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why Lent?

Growing up in a Baptist church, I don’t even think Lent was on the radar, at least not on my radar. Christmas and Easter were what we celebrated or at least what I remember anyway. We’d come to church on Easter wearing pastels and singing songs about Jesus being risen from the dead. But Lent? I didn’t even know what Lent meant.

I only started hearing about Lent a dozen or so years ago. We attended a church where people talked about what they were giving up for Lent. At first, I didn’t know what in the world they were talking about. After I learned a little more, Lent became a fun and interesting topic for discussion about what to give up. There was the usual giving up of broccoli or Brussel sprouts or something that you didn’t like or wouldn’t eat anyway. But some more serious Lent challenges, for some of us, were to give up chocolate or sugar or coffee. One year, I made my kids give up something. I used Lent as a bad parenting technique; it didn’t work out.  (Lent in My Belly Button)

I think rituals are important, but for a long time, I failed to realize what the real purpose of Lent was. It became about some kind of willpower, rather than any kind of Jesus significance.

But why give up anything for Lent? What actually is the significance? Why deprive myself for one minute when I don’t really have to? For me, it has become about the waiting, the anticipation of Jesus. I’ve noticed when I have fasted in the past, it’s at that moment when I don’t think I can stand it for one minute longer that that’s the moment when Jesus steps in, and He becomes my strength. All my self-reliance and thinking I have it figured out go out the window. And I lean in hard because I feel like my stomach will eat itself, and it’s at this point that I realize I have nothing in myself. I am physically and spiritually weak, and I really need Jesus. So that’s why I participate in Lent. It makes me realize my utter frailty, my utter lack of patience and self-control, and it makes me realize my need, my absolute dependence on God for food, for life, for everything.

About mid-February I start to think about Lent; I start thinking about what my give-up will be, not just to do something because that’s what you do. But how will I fast in anticipation of Jesus? What will help me see Him clearly and reveal my need for Him the most?

Last year, I cannot even remember what I gave up or even if I did in fact give up anything, but a friend challenged Jeff and me  to read the entire Bible during Lent. So that’s what I did. At first it was a challenge, but then it became something much, much more than that. Not to be overly dramatic, but it was life-changing for me. I felt like I ate His Word, and it became life and breath.  I absolutely could not wait to dig in and read each day, and I would go to bed in anticipation of what I would read and “see” the next day. I couldn’t wait to see how the Holy Spirit revealed Himself and how often He surprised me with His truth and love and hope in crazy kind of places (like Leviticus, and I kind of fell in love with Isaiah).

When I read in Psalm 19 how God’s Word renews our lives, makes the inexperienced wise, makes our hearts glad, makes our eyes light up, is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey, I can say a resounding, “Yes, Yes, YES!” When I read the Bible like I would any other novel, I feel like I absorb it into the interior parts of my soul, my head, my heart. I feel it in my bones, and  it becomes a part of me.

I read somewhere (the internet) that Lent is 40 days long and used for prayer and fasting in the time before Easter, but the period between Ash Wednesday, which happens to be on Jeff’s birthday this year (March 5), and Easter (April 20) is 46 days long. So I’m excited to once again have the opportunity to read the Bible from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  This sounds daunting and overwhelming, and it is at times. But I believe the Holy Spirit teaches us all things, and I’m excited to not just know more but see Him and hear from Him in ways that I haven’t yet heard. So I’m almost a little giddy and ready to start today, but I wait. The waiting, the anticipation is good.

