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Cultivate Soul Throughout Lent by Janet Hill

Lent began this week. Christians everywhere have begun a time of reflection on our own mortality and the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. I grew up in a Baptist home that mostly ignored Lent. We celebrated Easter, of course, but Lent was a ritual for others. Mysterious in the application of ashes and giving up meat. It seemed silly and unnecessary. But as I grew in my faith I began to understand that a time of sacrifice for myself helped me better concentrate on the sacrifice of Christ. So, I set about to "give up" something for Lent. I chose to give up Diet Coke (the mainline way I feed my caffeine addiction!). It was hard--especially toward the end of Lent. But it did help me bring into focus the fact that a sacrifice had been made out God's great love for me and made that love seem dearer and more important. The trivial sacrifice of a Diet Coke for 40 days probably seems silly to most. But for me, it focused my understanding that year in a new way. 

This led me on another journey the next season of Lent. My brother-in-law said he encouraged his congregation to do something that expressed their gratitude during Lent instead of sacrificing something. So that year I embarked upon doing 40 days of postings on my personal Facebook page things I was thankful for. That seemed simple enough. However, as the days ticked away I found it challenging to get to the deeper meaning of gratitude. Yes, I was thankful for my salvation, for my family, and my freedoms. But at day 20--it became a bit more challenging to express gratitude beyond the obvious blessings of my life. So once again, the spiritual practice of a Lent ritual was digging deeper into my soul and cultivating it into a closer relationship with Christ.

Our meditation on Wednesday said, "Lent is a time of confession and fasting and waiting in the darkness. But this year we want to acknowledge something else – it is also a time of fruiting. Even as we recognize our mortality, as we confess our sin, as we realize anew how difficult it is to control our desires, hope is born afresh in each of us. Because we know how this story ends. We know that our recognition of our mortality will become a celebration of our resurrection." We are being challenged to cultivate our soul not only as individuals but also as a community of Christ together. We will embrace the forgiveness of grace, not only from a God who is love but through the fruits of the spirit of grace that are shown to us by others in our community and that we show to others as our soul is cultivated and relationships are deepened. 

A friend of mine, in this community, has embraced a challenge given by Ann Voscamp to #Be the Gift. The list is formidable and will be a big challenge. In fact, concentrating on any Christlike character trait for more than a moment is a challenge. I'm looking for ways to cultivate the fruit of the spirit in my life this Lent. I'm grateful for a community that helps me follow that path and works with me to deepen my ability to produce fruit. My prayer for you is that you will find Lent a time of growth in your personal life and in the life of this community.

Posted by Janet Hill at 9:06 AM
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