In a little over an hour I’ll be heading to church to receive a smudge of ash on my forehead.
Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent for Christians in the various Western churches. (Our brothers and sisters in the Eastern churches follow a different liturgical calendar .) For me, as for many Christians in the U.S., this Lent will be a season of repentance, fish fry dinners, and giving something up for the next six weeks or so.
Now, I should state for the record that neither the Presbyterian tradition of my upbringing nor the Anglican tradition of my present affiliation has any particular rule about the Lenten giving up of things. Both traditions do encourage adopting some kind of discipline that will mark the season of Lent as different, as a time to focus on God and contemplate one’s sins and one’s spiritual life, but neither tradition insists that we must give up anything specific or anything at all.
A campus minister friend, for example, decided to adopt a discipline of patience for Lent one year, which he practiced by standing in the longest checkout line every time he went to the grocery store. A Presbyterian pastor I knew announced to the congregation that he was adopting the Lenten discipline, not of giving up chocolate, but of eating just a little bit of chocolate every day. The next morning he walked into his office to find that someone from the congregation had sneaked in during the night and left thousands of M&Ms(tm) on his desk, bookshelves, and chairs. So at the next service he told that story, commented that he loved having such a responsive congregation, and joked that he had decided to give up money for Lent as well. Sure enough, the next morning when he walked into his office, he found that someone had left pennies on every available surface. The church was embarking on a building campaign at the time, so he treated the pennies as a donation to the building fund, and the anonymous prankster did not object.
I’ve never been quite so creative at Lenten disciplines as these two men, but a few years ago I gave up soda for Lent and found that the practice did force me to start thinking about my beverage choices in different ways. More to the point, though, giving up soda also made Lent feel like a season apart that year–not because it made me suffer in any noticeable way but because it was different enough from my normal patterns that I noticed it and had daily occasion to remember what season it was.
The other thing I typically do during Lent, usually when the season is more than half over, is that I have a great idea for a discipline to adopt the following Lent. I vow that, when the next Lent rolls around, I’ll remember that discipline and adopt it. Then, by the time the next Lent does roll around, I find that I’ve completely forgotten what it was. This has happened at least three Lents in a row now.
But today I had an idea for a Lenten discipline that I might try adopting this year.
And that’s why this post is here to read. What I’m going to do for Lent this year is post something to this blog every day.
Well, not every day. I’ll take Sundays off (which actually fits with the tradition of treating Sundays as an exception to the Lenten fast anyway), and possibly Saturdays as well (which fits with the fact that my Saturdays tend to flow differently from my weekdays). Also, if I’m traveling or something and don’t have time to sit down at a computer and write something, I’ll take those days off as well. But otherwise I’ll post something to this blog every day during Lent this year.
I’m making no promises about content, though I’ll try to make it substantive or at least readable. I’m also not going to restrict myself to a particular topic or theme, though it’s possible that one may emerge over the course of several posts. But I’ll post something at least every weekday that I’m not traveling or otherwise prevented by a cause more legitimate than laziness.
There are two disciplines at work here. The first is the discipline of regular writing, which is meant to stimulate my creativity, organize my thoughts, and render my ideas into a communicable, understandable form. Sometimes the only real way to create anything is simply to start getting it down somewhere. The second is the discipline regular posting, of placing my ideas where others can read them. I tend to be timid about letting others in on what I’m thinking, so I need to give myself practice submitting my ideas for others to review, whether or not those folks will like or agree with what I have to say.
So here we go: This is the first post in my Lenten series for 2014.