Instead of "Giving up" for Lent - how about "Taking up?"
On Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, we talked about how Lent (the 5 weeks we use to prepare spiritually for Easter) is often associated with "Giving something up."
Many times that exercise revolves around giving up Sodas or Chocolate (oh no!). Sometimes we might fast for one meal a week, giving money saved to a charitable cause.
All too often the discipline lasts only the 5 weeks of Lent, and no inner spiritual growth has taken place.
Instead, what if we saw Lent as a time to "TAKE UP" things instead of "Giving up"?
For example, what would happen if we TAKE UP:
• LIVING SIMPLY:Setting aside some of the "stuff" of life? Asking ourselves "How much do we really need?" GIVE UP the things that complicate your life.
• GIVING GENEROUSLY OUT OF YOUR BLESSINGS:GIVE UP worry about losing things, and start giving them away. Becoming stewards of what God has
blessed us with instead of just a consumer.
• 10-15 MINUTES A DAY TO PRAY, READ THE BIBLE, INSPIRATIONAL BOOK, TO FOCUS ON GOD:GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion. A few minutes in prayer WILL keep you focused.
• SPEAKING KIND WORDS ABOUT SOMEONE: GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting or to offer a smile.
• SOME PERSON TO PERSON TIME, MAKE TIME FOR SOMEONE ELSE: GIVE UP TV one evening a week and instead visit someone who's lonely or sick. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the "tube?" Give someone a very precious gift: your time!
• ACCEPTANCE, RATHER THAN JUDGEMENT:GIVE UP judging others by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, and that's Jesus Christ.
• THANKS-GIVING:GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, "In everything give thanks." Constructive criticism is OK, but "moaning, groaning, and complaining" are not Christian disciplines.
• SEEING THE GOOD POINTS OF PEOPLE:GIVE UP looking at other people's worst attributes. Instead concentrate on their best points instead of complaining about their worst ones. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.
• SILENCE: Find a place of peace and quiet and simply listen for God. Live with less busy-ness and idle talk.
(They are starting to get harder...)
• FORGIVENESS IN PLACE OF ANGER & HATRED: GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. "Love covers a multitude of sins."
• JOY AND TRUST INSTEAD OF WORRIES AND ANXIETIES: GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! They're too heavy for you to carry anyway. Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about: like tomorrow! Live today and let God's grace be sufficient.
Perhaps, doing this kind of "TAKING UP" will lead us to take up the cross and follow Jesus more closely.
Perhaps, it will prepare us to now only make it to Easter with a deeper and more powerful spiritual life, but to continue on beyond the cross and resurrection as a new and renewed person in Christ.