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Substance and Shape and Seeking Awe by Connie McNeill

The ashes remind me that I am a sinner. The cross reminds me that I have a Savior.

The earliest that Ash Wednesday begins Lent is February 4. So, as you can see, this year we are early in the calendar but not the earliest it can be. However, this year is unique and only happens hundreds of years apart. Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day intersect. Maybe a challenge for those for whom fasting and chocolate intersect?

The imposition of ashes liturgically marks the beginning of the Lenten Season and is observed by many different Christian traditions including us at Second Baptist. It means we are 46 days (40 fasting days if you exclude Sundays) before Easter. The forty days are intended to mirror the forty days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert before he began his public ministry.

We observe it as preparation for Easter, for Christ’s resurrection. Ashes have long been a symbol of grief, and we see many occurrences of the use of Ashes in the bible. The ashes are meant to remind us of our sinfulness before God and our mortality. Using ashes to draw a cross also reminds us that both our sinfulness and our mortality are changed because of Christ’s death and resurrection.

You will have to determine how to make Ash Wednesday begin a personally significant preparation for Easter. If giving up caffeine, red meat, chocolate or anything of this tangible world helps you do that then bravo! I am going to remind us of influence from our friend Alicia Chole to consider.

Instead of giving up something, do something. Something that will again put into your being the awe of God. As Alicia says, it may be more about “surrender of soul than sacrifice of stuff…Lent is less about well-mannered denials and more about thinning our lives in order to thicken our communion with God.” (40 Days of Decrease, pg. 2)

Mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, et tuam resurrectionem confitemur, donec venias. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. May this be a prayer mantra that helps us be awed by how we are loved as well as who loves us as we live into this Lenten Season.  After all, our destination is love—we call it Easter.


Posted by Connie McNeill at Wednesday, February 14, 2018 | 0 comments
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Why Do We Go by Blane Baker

One of the most commonly asked questions about Mission Trips is: why go? In response, I would like to give some of my honest reflections, based on my own experiences in Thailand.

I believe we go “on mission” to deepen our relationship with God and His plan for humanity. As an example, several of us from 2BC have taken trips to Thailand to work alongside Tui and his group at UHDP. During our visits, we have immersed ourselves in a variety of projects. One of these involves the fight for basic human rights for various hill-tribe peoples in northern Thailand. Many are refugees from Myanmar where violence and threats have caused much strife and anxiety. Seeking peace, these former citizens of Myanmar have crossed the border into Thailand illegally.

As refugees and non-citizens living in Thailand, these folks generally find peace, but they have very few rights. As a result, healthcare and schooling are limited, and travel is severely restricted. The Thai government retains the right to force them to move at a moment’s notice. Other terrible things like human trafficking occur in these areas, too. Given the plight of these humble and peaceful people, I believe we are called to action. So what can we do?

I would encourage many of us to go to these regions in northern Thailand to see firsthand how refugees and displaced peoples live. Their stories will become part of our stories. From these connections, we will be compelled to act, and God’s Kingdom will be closer at hand. If you are unable to travel to these remote places, become an advocate and pray. With enough advocacy and prayer, a steady movement will begin. That movement will gain momentum. As a result, government policies will change, and humanitarian groups will increasingly support the work there. And, we will have done our part. 
Dawn in Thailand Red Paluang Women Thai-Myanmar Boarder  


at Monday, February 12, 2018 | 0 comments
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On Closer Inspection by Angie Fuller

My childhood photo album holds a faded picture of me the summer I turned four. Barefoot and seated on a hand-me-down tricycle, I’m clutching a stuffed white dog, sucking my thumb, and steering the tricycle with my elbow. I still have vague memories of pedaling small, lazy laps around our patio. When I see this photo, I think, “How content I was! Life was easy…not a care in the world!”

Our society, however, fosters discontent at an alarming ratein our possessions, politics, relationships, self-image, and even our ambitions. Media in its numerous forms and even well-meaning people bombard us with both glaring and subtle suggestions that something about our lives needs to change,
whether we have control over it or not, n order to be happier, more successful, more worry-free, more fill-in-the-blank. We are both jealous and prideful. Our perpetual discontent drains us of joy and peace.

When writing to the Philippians, Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” (Phil. 4:11-12a) Paul’s statement seems perhaps unattainable, but notice the two verbs. First, he has LEARNED to be content. Paul mentions opposing circumstances, because true contentment doesn’t come and go based on the events of our lives. Nor is it something we acquire once to last a lifetime. Anything that is learnedfrom walking or multiplying fractions, to compromising or forgivingtakes practice! It’s a process that involves setbacks and hard work. Second, Paul has learned to BE content, not “feel” content. It isn’t a changing emotion. It’s a choice… an intentional attitude… a way of living.

Thankfully Paul didn’t leave his readers wondering how to learn this attitude in our fallen, self-centered world. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:12b-13) His “secret” is a statement we find on mugs, bracelets, and even tattoos. We boldly claim this verse when we need courage or stamina…and rightly so. But it doesn’t say, “I can endure difficult times through Him who gives me strength.” We need God’s strength to do ALL things. Contentment comes when we depend on God in everythingwhen we thank God when life is going well, acknowledge God’s presence and peace in daily activities, lean on God’s strength when our legs are knocked out from under us, and extend God’s love even when it pulls us from our comfort zone.

When I look at that photo of four-year-old me, I realize it’s the dog who is truly content, not me. Granted, the dog is just fur and stuffing! But it represents complete reliance on the one carrying it. Regardless of its journey, the dog relies on the arm wrapped around it and submits to the one steering the tricycle.

Reliance and submissionthese aren’t words we usually associate with contentment, and they’re certainly countercultural! In a world that showers us with pride, doubt, and restlessness, may we listen more closely to God than to the voices surrounding us. May we open our eyes to what matters to God and have the courage to choose and practice contentment.

at Friday, February 9, 2018 | 0 comments
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