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Lent Update

Well, so far I have managed to stick to my resolution to give up soda for Lent.

At first it was quite easy. There are lots of others drinks I enjoy, including water, tea, crystal light, etc. It is afterall relatively easy to find low-sugar drinks these days. It seemed like an easy thing to “give-up.” My brother did sweets. No way I could do that. I wondered for a while if I was doing Lent Lite. I felt guilty, maybe I am Catholic after all.

However, as time wears on, it has gotten increasingly more difficult. I’m sick of tea. I have tried it in every flavor and concoction. The novelty has worn off.  I want soda. I need soda. I’m longing for soda.

Then we drive cross country. I would have killed for a diet mountain dew. I needed the caffeine and Starbucks are few and far between from New Mexico through to Kansas City. It is a sad reality.

It would have been so easy to give in, but I decided needed to stay true to this. I feel like I need to finish. It isn’t a legalism thing. It isn’t a requirement. I just needed to, for me and Jesus, as trite as that sounds. It’s a stretch of journey very specific to this point and time of where I am in life and in my relationship with God.

I think part of the point of Lent is simply to have a reminder in the middle of our day to stop and think about God. To think about what He is doing in and around us. To turn our thoughts towards him and identify with him in a new way. So, I am grateful for the time in the middle of my want, need and desire to focus soley on him. Usually I turn to my own devices, I’ll give in, I’ll distract, I’ll otherwise medicate. This time I chose to sit in the trivial pain of really wanting a freaking soda.

I know that Easter is much bigger than that. But for me right now this is where Jesus is in my life. He is sitting with me in the desire for something I can’t have.

I recently read Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and he said, in a roundabout way, that the beauty is found through the pain. I’m not there yet. For me the pain is still the pain. The longing is still monumental. I want a lot of things right now that I can’t have. I want answers that aren’t presenting themselves. I want resolution where there may never be any.

But I hold on. Grateful for the friends on the journey. I am more aware of where God is in my life and in my story right now.

And in a couple of weeks I will get to have a diet mt dew. It’s not all bad.

Lent 2010: Ash Wednesday

Today as I was wasting time on facebook, one of my friends had the following prayer posted:

We offer you our failures. We offer you attempts, the gifts not fully given the dreams not fully drempt, Give our stumblings direction, give our visions wider view. From an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

It is from the Book of Common Prayer, used in many liturgical churches. The simplicity of it really touched me. I have been out of the church loop for a while now. Not the best idea but I never found one here in Ohio that felt like home.

But something about this lenten season beckons me home. I am craving a liturgical experience. I want to pray the prayers saints have been using for centuries. I want go through the ritual of this season steeped in tradition that have drawn people to the cross for ages.

So I have found an online lenten devotional that I will be following for the next six weeks. I think as I transition into the next chapter of my life, back in CA, I need to be focused on the one who knows my days from beginning to end. I need to draw on supernatural strength to find my center again.

I want to be quiet. I want to be reflective. I want to hear what God has to say to me. I am also fully aware of my limitations, needs, sins, attitudes, judgments and other things that keep me from fully entering into Him.

The focus of today, this first day of Lent, is on drawing near to God through confession. As we ponder our own inadequacies we can be humbled to enter into His presence once again. I have much to confess. I am broken in new places. I need Him in new ways. Even praying the prayer of confession makes me feel so naked in a way I haven’t allowed myself to be for a while. I’ve felt I had to bundle back up and protect myself, not allowing even God in to see and comfort.

Yet I know he will meet me there in my fear and trembling. But asking him in close is scary and vulnerable. The psalm for this weeks is Psalm 51 – search and know me to create in me a clean heart. The searching and knowing God does is not to bring guilt or shame, but is to let us know that we are not alone and that he loves us enough to press in and clean it out. It’s not about breaking rules its figuring out what hinders the communication between us.

For Lent I have decided to give up soda, something I have been drinking a lot of lately. I am also committed to being in bed by midnight, instead of 4 a.m., so I can be back on a regular schedule. I am also committed to these devotionals everyday.

I’m excited. This has all happened quite by accident but I know it is a divine appointment for me. I don’t know if I’m going to blog the time or not. I wonder if this isn’t a season when I need to go into the closet and do my worshiping in private. I will perhaps post updates or something, no idea.

Another great place for prayers is – Sacred Space.

Lent

I haven’t really decided if I am going to participate in Lent this year or not.

Last year I did and it was an amazing experience. It made me really focus and think about the Easter season more than just on celebration Sunday. It was a rare opportunity to sacrifice something very small (chocolate) in rememberance of what Christ did for me. Every time I craved chocolate it made me stop and think about why I was doing it. As a result I was thinking about God a whole lot more than I usually do, sad to say.

I think a goal of Lent is for us to be more actively aware of God and where he is in our lives. It is a discipline of noticing, stopping to think about Christ and what he means as we go about our normal day. One of my professors said that he had a friend that set an alarm on his watch to beep every hour to remind him to stop and meditate on God for a second or two. He did this for a couple of days I think, minus sleeping hours of course. But he said that he noticed a subtle shift in his orientation and thought process. Think about it, our character is determined by our thoughts. It reflects the core of who we are. What do I usually think about? I don’t think I’d be willing to write out a list of things.

When we get the chance to identify with Christ and participate in something he did, it is an amazing experience, if it’s more than just ritual. Growing up none when I was with my dad’s family we didn’t meat on Friday during lent, but it didn’t mean anything. I didn’t know why. It just meant that we switched to something else. Lent isn’t about self-improvement or self-denial for the sake of it.

Perhaps as humans we are most motivated by the painful, so deprivation is the key to making it meaningful.

In Lent, it’s traditional to give upsomething(s) that we do a lot of and that we find pleasure in. This ‘giving up’ is done :

as a discipline for learning self-control, to free our minds from the chase after material things,

  • as a reminder of Christ’s sufferings and what our true pleasures are as followers of Christ,
  • as an act of sorrow over our sin.Sometimes we don’t notice how certain things we do have gained power over us and dictate our actions. In Lent, we discover these things and give them up so that God can be in charge. Franciscans use the term ‘detachment’ : the less that ‘stuff’ preoccupies your life, the more room there is for God.

Hmmm what is that for me? What would really get my attention – giving up pasta, mexican food, television …

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.

My extended families are Catholic and I often went with my grandmother to mass but I never went forward to have ashes put on my forehead. It didn’t really mean anything to me, just more tradition.

As I get older and search for the meaning behind the tradition it becomes more enriching an experience to participate in. I found the following explanation that sums it up better than I could.

“Putting ashes on our heads as a form of penitence is a practice inherited from Jewish tradition. In Old Testament times, fast days expressed sorrow for sins and the desire to make atonement to the Father. Ashes, for Jews and Christians alike, are a sign of repentance, sorrow, and mourning.

The King of Nineveh believed the prophecy of Jonah and fasted forty days wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes to save the city, and ordered the people to do so, too [Jonah 3:4-10]. Jeremiah calls Israel to “wallow in ashes” of repentance [Jeremiah 6:26]. Abraham speaks of being unworthy to speak with God because he is “but dust and ashes” [Gen 2:7] — being man, he is created from dust. Jesus also refers to this symbol in Matthew 11:21, “Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

I have lots to repent for, be sorry about and mourn. Life is hard. There are so many times when I lack the ability and strength to do what I really want to do. So much to think and pray about.

Here’s a good prayer as we begin this holy season.

Lord,
protect us in our struggle against evil.
As we begin the discipline of Lent,
make this day holy by our self-denial.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. +Amen