Tag: Lent

Mar 3 2010

Sharing the water

Lenten reflection week 3

The fact that she was coming to the well in the noonday sun was a tipoff. The ìrespectableî women of the village all came out in the cool of the morning to draw their water and gossip. So, being one of the more popular subjects of their gossip, this Samaritan woman preferred to come at noon when nobody else was supposed to be around.

Except that day, somebody else was around ñ Jesus. He was sitting right there by the well where she couldnít avoid him. And just when she had decided to quickly get her water and get out of there before anybody saw her alone with this Jewish man (the last thing she needed with her reputation), he had the nerve to ask her for a drink of water!

She could have ignored him. She could have waited for him to leave. She could have turned around and gone home. But there was something about this stranger that compelled her to engage with him in conversation. That choice made all the difference.

What follows in this marvelous story from Johnís Gospel (John 4:5-42) is a tale of living water, of death to the mistakes of the past, and a community transformed through the leadership of its least likely member. And all because one man asked one woman for a drink ñ and because that woman had the courage to push her comfort zone and make a graced connection.

At CFCA, we like to say we see potential instead of poverty. We learned that from Jesus, who always managed to see through the trappings and the labels into the true heart of a person. It really doesnít take any special ability to do that, but it does take faith.

So, whoís asking you for a drink of water today?

Feb 24 2010

When life gives you lemons

Lenten reflection week 2

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This may be a simplistic and even Pollyannaish way of looking at hardships. But the fact , I think, is that God may have inspired that saying because of all of the wonderful, miraculous things that he does.

Making lemonade out of the lemons we call our lives is what God does best. No matter how badly we mess things up, or try to, in the end, God can turn our hardships into something positive.

We see it time and again in scripture. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt. Did God really want that to happen? I doubt it. But, God used that chain of events to save his people from starvation, to bring them into Egypt, and ultimately, to claim them as his own. Godís will would not be thwarted.

In the Gospel of Luke (13:31-35), we see Jesus being pretty clear that he has a plan, and no one is going to derail it. Herod is turning up the heat on Jesus, and Jesus tells him, in no uncertain terms, that he will finish his ministry on his own terms. God gave him a job to do, and he intends to do it.

Lent is a great time to reflect on Godís will for us in our lives. How do we try to thwart Godís plans for us? How has God pursued us to make his plans come to fruition? What is God’s plan for our lives?

Feb 17 2010

The lasting benefit of solidarity

Lent is a time for personal reflection. Every Wednesday throughout Lent we will post a reflection that we hope will help with your own Lenten journey.

The tradition of Lenten self-discipline comes mainly from the Gospel accounts of the temptation of Jesus. This Sunday, we hear Luke’s version of that familiar story (Luke 4:1-13). Before Jesus begins his public ministry, he makes a personal, 40-day retreat into the desert. There the devil tempts him with power, personal glory and material comfort. He passes the test and, strengthened by the ordeal, emerges to begin his path to Calvary.

We are usually content to take the lesson of the story at face value. Life is a struggle between good and evil, and it is only through personal discipline that we have the strength to choose the good. Jesus also faced the greatest temptations. He overcame those temptations through fasting and prayer and, therefore, so should we.

Fair enough. But why did Jesus feel the need for personal discipline? What did he gain by resisting the tempter? And why, if he knew he would be tempted, would he go into the desert in the first place?

The answer is that he did it not for himself but for others. The discipline he gained was not for the sake of personal accomplishment but so he could have more to give those he desired to serve. In resisting the devil, he resisted those things that he knew could divert him from the path of loving service.

Unlike the experience of Jesus in the desert, which drew him outside of himself and toward others, our little Lenten sacrifices sometimes have the opposite effect. We take pride in our personal accomplishments, as if the mastery of will is the ultimate goal. But when personal success becomes the focus of Lent, we miss the point.

Yes, we do personally benefit from our Lenten disciplines, and that is good. But the best and most lasting benefit is that we also grow in solidarity with others, especially the poor and those on the margins of society. It was love for these that drove Jesus into the desert in the first place, and it is the same love to which his followers are still called.

Apr 8 2009

A present-day transformation

Lenten reflection: Week 7
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

ìLord, remember not only the men and women of good will but all those of ill will. Do not only remember all the suffering they have subjected us to. Remember the fruits we brought forth thanks to this suffering ñ our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, and generosity, the greatness of heart that all of this inspired. And when they come to judgment, let all these fruits we have born be their reward and their forgiveness.î
-Words scratched on the wall of a concentration camp in Germany

Transformative power: that is what bursts forth out of the tomb on Easter morning. The power of God to change that which was ugly to something beautiful. Changing darkness into light and destroying death to give us the chance for a real life. That is what we celebrate on Easter morning. Somewhere amidst the candy and Easter eggs we find the message that no matter how hard we try to get rid of God, we cannot and that God will transform our lives and our world if we only let God in.

If a woman in India is a widow or comes into a marriage with little dowry, she is seen as a burden and written off as worthless. This is a rather practical consideration for a family living on the edge because she is seen as not contributing to the family and is, instead, just another mouth to feed.

