Stories

Leaders from across the province share stories of disciples who are living a life of submission of God’s chosen fast.

March 30, 2018

Good Friday

Johnne Donne

O Savior, as thou hang'st upon the tree;
I turn my back to thee, but to receive
Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.
O think me worth thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rusts, and my deformity,
Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,
That thou may'st know me, and I'll turn my face.
—John Donne, from "Good Friday 1613, Riding Westward"
Anglican Poet and Priest John Donne lived a life of tensions—between body and soul, death and life, faith and work. He wrote this now famous poem at a moment of particular conflict between his desire to devote every attention to the sacred occasion of Good Friday and the practical obligations of his job, which had him riding westward, away from the rising sun.
The poem begins with an extended metaphor of the soul as a sphere or planet, which should move at the impulse of its devotion to God. And yet, the narrator explains, the motions of other spheres—of 'pleasure' or 'business'—interfere with the movement of our soul, harrying and hurrying us away from our rhythm of devotion. This, Donne relates, is his situation now, drawn off course this Good Friday by the demands of duty.
Perhaps many of us find ourselves with our backs turned to Christ at this moment, feeling so hurried and so pulled in every direction that we are suddenly here, feeling unprepared. We imagine that we ought to have been ready for this—after all, wasn't that what Lent was all about?
But the conclusion to Donne's poem, excerpted here, reminds us of the paradoxical truth of Lent. In Lent, we offer to Christ our backs, not as the rebellious children seeking to escape, but as the humbled servants prepared to accept punishment. Indeed, as the poet explains, these 'corrections' would be welcome; they mark us as ones worth correcting. And yet the 'punishment' we receive isn't a punitive paying out for our sins—we aren't getting what we deserve, thanks be to God. Instead, we are transformed, restored to the Image of God. Certainly, this restoration process is bound to cause us pain, much as the character Eustace felt in C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when the great lion Aslan 'undragoned' him. But even this pain we will count as joy if only then we might be invited to turn our eyes toward Him, and—being thus remade—be fully known by our loving Father.
The Gift of Lent is our 'undragoning.' It is our willing offering of our repentance—our prayers, our fasting, and our alms. It is our cry to God to burn off our rusts and set right our deformity. Because of Christ's work on the cross, God turns our faces back to Him and offers His warm embrace.
Over this season, it's been our hope that this Gift of Lent might be one you share. That, having been transformed and having witnessed the continued work of God's kingdom in the world, transforming lives and communities, you might imitate Christ's selfless love. Whether it's through the work of your local parish, or the ministries of the Matthew 25 Initiative or the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, or any other opportunity, we pray you will find joy in joining God in His work in the world.

March 29, 2018

Cham’s Story

Anglican Relief and Development Fund
ardf.org

In Gambella, Ethiopia, almost every family has experienced the death of a child. Sickness spreads easily and living conditions are sub-standard. This was the case for Cham, a woman of the village, who kept asking the question: What is the problem? This is the very question that the Gambella Anglican Center asks every day in its work. They help train clergy to serve the needy congregations across the region, provide resources for families, and host the Mother's Union, a group of mothers from the local community dedicated to improving the health and quality of life in their families. By empowering these women to learn from one another, the Gambella Anglican Center has had an enormous impact not only on Cham's life, but on those around her, as the video shows. As we reflect on Maundy Thursday, recalling the radical example Christ set as he moved from his rightful spot at the head of the table and began to wash the feet of his disciples, we must recognize the call to serve those most in need. There is no special competency required to wash feet, there is no specific gifting or calling that qualifies us to serve—this is the model Jesus has given to all his followers. As Philippians 2 makes plain, following Christ will mean walking a path of self-emptying love for the sake of others. Cham's Story: Saving Lives with Coffee from ARDF on Vimeo.  

March 28, 2018

ARDF Brings Peace

Anglican Relief and Development Fund
ardf.org

In Luke's gospel, when Jesus looks out over Jerusalem and weeps at the sight, he says: "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!" The tragedy of sin is not merely that it robs us of peace, but convinces us that we know the things that make for peace. Though all the evidence of our lives (and of our world) points us to the contrary, we believe that with enough planning or effort we might somehow recover the peace we lost. Many of us think of this lack of peace in terms of the restlessness of our hearts and the busyness of our days. And surely, this lack of peace has crippled us from living the lives that God intended for us. But we must also open our eyes to the physical strife that afflicts so much of our world. For those who live in a constant state of war, fearing for their lives and the lives of their children, there is no hope for education, for health; in short, for the flourishing life God has for them. In this video, the Anglican Relief and Development Fund explains how they work for real and lasting peace around the world, and how this work results in the transformation of hearts and communities. By training others in patterns of reconciliation rooted in the gospel, real change is possible. Only then will we come to know "the peace of God, which passes understanding" (Philippians 4:7). ARDF Brings Peace! from ARDF on Vimeo.  

March 27, 2018

The Rev. Dr. John Yates

The Falls Church Anglican
tfcanglican.org

When we moved our church home—our classrooms, ministry center, offices, and future sanctuary—to a new location, we asked, Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29). We truly wanted to know, Why did the Lord lead us to this location? Who are our neighbors? How can we love and serve them well? What might we learn from them?   We learned many things, but perhaps most importantly we learned that though we sometimes think of our neighbor as someone other or different, they are us. They often feel alone or out of place. They are holding onto the hope of the future. They are longing to find a new home where they are known and loved. They want to belong, have purpose, and be productive. They share the same dreams for themselves and their children. They are our neighbors.      Last year the Lord answered Who is my neighbor? when the Chair of the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Department at our local high school reached out to us for help. Soon, some members of our church—young and old—began to assist ESOL teachers in a number of ways. They served in the classroom and helped struggling students with understanding and completing assignments. They delivered new backpacks full of school supplies. They prepared packages of dried goods, so some students would not go hungry over the weekend. They arranged to provide coats for students with no coats. One member of our church recently shared, “The students have been a bigger blessing to me, than I am to them. They are teaching me humility and gratitude. They are just 14 to 17 year old kids trying to figure it out, and despite a lot of trauma, they are still smiling and trying to learn. I think I am so great, but they are better than I am, and they have nothing. This experience has opened my eyes to see as God sees, and to be a part of what God wants our church to do to care for others. I started with [committing to] one class [per day], and now I spend the whole day. Some weeks I spend two days! I often wonder what took me so long to get here, but as I put aside judgement and put on mercy, I realize I am right on time.” Who is my neighbor? If we earnestly come to this question, if we see with the eyes of our hearts enlightened (Ephesians 1:18), if we pray, “Here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8), the Lord will answer our question. He will invite us into the story he is telling. He will lead us to countless opportunities to love as he loves and serve as he serves. He will require something of us, and in return he will transform us—each of us and all of us—into his likeness for his purpose and glory.

