Rhythm is life giving. We function according to days, weeks, months and years. We celebrate anniversaries and birthdays, dread tax time and look forward to time off. The cycles we go through help us move forward and stay in sync with the people around us. They increase both our productivity and our enjoyment of life, and they are essential to the health of our society.
We see this truth throughout the natural world as well. Our calendars and timetables are based on seasons and phases, the perfectly predictable movement of our planet and moon through space.
Rhythm is a form of structure. In music, rhythm is the structural support for the melody. Organization provides space for creativity and beauty.
Even plants need structure to grow. Vines without a trellis rot in a heap on the ground. But with a little support, they receive air and light and are able to produce fruit.
In the same way, spiritual health requires rhythm and structure. For centuries, religious communities around the world have operated according to spiritual calendars that direct believers to participate in certain disciplines, celebrations and ceremonies.
Sometimes, when we aren’t paying attention, these calendar days sneak up on us. And we are often tempted to forego significant days in favor of our to-do lists. But our busyness causes us to miss out on some of life’s greatest gifts.
Today is Ash Wednesday. Unlike Christmas and Easter or even Mardi Gras, this "holy day" is often overlooked. Most of us overlook it for one of two reasons: we don’t understand it, or we prefer to only celebrate the “fun” holidays. I have found this to be particularly true among Protestants (of which I am one) who often seem to have missed out on the blessings of the full Lent and Easter seasons.
Well guess what? When you finish reading, we’ll both be out of excuses.
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Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, which is meant to prepare our hearts and minds for the joy of Easter. You wouldn’t show up to church on Easter Sunday without being dressed for it, so why not prepare your soul for the occasion as well?
When we think of Lent, the first thing that comes to mind is giving something up. We often wrongly associate this sacrifice with the idea that it will allow us to indentify with the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, or we treat the self-denial as something akin to a New Year’s resolution.
The true purpose of lent is so much deeper and so much more spiritual.
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