Ash Wednesday came and went yesterday. Some may wonder why I haven’t written anything about Lent this year. I feel like I’ve been in a season of Lent since this time last year. Racial tensions, politics and even the mask issue revealed many opportunities for recognizing and repenting of sin. The pandemic also mandated giving up things, including clubs, socializing, and eating out, but these may or may not have been sacrifices, since they were forced and some were not a burden to do without.
I do not participate in Lent every year. Sometimes the burden is too much to add when I’m already carrying a load, like last year. Deaths or health can challenge with their own kind of Lent. This year, though, I want to take up the season. I am giving up sugar (for mixed motives) and approaching the six-seven weeks with less structure. My goal is to set aside time each day to listen to the Lord and later record my perception of His message.
This kind of intention unsettles me, because it is not scripted. I cannot force the Holy Spirit to speak, and the myriad tools through which He might communicate add more ambiguity. The Bible reveals His instruction most clearly, but He also speaks through General Revelation (nature), pastors, friends, and podcasts. Sometimes, He whispers inaudibly without any vehicle to carry His words.
For me, listening requires more discipline than working through a set program, because listening lacks a beginning and an end. Faith plays a larger part as well, faith to know how long to wait for Him to speak, faith that He will speak, that He DID speak, that I heard aright, that He will correct me if I misinterpret, and that He may choose not speak. I’m setting out on a Lenten journey carrying a backpack full of doubts that I’ll complete the trek.
Yesterday, Day 1, I listened to a podcast with the theme, “Return with All Your Heart.” The scripture kernel which stood out to me was Joel 2:12a,“Yet even now, declares the LORD, return to Me with all your heart.”
As Jesus often posed questions to His hearers, I believe He posed this question to me. “Have you wandered that you need to return?” I answer, “Not consciously, but I know pockets in my heart that I resist surrendering to You.” After pondering those things held in my fist and attempting to open my hand, I ended with these verses from Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Today is Day 2. I wonder what He’ll say? By the time this posts, it will be Day 3. Your Lenten intentions will be different than mine. Please share your treatment of Lent this year. Reading your experiences will inspire me and other readers.
8 thoughts on “Speak, O Lord”
I appreciate and identify with your feelings that this past year has been full of self-denial, introspection, and change which feel somewhat like an extended Lenten season. The latter part of the Serenity Prayer includes this: “…Taking, as He did, this sinful world, AS IT IS, not as I would have it…” This is my Lenten focus, to open my heart to things as they ARE and to be able to sit with those things and be at peace. God’s ways are not our ways, and I am weary of striving to make myself and my world (and the people in my world) what I want them to be. Can I sit and be open, brave, and dignified in the face of my own imperfections and weaknesses? Can I give my past regrets and current limitations to God and try to prevent my heart, soul, and mind from being hijacked by rumination about things I can’t change? Yes, I should continue to try to be more like Jesus, but Lord help me to find the sweet spot between contentment and complacency and not to stress too much about getting it “right”. What would it mean for me to approach my prayer, Bible reading, and relationship with Jesus with a sense of enjoyment, confidence, and ease rather than the underlying fear of not doing it right or not being enough? What more could Jesus do for me? God is Enough. Lord, help me to fall in love with you and with the world AS IT IS in a holy kind of way. Thanks for sharing. It’s good to be on this journey together.
Oh my, Lee Ann, your words strike home for me. God spoke through them. “Open my heart to things as they ARE and be able to sit with those things and be at peace.” Isn’t that the meat of faith, the truest sense of trust and love? This also rings clearly, “What would it mean for me to approach my prayer, Bible reading, and relationship with Jesus with a sense of enjoyment, confidence, and ease rather than the underlying fear of not doing it right or not being enough? What more could Jesus do for me?” Thank you for your sincerity and wisdom.
Thanks be to God for sharing your thoughts Suzy. Thanks be to God for the conversations you inspire. The Holy Spirit is so gentle and quiet. I meet Him each morning as I read through the Bible a chapter or two at a time, journal and pray. Sometimes, when it is quiet, I think that He is listening to me listen to Him. I don’t have a specific intention for Lent for the past several years. I have recently opted to pray when I need to wait, such as for an appointment, rather than check phone messages, read or crochet. It is the best refreshment to hear a word from God.
Suzy, thank you for understanding where I was coming from and for clarifying what I was trying to say in terms of faith and trust. I also would like to clarify that when I mentioned contentment vs. complacency, what I intended to say is that I want to be content without being complacent. Love you~
My feelings mirror yours. A little over a year ago, not only did I have bronchitis, then pneumonia and what was called “Type A” flu and was hospitalized for 6 days, but when I was released from the hospital, I caught the Novell virus and was sick for 3 days. Within 2 – 3 weeks, I had Breast cancer surgery, followed by 19 rounds of extreme radiation. All of this affected my breathing so much, but I always trusted in God. I never felt sorry for myself or worried about what laid ahead for me. Even now, I feel God close to me because He knows how I am feeling. Each day I thanked Him for another day and Psalm 50:14-15, 14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, 15 and call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” helps me get through everything. When I call on God, I ask for His forgiveness and I ask to be a better person. I never question, “Why me?” because I think, “Why not me?” The Holy Spirit does so many things for me and I feel Him working in me all throughout the day because I talk to God, through Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. This is how I continue to do the work that He has in mind for me. I do not dwell on the past but try to do the best today and in the days that He has given me to still live. Each day, I try to do something that will honor Him. It might be a phone call to someone who I have not talked to in a while or it may be sending an email of encouragement to someone who needs it or a letter to someone who would enjoy receiving it and feeling like I am their best friend. My Lenten Resolution is: “Lord help me continue to do what serves and honors you the most. Forgive me for not always putting you first and forgive the sins I unintentionally commit. In Jesus name I pray.”
Wow, Kathy, you had a difficult year multiple by tens. Your not questioning or feeling worried or sorry for yourself are more than amazing. I’ve worried without a fraction of your travail. Psalm 50:14 has also been a special verse to me, because it is a sacrifice to give thanks for difficult things, but it is a demonstration of trust that God works out everything in the end.
Thanks to both, you and Suzy, Lee Ann. All I can say is that for some reason, I don’t seem to be bothered by any of this. I know that I have a very strong relationship with God and it grows stronger every day. I know, in my heart, that He has His own plan for me and what ever it is, I am okay with it. My main focus is in trying to bring others to Christ by posting the things that I do each morning, on Facebook. I pray that if it brings even 1 or 2 people to Christ, then I am winning the fight. I do pray that it brings a lot more people, but that is up to the Holy Spirit to prick their hearts with what I post. I also want to help the 2 inmates that I mentor grow a closer relationship with God. All of this is very important to me and I really do not think about my own situation. I have these problems with my health and I have accepted them and it is because Christ is living in me and helps me through it all. The time that I have left on this earth is time I want to serve God in any way possible, not thinking about what could have been or will be with my life. I am no martyr just someone who loves God and knows He loves me and loving fellow Christians like I do.
Bless you, Kathy. Praying for you and the two inmates you mentor. I’m sure your health issues and COVID have made mentoring them more challenging.