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Archive for the ‘Signs and symbols’ Category

I serve on the board of directors for a non-profit organization called All About Women.  All About Women was founded about a decade ago with the goal of helping women improve their lives, their health and their well-being. Last year, we launched a really wonderful blog series that focuses on the lives of two very different women, Lily and Z, who are negotiating the journeys of their lives with humor and sincerity. This week, the character of Lily blogged about counting her blessings.

It made me stop and count my own blessings. And I have many, many blessings. For example… Last night, my husband and I had to take our younger son to the emergency room because he developed a wicked-sounding croup. As he breathed in and out, he made a horrible, striderous sound that made both of us very nervous.

Luckily for him (and his parents), he responded very well to a breathing treatment and an oral medication. We walked out there in less than three hours with a healthy, smiling baby. Not everyone is that lucky. But we were. And we were grateful. So grateful. So grateful for our healthy son. Two healthy sons, actually.

In about five minutes, the women of my Disciple class will be taking a few moments out of their busy days to say a prayer.  We meet as a small group each Monday morning, but we are doing a communal prayer on our own each Friday at noon during Lent. Our leaders send out an email each Friday morning to remind us to stop, close our eyes and say a few words to God.

And as we do it, we know that our friends are praying at the same time. It’s still being part of the community of faith even when we’re not in the physical presence of that community.

I thought I’d share my prayer this week with you, my blog readers.

Creating God, Thank you for all the blessings that you have bestowed upon me. Help me to remember those blessings whenever I get down or discouraged. Help  me see and feel the Holy Spirit within me–and within others–this week. Please give comfort to all the people who were affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Please give strength to all the people who are fighting for freedom and justice all over the world. Please be with all the women in my Disciple class–these women who support me, shape my thoughts and faith and give comfort to each other when we need it. And please let me find new ways to respond to the amazing miracle that is your love for us. Amen.

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Lent got a little tongue-in-cheek shout-out on Comedy Central tonight. Calling himself America’s most famous Catholic, Stephen Colbert appeared on his show “The Colbert Report” tonight with ashes on his forehead.

He started out with a relatively straightforward explanation of what the ashes were for and what Lent was…and then he said he was giving up being Catholic for Lent this year. Then he said he was going to be Jewish instead. He wiped off the ashes, donned a yarmulke and declared he was giving up being kosher for Lent and then dug into a giant vat of bacon.

(Side note: Mmmmm, bacon. I’m glad I didn’t give up bacon for Lent.)

Who says we can’t have a sense of humor, right? Anyway, there is no possible way I could do justice to The Funny, so you might have to go find the clip online.

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Every year, the question comes up:  “What should I give up for Lent?”

It’s a common practice among Christians, giving up something for Lent. It goes along with the whole penitence aspect of the time period. You give up something. You sacrifice. At least theoretically, you are supposed to give up something that means something to you. It’s not really that meaningful to give up running if, in fact, you’re not a runner. It’s not that big a deal to give up chocolate if you rarely eat chocolate.

I fully admit that I almost never give something up and make it all the way through Lent. Some years, I cave halfway through Lent. Some years, I just don’t even try to give something up.

About 10 or 15 years ago, I decided to try something different. I decided to take up something good during Lent, rather than give up something. I tried to drink more milk. Yes, you may be laughing at me right now, but I was sincere. I knew I needed to drink more milk, and it seemed like as good an idea as any. It was still a sacrifice in some small way to drink a big glass of milk each night instead of the Coke that I really wanted.

Three years ago, my Disciple class decided to institute a class-wide Lenten discipline: we would all stop and pray at noon on Fridays during Lent. Even though we would not be together, we would find a sense of community in knowing that we were all praying at the same time.

It almost becomes an endurance test for some people. Or a point of honor for making it all the way through, like the people who power through those Couch to 5K programs. I know some people who fast at certain times during Lent. I know some people who commit to praying every single day for the period of Lent. I know some people who try to give up complaining, hitting the snooze bar, drinking wine, using Facebook or watching television. I have one friend right now who is deliberating whether she should give up Chick-fil-A or Coke this year.

As of yesterday, I still didn’t know what I was going to (try to) do this year.

But today, I had a few free minutes, and I was spending them browsing in a small gift shop called Obelisk, which is located in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville. Obelisk carries handmade jewelry by Freshie & Zero, one of my favorites. I spotted a modest silver cross necklace, and then it hit me. That’s what I needed. That cross necklace.

A number of people at my (very Presbyterian) church have been talking about ways to be more visible with our faith recently. One church friend wears a cross every day during Lent. She does it because it’s not something she might ordinarily do. Often we Presbyterians aren’t very outwardly demonstrative. We don’t want to offend. We aren’t happy-clappy. We don’t wear t-shirts from the Christian bookstore. We are often thoughtful, intellectual and restrained. We do things decently and in order. Those aren’t bad things, not at all. But they do often translate into a quieter, less visible faith.

And that is me, all over. I have friends who are not Christian, and I have never wanted them to feel uncomfortable around me because I am Christian. And part of that stems from the bad rap that some people who call themselves Christian have given the rest of us. I haven’t felt very comfortable wearing a cross because I haven’t wanted others to think that I’m one of those people, the ones who do not represent the Christ I believe in. 

Well, how else am I going to let others know that there are people like me who are Christian, if I don’t give them a sign? Even if–especially if–it makes me feel a little vulnerable and uncomfortable being that upfront?

So here’s my sign. I wore my cross necklace out of the store. I will be wearing it every day during Lent. And hopefully beyond.

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If you are Christian and you’re reading this, what are you doing to honor the observance of Lent? Please leave a comment!

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