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On Beginning Lent

“Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Matthew 4.17

Throughout the season of Lent we are taken on a journey of self-reflection. For some, this involves denial of things that we might prefer to enjoy, others commit to a more rigorous life of prayer and Scripture reading, and still some are torn by guilt to “give something up” and still fall prey to our homegrown coffee-shop who offers special incentives to keep us in their stores.

English: Infant Jesus and John the Baptist, Mu...

We might view John the Baptist as a personification of a Lenten journey. His lifestyle was one of denial and of drawing toward God. He kept very little to himself and invited people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Kingdom of God. This preparation requires the gift of repentance. Through this gift, we are invited to recognize where we have fallen short of God’s best, and wish to acknowledge the need for forgiveness.

The Kingdom of Heaven was the primary message of Jesus. In this message, Jesus was saying that God has reestablished his reign over his Kingdom. Time and time again, this was the message Jesus proclaimed and the one that the disciples were sent out to proclaim as well.

The difference between John’s message and Jesus’ was the “soon-to-be” and “it’s here”. We have that the same message to proclaim; God, who created you, wants to be in relationship with you. The freedom for our gift of repentance comes in the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross. This Kingdom, this restored relationship is for today.

Like the disciples, we have been given the opportunity to share this good news, today. Our communities are desperately in need of the knowledge that the Kingdom of Heaven is here. Broken lives are made whole, the oppressed are freed and the hungry are fed – this is Good News that we are invited to share.

As we continue in our Lenten journeys, let us look for opportunities to share this message and be active residents in the Kingdom today.

meeting bernice

wednesday night contained one of those moments in time that you know will stick with you.  it was the night of the first storm of the season to hit saint john, hilary was working and i met someone new.  as i left my office, driving on the snow covered roads, i decided to head over to hilary’s store in case they decided to close early.  the place was quiet, a few regulars around, so i offered to help give the café area a thorough cleaning.  early on, a noticed a two women come into the store, one needing to use the phone to call her ride.  i didn’t pay much more attention to their interactions.

about two hours passed, i was scrubbing the floors (the song from cinderella popped in my head) and i noticed the same older woman outside the café area in the lobby of the mall.  i asked hilary what the story was with her.  all she remember from earlier was that she was waiting for a ride.  i cohereced hilary to go check on her.  a few minutes later, hilary comes back and had found out that she was waiting for her daughter to come pick her up, from sussex.  her daughter didn’t have a cell phone, neither did this woman.  as the store was about to be locked down for the night, we got a snack and a tea for her.  i went out to chat with her while the store was being locked up.

she was one of these people that for whatever reason i couldn’t ignore.  between hilary and i, we only 75¢ (sad, i know), we left it with her and my cell number.  i told her to call no matter what time and we’d do what we could to help out.  she said ‘thank you’.  we left, i felt bad leaving, but knew that we couldn’t do much more at that point, as far as she knew her ride was coming but didn’t have any way to contact them.

within about an hour, my cell phone rang, hilary ran to answer it and i started getting ready.  the security guards let her use their cell to phone sussex to see if anything happened.  turned out that they had turned back a few hours earlier.  hilary and i said that we’d get her home, and sent off a few texts asking for prayer.  we went back to pick her up, i realized i didn’t even know her name and yet was preparing to drive to sussex in the midst of a storm.  the snow had stopped and it actually looked fairly decent out.  we hit the highway and i felt confident that we’d be good to go, so long as we took our time.  we had some random chit-chat to get to know each other and then the freezing rain started, almost as if a bucket was being poured onto the road.  we were approaching my boss’ house who had offered to put her up for the night and i knew we couldn’t drive much further.

we arrived, had tea together and i said that i’d be back by 9am to finish the journey.  i laid in bed most of the night, not fully understanding the situation.  all evening i kept hearing in the back of my head “i was naked and you clothed me, hungry and fed me, in need and you helped me” and “what ever you did to the least of these you did unto  me”.  i didn’t sleep much, and was up and out in plenty of time.  we finished the journey to sussex on clean highways.  she directed me to her door.  when i pulled in the driveway, we both said ‘thank you’ to each other and she got out.

that was the end of my journey with bernice.  a very gentle older woman.  i sat in a parking lot for a few minutes, pondering what had just happened. a call a friend on the way back and shared the story.  she suggested it was one of those situations that God puts in our paths.

i have no idea if we’ll ever meet again…

odd find of the week

this week’s award goes to: “the hamburger bed”!

hamburger bed

the perfect piece of furniture for the burger lover.  the website suggests that its relatively simple to make, perhaps this is a great project for march/spring break.

1 circular bed and “box” frame
2 tones of light brown fabric
dark brown king fitted sheet
memory foam
king sized yellow and green sheets
30 pillows
a couple of zippers
pantyhose (for the sesame seeds)

check out the website for more details or become an fb fan.

what’s in a name?

do you ever sometimes wish that you could change your name to reflect the person you wish you were or represented?  as i was looking out the window on the nice spring-like (please God let it be soon!) day, i got to asking myself, what’s in a name?

does shawn c. branch incapsulate who i am?  would madonna be as popular if she went with ‘blanche’ instead?  or laurence instead of sting?  or bob smith instead of george stromboulopolous?

or what about those who create a name and give it meaning and identity – like starbucks or apple?  what if howard shultz went with a different name that morning in 1971.  would we be flocking for coffee status on a regular basis?  or would we spend a fair chunk of change on the best computer systems if they were called ‘mape’?

does your name suit you?  or would a name like “max power” be more effective?