Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The End?

I never really know how best to end my Lenten practices. Pop - well. I had two today, argh! I bought a vanilla Dr at BJ's (this end of town's version of Sonic, the other end of town actually has Sonic) as a celebration of my last pop for a long while. We shall see. But it did feel good. It felt final. It was fun.

I mostly wrote my family once a week. And now to just write nothing seems extreme and sad and lonely. Will they think I don't love them anymore? Will they think they did something wrong? It's just weird. I know they won't. I just saw my folks and middle sister and will see my Aunt Loly this weekend, but still.

How do we end? Have I changed? Have I come closer to God, to my family, to knowing who God created me to be without pop in my life?

I'm not sure. I do love Jesus. I do believe he lived, died and rose again for me. Those things I know for sure. The rest? I don't know.

Deuteronomy 29:29 (New International Version)

29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Lord, thank you for sending me your Son. Thank you for giving me these past weeks to specifically focus, sacrifice and reflect on your love for me and what that means to me. Please continue to open my heart and mind to your word revealed to me.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gang Aft Agley

Y'know, what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? They gang aft agley.

They often don't work out.

My best laid Lent plans have, for the most part, been gang-aft-aglay-ing. It has been a hard season. I've definitely learned that my relationship with God takes a backburner when I get stressed out, because I've noticed that sugar tends to take a front-burner. And while I probably could have told you that before Lent started, I definitely didn't want to think about it, and really didn't want to do anything about it.

But this Lent, even though I haven't been perfect in my ability to stay on track, I have been appreciative for this medium through which to think in community about what I have been doing and how it has or has not been benefiting me. So I wanted to post this not to shame myself, but to remind myself that there is always room for growth and there is always a place I can be closer to God than what I am.

So even though I've been gang-aft-agley recently (and while I will attempt to gang-aft-agley no longer), I at least know that I want to be closer to God than where I am today. And I at least know that I can still accomplish that, even though I am always screwing up.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Check in . . .

Well, in case you are keeping track I opted to give up pop and opted to take on writing a letter each week to each: my parents, my Grandad, my great Aunt, my middle sis and and my last sis.

I forgot the letters last week and mailed them this week.

I have had pop more than once for what I think are valid reasons, like staying awake to drive students places at late hours or to do my budget for next year (and I still forgot almost $2000 that I only thought of almost two weeks later).

I'm ok with all of this, I really am. God provides and we've mentioned numerous times not to be legalistic and how lent is about bringing us closer to God. I'm thinking more and praying more and reading more Scripture. It's never enough, but so nourishing regardless.

So, there I am. Just thought I'd check in.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"Doing" Lent

Remember me? I'm the girl with the church that isn't "doing" Lent this year.

Well, my husband and I talked about it, and decided to bring up the idea with the youth group we lead (grades pre-k through 4). Guess what... the kids LOVE the idea. Two weeks ago, they busily decided what they could "give up" or "give to". We sent a note home to parents, explaining what we were doing, and none of the parents objected. So now, there is a small group of people in our church "doing" Lent, most of whom are younger than 10. They had some of the usual ideas (my daughter gave up chocolate, which she is managing to do with style), but some of their ideas were quite creative.

One of the littlest guys said he was going to give up digging. Yep, I didn't know what he meant, either. He said his favorite thing to do is dig holes, and his mom has been after him to stop digging up the yard. So he decided to give up digging.

One little girl said she is going to listen to her mom during Lent. *sigh* We'll see how that goes.

My son chose to give up quoting movies for Lent. "That doesn't sound too bad," you think. Well, for this 8-year-old, it is quite difficult. His conversation is littered with movie quotes. I think this is the hardest thing he's ever tried. However, he is not discouraged. He is a real trooper. He slips up frequently, but most often catches himself. Instead of beating himself up about it, he just vows to do better next time and goes on.

Now THAT is a lesson I need to learn. When I mess up, and eat my snacks or whatever, I berate myself about how bad it was. The truth is, God isn't keeping track of how many times I mess up. I believe He honors our efforts to draw near to Him. I think Lent is about getting our hearts in the right place to meet the risen Lord at Easter.

