Have you ever heard of the delectable dessert known as a paczki (pronounce "poonch-key")? It's like a jelly-filled doughnut on steroids, really. Apparently, it's a Polish tradition to eat these little carb-drenched delights on Mardi Gras, the final day before Ash Wednesday. For anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with the season of Lent, here's a quick explanation from the internet: Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count). Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting,repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ - His suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection. (Mary Fairchild)
For many who have grown up in churches which observed Lent, it was common practice to give something up, or fast from something. Feasts were celebrated the day before this spartan season began--and we know this as Mardi Gras today. Always falling on a Tuesday, this practice of pigging out is the reason for the name "Fat Tuesday", or "Mardi Gras" in French. I've known friends who have given up fast food, gum, candy, chocolate, soda pop and other similar things throughout Lent. In recent years, I've heard of people actually taking on a practice, like developing a good habit, during Lent instead of giving something up. For the purpose of this post, though, I want to focus on what I am desiring to give up during Lent. And, really, every single day of the calendar year...
How much time do you spend thinking about yourself? When you're talking with someone, are you fixated with what they are thinking about you or are you considering their needs and ideas? If you walk into a room, are you more focused on what others are saying about you, or, instead, how you can encourage someone in that place? Our thoughts can be so completely consumed by us that it is difficult to think about, let alone care about, other people. And, it's not just our thoughts...what about our schedules? How much of our schedules are devoted to us and not to others? Even if they are chock full of other people's activities, are my thoughts not straying back to when will I find time for myself?!?
He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.
-John the Baptist in John 3: 30
Who talks like this? How many of us are looking to decrease our importance? How many of us want to downplay our superior intellects? How many of us look for ways to take the spotlight off of ourselves on Facebook or other venues?
Yet, I read this:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2: 20
This life that I live now, because of what Christ has mightily accomplished on the Cross, is not MY life, but Christ's. All that I do points to Him, exalts Him, magnifies Him. When I am self-focused and determined to make myself shine, then I'm foolishly enthralled with a crucified person. My "old man" was full of selfishness and self-important pride. But, now I am a new creation in Christ who can look outward and think of others as better than myself. I can allow offenses to be quickly forgiven rather than hold a grudge and dwell on my hurts. I can give of my time and serve my husband and family without muttering grievances of how I've set my career aside for them.
Giving up myself...this is going to take a power outside of me to accomplish this! I'm grateful that the very power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that lives in me through His Holy Spirit. This is precisely why we celebrate Easter. I hope you'll join me this season of Lent by reading each day on this blog. My two friends, Cheryl and Julie, will be writing along with me and each day there will be scripture and a post that focuses on Jesus Christ. Would you share this with a friend or two who might be blessed by this? Thanks!
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1: 3-4