Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Start of the Lenten Journey

So many years Lent sneaks up on me. It usually begins sometime in February, and I hardly ever feel completely prepared to begin the journey. This year the start of Lent comes just about as late as it possibly can, given the late date of Easter. And I still found myself not prepared.

I'm not sure what my excuse is this year (or if I need one) but I do know I'm tired. I've spent some time in the past couple of days looking at Lenten resources online, reading some excellent blog posts and articles, and thinking about how I hoped to approach this Lenten season, individually and as a family.

And in the end, I realized something...even if I'm not at all "ready," even if I don't have neat lists, calendars, posters, devotional materials, etc., all lined up and ready to go, it doesn't really matter. Because if I'm open to his forgiveness and his hand, God can do the work he wants to do in my heart, in our hearts. And it will be quiet work, maybe even hidden work. And because it's God's work, it will be good.

So this year's Lenten plans are very simple. Instead of searching high and low for reading materials, I decided to continue the spiritual reading I'm already doing in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together. I've also set myself the goal of reading and praying through the entire Psalter between now and Easter. I may post some thoughts, from time to time -- so you can expect some Psalm-drenched reflections over the next few weeks.

And for our family? We brought out the Lenten candle (a round candle with space for a tea-light, the wax painted with a desert scene -- this is a candle given to me by a dear friend years ago, and we use it every year) and we're listening to songs from Michael Card's Starkindler. We'll read one of the daily Scripture readings each day as a family, most usually the gospel. I also brought out a fresh, brand-new notebook, its pages completely empty, for us to use as a family prayer and praise notebook. The sweet girl decorated the cover with the picture of a simple cross and the words "God Loves Us." We've agreed that during the Lenten season, any of us can write, draw, or paste any prayers or praises in the notebook that we feel called to put there. We started tonight by pasting in a picture of a refugee family in Haiti -- a photograph that moved me to tears yesterday, and moved the sweet girl and all of us to prayer.

I'm working on a small "giving up" area in my life, and the sweet girl has expressed an interest in learning more about fasting (we're starting by having her give up a snack time). We're also joining our church's usual almsgiving project by filling a baby bottle with coins for a local crisis pregnancy center.

And that's Lent this year. Simple and homemade but what I feel called to. Of course, God is always a God of surprises!

A blessed Ash Wednesday! Following St. Ambrose, may the Lord give you a heart to love and adore him, delight in him, follow and enjoy him.

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