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Leaning Into Lent: Letting Go of Stuff

This suitcase has been with me for eleven years. It was one of the two I packed to move overseas for a year. It was quite an investment at the time because I wanted it to last and because I wanted features like dual wheels.

But I haven’t traveled overseas in quite a while nor have I gone on a trip where a suitcase this size would even be reasonable to pack. Seriously our four-year-old and one-year-old could both fit in this suitcase comfortably.

So why is it still with me?

Because we get attached to stuff.

Objects remind us of experiences and people and new identities. For me, this suitcase was a reminder of my courage in moving to a foreign country for a year. This suitcase reminded me that I really didn’t need as much stuff as I thought I needed to live for a year somewhere. This suitcase reminded me of the clarity and call I received while overseas to become a preacher and pastor. And so I have kept it.

Lent invites us to look at things differently, yes even suitcases. This morning I dropped off this suitcase at a local nonprofit that offers sanctuary and shelter for children who have to be removed from their homes and are awaiting foster care families. They have asked for suitcases because many times the children are relocated quickly and only have a trash bag or grocery sack of belongings. They don’t have sturdy bags that they can move from place to place.

When I dropped off this suitcase, the woman said, “Thank you. This is a nice big one. Oh and it rolls!”

This is where this suitcase needs to be, not in my closet.

Leaning into Lent means letting go of stuff, even stuff that served really important roles in our lives and in our transformation.

Mine, Mine, Mine

Recently, we have watched Finding Nemo with our three-year-old and when the seagulls came on screen screaming, “Mine, Mine, Mine” as they watched Dory and Marlin flip on the dock, his cackle filled the room. I can remember the first time I saw the movie and I thought these silly birds were funny too, especially in the end when they crash into the sail of a boat and keep crying out, “Mine, Mine, Mine”.

As I was listening to the news yesterday, I was overwhelmed with the subtext permeating the current administration’s policies. Immigrants seeking refuges are separated from their loved ones and treated like prisoners. Refuges from a country so devastated by a natural disaster that just missed our coast are sent back to the rumble rather than being welcomed into a safe haven. The homeless are being rounded up and placed in holding facilities. Over and over again the message is, “Mine, Mine, Mine”. We are not sharing. We are not helping.

While to some this is a message of strength and power and taking back what is really ours. These messages only reveal the scarcity and fear with which this administration makes decisions. The need to control situations and take ownership by snatching away opportunities for a better life from others is a scarcity mindset. There is only so much and so I must grab as much I can.

This is not the gospel message. Constantly seeking to take over and to take from is an exhausting way to live. Constantly monitoring who has spoken against you and demanding that they apologize or rescind what they have said takes up all or your time and attention.

When you live in this defensive posture, you aren’t really living. You are reacting.

The words of Jesus reminds us that we are to have life and live it abundantly. The thief, on the other hand, the gospel writer continues, comes to steal and destroy. There is no peace. There is no joy for those who are constantly stealing and snatching away from others crying out, “Mine, Mine, Mine”.

This is a time to live into abundance. To give generously to all those in need crying, “Ours, Ours, Ours”.

On Missions

Last week I took six youth, one college student, and one young professional down to Conway, SC for Youth Missions Week. I am not a youth minister, but when I found that 25% of my current congregation was youth, I knew there was something missing in the life and work of our church. We needed our youth to have meaningful experiences. We need our youth’s questions and wonderings. We needed to invest in mission experiences and devotion times and jumping in pools and getting caught in the rain. These are the experiences that help our youth understand what it means practically to live a life as a Christian.

And so we packed up three cars with suitcases, food, and crafts and headed to the coast not knowing exactly what we would encounter. We knew of the good work Palmetto Missionary Baptist Church was doing with Palmetto Kids. We knew that partnering was powerful and so we showed up with willing hearts and willing hands to help pitch in. As it turns out, the teachers and youth groups that Palmetto Missionary Baptist Church usually have come to help them in the summers weren’t able to come this year: the same year we felt called to partner with them in their work. Crazy how the Holy Spirit moves and works things together, isn’t it?

As we taught and played game and painted and crafted, we were overwhelmed by the connection we formed with the Palmetto Kids. How could that happen so quickly? How could we do more to help at risks students? Our work was tiring, but inspiring. The faces of those kids, the laughter, and tears as we worked and studied alongside each other is not something we will soon forget.

This is church.