Saturday, February 16, 2008

On spirituality all the time. . .

Let's face it. . .Christmas, Easter, and most of our Christian holidays were plunked into pagan holidays to "sell" them and foster Christianity. Now we have Lent, which is not a Biblical concept, rather it's a pagan-rooted ritual that couldn't decide if it should be practiced for 40 hours or 40 days. Jesus never practiced Lent, nor did He command His disciples to do so themselves...or to take that to the Nations.
I think, though, we were supposed to keep Passover.
We don't.
I understand the idea: Give up something, think about what we do, become better people (after all, it's all about US isn't it?) It is what it is. . .but I guess I've just never followed along without asking a question or two...and, of course, I always get my hand smacked. Whatever. Still asking.
So, I asked the Lord..."Lord, what do you think about this Lent thing?" I can't say that a bolt of lightning came down and illuminated my very being, but I'm pretty sure that He gave me John 13:1-17 as a base thought.

I can hear Him saying,

"Giving up chocolate, cursing, coffee, meat, for 40 days means nothing to Me. Here is what I'd like you all to try to give up forever:

Killing--physically, emotionally, or spiritually
Selfishness. . .

replace all of these with love, instead.
....Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
John 13:17


Gary Means said...

Excellent post. I have never practiced the Lenten traditions. But as they have grown in popularity in the evangelical church over the past few years I have thought about the idea of using some tangible daily sacrifice to remind me of the Truth, of His sacrifice. I have used that with food, not for Lent, but sacrificing unhealthy choices. I used the longings as reminders. It worked part of the time. I think the benefit/purpose of the whole practice of sacrifice, at Lent or any other time, is not so much to transform us. I believe it is to make us aware of our need, or our humanness. It is to turn our hearts and minds to the only One who can truly meet those needs, the only One who can transform us.

As for the list of characteristics you presented, I cannot give them up, at least not willingly, not naturally, not on my own. The only time I have seen any changes in my character have come through this process: pain, observation, awareness, helplessness, confession, surrender, replacement. If only that was a simple, one-time only, linear process!

This may sound like it's off of cheesy poster, but as I wrote it struck me anew that "Sacrifice is something we do to accomplish something. Surrender is something we do so that He can can accomplish something."

Just my two cents.

karen said...

Thanks for a great comment and insight, Gary.

I think what I get out of this is that we are supposed to turn our needs away in favor of the needs of others; in this we stop 'needing' so much for ourselves and the bad habits drift away.

Gary Means said...

Reminds me of Tillapaugh's approach to ministry: it's only the soldiers in the rear echelon that have time to complain about the soup.

Not quite the same as what you're saying. Am I correct in saying that your focus is more "get your eyes off yourself and the details will take care of themselves?" (Pardon the mixing of metaphors.)

Maybe it's a combination of the two concepts?

Missy said...

I think self denial can provide some personal wisdom and clarity, in the same way that purging (a study??) might. :)

I also think of Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice..."

I like to celebrate the holidays, religious or not, that bring the people I love together. In Texas, we would always join my husband's family for dinner every Friday during Lent for fish. That was nice - I miss it.

karen said...

Gary, yes, that is what I'm saying. Concentrate on washing someone else's feet and your needs will indeed be taken care of.

I remember a "discussion" with a fellow elder at my old church. She wanted to continue to be an elder on the leadership team because it had been so good for HER.

I mentioned that perhaps she was supposed to be an elder for the congregation, not what it would bring to her life (knowing full well that if she took her eyes off of herself, she would be blessed over and over again).

Hoo boy, that started some stuff up.

Missy, I have no problem with holidays and getting together. I truly think the Lord was trying to get through to me that it's not about a period of self-denial. Life is supposed to be self-denial in that we are to turn our eyes on others.

Ephesians says to "huppotasso" to one another. That's not "submit." It means give to each other, to support, to attach to one another.

That makes it a much more beautiful thing for Christians to do with one another.

Denying ourselves and concentrating on the needs of others means that our needs will be taken care of and we will want for nothing.

My point is that every person that practices Lent tells me that THEY will become a better person for it.

How about practicing something that makes the world a better place?

Sounds idealistic, yes?
I think that's what He had in mind.

Don said...

Great post Karen!! Thinking (questioning)may get you into trouble with some, never with me. Ain't freedom great!!

Barbara said...

Love what God had to say through you!!

Missy said...

Say what?!? God as an idealist?!?

I know what you mean Karen. I practice self-denial to better my health, my character, my budget, etc. Self-denial is truly a beneficial practice. When we would complain as kids, "WHY do you always tell us, 'No!'" My Dad would say, "'No!' builds character." This was my meaning in the first sentence of my previous comment.

But the scripture from Hosea in my 2nd sentence is what convinces me that self-denial of this sort is not what God desires from us. It is mercy - the type of self-denial that says I don't care that you hurt me or someone I love or that you live a life a don't agree with - I will show love and compassion for you just as God has shown the same for us AND I will put my needs and desires as second in importance to yours. To me this is not a practice of telling myself, "No" but rather a practice in telling you, "Yes." Kinda like how you always end up providing me a meal when I see you. :)

So, if someone needs me to support their efforts during Lent, I guess I can join them at Red Lobster every Friday - even if they don't offer to treat. :)

TimD said...

I have been a Christian my entire life. Grew up in church & have been extremely involved in many areas of related service -- all to say; I don't even know what lent means (specifics involved). We were members of a fairly liturgical church for a couple of years when we first moved to the e-coast. I wanted to demonstrate that I identified w/ other believers around me & honor related traditions of worship by participating in various religious this/that ... but always made it a point (for instance) to read all the many traditional things as opposed to memorize. I love the idea of what I assume to be lent (sacrifice for focus) ... I loathe religious crap that becomes peoples faith. Mechanical / regimented this & that.

karen said...

Yep, Tim, me too. I appreciate things that people do that bring them closer to God; yet I never hear anyone looking forward to Lent. . .they usually overdo whatever it is they are giving up for 40 days, right before Lent. Then, they overdo it again afterwards.
I have my own little rituals; one is to get up early, have coffee with God. I never take it for granted.