Guest Blog: To Keep a True Lent

A Lenten post by June Michealsen, Uffizi Order board member:

For years, the weeks leading up to Easter, known as Lent, have been a time for me to give up something. Now it is often a time to add something. What practice will help me to identify more deeply with Christ and his journey to the cross? What will soften my heart and allow me to shed my selfishness? Who are “the least of these” I can serve? How can I be more intentionally engaged in bringing God’s kingdom to earth? If Christ went to the cross for me, certainly I can be more mindful of that by doing something more for Him.

My practice this year was inspired during an ash Wednesday service, an opportunity many weeks before Easter to visit my own sinfulness and press into the love of a gracious Lord. What might I do? With so many needs present, and my commitment to Uffizi and other non-profits who seek to meet these needs, I eagerly sought the fresh work God had for me. It was nothing I had expected. There in the quiet of an Ash Wednesday service, God asked me to begin praying daily for our large extended family, often divided by distance and loyalties. Anything else would seem so much more useful, Lord, so much more likely to bring Shalom to our city.. the feeding at the park, the tutoring on the Eastside, even growing my friendships with the marginalized attending my church... I want to be in those places, with those people.

But He gave me a prayer that has shaped my words, and is reshaping my heart into more active love for each prayer recipient: Might they be encouraged in heart and united in love. Who knows what purposes each of us might serve in extending his kingdom more effectively if our hearts were encouraged and we were united in love?

Robert Herrick, a British poet from the 1600’s, challenges all of us To Keep a True Lent:

Is this a fast, to keep

The larder lean?

And clean

From fat of veals and sheep?

 

Is it to quit the dish

Of flesh, yet still

To fill

The platter high with fish?

 

Is it to fast an hour,

Or ragg’d to go,

Or show

A downcast look and sour?

 

No; ‘tis a fast to dole

Thy sheaf of wheat,

And meat,

Unto the hungry soul

 

It is to fast from strife,

From old debate

And hate;

to circumcise thy life.

 

To show a heart grief­rent;

To starve thy sin,

Not bin;

And that’s to keep thy Lent.

My lenten journey continues to be to “starve the sin”, to ”fast from strife” and to “feed the hungry soul.” The daily prayer practice is guiding me toward simple acts of friendship that encourage hearts and unite in love. Blessings.

-June Michealsen