I’m not necessarily giving up anything for Lent, except maybe reading other books and giving up watching more DVDs than I really need to. But no matter what I do or don’t do for Lent or any other time, the focus must be Christ. (Heb. 12)

Because of the year that I tried to make my kids give up stuff, I decided that every one should choose their own Lent give-up. It just really works better that way. The stirrings of my heart or whatever you want to call them don’t seem to apply to others the same way they do to me, and I’ve come to realize that the Holy Spirit’s not usually talking to other people in the same way that He’s talking to me. And so I don’t get caught up with pushing my own stuff on people. Not anymore. I trust God to lead me, as well as the people around me, in the places that He wants each of us to go. And that makes it so much more exciting to hear all the different ways that God wakes each one of us up to Him. 🙂


no offense taken

More suffering comes into the world by people taking offense than by people intending to give offense. The offended ones feel the need to offend back those who they think have offended them, creating defensiveness on the part of the presumed offenders, which often becomes a new offensive—ad infinitum. There seems to be no way out of this self-defeating and violent Ping-Pong game—except growing up spiritually. —Richard Rohr

If the Richard Rohr quote is true, and most people don’t mean to offend, then I have to ask myself the questions: Why am I offended? Why do I get hurt or angry or upset with people?

It seems for me that I take offense by the things that I’m already a little defensive about, the things that I question about myself, or even the things I know might be true but that I’m still desperately trying to keep hidden.

If I’m insecure about something, and then someone steps in and treats me in a way that reiterates the same things I’m already hearing in my head, then I get angry or hurt or offended, whether the person was meaning to be offensive or not. It seems I’ve already been questioning those things about myself, and the offender has intentionally or unintentionally brought them to the light. And it’s easier to lash out at them in hurt or anger than have to deal with my own stuff.

Why else would I be offended if someone overlooks me or even tells me what to do or cuts me off in traffic? Because I’m insecure about being overlooked or about being told what to do or really think that I shouldn’t be treated a certain way. Otherwise I wouldn’t care. Not really.

The other night at the soccer field, some teenage girls were practicing soccer, and one of the girls told me and the friend I was talking with to basically move out-of-the-way. Another one joked around by saying that she was really bad and that if we didn’t move, they might hit us with the ball. I have to admit, I was a little taken back that they were so rude. I used to be a teacher, and teenagers shouldn’t talk to adults like that.

These girls acted rude and entitled, for sure. But I realize that was their deal, not mine. If I felt threatened as an adult, an “authority figure,” then I might take offense at their rudeness. But my taking offense does not help those girls or me in any way. So I let it go and realized that their coaches and teachers and parents have to deal with their sense of entitlement, relieved that I’m not the authority figure in their lives. No offense taken.

But a few years ago, I got in this huge fight with a friend of mine. She had taken something I wrote and twisted it to mean something else, and I looked bad. I was resentful that someone was trying to control me. The whole thing was really stupid. I childishly addressed it over facebook, of all things. She actually wanted to have a conversation and talk about the whole thing, and she apologized for her part in it. But I stubbornly refused to be an adult and talk about it in an adult way. Rather than choosing forgiveness and peace, I chose to be offended.

Now, I look back and embarrassingly kind of laugh, because it stings that I acted that crazy and that immature. I later got a chance to apologize for my part in all of that as well as to my friends who had to hear every gory detail of my facebook fight. But I realize now because of my insecurity and control issues, I refused to let it go, and it became bigger than it should have been. I wasted much time and energy on something that could have been taken care of quickly and without all the anger and emotional trauma.

I’ve been reading Corrie Ten Boom’s writings, and she’s become a kind of mentor for me. Corrie and her family were arrested and put in concentration camps for hiding Jewish people in Holland during World War II. Her writings have greatly influenced me these last few months, and in her books she talked often about resentments and offenses and forgiveness.

I recently took offense at something and became resentful toward someone. And I was kind of beating myself up about being resentful, thinking that I really should be better than that, more kind, more willing to let go. But I wasn’t. And then I read something that Corrie wrote about her own resentments and offenses. This is when I realized that resentments and offenses don’t go away with age.

As a seventy year old, Corrie took offense at something some of her friends had done to her. She said she forgave her friends and felt in her heart that she had, but ten years later (at eighty), she realized that she was still hanging onto the offense. Corrie had kept papers that her friends had written to prove their offense. I realized I had done the same things with a friend of mine. I said in my heart that I forgave my friend but held onto something to “prove” her hostility toward me.

