Posts Tagged ‘Easter

03
Mar
14

why Lent?

Growing up in a Baptist church, I don’t even think Lent was on the radar, at least not on my radar. Christmas and Easter were what we celebrated or at least what I remember anyway. We’d come to church on Easter wearing pastels and singing songs about Jesus being risen from the dead. But Lent? I didn’t even know what Lent meant.

I only started hearing about Lent a dozen or so years ago. We attended a church where people talked about what they were giving up for Lent. At first, I didn’t know what in the world they were talking about. After I learned a little more, Lent became a fun and interesting topic for discussion about what to give up. There was the usual giving up of broccoli or Brussel sprouts or something that you didn’t like or wouldn’t eat anyway. But some more serious Lent challenges, for some of us, were to give up chocolate or sugar or coffee. One year, I made my kids give up something. I used Lent as a bad parenting technique; it didn’t work out.  (Lent in My Belly Button)

I think rituals are important, but for a long time, I failed to realize what the real purpose of Lent was. It became about some kind of willpower, rather than any kind of Jesus significance.

But why give up anything for Lent? What actually is the significance? Why deprive myself for one minute when I don’t really have to? For me, it has become about the waiting, the anticipation of Jesus. I’ve noticed when I have fasted in the past, it’s at that moment when I don’t think I can stand it for one minute longer that that’s the moment when Jesus steps in, and He becomes my strength. All my self-reliance and thinking I have it figured out go out the window. And I lean in hard because I feel like my stomach will eat itself, and it’s at this point that I realize I have nothing in myself. I am physically and spiritually weak, and I really need Jesus. So that’s why I participate in Lent. It makes me realize my utter frailty, my utter lack of patience and self-control, and it makes me realize my need, my absolute dependence on God for food, for life, for everything.

About mid-February I start to think about Lent; I start thinking about what my give-up will be, not just to do something because that’s what you do. But how will I fast in anticipation of Jesus? What will help me see Him clearly and reveal my need for Him the most?

Last year, I cannot even remember what I gave up or even if I did in fact give up anything, but a friend challenged Jeff and me  to read the entire Bible during Lent. So that’s what I did. At first it was a challenge, but then it became something much, much more than that. Not to be overly dramatic, but it was life-changing for me. I felt like I ate His Word, and it became life and breath.  I absolutely could not wait to dig in and read each day, and I would go to bed in anticipation of what I would read and “see” the next day. I couldn’t wait to see how the Holy Spirit revealed Himself and how often He surprised me with His truth and love and hope in crazy kind of places (like Leviticus, and I kind of fell in love with Isaiah).

When I read in Psalm 19 how God’s Word renews our lives, makes the inexperienced wise, makes our hearts glad, makes our eyes light up, is more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey, I can say a resounding, “Yes, Yes, YES!” When I read the Bible like I would any other novel, I feel like I absorb it into the interior parts of my soul, my head, my heart. I feel it in my bones, and  it becomes a part of me.

I read somewhere (the internet) that Lent is 40 days long and used for prayer and fasting in the time before Easter, but the period between Ash Wednesday, which happens to be on Jeff’s birthday this year (March 5), and Easter (April 20) is 46 days long. So I’m excited to once again have the opportunity to read the Bible from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  This sounds daunting and overwhelming, and it is at times. But I believe the Holy Spirit teaches us all things, and I’m excited to not just know more but see Him and hear from Him in ways that I haven’t yet heard. So I’m almost a little giddy and ready to start today, but I wait. The waiting, the anticipation is good.

I’m not necessarily giving up anything for Lent, except maybe reading other books and giving up watching more DVDs than I really need to. But no matter what I do or don’t do for Lent or any other time, the focus must be Christ. (Heb. 12)

Because of the year that I tried to make my kids give up stuff, I decided that every one should choose their own Lent give-up. It just really works better that way. The stirrings of my heart or whatever you want to call them don’t seem to apply to others the same way they do to me, and I’ve come to realize that the Holy Spirit’s not usually talking to other people in the same way that He’s talking to me. And so I don’t get caught up with pushing my own stuff on people. Not anymore. I trust God to lead me, as well as the people around me, in the places that He wants each of us to go. And that makes it so much more exciting to hear all the different ways that God wakes each one of us up to Him. 🙂

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21
Mar
12

Lent In My Belly Button

Recently, Jeff and I decided that our kids would give up all games, computer and video for Lent. We decided this for our kids, spouting the usual spiritual application that giving up stuff for Lent is good because we’re looking forward to Easter with Christ’s death and resurrection, and it helps us remember to anticipate this when we give up something really hard.

