Today is the beginning of Lent and is Ash Wednesday. So what is Lent? Why do we observe it? What does it mean or symbolize? Most people think of Lent and think of the Catholic Church. But Lent can be universal. Lent is the 40 day period leading up to Easter beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending at sundown on Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday as some call it, which is the day before Good Friday and the day that Christ and the disciples ate the Last Supper together. It is a period of time where God's people traditionally set aside time to seek Him through prayer, scripture reading, fasting, reflection, giving of themselves, abstaining from luxuries, all to prepare their hearts for the sacrifice of death and the resurrection of Christ for our sins.
Will you celebrate Lent this year? Will you take the time to let the scriptures pour over you and speak to you, drawing you into what is the greatest love story of all time? A story written just for you? A letter written to your heart and soul begging you to join in the relationship that has been offered, held out with no reserve. If you would like to, there are some practical steps you can take:
Fasting: God's people typically fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by giving up one meal and letting their two other meals be smaller, both totaling less than one whole meal.
Reflection and Giving up of a Luxury: You can also give something up for the entire Lenten season to use that time to reflect on God. What is something you can give up this year? Something that steals your time and robs you of a more fulfilling relationship with Christ? It doesn't have to be something huge. It could be social media after 8. It can be gossip - it you feel the need, say something positive instead! It can be that extra hour of time at night on the TV or game console where you could be sleeping (so you can get up a little earlier) or reading scripture. You can turn off your phone and plug it in another room at 7 or 8 so you can focus on your family full!y instead of only half heartedly. All these things could be things you want to do anyway and this could be the push (and excuse) you have been wanting. But please, also spend a few extra minutes with our Creator while you are giving up your favorite thing.
Prayer and Scripture: With scripture reading comes prayer. Not necessarily automatically. Many have approached scripture academically and neglected the relationship we so desperately need and that is required to be saved! Take the time to read scripture this Lenten season. Read a gospel and get to know Jesus! When you open your Bible, or Bible app, please take a minute and pray for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes (or ears if you are listening to it on audio) as windows to your soul, that the words of our Lord would mold you and change you. That your heart would be receptive to the message God would have you hear.
Giving of Yourself: What do you have that you can give? Is it time? Is it talent? Do you have sooooo many things? What can you give? If you have a ton of jeans just sitting in your closet, find a church with a clothes closet and drop them off! Forget the tax receipt, it's a gift! See someone on the street? Grab a second cup of coffee when you buy your yours and hand it to them (with optional sugar and cream). Have extra gift cards around the house? I am sure any shelter could use them for a single mom. Could you read at a school? Hold a baby at a NICU? You may just find a new passion!
Whatever this Lent leads to, I hope it leads you closer to if not to Christ. I pray that as the days lead up to the Greatest Love Sacrifice of all time, you will be drawn into the story. That your soul will know it is real. That you believe you are loved so much you were valued enough to die for. That you are still loved, and the Creator of the Universe wants you to know Him. I will be praying for you on this journey.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on Lent!