your soul and very few people, if anybody, even know about them. Maybe they are your own doing and are bound with shame, or maybe they are twisted with bitterness and unforgiveness. Or perhaps you have wounded another, left a decisive mark on their body… or their heart. Maybe you threw a punch, or shot careless words that pierced deep within. (If that’s you, I encourage you to take action to clean up your mess, and apply the healing balm of a humble apology and reconciliation.)

Whether you have been the wounded or the wound-er, make a choice today to allow Jehovah-Rapha, the God Who Heals, to bind up your wounds and bring complete healing to your body and your soul. Your scars are proof that God heals. So don’t be embarrassed about them, tell their story and tell of the amazing power of God’s healing in your life.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Laboring With The Lord

A wise mother stated, “Once labor begins, it never ends.” Labor for me began 27 years ago, eighteen hours before our firstborn entered this world. She was a beautiful baby, perfectly knit together in my womb, crafted by her Creator. And with her first cry, everything I thought I knew about being a mom unraveled, and I never felt more inadequate for anything in my entire life.

That feeling hasn’t gone away. Maybe there are some moms who feel like they are knocking it out of the park and that their kids are the luckiest offspring on earth, but that’s not the case for me. I have messed up in more ways than I care to mention, and remember many days when I would lay my head on the pillow and ask God to erase my children’s memory of that day. I realize that I’m my biggest critic, but maybe there are other moms that can relate.

There are so many stories about mothers in the Bible, some I can relate to and others I can’t even imagine. A mother who birthed mankind, a mother who hid her baby in a basket by the river, mothers who buried children, played favorites, raised prophets and priests, and a young mother who birthed the Savior of the world. But the story that touches my mothering heart isn’t about a mother at all. It’s found in Mark 9:12-17. The Message Bible tells it like this:

As the day declined, the Twelve said to Jesus, “Dismiss the crowd so they can go to the farms or villages around here and get a room for the night and a bite to eat. We’re out in the middle of nowhere.”

“You feed them,” Jesus said.

They said, “We couldn’t scrape up more than five loaves of bread and a couple of fish—unless, of course, you want us to go to town ourselves and buy food for everybody.” (There were more than five thousand people in the crowd.)

But he went ahead and directed his disciples, “Sit them down in groups of about fifty.” They did what he said, and soon had everyone seated. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd. After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up.

As I read these words, I hear Jesus say to me, “You feed them.” I have made thousands of bottles and thousands of meals for my children over the years, but that’s been the easy part. Feeding mouths is one thing, feeding souls is another. Most days I feel like one of the disciples scraping together a few morsels, and offering it to the Messiah saying “This is all I have and I know it’s not enough.” But Jesus takes our insufficient and turns it into abundance with leftovers to boot! Thank you, Jesus!

I don’t know who penned the following words, but they were taped to my refrigerator for many years and I have prayed them often. If you are a mom, I would encourage you to pray them as well.

“Lord, you know my inadequacies. You know my weaknesses, not only in parenting, but in every area of my life. I am doing the best I can to raise my kids properly, but it may not be good enough. As you broke the fish and the loaves to feed 5,000 hungry people, now take my meager effort and use it to bless my family. Multiply it as only you can. Make up for the things I do wrong. Satisfy the needs I have not met. Compensate for my blunders and mistakes. Wrap your great arms around my children and draw them close to you. And be there when they stand at the great crossroads between right and wrong. All I can give them is my best and I will continue to do that. I submit them to you now, and rededicate myself to the task You have placed before me. The outcome rests securely in your hands, Lord.”

Laboring with the Lord, Erin Jacobsma


While It Was Still Dark

John 20:1 “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”

This verse was part of my scripture reading for today and I was caught off guard by five little words sandwiched between two commas: while it was still dark. While it was still dark? Why did my mind fixate on that phrase? Maybe it had to do with the early hour at which I was reading, maybe the words dredged up nocturnal fears from my childhood, maybe it’s indicative of the darkness that hangs over our world, or maybe the Holy Spirit just needed me to do some reflecting.

