Lent this year

Lent is a season in the church calendar that has always been meaningful to me. Even though I grew up non-denominational, my mom encouraged us to observe Lent in whatever way we felt was appropriate, which usually ended up being a mix of giving up and taking on certain things.

More snow
Endless winter.

This year, Guion and I are taking a more minimal approach to Lent. We’re giving up alcohol, and for this first week, we’re fasting from sun up to sun down.

Throughout Lent, I’m also committing to reading the Bible every morning (something I have previously been lax about, despite my 2014 resolution) and to writing my prayers.

The Puritan in me doesn’t see these goals as burdensome or guilt-inducing; rather, I look forward to this season every year. Last night, during the Ash Wednesday service, Guion and I were particularly moved by the invitation to Lent, as found in the Book of Common Prayer:

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great
devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and
it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a
season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided
a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy
Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to
the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation
was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set
forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all
Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and
meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning
of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now
kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

Particularly, to me: the historical tradition of Lent in the early church stands out, and that line: “Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior…”

A message that it’s been easy for me to forget recently, and so I am thankful for the strong reminder.

Do you observe Lent? Do you have any aspirations for yourself over the next 40 days?

Is love an endless feast

Forum2012-SecretDinner-0155
(c) New City Arts Initiative.

“Is love an endless feast, or is it what people manage to serve each other when their cupboards are bare?”

— Krista Bremer, My Accidental Jihad

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A mesmerizing question from a wonderful essay from The Sun; something I’ve been mulling over during this season of Lent.

Kelsey and Alex are coming tonight, and I am occupied with dog transport for the rescue; moving a female puppy and Brando to their pickup destinations (on their way to new foster homes) and then hopefully receiving our new foster puppy today, if he can find a ride from Covington, Virginia. Busy, but I love it. I wish there was a way to earn a full-time living from dog rescue…

Another observation about dogs and fostering them: You start to care less and less about material possessions. My pants are coated with fur? Oh, well. The car is stinky and muddy from multiple dogs? It happens. Just so long as the dogs are happy.

Entering Lent

Kitchen table

Lent begins this week, and Guion and I have been discussing our aspirations for this season of reflection and anticipation. These are our goals for Lent:

  • Do not eat any meat.
  • Take more walks with Pyrrha.
  • Watch TV only one night a week.
  • Pray together more often.

And for me:

  • Teach Pyrrha some new cues.
  • Practice daily stretches to improve strength and flexibility.

More peace, more grace!

A small sampling of things I cannot do

Click for source.

Lent is all about reflection and about how we’re pretty much down in the dumps when we’re sans Savior. In accordance with that, here’s my seriously truncated list of things I cannot do.

I can’t:

  • Throw a football.
  • Do math above a fifth-grade level. (Probably. I haven’t tried. The only math I do on a regular basis is calculate tips, and sometimes I don’t even do that accurately.)
  • Eat chocolate without melting some portion of it into my clothes. Chocolate is really hard to get out of most fabric, kids. You’ve been warned.
  • Read anything, anywhere without looking for grammatical or punctuation errors.
  • Take politicians seriously.
  • Touch my toes. (Have you seen how long my legs are? I protest! They are too long!)
  • Dance.
  • Wear cable-knit sweaters. (But, really, who can? Welsh or Irish farmers may be the only ones.)
  • Pass a dog without wanting to pet it.
  • Watch war movies. See also: Talk about war movies.
  • Drive a manual transmission car. We got a 10-minute lesson from a car salesman in August, but I felt like we were all going to die in a jerky, fiery blaze the whole time I was behind the wheel and on the clutch.
  • Read music.
  • Watch golf for more than three minutes without crying out from desperate, desperate boredom.
  • Skateboard. Not that I’ve ever tried. Or have any desire to try. It is easily the most stressful form of transportation to observe.
  • Watch FOX News without my blood pressure spiking significantly.
  • Enjoy a trip to the mall.
  • Make crafts.
  • Hide my emotions from my face.
  • Open wine bottles without seriously messing up or losing the cork.
  • Let my feet touch the bottom of a slimy lake or river without wanting to vomit. I can walk barefoot on rocks in a stream all day long, but please, please don’t ask me to put them in the green slime. See: Trip to Rivanna swimming hole, circa summer 2010, in which I bailed and sat on a log near the very pregnant and beautiful Cate.
  • Kill animals or watch animals being killed. See also: Kill people or watch people being killed.
  • Tell a joke without making an allusion to Liz Lemon or a member of the Bluth family.

And these are just a FEW of them! I can’t do so many things. Lenten conclusion? Jesus is OK with this list.

Lenten aspirations

Click for source.

After tonight’s Ash Wednesday service, Lent begins. It is a season I look forward to, even though it is one of somberness and reflection. I look forward to it for several reasons: Learning the beauty of the liturgical calendar as a recovering non-denominational, cultivating a spirit of anticipation alongside nature, and recognizing our daily need for God, even in the most mundane things.

