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Keeping a holy Lent

Keeping a holy Lent
Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications

By Bishop Jonathan Holston

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” —John 3:16 (NIV)

It was in 1896 that Professor George Washington Carver received a letter from Dr. Booker T. Washington. It was a plea for help from the president of one institution of higher learning, Tuskegee Institute, to a well-known professor of agriculture at another institution, Iowa State College.

The gist of the request was evident in the text of the letter; namely, “Our students are poor and often starving. They travel miles of torn roads across years of poverty. We teach them to read and write but words cannot feed their stomachs. They need to learn how to plant and harvest crops. I cannot offer you money, position or fame. The first two you have. The last, from the place you now occupy, you will no doubt achieve.”

Then came the request of unexpected proportions: “THESE THINGS I ASK YOU TO GIVE UP. In their place, I offer (you) hard work and the challenge of bringing people up from degradation, poverty and wasted lives.”

Wow, this was definitely a game-changing opportunity. In Professor Carver’s memoirs, it is recorded that he left his laboratory and walked to a place beyond the college campus to think. When fully content on God’s plans for his future, he returned to his office, sat down at his desk and wrote a letter to Dr. Washington in Alabama.

He wrote three words: “I will come.”

I’m sure that Professor Carver had no idea of how those words and his experience would coincide together that day.

Several months ago, Sailor Gutzler took a significant place in our consciousness. She is the 7-year-old girl that survived a plane crash that killed her parents and other family members. Sailor navigated thick trees, briars and bushes. She traversed two embankments, a hill and a creek bed to get help. The homeowner who answered the door when she knocked saw a little girl who was blooded and hurt. He called for help yet noticed the message on the T-shirt that she was wearing. It said, simply, “You Can’t Stop Me.” I’m sure that Sailor had no idea of how those words and her experience would coincide that day.

For us, these 40 days of Lent represent a time of spiritual preparation. It will be a time to remember the words that free us for joyful obedience. Daily, we will come to these moments of faith through introspection, prayer and reflection.

In this Lenten season, may we take the time to breathe deeply and remember that all we are and hope to be comes to us as a gift. We are challenged to come to a place of faith, hope and love. We are asked to again accept the love of the one who simply says, “You can’t stop me”—from loving you.

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