She was so lovely. She could not have been more than five or six, and she was wearing robin’s egg blue, with matching ribbons all about her hair. Her skin was exactly the color of dark chocolate. Her lips well pinked. Her legs as skinny as a grasshopper’s.
She was tugging on her frustrated father’s arm. He was trying to be happy, but happiness should never be this much effort. He was wincing as we all watched him being dragged on to the field where the kids had just found dozens and dozens of pastel colored eggs.
“I want to show you what I can do. I learned how at school. Maya taught me.”
He stopped and smiled and told her to show him. She went skipping down the field in leaps and bounds, and a laugh so merry, it exploded out of her toes.
“I always tripped before, but now I can do it. Maya told me not to watch my feet, but just trust them. Maya told me my feet already know how to skip. Now Daddy, you do it with me.”
You know the story. Never was a man’s face such a paradox of smiling and agony. After a good ten minutes of pure cajoling, he sighed deeply, grabbed his daughter’s hand, and off they went – skipping. The father proved that not all feet know how to skip. He gave new meaning to the concept of clumsy oaf.
As they skipped back, the Easter Egg Hunt crowd began to cheer, and this proud joyous Daddy began to giggle uncontrollably. It was magical. He lifted his little girl up in the air, and twirled her around and around, and kept telling her, “Thank-you, thank-you so much.”
Most of us are reluctant Easter skippers. We resist with all our might, as if we were being dragged off to war. We don’t want to look silly, or stupid, or like a clown – or like a child.
It is Easter’s job to free us to be a blessed child of God. Easter enables us to stop worrying about what the world thinks, and to receive the day as the giggling mass of joy that it is.
Easter is being twirled around and around by a Daddy who loves us so much – well, it is a love that could melt the sun.
O, Lord of Lent, let me take Your strong paw of a hand and skip into Easter. Amen.
Hope comes out of nowhere, and everywhere. Hope comes from within, and from beyond. Hope is like frost. It dazzles momentarily, and then is gone.
Hope is a shift in perspective, a change of attitude. Hope is when we see our lives, our world, our Selves in a whole new light. It is brighter, like a thin coating of ice.
Hope is a decision, a choice. Hope is always an action, it does not sit still. Hope must move, and grow, and mature. Hope is the process of becoming exactly who and what God has dreamed for us.
Hope is a way of living. Hope is a habit. Hope is a manner of being. Hope is a posture and a presence. Hope is often witnessed in the human spirit – an aura of a kind.
Hope floats. Hope flies. Hope soars. Hope glides on the wings of Grace. Hope knows exactly where is it going, and also knows it will never fully arrive. This is hope’s miraculous acceptance.
Hope is believing. Believing is seeing. Hope is seeing the best in others. Hope is sensing an opportunity for mercy or love or both. Hope seeks. Hope questions. Hope doubts. But, hope always believes.
We'll notice when we're filled with hope. We're commanded to pay attention, not in a mean or nasty way, just a gentle poke. We will know because we smile easily, laugh easily, are moved to tears easily, and enjoy the day easily. We are at last…at ease.
Hope is powerful. Hope can heal our spiritual dis-ease. Hope removes the grime of our greed. Hope washes away our laziness. Hope gets us up and ready to face the day. We arise with joy.
Lent is like the Prodigal son. Lent is coming to our senses and heading home. Lent knows because Lent is wise enough to understand hope has always been home.
O, Lord of Lent, guide us into hope, and let our hope bring us back home – to Life and our Selves and our God. Amen.
When I was kid, I loved red Jello. My Mom would often whip me up a batch before school, and tell me I could have it when I got home. After school I would scoot home and race to the refrigerator.
Most times it was not quite done. Though the top did shimmer, there was still a puddle or two. Mom would say, “It hasn’t fully set, but by the time we are finished with supper - it should be ready.” It drove me crazy to wait for the red Jello to be ready to wiggle. Waiting is just not a kid talent.
Lent is also a time of waiting, only this time what is setting is our faith. Lent is a time when we are responding to God’s call to let our faith gel. It is Lent’s hope we will regain our strength of faith, a firmness of convictions, and the willingness to follow our callings. Simply put, Lent creates discipleship, and discipleship is when faith has finally coagulated.
A firm faith is frequently called into action to serve, sacrifice, and make a difference. A firm faith has what it takes to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. Remember, there is nothing wrong with the talk, unless the talking never gels, and never yields any changes or actions of charity – the building of the Kingdom.
