This morning, I dropped Becky and Huck off for school, then parked the van and headed inside to the church with little Tom in tow. Becky's class, the third grade, was in charge of Friday's morning prayer this week and I had promised Becky that I would come.
Morning prayer on Monday and Friday at St. F is short; from start to finish, it lasts about ten minutes. But those ten minutes (when I do remember to stop the busyness of my life and head in for a little refreshment for my soul) are meaningful precisely because one class or another, from our kindergarteners to our eighth graders, takes charge of sharing that day's message with the rest of the school. While our school is small (about 200 students total), it takes courage to stand up in front of that large group; I am always so proud of how well each class shares that day's prayer of love and thanks.
With the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday two days ago, the theme for morning prayer today was giving. While the world (mainly our advertisers, retailers, and toy manufacturers) would like us to believe that Christmas is the season of giving, I personally think Lent is more about truly giving than Christmas. It's easier to give at Christmas, mostly because we as a society tend to give stuff in the form of gifts that make the lucky recipients happy. Who doesn't love basking in the moment of a gift well received?
During Lent, though, we're asked to give through sacrifice, to give up, to deny ourselves something that brings meaning and joy to our lives, whether that something is big or small. We're ask to give quietly and selflessly with a smile on our face because He gave all for us.
Giving doesn't always come easily to me, not the kind of giving that really matters. I always give up sugar in all it's delicous forms during Lent but even that act of sacrifice is self-serving; by Easter, I'll have shed those last five pesky pounds that I gained during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.
What is hard for me is giving of myself, of my time; giving my full attention to the people I love most, undivided and patiently, is a struggle. I am daily pulled in so many directions by so many responsibilities that the simple act of stopping, of saying no to what doesn't really matter in the long run and sitting still with the kids and Knute is just plain hard.
Today at morning prayer, the third grade asked a simple question bears repeating.
Am I stone or am I bread?
Do I feed and nourish those around me, broken and shared so that all may grow stonger?
Or am I hard and unyielding and cold; are my words or actions hurled at others with the intent to harm them, to destroy them?
I want to be bread, I try to be bread, but I struggle daily against the stubborn and stony part of me that screams for me-time, demands that I deserve a break, whispers quietly, slyly, that I already give enough compared to those around me.
As I journey toward the cross this year, I want to leave the stones in my soul on the side of the road. I want to grow and share and sustain those around me with my words and actions.
I know I will stumble.
I know I will fall.
And I know in those moments when I feel weakest and defeated, I will not be alone.
Are you journeying this Lent?