Belated thoughts on Lent

I find myself entering this very holy season with much excitement.  I know, that is such an odd way to enter a religious season of self-denial, reflection and repentance.  But I am.  I love all the liturgical seasons of the Christian calendar, but Lent has always been one of my favorites.  I love that there is a time within the Church set aside to focus inward.  A time to focus on what in our hearts and heads we can clear out in order to make room for the new.  It is a spiritual sweeping out of those crusty old crevices and preparing for something beautiful.

This year I am a part of a faith community that I absolutely adore.  This churches challenges me in all the right places, and encourages me when I need it most.  There have been few times in my life when I have felt so at home in a church.

The congregation is breaking into small groups this year that will meet once a week, and as a community read “A Clearing Season.”  I am excited to share in this time of reflection with others.  I am happy to bring others along on my journey though Lent.  Because as deeply personal as this time can be, it can also be incredibly meaningful to bring others along with you.

Wednesday night I sat in candle-lit chapel, singing and praying with friends and strangers.  I knelt at the front and felt the ashes that I myself had burned only hours before, gently placed on my forehead in the loose shape of a cross.  I prayed about all that I would give up this season, and all that I hoped to gain.  As we sang our final prayer that evening I thought, “How beautiful and wonderful to have a place and time set aside clear my head and soul and make way for the joy of Easter.”

How beautiful indeed.

Advertisements

Follow-up

An article came out in today’s Seattle Times about the family shelter.  Journalist Nicole spent a whole evening at the family shelter, listening to the stories of the families, and the passions of the volunteers.  I think she captured both the need and the beauty in this article.  With love and community, comes hope and the courage to move forward.

You know those …

You know those mom stories that start, “I need to write this down so I don’t forget…”?  Well, I know I’m not a mom, but this is one of those stories.

I looked over and noticed her wiping away tears before anyone could notice they were there.  I walked over and gingerly sat down on the air mattress she called her bed.  “What’s up?”  Wiping away more tears, furious that they were escaping, “nothing.”   I gave her “the look” and said, “Come on, you can tell me.  Why are you crying?”

“I’m not crying” my 13 year old friend said.

“Ha.  I’ve played that game.  I’m 30 years old.  I’m a pro at making people believe I’m not crying when I really am.  You can’t fool me.  What’s wrong?  Are you overwhelmed?”

She took a breath, started to tell me again that she wasn’t in fact crying, and in that breath, she changed her mind and decided to trust me.  “I just want my own home.”  She looked up at me, still testing her lines of trust with me.  Her eyes scanned the large room, church fellowship hall converted into a family living room/dining room and bedroom all in one.  Volunteers were sitting down to dinner with the other families.  Behind us, more air mattresses…beds for families who had no beds of their own.

“I don’t want to seem unappreciative,” she said quietly.  “I’m just so tired of moving all the time.  I just want a place I can call my home.”

My voice caught in my throat.  I didn’t know what else to say other than, “I know sweetie.  I know you do.”  My young friend and her mother have been homeless for four months now.  Four long months having to carry all of their belongings with them every day.  Four months of being transported to her old school district, an hours drive on a good day.  Four months of desiring a place to call home.  And she is appreciative of what they have.  A shelter each night, even if it does move from church to church each week.  A hot meal for dinner.  A warm coat for those cold, early mornings waiting for the school bus.  Four months ago when the state decided to put a lifetime limit on her mother’s financial benefits, they found themselves suddenly without any income.  Mom battles multiple health issues and is unable to maintain consistent work.  They lost their small little apartment – they only place they had called home.  Finding themselves at Mary’s Place, yes, they were thankful for the shelter we could offer.  But that doesn’t keep my 13 year old friend from being sad and overwhelmed.

“I miss my clothes.  The school I go to is full of rich kids.  And I wear the same thing more than once a week.  They notice.  And I’m embarrassed.  I just want to go back to where I fit in, where they didn’t notice me.  Now I feel like everyone is watching.  I just want my clothes and my own home again.  My mom is so tired.  She is scared and I think she is shutting down.  I don’t know how we will find anything.  I can’t do this for her.”

I didn’t have any wise words for her. I could only give her a hug and ensure her that we were working a plan to help move them forward.  “I know it sucks.  But we will be here until you get all those things.  I promise.”  A small smile found its way out.  Her weary eyes looked into mine, trusting that I would keep my word.

How does the weight of the world land on the shoulders of a 13 year old girl?

Nothing New

“There is nothing new under the sun.”

I was reminded of that saying tonight after watching Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator.”

If you haven’t seen it – I would highly recommend you do.  It is a sad and horrifying reminder that nothing is new, and what has been done will happen again. 

We may look around us and wish for “simpler times” – but the more and more I read of history, the more convinced I am becoming that they never existed.  Has there ever been a time without persecution, fear-mongering and blame shifting?  Sadly, I think not. 

Lord help us move forward and create something new…peace, compassion, justice.