The dollop of whipped cream on top, well, that is God’s delighted approval, and the smile upon my mother’s face as she served it – a smile which wrapped around her entire head; God’s smile stretches around the whole planet.
O, Lord of Lent, let our faith gel and set and wiggle, let it dance, let it walk with courage, let it climb up to higher ground, and let it build the Kingdom right here on this good earth, and in this good time. Amen.
Fear is pervasive, powerful, and worn like a shroud. Fear is a patchwork quilt, made up from all sorts of worries. There is the ever-present pounce of anxiety. There is a sense of dread. There is a thick coating of regret, and the drum beat of “what if?”
Lent claims this fear, in fact, invites it in for a forty-day visit. Lent knows we must pick up this cross, and we must carry it. We must clutch our fears and worries and anxieties to our chest, and name them one by one. Then, and only then, can we begin to tame them.
Lent is wise. Lent is aware we can never be fully fear free. Our worries may not always swarm, but we all will, from time to time, hear a buzzing about our head. Fear is being human, trying to live while knowing we will someday die, and is bound to create a significant number of qualms.
Lent is when we must entertain our fright. We must be the good host. In getting to know that which can terrorize us, we begin to understand the roots of our anxiety and the sources of our fear. They are real, and not imagined, but they are also not nearly as powerful as we once believed.
Lent is like a peace conference. Both sides must be represented and heard. That within us which wages a war of worry, and that within us which seeks and creates peace – the peacemaking side. Like Jesus meeting Satan in the desert, Satan does not disappear, but departs until a more opportune time. Jesus accepts the presence of Satan.
As Lent progresses, the fear begins to fade. Lent has been moving us, transforming us, freeing us of our fears by managing them, and reminding us we have the courage and creativity to make them work for us.
I call this process “an eastering”; the lifting of the fog so we can see the light shine against the rain clouds, and spawn a rainbow or two.
O, Lord of Lent, free us to shake hands and swap souls with our enemies, including our myriad worries and fears and anxieties. Amen.
Think of a seed. A tiny, trembling, tentative thing. It yawns into life, and stretches. Unseen wings begin to unfurl, and they are never noticed again until the day they die. The seed yearns to go up. Up is its nature. Up is its calling. Up is its very soul.
At first, the task of rising is painful and could break a heart. It is dirty work. It is moving in muck so thick, it makes every step perilous. The seed slogs on. The seed does not complain, but the sighs of the seed are deep and full, and express agony and ecstasy in equal measure.
The laboring of the seed continues for days and nights. Weeks go by. The seed gets weary, and the worrying begins. The seed is haunted by questions and doubts, and longs to go back to the “slavery” from whence it came. At least there and then the seed knew exactly what it was doing, even if it hadn’t a clue as to why.
Exhaustion coats the seed with grimy sweat. The seed is ripe for collapse. The seed is wallowing in despair so thick, it could suffocate. Then, out of nowhere, a second wind kicks in. The seed is bloated with determination. The soul of the seed makes a fist and punches its way through the crusted surface of the ground.
The seed suddenly turns neon lime green. Above, everything is blue, and the seed inhales sweet Life and fills it lungs with the love of it all. The seed is sure now. There will be a bud. There will be a pinking of readiness. The blossom will burst. The smell of it will be exquisite, and the seed has faith this perfume expresses its divinity.
This is the journey of Lent. We came all this way to know once again, we are blessed and beloved beyond measure. Every moment of every day embraces us with so much mercy and magnificence, it takes our breath away. But…then we breathe again, and we look, we look up and out and beyond, and we give voice to our vision, as we say, “Amen”.
Our stunned silence follows, and shouts with a quivering gratitude. We are quite certain that we, like the seed, will soon be swallowing the sun whole.
O, Lord of Lent, we jump for joy as we come to the final days of this sacred journey called Lent. We are up on higher ground, and we can see beyond the worries and fears of the world, and we believe fully we will blossom soon, and our flowering will be a dazzling discipleship, as spectacular as the arrival of a single Spring flower. Amen.
It is strange how when we are having an off day, we are laser focused on every little thing going wrong. Sounds grate on our nerves, we wince, we shudder, we feel bloated with sour, and most situations and people get on our nerves. We surround ourselves, in thought, word and deed, with spiritual barbed wire. We give off the message… “Stay away!”
