40 Days In The Wilderness: A Journey Through Lent (Day 4)

 “For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see”
-Psalm 36:9

     The most simplest of phrases, and yet it is so profound. 
     This journey has been a hard one. I didn’t realize how attached I was to that social media interaction, or eating without thought, or laziness, until I had to do without it. I’ve slipped up multiple times-even the first day, I was bored late at night and automatically went to Tumblr, before realizing what I was doing. It was an unconscious act-and that’s scary! To think that there are habits we develop that become so second nature that we don’t even recognize what we are doing. In counteracting this, though, I am so much more aware of the things that I am doing with my day. Every moment, every passage of time that is a chance to do something, is a moment to reflect on just what I am doing and who am I doing it for? To please myself? Or to give glory to God? 
     I’ve been busy the past few days so I have been occupied enough. I have been eating much better, and sleeping in less and less. Waking up to sit quietly before God is an amazing thing! But my favorite experience, so far, happened yesterday. 

     One thing that God has been showing me is that I need to appreciate the little things more. The basic things, the things that are “normal” in life to me. This entire spring break has been about those little things-spending time with family, or playing with my dogs in the morning. I had dreams of a nice trip away that I wanted to take, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that I am having much more fun just being at home. But yesterday it was nice outside and I wanted a little adventure, so I went out. I found a park near Concordia University (where I’m going next year) that is absolutely breathtaking. It’s woodsy and secluded and right on the shore of Lake Michigan. I went there to just have some quiet time and take in God’s creation, read the Word. Normal stuff.
     But God just floored me! It’s amazing what spending time away in nature can do. I was so in awe that I just stopped and stood. Looking around it was like everywhere I turned He was speaking to me-in the wind, in the birds that sang, in the stillness and quietness of the place.

     I flipped open my Bible, and the first verse I saw was the one above.

 You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Such a simple phrase.

     And yet in it, there is so much depth and such a clear picture of who God is. He is the master and Lord of my heart, the one who guides me in His perfect will. There is no darkness about our God. In Revelation it talks of the fact that there is no need for the sun or stars, because the glory that proceeds from Him is more than enough to see with. He is light, and He is life-both providing us with physical being and also with the emotional, mental, and spiritual strength to live. Not just be alive, but to live life to it’s fullest!  To those who need hope, He is hope. To those who are without love, it says that God is love. For people without a family, He is our Father. To those who are lost, He illuminates the way to Himself with open arms. He raises up the humble and brings justice and peace and mercy with every breath.  Just look at what the Scriptures say about the might of our God!

“20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
 to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;
 he gives wisdom to the wise

 and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.” -Daniel 2:20-22, ESV

And again, 

“For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
    and declares to man what is his thought,
who makes the morning darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth—
    the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!” -Amos 4:13, ESV

And yet again:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39, ESV

Still more:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” -Isaiah 40:28, ESV

There is so much that we cannot even begin to fathom. Our God is an awesome, omnipotent, all powerful God. He is the fountain of life, the Creator of the universe and the Lord who reigns on high!

And this is what I have learned, so far. Nothing new. But new all the same. Sometimes, it’s the little things. The fundamental things. The things we know to the point we take them for granted, and forget to really let them soak in to our entire being. God is all-powerful. Good. True. But when you REALLY take time to let that sink in; to let the infinite majesty of God just surround you and drown yourself in His presence and light? 

It changes things. 

Our God is not a distant God. He is present-a mover, a shaker, a bringer of justice and a redeemer of hearts.

He is the fountain of life, and the light by which we see. 

40 Days In The Wilderness: A Journey Through Lent (Day 1)

Let me preface this by saying that this is the first time I have ever actually tried to observe any facet of Lent. This year I just felt a prompting in my spirit to take part. I am going to take these 40 days and use them to really reflect on my relationship with God, my own humanity, and His calling in my life. Now, Lent is not something that is specifically mentioned in the Bible. It is a tradition and observance of the Church. I am not saying that one should or should not observe Lent-it’s a personal decision. I, for one, think that it is a good time to really spend time with God-to let go of some of the things that have captivated us and let God fill our heart, mind, body, and spirit. It is my hope and desire that times like this should occur more often in my life, as the Lord leads me. If this is a period of time set aside for specifically this purpose, then it sits well in my spirit as a good place to begin.

