This picture describes Lent better than 10,000 words…

…but let me offer a few for context. This past Saturday was a huge heavyweight boxing title fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. I don’t know if any of you grew up with “fight nights” aka watch parties, but a big fight is tantamount to a cultural event. (Because I do something important on Sunday mornings these days, I watch almost all of the big fights in the same place I watched this past Saturday: in bed.) The man in that picture is Deontay Wilder. As the current champ, he was the overwhelming favorite to win, and you can clearly see that he understands the spectacle. This is his entrance costume.

Well…here’s another picture.

This is Deontay Wilder getting dropped. After the fight you know what he said? The costume weighed me down. It was 40lbs and my legs were done before I even got started. This man has incredible, generational talent, and was too weighed down to even use it.

This is one way to approach the next six weeks: to “lay aside every weight that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12), and try to tap into that greatness – that divinity – that lies inside of you. What is in the way? What thinking, behaviors, and “stories” are operating inside of us? What scares, worries, or seduces us? If Jesus spends 40 days dealing with his potential weights, then let us do the same and spend time with our shatans/satans/obstacles.

But notice the phrase I’ve used here – “spend time” – which is a different invitation than the typical Lenten encounter. I’m not saying “get rid of” because for all the sacrifice, it’ll come right back after Easter…usually. Let’s instead use this season to really sit with those stories that for months I’ve been inviting you to explore. To really dig deep and ask, “What is weighing me down?” and then, because this isn’t a self-help seminar, to ask, “What of the abundance that I also have access to through God can I use to speak to this?”

Instead of, “How can we starve ourselves?”…How can we feed ourselves this Lent? This is about Soul Food.

Our worship committee has put together an incredible series to get your body and thoughts moving, stimulate your Christ consciousness and offer some tools to enhance your connection to God, so do come to worship, but even now you may have a sense of the practices and habits that may be able to feed you during this time. Maybe they have fed you before. Maybe it’s been on your mind to start doing this thing a little more often. What will connect you to God during this season of your life? For some it will be giving up and others it will be adding on, and as your pastor I will issue this challenge: let the goal be to feed your spirit every single day up through Easter. Let the goal be a steady diet of Soul Food.

I’ll be transparent and offer mine. I’m working on my prayer life, creating some time for stillness to orient myself, and I’m using a book a friend gave me, Prayer: Forty Days of Practice, to rebuild my prayer muscles. (I pray for you all the time!) This is a way of taking care of me. Here’s the prayer for tomorrow:

You see? It’s nothing profound, but every day I’m going to do it and try and hold onto it. I’m going to feed my spirit so I can be strong enough to speak to my obstacles. Because too many people have amazing gifts that never get put to use. As you hear me say so often: If I can be a blessing, I want to be.

What will you need to do to be ready? Only you know the answer to this, and I and your church are here to help.

Don’t hesitate to show up (Ash Wednesday is tomorrow can you believe it?!?), speak up, reach out, and invite others on the journey. The table has been prepared. Love.