Category: Relationships

“How Could I Not”

Flash Fiction by Nancy Golden

Photo Credit: Image by Wendy Corniquet from Pixabay

lion-1118467_1920

The sweat dripped off Mugwaneza’s forehead and into his eyes as he lugged the jerry can filled with water behind his back. His spindly arms used to shake when he first started his daily four-mile journey, but he had grown stronger this past year. Now, only in the last mile, did his arms start to tremble. He tried to force his tired legs to move faster so he would have time to study. The sun was already low in the sky, and if he didn’t reach his family’s home in time, it would be too dark to see his schoolbook.

He crushed the thought in the back of his mind that he might run into Nzobatinya today. It didn’t happen very often, but when it did, it was terrible. He couldn’t understand the hatred in the other boy’s expression. The sorrow from the genocide that happened before Mugwaneza was born never seemed to completely disappear from his mother’s eyes, but this boy didn’t even know him. Why did he hate him so much?

As if reading his thoughts, Nzobatinya emerged from a stand of brush and, putting down his water container, picked up a rock from the ground. Giving an angry yell, he hurled it at Mugwaneza, catching him completely off guard and causing him to drop his own container. The stone struck Mugwaneza’s forehead, and the beads of sweat now mingled with blood oozing from the gash. He watched in shock as the precious water leaked out of his jerry can. He touched his forehead with his hand and looked down to see the blood splayed across his fingers. Instinct took over, and he dived for the container and set it upright. A quick examination revealed that about a quarter of the water had leaked out. He was still a mile away from home and the sun was rapidly descending—no time to safely return to the watering hole before the evening predators emerged. He looked around and sighed. Nzobatinya was gone, and Mugwaneza’s family would have to be extra careful about rationing their water today.

The following day, Mugwaneza began his usual afternoon trek for water. He dreamed of going to university someday, and that dream occupied his thoughts as he trudged along. The watering hole was a few hundred yards away, and as he approached a particularly brushy spot on his route, a high-pitched scream abruptly brought him back to reality. Still carrying his empty jerry can, all of his senses went on high alert as he peered into the brush, trying to determine the source of the cry.

Creeping forward, Mugwaneza could see Nzobatinya on his hands and knees about ten yards away, frozen in fear. He followed the other boy’s gaze and could barely discern the shape of a lion crouching, its tawny coat blending in with the brush. The lion’s fierce stare was intent on Nzobatinya, its body taut, ready to pounce.

Mugwaneza started sweating profusely. The foul taste of fear soured his lips, and his stomach spasmed as his throat closed. He had heard his parents talking about the government reintroducing lions in Rwanda, but this was the first one he had encountered. He tried to swallow as he considered his next move. Fear was trying to freeze him. It was gaining ground. He reached up and touched the scab where his forehead was still healing from the stone Nzobatinya had thrown. He heard a low growl and watched as the lion, eyes riveted on Nzobatinya, started to slink forward.

The oxygen was sucked out of the air, and Mugwaneza couldn’t hear anything except the rushing wind in his ears. He grasped his jerry can tightly and leapt forward, running toward Nzobatinya and the lion, waving the container like a lunatic. He shouted as loudly as his lungs would permit and glared at the lion with a rage he had no idea he possessed.

The lion stopped and returned Mugwaneza’s glare. From a predator’s point of view, the two-legged creature’s actions were incomprehensible. Prey should either be frozen in fear or should run, including lesser predators who qualified as prey. The audacity of Mugwaneza’s efforts made the lion pause, but not for long. Turning away from his original target, the lion pinpointed his new victim and roared. He dashed forward and met Mugwaneza head-on—knocking him to the ground. The lion bared his monstrous incisors and extended his claws to savagely maul Mugwaneza’s helpless body, but was flung off-balance. Nzobatinya, forgotten when the lion attacked Mugwaneza, jumped onto the lion’s back, screaming and pounding the fierce predator with his small fists. The lion whipped his head around in a frenzy, throwing Nzobatinya off and biting at both boys, inflicting painful gashes with his sharp teeth. The boys continued their noisy attack. Mugwaneza used his jerry can to deflect the lethal teeth as much as possible, and Nzobatinya found a piece of deadwood on the ground and began beating the lion with it. Suddenly, the lion stepped back from the fray, shaking its great head. It gave one final roar and then turned, disappearing into the brush.

