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The season of Lent is a time of reflection. What can I do to improve myself? To make myself a better servant? Last week, Pastor Helen gave our congregation a list to help us as we confess our sins.

  • Disobedience: Rejection of God’s Will, not doing what God wants us to do, breaking contracts with others.
  • Distrust: Refusal to recognize God’s love which leads to excessive worry and anxiety as well as perfectionism.
  • Irreverence: Neglecting worship or being content with only ho hum participation. Using Christianity for personal advantage.
  • Sloth: Refusal to respond to opportunities for growth, service or sacrifice. Neglect of family. Indifference to global injustice.
  • Impenitence: Refusal to search out or face up to our sins. Self-justification. Unwillingness to forgive ourselves.
  • Covetousness: Accumulation of the material to prove self-worth. Using others for own advantage or in quest for status and power.
  • Vanity: failure to credit God or others for their part in our lives.
  • Pride: Putting self at the center. Refusal to recognize ourselves as dependent on God.
  • Envy: Dissatisfaction with our place in God’s creation.
  • Rebellion: Cynicism. Hatred of God or human beings.

Me, being me, I’ve been wondering how I could use the above, not just to confess, but as a way to add something positive to my life. Of course, my initial reaction was to look closely at each one and figure out which step needed to be taken in each area.

Yep. Eleven different things to address during this one season of Lent. Again, me being me, I was most of the way through my eleven item list, before I figured out what this was telling me: Not only is one Lenten season too short to establish 11 new habits, but this drive to come up with 11 positive things actually highlighted what I need to work on.

Perfectionism. As defined above, this falls under distrust, although my knee jerk reaction is to file it under Pride. “Look at me. Look at what I did.” But, as I noodle it over, it may very well be a matter of trust. If I don’t trust God and other people, then I feel like I have to do it all myself. My husband refers to this as Martyr Syndrom. Do we really need to go into why I know he calls it that? No, I didn’t think so.

But there’s more to it than that. This need to do better, to do more, is also a form of insecurity. I have to do better, I have to be better to show that I am Good, to show that I am God’s. And if I can do and be better, then good things will happen. The reverse of this is that if I can do enough, bad things won’t happen.

And we are write back to Trust.

Yep. I think I know what I’m going to be working on the next several weeks.

Noodle over the list above and give it some thought this Holy Season.

–SueBE

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Along with my morning perk, I tend to have a “morning irk.” A headline inevitably riles me up. That’s how you know you’re getting old and cranky; your bad moods are like regularly scheduled programming.

Anderson Cooper Struggling to Survive in Daytime, was the headline.

Okay. Gloria Vanderbilt’s son, a fairly established sort-of-celebrity himself, wants us to believe he is struggling in some way.

Pardon me while I let my Jersey out. Struggling? You don’t know from struggling, Anderson. Not for nuttin, but there are people who think they have problems and there are people with real stuff to deal with.

Paper or plastic. Pepperoni or plain. These are not problems.

Lunch or dinner. Medicine or meals. These are problems.

I mean, really Coop. (May I call you Coop?) If ratings are your biggest concern in life, you’ve got it easy!

As I sat there, steaming like a latté, I realized I was indulging in what Lori would call a First World problem. Getting all high and mighty about what someone else should be thankful for.

I had to wake up and smell the coffee. Thinking that someone else is being ungrateful actually means I’m the one being ungrateful for God’s grace. My morning irk became a learning experience. Be grateful for your blessings, and graceful to your fellow travelers. Judge not, ya big jamoch (my words, not God’s!) Two lumps of sugar. One lump on the head. I get it – for now, anyway.

Ash Wednesday ushered in Lent, a forty-day period before Easter in which a person reflects, sacrifices, and repents before the events of Holy Week. Seems like a grave time of year, all “giving up” and self-remonstration. But, as my pastor asserted, it doesn’t have to be. It can be a time of joy. Here are three words to keep in mind during this Lenten season.

