Lent is bigger than Fish

My dear church family,
You guys have my heart, seriously. Wherever I am, whomever I am with, it’s inevitable that I’m bursting with joyful stories of you. Kevin and I continually thank God for calling us to live and lead in this community. We are thankful to call Monroe our home, MFMC our church, and all of you “our people.” But enough mushy stuff…

Did you know we are entering the new season in the Church calendar? It’s called Lent and it’s so much more than McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. The Lenten season is about asking ourselves the question, “How do I need to be returning to God with my whole heart?Throughout the next 40 days (not counting Sundays – because those are “feast days” and always for celebration) we will journey through Lent together. We will begin with our (new this year) Ash Wednesday service, coming face to face with our mortality and our sin, taking communion together, and beginning Lent on purpose.

The word “lent” actually means springtime. This makes for a beautiful picture of the spiritual life. As we look outside in the months approaching spring, the weather is unpredictable, the temperatures bipolar. Despite the hard ground and the harsh elements, brave new seedlings begin popping out of the earth. Friends, this is us. Maybe the soil of our hearts has grown a little hardened over the past season. Guess what? God has never stopping working in our lives. Just like the seed that fell, our hearts go through times of darkness where the seed seems to die. But under the surface life is happening. And then there’s this green growth cropping up out of nowhere! Alas! HOPE!

So as we walk through the somber and self-examining season of Lent, ask God to give you ways to return to Him with your whole heart. And together we’ll walk towards the glory of the Easter resurrection and newness of life!

Grace + Peace,

Pastor Melanie

The Slow Work of Grace

I know there are plenty of analogies for how Americans have created an “instant gratification” culture. We like fast cars and fast food, microwaves and Netflix without commercials. (Can I get an “Amen?!”) I like all of those things too. But in the past few weeks, I have been continually reminded that our cultural mindset produces a major issue for the work of spiritual growth. God’s work in our life does NOT go at our speed. The work of God’s grace is slow, painfully slow at times.

Saying God is slow in his work probably isn’t the best way of saying it, though. It’s not really a time-frame thing. Spiritual formation isn’t linear (as much as I try to make it so). This journey in Christ is weaving and wandering, loving and kind, exhilarating and frustrating. There isn’t really a speed associated with how God works out his grace in our lives. There can’t be. God’s grace is unquantifiable.  God’s grace is a continual presence in our life, a constant invitation to join him in the dance of love.

There are moments when you think you’re making it. “I am on the right track,” you think to yourself, “Finally!” You find yourself energized by various spiritual disciplines, loving corporate worship services, intentionally connecting with others. But then Anger rears her ugly head. Anxiety creeps out of the crevices. Pride stomps in uninvited. And you realize you are so far from the mark of steady growth, still desperate for God.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

This “Jesus Prayer” is apt for every moment of your life, no matter the season. Breath out these words. Breath in his mercy. It’s bountiful enough for you today.