So this whole idea of Lent is a new thing for me. I grew up never really hearing of it in my church. But my husband came to me this week and asked if we could do it this year. He had a great idea for what he wanted to give up – but for me it wasn’t really a huge sacrifice. I mean, if Lent is supposed to be an act of denying oneself certain luxuries in order to take part – a small part – of what Christ suffered for us, it had to be something that was truly a sacrifice for me.
So… “Lent. It’s the preparing the heart for Easter. Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”
Easter is my favorite day of the year. It’s the reason I can have some semblance of joy in the face of death. Because of Christ, I can smile. I can see Kyle again. I can see my other two little ones again.
I love Easter.
I grew up a Baptist. And in my particular location, a culture of rules and regulations. And because I was good at memorizing, studying, and saying polite things, I was hailed as a “good Christian girl”. I never had basketball trophies on my dresser, but I had plenty of “Teen of the Year” ones.
Truth be told, I just wanted to go to camp every summer to avoid – for just one week – my own consequences at home from a rebellious heart. So I memorized and studied, and took quizzes and tests – and got points on a scoreboard and eventually took a first prize, and the true goal prize, a scholarship to a week of parent-freedom at camp. And I did it every year. Some of you may laugh. There are a lot of worse things I could have done, I guess. But that’s not the point.
The point isn’t what I’ve done or haven’t done. It’s what Christ does in my heart.
And for a long time, He didn’t have room to do anything there.
Don’t get me wrong, rules kept me from a lot of bad. I’ve never smoked and I married a virgin as a virgin. I didn’t go see a movie at a theatre until I was in college. There were clothing styles and shoes that were off limits. None of these rules were necessarily bad, and I don’t regret many of their good results. My parents did the best they could – and I’m so grateful. They were new to this Baptist-God-strong-willed-daughter-thing, anyway.
The bad though, was that it was all done in the name of what made me more holy than someone else. And as long as I was the holiest in my youth group, or my school, or my family, I was at a sort of peace with myself. Quoting the book of Philippians from the “correct” version of the Bible, the book of Christian Joy, brought me only the joy of knowing that I could do something many others couldn’t.
But after knowing all those verses in my head, there must be about a quarter of the whole of Scriptures in there by now somewhere deeply buried, shouldn’t I be a perfect saint? I’m so not.
After doing doing doing all these good things for so long, shouldn’t God be satisfied with my good? Can’t He call me a good person by now?
And here I sit, on this first day of Lent, knowing that my heart is in the desert of goodness. That I can bring potted, pre-manufactured flowers of good deeds and smiles and memorize Scripture once more, but nothing good will grow in this desert of my heart as it is without the water of God’s grace.
I feel like I’ve been in the wilderness desert lately. But I didn’t choose this desert for myself.
Any other time I started something like Lent, it would have been a way to show off again that I’m higher on the Holy Pole growing closer to God because of all my good.
But this time, it’s more of a backwards look for me – that I’m going to do something “good” – and know that it’s doing nothing for me. It’s not getting me closer to God. It’s not making better than anyone else. Because only through the gift of faith have I been saved. Not because of any works I’ve done or haven’t done. I could never do enough.
So for once, I’m choosing to do something good. For no reason of making myself holier to others. Or for making God think higher of me.
Baptists generally don’t do Lent. (And really, I stopped calling myself a Baptist a long time ago.)
But I am.
I’m choosing to give up something important to me. Something that really helps me do a lot of pre-manufactured good in my own strength. And doesn’t give God a lot of room to grow something beautiful.
I’m giving up…
I desperately need so much sleep these days, so I’m not necessarily changing the amount, but changing the schedule of it.
My plan is to wake up an hour earlier than normal and spend that time reading through the New Testament and praying. Spending the day watering that desert of self manufactured goodness with God’s words, and letting Him grow where He wants.
How to make your own Lent spiral
(in about an hour, and for probably free)
If you’re not so much the crafty type, you can purchase a Lent Spiral here.) You’ll need 4 simple ingredients and an oven set at 350* F, a work space, and some nice background music.
At least, I need the music.
A seven year old to help is recommended but not required.
Note: Please forgive the Christmas pictures. I didn’t redo these photos for Lent with Easter tablecloths. I know, shame on me.
You can forgive right? 🙂
To make the salt dough for 25 candle holes at Advent, you’ll need the following ingredients. To make the salt dough for 40 candle holes at Lent, you’ll need to double this recipe.:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 cup of water
Step 1: Mix your ingredients together. You may need to add a little more flour – you want a playdoh consistency – not too sticky, but not too dry either.
Step 2: Once you get it well-mixed, you’ll want to turn it out and knead it a little. Just like you would bread or play doh bread. 🙂
Step 3: (This is where the seven year old really knows her stuff.) Roll out all of your dough into a snake.
I wanted my snake to be the as long as our table was wide. The exact measurements were about 36″ long and 1 1/2 inches *fat*. This gives you enough space for 25 candle holes. I rolled a second snake a tad shorter to make enough space for an extra 15 candle holes. (Since Lent is 40 days long – not counting Sundays.)
Step 4: Roll it into your spiral shape – on a cookie sheet or stone. Roll your second, smaller snake into a spiral shape as well, so when it’s attached, it makes one big spiral, just in two sections. (This prevents the weight of the larger spiral from breaking later.)
Step 5: Open your taper candles – you only need one at this point. We just had all of them already (You can get candles for $0.45/each at a Walmart, btw. We are just using one candle and moving it forward each day.) Press your candle into the dough to get a candle holder hole space. We made 25 holes in this section (for Christmas). If you are making the Lent one, you can add 15 more holes to the extra section.
Step 6: Double check all your holes. (As you make new ones, sometimes your dough can collapse on the ones you made before a little. When we’re finished with all of them, we re-fit the candle bottom in each one just to make sure they are the correct shape.) Then bake it in your preheated oven for 40 minutes. Once it comes out of the oven, it will be hard as clay and ready to use within a few minutes of cooling!
A few Lent Resources:
By Ann Voskamp, A Trail to the Tree – Free Lent and Easter Tree Devotional with printable ornaments (Scroll all the way down if you don’t have time to read.)