I must confess: I grew up in the church but to celebrate Lent was only in the peripherals of my faith. I definitely, most probably would fail the Lent quiz.
So, I did what adults do now. I Googled “lent for dummies” and read the articles that popped up. I know a little bit more now.
Each year I read the posts and comments of friends who are observing Lent in one way or another and in the back of my mind I think, “Should I…? What would I do…? Is it for me…?”
Oh, but I do love chocolate. And that’s precisely what the Lord would tell me to give up. That would be tricky to pull off.
All jesting aside though, the idea of Lent is the foundation of Christianity. Lent was created for the purpose of preparing hearts for the observance of Easter, the day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The only reason to say that we are a Christian, the only reason to go to church and read the Bible, live a good life in His name and tell people about Him, is because He lives. If not for that, all the things we say and do as Christians would be pointless.
If Jesus had been like all the other zealots and rebels that had gained some ground in the 1st century, we would have nothing. They amassed some followers, they lived for their ideologies, and they died.
Their deaths were the end to their stories, the final period to their beliefs.
But Jesus lives. In order for Him to have gained the power of His resurrection, however, he had to give up everything. Jesus gave more than we could ever imagine so that He could give us more than we could imagine.
He gave up more than chocolate bon-bons and coffee; more than forty days and more than just the life in His life.
He gave up:
- His deity
- Philippians 2:7-8: “Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
- His life
- 1 Thessalonians 5:10: “Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.”
- His Connection with His Father
- Matthew 27:46: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
But even though he gave up so much, He gave us so much. He gave all and taught us to give all. All the time. Everyday.
Not in just seasons of giving. Not just here-and-there giving. All the time giving.
There are times that I give and it literally feels like I’m dying inside. Sometimes I’ve presented our tithe check to God for offering, knowing that our account was sorely lacking and that it just didn’t make sense to give when we didn’t have anything. After I write the check and clutch it tightly, there is that moment of death that occurs as I submit my will to the Father and His, according to the world, nonsensical way of doing things.
His ways don’t always logically make sense, do they? Give up your life to gain life. It’s the oxymoron of all oxymorons and yet, in its bazaar way, it makes sense.
It was through the nonsense of the cross that all of eternity and all events from the opening story of Adam and Eve to now, makes sense. It was only through death that death could be conquered. And it was only through the conquering that eternity with Him could be presented to humanity.
Although it is wonderful to incorporate season like Lent into your life to delve deeper and commune longer, we also cannot forget that a life of giving, a life of submitting, a life of remembering His life, death and resurrection is our calling as a Christian.
But to begin the habit of living Lent day in and day out for the rest of your lives, here are 40 ways you can celebrate Lent this year as a cowboy, in your cowboy world:
- Donate some blood. By His blood we are saved. And how wonderful to know that you could help save a life by giving a part of yourself, your blood!
- Visit an old cowboy. There are many old cowboys sitting in a nursing home, thinking about the good old days. A short visit would set their hearts right.
- Donate old tack. Go through your tack (good, safe tack) you don’t use any more and hand it down to a young cowboy.
- Teach the young cowboy to throw a loop. So many boys nowadays need someone to look up to. Be one they can look up to. A good, wholesome example in the cowboy world
- Give up cussing. Any word can be a bad word, really, because it’s a matter of the heart. But there are those four letter words that are considered “bad”. If you would feel even slightly red-faced having a young child repeat one of those to you and ask you what the word meant, then maybe it isn’t as wholesome as we try to pretend they are.
- Encourage one person a day. Pick one person in your life that you see on a daily basis (boss, employee, riding buddy) and say one thing nice and encouraging about their life and the person they are each and every day.
- Service project. Can you make a list of 5 people who have projects that need to be completed but they seem to never get it done because of lack of time and help? Step in and offer a day to help them get it done. In the approximate 5 weeks of Lent, help one person out a week with one project. You may be surprised how the Lord returns the favor.
- Give a horse ride. Reach into a family’s life that you know would love to brush up your horse. Saddle up and give them a ride. Of course only if you have a suitable, safe horse.
- Weekly dinner. Invite a family over, who you know needs the encouragement. Connect with them and purpose in your heart that the night will be about them.
- Bite your tongue. Do not engage in gossip. Ever. Become the expert at diverting the conversation when it arises. And bite your tongue when it wells up in your soul.
- Pray at every event. Do you rodeo, show, or ride for someone during this time? Make it a point to ask if you can pray before starting or at some point during the day with the people you are around.
- Go to Church. Do you need a pep talk on why you should go to church? Check out Church and Cowboys
- Appreciate your Pastor. Do you need an idea on how you can do this? Check out Appreciate Your Pastor
- Tithe. If you don’t already tithe (10%), start now. It is so easy to think that the tithe is for the church. Nope. Well, yes, it is. But the tithe is for you. It is a great measure if you have your money or if your money has you. There is no greater way to say thank you to God for all He is providing for you than when you give it back to Him and say “thank you.”
- Donate a beef. Do you have extra meet that you know you will never use? Look around and find someone who would benefit from some free meat. Clean up your freezer, make room and bless someone with it.