Through Corrie’s example, God is teaching me to give my offenses and resentments immediately to Him, even if means that I have to confess and repent again and again. Corrie wrote about being able to forgive the person who betrayed her family, as well as being able to forgive her captors in the concentration camps. This was an impossible thing to do, and yet, God did it through her.

It’s funny because some things don’t seem to offend me at all. But I realize they don’t because they’re not a sore spot with me. So how do I get rid of all sore spots, all insecurities, all the doubts I have about myself? How do I get to the point where I realize that most people don’t mean to offend, but that it’s me taking offense because I take myself too seriously, or there’s something deep within me that I’m insecure about?

I realize I can’t get rid of all insecurities, all the things I doubt in myself, but I can give them to a God who loves us all. I realize I’m going to take offense at times. It’s going to happen. And I realize that the things I’ve taken offense by are usually the very things I’m wrestling with. So, as Richard Rohr says,  I can begin to question what it is in me that needs to “grow up spiritually.”

And as I continue to give my doubts, my insecurities and my offenses to God, then He can grow me up into what He wants me to be. Paul (according to Philippians) realized that he didn’t have it all together, but he had the goal of knowing Christ better. And that’s probably a better goal anyway…eyes on Him and His love and forgiveness.

A person’s insight give him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11


Loving Our Lent Challenge

For Lent this year, Jeff and I were challenged to read through the entire Bible. Since October, I had been devouring parts of the New Testament. But read through the whole Bible in 46 days? Is that even possible? Jeff went online to find a Bible reading plan, but the shortest plan the internet has is for 90 days. Even the internet people don’t think it’s possible.

But we took the challenge. Jeff figured out how many pages he needed to read each day to complete his reading and was on his way. I didn’t plan it out quite as much as Jeff, and I also started by reading with the New Testament, so that I wouldn’t get stuck around Numbers and call it quits. This has been a fantastic journey, so far.  God has opened my eyes up to Him in His Word like never before.

In reading the Bible this way, like I would a novel, I feel like I’m gobbling His words and wanting more. Most days, I cannot seem to get enough. In Psalm 81, it says, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” I feel like a baby bird with her beak open wide, waiting for her daddy to drop in more. And there’s always more. More than I can possibly get in a lifetime.

But in taking on this challenge, there have been things that I’ve had to get rid of to make a space for reading the Bible in this way; I realized I had to have time to stop and soak up God’s Words. And I found that the things that I gave up don’t really amount to all that much anyway.

But His Word, I cannot do without it, and I now find myself running to it when there’s trouble and thinking about it even when there’s not. God and His Words have become life to me, words to trust in, words to obey. When Satan told Jesus to turn the stones into bread, Jesus answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

In the movie, The Book of Eli, the main character had the only Bible left on Earth. The bad guy, of course, wanted the Bible because of its power and went to extremes to try to get it. For thirty years, Eli spent his days walking West and his nights devouring the Word of God with his fingers. By the end of the movie, the Bible had been destroyed. But blind Eli recited the Bible in its entirety as someone else put those words on paper. The enormity of this still strikes me…the love of those words…God’s Words.

Your words were found, and I ate them.Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart… (Jeremiah 15)


Community, Discipleship and Courage

Jeff and I are called to do two things. We are called to start small communities that meet in homes, and we are called to do discipleship. We believe that both are vital to living in God’s kingdom here and now.

These communities consist of 20-50 people. The people within these communities eat together, pray together, love each other,  and commit to one another. These communities are small enough so that all the people in the community are able to bring their gifts to the table and use them for the Body’s benefit and for God’s glory.

This is not a spectator sport, where we cheer others on to do the work. We all do the work together. No one gets lost or ignored because these communities are small enough that each person is equally important. These communities meet in people’s homes, where life takes place. Simply put, a Community Group is an extended family following Jesus together by doing life with missionary purpose.

