Search me, oh God, and know my heart…

Day 3 of Lent and I’m searching as I invite God to search me. I look for ways in which to best honor God’s ultimate sacrifice over the next 40 days. It’s easy to take so much time choosing the right things to abstain from that time flies by. Perhaps it is a stalling technique. Perhaps it is the perfectionist in me wanting to give up the “right thing” or add the “right thing”. But as we invite God into our hearts, minds and spirits this Lent, may we be able to discern what He is telling us to look it. I suppose the process of finding the true temptations to avoid comes with meditation that must go into pre-Lenten practices (I’ll have to take note of that for next year so as to not waste so much time! It snuck up on me this year!). In a late attempt, I perused an online resource for ways to better devote myself to the Lenten journey found here:. The author asks, What habits/tendencies of self-absorption do you need to tear yourself from? Where do I begin?  For starters, I must invite God into this process: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).

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Sinner Share #4 – Self-absorption in my life comes in various forms:

Snacking
snacking
Some may think it’s a mindless, harmless hobby. For me, it’s being disobedient and ungrateful for God’s daily bread, turning it into a gluttonous, monotonous, comfort-filling habit. May I allow God’s grace to fill me more than any bag of chips ever could.

Road Rage
highway traffic
The devil certainly knows I’m vulnerable in a car. There’s something about other drivers’ and traffic that sends me to a dark place. It’s truly self-absorption in its worst form, thinking that no one can drive as I do and that everyone on the road is out to get me. It’s not about me! Help me to travel on the roads this Lent viewing every driver as a Brother or Sister and accepting it for what it is, no more, no less!

Marital Disputes
arguing
My husband’s #1 complaint about me is that I “get on him” too much. If I would just accept circumstances as I would a glass of spilled milk, I could shrug it off and move on. I am so self-righteous sometimes that I do get on my husband’s back constantly insisting that he gets things right more often. I’m a sinner and I fail all the time. I fail in my marriage when I don’t just love him instead of picking him apart. May I let our one true Judge take the reins and sit back and just love my husband.

TV
couch potato
It is a habit that keeps me from getting closer to God. The television steals my attention away from my devotionals, prayer time and being active in God’s name. It has a grip on me that lets me to sneak away from more pressing obligations. In small doses, almost anything is tolerable. Over indulgence leads to great sin! Take away my addiction to the viewing box and help me to use my time wisely and productively for our Christ.

James 3: 14-16 “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

30-something share #4 – I often wonder how many other 30-something year olds are fretting about these issues. I’ve shared it before that in the North East, many Christians are nominal and don’t discuss these struggles, let alone blog about it! I’m in a funky age bracket in my faith where I can’t connect with moms (not having any children, of course) and those younger than me don’t share the marital piece. I have no right during Lent to ask God for anything, but I do seek Christian friends to walk with me down this reflective road.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

Return to me…

this lent repent

Day 2 of Lent and I’m already feeling challenged. I blogged about my TV addiction in one of my initial posts, so clearly I know that’s already something I need to be aware of as a fast throughout these forty days. As I sit here typing, the TV is silent, when it would typically offer a comforting buzz in the background. One small victory in the midst of a Christ who asks so much more.

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” – Joel 2:12. Return to me, come back to me, set your compass towards me, remember me, see me again. I think of all of the various ways I have turned from Christ and what it means today and for the rest of this Lenten season to turn towards Him. It’s not that hard to fathom…He asks us to put Him first in all we do. A simple yet daunting concept. Put Him before our rage, before our hunger and need to be right. Put Him before our work and savings and gossip. All of those things seem so trite as I watch the words spelled out here, but it feels like he’s asking me to give up everything.

And He is! And why can’t we? He did! The glory of redemption and His saving grace should be enough to have us throwing ourselves at His feet everyday. But that glory gets diminished in the midst of modern-day comforts, conveniences and selfishness. As I sit here, I text my husband as we argue about something stupid from the night before. All that needs to be said is, “I’m sorry, I love you, I didn’t mean it, please forgive me”. But I can’t text it for my foolish pride gets in the way – my need to be right and point out every imperfection. Part of my Lenten journey needs to be one of tolerance and acceptance as well.

