Lent – with cake

March 4, 2009

I know. Lent with cake sounds upside down. Lent is a time of penitence, of focusing on what it costs to follow this Jesus person. Each Lent, as I spend forty days in purposeful absention, I learn something new about God and myself. Cake doesn’t sound like purposeful absention. But this year, it is.

In the past, I’ve given up dishonorable speech for Lent (i.e. no gossip). I’ve made committments to pray and sit with God for an hour each day. Once, I spent my Lent praying for forgiveness for all the crap I’d done to people (including myself) in my twenties. Without fail, the leanings of my heart about what to focus on guided me deeper into my relationship with the Living God, so that each Lent, I stepped into the rest of the year spiritually fed and awake.

Gradually, my insights from Lent have been integrated into my day-to-day life. This Lent, I feel very aware of some of those integrations. I made a choice a long time ago to give my life over to Christ. I knew then and I know now that I would do that imperfectly and often sloppily. But when I gave over my vocational life, I put my life in His hands, instead of my own. That has meant, at times, less money, less security, and less clarity.  He has always provided – I’ve never been without a roof or food or friends. The yoke of that decision is light – but not without its accompanying worries.

Those worries have become burdens and even barriers in my faith life. I’ve been so confused and angry at God that I have spent weeks where my only prayers ran along the lines of, “What in YOUR NAME are you DOING?!” or “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?” While I think it’s good and fine for me to be honest with God, I’ve often become stuck in those frustrations and fears, which I think are rooted in a lack of lively, creative, childlike trust in Him. I despair at times that He is really with me. I allow the circumstances of my life to determine how I feel about the Spirit. This is backwards. The Spirit has the power to determine how I approach my circumstances.

So this Lent, as my husband and I pray for provision and eat beans and tofu instead of something pricier and tastier, I am giving up despair for Lent. This Lent, I am focusing on the power that can raise the dead. “Resurrection power!” to quote my Pentecostal brothers and sisters. This Lent, G-Whiz and I are making one cake every week, to celebrate the fact that God is a good God – who delivers a delicious, abundant life – no matter what the circumstances may be. This Lent, I am choosing to abstain from despairing that God is good and God is present. With each tasty bite I plan on increasing my faith and setting down my fears.

Pictures of Lenten Cake #1 – Lemon Cake – soon to come.

(Quand meme, Jesu, viens vite!)

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Ashes, ashes . . .

February 8, 2008

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, which begins my favorite season of the year: Lent. Since I’m not an integral member of any liturgical church community at the moment, I just found a local church that had mid-day services and went there.

There is something about the imposition of the ashes that really helps me tap down into the purpose of Lent. Here is my self-portrait that I call “In the car with ashes”:

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Ashes we are, and to ashes we shall return. I love that the early church knew it was a good idea to set a portion of the year – especially before Easter – for drawing intentionally nearer to God. Obviously, this is something that we get to/should be doing year-round, but it is helpful to have a set amount of days where this is the communal intent. I need these forty days each year.

Some years, I’ve felt called to let God work on a particular spiritual issue. For example, there was one year where I fasted from gossiping. You can ask my best friend – sometimes our conversations were kinda short that Lent. I have a lot of crap to talk about people, apparently. Other years, I’ve felt pulled to spend more time in worship, or more time just sitting around thinking about Jesus. Each year, when I reach the end of Lent, I’m left with at least one insight into myself and God.

It always bums me out when I meet kids or adults who ask each other, “what are you giving up for Lent?” Lent is not about “giving up.” It is about “going in” – in the sense of going deeper into who God is, and who it is that Jesus sees you can be. Fasting can be an awesome spiritual aid, but giving up chocolate or soda – well – I have yet to hear anyone tell me about how much that shaped them spiritually during Lent.

This year, I feel like the Holy Spirit gave me a word in worship on Sunday about my Lenten journey this year. We were singing Matt Redman’s “The Heart of Worship” (how awesome is that song!), and when we got to the line, “Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is yours/every single breath,” I nearly fell down. I have lived in that place – where I’m aware that all I have and am belongs to God. I have lost some of that intentionality and awareness.  I’ve gotten a little sloppy about my dedication to God’s kingdom over the past years of changes and disappointments. I’ve become more comfortable and more adept at distracting and entertaining myself instead of soaking myself in the Word, worship and prayer. I need to make my way back to that place – for my own spiritual sanity and joy.
So this year, to bless myself and hopefully God’s heart, I’m going to dedicate this Lent to finding my intentionality again. This means cutting down on entertaining and distracting myself. So, I’m going to stay away from the TiVo for forty days, and also bring back a daily practice of reading the Bible. I love it so much when I do it – but I forget to do it nevertheless.

If you practice Lent – have an awesome one – and if you don’t – hey! Give it a try!