Tonight I feel a bit worn down and tired. I think it's because of the frantic cleaning I did this morning, a child's birthday party at Chuck E Cheese this afternoon (hello overwhelming experience!), church this evening, and then more frantic cleaning after the girls went to bed. It could be any of that, all of that, or it might just be the exhaustion from an emotional church service.
It was a wonderful service, albeit a bit different than what we're normally used to since this is our first time attending our church's Saturday evening service. For the most part, we are strictly 11 am Sunday service attenders because it allows for us to spend our mornings together, enjoying breakfast, without rushing around. I've had friends say they don't like 11 am service because then they feel like church "takes up their whole day," a sentiment that makes me chuckle. Ah, we Americans do like our church services short and convenient.
But, enough about church services. I didn't get on here tonight to write about that. Not exactly anyway. Only that one of the things I noticed about the service tonight was that--like every other church service I've attended on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday--there was no mention of Lent. This isn't unusual, nor did it bother me at all, considering the church denominations I've been part of (Foursquare, Baptist, Calvary Chapel, respectively for each decade of my life). Most mainline evangelical Protestants aren't big on the Lent thing, probably because it seems like a very Catholic experience, and as this Slate article pointed out, John Calvin (a big name in Protestant churches) thought that Lent was a "superstitious observance," maybe because there's no scriptural mandate for observing it.
I'd never even heard of Lent until three years ago when I read about it on someone's blog (which I'd link except she's no longer blogging). She only mentioned it in passing--writing about cleaning out her cupboards of certain foods--but the idea took root in my mind. It was already a couple days into Lent, but I decided to give up chocolate that year.
I gave up chocolate again the next year, and then last year I gave up chocolate and candy. Even though traditionally there are other food restrictions regarding Lent, I don't follow those because they aren't meaningful (or sacrificial considering our one-income budget prevents us from eating much meat anyway). I wanted to give up something that I enjoy. And even though I read somewhere that giving up chocolate was "trivial" it was far from it for me. I eat chocolate every. single. day. Sometimes it's only a handful of chocolate chips, sometimes it's a cup of hot chocolate. It's one of the small daily pleasures I indulge in.
This year, however, I've been thinking a lot more about Lent and what I wanted to fast from. I keep asking myself, "What should I give up that distracts me from my faith and my family?"
As I pondered, I did some online research.
- I bought a devotional book called Small Surrenders that looks promising, and I'm considering going through Purpose Driven Life as well since it follows the 40-days pattern, and Lent is close to 40 days (with the Sundays it becomes 46 days).
- I came across this post from Internet Monk that provides lots of resources.
- Last year I utilized the Creighton website Praying Lent, and they have it running again for 2008.
- Sydney and I will be going through her Family Countdown to Easter book again.
Just like I wrote last year, there's nothing extra spiritual about me practicing Lent. I do it because it makes Easter seem more meaningful, and because I have found that deliberately fasting from something brings focus to my faith. Not only that, but this year I really want to focus praying for those who I know have serious needs, including Jack, Darian, Logan, Amanda.
I decided this week what I'm giving up for Lent, and it's not going to be easy. I've struggled a bit with my decision, but tonight at church I realized that it's not about what I'm giving up, but what I'll be receiving: grace, forgiveness, and joy. God may call me to give up something, but He's always ready to fill the void with something even better. Amen.
And so Wednesday, Lent begins.
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