We have an active community that we are already involved in. We share a meal together weekly, help each other, and support each other by being an active part of each other’s lives. The relationships within our community are covenant relationships that require time, energy and commitment.

Our community started as the Holy Spirit called on us to do the small acts of obedience in opening our homes and lives to each other, and this community has become our extended family where each week it feels like a family reunion in the very best sense of the word. I long to be with these people, and I miss them when I’m not able to.

We are looking to start other communities similar to this one as God brings together people who are desperate for Him and who desire to share their lives in community. These groups will be similar but also very different in that they will be led by people who have different missional outreaches. We are ministering in such a way that these communities can be started all over Nashville and led by the people God raises up. Once a few community groups have started up, we will have celebration gatherings where this network of communities, who want to serve Jesus and the people around them, will come together for praise and worship and times of teaching. These groups will be the basis for New Life Church Network.

Jeff and I are partners in this work God has called us to. Really, our whole family is doing this work together. We are seeing our children embrace the people in our community. And they are active participants in loving and serving those around them.

The second part of what Jeff and I are doing is discipleship. The way of growth in the New Testament was discipleship. Jesus chose His disciples, and He spent three years discipling them as they walked with Him. At the end of Matthew, Jesus said to His disciples that He had been given all authority and then commanded His disciples to go make disciples. We believe that we are following Him in obedience by doing discipleship with people, Jeff with men, me with women.

Discipleship is NOT a Bible study.  Discipleship is meeting on a weekly basis with 1 to 2 other people who are reading the same Bible passage, NOT to study the passage but rather to go to the Word to see what God is calling them to do in repentance and obedience. It goes back to John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ message:  “Repent and believe. The Kingdom of God is here.”

Discipleship is simple in that anyone can do it. We are discipling and training our children, because we believe it is essential to growing and maturing in Christ. We have already seen lives changed because of what Jesus and His Word can do with people who are willing to submit themselves to Him in obedience and humility. When Jesus came and took  on our flesh, He emptied Himself, took on the form of a slave and became obedient to the point of death.  He calls us to do the same…to come and die.

Simply put, discipleship is listening to what God is telling us to do in the context of community. It is following Jesus. And it really comes down to two basic questions. What in my life do I need to repent of? And what is God, not man, telling me to do about it? Neil Cole calls this process exhaling and inhaling: exhaling our sin in repentance and then inhaling the Word of God and seeking Him in obedience. We have to expel the junk and sin of our lives before we can breathe in the Gospel.

Eugene Peterson talks about this in his book Eat This Book. He says, “Obedience is the thing, living in active response to the living God.  The most important question we ask of this text (the Bible) is not, ‘What does this mean?’ but ‘What can I obey?’ A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to this text  far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.” (71)

Community and discipleship work together. It’s meeting people where they are and growing up and maturing in Christ together. We’re walking side by side with people in their journey to Him. I have this sense of urgency and mission within me to do discipleship with others, because I now see hope where there was none. It’s hope in a God who changes people, not fixes them or makes their lives better, but actually transforms them into a new creation.

We can spend years trying to figure out who we are with numerous self-help books, but change can only happen when we’re ready to come to Him in repentance and belief. The same message that John the Baptist and Jesus preached still applies now.  Six or seven months ago I said to Jeff, “I’m not doing that discipleship thing.”  I know He can change lives; He is changing mine.