For the thousands of women who participate in CFCA mothers groups, however, they are given the chance to begin small businesses and bring income to the family. They are literally transformed in the eyes of their family members, as well as in their own eyes. They are given a new-found dignity and respect.

There are elderly in our projects who, after a life of hardship and struggle, were slipping away all alone, bereft of help or companionship. But, they are now part of a life-giving CFCA community where they can watch out for each other and care for each other.

And then there are the children. Hundreds of thousands of children that our sponsors have watched over the years transform into confident young adults. Our sponsors have seen the change from the first pictures of the small children, dressed in borrowed clothes, looking much too small for their age. Sponsors have watched them grow, overcome obstacles in their path and reach maturity with the ability and confidence to use their God-given gifts and talents.

Through womenís empowerment in the mothers groups, a childís maturity into adulthood and the companionship of the elderly, we are given the opportunity to watch, in present day, the transformative power of God that burst forth from the tomb on the first Easter morning. It is an amazing thing to watch God in action.

Happy Easter

From all of us at CFCA around the world, we wish you a most blessed and glorious Easter!

Mar 25 2009

Relationships are essential for a full life

Lenten reflection: Week 5
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

ìAnd I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.î ñJohn 12:32

Our God, who is relational by nature, chose to become a member of the human family as an expression of intimate love. We, Godís children, are also relational and the yearning of our hearts for closeness to God and to one another is a reflection of our nature and Godís deepest desire.

Because of this, relationships are the very essence of life. Godís two greatest commandments are not about what work we do, or what we eat, or even how we are to worship God. Our two greatest commandments are to love God and each other.

We believe this is the greatest gift that CFCA has to offer to the world. The reason the founders chose the sponsorship model was because it is relational. One does not simply write a check and forget about it. Sponsors are called into personal relationships with someone they didnít even know existed before sponsorship. They are given the opportunity to love God by loving another of Godís children. Sponsor and sponsored friend carry one another in their hearts and allow the other to change them for the better.

CFCAís structure in our projects follows this model as well and feeds the need for relationships among those we serve. For example, mothers in Merida, Mexico, tell us that the CFCA mothers groups are the most important part of the program to them. Most of their families moved from villages to the city, and that move isolated them from the social fabric that had sustained their ancestors for generations. The mothers groups are recreating that sense of community that is so essential to a full life.

Lent gives us a chance to stop and examine our relationships. It is often easier to give up chocolate for Lent than to rebuild and heal relationships.

Author Stephen Levine writes, ìIf you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?î

Reflection questions:
1. How would you define your relationship with God? Is God your teacher? Friend? Distant relative you only see on holidays? Guide? Do you like that relationship or do you want it to change? What needs to happen to bring about that change?
2. Is there a friendship that you have lost and mourn that loss? What might God be calling you to do about that?

Mar 18 2009

Concern for the whole person

Lenten reflection: Week 4p1000566
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

Lent, as we know, is a time of preparation and self-reflection. It is a time set aside to examine our relationship with God and our need for healing in our own lives. Scripture shows us time and again that God is greatly concerned with our wholeness, in mind, body and spirit. In fact, ìwholenessî and ìholinessî come from the same word that means ìcompleteness.î

In 2 Kings, Chapter 4, we hear a strange and wonderful story of Elisha bringing a family back to wellness and wholeness. Like Sarah before her, God promised a Shunammite woman a son in her old age. God kept that promise but years later the young boy died. However, God would not forget his promise and, through Elisha, brought the boy back to life, restoring the faith of the mother.

CFCAís benefits are structured to follow this guideline of concern for the whole person and the family. We do not simply feed children. Nor do we just educate them or see to their medical concerns. We are concerned for the whole person and we walk with them and bring others along to do the same.

Take, for instance, a widow in Guatemala whose son was sponsored through CFCA. The woman was suffering from depression and because of her†illness she was unable to move forward in her life. She was unable even to address the health concerns of her son. He began to have trouble in school, and it was believed to be because of hearing loss.

CFCA was helping this family financially, but it was not until we brought in another CFCA mother to minister to the little boyís mother that changes started happening. It took more than just the CFCA staff to help this woman back to health in mind, body and spirit. It took God working through someone who was not that different from her, to help heal her.

God, as the ultimate and perfect parent, is deeply concerned for the wholeness of each of his†6-billion-plus children. We need only open ourselves to the Spirit and to our fellow travelers through whom the Spirit works.

Reflection questions:
1. Where do you need healing in your life in mind, body or spirit?
2. Who might God be placing in your path who needs the gifts you have to offer for their healing?

Mar 11 2009

Finding our voice

Lenten reflection: Week 3
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus entering the Temple in a fury of righteous anger at the unjust practices of Temple and driving out the money changers and vendors. He knew his fellow Jews had to pay to buy Temple sacrifices. Thus, a system of commerce had been established for Temple worship that would exclude the poor who could not pay to worship. (John 2:13-22)

At CFCA, we do not get involved in the politics of the countries or local areas where we work. However, just as Jesus became a voice for the poor and took on those who would keep them subjugated so, too, when poor find they have a voice (both personally and as a community), they discover the strength to take on the powers that keep them oppressed.

