The long, cold winter has so consumed my psyche that I was unprepared to accept the arrival of March. We seem so far away from the typical spring images that usually accompany March.
And accompanying that, I was surprised when I realized that Tuesday was Mardi Gras, which meant that Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and today is the first day of Lent! Oh my goodness, how the time flies.
This has caused me to struggle wondering why Lent has snuck up on me. I suppose one reason is the weather, but a second is that I have not had to prepare for the season as I have the past 10 years. This is a season as a parishioner, not as a pastor.
I admit to feeling a bit guilty because I have no plans, no identified fasting plan or any 40-day practice. The 40-day period of giving up something or doing something as a spiritual practice has always been a challenge for me. This places me in an awkward position: Is it too late?
Committing to the year-long Bible reading plan, I have already implemented a very structured practice. This is not just sitting down and reading a novel, this is study. My 40-day challenge is realistically a 365-day challenge.
Therefore I should not feel so guilty, should I?
Add to this study, though, is an additional reading I have just completed. Based on a friend’s recommendation I have read through Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms(2006).
The nine chapters take one through a process to establish the spiritual practices that develop–or maybe a better word is enriches—one’s spirituality.
Barton offers a personal viewpoint on the practices while providing the rationale, the scriptural basis, and the encouragement needed to reorganize one’s life to be more mindful of one’s own spirituality.
The chapters outline the various practices as solitude, scripture, prayer, honoring the body, self-examination, discernment, and Sabbath.
John Wesley also identified the individual acts of piety as means to strengthen one’s spirituality, also. The United Methodist Church’s website lists these as “. . . reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others” [Accessed on March 7, 2019 at umc.org].
There are differences, I realize, but Barton confronts the problems that our culture faces in this 21stcentury that Wesley could not have imagined. Wesley’s acts of piety do still apply, but having Barton explain how today’s technological world and demanding family life do not have to interfere with these practices.
Therefore, as I continue working through the year-long Bible reading plan, I am going to reread Barton’s book with a pencil in my hand to make additional notes. My Lent will be to review, release today’s world, and to work on developing a 21stcentury plan, or as she calls it, rule of life for myself.
I may still be unprepared for Lent in the traditional sense, but I must forgive myself and acknowledge that whenever and however I work to improve my personal spiritual practices is the ultimate goal. Isn’t that what Lent is?
Please join in prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are my teacher.
You are my healer.
You are my redeemer.
Forgive me for letting the world step in the way.
Forgive me for worrying that I am not perfect.
Forgive me that I procrastinate in growing spiritually.
Thank you for the words of others who teach.
Thank you for the words of those who help me heal.
Thank you for the words of scripture that are timeless.
Guide me in my understanding.
Guide me in making better time for scripture.
Guide me in adding scriptural practices
that work for life eternal.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit,
With Jesus Christ your son,
And you, our Lord, I Am. –Amen