March 26, 2018

Tim Clayton

Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church
ctrnorthshore.org

By the time our three Sunday morning services are done, typically so am I. But I’ve learned that often some of the most important—or most challenging—things happen in the half hour or so that follows. Indeed, a few years ago on my way out the door I noticed a woman standing in the corner of the side-foyer, looking anxious, not overdressed, and a little worn. I stopped and chatted a little with her and went home. On Tuesday morning that week, at staff meeting, I learned that she was homeless and that she had gone home with a family in the church and was living with them for the foreseeable future. Frankly, this scared a few of the staff: was it safe? But I knew the Flowers, who had invited her into their home: a wonderful couple whose story is one of suffering redeemed and who were now extending that to Melinda. They didn’t own their home, it wasn’t large, the wife’s mother lived with them and the three girls already, so why not make room for one more? Melinda lived with the Flowers for a few years and pitched right in. She worked locally at a coffee shop as many hours as the doctors advised, given her knees. She had no addictions and was in school online. She used to go to church but life had gotten too tough to believe God loved her: she had buried two sons and when a third—a tough marine—was rendered quadriplegic through a bizarre swimming accident, her husband couldn’t take any more and divorced her. She and her daughter limped through until the daughter went to college, and then she moved to our area, hoping to make a new start, but the emotional toll was too great: she ended up homeless and had come in that Sunday, as a last resort. The Flowers were great; they loved her, included her, and she began to stabilize. She paid off her credit-card debt. She got her car workable. Then the Flowers’ girls graduated high school, and the Flowers had to move to a smaller place. Melinda managed okay for a while, but about a year later Steve, another parishioner, called me: he saw Melinda at the coffee shop; she didn’t look good; she was sleeping behind the shop at night, and depression was creeping over her and beginning to win. My discretionary fund let me put her in a hotel for a few days. Steve and I talked to all the local shelters and tried to get her emergency housing. Nothing doing. We made a list of people in the church who might be willing to help and sent out an email. Another family, with two boys, who lived near the coffee shop, emailed: the woman knew Melinda from the cafe. Melinda went to live with them. For the next year or so with them she joined the home group that meets in their home. She began to share her story. She wept from time to time; occasionally she talked too long, but no one was bothered by that. Eventually this second couple needed the spare bedroom for the woman’s mother. Melinda moved into the second floor of a home of another parishioner in the home group—the third home in our church to invite her in. She finished her online school program in accounting. This year she has a job helping people do their taxes. Her daughter is graduating college. Her old car died, and she replaced it. Best of all, she began to read the Bible; she began to pray. She said she no longer wanted to die. She could, at last, believe God loves her. Melinda’s story has been an education for us, for me, certainly: the role of depression and grief in causing homelessness; the confusing and consuming difficulties of trying to go through government systems for help; the difficulties faced by the working poor;the humbling, jaw-dropping generosity of the people of God (this account only scratches the surface); the power of a hospitable home group; and most of all, the beauty of God’s redemption being experienced and then passed along.

March 23, 2018

The Good of Giving Up

The Rev. Aaron Damiani
aarondamiani.com

Each Friday, we will feature a passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent. I don’t know which is heavier: the burden of self-hatred or that of self-blessing. It seems that our churches are filled with people who are crushed by both. On one shoulder, they carry shame that their dreams haven’t come true. They hoped for something and got burned. They have failed to change the world and gain glory in the process. And as they age, they feel less attractive, less invincible. Mortality and gravity start pulling them down – slowly. Whereas previous generations felt guilty, many of us are wallowing in shame, feeling unworthy of love. On the other shoulder, they carry the responsibility to affirm themselves. “I’m beautiful, even if I’m balding.” “My life plan is sacred, even though it has left me bankrupt.” “I must assert myself, express myself, mustering confidence from deep within.” But what happens when the confidence runs out? It’s strange, really. Building people up in the wrong way can end up crushing them. Yes, we need encouragement, love, and empathy our whole lives. Most people don’t get enough of that. But we don’t need to be the epicenter of reality, worshiping ourselves and demanding others to join in. That will only make us self-involved. We will be ill-equipped to suffer well, to grow from negative feedback, and to put others ahead of ourselves. That is no way to live. If everyone is awesome, who does the dishes? Who goes last in the grocery store line? Who among us is strong enough to spend our best years caring for the elderly and disabled? Who has the security to offer a gentle answer in response to an angry insult? We are epic, amazing, beautiful people who throw fits when our will is crossed. We brag “humbly” on social media, and avoid menial tasks. All this self-worship detracts from the greater good. Families, institutions, and communities by nature challenge us to lay aside our individual pursuits for the common good. All three require humble self-sacrifice and an honest perception of reality. And all three are disintegrating before our eyes. Lent is good medicine for individuals and the communities they inhabit. It is a season for us to receive the humility of Christ in such a way that frees us to pour ourselves out in love toward others. Taken from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

March 22, 2018

Rev. Clint Kerley

Immanuel Anglican Church
iachurch.org

I first met Rich Garon during my interview with the Vestry to serve as Rector at Immanuel. He was quiet during the meeting and only asked a couple of questions. Soon after, I learned that he had retired as the Chief of Staff for the House International Relations Committee. Little did I know that in that interview, I had come face to face with one of the power brokers of Washington, DC. Yet, I was soon to learn that he was anything but the typical retiree from Capitol Hill. As I got to know Rich, his conversations never centered around himself or his accomplishments. He wanted to talk with me about the homeless in our community and how we might help them. Situated as we are on the I-95 corridor, many people find themselves coming to DC with hopes for a better future; only to find those hopes dashed by the reality of an extremely high cost of living. Faced with homelessness, these men and women gather in wooded camps along the highway. In those camps, Rich discovered a ministry. Rich’s heart of compassion and concern spread across our congregation. The homeless were no longer nameless men and women at an intersection holding a sign. They were brothers and sisters who sat next to us in church, singing and sharing bread and wine. Through Rich, we learned practical ways we could help the homeless. Through him, we also came to understand the helplessness one feels when confronted with addiction or agencies unable to provide help due to incomprehensible bureaucracies. Rather than being deterred, Rich dove in and learned how to navigate the system, driven by a love for these men and women. At a recent meeting of our Missions Team, Rich challenged the group to think about ways we could expand our outreach to the community, especially the homeless. At one point, he looked down at the table and quietly said, “I guess I’m a black sheep…always pushing the envelope.” I looked Rich in the eyes and replied, “In the Bible, black sheep are often called prophets, calling God’s people to follow where he leads.” Rich was certainly used by God in his role with Congress. Yet, in retirement, God has raised up a prophet for our church and our community, calling us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

