Day 3 | Examination

This entry is¬†a little bit longer than the previous two. I’ve informally committed to writing at least 200 words each day, but I love to write, and I can be pretty talkative (ask my students!) so here’s about 600 words for today. The way I’ve been writing these is mostly freewriting. I’m editing very little. I also am not a biblical scholar by any means. These are just everyday thoughts from an almost 30-something Midwestern girl. ūüôā

Examination

Being a lifelong student, I’ve always associated this word with a test. Math test, reading test, teacher certification test. I’m a great test taker in the earthly world, truth be told.

However, when it comes to examination of my spirit, sometimes I falter. I make excuses, I rationalize my behavior by comparing it to others’. I will say that I’m really good at psychoanalyzing myself, as I call it, but examination in order to change is something I can work on.

I love that God has granted us His Holy Spirit, which provides that ‘check’ of our spirit or attitude. Part of what I want out of Lent is to be attuned to that voice most of the time, not just some of the time when I feel like listening. Selective hearing, as they say.

I’ll ask myself some test questions.

In what parts of my life can my attitude improve? For me, a negative attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and maybe it is for you, too. It’s a downward spiral. As soon as I start physically voicing my bad attitude, it spreads like wildfire. It seeps into the walls and floors of my house. It starts growing like a cancer in my heart. That, needless to say, is not healthy.

From whom can I remove judgment? Social media is an all-encompassing platform for communication, sharing news, and finding new ways to, that’s right, judge others. And we also judge ourselves based on our judgment of others. ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’ (how’s that for some good ole KJV language?) is a timeless and I believe over-quoted verse. Yes, we should be discerning, but not have this judgmental attitude like we own the place.

To be honest, I judge myself constantly. Maybe you do, too. And not always in the best light. Several years ago, I came across a passage in II Corinthians 10 that has stuck with me (emphasis mine):

v. 5  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

v. 8 For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame,

And my favorite verse of this passage:

v. 12 For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.

I guess what I get from those few verses is that we must examine our attitudes and thoughts and make sure they align with what God would think. And that last verse, it really has cut to the core of my spirit.. basically that we cannot compare ourselves with ourselves because the bar is subjective. The only objective thing to compare ourselves with is Christ.

That thought is freeing. Yes, we must examine our spirits, attitudes, and actions, but when we disregard all other earthly comparisons, we are free to compare ourselves with Christ. Unlike our earthly counterparts, who are by nature judgmental, imperfect, and sinful, Christ is perfect, without sin, and not only that! But He’s compassionate in His judgment. That is freedom, if you ask me, and an examination we can always pass.

Readings for today:

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 | Journey

Journey

We’ve never arrived. We’re never done. We reach many stages in life where we’ve thought leading up to it, “If I only reach that particular thing, I’m good. I’m done.” And it’s just not true.

I think that type of thinking leads to discontent and anxiety. We have expectations for every portion of our life, and when something doesn’t go the way we planned, we are disappointed. Who says life will be like it was for our grandparents? Our parents? Our siblings?

Our expectations for our life journey are centered around our culture, and that can be a dangerous thing for the Christian life. God has no culture, He embodies no nationality, He is eternal and transcends even the Earth.

We attribute things to Him that He may not have touched or ordained, and we do this based on our cultural influences. To give a personal example, and because this is what I’m working through right now, I’ve had many dreams about what I thought were my children. I’ve seen their faces, their hair, their eyes, and I’ve had names for them for years.

We have not yet conceived one of these children, nor both, and for a long time I was distraught because I attributed those dreams about my kids to something God was trying to show me. Who am I to try to discern which dream is His and which is from my mind? I was overspiritualizing something that maybe was not spiritual at all.

And that’s why on this journey, we have to cling to the Word, to the vetted and eternal promises of God.

Readings for today:

Ash Wednesday | Day 1 | Human

Human

Today’s word is Human, and the prompt was pictures of hands. The first thing that comes to mind is that hands tell one’s story. Whether they’re small, big, old and wrinkled, young and supple, hands tell the condition of one’s life.

Hands can do good, and hands can be complicit in evil acts. Hands can be clenched and hands can be outstretched, palms to the sky. Hands can pray to many gods.

By looking at my hands, one would notice that my nails are short, my fingers long and slender, and in general, my hands are not calloused from¬†labor-intensive work. Instead, they’ve held pieces of chalk and scribbled on a blackboard. They’ve touched hundreds of papers of assignments and essays of students. They’ve graced the keys of a piano with skill and dexterity. They’ve wiped my own tears countless times, prayed with grandparents, and squeezed the shoulder of a niece or nephew.

They’ve also pointed at someone, slapped a person, slammed down things in anger. They’ve been on my hip in disobedience.

I choose for my hands to do good things. To pray to the God, the only true God. I choose to keep my hands ever out-turned and reaching towards the heavens. I will consider the stories of countless others, as often shown by their hands, as to not judge someone before I know them.

Readings for today:

Lent 2016

Preliminary Thoughts

It’s been a very long time since I really recognized Ash Wednesday by giving something up or taking on a new habit. Growing up, this was an integral part of the church calendar as I grew up in a United Methodist church. Now,¬†I find myself in a new season of my own spirituality. A season that I know will bring simplicity and a childlike faith back into my life.

These next 40 days will also be a season of healing. For nearly two years, my husband and I have been trying to conceive a child to no avail.¬†However, now that we have completed our cross-country move and settled (to some extent), I feel like a new chapter is beginning and I don’t want to miss it. For the past several months, probably since the summer, I could tell that I was spiraling down into depression again. My anxiety was high. My trust in God was at a low. Most days I didn’t even know how I felt about Him or His promises. I engaged in worship, but to be honest, that has always been the easiest part of the Christian walk.

What am I going to be doing for the next 40 days?

First things first, I’m committing to a time of prayer, reading, and meditation every day. I have not be in a regular practice of doing these things every day for quite some time (besides the Bible app’s devotionals). During this time of healing and introspection I really need to be ‘plugged in’ to God’s Word and my communication with Him.

So, in order to accomplish that, I am not logging into Facebook or Instagram until after Easter. I should preface this by saying that I have lived in legalistic ways before and as a result, they killed my freedom in Christ. This is not for accolades or to go along with perhaps a popular thing to give up for this season. The reason is that I can spend hours, hours on social media, browsing, judging, and comparing my life to others. This habit has hampered my prayer/devotion life and my overall well being.

I am not going to be doing any food/drink fasts. I’ve done them in the past (giving up soda, giving up sweets, etc) and for me, it was a nuisance more than a sacrifice. By silencing the drama and noise of those two social media platforms, I know that my mind will be clear and my heart ready to receive.

My cousin Anita is sending out a prompt twice a week to me and many other people as a way to let us write our thoughts about our own spiritual journeys. She’s basing it off of the Lent Photo-a-Day Instagram Challenge. So every day, I will write about each of these prompts instead of taking pictures, and on Sundays and Wednesdays, I’ll write specifically about the prompt¬†received in my email.

photo a day

I’m also going to be reading¬†Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. I recently completed a devotional on the Bible app that included excerpts from this book, so I decided to read it over the next several weeks.

Why would I read a book about something so ‘basic’ in the Christian life? Because I need help. I need to get back to a place of communicating effectively with God, and sometimes that requires going back to the basics, even if you’ve believed your whole life.

So, here it goes. As we go through this Lenten season, it will also become spring. I don’t think that is a coincidence, especially for this weary soul.