CBG: Garden

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights he was hungry. And the tempter came.

Matthew 3:16 – 4:3

What if right now is the lent we needed but didn’t have the power to give to ourselves? In lent, we often choose a thing to give up in hopes that it would turn us back to God. Often, as soon as the 40 days are over, we are right where we were before our “sacrifice.” The hope of Jesus on Easter eclipses our non-change. Easter has passed and we are still here. Hope is for sure and the current uncertainty is as well. This season is a stripping that is out of our control. It’s a wilderness. We can feel alone. We can feel tricked because just earlier, God was seemingly on your side. To friends it can feel like we disappeared. Some friends may be the ones we’ve needed to strip off. In our hunger for a sense of normalcy, where do you feel tempted?

Prayer: God, lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil.

Creative: Write an encouraging note to yourself.

Brave: Do less.

Generous: Write an encouraging note to someone else.

Day 50: Gratitude upwards

Numbers 31-32; Psalm 50

To offer our thanksgiving as sacrifice is to give gratitude away freely. Are there times we withhold thanks? What is sacrifice? Sacrifice is to give something up that could benefit another while subtracting from you. When can giving gratitude and thanksgiving benefit another while taking from yourself? How does it benefit God while lessening ourselves?

In offering thanks, we acknowledge the reason for the good or blessing isn’t us, it’s God. He is the reason for our provision. He is the reason we are alive. He is the reason we have hope and joy in this world. It is not our own doing. We cannot take credit. That humbles us. That puts us in our place. That helps us to stay low and not get a big head. God doesn’t need our material sacrifices or meaningless thanks; he wants us to acknowledge that he is the originator of our lives and our wellbeing.

Day 39: C’est le vie Leviticus

Leviticus 26-27; Psalm 39

The valuation of humans in this section is implorable. The sacrifices in this book are weird AF. Relative to the other sacrifices happening around, the context the Israelites are in in this world of sacrifices to the Gods, this May seem radical. But if something is ugly but it’s not as ugly as the thing next to it, does it make it less ugly? Yes I understand the heart of this is about how pure and holy God is and how wicked and childish we are, but really…? Goodness the valuation of humans — men more than women, adults better than youth, the power of the priests to determine how much a person is worth. Bible scholars tell me how this is good? Don’t tell me, in other cultures women were valued at 0 so now that they’re 30 shekels, it’s pretty cool! Wtf.

Tell me this is all a set up to prove how amazing Jesus is. In Jesus women and children and sojourners are valued just the same, if maybe even more… they’re not valued more because they’re worth more, but in a patriarchal, misogynistic, ageist society, valuing something more just gives them a fair chance. You don’t need to value what’s already in the power seat. They are the status quo. We have to value the vulnerable to give them the room and space. Tell me Leviticus exists to point to the simplicity, justice and power of Jesus. Tell me this weird as F chapter points to how radical Jesus is. But is Jesus radical only in relativism? Or is he truly radical objectively?

Day 31: Back to one

Leviticus 5-7; Psalm 31

People were asked to sacrifice from what they had. The rich gave a lamb. The poor could give turtles. These are rituals that demonstrate a deeper meaning. The size of the sacrifice matters less than the willingness to give something of value away to atone. Atonement can be hard to grasp because it assumes we are sinners and we need to be forgiven. What is sin? A propensity to choose ourselves and intentionally/unintentionally wreak havoc in our environment. It doesn’t have to be blatant overt evil. It could be turning a blind eye to those in need. It could be silence in the face of oppression. Sin is the way we break trust with God, each other and even in ourselves. We all do it. What’s the big deal, though? What’s the big deal with a breach of trust here and there? It makes life more veiled and less vulnerable. We work harder to prove our worth. We do things to our benefit and maybe neglect others. Why care about others? We’re interdependent. We are all created in the image of God. We’ve lost that connection to each other, to the earth, to God.

