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Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

I am a self proclaimed coffee addict and Executive Director of a non profit missions agency working primarily in the Mexican cities of Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Ensenada. I've been married for over 30 years to Chelle, and we have one grown son, Joseph, a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

The 40 Day Journey

In honor of Mardi Gras and the Lenten season, I thought I’d offer a few reflections.  As a child I lived next door to a large Catholic family.  Most of the kids hated Lent because it meant the Friday dinner either consisted of fish sticks or macaroni & cheese, as they were unable to eat meat during the 40 day season.  As a card carrying Baptist, I never understood the importance of this and worse, saw no reason why I had to also come under this insane law when I visited.  Maybe it would have been better if the food was good, but most of the time, this was pretty below average stuff.  

As I have matured, (a word we use to mean we’re getting older) I have come to really appreciate Lent and the focus on Jesus leading up to His death and resurrection.  Each year I make the decision to give up something for the 40 day duration.  When I really want that item, I work hard to turn my focus to God and reflect on what He has done for me, through His work on the cross.  Sometimes I am successful, sometimes not.  I have found that in my ministry, I am frequently faced with a dilemma.  Do I share with someone why I am not eating some offered food, and then seem like Mr. Spiritual, or do I eat, believing that God will honor my heart.  Usually I choose the latter.

So on this first Friday of Lent, following all the excess of Mardi Gras, granted a little muted this year, I thought I’d offer up what is becoming a very special passage of scripture to me, Isaiah 58, from The Message by Eugene Peterson.  It is a passage that speaks to me on so many levels.  It is so challenging.  Enjoy

"Shout! A full-throated shout!  Hold nothing back--a trumpet-blast shout!  Tell my people what's wrong with their lives; face my family Jacob with their sins!  They're busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me.  To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people; law-abiding, God-honoring.  They ask me, "What's the right thing to do?' and love having me on their side.  But they also complain, "Why do we fast and you don't look our way?  Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'    "Well, here's why: "The bottom line on your "fast days' is profit.  You drive your employees much too hard.  You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.  You fast, but you swing a mean fist.  The kind of fasting you do won't get your prayers off the ground.  Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after: a day to show off humility?    To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black?  Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, GOD, would like?  "This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.  What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.  Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.  Your righteousness will pave your way.  The GOD of glory will secure your passage.  Then when you pray, GOD will answer.  You'll call out for help and I'll say, "Here I am.'  "If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down--and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.  I will always show you where to go.  I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places--firm muscles, strong bones.  You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.  You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.  You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.  "If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don't use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, GOD's holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing "business as usual,' making money, running here and there--Then you'll be free to enjoy GOD!  Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.  I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob."  Yes! GOD says so!

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