April 14 – Palm Sunday

Until I heard the song”Crucify Him” by Shane & Shane, all I thought of Palm Sunday services was that it was that super long, boring Mass with the Passion reading. Everyone’s favorite, right?

The verses in the song call out the irony that in under a week, the people in Jerusalem can go from shouting “Hosanna!” (which translates to “Save us, please!”) to “Crucify Him!”

“I sing, ‘Hosanna!’ when I want it all / Then I crucify the Son of God / ‘Cause He isn’t who I always thought / Not what I want, but what I needed / I sing, ‘How great and mighty is the King!” / Just as long as He considers me / High above every other thing / Even His glory”  

Ouch. How many times have I treated Jesus like someone who had to be what I wanted (like the “nice” God who always loves me and puts rainbows in the sky) while I disregarded the fact that He is also what I NEED (like a God whose teachings hold me to a higher, more difficult to follow, moral standard). How many times have I talked to others about God, or shown up at Church, putting up a front, while actually pretending that my own prayer life is often more of an uphill climb than an easy walk?

“Broken like a record / spinning round and round like a hurricane / I pour out water then I disappear / Reappearing when I fear enough / Or need a touch from You / I sing, ‘Hosanna!’ once again / Then I say, “Crucify Him!”  

How many times have I only turned to God when I WANTED to, and not when I NEEDED to? Have I ever felt like I should try to block God out of my life when I know that he wouldn’t be happy with how I treated someone, failed to do the right thing, or was just settling for apathy?

“It’s packaged differently than Pharisees / wrapped in sing-alongs and Christianese / Empty hallelujahs to the King / When my heart is loving idols / A man of sorrows acquainted with grief / He had no form; He had no majesty / How could he have the audacity / To ask me to give Him my tomorrow?”

What do I make a priority, or an “idol,” over my relationship with God? When have I thought that I could radically give God some aspect, or all, of my life, and then chosen to rely on my own understanding and desires?

The beautiful part about the Passion story is that in the end, despite God having every possible reason to abandon us and change his plans to redeem us, he doesn’t. The crucifixion is the summit of God showing us how much he loves us from the very beginning of human history.

I think of Genesis 1:26, where God says, “Let US make man in OUR image,” using the plural to show that each Person of the Trinity has always existed – that from before the Fall and Original Sin, Jesus, our Redeemer, existed. I think of Ezekiel, who, after God’s presence left the Temple through the East gate because of people’s corruption, prophesied that the Lord would return from the East (like the road Jesus uses to enter Jerusalem), and take possession of the Temple and rebuild it (like how Jesus drove out money changers). In Zechariah 9:9, we see the prophecy that the Davidic king (whose line is continued down to Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus) would return to Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Sections of Isaiah, and Psalm 22, speak about exactly how the Messiah would die, hundreds of years before the Romans invented crucifixion as a method of torture. “They have pierced my hands and my feet… They stare at me and gloat, they divide my garments among them, for my clothing they cast lots.” (Ps. 22)

The 300 insanely specific Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfills throughout his time on earth point directly to why He comes incarnate – to save us. To save YOU.  Even though over thousand and thousands of years, humanity has continually failed God. God’s people have turned to idols, turned a blind eye to miracles and signs, shut their ears to words of the prophets, and sinned over, and over again. And yet He STILL loves us enough to suffer more than we can imagine, and die on the cross for us.

As we wrap up this Lenten Reflection series, I encourage you to enter into Holy Week with that personal, intimate, love of God in mind. Today’s second reading says it best: “ that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Love, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:6-11).

April 7

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus has several run-ins with the Pharisees, who usually try to put Jesus between a rock and a hard place. Don’t pay taxes to Caesar, and you’re an outlaw. Tell your followers to pay taxes, and you’re just as corrupt as the tax collectors. Heal that crippled man today, and you’ll be breaking the law that forbids working on the Sabbath. Don’t heal him, and look like heartless person who can’t perform miracles anyway.

Each time, Jesus surprises everyone by choosing option C, none of the above. In this week’s passage from John 8, he does the same. The Pharisees present him with a woman who had been caught in adultery – a capital offense in this time and place. They place her in the middle of a circle of men, to highlight her humiliation, and use her to make a point – if Jesus lets her go, he is renouncing the Jewish laws. If he stones her, as the law requires, they could call him a merciless killer.

Jesus instead writes in the dirt – an action that some Scripture scholars believe references Jeremiah 17:13, “Those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.” It’s likely that the Jews would have recognized this Old Testament reference, and it’s meaning – to remind them that their actions were not in fact doing the will of God, but turning them way from the Lord. 

