Giving Up... A Series for Lent

I have often given up something for Lent. Usually sweets.  

For me, often hidden behind the deep spiritual meaning of fasting was the desire to Just. Loose. Some. Weight. Please.


For many of us, that’s the case when it comes to this season of fasting and giving up. We want to do something that helps us sacrifice and center. And that desire comes from a good place of wanting to connect with Jesus more deeply. But mixed in with that healthy desire is all the rest of our baggage and ill-conceived desires that get in the way.


At least that’s what happens to me.


And so, I was thinking… what if for Lent, I tried to give up those things? What if I worked on giving up those under-the-surface desires and fears and burdens that are really behind me not committing more wholly to Jesus?


Giving up on caring how much I am liked, or giving up on holding it all together (or at least looking like I am), or giving up on being comfortable.


Is it possible to do something to give up those things for Lent?


These things are deep-seated fears and desires that can’t be unwedged from my hidden corners with any one simple action. Would it really help to try?


A simple action may not solve anything. But maybe writing could be a start.


And so, I’d like to introduce my new series, “Giving Up… A Series for Lent.”


This will not be much like the other Lenten series I have done. In keeping with my desire to learn to BE in 2014, this series is going to be a little more raw. A public confession of sorts. Maybe even with the accountability of an action to go along with it. And perhaps even with the vulnerability to receive suggestions in the comments.


Once a week, starting after Ash Wednesday, I will swallow hard and admit something I need to give up. Not in order to understand more about the unimaginable sacrifice of Jesus (because really, can we do that anyway?), but to understand more of His unconditional love.


Would you join with me on this (frightening) journey?


(P.S. Anyone interested in making this a link-up? I would love to hear what you want to give up too!)

Lent Series Button

On Lent, Vacation, and Humility

  airplane wingLent arrived the day I left on vacation.


I boarded a plane headed south to warmer temperatures, and noticed a stewardess with ashes still on her forehead from an earlier service. As she wore her dark forehead, we displayed the light-hearted smiles of a family taking a trip.


It was an unavoidable collision of dates, really. Ash Wednesday hit right before days off from school for teacher conferences and President’s Day. Like most parents of school-age children, we wanted to travel during a time when minimal classes would be missed.


But the result of this collision was a frustrating contrast for this contemplative faith blogger. While others were thinking about what Christ gave up, and what they would forgo in remembrance, I was pondering what my family would consume and do as we enjoyed our extended time together.


This contrast brought a word to my mind. A word that might not be the first to pop into your head, but that burst forth in mine with a new understanding.



Jesus Said Lent Series Button

As I have done with other periods of the church calendar, I will do a series on this blog to honor this Lenten season. Once a week, I will post about various teachings of Christ with the series, “Jesus Said… A Series for Lent.”


So, here is something Jesus said about humility:


Anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. – Matthew 18:4


There is one particular way I see my children living out humility: they experience life as it is, in real time. They know they are not in control of all that happens to them. And though this can lead to fist-pounding hair-pulling temper tantrums, it can also lead to a deeper experience of their days. Not their days as they should be, but their days as they are.


Children stop to cry when they skin their knees and they pause to wonder when they see the petals of a flower. They are loud and quiet, somber and joyful as they respond to what is happening around them. They experiment and learn and fail and grow.


Children feel their way through each day. Because that is all they can do. They can neither control their emotions nor determine their calendar. Children are forced into the humility of experiencing life as it comes to them.


As adults, we get so consumed with our expectations of what should be, or goals of what could be, or nostalgia about what was, that we don’t respond to what is. We worry and regret and strive and control and work until we have exhausted ourselves in pursuit of something we do not have.


Jesus wants to release us from all that.


Jesus told his disciples to have the humility of a child when they asked who would be greatest in his kingdom. This response is freedom. In God’s kingdom, you don’t have to struggle to achieve something or strive to control an outcome. You can receive Jesus’ grace, bask in Jesus’ love, and experience life as it comes to you each day. That is a gift that requires humility and trust to open.


And so, as I think about my last week, how I began the season of somber reflection by flying off on holiday, I trust that it is okay. I could not control my circumstances to what they should have been. I could only experience them for what they were. They were wonderful, and I don’t have to apologize for that.


My faith is not about performance, or living up to some external expectation of how I should feel or what I should do. My faith is about my love for and trust in a Savior who gives me grace for each day.


Perhaps vacation was an appropriate beginning to the Lenten season after all.

I failed, but maybe this is grace?

I gave up sweets this year for Lent. I am overly dependent on sugary indulgences. When I have a meal, dessert makes it feel complete. When I feel grouchy, chocolate makes me feel better. When my kids take a nap, a treat makes me smile into my aloneness.

I look to sweets for my happiness. Often.

Sweets aren’t bad in and of themselves. But, I am not meant to be dependent upon them for my contentment.

Being one who always looks to solutions for problems, I thought a perfect remedy would be giving them up for Lent.

No chocolate. No candy. No fruit snacks. (Yup, I’ll admit to eating from my kids’ stash of those.) I did, however allow myself to keep putting cream and sugar in my coffee. I don’t understand how people drink it black.

Being one who is an achiever I thought I would have no problem making it to the finish line.

I wanted this denial so that I would pause. Remember. Understand. Sugar may satisfy my sweet tooth, but the only lasting satisfaction comes from Christ alone. He is my source, my contentment, my life.

Thankfully, He is also my wellspring of grace.

Because I failed. In this last week before Easter, I have broken my fast.

I could hold on through giving my kids snacks. I could even hold on through a family trip to the ice cream parlor. But, it turns out what I couldn’t do, was hold on through baking.

It started innocently. I baked a cake for a friend’s birthday. The cake and the frosting, all formed from scratch. I labored over its creation. And so, I could not resist a piece in celebration- of the birthday and the cake itself.

This was, perhaps, an understandable slip. But then, just six days later, I baked cookies with my son. It is an activity we enjoy together, and we wanted to share a batch with his grandpa.

I licked my fingers after mixing, and I was through. Didn’t it make sense to test them when they came out of the oven? And, did it really matter if I had just one with everyone else later? And then, well, it didn’t seem worth resisting anymore.

I decided to give up.

I failed to make it to the finish line. I failed in my Lenten fast.

And I began to wonder, is there God in this? In the failing?

Because here is the risk of my fast: that I make it to Easter Sunday and celebrate me. Celebrate my victory. The strength I had to go without for so many days.

How might the success have clouded my vision of the ultimate victory? How might my eyes have been tempted to look at myself instead of Christ?

And before Sunday is Friday. How will my view of Good Friday be opened now? I realize oh so deeply that I need a Savior. I see that even in the little sacrifices of life, I am weak. I could not have borne the burden that Christ took on my behalf. He has always known I couldn’t do it.

Perhaps now I know it to.

So about this crash, this fast broken, I am not sure how to feel. I confess my failure to God, but also thank Him for it.

For today, I find grace in my failure. And I am grateful.