So, heart in the right place, we are "doing" Lent.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Prodigal Daughter

I have officially fallen off the bandwagon of my Lenten goal. My goal was not to have any sugar (at all) during Lent. After talking with my friend Kristy and several other people (and reading some great posts on this blog) about the tension between legalism and obedience, I think my awareness started to slip in an effort not to be "legalistic" about it. (What Clint posted about before, in the "is this good or is this not good"?)

I was ordering a scone one morning for breakfast when meeting a couple of friends for coffee, and a friend came up behind me and asked how my sugar fast was doing. And all of a sudden, halfway through eating the scone, I realized... it has sugar in it. The "slipping up" bothered me more because I hadn't even realized it, and less because I had "slipped up." I had just ordered the scone without thinking, because that's what I always do. Of course, I got tea because that's what I always do. No sugar. But the scone really bothered me.

Then, later that week, I went out to eat with my parents. And I ordered water, because that's what I always do. Then, during the meal, I heard the couple behind us eating the key lime pie, and I thought, "wow, I love key lime pie... wouldn't that be a great treat for celebration of this event?" And I ordered the key lime pie, and ate it. And I didn't even think about the sugar. Not until the next day when I was writing a review about the restaurant and thought... I had sugar last night and didn't even realize it!

Again, it isn't so much the slipping up (doing a behavior I wasn't supposed to do) that bothered me. It was the lack of awareness. The whole point of giving something up for Lent is to enhance your relationship with God and your awareness of your nature. And I like the posts that Clint & Amy have written on here about recognizing the tension between obedience to God's desires and the legalism of religious self-righteousness. So I guess what really makes me struggle with the "falling off the bandwagon" is that I didn't even think about it. I let myself get back into my patterns, and I wasn't conscious of what I was doing. I was just making decisions like I always made them. I was not drinking sugary coffee drinks or soda because I'm trying to drink more water (for health reasons). But I was ordering scones and key lime pie because that's just what I would do if I could eat whatever I wanted. But the problem is, I'm not supposed to be just eating whatever I wanted. I'm supposed to be giving up sugar for Lent, in order to be obedient to my awareness of God in my life.

This reminds me of the book The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, where he talks about the parable of the prodigal son and the elder brother. The elder brother is keeping the rules, and thinks there's something inherently good about him because he can keep the rules. He feels righteous in his legalism. The younger brother knows that he cannot keep the rules, and he follows his selfish desires, but then he returns to his Father because he knows that only his Father can give him what he really needs. I don't want to be an elder brother about this, and try to beat myself into legalistic submission. But I don't want to be the younger son who just decides to fulfill his selfish desires because he can't keep all the rules. I want to be the younger brother who returns to his Father because he knows that only the Father can give him what He needs. I want to be appropriately repentant, and reform the behavior, but not for the sake of the behavior itself, or following the rules. Rather, for the restoration of the relationship with the Father that I had when my awareness was heightened through this Lenten practice.

So this is me confessing in front of the Church that I have not been honoring my relationship in the way I should have. I want to repent of this behavior, and turn back to the restoring love of my Father.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cheating or Justifying?

A friend of mine, Adrianna, gave up eating out for lent. In that, she is even including the cafeteria at the college where we work.

Another friend of ours had a birthday on Sunday and wanted to go out to eat lunch this week in celebration. Adrianna was torn. We talked about it a great while. Should she not go? Well, that is not very uplifting and supportive of the birthday girl. Should Adrianna go and only have a glass of water? Would that make everyone else at the table feel badly that we were eating in front of her or that we weren't good enough people to keep lent?

The answer? What would you choose? My friend was really torn about this. A lot.

This was what was decided. She would go and eat because Lent is about being nearer to God. In this case, it was felt that by excluding people she was stepping away from God. By breaking the fast of eating out, Adrianna was sacrificing her commitment and that that too, was good. The passage that kept coming to my mind was where we are told not to do anything that may cause another to stumble. I know that is not the best passage of Scripture for this particular situation and yet, it is the passage that continues to return to me. By sacrificing and eating with us, Adrianna was setting an example of loving and giving of herself for others. Now, I was the only one of the four women that would be at that lunch that knew all of this but it was an example of faith to me.