However, when we're having a good day, even a lovely day, we're almost completely oblivious. We hardly even notice. We fail to pay attention to the fact we are a bit happier; we have energy, even zest; things are coming a little easier; we even like most people, most of the time; and we enjoy the day - it just comes naturally.
I find Lent to be just such an experience. We have been slogging along through all the scrutinizing spiritual “stuff”, working hard at being on the up and up, but fail to appreciate how each day we have been getting better. Then it finally hits us, the revelation strikes…THIS IS HIGHER GROUND - WE ARE HERE.
Higher ground is the domain of folks who have gotten a bit better, a lot smarter, and a little wiser. Higher ground has nothing to do with superiority, but everything to do with our capacity to enjoy the ordinary day to day. We experience average as good enough, and common, as most uncommon.
Higher ground is an altitude with attitude. Higher ground is a perspective. Higher ground is a belief that we can make a difference. Higher ground is being fully awake and aware and alive. Higher ground is doing and being mature. Maturity, when on higher ground, is thought of as spirituality.
Lent is a lift. We forget this. Lent picks us up, and even carries us. Lent gives us much needed strength and courage. Lent gets us back in the game of Life, and restarts our curiosity and imagination. Lent is a climber, and as our spirits rise, we become more loving, merciful, generous and gracious.
Lent began by calling upon us to dig way down deep, and explore the muck and mire of our lives and our world. However, somehow, someway, Lent locates a spiral staircase and we cautiously climb up, cautious only because at the beginning, on the bottom steps, we cannot see the top. Atop the steps, we see none other than the sacred turf we label higher ground.
O, Lord of Lent, stop us in our tracks, so we can see we have arrived, and this holy ground beneath our feet is the loamy dirt of Easter – the most fertile soil there is. We will be fecund! Amen.
My favorite aromas are fresh baked bread, anything with cinnamon, a baby’s skin after a bath, and of course, lilacs and the blossoms of Spring.
The Hill upon which St. Olaf College is built, is strewn with lilacs in May. The scent is heavenly, and the impact is rampant lust and a passion to romp in the grass, play in the sun, and to somersault down Old Main Hill – the same place where we rode cafeteria trays down well whipped snow.
Wandering the St. Olaf campus in May is a heady experience. It is full of longings and yearnings and dreams of every size and shape and color. It is also ripe with a calm and contentment, a soul which is soaked in bliss, and an awareness that we are beloved and blessed beyond measure.
I've tried to find a walk which inspired me like those at St. Olaf in May, but almost fifty years later, it's simply an aroma, emotion and belief I cannot fully resurrect.
Still, Spring, wherever I may be, manages to arouse in me an itch, a wanting, and a hope for doing genuinely good things, being someone of significance and substance, and being fully present each day - dawn to dusk. Spring is the season which ignites my spirit, and opens my eyes and heart and mind to all the possibilities.
Lent is ultimately following Spring’s trail. We are following a spiritual pilgrimage which has taken us down some bleak barren and bumpy paths, or off course to dead-ends, or into places loaded with briars which can draw blood. Lent can be a real maze or obstacle course.
Eventually, however, the path begins to clear, it is better marked, and we relax and look up or to the side, not having to watch our step. As Lent winds its way to the spiritual finish line, we are enjoying our stroll, and taking in all the lovely vistas and aromas which challenge us to come back to Life.
By the time we near Easter, there is a hint in the air, a lilac call to skip, to rejoice, to become whole, to know that Life is good and so are we, and like each and every Spring – more than enough!
O, Lord of Lent, we do know when something stinks, and we know even better when something smells like Heaven. Amen.
The lime lace arrives and drapes the trees delicately and yet, with a certain grandeur. Lent is reaching its conclusion, and the beginning of new life is showing its hope and promise. Everything begins to quiver with excitement and energy. Everything appears ripe and raw. And behold, it is all very good.
We have all had moments when we knew a tough patch was over, a crisis completed, and that a fresh start had taken its first toddling steps. These are moments when we feel as if we have swallowed the sun. We cannot stop smiling, and our beings just ooze with a magnificent mercy and an extravagant love.
On such a day, when we cannot possibly NOT notice that Spring has sprung, we become childlike. We are curious and wish to wander all about. Our imaginations soar out into the sky and deep into the sea. We yearn to play, which is to re-create, and we flirt and become familiar with the earth and Life again.