- Commit to the Word. This is such an easy one to think up and write down here. But it takes a lot of gumption to actually do it and stick to it. Do it. Every day. No excuses.
- Pray. Again, easy to write down. Choose one person or situation and one Bible verse that corresponds to your prayer and daily, every moment you think about it, put your thoughts about it into prayer.
- Reconcile. Think of one person that you have odds with, whether they know about it or not, and choose to forgive and to connect with and bless them.
- Help your spouse. You know, that one thing that you’re nagged about every 6 months? Cross it off the list this time.
- Give up chewing. Really. The one who kisses you will thank you. Your body and gums will thank you.
- Give up alcohol. There is definitely a fine line between drinking and drunkenness. But during this time, give it up completely and focus on spending the time you usually would be drinking, and call your mom.
- Give up eating steak. Steaks are so yummy. When you are craving that meat, remember the sacrifice Jesus made for you on the cross.
- Dream. Do you have one dream (or more!) set deep in your heart but you haven’t been able to make any progress? Every day for 40 days work on one step in your dream for one hour a day. Plug away at it and see it come to fruition during that period of time. Ask Jesus to inspire you with wisdom, talent and creativity as you work on it.
- Offer your tractor. Depending on your spring weather of course, there may be a young, single mom or family who doesn’t have a tractor but has a project they really could use one for. On a limited budget, even renting a tractor can be hard. Help them out!
- Bless your boss. Pray for your boss daily and ask God to give him wisdom in his daily tasks, and to help give you creativity and insight in order to be even more of a blessing to your boss and his business.
- Bless your co-worker. Have you picked up on a struggle that someone you work with is going through? Help them through it by praying for them daily and ask God to give you insight and wisdom if you can or should step in and help in some way.
- Vow to be positive. Golly. Sometimes that’s hard, isn’t it? There are so many things in a day that can go wrong. And these things will test our positivity. But work at remaining positive, seeing the good in the setbacks and truly trusting in God. It will help you to remain positive if don’t speak to everyone around you about the negative. It means not talking about how annoying your boss or co-worker is. It means, if what you are going to say isn’t nice, uplifting, and worthy of praise, don’t even think about it, let alone talk about it.
- Plow snow. Those heavy spring snows may put someone in need of being plowed out.
- Memorize Philippians 3:10-11. “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” And believe that you will experience His mighty power in your life and that your spirit will be renewed and awakened.
- One problem prayer. Do you have one problem, issue or sore spot (metaphorically speaking) in your life that really needs the touch of Jesus? It’s easy to brush problems under the rug and not really go after them to a completed resolution. Do it now. Write out the problem, and then find two scriptures that you can pray over the issue every day.
- Love Dare. If you are married, do the 40 day love dare based off of the movie Fireproof.
- Connect. Put down your phone and connect. You know who it is you need to connect with, so do it, with intention and with purpose.
- Facebook. For 40 days post a snippet of your salvation story and how it has changed your life. Just a couple short paragraphs each day. BUT then don’t spend your day checking to see how many likes or comments you received.
- Purpose. Find your purpose. Do you feel like your days aren’t as full of your destiny as you would like them to be? We only have one life; one life to live for Jesus and become the kind of person that is a likeness of Him. Don’t wait. Don’t let the days flow by without purpose. You don’t want to be 82 and wondering where the years went and have the I-wish-I-woulda regrets.
- Help clean up your church building. Easter Sunday usually does have an influx of people going to church so help out by cleaning up the church.
- Visit an Easter Sunday attendee that normally doesn’t go to church. It’s great to see new people on Easter Sunday, but it’s even more great to see them get plugged in on a regular basis. You can be a part of the process: visit them or invite them over for dinner.
- Devotionals. If you don’t normally do devotions with your family, sit down each night after dinner and read through a devotional together focusing on the resurrection of Jesus.
- Plant a resurrection tree. Jesus was hung on a tree and died, but death didn’t stop Him! Pick out a tree that will pop with life and have beautiful and brilliant flowers each spring to remind you of the sacrifice of Jesus but also the life He brings.
- Visit family graves. Make it a point to go and take your family to visit their grandparent’s or other family member’s grave sites. If they had put their hope in Jesus, those graves will not hold them when Jesus returns. Talk to your kids about how death is not the end. It is the end of life on earth, but it begins eternity with our heavenly Father.
- Commit that during the next month and a half until Easter, you will give all you have, every crack and crevice of your heart to Jesus. Commit that you will allow His power to work into your life to scrape out all the nasty and replace it with His heart, His mind.
This is quite a list, with lots of ideas. Of course it probably is impossible to do every one of them, so choose several that would work into your family and lifestyle. A suggestion would be to choose one focused on your personal life, one focused on your family, one focused on your work life and a project that you could complete as a family during the 40 days.
Remember, to truly celebrate Lent is to get our hearts and minds focusing on the sacrifice of Jesus and His resurrection. We are called to be like Him: to give all, to gain all for His glory.
Needing more encouragement? Read on:
Outside Circle Cowboy