Lent is not about the legality of strictly abiding by some goals that let's face it, some of us made the morning or afternoon of Ash Wednesday when we saw the ash smudge on someone's forehead and finally remembered it was Lent and yea, we should probably give up something, not because we're Catholic or have good reason or may not even understand the purpose, it's just what we do. Sorta like a New Year's resolution, but easier because it's only about 8 weeks instead of 52. Lent is about doing something to draw nearer to God. Lent is about loving and living more deeply in the Holy Spirit. Lent is about realizing what Christ lived and died for. Whom he lived and died for.

You. Me.

I'm guessing there are those who would disagree with the above decision and say that Lent is more important, Adrianna should not have gone out to eat and that I am justifying the decision that was made. I wondered that and I think that the reasons we first came up with were exactly that but God used those to draw us deeper into conversation and prayer and that's where we ended up. Well, almost.

Adrianna actually got the flu and stayed home to keep from spreading it around. But if she hadn't been sick, we would've enjoyed her company greatly at lunch on Tuesday.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I set goals for Lent. They were good goals. They were goals that had the possibility of changing lots of things for me. However, I am now thinking that 20 Lenten commitments may have been a little over the top.

I am able to do fine with them if I have hardly any responsibilities. But, if anything comes up that takes up my time, there are a lot of goals that go by the wayside. I feel like a Lenten failure.

This is a good thing to notice because I tend to overcommit and try to do too much in about every area of my life. I see a lot of things that I want to do, and I try and do all of them at once. Then, when I can't handle all that I try and do, I get angry and resentful. And then I feel like quitting.

What I need to do with these goals is continue the habits I have already formed, and then attempt to grow into the rest as I slowly transition toward my goals. Maybe by the end of Lent I will have a perfect week in regard to my goals.

I am not going to get these goals completely fulfilled. Nor am I going to quit because I didn't do everything right. I will keep on trying to meet my Lenten goals, and work many of them into my life after Easter.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crap. Just Crap.

I hope there is no one with delicate sensibilities on this blog. If so, I apologize profusely if my title offended. Please forgive.

I had a crappy, crappy day today. It started off relatively fine. Alarm went off at 6:30, up and out of the door by 7:15. I was at work by 7:30 with coffee in hand, warming my hands and awakening my sleepy brain. I don’t have class on Thursdays, (I’m a seminary student) so I decided to spend most of my day at the church working on special graphic projects, such as the poster and logo for our Sunrise Service, the weekly email blast we send out to the congregation, etc, etc.

Let me make this clear: I work with an amazing group of people. They are fun and I love them dearly. Yet the magnitude of what we must do together as a church staff is overwhelming sometimes. And you have those “hallway” conversations with people you are in ministry with (I also teach at the church) and you seek to work out the tension between things like vision and reality and what you want to be and what can actually be.

Those conversations can hit hard, and maybe not even in the moment you are having them. So the crap in my day didn’t come (at least not on the surface) from these conversations or even these people. They came from spilling my fountain soda all over the floor before I’ve even had any, and from loosing some really, really important notes (pages of them) I can’t finish a project without. Those little things aggravate the big things… and the next thing I know my mind is racing with all the crap in my life I can’t control and my heart breaks with the brokenness that is in me and is in the world.


For me, this Lenten season has not been what I should have made it. I am not thoughtfully preparing myself for Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. And in that, I discovered that I have given up the significant importance of what help makes me a whole and spiritually healthy person: reflection on God’s goodness. I didn’t intentionally “give” this up for Lent (not that anyone ever should) but I, in my crazy, screwed-up and misdirected ways, might as well have. Because the Lord’s goodness is not in the front of my mind… it seem that I have given that up.

