Lenten Reflections: Making Room for Spiritual Hunger

“Revelations are often followed by trials. Perhaps they are preparation for them.” ~Alicia Britt Chole

My greatest trial has been the sudden death of my son, Dominic.

Just before he was killed in April, 2014 I wrapped up a multi-year slow walk through Scripture. What began as a discipline intended to force my heart to really focus and digest words I’d read so often they had (in some ways) become stale, ended up with me copying out nearly every chapter of the Bible into my journals.

I learned so much, received so much and was full to the brim of revelation and truth.

That was a good thing because when Dom died it was a long time before I could open my Bible on a regular basis and feast on the Word.

But my heart was still full and I was able to hold fast to hope that had been planted, nurtured and strengthened in the years before.

Today’s fast is a familiar one.

Most adults have skipped a meal for one reason or another. Don’t let this skipped meal fall into the “have to”, “hope to lose a few pounds” or “holier than thou” category those might have been.

Instead try this (as suggested in the book): In the time you would have eaten the meal you are fasting, read Revelation 22:1-16 and then read verse 17 slowly several times.

Allow your physical hunger to inform a spiritual longing for our Bridegroom.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Lenten Reflections: Letting Go To Make Space For Love

Letting go to make space for love is the only true fast.

I have observed Lent off and on for decades.

It’s an opportunity to set aside time and dedicate effort to thinking deeply about the current state of my spiritual life as well as refocus my heart’s affections on my Shepherd Savior King.

Faith, in general, is less about the sacrifice of stuff and more about the surrender of our souls. Lent, in kind, is less about well-mannered denials and more about thinning our lives in order to thicken our communion with God.

Alicia Britt Chole

Today’s fast: LENT AS PROJECT

What that means to me: I want these 40 days to help my heart lean in and take hold of Who Christ is.

I don’t want to measure my “progress” toward doing without or even adding another spiritual discipline to my daily routine.

Self-denial can be a source of pride.

I’m ashamed to admit that have succumbed more than once to a holier-than-thou attitude.

I will refuse to check boxes or add up what I’ve done without. “Thicken my communion with God” is my goal.

I want to be like Mary who poured out the precious oil on His feet disregarding cost, other people’s opinions and without a moment’s hesitation once the Spirit gave her heart the nod.

If you observe Lent, what are you aiming for these 40 days? If you are giving up something, why?

Are you frightened, worried or overwhelmed?

God sees, He knows and He wants you to run to Him.

He will gather you in His arms, wrap you in His love and sing songs of peace over your soul. 

*I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.*

I Must Decrease-Making Room For Jesus. Lent As Invitation, Not Obligation.

Although I have observed Lent off and on for many, many years, it’s different for me now in a profound way.

Some of you know but may have forgotten that Dominic was killed the Saturday before Palm Sunday and buried the Monday after Resurrection Sunday, 2014.

Each year since then I’ve felt like I had to endure two sets of “anniversaries” because his death date and burial date are not only days of the month but also marked by moveable church celebrations.

It has been very, very hard.

As the sun rises earlier each morning in spring, the weather turns brighter and the flowers bloom, my heart grows heavier and heavier. I want to crawl in a hole and wait for the time to slide by-as if not noticing will make a difference.

But I can’t. Life must be lived, not only endured.

So I am choosing this year to try to guide my heart gently through this hard season with purposeful action that will force me to engage with God’s Word, with God’s people and with God Himself.

I know that if I don’t create space and place to prioritize my time with Jesus, to reflect on my life, to purpose to re-align my choices with ones that are more consistent with what I say I believe, then it won’t happen.

Life is full of distractions, temptations and I’m just plain lazy.

There are so many ways to observe Lent! Most of us are familiar with fasting a favorite food or beverage or giving up some entertainment or habit. That’s a fine way to focus on denying our flesh and meditating on Christ.

But this Lenten season I’ll be doing something different.

Last year I was introduced to a book, FORTY DAYS OF DECREASE by Alicia Britt Chole. It’s focus is more on fasting attitudes and actions rather than tangible things.

It was challenging but I loved it so I’m doing it again.

It helped change my approach to the whole season from one of obligation (almost of penance) to thinking of it as an invitation to sit at the feet of my Shepherd King.

If I’m honest, I need to learn this holy habit more than any other-listening instead of always doing, doing, doing.

I’d really like some company and some comments if any of you would join me on this journey! I’ll be sharing my own insights and reflections one day behind so those who want to participate won’t be influenced by my opinion.

If you’ve read the blog for very long, you know full well that God and I have wrestled more than a few rounds.

I don’t have it “figured out”.

But I’m willing to stay in the ring.

Repost: Life at the Intersection of Desire and Self-Control

Maybe you can relate:  It is easier to do without if what I want isn’t close enough to tempt me. 

