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Wait. What? February?

I’ve been sleepy since December. I’ve been yawning and stretching and snoozing, slow-poking my unpurposeful feet through days of HGTV escapism and too much sugar.

I went to church a few nights ago with a boy, the middle one, the one leaning into Catholicism, and sat with him through the Ash Wednesday service. Prayers and bells and songs and then the invitation to come for the marking with ash.

“Is it just for Catholics?” I whispered to my son.

“It’s a blessing. It’s for anyone,” he said, so I followed him through the crowd and stood in front of a stranger who dipped his fingers into an ash-filled bowl, marked my forehead with an ashen cross, and offered me a word of blessing.

I was prepared to feel something in this new experience. I was expecting some kind of joy or a spiritual something, but I was not ready for the hot prick of tears when his fingers touched my skin. The emotion of being touched unsettled me, even as I smiled and turned and went back to my pew and all the while I wanted to raise my hand to my dirty face.

I stood in my place, all uncatholic and uncertain, and I watched the worshippers around me as they dipped and bowed and kneeled, as they crossed themselves and as they folded their hands in prayer, finger tips together in a steeple, as I did when I was taught to pray in Sunday School.

These are things I’m not used to. I’m not familiar with kneeling for prayer. I’m not comfortable with being touched in church. I’m not experienced in such physical expressions of worship and that is my loss, I think.

Faith-family, back in the day, was a physical thing. Reclining at the table together and holy kisses and washing each others’ feet. Our ancient brothers and sisters exerienced their brotherhood and sisterhood in tangible, touchable ways, and I find myself moved by a thing I didn’t know I was missing.

I’m not criticizing, mind. There are beautiful congregations of worshipful people, living their faith in service-filled ways, and I’ve been blessed to be a part of many of them. It’s not a this -way-is-better-than-that-way thing.

But a few days ago, a stranger-brother in faith marked a dirty cross on my forehead, and I was undone. It woke me up, and today I washed the sleep of inertia out of my eyes and wrote these words for you to read but, mainly, for me to remember.

It’s Lent. I’m walking toward the cross.

 

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I gave up Netflix for Lent. It’s been easier than I expected, except when it’s been hard.

It’s been my distraction, you see. It’s been the escape-from-reality and the end-of-the-day reward. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escaping and rewarding. But I know myself, and of all the things I considered fasting from, Netflix was the one that made me kind of sad. And that’s, well, kind of sad.

So I gave up Netflix. It’s my first time to practice Lent, let alone to fast from anything during Lent, and it’s been slow and deep and kind of beautiful in ways I didn’t even know to expect. I had no clue, basically.

I signed up for an N.T. Wright online Lenten devotion, and together he and I and the book of Matthew have been making our way through the season. Slowly and carefully, like picking our way down a pebbled path, looking for wild flowers that might be growing along the edges. It’s really been a lovely walk.

And Netflix? Mostly, Netflix has been replaced with reading or visiting or watching movies with the family. Mostly, it’s been a fairly easy temptation to resist. Easier than I expected.

But the other night, after tossing about for hours and finally relocating to the downstairs sofa, I gave in. I tapped the app button on my phone and looked through the menu options and feasted on three episodes of a show I’d been watching before the whole Lent thing started. I caved, big time.

I’ve been trying to feel guilty about it, but you know what, I really don’t. I’m not sure what that says, exactly. I guess I’ve decided it’s not about perfection. I know I am weak. I’m totally the follower fretting in the storm while Jesus sleeps, or sleeping in the garden while Jesus prays.

This morning, N.T. and Matthew and Jesus and I picked up where we’d left off. And you know what? It’s still beautiful.

Today is Wednesday. The day before Valentine’s Day. Two days before my second son’s sixteenth birthday.

Oh, and its the first day of Lent. Should I have remembered that before I saw all the Facebook posts and blog posts about it?

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The truth is, I didn’t grow up with Lent. Ash Wednesday? I hadn’t a clue. I’ve only recently even bothered to find out what it is all about. Easter, growing up, was about finding eggs and eating chocolate, and somewhere in there was a vague understanding that for some people it meant something about Jesus being crucified and raised up again.

But Lent? I had no idea, except from references in books to people giving things up for it.

I’m giving up chocolate for Lent. Or movies. Or cigarettes. Or men.

I never really got the religious significance of such gestures.

I understand it better now, since google made understanding these things so much easier. I’ve thought about it some. I’ve not embraced it, although I sense it’s become the thing to do. People are embracing it, I know, even if it wasn’t a faith tradition they grew up with.

I’m not giving anything up for Lent this year. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. I’m not denying myself a pleasure or abstaining from an indulgence. I’m not tuned in enough to the why of it to make it meaningful.

I guess I’ll just keeping doing it, living it, day after day for the next forty days. Thinking about things, praying, doing what I can. Ordinary stuff, ordinary days.

Keeping on instead of giving up.

What about you?