A Suggestion for Lent
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a forty day (not including Sundays) period of preparation for the celebration of Easter. The English word “Lent” comes from a Latin word that means “lengthen.” It was chosen because Lent always comes in the spring of the year when the days begin to lengthen. I find it interesting (but not surprising) that this religious season gets its name from the world of nature.
Tonight at church we will have an Ash Wednesday service. At this time people will receive the imposition of ashes. The ashes come from the burnt palm leaves used last year on Palm Sunday. The ashes will be placed upon participants as a reminder of their mortality and as a sign of penitence for their sins. There are many reminders in nature that we must all one day face death but we tend to ignore these. Even though we know better most of us live in denial of our mortality. Tonight’s ashes will be a helpful reminder. Like Abraham we will remember that we are “nothing but dust and ashes.” (Genesis 18:27)
During the season of Lent Christians are encouraged to give up something meaningful to them as a sign of their repentance and desire to follow Christ more closely. It seems like most people give up favorite food items. Several times I’ve given up chocolate for the 40 days of Lent. Because I have been on a diet for the past few months and already given up a lot of foods I’m doing something different this year. During Lent I’m giving up computer games. I probably spend about 30 minutes a day playing Mahjong and Solitaire. I intend to use the extra 30 minutes in the weeks to come to focus more on spiritual matters.
In recent years I’ve noticed that there is a trend to encourage people not only to give up something in their lives during Lent but to also add something during this time. I’ve heard people suggest adding extra time in prayer or reading the Bible. Others recommend spending extra time doing acts of service. These are all good ideas. I would like to add my own suggestion: spend more time outdoors connecting with God through His Creation. The timing for Lent (Spring) certainly helps make this a viable and enjoyable option. During Lent I’d like to encourage you to spend a few minutes every day in God’s Creation. As Rob and I have said repeatedly, there is something special about meeting Christ in the natural world he has made. Use this time to be reminded of Christ’s goodness and his undying love for you.
Whatever you choose to “give up” or “add on” during the season of Lent, I pray that this will be a time that you will be drawn closer to the Source of creation and our salvation.
(The top image is a pink lady slipper; the bottom image is a trout lily. I photographed these spring wildflowers close to home.)