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The Season of Lent

Southern California doesn't really have seasons, per se. And most of us probably like it that way. It's a bit colder in the winter months, but nothing worth bundling up for.

Where I grew up in the Central Valley, seasons were more pronounced. August afternoons were usually over 100 degrees - though they said it was a "dry heat" (whatever that means). December mornings, on the other hand, often required scraping the frozen ice off of our Oldsmobile windshield. Even so, it was still California - nothing like the weather patterns in other parts of the country.

While we don't have significant shifts in weather, our church calendar offers changes in season throughout the year. We celebrate Advent most prominently. And Holy Week, of course. And, while less common than others, Lent.

This year, we're specifically engaging these 46 days that prepare us to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. We're learning from a peculiar book in the Hebrew Scriptures called Ecclesiastes, written - it is believed - by King Solomon near the end of his life. We're especially focusing on his common refrain, "a chasing after the wind."

At the conclusion of his life, Solomon - the man who'd had it all - was convinced: Much of the life he'd longed for was meaningless, vanity, a chasing after the wind. He boldly declares,

Wisdom? Insignificant.

Pleasure? Trivial.

Wealth? Futile.

Achievement? Empty.

Youth? Useless. 

Good Shepherd's mission is to "Invite all people to grow into a Christ-centered life in God's family." If our series in Acts empowered us to Invite all people, these weeks in Ecclesiastes define how to grow into a Christ-centered life. Remember, Jesus instructed his followers to

seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

A couple months ago I was recommended a book by Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (but I needed a new book like I needed a hole in the head). Recently, though, I did purchase it, and quickly realized I may be the last one in the world to have done so! 

In the prologue, Duhigg questions, 

When you woke up this morning, what did you do first? Did you hop in the shower, check your e-mail, or grab a doughnut from the kitchen counter? Did you brush your teeth before or after you toweled off? Tie the left or right shoe first? What did you say to your kids on your way out the door? Which route did you drive to work? When you got to your desk, did you deal with e-mail, chat with a colleague, or jump into writing a memo? Salad or hamburger for lunch? When you got home, did you put on your sneakers and go for a run, or pour yourself a drink and eat dinner in front of the TV?

Later, Duhigg cites a 2006 Duke University study that found that more that 40% of our actions each day weren't actually decisions, but habits!

Perhaps, this points to the importance of the season of Lent as an opportunity to reflect on our discipleship. To ask it in another way, what habits have we fallen into? Are we running after worldly wisdom, pleasure, wealth, achievement, or youth? Or have we

thrown off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles... and run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith? (Hebrews 12.1-2)

Grace and Peace to you this Lent,
Pastor Curtis

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