I started today with a melt-down worthy of a toddler. It involved stomping of feet, throwing shoes and finally a good, sobbing cry. There was really nothing wrong, save an issue with my coffee and general tiredness. My beloved deserves a medal. It was quite a start to a Holy Lent.
After my melt down I drove to work and met my dear co-worker and we stood on the 20 degree Georgia sidewalk for about an hour and half, mostly waving at folks and occasionally imposing ashes with the familiar words “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Aside from not bringing gloves and wearing cotton instead of wool socks, it was a lovely morning. I’m not a fan of Ashes 2 Go, but I deeply appreciated the opportunity to be a visible presence of the church out on the street (literally right in front of our church doors). And I had a couple of good conversations with folks about what Lent is all about, the symbolism of the ash, where it comes from and what we’re doing in this holy season. A couple of folks asked about fasting for Lent and lenten disciplines.
I struggle with Lenten disciplines. Often it feels like a holy diet, or even worse, a new, New Year’s Resolution. So for a long time I’ve given up giving things up and tried to take things on. But this year, for reasons that are as layered as my hair, I’m taking on the fast aspect. I’m giving up sugar and wine (pray for my beloved. The season may be long.) Why I’m giving up sugar and wine has to do with my choice last Easter, when I went back to being a vegetarian. Since then I’ve gotten a little obsessed with eating really good food. So in a weird way, giving up sugar is a way of taking on more good eating, more mindfulness about what I put in this old body of mine. But that’s me. What about you? What are you doing? What are you not doing? What are you giving up? What are you taking on?
If you’re looking for a way into a Holy Lent, here are some ideas. There are, obviously, millions more.
1. Write a letter. A real letter, in your own messy handwriting. A friend of mine did one a day last year for Lent. A letter a day for 40 days. I was the recipient of one of his letters. I can’t begin to tell you how much it meant to me.
2. Pray an Office. Morning Prayer, Noonday, or Evening Prayer. Say Compline once you’re tucked into your bed. If you’re reading it on your own, let the cat say the responses. It works, trust me.
3. Protest. Speak out against injustice. This is my cause.
4. Pray for someone who pisses you off. Pray whatever you want–I won’t tell you how to pray. I will offer that the prayer is less about changing the person and more about reorienting yourself. (You should know that last note was to remind myself of that tidbit more than anything else.)
5. Light a candle.
6. Go to church. Stay for coffee hour. Speak to someone you don’t know.
7. Read a good book. This is what I’m reading. And this. And this. Oh and this one. I’m super-excited about this one. I just heard her speak, and whoa.
8. Make a meal with food already in your pantry. And in a perfect world, donate the money you would have spent on groceries or dinner out to a charity or organization you care about.
10. Reinvent Eden. I heard Amy Jill Levine speak last week and she said every time we stand naked before a mirror, we are reminded that we are made in the image and likeness of God (and that God has a good sense of humor!). And that every time we stand naked in front of another, without shame, we reinvent or recall or reclaim Eden. I love that. (Safe Church guidelines encourage me to point out the obvious that reinventing Eden should be done in your home, with consenting adults, in private.)
11. Ask for forgiveness or apologize. If you need to do it, it’ll make life better.
12. Offer forgiveness to someone who doesn’t deserve it. If you can safely forgive someone, it may not change them, but it’ll likely change you.
13. Pray for the world. Pray for peace.
14. Leave the dishes in the sink. Practice being okay with imperfection.
15. Hold a baby. Remember that you were once that small and precious and fragile. And so was every other person. And that, in a lot of ways, we are still every bit that small and fragile and precious.
Blessings on the journey.