March 21, 2018

The Rev. Jed Roseberry

Restoration Anglican Church, Richardson, Texas
RestorationAnglican.Church

When our church had the chance to adopt refugee families from Syria, Emily Kerr felt like this was a job for someone else. After all, she’s a mother of two small boys and she and her husband both have busy jobs. She serves on the vestry, she is part of a small group, but this sort of service sounded like a job for someone with a little more margin. Reluctantly, she agreed to help the family move into their apartment. It would be an exhausting Saturday, but the family would manage it. A year and a half later, Emily and her family are integral in our church’s refugee ministry. She visits the family weekly, she helps them manage their finances and make it to appointments, she advocates for the children at their schools. In the midst of this, her boys are usually right alongside her, playing with their new friends. As Emily has shared with our Restoration family, this opportunity has transformed her view of discipleship. By allowing herself to become vulnerable to those who are in need, she has championed a new vision for her family as followers of Jesus. The experience has blessed her as much as it has blessed this family in need. When we choose God’s fast, we look beyond our own comfort and convenience and we willingly enter into the brokenness of the world for the sake of others.

March 20, 2018

The Rev. Erik Willits

Holy Trinity McKinney
holytrinitymck.com

We all spend time constructing lives that are precarious at times. Learning to balance all the pieces we pile up throughout the year is like another job. Lent is a season, as I like to say, for addition, subtraction, and introspection. Lent might seem dark and depressing but in reality, Lent is a gift, a gift from God to his Church. It’s a gift because it’s a designated time for us to reflect on our lives, giving us space and time to deconstruct the towers we have built, because we all know that if we just keep piling on the layers, they’re bound to crumble, we are bound to crumble. As we inspect our lives, we give up some of those layers that are distracting us. Remembering that we were created to hunger for God and that our only satisfaction is found in God. I always hope that some of what I give up will be gone for good, while others things will return and, with God’s grace, be rightly ordered in my life. Lent is also a time for addition. The things we add are not supposed to be just another Lego on the every growing tower of our lives. Rather, they are the very things that free us to be with God and not so consumed with ourselves. Adding disciplines during Lent allows God to mold and shape us further into the likeness of his Son. Everything we do during Lent is a reminder that Jesus is our only hope for abundant life. He is the one who has entered into our desperate situation and become our hope. Ultimately, the season of Lent is the gift we have been given so that our hearts and minds might be ready to participate in the resurrection. We fast, so we can feast. We decrease, so that He might increase. Life is hard and full of distraction and temptation. One of the most powerful parts of Lent is the space it creates for us to slow down, look inward, confess life’s difficulty, and cultivate our relationship with Jesus right in the middle of this desert. Lent is a gift and if we receive it well, it will prepare us participate in resurrection. Thanks be to God!

March 19, 2018

Grace Wiley

Anglican Chaplains Adoption Fund
anglicanchaplains.org/wp/chaplains-adoption-fund

In Isaiah 58:7, the faithful are charged to choose a fast wherein they feed the hungry, bring the homeless poor into their house, clothe the naked, and do not hide themselves from their own flesh and blood. The Anglican Chaplains Adoption Fund, a recent addition to the ministries supported by the Matthew 25 Initiative, was formed to put this very concept into action. Founded by the Rev. John Mabus, an Anglican chaplain in the US Navy, this ministry provides support to adoptive families through, prayer, information referral, and financial grants, and seeks to help churches learn how to better support families in the process of fostering or adoption. When asked why he felt called to begin the ACAF, Chaplain Mabus said, “Care for orphans and life-affirming opportunities for birth-mothers to be able to choose adoption over abortion have always been a passion for our family. We adopted our third son through [a] domestic infant adoption program. It was a great honor to work with his birth-mother and be entrusted with her son…We wanted to help encourage other families who are seeking to adopt and to be a catalyst in the Anglican Church in North America to think about the needs of adoption and orphans.” How, exactly, does providing resources to adoptive families fulfill the Isaiah 58 charge to care for those in poverty? Who could be said to be more in need of food, clothing, and shelter than an orphan? “There are over 100,000 children ready for adoption in the United States foster system,” Chaplain Mabus said, “many of [whom] will age out of foster care, never being in a family of their own.” The church, if serious about its pro-life stance, must be willing to step in and care for the lives of children whose parents cannot parent them. Bringing these children into the care of loving families ensures that our little brothers and sisters, our own flesh and blood through adoption in Christ, are not turned away.

March 16, 2018

The Good of Giving Up

The Rev. Aaron Damiani
immanuelanglican.org

Each Friday, we will feature a passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent. Woody Allen is quoted as saying, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” The same is true when it comes to showing generosity in Lent. Generosity does not start with a transfer of funds. That is likely only to reinforce feelings of inferiority and shame of the recipient as well as a savior complex of the giver. Generosity in the name of Jesus starts with our personal presence, which allows us to see our neighbors who might otherwise be invisible to us. John Ortberg calls this “the proximity factor.” So much comes down to where we spend our time. “Allow yourself to see need,” Ortberg writes, “and eventually you’ll want to help. Maintain your distance, and you probably won’t.” Where do you generally hang out? What roads do you take to work? Which restaurants do you frequent, which parks do you visit, and which neighbors do you notice? With whom do you mingle?... For you, Lenten generosity might begin with the weekly discipline of personal presence to the people you are prone to ignore. You might consider walking around your neighborhood, with a friend or two, and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to take notice and pray for the people on your block. Or you might choose to volunteer at your local library, school, hospital, nursing home, or consignment shop. When someone asks you for money spend time talking with them. Treat them as an equal. You might even consider taking them to lunch. And if your church has a generosity fund for the needy, contribute as you’re able. Yes, this may be inconvenient. Personal presence is much costlier than simply giving money. My friends Joe and Carrie, who regularly lead mission trips to Southeast Asia, refer to this as having an “interruptible life.” Naturally, we Westerners do not appreciate interruptions. But every mundane moment that we love Christ in our neighbor is worthwhile. Adapted from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

