15 March 2012

Did You Know Lent Was Half Over?

I never knew what Lent was growing up.  At least, I don't think I knew.  My church growing up wasn’t liturgical and I don’t remember ever talking about it.  Perhaps it was there, somewhere in the back of my mind, the knowledge of the forty days of fasting leading up to Easter weekend, but it had no weight of meaning for me.  
After eight years of being home-schooled my parents sent me to Catholic high school, an eye-opening experience in so many ways.  One in particular was becoming more familiar with the liturgical calendar: feast days, special masses and, of course, Lent.  What I saw during those four years didn't give me a high opinion of the tradition.  Watching classmates complain about how much they wanted a soda or pizza, but couldn’t because they’d “given it up for Lent” was not a ringing endorsement.  When asked if they believe in Jesus they say no, but choose to give up soda for Lent, which ends up being such a sacrifice that they have to complain about it?  Really?
The spring of my freshman year at UNH I roomed with a high school classmate.  Lent came around and instead of giving up things like pizza or soda she took something on.  She read The Purpose Driven Life, it’s 40 chapters fitting perfectly into the 40 days of Lent.  
I wish I could say she inspired me to become more aware of Lent and what it can mean to me as a follower of Jesus.  But every year Lent rolls around, and it’s half over before I even knew it began.  I could beat myself up (I forgot again), start my 40 days now, give up more things to make up for half the time, but that would just be me trying to add my deeds to what Jesus did on the cross.  He died so I could have grace.  Amazing grace.  Grace that forgives my worst actions, as well as my forgetfulness.
I do believe Lent is important.  It gives us time to look forward to what is going to happen at Easter.  There is nothing more glorious or exciting than Jesus’ resurrection.  When He said ‘It is finished’ it really was finished.  Done.  Forever.  No “to be continued pending what you give up during Lent”.  Or any other time of year for that matter.
So today, the 20th day of Lent, with 20 more days to go I won’t beat myself up for forgetting Lent again.  I won’t try to give up twice as many things to make up for it.  I will remember that nothing I do will add to what Jesus did on the cross. 
His grace is enough.
It is finished.

06 March 2012

Answered Prayer

I have a good baby.  I’m not just saying this because she’s mine.  I mean it, I have a really good baby.  She’s happy, smiles all the time, babbles and coos.  Plays by herself when I put her down, plays with me when I pick her up.  Bounces in the bouncer, rolls over on the floor, rarely cries and when she does it’s usually for a reason (like gas) and she falls asleep when I put her in her crib.  Yes, you read that right.  I turn off the light, turn on the fan, sing to her, pray and put her down.  That’s it, she falls asleep.  Maybe not right away.  Sometimes she babbles to herself for 15, 20 or maybe even 30 minutes, but she doesn’t cry and eventually she falls asleep.
I’m not lying, others have commented on this phenomenon.

So last night in my action track (kinda like a Bible Study group), we were talking about prayer.  We were asked to share stories of answered prayers.  There were some great stories about prayers being answered.  Then the conversation moved on to how the heck Paul was able to “pray continuously” (seriously, are you praying right now as you read this?  Didn’t think so.)  I remembered this quote from G.K. Chesterton:

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

I shared it with the group and went on to explain that when I first read this quote in my writing group action track (which I miss very much) Cora was just a month or so old.  I was challenged by it and decided to say grace throughout the day.  Well, the only time I remembered was right before her nap.  “Grace” is usually short and sweet and to the point so I would say “Jesus I pray that you would bless Cora’s nap, help her to sleep well and give me patience if she doesn’t”.  Then I’d kiss her and put her down.

Since birth she was a pretty good baby, sleeping 5 hours the first night home which freaked me out because I slept too, but naps were hit or miss and some nights were better than others.  She first slept through the night at 6 weeks old (by sleeping through the night I mean a 6 hour stretch), but I didn’t realize it until last night but that was about the time when she settled in and slept well both during the day and at night.  I was asked recently ‘what I did’ to get my daughter to sleep through the night.  I now have an answer, I prayed.
So which prayer did God answer first?  The sleeping through the night or my increased patience?  Judging from my attitude towards my dog right now, I’d say I’m still working on the patience.  So here goes: Jesus, I pray that Ronon would go to the bathroom quickly because it’s cold, and give me patience if he doesn’t.  Amen.