Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The pull of repentence and reflection

I didn't really plan to write today, but here I am.

Ash Wednesday. I can't escape the pull to a Lenten season of repentance and reflection. But, as usual, I have been unsure of what shape that will take for me. Is it sacrifice? Discipline? Service? Bible study? Fellowship? Does it have to be daily or can it evolve over the 40 days, not including Sundays, leading up to Easter.

A friend's Facebook post stayed with me all day:

"The purpose for Ash Wednesday, ushering in Lent, is to repent of our sins and to reflect on our Lord and Savior and His great gift to us by saving us by His grace alone from the wrath of a righteous God. It is NOT to promote a political agenda or a perceived social issue. Once we move the focus from God, His Love and Grace and our repentance and reflection, we are promoting falsity. It is time for a reawakening of the churches who have strayed from God's Will and Purpose."

One of the disciplines I have pondered is to let go of a bag of stuff for each of the 40 days. This may seem like a superficial act to some, but as I went through some of my possessions earlier today in an effort to fill the bag, I was aware time after time how I cling to things, and only by focusing on God's love through Christ could I make the decision to just put it in the bag.

I was also aware after filling one  bag that I couldn't even tell anything was missing from my possessions. And that's often what it's like after I've spent time trying to get honest and prayerful  about my sins and shortcomings and asking God to help me release them to Him, to His glory. Even when I take a step of progress in this area, the magnitude of faults and shortcomings still seems overwhelming.

During the Ash Wednesday service at church, I prayed to know what God would have me do. On the way home, I was thinking about how fasting is mentioned as part of the spiritual discipline for Lent. Here it was 7:45 p.m., and I hadn't chosen to "fast" anything. It occurred to me I could sacrifice my evening snack. And guess what? I was not willing to do that. So I rationalized that giving up some of my possessions (so far, clothes, shoes and bags) that I've clung to is a type of fast. But I'm not convinced.

The Lenten devotional I started with today is one published by United Methodist Women. The theme is "Wearing the Mantel of Faith." I'm new to the UMW, so I don't really know what to expect from its Lenten focus.  And now I see that may not be a series. So ... I have no idea what my reading focus will  be tomorrow.

As it turns out, it looks like this Lenten journey will be another evolution. I really don't know where it will take me. But I am confident where it will lead me: to Easter and a renewed spirit of faith in the Risen Christ and the power of God's sacrificial gift of love for me.

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