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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lent - 2007, part one

I've never been one to follow through, really, with "resolutions". The New Year's kind, specifically.

That said, I've found that Lenten "resolutions" are important for me. And they have, in past years, been mostly successful. Not just from a "I did it" standpoint, but from the actual tiny-bits of me that have been transformed, through the Grace of God, into something a little better.

And that is what Lent is: our offering of ourselves to be transformed by God, acknowledging our own weakness, and clinging to the hope of the Cross of Good Friday and the Rising on Easter.

And so, to demonstrate our offering of ourselves to be more than just lip-service, we do "things", which is what we humans do to demonstrate our belief. We back up our belief with action, and with action that demonstrates a genuine reliance on that belief.

"Give it up for Lent!" was a phrase one of my professors at Ball State would use any time she was trying to point out a flaw in our teaching strategies. "You think that telling a kid to try harder is an effective strategy? If the kid is trying as hard as he knows how, then how can he try 'harder'? If you ever say those words, give it up for Lent."

I've come to a slightly different understanding of it, thankfully, though I do appreciate the sentiment.

Giving up something...a bad habit or a sinful tendency (or whatever thing or things you can identify as causing you to find yourself in a situation to sin or tempt you to sin)...highly recommended. If you can put it off for 40 days, you can put it off for 50. Then maybe more. Identifying the areas in our lives where we fail ourselves, our families, our friends, our church, our Lord...and - through prayer and with Grace - making an effort to minimize and eradicate those things from our lives, even if only for a few weeks, can make a difference. It is the action of the belief: I want to remove this from my life, and I'm not just SAYING it; I'm DOING something about it.

Giving up something that is good - and that you enjoy - as an act of fasting...highly recommended. You hear of people giving up sweets or coffee or whatever, and often times with an incomplete understanding of the "why" behind it. (The same is true for the meatless Fridays and the fasting from food on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.) Giving up something that is enjoyed is an act of Stewardship; it is the ultimate "thank you" to God for the things He has given us. How so? Because the very act of denying ourselves of something we enjoy can be both an act of recognition of the One who Gives, and an act of acknowledging the priority of the One who Gives over and above the gift itself. Again, it is easy enough to say that I value God more than I value the material things I've been blessed with, but the act of abstinence from something that is a greatly enjoyed gift is an action to back up those words.

Finally, taking on some new aspect of praising and worshipping God...highly recommended. Identifying a spiritual weakness and making a concentrated effort to address the weakness is as essential (or maybe more so) than "giving up" something. Making a spiritual preparation for Easter makes Easter so much more powerful and reinvigorating.

And so, I start with my own Lenten journey. I have made several personal committments to attempt to shrug off some of the things in life that pull me away from Christ. And I've made some decisions on ways to "give up" some things that I say are less important than God, but maybe - just maybe - need a correction in priority. And - and this effects you, my gentle readers - I have made a committment or two that will effect this blog space.

I have recognized my own failure to write as much as I want, and since I have identified this as one of the spiritual gifts given to me by God, that neglect of writing is a sin. And so I am planning to make this blog space a bit more active over the next few weeks; a place of reflection and meditation and sharing.

It is my intent to write every few days, and specifically to reflect on the Stations of the Cross and the preparation for Easter. I've asked a few friends to spend this time contemplating the Stations with me; a few music-type friends who have shown an interest in finding some new expressions of the journey Christ made on Good Friday, from the garden to the tomb. I can't be sure anything musically will come from this, but there is a hope to have something to present to others by this time next year...music, words, reflections...maybe even some photos or art work.


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