Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lenten Waiting: Cultivating a Spirit of Patience

So much of life is waiting. As children we wait for our birthday, we wait for Easter, we wait for summer vacation from school. Young adults cannot wait for schooling to come to an end, for the right job, for the perfect marriage partner. We must patiently wait to get over an illness. During harsh winters, we wait longingly for springtime.

Lent is about waiting. The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word for spring “lentin.” Just recently I found out that this Old English word means “to lengthen,” since in springtime the days are lengthening. Physically, the month of March is a time when the days really start to get longer—and I find myself just craving more sunlight and the chance to get outside to take walks. Spiritually, this is the season of Lent, a time to grow in my inner life.

Waiting cultivates patience in us. By nature, humans are not terribly patient. We want what we want, and we want it right now. Patience must be learned. Moreover, patience must be cultivated by having our patience tried—by being placed in situations where we simply have to wait against our wishes. Of course we can go through circumstances that make us wait for a long time without developing one bit of patience. Only with the right attitude—the right spirit—do we benefit from long, trying times. Indeed, patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit who works in our lives, and, so often, the Spirit does so by inviting us to wait.

This Lenten season, I am choosing to embrace all of the opportunities to wait in my life. There are things I am waiting for at work, home and my personal life. Accepting these many opportunities to wait as gifts from the Lord, I open myself us to be shaped by God’s Spirit. Above all, I am anticipating two big things: 1) springtime and the chance to enjoy sunshine and the out-of-doors, and 2) the celebration of Holy Week and Easter. 

© 2016 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lent: Ash Wednesday—An Invitation to Draw Near to God

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
-James 4:8

The Christian life is a pilgrimage. Over many miles and many years we walk with God, learning to know him and trust him more deeply as we go through beautiful fields as well as rough terrain. Our spiritual life is a long race, not a short sprint.

In that pilgrimage, that race, we all lose momentum at times. Life becomes busy; we come down with the flu for several weeks; difficulties at home and work drain our energy and emotions. Sometimes we drift, veering off the path we began as we are lured by worldly pursuits, pride, possessions and misdirected passions.

Lent is a special season set aside to draw nearer to God. For nearly 2000 years, Christians have dedicated the days leading up to Easter to draw close to the Lord. This is a time to reassess our life—spiritually, relationally, directionally. It is also an invitation to refresh our relationship with the Lord and to refocus our lives on him.

Sober Self-Examination
How are you doing on your spiritual pilgrimage right now? Are there ways you have lost momentum in your pursuit of God? Have you become outright sidetracked?

This week Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Attending an Ash Wednesday service is a wonderful place to begin. As ashes are placed on your forehead with the sign of the cross, it is a visual reminder that, as mortal beings, we are but dust (Gen 3:19), and we shall return dust to dust, ashes to ashes. We must keep this in mind as we ask God to look into our hearts and test us (Psalm 139:23-24).

Fasting is also helpful. For nearly 2000 years Christians have fasted during Lent. Fasting is invaluable in self-examination as it helps to reveal where our focus is in life.

Draw Close
Honest self-examination always reveals some area of our actions, attitudes or thoughts that are out of order. Rather than pulling back from God as we see our brokenness or half-heartedness, however, we need to draw near to the One who knows all our faults, yet loves us beyond our wildest comprehension.

Setting aside special times of prayer—perhaps weekly or daily—is a wonderful practice for Lent, as it offers us one-on-one time with the One who loves us so much. Through those times of prayer, we draw closer to, and grow deeper with, our Lord. Likewise, giving to others has been a special focus of Lenten devotion since the early years of the Church. We can give money (alms) or time or service. However we are able to serve, reaching out to others not only draws us closer to them but also to God.

As Ash Wednesday approaches, what is something special you can do over the coming weeks to give the Lord your undivided attention? Where is the best place for you to have intimate time with him—a place where you know you will not be uninterrupted? How can you focus all your attention on him? This Lenten season, let us draw close to God’s loving, healing, transforming presence.

© 2016 Glenn E. Myers