Is it just me, or did Lent suddenly sneak up on us this year? Last year, I had carefully planned out my six clothing items for my Lenten sacrifice of only wearing 6 items of clothing. This year, it was Fat Tuesday before I realized that I needed to consider what to give up for Lent.
While that sounds like a perfect setup for a rushed decision, truthfully, God had already laid it out for me in the book I’ve been reading by Jen Hatmaker, “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” Jen felt challenged to identify seven areas of excess in her life and took radical steps to loosen the bonds of materialism that our culture shackles us with. She balances spiritual depth with laugh-out-loud hilarity as she writes things that most of us would say with our “inside the head” voice. Each month, she made radical sacrifices in the areas of food (choosing only seven items to eat for an entire month), clothes (wearing only seven items for a month), possessions (giving away seven items per day), waste, spending, media, stress.
Ken wasn’t as excited as I was to only eat seven foods for a month, and it really wouldn’t be fair for me to punish him with avocados and bread for a month. I’ve already done the clothing challenge. The next chapter was about giving away possessions.
I have far too much junk in my life, and especially in my basement. The “just in case” and “what if we” items are crowding out our dependence on God to provide in His timing. There’s also a whole lot that I just need to let go of.
So as I mentally prepared myself to load up the Jeep with 280 items headed to Goodwill, I began to delve into the chapter in “7” on possessions.
Before she even started into the daily account of her sacrifices, she said this,
“Donating to Goodwill is fine, but I read the following quote three years ago, and it changed my life:
‘I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor. . . . I long for the Calcutta slums to meet the Chicago suburbs, for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God’s image in the other. . . . I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.’ (Thank you, Shane Claiborne, for messing me up.)”
So God is challenging me. Rather than just purging my closets and basements and dumping them anonymously at Goodwill’s donation dumpster, to seek out organizations who do great work, but need specific items. They are commonly posted on their websites under “wish lists.” My goal is to find out about the organizations helping the poor, to visit them, to see how I can be a part of what God is doing, to make them a priority on my prayer list, and to take them at least seven items on their wish list. 280 items that are needed.
We’ll see how this goes.
Rather than focusing on writing about what I’m giving, I’m going to highlight here what each organization is giving to this community, and around the world. Most are faith-based, some are not. All are serving the poor. I’m already humbled by how many organizations do great work based out of Middle Tennessee. I’m also amazed at how much need each of them has.
If you’re local and would like to join the purge-a-thon, I’m sure we could bless the socks off of a lot of great people. But in reality, this isn’t about a crusade to gather supplies. My focus is drawing nearer to the heart of God, by drawing nearer to those He cares for: the poor, the widows, the outcasts, the orphans.
It’s probably a good thing Lent snuck up on me this year, so I wouldn’t think myself out of this!