For many people I know, Lent is not on their high priority of observances during their year.  Either Christians who don’t see the need or benefit, or non-christians who don’t understand the process look upon Lent as a time of year that is muddled in its messages.   Mardi Gras for Fat Tuesday now is weeks of celebrations.  It’s a symbol of debauchery and hedonism.  I took part in several of them over my 4 decades of living.  Luckily most I took part in, I was already a  recovering alcoholic, so I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to wake up, with whom, and whether I would be in serious trouble for what I had done.  Lent is also a symbol of suffering, sacrifice, and focus upon God.  It’s a giving up of things or behaviours that we should usually give up anyway in pursuit of a sense of holiness.

My path of Lent comes from my understanding of why Jesus was tempted for 40 days.  He was tempted to bring everything into perspective for His time left on this earth.  It is not easy to fathom the idea of God being tempted, but I understand temptation.  I live with it in many forms every second, every day.   The idea of bringing purpose into focus is very ripe with meaning for me recently.  Whether it’s a biological clock ticking or the joy of being in a place where I can finally move forward there seems to be an imperative inside of me to take the next step forward.  Hopefully this Lenten observance will help bring things into focus.

I often identify with Jesus’ suffering, especially during the Easter/Passover time of the year.  I almost never identify with the joy of His rising from the tomb.  Something within my heart doesn’t connect in a truly emotional way with that.  Whereas most people can tap into that.  Perhaps, it’s time to allow God’s hands to soothe my heart and grant me something new… grow something new within me.

My best friend taught me an understanding of Lent when I was a teenager.  Part of the observance is to give up one or two things than have meaning to you.  They could be good or bad, but giving up bad ones have a motivation to them.  But sacrifice of something enjoyable or something positive is also a sense of what Christ went through during those 40 days.  She taught me that when you give up something, you should add something to your life.  Give up television, add scripture study.  Give up video games, add a specific prayer schedule of intercession.  So, one thing I was challenged to do was to take the 40 days and read the entire bible from cover to cover.  When you’re a full-time student with homework, extra-curricular activities, etc. finding time to do that is a significant task.  You almost have to give up things you weren’t preparing to, to accomplish that feat if you are really expecting to read it and not skim through.

Discussing giving up things around Lent is easy.  If people observe it, that is a great way to share and bond.  If not, it’s an interesting way to bring up the subject.  My questions usually have the slant leaning toward asking what people are going to add.  Adding things in our already busy lives is hard.  When you add something, you almost certainly have to get rid of something else.  We all have been in places where giving up something is an obvious important task, but we desperately hold on to our comforts, hold on to our status, hold on to our stuff… instead of learning to hold onto Jesus.  Jesus during this time that we use Lent to observe, I believe came to terms with the concept of reliance upon the self and reliance upon He that sent Him.

So for me, I have a special Lenten diet this year.  It’s based upon something I was already doing, but an article last year crystallised it for me.  Here at this link you can learn more about the idea.  This year with the disaster in Haiti, it’s especially poignant and real in our minds and hearts.  I am even taking the money I would normally spend on the extravagances of an American diet, and donating it to the cause to help in Haiti.

Instead of adding reading the bible all the way through this year, I’m adding a discipline of prayer which builds upon my experience last year serving at Urbana.  I am also taking time away from fun reading and adding the discipline of writing, specifically, creative writing, this blog, and journaling.  Actual prayer one hour a day and writing one hour a day seem like mountains to climb in many ways.  I pray I am up to the task.  I pray I am found faithful and worthy.

The hardest issue this year will be the issue of voice and voices.  God’s voice and the many voices which seem to either drown His out or make it very hard to distinguish.  My voice (ie that part of God that He breathed into me) and the many voices that I seem to want to emulate.  That probably means that certain people’s voices I will have to avoid (including my own) to hear God’s voice more clearly, and certain people’s voices I might have to allow more access into my life.  It’s all about choices.  My choice this Lenten season…

I’ve got my rice.  I’ve got my journal.  I’ve even got a plan.  Now it’s time to let God whisper into my life and

move forward.

Blessings be with you during this season of sacrifice.  May you come into a deeper relationship of faith and understanding with our Lord Christ.