Tag Archives: Lent

Changes big and small

Lent is here, and so far it’s been a season of changes big and small for me.  If you know me or if you’ve ever read anything I’ve ever written, there are likely hints here and there that I am Catholic.  Very Catholic.  And Lent is a huge opportunity for all kinds of growth for me – more so than the typical New Year’s resolution because I will be more consistent and persistent in doing something for someone I love rather than for myself.  And God is someone I love.

Most people associate Lent with a time to “give something up.”  In years past, I have given up fried foods, chocolate, and the internet.  While these were excellent exercises in self-discipline, when the 40 days were up, I took back every bad habit with gusto.  So where did it get me?  I don’t honestly know and that’s the problem.

What is often overlooked during Lent is the opportunity to grow closer to God by taking on some new good habits.  There’s nothing wrong with throwing out the old ones, but if no real change is accomplished, I can’t really see the point.   What our faith is trying to teach us is self-discipline as a way toward Discipleship and service to others.

With that in mind, this year, I am still eating sweets, drinking coffee and surfing the web.  However, what I’ve decided to is to fast and pray as my church has asked me; not just for purposes of my own spiritual growth, but especially for the trials suffered in the world such as school shootings, starvation, and natural disasters.  Fasting is not something I normally do (because I really love food and I’m generally self-concerned).  But over the past few years, something changed in me.  I’ve been sincerely touched by the people in my life who have witnessed to me by word and action; who are constantly giving to others, thinking of others, praying for others.  It is clear God has surrounded me with such people to teach me to grow closer to Him.

I’ve also decided to meditate on the book of Sirach.  Sirach is like the book of Proverbs on steroids.  Reading this spiritual guidance has been like getting smacked in the face with the dodgeball every night.  I’m seeing stars — and loving it!  It’s just what I needed and God brought me to it very deliberately.

Although Fat Tuesday is long past, it’s never too late to begin a good habit.  If you haven’t decided what you are going to (or if you are going to) give up for Lent, I invite you to give up the futile practices that don’t make you a stronger and better witness to your own beliefs.  Take up a meaningful new way of life whether it be something as big as organizing a fundraiser for a charity or as small as passing up a meal and being mindful of those who go without because they have no choice.

If these were academy awards I would now be boring you with a list of thank you’s to people you don’t know.  But it’s my blog and I’m going to thrill you with a list of thank you’s to some people you may just know (and there’s no orchestra to cut me off!)


I know I’ve left a ton of people off my list and I beg your forgiveness…your 5 minutes of blog fame is sure to make its way to the light of day.  Many blessings and a fruitful and productive lent to you all.


The Strange Postcript to Jonah

As part of my Lenten journey, I am continuing daily readings in the Bible.  One last week absolutely cracked me up.  I wrote a letter to one of my godchildren about it.

Many Christians are aware of the story of Jonah and the whale.  Readers may remember that the reason Jonah ended up in the whale was that he didn’t want to do what God asked him to.  So, he ran away.  Thought he could outsmart God and go to Tarshish and lay low for a bit instead of heading to the sinful town of Nineveh.  So, while he was on the ship headed to a place which at that time, was as far away as he could get, God sent a huge storm and Jonah knew it was his fault and convinced the sailors to toss them off the boat into the sea.  This was in the day when people took responsibility for their own stupidity and were concerned about the safety of others.  Instead of letting him drown right there, up came the whale and swallowed him.

Anyway, the upshot is that Jonah got out of the whale several days later.  He had to be grateful to God to be free from what had to have been that pitch dark, odoriferous hell.  As soon as the whale kakked him up on the beach, he headed over to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning to them.  And here is where I think the story gets kind of weird (for me anyway).

The King of Nineveh actually believes this smelly, disheveled lunatic, dresses in sack cloth,  sits ashes and proclaims a fast, ordering repentance from the whole kingdom.  I can see now why he might have believed Jonah because he sounds a little crackers to me at this point, too.  The truly bizarre thing is that not only do the people of the kingdom dress in sack cloth and sit in ashes, they dress their beasts in sack cloth too.  According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, sack cloth is a coarse cloth of goat or camel’s-hair or of flax, hemp, or cotton.  Basically, they put their animals in burlap sacks.  The whole freaking kingdom.  Now that’s some wicked-serious repentance right there.

I imagined myself as a traveler, coming across civilization after several days on the road or at sea or whatever.  As I’m entering this village, a chipmunk runs across the road…wearing a tiny burlap sack.  I rub my eyes, thinking I might just be delirious from lack of food, sleep and water.  Then I see a chicken, scawny legs poking out the bottom of the sack, come strutting up complaining loudly in clucks and whirrs.  Eventually I come across sheep, cows, and the whole town sitting in the dusty streets moaning and covered in ashes; looking grimy and bereft.  Meanwhile, this fish-bile coated guy is ranting in the center of the agora for the townspeople to repent because the Lord will destroy the village if they don’t.  I’m thinking to myself, “Maybe it’s best if the Lord puts these freaks out of their misery!”  From out of nowhere comes a guy in a crown, looking like a Biblical aged Johnny Depp, warning me to beware and save myself by leaving town.  I oblige.

Somebody call Tim-Burton!

As absurd as this whole scene appears, the point of the story is that because these people [and their animals] went to a lot of trouble to show God they were really sorry for what they did, He cut them a break.  He spared them and they took up a better life.  But they had to mean it – they had to be serious about it.  It makes me wonder:  how serious am I about repentance?   How far would I go to win back the favor of God?  How far would any of us?  Food for thought (but certainly not meat on Friday).

Have a blessed and productive Lent my friends.