Imagine for a second that you are that woman stuck in the middle of that circle. Think of the embarrassment of being publicly called out, reminded of our sins, under the threat of a painful death. The only thing you would be asking for at that moment is exactly what Jesus offers her – mercy.

What about the Pharisees? I picture someone caught up in their own thoughts and desires – which we all have done at one point or another. Maybe some of them were so legalistic in their thinking that they forgot to also leave room for the part where God LOVES his people. Maybe some of them were so angry at Jesus, whom they believed to be a blasphemous heretic, that they were willing to do anything to stop him – including sacrificing the dignity of another person. Maybe they got caught up in the mentality of the group, only to be left standing there, stones in hand, wondering, “how did I get to this point?”

I haven’t thrown stones at anyone, but I can definitely think of times in my life where I have been in one of these situations – following what I thought was right, angry and accusing, or following along apathetically. I can also think of many times where it feels like I’ve been presented with two options – and neither feels like the right one. Jesus inspires us here to be creative, and choose “option C” – mercy. Jesus isn’t telling us that sins don’t matter, but he IS telling us that they can be forgiven. In today’s world, sometimes it feels like in order to live out the Gospel, we have to stuff it into a world-shaped box, conforming it to society’s expectations. However, when we follow that example of Christ, we let HIM set those expectations – which sometimes means blowing that box wide open.

With that in mind, St. Paul’s letter from the second reading leaves us with instructions on exactly HOW to accomplish that. He says, “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). 

March 31

This week’s Gospel reading, the famous parable of the Prodigal Son, is one of my favorites to reflect on periodically because I’ve been able to picture myself as different people in the story at different times in my life.

The younger son in the story gets the most attention by many readers – we can all recognize how offensive it would be to ask a relative for your inheritance as if they were already dead. Most people can relate in some way to a time in their lives when they were headed down the wrong path, for a brief or long period of time. Most translations say that the younger son “collected all his belongings, and set off to a distant country” (Luke 15:13). The original Greek description of where the youngest son goes actually means “the big emptiness” – which I think is much more relatable to our daily lives than spending lots of money in a foreign land. Have you ever felt like you’ve ended up in “the big emptiness?” Maybe for you that means feeling stuck in some type of suffering, or even just like you’re exhausted, going through the motions in life, unable to see, or even think about, moving forward. Maybe that’s feeling lonely, anxious, or helpless. How did we get there? Is feeling this way at all tied to our own version of lacking in faith, or not spending time in prayer? I haven’t blown my bank account in a far away place, but when I think of it more in the terms of “the big emptiness…” – that strikes a chord.

The older brother’s complaints are something we can also relate to – the “it’s not fair” mentality comes naturally to us as humans, especially when we read that he offended his family by asking for it, then squandered away everything and became so destitute he “longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed.” My first instinct is to say “serves him right,” and stick out my tongue, like any older sibling who watches a younger one get themselves into trouble. He is right when he complains that it’s not fair that his “terrible, wasteful, embarrassing” brother gets a celebration. But it’s not about being fair – it’s about the love of the Father. When the older brother complains, he misses the point – reciprocal, sacrificial, unconditional love. He treats his relationship with his father like a transaction (I do good things, you pay me back with a big party), instead of a relationship. There are no limits to how much the Father loves us – and there is more than enough love to go around. The Father’s love is infinite – and so beyond our comprehension of measurements and fairness that it can never be measured. “Everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31), because His love is total, and freely given. By refusing to enter the celebration because of his anger, he isn’t taking anything away from his brother – he is only hurting himself.

I can think of lots of different emotions my own parents might have if I asked for an inheritance – awkward laughter, tears, angry yelling, etc. – none of them are willingly dividing the property up without question. When I think of encountering someone who has wronged or hurt me in some way, my initial reaction isn’t to greet them with joy and an embrace (Luke 15:20). And yet the father not only does that, but he also abandons all sense of proper expectations. In Middle Eastern culture at this point in history, an adult man would have always walked, purposefully, as a sign of status and being put together. Running? Out of the question, you’d be taken for a fool. And yet the Father of the Prodigal Son does exactly that – at the tiniest glimmer of hope that his son is returning, the only thing that matters is that he is home.

Lent is beautiful because we are reminded to shed the behaviors, distractions, mindsets, temptations, sins, doubts, and more that keep us from being close to the Father. We fast from the things that make us feel like we aren’t worthy of being close to God, like the Prodigal Son who didn’t think he was worthy of doing anything but being one of his father’s hired workers and eating with the pigs. We are called to sacrifice and serve, in ways that the older son struggled to do. And above all, love, and let ourselves be loved by the Father. Unconditionally.

