It seems like just yesterday we were in full swing of Advent, BUT now Lent is already here.  While Advent is all about celebrating, Lent is more solemn with self-reflection. Both seasons are about preparation.  Leave it to our creative God to always prepare us for what He has in store for us.  I remember when God called me to pulpit ministry.  As I reflect on the time leading up to it, I can see God put so many things in place preparing me. He lined my path with people & events to help in this preparation.  People like my grandparents to show me a real Christ-like example; events like Lay Witness Missions, Walk to Emmaus, and revivals within driving distance to be back in time for third shift.  God gently nudged (and sometimes not so gently) to say yes to things like youth director, making announcements at church & then filling in for pastors that were going to be gone.  It was all a process to prepare me for the job He called me for – to be your pastor now.  God, in His infinite wisdom, puts people and events in our paths way before we know where it is leading.  Now back to Lent.  Lent is a time to prepare us for the upcoming Holy Week including Palm Sunday through Easter. We see in the Bible a celebration including a parade on Palm Sunday.  Spirits were flying; people were joyous.  Then as the week progresses, they embark on a tragedy that causes such sadness & turmoil that people are scattering, crying; & spirits are hitting all-time lows.  But then God in all His awesomeness brings the people back to an even higher elevation than they had the previous Sunday.  Most importantly, through it all – Jesus was with them, loving them.  Jesus has shown us the ultimate example of sacrifice and spiritual disciplines.  His example leading up to the crucifixion was displayed with time in prayer & fellowship with friends, time in prayer and fellowship with God.

That whole ‘giving up chocolate’ is overrated.  Maybe this year for Lent instead of giving up something edible, we should give up something much more valuable – our time. Maybe we should commit to spending more time with God through prayer, Bible reading & fellowshipping with other Christians. Just maybe we should use these weeks to prepare us for a deeper relationship with Him as we look forward to celebrating how incredible our God is.  I want to urge you to commit to God some of your time this Lent season.  Just as you would sacrifice not having the piece of chocolate each day, sacrifice your time each day.  Use it for additional prayer & Bible reading than you usually do. Maybe use some to attend the community Lent services that will be going on.  Prepare to give up your time while fully embracing the preparation of our hearts for the grand celebration that Easter brings.

Remember that I am praying for and loving you every day.  Sincerely your partner in ministry – Mark