In a few hours, I will say to members of my congregation, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” while I make a cross of ashes on their foreheads or hands. It’s a reminder of our mortality, that we are created from the ash of the earth and one day will return to the earth.
Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The beginning of the journey into the wilderness, the path towards the cross and eventually the resurrection of Jesus.
Lent is a contemplative time, a time of journeying with Jesus in his final moments on earth. It’s 40 days (not including Sundays) of darkness and self-reflection of our faith. Eventually light will prevail but until then, we’ve got 40 days of wilderness, desert, and darkness.
For most, Lent is a way of deepening one’s faith by engaging in a spiritual practice. Usually it’s by giving up something. Fish Fry Fridays remind many to not eat meat on Fridays in Lent. Or some give up soda or alcohol. If that practice works for you – go for it.
Giving up something for Lent wasn’t a thing I grew up with. Over the years I’ve tried the spiritual practice. I attempted to give up Diet Coke for Lent long ago. It lasted 2 weeks. I suppose the idea of giving up something for 40 days brings us closer to God, like the monks who take vows of silence. It’s simply not me.
Instead I opt for a different sort of spiritual practice this time of year.
The last 2 years I’ve taken pictures and posted them to social media of where I saw God each day. One year I tried to write a note to different people each day. That didn’t last that long either but I liked the practice of sending love and greetings to special people in my life.
This year I’ve decided to do a Gratitude Challenge. Some do this during the fall around Thanksgiving. Instead I’m doing it for Lent, because there is much to be grateful for, isn’t there? Why should we only give thanks one time a year? Why should giving thanks during Lent be any less important?
Author Diana Bass posted on her Facebook page this past Monday, “This Lent, add some gratitude practices to your journey. Keep a gratitude journal, write thank you letters to someone you appreciate, surprise friends with thank you gifts, do gratitude prayers and meditations. Thanks doesn’t have to wait for Thanksgiving. Thanks is central to deepened faith, strengthened hope, and the fullness of love.”
I LOVE that last sentence!
That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to walk my Lenten, wilderness journey with gratitude in hopes of deepening my faith, strengthening my hope and feeling the fullness of love in my life.
Because I like to see progress, to feel something tangible with my fingers, I’m going to write down one gratitude a day and place it in a jar. Eventually those notes will be arranged and placed in my 2018 Project Life scrapbook.
I doubt there will be one day when I cannot come up with something. Every day presents us with little things to be thankful for. So it’s kind of fun and exciting to feel the suspense of what each day might bring. Who knows what sorts of gratitude will present itself each day for 40 days?
To begin, this one hit me this morning as I sat at the car dealer, waiting for my car:
I’m thankful for flexibility in my job so I can take a morning and get my car fixed.
Dear Readers, what are you doing this Lent? Or perhaps the better question is: What are you thankful for?