Mugwaneza fell back on the ground, exhausted. Their wounds were deep, but amazingly none were life-threatening. Both boys were covered with them, and the amount of blood seeping from their injuries was unsettling. Trying to calm his breathing, Mugwaneza stared up at the sky when as a blood-soaked hand came into view. He reached up and grasped the hand of Nzobatinya, who helped him to his feet. Nzobatinya didn’t release his grip. Instead, he stared at their intermingling blood with a somber fascination. Finally, he looked directly at Mugwaneza.

“Why did you save me?”

“How could I not?”

Nzobatinya stood a long time, not letting go. He suddenly pressed Mugwaneza’s bloodied hand to his own face. Tears began to mix with blood. Staggering into each other, they embraced. Tears mingled with tears and blood mingled with blood, falling to the ground as one.

Carrollton League of Writers One Year Anniversary Celebration

It all started with a post on Next Door and Carrollton Chatter – Anyone interested in joining a writers group? The response was huge! The next step: getting permission from the Carrollton Church of the Nazarene to use their fellowship hall. And then: Marshall’s Bar-B-Que allowing us to reserve their backroom the second Thursday of every month for guest speakers. We had our inaugural meeting on August 9, 2018. The video below chronicles our first year:

From our description:

Carrollton League of Writers exists to help writers in all genres and experience levels to improve their writing skills and to move towards publication if desired. We provide working writing sessions that include read and critique sessions and creative writing exercises. We also provide guest speakers to educate and inform from various facets of the writing industry, networking opportunities, and a chance to socialize and hang out with others who share the grand passion of writing.

***

The first few meetings we learned about each other and started with a structure that has since evolved to meet the needs of our members. Some of us took on leadership roles in order to facilitate the different interests among our group. Alice heads up our informal table – where anything can happen from creative writing prompts to lively discussions. Tom has taken leadership of our critique group, making sure everyone has a Slack account and keeps the group informed of who is in the queue, as well as moderating each week.

Before breaking into groups, we start with an Info-Talk – as a way to learn something new every meeting. Our members have done a great job taking turns presenting them every week. Our topics have ranged from Backing Up Your Data to Secondary Character Development, Show Not Tell to Guns of the Old West, and everything in-between.

When we first started meeting, everyone was a little bit shy and nervous. It was scary not only meeting new people – but also sharing our writing with each other. Weeks became months, allowing trust to be built and friendships formed. One year later we are now a family and Thursdays are a time to get together to encourage and inspire one another. For many of us, it’s the highlight of our week and we can’t imagine it otherwise.

Early on we decided that improving our craft was important to our culture and to that end we have been blessed with a guest speaker each month when we meet at Marshall’s Barbecue. We owe a special thanks to Blake Kimzey of Writers Workshop Dallas for facilitating contact with so many amazing industry professionals that have been willing to speak to our group. Guest speakers have included:

Tex Thompson, Amber Royer, Blake Atwood, David Eric Tomlinson, Blake Kimzey, Kathleen Baldwin, Amber Helt, Ashley Mag Gabbert, Kathryn McClatchy, William Ledbetter, Becka Oliver, Andra Leigh Watkins, Michelle Schusterman, Keith Goodnight, Jan Morrill Vanek, Ann Rose, and Suzanne Frank.

Our Accomplishments over the last year have been many. In no particular order:

Three day writing retreat at Lake Texoma

Attended Roanoke writers conference

Halloween potluck costume party

NaNoWriMo Weekly Write-Ins at IHOP

Two Group Write-Ins: Phil and Nancy’s house and Scott’s house

Valentine’s Day party/poetry contest

Monthly Newsletter

Monthly member spotlights

Field trip to UTD to visit physics professor for science fiction writers

Facebook Group with 157 members

Twitter Account

Attended Writers in the Field

WORDfest table and panel participation

Ross got his MFA/ published articles

Critique blunders video

Hosted Summer Writers conference: speakers and literary agent pitches

First Annual Arianne “TEX” Thompson Flash Fiction Contest (Judge Amber Royer) Winners – Jennifer, Artis, Lauren and Tom

Christmas party

Logo Contest – Jackie O’Connor winner

Carrollton League of Writers T-shirts

Birthday celebrations

Board of Directors began in January

Bylaws are in process of being drafted

Attended Comic-con in Arlington

Numerous Info-talks

Featured in article in on Pastor Resources.com

Anthology (professionally edited) and will launch this Fall

Hosted our Anthology editor – Christi Martin

Attended Amber Royer’s book launch: Free Chocolate

Literary Agent Ann Rose requested chapters and manuscripts

WORDworks leadership workshop (2) – Attended by Nancy and Jennifer

WORD Historian – Jennifer Crippen

We also wanted to give back to our community, and during our first year we found several ways to do so:

