March 3, 2014

Giving Up

Is this thing on??

It's hard to believe that the season of Lent is upon us once again. This season has been very special to me for many years now. I always give something up (some years more successfully than others), but it's more than that. More recently it has been a time of prayer, faith, and recommitment to what is really important.

Before I get to the more personal part, let's cover a few basics about Lent:

It's not just for Catholics! Each year on Ash Wednesday when I'm walking around with a big black mark on my forehead, I inevitably hear, "Oh. I didn't know you were Catholic" or something of that sort. While it's true that the Catholic church may have historically put the most emphasis on Lent, it does not mean that they are the only ones who observe it. I am Methodist, but that is less important than the fact that I am a Christian, and this is just one of the ways that I choose to practice and demonstrate my faith.

What is that on you forehead? The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday and many churches hold special services on this day. Usually the ashes come from the burning of the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday (Sunday before Easter). The imposition of ashes is not mandated in the Bible and certainly isn't a requirement, but many (including me) find it a meaningful practice showing reverence, repentance, and commitment.

What is the point of "giving something up"? Lent is symbolic for the 40 days (not including Sundays) that Jesus spent in the desert where he fasted and was tempted by Satan to turn away from God. In the Lenten observance, the point is to make some sort of sacrifice as a show of faith and use the season as a time of preparation for the Holiest Week of the year when we celebrate Christ's glorification. I've seen some of my deeply believing brothers and sisters in Christ question this practice of giving up something for Lent. The fact is, there is no scriptural mandate for it. For me, it is a personal challenge and a way to refocus on what matters the most in my life.

40 days not including Sundays? Why not Sundays? Actually, I really don't know. The literature suggests that Sunday is a feast day or a mini-Easter, so I suppose for those who truly fast during Lent, it's necessary to have a feast day know...stay alive. I once engaged in a heated debate with a friend over the "not including Sundays" bit. She thought I was just making it up, so I could have a cheat day. Even though I wasn't, I've actually tended to include Sundays in my "giving up", because I think I might lose a bit of my resolve to see it all the way through if I didn't.

Personally, I have had quite a year, and I intend to make this Lent season more meaningful than ever. I'm not going to get into specifics about what I'm giving up, because that's really not important. It's not about avoiding coffee, chocolate, fast food, or whatever else. It's really about preparing my heart for a deeper relationship with my Savior. I know that this should be my focus everyday - not just during Lent. That being said, I am going to use this season to quiet my soul and avoid distractions that pull me further away from Him.

Like everyone else, I am carrying my own cross, and I hope that by Easter I can celebrate my own resurrection along with my Savior's. I pray the same thing for you. If you believe in the power of prayer and have room on your prayer list, I would certainly appreciate a place on it. I would be honored to pray for you as well. Feel free to leave a comment or email me directly if there is something specific on your heart. If not, I will simply pray for peace and love to find you in the way that God intended for all of us.



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