March 15, 2018

Rev. Canon Justin Howard

Imago Dei Anglican Church
idachurch.com, F: idachurch.bangor

"Kill them with kindness." How many times have we heard this phrase? Usually, it’s used in a spiteful way to drive our enemies crazy—because, well, let's face it, they deserve it!   Kindness is one of the most crucial yet often neglected Christian fruit. For a number of reasons I suspect, not the least of which is our culture’s embrace of the idol of busyness that drives us further from serving those who may not help us reach our personal goals. Isaiah 58 exhorts us to “share,” “provide,” and to “spend yourself on behalf” of those who lack.   As Christians, we underestimate the power of kindness to “break the yoke of the oppressor.” My wife and I have six young children and last summer amidst our ridiculously busy life, my wife baked bread, picked some veggies from the garden and brought them to our immigrant neighbors. They were absolutely dumbstruck—I kid you not. The next morning they showed up at our house with a homemade pie and we ate together! Their children played with our kids outside and we invited them over to enjoy summer fires. We talked about raising kids and faith. They were baptized Orthodox, but not practicing and the husband was a Freudian atheist. We invited them to Alpha and they excitedly agreed—now we were dumbstruck.   Through Alpha Course, they received Jesus. One of the questions in our small group was, “If you had never heard the Gospel how would you like it shared with you?” Our friends clamored to be the first to answer. “By kindness,” they said.   They had moved to Maine from New York City, and they were taught to be suspicious. “If someone is kind to you, they obviously want something from you.” They testified that though at first they were wary of our initial simple act of kindness, the more we persisted in simple acts of kindness and they observed our family life the more curious they became. Now they have found kindness in the person of Jesus. Kindness is the chosen fast of the Lord because it doesn’t kill—it disarms. It leads to surrender. After all, it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.

March 14, 2018

Become an ARDF Advocate

Anglican Relief and Development Fund
ardf.org

From these stories of generosity from churches and ministries, a common theme emerges. While there are concrete, financial realities that must be met in order to serve those in need, the work neither begins or ends with writing a check. This video from the Anglican Relief and Development Fund explains how the local churches working for change in their communities need our prayer and advocacy. Our most important work is to lift up our brothers and sisters who are working most directly to alleviate suffering and bring justice. As you explore ministries around the world, find projects that align with your passions and begin to pray faithfully on behalf of those who have dedicated their lives to the work. Don’t stop there, though. Share the stories of these servants with your family, your friends, your church. Become a local advocate for international work that advance the gospel. Gather people to pray together, spread awareness, and raise money that will bless the leaders in these communities. You can even learn how you could journey to where the work is being done, through an ARDF Vision Trip. Pray. Advocate. Give. Go. Become an ARDF Advocate! from ARDF on Vimeo.  

March 13, 2018

The Good of Giving Up

The Rev. Aaron Damiani
immanuelanglican.org

This week, we have a bonus passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent. Most people I know would not describe themselves as a well-watered garden with enough resources to spare. They feel limited in their capacity to give money, energy, and time. Perhaps they are still paying off loans, dealing with chronic fatigue, or working seventy hours a week. For this reason, talk of generosity and almsgiving can trigger guilt or defensiveness. This is why I find Isaiah’s imagery helpful. “You shall be like a watered garden” is a tender promise from a generous God, not a shakedown for resources we do not have. He is a good Father who is calling us to move from fear-based survival to a lifestyle of overflow for the life of the world. Commenting on this passage, Old Testament scholar John Oswalt unpacks the spiritual meaning of the garden imagery: The person who has the light of God in his or her life … whose soul is refreshed in the deserts of life and whose body is strengthened by him will be a watered garden… That is, such a person will have a rich supply of gifts to share with othersThose who know the Lord, as shown by their treatment of the powerless, will never lack for the water of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They will have water for their own lives and more than enough to pour out on the afflicted souls around them. God takes good care of His people, feeding them spiritually and physically. And then He commissions them to take good care of the weak, spiritually and physically. This is not a zero-sum game of ham-fisted exchanges but a teeming and tender expression of heaven and earth. Yes, we are called to cultivate value and work hard in the process. But the margins of that value are reserved for the poor, the sojourner, and the weak. In this way, we reflect God’s generosity to us in Christ, who became impoverished for our sake (2 Cor. 8:9). Adapted from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.  

March 12, 2018

The Very Rev. R. Peet Dickinson

The Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul
yourcathedral.org

Ask people on the street: What makes a true fast? You’ll likely get a collection of ascetic answers centered on the denial of pleasures. Read the 58th chapter of Isaiah and you find a different picture of a “true fast.” If there is subtraction at all, it is addition by subtraction. The “true fast” showcases the paradoxical economy of the Kingdom of God as the prophet declares “if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (v. 10). Edward Simmons first worshipped with us at the Cathedral maybe five or six years ago. He entered our community with grace and courage, though, as a black man with poor clothing and hygiene, it must have been harrowing to be such a distinct minority. As a person who has lived my whole life as part of majority culture, I can only imagine how difficult those steps must have been, especially in such a culturally entrenched moment as Sunday worship. Some passed him by, but those who spent even a moment with him encountered Edward’s sweet spirit, loving kindness, and abiding faith—the unmistakable Imago Dei. The McKinneys and Vices did take the time to get to know Edward, then to love Edward, then to serve Edward. These two families embarked on a long, winding journey that saw Edward’s health, financial wherewithal, guardianship all turned upside down. But Edward had become family, so they did what you do for family and did not hide themselves from their own flesh (v. 7). Much has been added to these families through their “true fast.”  The McKinneys marvel at Edward’s kindness and love toward them, and the Vices have said, “We were given the privilege of seeing how God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”  And Edward has said, “I pray. I have peace. I smile.”

