A Time For Reflection…

“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Matthew 4:4

Most people love to get involved with Pancake day, because, lets face it, who doesn’t love a pancake, be it sweet or savoury. But what a lot of people don’t know is where this tradition stems from. Pancake day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday and therefore the beginning of Lent, which is sometimes referred to as “Shrovetide”. Observance of Shrove Tuesday can be traced back to at least 1000AD and was originally observed as a day of confession and penitence in preparation for Ash Wednesday and Lent. More recently though, Shrove Tuesday has become more of a day of feasting in preparation for the fasting during Lent. People would use up all the fatty things in their larder, that aren’t allowed during Lent to rid themselves of the temptation.

So after a day of pancakes yesterday, today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. Lent is a 40-day period leading up to Resurrection Sunday, based on Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. It is meant as a tool that can help you become more aware of God’s voice and His sacrificial love. Although Lent isn’t actually mentioned in the Bible, it was discussed at the Council of Nicea in 325AD because it provided a rhythm of reflection and repentance for Christians as they entered spring – a season often associated with new beginnings. The purpose of Lent isn’t to “better” your life, but to centre your life on what matters most: the One who made you and died for you. And one of the ways you do this is through practicing spiritual habits.

For me personally, growing up, a spiritual habit during Lent I used to do was to give something up to help envisage what the 40 days in the wilderness must have been like for Jesus. Though giving up bread or chocolate for 40 days is nowhere near what He went through with the devil’s temptation, it is meant to help focus us on the sacrifices He made for us to be saved. I would also read a Lent book over the 40 days which had relevant devotionals and prayers and would make sure I made space in my day for Him.

Due to being in lockdown and then being a relatively new mum still navigating mum life last year, I haven’t given anything up during Lent the last couple of years, much less read daily devotionals. Life felt hard and heavy and therefore I didn’t want to have to give something up….selfish, I know. But now, with all the happenings of the last couple of years and with the threat of WW3 on our hands, I really feel like I need to get back into my usual Lent habits and I’m really feeling a call for those Lent habits to become year long habits (not the giving up something, but more so the reading of the Word).

Ironically, this year I have decided to have a digital detox during Lent. I say it’s ironic, because socials have become my job. It’s what I do for Church At Barking Riverside. But outside of my job, I find myself mindlessly scrolling through, looking at the great time others seem to be having, rather than allowing time to focus on myself or on my relationships, with family friends and God. I’m sure if I added up the time I spend on Instagram during the day, I would be able to read a chapter in my Bible and I’d finally be able to read the Bible front to back in a year like I have always intended and supposedly never had the time to do… So today, I logged out of my socials for the first time in years and I’m excited to see what He will do with my actual free time, what He will do through me in those 40 days when I am not distracted by essentially, a lot of nonsense. We are what we consume and I know I for one need to get better at fielding what I consume.

So that’s me and what I intend to do with my Lent and time of reflection. This week our church family have been lucky enough to join the New Wine Leadership Conference in Harrogate and it honestly couldn’t have come at a better time; prayer, worship and workshops on how we can be in His presence more, for Him to move through us. It has allowed me the space away from the usual hustle and bustle of life to just be with Him and others who love Him too. As I write this, I’m in my hotel room, in my own bed alone (no husband or baby monitor) and no distractions (usually I’d have the TV on in the background). I’m trying to start as I mean to go on this Lent: creating time and space for Jesus.

I encourage you to do the same: to figure out what it is you need to focus on to bring you closer to Him so you can feel His presence that little bit more, so you can feel His calling that little bit louder. If you are unsure of where to start, the YouVersion Bible App has plans with devotionals throughout Lent and the Diocese has numerous resource through the Lent Holy Sabbatical.

“Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Matthew 4:10

As a church, Habits are an integral part of who we are on our journey as disciples and discipleship. On Sunday, during our Celebration, Sam will be going into depth about the habits we utilise on a daily basis as a church to keep ourselves and each other accountable. We hope to see you there: Sunday 6th March, 4pm at the Rivergate Centre.

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