I don’t shop if I don’t want to spend.  I don’t get donuts if I don’t want to eat sugar.  I don’t have soda in the house if I don’t want to drink carbonated soft drinks.

It’s much harder to deny my desires when what I long for is within reach.

Read the rest here:  Life at the Intersection of Desire and Self-Control

Appropriate Response

Tears of great grief have clarified my vision.

I don’t think clever arguments are the best way to effect change and I’m unconvinced that gathering the right group of people can guarantee an outcome.

But I know that God’s people, repentant and responsive to His will can do battle in the heavenlies.

donald-trump-vs-hillary-clinton

I am writing this BEFORE tonight’s scheduled presidential debate-I won’t be watching itnothing the candidates have to say and no media spin can undo the knot in my stomach.  

I am not surprised to find us here. But I am surprised that so many of my fellow believers are surprised.

Like captive Israel, we seem astonished that God does exactly what He says He will do.

Daniel understood his times.  Daniel knew that the blame lay not on those “out there” but on us “in here”.  

Pagans will be pagans.

They have no reason nor the power to act in accordance with biblical teaching.

But those of us called by grace and covered by Jesus’ blood-that’s an entirely different story.

So instead of lobbing political arguments across the aisle or pounding one another with snarky social media posts, I think we should follow Daniel’s example and storm the gates of heaven.

daniel-praying

An appropriate response to our current political predicament starts with prayer.

And that prayer starts with repentance.  

Not a general, “We’ve been so bad, God.  Sorry.”

But genuine, gut-wrenching, heart breaking acknowledgement of the degree to which the people of God-me, you, ushave turned from truth and pursued our own pleasure.

For generations, we have put our faith in a political party instead of a Holy God.  We have been happy to accept leaders of questionable integrity as long as our pocketbooks didn’t suffer.

We have sinned.  And we are reaping the fruit of the seed we sowed.

Our only hope is the mercy of God.  

I am going to be fasting and praying and begging for that mercy, like Daniel.

So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame…The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;…The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

“Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath…We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.

Daniel 9:1-19 selected NIV

Life at the Intersection of Desire and Self-Control

Maybe you can relate:  It is easier to do without if what I want isn’t close enough to tempt me. 

I don’t shop if I don’t want to spend.  I don’t get donuts if I don’t want to eat sugar.  I don’t have soda in the house if I don’t want to drink carbonated soft drinks.

It’s much harder to deny my desires when what I long for is within reach.

I have practiced the spiritual discipline of fasting on and off for over a decade.  And I have learned a great deal about myself, about desire and about how very weak I am, in my own strength, to continue long on a path of self-denial.  Who can resist chocolate when it’s right there in front of you???

When I perceive that God is calling me to give up food or something else for a span of time to focus on Him and on spiritual growth, I can prepare myself.

I can pick a date.  I can arrange my home and schedule and commitments to accommodate what I know will be the challenges associated with the battle that is to ensue.

But there is a difference between choosing to fast and being forced to starve.

For those who live in parts of the world overrun by famine, choice has been removed. They don’t go without food because they desire to exercise personal or spiritual discipline–it has been decided for them. And many times, there is not one thing they can do about it except to hang on and try to survive.

Grieving my son feels like an odd and uncomfortable mix of both scenarios.

I certainly had no choice in the matter–I was not consulted, prepared or given any warning.  And he is gone. Gone, gone, gone.

Yet I am surrounded by memories, physical connections and constant reminders of the one I miss.

I must live everyday at precisely the intersection of desire and self-control.

No, I cannot “have” him back.  When I am thinking correctly, I don’t want him back here in this broken world with broken people.  If what Scripture says is true (and I preach to myself that it is) then he is experiencing joy and beauty that fills his heart so full there’s no room for missing me.

But the heart wants what the heart wants.

And my heart wants my family circle whole again.  My heart wants to see how Dominic would use his gifts and talents to impact the world.  My heart wants my surviving children and my husband and my extended family not to have to carry this heavy grief load and to be free to live life without the intimate knowledge of the darkness of death and loss.

Every day I am forced to acknowledge my heart’s desire and then exert the self-control necessary to get out of bed and participate in daily life.

It takes so much energy.  I am often tempted to give up and give in.

This fast is the most strenous ever thrust upon me.

I know in my head my desires will never be fulfilled this side of heaven.  This passionate longing won’t end until I am reunited with Dominic and ultimately, all my loved ones in the Presence of Jesus.  And I have no idea when that might be.

So I must focus my thoughts and fix my heart’s affection on the promise of God in Christ: that He will redeem every broken thing, that He will restore every lost treasure and that resurrection will rule.

Energize the limp hands,
    strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
    “Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
    on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
    He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”

 Blind eyes will be opened,
    deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
    the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
    streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
    thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
    and barren grasslands flourish richly.

Isaiah 35:1-7 MSG

 

 

 

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