We are about to embark on a very special and sacred time of year.
Lent is a liturgical season. It is 40 days of repentance, contemplation, fasting, prayer, and renewal.

In 2011, I traveled to the Holy Land with the first church I served. There, I experienced the stories of Jesus from the pages of my Bible coming to life right in front of me. From the Jordan River to the valley of temptation. From the temple steps to the temple mount. From the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. From the Upper Room to the Garden Tomb. His life. His witness. His death. His resurrection.

Jesus was no longer the main character of my Sunday School lessons. Jesus was more than a far-off distant God that I could not relate to. Jesus wasn’t just a story of old. No. Jesus was alive. Jesus was the reason I stood on Holy ground and walked in Holy footsteps. All because of Jesus, I could also live.

Lent is more than giving up chocolate, sodas, or television. Lent is more than a diet or fast. Lent is more than the religious equivalent of a New Year’s Resolution. Lent isn’t just a story that belongs to Jesus. Lent is our story, too.

Lent is about welcoming our woundedness, embracing our shadow-self, confronting our sins and temptations, and recognizing once again our total and utter dependence on Christ.
 
Lent is about a knowing. The knowing we receive through the gift of Jesus is that nothing we can toil at can ever give to us what only Christ can. We exhaust ourselves in this life for no purpose at all. We divide ourselves from our siblings in Christ for arguments and reasons that will not follow us into eternal life. This is a knowing that we are all beloved to God and God is our beloved.
 
Lent reminds us of our perishability. We all came from dust and we will all return to dust. It is the breath of the Holy One that gives us life. It is the death of the incarnate God of Christmas morning that gives us eternal life. This knowing is about a complete humbling of the mind, the body, and the soul. It is the embodiment of the words of the Psalmist, “Be still and know that I am God.”

This season, if you give up something, give it up because it gets in the way of your ability to be fully present with God. Give up something if it causes you to sin or throws temptation in your path. If you’re going to give up something, give up hate, judgement, fear, anxiety, doubt, worry, anger, isolation, and condemnation. If you’re going to give up something, do it for your sake, for the sake of others, for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of the life Jesus saved for you to live.

Give up lying, stealing, pride, unforgiveness, bitterness, blame-casting, generalizations, bullying, destructive language, damage to creation, violence in language and deed, greed, debt, gambling, addictions, social media, gossiping, and comparison.
 
If you pick up something, pick up the cross. Pick up compassion, pick up grace, pick up prayer, fasting, worship, walking, planting of seeds, sharing of kind words, pick up service, acts of gratitude, and delight in the Lord.
 
If you do nothing, do it intentionally. Make space to do nothing every day. In the do-nothingness, welcome silence, contemplation, holy listening, meditation, and deep breathing. In the do-nothingness, be still with the Creator that made you the beautiful creation you are. Exhale knowing that God loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it.

What the Holy Land taught me is more than I can ever fully articulate. Most of all, the Holy Land taught me that the footsteps of Jesus are as near to me as my own feet. The heart of Jesus can be felt when I place my fingers upon my pulse. The miracles of Jesus can be seen right where I live, in the faithful children of God.

This Lent, be surprised by the closeness of our savior. Be transformed by rebirth in the Spirit of God. Be affirmed in God’s unconditional love for you. Be captivated by the story of a life that didn’t end on the cross but continues to live through you. You are a part of the Lenten story. Death and sin do not get the final word. A victory awaits us still. Sunday is coming. A resurrection is coming. Prepare.

Experience this season with fresh eyes, an open heart, and a spirit hungry for renewal. Try new things. Give up the things that steal life. Add other new disciplines and practices that are life-giving. You’ll get out of Lent what you put in. Give it your all. Jesus did. Make it about love. Jesus did.
 
Warning: Lent will change you. Easter will resurrect you. Wait on the Lord. Miracles ahead.
 
I’m praying for you. May God break through your walls and pour out the blessings of heaven upon you. race and Peace,
Rev. Dr. Tiffany A. Nagel Monroe

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