A Pastor’s Perspective – March 2017

Dear Friends,
Truth be told, I am a creature of habit. Unless I’ve had a sleepless night, I get up at the same time every morning, and the first thing I do is make hot tea and read the newspaper headlines and obituaries. I rarely vary my route to the church or the path I walk my dog. I need time at the end of each day to read. I write lists before going to the grocery store. My spices are alphabetized. Most of us find great comfort and security in routine. Despite a preference for my usual patterns and behaviors, I look forward to Lent as a time to vary my spiritual practices and stretch myself. The season is a finite period, only 40 days, which is both long enough to incorporate a new habit into my life but not so prolonged that I cannot see the end. Some folks choose to give up a favorite food or beverage as a kind of sacrifice. Another idea is to give up an attitude or behavior that is not Christ-like (see the list in the next column, 19 Things to Give Up for Lent That Aren’t Chocolate). Rather than giving up something for Lent, I often adopt a new practice, which is more of a challenge for me. Making the time is always the biggest obstacle, but—as I remind myself—surely I can do it as an expression of my commitment to Christ. I read a book awhile ago titled 365 Thank Yous about a man who, in an effort to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and break his habit of self-pity, wrote a thank you note every day for a year to a stranger, friend, family member, colleague, store clerk— anyone who had touched his life for the better. By the end of the year, he felt himself changed by the practice. It’s a great idea! So how will you observe Lent this year? Why not try something new: a short period of daily prayer, Bible study, or spiritual reading? A walk with others in the church gym on Wednesdays at 5:30? Because the support of others can help as we attempt new practices, I will lead a weekly Spirituality and Supper gathering, during which we will have Lenten devotions and discuss spiritual practices, including prayer, silence, self-examination, honoring your body, creation care, and creative expression. Whatever observance you choose, use this time to step beyond your comfortable confines, and do it in a spirit of honoring the One whose sacrificial love is the basis for this Lenten journey. May this season be a time of encouragement and fellowship—and maybe even transformation—as you experience the grace and presence of God more fully.
Pastor Ann
19 Things to Give Up for Lent That Aren’t Chocolate Adapted from the original by Monsignor Keith Derouen
1. Fear: God is on my side. I have no need to be afraid.
2. The need to please everyone: I can’t please everyone anyway. There is only one I need to strive to please.
3. Envy: I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my God.
4. Impatience: God’s timing is the perfect timing.
5. Sense of entitlement: The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
6. Bitterness and resentment: The only person I am hurting by holding onto these is myself.
7. Blame: I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
8. Gossip and negativity: I will speak well of others. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic and bring other people down.
9. Comparison: I have my own unique contribution to make, and there is no one else like me.
10. Fear of failure: I cannot succeed without experiencing failure. I just need to make sure I fall forward.
11. A spirit of poverty: I will believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack.
12. Feelings of unworthiness: I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my creator (Psalm 139).
13. Doubt: I will trust that what God desires for me is beyond anything I can imagine.
14. Self-pity: God comforts me in my sorrow so that I can comfort others.
15. Retirement: As long as I am still breathing, I am here to share Christ with others. That does not come to an end until the day I die.
16. Excuses: A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.
17. Lack of counsel: Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum. I will ask for help.
18. Pride: Blessed are the humble.
19. Worry: God is in control and worrying will not help.