Tonight was the final night for our Lenten small group at Shady Grove based on Mike Slaughter’s Renegade Gospel study. We were just beginning when I wrote the last blog entry. At that point, I was making a commitment to myself to be better at posting than I had been since starting my new job. Well, another Lent has come and gone, and my commitment lasted about as long as the ashes that didn’t get imposed due to the snow on Ash Wednesday. The blog posts never got written, but the Holy Spirit has been at work in mighty ways trying once again to teach me important lessons. Some of the things I’ve learned in these 40 days of Lent:
- Young adults and Boomer generation folks are more alike than different when it comes to attitudes about church. Whether you’re a “NONE” or a “DONE,” a new believer of young age or old, we have a lot to share and teach one another. And I look forward to continuing the conversations that have been started.
- Relationships are so vitally important across every age and life situation. During Lent one of my disciplines has been to write notes to folks to tell them the difference they have made in my life, to say thank you, or just to tell people I was thinking about them. I’ve spent time listening to and writing stories of people I had not met until the last 6 months. What a rich experience that has been! (You’ll see two of those stories in the May Virginia Conference Advocate.) I’ve shared wonderful times of fellowship with friends. All have reminded me of the connections that our faith brings to and nurtures in our lives.
- I’ve realized that not everyone who comes to church knows the words of “Jesus Loves Me” and that makes me sad. For 14 years working with Camp Rainbow Connection, I must have sung that little song 100 times a year. I recently was with a group of about 30 where only 2 could sing along with me on the first verse and chorus. Draw your own conclusions about how we “mature” Christians have failed in teaching that little understanding of God’s love to others.
- You never move away from or outgrow your roots. I walked into a meeting a two weeks ago in the Danville District and was greeted with “You’re not Martha Stokes. You’re Martha Ensley.” That same week I was sharing with clergy in Williamsburg that when I was little, my cousins on Fire Island, NY used to put me on the ottoman in the living room as soon as we got to our relative’s house to visit and say, “Now talk,” just to hear my accent. One of my VUMH co-workers quickly added, “She doesn’t realize it but we do the same thing in the office.” I’ve even had the chance this Lent to try to explain to a Bishop from The Philippines how you make true southern pound cake, including the fact that you have to be very still and quiet in the house while the cake is in the oven – otherwise, you’re the one in big trouble if the cake falls. The real fun in that experience came after my description of a pound of sugar and a pound of butter going into the cake when the Bishop took his first bite of a very sweet brown sugar pound cake and said, “I understand what you mean.” And then last night I found myself telling a clergy friend who may be headed to the Danville area not to be surprised if, at the sign of first cough, a gift of a “moonshine toddy” appears at the parsonage door with a note indicating that it will cure all ills.
God has continued to amaze me during this Lenten season – even down to the fact that I submitted writings for two different Lenten devotions which oddly enough are in both booklets for the same day: tomorrow, April 2. So…for tomorrow and Friday, hopefully I’ll get those two devotions posted here. But if not, God must have had something else in mind to teach me.