So I have been pondering.

Scripture tells us a few things about this woman. Mary is her name. Not to be mistaken with Mary the mother of Jesus, or Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, or any of the “other” Marys, this Mary is known to those around her as Magdalene. Her identity was tied to the town where she was from—Magdala. We know little of her past, her family, or her age, but we do know that she had a transforming encounter with the Messiah. Luke 8:2 informs us that Magdalene had been delivered from evil spirits, seven to be exact. The details of that event are not revealed to us, but the effects are crystal clear. Jesus had set her free and she committed her life – time, resources, energy – into following Him.

According to other Gospel accounts, we read that Magdalene, along with some other women, accompanied Jesus as he went through the cities and villages, not as a crazy fan club, but they provided for the Rabbi out of their own pockets. They traveled together, ate meals together, listened to Jesus’ teachings, and grew closer every day. And when it came to the unfolding events at the cross, we see Magdalene present from beginning to end. She stood helplessly by, watched as her Savior was nailed to a cross, listened to his anguished cries, observed his final breath, and didn’t leave until she saw where his body was laid.

So when I reflect on “while it was still dark”, I see a woman overcome with grief, tossing and turning through the night, waiting for daybreak so she could go and honor her Savior. But she just couldn’t take it anymore. Her heart yearned for her Lord and not even the darkness could hold her back.

And maybe she was accustomed to the dark. In her days of being held hostage by evil spirits, maybe the dark of night was her safe place that shielded the stares and remarks of others. She had experienced such darkness in her past, and then this strange darkness for three hours in the middle of the day while Jesus hung on the cross, and now the darkness had no hold on her.

And she was confident that daylight was coming.

Magdalene is rewarded for her faithfulness. In the midst of the trauma of seeing the stone rolled away and the body of her Beloved missing, she turns around to see Jesus standing behind her. Her eyes are blurred with tears and she doesn’t even recognize him until he says, “Mary”. Maybe Jesus was one of the few people who called her by her first name while they walked from town to town, or maybe there was such a familiar tenderness in his voice, that even in disbelief, she knew her Savior stood before her. The darkness around her disappeared, her grief was erased, her tears wiped away, and she ran to the disciples with the exclamation, “I have seen the Lord!”

Are you grieving? Are you weeping? Are you experiencing a dark night of the soul? Does there seem to be no light at the end of the tunnel? Turn around. Do you hear Jesus calling out your name? Do you know his voice? I pray that even in the midst of this dark hour we can proclaim, “I have seen the Lord!”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Sit and Soak

There was a time in my life when the bathtub was my evening friend. I would turn on the hot water, pour in the liquid bubbles, and fill the tub until it was almost overflowing. Then I would climb in and soak until my fingers resembled white raisins and I was shivering from the decrease in water temperature.

As I got older, the bathtub was replaced with the much-quicker shower, since I had places to go and things to do and no longer had the time to sit and soak. It was possible to get through the shower, washed and dried, in less time than it would take me to run my bath water, and time was of the essence when chores needed to be completed before evening activities began, and a good cleansing was needed in between. Now as an adult, I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I sat in a tub.

My wash habits could be compared to the time I spend in God’s Word. In 2019, I was committed to reading through the Bible in a year and I followed a reading plan that showered me in large chunks of scripture. It was refreshing in many ways, but there was little time to sit and soak in a particular passage.

But this year I’m sitting in the tub, so to speak, with just a few verses each day and soaking it in. During Lent I have been using the book “40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Cole as my guide. In the first day’s reading she petitions her readers to “consider Lent as less of a project and more of a sojourn. A sojourn is a “temporary place to stay.” And a “stay” is about presence not productivity.” The author also suggests “invest your energy in seeking to remain present to the sacred history of Jesus’ walk to the cross. With each reading [of scripture], dust off your childhood imagination and “stay” in each story. Observe Jesus… Imagine yourself… and fast from Lent as a project and enter Lent as an experience, as a sojourn with your Savior.”

