Tag: sacrifice

The Discomfort of Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, and as evidenced by my “Spring it Up” post on Monday, I’d really prefer to focus on the positive than face my sin and Jesus’ sacrifice.

I’ve shared before and before that I’m pretty much a failure at Lent. Like John says, I’m more of a Christmas than Easter girl. Could we skip over the Lent chapter please?  But there’s no rebirth without death, no salvation without facing my sin, so I continue to try to enter in, to talk to God. This is a repost from a few years ago…

As I mentioned the other day, we’re on vacation in Florida and the other morning we decided to attend an Ash Wednesday service at a lovely little Episcopal Chapel near where we’re staying.

I was on high alert from the moment we entered because I’m not Episcopalian and I was sure I was going to mess up and kneel at the wrong time, or not know the secret handshake that would get me communion, or ask forgiveness for my “debts” instead of my “trespasses”.

I took my cues from a girl across the aisle who clearly knew the liturgical ropes, bowing to the Bible when it went by and making the sign of the cross on her forehead, lips, and heart.  I was fascinated.

Like I said, I’m not Episcopalian and I’m not Catholic either, but by turns throughout my life I have been disdainful towards, curious about, and, in the past five years, enriched by many of  their practices.

When I was growing up all I knew was that the Catholic kids went to St. Petronille for church (named after a guy who must have been on the JV team of saints because I’ve never heard of him since and neither has my husband who did grow up Catholic).  They got to get out of school early on Wednesday to go to Catechism and got to eat fish on Friday.  We never had fish in my family.  So they were special and kind of mysterious to me.

On Wednesday, while I still struggled to own the words of liturgy in a way that was meaningful, I deeply appreciated the silence, the reverence, and the simplicity of a worship gathering full of Scripture.  These guys really do repentance big time!

Anyway, all this has got me thinking about Lent and the question many people ask, “What are you giving up for Lent?”

Confession:  As far as I can remember I’ve never given up anything for Lent.

It’s just not been a part of my spiritual tradition.  And frankly, when I have considered it I’ve always thought “Well I could give up Starbucks if I wanted to, but I don’t have to so I won’t.”  I am so not into sacrifice.  I realize this exposes one of the idols I daily pray to relinquish – the idol of comfort.  Ugh!

I know it’s easy to abuse this practice…make it a badge of honor, a “work of righteousness”, an end instead of a means.  But, I’ve been reading about it and I’m wondering if it might be a good spiritual practice for me, identifying with Jesus in some small way, this voluntary sacrifice stuff.  I’m cringing even as I write this.  I find myself thinking, “Could I pick something I like, but don’t like too much?  Kind of ease into this maybe?”

I want to know… What is experience with giving up something for Lent?  Does it help you to see your sin and become more like Jesus?

If you’re reading this on email or on your phone and want to comment, just click on the title and then scroll down!

Couple quotes on Lent…

“Lenten disciplines help us to abstain from the daily distractions that prevent us from seeing and naming reality correctly. As we allow some of the external trappings of our lives to be stripped away, we can return to a truer sense of ourselves and a deeper pursuit of God.” Ruth Haley Barton

“Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy.  Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”  Ann Voskamp

 Check out another great article on Lent by Ruth Haley Barton here! 

One Thing I Don’t Want to do to Be Like Jesus

Confession: I reeeeally don’t like discomfort. (shocking, I know)

I don’t like inconvenience, or pain, or sacrifice, or waiting.

Thus, I HATE fasting.

This means that I had a little problem Monday, because part of my devotional reading was from Mark 2 on fasting.

Just the fact that Jesus brought the idea of fasting to my attention again was soooo irritating, and then actually considering it, and rationalizing with all the reasons I shouldn’t do it was…well, really uncomfortable for me.

Like all spiritual disciplines, fasting is just a means to an end – to help us become more like Jesus who is love. When we I think of “love” I like all the GOOD FEELS, and the affirmation that comes from doing kind things – you know…what I get out of it. But practicing sacrifice by fasting in order to get better at loving sacrificially? Uh, no thanks.

Fasting in order to better identify with what Jesus went through to draw me into closer relationship with Him? Gosh, isn’t there another way?