Please pray that we would be courageous and obedient and let God do His work in us and through us. We also need God’s people to come along side us and support us in this thing God has called us to. We are all called to serve and make sacrifices in the kingdom of God. And we are excited that others are joining us  in their prayers and with their money. We are, in fact, spurring each other on to love and good works. And that’s what kingdom living is all about. So, thank you, for acting courageously and sacrificially on our behalf and on behalf of the kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria…to God alone be the glory…

Jeff and Kim Darnell, 1045 Fontaine Drive, Goodlettsville, TN 37072


Hungry and Thirsty

For a long time, I never really understood the Bible. I grew up memorizing verses to earn ribbons and trophies that have long since been thrown in the trash. My motivation for learning Scripture was not out of love for God and His Word but was only for my own recognition and my desire to be the best. The trophies and recognition I received only served to fuel my pride, not create in me a hunger for God. I’m thankful, however, for the parts of the Bible I memorized, because even though my motivation was wrong, Abba uses all for His glory. Many of those verses that I didn’t really understand at the time now come back to me when I have needed them most. Nothing is wasted.

For me, reading the Bible was often done out of the same motivation as memorizing. Since I couldn’t really be recognized in the same way I could with memorization, I pretended I read the Bible more than I really did.  I did it for man’s approval. I also did it out of fear because I felt like I might be punished by God if I didn’t do it, so it was done in order to make God “good” with me.

By His grace, I don’t look at any of it that way anymore. Jesus made me good with God because of what He did on the cross for me…for all of us. I realize that God’s Word is about Him and what He’s done for us and what He wants to do through us. It’s about relationship and life and love. For those reasons and seeing Abba at work in me, I find myself hungering for Him and for His Word as well.

And not only are we blessed to have God’s Words, but we have the Holy Spirit within us to help us understand the Word of God, but too often we find Scripture boring, which we only secretly admit to ourselves, or we find it not easily understandable. So I found that I would rather go to books that explain about the Bible and the walk with Christ, rather than really living it myself.

I’m not a Bible thumper, and I don’t use the Bible as a weapon, at least not as a weapon against man, not anymore. I often think about people who live in countries who don’t have access to the Bible and what they would give to have one of their own to read and how fortunate we are to have the Words of God at our fingertips. When I watched the movie The Book of Eli, I was drawn to the fact of how the character Eli treated the Word of God. He desperately consumed it each night before he would sleep, which ended up serving a great purpose.

I know I have often only run to God and His Word when I’m in serious need. And then, when life is no longer spinning out of my control, I return God and my Bible to their designated shelf.

But the funny thing is that Abba has kept my life spinning out of my control for over 4 years now, so I have had no choice but to run to Him and remain there and have found rest in the process. I recently admitted to myself and God that I don’t want the times of testing and trials to stop until I know Abba so well that I can’t and won’t go back to the way my life was before I really began the  process of knowing and resting in Him.

For me, I no longer use the Bible to gain knowledge so I can sound like I know what I’m talking about, but because I want to know Him better.  Scripture is truth and it points us to the Truth. How can I not run to it because in it are the words of life to draw me into relationship with God Himself?

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.  (2 Tim. 3:16-17, MSG)

This isn’t a post to make anyone (including myself) feel guilty or better about themselves because of reading the Bible or not reading the Bible. We shouldn’t try to do better.  Because then all we have is striving in our own flesh, which means nothing.  Our lives are all about the relationship with Christ…hands wide open to receive what He has for us. I want to say with all of my heart, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you.”


The Real Super Power

It’s the middle of the night, and I really should be sleeping now.  My lack of sleep will cost me dearly. But right now, I don’t care. The little girl inside me can’t stop jumping up and down because of Jesus. If the almost forty year old woman that houses the little girl attempts to jump and keep up, she might sprain an ankle, so writing is where it now manifests itself. (But, please by all means, continue to picture the little girl jumping and twirling because that’s what I’m really doing in my spirit).

Remembering and sharing…that’s what I’ve been doing the last few days. We have a sort of family reunion/Kuzin Kamp for the kids, and the unique thing about Jeff’s extended family is that many profess to be believers, which is an amazing thing. I realize what  a gift this is when I talk to friends who have very little family who are believers. So we get to share for three days about what God’s been doing in our lives for the last year.