So each day I’ve been doing a little soaking in the book of John. The first day felt awkward, sitting in the home with Martha and Lazarus after he had recently been raised from the dead. It was captivating to visualize the bond of love between them and Jesus. Of course, Martha used her gifts of service and hospitality. And then Mary entered the scene, washing Jesus’ feet with an intoxicating perfume and drying his feet with her hair. I felt like I should avert my eyes, look away, but I couldn’t keep myself from staring at the beauty of it all, until Judas’ cold remarks cut through the aroma in the room like a knife.

Another day I mingled with the disciples while getting ready for the evening meal, when Jesus, our Master, prepared the bath water and began washing OUR feet and becoming as a servant to us. Peter threw a fit, but spoke aloud what all of us were thinking. Jesus continued with the task at hand, washing all of our feet… Peter, James, John, Judas, and the rest. And oh, to imagine Jesus holding the feet of Judas in his hands, knowing what was to come, burdened, sad, but still tenderly and lovingly washing his feet. My mind         jerked ahead to the death of Judas, his betrayer, and I wondered if Jesus mourned the death of Judas as his companion.

It has been good to soak in the stories of Jesus during this first week of Lent. I would encourage you to do the same. As we approach Resurrection Sunday, knowing how the events unfold, try pretending that you don’t. Sit with Jesus for awhile and let him speak to you and experience the events leading up to Easter as if you were there. Be still. (Psalm 46:10)

Erin Jacobsma

 


Change the Channel

Last week Sunday, I was among the 99.9 million people who tuned in to watch Super Bowl LIV (54). To be honest, it was the first NFL football game that I had watched all season. I’m not what you would call a die-hard football fan. Super Bowl Sunday at our house is really just a reason to have some friends over, enjoy a smorgasbord of delicious food, and partake in a tradition of watching the big game. As far as I could tell, with my limited knowledge and feeble opinion, it was a good game. The Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers and I enjoyed our evening of festivities. We had lots of laughs, some lively discussions, and full bellies. But as our guests headed for home and I cleaned up around the house, I had one regret. (Well, two, if you count the number of cheeseballs I ate!) In years past, we have enjoyed watching the eccentrics of the halftime shows; the smoke, the lights, the glitz and glamour, and marveled at the time and energy it takes to produce such a display. But this year, I wished we had changed the channel.

Change the channel. This is a phrase that has been looping through my mind like an instant replay. When I was a youngster, we had the pleasure of watching television on a large wooden console with alien-like antenna poking out the top, and a variety of channels to choose from; two, to be exact. Our family would gather around the television to watch shows like the Dukes of Hazard or Full House or Lawrence Welk, and we actually watched the advertisements during the commercial breaks or used that time to run to the bathroom or get a snack. But at the conclusion of a show, if Mom or Dad didn’t care for the program that was airing next, they would say, “Change the channel.” We didn’t have a remote control that could change the broadcast at the push of a button, it took effort to get up off the couch, walk across the room, and turn the knob. We often joked that the only reason parents had children was so they would have someone to change the channel on the TV.

In the world we live in, we are flooded with channel choices. Currently, my cable tv package includes over 95 channels and more than a dozen stations are programmed on my car radio. Choosing what channel we play on the radio or watch on television is an important decision. But choosing what channel we play in our mind is of even greater importance.

Like the two-option television of my childhood, there are two basic channels that broadcast in our minds. Not Channel “11” or “13”, but the channels known as “Positive” and “Negative”. Moses presented the channel choice to the Israelites this way: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)  Paul presents a different view of the same choice: “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)  And Jesus’ entire ministry was about changing the channel: love your enemies, instead of hating them; don’t count offenses, but forgive those who hurt you; serve other people instead of worrying about who is serving you; don’t get revenge, turn the other cheek; consider yourself blessed when people insult you… All of these and more, require a change in our thinking and changing our thinking requires effort.

So what channel is your mind playing? Is it a channel of negativity, self-hatred, destruction, and death? Or is it a channel filled with things that are positive, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy? The choice is yours. Change the channel.

Erin Jacobsma