This I pray:  I wish you a happy Lenten season. May the Lord lead us where we need to go through this 40 day journey. May He transform our hearts and minds to be more focused on letting go and letting God’s Spirit work through us. Help us to be real about our sins and our brokenness while we confess a true desire to be more like Him.

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Sinner share #4 – Lent is my favorite season in the Christian calendar. It forces me to take a deeper look at the ways I fall short and spend intentional time working harder to get back to my True North. As I consider the long road ahead, I am fearful and certain of failure. I hope to address my TV addiction and my swearing and to be more accepting of my husband. I pray that I may truly reject the devil and all his workings in the next 40 days.

James 4: 7-8 ” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded…”

30-something share #4- I wish I had more 30 something year old Christian friends to go through this Lenten journey with. Pastor Brian mentioned that it’s particularly challenging to find devoted Christians in the Northeast. I wonder why that is? Are we so bitter about the cold winter –which has been particularly snowy and cold this year–or are we sure we can go it alone? I know we can’t. Help me Lord to draw nearer to those who think and believe similarly over the next 6 weeks.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. “

We are what we watch…

I am a TV junkie.  I spend way too much time sitting in front of the tube, digesting random forms of entertainment.  From time to time I will watch Documentaries, which I do truly enjoy, but do not quantify enough time to rationalize my TV addiction.  It’s true, that’s what it is.  There is such comfort in the mindlessness that TV brings – an escape from the heavy weight of the daily stressors. But when I think of all the other things that could be accomplished if the TV didn’t exist in our home, it really puts things in perspective. I eluded to this point in my first share yesterday, but there’s another element to this that I would like to explore today. Is there a part of us that becomes what we watch? If we indulge in reality TV, is there a part of us that becomes more shallow and materialistic? If all we watch are violent war movies or gang series, are we more apt to have violent experiences? My pastor has preached on this subject before, cautioning us about what we expose ourselves to, warning that we may be more easily tempted towards evil.

On the other hand, there can be educational benefits to certain television content in news programs, documentaries and special reports. Television provides easy access to informational content that helps to shape our national and global perspective, which may then link to action we may take to better the planet. For example, the World Wildlife Foundation airs advertisements which remind people of the need for donors to support endangered species. In addition, there are ads for colleges and universities, encouraging adult learners to return to education, as well as public service announcements for dating violence, anti-bullying campaigns, and non-smoking initiatives. Television can serve as a medium to reach viewers and encourage them to learn, travel, and improve themselves in one way or another.

The issue lies in the addiction factor. I find myself being on TV overload sometimes. For example, as an educator living in Massachusetts in February, I am on the second day of no school due to snow days, attached to the weekend. That means that there’s no going outside, and what would I do instead? Hubby and I did some reading together, I cooked a bit for the Superbowl, he shoveled, I cleaned and folded laundry. And then what? We watched the TV for the rest of the time during those five days. I am so bored with the TV! But do I choose to exercise (Courtesy of Sports & Exercise TV On Demand of course)? No. Do I read instead? No. Do I write? Well, yes, I’m blogging, but guess what’s on in the background? When the TV makes decisions for me, and I just can’t say no to shutting it off, I fall prey to TV addiction. But how is this addiction affecting my life? I am a functioning TV addict, I guess you could call it. Hopefully with the better weather, I will be more apt to “Just say no”, and enjoy the out of doors more instead. But for now, I wake up, turn the TV on and get lost in the endless junk and information.

I consider myself to be a well-educated woman (with a Master’s Degree as specific proof), so perhaps I’m not as much in danger of absorbing all of the subconscious messages being emitted through commercials and reality TV. But think of all of the children and teens who simply don’t know any better. Think of the girls who learn about body image and society’s acceptance of making herself “perfect” to be able to get a man. And vice versa for a young boy to be the ideal image of manliness in order to be accepted. They are at serious risk for character assassination if they cannot learn to separate reality TV from reality, who they want to be versus who the media is selling and finding harmony between down time with TV and the outside world.