But along with this remembering and sharing, Abba has revealed a couple things to me in the past few days. First, that I like to surround myself with people who are similar to me and have the same faith I do. (that’s why church can be such a crutch for me…I feel important there, and it’s not supposed to be about me; it’s supposed to be about Him) I get my “God talk” there and feel no real need beyond that to share anywhere else . Second, that I have a hard time reaching out to people who are not believers because of my fear of rejection and not wanting to be presumptuous. And the combination of those two things has left me paralyzed.  I don’t want to presume on people’s time, and I can’t face them anyway because of the lies I’ve believed about myself. Sadly, it has left me voiceless to those who need Christ so badly.

 I recently read the fiction book, A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers, which took place in Roman times, but applies a great deal to how we live here and now.

We must remember we are not called upon by God to make society a better place to live. We are not called upon to gain political influence, nor to preserve the Roman [American]way of life. God has called us to a higher mission, that of bringing to all mankind the Good News that our Redeemer has come…” (341)

Honestly, I have done very little of this. I have this Message of freedom, and I see so many around me in bondage, and I’ve failed to attach myself in relationships and tell of this freedom in Christ. However, I don’t look at myself with condemnation or judgment or shame or strive in my own flesh to knock down people’s doors and become the neighborhood menace, because that’s not done in relationship. It’s not about guilt or fear or shame or about doing better. It’s not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength that God gives that allows you to endure the unendurable. (Col. 1) It’s about listening and following Him and where He leads. It’s allowing people to look into our lives and the Spirit revealing Jesus’ power to heal and save.

Thankfully, God looks at me and sees Jesus and His righteousness. I am worthy because He makes me worthy.Which makes my spirit leap inside me (hence the jumping up and down/writing) Which, in turn, makes me want to know Him better. I’ve seen His power in my own life…power to free me from pits that I had no hope of ever getting out of in my own strength, power to love people I had no power to love, power to provide when there was nothing, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.  But when people begin to see His power and His love and not just Jesus talk (although that certainly has its place) but actual living proof of who Jesus is and what He can do in people’s lives, then that not only becomes worth living for but also worth dying for.

God’s Way is not a matter of mere talk; it’s an empowered life. (I Cor. 4:18, MSG)


Too Something…

When things were going great
      I crowed, “I’ve got it made.
   I’m God’s favorite.
      He made me king of the mountain.”
   Then you looked the other way
      and I fell to pieces. (Psalm 30)

Yep, this is me…the crowing and the falling to pieces.

I love the Psalms. I feel like the people who wrote the Psalms and I would have been good friends. They seem to be all over the map with their mountaintop highs and their death valley lows, just like me sometimes.

But the thing I appreciate is that they didn’t try to fake it by pretending they were all right when they weren’t.  They didn’t feel like they had to clean up their act in order to be good with God. And, sometimes, they weren’t good with God, and they expressed that too.  They let it all hang out…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’m refreshed by these kind of people, actually. My friends are people like this.  They’re not afraid to praise God one minute, and then in the next admit how they’re battling discouragement.

Later on, in the same Psalm 30 it says,

You did it: you changed wild lament
      into whirling dance;
   You ripped off my black mourning band
      and decked me with wildflowers.
   I’m about to burst with song;
      I can’t keep quiet about you.
   God, my God,
      I can’t thank you enough.

Talk about change of heart and roller coaster ride of emotion. I’m glad that Abba can handle my emotions and my wrestling and my questions and even my fear because I don’t really have the trust and faith I thought I had.  But, the greatest thing? I feel no condemnation or judgment coming this way from Him. (Romans 8) 

I know that some of my favorite authors and musicians are/were men and women of faith who went through “dark nights of the soul.”  Their writing speaks to me the most, because we’re all human, and suffering and trials do come. But they’re real about their struggles.

In Matthew 5, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Message says it this way, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

I think I’m at the end of my rope so often that God is able to show up that much more. And then there’s twirling and laughing and arms raised…and gratefulness for rescue once again.

time flies

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