Fasting in order to get rid of extraneous (??) stuff so we can just focus on Jesus all day? Puleeze! The last thing I’m thinking about when I’m hungry is Jesus.

FISH TACOS for Pete’s sake! This is more my speed…

But I’m such a rule-follower that Monday I though OK (heavy sigh), I’ll fast til dinner.

About 11 a.m. I grabbed a handful of Craisins from the fridge trying not to think about what a Losey McLoserson I am, while rationalized that I was doing other sacrificial things so I didn’t really need to fast, and after all, I can do it any time I have to. I just don’t have to right now.

Can you give a sister some help here?

What has your experience been with fasting (or other spiritual practices you don’t like)?

Watching from a Distance

It’s Saturday morning. I’ve walked with Jesus and His disciples this past week.  I’ve tried to hear the noise, the shouts, the whispers, the work sounds, the shuffle of dusty feet. I’ve tried to smell the animal smells and the sweat and the anointing spices. I’ve tried to feel the heat, and uncertainty. I’ve tried to draw near and touch Jesus’ robe.

We walked into Jerusalem with excitement last Sunday, out to Bethany to eat and rest with friends, back into Jerusalem filled with stress, activity, agendas, fear, and hatred, out to Bethany to be anointed, and in for the Last Supper and Passover. Out to the Mt. of Olives for prayer, and into Jerusalem for His trial and death.

Here’s one of the things I’ve noticed. Everyone was watching.

Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over. (Mt.26:16)

Jesus asked His disciples to keep watch with Him on the Mt. of Olives. (26:38)

Peter watched from a distance when Jesus was arrested. (26:58)

Many women watched from a distance at the crucifixion. (27:55)

But one person did more than watch. He courageously drew near after Jesus had been crucified. (Mt. 27:57-61)

When a criminal was executed the body was often left unburied or put in a pauper’s field. A relative, like a mother might ask for the body, but Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin.

The Sanhedrin. One of the groups committed to getting rid of Jesus. But Joseph had become a disciple. And now he went to Pilate and advocated for Jesus. Asked for the body. Gave him a burial in a new tomb. He didn’t follow at a distance. He drew near and honored Jesus.

Joseph felt the sacrifice and was willing to share in it, not just watch.

Watching from a distance is like scrolling through our Facebook newsfeed and “liking” what we see others post. It’s like giving Jesus a wink and a thumbs up without getting our hands dirty. Without any cost to us.

Sometimes Easter morning can feel like that. Just a thumbs up for Jesus before we return to our agendas.

The thing I’m thinking about this morning is how Jesus was “all in” for us. How He didn’t watch from a distance, but drew near and loved us thoroughly and sacrificially. Because of the cross…

There is nothing we can do to make Jesus love us more, and nothing we can do to make Him love us less.

Forgiveness in Christ is there for the taking, but it’s not cheap. It’s not meant to be appreciated from a distance. It’s only as we draw near that we learn that grace cost Jesus everything. And as we do, we see that grace isn’t the permission to withdraw, but the courage and power to step in.

Praying that you and I will draw close this Easter…

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Failing Lent

How’s Lent been going for you?  Me? I’m really terrible at it.  My husband majored in Lent, growing up Catholic, but not me. It was never part of our faith tradition, and now it always seems to sneak up on me and all of a sudden it’s Ash Wednesday and I’m stressed about what I should or shouldn’t be doing or giving up, and what the meaning is supposed to be.

Am I supposed to identify with Jesus’ sacrifice or am I supposed to fast from worldly stuff that is sucking the life of Jesus out of me, or am I supposed to pull back to reflect on All Of The Deep Things?

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Those words “should” and “supposed to” float through the air in slow motion like a hand grenade or a heat seeking missile looking for where it can do the most damage. I end up feeling muddled and guilty that I haven’t done it “right”, whatever “right” is.

I can’t find the word “Lent” in my concordance, and certainly not “Thou shalt prepare for Easter by…” But I do think intentional preparation for Easter is a good thing.

I think the idea of Lent is to help us pay attention to God and life and death and resurrection the way it would be good to pay attention to Him all the time – like at 5 o’clock on a July evening when we’re sitting on the patio eating burgers, or on October 3rd in line at the grocery store.

