Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thoughts on Lent

            “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it!” That line, from Psalm 118, signals the start of yet another splendid day in the White Mountains. Sunshine abounds, the first robins have arrived, and many of us are thinking of getting out and digging in the garden.  But the business of winter isn’t quite over yet here in the high country, and putting tender young things into the soil at this point is an exercise in futility. Its OK to dig, but not to plant.
            So it is with the season of Lent, as we dig and weed and plow in the soil of our thoughts. Lent is traditionally our spiritual preparation for the glory of Easter. Often marked by giving up certain foods, it is the season of repentence, of giving up, in commemoration of the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness rejecting temptation before his final trip into Jerusalem and his ultimate fate. 
          What if instead of giving up meat, chocolate (my favorite), or other physical things, we choose instead to let go of negative thoughts and lack of forgiveness towards ourselves and others so that we may walk in a path of renewal? Isn't that a great way to honor Jesus' Forty Days in the Wilderness and at the same time set our own stage for a new life?  I give to you the wonderful prayer offered by the Daily Word for Ash Wednesday:      
            Lord, help me walk a path of renewal.
            I lift up my old life for purification, confident a new life rises from those ashes.
            I release every limitation I believe is true about my worth and power, my beauty and creativity.
            I sweep away every debt I believe anyone owes me.
            I cast off every condemnation I carry.
            I pray with an open heart, releasing limits, pain and false beliefs with ease.
            I accept new wisdom, understanding and peace with grace.
            For the gifts of my journey of purification and renewal, I am grateful.

         What a powerful way to renew ourselves!  I lift up my old life for purification, confident a new life rises from those ashes! This is such a perfect message that in our household we are reading it to each other every morning, a way to set our intention for sweeping away any spiritual and emotional debris we have carried from the past. 
            You will notice that nowhere in this wonderful set of denials and affirmations does it say “because I am a sinner to have thought/felt/acted that way in the first place.” No, we were doing the best we could, even in our imperfection. Forgiving isn’t condoning, but more a way of setting aside negative feelings so we can choose differently, so we can love. Our old ways served a purpose for us, and now it is time to let them go so we can move forward.  Only by forgiving ourselves – and others - can we get to a place where we will be successful in reaching for a new life. 
          Yes, the Lenten practice is solidly based on forgiveness - and love. 

“Your past has brought you where you are, and yet it does not dictate where you can now go. Make the choice to point all of your life in the direction of your dreams.” Ralph Marston


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