Monday, February 12, 2018

Why Lent?

The other day, I mentioned that I am working on redeeming part of my childhood story. We come into adulthood with perceptions we gained through our experiences in childhood. Some are good, some are bad, some are skewed by the lens of our experience and our feelings that have been shaped by those experiences. Many of us spend a good portion of our adulthood re-forming those childhood perceptions to resemble something closer to reality.

I was born and raised Catholic until my early teen years when my parents divorce led to my mother's parting of ways with the Catholic Church. I entered adulthood with many of my perspectives of God and religion shaped by what I saw in childhood. Many of the adults in my childhood lived out a faith that was only seen on Sunday mornings, so I had this image of faith being hypocritical, wearing a false mask. As a result, I saw many of the church traditions as empty ritual. In my late 20's when I came into a relationship with Christ and began reading the Bible with adult eyes, I felt anger at a church that abandoned my mother when she needed them the most. I felt anger over their rituals that didn't seem to lead people to the life expressed in God's Word. In the church I began my faith walk in, traditions such as Advent and Lent were not observed, and so I continued with my perception of these being empty ritual.

A few things have happened in the past few years that have begun to re-shape some of my childhood perceptions, things that have started this journey of redeeming words and traditions. It started with Advent for me. I won't go into that part of my story today. But if you would like you can read some of it hereAnyway, over the past few years I have experienced healing, renewal and have found great life and faith in the Advent practices, so I decided that in 2018 I would follow the Christian year and now we find ourselves at the start of Lent.

A funny thing happened last year: I went to the Ash Wednesday service at my church for the first time. I had stayed away in the past due to the above mentioned perspective from my childhood. But, in all honesty, out of the redemption I experienced observing Advent over the past few years, I decided I was ready to tackle some other church traditions. So, I attended the Ash Wednesday service, received the ashes on my forehead and made a significant discovery. My aversion to the Ash Wednesday service, that I had viewed as empty ritual, actually had nothing to do with the practices that went on in the service. What did happen that night was a migraine was triggered. I suffered from migraines from my pre-teen years into my late 30's. Some, it turned out, were hormonal, but others are triggered by  changes in my routine or by external forces, mainly through my sinuses.  Things like low barometric pressure when storm fronts comes through, certain artificial smells from candles, perfumes, potpourri, etc. impact me and can trigger a migraine. I can pretty much keep them under control now by keeping routine eating and sleeping habits and by trying to avoid things that trigger my sinuses. So the thing I discovered at the Ash Wednesday service was that the incense used traditionally in the service is a trigger for my migraines. I cannot remember how early my migraines started but I was fairly young - under 12 at least. It was both ironic and freeing to discover that something I had lumped together with the "empty ritual" of my childhood was not actually a negative feeling due to a bad religious experience, but was simply a reaction to a bad physical experience! Something I can have some control over to some extent. This experience really helped further the journey I have been on to be free from false perceptions and to live authentically. 

In God's Kingdom good comes out of bad - this is redemption, this is His story in our lives. For me, these perceptions of religion I came out of childhood with have served to shape me into a person who values authenticity.

This week we begin the journey of Lent on Wednesday which is know as Ash Wednesday. Lent is a 40 day journey, excluding Sundays, from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The 40 days is meant to remind us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness facing temptation. Lent includes periods of self-reflection, denial through fasting, repentance and confession, and ultimately ends in rejoicing and celebration for the life we have in the resurrected Christ. We will explore all of this in Lent Words 2018, a Creative Challenge Through the Season of Lent. Throughout the period of Lent there will be blog posts here a few times a week based on the words and associated passages written by myself and some guests. I invite you to participate in the Lent Words Facebook group, the Everyday Journals Facebook group and on Instagram (use #lentwords2018). The list of Lent Words can be found on this blog post or in the Lent Words Facebook group.

I would like to offer a few resources if you are looking for reading material through the Lent season:

I would also recommend reading today's blog post by author Shelly Miller. If you sign up for email notifications she is offering a free download of her Lent book: A Sabbath Journey for Lent: Sacrifice a Day for Rest and Experience the Sacrifice of Christ Anew.

You will see quotes from the above resources in my art and in my blog posts throughout the season.

A note about Amazon links on my blog:

I am giving Amazon affiliation a try, which means I may receive a small percentage off sales made through clicking on the Amazon links found on my blog. There is no additional cost to you.


  1. Your story resonates with me. I was raised by parents half catholic half luthern, but they didn't attend and I went a little. I too broke away and have been a part of baptist church, but yet miss the rhythms of the church calendar, so I am too on a journey of learning about the church calendar and traditions.

  2. Wow, sorry about the migraines, but so glad that you could separate out the physical form the spiritual in your past. That is a huge development. Blessings on you.

    1. It was a huge development for me. Thank you, Brenda!

  3. Mary, thanks for sharing your testimony! I was raised Baptist but we never celebrated the church seasons apart from the "holidays" of Easter and Christmas. In my adult life, after a journey through several faith traditions, denominations, and a season of walking away from God, I returned to God and joined the Episcopal church. It was there that I learned about the church calendar,seasons.

    What you said about being delivered from false perceptions deeply resonates with me. I have a lot of introspection to do during this season of Lent. Btw, I now realize why I am so drawn to your writing and your art. Both reflect your beautiful, authentic spirit. May the grace and peace of our Lord continue to be with you. ��

    1. Thank you Pamm. I always appreciate your thoughtful and heartfelt encouragement. I am so glad you are journeying along with me. :)