Think of it as a spiritual tryst. A first date. There is much anxiety all about, but also a confident wish which refuses to cease its steady climb, and soon will sprout or bud or both. It is a moment of first love, a time of experiencing our own lust for a full life. We become goosebumps, and we take in the lime lace with mouths agape.
Seize the day. This is a thought, an idea, a concept, an attitude, a perspective, but I believe it was born in Spring. We truly do not possess an original idea or thought. Our lives merely mimic what the Creation inspires and dictates. To desire to hug or be hugged by a moment in Time, is the very nature of springtime, the heart of this the season or rebirth.
I suspect, if we think about it for a bit, it is in Spring when we adults are most inclined to giggle.
O, Lord of Lent, free us to behold the lime lace. Let us long to touch it and wrap ourselves up in it. Let us know we are now wearing a most divine disguise. And then, be proud of us when we strut our stuff! Amen.
Have you ever noticed that the first colors of Spring are mostly yellow. The palette of Spring is almost exclusively pastel, but it is buttery yellow which heralds Spring’s arrival. The daffodils; the forsythia; the buttercups; even the dandelions; arrive in waves of yellows, announcing Winter’s demise. The earth, like fresh popcorn, is left dripping in delicious sweet butter.
At this point in Lent, we know we are coming back to Life. We are returning to our God and to our very Selves. We are finishing up the long journey back home, and like a beacon of hope, these merry yellows will guide us.
Why yellow? Well, I suspect it has something to do with the sun, and that it is hard not to feel happier in a yellow room. Yellow is a day lightener and brightener. Yellow lifts the spirits. Yellow shakes off the cobwebs of Winter, and this most lovely color darts and dashes about like a butterfly. Yellow feels alive, like raw energy, even joy.
Take a long lazy drive or walk in early Spring, and count the yellows you see. You will be amazed. They are literally spread everywhere, as if the earth was smeared with a thick layer of buttery goodness. Savor it, and take it in slowly, and realize how spending is this Life now returning in all of its glory.
In Winter we behold the beauty of fresh snow, berries and blue skies so bright they can blind us. In Spring we smile at all these dabs of yellows that speckle the landscape. No matter what the season, God finds a way to grab our attention, to make us take notice, and to invite us to let the wonder coat our souls.
Lent is winding it up now. It is ready to climb to the top, and take in the vision we call Easter. Easter is a way of Life, and a new perspective, and a recommitment to all that is love and forgiveness. Easter is the event of Grace, the promise that eternity is ours anytime we seek it, or keep ourselves open to its presence.
Stuck inside for yet another solemn grey cold Winter’s day. This is indeed the bleak mid-winter. The air inside smells sour, stale, like socks; it makes us want to gag. It even makes breathing a chore. It shrouds the day in a sense of stagnation.
Just go outside, and then inhale deeply. The air out there will always be a bit fresher than the moldy attic scented air of the indoors in the midst of Winter. Inhale again, and the fresh air will tingle. It soon revives your spirit and offers inspiration to the soul. Somehow, there is a desire unleashed by a deep inhaling of fresh air.
Fresh air wakes us up. We need to be jarred awake. Winter has enabled us to grow quite sluggish and lazy. We often hibernate at this point of the year. We yearn only to sleep and nap and escape. It is not a period of time ripe for being alive. But the fresh air is just what we need, and reminds us each and every day is a gift. The fresh air points out the deep held longing for a full life, no matter the month or season.
Ultimately, Lent is like fresh air. It slaps us in the face and yells. “Snap out of it!” It isn’t a nasty slap or a real belt in the mug, but it still hard enough to jar us loose. Lent challenges us to put a little pep in our step. In the final days of the downward ascent of Lent, we are being cajoled into recognizing that each day demands are full present. Being fully present is the very foundation of a full Life.
Breathe in, and breathe out, and savor the sweetness of filling up on that which fresh. Let Lent win you over, and claim you to be upward bound. Just breathing fresh air and our attitude is altered, and our perspective has climbed up to higher ground – where all the goodness and beauty can be seen.
Lent is like CPR, offering us the chance to live again, to hear the rhythm and dance to the beat, and to move with the flow of the day.
O, Lord of Lent, open up our lungs and our very being to the freshness of the air, and letthis clean air ignite in us the wish to skip, or jump for joy, or to stride forward in the battle of maturation. Amen.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.