By Pastor Christie John, Geneseo United Methodist Church, Buckingham

I love spring! I love saying good bye to the cold, ice and snow of winter. Yes, I know that we can get cold, ice and snow in spring too, but at least it doesn’t usually last too long. I love the little spring bulbs that send up green shoots and dainty blooms. I love the smell of wet, soft soil. But perhaps the biggest reason I look forward to spring is because of the longer days. It feels so good to wake up with the dawn and enjoy a few hours of daylight even after supper. The sun energizes me and warms me. It helps me have a – well – sunnier outlook.

We are in the church season of Lent, the forty days (not counting Sundays) before Easter. The word “Lent” originally meant “spring.” It comes from the German word for “long” because the days of spring begin to lengthen. Traditionally Christians have spent these days thinking about the self-giving love of God reflected in Jesus’ sacrificial death. We consider and confess our own need for grace and we spend time in spiritual practices that help us draw closer to God and one another. We prepare our hearts and minds to receive once again the good news of Easter: Jesus has destroyed the power of sin and death and offers everlasting life to all who trust in Him.

There are three spiritual practices that are especially associated with Lent.The first practice is fasting, which is giving up something that is a normal part of our day in order to focus our attention on God. The second Lenten practice is prayer. In Lent, we try to find ways to deepen and strengthen our prayer life. We might try a new practice of prayer. For example, we might decide to silently pray for our co-workers for just a few moments during lunch. Or we may try praying before family meals or to make our first thought of the day, “Good morning, Lord!” (rather than something like “Aargh! Is it morning all ready?!”) If we are used to memorized prayers, we might try some “just talking with Jesus” prayers. Or if our prayer life is already casual and conversational, we might explore written prayers like “The Lord’s Prayer” or “The Prayer of St. Francis.”

I encourage you to try a Lenten practice of prayer. And may you find, as you enter into God’s presence in new ways, that God’s life shines ever stronger into your heart. May you be energized and warmed by the lengthening light of God’s love and grace.