Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, the season leading up to Easter. Today begins the 40 day journey for many of us...a specific period of time for self-reflection, fasting, and strengthening our relationship with the Lord.
I love this season and all that it represents. I love that it begins in winter and ends in spring. Right now the trees are mostly bare, but when Lent ends and Easter Sunday is celebrated, everything around us will be saturated with color. What a metaphor for Lent, Easter, and life, really. Bare bones to bursting with color. Death to life. Nothing to everything.
I mostly grew up in the Episcopal church. We recognized Lent, but as a teenager I didn't really get it. One year in college it finally clicked, and I decided to take it seriously. I gave up my daily habit of a Starbucks Vanilla Latte, and I also took on daily devotion and prayer time. When the sorority house was quiet, I'd get up and go downstairs to an empty room where I'd read a devotion, read my Bible, and pray. That changed me more than anything. The taking on more than the giving up. Of course the act of giving up something we cherish is important...but the act of taking on is just as important in my opinion...because the taking on is what really changes and shapes us. And brings us closer to God...which is the whole point and purpose.
This year I'm focusing on two things.
I'm giving up candy, which, if you know me, is a pretty big deal...especially during Easter. No jelly beans, no Cadbury Cream Eggs, no egg-shaped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Nada. Typing this it seems silly. I'm giving up candy for 40 days; Jesus gave his life for me. But I guess the silliness of it just magnifies the reality of my humanness, my frailty, my need for more. So much more.
I'm also taking on the task of keeping a prayer journal and engaging in daily, focused prayer. For 40 days, I'll write down specific prayers. I'll pray over them, and then I'll start over the next day. Doing so will help me remain accountable...which is so deeply important to me. If I tell someone I'm praying for them, I mean it. And now, I'll write it down, and there's no chance I'll forget it. Also, throughout the 40 days and at the start of Easter, it will be especially meaningful to look over the specific prayers...and to see and search for (many times we have to search) the ways in which the Lord has answered those prayers.
Throughout my life as a Christian, nothing, and I mean nothing, has changed and shaped me more than daily prayer. Communicating with the Lord on a consistent basis opens my eyes to his presence so immensely. There's not as much "Where were you God?" and there's so much more, "Aaah, there you were, and here, here you are."
I'll leave you with this, something I read in our church bulletin four years ago. I wrote it down and read back over it often: "The point of Lent is to feel a little discomfort, a little pain, and by that to be constantly reminded of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ, who denied himself for our salvation."
If you need prayers (and don't we all!!), I'd love to pray for you. Send me an e-mail, and I'll add you to my prayer journal. I hope and pray that this Lenten season will be meaningful for all of us...and that, at the end of it, we'll be refreshed and renewed and will be in closer communion with the Lord and all of his children on this Earth.
From Joel 2: 12-13: "Even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love." Amen.
I hope everyone has a beautiful day!