Lent

Doing Nothing for Lent

"Me (quiet.)" Photo by Cathleen Falsani.

"Me (quiet.)" Photo by Cathleen Falsani.

Last week, I spent a couple of days listening to Eugene Peterson share stories and precious wisdom from his 80 years on this little blue planet. 

It was a blessing of unparalleled riches to sit at Peterson’s feet (literally — I was in the front row and he was on a stage that put me at eye level with his black tassel loafers) and learn.

For the uninitiated, Peterson is a retired Presbyterian pastor and prolific author perhaps best known for The Message, his para-translation of the Bible and titles such as Practice Resurrection  and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

A native of Western Montana, Peterson and his wife of more than 50 years, Jan, returned to Big Sky Country several years ago to the home his father built on the shores of Flathead Lake when Eugene was a child.

Undoubtedly, it will take me many months — or years — to digest all that Peterson shared with a smallish group of youngish Christian leaders at the Q Practices gathering in New York City. But I can say what struck me most indelibly is how at ease — content, yes, but more than that — Peterson is in his own skin. Fully present. Mellow but absolutely alert, energized, fascinated by the world and the people around him.

Relaxed — that’s it.

40 Ideas for Keeping Lent Holy

(Lenten Rose photo by Lynn Whitt/Shutterstock.)

(Lenten Rose photo by Lynn Whitt/Shutterstock.)

40 Ideas for Keeping a Holy Lent from House for All Sinners and Saints, the Denver congregation Nadia serves.

Day 1: Pray for your enemies

Day 2: Walk, carpool, bike or bus it.

Day 3: Don’t turn on the car radio

Day 4: Give $20 to a non-profit of your choosing

(Sunday)

Day 5: Take 5 minutes of silence at noon

Day 6: Look out the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before

Why Ash Wednesday Belongs Out of the Church and Out on the Streets

Ashes to Ashes image via Tim/Wylio. (http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4366100

Ashes to Ashes image via Tim/Wylio. (http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/4366100883)

Repentance has a public aspect and a private aspect. Jesus speaks very clearly about doing one’s repentance in secret -- not chattering on in public about how hungry your pious fasting has left you. At the same time, the church also has a ministry to call -- publicly -- for repentance, to sometimes play the role of John the Baptist. Calls for repentance happen every week, every day, inside religious buildings, inside religious communities.  Sometimes calls for repentance need to happen out on the street corners, too.

Still, this is a strange thing to do, this liturgy outside a hospital.  It does not feel entirely comfortable to me -- but I am not sure anything about Ash Wednesday ever feels entirely comfortable.

On Ash Wednesday, Episcopalians Take it to the Streets

People on the Street. Photo by Jon Candy/Wylio. (http://www.wylio.com/credits/Fl

People on the Street. Photo by Jon Candy/Wylio. (http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/5204148454)

Five years ago, the Rev. Teresa K.M. Danieley had an epiphany of sorts. If people can grab breakfast on the go or pay a bill from their cell phone, she thought, why shouldn't they be able to get their ashes in a flash?

That's why, on Ash Wednesday 2007, Danieley planted herself in full priestly regalia at a busy intersection in St. Louis, smudging the sign of the cross on the foreheads of bicyclists, drivers and bus passengers.

This year, at least 49 Episcopal parishes across 12 states will offer ashes to passersby at train stations, bus stops and college campuses on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) as Danieley's "Ashes to Go" concept spreads nationwide.

Fat Tuesday and Skinny Wednesday

All the major world religions have an element of self-denial at their core. Jews have Yom Kippur.Muslims have Ramadan.Christians have Lent. 

In a world filled with clutter, noise, and hustle, Lent is a good excuse to step back and rethink how we think and live.In a world of instant gratification, it’s a chance to practice delayed gratification – to fast -- so that we can truly appreciate the blessings we have.In a world where virtual friends are replacing real ones, it is an invitation to turn off TV and computer screens so we can spend time with real people again. 

It’s an opportunity to give up something that is sucking the life out of us so that we can be filled with God, with life, with love again.

Lent (or Why I Need a Break from the 'Like' Button)

Photo via Getty Images.

Photo via Getty Images.

Consciously or not, when we recognize the need to step away from social media, it is because we are questioning who is in control.

If our default is to ask life’s big questions on Twitter before we offer them in prayer, then someone other than God is in control. If we "Like" what someone is doing of Facebook before we recognize everything God is doing in our lives, maybe we need a social media time-out.

Lent is the right time to realign ourselves with the fact that God should be in control in our lives.

A New Hymn for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday ashes. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/zWZxhw.

Ash Wednesday ashes. Image via Wylio, http://bit.ly/zWZxhw.

This coming Wednesday, Febr. 22, is Ash Wednesday. The following new hymn is based on the Revised Common Lectionary’s assigned reading of Isaiah 58:1-12 with its social justice themes.

            O God of Love, the Fast You Choose

  KINGSFOLD CMD (“Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples”)

O God of love, the fast you choose is not some great display.

It’s everything we gladly do to serve you day by day.

It’s not a moment set apart when we will mourn our sin;

For you require a change of heart—  a change from what has been....

Why We Fast

Photo via Paulo Dias Photography/Getty Images.

Photo via Paulo Dias Photography/Getty Images.

In February of 2009, when I tried a month-long Ramadan fast for the book Flunking Sainthood, I felt like a failure for most of the month.

Fasting was not a practice I ever cheated on (weirdly, it was easier for me to give up food completely in February than it was just to be a vegetarian in October of that year, when I did cheat -- how lame is that?). But I never felt like I fully "got" it. I did feel unexpectedly relaxed at the end of February -- and, let's face it, a bit smug that I'd persevered through the experience -- but not much more spiritual than when I started.

I think it's because I had the wrong attitude to begin with.

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