For Lent last year, I resolved to not eat any synthetic sugar, to pray and meditate daily, and to memorize a poem and a psalm with Guion. The last two didn’t really happen and the first one should just be a life resolution, but I did focus more on that one.

This year, these are my Lenten aspirations:

  1. Per my previously announced desire to commune more with nature, I am going to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside. That sounds like a pitifully small amount, but I believe that it will actually be hard on weeknights. That’s my goal, though. I feel closest to God when I am outside and yet I don’t spend a lot of time outdoors. This is something I seriously want to change and Lent is the ideal season in which to start. I’ll be watching and waiting along with the earth.
  2. Memorize Psalm 16. For REAL this time.
  3. Stop my bad conversational habits: Gossiping and interrupting people. These ought to be year-round aspirations, but I like the boundaries of Lent for its focus on these specific surrenders.
  4. Stop reading snarky/mean-spirited blogs.
  5. We are establishing a mutual goal of not being online when we’re home together. I’m also very excited about this.

These aren’t ambitious goals; in fact, they are things that I should be doing constantly. As Liz E. reminded me, though, we’re not seeking Lent surrenders to brag or to highlight how spiritually ambitious we are. Rather, we observe Lent to say: Here I am, waiting. Make me more like you.

So Lent begins

Sunrise from our kitchen.

Well, kind of. Guion told me last night that Lent doesn’t officially start until after the Ash Wednesday service, but I’m going to get started early.

Growing up as a non-liturgical non-denom., I never knew anything about the Lenten season, which now strikes me as rather sad and depraved. I’ve loved learning about the traditions and the liturgical calendar from my new family of faith, the Episcopal church. Guion is a born and bred Episcopalian and so I’ve learned a lot from him. I started observing Lent a year before we started dating and have continued since then.

This year, these are my Lenten disciplines:

  • No consumption of synthetic sugar (*with a few exceptions. I’m still eating stuff like bread and fruit, but no more cereal, yogurt, dessert, etc. Honey and agave nectar will also be allowed, but I’m going to try to go as long as I can without using them. I feel like I might go into powerful withdrawal.)
  • Prayer and Bible study each morning. I’ve been slacking lately and I can feel the difference in my mornings when I skip out.
  • Memorize one poem and one psalm with Guion.

As you know, I like challenges, but that’s not the sole reason for me for observing Lent. I think there is something to be said for the discipline of the body that informs the discipline of the soul. (Another reason I like the Episcopal service: the constant movement–kneeling, standing, sitting, kissing, consuming–tracks with the movement of the heart toward God and toward the sacrament of the Eucharist.) All that said, I am looking forward to this season of physical and spiritual taming. Although it bums me out that Lent always falls over my birthday… sugar-free ice cream is probably really gross.

What about you? Have you ever observed Lent before? Are you going to observe it this year?

Friday thoughts

Our street at dusk
Our street at dusk, back when it was warm outside. My Flickr pro account expired. Boo.

Little things I am thinking about today:

  • My side business of calligraphy. I ordered my first set of business cards this afternoon and I feel very grown up about it. Thanks to the encouragement of Natalie, I’m going to drop by the downtown stationer, Rock Paper Scissors, and give them some samples.
  • Why my right hand is always freezing at work.
  • Kemp and Rose coming to visit next weekend and then our long-awaited trip to our old stomping grounds (a la Durham and Chapel Hill) the following weekend.
  • Lent, which is coming soon and which means that my consumption of sugar will have to end. Contemplating the desire to gorge myself on chocolate before it arrives. But I had a bowl of real oatmeal this morning with only raisins in it–no sugar at all!–and I felt very proud of myself. I think I can do it. I feel like my taste buds have been subtly prompted by my brain to reject overly sweet things lately, in preparation for this sugar fast. I thought the yogurt was going to kill me today it was so sweet. And that’s never happened before.
  • Getting a nice* camera. I wish the bank made it easier to create little folders in your savings account so I could start designating small chunks of money toward a camera fund. (*Canon DSLR)
  • Will I be the kind of old woman who hoards kitschy knickknacks? Is that a generational thing? Is it only indicative of women who grew up in the Great Depression? Or does that mean I’ll eventually fall into that category, having grown up in the Greatest Recession?
  • Grace, who is adjusting to her new life in Nepal now. She’s working with a documentary filmmaker for a month and then she’s off to the ashram/orphanage. Such a crazy girl. I miss her.
  • Throwing away even more clothes. I need to stop wearing things that are too small for me.
  • A weekend with Guion! He’s been busy with school stuff all week and I feel like I haven’t seen him much. I miss him. We’re going to go on dates around town and watch “Annie Hall,” maybe even finish “Lost” (at last!).

Happy Friday! Post for you on Sunday about my lifelong, tortured love affair with the Japanese language.