TAHOE, Calif. - These last days of winter in the Sierra are a time of wild, unpredictable weather: storms followed by sun; high winds followed by dark nights. In the calendar of many Christian denominations, this unsettled time in nature corresponds to a season known as Lent, a time when we mindfully prepare for Easter, spring, and our yearly celebration of the renewal of life.
The 40 days of this Lenten season mirror Jesus' walk in the wilderness. And we claim this time for our own inner walk. A time to take a journey of prayer and reflection. A time to acknowledge the wildness of life around us, not to wrestle with it. A time to invite God in to our spiritual search - to be a close companion and daily guide.
What practices can help shift our attention inward during this time of reflection? Some Lenten practices of fasting have, over time, become rituals of denial and self-control. By temporarily arresting our cravings (No chocolate! No coffee! No alcohol!), we imagine we can tame what troubles us. But I invite you into another kind of practice this Lent: let go rather than give up.
At St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, we're offering a drop-in Lenten series called "Letting Go and Letting God: New Ways to Navigate Life" to be held Wednesday nights, Feb. 20 to Mar. 20, 5-6 p.m. at 341 Village Blvd. in Incline Village. Based on Rabbi Rami Shapiro's book "Recovery - the Sacred Art: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice," these gatherings will offer quiet time for letting go and learning/discussion time for letting God in through interfaith prayer and quieting practices.
Each meditative practice will take us inward, away from the compulsion to try to control everything and everybody around us. Instead, we'll learn time-honored techniques for breathing, centering, listening to the still, small voice within - simply experiencing God's presence in a place of calm. So when we reenter the tumult of our loud, unpredictable world, we'll have a deeper spiritual core and connection to God. We'll have greater strength for the unknown journey ahead.
There's no way we can control life any more than we can control the changing Sierra weather. But we can practice new ways to navigate it, with less frustration and greater joy. That's the beauty and blessing of the season of Lent.
- Rev. Clare C. Novak is the associate for Interfaith Ministry, St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, Incline Village, Nev.