>Preparing to connect: Lent approaches

>Ah, it’s that time again.
Into the desert.
That time of year when Lent approaches and you start stewing over how to observe it, mindfully but productively.
Or at least I do.

I actually really love the season of Lent, although of course part of me cringes at it’s approach. I remember how many times I’ve had a difficult Lent; but in the wrong way. I mean, it’s ok for Lent to be difficult, in many ways, that’s the point, after all. But when I state, “I’ve had a difficult Lent,” I mean, rather, “I’ve screwed it up and missed the point once again and made it all about me. Again.”

As Lent closes in, I usually start polling those near and dear about what they are “doing” for Lent. I nosily ask what are they giving up? Adding in? Working on improving?
Anything? What, why?
Nothing? How? Why?
I know. Shame on me. What a nosybody. But I don’t mean it like that. I mean to gather ideas and inspiration. Surely so many are so much more clever than I and have come up with some really worthwhile efforts.

I want to know; I don’t want to be stuck in a Lenten rut, if you will.

So, to that end. I have decided to expand my nosy prying. Heck, I’ve got a blog! I can throw it open to the cybersphere! So I am. If you observe this liturgical season, if you feel it’s not too nosy, tell me how you observe it…maybe we’ll all get some new ideas or inspired effort.

I know, that sounds so pathetic. I don’t want to give the impression that Lent is a tired chore. It is a beautiful season. I love the readings, the prayers, the liturgies. It is rich and deep. That is the main reason I want to see what it means to others. I think it helps us connect. It helps me connect. It connects us to Christ: praying and fasting for forty days in the desert; tempted, tired, but stripped bare to pray most fully, least distracted. I need that SO much too. So I welcome Lent. I embrace it.

In our family Lent is both personal and communal. We each try to give up something (food, a bad habit) and add something (a devotion, prayers, patience) and we also gather for devotions particularly suited to this season (Stations of the Cross – yeah another post on these later, I love them). We observe the official fasts (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, no meat on Fridays of course). But each year we often switch it up, individually.

Over the years I have given up, foodwise: wine/drinks, sugar, meat, sodas, among other things. Not all at the same time, don’t be ridiculous! I’m just not that good. Never coffee, that’s just insane, possibly criminal (yeah, think about it…). I have tried to improve bad habits: television, worked on not cussing, not gossiping, not complaining. My sister once gave up shopping.

Some of these efforts were more successful than others. However, even failing and blowing it and finding a candy bar half bitten before you stop and think, “Oh yeah, it’s Lent, I gave that up.”…is an opportunity to humbly pick up, shake your head in recognition of your (ok, my) reflexive thoughtless need for that and shamble onwards, with resolve to try again.

Lent is not a faux “New Year’s Resolution Part II.” So it’s not done with an eye to lose those stubborn ten pounds or to finally quit that smoking. It’s deeper than that. It’s important to not have the family suffer due to your effort (again, ok, me…and look back up to that coffee idea…). It’s to be more mindful. To strip yourself of those things that take you, your “eyes”, away from living solely for Christ. And for me, there are SO many things. So, you would think my mind would be reeling from the dizzy array of choices before me.

I guess it is.

So I’m calling out to you all. Do you observe Lent? How? What has been especially mindful and helpful in the past? What has not? What are you thinking about for this year? I’ve got not a few ideas I’m pondering….I’ll post on those more after I read yours, maybe I’ll put some of them up too and we’ll have a Lenten list post. Maybe not, stop groaning. We’ll see.

And so too, my mind swirls around how fitting it is that we enter the season of preparation. Yes, this post is about preparing for the start of Lent. But Lent is a preparation for Easter. And this Lent, we will also be preparing, in earnest, for the arrival of our waiting daughter. With any luck, we will be in Ethiopia for their Easter! How amazing would that be? But, I am getting ahead of myself again. Those are all maybe for posts to come, for my mind to savor.

Lent approaches. Ash Wednesday is Februrary 25.

But before that, of course, we’ve got Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival!
Yeah, I love this season. I really do. I love the richness, the historicity, the cultural variations that are so textured and colorful but still, at their root, the same liturgical root. Ethiopian Orthodox fast for 56 days before Easter, not eating before 3, no meat, fats, dairy. I love the smudgy crosses emblazened on foreheads on Ash Wednesday; seeing them all day long at the market and the coffee house.

I will be using this daily reader, for a start.

There are so many books to read that are amazing, favorite prayers and hymns (Stabat Mater), so many parts and traditions to Lent. I love tradition. I love learning about traditions. There is so much to this coming season, so much to think, pray, talk about. Start by telling me about yours!

(And yes, the insecure dork in me now will beg for my friends and family – this means you Buddybug – to make up names and post multiple times so it will look like I have at least five folks who might stop in and read, ok? thank you very much….however, it would be a perfect Lenten exercise now wouldn’t it??? But take pity on me, it’s not Lent yet…)