When anyone from around here hears that John and I once called New Orleans home, they inevitably ask about Mardi Gras. It seems that many people misunderstand the whole concept. I learned a lot while we lived there about what Mardi Gras really is. In fact, as I found myself immersed in the Catholic culture of New Orleans, I learned a lot about Easter and the many weeks leading up to its celebration. Most notably perhaps, I took part in my first Lenten obvservance while living in good 'ole NOLA.
Lenten observance was really pretty new to me, and I found it fascinating. Now, that our family is plugged into the United Methodist Church, our understanding of the liturgical calendar I was first exposed to there has served us well. For those who may be less familiar with lent, the season which begins on Ash Wednesday (the day after Mardi Gras), here is a brief explanation from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals:
"Lent is a forty-day season of reflection and preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time of repentance, of considering Christ's sufferings and rethinking how we are called to take up our own crosses. Some of us give up things like chocolate or television during this season as a sort of fasting and others try to integrate something new into their lives, like visiting folks in prison, sewing clothes, exercising, or praying. It is a good season to rethink how we live and to let some things go, or maybe even to develop some new holy habits. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Traditionally, the palm branches from Palm Sunday of the previous year are burned and the ashes are placed on the foreheads of Christians as a sign of repentance."
In past years, I've observed Lent in various ways. We've given up meat, chocolate, cold cereal, after-dinner snacking, and more. A couple months ago, I ran across the "Planning for Easter" section of the United Methodist Reporter. It mentioned Tear Fund's Lenten Carbon Fast. Some quick research revealed that The Carbon Fast "provides daily actions and prayers for Lent to help you and your church protect poor people from the changing climate and care for God's good creation." Essentially, for each day of Lent, there is an activity. Examples include removing one lightbulb in your home and living without it during Lent as a reminder of what you're doing, registering to stop junk mail, starting a compost pile, and carpooling. While I find the Carbon Fast interesting, looking over the list, there are just too many things that we've already incorporated into our lifestyle to make it challenging day-to-day.
If you are interested in further researching the Carbon Fast calendar, check it out here. What I love most about its set-up, though, is its weekly emphases. These I intend to follow this Lent.
Week 1 -- Enjoy creation.
Week 2 -- Care for the earth.
Week 3 -- Love neighbors.
Week 4 -- Act justly.
Week 5 -- Walk humbly.
Week 6 -- Live contentedly.
Don't those sound great? So, for each week, I will give up and/or add something to my daily routine that is focused on that week's theme.
So, Week 1 -- Enjoy creation.
From the Carbon Fast site: "In the beginning God created the world. . . Majestic and wonderful, it reflected God's greatness. He created us to enjoy it -- to marvel at its beauty and enjoy the creatures that dwell on it. He created it so we could glorify him. This week's actions help us to enjoy creation and glorify him through it."
The prayer focus for the week is to pray for a global response to climate change, giving thanks for individuals and churches across the world who are helping by reducing their emissions through the Carbon Fast, and thanking God for the gift of his beautiful creation.
This week, I intend to . . .
1. visit with my goats more (something I need to do anyway as their delivery approaches).
2. turn on the baby monitor when inside (I've set up a baby monitor in the goat barn so that I can hear when they start to go into labor. I've noticed, though, that I love all the other nature sounds it brings into my living room).
3. continue to prep the garden including constructing/painting/filling the new garden boxes.
4. trim the rose bushes to prepare for spring's new growth.
4. try drying some clothes on a clothesline. I'm reading a book right now titled Making Home. In her discussion of laundry, the author actually claims to enjoy hanging her laundry out to dry (and not just because of all the emissions she's saving). She claims that the quiet moments outdoors actually help to slow her day and steady her heart. I will probably just rig up something temporary for this week, and if it goes well, contemplate a more permanent addition to the backyard.
Does this whole weekly emphasis approach to Lent appeal to anyone else? What are some other ideas for how to enjoy creation during this first week of Lent?