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From Woodbury, A Lenten SOS For Times Of Stress

Ash Wednesday is nearly here, and that means the Lenten season is upon us.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and I welcome it.

The traditional imposition of ashes is a reminder of our need to purify and simplify. Last winter felt oppressive with its knee deep snow and subzero temps. Lent seemed like a portal to the promises of spring.

This winter has been mild. But we’re not without spiritual winter weight. Because in winter we can tend to burrow deep into work and worries. Tenuous employment, relationships, health and self-image can burden us with anxiety. Sinking ships of stress.

And so Lent comes perfectly timed. Forty days of introspection that helps re-focus our minds on what is most important.

The worldwide distress signal (and a popular ’70s pop song) is SOS. It’s not an actual acronym but has been associated with “Save Our Ship” or “Save Our Souls.” An SOS for Lent could be:

Seek

Find and attend one of the varieties of Lenten services offered by Woodbury’s area churches. There are mid-week and weekend opportunities to discover or re-discover a sense of peace in the midst of life’s chaos. A few local Ash Wednesday services to consider:

Observe

Traditions of study and prayer are significant ways to participate in the observance of Lent.

Ancient Israelites were instructed to write God’s words on their doorframes and gates. To bind them to their hands and forehead as constant reminders of truth. Just as frequent study in contemporary times helps to re-train our thoughts toward what is true, noble, pure and admirable.

I like to read on my own then discuss what I’ve read book-club style with friends over coffee or wine. Want me to recommend some wonderfully contemplative books? Just ask.

Pray often. For the world, for the direction of your life, for your loved ones and for strangers. Prayer leads to change. Sometimes in circumstances. Mostly in attitude. Pray for forgiveness, contentment, understanding, peace and joy.

Bless This House, Prayers for Families and Children by Gregory Wolfe is a great resource.

Simplify

Not the cliché outward lifestyle kind of simplicity that sells expensive magazines and handmade Etsy jewelry.

Your furniture reupholstering skills and thrift store fashion could be mistaken for just another flavor of self-righteousness. So don’t let simplicity become a competition to keep up with any hemp weaving Joneses.

Simplicity is about letting trust replace worry. Seeking usefulness over status. Humility over entitlement. Charity over indulgence. It’s viewing everything we have as a gift.

So it is during Lent that I acknowledge any distress with an SOS. And then I flip the term like a rough cut gem with an alternate facet shining through.

And my distress SOS transforms into Signs Of Spring. Of promise. Of new life ahead.

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