Lent is a fairly new concept to me as I was raised Southern Baptist and have only in the last few years converted to the United Methodist denomination. Denomination isn’t something that really means a lot to me; when I search for a Church home, my focus is on whether or not the teaching is Biblical and the feel I get from a pastor and congregation. My family and I joined the local Methodist Church in 2015 and I am quite happy with our Church home. I have never had a female pastor before and there are quite a few differences in Baptists and Methodists but the teaching is wholly Biblical and I prefer the more organized and intentional focus on certain seasons and traditions. You already know from my previous posts that I’m not your normal tried and true Believer; my faith is often a struggle and I am far from perfect. Being part of a Church that accepts me for who I am and encourages me on my journey has been priceless these past few years.
Advent and Lent have become two of my favorite seasons and I really enjoy the focus on reconnecting with the Lord on a personal level during these seasons. Now for someone like me, who isn’t particularly familiar with Lent, there are a lot of resources and articles out there to help guide and inform you about this Holy tradition. I shared an article recently on my Facebook page that had a lot of positive feedback which I encourage you to check out if you want to gain some insight on how to celebrate the 40 days of Lent. I found it on the UMC website – 40 Days of Lent: Find your own spiritual path – and it give a basic breakdown of how you might incorporate some intentional worship into your own life during this Holy time as we approach the Easter season. You still might ask yourself, what is Lent? This article breaks it down in easy to understand terms and has links to more resources if you’d like to investigate more.
This year, our Church and many other Methodist Churches are studying a book called “Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge” by Mark Batterson so I thought it would be interesting to share my journey through this book with y’all. I enjoy journaling but don’t always do so because of time. With a blog to write, this seemed to be a good way to engage with any of you who are also reading through this book. There is also a digital version if, like me, you’re more of a Kindle or other digital device reader. If you don’t already have a copy of the book, feel free to click the links to grab your own copy from Amazon. I will be posting weekly on Fridays about my journey. You don’t have to play catch up, just join whenever you feel ready or simply follow along – whatever God leads you to do.
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and the first Ash Wednesday I’ve actively participated in. Our congregation is so small we do not have a formal Ash Wednesday service, although I wish we did and may attend one next year at larger church. We have special Wednesday night services for our children and youth and our pastor gave a small demonstration, using me to perform the ritual of placing the ash cross on my forehead, to demonstrate this beautiful reminder that though our sins are as black as ash, the cross is the bridge to our salvation. She kept it simple for the kids and offered to draw the cross on any who wished to receive it. It was a special joy for this Mama to watch all those kids, my own included, line up to profess their faith and receive the mark. They then dipped their thumbs into the ash and made thumbprints on a paper that our youth leader had put painters tape on in the shape of a cross. Once all had placed their little thumb prints on the paper, she removed the painters tape and there was a beautiful image of the cross in the midst of the ashy prints.
Day 1: We are instructed to get ready to see the transformative power of prayer. This is a challenge for me because I feel like my own prayers regarding my marriage and family have not been answered or at least not answered in the way I desired. I know God has a plan and purpose for this season of grief and trial but it is hard for me to see past my own heartache and rebellion right now. And I will admit I’ve been throwing a tantrum like a two year old (I really need to work on that I know). The book adds that we need to establish a routine for our prayers life and this is something I have gotten away from since last summer. I used to read my Bible every night and spend time in prayer and meditation but I quit doing that and I see the direct impacts it has had to my own sense of peace. I am working on getting back into a prayer routine but not in a routine way – worship and prayer should not just be routine in my opinion and I like that this book affirms that idea. It should be intentional and thoughtful. Sometimes you have to “faith it til you make it” as I’ve heard others say. Truthfully, I don’t know what to pray for right now so as the book suggests, I’m asking God to lead me and make it clear what I should be praying for – what He desires to bring to fruition in my life. What should I be praying about, Lord?
Day 2: Today we think about how God not only controls and orchestrates the big things like keeping the universe from flying apart at the seams but also the mundane – the coffee shop conversations that lead to life altering decisions. We trust God to take care of the big things but are hesitant to trust Him to direct us in the “small things”. I will say, I do doubt, all too often. Especially when I consider how over and over and over He has demonstrated His control and perfect timing in my own life. I’ve seen Him ensure my bills are paid through the most difficult times in my marriage repeatedly. I’ve watched Him save not one but both of my parents from cancer and other illnesses and injuries. And miracle of miracles I’ve seen him bless my brother and his wife with a son, whom they were told would be impossible for them to conceive. Whoo! God is GREAT! ALL THE TIME! Too often I focus on what I think He hasn’t done and forget to look at all He has – I don’t take a step back and consider the many times He’s changed my path and kept me from utter destruction. Today my prayer is that He leads and gives me a heart to follow. I still don’t know what to pray for although finances and my job have been heavy on my mind so I will continue to ask that He lead me in what to pray for and that I not be too strong willed to listen.
Day 3: Boy today is all about facing things I would rather not face. The book discusses consecration and surrendering yourself wholly to God and trusting His way is better than your own way. While I know this with my heart, my head is stubborn and I can already feel inner turmoil raging. I am thinking about what I have to lose and give up and instead I know I need to focus on what I will gain through Christ. I know I desire amazing things for my family and for myself but I also know my own sin and rebellion are getting in the way of God’s work. Today my husband called me to let me know he is starting treatment on a liver disease he was diagnosed with several years ago. Already, this is an answer to prayer, on more than one level as it means he will be getting well, God willing, and eventually be moved closer to where our children can visit more regularly. It was a good conversation and we were able to work out some details on the custody agreement. But it’s also painful that we are at this point where we have to talk about custody and all that goes along with the excruciating pain of a divorce. I don’t know what the future holds for us but I do know I want to get out of God’s way so He can work. Although part of me is scared because I have indulged in sin for far too long and I know God is calling me to repent, I know that He will give me the strength to do so, if I will place my trust in Him. Pray for me, y’all.
Stay salty, friends.