Category Archives: The Church Year

Why I Didn’t Give up Anything for Lent

My mother in law is 93 years old and lives downstairs in our finished basement apartment.  She’s still got a pretty agile mind (when she remembers her hearing aids and actually listens to what is being said) but her body has pretty much given out.


We help her with meals during the week, bringing down extra casseroles and soups, salads and an occasional dessert.  She doesn’t mind being reminded to eat (that being a precursor to staying alive and all) but she is so over it when it comes to being bothered with meal preparation.

“I’ve cooked so many dinners in my lifetime, I’m just tired of even thinking about it.”

That’s the thing about our daily lives–as someone said, they’re so daily.  If you are breathing again each morning you wake up, Jesus has made it clear He still has a purpose for your being here.  
“But really, you wonder, do I have to cook dinner again????”

I can’t decide to only eat (or not eat) certain days of the year; I can’t give up something for just 40 days of Lent–a vice of some kind, a bad habit, a fleshly indulgence–I need to decide to give things up for LIFE

I was not raised in a Christian home and when I found Jesus (or He found me) I began worshipping in a very evangelical Protestant denomination. We’ve never followed the Church calendar when it comes to liturgies, we don’t ‘do’ Advent or any of the organized observances like Lent. (Frankly, it’s much to our loss, as those rituals can often bring a deeper meaning to our faith.)

However, I still wanted to read something this year about the season of Lent, words that fit my mindset and the way I worship. Kris Camealy’s book “Holey, Wholly, Holy” seemed to fill the bill. The book’s subtitle is, “A Lenten journey of Refinement.”
From ‘Why Lent?’ page 8:
“This is the hard refinement, the journey from holey (broken in sin) 
to wholly (surrendered) to holy.
Kris’ words resonated,
“It occurred to me that perhaps what God calls us to give up, really, is ourselves.  
The paltry offerings we prefer to give up, 
(less TV, no chocolate, shopping for clothes), 
while they feel challenging, are perhaps less pleasing 
because we fail to give up the one thing that stands between us and Christ. 
Ourselves.”
‘Why Lent’, p. 8, italics mine.

Yes, giving up myself and my wants and my fleshly desires and my sin (for that’s what it is) will be a lifelong journey. My daily life provides me ample opportunity to do the same thing over and over again, to repent anew each day, to be reminded of how much I need the Cross and God’s salvation–not just preceding the Easter Season, but every day of my life.

While I’ve been reading HWH, I’ve also been memorizing Isaiah 55 with the online group at Do Not Depart (see my sidebar….the gurgling fountain picture 🙂
The word ‘behold’ begins many of the verses in that chapter, and I’ve been meditating on ‘beholding’ Jesus and ‘being held’ by Him.  

:When we turn to Him, he holds us.  When we behold His face, we are changed.:  

A quote from Alan Redpath opens the Introduction to HWH:
“Give up the struggle and the fight; relax in the omnipotence of the Lord Jesus; 
look up into His lovely face and as you behold Him, 
He will transform you into His likeness.  
You do the beholding–He does the transforming. 
There is no shortcut to holiness.”

If there are no shortcuts, clearly this WILL be a lifelong process.

I will have to find new manna every day.  
I will have to come back to God’s table to be fed. 
I will have to come back to the feet of Jesus and lay my sins and 
shortcomings at the cross.
In the week before Easter, this seems a fitting focus for my life.

Kris writes in the last chapter,
“The journey through Lent is a journey that doesn’t end at the cross.  No!  
This journey ends at the empty tomb when we realize that He’s beaten back death.  This journey ends in the victory of grace for sinners and redemption for those who believe.”

Oh, I say Hallelujah, for that.

As we move into the Holy Week preceding the Resurrection,
I pray that you and I will have a heart of thankfulness that rests in the daily assurance
of God’s grace 
that gives to us again and again and again,
the grace that causes us to say, “I give up!” for Life.
~~~~~~
Linking with my sisters Jen
               Finding Heaven
Jennifer, Emily and Lyli

Prepare Him Room

A few weeks ago I  had a revelation at 3 in the morning: I was feeling very overwhelmed with how and what and when to write on this wonderful blogging space every week.  So I decided I’d just take a break from Veteran’s Day until Christmas.
(I wrote about it here.)

The idea was to give myself some mental and spiritual space to focus on the season of Advent–waiting for the celebration of Christ’s first coming at Christmas.  Lots of people were talking about ways to observe the four week occasion and it sounded like a grand plan–a way to enlarge my spiritual horizons, quiet myself, focus on the true spirit of Christmas.

In that post I also committed (sort of) to NOT writing during that time.  I felt wonderful to declare it out loud, relieving a lot of the pressure of ‘coming up with something’ to write about 2-3 times a week.

And of course it seemed like immediately after that I had something on my heart to write about every time I turned around.

But I wasn’t supposed to be writing.
I was supposed to be taking time to be spiritual and quiet and well, like everyone else.

As my friend GG wrote here, just because you hear what sounds like a great idea it’s okay to say, “That’s just not gonna work right now.  It doesn’t fit me.”

My season of almost silence did not fit me. At all. I’m a writer–that’s how I process the world…by writing.

Besides, this is the first year I’ve ever been intentional about celebrating Advent, so the learning curve is steep.  I’m discovering although the sentiments and Scripture surrounding the occasion sound glorious they just don’t work in this season of my life.

Not the Christmas season, but the life season.

Why? For one, when I made the decision about being quiet and listening and prayerfulness and Advent-observing I forgot about my huband’s life-altering surgery coming up.

The one where he gets a new knee–that one.

So now I’m playing nurse and caregiver to a man who spends the days between his bed and the recliner, who uses a rolling walker and four legged cane to get everywhere.  While he recuperates.  For 8-10 weeks.

So, I get to do everything he usually does as a newly retired person: feed the birds, take out the garbage, bring in the paper, feed himself (the basics).

{PLUS} my full time job and manage the bills and buy the groceries and take care of the laundry and dinner and……

During the holidays.

You get the picture. It doesn’t exactly leave one much space–mental, physical OR spiritual–for being quiet and contemplative, does it?

AND, we’ll probably have to use the artificial tree my husband put up before his surgery.  Anathema!  Sacrilege!
Artificial knees, artificial trees–it seems like I’m dying to myself every second of every day.

Well, I’m not dying, I’m kicking and screaming to a very slow death.
A death to my desires and needs. A death to my rights.
Having conversations with God about all I’m giving up and people I can’t see and the places I can’t go.  Wah, wah, wah.

However, by God’s good grace and the pervasiveness of Christmas music, I’ve been hearing His still, small voice speaking to me through some old, familiar songs.

‘Away in a Manger’, for instance, and the line about Christ ‘fitting us for Heaven.’

What is that, I wondered–Fit?  I looked it up:

Some definitions of the word ‘fit’ are:
(1): adapted to an end or design : suitable by nature or by art
(2): adapted to the environment so as to be capable of surviving
a: put into a suitable state : made ready <get the house fit for company>
And “Joy to the World”, the part about letting ‘every heart prepare him room.’
Every heart.  My heart.
I just kept hearing, “Make big room, make big room.” 
(When I wrote the phrase in my journal, I heard it in a Jamaican accent.)
Make room for this season, whatever it holds, however it comes to you. 
You are being made fit for Heaven and God knows what fits you best.
Even if it’s wrapped up in a rolling walker and a man
who looks just like your husband. 
It’s Jesus saying, 
“I’m making you fit. Suitable. Ready.

For me.
~~~~~~~~~

