Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Valentine’s Day

AshAs far back as I can remember I never had ashes on my head on Ash Wednesday. As such I also never pigged out or participated in Fat Tuesday. There have been a couple of times I have tried to give up something for lent. As for Valentine’s Day, I have never actually celebrated the day with someone in a romantic sense but I have participated and even been nostalgic on February 14th. In the Anglican Church Valentine’s Day is a feast day which I imagine would make things complicated if you were an Anglican participating in lent because you would choose between fast or feast or make a hybrid.

Mardi-Gras

The thing that strikes a chord in my mind during these 3 holidays or “holy days,” however you choose to look at them is how I approach them. For the most part I’m pretty nonchalant about all of them. But I think the greater danger is in the misappropriation of their intent and how in being nonchalant we miss out. I think these 3 holidays make it easy to take for granted Jesus and His love. Typically my mind associates Fat Tuesday with the storm before the calm. Indulge; so on Wednesday we repent and look somber and walk around with ashes. I realize I do this every time I willfully indulge my lusts (minus the ashes) so for me Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday is more of a monthly thing rather than a once a year thing.

Ewe LoveThen there is Valentine’s Day  and as one blog I read put it, “we use Valentine’s Day as a day to test love” and measure others love by what they do for us. I make it about me, my nostalgia what I have or am missing and typically fail to think about giving out of overflow. I did that one year and it was beneficial. Then there was another year I gave a girl a pink bible to win her over and that failed and I was offended. Now I don’t think I was hoping the bible would win her over. However, it serves as an illustration of how we use traditions/perceptions of humans and there displays of love and their associciation with God as our hope of absolution and acceptance. Typically human engineered love comes up empty or the at the very least falls way short of God’s.

My hope today is that in a struggle against all desires of the flesh and by loving God back, what is actually being measured is the height width depth and length of His love, not how long a cycle of sin and repentance is, not how long we’ve been single or married or how many Valentine’s Day our efforts at love fell short or how many times in a lifetime 3 quasi-holidays fall in the same week. Lord, may my measurement on Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Thursday, through Good Friday and beyond be: Your love and forgiveness far exceeds mine or anyone else’s on any given day. Thanks

Ephesians 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Moving: Forward

25 In my last entry about moving, I would like to share with you all a list of goals I made 4 1/2- 5 years ago. Seeing as how my birthday is in a few short days, I wanted to be honest with myself and others about how my list of where I wanted to be or what I set out to do was fruitful yet fell short. Not in a “Woe is me, I’m a failure sort of way; but rater is a thank you Lord, let’s keep going sort of way.
The things I feel I accomplished:
-Faithfulness to the body of Christ on JMU and a desire for revival on college campuses/JMU, though it feels like ages ago I still and always will look back on my years at college as a time when I grew in love for Jesus and understood His love for me. In that time He produced fruit in me and genuine revival will be a part of my DNA for college campuses and young adults. My hope is to someday engage in another season of ministering with college students believing for students to encounter the love of God similar to how I did.
-I asked God to use me to bring healing to of some sort to people and also for myself to be healed of hurts from comparing myself. I’m happy to say I’ve experienced both and am able to more fully rejoice when I see my brothers and sisters obeying Jesus. Along with this I have endeavored to be more edifying with my tongue. I much more careful to criticize anything Jesus calls beautiful. I hope to only say things that edify His body and those around me more and more
-In the last year I’ve also experienced pruning and discipline from the Lord and have felt in me a desire to be more teachable, to receive vision for a life of obedience to Christ the Word of God. I’m thankful how many times I have heard His clear kind voice in the last year and thankful for the times I have been obedience. Willing obedience rather than a sacrifice on my part has consistently proven to be joyful and exciting. Again as a result when I’ve obeyed the fruit of the Spirit is more evident, but like I said for a while I was pruned to my tree probably seemed pretty sparse.
– Because I have seen God’s faithfulness so many times in the last year and because I journal it has been easy to remember his works and to share my testimony. I’m realizing the power and joy in proclaiming His good works.
-Lastly I have experienced the joy of investing in those younger than me and cultivating a father-like heart. I never had a younger sibling to feel like I was looking after someone, but in the last several years I’ve experienced the joy of pouring out and the love that comes with it. In it I do feel have become more gentle and humble and realizing the need to walk in the Spirit rather than being reactionary. This is the area I most desire to improve even though I’m satisfied what God has done.
The things I honestly did come close to accomplishing:
-Fasting twice week as a lifestyle. I have to laugh otherwise I’d cry if this was based on my performance. In the last year I may have fasted twice total. (Whoops)
-Memorize the book of James, I had the first chapter memorized and then I couldn’t decide what translation to memorize and eventually I just conformed to reading it a bunch of times. I still want to do this though.
The things I did partially:
-I did not write 100 Psalms/songs of love to God, but I did write a little over 50 which I’m happy with. As I keep writing I hope to actually share my songs and become a better musician so I can share my songs with people who may need to hear them. I have 15 or so that I really like!
-Know my identity as a beloved, understand Song of Solomon. I have grown in this but the more I read Song of Solomon the less I see it as allegory and the more I see it as a beautiful love poem, which in this season is good because I want to get married but is bad because it really is a feisty/sensual poem but God created pleasure and sex to be enjoyed in Him. I read Sex and the Supremacy of God which is a collection of essays about sex and marriage. It’s an amazing book, I highly recommend it!
-Read and Study the Book of Revelation deeper, I’ve definitely read it a bunch and have a better grasp on lots of eschatological things. I’m indebted to a class I took with my former youth pastor Dr. Joshua Ziefle on biblical interpretation which not only helped me understand Revelation but also has helped me to appreciate all the genres in scripture.
The things I can’t/don’t measure:
-To love the Lord free of addictions and being addicted to Him, covenant with eyes and to be washed by the Lord’s word all stem from a desire to be emotionally spiritually and physically pure. If I measure it by my performance, I am prone to think back to the last time I fell short as my measuring stick, if I measure by my inclinations/thoughts I’d again fall short by feeling upset with myself for thinking that way, but if I measure it on the work of Christ and the knowledge that He is perfecting me I have unending hope that I am pure/clean because of the word He spoke. Thank you Lord for how far you have brought me and my pure and spotlessness in the beloved comes from You and is found in You.
-heart of compassion for the lost/family and to see my dad give his heart to Jesus, Similarly I can’t measure these, the Lord’s compassion goes deeper than mine and His desire for none to perish is more fierce than mine. I’m thankful that it is still apart of prayer and I still have hope in His ability to save those closest to me and for them to encounter His satisfying love.

If you’ve read this far, thank you; what does any of this have to do with moving forward? Well none of us would be able to move forward if we didn’t have a healthy sense of the past. I’m so grateful for all these dreams but God has more for His kids. For me moving forward looks like this: I’m preparing to settle in the Scranton area as I continue to work and respond to God’s call on my life. I’m taking the first step in pursuing a dream to get professional wrestling training starting next Friday; I still hope to get married and I want to see the churches I’ve been a part of grow in spirit and truth and people. I’m praying for your moving forward too. Thanks for reading.