Smudged…{and giving up!! A Lenten series, part one}

CROSS

I’ve never had a smudge on my forehead.

Yet my soul is smudged with sin and I need my Savior who sets me free, sometimes on a moment by moment basis.

And now that Lent is here, I’ve been pondering more than in years past what it means. Maybe because our one word for 2013 at Longings End is BREAKOUT.

And I long to breakout of all that holds me back. All that separates. And in the breaking out, the breaking off of the barbed hooks that tether my heart to sin.

Ash Wednesday was a week ago, the day before Valentine’s Day, nearly coinciding with the holiday that oozes love.

Lent oozes love, too, for it leads up to the greatest act of Love the world has ever seen.

And it marks a season in the church of soul-seeking reflection and repentance when Christ-lovers can choose to imitate Jesus’ preparatory 4o days of fasting in the wilderness.

So that we might escape our own wilderness.

WILDERNESS Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball

And in the last seven days I have asked Him how I can observe this solemn season in such a way that I might joyfully emerge more like Him.

Loving better.

Forgiving more.

Filled with grace.

Living each day intentionally, to fulfill my God given purpose. Laying down my life and in so doing helping and serving others more.

As a girl growing up in the Russian Orthodox church, I remember observing Lent by giving up something I liked, such as bubble gum.

But as I grew up, and once I met Him and came to know Him over time and many trials, falling more deeply in love every step of my wandering way, the bubble burst.

The sticky bubble of self that wrapped me tight.

The self that was stuck in needing affirmations that I was pretty, perfect, and smart, for if I wasn’t, who would love me?

The self that masked the sin.

The self cloaked in self-absorption and self-doubt. Was I worth anything?

The self that longed to belong but did not want to give up her sin.

Lent means more than giving up, though. Lent means giving in.

Giving in to the One who gave it all up for me. And for you.

Surrendering.

Into my Savior’s waiting arms where sacrificial blood washes away my sins.

Forever.

Dropping them into the depths of the sea.

Sunday when our good friend Jay was preaching on forgiveness at church, I learned that the Marianas Trench in the western Pacific goes down deep nearly seven miles! When God says He casts away our sins into the depths of the ocean and remembers them no more, He means it!

But sometimes it has been hard to believe that all my nasty, dirty sins were washed away. Forgiving myself certain choices has been some of my most difficult acts of obedience.

And as one who is also S L O W to learn sometimes, and with sin ever crouching at my door, I can yield to its knock and let it in, only to always regret that choice.

So my quest continues for more of Jesus and less of Sheila.

As I write, I just now take a break from the keyboard and pour myself a cup of tea.

TEA 1Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball (5)

TEA 2 Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball (3)

TEA 3 Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball (2)

Beloved tea!

Life giving tea!

And I hear a gentle whisper.

Would you give up tea for 40 days and every time you would normally pour yourself a cup, pick up the cup that the Father would not allow to pass from me by picking up your cross and following me more closely?

And my willing spirit says, “Yes, Lord.”

But my flesh hesitates and winces, for it is as weak as a twice-brewed tea bag!

For me, tea is love in a cup! 

TEA 7 Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball (6)

And it’s not an addiction to caffeine which keeps me pouring since most of the tea I consume is decaffeinated. It’s just that tea is soothing as well as energizing.

A welcome companion in early morning and a comfort at the end of a long afternoon. What better way to unwind?

Sweet memories of growing up and sipping tea with my mom wrap themselves around my heart just like my hands wrapped around a steaming mug on frosty evenings while sharing mother-daughter words. I even fondly remember my first taste of warm, milky sweet tea in a pale pink Melmac cup.

Why I even threw tea parties for my sons and their little guy friends on snowy afternoons!

TEA 4 Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball (8)

TEA 5 Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball (4)

TEA 6 Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball (9)

TEA PARTY 2 Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball

No matter. He means more…

And I steady myself and write these words for accountability’s sake! There is no turning back.

In the giving up, however, my heart knows that I will gain so much more. I look forward to walking out this Lenten journey and discovering what He has for me to learn.

Yet every advantage that I had gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ. For now my place is in him, and I am not dependent upon any of the self-achieved righteousness of the Law. God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. How changed are my ambitions! Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:8 J.B. Phillips

Won’t you come along? Perhaps leave a comment to let me know we travel side by side?

And in coming together over the next five Wednesdays in our weakness, struggles and sin, we can grow ever stronger together in Him!

~sheila

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