lent, coffee, and a life never the same

I love coffee.

I love coffee with a deep and complex love.

However, despite my love for this rich and life giving elixir, I gave it up for lent a few years ago. It went about as well as you’d anticipate.

I made it through but wow was it ever terrible. I really wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to give it up, how much I enjoy it, and how unbelievably addicted I am to it. I started a new job during that time. I was like a walking zombie trying to make good impression on my new co-workers for weeks without caffeine coursing through my veins.

They noticed instantly when I started drinking it again.

We even joke about it now. They simply cannot believe that I could do it again if I wanted to, nor do they want me to even try.

But reflecting back, I don’t think it worked.

There are loads of reason why people participate in lent but I think this one missed the mark.

I guess there is value in praying more and I suspect I did, but not to the point that I remember or can say with certainty that I did.

I am however acutely aware that I’m not different because of it.

It didn’t change how I saw God or Jesus or my faith at all.

It didn’t draw my closer to God.

When all was said and done Easter came and went and I was the same person I was when it all started.

It was just a couple weeks where I was uncomfortable.

This year I hope it’s different.

I hope that my lent experience will draw me closer to Jesus.

I hope it will show me more the heart of God.

I hope that this will actually change the way I live. That by investing my time, energy and money in this I will be a different person when I’m done.

I want to be a better disciple when Easter comes around. I want to understand what Jesus is calling his followers into and realize that it’s not always easy. I want to act differently on the other side of Easter. I want to be changed by my investment in this process. To be open to Jesus changing me.

I want to see the world in a different way. In a way that won’t allow me to go back to the way it was.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe giving up coffee and chocolate haven’t really done it.

Might I suggest trying something new?

It will be different for all of us, but let’s not lose the power of this time because the tradition makes it easy to coast. Let’s pick something that changes the way we see the world. Let’s pick something that forces us to truly experience the world in a way that we have never had to before, not simply un-caffeinated for a few weeks.

How will this fast change you? How will it make you different when it’s done? How does this push you to be a better disciple? How will your actions be changed?

It’s not that you’ll never take up coffee again, but rather how will this lent make you see Jesus in a way that you can’t be what you were before?

Let’s not pick something inconvenient this year. Let’s pick something that changes the very world around us.

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the new Easter

A few months ago, maybe longer, I heard a sermon about heaven.

It was a classic kind of sermon. “Is your name written in the lamb’s book of life? Do you know if you’re going to heaven? I know I’m going. I am assured of my final destination” etc…….

The natural question that a sermon like that leads to is what would it take for you give up your spot?

That’s where you head was going right? It’s not just me that see that as the logical question in the middle of a sermon like that? Anyone…….fine it’s probably just me.

Picture this with me.

You have arrived at the gates of heaven. Jesus comes to you and says “well done good and faithful servant” and is about to usher you in. He then stops and says “ Ummm….I don’t usually do this but your wife/husband isn’t getting in. I don’t have their name down.”

You look back, devastated and plea “there must be some mistake?! You have to help!”

“Ok.” Jesus says, but there’s a deep sadness in His eyes.

“Really!? That’s amazing! Thank you so much!”

“There’s a catch” Jesus starts “I can’t just let them in. But much like I did you can give up your spot. You can take their punishment. And let me be perfectly clear, this is not a test. This is not an opportunity for you to show you love and devotion and you both get in. If you say yes, they’re in and you’re out. Period.”

Do you do it?

I’m serious this is what goes on in my head during church and it doesn’t stop there.

I tell myself I’d do it. If it was me or Sarah I want it to be her.

But what if it wasn’t Sarah? What if it was Nolan, my son? I’d like to think I’m a father that will always put him first.

But what if it was my mom? My brother? My sister in-law? My nephew?

What about my best friend? My good friend?

What if Jesus said to me it’s you or your neighbour?

What would you say is Jesus left you the option of you or your most hated enemy?

I know what Jesus answer would be.

He’s already done it and he’s called us to follow along.

The life of compassion is not an easy one. Following in Jesus foots steps is really hard. He’s called us to daily say “I’d give it all up for my enemy”, to live our lives by putting other first. We have been called to lay down all the we are owed and the rights we have in order to place others before ourselves.

That’s why we give up our time and our money. That’s why we commit to relationship and the messiness that comes with it. We’ve been called to give up our comfort and security for our enemy. To reckless share love and grace with those who don’t deserve it.

Is that how you live? I know I often don’t.

Do I put everyone else before myself? No. Should I? Probably.

Looking forward to Easter Sunday and the sacrifice of Good Friday, are you willing to do the same? Willing to be the one who sacrifices (money, time, comfort) and is left in pain?

Are you willing to show by your life the same commitment to others Jesus has for you?

Are you willing to let others see Jesus in you?

Are you ready for your own personal Easter?