As follows the religious custom, there are a few things that I am going to be giving up, or fasting from.

1. Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, and texting as much as possible)
2. Fast Foods/Excessive eating
3. Sleeping in/Going to bed late

The first one has a twofold purpose. I have to do this anyway as part of a project for Sociology (see how withdrawing from social media can affect a digitally-minded kid), but I feel like it’s a good idea anyway. Social media, while useful and entertaining in many ways, has a way of working it’s way into the subconscious. I often find myself looking through Tumblr or Instagram whenever I was bored, or had nothing to do. I check my phone often for messages, or Snapchats-searching for constant connection  with the world outside. What this does is it prevents me from being present in the moment that I am in. Something that I have learned recently is the importance of being authentic in who I am. That requires being present mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, as well as physically. Again, in Romans 12:2 it says  “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (KJV)”. This is not to say that Christians shouldn’t use social media-it can be an excellent avenue to spread the Gospel in this increasingly digital age. Rather, I should be conscious of just how I use social media. If I use it to escape, to rant about my problems, to give in to the pleasures of my flesh, to seek approval from man instead of God, and let it be an outlet for my sinful desires-then I am following the pattern of the world. But if I use it to further the message of the Gospel, to be a light and a soldier for Christ in the midst of all of the pop-culture mayhem that goes on, then that is okay. Personally, lately I have found myself slipping into more of the former. So for this time I will be giving these things up and focusing my thoughts and energy on God. When I have downtime, I’ll pray or read His Word instead of looking for the next app to cure my boredom. I’ll saturate myself with verses instead of hash-tags. I’ll study to show myself approved, instead of scrolling through things that will not impact my eternity.

The second fast, of giving up bad foods, has to do with my bad habit of gluttony. It is no secret-I LOVE FOOD. A lot. I have a particular fondness for pasta, and a constant craving for pastry/bakery items. Lately, however, I find myself more inclined to eat and less inclined to being productive. Proverbs 25:16 says that “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.”. Again, Proverbs 23:21 states “For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”. There’s nothing wrong with food. The Bible is full of feasts and harvests and meals. If you read Revelations, there will be a giant wedding feast in Heaven! But it’s the attitude of gluttony that is what I strive to break-the attitude of laziness and of greed. Also, the physical side effects of this is beginning to take it’s toll. I don’t have much time to exercise, so I need to continue to stay healthy and eat right. Eating right will also help me focus more, accomplish more in my day, and sleep better. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us that “…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. Even my eating habits should honor God; the attitudes I foster in the little things become my ways of life. So I will begin not only to cut out excess crappy food, but to also begin eating healthier.

Speaking of habits, my last fast is from sleeping in and going to bed late. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy a good Saturday lazy day. Lately, however, I have been doing a lot more harm than good by not getting up when I am supposed to. This is causing a few things to happen. First, I am not prepared for my day. The extra “sleep” actually makes me more tired, and leaves me in a bad mood. Going to bed late contributes to waking up late, trying to make up for lost time. This isn’t good. I am forever trying to catch up on sleep, and therefore my daily attitude suffers for it. Secondly (and tied to the first point) I lose out on my Godtime in the morning. David constantly is speaking of rising early to seek the Lord in prayer and worship. In Mark it accounts for even Jesus rising early to seek the Lord (Mark 1:35).  To start off the day with the Lord makes all the difference in my life. When I have done it, the day has gone much better for me than the days in which I procrastinate. If God is my everything, then starting off with Him sets a precedent for my day to be focused on Him! To help, I will also avoid going to bed late, when I can. Getting enough sleep is crucial for me right now, being in college. I need to develop healthy habits to keep for the rest of my life.

Paul says in Romans 12:3 says that “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”  This is what I plan to do-take a good honest look at myself, and who I am in Christ, and how I can better be serving Him. In the absence of the things I fast from, I shall place Christ front and center and let Him completely take over my life. Thus begins my 40 days in the wilderness. Just myself and the Lord. Detoxing from the things that hold me back, and relying on Him to provide my every need. I will be posting, when I feel led, on the things that He shows me as I seek His face. This is not for my glorification, but that of the Lord’s. To Him be all the glory and power and honor forever and ever! God bless.