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So I did something new for me this year - I observed lent.  I don't completely understand all the ins and outs of it still, and I hope I don't offend someone with this post!  For example, am I even supposed to tell people I gave up something for lent?  Politically correct things aside, it has been an interesting experience for me.

I grew up in a denomination that more or less ignores lent.  We have celebrated the Easter season of course. But the time leading up to it - starting with Ash Wednesday - was somewhat of a mystery to me.  This past year has been a time of meeting people that I respect who do the "church thing" quite different from me.  I felt myself being drawn to some of the more traditional, liturgical side of things.  I met two women who are Episcopalian priests and who have become friends of mine.  I love listening to them pray and seeing their heart and passion for God.  Shawn's good friend (and mine) is a Methodist pastor and I jokingly call him a "charismatic traditional."  By this I mean he often worships God through written prayers, liturgy, and things that seem formal and foreign to me.  Yet he does so with arms raised high, tears in his eyes and a passion in his voice that surprises me each time.  Coming home from his service tonight I was thinking about what I had just experienced.  I had been moved deeply by the service, yet strangely uncomfortable.  Not in a bad way, but in a way that reminded me that I don't have the whole concept of worship and praise "down" just because I have been a Christian for so long.  I love being around these people, and I always walk away pondering my own traditions and the way I think things should be and how I should worship. 
So when lent came around this year, I studied it a bit and asked some questions, and then decided to observe it.  I gave up chocolate, and I have to admit that it has not been easy!  There are birthday celebrations and retreats and everything else in the time of lent.  And there have been people who do not understand why I would do this-partly because, like me, it is not something they are familiar with.  I will be honest, I have not observed it with all the rules of meat, fasting, etc.  For me it was more the idea of discovering something that was an idol to me, and giving that to God.  And yes, I like chocolate that much! :)  It has been eye opening to me to realize how often I turn to chocolate (and food in general) in place of God.  And how grumpy I got when I would remember my self-imposed ban.  I am just stubborn enough that there were times I refused chocolate simply because I made this promise and I wasn't going to "fail."  Yet there have also been times of really giving it to God because I don't want idols in my life - I want my life to be about him.  It has also been freeing in a way as I have discovered that God really loves me in spite of these things.
I am happy that lent is almost over, and believe me, I will be eating a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup for Easter! But I feel like a bondage has been broken in this season - one that will carry with me even after lent is over. 
Thanks for letting me ramble about this new experience!


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