...that today is Ash Wednesday and the first day of the Lenten season? I didn't...not until today when I started seeing it written about on my Lenten-observant friends blogs and facebook status updates. Growing up as a Mississippi Southern Baptist girl, we just didn't have Lent in our churches and I really don't remember Ash Wednesday being talked about. Once we moved to the coast where there were lots of Catholic classmates, I started hearing about it a bit more, but still didn't get it. Just thought it was some strange traditional thing that Catholics did and it meant we'd be eating fish on Fridays in the school cafeteria. I really had no idea it went beyond that.
I'm still pretty clueless where it is concerned. I started getting a little bit more of a glimpse into it's meaning during the one year I was a member of an Evangelical Presbyterian church right after I got married. But after that, we joined a non-denominational church and over the next 15 or so years, Lent just didn't even cross my spiritual radar screen.
But then I started meeting many wonderful Christians through the internet who would write about their how they and their families were observing Lent. And my husband and I started asking more questions about it and wondering if it should play a role in our spiritual lives. We're still learning and still asking that question, so in light of that, I was very pleased to see Tom Davis of Children's HopeChest write exactly on that subject:
Begin a Season of Reflection
Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the season of Lent - 40 days of preparation before Easter. I didn't come from a Christian tradition that celebrated the church calendar, but I have found practices like this deeply spiritual. It's a time of reflection, fasting and prayer that helps me to focus on spiritual things I typically neglect. I would encourage you to take part in this season, even to a small degree. Here are some places to help you: Sacred Space - Lent 2009 and Per Christum - Lenten Resources Online. Here's a prayer by Henri Nouwen to start you out:
Dear Lord Jesus,
Today the Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.
I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, human respect, pleasure, power and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.
I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are no times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.
Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be
able to taste with joy the new life which you have prepared for me.
So do any of my Graceland visitors who observe Lent care to tell me why I need to observe Lent? Why is it important to you and how does it help draw you closer to God? I would very much appreciate your perspectives.