But back to my preliminary question…do we become what we watch? I know that I curse more, I care more about shoes and purses and I feel more unproductive the more TV and movies I watch. God knows that our country has an obesity problem, which, based on studies, has been linked to too many fatty foods, sugary drinks and lack of exercise. As a 30-something sinner, I fall into that category. While I do no qualify as obese, I am nowhere near as healthy as I would like to be. And I do believe that it is due in part to this addiction. I know I want to be healthier, yet I can’t let the couch potato in me go. Does that mean I take it to a level where I worship the TV? An article on Jesus-is-savior.com shares this Scripture passage to describe “What the Bible says about enjoying the filth on TV…”:

 

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” —Romans 1:28-32

I don’t know that I get pleasure from watching homicides on Criminal Minds. If anything, it helps me to be alert about potential psychologically disturbed murderers. And in terms of sexual immorality, if I were watching a sexually explicit scene, I think about enjoying my husband more. Is that a sin? Again, for our youth perhaps, and for those who are mentally or emotionally unstable, it may insert unhealthy ideas that lead to more sinning— but in my life, at minimum as an excuse, the most harm I see TV doing to me is that it prevents me from trying new things and allows me to remain sedentary. Perhaps knowing and admitting it is the first step.

Sinner share #2 – I am a TV addict. I don’t use my daily free time the way I should, spent in prayer with God and reflecting on his messages and Good News. I also don’t use my God-given talents to benefit myself and others because I am drawn into this TV trap.  Heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I implore you, that I may gain strength from your existence to avoid earthly temptations and to put into better effect the life you have blessed me with.  I come to you as a meager sinner, in prayer, begging your mercy.

1 Corinthians 10: 13-14 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it”.

30-something share: I need a hobby. All this TV and addiction talk isn’t just complaining, it’s useful. While we struggle to save money for a home which presents a financial need to be thrifty, there are affordable activities that can get me off the couch and feeling more fulfilled.  Heavenly Father, help me to listen to your will for me.  Help me to devote time to reading your Word more and putting thoughts into action.

Jeremiah 33:3 “‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

In the beginning…

While the combination of being in my 30s and a sinner may not seem any different than being any other age, it feels different. (For a more thorough background on the genesis of this blog, see the page entitled “In the Beginning…”) And that’s what I intend to share, one of each for each blog: the sameness of being a sinner mixed with the relatable characteristics of being 30-something. While this undoubtedly will turn into a sort of confessional, my true hope is to impart wisdom as I reflect on my sins and how they begin, end and transform me day by day, week by week, month by month. Until I turn 40, I guess!

I will call these reflections “shares”, the reason for which is pretty self-evident, and pray that the Holy Spirit will lead me to post relevant Scripture passages that will awaken and energize the spirit and soul.

In summary, my first post and every one thereafter will be an attempt to confess, explore and reject sin, as well as ponder life in my 30s. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” Genesis 1:1.  He is forever my inspiration for creating a variety of beginnings and endings in my life.  So here’s to new beginnings, may we all find rejuvenation and better connectedness to God through them.

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Sinner share #1 – I have pretty negative thoughts towards an in-law of mine and need to find the strength daily to quell them. I forget to pray for joy and love for her, because I am too busy enjoying not loving her. But I can pray now since it’s on my heart and I do crave to be more forgiving, as is the Christian way. Dear God, help me to find the good in her, to heal my heart of the anger and to love her like You love us. In Jesus’ good name, Amen.

Matthew 5: 43-48  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? …”

30-something share #1 – My husband and I spent most of the day on the couch watching football, the European kind. It’s a weekly ritual and can take up to 6 hours (though he watches the earlier 7 am games without me, much to my sleepy delight). I feel so unproductive and guilty sometimes, though I revel in the quality time and memories my husband and I are making. I love sleeping in on Saturday mornings, and also feel bad about it. Shouldn’t I be contributing to the world every chance I get? I know that mindset comes from my workaholic father, both inherent and engrained, but I can’t shake it. I get away Scott free by rationalizing that we won’t be able to do this when we get pregnant. It’s God’s little gift. We work hard for 5 days, mostly in anticipation of the weekends. And even God rested on the 7th day!  I pray that I find a healthy balance between work and rest, and the same  for you.

Genesis 2: 2-3 “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made”.