Lent: Learning to be #Beloved

Lent has begun. I skipped pancake Tuesday because well, I hate pancakes. Too much sweet and honestly, it’s breakfast for supper which I despise.

However, I decided to join Margaret Feinberg in reading through the Book of John and colouring and doodling my way through her book Beloved: 40 Days in the Gospel of John. I went through the New Testament with Margaret a few years ago during Lent, which I really enjoyed.  This year’s idea intrigued me.

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To be honest, I haven’t participated in Lent recently. Bible reading had become a chore and a have-to-do and so I stopped. What was the point if I was just going to be fake about it, right? So I read when I felt like it but mostly I didn’t engage in daily devotions. There I admitted it.

By the end of 2016, God was nudging me. It was time. I picked up Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I had read it before and liked it. It appealed to me. It was short but meaningful. A good start for a prodigal bible reader.

I’ve kept it up too because at some point you have to stop going by feeling and instead go by faith. But I felt the need for more.

Then, I saw Margaret’s book and decided to order it and work through it for Lent. I liked the idea of marking the text in colour and the creative aspect of working my way through scripture. I hoped it would help me to love reading God’s Word again or at least ignite a spark.

Margaret admitted to starting early because she was so excited so I admit I cheated a bit too and read the scripture through yesterday and started to circle the verbs in red. I was in a bit of a panic because I wasn’t sure I could spend that much time in the Word. I doubted myself as I read. What was a verb again? (Hello, English major here!) I thought to myself, “I can’t do this! It won’t be perfect!” But I made myself start.

I’m glad I did because today was not a good start to Lent. I was grouchy. The basement has a leak that we can’t find. It rained all night. Life happens and I forgot about Lent and reading Beloved.

I saw the email in my inbox after dropping the boys off at school. A reminder. I realized I didn’t really want to do the day’s reading. I wasn’t feeling it. Ironically, Margaret has suggested asking ourselves at the end of the day’s reading, “What do I most need to read but least want to hear?” Welllll today I just plain didn’t want to read God’s Word, any part of it but it’s what I most needed. Maybe not a great way to start Lent but for me, today, it is what’s happening. It’s what’s real.

The good news? God meets us in our very real places. Once I got reading and marking and colouring, I had fun! It’s the best time I’ve spent in God’s Word in a long time. It was just for me. No studying for a message or any other agenda. It was just time for me and God. I felt lighter for it.

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I’m pretty sure I’m going to be challenged by both scripture and the discipline of sticking to the readings, this Lent season. I have let these muscles atrophy. But already I have learned that God doesn’t expect perfection. (Thank you Margaret for making that point!) I don’t need to mark up my book perfectly to learn from it. I just have to do it! He graciously and generously fills in the rest.

What are you doing for Lent this year? It doesn’t have to be complicated. I think if you just take the step forward, He’ll meet you wherever you are. Because that’s His character and He loves you so very much.

Here’s a link to find out more about Margaret Feinberg’s Beloved study for Lent.

 

Forget the Pity Party, It’s Time to Join the Real Party

It’s been one of those mornings. It started with a list of things I hadn’t done. I hadn’t gotten the reeds for my son’s musical instrument so he couldn’t play. The rabbit’s nails need clipping and we’d been reminded for weeks. Three to be precise. I could see the invisible shake of my son’s head.

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The conversation took on a life of it’s own in my own mind. I know he’s thinking to himself, “What is wrong with you? You can’t even get it together! I am never going to be like that!” In this imaginary conversation I began to defensively list why things weren’t getting done. Thankfully I kept it to myself.

I dropped them off and drove home feeling very inadequate as a parent and an adult. I sat down to read a blog that’s supposed to encourage but instead I walked away defeated and guilty.  I felt like the worst mom ever. Ever read something that’s supposed to lift you up but instead you feel like you got sucker punched?

Things were spiralling downwards pretty fast and I had a headache to boot. The day was about to go in the toilet. Ever have one of those days? Maybe today?

But wait! There is good news!

There are some days where God decides that He’s going to intervene immediately. Today was one of those days. I hope it is for you too.

I sat down to read Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. These were the opening words:

“Be on guard against the pit of self-pity. When you are weary or unwell, this demonic trap is the greatest danger you face.” (p.56)

She goes on to say that by praising God and thanking Him, we can combat those feelings and stay away from that particular cliff. That by staying close to Jesus (remembering He is near, knowing His Word and keeping it on our lips) we keep our distance from said cliff.
Wow! It was like God was snapping His fingers in my face and telling me to wake up and get with the program! Not only was He telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself but He gave me a recipe to win over it.

I stopped and looked at my situation. God had brought healing and wholeness in my life through different people and courses. My mothering had changed FOR THE BETTER. The path set out before us is totally different than one ten years ago. I am thankful for that. Then God reminded me that I have some very good friends and kind people all around me. I am thankful for them. That today of all days, I am surrounded by blessings from God.
Gratitude crashed that self-pity party. You can’t be thankful and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. It doesn’t work.

It was also a reminder that some days God wants to celebrate with you and He’s not going to put up with lies and garbage. This weekend is a big celebration here at our house. It’s Book Launch weekend and the real party plans are in place. I have much to be grateful for and God reminded me of that too. It’s not a time to get wrapped up in fear and self-pity. (It’s never a good time for that!) It’s a time for festivities and God wants to join us in those times too.

 

I believe He delights over us with singing at all times, good and bad, but how much sweeter must it be in the good? (Zeph 3:17) He wants us to let go of self-pity, fear, feelings of self-loathing and just celebrate Him and what He has done for us! It’s a time for joy and I want to be a part of that! The blessings are many if we look for them and put aside our own pity parties.

 

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I’m proud of the accomplishment of pursuing a dream. But the real celebration is the faithfulness of God. Ten years is long time. I would have quit but He had a plan. The unravelling of this plan and the excitement of being able to witness what HE is going to do is plenty excuse to throw a party!

What are you celebrating today with God?