Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A New Approach to Lent: Tilling Dry Soil

For a large part of my adult life, I have observed Lent. This has typically meant "giving something up that I'm really fond of but it's kind of unhealthy." The first year I gave up soda, because I felt quasi-addicted. The second year I gave up dessert, because I was hoping to trim up a bit (bad motivation!) Another year, I gave up music, which was constantly playing in my car, in my apartment, and in my office. (Although I did permit music chosen by others, which was even more painful than the silence most times.) Last year, I gave up all forms of caffeine, which induced the most terrible headaches.

Why do I fast for Lent? Because it feels good to give something up. It feels good to take away something in my life I feel like I can't live without and surrender that desire. It's good to realize that caffeine and music aren't my Lords, Jesus is. I love this tangible reminder, and it always fills me with hope and new love for Christ.

This year, my observance of Lent is not going to be about fasting so much as it is going to be about renewing my commitment to the Lord as my first love. Clay has returned home from a weekend of traveling feeling convicted that our relationship needs to be much more diligently focused on the Lord...and fortunately...over the last few weeks, both of us have independently come to the conclusion that we have not been treating the Lord like our King, but more like a button we wear or a box we check.

So during Lent, we are renewing our commitments to the Lord as King of our life, and we are committing to pray and read His word daily. This morning, we started our daily readings out in Lectio Divina style. We began this Lectio Divina using the guided readings in a book called Enjoy the Silence. The book is actually marketed for youth leaders to use with teenagers, but it's application is not limited to teenagers...and we renewed by beginning our day with meditation on God's word.

Our reading this morning was in Luke 8 (The Parable of the Sower). The reading guide in Enjoy the Silence directed us to read through the passage three times, listening for new insights each time we read it...the third time through, we specifically stopped and meditated on the different kinds of soil in the passage, inviting the Lord to reveal to us what kind of soil our hearts most resembled.

It was evident to me that my heart was similar to the seed that "lacks moisture." I could feel my heart as parched and dry. I also got very distracted during our meditation about the seed the grows up in the thorny grounds, and woke up from my daydreaming to realize I was living out my own distraction in the midst of attempting to meditate. I was able to confess my dry and distracted spiritual life to the Lord and invite him to cultivate my heart into something that's ready to grow His word.

It's amazing what 30 minutes in the morning of silence and reading God's word can do to renew my heart. It feels like bringing a cup of cold water to my lips after a long hike in the desert.

I'm excited about what Lent will bring in 2008, and I'm excited to have a partner in my spiritual journey.

What does Lent mean to you? Does this all sound crazy or weird? How do you choose to celebrate Lent, if you do? Why do you think fasting is or isn't important?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Your First Love

Who or what is your first love? What's the thing you want most when you're tired or lonely or upset? Who do you think about when you first wake up?

Lately, I think my first love in the morning is my down comforter...or first love in the afternoon is my lunch first love in the evening is Lost on DVD...(Clay's been away this week, so we'll assume that Lost is taking a place usually taken by him.)

Based on the way I live my life, I wouldn't really call Christ my first love.

Last week, at our staff conference, one of our staff read to us from Revelations about the church in Ephesus (Rev 2):

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

So the speaker is saying that the church in Ephesus did a lot of good stuff...they worked hard, did good things, kept wickedness from themselves, endured hardship, persevered. But they still weren't completely right in the Lord's eyes because of one simple reason:
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

What are the things you do at first when you're in love? For me, it was staying up late at night to talk on the phone and spend time with Clay. It was saving up all of my available time and money to travel to see him. It was thinking of him a hundred times a day--sending him emails or text messages. It was seeing fabulous gifts in a store window that he would love and buying them for him.

What does it really mean to love Christ like this? With fresh eyes? With new love? What does it mean to make Christ your first love?