Preparation for fasting and feasting

ash berries - life PJ

I belong to a faith tradition that makes no specific preparation for Lent within its practices.

It’s a relatively new thing for me to take note of Lent and consider how to prepare my heart for the journey.

And I’ve come to realise I cannot fully undertake it without surrender, intention and deliberation.

Life itself invites us into a gentle awareness of days and seasons of the heart, an opening to the sacred within the secular.

As nights draw in and days become dark and cold, we may gather dead, dry and dying plants together to make a bonfire. From the embers grey ash rises, ripe for garden mulch.

Ash is precursor to new life, new growth. A potent symbol of the dying and rising we experience within.

Likewise, Lent provides opportunity to sift out dead wood we’ve unwittingly gathered over time, consign it to death and seek the restoration and renewal God offers us through a transformed mind and heart.

Ash Wednesday

Absent from this temple

is smudge and ash of grey

reminder of and reason

why our Saviour came

But deep within this heart

remains a cloak of black

as sin still crouches there

ready to ensnare, attack

Deeper still within this soul

shines a Light without limit

where God’s Love resides

bringing wholeness to my spirit

And as I journey forth

leaning closer into Lent

my value and my worth

become ever heaven-sent

©JoyLenton2016

You can’t get a better companion to walk you through Lent and into Holy Week than Malcolm Guite as he invites us to become immersed in poetic reflection with ‘Word in the Wilderness’.

I’ve also downloaded a pdf file: ‘Hungering for Life – Creative Exercises for Lent’ compiled by Christine Sine, with Jean Andrianoff. Here, contrary to the usual emphasis on fasting, we are being asked to consider what we are hungering for during Lent.

You can find myriad resources for Lent on the Godspace blog, including prayers, ways of celebrating with children, musical and creative resources. Click here to discover them. Ignatian Spirituality also has 10 great ideas for Lent here.

This preparation will hopefully lead to deeper reflection on new life rising from death rather than focussing most on loss and death itself.

The words below speak into our need to focus on the positive. They came from ‘Morning, Noon and Night – Poems and Prayers’ and can be found in various forms in Lenten reflections. I’d love to hear how you prepare for Lent and make space for Easter.

“Fast from criticism, and feast on praise.

Fast from self-pity, and feast on joy.

Fast from ill-temper, and feast on peace.

Fast from resentment, and feast on contentment.

Fast from jealousy, and feast on love.

Fast from pride, and feast on humility.

Fast from selfishness, and feast on service.

Fast from fear, and feast on faith.” 

ash fast and feast - PJ

Mosaic of a marriage

mosaic image for PJ mosaic of a marriage

 

Nobody can fully appreciate or understand the dynamics, anatomy and intricacies of a marriage, apart from the couple intimately involved in it.

And even then, much remains a holy mystery.

We are husband and wife, friends and lovers joined together in union and communion with God and one another.

Two become one in mind, body, soul and spirit in a divine alchemy of grace.

My marriage is heavily grace-dependent.

My background, experiences and personal problems have gradually made me someone other than the relatively carefree young woman I used to be.

As I’ve tried to work through a legacy of dysfunctional family life, childhood abuse, guilt and shame, (and the mental health breakdown they gave me) the one linked inextricably with me has also lived through it all.

Now, after more than 20 years of having M.E and chronic illness, my ability to be the wife he needs and wants is hampered further still.

Though we have struggled a great deal (and continue to do so), some things shine out bright and clear as I look back over the years:

Love will always find a way where there seems to be no way.

Faith can endure all things if it’s faith rooted in God and His sustaining power.

Hope may wither but it rarely dies.

Joy comes in unexpected places and circumstances.

Grace is a prerequisite for a godly life and marriage.

God gives us all we’ll ever need ~ even if we rarely have all we want.

In musing on these things over the last few days it is no great surprise that my mind turned to this territory to write about today.

And as I do so, I rejoice over the masterpiece God is creating out of the messy mosaic of my life and marriage.

‘Mosaic of a marriage’

Nothing in our courtship could have prepared

our youthful, hopeful, joy-filled hearts

for the prolonged grief and pain we’ve shared

or the need for so many fresh starts

Nothing in my mind could have foreseen

how very hard and challenging

living with me would have been

more your worst nightmare than dream

For we have been tried and tested

as gold goes through the fire

refined, processed and sifted

retaining heat, passion and desire

Nothing I can say will make up

for numerous ways I’ve let you down

You’ve had a bitter pill to swallow

gaining a face wreathed with frowns

But we, who are nothing without

the sustaining power of God

have finally made Something

of this life and path we’ve trod

Given grace from the One

who pours out His love every day

Given faith to persevere

when nothing’s gone our way

So I love you imperfectly

just as I am

and you’ve accepted my offering

a meagre nothing to the feelings

found within my man

Thank God for new beginnings

Praise Him for being true

Give Him the glory for making

faithful, if faltering, lovers

out of me and you

©JoyLenton2014

Joining with Lisa-Jo for #fiveminutefriday (yes, I ran over time!) ~ this week’s prompt is:‘Nothing’. You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in. Linking also with Mel and Laura

You can read more about how the issues above have affected my marriage in this post from Words of Joy.

I share openly in the hope of encouraging others to know they can live with and rise above their circumstances by the grace of God.

mosaic of a marriage file image on PJ pin