March 24

Sometimes I feel like the middle of Lent is the worst. It’s like the Wednesday of a really, really long week – you’ve used up your energy from a restful weekend, and the next one feels so very far away. The “this is going to be the best Lent ever! I’m going to give up so many things, and do all these extra things, and get so much out of it!” has faded into a tired mood where you find yourself glaring with jealousy at the chocolate cake aisle at the grocery store, and wondering why March 6th you thought that waking up 30 minutes early every day to pray would be a great idea. Easter feels far away – almost like it’s never going to get here.

The first reading this Sunday comes from Exodus 3 – the beginning of the story of Moses. Before this, the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians for a long, long time. Imagine the hopelessness and defeat they must have felt! God calls Moses through the burning bush, and explains how he is going to rescue his people. Moses is unsure of his abilities to do what God asks, but God affirms him, and reminds him that he is the same God who fulfilled every promise he made to the Hebrews who came before him.

I am the God of your fathers, “ he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob… I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:6-8).

We all have situations, maybe in your past or maybe right now, where we’ve been so stuck in the middle of a situation that it’s been hard to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. God saw you then, and he sees you now. And he reminds us that even when we feel stuck, he is making all things work for the good. God reminded Moses of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for a reason – because they are each recipients of a fulfilled promise from God to care and provide for them, even after they have not been faithful. God promised Abraham, an old man with an infertile wife, descendants that would number the stars, and Abraham laughs so hard in disbelief that he falls on his face (Gen. 17:17). But, when Sarah gives birth to a son, they name him Isaac, which translates to “laughter.”

Whatever you have weighing you down today, follow in the steps of Moses. Remove the sandals from your feet, shake the dust off, and plant your feet in “holy ground” (Ex. 3:5). If you’re feeling dead in your faith life, like the fig tree in today’s Gospel (Luke 13:1-9), give it another chance. If you need a little extra hope, remember this – that the God who found a way to provide for Abraham and Moses is the same one listening to your prayers today.

March 17

This Sunday’s readings – the Gospel reading in particular – always reminds me of Nazareth Farm.

Luke 9:28-36 tells the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. In it, Jesus takes his disciples up the mountain to pray, where his appearance is transfigured by a dazzling white light – the light of God. Peter, John, and James awake from a nap to see the transformed Jesus before them, with Moses and Elijah by his side (can you imagine?!). God confirms Jesus’ divinity, instructs the apostles present to listen to Jesus, and then vanishes.

Throughout Scripture, mountains are significant. They’re often associated with important events, or experiences of prayer or God’s teachings. Jesus preached the Beatitudes on the Sermon on the Mount, Moses received the 10 Commandments on a mountain, and Elijah found shelter in a mountain cave where he recognizes God’s voice not in the earthquake or fire, but in the stillness of silence. For people who have been to the Farm, everything about 665 Nazareth Farm Road calls to mind these scriptures – first, the actual mountain roads traveled on the way, but also the place of learning, prayer, and finding God’s voice in the quiet that is impossible to replicate back home. My favorite experience at the Farm, no matter what time of year I visit, is standing in the parking lot early in the morning – while the world is still quiet, the hollow is filled with mist, and everything is still. I love this seemingly mundane spot – a gravel parking lot – for both the silence it holds in the moment, and the anticipation of what that new day will bring when the sun comes and burns away the fog.

Outside of that hollow, life gets busy. Thinking of that time and place reminds me of how much I fill my life with noise – meetings, phone calls, social media notifications, music or Netflix on in the background. It fills life up so much that it’s hard to even remember how to shut it all off – sometimes the quiet moments actually feel uncomfortably foreign. When I’m in the middle of the noise, I don’t think too much about the lack of silence – until I’m reminded how much I miss it.

The second reading calls us out on this preoccupation, and reminds us of our goals. “Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself” (Phil 3:20-21). Lent calls us to put aside distractions, take time out of our busyness and spend it with the Lord, and open our hearts to things we don’t necessarily pay attention to in our day-to-day lives. For when we do these things, even if they only last for a moment, we’re on a mountain – or in a foggy parking lot – with all of our attention turned toward God. A God who knows us, loves us, and is deeply committed to showing us his presence. This week, where and when can you stop, pray, and allow yourself to witness the Transfiguration?

March 10

The Gospel and second readings are beautiful this Sunday, but the passage from Deuteronomy, which I personally haven’t spent a lot of time reading, has been speaking to my heart.

