It is often said that Lent is a journey within, a pilgrimage into the very depths of oneself to reflect honestly on where we are and where we need to go.  I think that is true.  But it could also be said that Lent is about being without and doing without for this practice too is incredibly soul-exposing.  It’s also completely foreign to anything to which we are accustomed.  After all, we are a collecting and using people.  We are overfed, overfurnished, overdriven, overworked, overspent, overdressed and, often, overexposed.  We do not know how to do without.  We do not know how to be without. And so, if you’re like me, you buy more books on how to do Lent, how to do without during this wilderness season.  (Because, after all, you can never have enough books!)  But what we’re really called to do is to learn to do without.

I saw a feature on one of the morning news shows the other day about nomophobia, one of the newest phobias.  The claim is that if you can’t be without your cell phone for long periods of time, then you may possibly suffer from nomophobia.  According to a survey 70% of women and 61% of men live in fear of losing their phone or not having it available when they need it.  The survey found that people check their phones 34 times each day and 75% of those polled have used their phone while in the bathroom.  Warning signs include obsessively checking for your mobile device, worrying about losing your phone or being without it, never turning it off (you can turn it off???) , and being anxious if you lose reception.  In all seriousness, though, I have to admit that this is me.  I don’t think that I can do without my cell phone.  But, really, surely there’s an “app” for that!

But, seriously, I don’t think the message of Lent is necessarily to deprive ourselves of what we need or even what we think we need. God doesn’t necessarily call us to live some sort of stoic life that it totally devoid of things that we enjoy.  The created world holds too much beauty for that to be the case. But it is true that we surround ourselves with the things that define us.  And, hopefully, that’s more than a bunch of stuff.  So perhaps Lent is more about realizing what is important and affirming what it is in your life that you cannot do without, realizing what it is that defines you.  And all of that is within.   And I’m betting that the list is a lot shorter than any of us think it will be.  Think about it.  What could you do without?  Really?  You can’t let that go?

Richard Byrd once said that “half the confusion in the world comes from not knowing how little we need.”  Lent is not about adjusting what we have; it is not about deprivation; it is about perspective, about determining what it is in our life that we cannot do without and then taking it deep within.  Think of it as clearing away the clutter to make room for what is important, to make room for what it is that defines you.

OK, no one ever promised that this would be easy…continuing with our act of giving up so that we can take on, on this sixth day of Lent, think about the one material thing in your life that would be the hardest to do without.  Now take a sabbath from it.  Just a sabbath–a seventh of the day.  Go without it for, oh, about 3 1/2 hours today.  

Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,


Well, I found this very interesting…I did find the button on top of the phone that shut the whole thing off.  And when I turned it back on, there was, of course, the familiar apple logo on it.  Have you ever looked at that?  It’s an apple with a bite out of it.  And, get this, the bite is about 1/7 of the apple.  Like I said, it’s not about deprivation, just perspective.

Making Room

In my somewhat arduous journey into full-time pastoral ministry from a fairly lucrative career as an accountant, I have changed homes twice. Now, to some, that may not sound like a big deal. But I grew up in a family that almost never moved, with the exception of our moving into a new house when I was in Kindergarten that was a whole two streets and two blocks from the first house. (We haven’t come that far, I guess!) But each time I moved these last years, I had to shift and actually get rid of some things. This last move was one from a parsonage that was WAY too big for me (even living WITH the 122-lb Black Lab) to a small, 1920’s cottage in one of Houston’s oldest neighborhoods. My only choice was to downsize.

I have realized that downsizing is a spiritual experience. Downsizing is about making room; it is about making things fit into a life that is different; and it is about finding yourself having to very intentionally cast away those things that you do not need. And what I found was that there are really not THAT many things that I need (contrary to what I thought before). In fact, if one is serious about downsizing, one will even make room for future things that mean something! Making room means that you find what is the most important in your life and you make room for it, perhaps by ridding yourself of things that have cluttered your pathway before.

This season of Advent, too, is about making room. It is about preparing for Christ’s coming into your life by clearing space and ridding yourself of things that clutter and distract. It is about emotionally downsizing so that you can spiritually fill up. What do you need to do to make room this Advent? After all, it would be a shame if the Christ child had to sleep on a fold-out sofa! Don’t you think God’s coming calls for something more permanent in your life?

So go forth and make room!

Grace and Peace,