Food pantry donations

Hosted Young Writers Workshop

Rwandan orphan educational fundraising – paid one trimester for five children to attend school

Participated in School Supply Drive

Phil – presented Asssault and Battery class at WORDfest

Solar panels/fans installation for Camp Tonkawa (Phil and Bud)

English Conversation Practice volunteers/Texas Party for class

Carrollton Complete Automotive Community Recognition Award

Wordfest Southwest – Phil, Nancy, Jennifer, Jackie, and John worked as volunteers

Most importantly, we have created a culture of compassion and caring for not only our group members, but for the people around us. Not just in regards to writing, we take a holistic approach, meeting any needs that we can. This fundamental value is integral to what it means to be a part of the Carrollton League of Writers.

We were very excited (and shocked) to receive the WORD Condike award at WORDfest 2019: For Their Extraordinary Contributions to the North Texas Literary Community

I THINK IT’S SAFE TO SAY – WE DID A LOT FOR OUR FIRST YEAR!!!

The criteria for being a founding member is to either have been with us from the beginning or nearly so, or someone having come in later during our inaugural year, but showing a dedication to our group through their participation and contributing to our success through their actions. I want to recognize our founding members by presenting them with a very special commemorative coin.

Team Spirit Recipients:

Scott Taylor

Ross Irvin

Trish Smallwood

Jessica Torres

Steve McCluer

Bessie Gregg

Peggy Wilson

Donna

Artis Hayes

Andrea Amosson

Above and Beyond Recipients:

John Lemond

Ed Wooten

Jackie O’Connor

Amy Garman

Phil Golden

Leadership Recipients:

Jennifer Crippen (Board Member/Associate Director)

Alice Wooten (Board Member/Secretary)

Tom Smallwood (Board Member/Treasurer)

Sandy Paty (Board Member/Social Event Coordinator)

Nancy Golden (Board Member/Director)

I also want to recognize some of our guest speakers. They have not only poured into Carrollton League of Writers, they are constantly giving of themselves to the writing community at large.

Tex Thompson

Kathleen Baldwin

Amber Royer

Bud Humble

And a special thanks to the folks at Carrollton Church of the Nazarene for allowing us to use their fellowship hall – they have blessed us beyond measure with their generosity.

It’s been a great year and I’m looking forward to another one as we travel this writing journey together – I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else than with the Carrolllton League of Writers!

Friends are the Family You Choose!

In Honor of Ron: A Life Well-Lived

Ron1

I just found out a dear friend went to be with Jesus a couple of weeks ago. Ron Mobley was an ole cowboy who loved Jesus and loved horses. I’ll never forget the times we spent with him at the Rock barn where he lived and worked. He taught me that praying over horses was the best way to start a training session. He showed me how to tie a rope halter knot and took me driving longhorns. He literally knew everything about ranch life and was one of the hardest working persons I’ve ever met. He loved the old time Country and Western music and hymns and you would always hear it playin’ down at the barn.

Ron2

He’s up there in heaven now with my colt Bo he broke for me and Eight Ball his canine partner for so many years who got called up a few years ago when Jesus needed a dog. I am typing this with tears in my eyes because doggone it, I’m sure going to miss him until we meet again.

Ron3

I haven’t seen Ron in person in years but every Christmas I would go shopping and make him a package from Santa Claus with “Do Not Open Until Christmas” on the box and mail it out to him. Ron always told me he waited until Christmas morning to open it, because he knew Santy was watching. I always looked forward to the phone call that I knew was coming and we would talk quite awhile, catching up. It’s going to be hard not doing that any more, but I know his body was getting pretty tired and now he has a perfect new one. Knowing Ron, he’s riding horses with Jesus right now.

Ron4

I read somewhere there are two simple principles for a life well-lived: 1) What you do in your present matters and 2) What you pass forward matters. Any one who knew Ron, knew he did both and did them wholeheartedly. He was always fully present in the time and love he gave and the wisdom and experiences he shared will continue to bless us in the years ahead.

