This was the second part of the piece that popped up on my laptop; it was one of my earliest blogs and because it, too, relates to Lent, I thought I would repost it:
The other day, someone asked me what I was doing for Lent. I think she expected to hear, “I gave up chocolate.” Instead, I told her I am spending Lent focusing on the lessons I learned during my friend Jim’s illness.
Throughout his illness, the words “fear is useless; what is needed is trust” (Luke 8:50) helped me cope. I said them every day—and most days, many times. This Lent, I am trying to be aware of when I am fearful and to let it go, so I can live in trust and openness to what God is doing.
While Jim was sick, we spent some time at the New Jersey Shore; he loved looking out at the ocean. “Think big thoughts,” he would say as he contemplated the beauty of nature and the abundance of God’s blessings. I am trying to think big thoughts, to appreciate all aspects of my life and to thank God for my many blessings.
One of my favorite moments from the Shore happened one morning as I was walking along the water’s edge. The ocean was absolutely calm, no waves anywhere. As I walked, I noticed the broken shells on the sand, and I knew God was telling me: “This Ocean is a sign of my peace. It is how you are to live—in calm and peace, open, expansive. This is what freedom looks like. At the shoreline, at your edges, leave anything sharp or broken and flow back to the calm openness, the expansiveness.” I am trying to live in the vast freedom God offers me, letting go of anything that gets in the way of being calm and at peace.
This Lent, I am keeping the chocolate—and giving up those things that keep me from trust, gratitude and peace.
P.S. Nine years later, I did give up chocolate candy for Lent this year (along with other forms of fasting) because I wanted to do some things that felt like sacrifices, and I enjoy chocolate candy every day. I am deeply aware of the people in Ukraine this Lent and fasting reminds me of people who are suffering while I live in abundance. Fasting reminds me of my dependence on God, and with every meal I skip, I offer a prayer for peace in Ukraine and other places in the world where there is no peace.