Atonement is to heal this lost and to bring us all back as one. Jesus does that. The Holy Spirit does that. Maybe other things like yoga practices that tell us we are one also do that. But can we simply say we are one without acknowledging the ways we’ve fractured that oneness and answer for it? I acknowledge all the ways I choose myself and selfishly/cowardly not love others fully. How do I shift away from this propensity? How do I choose others and me in all situations? How do I walk with compassion and forgiveness and generosity, without it feeling like an obligation? God help.

Day 29: Brought out to be set apart

Exodus 35-40; Psalm 29

The people are to give according to how their heart is stirred. How do we measure that stirring? How do we straddle sacrifice and generosity? How much do we give to exhibit our commitment?

God’s laws set us apart. We are to be known by God’s law. God’s law should make us attractive in order to fulfill the covenant of multiplying our numbers. God’s law isn’t only to shape us in the present, but to remind us of what’s to come. I like this concept of his law. It’s the training, the discipline, the way to move that transform us. When you follow something long enough, it becomes second nature. I don’t have to walk around a store and constantly remind myself not to steal. If you are living and breathing love and compassion, you shouldn’t need to pray about giving our compassion and love. It should be second-nature. Your heart should naturally stir for you to give.

Goodbye Exodus. It’s been real and bits boring. It’s been upsetting and scary watching God be that angry and sad. It’s been patient to journey with the Israelites in the wilderness. Exodus,you are tiredsome and specific, but it all points to a long suffering grace that is God.

Day 27: Smell Good

Exodus 30-31; Psalm 27

This morning I woke up to the smell of bacon. It was heaven. It was as if I was both getting hungry and getting full at the same time. I’m still thinking about the bacon even though it is now long been eaten.

I love the imagery and sensation of aroma of the sacrifice. An aroma spreads. It draws in. It hooks people. Most of the goodness of food is in the smell. If you couldn’t smell, the flavor dissipates. Is that what we do with our works and sacrifices? Does it attract? Does it repel? In Romans it says we are to be living sacrifices. Are our lives making people interested in what we honor or do our lives make people hate who we uphold? Do our lives make others curious? Are you bringing people near just by being? Aromas don’t make themselves fill the air and give off scents. They just are by the burning. We make ourselves attractive by the thing we focus on to honor what and who we love the most.

To whom do you dedicate the most time to? To what do you focus on most? What is the response of those who are in your space? Smell good friends. Smell good and make people interested in what you’re consuming.

Day 7: Letting Go to receive better

Genesis 22-24; Psalm 7

God “tested” Abraham to see where his true love is: is it God or is it God’s blessing? It feels incredibly cruel that God would put Abraham through the ringer like that. Where is the good in this? God isn’t testing Abraham for his own sake, right? He must be doing for Abraham’s sake, so what does Abraham gain from this? Abraham learns he is one that keeps his trust in God regardless of what God can provide. If you can sacrifice the thing you love the most for the one you trust the most, it really means you have it all. Abraham probably experientially knew God is all he needs and that nothing in this world can touch him. If he can let go and surrender fully, he can do anything. He was put through the ringer so that he would know that his life must be a life of faith. It is a life of faith. God desires us to be free from anything in this world that will hold us back from living a life that is beyond our comprehension. And often if we measure by human ways, it doesn’t make sense. I must always go back to God as a God of good and compassion.

When God offers his son on the altar, who was testing him? He need not be tested because he was fully surrendered to his character of grace and forgiveness. Jesus like Isaac did ask once, if there was another way, but when he knew he was the only way to fully prove God’s love for us, he too surrendered. God went through the pain that Abraham didn’t have to go through. Even though he knew glory was to follow, the pain was realer than ever. Do not pass over the reality of pain and of today’s broken world, just because we know one day Revelation 21 will be true. Today we are still here.

God help me to surrender all things that hold me back from living a life of faith — surrender my negative thoughts, my tendency to compare, my narrow expectations. Let me imagine a life of faith — doing the things that make no sense of humanity but are in a vision of kindness, redemption, humility, and compassion.