I guess I was about eight years old. We were in church (as usual), and people were walking up to the altar rail to “give up whatever God was calling them to relinquish in their lives.” It could be a behavior or food. It must be something that you loved but knew that it wasn’t helpful in your daily living. I’m not sure I grasped the whole concept of the Lenten Season – but at that moment, I knew… I just knew that it was time. *Deep sigh* I reluctantly trudged up to the altar rail, glared at my preacher mother, and gave up sucking my thumb. See, you don’t understand. My thumb – it was everything to me. It was safety and comfort and something to do when I was bored. Come on! Cut me a break! I was only eight years old! But I did it. From that Ash Wednesday worship service on, I have never sucked my thumb again.
Today begins my favorite and most challenging season of the year. Christians across the world will enter the holy season of Lent by celebrating Ash Wednesday. This holy season begins with these sobering words: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. REMEMBER: from dust you came and to dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday is a call to intentionally disrupt business as usual. Ash Wednesday ushers in a season during which we are to take inventory of our relationships with God and with people. We are to STOP, look around at ourselves and our behaviors, evaluate the places in our lives that are not pleasing to God. We are invited to REPENT, change our behavior and RETURN to God.
The Lenten season requires everything. It compels our hearts, minds, and souls to pay attention to how God is speaking, growing and stretching us.
Sometimes I’m not sure that I have everything to give. I’m tired. I’ve given out. And yet, every year, God reveals new ways to grow. The truth of the matter is this: I’m not sure that I’ve had quite a “successful” observance of Lent since I quit sucking my thumb all those years ago. I’ve struggled with giving up and even taking on practices that would help me grow closer to God. And every day, we get an opportunity to try again.
“But there’s also this, it’s not too late—
God’s personal Message!—
“Come back to me and really mean it!
Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!”
Change your life, not just your clothes.
Come back to God, your God.
And here’s why: God is kind and merciful.
[God] takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot,
This most patient God, extravagant in love,
always ready to cancel catastrophe.”
– Joel 2:12-13 (The Message)
So, how will you grow in your faith during this season? How will you grow in your love and faithfulness to God? How will you grow in your love of your neighbor? How will you be transformed? Because at the end of the day, the Lenten season is about transformation. It’s about a heart change that leads to life change.
I hope you’ll join me on the journey this year. If you’re looking for ways to be transformed, here are some ways that I’ve observed Lent over the years:
- The Rethink Church Photo-A-Day Challenge
- This is one of my favorites. It helps me to push beyond the crisis of the day and take a look around at what God is doing. I will blog about my photo each day as a way of reflecting during this season.
- 40 Bags in 40 Days Decluttering Challenge
- You’ll be surprised how cleaning out your closets makes room in your heart
- Take on a Fruit of the Spirit
- Galatians 5:22 (NIV): But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
- Read the Scriptures
- Read through the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
- Read through the Psalms
- biblegateway.com is an easy place to begin
- Subscribe to an online devotional like The Upper Room
- Use an adult coloring book for devotional and meditation time
- Jesus Calling Adult Coloring Book: Creative Coloring and Hand Lettering is one of my favorites
- Fast and Pray
- Fast from something that distracts you like Social Media or electronics
- Fast from food – traditionally, a lot of Christians fast from meat on Fridays
Comment with some other ways that you are observing Lent this year. Please let me know how I can pray for you. Please pray for me as well!