Hi friends, today is the first day of Lent. For the next 40 days, many Christians will be preparing their hearts and minds for Resurrection Sunday. Like many of you, I ponder every year what this season will look like for me. Years ago, I would give up chocolate for Lent just to have a battle with the famous "Thin Mint" Girl Scout Cookies. And every year, the cookies would win out.
Then there was a season I didn't do anything for Lent -- I didn't want to be legalistic and live by a set of rules. But this year, the more I think of it, there is nothing I desire more then to have a heart prepared for worship on Easter. Perhaps a 40-day-get-my-heart-ready journey is exactly what I need. So after some thought and brainstorming, I decided to commit to this: waking up at 5:30 am each morning and spending 30 minutes in prayer and meditation. And here is why:
1) The Challenge -- getting up early isn't easy for me. When asked if I'm a night person or morning person, I always say, "I'm neither! I like my sleep!" It's true. But the challenge of getting up early and committing 30 minutes to the Lord sounds doable...and even a bit silly. Shouldn't I have been doing this all my life? When we face a challenge and muster the courage to overcome it, we are better for it. I think of what Paul said in Philippians, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Talk about the ultimate challenge...that helps put my 5:30 am wake-up call into perspective.
2) The Meditation -- I read a quote recently that impacted me: "How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God...It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into a matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God." We all know that person who knows so much about God but there seems to be little reflection of that knowledge in their life and actions. I am that person from time to time. I'm motivated now to meditate on God's word with the hopes that this discipline will produce deep love and praise for God. J.I. Packer says that meditation is "an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communication with God." And let's remember Psalm 119:15-16, "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."
3) The Denial -- Denying yourself of one thing to remember another thing can be effective. For example, denying myself a new pair of shoes will remind me that I'm on a budget. Or even better, denying myself to not even go to the shoe store (or to be honest, I do most of my shoe shopping online!) will remind me that I don't need a new pair of shoes. You get the idea -- the more I think about new shoes, the more I remember I don't need them! I'm hoping the same effect happens with the denial of my instincts that say I need more sleep at 5:30 am. The denial of my sleep over the next 40 days is supposed to trigger a reminder of my deep, deep need of Jesus. Think of Mark 8:34, "Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'"
4) The Sharing -- I'm a big fan of community! I think it is important that we remember that we are not alone on this journey. I felt led to share with all of you that this is my goal during the Lent season because I'd like the accountability. It is so easy to start with high ambitious only to scarf down the entire box of Girl Scout Cookies on the second day. But also remember what Jesus tells us on the Sermon on Mound (Matthew 6:16-18):
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
So if you too are feeling led to fast or try something new during this Lent season, let us know and post what you're doing below. But let us also remember that the Lord requires a humble and meek heart...so praise to Him and not to us!
And just to be sure I'm getting the most out of my 30 minutes each morning over the coming weeks, I plan to have a box of Thin Mints by my side!