I love you Ron, and I’m sure going to miss hearing your voice – those messages you used to leave saying you knew we weren’t home to answer because Phil and I were out honky tonkin’ and wonderin’ if you needed to come bail us out. How you called your answering machine your secretary. I loved hearing about your daughter and your grandkids, and how proud you were of your Mom and her ministry and those delicious pies she bakes. I loved our conversations about horses and training them. I’ll miss talking about the Bible and matters of faith with you, and how when I’d tell you I’d be praying for you, you would always say, “I’ll take all the prayers I can get.” We had some great times just talking on the phone over the years, and I find myself wishing I’d called you more often. I know we’ll ride together again someday – in the mean time – I’ll be holding you in my heart.

 

 

Starting a Writing Group

I have had several folks ask me why I decided to take on such a complicated and time-consuming endeavor, with all of the work involved that forming a community writing group entails. A moment of insanity perhaps? Like the time I decided to coordinate a district science fair for my son’s charter school? Or start an ESL ministry at our church with four levels of classes? Actually, it is very satisfying to be operating in the areas that God has gifted me with, while helping others to be successful; it’s a “win-win” even if it’s exhausting at times.

To further my explanation, we have some tremendous writing groups in the DFW area of Texas, but none in Carrollton, a suburb of Dallas. I personally don’t want to drive twenty miles to Euless fighting traffic on a weekday evening every week, even though I am aware of a fantastic critique group that has met there for years. I thought perhaps there may be some like-minded writers in my area. I posted in our city’s community Facebook page and on Nextdoor to see if anyone was interested, and the response I received was HUGE! I created a Facebook group and now, in less than six weeks, we have had our inaugural meeting with twenty writers in attendance and have had forty members join our Facebook group so far!

The paradox for me is that in committing to this venture, I have actually reduced the time I have to write.  However, the payoffs have already been enormous. To see the excitement and enthusiasm our group is creating among our members is wonderful. To experience the generosity of Marshall’s Bar-B-Q and Carrollton Church of the Nazarene in providing free space for us to meet is gratifying. To reach out to established members of the writing industry in search of guest speakers and to receive an overwhelmingly positive response is marvelous.

So here we go – at the start of a grand adventure. I am learning as I go along, but we are blessed to belong to an industry that is known for giving back, so I know I am not going it alone. I am finding that starting a writing group is not easy, but it is also extremely satisfying to know that a real need is being filled:

Carrollton League of Writers exists to help writers in all genres and experience levels to improve their writing skills and to move towards publication if desired. We provide working writing sessions that include read and critique sessions and creative writing exercises. We also provide guest speakers to educate and inform from various facets of the writing industry, networking opportunities, and a chance to socialize and hang out with others who share the grand passion of writing.

If you are ever in the Carrollton area on a Thursday night – I hope you’ll join us. If you are thinking of starting a writing group in your own area – I hope you’ll go for it. It won’t be easy, but it will be well-worth it! Feel free to comment if you need help getting started. I am fairly new at this, but I can share my own experiences and perhaps help point you in the right direction.

The Danger of Snapshots

Daddy1We often view snapshots in a positive way. We try to catch that perfect moment and freeze it in time to remember forever. For some, we use a snapshot to define how we feel about a person. We look at a photograph and it evokes strong emotions. But snapshots can be problematic as well. I’m not talking about instagram or an old photograph but rather, the snapshots that we carry in our minds, that color our thinking. These snapshots can be an unfair representation of a person, yet it is the view we insist on having. Sadly, these mental snapshots may be influenced by comments from family or friends; people who have not seen the whole movie, only random snapshots that don’t tell the whole story.

Dadletter2I don’t talk about my Dad much, except that he died when I was fifteen. The years after his death were traumatic as my Mom, brother and I struggled to maintain a semblance of family identity. My brother and I were rebellious teenagers and having our anchor dislodged unexpectedly made for very rough sailing for all of us. As the years went by and I dealt with the consequences of my immature decisions, I thought of my Dad less and less. I’m grateful that my Mom remained steadfast – she was always there for me no matter what. But for some reason, we didn’t talk much about Dad. We may have done the occasional reminiscing about a family event, but we didn’t dwell on his absence. Perhaps each one of us had a hole in our heart we didn’t know how to fill, so it was easier to ignore it rather than to acknowledge it.

