Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lent: It is About You, God and Good

Ok.  Here is a quick (or maybe not so quick) synopsis of what is happening, churchly-speaking, this week and of course, my thoughts on it.

Today = Fat Tuesday.  Traditionally means binging and/or gorging on what you will be sacrificing during Lent.

Tomorrow = Ash Wednesday.  First of the 40 days in the church season of Lent.  It's designed to prepare us for Easter.  This is the day to start the purge from Fat Tuesday (and life in general).

One year when I was in high school, I asked my Dad what he was giving up for Lent.  His response was interesting,

If I feel like I need to give something up, I don't wait till Lent to do it.

In my twenties, the period of my life known as "Amy Unchurched," I pretty much followed this philosophy to the letter.  I didn't need church to be spiritual and close to God, I could do it whenever and wherever I wanted.  (Chalk that up to youthful ignorance and arrogance, please).  It went about as well as a lot of my Lenten sacrifices since I've been back with the Lord.  Namely, I do great the 1st week, but by the end of the 2nd week, I am desperately searching for a place to stick my finger into the ever-widening hole of my will-power.

My Dad's comment isn't wrong and he is a man who can live by it.  The strength of his character is incredible.  Indeed, both my parents are titans of will-power.  The fact that I don't have any will-power to speak of is pretty shameful. Still, knowing I have no real ability to stay true on my own is of benefit.  You see, even though the last 5 years of Lenten sacrifices are hit or miss, I've come to realize the Grace of God doesn't quit even when I throw in the towel early. 

It also means that if I'm relying on myself to make it 40 days without "something," I'm going to fail. I will only succeed if I rely on the Lord's strength.

A good example of this was 4 years ago, when I gave up alcohol.  Instead of plugging in Jesus, I plugged in chocolate.  *EPIC FAIL*  So, here I am again, faced with the reality of keeping Lent between me and Christ.  I have got to keep focused on Him, rather than the object of my sacrifice. 

I must give up something up to get more of Him. 

Beyond that, the Lord is birthing a new idea in my heart.  He is showing me I have to look not just at what is bad for me, but instead for what is good for me.  This time, this Lenten season, is just for meDoes that sound weird?

It sounds like I'm saying be selfish, but hear me out.  Lent is a chance to pursue the higher, greater gifts of God.  There is nothing sinful at all about that.  There is nothing wrong with desiring God for yourself.  In fact, He tells, no commands, us to do so.  Over and over in Scripture, God says test Him and see how much He will pour out.  God is a good Person - the BEST.  He is love! 

So, if we ask for things that please Him, He is more than delighted to open the floodgates.

There is Biblical precedent: Solomon.  1 Kings 3, 4, 6, 9 and 2 Chronicles 1 all document the conversations between Solomon and God; how Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God's people, instead of the glories of the flesh (like riches and success.)  God, being so pleased with him, gave him all the other stuff (like riches and success) too.  Let me put it this way: God wants you to be the best YOU He created you to be.  Do that pursing Him. Lent is the church-wide opportunity to get on this.

By the way, Lent also symbolizes Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness.  Self-denial for getting in tight with Jehovah is a very good thing.  Jesus learned in the wilderness He could depend on His Father to provide, enable and empower Him to live a sinless, completely blessed life.  It wasn't easy, friends, but nothing ever worth doing is.  There is infinitely more for us in the wilderness with God then in a land of plenty without Him. 

If you want to make a change for you, Lent notwithstanding, don't be ashamed to admit it.  Don't feel like you aren't serving others because you are focused on you getting better in God.  It might be the best service you can provide to those around you: a spiritually, emotionally and/or physically healthy you. 

Go forth and offer up your sacrifices.  Mine is Facebook.  That's going to be really, really good for me.  And when Mama is happy, everybody is happy.

As you start on this year's Lenten journey, chase hard after Him. It is going to be good for YOU and that's ok!  

YOU + GOD = GOOD (for everyone)

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