Wednesday, April 26, 2017

WHAT I GAVE UP FOR LENT

by E. E. Kennedy


It’s been a little over a week since we celebrated the Resurrection Day of Jesus, generally known as Easter. That’s when Lent ends and theoretically, and I can stop practicing my Lenten sacrifice. But I don’t think I will.

I grew up in a predominantly Catholic town, but we were Methodists, so while we knew what Lent was—or thought we did—my family didn’t participate in that particular part of the Christian calendar. We did, however, celebrate Easter. My mother was a Preacher’s Kid, and we grew up learning all about Jesus and going to church. My siblings and I were steeped in the Scriptures and the hymns of our faith, but for me, it didn’t quite take. It wasn’t until I was twenty-two years old, in graduate school and feeling especially sorry for myself, that somebody showed me a little booklet called “The Four Laws” and all the pieces of the Gospel seemed to suddenly fall into place.

It was the mid-Seventies and a movement called the “Jesus People” had swept across the country. “Put your hand in the Hand of the Man who stilled the water,” we sang as we wore our hair long and our pants bell-bottomed. Though accepting Christ was almost trendy then, my decision was nonetheless sincere. It was a turning point in my life and I’m forever grateful that it happened.

There is a point to all this background, and here it is: until this year, I never consistently gave up anything for Lent. And I’m not sure I even did this time. But I learned a bunch from the effort and want to share. Oh, what did I give up, you ask? Complaining.


If this sounds frivolous, believe me, it isn’t. Over the years I’ve become quite adept at complaining in all its forms: griping, grumbling, bellyaching, grousing, whining, nit-picking and groaning. It had become a habit. Of course, rather as with all bad habits, I’d also become adept at disguising it as wishes and suggestions. For example, “I wish I didn’t have so much gray in my hair” or “Wouldn’t it be nice if the neighbors didn’t park their car there all the time?” and especially “Things would be so much better if more of my books sold.”

One day after my daughter asked, “Mama, why are you so negative lately?” I started to notice that I had become an expert complainer.
So this year, as Fat Tuesday—Mardi Gras—approached, I decided that this would be my “give up” for Lent. The Wednesday following, I awoke as I usually did, stiff, sleepy and groaning. I could have happily dozed at least another good two hours. Grumble, grumble. Oops! That's complaining! I’m currently on a gluten-free diet for health reasons and in the kitchen, I looked longingly at my husband’s waffle. Doggone, why can’t I have that? Oops! Complaining.

As the day wore on and the complaints continued, I realized I’d taken on quite a challenge. It wasn’t just the odd gripe I had to dispense with, it was an entire attitude! The opportunities to be negative were everywhere: the busy traffic, the fact that there were so many mattress stores in my town, the loud construction going on behind our house, how Congress is acting, the weather, the way my new sandals rubbed my toe. And on and on. This was going to be MUCH harder than I’d thought.

All at once, even my prayers sounded like complaining: “Lord, why is it so hard to lose weight?” “Don’t let the plumber cost too much!” As the day wore on, there were more and more red flags. They say the first step to getting better is admitting the truth, and there it was: I was a serial complainer!

This Lenten thing was essentially between me and the Holy Spirit, so I went to Him for help.
As I explained my problem to God, I began to realize that my complaining consisted of symbolically throwing mud at Him, lacking appreciation for the life He’s given me and for the situations He has put me in. It’s saying to Him, “You, Lord, aren’t enough to help me with the challenges in my life.” Just because I follow Him doesn't necessarily mean that my dreams, my hopes, my preferences are His. In fact, even His thoughts are higher than ours, Scripture says. 

That’s when I came across I Thessalonians 5:12: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Somebody I heard on the radio pointed out that the phrase didn’t say, “for all circumstances,” but “in all circumstances.” That helped a lot. I should have realized that He’d understand the situation. He knows that while not everything in my life is to my liking, it is part of His plan. In good times or bad, in the midst of it all, I’m to give thanks that He’s with me all the way. I really can trust Him, lean on Him, thank Him. (Even for the four mattress stores within two blocks of each other! What’s up with that?)

So, bottom line, did I become a total non-complainer? Are you kidding?
 
Still, I learned that I don’t have to wallow in negativity when Christ is in my life. There’s a great old book, Pollyanna, (not the Disney movie, though it’s pretty good) that tackles this issue quite well. The orphan child had been taught by her missionary father that the Bible contained many “happy texts,” which was proof that He wanted us to have an upbeat attitude, even when circumstances didn’t seem to warrant it. I need to copy Pollyanna more.
So even though Easter is over, I’m still doing the “giving up” thing, but lately it isn’t quite as hard to do. It’s actually quite freeing, not having to make note—whether mental or verbal--of everything that displeases me.

Come, be a Pollyanna with me!





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e-Book version of any of the four Miss Prentice mysteries by E. E. Kennedy: Irregardless of Murder, Death Dangles a Participle, Murder in the Past Tense or Incomplete Sentence

24 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post, as well as your example. May we all "go and do likewise"--and there's no reason not to start now.

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    1. PS--Don't enter me for a chance to win one of your books. I've read them all. (And they're excellent)

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    2. Thanks, Richard. I really value your opinion.

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  2. Love this post! I once did a week without saying anything negative. I was exhausted! Really helps you to get focused on the positive.

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    1. Thank you, Vicky. I know what you mean. It is exhausting. (PS. did you forget to leave your email address?)

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  3. Thank you for sharing openly and honestly! It was a blessing!
    Sarah Anderson

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    1. I forgot my e-mail address
      sweetgooberpeas@gmail.com

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    2. Thank you, Sarah. That means a lot to me.
      (PS. Love your email "handle!")

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  4. Great post! Would love a chance to read your books.

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    1. Susanne, I'd love for you to have a chance, too, but I need your email address!

      Delete
  5. Great reminder, I have become quite a complainer myself. Thank you for a chance to win. Fingers crossed. Lela, paralegal7@hotmail.com

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  6. Great post today!
    Martha T.
    CRPrairie1(@)imonmail(dot)com

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  7. Thanks for a great post and congrats on changing your way of thinking. Wonder why it is so much easier to be negative and whhat is wrong with "a glass half full" mentality? I've heard "she's such a Pollyanna" and it wasn't a complement but I want to be a Pollyanna!
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Amen, Connie. I suggest everybody read that book. It would bless them.

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  8. Beverly Duell-MooreApril 27, 2017 at 7:58 AM

    Great post, Ellen! You sure did make a "stop and think" points. My childhood was in the Episcopal church, so I know all about the calendar. Some the things you said I had no idea were really about complaining. Thank you for the post.

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    1. I learned a lot doing this, Bev. As you said, some things don't seem like complaining until you take a good look at them!

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  9. Enjoyed reading your post. It made me think more about the idea of giving up something.
    betsylu2@msn.com

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    1. As it turned out, Beth, I actually gained more than I "gave up." It was a learning experience.

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  10. I learned this anew this Lenten season, too! In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you! Thanks. paulams49ATsbcglobalDOTnet

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    1. I love that bit of Scripture, Paula!

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  11. I'm going to wait a couple more days to choose a winner in order to give some of the commentators a chance to leave their email addresses.
    Good luck, everybody!

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  12. CONGRATULATIONS to Sarah Anderson, winner of her choice of the Miss Prentice mysteries in Kindle.

    ReplyDelete