Entering Lent

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

I cringe when words deep with meaning get cast aside as cliché. I hope this one doesn’t feel too worn for you: intention. If it does feel worn, commit to repeating it again and again in your soul until it breathes fresh life in you. It is a reminder we always need. It is a word that so clearly gets to the heart of what it means to be a practicing person of faith. Why do we do what we do?

We all travel through Lent with slightly varied responses to that question. For some, it is a time to grow in relationship with Christ. For others, it is a time for deepening commitment. For others, there is painful release that needs to occur. Maybe you don’t know why yet, but you long to know why. That might be the most faithful response of all.

As the ashes were smudged upon me last night, I took a deep breath and felt like a threshold had been crossed. I woke this morning inside of Lent. From this point on, everything that I do, say, feel, and think will take place in this sacred context. There will certainly be mundane moments within these forty days; moments when I am not my best self and do not freely cooperate with the Spirit’s movement in my life. There will be days of white-knuckled holding on even as I move through a season of letting go. I can hardly bear admitting that there may be days when I fudge in my fasting- pun intended!

The gift of this season, and every season in the Christian calendar, is that something holy beckons beneath the surface of all things in everyday life urging us to pay attention. There is significance here. There is something I am called to remember. There is someone I am becoming. The practice of fasting focuses our attention toward the constant presence of this holy invitation. In feeling what I’ve given up, I am reminded of the reason for giving it up in the first place.

It is important to say now, at the beginning of the journey, that it is not about perfection. It is about relationship. Relationship is the primary intention of Lent. If you are trying to do Lent “right” you may very well miss the point. If you desire to grow closer with God and be shaped in the likeness of Christ, even if you are clumsy in the process, you will discover, with the prophet Isaiah, the new thing God is doing springing forth like rivers in the desert!

How we enter this time matters for what this time will mean in our lives. How do you begin?

Blessings to you in all your living, moving, breathing, speaking, resisting, loving, acting IN the Lenten season!

THE PRACTICE OF FASTING
From “A Guide for Lent”

Week 1: Fasting
Daily prayer phrase for the week: Open me to receive more of you.

To fast is to empty oneself intentionally in a way that makes space for God. During the season of Lent, we fast for 40 days remembering Christ’s own fast in the wilderness. It is a time to focus on what matters most amid alluring distractions. This practice empties us and prepares us to go deeper through each consecutive practice on the Lenten path. Fasting is about making space for God.

Choose something from everyday life you will noticeably miss. This could be a food item, a meal itself, an activity you enjoy, or something you buy daily or weekly that may be excess in your life. It could also be intentionally reorienting your daily routine or inner conversation.

A Lenten fast typically lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter morning except for Sundays. Choose an intentional act that will replace what you are fasting from. What will you do in place of what you have given up? Is there something specific for which you are praying?

Spend time during your fast to pay attention to what is going on within you. Intentionally reflect through writing in a journal or solitude. Notice the time frame you have set. Is your craving from what you have given up increasing or decreasing? What is the depth of your prayer life during this time? Are you feeling more focused? What does God invite you to discover in this intentional letting go?

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