Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Not giving up for Lent

It's interesting to me how, through the years, my attitudes and approaches toward Lent and Advent, the liturgical seasons that provide spiritual preparation for Easter and Christmas, respectively, have varied. I can think of several times when I've looked forward to the spiritual rituals that go with both seasons and the building of excitement for the big event. Other years, such as this one, I wonder whether there's any real value to going through this again. My initial feeling is that I am heavy with the load.

But amazing things already have happened. Today is Ash Wednesday, and I did go through my basic Wednesday routine that includes at least 15 minutes of a 12-step meeting and four hours at work, and then, before an abbreviated choir practice, I went to the Ash Wednesday service that included Holy Communion and the imposition of ashes in the sign of a cross on each person's forehead. My church also had metal spikes each person can take as a reminder of what happened on the cross three days before Christ's resurrection. For the second Ash Wednesday in a row, I picked up my spike knowing it was unlikely my work schedule will allow me to attend the Good Friday service, in which participants symbolically hammer the spikes into a large wooden cross on the altar.

Earlier today I realized that, as was the case with New Year's resolutions, my Lenten discipline seems to be falling into place as just keeping on keeping on spiritually, seeking God one day at a time and not trying to anticipate beyond that. Our pastor had written a column suggesting that we consider giving up something we value for Lent, so we can really feel what it means to sacrifice. And I toyed with the idea. But what I came back to is that's not what is in store for me this year. (I also remembered and am grateful that I have not returned to one of the things I gave up last year: watching soap operas. And, yes, I still am tempted at times.) Another popular approach in recent years has been to add a spiritual discipline, such as more intentional Bible reading or some kind of service. I'm not making a commitment on that, but I won't be at all surprised if increased opportunities present themselves in this next 40 days. And I will begin to find out, starting Thursday, just how I will respond. I also downloaded a Lenton devotional today that intrigued me, but I haven't decided whether I will use it. I think it's more important that I keep up with the readings that I've been using since the start of the year that continue to be helpful.

Back to those amazing things: I've found myself feeling physically, emotionally and mentally drained several times in these early weeks of 2013. Today, I listened to the words of a song on K-Love that I really identified with: "Worn" (Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Mike Donehey, Jeff Owen; performed by 10th Avenue North; Copyright Sony/Atv Timber Publishing, Open Hands Music, Formerly Music, West Main Music, Prepare For The Zombie Apocalypse).

I'm tired, I'm worn/ My heart is heavy/ From the work it takes/ To keep on breathing/ I've made mistakes/ I've let my hope fail/ My soul feels crushed/ By the weight of this world/ And I know that You can give me rest/ So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win/ Let me know the struggle ends/ That You can mend a heart that's frail and torn/ I wanna know a song can rise/ From the ashes of a broken life/ And all that's dead inside can be reborn/ 'Cause I'm worn ...

As I listened, I thought, this is a song I want to learn and sing. But the next thought was even better: As I sang along, I felt renewed energy. I didn't feel quite so frail and torn. I felt confidence that redemption wins and that the struggle, even with myself, would ease. And the song does rise ...

I know I need/ To lift my eyes up/ But I'm too weak/ Life just won't let up/ And I know that You can give me rest/ So I cry out with all that I have left ...

And so begins this Lenten journey -- one step at a time, praying for God to be my guide, my strength and my song, to His glory.

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