March 9, 2018

The Good of Giving Up

The Rev. Aaron Damiani
immanuelanglican.org

Each Friday, we will feature a passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent. An eighteenth-century French mystic likened humility to a sea vessel being weighed down by a stabilizing mass: As when we load a vessel, the more ballast we put in, the lower it sinks; so the more love we have in the soul, the lower we are abased in self… Let its depths be made known by our readiness to bear the cross. Ships without a load are too flimsy to last on the open waters. Without enough ballast—heavy material like sandbags or lead—weighing the vessel down, the choppy waters and stormy weather would make quick work of any ship. The more ballast, the lower the ship sinks into the water. The lower the ship sinks into the water, the more secure it becomes, and the farther it is able to travel. Such is the humility of Jesus. The more of His Father’s love that He took on board, the lower He sank into the water. No one was more full of God’s love, no one was more willing to become a servant of all, and no one was more secured for His mission. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5) Can you see Jesus sinking down to wash feet, full of His Father’s blessing? When we seek to bless ourselves, we avoid anything but promotions. But when we read passages like John 13 and Philippians 2, we see that experiencing the love of God, and knowing who we are in Christ, drives us downwards. Jesus’ stature before the Father freed Him to descend to self-emptying, servanthood, humiliation, and death. Taken from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

March 8, 2018

The Rev. Cn. Dr. Chuck Thebeau

Christ Our King Anglican Church
coknb.com

It is one thing to assent to the value of something, it is quite another to pay the price for it. While a member of the Vestry, Ross Ferraro was part of the decision making for Christ Our King to be a founding church in a ministry to the homeless in our community, Family Promise. Like all of the Vestry, he knew that the Lord's heart was for us to "bring the homeless poor into [our] house" (Is. 58:7). So, we agreed to host homeless families in our Ministry Center for a week each quarter as they work to get back on their feet. After the initial leaders' roles changed, Ross was asked to be the parish coordinator for this ministry. He told me, "It doesn't sound very spiritual now, but I had no reason to say no." Probing further, however, I found that his initial involvement with Family Promise was based on his conviction from Matthew 25 that we are to minister to those in need. Ross asserted that the “Lord keeps telling us that this is what we are supposed to be doing.” He coordinates the ministry of 40-50 parishioners who set up beds, make meals, play with the children, and spend the night with the families at the church. With all the help from parishioners, Ross feels like he doesn't do very much. In fact, he says that the “church members who sign up are excited to do it again!” As his Pastor, I see that Ross pays a price for what he values. He not only oversees the ministry, he sacrifices his time and rest in order to be there each night of the week to welcome the families as they return from their job searches; engage the children, modeling the Father’s love to the fatherless; and, along with his wife, spend a night with the families. Yet, he and those who serve with him feel they are blessed more than the families they serve. And isn’t that the way of the Lord? There is a cost to give, but we discover "it truly is more blessed to give than to receive."

March 7, 2018

The Rev. Brian Pape

Church of the Resurrection
churchoftheres.com, F: Resurrection.Church

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day used food as a way to oppress others. They used meals as a way to determine who was excluded. The “sinful” or the poor were simply not welcome. Even the seating order around a table was determined by a person’s apparent worth or importance. In contrast to all of this, Jesus used meals as a way of including everyone (Mt. 9:9-11). In fact, Jesus’ primary way of pursuing friendship with others was by gathering around a table and sharing a meal. The affluent, suburban context of our parish is often misleading. The surface of our life together in this region suggests abundance—nice cars, trendy clothing, sprawling single-family homes, hundreds of shops and restaurants—you get the idea if you’ve been to any large suburban city in America. Scarcity of anything—especially food—is easy to overlook. But thanks to leaders like John Campbell, we have discovered a tremendous need among the hidden homeless population of Denton County. Through John’s leadership, a ministry called Breaking Bread was formed more than five years ago to both serve and be with those in need in the Denton County area. He took this vision of Jesus’ welcome around the Table and put it into a simple and profound ministry. In the words of Isaiah 58:7, John’s leadership has helped us to discover the power of sharing our “bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into our house.” Twice a month, we host a banquet of Jesus’ love and affection for “the least of these.” We start setting up in the morning, then serve a generously portioned dinner, along with encouraging conversation and prayer for our guests who desire it. After all the dishes have been done, we head home with hearts full of the blessings received from our fellowship with our guests and our Lord. There are many ways our members participate, from pre-banquet set-up, assisting on the serving line, welcoming people as they arrive or just offering to listen and pray with our guests as they often love for you to intercede and pray with them. When we choose God’s fast, we look around the table for ways to create open chairs for those who have been overlooked.

March 6, 2018

The Rev. Nobie Hendricks

Fellowship Of Hope Mentoring
fellowshipofhopementoring.org

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12) The Golden Rule is at the heart of Fellowship of Hope Mentoring’s (FoHM) first mentor. Christina Johnson had thought about becoming a mentor a number of times over the years, but the timing just wasn't ever right. But God kept pulling on her heartstrings to do more for those in need. So when she heard FoHM was focusing on the needy children in southwest Richardson, Texas, she knew it was time to answer the call. She sums up her experience like this: It was a little scary going to the first Meet and Greet, but I was excited too. I was worried I wouldn’t really “click” with any of the girls, that I might be too old to relate to them, or that our cultural differences might make it awkward. But, I just love kids and want to use my life to make a difference in their lives. I knew that if God was calling me to do this, He would make it all work out so I took a leap of faith. And I am so glad that I did! My relationship with Rosa (my mentee) has been such a rewarding experience for me, and I believe it has been for Rosa, too. We have helped each other get out of our comfort zones. She has stretched me to meet her where she is spiritually and emotionally as I provide her with opportunities to experience God through attending church with me as well as other activities that she may otherwise not have experienced. I’ve also learned that just being there for her—giving her my time and attention—has a lot of value as well. Over this past year, I’ve come to truly care for Rosa and I believe that we've created a bond of friendship that will last many years, and I hope maybe even forever. I look forward to watching her grow and develop into an amazing young woman and I feel privileged to be a small part of it. Isaiah 58 speaks of a fast that is all about giving up our time, talents, and resources for those who are in need. Matthew 25 tells us that what we do for the least of these, we do for Christ Himself. Christina’s devotion to Rosa is a prime example of a fast that is pleasing to the Lord—a fast that leaves her heart full of gratitude for the selflessness of Christ who gave up His life as the sacrificial Lamb of God for sake of the world. As we learn to walk in the way of Christ, we learn to give of ourselves for those in need and offer the hope of a brighter future for those who come to know the love God has in store for them.

