The Snow Day before Lent

Staring out my window, I watch the snow accumulate. A priest from Eswatini who served for a
time in Iowa once said, “I could never appreciate the words of the hymn ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’
until I moved to Iowa. Now I understand ‘snow on snow on snow.’” I am saddened because the
persistent precipitation has canceled my plans to visit parishioners at care center and meet some
truly special people. I am forced to watch the white stuff pile higher and higher and postpone my
fun afternoon.

Perhaps it’s the priest in me, but this moment draws my attention to the light, dusty ashes we will
use to begin what we pray is a holy Lent. Like the snow, the ashes of Lent stop us. They
inaugurate a season in which we are called to pause business as usual. It is a time when busyness
ought to ebb and stillness flow.

There is, of course, a temptation to work ourselves harder. Some see Lent as a spiritual workout
program where we fill our schedules with “God stuff” and try to push ourselves to be better
Christians. As I sit in my living room watching the snow put a pause on my plans, I am reminded
that the ashes of next Wednesday invite me to do the same.

What if, instead of filling our Lent with exercises and programs, we filled it with rest, quiet, and
stillness? Maybe then, instead of filling ourselves up, we would leave room for God to do the
filling. We have countless examples in the Bible of God using our quiet, stillness, and even rest
for her glory and revelation. I might even suggest that it takes more faith to trust that God will use
such fallow times rather than busying ourselves with what we think we need.

Today as I try to let my disappointment dissipate, I am comforted that God can use even an
unexpected snow day for my edification. I am reminded that even under the snow the soil readies
itself for planting. On Wednesday I will invite you to observe a Holy Lent. The question is, will
we try to consecrate the time ourselves or will we offer God the freedom and space to work in
ways beyond our control and in ways we cannot yet imagine?

I wonder what your Lent would look like if you set aside the first ten minutes of your morning
and remembered the psalmist’s words “be still and know that I am God.” Would that be enough? I
guess I cannot answer that for you, but God is known to do quite a bit with such an offering.
However you choose to observe Lent, know that you will be in my prayers. May God sanctify all
we do and bless our rest as we endeavor together.

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