>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…)

12 thoughts on “>Preparing to connect: Lent approaches

  1. >Hey there! We are hosting a blog prayer vigil tomorrow, Wednesday, 2/11. We’ve asked people to pray throughout the day and then specifically at 6:30pm PST. We’d love to have you join us. Please see our blog for more on this. We know God hears His people when they cry out to Him and we are hopeful that God will remove any and all obstacles that are keeping children from being united with their forever families.

  2. >As I was clicking on your comment link I had a very scary thought that came to my mind for just a split second – giving up my blogs for the season of Lent. Yikes! Don’t know if I want to consider that. Could I do it? I am not even sure why that came to mind. I am exhaling as I am thinking about how tough that would be. I think I would give up coffee (I feel as strongly as you!)before my blogs at this point. How did that thought get in my head?I really do like Lent. I like the discipline of giving up something for the season. I find the discipline very meditative, very self-exploratory. I know it has its purpose in Lent – but I wish I could think to carry that type of discipline/meditation/self-exploration over in more of the every day. I guess that is why I am embracing the vegan days of Wednesday and Friday. I like your idea of adding something. I understand how you feel like you get in a rut and want to delve in more and see how others are experiencing it. I was thinking the other day about some of Anthony de Mello’s works. Perhaps I will make time to revisit them as my addition this season.I think I have decided to fast with Abebe. Thanks for the suggestion.I always enjoy the Good Friday service. Ours is very liturgical. Only scripture and music. It is a good preparation.Wow! What a great thought of being in Ethiopia for Fasika! It WOULD be amazing.Okay, so this is an amazingly long comment. Surely it counts for 2 or 3 comments?!? Thanks for this. It started me doing some good thinking.Rebecca

  3. >Rebecca, Thanks for this comment! Love it! Are you thinking about doing the Ethiopian way of fasting, the whole way through, no food before 3 and then no meat, fats, dairy…w/ Abebe? Wow, I’ve thought of that too. Just not sure if I can really cut it and if so, if I will end up punishing the kids by the effort (you know, tooooo hard makes me mean and snappish and weak etc. I am a total wuss). Keep me posted! love M

  4. >Rebecca, wow! I am impressed by your discipline. NOt surprised, however. I am thinking about it…it is tempting. I tend to like the idea of taking on hard things, my problem is in the follow through when it comes to food stuff (there I am a 3 yr old it seems). Good for you, it will surely be a rich deep Lent for you (and I love that you can do it together w/ Abebe, I think of doing it in solidarity w/ M….but don’t know if she does that because frankly, in the orphanage I think it’s a permanent state of sorts…just not quite enough food). Still pondering and now i have more to think about. Thank you!

  5. >From talking with Abebe, the food was somewhat regimented – same meal every week so that he knew what day of the week it was by the menu – but they participated in the fasting. I guess it might vary from orphanage to orphanage.I took some pictures at M’s orphanage of the kid’s enjoying their Christmas meal. Did I send those to you? There is not much to them (M was still in her room when the pictures were taken) but you might like to see them. I’ll look through what I sent and pass them along if I did not. Solidarity and visuals are always good.

  6. >I'm Catholic and was raised so but my mother never iterated the tradition of lent. We've always gone to the Ash Wednesday mass and I and my children and husband still do. This year, you're inspiring me to take note of the traditions that can make this religion so meaningful and powerful. I think I will give up sleeping in. I will add prayer in the morning.thank you. love, luck & blessings.

  7. >Rebecca, I did get those! Again, thanks so much! We blew them up big to try to see exactly what was on those plates! Sobering. Good info from Abebe….and you are good at this, I am considering it. I dig the whole solidarity concept. I really do. I need to check w/ Coffeedoc if I can actually do it w/ the prediabetic thing I’ve got…but of course it’d probably be a good thing if I can keep the focus right. Still pondering!

  8. >Shannon, thanks! I would encourage you to look into some of the traditions of this season! It really IS so rich and meaningful and more so when you try to do them too, I hope you really find it worthwhile! I’d only say, though, don’t try to do every single thing you might come across. It’s ok to be selective. I tend to want to go overboard and then I am simply impossible to live w/ as I am overwraught and crabby and horrible. Enjoy the beauty, it’s right there, right beside the hard stuff. Thanks for the comment!

  9. >My lenten observance is one that for many is NOT difficult, yet, for me being raised a “cradle” Catholic is something very different than what I have done in the past. I, lately, for several months, have been craving to know The Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a more deeper, relational way. I want to know my Father!!! He gave up everything for us, His Son, Himself, died for our sins, there is not much I can do to “repay” that. But, I do want to know who my Father is. So, for a time I have really been looking forward to my time with the Trinity through prayerful time…praising, repenting and giving thanks….really, an area I need to work on….THANKFUL IN ALL THINGS, so, I plan on really walking with God in His Word. I will not do it well, but, He already knows this….and, still Season after Season He gives us His Friendship and Love.

  10. >This is a great post! I’m excited to think more deeply about it. I’m not sure what I can give up… I already eat well and (although i love it) it wouldn’t be hard to give up my cookie dough :). For me, what would be hard, and really cause me to stop and think and ponder and pray (which, I’m assuming, is the purpose for lent and the act of giving something up)… for me, it would be adding something. With the kids all young and hard to manage, it’s hard for me to add things that I wish I did more of, like spending time in scripture. Or, really serving well those who live around me. So I’m going to think about adding something, a something that would stretch me, like baking treats for those near me on a regular basis, giving some money away to a friend in deep need, digging into the Word even when I’m exhausted. thanks for continuing to push me!!! lovebecca

  11. >I love Lent, too. The better I live it, the more meaningful the Easter season (which we should remember is 50 days long!)For me it’s about entering the spirit of Lent… I don’t buy anything I don’t “need,” I fast from alcohol, sweets, chocolate, treats, I eat out less. I try to simplify my life where ever I can, including cleaning/organizing/giving things away. I usually choose some Lenten spiritual reading and this year – being the year of St. Paul – I’m going to read/pray through Paul’s letters. I also try to go to daily Mass more often, spend time in Adoration, do the Stations of the Cross on Fridays. The other aspect of Lent is almsgiving so my husband and I try to thoughtfully choose additional charities we want to support during Lent. Thanks for the fun post — it’s helping me prepare for next week. Lent always creeps up and now’s the time to remind myself to indulge! Which reminds me there’s cheesecake calling to me from the fridge…


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