March 5, 2018

The Rev. Dale Chrisman

Trinity Anglican Church
trinitychurchlagovista.org

Encouraged by one of our members, Robyn Pond, our church joined 175 Austin-area churches in the Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN). This network was created to provide assistance to victims of floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and other natural disasters. Little did we know that the Central Texas area was soon to see all the above. It’s only natural that Robyn led us into this partnership. Robyn has been an integral part of our church since our founding in 2009. She has always been our go-to member with a heart for the elderly, children, and the disadvantaged. She founded a group called Lago Vista Volunteers that collects no-longer-needed wheelchairs, potty chairs, walkers, canes, hospital beds, and other durable medical equipment and then loans it out to those in need. She’s in charge of our outreach serving as the liaison with Hill Country Community Ministries, Reveal Ministries (which provides food and clothing to 300 people each week), and now ADRN. Robyn went through all the ADRN training programs which prepared her for the disasters soon to come. The Memorial Day Floods hit Wimberley, Texas in 2015. Eleven people died, 400 homes were destroyed, and 1,000 residents were displaced. Immediately, Robyn and other trained Trinity members rushed in to help. Robyn led the effort to collect money, food, clothing, and building materials. Her training as an ADRN Shepherd and her counseling training allowed her to drive the four-hour roundtrip to provide prayer, counseling, and bereavement support for families and victims. Since then, our region has experienced floods from Hurricane Harvey, wildfires that burned thousands of acres of forest in Bastrop, a fertilizer explosion that leveled much of the town of West, and other disasters in which ADRN mobilizes its volunteers. Largely because of Robyn’s initiative, our church was privileged to love and serve others in the midst of these crises. Robyn has a passion for the Gospel. She has a passion for people. She has a passion for serving as Christ’s hands and feet. Her persistence and dedication has served as a catalyst for other Trinity members to go through disaster relief training with ADRN and to serve alongside Robyn in disasters. I hope your church—and every church—has a Robyn Pond.

March 2, 2018

The Good of Giving Up

The Rev. Aaron Damiani
aarondamiani.com

Each Friday, we will feature a passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent. When I am on a flight that is preparing for takeoff, I quietly defy the command to switch my electronic devices to airplane mode. Honestly, I chafe at this federal regulation. The plane will work just fine even if I send a few texts, right? I do not like airplane mode because it cuts me off from the stimulants and freedoms that I feel I need. It forces me to have an actual conversation with the person sitting next to me. When God calls His people into the wilderness, He puts their whole existence on airplane mode. I resist this, and so might you. It means feeling out of control and out of the loop. Our go-to stimulants and stories are no longer on tap. We can no longer anesthetize our emotions. We can no longer avoid a conversation with our Father. It might feel like a restrictive punishment, but it’s actually a heavenly gift. Lent is indeed a wilderness, and there are several reasons why we can and should enter it. We enter the wilderness of Lent because the gospel is true. We do not go into the wilderness to find God. We enter the wilderness because God has found us. He has delivered us, blessed us, and called us His own. The desolation and quiet gives us space to ponder the great salvation we have already witnessed. Even our struggles and failures in the wilderness teach us the truth of the gospel. Taken from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

March 1, 2018

Addressing the Problem of Dependency

Anglican Relief and Development
ardf.org

Being generous isn't as simple as just donating money to any cause that seems worthy. The truth is, there are major issues within the aid industry. Millions of dollars are wasted every year, and—even more destructive—many well-intentioned investments create a dependency by which communities in need come to rely on outside assistance and are unable to flourish on their own. This kind of dependency isn’t just an economic disaster; it also creates a warped vision of salvation. Donors come to believe that they are ‘saviors’, solving the problems of the world with their money. Those in need begin to rely on those donations, instead of looking to God for salvation and building a loving community where they are. The Anglican Relief and Development Fund focuses on education in training in all of their projects, ensuring that future generations will be thrive because of the partnerships and investments in the present.

Addressing the Problem of Dependency from ARDF on Vimeo

February 28, 2018

Trog Trogdon

Bonton Farms
bontonfarms.org,
T: @bontonfarms, @trogtrogdon ,
F: bontonfarms, trogtrogdon

In 2008, the Lord broke my heart for the poor and began to shape my calling in ministry. In an effort to live out what God was speaking to my heart through the Scriptures, my best friend and I started a small ministry called Project 25:40 (from Matthew 25:40) to raise money and help impoverished people get food and clean water. We partnered with established ministries and sent goats and chickens overseas and also dug water wells. We experienced success in this and my heart was on fire like never before. A few years later, my mentor introduced me to his new ministry to grow wholesome food for those stranded in the ‘food desert’ of South Dallas. South Dallas is one of the most broken, forgotten, and marginalized places here in my home city of Dallas. In the face of the opportunity to serve this present need and spread the gospel, I couldn’t say no. Since 2014, I have been raising chickens, milking goats, and making disciples in one of the toughest parts of Dallas. As I serve at Bonton Farms, I have had the great privilege to see many of my fellow parishioners from Christ Church Plano join me in this effort. Gail Mallory, Larry Holmes, Stewart Lovett, John Battey, Dode Worsham—and many others—come down and bring bikes, clothes, and food. Others support the work with their financial gifts, their faithful prayers, and their genuine encouragement. A few weeks ago, my friend Mark Smith and his family came with their regular delivery: a car full of water bottles and granola bars for the people we serve alongside on the farm. I introduced them to our new baby goats—they fell in love (and so did the goats!). Seeing their smiles, I was reminded again that when we answer God’s call to serve others we join in the joyful work for which we were created. We make God’s kingdom known to the lost and least, and we find our own hearts filled and our own passions ignited. It’s my prayer that everyone would experience God’s love as they love and serve others during this Lenten season.

February 27, 2018

Lois Bennett

Feeding Hands, Inc.
feedinghandspantry.org

Sometimes in our lives, we must look back to appreciate what God has done. And when we do, we can marvel at his works and his love for us. God was with Feeding Hands even before we had our first “chance” conversation with Emmanuel Church about housing a pantry in Somerville, Somerset County, New Jersey—nine months before, to be exact. You see, God placed a burden on the hearts of this little church to be more visible in the community. They possessed a shining light, but it was tucked into a corner of a small street behind Somerset Hospital where the hospital buildings overwhelmed it. Many people would pass by it each day to get to the emergency room, but few would notice it.  Church leaders held a meeting in February 2013 asking all its members to begin to pray for a way to be more visible in the community. In October, when we mentioned that our food pantry was looking for space, the pastor’s wife, Ginger, said Emmanuel might be interested. Six months later, we opened the doors to our first eight pantry guests. That was in 2014. Almost four years later, we serve 270 families each month. As it happens, Emmanuel Church was very much like many of the poor and struggling in our area. The poor are among us, but invisible to us at the same time. In larger cities, those in need are visible on street corners, but in suburbs and small towns, our most vulnerable neighbors are hidden from view. We can convince ourselves that no need exists. Feeding Hands was birthed with a determination to ‘see’ those who are overlooked. Our mission is to be Jesus serving Jesus. The Bible tells us that we are Christ’s body, we are his hands and feet. And when we serve ‘the least of these’, we serve Jesus himself. Both the servants and the served embody Christ—both are worthy members of his body. During Lent, we are given the opportunity to attend more closely to the path we walk, pacing ourselves more carefully in the footsteps of Jesus. As we seek more and more to live like Christ, let us also see and honor Christ in those whom we are called to serve.