But for me, there was also something else. Mental snapshots I remembered, and mental snapshots that other people told me about. Like any family, we struggled with dysfunction. For my Dad, it was alcoholism. No doubt about it, our family suffered because of it. Yet, my father faithfully went to Alcoholics Anonymous, made a commitment to Christ, and was completely sober the last two years of his life. Sadly, my childhood friend chose not to remember that when we were reminiscing a few years ago, but emphasized his sin instead. So almost forty years later, I felt shame instead of pride when I thought of my Dad. That wasn’t right and I shouldn’t have let my friend’s words influence me. We all have sins we struggle with – some are just more visible than others.

Daddy3

How could I let my friend’s mental snapshots of my Dad influence my attitude towards him, when I have so many more snapshots that speak to the love he had for our family? I must have been around six years old when he took me on a Daddy-daughter date. I remember putting on my best dress and I was amazed it was just us at a fancy restaurant. I felt so special! He used to insist we be on time for our bedtime and if we were one minute late he would get mad at us. I would be so upset that I made him angry, I would lay in my bed and cry, then creep down the hallway where I could see him through the cracked hallway door, sitting in his recliner watching television. He would see me peeking at him and tell me to come over and give me a hug. I remember when I fell off my horse and broke my ankle (I was around eleven years old), a young man found me and put me in his car and brought me to his mother’s house. I had not shed a single tear until I saw my Daddy in the doorway – then I burst out crying because my emotion at seeing him was so overwhelming. I was truly Daddy’s little girl. I loved to draw pictures for him that always had the caption “Best Daddy in the World.”

 

Daddy2I remember a science project my Dad helped me with. He sold yard lights and he helped me build a street of cardboard and wire in yard lights in front of the houses. He bought his horse-crazy little girl her own horse, even though we didn’t have much money growing up. I remember waiting for him to come home from work so we could all eat dinner together. Afterwards, we would all sit in the living room (we each had our own chair) and I would curl up in mine and read while we watched the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Saturday Night Wrestling or Wonderful World of Disney. I also remember making him a bunny rabbit cake for Easter one year.

 

Daddy4Dad bought me my first Bible – I wish I still had it but somewhere along the way it has gotten lost. I can still see it in my mind’s eye – the picture of Jesus on the cover. He made every Christmas special with his famous lasagna and would take us to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. He didn’t have a very good singing voice but that didn’t stop him as he loudly sang to the Lord in church. The last time I saw my Dad, he had taken me to the church that our Explorer’s post gathered at to leave for our mountain climbing trip to Philmont, New Mexico. When we hugged goodbye I had no idea that would be the last time I would see him on earth. These are just a few random memories of many…and sadly those negative snapshots from others had the effect of my shoving all of the good memories I had into a closet – something I deeply regret. It wasn’t fair to my Dad and it wasn’t fair to me.

It is so important to think before we speak – Ephesians 4:29 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Don’t let other people’s words influence how you feel about someone. Instead, examine the relationship for yourself and search your heart. And let us give grace to one another – for we are all imperfect and in need of it. This blog post was forty years in the making. Dad, thank you for everything. I miss you and I am looking forward to seeing you again someday. I love you.

Birthday Blog

beach-beautiful-dawn-40192When I woke up on my birthday morning (three days ago), the thought immediately came to me “Today is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it.” I was very grateful for that, because the day before I had been struggling. I was struggling with the fact that I have been battling lower back pain the last few weeks, the knowledge that my body is getting older and telling me that in not always so subtle ways, missing those who have gone on to be with the Lord, especially my Mom, working towards getting a literary agent for my book (which can be a long, arduous process) and seeking where God is leading next. So when God had so graciously placed that thought in my head, He positioned me to see my life from a completely different perspective. 

“Today is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it!”

Rejoice and be glad for:

A wonderful husband – Phil is my best friend and soulmate. He believes in my dreams, encourages me, and supports me.

An incredible son – Josh is seeking God’s will for his life and has recently been blessed with a wonderful job doing video work for a local church.

An amazing array of family – daughter Melissa – son-in-law Aaron – awesome grandkids / brothers – Eddie and Vinny / Sisters – Janet and Lynn / Sisters-in laws – Jane and Sara / loving nieces and nephews – the list goes on and on…

The gift of friends, near and far, many of whom expressed their Birthday wishes for me. Friends are truly a gift from God and I am grateful for each one.

Incredible experiences in my life – from climbing mountains to managing an engineering department. Leading an ESL ministry to being a college professor. Training horses and ranch work to writing two books. Preaching a sermon at a small country church to coordinating a school science fair. Getting to be a wife and mom and grandma. The list goes on and on, and I am truly humbled when I think of all of these blessings God has provided for me. Ephesians 3:20 comes to mind.

