Saturday, March 26, 2011

Longing

Broken_heart-

Aside from giving up coffee and soda for Lent, I also gave up going to Starbucks. I love their tea, their smoothies, their lemon loaf... so I would have had many other reasons to go there aside from the "no coffee" rule.

I live in a town that has Starbucks in three different grocery stores. I was at one of those stores yesterday, and as I walked through the Bakery section, Starbucks was on the left and the smell hit me. Mmmmmmmm. I love the smell of coffee, especially the smell of Starbucks coffee. It immediately transports me back to seminary, because there was a Starbucks on every corner and it was a great place to study. You could usually find me at one of their locations on Thursday and Sunday nights, as well as Saturday mornings. (I lived in a house with 5 other girls so the house was not the best place to get some work done.)

Does anyone else feel their heart hurt when they long for something? I was exploring a Doctorate program at a seminary a few days ago and I got this ache. I feel it when I miss someone, or when I remember a tough time in my life, or I feel it when my heart breaks. It really just does feel like an ache... and painful sense of longing for something that I want to be different in my life. Sometimes it's something I can change, sometimes it's something I can't, sometimes it's something I need to work on, and when it comes to Lent, I recognizing it's something I want to WANT to change. I didn't feel that ache at Starbucks yesterday, but I didn't recognize my emotion as "longing" and it got me thinking.

How lovely is your dwelling place,

O Lord of hosts!

My soul longs, yes, faints

for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and flesh sing for joy

to the living God. -Psalm 84:1-2

In desiring a grande soy carmel macchiato, I saw that my soul longs for the wrong things. So often, my soul longs for comfort (see my previous post). As I read through Psalm 84 today, I was struck by the last two verses:

For a day in your courts is better

than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God

than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

the Lord bestows favor and honor.

No good thing does he withhold

from those who walk uprightly.

O Lord of hosts,

blessed is the one who trusts in you. - v. 10-12

I think it's no coincidence that the last verse mentions trust in the Lord. It's given me much to pause on this day.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

An Early Lenten Lesson

So, my first 5 days of Lent started out wonderful.... with me being sicker than a dog.

I woke up Wednesday morning without a voice and by the afternoon I was so weak I could do little more than lay on the sofa and feel sorry for myself. I was scheduled to speak at a women's conference on Saturday, as well as lead worship at th e start of the day. So I did whatever I could not to talk in order to save my voice.

Saturday morning came and I made it through, though not sounding great at least I had some voice. But after leading worship for 30 minutes, then giving a 45 minutes workshop twice I promptly went home and crashed. When I woke up I was starving (as well as feeling a bit sorry for myself that I wasn’t at my peak that morning in front of over 100 local women). I heated up some leftovers and made a decision: to open and drink that Diet Dr. Pepper I had on the door in my fridge.

Let me back up:

I gave up coffee and soda for Lent this year. Soda is a common thing for me to give up - I drink far too much of it, it's expensive and it's bad for you anyway. This is the first time I've felt I needed to give up coffee. I'm not a "need a cup every day" kind of person. But I do find myself gravitating toward to more often than I have in the past, so I added it to the list.

So... back to Saturday. I opened that can of soda, heard that fizz of carbonation, and thought about Lent. Even before I open the can, as I was puttering around the kitchen making myself a plate of food, I kept thinking "Will I or won't I? Should I or shouldn't I? What does giving something up for Lent really mean, anyway? I'm not sure I really care that I stick to this anyway."

I took the first few bites of food and felt this almost sizzle-like feeling in my mouth. I wanted that soda. So I took a drink.

And it was disgusting.

I hadn't had soda since Tuesday, and my taste-buds had already adjusted. Each time I've given up soda for Lent in the past it's been hard to go back because it simply tastes so syrupy-sweet and decidedly saccharin. I had to ask myself why, when there was tea and water available to me, that soda was where I went for my "default"? And I can't really explain it... other than to say there is this satisfaction that happens in my brain when I take me first few drinks of any kind of carbonation. 

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know where I'm going with this. 

Everyone, in one way or another, has a way they comfort themselves. For some it's taking to a certain friend. For some it's certain kinds of food or exercise. (I had a roommate in seminary who worked out 3 hours a day.) Some people like a good nap or watching a movie as a form of comfort... maybe it's reading a great book with a great cup of tea in your hand. I realized that soda had clearly become a form of that for me. I felt bad. I wanted to feel better. I think soda can do that for me. What was humbling (though not nearly humbling enough, for my great pride got in the way) for me was knowing that I have a much greater source of comfortable available to me. <span style="font-weight:bold;">And this, my friends, is why we celebrate Lent. To discover our idols, knock them off their pedestals and put what rightly belongs on the pedestal in the first place: God.</span>

The God of great comfort is waiting in the wings, wanting so badly to be the one I run to when I need comfort, satisfaction, and well, just to feel better. And I am choosing soda instead? What is wrong with me? It is in these kinds of revelatory moments that the devastation from the Fall brings me to my knees. I weep and mourn for the brokenness in my heart and in the world.

But as the season of Lent doesn’t last forever… neither did the Fall.  Jesus is redeeming the world, our hearts, and his people. May I not only live in the light of that fact, but learn to live in the light of his willingness and love for comforting me when I need it the most.

 

O LORD, you are my God;

I will exalt you; I will praise your name,

for you have done wonderful things,

plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

 

For you have made the city a heap, 

the fortified city a ruin;

the foreigners’ palace is a city no more;

it will never be rebuilt.

Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;

cities of ruthless nations will fear you.

 

For you have been a stronghold to the poor,

a stronghold to the needy in his distress,

a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;

for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall

-Isaiah 25: 1-4

 

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