Lent is an odd time of the church year for me. Growing up as a Presbyterian outside of Pittsburgh, PA, there was no imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, but there were Lenten potluck dinners followed by a brief worship service and meditation each Wednesday during Lent. The highlight each year occurred on the Wednesday that fell closest to St. Patrick’s Day. One of the ladies of the church colored her mashed potatoes with green food coloring and we kids rushed to get a spoonful. My family did abstain from meat on Fridays, but that was a treat because we would get to eat fried shrimp or flounder.
I envied my best friend Elaine’s embodied spiritual practices, although I didn’t know the word embodied at the time. Praying with rosary beads and making the sign of the cross seemed like a very hands-on ways of praying. Each Ash Wednesday, she came home from Catholic School with a charcoal-colored cross drawn on her forehead. All we Presbyterians had were green mashed potatoes and no-meat Fridays.
Elaine and her family also “gave something up” for Lent. Her mom explained that giving up something important to yourself was a sign of sacrifice and a reminder of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness during his temptation and as a way to prepare for Easter.
When I was about 10, I decided that I wanted to give something up for Lent. After considering what was mattered to me, I decide that I should give up Elaine for Lent. I informed her when she came over to play a few days later, and she went home, apparently in tears. Her mom talked to my mom, and my mom explained that it would be better to give up something like Fudgesicles (something I bought regularly for a nickel of my allowance at the gas station across the street). I relented (no pun intended), and Elaine and I started playing again.
The word “lent” is from the Old English word lencten for spring, and the Old High German word lenzo for longer (as in the lengthening hours of daylight). So perhaps we might gently lengthen some of our practices: taking a bit longer to watch the sunrise; extending a reading from a devotional book or the Bible over breakfast rather than quickly skimming the news; pausing during a meal to savor a few bites of food; taking a moment right now to take several deep breaths and gaze out the window or at an item in your room that you have stopped noticing; stopping at the checkout counter to make eye contact with the sales person and thanking them for their hard work; writing a note to a friend; asking God to help you see the needs of someone you encounter this day and finding one way to meet that need.
The days are lengthening, and spring is on the way. I spied my first robin at the bird feeder in the midst of yesterday’s snow and ice, taking her good old time. Lengthen into Lent. God is in all the moments, longing to share a few with you.
This is the moment, the hour, the day that God has made. Linger in it. ~ Anne
These meditations are provided as a ministry in this time of pandemic as a ministry of St. Paul’s U. C. C.