40 Days of Purpose (without Diet Coke)

I am participating in the Western Christian tradition of Lent this year for the first time. Inspired by my podcast parter, John Chandler (and that Jesus guy too), I will be giving up two things: soda and bashing of the Bush administration. This being my first lent, I started to think that I should start off slow. I thought maybe I could refrain from flossing or working out at the gym, but as it turns out, I’m pretty good at avoiding those things anyway. Instead, I think I set the bar pretty damn high for myself. I love Diet Coke and I love to belittle conservative politicians. I love it even more when I’m doing both at the same time.

Not sure why I’ve never done this before…..oh yeah. That’s right! It’s because doing something like this just seems plain ol’ nutty to evangelicals. I mean, trying to align your posture a little bit more like that of Christ Jesus is just a distraction from making sure we are inviting our friends to the sunrise service at our church on Easter morning. You know, Easter….the first of two annual commercials for our church. Just make sure you don’t put anything weird on your forehead next Wednesday. Your friends might think you’re weird and then they for sure won’t come to check out your church on Easter.


22 thoughts on “40 Days of Purpose (without Diet Coke)

  1. hi. i found you from myles site. im glad to see other christians embrace lent and the liturgical calendar. im giving up tv this year (because i was afraid to give up caffeine!) and am really looking forward to the results.

    happy ash wednesday!

  2. I never knew what lent was growing up. I had a Catholic friend who always gave something up in the spring (like chocolate pudding or soda or something), but I never understood why. I’ve never heard lent mentioned in any evangelical church before. And honestly, I guess I just don’t get it. How does giving up soda make one more like Christ?

  3. it was last february when my fiancé (at that time) and i were sitting on her best friends couch in phoenix that we decided to not drink soda until the wedding in july. i was bummed because i hadn’t won an itunes song from the cap of a pepsi bottle yet and here we were, giving up the juice. we had a final pepsi ceremony and i won on the final bottle. god must have liked our decision. ha.

    anyway, giving it up for five months was pretty easy for us. getting back on the juice was even easier..

  4. Amanda,

    Did Jesus drink Diet Coke?

    I realize that might be an elementary question to ask you, but I am guessing it’s really my most effective response to your comment. It lacks the symbolic and metaphorical values that seem to be tripping you up here.

    So here it is for you; Jesus didn’t drink Diet Coke because Diet Coke wasn’t around when he lived. Therefore, If I don’t drink Diet Coke then I will become more like Jesus.

    Obviously that’s not the point of Lent, but I’ll save you the confusion of the more important explaination. Maybe I’m wrong but you don’t seem very intersted anyway so I’ll save us both the time.

  5. Wow. If you are trying to posture yourself more like Christ than either you are failing or Christ is rude, sarcastic, arrogant, condoscending, prideful…

  6. Wow, Mark: and what words would you use to describe your comment?

    Amanda: Lent is simply about sacrifice and resisting temptation. The 40 days represents the 40 days of fasting which in the wilderness, as done by Christ, as well as Moses and Elias.

  7. I’ll admit my comment was not Christ like, but then I haven’t publicy stated that I am a Christian and that I am trying to posture myself more like Christ.

  8. Mark,

    I fail to see how my comment was so harsh as you say. Amanda asked a question but I don’t think, judging from her tone, that she expected me to explain why many Christian particpate in Lent. She fails to look into the reasons why so many feel it’s important and writes it off as uneccessary.

    Do you really feel her question was an attempt to get a true reasoning as to why Lent is something important for me and others? I was simply giving her an answer i felt she could appreciate. If that’s arrogant then I’m sorry you feel that way. Jesus himself was very harsh towards those who claimed to have it all their religious ducks in a row and didn’t need to continue to learn new things and reach out to God in new ways. That certainly doesn’t put me anywhere near the same level as Jesus….I’m far from it. But when discussing the posture of Jesus, irritation and anger can’t be excluded.

    Either way, it’s still great to know how some people out there truly feel. Thanks for being so candid.

  9. I don’t think it really matters what Amanda’s intentions were. Was she honeslty seeking an answer? I don’t know. I think what matters are what your intentions are? Is it your intention to be Christ like and to share Him with others? If so, where is the longsuffering, the patience, the humility?

  10. Wow…didn’t realize my comment would spark a debate.

    Mark: I completely understand where Zach was coming from in his answer. His blog has quickly become one of my favorites, and based on the little I know of him from his posts, I expected a reply similar to the one he gave me.

    Zach: I wasn’t being as facetious as you seem to think I was. I apologize that I didn’t go into a long theological or exegitical discussion on the merits of Lent, but I’m not looking for theology or exegesis. I would really like to know how giving up soda makes you more like Christ. Sacrifice? I understand that concept. I dunno… I guess I just see most of the “sacrifice” done during the Lent season as fairly superficial. I’m not sure I see how it can bring you closer to Christ.

  11. Amanda,

    If your not looking for a theological discussion, then I can only offer you my first answer. If that doesn’t work, then maybe a non-theological discussion about the deeper meanings of why Lent is worthwhile is simply impossible. The only additional thing I can offer is to suggest that maybe what is superficial here is not the tradition of Lent itself, but rather your flippant understanding of Lent.