Part of the Lenten process is sacrificing – fasting from certain foods or media. And I love that part of Lent. I love the call to sacrifice a normal, everyday comfort for the sake of something outside yourself. This often brings sadness into the heart. And our sin rightfully should bring that sadness. But today I am looking at this process of preparation and sacrifice differently.

I am looking for the joy.

Joy is a funny word, because we know it’s possible to be joyful without expressing happiness. Feelings of joy often come from with the heart, whereas an expression of happiness is more temporal and outward. When I think of joy I think of contentment. And when I think of contentment, I don’t automatically think of “Lent”. But today I have a new Lenten goal: to find the joy in this sorrowful season, to find the joy in my heart. To give up the downward spiral I brought myself to in this season... and be reminded that God is good. Even when my day is not.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Not "Doing" Lent?

Our church board announced a month or two ago that we were not "doing" Lent this year. To them, that meant we were not having an Ash Wednesday service, or Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday. We were not getting into the "liturgical" thing, but just doing Palm Sunday and Easter.

Now, I'm sure they had the best of intentions with this. But I'm not sure we're really doing ourselves any favors. Usually, Lent helps get the mind and heart prepared for Easter. Isn't that what the time is usually about? But instead, this year we are not going to really think about it. We are going to rush head-long on with our busy lives, and not take time for church.

Sunday morning, our pastor asked the congregation if we knew what last Wednesday was. Surprise, surprise, no one knew. So our pastor has decided (thankfully) to focus his sermons on the season of Lent. (hahaha to those who thought we were doing away with any lenten connection)

Usually, my kids have talked about what they were giving up for Lent. Last year, my son gave up Star Wars, GI Joe, and Transformers. (He was brave -- and he made it through Lent without them.) But neither of my kids have said anything this year. Nor have I made any effort myself. I guess I have just "gone along" with the crowd.

So, now what? Where am I going from here? I have no idea. And Easter will be here before we know it. In our church, that is truer than we expect.

Sugar Addicts Anonymous

I'm on day seven of my Lenten sugar fast, and let me tell you... only the power of Christ compels me. I have been sugar-free for almost a week, and it's definitely a struggle.

Here are things that I have been doing:

I gave up all desserts (even fruity ones... just to be safe).
I gave up all boxed cereals (except Kashi)
I gave up all sodas and sweet drinks
I gave up all sweets (even sugar-free ones... just to be safe).
I gave up all juices (just to be safe).

At first, I thought it would be fine for me to do things like have sugar-free chocolate, or sugar-free ice cream. But what I noticed after having a couple of those on the second day... I craved sugar even more. So I just decided to try cold turkey and see if that worked.

Instead I am:

Drinking coffee/tea/espresso with no sugar.
Eating a lot more fruit.
Chewing a lot of gum.

It has been really interesting. I definitely can feel the difference sometimes. Well, I know the difference because I'm craving sugar a lot, but I can also feel the difference in that I'm not as tired in the afternoons, and I tend to sleep better. I'm wondering if this might not be a good lifestyle choice for me to just make. It seems drastic, but I wonder if it wouldn't be better for me physiologically (forget weight/health issues associated with sugar) to not have anymore refined sugar.

It is really hard, with the cravings. I don't know how I'm doing it, other than by the grace of God. Because there are some times I want sugar so bad, I can taste it. I've even gone to Starbucks a couple of times and just said to myself, if I get a scone or something, it's not really sugar, right? But I know it is. And I made a commitment. I want to honor that commitment. No momentary indulgence is going to be as sweet as honoring that commitment. 

I'm trying to steer as clear as I can of foods that I know are high in hfcs, as well. But it's hard to avoid syrup of any kind. It's been interesting. The post that Clint put up about legalism is one that has been eating at me a bit. I still need to think about it more, and I hope to post on it later.

I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone else's Lent is going.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lent and the Temptation of Legalism

Each time I approach the season of Lent, I approach it with either goals of relinquishment or goals of addition. This year I am trying both. Each year, as I go through my Lenten journey, I struggle with some sort of legalism.