And most of all, for a Savior that loves me so much that He died for my sake and rose again to defeat death, so that I can be cleansed of my sins and have eternal life with Him. Not only that – He walks with me each day!

 

thanksbirthday

Thanks to everyone who took time out of your day to bless me with your Birthday wishes – I love you and I treasure them in my heart. And my prayer for each of you is that you too wake up each morning with the thought in your head:

“Today is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it!”

 

 

 

A Lenten Valentine’s Day

ashwedI woke up this morning thinking about how to reconcile celebrating Valentine’s Day with observing Ash Wednesday, when I realized that there isn’t any need for reconciliation; the two events complement each other beautifully. As we reflect solemnly on our sinful state and the admonition that Ash Wednesday brings to the forefront in Genesis 3:19, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” it is certainly a time of repentance. But it is also a time to draw us to closer to experiencing God’s love through the Gospel.

heart2018So let me explain the correlation I think we have between these two seemingly dissimilar events. To begin with, it would be good to get a better understanding of the word love. In the English language we use one word to describe many things. We can love our brothers and sisters, we can have a more intimate love for our spouses, we can even love hamburgers, but none of these describes the love that God has for us. When we go back to the original Greek, we see that all of these types of love have a different word assigned to it. Family love or love of an object may fall under Storge στοργή. The brotherly love of friendship is expressed as Philia φιλία, and sexual love as Eros ἔρως. The love of God for man has its own word too. It is called Agape ἀγάπη. God’s love for us is relentless, incomprehensible, sacrificial and unconditional.

I read a quote about Agape love by Paulo Coelho that beautifully expresses the magnitude of God’s love for us: “This was the love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of man’s history.”

Godslove

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of love. The Scriptures tell us in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Ash Wednesday is a stark reminder as to why each of us needs that love. In Ash Wednesday we remember our mortality, that we are dust and will return to dust. We are reminded of our sin, but the Gospel message tells us we have victory over our sin if we repent and believe. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 gives us hope:

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:8 proclaims, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” The message is clear. We are to love one another. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 22:37-39 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Today is a day we can celebrate love in all of its facets: the love that God has for us, and the different types of love that we have for one another. Today, Phil and I will contemplate the incredible love that God has for us as sinful mortals with gratefulness and repentance, and we will also celebrate the love we have as husband and wife. When you think about it, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that celebrates romantic love, but what could be more romantic than sacrificial love? Ultimately that is the type of love that lasts when the trappings of Valentine’s Day fades into the busyness of life.

JesusdesertAsh Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, and we have the season of Lent ahead of us. Another Lenten tradition for some folks is to “give something up” for Lent. The purpose is to recognize and share in Jesus’ sacrifice as he withdrew into the desert and fasted for 40 days. Another way we can share in this tradition is rather than give something up, we can commit to do something, as an expression of sacrificial love. For me, I choose to write one card of encouragement each day of Lent (to the person God puts on my heart that day), and mail it. One has to be intentional, and carve out time to do this. Not a great sacrifice perhaps, but it serves the purpose of giving time to God to bless someone else. Just another way to show that ultimately, Ash Wednesday and Lent, while a season of repentance, is grounded in the greatest love of all and is a great way to live out the command Jesus gave us in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

handheartAnother GREAT thing to do today is to forgive someone if you have been allowing bitterness to fester in your heart. I know many people who struggle with forgiveness, in that they are either unable to forgive themselves for something they have done or they are unable to forgive someone else for hurting them. When I think about God’s limitless grace and that it is through Christ’s sacrifice at the cross that we have received forgiveness for all of our transgressions – what is even more amazing is that God initiated it, we read in Romans 5:8, “For God demonstrates his great love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” He died for us knowing we were a mess, yet loving us anyway. His forgiveness heals us and if we are unable to forgive ourselves, or others, we are unable to fully experience the peace that comes from the healing power of Christ. If you are in this category, you can read more at my blog post: Forgiving Ourselves and Forgiving Others.

There are all sorts of ways we can live out loving one another. A friend of mine is planning on choosing one item each day from her family’s clothing closets, so that at the end of Lent she will have 40 gently used items to donate to those in need. Sounds like both a sacrificial and practical plan to me! May you find special blessings each day as you spend this time preparing your heart for celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. And if you have never participated in Lent before, you might want to give it a try. It’s a wonderful way to deepen your spiritual journey.

Happy Lenten Valentine’s Day!