Ash Wednesday – What to Give Up

Dear Friends,
Ash Wednesday is next week, February 17th. It is the first day of the penitential season of Lent. The reference to ashes comes from the ceremony of placing ashes on the forehead in the shape of the cross as a sign of both our penitence and our hope in Christ. This custom was introduced by Pope Gregory I, who was Bishop of Rome from to 590 A.D. to 604 A.D. It was enacted as a universal practice in all of Western Christendom by the Synod of Benevento in 1091 A.D.
Karen Carrickhoff and I are sending you a Lenten devotion book:

∙ For the adults, it is a booklet similar to the Advent devotion called Steadfast Love, with inspiration from Henri Nouwen.
∙ For the youth, it is a booklet of Lenten Micro Practices, little ideas each day to help draw you closer to God.
∙ For the children, it is a calendar and an activity booklet for families to try together.
Please note that these are NOT an “all or nothing” endeavor. In other words, even if you don’t look at it daily, pick it up when you can. Trust that the Holy Spirit is alive and moving in the moment.
The giving up of something for Lent began as a humble discipline to help Christians understand the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. However, in many circles, it has moved away from that, so that “giving up” has become something to talk about, has become something Christians want “credit” for, has turned into an undisciplined attitude of “look at me and how righteous I am.” Then instead of drawing us closer to the cross, it distracts us from faithful living. Today I offer you a chance to reclaim the discipline of “Giving it up for Lent.”

This list of “Things to Give Up for Lent” is from Rev. Craig Gates, Jackson, MS. It offers some alternatives to the traditional list of chocolate, desserts, or coffee. I invite you to read the list and consider picking a couple to work on over the season. Or maybe it makes you think of another idea. Take some silent time to invite God into your Lenten discipline. Perhaps write a letter to God asking for help in giving up something in order to draw closer to God’s son Jesus.
GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, “In everything give thanks.” Constructive criticism is OK, but “moaning, groaning, and complaining” are not Christian disciplines.
GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion.
GIVE UP looking at other people’s worst points. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.
GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?
GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! 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.
GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, call someone who is lonely or sick. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the “tube?” Give someone a precious gift: your time!
GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We are called to be stewards of God’s riches, not consumers.
GIVE UP judging by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ.

May you have a meaningful Lenten Journey.
Grace and peace,

Pastor Nancy
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor