Participating in Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday… the day that many observe the Lent season. The following I mostly posted back in 2014 Observing Lent along with some updated thoughts relevant to this year.

I was not raised in a family that participated in Lent. I always thought that Lent was a Catholic ritual. In high school I asked several friends why they came to school with ash on their foreheads and they could never give me a good reason for why they “observe” Lent. They seemed to be doing it because they were told to do it or because that is what they have always done. I never actually participated in an Ash Wednesday service until 2010 when we were living in Japan. When the pastor of our church did the service, I found that I really liked the concept behind Lent.

Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:

“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21).”

I have found online that there is great controversy between Christians who think it is okay or not okay to observe Lent. It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation and it will not win God’s blessing or make us more holy. It is not commanded in scripture to celebrate Christmas or Easter but we do so because it brings us joy to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. In the same way, Lent can be a focused time of reflection. While participating in Lent or other traditions, some people may have wrong motives or they will be doing it because that is what they have always done. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God and/or to add something to my life that I should have been doing already.

I think that this graphic gives a good representation of how I choose to observe Lent (I can no longer find the original link I had to the graphic):

Lent-R1

This, of course, is something we should keep in mind all year and not just in the weeks leading up to Easter. I think that observing Lent is a humbling way to focus our thoughts and actions. We also need to keep in mind that while doing any type of fasting/abstaining/self-denial that it should be personal between you and God. While there is nothing wrong with telling others that you are observing Lent, it should not be used as a way to bring attention and glory to ourselves. Instead, we should be humble and desire to bring glory to the Father.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV

Some years, I do not feel lead to participate in Lent and do not give it a second thought once I decide not to participate. Other years, like this year, I have a strong desire to participate which leads to prayer as to what I should eliminate from and/or add to my daily life.

This year, after much prayer, I presented the idea of participating in Lent to my girls ages 10 & 8. I explained the basics of Lent to them and when I told them what I was giving up they were in shock. I told them that they did not have to give up the same thing that I was but that they should choose something that would be difficult for them so that they can use the time they desire to pray. Even more important than giving something up, I plan to use this season to do a family devotional with the girls.

Lately, the girls and I have been having daily struggles of frustration of completing chores, attitudes (mine included), getting out the door on time for school or church, as well as other things. My oldest and I battle it out with yelling matches that unfortunately remind me of how much anger is a stronghold in my life. With my husband overseas and a newborn in the home, I need to find a way to bring peace between me and the girls. So, along with implementing consistent chore charts and behavior plans, we will be doing a daily devotional during Lent.

The church that we attend does not do an Ash Wednesday service, so we will not have ashes on our foreheads today. However, my girls and I will still begin our reflection journey together. I am praying for peace, reconciliation, obedience, and respect to be present in our home. I have a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them, so if you think of me or this article sometime over the next couple of months, please consider taking the time to say a prayer for us!

Observing Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday… the day that many observe the Lent season. I was not raised in a family that participated in Lent. I always thought that Lent was a Catholic ritual. In high school I asked several friends why they came to school with ash on their foreheads and they could never give me a good reason for why they “observe” Lent. They seemed to be doing it because they were told to do it or because that is what they have always done. I never actually participated in an Ash Wednesday service until 2010 when we were living in Japan. When the pastor of our church did the service, I found that I really liked the concept behind Lent.

 Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:

“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21).”

I have found online that there is great controversy between Christians who think it is okay or not okay to observe Lent. It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation and it will not win God’s blessing or make us more holy. It is not required for salvation and it is not commanded in scripture to celebrate Christmas or Easter but we do so because it brings us joy to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. While participating in Lent or other traditions, some people may have wrong motives or they will be doing it because that is what they have always done. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God or to add something to my life that should have been doing already.

A friend linked to this graphic yesterday and I think that it gives a good representation of how I choose to observe Lent:

Lent-R1

This, of course, is something we should keep in mind all year and not just in the weeks leading up to Easter. I think that observing Lent is a humbling way to focus our thoughts and actions. We also need to keep in mind that while doing any type of fasting/abstaining/self-denial that it should be personal between you and God. While there is nothing wrong with telling others that you are observing Lent, it should not be used as a way to bring attention and glory to ourselves. Instead, we should be humble and desire to bring glory to the Father.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 NIV

This year, I prayed about what God would have me do (or not do) during the Lent season. The church that I attend does not do an Ash Wednesday service, so I will not have ashes on my forehead today. I found my Ashes to Fire Lent devotional book that I received from my church in 2011 and I plan read through the daily reflections. I also am starting:

668524: The Love Dare for Parents The Love Dare for Parents

By Stephen Kendrick & Alex Kendrick / B&H Books

…a 40-day challenge to daily demonstrate love to my children. My prayer is that during this time I will purposely be focused on Christ and with His help also purposely make time to show my love to my girls. My daily prayer is for the Lord to give me patience and wisdom and help me to be slow to anger.

