Today is Mardi Gras. It's basically a pagan holiday as far as I know. The way they celebrate it in New Orleans is enough of an example for that. The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent-the 40 days leading up to Easter). I can't tell you all of the specifics of this time, but one part that I have partaken in is fasting. About four years ago, two catholic friends of mine were discussing what they were giving up (fasting from) for Lent. It is something they are (basically) required to do. Now I have always been intrigued by the traditions and rituals of Catholics, but I can also see that it can become very mundane and insignificant if you don't approach it with the right spirit. That year (2001), I decided to join them in their fasting, and I committed to give up secular music. In that first year, I generally replaced that time I would spend listening to the secular music with Christian music-which, in a way, achieved the effect that a fast should have. Fasting should be a process in which you grow closer to God.
In 2002, I gave up television for Lent, and did not miss it at all. The time I spent away from the TV, allowed me more time to spend with God.
In 2003, I gave up fast food. It ended up being a lot easier than I expected because I spent most of Lent in Europe, and it would be silly to travel all the way to Europe and have McDonalds. I'm not sure what specifically to attribute to this, but I grew a lot closer to God during that trip. And we even spent the last day of Lent (Easter) at the Catholic Capitol of the world. We were at St Peters Square at the Vatican for Easter Mass.
Last year, I struggled over what to give up for Lent. I thought about many things and settled on chocolate. It was hard. It is a great luxury and I never realized how often it entered my life. I had to cut out all my Hot Chocolates when people in my department at work went on Starbucks runs, and I even helped make a special dinner with a friend which culminated with scrumptious cheesecake with chocolate drizzled ALL over it. I resisted. It was a great time to test my self-control. I'm not sure how it improved my relationship with Jesus, but self-control IS one of the Fruits of the Spirit.
On to this year: I only made a final decision two days ago on what I will fast on this year. I wanted to make sure that by fasting from it, I would be replacing the time and energy I spent on it, by spend time and energy with God. I thought about fast food (again), but that is more of a dietary thing right now. I considered chocolate again, but it isn't as prevalent in my life. I considered TV, but I already limited my TV watching hours for other reasons. Another possibility I entertained, was my job. I could give up my job (and I was only half joking).
In the car the other day, this item came to mind: music. I LOVE music, but is it currently drawing me closer to God? In at least the past week, I have found my self listening to the music, but not hearing. Singing the songs but not really being aware of what I was saying. It's funny, because that is one of the things I noticed I did with secular music. And now, with Christian music, I know all the words and I sing them really loud, but I'm not really hearing them.
So, this year, for Lent, I am giving up my radio and my CD's. I narrowed it to this for three reasons:
1. I can't turn off the radio at work (unfortunately).
2. I will not walk out of a worship service, when the music starts.
3. I pray that God will bring new songs to my heart.
This is huge for me. How will I fill those long drives of silence? When I gave up secular music, I replaced it with Christian music. This time I am going to replace it with time talking with God. I keep asking for the Lord to speak to me, and then I turn up the radio. Maybe I will finally be able to hear Him when I get rid of the noise.
I also expect this fast to accomplish the following: a renewed joy in the songs of the Lord. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," right? I think the songs I do sing will resound more fully in me, if I am not surrounded by them all the time.
So, tonight, when I got home, I turned off the radio in my car (which is a BIG thing, because with my radio, you never know if it will turn back on). I'm looking forward to 40 days of getting to know God better and listening to Him and being blessed with new songs to Him.
Lord, you know my heart. Give me the strength and the stamina to complete this task. Let me be joyful in my fast. Let me hear you. Let the music fade and you become bright and new to me. Lord, God, I know you will use this time to speak new words to me. To teach me. To mold me in your image. Give me the will to be open to your direction. Lord, I look forward to this time with you. Be my guide. Be my refuge. Be my all in all. I love you, Lord.