Prayer: Is your prayer life all it should be or even all it could be? Are you praying by rote and not from the heart? Lent is an excellent time to review your prayer life and alter it for the better. Try praying at different times of day. Try rewording your usual rote. Read Scripture. Do whatever it takes to improve your communication with God.

Fasting: On Fridays during Lent, Catholics fast. This is not to say that we do not eat; we do. We eat two small meals and one larger meal, not to exceed the sum of the two smaller meals. We don’t snack between meals. How is this spiritually helpful? It requires discipline, for one, never a bad attribute to have in one’s wheelhouse. But it’s also physically helpful: It makes a person mindful of what she is putting into her body. How much do you really need to eat? What can you do without? It forces one to look at the intentionality of something one does every day, often without thinking. And living with intention is a good thing.

Abstaining/Adding: People often “give up” something for Lent: smoking, drinking, eating chocolate…usually things they enjoy. But abstaining isn’t the only way. It can be more fruitful to ADD something to your routine: “I will smile at three people every day” or “I will read a psalm a day,” for instance. The point of abstaining/adding isn’t to put yourself through a trial for forty days, only to shuck it off on Easter, however. As my pastor said, the point is to do something (or not do something) that will effect a positive change in you as a person. It is to change yourself in a good way, to transform into a better being. The hope would be such a change would stick long after Lent is through.

Forty days to a better you? How joyous to see Lent in such a light!

Lest we forget:
We’re made from the same stuff as the stars.
Glowing, smoldering, lit up from the inside.
Lest we forget:
You’re in charge of the neighborhood and the nebula
keeping track of time and the path of the planets.
Lest we forget:
What matters more than matter is soul.
Even when I seem to forget You,
I’m thankful.
You never forget me.

He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
who turns blackness into dawn
and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land
–the LORD is his name.

In my last post, I wrote about life lessons from the most run-of-the-mill places.  This week, I learned something from watching one of my favorite old shows.  On the West Wing, a character says, “Every atom in our bodies comes from exploding stars,” and it made me curious to know if this was true.

Apparently, it is.  NASA’s website says our bodies are “made of star stuff:  carbon, oxygen, nitrogen,” and another educational science site says that “astronomers today believe that a large fraction of the atoms in our bodies were once inside stars that became supernovae, and that they were ‘launched’ into the universe when these stars exploded.”

Well.  This is a lot to digest.  I can’t even begin to conceive of how this floating cosmic debris eventually morphed into you and me, but that’s what people with big brains and a lot of letters after their names tell us is the gospel truth.

So if we’re made of “star stuff,” why do we think so small?  Why can’t we see past our to-do lists and our taxes?

I’d like to argue that dreaming big and reaching for the stars is our bloodline and birthright, and to do any less is to deny our very heritage.  We come from the stars, created by a Master Craftsman on purpose with energy, heat and lustre to live grandly, so twinkle twice, make a wish on yourself and let your light shine.

Yesterday was Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday before Lent. Pastor Helen preceded her sermon with this reading from Mark. Then she asked us to consider what it is that veils our sight and keeps us from seeing the Divine. Sure, we get a glimpse every now and again but how is it that we consistently fail to see and recognize God at work around us?

For my part, sometimes I as simply to busy doing. I’m not looking. I’m not seeing. I’m caught up in the minutia. I’m worrying about what has to be done now, tomorrow and the next day.

But even in my busy life, sometimes something happens that lifts this veil. Often it is an event that is simply to awe-inspiring to ignore.

I’ve blogged  before about my friend who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Just last week she got the results of yet another round of tests. Last time, the good news was that the cancer hadn’t advanced. This time? They couldn’t even find it on the x-rays. She’ll have a CAT scan to be sure but she won’t have it until her next scheduled appointment. How can she stand to wait? Because she knows Who is responsible for this amazing absence.

At moments like this, how can you not help but see God’s loving presence at work in the world?

–SueBE

Mark 9:2-7 (NIV)

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

A hymn for Transfiguration Sunday and Lent.

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