Last week's letter invited you to consider adopting a spiritual practice for Lent. In preparation, we encouraged you to some time in God's presence reflecting on these questions: God, what do I need from you this Lent? What do I want from you this Lent? What spiritual practices will help me receive it?
I wonder how that went for you?
This week, Katie and I thought we'd share what each of us plans to do for Lent and why. Perhaps you'd like to join us in one of these practices, or perhaps they will spark an idea of your own. There's an invitation at the end of this letter to share your own Lenten reflections with our community -- we'd love to hear from you!
In a year filled with so much sickness and death, I feel a bit nervous admitting that I’ll be reading through a Lenten devotional called Remember Your Death: Memento Mori. But I think what is compelling me to spend time contemplating death this Lent, is the desire not to grow numb to death. I don’t want to forget the terrible emotional and spiritual toll of this pandemic but nor do I want to be overwhelmed by death. Instead as generations of Christians have before, I want to remember my death so I can remember to use my short time on earth well. I want to remember my death so that I can remember to pray and offer to God all the other little deaths I experience in my daily life. And I want to contemplate my death so that I don’t fear death but grow in the confidence that Christ’s death has trampled death so that I will one day be resurrected with him, with all my loved ones, and with all of you.
If you too are interested in the spiritual practice of remembering your death, in addition to the Lenten devotional I already mentioned, you may want to pick up Jeremy Taylor’s Holy Living and Holy Dying. In this spiritual manual, Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), an Anglican priest who was well acquainted with grief in his own life, offers a series of reflections with guidance to help us live and die well. The 1928 Prayer Book includes one of Jeremy Taylor’s prayers written for the visitation of the sick, but which seems very appropriate for all of us this Lent.
O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, deeply aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and let your Holy Spirit direct us in holiness and righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Friends, I am tired. Are you? As a result, I decided to keep my Lenten disciplines simple and doable this year, resting in tried-and-true practices. God has met me in these practices many times over the years, and I am trusting him to meet me here again.
So I'll be reading Henri Nouwen's daily Lenten devotional Show Me the Way. Nouwen's gentle voice has guided me through many Lents, and has a way of ushering me into stillness.
And I'll be fasting from 9a-4p on Fridays in Lent, with a few minutes of silence and prayer at lunchtime, quite possibly while standing at the kitchen counter making my kids' sandwiches. Jesus tells us not to make a big flashy show of our fasting, and I sincerely hope telling you my plan on this blog (with its *double-digit* readership) doesn't violate those instructions. But I have spoken with enough of you about the difficulty of fasting that I thought it might be helpful to hear what I've discovered works for me. This simple lunchtime fast doesn't produce a terribly intense hunger; just enough to remind me that I am an embodied person who gets cranky and mean without lunch, and who seeks distraction and escape at the slightest discomfort. Over the years, God has met me with surprising kindness in the midst of my hunger, need, crankiness, and distraction.
(If you are interested in reading even more about my crankiness, I documented a similar Lenten fasting regimen for a seminary assignment a few years ago and would be happy to share with you -- just ask!)
What about you?
Lent is a time of preparing together for the joy of Easter. We'd love to hear and see how your Lent is going! What sorts of things are you reading, praying, or reflecting on? What is God teaching you in his season? Some of you are exploring issues of race and justice. Some are developing new prayer practices or honing a creative craft. Some are digging into scripture in deeper ways or have found helpful podcasts for illuminating difficult passages.
We'd love to fill our blog and Instagram with reflections from our community on whatever you'd like to share this Lent. They can be short or long, funny or profound, visual or verbal -- anything at all. Our hope is that these reflections will foster a sense of communal practice this Lent as we learn from one another on our journey toward Easter.
Thank you, and see you tomorrow at Ash Wednesday services!
Amy and Katie