Self-denial defined (obviously): the denial of one's own interests and needs; self-sacrifice.
I did not grow up a girl observing nor understanding the season of Lent but have always found it somewhat mysterious and intriguing. Like the ash on the forehead of my high-school friend on, of course, Ash Wednesday – that made me wonder why. Like fasting associated with the season of Lent – that makes me wonder why.
I’ll keep it simple and skip the theology, mainly because I know it would be an injustice.
Lent - expand, for me - one-tenth of a year, the 40 days approaching and in preparation for Easter.
Fasting - expand, for me - voluntary self-denial for a period of time during any point in time and for any length of time to gain a deeper fellowship with God.
This year when the season of Lent was approaching, I thought to go a little deeper, because as Ginny Owens’ lyrics ring in my ears, sometimes I feel like I’m stuck on the shore and I desperately want to go a little Deeper.
The Upper Room gives a great Lent 101 explain for those of us who are simple minded.
“Are you searching for more? Tired of running in circles…”
And GotQuestions.org reminds fasting is not a command but that the Bible presents it as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial.
Fasting = self-denial = good, profitable, and beneficial??
Benedict of Nursia (480-543) – a way, way, way long time ago – talks about “continuous lent” – I LOVE THAT - and puts it this way, “Let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.”
The Generosity Monk sums up Benedict in that “self-denial is “spring training” for disciples of Jesus who desire to follow Him through the seasons of life.”
How unnatural for one of this world to “self deny.”
And yet I’m in search of more - the deeper I mentioned above - to gain a deeper fellowship with God.
What? I can’t hear you. I’m paying attention, I’m trying to hear – really. I’m on the shore…
I’ve fasted on occasion chocolate or soft drinks, or in an effort to clean my palate or give digestion a rest. This time? Chocolate? Soda? – This time, for me, fasting “noise”! Extraneous noise which makes it nearly impossible for me to hear.
What? I can’t hear you. I’m paying attention, I’m trying to hear. Really? Turn off the noise.
I LOVE a great podcast - good noise, but sometimes it makes it hard to hear. I LOVE music – worship music, radio, or Ellie HolcombThe Broken Beautiful sending a blessing my way on CD - good noise, but sometimes it makes it hard for me to hear.
So for me, for now, no noise.
With the amazement of Easter and its approach next Sunday and one week left of Lent and my personal fast, the discovery of this self-denial has surprised. I’ve had “more hours in my day,” feels like; I’ve had intense prayer time, clarity and organization of the thoughts all crazy and random running around UP there (I once heard a woman’s mind described as ALL tabs OPEN at the SAME time across the top of a computer); I’ve made intentional phone calls, sent intentional emails and texts with those that have come to mind - when I’m able to hear; I've searched my heart and sought my Savior with focus and strange regularity as each time reaching for the "noise, " instead I was reaching for Him.
What say you on Saint Benedict’s thoughts on fasting written 1500ish years ago??
Of food? Maybe.
Of drink? Maybe.
Of sleep? Not on your life, you’re thinking, if you have littles.
Of needless talking? Interesting.
Of idle jesting? No problem.
Of? Of? Of?
Please, I can’t hear you. I’m paying attention. I’m trying to hear. Please comment below.
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Purposefully, defined: resolute. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal
Once upon a time, I raced quarter-midget go-carts, I could wrestle with our boys using incredible moves like the full nelson and the scissor hold - lessons learned compliments of my brothers - I played hide and go seek on three streets in my neighborhood - in the dark, no less - back in the good ole days when it was safe to roam the neighborhood in elementary school. I was an adventure!
Using this seemingly unrelated story might seem an odd way to convey my assessment of what living “purposefully” looks like to me. I mean, do I really care if I'm viewed as a fun-sucker? Parenting aside - because that involves an entirely different set of rules - in all honesty, I've come to the realization that I do care how I am viewed. I do care how I make others feel and the impression they leave with after our encounter. Not in a weird life-is-about-me-sort-of-way care, but in the way that I want people to view me, not in light of me, but in light of Who lives within me. I want to represent well!
Pause with me for a sec: Have you ever left a conversation or an encounter feeling agitated, feeling “less-than,” feeling, well, as if the life has been sucked out of you?
I'm not talking about the friend who is in a hard place and rightfully so needs you to lock arms with them and walk the difficult path; I've been there myself when I've had absolutely no life to give. I'm not talking about the occasional times that we all experience where our take is greater than our give. I'm talking about the chronic-choice case...the person who chooses to live negative with the glass half empty, the person who consistently chooses complaint over being content, the person who lives with tunnel me-vision and can’t have a conversation without taking life.
Conversely, have you ever left a conversation or an encounter feeling, you guessed it, better afterwards? Encouraged afterwards? Life afterwards?
Living purposefully, I've decided for me, means living with the “intent” and "goal" of hopefully making a difference in the encounters of life, of being a giver in all of its many forms and not a taker in all of its many forms, in the view of those I know and love best to the view of those that are difficult to love to the view of those I know least.
Living purposefully, I'd love to hear what it means for you...
Intentional, defined: done with intention or on purpose; intended
Whether we choose to admit it or not, no matter our age, every girl's dream is to dress up beautiful and to then be escorted to the ball by none other than her dashing prince!
I was so encouraged - no, thrilled - no - what's the word I'm looking for? MOVED, INSPIRED, CHALLENGED by the faces in the myriad of pictures posted on Facebook of my friend-daddies with their precious daughters (of all ages) at the Rolling Hills Daddy-Daughter Ball! One of my favorite favorite things about my church, Rolling Hills, is their passion to live intentionally, to live on purpose. And the impact I see to that type of living is none other than profound.
What really caught my attention in those pictures, however, was not just the beautiful dresses on the beautiful girls with their beautiful smiles and their beautiful hair, but the dazzling smiles on their daddies' faces. Just see for yourself!
So what does a Daddy-Daughter Ball have to do with the price of tea in China, or how I, the empty-nested mother of three boys, live my life intentional? Everything! Those smiles, remember, aren't just on the faces of the daughters, they're also on the faces of the daddies. Intention makes all the difference! It makes not only a difference in the recipient, but also the benefactor.
So whether it's the Daddy-Daughter Ball right there up close and personal in your world or whether it's the homeless street-paper seller on the corner who who needs money for lunch, whether it's the heart of someone in your very own family or the heart of a complete stranger, let's choose to be intentional, let's choose to make someone smile today! I guarantee you'll reap a smile yourself!
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