When most of us think of the struggle of legalism, we often really think of judgmentalism. We think of someone who spend all their time attempting to live by the rules, and looking down on those who do not. With Lent, we might think of the danger of legalism as being too hard on ourselves. This is not the kind of legalism I struggle with during Lent.

The kind of legalism that I struggle with during Lent is the kind of legalism that looks for exceptions and loopholes. For instance, for years in the past I would give up fast food for Lent. Then, for weeks I would struggle with which restaurant counts as "fast food" and which does not. Did Panda Express count? What about Chipotle or Qdoba? Subway? Or is fast food really just McDonalds and Taco Bell?

When I attempt to fast, I start pondering after about 12 hours whether a milkshake is a food or a drink. What about a candy I do not chew on, but just suck on, like Jolly Ranchers? Is that a break of the fast? Whenever I set a rule, it is not long before I look for loopholes and exceptions.

I think this form of legalism is kind of sad for two reasons. First of all,I think it quickly moves me away from relationship. Instead of getting closer to God, I work on being good enough and not disappointing God and myself. And when I get in the position of a child trying to earn love from my Heavenly Father I miss the love God is reaching out to me with.

Second, it exposes my lack of willingness to embrace the spirit of the discipline I am working on. I wish I were a person who was not tempted to quit so much. I wish I was a person that avoided the hard and painful stuff so much. But often I leave myself open to these temptations through my weakness.

Lent: That 40-day Period When You Get Ugly Looks for Saying Alleluia in Church.

Lent is actually my favorite liturgical season. Yes, Christmas is nice, and Easter has wonderful music, but Lent has its own characteristics that make it special too. Being raised with both Southern Baptist and Episcopal beliefs and values, I was a little more than confused about the whole "Lent" thing for quite a while. For years the beginning of Lent simply meant I gave up something I loved for forty days, because "that's what you do in Lent". It was also the time of year when my brother and I looked forward to going to a very public place after the Ash Wednesday service so we could count how many weird looks we got because of the black smudges on our foreheads. Long story short, I didn't get it. Over the years however, I have come to fully appreciate Lent and all that it stands for.

Something that really helped me in the process of understanding Lent was the program Godly Play. It's a Montessori based children's program through the Episcopal Church. Just this week I got to tell the "Mystery of Easter" story in the younger's room (three and four year-olds). They were enthralled. The story gives a simple, yet excellent definition of Lent, "Lent helps us to get ready. It is a time to know more about the One who is Easter. It is also a time to learn more about who we really are." The time of Lent does give me time to think about who I am. I ask myself questions like, "What do I stand for? What things in my life could I improve on? What things am I doing right?" Not that any person can conquer all their problems in forty days, but having this time set aside, which is specifically dedicated to the meditation and reflection of our lives does help further me in my spiritual journey.

Now for my favorite part of Lent, the changing of the colors. The color of Lent is purple, which is the color of kings, and we're getting ready for the coming of a king. Purple is also a serious color, because something serious is going to happen. The color of Easter is white. You see, as we approach Easter, "The color of getting ready, becomes the color of pure celebration." The end of the Godly Play story goes like this, "The sad seriousness and the happiness join together and make joy." I love happy endings like this, they make all the sad parts worth it, just like the process of Lent. So even though we go through this serious time, in the end, we are better people because of it. I'm eager to see how I far I will go, and how much I will change this Lenten season, and I can't wait for Easter morning when I will hear the words, "Alleluia. Christ is risen." and I will have the privilege of enthusiastically responding, "The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia."

Sunday, February 21, 2010


My idea of Lent is not just the sacrificing of something I enjoy but also the sacrificial act of adding something to my life that I may not be good at or may not enjoy or be good at remembering.

Since I was in college, I started writing to my grandparents and great aunt once a week during Lent. I have done that probably more often than not each Lenten season since. I have to take time away from facebook and blogging and reading and movies and cleaning (ok, I don't mind that part) to sit down and write something caring and thoughtful and genuine. This practice means that I'm giving of myself to someone who has given so much to me. People who love me unconditionally and whom Jesus has used to teach me. Writing a postcard or letter to these people is a reminder of who I am as a child of my earthly family and how they have taught me that I am also a child of God.

