The view from my window as I type. Winter rain.
Today is Shrove Tuesday, which probably means pancakes for dinner for us. In a lot of places it is Fat Tuesday, a day for parties and general excess of all kinds. All of this leads right into Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, which I find myself really looking forward to this year.
I grew up in a Baptist church, which means we didn't recognize the seasons of the Church, and the pastor preached on what he felt called to preach on each week or month. Now that I'm a Lutheran, I'm part of a church that celebrates the seasons and other special days: Advent, Epiphany, the Transfiguration, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, All Saints Day, others I'm sure I've left out...
This isn't to say that Baptists don't have these days, they just don't celebrate them in the organized way that a liturgical church does. (I can explain what "liturgical" means if you are interested.)
Tomorrow the altar at church will be dressed in purple to mark the beginning of Lent, and we'll all have ashes applied to our foreheads accompanied by the words "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return," and we'll begin forty days of rest and contemplation before walking through the joy and pain of Holy Week to the glory of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Try holding a baby and listening while those words are said to her. It is a powerful service.
Lent gets a bad rap. It isn't about suffering as much as it is about taking a hard look at where I stand with God, and where He stands with me. It's not about "giving something up" as much as it is eliminating the things that get in the way of my relationship with Him. A time for renewal.
I went crashing through Advent this year, almost missing the point of things as I ran right through Christmas. I don't want that to happen with Lent and Easter this year. I usually try to do a couple of different things, Lenten disciplines really instead of good works or suffering.
Here are the three things I will focus on during Lent:
- A spiritual discipline: We will be attending the mid-week Lenten service as a family. If you know me this is a tall order! I've been reading the Bible this year along with my pastor's blog, so I'm not going to alter that right now. (Why mess with something that is working?)
- A physical discipline: Like it or not, Lent is a good time to get my diet back in order. Several months ago I read a great book by Gary Taubes, "Why We Get Fat." I dropped some weight but, more importantly, this way of eating had a radical affect on my sleep. I've backslid somewhat since then, but I am going to get back on that bus tomorrow. Pancakes tonight, no more tomorrow!
- A book: "Bonhoeffer" by Eric Metaxas has been on my must-read list for a while. It is time to read it. In the past I've read Merton's "Seven Storey Mountain," "The Doors of the Sea" by David Bentley Hart, and writings from N.T. Wright, just as examples. My most highly-recommended book is C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce," if you are looking for something powerful but short.
And by the time Lent is over and we celebrate Easter, my view will be like this: