Third Sunday of Lent: Seeking Peace of Mind

by Sandra Hasenauer

This post is part of a Lenten Series. For other posts in the series, click on “Lent” in the list under “Find Posts About…” in the menu on the right. 

2013-12-19 08.59.08The irony hasn’t escaped me that it’s my Sabbath class that’s stressing me out.

The schedule of classes for my doctor of ministry program involves, at the moment, a looming deadline for the final paper for my January class in contextual analysis at the same time as I’m juggling assignments and paper deadlines for my spring class on Sabbath. And it just happens to be a particularly busy time at work and one during which a lot of family events are falling. All the readings I’m doing about Sabbath for class sound great, but feel unreachable. I’d like to think my professors would accept, “I’m sorry my paper is late but I was taking Sabbath” as an rationale but somehow I suspect not. I’m drinking chamomile tea by the gallon and have a “Tranquil” blend pouring out of my desk-top aromatherapy mister. Tastes nice, smells nice, not quite meeting the intended goal of peace of mind.

As I write this, I’m very aware that I’m not particularly unique. The details of what’s keeping me busy and stressed may be unique. But my guess is that most of you reading this post would be able to say much the same thing, filling in your own unique details: Family responsibilities, work responsibilities, school responsibilities, volunteer responsibilities….the list can go on. It’s not necessarily all bad stress, by the way. In my case, I love my family, I love my job, I love being in school. It’s all good stuff. It’s just a lot of it, all at once. Even good can be stressful when you’re juggling a bunch of it at the same time, right? Even worse if it’s bad stress, though–negative things, unhealthy things. That kind of stress really wears you down.

Lent is a time when we’re invited to pause and reflect on our relationship with God and with the rest of the world. If we’re running ourselves ragged dealing with the rest of the world, are we missing what’s available to us through our relationship with God? Where does peace of mind come from, after all? We get peace of mind through the priceless wine and milk we can have without money (Isaiah 55:1) and the shelter of God’s wings (Psalm 63:7). These powerful passages remind us that when we thirst for God, our thirst is quenched (Is 55:1). We rest in God and are satisfied as with a rich feast (Ps 63:5). When we cling to God, we’re upheld (PS 63:8) and God reminds us that God’s ways are what matter, not the ways of the world (Is 55:8-9).

You can be sure that more than chamomile tea and aromatherapy, I am resting on God’s strength, God’s wisdom, and God’s patience and courage to help me keep my head on straight every day. I pray the same for you. I pray that as you’re reading these words, and as you take a few moments to read Isaiah 55:1-9 and Psalm 63:1-8 in their entirety, you will reflect on all the strength and peace of mind that God has blessed you with in past moments and will invite those same blessings into your soul for whatever moments you’re facing now. May the remaining weeks of Lent bring you the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with the strengthening God.

headshot higherresRev. Sandra L. DeMott Hasenauer is associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. 

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Second Sunday of Lent–Giving up Doubt for Lent

By Jennifer Leneus

This post is part of a Lenten Series. For other posts in the series, click on “Lent” in the list under “Find Posts About…” in the menu on the right. 

Photo by Sharon Drummond, used by permission creativecommons.org.

Photo by Sharon Drummond, used by permission creativecommons.org.

Too often we doubt God on God’s promises. We are easily swayed by the things we see that cause us to forget what God has already been doing in our lives. We live in a society that has become complacent with a “Drive-Thru” lifestyle. It has become the norm to place an order at window #1 and pick up our merchandise at window #2. God doesn’t operate in that fashion. If God operated that way, God wouldn’t be God; God would be a genie or our “fairy god-parent”.

Ever wonder why God takes forever and a day to answer certain prayer requests and only seconds to answer others? It’s because God knows what we stand in need of, and when we need it. God knows what is best for us although we may not be able to see it. God has called us to have faith (to believe in something/someone that we cannot see). In Genesis 15: 1-2, God tells Abram (later known as Abraham) to not be afraid because God will protect him and his reward will be great. Abram responds to God in a way we can all relate to: Abram states, “O, Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son?” Wow, I can sense his frustration a mile away! How often we do we pray and ask God for something, but get frustrated that we have yet to receive it? How often do we doubt God’s ability to provide for us? However, Matthew 6:25-26 tells us not to worry about what we will eat or wear because the God who takes care of the birds in the sky is the same God who is watching over us.

