5.3.16

Empty spaces

"When I stop trying to fill my empty space, I leave room for glory." - Christie Purifoy


It's been awhile since I've sat down to write.  It's not that I've been busy.  I can't play the "mom-card" here.  I just haven't really had anything to say.  We're over halfway through the Lenten season, and although I gave up something significant for Lent this year, I haven't experienced any of the fruit that I hoped would come with it.  I've been distracted.   I haven't allowed myself to rest in the ways that really restore my soul.  I've been filling my empty spaces with junk and have left no room for God.  I need to hit the Lenten re-start button and go back to the beginning.  I wanted to share something that I re-read today, from the devotional (link here to download for free) that I've been following this year.   Read it along with me, restart with me, and enjoy.
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"At the onset of Jesus’ ministry, John announced his coming in fulfillment of Isaiah 40: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” This is the cry of Lent: Prepare the way of the Lord! Make room for him in your thoughts and activities and affections.  An appropriate response to this announcement is to take stock of our lives, to reconsider how we are living our lives in light of God’s presence and power made available to us in Jesus. And that is what Lent is for, to reflect on our lives as they are and as they could be. 

Giving up a habit or a food or a pleasure is not distinctly Christian. People give up things all the time in the name of self-help, or worse, vanity and vengeance. The point of Lent is to reorient life God-ward. This reorientation has to do with desert and wilderness. 
A “wilderness experience” in our language usually means one has been gone for a while and now returns with new insight or perspective, “a new lease on life.” Whether it is a trip to the third world, or a hike in the mountains, people are stripped of their usual comforts, removed from the safety of familiarity, and are forced to see the world from a different vantage point. 
Our aim during Lent is something like a wilderness experience. We want to shake up our lives significantly enough that when we reach for our usual comforts and grasp a fistful of air, we are forced to cling to Christ – his body, his blood. We want to see just how upside down our world really is as our “important things” prove to be perishable goods, as the light shines on our “righteousness” and exposes the layers of “self” beneath the surface, and as our “busy” lives are shown to simply lack wisdom. 
The desire is a new lease on life, a view into the vast world of God, a deep breath and long look above the tree line of self-absorption. So in Lent we focus on getting away from the life of flesh and into the life of the Spirit, denying our ways and embracing God’s. 
The point of giving things up is not to be reminded of how much we miss them, but rather to be awakened to how much we miss God and long for his life-giving Spirit. This means, of course, that Lent is not only about giving up things. It is also about adding things, God-things. 
Having given up junk food for a healthy diet, what will you do with the energy you gain? 
Having given up reading magazines, what will you read now? 
Having given up Facebook, to whom will you devote meaningful conversation? 
Having given up lunch, how will you rely on God for the strength of “food from heaven”? 
Having given up TV as a default activity, how will you use that time to cultivate quality family time? 
Having given up isolation, how will you immerse yourself in community? 
Having given up shopping, will you see those who need clothing in your city? 
Having sacrificed whatever form of selfishness you indulge, how will you meet the needs of others?

The practice of giving something up for Lent is a way of entering into the wilderness with Jesus. Don’t worry about whether or not your sacrifice is a good one. It’s not a contest. Just make your aim to know Christ more fully, and trust him to lead you. Seek to replace that thing with devotion to Christ—his Word and his mission. God may lead you to give up and take up more as you go. That’s good. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus."
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Advent is easy - it fits right into the joy of the season.  A birth is a cause for celebration.  Lent is hard because it's not so fun to rend our hearts.  The Lenten season is a reminder of our mortality and sharing in the sufferings of Christ.  It's about emptying ourselves and giving up our grasping of those fistfuls of air.  And those empty spaces I strive to be more mindful of for these next few weeks?   They make me squirm.   Forty days is a long time.  It's easy to give something up and be done with it.  I can usually find something else to replace it.  It's substituting one vice for another.  Those layers of "self" go deep in me.  But if there was any time to seek out these uncomfortable empty spaces, it is the Lenten season: to remember that I am dust, that I am sinful, in need of a Saviour, and that I have an advocate with Jesus Christ the righteous.  He emptied Himself so I could be filled. 

"O Holy Spirit, 
as the sun is full of light,
the ocean full of water,
Heaven full of glory,
so may my heart be full of thee."   
 -the Valley of Vision

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