Gathering Courage for Lent

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I am blessed to work with a kind-hearted, God-loving and FUN woman.  She also happens to be Catholic and we enjoy our daily talks about God, what it means to serve Him and how to stay positive when challenges come our way.  We also share another passion: chocolate.

I know, I know.  Lots of people say they love chocolate and sweets.  I choose to believe that my love beats yours, hands down.  My chocolate-loving ways have evolved over time.  Once upon a time I enjoyed chocolate.  Then I began craving it.  Now, it is nearing obsession level and I must confess…. My name is Rachael and I am an addict.  Naturally, when my co-worker told me she was giving up sweets for Lent, I felt betrayed.  I mean, she was my partner in crime, eating cookies meant for the kids at snack-time and pilfering M&Ms from the “potty reward” jar.  Me?  Give up chocolate and sweets?  She must have been crazy.

She planted a seed.  It grew.  I took a good hard look at myself and realized I have a problem.  If gaining ten pounds since fall wasn’t a good enough indication, all I had to do was look in the eyes of my ever-so-loving husband who frequently makes sweet-tooth craving runs for me after the kids are in bed.  So last night, while slurping my cookies and cream shake, I made the decision.  This non-Catholic would give up sweets for Lent.

The idea behind Lent is similar to the Protestant practice of fasting.  It is a time of self-denial leading up to the recognition and celebration of Easter.  It begins on Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) and ends, for many, on Good Friday.  Lent is approximately 40 days, parallelling the period of time Jesus fasted in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry.  Sounds great, right?

Funny thing is, the moment after I decided to participate in this 40 day fast, I told myself I would cheat on Valentine’s Day.  Then I proceeded to tell two other friends I was doing it, but cheating on Valentine’s Day.  It IS Valentine’s Day after all and what is Valentine’s Day without chocolate?  Thankfully, my loving Savior knocked me over the head with the metaphorical 2×4 and pointed out my tendency to MAKE EXCUSES and my LACK OF DISCIPLINE. When we take a hard look at our lives, aren’t those always the two things that keep us from reaching our life goals?

I want to work out -> I don’t have time.  I am lazy.  It is cold outside.

I want to be a better parent -> My kids are disrespectful.  I never have any time to myself.  Someone else can teach them about Jesus.

I want to eat healthy -> Healthy food is expensive. Spinach doesn’t taste as good as chocolate. I don’t like to cook. My body is craving carbs.

I want to pray -> Time just got away from me today. I would rather watch TV. I’m mad at God.

I want to study God’s word -> Deuteronomy is hard to get through. I’m tired. My kids take all my time.

I want to forgive -> They really hurt me. I’m still mad. They deserve to pay.

I want to give up sweets to show some discipline in my life, dedicate myself more to God, identify with His suffering in a small way -> Valentine’s Day is coming up.  Giving up something else would be easier. I will physically go through sugar withdrawals.  I won’t be able to feed the bitter things in my life something physically sweet in a useless attempt to mask my pain when I should be running to God in the first place.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?  I so easily talk myself out of what is good for me, settling for less than what God wants for me.  I so often fail to recognize that the scripture I have heard my whole life is actually TRUE:  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

So, tomorrow I start Lent.  I will not be cheating on Valentine’s Day.  I’m glad to be on this journey with my friend as well.  As my co-worker said to me today, “Misery loves company”. Using my power of persuasion, I have also successfully talked my husband and another friend (both enablers of my addiction!) to join me.  What about you?  Have you ever given something up for Lent?  Did you just finish a Daniel fast?  In what ways are you disciplined? In what ways do you lack discipline?  I would love to hear from you.

Rachael Gathers

Welcome to Rachael Gathers blog!  If you don’t know me and came upon my blog by chance, let me introduce myself.  My name is Rachael.  My current home is in central Indiana and the second home of my heart is Havana, Cuba.  My husband and I have been married 12 years and are blessed with two beautifully challenging daughters who daily fill me with joy while simultaneously make me question my adequacy as a parent (I hear this is normal for mothers, or at least I tell myself that…). Parenting is my current profession of choice, although I teach at a preschool two days a week.  So much for the sociology degree from Indiana University!  Maybe someday that will serve me well.

My passion is Kingdom work.  Our family is extensively involved in helping and partnering with churches in Cuba.  Currently our family is involved with the early stages of what we believe will become a church plant in our city.  We meet weekly in homes across our county, studying God’s word, praying, eating together and simply spending time together.  We call ourselves Gathering: An Acts 2:42 Community, which gives you insight into the title of my blog.

My hope for this blog is that it will become a gathering place of insights, thoughts, and resources to encourage and inspire myself and others grow in their pursuit of the things of God and bring joy and fun to our everyday lives.  Not an easy task but I am up for the challenge!  I also hope to frequently include a gathering of ideas from friends, fellow mothers and co-laborers in God’s kingdom.  We are all in this together, right?  If you like what you read, please help me out by telling others about the blog to spread the word.  God bless!