Happy New Year, friends! Fresh beginnings bring with them a desire to reevaluate and to re-purpose. Many fresh beginnings are occurring all at once in my life as many ends converge – graduating from seminary, moving from Wake Forest, NC, to Memphis, TN, and leaving the people who have known me and lived life with me for the last couple of years – these all have bittersweet ends, ends that tell the story of God’s goodness and grace and ends that leave room for His cultivating of dependence and trust in my heart anew.
As many of you know, Words Worth Noting started in our season in Wake Forest, and it has served as an avenue of grace and sanctification in my life in more ways than I can count.
With the close of Christmas season, I knew the time was drawing close where I would have the privilege of praying and seeking the Lord anew for His guidance and direction for Words Worth Noting and its involvement in testifying to the Kingdom. As I sought my Shepherd, I pleaded to join with Him in a cause greater than myself and the work of my hands. Since before leaving Wake Forest, the theme of wilderness kept creeping into view. I caught glimpses of His possible allusion, but mostly I held onto the collection of occurrences in my heart and my journal, all the while following the voice of my Shepherd who prepares the way and leads me out. I sought wisdom and clarity from the Lord, but mostly I sought Him and His reassuring presence, because the thought of a wilderness season tempted me to fear.
The morning after a long night of sweet fellowship with my sister, I found the Lord had bolstered me for prayer in a fresh and empowering way. That morning, I felt less concerned about some of the worries and heavy feelings of grief that had been abiding since the move. In the confidence of a child of God, I asked my Father to answer my cries for guidance, for conviction to follow His way. He was faithful.
As I prayed, I asked about the wilderness theme that kept showing up. I asked for clarity as to what to pursue and how. I asked about Lent, and when I did, this verse came speedily to mind:
“Earth has nothing I desire besides You” Psalm 73:25b
As I pondered the thought of the season of giving up to gain Christ, the Lord granted peace as I envisioned this verse across journals of men and women who might record the events, prayers, and work of the Lord in this Lenten season. I became gripped with the reality that if I were to engage and advocate Lent this year, I would be greatly stretched spiritually. It was at this point that I was convinced of the Lord’s leading. As I have walked with the Lord these years, I know and believe His mission is not only to spread His gospel and glory so that every living creature willingly gives Him the worship He is due, but also His mission is to shape His own into the image of Christ.
I am growing more convinced that this wilderness theme God is placing before me is not a season of dryness spiritually, but a season of being stripped of things that do not afford a single-minded, wholehearted pursuit of and love for Christ. I think of Jeremiah 17:
7 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
8 He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
Even in drought, the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord will find himself nourished and bearing fruit.
Lent is an opportunity to actively engage in a wilderness season and join God’s work of giving us undivided hearts. To go without in order to gain Christ. Our lives can become so filled with things that distract us and do not point us to Jesus. The things of this world falsely promise to fill us, to give us life, yet they only serve to leave us wanting. These things oftentimes keep us from prayerfully pursuing a life filled with the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). The season of Lent is meant to perpetuate a lifestyle of communing with and depending on Christ. Because it is a season, it serves to cultivate the treasure of faithful abiding in Jesus for the rest of our days. We choose to fast from something so that we may focus our lives on the One who is Life. We let go of lesser loves in order to collaborate with the Spirit in cultivating our affections for Christ. We engage in small part in the sufferings of Christ, who humbled Himself and gave up everything to save us, in order that we might know Him more.
I pray this is enough to stir your hearts to pray about engaging in the season of Lent, beginning February 10th this year. If you're interested in purchasing a journal, you can find them here:
The first ten people to order a journal can use this coupon - LENT2016 - to receive 10% off your purchase.
If you're considering participating in Lent for the first time or even for one of the first times, you are not alone! Last year was the first year I truly participated (more on that later). I so encourage you to commit together with a friend or a couple of friends because following Jesus is always meant to be done in community. I hope to be posting some quality content about Lent here and on Instagram. If you have some time on your hands as you consider to prepare your heart for this season, I'd love for you to read a series on the cross that I wrote last year beginning here.
grace & peace,