In this passage, Moses is recalling how good God has been to the Hebrews since He rescued them from Egyptian slavery. The 10 plagues God sends to Egypt after the Pharaoh refuses to release the Hebrews from slavery – they are actually directly connected to the different gods the Egyptians were worshipping. For example, worship of Ra, the Egyptian sun god, is countered during the ninth plague, when darkness falls over Egypt for three days. God shows his control over nature to demonstrate his power compared to that of the Egyptian idols, and then allows light back into the land.

So when the Hebrews are able to escape, they’re not just escaping physical slavery, captivity, and persecution – they’re also being freed from a culture of idolatry. The idolatry of ancient Egypt isn’t as prevalent in our culture today, however, we are constantly fighting against things in our lives that can easily become idols, take the place of God, and become the center of our lives. Busy schedules with no room for prayer, social media that distracts our attention from being made in the image and likeness of God, weekend activities that become more important than going to church, the pressure and desire to always have the most expensive car, house, phone, etc.

And yet when the Hebrews are in trouble and trapped in slavery or wandering in the desert, God actively saves them, and provides everything they need – although not always in the way they expected. Moses reminds his people of these “signs and wonders,” and compares Israel to “a land flowing with milk and honey,” symbols of prosperity.

In return, Moses brings the “first fruits” of their labors – the best of their crops, “which you, Lord, have given me,” – as an offering to God. Not the second best harvest, and not the leftovers, but the best that they have. And Moses trusts God to continue to save and provide for His people – so much so that he gives God back the best of what he has, instead of keeping it for himself.

Do we offer God the best of our time, talents, and treasures, or our leftovers? Do we trust him to provide everything we need, even when we give something of value away (time, money, or items?) Do we thank God in advance for what He will do in our lives, and pray with a trusting heart? If not, why, and what can we do to improve that?

Remember that the same God who “saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression,” and “brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm,” (Deut. 26:7-8) is the God that we worship today. He is all-powerful, loving, and personally interested in YOUR life, too. How can we better let God love us and work in our lives? What kinds of things do we need to be freed from? There is no sin, no weakness, no situation, that God cannot help you with. This week, let’s try to fast from the things we need God to save us from, pray in thanksgiving for His workings in our lives, and give with a trusting heart to those in need – just like God does for us.

March 6 – Ash Wednesday

At first glance, Ash Wednesday’s readings are incredibly ironic. In the first reading, the prophet Joel says to “Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly, gather the people” (Joel 2:15-16). But then the Gospel reading says to NOT blow trumpets or be hypocrites by giving alms or praying in the streets to win the praise of others (Matthew 6:2). Ok… so, trumpets or no trumpets? Walk around with ashes on our foreheads, or don’t show off our faith and proclaim our participation in Lent?

When we dive deeper into the meaning of these readings, we see that they’re really referring to our internal disposition to being in relationship with God. They call us to really think about WHY we are doing these things – are we publicly proclaiming our faith because we believe and want to share it with others? Or do we enjoy the attention and making it seem like we are holier than we really are? The hypocrites Matthew talks about are the people without genuine intentions, who find it more important to talk about the external benefits of giving money or accomplishing a challenging Lenten sacrifice than to actually focus on the internal, spiritual benefits of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

These scriptures remind us to focus on the WHY of our actions. To remember that when we promise to give up social media, or TV, or Netflix, as a Lenten sacrifice, but then use that extra free time for something else idle, we’re missing the point. It’s not until we point that sacrifice toward Heaven that we will see some type of benefit in our relationship with God – for example, using that time we would have spent staring at a screen and instead look at God, whether that be through increasing prayer time, reading a spiritual book, spending more genuine time with family, or serving others face-to-face.

So why ashes? How do they remind us of what Lent is about? When distributing ashes, there are two options the minister can say: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospels.” The first reminds us that all we have is a gift from God, recalling the passage in Genesis where God forms Adam out of clay with his hands – an intimate, life-giving look into who God is and how much he loves us. The second, words of St. John the Baptist, who tells us to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

In the first reading from Joel, we see a bigger picture of the messages echoed by all of the Old Testament prophets: hope and repent – because the Messiah is coming. “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is He” (Joel 2:13). We are able to look at ashes and see hope, because we know a God who can make something out of nothing, humanity from a pile of ashes and clay, and Resurrection out of darkness. So, as we head into this Lenten season, let’s all take some extra time to truly prepare our hearts.

A Little Victory by Josh LaFave

I have a long and broken relationship with two little letters in the English language: M.S. They seem so insignificant, but when placed together they mean much more than that.


