First, it is hard to believe Lent is drawing near. Just realizing it starts in four weeks compelled me to eat four of the molasses sugar cookies recently mailed to me as part of my winning the Amazing Horton Christmas Exchange. Four. One for each week, I guess.
Second, I have never been that thrilled with Lent. Just being honest here, and maybe it makes me a bad Catholic (heaven knows it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called that), but there it is: Don’t like Lent. I’m more of an Advent girl.
And yet, I mark those 40 days the best way I can. I hit an Ash Wednesday service at the crack of dawn and do my job with ashes dropping every so often off my forehead onto my nose. I fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and not a sort-of fast either (two small meals during the day as long as they don’t equal more than one normal-sized meal), but a full-on no food between dawn and dark awfulness. I go to one daily Mass a week, as well as Sunday services, and I give up something tangible and then try hard not to become a cranky-pants due to my abstinence. I give alms, usually in the way of bus fare since the bus is where I’m most likely to encounter the poor and suffering, and I attempt to do this with an non-judgmental heart. And finally, I try to read the Bible.
I’m no great shakes at any of the above, but it is in the last area – reading the Bible – that I fail the most. Over the years, as part of my own faith walk and even more so as part of my former life as a religion reporter and columnist, I’ve read most of the Bible. But it is always in bits and pieces. Extended study has been lacking for a good number of years. I’m exhausted when I return home from work and use what little energy I have to string words together into sentences someone might want to read. Then, further fatigued, I crawl into bed and read other people’s creative sentences before falling asleep berating myself for lacking the talent of Barbara Kingsolver.
During Lent, I try to substitute my normal bed-time reading with Bible reading, but I often fall asleep mid-verse. Not surprisingly, I wake in the morning not remembering a shred of what I’ve read. It’s probably better to fall asleep reading John 3:16 or Luke 7:47 instead of a novel, but it is definitely not the most effective way to absorb the Word.
This Lent, things will be different. Why? Because due to the wonder that is Twitter, I discovered a rocking writer’s conference in California, which led to the host of the conference sending me a Facebook friend request, which led to my seeing her post today about the #LentChallenge. I’m going to do it and maybe, just maybe, my Lent won’t be so dreadful. (Stop judging me! I’m just being honest! I don’t like Lent!)
#LentChallenge is reading the entire New Testament in the 40 days of Lent, and is the idea of Margaret Feinberg, who is apparently well-known by everyone except me. She has an adorable puppy, a husband who surfs and has written a bunch of published books. We can be friends because I have a dog who was once an adorable puppy, my son’s girlfriend surfs, and I read a lot of published books. And now, we’ll be reading the New Testament together – along with a New Testament scholar, a Religion News Service columnist and other God geeks.
I’m a great starter, though not always a spectacular finisher, but I have hope for this, primarily because there’s accountability when you announce doing something in public, and secondarily because I’ll be able to read about other people’s efforts for encouragement. So, I’m committed to this. I’m also committed to sitting up while I do the readings. Want to join me in a virtual manner? Get the free reading guide and get started planning how you can do it.