Palm Sunday: Our entrance into the story of Easter

Part Two of an eight-part series of reflections on Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

Imagine with me that Pope Francis has been captured by ISIS, placed on trial, convicted, and publicly executed. The response of the world would be one of shock, horror, and outrage. Even thinking about it can make us uncomfortable.

When we hear a similar story on Palm Sunday every year, do we feel the same? Have you ever truly understood that the events portrayed in Palm Sunday are real? Have you ever experienced them as though you were there yourself?

On Palm Sunday, the Gospel reading tells the entire story of Holy Week: the Last Supper, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion, and the burial of Jesus.

Sit at the Last Supper as Jesus proclaims “This is my body.” Wonder at what it could possibly mean. Let Jesus lead you into a fuller understanding of the Eucharist.

Hear Jesus prophesy that his disciples will abandon Him, and then hear Him forgive them before it has even been done. Let Jesus lead you to reconciliation and peace.

Walk to the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prays for this cup to be taken away. Let Jesus lead you to pray deeply, “Not what I will but what you will.”

Enter the courtyard as Pilate brings out this Messiah who has been savagely beaten, and see if you would have the courage to call out His name to be freed rather than Barabbas. Let Jesus lead you to live in courage and faith.

Kneel at the foot of the cross with Mary Magdelene and the others, powerless to stop the crucifixion, but there until the end. Let Jesus lead you to a love that even death cannot conquer.

This year let us try to hear this story anew. Let us experience each moment deeply and personally. Listen, and allow Jesus to enter your life in a new and powerful way.

 

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of my new book Walking Through Holy Week. Order your copy here to make it a good Lent!

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How should we fast?

s it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58:7, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

 

Fasting is a traditional practice of Lent. We fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by abstaining from snacks, and only eating small meals. On Fridays during Lent, we abstain from meat. Some people do a true fast of bread and water one day a week for Lent. If food is an issue for you, there are plenty of other things for fasting – phone, internet, your car, complaining, anything!

What is the deal with all the fasting? It can seem like little more than a holy diet plan, don’t you think? I tried fasting once, and stopped because I felt exactly that. It wasn’t connecting me with God in any way, I wasn’t getting anything spiritual out of it, I was just waiting Continue reading

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Seriously?

In all things, I have learned the secret to living in abundance and being in need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Karen May, Amayzing Graces

Happy Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday to everyone.

What funnier way to start Lent, with its somber purple and lifeless floral arrangements, than to do it on Valentine’s Day with all the color and decadence. Even crazier is that Easter arrives on April Fool’s Day. Just enough to make you wonder a little. Is this a joke?

Fortunately for us, it’s not. We start Lent with a day of fasting and ashes to remind us where we come from. We are reminded that we have nothing unless God has given it to us. For all of our self-reliance and self-importance, the food we eat is available thanks to the rain sent from heaven, the fertile soil in the ground, and the space on earth for it to grow, whether plant or animal.

We are reminded that sometimes it takes us doing without Continue reading

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Ash Wednesday

Part One of an eight-part series of reflections on Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return, Ash Wednesday, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

I held a piece of jewelry once in order to feel what the people around me were excited about. This solid-looking, beautiful, gold-link chain weighed absolutely nothing. You couldn’t tell by looking at it. In fact, you would never believe it if someone told you. It was only by physically holding it and feeling it that you could understand the truth of this necklace. It was almost like holding nothing at all.

On Ash Wednesday, we enter into the Lenten season in a very physical way. In fact, this entire season is intentionally physical, allowing us to hold the story of Easter in a way that we can experience and understand the truth within it.

We’ll start today with the ashes.

The ashes we receive at the very start of Lent immediately connect us to the end of Lent in the events of Holy Week and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The ashes, which are traditionally created from the palms we used during Palm Sunday the previous year, remind us how Jesus entered Jerusalem with great praise and honor the week before His death.

It wasn’t long, however, before the crowd turned hostile and deadly, and Jesus paid for our sins with His life. The ashes we wear remind us of the death of our Savior, and of our own mortality.

This is how we begin our Lent – in the shadow of the Cross. We prepare for the gift we are given by giving up anything that gets in the way of our receiving it. We experience this barren season, anticipating the fullness of life that is coming. We know the resurrection is coming, but it isn’t here yet.

Join me here as we walk these forty days of Lent with Jesus. We will make our way to the Last Supper, to the Garden, to the trial, and to the Cross. We will finally arrive at the empty tomb and deeply feel the joy and promise of the Resurrection.

