Lent was not a word we heard very often in my childhood protestant church. We observed Holy week with Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday services. Easter was a huge choir extravaganza with actors, orchestra, live animals and several performances. But the weeks leading up to that were taken up in preparation for the major event. Of course there were the token jokes about giving something up for Lent, it was a convenient time to try to break a bad habit like the daily can of pop or chocolate bar. But it was still something that belonged to my Catholic friends more than to my religious experience. How sad. I was in college before I began to understand what Lent was and was preparing for ministry before I really began to observe the season. Once I discovered the real value of a season of preparation for Holy Week and Easter I began to look forward to it each year. Last year I spent most of Lent in a coma and for the first time in more than 30 years did not join in the observance. When I woke up it was almost Easter, and I realized how much I missed the season.
Why do I look forward to Lent? Because it helps me prepare for Easter. Taking the time before the big holiday to remember the teachings and actions of Jesus helps me to understand and appreciate the amazing love that God demonstrated in Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. Taking time to reflect on my own faith, actions, and spiritual disciplines helps me to grow in my life as a Christian.
How do I observe Lent? Several years ago I stopped giving up a habit or indulgence during the Lenten season and began looking for Spiritual Disciplines to take on for Lent. Sometimes it was a particular daily Bible study, or a habit like walking that would improve my health, or doing something for others. This year two ideas caught my eye. One was the discipline of writing a letter, card or note to someone every day; beginning with the usual family and friends but then expanding the circle to a thank you note to someone from your past, a word of appreciation for something you heard or saw yesterday, or even a snail mail note to a Facebook friend. I have great-nieces and -nephews who still think getting “real mail” is the ultimate treat. The second idea was called “40 bags in 40 days” and the goal is to fill and discard one bag of clutter every day. You decide how big the bag is and where it goes. A grocery bag of old papers tossed in the recycle or trash, or a garbage bag of unworn clothes given to charity. The point is to simplify, to redefine want and need, and to clear out the baggage that tends to fill our lives and slow us down. There are lots of ways to observe Lent. I pray you are having a Holy and fulfilling Lent, and it will prepare you for a truly wonderful and Happy Easter.