Monday, February 26, 2007


Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, was a few days ago. This year I am going to do something I intended to do last year but never did, and that’s explain why I observe Lent and the ritual of giving up something or taking on something during the season. No wait, I don’t like the word ritual. It’s too…”religious practices for the sake of religious practices” sounding. And that’s not what it’s about for me. To be honest I don’t think it’s what it should be about for anyone.

In the past, when I have mentioned my observance of Lent some have responded, “Jennifer, I didn’t know you were Catholic.” Well, I’m not. I am a lifelong United Methodist. We United Methodists do enjoy our observance of the liturgical calendar, liturgical symbolism, and liturgical practices. These things are not to be done out of sense of duty or habit (although it’s easy to fall into that), but as an act of spiritual discipline; with the hopes of deepening our personal and corporate relationships with God through Jesus Christ. It’s not simply about a habit, but a “holy habit” (to borrow a term from my dad). Something that carries meaning and weight. Something to give us pause. To take little moments to remember what this Lenten season is about and that, thank God, Easter’s a comin’!

We all know how it’s easy to fall into a routine and go for days, weeks, months, even years not really being aware of life. Not stopping to take it in. “Life is what happens while you’re waiting.” When we take the time to breathe it in and give it all some thought things have a lot more meaning and beauty and significance. There have been years that I have sat in church on Easter Sunday morning wondering how I let the whole thing sneak up on me. And I knew I was not getting the full affect. I am not really feeling the joy of Christ’s Resurrection because I have not prepared my heart, my mind, and my spirit for the celebration. CELEBRATION!

So, I chose to give up something for Lent as an act of sacrifice that helps me think of THE sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for me and for you, and you, and you, and you… Sometimes we give up things that will allow us some freed up time in order that we can use that time for prayer, journaling, reading, meditation, and time for others. Lent is also a time when we can "take on" a new holy habit, routine, or time set aside. This year I am trying to focus more on the latter.

These Lenten acts are something I find meaning in. There have been years when I decided not to give up/take on anything because I knew I was just going to be doing it for the sake of doing it. And not because I had prepared my heart and asked for God’s leading. So, I have spent some time reflecting and talking it over with God. And this year I felt led to do some things that will help me refocus, de-clutter, and do some things for others in preparation for Easter.

The reason I like to share what I am doing in my Lenten observance is that it helps to hold me accountable. And in sharing maybe we can inspire one another.

There are times when I know I get a little too wordy. I know that I am something of a detail oriented person. I often feel the need to “say it all”. But really, I need to keep it simple. So I’ll close with some thoughts about the sermon my pastor preached on Ash Wednesday.

The way of Jesus often included suffering. But we often say we’ll do something if we don’t have to suffer to do it. View your suffering, the suffering that life brings, through the lens of Christ’s suffering. To connect with God’s suffering can be healing for our lives and our world.

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