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The Sassy Sandpiper: Lent, Once and For All

By M.R. WILSON, TB Reporter

Forty days can be the foundation of significant change.

Religious or not, the period beginning Wednesday (March 1) and extending to April 13 can rock your world.

Traditionally a time of fasting and prayer, of privation and solemn remembrance of a hero’s journey, Lent in the 21st century is undergoing a wardrobe change, to put it theatrically. Folks are searching for relevance, and a prayer by inspirational writer William Arthur Ward captures it beautifully.

The prayer’s structure is an appeal to “fast from” divisive behaviors and “feast on” unifying ones.

In the first two lines, Ward calls upon us to fast from judging others and feast upon the highest selves dwelling within them; to fast from differences and feast on the unity of all life. If I break down the prayer into two lists of key words, I’m counting on you to understand whether they fit the “fast from” or the “feast on” categories.

List One: darkness, pollute, discontent, anger, pessimism, worry, complaining, negatives, pressures, hostility, bitterness, self-concern, anxiety, discouragement, depress, lethargy, suspicion, weaken, gossip.

List Two: light, purify, gratitude, patience, optimism, trust, appreciation, affirmative, prayer, nonviolence, forgiveness, compassion, truth, hope, uplift, enthusiasm, inspire, silence.

I’ve come to regard Ward’s prayer as “my kind of Lent.” It seems more pertinent now than ever. These 40 days can be the foundation for significant change, from the personal to the communal.

How so?

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests thoughts and feelings impact our health. You might try a “Gratitude Challenge” during Lent. Write down something you’re grateful for each day. Use the list to counterbalance feelings of pessimism and worry—all of those things on List One, actually. Perhaps you’d like to snuff out road rage at the first prickle of annoyance. Put on music you really like. Play it loud and sing along with all your windows open!

I’ve only truly observed Lent one time. That year I gave up cinnamon and made a Cuss Jar. Each time a profanity escaped my lips, I put money in the Cuss Jar. Monopoly Money. Mild oaths were only a dollar or two; expletives cost more. By the end of the first week it was necessary to design and print more cash—in large denominations, mind you. The exercise did indeed account for the use of more “words that purify,” and fewer classic curses and language that would make a sailor’s parrot blush.

According to Associate Dean of Religious Life, USC Rev. Jim Burklo, Lent is a kind of sabbatical, a break from our usual routines. Some of this hustle and bustle probably interferes with Nature’s processes—at the very least, with our observance of them.

Lent 2017 is a pivotal time in American history. No time for retreat from the world; we are called to active resistance. See List One: the deep roots of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. Refer as needed to List Two: the fair flowers of equality, compassion, and peace.

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The Sassy Sandpiper: Lent, Once and For All
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The Sassy Sandpiper: Lent, Once and For All
Forty days can be the foundation of significant change.
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