Not feeling very Lenten this year


It’s Lent.  And I don’t feel very Lenten.

I received ashes last Wednesday during our Ash Wednesday service.  I even wore the smudge on my forehead to the grocery store after worship (which might count, in Jesus’ words, as “parading your piety before men”). On the first Sunday in Lent I preached the obligatory sermon on the story of Jesus’ temptations.  I even noted the purple fabric thoughtfully draped and wrapped throughout the sanctuary.

So, I’m trying hard to get into the spirit of the season – I really am – but it’s not happening.  And I’m probably not alone.

One guess is that I’m missing those long, Midwestern winters.  There’s nothing like a long, unforgiving winter to get you ready for Easter.  (My favorite storyteller Garrison Keillor likes to say that March in Minnesota is for people who don’t drink – to show them what a hangover feels like.)

But the truth is, I don’t really miss the kind of winter that stretches well into March (and April).  I kind of like daytime temperatures in the 70s which is what you have if you live in south Florida.

Another guess is that I haven’t given up anything this year.  I know other people who are giving up chocolate, beer, or ice cream for the season.  Frankly, I’ve never been much of a “give something up” kind of person (or much of a chocolate and beer kind of person either).  I’ve always found that “taking something on” works better for me.

But not this year.  My Lenten disciplines of reading and prayer are nice, but I’m not on the road to Jerusalem just yet.

My best guess is that the routines of church life are keeping me from the spiritual experience I really want.  Ironic, isn’t it?  I’m so busy doing all the things people expect of me at this time of year, and all those things are turning out to be a distraction from the one thing that really matters, the one thing I really want.

How did things ever get this way?  How did our activities and programs and meetings take on such importance that they now leave little room for … God?

My friend and neighbor Father Sherod Mallow, rector at All Saints Church, tells me that his church decided to give up meetings for Lent one year.  They called it a “meet-less Lent.”  I was intrigued.  But he said it was a disaster.  Apparently you can’t stop meeting during Florida’s peak season, the time of year when everyone is around (I can’t believe how many Canadian license plates I see on the road).

I wonder what that leaves.

This is an important season to me.  Not that I like feeling penitent all the time, but I do like the feeling of preparation – the idea that Easter is coming and that I need to get ready.  More than anything I want to make the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus, trusting that he knows what he’s doing, trusting that he can see what I can’t see, trusting that Easter will surprise and dazzle and bring new life.

Excuse me while I set aside a few minutes to reflect on that.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

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11 Responses to Not feeling very Lenten this year

  1. Bob Sadowski February 20, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    that’s why we have the Cadbury eggs, so you know Easter is close. Want to feel more Lenten, lent me $100.

    • Doug February 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

      Not going to happen, Bob.

  2. Theda Williams February 20, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Ditto . . . blessings on your season.

  3. Paul Burgess February 20, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Ah, yes. I can identify with your feelings, Doug.Even being retired (as I am) doesn’t keep projects from interfering with the preparing for, and seeking of, God. May all of us go beyond our projects to that seeking!

  4. Dee Harris February 20, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    For many years my Lenten sacrifice has been secular work (vacation time) on Good Friday. Now that I don’t work on Good Friday I’ve decided to give up secular work for
    Holy Week. I’m very sad that companies no longer give time off on Good Friday for those who wish to contemplate what the day means.

  5. Laurie Fuller February 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    I was going to give up potato chips. I know that sounds silly but I eat them everyday at my desk, well since I couldnt make it to Ash Wednesday I felt like I could continue to eat them…LOL…well now after last week’s sermon, Doug, which was wonderful, I am back to my original giving up something for Lent. Yes Bob when the Cadbury eggs show up you know its Easter. I have been living in Ft. Lauderdale my whole life and yes we might not have hard winters but you sure know when it is winter..We have Canadians who visit us and the roads are really jammed with all the out of state license plates, but this is where I grew up and I love it here for the last 57 years. God Bless All…

  6. Vicki Powell Long February 22, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    I feel the same way this season. I heard a sermon many years ago when I lived in Texas that instead of giving up something for Lent – make a commitment for Lent. This is ties into your “take something on” for Lent. I read something earlier in the week that God wants us to sit and spend time with Him and enjoy His presence like you would a member of your family or a friend. That is my commitment for Lent. Now to put it in practice in our busy lives – He is waiting on all of us to do that. I am joyfully in. 🙂

  7. Shelley February 22, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    I recently attended a conference where one of the speakers was Laurence Freeman, a Benedictine monk. He said for good health we eat right, exercise, sleep, etc. For Lent, we generally are told to pray, give alms and fast. However, he had a different twist. He said for prayer, initiate or strengthen your “prayer life” – he suggested meditating or just “being” with God silently for a few minutes a day, everyday. He said for fasting that we might limit or reduce things like time on the phone, emailing, texting, TV, computer time, (perhaps limit meetings!) etc. and to instead give your attention to another. Lastly, he said that we should give without asking for anything in return – no gratitude, no tax deduction, no plaque in our name, etc. (the right hand should not know what the left hand is doing). Difficult perhaps, but I liked what he said and wanted to share it with you.

  8. Dennis Ulmer February 22, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    I think that too many of us don’t take the time to enjoy our surroundings. We in south Florida take it for granted because we don’t really have the “four seasons” of the year. I think this makes us all a little less “Lenten”. I believe that we should all notice what is around us, and take the time to meditate for a few minutes. To me, the best way to remember that God is in our lives, is to put him there. We need to notice more and allow him to “speak” to us. Sometimes in the quiet silence there is great meaning if we just take the time to listen for it.

  9. Theda Williams February 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    After reading some of these comments, I remembered my blog from last year. My feelings are pretty much the same, although I failed miserably last year.

  10. Doug February 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Theda, I had no idea that you were a blogger. I just read your piece and really liked it. I’m going to add your blog to my “favorites” list too. (My daughter mentioned that there should be a few more women there, and it was a point well taken.) Thanks for sharing those insights about Lent.

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