Monday, February 23, 2015

Lent - Give up or Take up?

Photo courtesy of Common Grace
/Bible Society
“So what are you giving up for Lent?”
Up until two years ago, I’d never given Lent much thought. For some reason, I know not why, I’d thought it an outdated practice that Catholics observe. Typically, it appeared to be reduced to the question above. In my overly judgemental moments I found it strange that apparently non-pious people chose to participate in such a “custom”.
Two years ago I felt the nudge in my soul to explore Lent and one of the studies I followed introduced me to the notion of “spring cleaning of the soul” which particularly grabbed me. We spring clean everything else, so why not the soul?
Yesterday I was cleaning out a cupboard that we used to store odds and ends and invariably I came across stuff that at one time was useful but no longer. Similarly, I’ve found junk in my soul that needs throwing out as I’ve refocused my walk with Jesus during the past two Lent seasons.
Fasting is an important aspect of our daily walks allowing us to let go of our dependence on certain things (food, TV shows, internet, etc) so we can filled by the Lord as we rely on Him. It’s a practice I grapple with and it’s this challenge that makes it worthwhile to keep doing regularly.
However, I’ve also found it important to actually take up a new practice during Lent. Activities that change my focus in my daily time with Jesus.
 “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you.” (Eugene Peterson)
This year I chose to take-up two activities:
1. The Bible Society has teamed up with Common Grace to focus on the Lord’sPrayer. I find it such a great prayer in aligning my spirit to focus on God. In a year where I’m seeking to “adore” God more, the Lord’s Prayer is an excellent way of starting my day.
2. I follow Margaret Feinberg’s work and she brings thousands of people around reading the Bible. Two years ago we read the entire Bible (yes, in six weeks!) and last year, the New Testament. This year, we’re reading the Gospels. But Margaret also introduced us to the idea that a friend showed her of using the Colour Method for reading each passage. I love this as it forces me to linger longer on the words and the message. I won’t do it everyday but I hope to do it 3-4 times a week. Try it.
Photo courtesy of Margaret Feinberg.com
I hope we all draw closer to Jesus during these next six weeks as we prepare for Easter. 
What are your thoughts on Lent?

Are you giving up or taking up something for Lent this year?





Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

12 comments:

  1. I like that idea of taking up something for Lent that helps us focus more on God, Ian--although I'm not sure I could manage that 'Colour Method'! Sounds good though and it would certainly slow readers down to reflect more deeply on a passage. I plan to journal my way through a book I got hold of recently called 'The Discerning Heart' by Wilkie and Noreen Au. I think giving up something is also a good idea, as long as it helps us focus more on God and brings us closer to him.

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    1. Jo-Anne, hi. I hope you report back on "The Discerning Heart" as I'd love to hear your thoughts.

      One of the things I too often get caught up with when I'm fasting is over-valuing other potential benefits, e.g., losing some weight, etc. instead of making it entirely about Jesus.

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  2. Thanks for your post Ian - I too like the idea of adding not just subtracting. Our church has a particular emphasis on prayer during February and has set up a prayer labyrinth - a way of focusing our thoughts and prayers in a particular way. Many have blessed by it. I think in the rush to reject ritualism, sometimes we can miss practices that help our focus on God.

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    1. Hi Jeanette - my church has just finished 3 weeks of prayer and fasting. It's great when a large group does this together. I pray it's a great time of stretching into the Lord for you and your church.

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  3. That's a great idea about taking up something for Lent rather than or in addition to giving up something. I haven't used the colour method exactly, but I have done something similar in printing off a book of the Bible from Bible Gateway and then marking it up (e.g. circling recurring words). It often does help to bring out things you wouldn't have thought of otherwise and help you reflect more on the passage. Thanks for the encouragement to focus more on God in this season Ian. Blessings.

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    1. Nola, thanks for the encouragement. I'm really enjoying the "marking-up" exercise as it brings out aspects of the text in ways that I hadn't previously noticed.

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  5. I have given up things for Lent. Just not this year. I am growing closer to the Messiah though. I feel like that is my TRUE Lent. Walking side by side with the Maker of the universe and trying to be the best Christ follower I can be. I have always loved the Lord's prayer and recite it at different times of the day. After all, it was the prayer He taught is to say. I WILL try the color method. Thank you for a lovely post and for introducing me to the color method. May we all grow close to God and our Savior, Yeshua.

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    1. Robyn, hi. I love reading that you're growing closer to Jesus, walking side by side with Him. I hope and pray that you He will continue to amaze you and draw you ever more closer to Him.

      Bless,

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  6. What a lovely, soul searching Post, Ian. I suppose I could say our church is rather non conformist, so we don't follow a lot of wonderful church traditions. However, I find rather than narrowing my walk with the lord into certain times, I want to follow Him all the days of my life. My daily quiet times of prayer & Bible reading challenge and encourage me to grow closer to the Lord.

    I admit haven't been strong enough to fast for several meals. Whenever I've tried it, my hunger pangs kick in and I can't concentrate. There, aren't I a weakling? Have you any helpful hints as to how to go about that, not just for Lent, but any time prayer is really needed about something or someone?

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    1. Hi Rita, thanks for your encouraging words. I, too, attend a non-traditional church and I miss much of the old Prayer Book that I grew up with in the Anglican church. Hence, saying the Lord's Prayer is so soothing to my soul.

      Fasting is a challenge. I also find it a struggle but that's a good place to be in. That's where we can find Jesus. When I'm fasting meals I will usually still ensure I drink fluids and eat some nuts and/or berries. Some friends of mine will have a protein shake. I hope that helps.

      Does anyone else have any good tips for Rita?

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  7. Lent is not a tradition that has been talked a lot in my church, but I love your idea that you just giving up something is not enough. You need to take up something. That makes a lot of sense. The colour method sounds interesting.

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