Lent has been a favorite season since childhood. The soup suppers had our little country church laughing and sharing stories and then the Lenten hymns filled our souls with the deepest resonance.
Now and then the local pastors would trade churches. There was one from Jerome, Idaho, who would sing with the deepest voice. And he was a loud preacher. He made it feel like Lent to me, to my childhood self.
Lent comes year after year and I meet it with spiritual practices and intentions. I lean toward the opportunity that the season is for contemplation. Sometimes I feel like the daffodils in my mother’s yard, harbored away in the late-winter darkness, eager to stretch these contemplative arms.
My devotional life has changed a lot, and wavered a lot, too. Sometimes I get too ambitious and want to pray like a monk. Sometimes I get discouraged and stop all the reading and praying because I failed to match the intention. I write the devotional booklets for Trinity, but can rarely keep company with my own writing. I get too involved in the editing process again, changing words in my mind, instead of dwelling with God.
It’s about ten or twelve days into Lent that the disciplines of Lent, which seem well-intentioned, slough off their extra layers and settle into something normal. That’s about now for us this Lent. So I write to encourage you in the journey, to keep at whatever practices and disciplines you determined for yourself at the beginning of this season. The goal of such intentions is to set aside ourselves and our desires for a bit in order to dwell with Jesus. Because we’re so easily distracted and defeated, it’s easy to stop mid-course, or early-course, and never arrive at the end goal of clearer sight and clearer reliance on Jesus.
The Spirit calls us toward this and fasting, praying, reading, and works of mercy and justice, have long been tools used by the Spirit for formation work. So we try it out. It’s not necessary to do these things to receive the love of God. But they’re helpful for seeing what God wants to show us about His kingdom, and even about ourselves. St. Paul calls all this “training in godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7).
I encourage you to keep at your determined practices, your reading and praying. Keep discerning through the question, “What is God saying and how shall I respond?” Surely the mercy of God is even now dawning from on high. Don’t miss it each day! Pay attention. Be awake!
May peace fill your hearts. May faith forge you strong in Jesus.
Your fellow journeyman in the faith,
Benjamin Vineyard, Pastor