So I’ve muddled through Lent again this year, unlike a young friend I mentor who has fasted from pop (but only brown pop), and sweets (but not on on her birthday or during the week she was in Italy, and chocolate covered almonds don’t count).  I laugh at her, but she says even this has really helped her pay attention and turn to Jesus in the moments she wants things she is sacrificing.

You cannot have resurrection without death.

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A Near Death Experience

There’s a prerequisite for heaven.  It’s called death.

You remember that line from the movie, Princess Bride?  “There’s dead and then there’s mostly dead.”

The other day I realized I was only mostly dead.  Or even less than that.  Maybe just a smidge dead.

But I wanted to be SEEN as totally dead.  Dead to self.  To selfishness.  To self-centeredness.

Several times in the course of two days I gave time and effort and gave up comfort to go out of my way and serve someone.

And you know what?  It didn’t seem to matter at all.  No one said “thanks”, much less threw a parade.

The kid I tutor was rude and uncooperative.  The meal I made for someone didn’t fit their dietary restrictions.  And, and, and…

And my bratty 13-year-old self, wanted a high five or at least a little “Woohoo!” from Jesus.  And by that I mean from everyone around me.

The main person I really wanted to serve was myself.

I wanted the image of serving others, and the perk of being noticed and admired.

I wanted it to look like I had a shiny outside but my inside was pretty gross…maggoty in fact.

Have you ever recognized this in yourself?  Maybe once?

Continue reading

What are you giving up for Lent? Or are you giving up Lent?

As I mentioned the other day, we’re on vacation in Florida and the other morning we decided to attend an Ash Wednesday service at a lovely little Episcopal Chapel near where we’re staying.

I was on high alert from the moment we entered because I’m not Episcopalian and I was sure I was going to mess up and kneel at the wrong time, or not know the secret handshake that would get me communion, or ask forgiveness for my “debts” instead of my “trespasses”.

I took my cues from a girl across the aisle who clearly knew the liturgical ropes, bowing to the Bible when it went by and making the sign of the cross on her forehead, lips, and heart.  I was fascinated.

Like I said, I’m not Episcopalian and I’m not Catholic either, but by turns throughout my life I have been disdainful towards, curious about, and, in the past five years, enriched by many of  their practices.

When I was growing up all I knew was that the Catholic kids went to St. Petronille for church (named after a guy who must have been on the JV team of saints because I’ve never heard of him since and neither has my husband who did grow up Catholic).  They got to get out of school early on Wednesday to go to Catechism and got to eat fish on Friday.  We never had fish in my family.  So they were special and kind of mysterious to me.

On Wednesday, while I still struggled to own the words of liturgy in a way that was meaningful, I deeply appreciated the silence, the reverence, and the simplicity of a worship gathering full of Scripture.  These guys really do repentance big time!

Anyway, all this has got me thinking about Lent and the question many people ask, “What are you giving up for Lent?”

Confession:  As far as I can remember I’ve never given up anything for Lent.

It’s just not been a part of my spiritual tradition.  And frankly, when I have considered it I’ve always thought “Well I could give up Starbucks if I wanted to, but I don’t have to so I won’t.”  I am so not into sacrifice.  I realize this exposes one of the idols I daily pray to relinquish – the idol of comfort.  Ugh!

I know it’s easy to abuse this practice…make it a badge of honor, a “work of righteousness”, an end instead of a means.  But, I’ve been reading about it and I’m wondering if it might be a good spiritual practice for me, identifying with Jesus in some small way, this voluntary sacrifice stuff.  I’m cringing even as I write this.  I find myself thinking, “Could I pick something I like, but don’t like too much?  Kind of ease into this maybe?”

I know we’re past the kick-off time, but Jesus is all about grace, right?  So even though it wouldn’t be neat and tidy and legal, I could still start something I think.

I want to know… What has your experience been with giving up something for Lent?  Was it a meaningful discipline?

Couple quotes on Lent…

“Lenten disciplines help us to abstain from the daily distractions that prevent us from seeing and naming reality correctly. As we allow some of the external trappings of our lives to be stripped away, we can return to a truer sense of ourselves and a deeper pursuit of God.” Ruth Haley Barton

“Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy.  Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”  Ann Voskamp

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