Lent has long been my favorite season in the church calendar, partly because it comes near the end of winter and the beginning of spring, but mostly because Lent sets us on the path toward Easter. For me, Advent and Christmas are but a prelude to the big pay-off — Lent and Easter, the anticipation and celebration of God’s gift of the child-become-man, our promise of eternity with Him in heaven.

The word “Lent” comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday (not including Sundays) represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

My love of Lent harkens back to my Catholic roots (more about that here and here). Lent is remembered as a time of sacrificial living, of living in the wilderness. I could recite a list of all the things I “gave up” for Lent over the years, not just while a practicing Catholic, but also while celebrating with my Protestant brothers and and sisters. This year, I didn’t give a thought to giving up chocolate or television or social media (though a social media fast is tempting). Instead, on Ash Wednesday I found my heart focused on what I might give and receive over the next 40 days.

Our days in the wilderness

It’s been a trying winter for my family. Our oldest son came home to live with us in November while he rebuilds his health in anticipation of a liver transplant. As our son’s health was getting stronger, my Dad’s health was declining. His earthly life ended on the last day of February.

The irony of the intersection of these events is not lost on me. We joined our son’s fight for a new life as we watched my father loosen his grip on his very full life. The trajectory of the lives of two men who are very close to me kept me in a spin over the long winter months. I’m just now regaining equilibrium and what I need most in these days is the rhythm and cadence of Lent.

So, what will I GIVE for Lent? A listening ear. I’ve felt the Lord’s presence and provision during these dark months, but my spiritual life has existed mostly on auto-pilot. I’ve poured out my heart in my journal and prayed constantly for my family, but the Psalms are the only “channel” I’ve been tuned in to when it comes to listening for God’s voice.

In this Lenten season of anticipation, I want to listen to God with the ear of my heart, waiting in silence each morning to hear the authentic voice of God before giving voice to my prayers and before listening to the words of others.

St. Benedict, in the opening verses of the prologue to his Holy Rule, offers this:

“Listen, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.”

In listening with the ear of my heart, what do I hope to RECEIVE? A greater sensitivity to God’s words for me, in scripture and in prayer. I long to recognize His voice above all others.

My guide through the 40 days of Lent is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The German pastor was executed on April 9, 1945 for plotting to overthrow Adolf Hitler. Before his death, he wrote several books, attended seminary in the United States and taught other pastors. While in prison for his role in the conspiracy, he wrote words that resonate with me in this season of Lent:

“(God) must be recognized at the center of life, not when we are at the end of our resources; it is his will to be recognized in life, and not only when death comes; in health and vigor, and not only in suffering; in our activities, and not only in sin.”

Listening with the ear of my heart while in the center of life — in the middle of loss, through the pain of sickness, in the hard days of doing the next right thing — I pray will the magnify His words so that they will be emblazoned like a tattoo on my heart.

Does the season of Lent hold special meaning for you? Are there things you’re choosing to sacrifice, or is there a practice you’re adopting to draw you closer to God? This giving and receiving will be my posture over the weeks leading to Easter, but yours will likely look very different. And that’s as it should be. Would you share it with us here?

Grit and Grace: A Women Writing Anthology

One of the great joys of my writing life is to share my passion for words with other writers. I’ve been part of a quartet of writing women for some time now (we’ve lost track) who meet monthly to share and critique one another’s writing. Recently, we collaborated on a collection of our best writing and titled it “Grit and Grace: A Women Writing Anthology”. Poetry, creative non-fiction and a memoir from other writers were added to our work to create a lovely volume, available on Amazon or by contacting me here. This book would be the perfect Mother’s Day gift, as all the pieces are written by women. If you choose to purchase a copy (or many), would you kindly recommend the book on Goodreads and leave a review and rating on Amazon? We’d be forever grateful.

To my writing compadres Monica, DeVonna and Shanda, thank you for the gift of your friendship and your words.