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.