Thursday, February 25, 2010

7 Quick Takes for Lent

ItalicI can't believe it has been two weeks since I wrote here! There have been so many times I have wanted to sit and write, but the rhythm of our lives has changed with the observance of Lent. Though it is a good thing, it has left me little room for writing or being on the computer. Here's some of what we've been up to and what I've been thinking about. For more Quick Takes, visit Jen.

My husband fashioned the cross pictured in my header from two pieces of our Christmas tree. It was an idea I had seen in an Anglican Lenten Carnival post some time back, and I filed it away for this year. The first candle was lit on Ash Wednesday, and each Sunday, we light one more candle. It will be fully lit on Palm Sunday, and on Maundy Thursday we will light the purple candles for the last time. On Easter Sunday, we will replace the purple candles with white for our Easter celebration breakfast. We'll see if it sticks around for the full season of Easter or not. It's not too late to craft one of these from any wood (though the Christmas tree symbolism was nice), and if my husband and I can do it, you can. We are not crafty people!

I think I mentioned this before, but we are fasting from artificial light after sundown during Lent. More than our food fasts and our limited computer usage, this fast has changed the entire feel of our days. We are going to bed earlier and rising earlier and finding ourselves more disciplined to finish our tasks before the dark sets in. I am amazed at how much this is changing our lifestyle in a very good way. I think as we settle into it I will find more time for rest and reflection at the end of the day and may even start getting up early enough to really begin my day in prayer. Once Lent is over, we may continue this one evening a week, probably Saturdays, as a time of rest and preparation for the Sabbath day.

Other than the family fast from light and a fasting from computer games (except on Sundays), I don't feel like I am doing much to include the boys in Lent this year. We have had good times of talking about it during our prayer times in the evenings, and we are teaching the boys the prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer. Other than that, though, I don't feel like our house seems different this time of year like it does at Advent. I would love to know what my liturgically minded friends out there do to the home environment to set this time apart. Maybe fasting is enough.

During this season, I've really been appreciating the wisdom of the ancient church in establishing the church calendar as they did. Lent comes at the perfect time. After the anticipation and celebration of Christmas and the complete loss of routine and discipline that often occurs around holidays, I find myself longing for a return to order and simplicity and for a chance to fast. Our culture's tradition of New Year's resolutions is a good one, but I think it comes too early. If the spirit of the resolution really is to rid oneself of bad habits and begin developing new ones, then it is a secular version of Lent. And by the time February rolls around, I have had enough time to get over the exhaustion of the holidays and find myself longing to change things and make order and clean out, both literally and figuratively. I am not ready for that on January 1st. I can resolve to eat right or to exercise or to get more sleep all I want, but I rarely stick with it.

But I enter Lent with an intention to deny myself something enjoyable (sweets, entertainment, the need to accomplish something) in order to make room for something better (times of prayer, the discipline of training my body, a rested body and mind that can serve and love more patiently). When I meditate on the sufferings of Christ as I deny myself these immediate pleasures, these resolutions suddenly have a spiritual significance. They are no longer about just looking or feeling better, they allow me to enter into the spiritual reality of Christ's suffering and death. And, most importantly, I have the joy of Easter resurrection awaiting me at the end. (And, hopefully, after six weeks of spiritual discipline some of these changes will stick and strengthen my body and soul.)

I am looking for some good books for children during Lent. I have a book on the Stations of the Cross that I plan to pull out, and I am super excited about a Stations of the Cross experience that our church is putting on this Sunday. They are having art and sensory experiences and music, a variety of things at different stations. They are opening it up for families to come with young children at the beginning of the evening, and I think we will take our boys.

But this take was about books. Any suggestions for good books for the boys to focus them on the ideas of Lent? I will be pulling out our books about caterpillars turning to butterflies and seeds turning to plants and eggs hatching into birds and all of those lovely Springtime images that God put in nature to reflect the spiritual reality of New Creation. Anything else?

Because Lent is often a traditional time for Spring cleaning, I am trying to use this time to step up my purging and cleaning out and preparing our house for the market and our belongings for our move overseas. The task ahead seems so big, and I am find myself doubting so often that we will ever get to the mission field. But one thing this artificial light fast is teaching me is to focus on one task at a time and to work diligently. When I really do that, I find myself able to trust that the big picture will be taken care of as I am faithful to do all I can and not try to do more.

If you are fasting from meat for Lent, Jessica has some great recipes up. I linked to this two weeks ago, but now I have tried two of the recipes. I loved the curried lentils and rice, and the broccoli calzones were a hit with everyone in the family. I think her most recent post has a couple more links to vegetarian recipes, so check it out.

And a superfluous take for good measure. Kate at A Telling Place has been posting some beautiful and poignant poems and readings this Lent. I especially love this one...and this one...and this one (because I love Annie Dillard). Many are good images and thoughts in preparation for the darkness of Good Friday.


Julie said...

I love the Christmas tree/Lenten candle idea. I may have to steal that.

Amy said...

Like the candleholder idea, and the giving up artificial light. Can you tell I like candlelight?

Jenny said...

#2 sounds really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Kate said...

I also love the Christmas tree/Lenten candle idea. And I wish that we could give up artificial light after sundown. The sun just sets so early this time of year in Scotland! But I still like the idea and might start doing it one night a week to see how it goes.

I'm so glad you're enjoying the poems I've been posting. It's part of my Lenten discipline to post one every day. When I'm busy, I find poetry helps still me and enter into prayer.

TwoSquareMeals said...

FYI, I now have a photo of the cross up as my header if anyone is interested.

Laura @ Life, Faith, Home, School said...

Wow - fasting from artificial light sounds like an awesome idea - challenging, and restful at the same time. Thanks for posting that. I also really like the cross you supposedly-non-crafty folks made - looks pretty darn crafty to me! ;-) God bless -

~liz said...

fasting from artificial light sound lovely. may file that away for future lents (or maybe Holy Week)...

we do the christmas tree lenten "wreath" as well. our boys love to sit and stare at candles, and it's a great way to let them SEE how long they have to wait for Easter! :)

TwoSquareMeals said...

I should clarify that the artificial light idea was stolen from Jen. We can't take credit for coming up with that.