Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lent 2015

Any calendar would work. But this is the one we
use each year during Lent.
There are two general approaches to Lent from people who earnestly want to celebrate the season well: To give up very little in order to focus more intently on prayer and avoid overwhelmingly strong temptations to sin because of trying to do it all, and To give up a great deal in order to rely more completely on God and discover a level of sweetness in the Easter celebration which is only found following a period of intense fasting. I have certainly done the former and made vague swipes at the latter (too weak to carry it through) and I have also done the bare minimum, hardly taking notice of Lent at all. This year as I see the various "how to celebrate Lent" articles, I feel the guilt of imagining that I should give up thisthatandtheother but having absolutely no desire to do so. I know that the feast is sweeter following a true fast, but I wonder how sweet my attitude would be midway through a difficult day without the items that I would have given up or with the knowledge that I ought to complete whatever extra devotion I've committed to before I relax that day.
Lent is really an opportunity to examine our lives, to pray and consider what invitations the Lord has offered to us which we have not been accepting. Has He been asking you to depend upon Him rather than chocolate? Give up the chocolate cold turkey for 40 days. Has He been inviting you to spend time with Him every day? Make a commitment to do exactly that for __ minutes every day. Has He been encouraging you to speak more lovingly? Lent is a great time to choose to speak 3 words of affirmation for every 1 critical word. There are innumerable suggestions online for ways we can use the season to become more faithful servants of the Most High according to whatever our particular spiritual needs are. It only becomes counterproductive when we choose the means of celebration based on someone else's spiritual needs or we know and commit to a particular path but give up when that path becomes difficult rather than turning to the Lord for the strength to carry on.
Our Lenten felt calendar is up and paper hearts are cut out. Each of the 40 days we will each write down something we plan to do that day to love Jesus. For my toddler this will be her first introduction to the idea of celebrating Lent, as she scribbles on her heart each day and tucks the paper in that day's pocket. The heart itself will be her "sacrifice", her gift to Jesus. Her 8yr old and 6yr old sisters will probably repeat a lot of the same sacrifices, but won't be bound to a full 40 day commitment. I find that the visual calendar decorating our family room, the accountability from my family expecting me to tuck a heart in each pocket, and the actual routine reminding me to consider each and every day how I can demonstrate my love for the Lord are incredibly helpful in setting apart the season as a time to grow closer to the Lord.
So easy to love and so difficult to love
at the same time.
My actual sacrifices this year won't be spectacular. I won't be giving up everything imaginable. I won't be adding in a new level of intensity in my daily devotions. In fact, it will mean less Bible study than I planned on at the beginning of the year, since I found it too complicated trying to figure out which readings I was supposed to do each day (not always using the same Bible) and changed my daily readings to just the next chapter of the Bible. Mostly, I'll be staying the course, working on the same things spiritually and personally that I was working on last week. There won't be any big changes in my day that outsiders could point to and identify as Lent. I might throw in a few activities with my kids and I will keep the Catholic rules of abstinence and fasting, but nothing drastic. (Well, the temptation cookies might be considered drastic...) But as I've been examining my life, praying and considering what the Lord asks of me, mostly He has been answering "Take just one step." Not, "Add a great deal of stress to your life". Not, "Give it all up". Rather, His answer is more along the lives of staying the course, moving forward, doing the best I can today in loving Him and loving my family. Like my Bible readings, I am just trying to read the next chapter after the one I read yesterday, or adding a little more love into my children's banks to what I contributed there yesterday.

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