Do you observe Lent? Why or Why Not?

 

lgsquare

Do You Observe Lent? Why or Why Not?

I am fairly new to the whole Lent concept. I was introduced to it a year or so ago. Got Questions?org gives this definition of Lent:

“Lent is a period of fasting and repentance traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3Jeremiah 6:26Daniel 9:3Matthew 11:21).”

It is important to note that Lent or any other Christian tradition or act of faith is NOT required in order to receive God’s gift of salvation. For some people, the motives may be wrong or they will be doing it because they were told to. For me, it is a time of reflection and a time to remove something from my life that is hindering a closer relationship with God.

Two years ago, I gave up Starbucks coffee. That was my addiction and I was spending a lot of money which should have been going other places. Last year, I gave up Facebook gaming. At the time, we lived in Okinawa, Japan and Facebook was pretty much our only communication to anyone in the states so I did not give up social networking all together. But gaming was taking up a lot more of my time than what I was spending with God.

I am still praying about what to fast from this year.

This year my church is doing the Ashes to Fire study. I’m excited to do an actual study to go along with fasting. It will be interesting to see how God moves in our church over the next several weeks!

 

Do You Observe Lent?

Why or Why Not?

What A Difference A Wiper Makes!

On the way home from church; I was pondering today’s sermon and deciding what to write for today’s post. The past few weeks our pastor has been preaching a series “A Disciple’s Journey.” His purpose has been to guide us during this season of Lent in anticipation of Easter. Today he spoke about Jesus’ prayers in the garden just before he was betrayed. The message for us was: “Through prayer Jesus learned to completely trust the Father’s direction.” He mentioned that Jesus gave us an example of how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13:

“… Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,

your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

As I was driving and reflecting; it started raining. I turned my wipers on and immediately thought, “What a difference!” Right now you are probably wondering two things: 1. “What does this have to do with the above paragraph and scripture?” and 2. “How could someone be so excited about windshield wipers?”

Let me give you the answer to #2 first… Last week my husband left for a military assignment away from home. The day before he left; we spent time together as a family. We went out to lunch, went to the beach to search for sea glass, played on a playground, and ran errands. The errands included replacing the windshield wipers. Over a year ago we bought my previously used car. I have no idea how long it has been since the wipers were changed; if ever. In Okinawa, there is an average of 87.5 inches of rainfall per year. (See here for graphs and more Okinawa climate averages.) Generally, when it rains here; it pours. My old wipers did very little to clear the rain off of the windshield. They were very helpful for smearing the rain into large streaks that often made it even more difficult to see. It was worse at night since the streaks actually reflected oncoming headlights making it difficult to see the lines on the road. So hopefully now you will understand why I am so overjoyed by my new wipers.

Now to answer #1… I was considering the perfection of the way the wipers worked and comparing it to my life. Huh? In order for you to understand; I need to give you a peek into my personality. Recently, I completed an extensive personality profile test and received a 9 page report describing me almost perfectly. According to that report; my best and worst traits include the following:

Best–Ethical, Reliable, Productive, Wise, Idealistic, Fair, Honest, Orderly, and Self-Disciplined

Worst–Judgmental, Inflexible, Obsessive-Compulsive, Controlling, Anxious, Overly Serious, and Jealous

Basically, I am a perfectionist. I alphabetize, organize, and color code almost everything in my life and try to do the same for others who are not a perfectionist like me. Relating that to my spiritual life; I really do try to live according to the Bible. But, I usually end up feeling like a complete failure for not living up to Christ’s standards. This makes me try even harder only to fail even more. In today’s sermon; I was reminded that there are not perfect answers for every personal problem or situation. What we do have is a guideline (in the form of the Bible) that God gave us so that we can know Him on an intimate level. The more we study God’s Word; the more He will reveal to us. We can have a personal relationship with Him! And we can talk to him knowing that He does not expect us to be perfect. He just wants us to run the race towards the finish line!

(Below is a link to a great video that our pastor showed in church today.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isIdIKWt_FI