This year is different. There is one less letter to write each week. Gran passed away in October and it's still sad and different. I just called my Aunt Loly to wish her a happy 94th birthday and it was strange to not talk about Gran and how she's doing. The way I grew up, Aunt Loly was really like another gramma and talking to her tonight makes me miss Gran even more.

God uses everything to His Glory. I believe that. I don't always see it but I believe it.

So this year for Lent I am committing to two things for sure: no more pop and write a letter a week each to Grandad James and Aunt Loly. I think I'll add my folks this year and maybe my two sisters as well. Everyone loves real mail, right? And this is a great way to show love, I think.

Time to write a couple of letters!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Accountability post

I actually did ok on my first day:

I met all my daily exercise goals
I met my diet goals (w/exceptions written in)
I met my daily enjoyment goal w/ a "heart-healthy" beverage

This weekend's craziness is built in to my goals. I have a lock-in this evening, and for the next couple days everything will be haywire. But we are looking at long-term growth with my lenten goals anyway.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Where I got the title....

Because as a child I got the words LINT and LENT mixed up. I thought Ash Wednesday was a day for chimney cleaning and the stuff in dryer and the day "catholics celebrated" were the same. Then I went to college and learned better. Strange things you learn in college...huh?

Lenten Goals

This year for Lent, I've decided to give up sugar. A time-honored tradition exists in the liturgy of the church of giving up things for the season of Lent in order to learn the discipline of self control, and to identify with the sufferings of Christ. I've never really done this before, but I've been convicted lately that I have an addiction that I need to address that's getting in the way of making God the #1 priority in my life.

I am addicted to sugar. Like many Americans, I do the high-low of sugar addiction. And those lows are low. They can impede my ability to concentrate and work. I would love to get out of this cycle. I crave the high, the energy, the general up-ness of sugar. The endorphin rush. Even just talking about it, I can feel how much I want sugar right now (and I'm only on Day Two).

So I've decided to give up processed sugar of all kinds. I would love to give up all sugar, but that's just not reasonable for me. It's hard to throw a rock in your kitchen without hitting something that has high fructose corn syrup in it. But I'm going to be as careful as I can about that, as well. So my official goal is to avoid all sweets and sugars (sugar includes soda, coffee flavoring, non-fruit juices, all sugary drinks, all desserts--unless they are sugar free, and even then, I have to be careful about the HF-CS--all candy, chocolate, and baked goods). This is going to be intense for me. It's already been hard. But I think, with God's help, I can do it.

But since I'm doing one "abjuring", I thought I should do one "adding", too. So in addition to giving something up for Lent, I'm also adding something. I'm taking sugar out of my diet and putting fruit in. So I'm trying to eat 3-5 servings of fruit every day (not including juices, because most fruit juices are mostly sugar).

I'm also adding in a devotional reading, to support the changes I've made. I bought a Lenten Study on "freedom" that I will talk more about later. So my other addition is that I'm trying to do my one-day devotional reading every day of the 40 days until Easter.

God, please be with me. I will need it...

Lenten Quote

There is nothing more common among those of us who hang out in the company of the men and women that follow Jesus than using what everyone agrees is a good thing and essential to the kingdom of God to hide our sin.--Eugene Peterson (Tell It Slant, p. 57)


One of the things that I am always reminded of during Lent is my lack of belief in God's abundance. I believe in God's abundance toward me intellectually, but when it comes to feeling a sense of God's abundance deep in my heart I often fall short.

I eat too much because internally I doubt I will have the opportunity to taste something quite this good again. I need to tell myself that I will get to eat what I eat again, so I can savor what I have now and not overeat. I misuse my time because I don't trust I will have the opportunity to do the other things I am doing again. Often, I struggle in making a decision for work based on wondering about if a similar opportunity will ever arise.

One of the emotional issues I need to deal with in my Lenten journey has to do with my trust in God's provision and abundant gifts.