Archives For Lent

Reading, like anything else worth doing, requires intentionality. It’s a discipline. People who view reading as a leisure time activity are not, in my estimation, actually readers at all. For only someone who doesn’t read could so readily overlook the commitment of time, mental acuity, and emotional investment that reading requires of the reader.

It may be passive in the sense that one is typically not up and moving around while reading. But there is much activity occurring underneath the cranium. To look at a reader is akin (in a sense) to look at someone suffering from a chronic illness: just because one doesn’t see something going does not mean that nothing indeed is going on.

Think of all the time people these days put into binge watching Netflix, for instance, and multiply that 100x for a reader engaged with a beloved book. There is an investment there. It takes discipline to tune out: the T.V., music, Twitter, Facebook, etc. It takes commitment to continue. The characters become in a very real sense friends–we live, laugh, love, suffer, and die with them.

They become family.

Which is why this Lenten season I’m committed to reading as many books as possible which confront in my comforts, skewer my denials, challenge my assumptions; in short, bring me up short, showing me my abject poverty, mortality, and my utter need for Christ.

Who’s with me?

My ecclesiasial experience began in my youth by attending services with my maternal grandmother. This only happened in her company, and then only in summer. The rest of the year, my family was so very protestant we didn’t darken the doors of any church with our presence. Not at Christmas, nor even at Easter.

God was simply a paradigm with nob practical relevance for me. Yet interestingly, most of my reading consisted of works within the genres of horror and fantasy. Even then, there was a hunger in me for something more, something numinous, supernatural. In a way, those books became my church, a way of joining a world greater, darker, lighter, more mysterious than the one in which I lived.

Like Emeth, in Lewis’s The Last Battle, my allegiance may have been to Tash, but heart (perhaps even unbeknownst to me) was seeking. Seeking something more, something other: a new, a different, life.

That search was to have its fruition when I met a girl, right around Easter time, 1988. The girl, of course, invited me to church. And in May of that year, like Lewis before me, I admitted that God was God, and that it was He Whom I had been seeking. Casting off the books, I embraced my Savior.

To honor that journey, this Lenten season, I am returning to some of those books I loved as a child, the ones which first awakened in me that desire for a different life. In looking back I am taking stock of whence I’ve come to more clearly see the signposts of where God was at work when I didn’t know Him. My hope is that in so doing is to thereby kindle the fires of faith for the road ahead.

What are you doing for Lent?

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Lent is a season of reflection, traditionally a time of giving up things in order to draw closer to the Lord. I have no problem with this. There are things we all could, and should, give up. How much time, for instance, do we here in America spend watching televisions versus in Bible study and prayer? What about social media–Twitter, Facebook, and other social games (such as Words With Friends).

It certainly would not hurt to spend less time doing those things, or to go without them, during Lent. How much of a sacrifice, however, is giving up Facebook for Lent? In our culture of entitlement, I would say not much at all. It is the sacrifice of the least common denominator, and something which is rather convenient to do.

Folks, it is not a hardship to give up Facebook, or Twitter, during this season. Especially if one announces one’s intentions via social media. That does not bespeak of the humility associated with the Lenten season, and really only serves to self-aggrandize:

“Look at me! I’m giving up social media for Lent. See you in forty days.” (Don’t believe me? Search Twitter. You will see. Or check this article on Gizmodo).

Which is why I’m not giving up social media, blogging, or an online presence during Lent. I am not interested in drawing attention to myself by highlighting my humility (which is really just pride, cleverly disguised). What I am giving up, if I give up anything at all, is between me and my Lord.

If you are giving something up, making a sacrifice of some kind, please don’t tell anyone. Just do it. Let it be between you and Jesus. He already knows all of your idols, inordinate affections, where you spend your time, energy, and attention. My rule is simple: if we are give anything up, it should be something near and dear to us.

Not something outside of us. Because anything outside is merely a symptom of an inner condition. A sacrifice would not necessarily be giving up social media, television, online gaming, etc., but rather laying down our rights, our pride, our arrogance, and our vanity. It is not the thing, but rather the why behind the thing that matters. It is motivation that is key.

And in motivation, the heart is central.

My best advice? Get in a place where you can be quiet before Jesus, and ask Him what–if anything–He wants you to give up this Lenten season. I guarantee the answer will surprise you.

Jesus is like that.

>Anne Tyler: The Amateur Marriagephoto © 2010 Wolfgang Kuhnle | more info (via: Wylio)

Coincident with the Lenten season, I began an exercise in low carb eating. Along with this new diet, I also began exercising. If you knew me “in real life,” you would know that exercise is on my list of “least favorite things to do.” It’s perhaps number one with a bullet. As in I would rather go tet-a-tet with a bullet than exercise (ok, not really, but darn near). I digress.

I say “coincident” above, because it was just that: a coincidence that I began a new lifestyle as Lent was beginning. I know this is so, because I’ve never observed Lent; in fact, I would hazard to say that in all of the Evangelical church bodies I’ve attended over the years, there’s been a subtle (at times, overt) distrust of anything that smacks of such more orthodox observances. I didn’t keep these holidays because my churches didn’t keep them.

This felt entirely natural to me, because I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. So even after coming to faith, I didn’t know that there were any particular seasons, or holidays, to observe. Again, I digress.

Without intending to, it seems that this year, I kept at least a portion of one the Lenten ideals: self-sacrifice. By going “low carb for Lent”–albeit coincidentally–I gave up: bread, pasta, potatoes, pizza, sweets, soda, beer (which I love, and which no less an authority than Benjamin Franklin pronounced as proof of God’s love for man), and embarked on an entirely new, more intentional, way of eating.

Interestingly, once started, none of that felt like a sacrifice. With a specific goal in mind (weight loss), I took that as the price of admission. The good must be sacrificed on the altar of the better.

That said, what felt like an actual sacrifice to me was (is) the exercise. Doing it day-in-and-day-out. Just mustering the self-discipline to go out there and do it was painful. Indeed, if I learned anything this past Lent, it was this: self-discipline. Applying my will to do something I didn’t really want to do (when I’d much rather being something–anything–else).

Although it being accidental, and all, I’m not sure it actually “counts” for Lent. Oh, well. I’ll do better next year. 😉

What did you do, or not, for Lent this year?

>Low carb Monster Energyphoto © 2009 Like_the_Grand_Canyon | more info (via: Wylio)

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been following a low carb eating plan. It just so happens that the start of this new lifestyle coincided with Lent.

Mind you, I didn’t plan it this way–it’s just way it worked out. And I don’t feel like I’ve really given anything up (except, well, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes–anything starchy or “carby”). Regular soda was really the big one for me: I gave that stuff up, and… substituted diet.

And that seems to be the way eating low carb works: it’s all about substituting foods I can’t have with ones I can. I’m having pretty much all the meat, salad, and green veggies I want. I supplement with vitamins, and I exercise.

Did I mention that I hate exercising? I mean I’d much rather read a book, or watch Castle on T.V., than exercise. If there’s been any sacrificial component to my Lent, it’s been this: the exercise. We have 22 flights of stairs at work, and I walk up them 3 times per day. (Did you know that one can do so in seven minutes? I didn’t either–until I tried. So that’s about 20-21 minutes of cardio five days per week).

All of which is perhaps my rambling way to get this point: maybe sometimes Lent isn’t so much about what one gives up, but about what one adds in? We can sacrifice by adding something into our lives just as much as we can by taking something out. As long as it’s the right thing.

(By the way, according to Wii Fit, I’ve lost 14.1 lbs thus far. Is that boasting?)