But, really, I think we were trying to stop the craziness of gaming that had kind of taken over, and this was just a good excuse to do it without having to pull the “I’m the parent, get off the computer” card. Plus, it also made it “spiritual.”

Since Jeff and I don’t have a problem with computer games, we had to come up with stuff to deny ourselves as well. Jeff gave up looking at trivia on his phone and the computer.  He is a trivia fanatic, constantly in search of information and news flashes. He loves the Drudge Report and knows crazy minutia. So this was hard for him.

Personally, I would rather bury my head in the sand than put anything else in my brain. It rattles around enough without throwing completely worthless stuff in there, to boot. So, my Lent give-up was the weather channel. And I’m not talking about the cool weather channel on cable. I’m talking about the ghetto weather channel that you get when you don’t have cable. Regardless, I turn it on all the time to check to see what I should wear and when I can hang laundry outside and just out of curiosity because I have to know, and I can’t just stick my head out the door.

The Lent “rules” say that you can take Sundays off (or so I’m told; I’m sure this was some bit of information that Jeff told me).  So my kids, well, they go a little nuts with the games that day. And Jeff, I’m sure he’s cramming all the information in that he missed over the past week. I, too, take full advantage and try to memorize the temperatures for the upcoming week. But it doesn’t seem to stick, so Julia wrote down the weather for me for last week, including the temperature for each day, complete with drawings of rain clouds and suns. Somehow, I think we’ve all missed the point.

A couple weeks ago, Julia and I went on a girls’ trip, just her and me, for one night at a state park complete with chilly indoor pool. We had so much fun. But I needed to know if I was going to have to drive home in the rain, so I wanted to check the weather. But, it wasn’t Sunday. I told her I was just going to check the weather real quick when Julia said, “I won’t tell anyone.” But then added, “But God will know.”

Geez. I don’t think it was supposed to be like that. Some where along the way, it took on a pharasaical bent. If keeping Lent just means not breaking another rule, then really what’s the point?

So, we’ve kind of let it go. It seemed to have taken on a life of its own and in the process lost its real significance.

Yep, next year they can choose to do their own Lent or not do it. Lesson learned.

23
Apr
11

anything but good?

I cannot imagine what the Jesus followers felt at this point all those years ago…devastated, hopeless, filled with fear.

Their Teacher, the Savior of the world died and left them alone. He promised them life, and He Himself died, and not just died a normal death but a death that only criminals died, a heinous excruciating death.

This man forgave sins and raised people from the dead and opened blind eyes and fed thousands of people, but He couldn’t save Himself from death. How could they trust what He said?

They wasted three years of their lives following this man all over the countryside, listening to a bunch of crazy things He said.  And for what?  This? He was supposed to be mighty and powerful, and the night before His death, He washed their feet and told them to serve others. It didn’t make any sense.

He abandoned them. And what were they supposed to do? Wait to be arrested and killed because of Him?

This man, who called Himself the Son of God gave glimpses of hope to many, only to have that same hope dashed by His untimely death.

To his disciples, Good Friday was anything but good.

But to us, who now celebrate Jesus’ resurrection in Easter, we know Jesus’ brutal death was necessary to take away sin and death…it was necessary for freedom. And Jesus told His disciples these things, but they weren’t yet given the insight in order to be able to see it.

But don’t we act like those same disciples?

Jesus says over and over do not be afraid, and yet we cling to our fear. He says, don’t worry about the things that might happen to us or our kids or our parents or our money or our stuff, and all we are is a big bucket of worry.  We too, fail to see the bigger picture of what the Kingdom is all about.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  Matthew 6

For me, Good Friday is a reminder of not only the suffering that took place for me…for all, but a reminder to trust in an Abba who is working out all things for the greater good that I often miss.  Just like the disciples, many times I don’t get what’s going on…not really. But I don’t have to.

Perplexed, but not in despair…not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace…The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 2 Cor. 4

I want to be like those birds that Jesus talks about in Matthew 6, the ones that don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, not worried about the future…free and unfettered…careless in the care of God.




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