Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Gave That up for Lent

Any time my dad didn't want to do something, or didn't want to eat something, or needed an excuse for whatever, he would say, "I gave that up for Lent." As a good ol' Southern Baptist boy I really had no idea what he was talking about. Lent wasn't something we actually did. And since his comments of "giving it up for Lent" weren' confined to any particular time of year I never knew Lent was a season in the church calendar of many Christians.

Here is a very simplified but hopefully somewhat acurate explanation of Lent, Ash Wednesday, Fat Tuesday and other things that are mysteries to most Baptists.

Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Ashes from the burned palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday are put on foreheads in the shape of a cross. During Lent Christians are encouraged to give something up. Many give up meat and end up eating a lot of fish. Some friends of mine in Denver always gave up desserts during Lent. The point of giving something up is to remind ourselves what Christ gave up for us, to remind us to rely on Him (as we miss the thing we gave up), to reflect on Christ's call on our lives and actually give up things we shouldn't be doing anyway, ... I think the list could go on for a while.

Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras were invented because people realized that they weren't going to have some of the excesses of life until after Easter and specifically how they would miss the fat of the meat so on that Tuesday they would literally stuff themselves with lots of meat and fat knowing that was it for a long time. And of course as people tend to be and do, that then evolved into the drunken mess it is in a lot of places as people try to get in all the sin they can before they have to give it up.

So what do we miss from this if we are Baptists?

All of us need times of reflection when we remember again our need of a Savior. We all need times to realize we have filled our lives up with a bunch of junk - and I don't just mean physically. All of us need to spend more time reflecting on the cost Jesus paid as He took on the sins of the world - your sins and mine. All of us need to personalize Christ's sacrifice and see again His call and claim on our lives.

If Lent helps you to do that, that is a great thing. If it causes you to get drunker than a skunk and eat yourself into a coma on Fat Tuesday then it is NOT a good thing.

Perhaps you have some things you need to give up for Lent. Ask the Lord to show you what is in your heart and my guess is there will be at least a couple of things to "give up" perhaps not just for Lent, but for always.

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23 NIV

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