#10 - Lent.
I know it's a weird thing to love, but growing up in the protestant evangelical tradition, we didn't see a lot of emphasis placed on Lent. So it's a relatively new experience for me. The last several years, God has allowed me to have the most incredible, life-changing growth experiences during Lent. I know for a lot of people it's a pretty legalistic concept. But for me, it has transformed the relationship in which I live, breathe, and love.
I won't pretend to be an expert, because I'm far from one. In fact, a man named Buddy Odom helped me realize the richness of Lent's ancient tradition. You can find out more about him and his ministry here. In the meantime, here are a couple of things I've found helpful in my own 40 day annual journey.
First, if you give up something legalistic for Lent, it can end up being a pretty legalistic experience. Give up something that is meaningful, and pray about what you should give up before you do it. God will nudge your heart and let you know what might be interfering in your relationship with him.
Second, don't be afraid to give up NOT doing something. If there's a new habit you want to get into in your relationship with God, a 40 day commitment is a great way to jump start it.
Third, make sure that the thing you give up is something that is relevant to your relationship with God. For me, those are often things that allow me a pretense of control, or even coping mechanisms that keep me from taking my burdens to the feet of my loving Father.
Fourth, don't beat yourself up if you aren't perfect. Set up clear parameters and guidelines, but give yourself some grace. Remember, the one you're doing this for is all about grace, love, and mercy. :-)
Fifth, pray. If you struggle with what that means or think you need a formula to be able to pray, I encourage you to read Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey. (I'll spoil the ending for you. You don't need a formula.) If you give up something that leaves you desperate, you'll suddenly find that you are praying more than you ever have, and probably in ways you never have. And that's okay. :-)
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6