Life in the Fast Lane

Have you ever had one of those days?

It’s late in the day; already half past supper. You’re on the way home. Traffic is getting worse every day, and today is a doozy. Your mind is racing with the things you need to do before you go to bed: Wash a load of clothes … finish up tomorrow’s presentation … help the kids with their homework … You have everything planned in your head and you might just get to go to bed while it is still today.

Then your heart sinks when you get the phone call. “Can you stop by H-E-B and pick up something for supper?”

“And while you’re there …”

Of course, you’re already tired … and you have another full day of work ahead of you before you go to bed … and you’re at your wits end; but you stop at the store, nonetheless. After several minutes, you find a parking spot WAY in the back of the lot. You pull in and resolve yourself to get in and out as quickly as possible. You decide that frozen pizzas are easy and quick, so you pick up a couple … and some Blue Bell Tin Roof … and a package of Oreos.

“That’s enough,” you think to yourself and make your way to pay for your groceries.

When you get there, all the self-check kiosks are full, with a 30-foot line waiting. The person in the Express (12 items or less) line didn’t understand the concept and put 40 items on the conveyer. You see a regular line just about to finish, so you get out of line to go to that one; and a lady with a basket-full beats you to it.

You decide to just suck it up and wait in this line.

After several minutes, the cashier announces the total; so, the lady pulls out her wallet. Of course, she’s paying with cash. And now what’s this? She doesn’t have enough money, so she must put some things back.

Do you help her out? Or do you mutter discouraging words in your head?

You do know what the Christian thing to do is, don’t you?

Just then, you remember the verse you heard the other day, which just happens to be our …

Focus of the Month

Joel 2: 12 – This is what the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping and mourning.”

It’s not very big.

The Book of Joel is a small one – just two chapters. It is Joel’s message of God’s judgement and salvation. In it, he recounts the devastating plague of locusts that consume everything in the land of Judah. It is a warning to the people of Jerusalem of the consequences if they continue along their sinful path, and a promise of redemption if they turn away.

You often hear this verse on or near Ash Wednesday, and for good reason. The forty days of Lent is a great time to turn away from the things in your life you know you shouldn’t be doing and re-dedicate your lives to God. Of course, if you’re like me you are probably thinking, “Why does it have to be fasting?”

I think fasting is frequently misunderstood. Many people think of it as giving up food or drink. And while that is a perfectly good way to fast, there are many other ways to observe the Lenten season.

I once heard it said that, “Lent is a good excuse to become a better person.” I really like that. While Lent is a special time of prayer, confession and self-denial for many, it can also be a time for self-improvement … A time when we eliminate something that we shouldn’t do or add something that we should. And when you think about it, if you do something for six weeks or more, it tends to be habit forming.

What if, during Lent, you decided to …

GIVE UP complaining about the things you don’t like or don’t have and replace it with giving thanks for things that you do have. My family started a tradition during Lent a few years ago. We make it a point to frequently find something that we are thankful for in our lives, write a brief note about it and place it in our “gratitude jar.” At the end of the year, we read them all and remember the many blessings in our lives.

You can (and should) turn the bad things in your life into something to be thankful for. For instance:

• Instead of mourning over the loss of a loved one, thank God that He placed that person in your life.
• Instead of being angry over the loss of a job (or client), thank God that He closed that door so that another can be opened.
• Instead of complaining because the person in front of you is holding up the line, thank God that He has blessed you with enough money to help the lady in front of you.

Here are a few ways you can become a better person this Lent.

GIVE UP a few minutes of your time each day to spend in prayer or meditation with God. Resolve to spend 15 minutes with no distractions – no phone … no TV … no radio … NO FACEBOOK! Just be in the presence of God for that time. And I know that it’s hard to find 15 minutes to do anything, but you can do it if you make it a priority.

GIVE UP one evening a week. Use that time to visit with somebody. It can be somebody that you know and haven’t talked to in a while, or it can be a stranger in a senior assisted living home. Give somebody else the best gift you have – your time.

This is a very short list. And since none of us are perfect, we can all find something to give up and replace it with something more Christ like. This Lent, let us all work on becoming a better person.

Patrick G Howard