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home : columnists : columnists July 25, 2017

Lent can be a time to strengthen relationship with God, each other

By Teri Ditslear
Joy in the Journey

Each year, beginning with Ash Wednesday, the season of Lent begins a forty day spiritual journey "towards the cross," aka, Easter Sunday. These forty days are to be a season of reflecting, and repenting, confessing our sins, and finding ways to be more in tune to what God wants for our lives. Some people give up something for Lent that might remind them of a sacrifice in their life. Young children may give up sweets, or soda. Even adults might give up meat, sugar of any kind, or alcohol. Several friends of mine have given up Social media, including Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. The thinking is that whenever you crave what you have given up, you might have a glimpse of what God has sacrificed for us. This morning, writing this column, I am aware of the absurdity of comparing the two. The giving up a child versus giving up sugar seems vulgar and sacrilegious.

Perhaps a better way to look at Lent, is to use these forty days in which we strengthen our relationship to God and one another. Use these forty days to investigate the reasons why we fall so short of what God has in mind for us, and then discover new ways to live up to being called "beloved children" of God; with the understanding that we will always fall short, because after all, it is a faith journey, not a faith destination. If you have given up Social media, or a favorite food, replacing it with a practice that strengthens your faith life is wonderful!

Would not it be wonderful to try a new spiritual practice for forty days? It will be just enough time to create a healthy habit that will strengthen your faith life well into your future. In my religious life, I have always failed at any Lenten discipline where I have tried to "give up" something. Understand I admire people who can successfully sacrifice a carnal desire and replace it with a holy discipline, especially when it leads to a greater understanding of who God is and why the life, death and resurrection of Jesus had to happen the way it did. It is just that I never hear these stories, I only hear of sacrifice for the sake of, "that is what I do during Lent."

This year, I have several ways in which I am hoping to draw closer to God in this forty-day season of Lent. The first change I am making is to commit to daily prayer, in a specific manner. I had developed a habit of checking e-mails and Facebook before I got out of bed in the morning. Just yuk! And since I am so tuned into my smartphone, I have downloaded an app. Common Prayer, which gives me prayers of the day, morning prayers, mid-day, and evening prayers. I have set my phone to remind me to pray. So far, I love the prayers, and the litany that accompanies them.

The other thing I have challenged myself is to become healthier physically. This will be the most challenging for me. My goal is to be aware of what I am eating. Trying to drink more water, eating whole foods, and staying away from processed and artificial food, will naturally make me feel stronger. God has given us so much natural food, it seems a waste to deny the gifts that God has already given us.

My hope for you is that you use these forty days to draw nearer to God, becoming transformed into who God wants and desires you to be. You are after all, God's beloved child.

Noblesville's Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at pastor@rolcommunity.com, on Facebook or at www.rolcommunity.com

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