This past Saturday our early morning running group cancelled our run due to ice and snow on the roads. I was glad because I really wanted to sleep in and I did! Whoo Hooo! But Saturday afternoon when the sun was bright and shinny and the snow and ice was all melted away my running partner and I ran 9 miles. It was actually fun! Yep you read that right...fun. Yesterday, I took Brinkley with me and we ran 4.7 miles. It is much harder to run alone and most of it is a mental game. When I started all of this I had no idea of the mental aspect that plays into training for a marathon, but I think that it is MORE mental than physical! Mind over matter! In two weeks we'll be running 11 miles and I will be beside myself when I finish that run! I'm sure we'll need to celebrate after that run!
Today is Ash Wednesday and as we enter this Lenten season and begin the long walk to the cross, I've been thinking about lent and what it is all about and what it means to me! I have also been thinking hard abot what to "give up" and have been praying about it. One of the preachers at our church wrote a really good commentary that I thought put it in good perspective. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:
REND YOUR HEARTS
by Steve DeGweck
Ash Wednesday is nearly upon us and with it the beginning of Lent. Lent has become associated through the ages with fasting and doing without. Thus many Christians give up something they enjoy for Lent ‑‑ some eat no meat, others no chocolate, etc. Such things are all well and good if they remind us to focus our hearts on God, but the real intent of Lent is that we should look inside our hearts. The prophet Joel writes: “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing . . . .” Joel is saying to his listeners in Israel, “You people make a great show of repentance, enacting the rituals of penitence, tearing your clothes, wailing, weeping, and putting on a great act. But nothing changes. The next day you begin again to forget the Lord your God, and go your way, until the next time you are called upon to “perform.” Joel is saying that true repentance is sorrow for sin, not an empty ritual.
The first task of Lent is REPENTENCE. “Return to the Lord, your God . . .” We are invited to bring our sins and our burdens, and all the false gods and selfish choices of our lives and lay them before the throne of God. Sometime back the newspapers told of a man who walked into the police station to confess a crime he had committed fifteen years before. The reason for his confession? This is what he said: “I have not been able to get it off my mind.” Here was a man willing to subject himself to punishment in order to restore his peace of mind. Some of us are troubled and we don’t even know why we are troubled! The issue is unresolved guilt. Lent is a time of repentance. It is a time for confession of our sins and the beginning of a new life.
Lent is also a time of ABSOLUTION. “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love . . . .” It does no good for us to confess our sins if we keep beating ourselves up over those same sins. This may be the chief reason why so many people fail to truly repent and begin new lives. They never experience the absolution of God. They hear the words but refuse to believe it could be true. An old Scottish clergyman once said that the devil has two lies he uses at two different stages. Before we commit a sin, he tells us that one little sin doesn’t matter‑‑no one will know. The second lie is after we’ve sinned when he tells us we’re hopeless. Friends, the good news is that no one is hopeless! We never venture so far from God that he cannot reach us — if we will open our hearts!
Finally, Lent is a time of RENEWAL. “Who knows,” wrote the prophet, “whether he will not relent, and leave a blessing behind him . . . ?” Lent is a time of renewal and refreshment. If we have repented of our sins, we can experience the absolution of God, and we can turn over the burdens of our hearts to Christ who is far better to bear them than we are. But rend your hearts, says Joel, and not just your garments. Do we have the courage to repent of what really troubles us in the deep watches of the night? The question is never, “Can I change?” but rather, “Am I willing to change?” And am I willing to pay the price? Am I willing to take a stand for something I believe in? That’s repentance.
So I challenge you to RETURN to God today and begin a new chapter in your journey of faith this Lent. Lay down your sins — every burden, each regret — at the foot of the cross, and leave them there. Believe that God has forgiven you and experience his absolution today. Tell yourself that today begins your new life. In the words of the prophet Joel, “Rend your hearts and not your clothing.” Only then does Lent really begin. But only then does new life begin, too