Candlelight

by Velma Amundson

I like candles. I like to light up my living room in the evening and watch the flames flicker. It soothes me. I read somewhere that the human eye can see the light from a single candle two miles away. It seems almost impossible to me. But, driving home at night along country roads, I can see yard lights and house lights and know that they are at least that far away, and sometimes even more.

In the church year, we use light and dark. In Advent, we build from the steady light of the Pentecost season until the “Light of the World” enters to a fully lighted church. Epiphany blazes out the light of Christ. I’ve been known to do a candle theme similar to Advent, only in reverse. I begin with the number of candle in that Epiphany season (say 6) and each week remove one candle until Lent when only one candle is left. We’ve then entered the dark period of Lent when we take the time to examine our lives; to remove the sin in our life and examine our relationship with Christ. Easter again lights up the world with the light of Christ. The Day of Pentecost shines forth bright, sending the Light of Christ into the world, to fade into the season of Pentecost; a time of growth and learning.

Right now we’re in that dark period of Lent, with only one candle burning. I’m glad they say that one candle will guide us home. One candle is enough to hold off the dark and lead us to Christ. I pray that one candle will hold you and guide you. I pray that Christ’s light will continue to shine in your life; leading you safely into the full light of Christ’s love and grace.

Carnaval

by Jonni Sliver

The young people of the Free Lutheran Church recently came home from the Brazilian version of FLY – the annual youth assembly that takes place every year during the five days of Carnaval. It isn’t just the Free Lutherans that hold their biggest retreats at this time of year, most evangelical churches do. I have always thought of it as the way the Church sought to escape the very worldly street celebration. But just recently my understanding has changed. I am beginning to think that both Carnaval and our FLY have exactly the same goal – starting from different points and ending at different points.

Carnaval is the five-day preparation for the season of Lent done by people who have no understanding of the amazing gift of life and redemption Jesus provided on the Cross. Carnaval is an opportunity to do anything and everything to please the flesh (Carne in Portuguese), to be followed by forty days of “penance”, ending in a magnificent celebration of chocolate eggs and cod (think lutefisk that doesn’t smell bad).

FLY, on the other hand, is a five-day preparation of the heart for hundreds of young people; understanding the power of the Risen Lord and learning to walk in it – a wonderful introduction to Lent! These young people set aside this time every year to affirm what a lot of us older Children of God tend to forget. That the deeper our love of the Lord grows, the clearer we see how much farther we have to go, how much room there still is to grow.

In Lent we not only contemplate the wondrous things God has done for us, but become aware of how much more He wants to do in and through us. 2 Cor. 3:8 tells us we are all being transformed, degree by degree into His sweet likeness. It is a process, and none of are complete, all of us have many, many degrees yet to come. Are you content in your walk with the Lord? Do you feel like you’re in a good place, and now you can coast just a bit? Don’t! God has more for you! Or are you on the other end, feeling like you haven’t made it and wondering if you ever will? This is the perfect moment to consider that EVERY good thing comes from the Father. We are transformed, we become like Him as HE works in us, as we surrender and let Him move! And Eph. 3:20 says, more specifically, that He has “exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think”.

During these weeks of Lent I want to follow the example of my younger brothers and sisters and open my heart for all of the new that He has for me!

Deprivational Giving

by Sarah Langness

In another week or so, I imagine there will be a handful of Facebook status’ crawling along my home page saying something like the following: “So long, Facebook! See you after Lent.” In high school, it was common this time of year to hear my classmates say during our lunch break, “Ugh. I wish I could eat that cookie. But I gave up sweets for Lent.” Growing up in a non-Lutheran home and attending a church where “giving something up” for Lent wasn’t common, emphasized or even talked about, it was kind of weird. And in all honesty, I still think it’s a bit odd. I mean, I get the reasoning behind depriving oneself during Lent; the whole thing of what Jesus gave up for you; when you crave what you’ve given up, pray or think about the Lord and let that satisfy you. But in high school, and even now, I can’t help but think that the emphasis is more on us – on what we are sacrificing. There seems to be an attitude of “Woe is me! I cannot drink that latte for another four weeks.” Seems to me that we’ve got this all wrong.

I couldn’t help but think of the upcoming “Lenten deprivation” as I read through Isaiah 58 the other morning. The LORD is addressing the Israelite’s observance of fasts – but somewhere in our Christian heritage, we seemed to have lost the importance of, or at least need of, fasting. So His words made me think of Lent. You should probably just grab your Bible, Nook, Kindle, or open a new web page and read the entire chapter: it’s good. Here’s some highlights that struck me:

“‘You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed and for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD?

Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bonds of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?

Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? . . .

If you remove the yoke from your midstthe pointing of the finger andspeaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones . . .” – Isaiah 58:4-7; 9-11

Deprivation alone doesn’t do much good. Maybe our deprivation needs to be accompanied by giving. Depriving so that we can focus more on the needs of others. Realizing that we have so much that we can give some of it up. Using the money saved on that latte to feed a child for a year. Using the money saved on those baked delicacies to free a girl from prostitution. Not buying those new clothes to sit in our closet but instead giving them to a homeless shelter to clothe a kid who’s got one pair of jeans. Taking the time to visit our elderly relatives and fellow believers in the nursing home. To stop casting the blame on someone else for all the problems in the world and start doing something – however small – to change it. To deprive my tongue of the joy of gossip and clamping it shut, speaking instead the words of the Lord. Spending time serving in a food shelter or packing boxes of food for the hungry next door and around the world.

And maybe this whole deprivational giving should be done every day of the year – not just the forty-some days of Lent. Because I think that’s what it looks like to follow Jesus. When we give, when we care about the needs of others and actually do something about their needs, when we spend our time and money on helping the hungry and naked — others will see the Light of the World in us.

“‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put in under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.‘” – Matt. 5:14-16