By Ed Thompson

I think I would fail if I was being graded for my observance of Lent. Some years I would pass. Most years, though, I probably fall far short of a passing grade. For this, as with most things, I can only rely on God’s grace.

That seems surprising because in many ways I am a disciplined person. I have been reading through the Bible each year for probably 30 years now. I may miss a few days here and there throughout the year, but I’m always able to catch up. For the past several years, I have regularly used The Divine Hours, prayerbooks compiled by Phyllis Tickle that offer three (or really four, if you count the compline) daily sets of prayers. I use one set a day and only turn to the compline if I’ve been particularly busy and haven’t made time to read the Bible before I go to bed, but I will go weeks without missing a day. (BTW, that’s a great – and easy – way to get points for “Daily Prayer” if you’re doing Call to Health through the Board of Pensions.) This year, I’m on the 8th week now of reading through Calvin’s Institutes in a year, and I haven’t missed a day yet. Next week, though, will be a real test as I’ll be with my granddaughter to celebrate her 4th birthday. Four-year-olds are big on many things, but providence and predestination probably aren’t among them.

For whatever reason, though, I can’t seem to get any Lenten devotional practice to stick. Through the years I’ve tried all kinds of things. It helps if I have a Lenten devotional booklet to use. At least that gives me a chance to catch up when I fall behind, and I probably do better with them than anything else I’ve used. But I inevitably fall behind, and most years I will simply give up. I usually start out strong the first two weeks of Lent, although to be honest sometimes I don’t even make it that far. I have quite a few notebooks that will have a few pages worth of daily lists of people to pray for or things I’m grateful for to start off the Lenten season. But then I seem to get forgetful or busy or I suppose, again being honest, I just get lazy and that’s all the farther I get. I have good intentions, but I just can’t seem to follow through for 40 days.

I’m not giving up, though. This year, I’ve been inspired by a recent post on the Three Minute Ministry Mentor, a blog by Eileen Campbell-Reed, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York and author of The #PandemicPastoring Report. Her mother had recently celebrated her 80th birthday and growing up had apparently had quite a few of what we would now call “Adverse Childhood Experiences.” She writes, “Based on the experiences of abandonment and abuse in her childhood, it was hard for my mother to feel any sense of hope. She could not imagine how a God who seemed not to care for her as a vulnerable child could possibly have her best interests in mind in the future. She struggled not to get stuck in a past full of suffering…With the help of her spiritual and psychological caregivers, therapists and healing groups, Mom came to a new insight. She might not be able to say, ‘Things will all turn out fine’ or “Everything’s going to be OK’ or ‘Everything that’s happened is what God intended for the past or future.’

“Yet there was one thing she could do and say. When something small or large happened, something good or graceful, or full of mercy (even if it didn’t exactly feel hopeful), when something made her smile, she could do one thing.

“She could celebrate that moment.”

My childhood was far different and apparently far better than that. Yet it’s given me the idea that I can try to do this during Lent. Each day, I intend to find at least one moment to celebrate. It should be easy. Usually several good things happen to me every day, so it may be hard to choose just one. Even if it’s a really bad day, I suppose I can at least celebrate the fact that it wasn’t worse.

What’s been your experience with Lent? What Lenten disciplines have worked for you? What spiritual practice are you going to use for Lent this year? If you’re looking for something different, something that should be easy, I invite you to join me in looking for at least one thing to celebrate each day. Whatever you choose to do, may this Lenten season be a season of blessing that serves to draw you closer to Christ so that we can all celebrate Easter with even greater joy this year.