Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lenten Discipline

At today's service, the Rev. Mary Cat Young talked about her discipline this Lent. I usually don't blog about my personal discipline, but since she opened the door, I will walk in. Mary Cat is cutting her coffee consumption down. Chemical dependency is a difficult but good problem to approach during Lent. These temptations, be they chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, or whatever, are exceedingly difficult to resist without help. Perhaps by talking about her personal efforts, she was recruiting us to support her in resisting that second cup of coffee.

Other temptations that some might focus on during Lent might be more in the realm of psychological ones, such as greed, self-centeredness, envy, etc.

One thing that I think was missing from the sermon was the importance of prayer. During the times of temptation that I face during Lent, I have found that prayer is the one thing that will carry me through to Easter. Lenten discipline must involve prayer, and this is one of the things that differentiates Lenten resolutions from New Year's resolutions. We all know how New Year's resolutions never seem to work. Perhaps it is the absence of the God factor from the secular resolutions that dooms their results to failure. People set out to have a New Year's resolution for their own purposes. In Lent we do what we do for the Lord. The 40 days of Lent are doable only with the Lord's help. It is something you cannot do alone. It is something that helps you realize that you are not the self sufficient being that you think you are.

Forty days is a bit more than 10% of the year. In a way, it is a tithe of time. Giving to the Lord that which is His. Like most sacrifices, this tithe of time should be quality time. Looked at in this way, giving more time to the Lord, makes it apparent that it is important to remove those things that separate us from Him.

In past seasons, I have done without Rush Limbaugh, T.V., computer games, meat, caffeine, cussing, desserts, cookies, lunch, and the list goes on and on.

Some seasons, I have focused on reading (this works especially well when combined with no television). Books suitable for Lent include the Bible of course, but I have learned much from other books as well.

In my personal observances, I usually strive for keeping a discipline the entire 46 days. I have found the fourth and fifth weeks to be the most difficult. These are the opportune times that the devil waits for as mentioned in today's readings from Luke 4:1-13
"When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time." (v.13)

And what about myself? This year I began Lent by praying for guidance in setting a discipline. I look at my task, and in addition to a routine of daily scripture reading, an on-line O.T. study group, prayer, and worship, I will have two disciplines, one psychological and the other physical. As far as the psychological goes, it is to be fully present when with others. My first temptation didn't wait long, it occurred on Ash Wednesday when I attended another church's service. In an unfamiliar church situation, self-consciousness creeps in, and what happens? God does not get worshipped; He does not get the tithe of time. I needed that slap in the face to get me started.

Compared to that, the physical discipline, while difficult, is more easily measured and monitored. My clothes will tell on me.

I cannot do this alone.


  1. Anonymous11:05 PM

    For Lent, I'm considering giving up the heretical sermons of our rector. Unfortunately, that seems less of a penance and more like a light at the end of the tunnel. One has to wonder.

  2. +Mark Lawrence has an interesting message on where he speaks on Lenten discipline not only from the standpoint of deficiency, but also the pursuit of virtue - here's a quote.

    One possibility that is often forgotten is to use not those lists that accentuate the negative dimensions of our lives but to ask the question about the place and pursuit of virtue. After all we have spent, as a culture and Church, far too much time with the clarification of values and given too little attention to the cultivation of virtue. So to take the Beatitudes, or the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:19-26, or even Seven Saving Virtues (Justice, Courage/Fortitude, Prudence/Wisdom, Temperance, Faith, Hope and Love) as the focus, after scrutinizing our sins of omission, can be a profitable exercise indeed. Such written forms might nudge us into areas we might be unconsciously avoiding and yet towards that which God would have us go.

    Regardless - as +Dorsey Henderson was fond of saying "have a sufficiently miserable Lent."

  3. A good post.

    Our pastor recently discussed the importance of letting Christ live through us instead of us trying to be like Christ via our own puny efforts. Very instructive, methinks, especially during the Lenten season.


  4. Anon,

    Serve your time in *#!# now!


    Thanks for the link. +Lawrence does a good job with his Lenten message.


    You came close to guessing my psycholgical discipline!