My two Lenten disciplines are going . . . OK. Giving up television has been a breeze so far (Oscar who?), but jettisoning all the author vanity stuff (reviews, sales figures, Goodreads fixes, etc.) has been harder. Over the weekend I received the new issue of Cincinnati magazine, which is supposed to have a piece about the Twible project, and a copy of my college alumnae magazine, which has a review of Flunking Sainthood. I admit to being vain enough that after less than a week of Lent, I am already missing the ego boosts that come from positive writerly feedback. (No more! I will press on with this tiny sacrifice and keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. . . . Squirrel!)
At any rate, I have been trawling my favorite news feeds and blog feeds to find words to inspire me in this Lenten season. Here are four of my favorite pieces from this past week:
Our culture has no idea what to do with a day that celebrates the fact that we all sin and are going to die. But sin is strangely enough one of my favorite things to talk about. I sometimes greet my friends by saying “hello sinner.” It’s a term of deep affection. I reclaim the word sinner.
Bring on the sackcloth, the ashes, the repentance, says Bolz-Weber. She chastises the left for thinking of sin as a mere self-esteem issue and the right for casting it as a simple matter of behavioral immorality. Both of those approaches treat sin as "something we can control or limit in some way rather than something we are bondage to," an inversion which is in itself a sin. Interesting.
2) Drawing on the gorgeous poetry of Mary Oliver, Baptist pastor George Mason asks us to look for the astonishing, and to tell about it. This lesson came home to me today as I have tried, with a rather heavy heart, to slog through a seemingly impossible to-do list. What has astonished me today? If Lent is a journey from death into life, am I astonished by the fact that this week, for the first time, I have seen crocuses poking their sturdy heads through the stubborn ground? Or did I walk on by?
3) Giving up news for Lent? With anger on blogs and news sites running at a fever pitch, it seems a fine idea. Heidi Schlumpf has some friends who are doing this, and in this post for the National Catholic Reporter, she says she can't blame them. As she writes,
Passion is a good thing, and strong feelings about issues that matter is to be expected. But how many columns, blog posts, tweets and comments about “women-hating bishops” or a “religion-hating president” can I read before my own heart fills with hate?
4) Finally, evangelical pastor Eugene Cho -- who runs a cafe but says he is giving up coffee for Lent -- writes that Lent is not, at bottom, about giving things up. Unless the thing you're giving up is your very life. He wonders if God might have this to say to him: “Umm, I didn’t ask you to give up coffee. I asked you to give up your life to me.” Amen.
Image of a Lenten cross from Shutterstock.com. Used with permission.