Monday, March 18, 2013

Blessings through Discipline

My family has a tradition of adding a second verse when singing Happy Birthday - "May the dear Lord bless you." Peter has recently taken to singing Happy Birthday frequently throughout the day to whomever is around, often accompanying himself on the ukulele. His rendition of the second verse is just a bit different, though - "Let the dear Lord bless you."

For the first couple of days, the substitution just struck me as funny, another cute "Peter Says" moment. After all, do we really need to be told to let God bless us? Who would resist a blessing? I chuckled to myself, feeling so confident in my adult understanding of the world.

As I continued to hear him over the past week, though, I've begun to think he is on to something. We know that God is all things good and desires to bless us. Perhaps we turn away blessings more frequently than we realize. "Oh, thanks God, but trust me, I've got it figured out. My plan will be excellent and will surely bring me joy. Your plan sounds, well, kind of hard. I'm sure you mean well, but my way is more fun and brings some immediate satisfaction."

For example, the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Even labeling them disciplines makes it obvious they aren't going to be care-free and fun. Why would we choose to do these things? Fasting is not fun, especially when tasty things are being served. Almsgiving, while sort of rewarding because I know others are benefiting, means I am sacrificing whatever I could have done with that entertainment money. Lent is not a time when we feel showered with blessings.

We observe Lenten disciplines out of obedience. And how else do we open ourselves to God's blessings except through obedience? Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving get us moving in the right direction. Practicing these disciplines requires grace and simultaneously draws us closer to God to receive more grace. Tonight, I pray that I will let the dear Lord bless me.

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