Josh and his mom, Janet

M.S. is an abbreviation for Multiple Sclerosis, an auto-immune disease that affects 400,000 people in the United States. White blood cells, the body’s natural defense system, get tricked into thinking that the grey matter of the brain is harmful and they attack it. This causes lesions and scar tissue on the brain itself. Some people’s MS is progressive, which means it gets worse over the course of your life, eventually leading to death. Others have a relapse- remit variety, where sometimes symptoms are worse (called exacerbation), and times when symptoms are better. This neurological disease slowly but surely takes away from what you used to be able to do. This means that the visible results are very dependent on the extent of the damage; some people have very noticeable handicaps. while others barely show symptoms.

My mom was diagnosed with relapse-remit M.S. about 3 months after I was born. This means I have been around M.S .my whole life. I’ve seen it take away my Mom’s ability to walk without a cane or walker. I’ve seen her fight extreme fatigue. I’ve seen the nerve pain it can cause in the back and in the legs. I’ve seen it affect her memory and her sight. I’ve also seen her push herself too hard, trying to live her role as a mother which led to her having exacerbations.  M.S. is awful, plain and simple, and I would never wish that on anyone. So when I found out that the homeowner I was building a porch and wheelchair ramp for has M.S., it stopped my dead in my tracks.

We were a couple weeks into building the porch and ramp for Dream, who is wheelchair-bound,  but I was afraid to ask her why. If she wanted to tell me she would, but otherwise I wasn’t going to pry. However, one afternoon she told me that she had M.S. I dropped whatever I was doing and immediately gave her my full attention. I asked her about her M.S. and what all she had been through. Her M.S. had some similarities to my Mom, but also some differences (everyone’s journey with MS is different). But I understood her when she spoke of her pain. She didn’t have to explain, but suddenly I knew how it must be hard for her to not be able to be the perfect parent to her kids. I knew the fears she had.

Dreama was also incredibly welcoming to us. She always invited us inside for lunch to get out of the cold and wet weather. She would always pray with us before working, before lunch, and before leaving the worksite. When the weather was nice, she would be out with us trying to help in whatever way she could. Thinking back on that, I know that is exactly what my Mom would have done. She is very welcoming, has a deep love for God, and desires to help whatever way she can. With all that being said, I believe that God placed me in that situation for a reason and for that, I am very grateful.

I know very well there is no cure for M.S., but I could still do something for Dreama. This ramp built by volunteers and me will make her life just a little less difficult and take a small amount of stress out of her day.

M.S. stinks, but thanks to God and Nazareth Farm, we won a little victory over it.

Thanks to all the volunteers who worked so hard on such a meaningful project!






Life can get a little bit tough

But it doesn’t mean that you should ever give up

God made you though enough

To get through all of your stuff

I know you might not see it now

But I promise you will get up off the ground

God will be cheering in the crowd

While you take your last and final bow

We have all rode horses with no saddles

We have all had to fall asleep to the sound of window rattles

But we have all survived

We have all been revived

Living for God we have strived

To keep going through the crazy messed up rides

I promise you don’t deserve it

But all of this, it has a purpose

Way deeper that that’s on the surface

You are always worth it

You are made in God’s eye

God is the one thing you can be sure is not a lie

Just take a look at the night sky

All the lights shining in the dark

Millions of lightyears away but still we can still see them

Without just one the sky would be darker

And they are way bigger that they look from here

This is what God sees when he looks down on us

He knows our weight which is way heavier than a body can handle

And He loves every single one of us

He counts us over and over

We are not contained within the limits of our body

Our body is contained within the limitlessness of our soul

Shaped by God

Each detail perfectly laid

Ever our hairs are numbered

You are perfect

And you have God’s love and strength on your side

So NEVER give up


—Liv, an August 2017 high school volunteer

The Third Annual “Run for Nazareth Farm” – Friday, August 11th

ragnar picThe Third Annual “Run for Nazareth Farm” is just two weeks away.  On Friday, August 11th, a team of Nazareth Farm Staff Members, Board Members, and Friends of the Farm will come together in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia to run more than 100 miles to raise awareness and funds for our 4 Cornerstones and 1 Mission.  Since 2015, our runners have logged over 400 miles — from Cape Cod, to Washington, DC, and now through beautiful West Virginia — all in support of Nazareth Farm. The nine members of this year’s Team Nazareth Farm will be running in the Ragnar Trail Appalachians event, an annual long-distance trail relay race, and competing against hundreds of other teams racing through the trails of Big Bear Lake Camplands in West Virginia.

Can we count on your support as we #Run4NazFarm? Help us continue to ameliorate substandard housing conditions in Appalachia and transform lives by providing meaningful service retreats for high school and college students from around the country.  Help us meet our $12,000 goal!  Click here to donate and change the lives in our Appalachian community and beyond.