    Sorry I can’t be of more help to you.

  12. Zach,

    Wow, you really don’t like me, huh? I’m really not sure what I did to offend you, but whatever it was I assure you that wasn’t my intent and I do ask for your forgiveness.

    Let me try this again, if I may:

    Why is Lent important to you? Why should it be important to me? This is a sincere question. I don’t get it. It’s never been taught to me, and all I’ve ever seen are people who never attempt to follow Jesusthe rest of the year give things up for a few weeks before they slack off and stop. Hence, my previous use of the word superficial. I’m not being flippant. I’m being real. This is what I’ve seen. This is what I’ve learned from observation. It’s not a concept or tradition I was ever taught in church, and no one has ever offered me an explanation other than “It’s a way to be more like Christ.”

  13. I’ve been asked why I am taking part in Lent this year by several people recently. So I’ll go ahead and give the same answer I always give.

    The Christian faith and the Church are full of symbolic events and practices. Does eating bread and drinking wine or grape juice bring you closer to God? No. But the symbolism that it is his body broken for us and his blood shed for us goes far beyond just being a snack at church.

    When a person is baptized, that person is not becoming more like Christ because he is being dunked in water. It is a symbolic portrayal of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

    Symbolism is evident in areas where you may not have noticed. In some churches a Bible is laid open on the Communion Table to represent the importance of the word for the church. Candles are lit in some churches to represent the true source of light in our lives, Jesus. Many churches use flowers to symbolize the resurrection and new life of Jesus and his church. Probably the most popular symbol of all, the cross. Ever notice how it is almost always front and center in the church? This is because the cross is the focal point of worship.

    I could go on and on, hopefully you get the picture though.

    Lent is simply one more symbolic practice that some people may or may not choose to practice. I have practiced Lent before and I can say that it honestly did bring me closer to God. As ridiculous as it may sound, I was getting to the 20-day area and going out of my mind. I earned even more respect and insight into what Jesus suffered during his 40 days of temptation.

    Hopefully I’ve given a clear opinion on the matter.

  14. Amanda,

    I do like you. I think you and I are a lot alike :-). You haven’t done anything to offend me. I just haven’t been sure how to respond to your comments in any other way.

    You’re calling something that I feel is worth while “superficial” and essentially pointless. How is that not supposed to rub me the wrong way? I appreciate your last comment and I’d love to address you’re questions.

    First, I’ve never made it a point to suggest that everyone should do this. I’m not saying that you should do this if you don’t want to. I’m not saying this is something and NEEDS to be important to you. I’m also not saying that if you don’t do this then you are any less of a Christ follower. It’s also not an excuse to “slack off” for the rest of the year. I don’t think that’s an appropriate approach to Lent.

    As for why Lent is important to me, that’s a good question. This is my first Lent experience so I might be able to elaborate more after Easter. One thing I do like about the idea of Lent is that it can provide an opportunity to really ramp up to Easter with more reflection on Christ’s death and resurrection. Rhett Smith has a great post in his blog regarding the importance of Lent to his personal journey that’s really worth reading.

    Thanks for hanging in there with me.

  15. Thanks guys! That was a great answer Kyle, and Zach, thank YOU for hanging in there with me. By now I’m sure you understand that my intent was not to call you or what you are doing superficial. Thanks for the interaction and your candidness.

  16. Zach,

    I have to admit that this comment doesn’t have much to do with your post, since i don’t have much of an opinion on Lent. All i really have to say about it is that i believe anything can be a form of worship if it allows you to connect better with Christ, and if that is the purpose Lent serves, then I can’t see how it would be superficial. My comment, however, may be superficial and completely in vain, and I’ve fought with leaving it for quite a while to finally come to the conclusion that I have nothing to lose.

    You see I am a huge fan of your music, and it has greatly influenced me in so many ways, particularly as a musician myself. I am a drummer for a (very) small rock band at the college i attend, and since I already have alot of respect for you as a fellow drummer, reading your blogs has only given me more respect for you. So, the reason I am commenting is to ask a favor. As a young musician, what I need most is to be critiqued by someone who really knows what they are doing. And that is something my band greatly needs as well. The thing about having a college band is that the people we play for are all our friends and refuse to say anything negative about us, so I would greatly appreciate your opinion. If you could just go to our website, http://blog.myspace.com/nolongernameless, and completely tear us apart, particulary my drumming, that would be great. Just try to keep in mind that the music on this site was recorded close to a year ago and is not very good quality, and that we have grown A LOT in the last year musically. Maybe you get junk like this alot, hopeless musicians longing for some help, and if so feel free to ignore it, just know that it would help us tremendously. Thanks alot.

  17. Perhaps I might be able to provide a little insight into what Lent is all about through my recent experiences, if that helps?

    Last year I guess you could say I “half-assed” Lent. I was told what it was about. It made sense. And I chose something entirely too easy. There was no challenge, and there was definitely no profit.

    This past year has been the most accelerated one I have ever experienced regarding my growth in Jesus, and I’m amazed at each corner I turn where there’s a whole new world I’d had yet to explore. As soon as I claim the 180, God takes me deeper and dumbfounds me once again.