Although Abram was frustrated with God, he had faith in what God promised him. In Genesis 15:6, God saw Abram’s faith and Abram was called righteous before God. God is calling us to be faithful and to stop doubting. During this Lenten season, let us give up doubting God. If we believe in the same God that gave his only begotten son to die for our sins, and we believe that same God resurrected Jesus, then we ought to believe that God is able to do any and everything that we may ask or think of.

Sisters, let us sow seeds of patience, faith, and righteousness this Lenten season, and weed out doubt. That way we are able to please God by surrendering to God’s will and way the things that we are not capable of doing ourselves! By doing so, we can live out our purpose as women of virtue.

Peace & Love!

Jenn Leneus headshot Feb 2016Jenn Leneus is the national young adult women’s ministries coordinator for American Baptist Women’s Ministries. She serves as team leader for the AB Women’s Ministries young adult women’s ministries advisory team.

First Sunday of Lent–Bringing the Gold

By Christina Turner

This post is part of a Lenten Series. For other posts in the series, click on “Lent” in the list under “Find Posts About…” in the menu on the right. 

CSA vegetables

(c) 2014 Sandra Hasenauer

Each year before the Lenten Season begins, many Christians around the world begin to ponder what they should “give up” for 40 days. I too began having the same thoughts and even discussed and shared ideas with my sister. Often many people of my generation are deciding which social media platform they can detox from for 40 days or which junk food can they give up for a couple weeks.

While these are all commendable and respectable options, why not dig deeper?

Deuteronomy 26:10 says, “And now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me. Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him,” (NIV).

This Scripture spoke to me on many levels. Many women, especially young adults, struggle with trying to be their best for God, church, work, family, home-life, and friends. I battle the time game daily and often at the end of day, I feel like I have failed one or more of these groups. The truth is we’re all human and ultimately we fail in even minor ways every day. But we can rebound!

What do you think of when you hear the word firstfruits? In biblical times the firstfruits were the first agricultural produce of harvest. Now I’m no farmer, but I believe we all can bring our firstfruits to God.

What’s stopping you from bringing your best to God? Too much on your plate? Not enough time spent in the word? Lost your zeal and desire for constant communication with God?

Toward the end 2015, I felt a calling from God to focus my energies and talents on kingdom-building. I moved back to my hometown area in May of 2015 and was so blessed and excited to be back at the church I grew up in. Since then I have joined our church leadership team and got right back to singing in one of our choirs and serving as a junior Deaconess. I also joined the national American Baptist Women’s Ministries YAWMAT (Young Adult Women’s Ministries Advisory Team). It has been so humbling to help serve in another way.

I say all this to point out that I realized God deserves more and deserves the best. God sent his only begotten son to die on the cross for us. Jesus sacrificed and endured more than we ever will come to understand, for us. What talents and service can you provide to God’s people? How can you grow God’s kingdom? Take time now to examine your life, cut extra time-wasters that pull you away from the Spirit, and bring your best and firstfruits for Christ.

For 2016 I’m challenging myself and you to bring and be our best, not only during the Lenten season but each day of this year and beyond for our Lord.

Be Blessed!

Christina Turner FBChristina Turner is the community development coordinator at Multicare Health System in Kent, Washington, and serves on the young adult women’s ministries advisory team (YAWMAT) of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Ash Wednesday (First Day of Lent): The Fast that God Chooses

By Sandra Hasenauer

Based on Isaiah 58:1-12

sunriseAnd so we come to Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance, a day that we turn to God and say, “I messed up. Please forgive me. I was hard-hearted. Please forgive me. I allowed fear to rule my heart, my words, and my actions. Please forgive me. I didn’t want to see the very thing you asked me to see. Please forgive me.” As much we see Lent as a time of personal repentance, however, repentance is also corporate repentance—the repentance of a whole community, that it did not live in God’s way.

