I'm a Mennonite. I didn't grow up with the tradition of Lent. I suppose I had heard of it, but it never registered. I knew about Fasnacht Day, but not in relation to anything religious; it was just the day for doughnuts. But I didn't know why.
A decade or so ago, I learned (some things) about Lent. That it was for giving up things. (Then I wondered how in the world the Mennonites had missed out on this, since we historically have had a strong affinity for the sacrificing of person comfort!) "What are you giving up for Lent," I'd hear people ask one another. Desserts. Television. Chocolate. Cigarettes. (I knew some guys who gave up smoking and "chewed" instead; ummm, is that legit?) Or, in more recent years, facebook. I wondered about all this giving up. What was the point? Did people do it for "Lent" or for God? Did they know which? Would it make any difference if they did? (And, did God really want all that stuff people were giving up?)
I'm still learning about Lent.
Lent is a time of preparation that should make sense to Christians of all brands and styles. It is a time for getting ourselves ready for all that is to come: the events of Holy Week culminating in the death of Jesus on the cross, and the celebration of His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Compared with Christmas, Easter is the event of events, the celebration of celebrations for Christians everywhere. And we (I) do so little to prepare. So, I'm rediscovering Lent.
But I'm not giving something up. Not exactly. I'm giving something.
I started it (quite) a few years ago when I read a blog that challenged me to be grateful,
to give thanks every day.
No matter what. And to write my thanks.
The list began during Lent.
Daily I would watch for and record half a dozen gifts for which I was grateful.
Half a dozen. Or more.
Not donuts to give up, but blessings to write.
I would give thanks to the Giver of every good gift.
I gave thanks for lunch with a friend, twizzlers, a < long ramble with Youngest Mystery, steaming coffee, strength to clean, words from the Word, peaceful rain, the chance to sit in church beside Eldest, a washing machine that worked, bugles (all other snacks are pointless!) e-mail from Barefoot Wanderer, and my thesaurus. By the time Easter rolled around and the stone was rolled away, I was adding #320 to my list: "'Love's redeeming work is done...' for me!" Easter had arrived and my Lenten List was finished.
Ah, but, I missed it. In the weeks following Easter, I'd see deepening green in the grass after days of rain and think, "I'll put that on my list." Oh, no list.
I began collecting experiences like sparkling glass beads: a line of lovely poetry, Youngest smiling as he chopped vegetables for soup, a hymn phrase- "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow", the tangy sour deliciousness of sauerkraut. But I had no thread on which to string them, no way to save the patterns I saw emerging from my life's ordinary days.
So I began again, or rather, I continued. I found an empty notebook. (And then another.) Today, my pencil threads the beads on thin gray lines, row upon row upon row. It's been five years now, and I'm still gathering jeweled moments of gratitude. I am still learning the pleasure of rejoicing in small delights (birdsong and boy sparkle) and overlooked gifts (electricity, which I added to my list the day we had none for a few hours). I repeat myself some days, but that's okay, so does God. His mercies are new every morning, (thank God!) and so is my coffee. This steaming mug of Breakfast Blend is not the one for which I gave thanks yesterday. That bluebird, perched on the pole obstructing my garden view, he'll be gone next time I look up. An short hour from the moment when my eye first caught its shimmer, the delicate beauty of this ice lace will be erased by the sun. So I see it now. And give thanks.
of watching for gifts given, I am changing,
I am changed.
I am better prepared to enter Holy Week,
because my heart is filled with gratitude for daily splashes of grace.
I am more aware of God at work in the little moments
and nearly overwhelmed by the ocean reality of all that happened at the cross, at the tomb.
So, what am I giving up for Lent?
How about ingratitude, how about blindness to God's daily grace given and received?
I guess I am giving up something for Lent. Would you care to join me?
#11,320 Opportunity to write a blog post tonight... -Hummin'B