No More Giving Up

This is the way it goes: Christmas, Epiphany, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Day, Ash Wednesday, Lent. We are now in the 40 days of Lent. (This is a religious calendar, but life in New Orleans revolves around it; there’s a season of Mardi Gras for a reason). This year, I’ve made a hard shift on Lent, one many of you might disagree with.

Traditionally, Lent asks us to give up something or take on something, both of which are intended to heighten our focus on God. In past Lents, I’ve given up alcohol, ice cream, chocolate, sugar, dessert (yes, it’s different; giving up sugar includes pancakes, for example), and meat on Fridays. (You can tell my indulgences from this list; my mother notoriously gave up butter most Lents). I’ve gone vegan 3 days a week (DON’T get me started on how HARD that was!) and fasted on Wednesdays. I’ve taken on many and varied disciplines, including reading scripture, book studies, meditation (and cursing).

You can see the ascetic nature of Lent in my Episcopal observance.

This year two things happened. First, I was going back through old photos and came across the ones from where I “created something beautiful” every day during Lent. I really enjoyed looking at those photos. Second, I’ve lived through the coronavirus. And my mother dying. And a hurricane. And arctic weather in New Orleans. And people freezing to death in Texas. It’s been a globally rough 12 months.

So, no more giving up. My Lents will be different from now on. There is enough suffering in the world. We do not need to artificially create more to force ourselves to remember God. I focused on God as much—or more—when I was creating those vignettes, sewn art, moments of beauty, and small totems of love.

This is not a light-hearted change. It’s one of profound theological significance. It makes me ask: when are we more in line with God? When we are creating beauty and joy and contentment? Or when we are creating suffering?

I know MANY religious persons really, really like to focus on suffering as THE avenue to God. They consider your faith “immature” if it’s only a “good time God” you worship. They vaunt suffering, which seems a bit of a control issue (“I’ll make my own suffering to be in charge of it”). Or maybe they’re making lemonade out of lemons.

Well, dammit, there are enough lemons in the world. If and when they enter my domain, I will focus on God. But until then, I will focus on God.

For 2021, each day, I will create ThumbPrayers.

I do not sell these. I give them away.

If you have a ministry that would like some Thumb Prayers, LMK in the comments. I can get them to you.

In the meantime, I intend to spend (at least this) Lent with God in happiness, contentment, and joy.

Lent, Lent2021, lenten discipline, lenten practice, thumb prayers

Comments (12)

  • As Rumi said, “…there are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
    Thank you for always sharing from the beauty of your heart, Ellen.
    I love the thumb prayers you gave me several years ago and that I shared with my sisters, who loved them as well.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      As I wrote this post, reviewing old posts to link to, I realized that my appreciation and celebration of Lent is a fluid, ever-moving, ever-changing thing. (I kneel, I stand up, I kneel on the other knee). It makes me happy to think of your sisters with Thumb Prayers <3

  • Ellen,
    YAY YOU!!! Like you, I’m sick of giving things up – my “Lenten discipline” is to create joy in the world for at least 40 days —- and beyond, I hope!! I hope you will save about a dozen of your thumb prayers for me – I want to use some of those to spread joy. I’m making watercolor bookmarks to give away. Even a tiny bit of joy makes me feel better about the world.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      As my writing mentor’s young nephew said, “Great minds stink alike.” I can’t wait to see your bookmarks. And, yes, I’ll set aside a dozen of the TPs for you–do you like words, buttons, a mix? To the best of our ability, we shall spread joy!

  • Well, I just love this: “when are we more in line with God? When we are creating beauty and joy and contentment? Or when we are creating suffering?” Thank you, thank you, thank you! If God has given us the ability, talent and skill to create beauty, joy and contentment, then let’s do that! There’s enough suffering in the world as you rightly note.

  • Beautiful, Ellen! Celebrating God’s goodness by creating is always good, but especially meaningful this Lent. I admit that I feel that last Lent never really ended, just extended through until now. Perhaps, with you and others working on spreading beauty and caring this Lent and with so many working so diligently to calm the coronavirus, this Easter will feel like a resurrection.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      That’s what has always attracted me about Lent: how it impacts the experience of Easter. The years I’ve had an active Lent, Easter has been so much more joyous. If anything I do can precipitate that for others, that would be beautiful. <3

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