Saturday, February 21, 2009

I know that God doesn't really smoke cigars, but that is not the point....

Last night, my Church was hosting "Women At the Well", which, of course, is our women's ministry group. During this session, we had a guest priest speak to us about preparing for Lent. He talked about exorcisms, C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, and stuff like that. Most of it, I did not like listening to. I do not like to think about the devil. It is not that I don't believe he exists. I just want him to get as little attention as possible. Please don't get me wrong. I understand why Fr. Simon was talking about exorcisms. Lot's of people have wishful thinking about the devil. By that I mean, lots of people don't believe he exists. They believe in God, but not the devil. I really think the reason for that is wishful thinking, but I digress. I also understand that sometimes I might be engaging in wishful thinking myself by acting as if me ignoring him will result in him ignoring me. So I guess I got something out of this part of Fr. Simon's talk, but this wasn't my favorite part.
My favorite part of Father's talk was when he explained the reason for Lenten sacrifice. He said that God actually has no need for our sacrifice. He said it is we who need to practice saying no to ourselves. He said that the devil has us convinced that being able to choose what we want is true freedom, but that true freedom is being able to decide to say no to our wants. I was really impressed by this line of thought.
You see, I don't believe that God needs our sacrifices either. I always thought of Lenten sacrifices as being like those stupid cards I used to make for my daddy for his birthday. You see, I have no artistic talent whatsoever, yet I would attempt to make a card for my dad throughout grammar school. Many years these cards had flowers drawn on them. Hey, they were blue and purple flowers, therefore appropriate for a man. By the time I was in High School, I recognized my lack of talent. Daddy would ask why I didn't make a card, and I would say something about realizing that I draw poorly. Daddy would say how he always liked them, and I dismissed these comments as fatherly love. Yeah. You read that right. But what I mean is that I thought my dad was just saying that because he loved me, not that he meant that because he loved me. Can you guess what I found in a cigar box while cleaning out my parent's room when mom came to live with us? Yep. All those cards. Even the one where I did not know how to spell best, and wrote "Your the beast daddy in the whole world. I love you." He kept those crummy cards. I know they were crummy. I taught kids who had talent, and who didn't, and can recognize myself as one who didn't. But daddy cherished those cards.
I imagine God cherishing our sacrifices like that. I imagine a conversation between God and an angel going something like this.....
God: Awwwwww, look at my daughter, Helen. She is giving up donuts for Lent. Isn't she cute?
Angel: Uhmmm, it's a donut.
God: Yeah. Even the Bavarian creams she likes so much....
Angel: Yeah. You gave her Sunsets, flowers, a loving home, green grass, quenching water, your only Son, she gives you donuts. That does not sound even steven to me...
God: Of course not. She couldn't possibly do even steven. She is just human.
Angel: Yeah, a sinful human.
God: My Son took care of those sins......
Angel: That's right! So what are those donuts about?
God: They are about her loving Me and wanting to give Me a gift. Isn't that cute.
Angel: If You say so........

John 1:12-13 says "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent,[c] nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."

I guess that I picture that like my earthly daddy, God doesn't see my best as vile, but, because through Jesus I am His daughter, He lovingly sees my best as something cute. Lent is a time for me to remember that God gave me His best-His only Son. I ought to give Him my best. It could never be even steven, but God still may keep it in His very own cigar box.

Anyway, still, I liked Father Simon's explanation of giving up something for Lent being an opportunity to say no to my own wants. A sort of exercise to get me in shape spiritually for saying no to evil I desire. But I like mine too. I think we are both right. Or is that wishful thinking on my part?

Lent begins this coming Wednesday. I will probably share thoughts on Lent on and off for the next few weeks. But don't worry, I won't be getting all serious and stuff. I am going to enjoy giving up something as a gift to God, just as I enjoyed making ugly cards for my daddy when I was little.


Ryan B said...

It's funny you bring up Screwtape Letters because I am reading it right now and I think that it is excellent. And you should check out "You Found Me" by The Fray. God smokes a cigarette in that song.

sherri said...

Helen- this is a wonderful post!

I love the priest's explanantion. It is so true. He doesn't need our sacrifice, it is just great practice for us to deny ourselves. Something we are not used to doing regularly.

I loved your illustration of your cards for your Dad. So TRUE!
(And how sweet that he kept them! I just wanna' give him a big ole' hug!)

The God and Angel conversation nailed it! (You are great at having imaginary conversations, I might add.)

I loved this!

I want to participate with you. (well, with God).

Looking forward to following your posts for this.

When is Ash Wednesday? I haven't missed it have I?

I love that the Catholic church places so much emphasis on Lent. That is an area that I think Protestant churches are lacking.

Great post!

katdish said...

Oh, Helen! That was just all kinds of awesome. Definitely in the top 5 all time favorite Helen posts.

Gabrielle Eden said...

Your relationship to your dad - posthumously is sweet!

Helen said...

Ryan, that song makes me cry. "Where were you......" a question containing such pain. "Why did you have to wait....just a little late....." It breaks my heart. Yeah. I am a wuss.

Sherri, thanks. You would've loved my dad. I have his sense of humour. From my mom, I got the ability to cry during touching songs.

Katdish, thank you. Your posts about Tim have caused many thoughts to run in my head. Not squirrelly thoughts. :-) Thoughts about interweaving callings and stuff. I write on it when I get it sorted out in my cluttered head.

Gabrielle, my dad and I were close even when he was alive. ;-) For a couple of years, we worked together when I was in college. I learned a lot about him then.

Michelle said...

Wow Helen great post!!!

I love that convo with God and Angel. Isn't that cute??

Your a really good writer!!!

Helen said...

Thanks, Michelle. I really believe that God loves us, and that makes the little gifts we give him precious, though, of course, unnecessary.

Marni said...

Oh Helen, your conversation between God and the angel made me tear up :) What a beautiful thought to compare our lame sacrifices to a loving Father who treasures them as if they were cards made by a child he loves. That was profound for me. Thank you for that, so much.

I wish you a blessed season of Lent...

Nicole said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Lent. I think we evangelicals SHOULD look at the liturgical calendar, if only to remind us of the core truths that ALL God followers believe--undeserved Grace, unfailing Love, and a Holy God.

At times, if something isn't "on our calendar," we forget it exists.

UptownHippie said...

Thanks for a very insightful post. Your God/angel conversation reminds me of a Rich Mullins quote I love, that goes something like this:

"I think God's got this refrigerator in heaven that's just covered with [drawings] we do. Angels come by for a drink or something, and they're like, 'You own the cattle on a thousand hills, why do you have this junk on your fridge?' And God says, 'Yeah, but my kid made that.'"

Helen said...

Nicole, thank you for coming to read my post. I think Lent really does help me be able to celebrate Easter. I need to reflect on Christ's suffering before I can rejoice in His Resurrection.
Uptown hippie, thank you for coming to read my post. I really appreciate you sharing that quote by Rich Mullins. It gives me something further to ponder.