February 26, 2018

Fr. William Eavenson

missioncincinnati.org
F: themissioncincinnati

We found out about the fight on a Sunday afternoon. Demetrius, one of our Mission Kids had been beaten up by older neighborhood boys the previous Friday Night in the parking lot of the Rec Center where our church meets. His hand had been injured, and he would likely need surgery. What was worse was that one of the kids who had beaten him up was also one of our Mission Kids, an older boy named Elijah who had sat across the table from Demetrius on Sunday mornings in our midst. We were devastated. We prayed. We brought all of our leftover food to Demetrius’ family that day so they wouldn’t have to make dinner as they cared for their son. We sought God: “Lord, what are you doing in this? How can we be a part of bringing your healing in this situation?” A few weeks passed. Demetrius found out he didn’t need surgery, just a brace. Demetrius was at church every Sunday, but Elijah was nowhere to be found. Then came a week when both Demetrius and Elijah came to Mission Kids on the same Sunday. One of our members, Anne, was leading Mission Kids that week. She had been praying into this situation for weeks. She knew God was up to something. Over the course of the morning she took each of the kids aside for a one-on-one conversation. When she spoke with Demetrius, she talked to him about forgiving people who hurt you, about forgiving Elijah. When she spoke to Elijah, she talked about reconciliation, about the need to apologize to Demetrius. God softened hearts that morning and brought forgiveness and healing into the lives of Demetrius and Elijah. Where there had been pain and hurt, now there was healing and restoration. Jesus makes all things new! My guess is that when most of us think about ‘giving’, the first thing that comes to mind is money. But what about the ways God may be calling us to give of our time and build relationships with people? Friendship is a bridge across which much of God’s healing can pass. And when we are prayerful and intentional about building these bridges of friendship with people who are different than us racially or spiritually, God can use us to bring His healing into some of the most deeply divided places in our nation. Who might God be leading you to befriend this Lent? Someone who’s different than you who could work with you to heal brokenness and break every yoke of oppression and injustice in your neighborhood, your city, or your world? Reach out. Make friends. Build bridges. Watch as Jesus makes old and broken things new!

February 22, 2018

Jeff Bisgrove

Alliance for Transformational Ministry
azneighborhoodtransformation.com

I remember it vividly after all these years.     I was barely a teenager and I was reading the little envelope tucked into the back of the pew in the church my mother forced me to attend. On the envelope was printed how much money you should give, based on how much you made each week. How dare they tell you how much to give, I thought. That episode—along with many other broken things I saw in that church and my lack of any personal connection with God—soon had me exit that church and Christianity. You could say that my experience with the Christian concept of almsgiving did not go well. Many years later, when I was in my forties, I got another crack at it.    I had recently given my life to Jesus and was again gathering with other Christians. This time, however, Jesus was not some abstract concept or burdensome obligation. He was real to me. While I did not understand Him or know what to do with Him, I had come to realize He was real. Slowly I was working on things in order to make Him my Lord—completely.    This meant dealing with the money. Money for me had always meant security and I found the process of replacing my source of security with Jesus long and difficult. However, God had patience with me. I made little steps and I found with each little surrender of my will to Jesus God rewarded. Yes, God provided more money for me and my family. But even more, I found God slowly worked on who was in charge of my life: God or money.     Ultimately, this led me to quit my comfortable job to follow where God was leading. It took all those little steps of surrendering to help me arrive where God wanted me. We are told in Genesis, God made the world, the universe and everything in it. Every minute of every person's life on this planet is stamped “property of God”.  This is a pretty huge concept for me to comprehend, let alone to let govern every part of my life. Looking around, I suspect I am not alone. I think most of us really do identify with the man with the possessed son in Matthew 9:24. He asked Jesus to heal his son “if He can”; Jesus replies, “all things are possible to those who believe”. The man’s response echoes our own: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”.     Unbelief is strong in us. It takes practice to replace this unbelief with the faith in Jesus as Lord over all aspects of our lives. A lifetime of practice. I am still learning and still practicing. I still feel the pull of my desire to exert control over all things. That’s why I’m grateful for the invitation of Lent to surrender my whole self to Christ through prayer, fasting, and (yes!) almsgiving. I pray that during this Lent, you will experience the joy of practicing a life that is surrendered wholly to Him.

February 21, 2018

How Can We Actually Help the Poor?

Anglican Relief and Development Fund
ardf.org

When we talk about almsgiving, it’s easy enough to understand that we ought to give of ourselves for the sake of others. However, this understanding alone does not address how we can most effectively serve the lost and the least with our resources and our time. The Anglican Relief and Development Fund created this helpful video to answer some of these essential questions and provide a framework for understanding how Christians can responsibly can effect change around the world. In their own projects, ARDF emphasizes local partnerships that ennoble and empower as well as the research and evaluation to generate solutions and measure outcomes. We all desire to help the poor, but it takes discernment to serve others in love and wisdom. How can we actually help the poor? from ARDF on Vimeo.  

February 20, 2018

The Rev. Michael Guernsey

Christ Church
christchurchmi.com,
F: @christchurchmi

Carol said No for years. An elderly gentleman in the church who had faithfully served in prison ministry believed that Carol would be great serving in that ministry. She politely declined. “I work with children. I don’t do ministry to adults,” she said. He kept asking; she kept declining. And then, one day, Carol said Yes. That was almost seven years ago. Since that time, Carol has served on thirteen consecutive prison ministry weekends through Kairos, and she has gone back for dozens of “reunions” with the inmates and other leaders to encourage those on the inside. She is the face of Kairos Prison Ministry in our congregation, she has recruited other women to join with her in the ministry, and she faithfully shares the needs of those in prison with the congregation so that we can join her in prayer and support. This ministry that Carol so reluctantly stepped into is now a vital mission field for our church family—even for those who cannot serve in person. Our children make placemats for the women, our members bake cookies, and we have people scheduled to pray throughout the ministry weekends. Responding to Carol’s leadership, her small group organized our church’s participation in a Jail Party hosted for families of inmates who are soon to be released. Because Carol said Yes, her life was transformed through her years of serving those in prison. As she says with tears of both sadness and joy, “They had no idea of their worth, but now they do.” What a privilege to join with God’s work in the world by visiting, loving, and pointing these souls to Jesus. Because Carol said Yes, dozens of others in our church have responded to the call to serve in a new way. And we’ve all grown closer to Jesus as we’ve gone out in his name. Carol reflects back on that initial invitation to serve. “I wish I hadn’t put it off as long as I did,” she says.  What work is God inviting you to join him in? What is he inviting you to say Yes to?

