Last year, Elbia Coe wrote one of our Lenten devotions and her unique idea struck a note with me and so many others. What a better way to enter the season of Lent than to “give yourself away” in a thoughtful expression of grace and gratitude to another. So, this year, we are taking up Elbia’s Challenge as our Lenten practice. She expresses it well below. Follow her instructions and see what blessings come!
What are you giving up for Lent? As Baptists, ours is not a tradition of giving up or sacrificing something for the period of time called Lent. This is the forty days, excluding Sundays, leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In several other Christian denominations, giving up something is a tradition honored by millions over many centuries.
I became acutely aware of this a few years ago, working as a teacher at a parochial school where “giving up” something is expected. I heard things like “No, thanks. I can’t have that cookie. I’m giving up chocolate for Lent.” Although, for me, giving up chocolate would be quite a deprivation, I wondered how it would honor or please the Lord. After all, the purpose of the “sacrifice” was to make us more aware of Him and attuned to what He did for us.
What precious thing could I give up? What did I treasure that I could turn over to Him? In prayer, what came to me was time, our one irreducible, unreplaceable commodity, time to be used to honor what was important to Him and His children.
Here’s what I did with fifteen minutes every one of forty days. First, I took a sheet of lined paper and numbered it one through forty so that I wouldn’t forget. Having bought forty note cards and forty postage stamps, I wrote a message of love, appreciation or encouragement to someone each day. The list of prayer concerns from our church was very helpful. Some days it was to a friend I’d not seen in years but who had a special place in my heart. I even used the time some days to write someone I didn’t know personally but whose travails were public and in the newspapers.
As with all things for or in His name, the blessings that came to me were tenfold my feeble efforts. I found myself less self-centered and more attuned to whomever I might write that day. It renewed friendships and lifted my own heart.
Try it! Give up fifteen minutes of your time to tell someone that they matter.
Elbia Coe is a member of the Seekers Sunday School class, served as a deacon and deacon chair, and is an active teacher at Smoke Rise.
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