Lent: Week One.

I wasn’t planning on giving up anything for Lent this year.

This was mainly because of past experiences. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t handle it. It was mostly because I wondered what was so significant about it. For instance, one year when I was in college, I thought it would be clever and worth it to only listen to Christian Music. What ended up happening was that I mostly listened to a bunch of old music (since I hadn’t actually purchased Christian Music in a very long time), and it didn’t really do much for me. It wasn’t a real sacrifice, actually. It was just kind of lame.

And the other part of it that was lame was that when I really thought about it, there really wasn’t much I could give up that really was a sacrifice. At least, nothing that would somehow help me get in the zone of suffering with Christ. Not eating dessert for 40 days? Maybe my mom would disagree, but I would say that pales in comparison to public flogging, execution, etc.

I also wasn’t crazy about picking something, labeling it as somehow “not of God,” and then denying myself for a month. What was the point of that? Isn’t creation a good thing? These are things that God made, these are things that humans who God loves made and I’m saying it’s “bad” because it’s not a worship song, or doesn’t fill the “Jesus Quota?” ¬†Also: lame.

So I didn’t really do much for Lent in recent years. And I wasn’t going to do anything this year either.

Until I read this. Now, I grew up with an ex-Catholic dad, a WASP mom, so I didn’t really “get” Lent. But when I read that article, I got it: Lent is when you hand things over to God so you can grow closer to Him in anticipation of Easter and the resurrection.

Basically, I was doing it wrong.

And that’s when I realized something: I did have to give up something for Lent. There was something in my life that used up enough of my time that it was keeping me away from God.

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The good ol’ Boob Tube.

So, I think I should foreground this for you all: I love TV. I have always loved TV. My dad’s nickname for me when I was a kid was “EmTV.” I got a kick out of TV. Still do.

I think I fooled myself into thinking I somehow separated myself from the rest of America by not having cable or even network channels. The old “Oh, we don’t have TV” thing. But as it turns out, my husband and I actually do have TV because we have Netflix and Hulu, which actually is a terrible thing for a TV addict. I don’t even want to admit how many seasons of certain shows we got through in a week. It’s a little sick, packing 4 years of a television show into a month or so.

Now, again, there isn’t actually anything inherently bad about this, exactly. I don’t have an ax to grind with TV or TV watching, really. It’s a lot of fun. But the problem was the way I liked to use TV: it fills time and it distracts me. Those things, again, aren’t really bad, but I was spending my free time distracting myself and filling up space between the workday and sleep.

Even worse: I spent a lot more time with TV than I did with God. That’s kind of weird, since I claim that God is the most important thing in my life. But if I broke it down, in a given day, I actually gave God a bit less time than I gave, say, House of Cards, or a soap opera about Nashville country singers.

So, that did it.

After week one of No TV Lent, I feel pretty good. I definitely miss vegging out in front of the screen after a long day, a long commute, while I’m grading, etc., but as my husband pointed out: suddenly, we have more time than we used to! Which is awesome, since this is the busiest we’ve been in a long time. And while I’m going to save it for another post, I also started trying to pray the hours, which has been a great experience for me so far.

And I think it’s doing what it’s supposed to: I’m focusing more on God, Jesus, and the resurrection as a part of my daily life, and I am reminded of that when I don’t press the on button on the remote control.

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Lenten Reflections

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The season of Lent began last week with Ash Wednesday on February 17th. As a time to prepare our hearts, spirits, and lives for the celebration of Easter, Lent is a significant season of reflection and anticipation: reflection on the sins in our lives and anticipation of Christ’s death and resurrection that saved us from these sins.

Ash Wednesday is always particularly meaningful to me because it is a day devoted to repentance and is a powerful reminder to me of all the places in my life where I am unintentionally (and often intentionally) sinning against God and hurting the people around me. This Ash Wednesday, my friend Kate wrote a beautiful (and challenging) reflections about confession and repentance. She posted it on her   blog and also agreed to share it with us at St. Paul’s.

Introduction by: Emily Dolan

Ash Wednesday

Most Merciful God, we confess
that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed

Yesterday I met a woman with an serious problem. She sat through my presentation on cholesterol (colesterol es tres mal para tu corazon!) and patiently waited while we screened a roomful of people for hypertension, piecing together their symptoms and complaints with only a handful of common words. I’m not trying to wring sympathy from your heart, but you need to know what we were up against: she has a small daughter playing under the table, no money, can’t speak English, can’t read at all. She has a mass you can feel through her t-shirt; she is in so much pain she has not eaten since Sunday. Outside, snow covers the ground and she is wearing flip flops.

I want to know. What would you do?

We left.

by what we have done
and by what we have left undone.

Back in the classroom, Tim kicked off the discussion on structural discrimination in health care. A couple weeks ago, I led the seminar on disenfranchised populations & the gaps in health care access and quality. This is the part of the course where it’s supposed to become clear why it was the right thing to leave that woman and her daughter there, the part where the shame flips off and the light bulbs flip on in our newly educated & enlightened minds. Believe me, I understand the need for sustainable programs and all the reasons we weren’t allowed to drop the woman off at the hospital or give her cab fare from our own pockets. I believe in consequences and fear the law of unintended consequences. Dangerous precedents. Greedy & deceitful people. But we talk and talk and talk, myself right along with the best of them, and forget the Golden Rule. It’s not partisan, political, theoretical, hypothetical, cultural, parochial. It’s everyone. The failing is everywhere.

We have not loved you with our whole hearts.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

After class, I went for a run before going to the Ash Wednesday service. Since college, I’ve found myself anticipating Lent more than Advent. This season of house keeping – the setting of things to right – both stretches me beyond comfort and comforts me beyond reason. The chance to sacrifice small comforts in celebration of our great, incomprehensible reprieve and the anticipation of redemption to keep us afloat. So I walk into the hushed sanctuary, flushed from the fresh air & the endorphins, glowing with commitment, ready for holiness. The minister speaks and I am so convicted, so hopeful & thankful. Yes! I’m so terrible! Yes! I can love my neighbor as myself. Amen! My house is not 2 miles from the church and before I make it through my front door, I’m seething with murderous thoughts, wishing I could take a hammer to his head or tell her what I really think. And if my own private thoughts aren’t bad enough, I’m needlessly rude to my dear friend Tim.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;

T. S. Eliot wrote a poem called Ash Wednesday and in it is a line I go back to again and again when I don’t know how else to pray. Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still. Only a handful of words and yet they are strong and broad enough to hold all my questions & inadequacies. I need to be taught to care for my neighbor better – how to love that woman, how to love Tim, how to love people who hurt me. How to love like Christ, because of Christ’s love for me. I need to stop caring about the things that don’t matter, the voices who really won’t have a say in the final count. Thank God for these 40 days to learn to sit still, to turn, to listen, to change. Thank God that His grace is not limited by merit, time nor space.

that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your name.

Amen.

Post by: Kate @ http://sosophistikated.blogspot.com/