In Hyderabad, India, there is a CFCA community called Church Colony. It is about half a mile from the main road, so everyone walked that unpaved distance to catch a bus or get anywhere. The women in the CFCA mothers groups went to the local officials to demand that the city pave their “road” so vehicles could get to their community and walking would be easier. The local officials agreed. Then, the mothers asked the officials to pay their community members to do the construction, instead of outside laborers. Again, they agreed. So, Church Colony got a road as well as some temporary employment.

After some time, the women returned to the officials to say that the road was great, but they needed it to be well-lit at night for safety reasons. They got their lights.

The women then turned their attention to water. The community only had access to water a few hours a day, but the adjacent neighborhood (which is slightly better off) had water all day, every day. The women realized that, because of the way the local roads were laid out, people from the neighboring community often used the new road the women had petitioned for.

They organized a blockade of the road, aimed at people from the neighboring community and said that they would share the use of the road if the neighboring community would share its water. Now Church Colony has water all day, too.

Sometimes making changes in society requires righteous anger, marching, protesting and turning over tables, like Jesus did in the Temple. But not always. Creative community building, tapping into gifts of the individuals in the group, and a little non-violent opposition can go a long way toward changing opinions.

Reflection questions:
1. When have you ever felt indignation or anger? Looking back, was it warranted or were there other motives?
2. What are the elements in our society that do (or should) make us angry, and what does God require of us at such times?

Watch a video about this community in India >

Mar 4 2009

Freedom from thinking about yourself

Lenten reflection: Week two
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.” -William Temple

If this is true then what on earth am I supposed to think about? In my little world how can I not think about my next meal, fret about my finances, or worry about my work, my future, my car, my marriage, my, my, my? Even some concerns about my children are really fears about my own parenting.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mk.8:34)

This is a call to deny the self. That is, to recognize our powerlessness. When we take our “self” out of the picture, what is left? God and others. In fact, the practice of giving up something for Lent (chocolate, meat, etc.) or taking on something for Lent (attending Mass everyday, visiting the sick, reading scripture daily) is simply an exercise that helps us in the greater practice of giving up ourselves to God. When we engage in whatever discipline we have taken on for Lent, for that moment our desires are placed to the side and God is at the heart of our decisions and our lives.

When we put God and others first in every decision we make, starting the moment we wake up, our day will begin to look a little different. I can sleep late or get up and pray. I can have a fast-food breakfast or I can eat healthy, locally grown food. I can drive myself to work or I can carpool, walk or take a bus. I can complain about my co-workers or I can compliment them. I can watch TV or play a game with my family, or sit down and write a letter to my sponsored friend.

This is what CFCA is talking about when we use the phrase “walking in daily solidarity with the poor.” When we put God and others – ALL others ñ first, we have taken up the cross that Christ bears for the world and have begun to walk with Him, for Him and toward Him.

Reflection questions:
1. In what ways do you put yourself before God or others? What can you do to become more other-centered?
2. Where in your life do you find that you do deny yourself and live for God and others? How is that part of your life different?

Feb 25 2009

Our interconnected world

Lent is a time for personal reflection. Traditionally Christians engage in acts of self-denial as a means of personal discipline and awareness of the sacrifices of Christ. It is also a good time to recognize these acts of self-denial as a way to grow in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in developing countries, for whom going without is a way of life.
Every Wednesday throughout Lent we will post a reflection that we hope will help with your own personal Lenten journey.

Lenten reflection: Week one
By Rev. Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

The story of the flood has given biblical scholars in all three Abrahamic faith traditions much to ponder over the years. Written during the Babylonian exile, it tells of a people wiped into non-existence by their own sinfulness.

In Genesis, we hear of the first covenant that God makes with His creation. ìThis is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations.î (Gen. 9:12-13) The interconnectedness found between God, humankind and all of creation is firmly established.

It is easy in the world we live in to feel separate from creation. We buy our meat cleanly packaged, giving little or no thought to the life that was taken so that we could eat. We have grown accustomed to having whatever fruit or vegetable we want, regardless of the season and how far it had to travel to get to us.

At CFCA, we do our best to recognize the interplay between humans, creation and the divine. We hold up as examples the Dumagat people of the Philippines. When they sleep at night they choose not to sleep on a mat or bed. They sleep on the ground because they want to ìsleep in their motherís arms.î That is how intimate they are with all of creation.

Look at those in our projects who survive on subsistence farming, and you will see the tenacious and dynamic interplay between themselves, God and all that God has created.

Reflection questions:
1. Has there been a time when you have felt your world was completely washed away? During that time where did you find hope?
2. How would you describe your relationship with creation? Landlord? Caretaker? Parasite? Friend? Or something else?
3. The Christian faith teaches us that nature is not God but that God can be found within nature. When was a time when you experienced God in nature?