February 19, 2018

Fr. Seth Brooker

St. Andrew’s Anglican Church
staac.church, F: @standrewsanchorage

Every month, a team of volunteers from St. Andrew’s Anglican Church serves up a home cooked meal to the guests of the Ronald McDonald House at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, AK. The team cooks and serves under the oversight of Jan, who recently retired from owning and operating her own catering business. Jan left a successful real estate career to follow her dream of sharing her love of cooking by catering events. Her food became a fixture in Anchorage’s corporate and sports communities, and she freely shared the fruit of her talents with her church family. When the time came to retire, she knew she wasn’t done cooking. When she learned that the hospital was looking for groups to host dinners, she jumped at the opportunity. She recruited volunteers from her church and started planning menus. She coordinates the preparation of each meal with the same eye for quality and her guests’ satisfaction that she gave to functions that served thousands. It’s a welcome change of pace for families at the hospital. They come from all over Alaska, from larger towns in Southeast to tiny villages in the Interior and Arctic. Some have children who are receiving care in the pediatric unit. Many are expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies who have to spend their entire third-trimester at the hospital. Some have their husbands and older children with them while others are alone. Needless to say, it can make for a boring and lonely three months. Each evening of a catered meal, conversation, and games goes by a little faster. They also leave knowing that there are followers of Jesus in Anchorage who love them and want to spend the evening with them. But the greater blessing falls on Jan and her crew who leave knowing the freedom that giving of their time brings. By using the differing gifts God has given them (Romans 12:6), they are sharing the joy and fellowship that comes with the building up of God’s kingdom with their neighbors from across Alaska, one meal at a time.

February 16, 2018

The Good of Giving Up

The Rev. Aaron Damiani
immanuelanglican.org

Each Friday, we will feature a passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent. The last Lenten discipline is almsgiving, a quaint but charming word for “generosity.” In my experience, almsgiving is an adventure. Generosity, as it is taught in Scripture and modeled by Jesus, is relational, not transactional. Although generosity in Lent sometimes involves cutting a check, this is never the heart of it. Biblical generosity is a posture of openness to bless our neighbor with our personal presence, our love, and, in some cases, our resources. Generosity is perhaps the most complicated of all the Lenten disciplines because it connects us to people, and people are complicated. So are their situations. As we take risks to bless our neighbor in simple, Spirit-led ways, we are not guaranteed a return on investment. We are not in control of the outcome. It might feel like a waste since we are not even solving their problems. We are simply showing up to a relationship we might otherwise ignore and offering what we can to alleviate their suffering. In books, sermons, and teachings on Lent, fasting seems to get the most attention and generosity the least. Many who practice Lent aren’t even aware that generosity is a historic practice of the season. Generosity works in tandem with prayer and fasting to shape us into Christlikeness. And because of generosity, our fasting and prayer have a relational impact, turning us outward so that we do not overlook Christ in our neighbor. In this way, generosity marks our forty-day journey with a relational, loving quality. By the time Easter rolls around, our connection to God and neighbor is better aligned with God’s vision for a flourishing life. Taken from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

February 15, 2018

Rev. Dr. Benjamin Fischer

Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church
christtheredeemernampa.com

“Is not this the fast that I choose… to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? There are few burdens so heavy and so difficult to explain as the loss of a child before he or she ever takes a breath. Yet, one in four women will suffer a known miscarriage or stillbirth. Six years ago, James and Stephanie Robledo were excitedly making space in their home and hearts for a new baby, when misgivings sent them to their doctor for a checkup. They remember the blur of faint hope, fear, and confusion until the doctor soberly announced, “You’ve lost the baby.” Anyone who has heard those words knows the momentary inability to make sense of them, or to receive other well-meaning comments like, “These things happen,” or “You can try again.” As James and Stephanie were sharing their pain with another couple, they began wondering aloud: What could offer real comfort? What could begin to loosen the straps of the yoke and free families from the oppression of unexpressed grief? From those conversations, they joined together in David’s Hope Pregnancy Loss Ministry. David’s Hope began by helping families acknowledge that in a miscarriage, parents have suffered the loss of a life and of a particular hope. Through the gift of “memory boxes,” which contain a Certificate of Life along with small gifts, the ministry provides tools to make concrete the often unnamed and unarticulated hope that has been cut short. Like a fear that has been named and lost its terror, this concretizing of grief is a way to begin healing. Through the boxes, David’s Hope has become known for understanding this unique loss and connecting families with the One who knows and heals every hurt. When they could be enjoying entertainment or relaxing on a weekend, these Redeemer parishioners pour out their lives, time, and resources to provide counseling, visit hospitals, conduct memorials, and share wisdom with pastors who feel inadequate to comfort their grieving parishioners. They are living the fast, undoing the straps of the yoke.

February 8, 2018

Marc Robertson

Christ Church Anglican
ccasav.org

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:19) Our parish started an urban ministry center, named for our fourth rector, George Whitfield (The Whitefield Center). Given Whitefield's concern for the orphans and the widows of Savannah, we thought it an apt name. We made great plans to launch an English-as-a-Second-Language course and prepared for what we thought would be a response from the Hispanic population which is prominent in our community. We were stunned to discover our first attendees were a small group of Middle-Eastern women, all wanting to learn English! We had several Spanish translators, but no one who could translate Farsi. God was on the move, and we scrambled to catch up. By God's grace, a Muslim woman who had translated for American troops in Afghanistan and had been moved to Savannah for her safety heard of our plight and offered her skills on our behalf. Word spread fast, and the group of about a half-dozen women rapidly expanded to over sixty. We received wonderful support from a local church who had a mini-bus to help us with transpiration, and leadership and volunteers came from other local churches in this ecumenical effort. Childcare was provided, which made us the only free class of this nature in the community that offered childcare. Soon the numbers exceeded our capacity and the class was moved to a local Baptist Church. God's provision and grace were evident all along the way. These women would not have come to a Christian church first. Having experienced loving relationship and service at a "neutral" site, they gained trust and were willing to walk through the doors of a church. God often surprises us with a "new thing"—not a new doctrine or a new truth, but a fresh experience of His grace and a renewed appreciation for the breadth of His love. What "new thing" may God be doing in your life? Do you perceive it?