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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Journey Through Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the season in the Christian year known as Lent.  On this day, thousands of churches will gather for worship and to be reminded that from dust you have come, to the dust you will return, blessed be the name of the Lord. Perhaps this sentiment is resonating more deeply with me this year since we "returned" my mother's ashes to the earth just a few days ago.  At any rate, even though the season is heavy and challenging at times, I actually do welcome it, knowing what awaits us when the journey has finished.

The 40 days prior to Easter, Sundays not counted, are intended to be a time when we reflect more deeply on the events leading up to the Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.  Different traditions mark the season in different ways but incorporating a discipline of some sort is often the most popular way people engage the journey through Lent. My understanding of giving up something that is valued or enjoyed is rooted in the sense that our "little suffering for a little while" helps us to more deeply identify with Christ's suffering on the cross, which he did out of his great love for us. 
For my part, I've done a variety of things through the years, sometimes taking something away, other times adding something.  I do try to read through the gospels every year and add another reading of sorts to help me focus and to practice discipline, neither of which are very easy for me.  I also try to not broadcast what it is that I've given up because then it becomes more about my willpower rather than a private journey between me and God. But this year I came across this great idea and I'm throwing it out there for those of you who read my blog and would like to participate in some way.

Lent starts today.  Traditionally this is the time of year that Christians "give up" something for 40 days in order to prepare for Easter.  I'd like to invite everybody-Christian or not-to give up something with me this year.  Together-let's try to give up ingratitude.
I have a hunch that gratitude is the key to peace.  I'm not sure we need to change our circumstances but I think we might need to change the way we SEE our circumstances. So I'm going to start a little page on my computer and before I go to bed I'm going to write down three things for which I felt especially grateful that day. Want to join me?  40 days is a spiritually important amount of time for experiments and not surprisingly, it's the amount of time many psychologists suggest that it takes to form a new habit.
This Lent, I want to wander out of the desert of ingratitude and into the paradise of gratitude. If you want to join me, I'd love for you to share your thanks if you'd like to.  If you'd like it to be private, that's fine too. I suggest that on the Sundays of Lent we look back on each week and share with one another the beautiful things that have made us thankful.  If you let me know that you are doing this I can set up a Facebook site where we can just drop in our thoughts.
As for today, the first day of Lent in 2014:
I am thankful that the real desert is a paradise for me.
I am thankful for my father who is such an awesome man and an inspiration to me in every way.
I am thankful for citizenship not only in one country with opportunities but two...I speak this as one person living illegally in California, who we care deeply about, has run into some difficulties this week and another living in Sweden is about to be deported.
May gratitude fill our hearts as we consider things greater than ourselves.