Experience these events, feel them, and believe.

 

 

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Lent is Coming!

Let today be the day you give up who you've been for who you can become, Hal Elrod, Lent quote, Karen May, Amayzing Graces, inspirational, spiritual direction

One year my daughter gave up soda for Lent. The rest of the family thought it was a way to get out of really giving anything up, since we didn’t drink soda in our house. Sure enough, though, she had day after day after day of unanticipated temptation. We’ve never had so many parties and special events. To her credit, she stood by her resolution.

Why do we give things up for Lent? Why is fasting such a central part of the season? On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we are supposed to refrain from snacks, have one large meal, and two small meals. Fasting on bread and water one day a week is a common practice. Of course, there’s always the coffee, chocolate, and sweets that have become traditional practice.

Have you ever thought that we are giving up some of the essential things in our lives so that we can remember what is truly essential? Have you ever intentionally gone without something, only to realize what a gift it is to have it at all?

I think that’s why prayer and almsgiving (charity) go hand in hand with the practice of fasting. It is only in prayer that God speaks to us about the gifts He wants to give us. It is in prayer that we can gratefully approach the One who sustains us. When we have a glimpse of all that we have received, it is only natural for us to respond generously to others.

I don’t think that Lent is really a time of emptiness or lack. I think it’s a time to get rid of the things that get in the way of our discovering and receiving the incredible bounty laid in front of us.

Lent starts next week. What will you give up? What will you add? What is God asking of you this Lent?

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of my new book Walking Through Holy Week. Lent is coming on February 14th. Order your copy here to make it a good one!

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Reset

Every once in a while, we just need to push the reset button.

Life is busy. Kids are crazy. Emotions are rolling. Things are moving in the wrong direction. Everything is in the right direction, except it’s all just a little too fast.

Whatever it is, life can get off center and we need a little something to put it back in balance.

Sometimes, it takes a great deal of effort, but most times, it only takes a fresh perspective.  I have a prayer that may be just the thing. Sit with this for a minute.

Say it. Mean it. Believe it.

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, St. Augustine prayer, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

God bless.

 

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of my new book Walking Through Holy Week. Lent is coming on February 14th. Order your copy here to make it a good one!

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My Bible

A Bible that's falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't, Charles Spurgeon, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

 

I had a Bible that was a complete mess. Most of the Old Testament came out in your hands when you opened it. The pages were folded up, marked up, and full of papers, notes, and who even knows what else.

I remember a priest who was in a Bible study with me commenting, “You know they sell those, right?”

But this was my Bible. This was where God had spoken to me. This was where I had discovered Him and found a story that was not some fairy tale, but a family history that gave me a foundation and guidance for the family history that I was creating.

I finally got a new Bible and started Continue reading

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Lenten Bible Study

Lent Bible study, Walking Through Holy Week, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

 

If you are in Austin, join me for my Walking Through Holy Week study! Step into the story of Easter like you never have before. It’s going to be a great Lent!

If you’re not in Austin, contact me about starting your own study.

 

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Light in the Darkness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5, Amayzing Graces, Karen May

As we work our way towards Lent, we approach a very bleak season. All the flowers will be replaced with empty branches. The music at church becomes somber and serious. We are called to refrain, to hold back, to limit.

It can feel very dark.

But there is a beauty in darkness.

Have you ever been out on a clear night in the middle Continue reading

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One day is like a thousand years

God is great not just because nothing is to big for Him. God is great because nothing is too small for Him, either. Mark Batterson, Karen May, Amayzing Graces

With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

I heard this and sat for a moment while it really sunk in.

If one day is like a thousand years for God, then that means that every moment in my day, every moment in my life is an enormous expanse of time that has plenty of room for God to move. There is an incredible amount of time for God to act.

If a thousand years is like a day, every one of those moments is seen in view of a much bigger perspective. Even the hardest day is just a blink of an eye in a much greater story.

In our own lives, we get a glimpse of this. Looking back, each day blends into a larger picture. There might be a couple particular days that stand out and each hour can be replayed in detail, but in general, each one is not that long. Meanwhile, today is very long indeed.

Imagine having all of eternity as your perspective, yet having the ability to be fully immersed in each moment. This is our God. This is where we go when we need our perspective to be realigned. This is where we go when we need the details to be held and guided. This is where we go when we need more strength than we have. This is where we go when we want to rest in a moment and hold it tenderly in our hearts.

It’s a good place to be.

 

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of my new book Walking Through Holy Week. Lent is coming on February 14th. Order your copy here to make it a good one!

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