Give Up!!

I grew up in a patriarchal home with one TV. Translation: we watched what dad watched. And dad watched Westerns.

He loved them all… Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Big Valley, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Laredo, Maverick, Rawhide, The Rifleman, Wagon Train, The Wild Wild West, …even F-Troop.

If there was a Western on TV and dad was home, that is what we watched.

As you can imagine, we frequently heard from the old TV phrases like, “Stick ‘um up” and “Reach for the sky.”

The line was always delivered by the Marshall, or the Sheriff, or the Ranger. And it was always directed to the bad guys.

It was a way of saying: Surrender. Stop running, wrangling, wrestling, or rustling.

GIVE UP.

ASH WEDNESDAY comes early this year – February 13. It is the first day of the Lent season – the 46 days leading up to the Resurrection Celebration that is Easter.

My patriarchal-1-TV home was also in a very Protestant part of the country… those Protestants were mostly what would be called low Church [less formal, more protestant].

So, I grew up hearing very little about Ash Wednesday or Lent.

I was 24 years old before I saw someone with ashes on their forehead and embarrassingly offered to bring to their attention “a little spot you missed this morning.”

When a kind explanation came to me, I was reminded of the ancient nature of the practice…

In what some believe to be the oldest written book in the Bible, Job put on sackcloth and covered himself with ashes as a way of physically expressing the depth of his soul-searching grief and mourning.

That practice came to be something of a standard way for people to physically demonstrate they had become consciously aware of failings, shortcomings, and/or disappointments in some area of their own life, and of the deep sorrow they felt in response.

But, it was much more than an act of contrition.

It was also a way to demonstrate a decision to turn back to God…to show God that it is HIS mercy on which you are coming to depend, rather than your own abilities!

On Ash Wednesday hundreds of millions of Christ followers, from a great host of denominational streams and all around the world, will have ashes physically placed on their forehead in the mark of a cross in order to announce both to their worlds and to their own souls the decision to turn back to God… to refocus… to ready for a next step.

From that announcement moment, many/most of those will then observe a fast of some sort throughout Lent.

A fast is a spiritual discipline of abstinence – to voluntarily abstain from something in order to give more attention to God.

As I’ve already confessed, I knew so very little about Ash Wednesday/Lent growing up, but in hindsight I realize there was one hint sent my way. As a ‘shout out’ to those in our communities who were more high Church than the majority of us, the public school system would serve fish sticks (instead of meat) on Fridays during Lent.

To be clear, I had no idea why we were doing what we were doing – but I now recognize that was the reason.

It was a fast from meat… but it had no role in ‘giving more attention to God’… so it was just a way to escape mystery meat and enjoy a crispy, tender, catsup covered lunch treat for about 5 or 6 weeks each year.

Since those early experiences I have often heard the question: “So, what are you giving up for Lent?”

Some people say they are giving up chocolate, FaceBook, soft drinks (or not-so-soft drinks), a certain TV show they love, or about anything else you could think of!

While the question is a good start, it seems to me to miss the heart of the matter…

I don’t want to just give something up for Lent… I want to give everything up for God.

The longer I live, the more aware I have become that following Jesus is much more than just a one-time decision. It is actually a lifetime journey filled with loads of little decisions along the way.

Several years ago I started leaning into what is variously called the Church calendar or the Christian calendar. One of the great benefits of this for me has been a greater sense of focus… of paying attention to our Father’s work around me and in me, and attending to what I notice/what He shows me.

THIS WEEK – and for the next 46 days building up to Resurrection Sunday – we all have the opportunity to stop running, wrangling, wrestling, or rustling.

We all have the chance to pay attention and then attend to whatever our Father might show us about a next step on the grand, spiritual quest of following Jesus.

Whether your turning moment includes ashes or not – may you hear from God about the next thing to surrender.

May you find strength in God’s Spirit to practice life without that thing throughout Lent.

May you find, in the end, that you have truly died to that thing.

And may you awake on Easter morning celebrating the Resurrected One and a resurrected life!!

Let’s give up, shall we?

Amen.

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About christmasandicecream

Grace & Peace to you all! I'm Randy. I am a follower of Jesus - sometimes close up and, sadly, sometimes way too far away. My best friend, administrative assistant, partner, and high school sweetheart all live with me and go by the same name: Adele. She and I are part of a relationally-focused, small group based Church family that helps us along spiritual quest. Our boys are both grown now. We have a wonderful daughter-by-marriage and 2 truly GRANDchildren... 1 boy and 1 girl. We are Corgi people and now oversee the care of 1 spoiled Corgi puppy named Elly May. I am a devoted fan of 2 'seasons' in each year: Christmas and baseball!! At my house, a Christmas tree goes up somewhere within days of the close of the Fall Classic (baseball lingo for the World Series) and a Christmas tree stays up all the way through Spring Training. In between it is non-stop celebration of the Incarnation. I live in the Mid-Atlantic part of the U.S.A. and, among other things, work as a coach and consultant with an incredibly diverse network of churches that make up the BCMD. My Church-roots are in the Baptist bucket of the Christian ice cream shop. But, just because I have a favorite flavor, doesn't mean I don’t like them all! I do. I work with things like soul care & leadership development of pastor/pastoral team members; with small, simple, organic models of church life; with relational strategies of spiritual formation; and with the health of the Church. I taught at New Orleans seminary for a decade and have served in local churches for 30 years. I am currently part of the faculty of Rockbridge Seminary – a new kind of seminary for a new kind of Church – where I also play a role on the Academic Council. *I am obliged to note that questions, comments, ideas, views,... just about anything you read here, are mine, and not those of BCMD, RS, any other organization or school I work for, or those of most normal people. Thanks for visiting. Come back again.
This entry was posted in RestDay Reflections, simple QUESTions and random thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Give Up!!

  1. mike says:

    As one raised in a SBC church but learned and experienced the disciplines during Lent in the same church I appreciate your blog today. We offer sackcloth and ashes for our people during Lent.

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