Hebrews 12:1-13 (NRSV)

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.


Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.


In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children– “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.”


Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.


Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness.


Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.


—from Rev. Joshua PattyCentral Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Fairmont

            It begins with a confession, “Create in me a clean heart,” and ashes smudged on our bodies.  For most, it is easy to realize we’ve made mistakes, we’ve not lived our lives as God intended.  A noble and necessary confession, but where does it lead us?

            Some will withhold pleasures.  No chocolate or sugar.  No meat.  No video games.  No alleluias.  Some will attend extra Bible studies, book groups, service projects, prayer meetings.  Some will read devotionals.

            Where do you want to go this Lent?  After the smudged ashes are washed away, what will you do?  Will you focus on what you’re giving up for six weeks?  Will you just add a few more things to your weekly to-do list?  Do these things get to the heart of the matter?

            Or will you take the challenge offered in Hebrews?  Will you seek the Lord’s discipline in your life?  Will you ask God to scold you when you make mistakes and then to guide you toward living a better life – more honest, more caring, more loving, more giving, more faithful?  Will you accept God’s discipline to pray not only more often, but more openly – giving of yourself and receiving of God?  Will you accept God’s discipline to strengthen your spiritual legs, that you might walk more faithfully on God’s path, rather than staggering down your own?

            You must decide how you will spend these forty days.  The promise is clear.  By the time you celebrate again the glorious resurrection of Jesus, you can be well on your way toward experiencing the peaceful fruit of righteousness that God wants you to enjoy.

            But you’ve got to make the trip; you’ve got to do the work.  Step by step, day by day, with God by your side.  Godspeed on this Lenten journey.

  Gracious God, walk with me these next days and discipline my heart and spirit

so that I may more faithfully follow your way.