03.04.2014

Preparing Your Heart for Lent

PreparingYourHeartforLent

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a 40 day fast leading up to Easter. I didn’t grow up in a church that taught me all of the details on the history and such so my knowledge is very basic.  Basically, Lent is a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter. It is  observed by a lot of Christian denominations although not every Christian church or denomination does. During this time, people choose to give up a bad habit or certain behavior during this time or adopt a new spiritual habit.

In the past, these are a few things I’ve given up/added in for Lent:

  • Soda
  • Television
  • Cake
  • Listening to music in the car and took the time to pray instead
  • Adding in running 3 times a week and praying while I ran
  • Nail biting
  • Apps on my phone
  • Secular music

I really love Lent. Not to say I enjoy it because the point is not enjoyment but I love and cherish it for the sacrificial time it is meant to be. It can be a huge struggle not to cave to my selfish desire to go back to bad habits, especially since it isn’t a Biblically sanctioned requirement, it’s really easy to just give up. But, my relationship with Christ grows leaps and bounds during Lent each year as I embrace the time to focus on my sin and the glory of the cross.

How Do I Prepare and Celebrate Lent?

I’ve celebrated Lent for years and have found some of my favorite devotionals and books to read during Lent.

1. Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

From the back & inside cover:

“A time for self-denial, soul-searching, and spiritual preparation, Lent is a fitting season for daily reading and reflection…this book offers meditations from a wide spectrum of classic and contemporary Christian writers.”

“Lent is a time to let go of excuses for failings and shortcomings; to stop hanging onto whatever shreds of goodness we perceive in ourselves; a time to ask God to show us what we really look like.”

This book contains 72 readings which span much past Lent into the celebration of resurrection on a day to day basis. The selections are short and beautiful, each by a different classic Christian author.I love this book because it has a different author every day and I get a taste of many Christian writers I have heard of but never read before.  I highly recommend this book not only for Lent but year round.

(Link to book HERE)

2. Simplifying the Soul by Paula Huston

From the back cover:

“The beauty of the Lenten season is that it encourages the development of a humble heart.  Structured as an individual Lenten retreat, Simplifying the Soul presents daily readings from Jesus and the desert fathers and mothers, along with a meditation focused on a specific activity that can be carried out that day.  Many of these activities come straight out of Catholic tradition, but others are adaptations of old wisdom woven into contemporary life (cleaning out a junk drawer, walking instead of driving, etc.).  All are designed to lead to conversion of heart and a transformed life.”

This is a sweet little book that I just adore, it begins on Ash Wednesday and each chapter has a meditation and prayer along with an activity to promote humility and simplicity into everyday life. I love Paula’s voice and the weaving of Catholic tradition into the book. Although I’m not Catholic, I can fully appreciate the beauty and reverence of the Church history.

(Link to book HERE)

3. The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan

From back cover:

“The gift of Sabbath is essential to our full humanity ad faith. God, knowing that, and knowing how easily we might neglect it, made it a command. We’ve neglected it anyhow. We’ve lost the rest of God…Sabbath allows us to live more fully into our status as free people, people released from the grueling incessant demands of the world. And in the sweet shadow of Sabbath, we anticipate the ultimate rest–Heaven.”

This book is not a devotional but a book on restoring your soul through the heartfelt practice of Sabbath. This is the perfect book to read slowly and really chew on. Mark has a great voice and perspective on Sabbath and slowing down to rest. In all honesty, I don’t treat the Sabbath as I should and can’t tell you the last time I truly slowed down and took time to rest. This book is another beautiful reminder of the Gospel lived out through being still.

(Link to book HERE)

 

In all honesty, I forget I’m sinful sometimes, I compare myself to ‘worse people’ and find myself good enough. But this time of Lent always teaches me to look my sin in the eye and choose how to react; ignore it, try to fix it myself or turn to the cross.
The habits I adopt and eliminate and the reverence I give to the Gospel during Lent are all things I should do throughout the year but forget to do. There is nothing more special about this time of year, in fact it’s possible to celebrate Lent in your heart any time of year, but in the spring time, when the old, dead, frozen parts of the world are being buried and the fresh, green renewal of spring bursts forth, so the resurrection springs forth in the mourning of my brokenness and I cherish it.

I invite you to celebrate Lent this year and give something up in order to focus more on Christ, it can be something small or occasional, you don’t have to quit anything cold turkey. Lent is most certainly not about trying to be perfect but it’s a time to intentionally align yourself with the Cross.

“The purpose of Lent is to arouse. To arouse the sense of sin. To arouse a sense of guilt for sin. To arouse the humble contrition for the guilt of sin that makes forgiveness possible. To arouse a sense of gratitude for the forgiveness of sins. To arouse or to motivate the works of love and the work for justice that one does out of gratitude for the forgiveness of sins.”

– Edna Hong

Lent is a chain reaction that begins tomorrow. How will you approach this Lenten season?

 

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