We have turned our backs on one another. Please forgive us.

Repentance is not just about words of apology. God knows the difference. The word “repentance” comes from the Greek verb metanoeó, meaning to change one’s mind. Repentance means to think differently, to orient one’s worldview differently. In other words, repentance is to seek God’s forgiveness for our inability, or our unwillingness, to see things the way God wants us to see them.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see?” God asks. In other words, God asks, you may well say all the right things in worship, but why aren’t you actually seeing what I’m calling you to do in the world? “Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such as fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose…to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?” (Isaiah 58:3-5, excerpted). God knows when our words don’t match our actions: when we say we’re sorry on the one hand, but on the other hand keep on doing the very things we’re saying we’re sorry about. This isn’t true repentance: we haven’t actually changed our thinking. We haven’t turned ourselves around. We’re not doing anything differently. We’re still not seeing the way God would have us see.

God doesn’t want just words or the particular worship rituals done by rote. Instead, God says, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7, NRSV excerpted, emphasis mine).

Worship is action. Worship is courageous, counter-cultural action. Worship is action without fear, without hatred. Worship is about tearing down walls and joining hands. Worship is living in beloved community. Beloved community is all about repentance and renewing ourselves in a right relationship with one another and with God. Ash Wednesday is our call to search our hearts and offer up to God in repentance all that separates us from one another and all that separates us from God. Through this act of turning ourselves around, through changing the way we think to align it more closely with God’s vision, “then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will spring up quickly; then your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8, NRSV).

Please forgive us, God. Change our minds and hearts. Help us to truly repent, and to learn to live in beloved community. We want to be your light and feel your healing spring up in our villages, towns, and cities. Come to us, repairer of the breach, and restore our streets in your peace. Amen.

headshot higherresRev. Sandra Hasenauer serves as associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Join us for our virtual mission encounter “See…the Beloved Community”

Beloved Community Logo

By American Baptist Women’s Ministries

“See…the Beloved Community,” based on the 2015-2016 national mission focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of the same title, is a virtual mission encounter for women from March 7-11, 2016, sponsored by American Baptist Women’s Ministries. By participating in this virtual mission encounter you will have the opportunity to explore the vision of Beloved Community and understand your Christian calling to transform your community through your relationships with one another.

Special guest presenters include Rev. Betty Wright-Riggins, Philadelphia Baptist Association Consultant for Area Ministry and Communication and founder and Principal of TrustOne, a ministry of spiritual direction and leadership coaching; Rev. Dr. Cheryl F. Dudley, Regional Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York; Rev. Marie Onwubuariri, Regional Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin; and Rev. Dr. Karyn Carlo, adjunct faculty at New York Theological Seminary and founder and director of the Clergy, Community, Cops Project. Each speaker brings experience in building Beloved Community and will offer critical perspectives to virtual mission encounter participants.

“Becoming the Beloved Community begins with cultivating relationships. My hope is that many women from many American Baptist congregations will join the conversation about being the Beloved Community through this 5-day virtual mission encounter,” said Virginia Holmstrom, executive director.

AB Women’s Ministries’ virtual mission encounters offer the opportunity for women to engage with mission themes in a deep and meaningful way while still being able to care for work, family, and church responsibilities at home. Each virtual mission encounter includes interesting and thought-provoking activities that can be done within the normal schedule of one’s day. Every evening, participants interact with a special guest on a conference call as well as offering participants to share their learnings and observations with one another.

Register now for “See…the Beloved Community.” (Registration deadline is March 2.) Visit www.abwministries.org/vme for more information about how virtual mission encounters work, as well as speaker biographies and registration. For information about the 2015-2016 mission focus “See…the Beloved Community,” visit www.abwministries.org.

Are you already planning to attend? Leave a comment below letting other readers know!