A Circle of Seasons–Book Review

Halloween has come and gone, the elections are settled. Now it’s begun–the Holiday Season is officially upon us.

How do I know?  Because Advent officially starts on November 25th this year.

I had never before paid attention to the idea of Advent until I met Kimberlee Conway Ireton.

Kimberlee is a lovely Christian writer/blogger who happens to live in Seattle–not far from me. (You can find her virtual self here.) We connected online and set a time to meet a few weeks back.  When we got together (in between playing on the floor with her children and drinking tea) she shared her book with me–

“A Circle of Seasons.”

I’ve been chewing on little morsels of its pages ever since. 

Preparing for or even thinking about Advent is an all new process for me.  You see, I don’t do Advent. Although the liturgies of the church calendar have not been part of my worship tradition, I’ve participated in the observances in other churches and have been very moved by them.

I am learning “all time is sacred because God is present in it.” (Introduction, p.13).
Preparing for the Christmas season is an actual time in the Church Calendar Year. 

God used the leaders of the time to establish yearly feasts for the Jews.  He has established the seasons I can see outside my window every day.  Surely a church calendar marking the seasons of God the Son makes more sense than I realized.

From the Introduction:

             “ As with much of Christianity,
the church year can be radically countercultural,
a much-needed light showing a better way to live. 
In a culture that is too often hurried and distracted,
the church year helps us pay attention
because it draws our focus continually back to Christ.” (p. 16)

In light of focusing continually on Christ I am finishing Chapter One–Advent, A Season of Waiting.
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas–this year it is November 25th. (To remind us once more).

Advent is a slow build of anticipation to the celebration of Christ’s birth.  As the outside seasons slowly turn rather than ‘click’ from Summer to Fall with the snap of a finger, so this time of pondering helps us prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.

I’m learning the days are not just numbers to check off on a calendar.  They can be filled with rich meaning and purpose. Each Sunday focuses on a word–Wait, Prepare, Rejoice and Love. These are observed by lighting a candle, either pink (joy), purple (the color of repentance) or blue (hope).

                       

Kimberlee’s son Jack (from her recent post ‘Saying Grace’)


The Sunday words of Advent:

  • In Hebrew, the word for ‘WAIT’ is also the word for hope. We are hoping while we wait.
  • To ‘PREPARE’ is to be mindful of–pay attention to, be on guard
  • When we ‘REJOICE’ we can be ‘joyfully aware of the presence of God in our lives’
  • When we remember the fourth Sunday, ‘LOVE’, we are ‘gathered around a promise’ (Henri Nouwen)

From the first chapter alone I can tell I want to read more as Kimberlee has already provided
morsel after morsel of rich food for thought. Whether you are new to the church year traditions as I am, or have practiced them forever, you’ll perhaps find a thought shared in a new way or an idea you’d never considered.

Kimberlee also provides some practical ideas at the end of each chapter, giving suggestions of things you might do in your own home that involve young children. How to incorporate the Advent candle lighting into your family’s time is shared in a precious way. These are precious reminders of how to teach the next generation, too, these treasures of the season, in one circle after another.

One thought from Kimberlee,

“The coming of Christ into our midst requires that we rethink our desires and that we learn to hold them lightly, allowing the desire of God to supplant –or increase–our own desires.” (p. 21). 

Increasing my desire for God is one I hold dearly, the particular reason why I’m rethinking Advent (and looking forward to the rest of the Church Year traditions.)

You can read this book for yourself.  For a limited time, Kimberlee is graciously offering “A Circle of Seasons” for $5.00 plus postage. You can reach her here and get a copy—-just in time to celebrate Advent!
You’ll be happy you did.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Linking with Jennifer for God Bumps, Emily at Imperfect Prose