Thinking About Lent

February 26, 2013

Sermon writing … travel planning … guest speaking engagements … a training program … wedding planning … grant applications … board meetings … house guests … ordination planning … worship services … STOP!!! …

Lent provides us with an opportunity to step away from the busyness of life and reflect. And in so doing, we’re also preparing ourselves for an encounter with our risen Lord on Easter day. Traditionally, Lent has been associated with the forty-day fast of Christ in the wilderness, and some think of themselves in the context of co-journeying with Christ through Lent. I like to think of it as a devotional time of preparation … a time to reflect and repent … a time to cleanse my heart and mind in preparation for Easter.

Often people ask me simple questions that turn out to be pretty profound. Last fall, someone asked me what I did for fun. A simple question, yet one I found difficult to answer. So, I went out and bought a guitar. CIMG0588Recently, another friend asked me, “When do you find time to sleep?” It, too, turned out to be a difficult question. Though we had a good laugh, I realized I needed to give the question some serious thought. Maybe, after all, the Good Lord was speaking to me through my friend. It also wasn’t lost on me that I was plowing headlong into Lent.

You may have noted that you haven’t heard much from me lately. There’s a good reason for that … I’ve been VERY busy … too busy! I’ve never been one to shy away from work; I think it’s the German in me. I also tend to keep the work load under control with my management skills. In graduate school, I was the kind of student who would assess the work load the first week of classes and plan out my exam preparation and paper writing. If I had four major papers due at the end of the semester, I researched and wrote one per month, so I wouldn’t find myself cramming in the library to write all four the first week in December.

Along with my concern for making time to journey in Lent, my current heavy work load brings up the issue of self-care. I have been burning the candle at both ends since mid-December. To give you a sense of what that means for me, before the holidays I wrote four sermons and began to outline two more in a week, because looking at my calendar I noted that there wouldn’t be time in January and February to write sermons. In addition, I planned out a board meeting (the first of two), made travel plans for 3 trips, and prepared a presentation and PowerPoint on my work in Colombia. I’m getting overwhelmed again just writing this list!

Part of my self-care routine includes prayer time every morning, and I’ve discovered that one of the things that tend to slip during busy periods in my life is time for prayer. My time gets shorter and shorter until one day I skip it all together. Ironically, it’s when I’m busiest, though, that I need that time the most. So, for me, one of the first signs that I need to slow down and take care of myself is when I discover I have little, if any, time to pray.

IMG_2731I traveled to Boston on Christmas day for a holiday break, but also to connect with sponsors, facilitate a board meeting for a new foundation, spend some time with Chuck in Maine, and take care of things at home like taxes. The week I returned in January, I hosted a friend from Virginia who worked with me to facilitate a project management training program for clergy and lay leaders in the Diocese. A few days after he left, I hosted 11 people who came to Bogota to attend my ordination to the priesthood. During that time, I also had parish responsibilities (planning and preparing for worship, and writing sermons), and my routine work for the Diocese along with planning for a mission conference in May. Two days after everyone returned to the States, I traveled to Santa Marta, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, to perform a bilingual wedding. I’m now working on plans for another board meeting that will take place this week in St. Louis. I love all that I do, and I enjoy being busy, but I also know I need to take care of myself which sometimes means just saying, “STOP!”wedding 1

Last week I said, “STOP!” All of a sudden I knew I couldn’t go on; I needed to put the proverbial candle out that was burning at both ends. So I did. I came home early Tuesday evening, put on my sweats, put on a movie, and crawled into bed with a cup of tea. The next day, I stayed home. The meals I prepared were very simple, I sat in bed for a couple of hours reading, I enjoyed a long quiet time, much of which was in prayer, and then I took a long, late-afternoon walk.

It’s not enough to know about self-care and to put some basics in your routine such as exercise, reading, and prayer time, you also have to know when things are getting out of control. I stopped. I caught my breath. I prayed. And then I was ready to begin again at a slower pace. I’m looking forward to March, during which I’ll get back into the regular rhythm of life, take plenty of time for my Lenten journey, and prepare for the joy of Easter. My prayer for all of you is that you’ll be able to do the same.

2 Responses to “Thinking About Lent”

  1. Dianne Smith Says:

    Amen. I’m thankful that you heard the voice (of God) that said “Stop!” Peace to your heart…


  2. Karen Says:

    Thank you so much for articulating this, as well as describing your self-care routine and your mini-retreat to bring back the balance and the sanity! I love that you went back to the most simple and basic God-given pleasures of life – things that we all tend to lose without ever realizing it. Great post, and blessings for a peaceful, centered Lent.


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