christian or not, an invitation to Lent

Lent began March 5, Ash Wednesday.  I’m a bit late.  But so many of us aren’t familiar with Lent or the reason for Lent.  Considering the busyness of American life, I think Lent is more relevant and necessary than Christmas.   So, here’s an invitation to consider the Lenten season:

hero_double_filletPerhaps you’ve noticed every year about this time:  For a limited time, Wendy’s offers its Artic Cod.  Burger King pushes its BK Big Fish.  Some McDonalds locations even offer a double Filet-O-Fish.  The new push in fast food offerings is more visible in larger cities, but the reason is actually almost 1700 years old and observed world-wide.    Even America’s fast food chains observe the Christian season of Lent, though their reasons may not be the same as ours.

Of course, individual and institutional interest in Lent varies tremendously.

Perhaps, you see yourself as some kind of Christian but you don’t even think about Lent.  Perhaps, you come from a Protestant background and subconsciously associate Lent with Catholicism so you’ve never really observed it.  Perhaps you couldn’t care less about Christianity or organized religion or Lent.  Perhaps religious traditions creep you out – with its smells & bells, and seemingly narrow minded people.

Regardless of your religious views, Lent might be a gift in your life.   The season of Lent began on Ash Wednesday (March 5), and it will continue through Easter (April 20).  With the haste and pace of life, I think you’ll find the Spirit of Lent meaningful and its intentions important to our lives and life together.

Lent is a time of self-reflection, reconciliation, anticipation, and renewal.  If a week were a year-long, the 40-days of Lent would be like a long Sunday.

human-pretzelLent is a time to think about life, all its commitments, what actually consumes your energy and consumes your time.  It’s a time to take inventory of your life life you would a treasure chest – like a scrapbook of memories of your child’s first 8 years or a long-forgotten box of your great grandma’s belongings.

Think about the relationships in your life. Which ones are broken or strained?  Who do you miss in your life?  Where does your heart yearn for reconciliation.  This could be your relationship with God, spirituality, or church.  It could be an old friend or family member.  Lent is a time of anticipating new life.  Taking inventory of broken relationships and old wounds is important because they can receive new life again.

Think about all the things that fill your time and attention day-to-day.   Personal or professional demands, endless emails, immature people, over-committed coworders, the budget crunch, running to kids activities, house hunting or house repairs, laundry, escape into TV shows, and screens that bombard us with both emptiness and activity.

Think of one thing you could live without, that perhaps your dependent on.  Fast from it to make room for something nutritious to your soul, good for your heart, or just plain more meaningful to you.  Send a brief email to your child or old friend daily; Tell them how you feel.    Read scripture or poetry, even for 10 minutes at the beginning or end of your day.  Listen to music that moves you.   Take time to find deeper meaning in the moments of your day.

It’s difficult at first, but it actually does feel better than running through your to-do list or getting through to the next thing.

sprout in concreteLastly, believe that every year the earth rebirths itself in spring.  There is a reason that Lent bridges winter and spring, and Easter is celebrated after the end of the winter season.  The earth renews itself and we can renew ourselves.  The story is that even God confronts life’s pain and horrors, suffers and dies, and comes to life again.  Call it the circle of life.  Call it hope in the darkness.  Call it the promise of morning.  Call it grace and the miracle of new life.  Trust on it.  Bank on it.  Anticipate it.  Prepare for it.  Don’t ignore it and let the opportunity go by.  That’s what Lent is for.

Together, this is the meaning of Lent.   It’s an ancient wisdom that began over 1700 years ago before denominations, TV evangelists, or even most of the world could read.  It’s an invitation to self-reflection, reconciliation, anticipation and renewal.

Maybe it’s not so wacky.  You’re invited to consider the meaning of this season for your own life.

If nothing else, sometime before Easter order a double Fish Filet.