Spring is in the air. Snowdrops and aconites are carpeting the ground, daffodil shoots are emerging and the birds are busy in nest making mode. Signs of new life are all around.
I appreciate living in a country that witnesses the four seasons, if not always in equal measure! I also appreciate the liturgical calendar with its seasons of feasts and festivals, Saints days and ordinary days. Advent helps me to journey through the dark days of winter in anticipation of Christmas and Epiphany, where, in the coming of Christ, light dispels the darkness. I love the Ordinary days; a reminder that life is to be lived and celebrated in ordinary, everyday times. And now on the eve of Lent, Shrove Tuesday, I make plans to observe the season and prepare for the greatest event in history, the resurrection of Christ, celebrated on Easter Sunday. As I journey through the coming weeks I will seek to observe some of the disciplines that I trust will help me reflect, prepare and deepen my life and faith.
We shall be in Ireland for Easter, renewing our vows as a Companions of the Northumbria Community, and I shall remember my own beginnings of faith on Easter Sunday in the Cairngorms of Scotland back in the 1970s and re-dedicating my life to the One who I seek to follow, the radical, life transforming, Christ.
Last night, with another pioneer, we joined friends, neighbours and other residents on our estate for a delightful, friendly and relaxed Shrove Tuesday Pancake and Prosecco party, our simple North Yorkshire token of a Mardi Gras event! 
Tomorrow being Ash Wednesday I will be coming off most social media for Lent, with the exception of some necessary sharing of information to do with my work. I will once again be journeying through Lent with the help of Tom Wright’s Lent for Everyone books, this year through Matthew’s Gospel. I’m looking forward to reading the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2020 Lent book, ‘Saying Yes to Life’ by Ruth Valerio which explores what it means to be compassionately human and in particular to be a follower of Jesus.
I approach this season with a mixture of emotions; encouraged and excited by happenings and developments within family, the Northumbria Community and among the pioneers that I am privileged to work with, serve and mentor. However I saddened and disturbed by a whole host of things happening to some of my closest friends , (illness , bereavement, the break up of relationships , struggles with debt, depression, stress and anxiety) the incredulous behaviour and deceit of lying and bullying politicians and their advisors here, in the States and elsewhere and the reality of the terrifying effects of climate change that threatens the planet.
Lent is associated with the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting, praying and seeking to discover what God intended of him.
The 40 days he spent in the wilderness have become an image that has influenced the idea that Lent is a season of preperation for Easter. During this season it was common for some churches to strip away some of the decorations and religious ‘trappings’, as a way of expressing an inner austerity and desire to get back to basics and be a bit simpler, yet deeper and profound in relation to faith. In Medieval times, many of the hangings and decorations were replaced with cloth, sackcloth. Ash Wednesday, at the beginning of Lent, is marked by a ceremony where ash is placed on people’s heads, a stark reminder of our mortality.
Sombre thoughts, solemn moments but it’s important to remember that the word ‘lent’ comes from the old English word for ‘spring’ and with this image comes the reminder that Lent is not about feeling miserable or gloomy for 40 days. It’s not primarily about giving things up but rather it is a time of preparation. 
Lent is springtime! It’s a time to prepare for the celebration of new life bursting through death, of celebrating the fact that love overcomes evil, that hope dispels despair, light conquers darkness. Lent is not about denying oneself as some sort of punishment. It’s more about reminding ourselves of those things that really matter in life, and so it calls us to take stock, clean up our lives and prepare our hearts and minds so that we may be ready and make room for the new life that comes through loving God and following Christ.
May Lent be a season of reflection that leads to a meaningful and joyous Easter for us all.
Bless you and take care 

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