Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On Lenten Disciplines

I remember my first brush with Lenten Disciplines happened at a job I had in my 20s.  Since I grew up Baptist, we didn't really follow the liturgical seasons, so I had no clue about Ash Wednesday Services.  I had joined the United Methodist Church since then, but at this time in my life I really did not do much more than show up occasionally on Sunday mornings.

I worked in a law firm where two of the three partners were Catholic.  They showed up to work one morning with smudges on their foreheads. Part of my job was to make sure that they didn't look too stupid going into court, so I made a comment about the smudge to one who was walking out the door.  He looked back at me with an incredulous look on his face and said, "it's ashes" like I was supposed to understand what that meant.  I'm sure I had a blank look on my face, and the other attorney walked by and said, "heathen protestants."

Of course, since then I have discovered the significance of Ash Wednesday.  I get asked each year questions like, "what should I give up for Lent" or "why do we give up something for Lent."  And I give answers like, "you should give up something that you place as a priority over God." (People hate that answer, they want to hear something like, "you should give up spinach.")  I explain that we give things up to understand sacrifice and to surrender our will to God.

Yet, when I talk to my confirmation class about Lent, I tell them to think of what comes between them and God.  They would rather give up cola or chocolate than to even think about what they may need to really give up to get closer to God.  And typically within a day or two, they are eating chocolate and drinking cola.  While we may not necessarily expect our youth to fully understand these concepts, I have found that the youth I work with are simply an example of their parents life.  The adults are often no better at making God top priority than their teens. 
I have found that for me, it isn't so much what I give up, but what I add, so I suppose it is actually about giving up time.  My typical excuse is "I don't have enough time."  If I feel God wanting me to do something, it is really convenient to not have enough time, if I don't want to.  I am also an expert at 'being busy.'  I am always doing 'something' and it is always important, but it isn't always what I should be doing.  I am giving my time to God for Lent.

Lent is a great time to remind us that without God we are nothing.   Everything we have from our resources to our time to our family, etc., belongs to God.  We never know how much time we have left, so do we give it to God, or do we try to orchestrate it ourselves? In John 10:10 Jesus tells us, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."  Are we living the abundant life God wants for us, or are we accomplices in the theft of our own lives.  

What are you doing for Lent?  Not necessarily giving up something for Lent, but what are you doing to grow closer to God?  Are you placing God as top priority?  Or are you holding on to things and not giving God control?  Would you rather give up superficial things, or deepen your faith?

I'm participating on Spiritual Sundays this week 


Anonymous said...

Unable to give you a heart. so have a reply to push up your post. ........................................

Whidbey Woman said...

I love Lent. It is a time of repentance and reflection, a time of discipline. I grew up in the Episcopal church and now practice as an ELCA Lutheran. So, it has always been a part of my life. When I was a child, I looked at "giving up" something for lent, as an offering to God. Now I understand that what is important is what we give God. He so wants us to draw closer to Him. God bless.

sarah said...

as a Jew I don't observe Lent but in a way I maybe I do...I daily pray to be whatever He take those things from my life...and remove them so I can shine Him through me. Have a great weekened.

Cathy said...

Thanks for this post. I am thinking of Jesus and all He did for us. And I'm looking forward to God's wonderful season of spring and Easter. Thanks for your visit today. Blessings ~

Charlotte said...

A littler curious about the first comment.
I was also raised in a non liturgical church but have known about the Ash Wednesday ashes for many years. I don't really remember when I first heard of it. Since I've never been in a church that celebrates lent except maybe just to mention it, I've never given much thought to giving up something for those few days. I think it's not a bad idea, but we should always strive to not put anything above God.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

Rhodema @ MommyLife said...

I think I also told someone that they had a dirty forehead the first time I saw the ashes.

I love seasons of preparation for Easter and Christmas. God calls us to remember many times in the Old and New Testament. As frail humans we forget him often.

As Sarah said, daily surrendering and putting Him first is the real point. Thank you for sharing and reminding me to put Him first.

Denise said...

Bless you for this post.

Renee said...

I always say there can be no Easter without Good Good Friday without Lent and none of it without our Lord Jesus.
Lent is a good time to reflect on the sacrifices of our Lord Jesus and the ultimate sacrifice.

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

Awesome! Time would be something that I would need to give to the Lord.
God Bless,

Clif said...

Wow! You really made this clear. This is an excellent post. As for Lent, I agree with what my wife, Charlotte said so I won't repeat it. But if I did practice this I would want to do it the way you are talking about. This is good!!

daylily777 said...

Thanks for sharing . Praise Jesus for what he has done for us !

Rev. Sonja said...

Thank you all for your comments! I appreciate the encouragement and I hope you continue to follow my blog.

Charlotte, I grew up in a non-liturgical church in a non-liturgical area, so I guess I was liturgically sheltered. Ha! Sorry it is early. I agree we should always strive not to put anything before God. I love living with the Christian seasons because I think they remind us to do these things.

Blessings to all of you.