09 February, 2016

To Lent or Not to Lent

(Cross posted from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com)
Last week, while in a local coffee shop I ran into an old friend.  After chatting for a few seconds she
said, "I haven't seen your blog recently, are you still writing?"  Ugh, I gulped.  My quick response was, "Well, actually I have not written in a while but plan to start a Lent Blog....(hopeful I sounded all holy and like a real writer with goals and deadlines...).  My friend simply stared at me with confusion on her beautiful face. And added a very intelligent question, "Huh?",  she went on to express, "I don't understand or do Lent but I'd like to try."  Then I begin to try and explain Ash Wednesday and Lent....it didn't go real well. "On Ash Wednesday, you go to church and get ashes on your forehead representing dust to dust."  More staring.  I kept going, "Then, for the next 40 days you give up something you love until Easter....it's called fasting!  This practice is modeled after Jesus' 40 days in the desert.  This commitment shows your dedication to God and your willingness to well, give something up for Him."  She replied, "Um, I love my Diet Coke and can give that up but why does God need my Diet Coke.  I'm so confused", she said shaking her head.

Ugh....why can't I just run into people and have normal conversations?

Let's move on to another Lent conversation...What are you giving up for Lent?  This question will be asked often today and by many, many people.  Another, more private topic is, do you leave the ashes on your forehead or do you discreetly wipe them off when you get in your car?  Does God care?  By wiping the ashes off am I offending God; does this mean I am ashamed of Him or that I just don't want people staring at me in Publix?  I'm feeling so overwhelmed and confused myself.

The rituals of Lent can be rule-driven but I know that was not the intent of the Church when Lent was first established.  So my choice at Lent is to look to Jesus.  Beginning in Matthew 3:16 we read this:

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  4:1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Out of the glory of Jesus' baptism THEN he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  Yes, to be tempted and yes, after fasting He was then approached by the devil to be tempted but those are thoughts for future writings.

Today is about: THEN He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to get ready for the rest of life.  Today, we are being led into this season to get ready for the rest of our lives.  Instead of only giving up a silly soft drink or my beloved chocolate I'm choosing to be led secretly and privately to those places the Spirit wants to take me.  Even as we make decisions on what we'll 'give up' during Lent I'm choosing to GIVE Him more...More of my time and my attention.  I want the Spirit to have a chance to take me into the wilderness and prepare me for my life.  For there has been and will be pain in life, there will be temptation, there will be sadness, there will be joy......but none of it will ever surpass or defeat Him and His Glory.

I'm scared to go into the wilderness with Him as I'm concerned about what He will find in me.  But yet...I'm excited that our time will be in secret, our words will be just between us.  He will lead me and will find me in this wilderness.  He will prepare me.  He will prepare you.  Do we dare give up the trappings and ritual and just follow Him into the wilderness of our heart's desire?

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  Matthew 6:1.3-4

Will you DO Lent?  Let's secretly follow Him into the Lent of wilderness and expand our hearts.

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