    Having said that, it’s amazing how God can take a simple understanding (or a Bible verse) and breathe new life into it, making its meaning illuminate like you’ve never seen it before. It’s like catching a pinhole glimpse of Heaven. This is what God has done for me this Lent season.

    Two Sundays ago I was sitting in church during worship wondering what I’d do for Lent. I considered alcohol, the internet, all these minor things that would not challenge me enough.

    And suddenly, the spirit came over me and I felt myself being commanded to kneel and humble myself. Although there are people in our congregation unafraid to do these things, I am not one of them. This is still something I am working at. So I fought it.

    The next manifestation I observed was a vision of a crown. It was gold, jeweled, and it had purple velvet in the middle. I understood…purple…one meaning purple stands for is royalty…crown…I get it, God…humble myself before my king…

    And yet, I was still too distracted by my insecurity…what would people think (I understand that this is silly, but it’s a real insecurity I still struggle with)? Instead I sat down and bowed my head. I prayed to God that it was all I could do in my embarassment.

    At that moment, in between songs, a man in the congregation stood up with a word. He said, “My beloved, I say to you…turn your face to me…turn away from that distraction…you know of what I speak. Turn your face and look upon me, and know that I am your king.”

    This struck me hard, and I silently prayed some more. Again, I told God that I was still too paralyzed. I asked Him to humble me in His way, whether that be humiliation or whatever.

    At the end of the service, our pastor prayed over the congregation. During this prayer, I again asked God to humble me. And at that moment, the idea was placed into the middle of my thoughts like a ton of bricks. For all of Lent I was to go without makeup. This was my assignment.

    Let me give you a quick background on me and makeup. Ever since I was 15 years old I’ve been unable to live without it. I’ve been unable to step outside my house without it. I’ve always been the priss who held everyone up so I could finish applying. I’ve been adamant about keeping it in place everywhere I go and reapplying as soon as it’s needed. I’ve even worn it to the gym.

    A friend from my small group prayed with me about this after church to clarify that this was a request from God. Sure enough, I sensed it loud and clear.

    As soon as I accepted the challenge, I broke down into sobs. I had never thought about what sort of lies I’d been believing about myself, like “my bare face is socially unacceptable” and “I will be ugly and unloved without makeup”…even that whenever I’d been complimented on my looks I never truly believed they were seeing past the veil. They had only liked the way I’d worn my makeup.

    The thought of doing this was more terrifying to me than any one thing I could think to give up aside from sustenance itself. But this was what my Father wanted of me. And so here I sit, bare-faced.

    I realized the next day what amazing things this will lead to. I believe God is actively breaking me of this bondage through this season. But more importantly, I’m relying solely on him for my strength and courage. I’ve remained insecure through this, and therefore it’s been on my mind constantly…and THEREFORE, my God has as well…and I’ve been praying to Him constantly throughout my days, asking Him to show me what He will and keep me strong. I’ve been so much closer to Him through this. And I’m learning so much about myself as a woman of God…so much about humility…and my mind has been taken outside of the superficial things of this world and focused directly on what is most important for my life and everyone’s around me.

    Suffering for God causes a ripple effect on others around you. And I’ve already seen this happen around me. I feel so honored and blessed to be used this way. What God has led me to do has spoken volumes of love and obedience to so many people around me (especially women who share my struggle).

    Not only that, but I have an extra 30 minutes of every morning (that I would normally spend applying makeup) to set my day right, in fellowship with Him.

    And finally, I’m going with 26 people from our church to New Orleans in two weeks to help rebuild a portion of the area. We’ll be staying in a large tent. And on the morning before I realized what my “assignment” was, I wondered how I would make it through the week without annoying the people around me with my makeup routine (or if I’d even be able to apply it). Now? Hah! I don’t even have to bring it! It’s so freeing in a way!

    It’s just so amazing how everything fit into place like a giant puzzle. God totally had a perfect plan for me, and it’s just incredible to see how it’s all working out.

    Without this experience, I will have never FULLY understood what Lent is about and how God uses it in our lives.

    I commend you if you made it through all this. 🙂

  18. Lacie,

    That is such a powerful story. Honestly, if you had just posted and said, “I gave up make-up for Lent” – that would sound superficial, but hearing the story and your heart behind it and what God is teaching your through it…Awesome. Thank you for being vulnerable. I think you have absolutely captured the heart of the Lent season.

  19. Zach,
    Good luck adventuring into the land of Lent. As someone who was raised Catholic and attended a Jesuit university and ultimately left the faith for a multitude of reasons, I am looking forward to your journey over the next 40 days as I myself have lost the concept of Lent myself and was actually reminded of what it means to a certain extent just from your writings. If you really want to experience it, try not eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays during the 40 days. I have never understood this part of it although I have heard Rome put this practice in place to support the fishing community.

    Good luck on your 40 days. I am considering an adventure myself although I am a little late as I was traveling on Fat Tuesday and the start of Lent and completely missed the start of it. As an Episcopalian it is not as mandatory as in the Catholic faith or at least that is my understanding of it.

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