Into the wilderness with Jesus (reblogged from last year)

When I was a little boy, my Mum and Dad taught me ‘Hands together and eyes closed before we pray’. They explained to me that this was a way of shutting out distractions so that we could concentrate properly on our prayer. Fifty or so years later, there are many distractions in my spiritual life, and I need to practice shutting them out on a regular basis so that I can draw closer to God. These things may not all be wrong in themselves, but from time to time it is beneficial to turn away from them in order to pay closer attention to God and what God is wanting to say to me.

I think that’s what Jesus’ forty day wilderness fast was all about. Away from the noise, away from the distractions, away even from the comfort of ordinary eating and drinking, away to a place where he was utterly and completely dependent on God alone. If God didn’t come through for him, there was nothing and no one else. That’s a scary place to be, but spiritually it’s also a fruitful place to be.

Will you take up the challenge for the next six and a half weeks? Will you do your best to turn away from some of the things that distract you from God’s voice and God’s call? Will you intentionally create some empty space in your life, space that will remain empty if God doesn’t fill it? Will you join the psalmist in his prayer?

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

Have a holy Lent everyone. I’ll talk to you again after Easter.

Into the desert…

(Lightly revised from last year).

Two days from now is Ash Wednesday, and Lent will begin – an annual season for going out into the desert, metaphorically speaking, away from distractions, in order to pay attention to what God is saying. It’s a season for silence and self-examination, for prayer and self-discipine, for meditating on the Word of the Lord and for being more intentional about learning the Jesus Way.

‘Giving up things for Lent’ doesn’t mean a lot to me, although I know the value of learning to strengthen one’s self-control muscles by practising saying ‘no’ to self.  What does make sense to me, though, is taking regular breaks from things that threaten to become addictions. Internet use and blogging is high on that list for me, so every year in Lent I just give it up. It’s a sort of forty-day silent retreat for me. Not that I’ve been very active in the blogosphere of late; in fact, for the most part, I’ve been getting bored, not just with what other people write, but with my own stuff as well. When you get bored with your own writing, it’s high time to stop inflicting it on others!

I’m always glad for my Lenten blog-fast; I always approach Easter feeling more peaceful, more in tune with what God is saying. Lent always seems to arrive in the nick of time for me spiritually, and I think it’s going to be the same this year. I’m looking forward to it.