Monday, February 11, 2013

Lundi Gras

Today is the Monday before Ash Wednesday, traditionally known as Lundi Gras. We are more familiar and much more excited about Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday or the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent which is on Wednesday. We have had a Mardi Gras party almost every year since leaving New Orleans and tomorrow I am making a triple batch of Emeril's chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo, have my king cake ordered from Prantl's bakery and my red feathered mask is out and ready to go. Grant lovingly put together a Mardi Gras playlist and together with friends and loved ones we will cheers Abita bottles and second line around the dining room to the sweet notes of Rebirth Brass Band.

I am not Catholic, but have been getting to know more and more Anglican folks and thus am becoming more familiar with traditional church feast and fasting days, the sacraments and classical liturgical practices. All of these things seem to have significant impact on the observation of Lent, a 40 day period on the church calendar of which I know very little about. A quick Wikipedia search (my husband is choking on his Diet Coke right now) and I found out that "During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence." (

* here is a blog about the five most common food vices given up for Lent, which the author respectfully calls the "spring deprivation ritual".

I grew up Baptist, spent my late teens and early 20's as a non-denominational, and the last decade as a Presbyterian. In other words, my spiritual life has run the gamut in terms of discipline of practice. In no church I have ever attended have we observed Lent. So I find myself at the tricky intersection of desire to properly observe this church discipline of the Lenten season and not knowing what Lent is. And it begins on Wednesday.

This might be a theme in my life... I accepted Grant's marriage proposal before I thought about whether or not I ever wanted to get married, but trusted the fact that when he asked me, all I wanted to say was Yes. I thought about the enormity of my commitment about halfway through our honeymoon when we were fighting about something and it hit me that I couldn't drive away and call this a Mulligan. 9 years later, I thank my na├»ve 23 year old self that she was courageous enough to say yes.

Is this how the great and defining things in life happen? The moment when there is a commitment being presented to you, and all you really know is that you want to say yes and jump in? Maybe if we had all the information we would step back from the edge and stay safe. Kurt Vonnegut said "I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."

For those of you who observe Lent every year, this level of angst might seem silly. It's only 40 days after all, and there are no rules from what I can tell about what you choose to give up. It is a personal observation and spiritual discipline. But I don't do things like this half way. It took me 5 years to come to the conclusion that we should baptize our children, and the number of individuals from whom I sought advice was staggering. I just wanted to be sure because spiritual commitments like this should be taken seriously. They mean something.

So in the next 2 days I will think and pray and make a decision about Lent for me this year. Any personal experiences, wisdom and advice would be valuable if you would choose to share.


  1. Christy, if it is at all helpful, here are some comments on my Lenten experience:

    For the past two or three years, I have given up the internet, with the exception of using it for email or work. That's probably what I'll do this year too. In my mind, the experience of giving something up for Lent is to make room for something else--God, and whatever he has for you. In fact, I know some people do not give up for Lent, but rather add--that is, adopt a new practice, such as prayer or reading scripture in a way that they do not normally practice.

    There were a couple years in college when I gave up "thinking about boys". I know it sounds silly and cheesy, but you know what? It was great. That was a time in my life when I would go to bed at night and lie awake thinking about some guy I liked. So for Lent, I stopped that and sometimes I even prayed instead. I think Lent is a time when we have some extra discipline to remind us of our commitment to and need for Christ.

    I hope this Lent is a rich time for you. I look forward to talking about your experience!

  2. I agree that it's most meaningful when you focus on giving up something to make space for God or for something else good. Though my church experience has been remarkably like yours, I've still found the advice on Catholic site Busted Halo's Lent Page ( really useful for just that reason: they focus on fasting, praying, AND giving.

    Once, I enjoyed following the traditional Lenten diet, which is essentially vegan; there was something powerful about changing a way of life, a way of cooking, not just a fast from chocolate or something comparatively trivial.

    But for the last 3 years I've enjoyed something even simpler: committing to spend a solid chunk of time (45 min to an hour) praying and reading scripture every single day during Lent, no matter what. I know a lot of people do that anyway, and good for them. But I know how I tend to make excuses and stay in bed, and I miss out on the benefits of the discipline.

    Last year, I had a moment of fear: the night before Ash Wednesday, I couldn't sleep. I thought, "There's no WAY I can get up early now for prayer! I'll be too tired!" But what I found was that I COULD. It was just a fake kind of fear, the kind that I too often allow to keep me from good things because I want to control my body's clock (as if I'm the master clockmaker).

    (Of course, I know that these sound less impressive to someone used to a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and used to being awoken at ungodly hours by children all the time....)

  3. Christy,

    Like both of the previous posters, during Lent I forego whatever has become an idol in my life to make more time and space for Jesus. It always seems like silly things, but the interesting thing is that, usually, once I give something up for Lent, I don't struggle with it thereafter as much. I remember, one year I fasted Facebook. Another year I fasted coffee. This year I'm going "healthy" vegan for Lent and giving up all social media. I've been really convicted about how much of my time (i.e. LIFE) is wasted on the internet. (I mentioned this the other day, how it's almost like I'm not even really living my real life I'm so absorbed in everything else.) Likewise, I've been convicted about how undisciplined I've been in my eating habits since the holidays--eating things which literally harm my body. What I find most interesting about the way God is convicting my heart this year is that both of these things I do when I'm bored! I'll sit and eat an entire bag of pretzels --until my stomach aches-- at midnight, while I'm on Facebook, when I could be doing something more constructive.

    Anyway, what you give up and/or add for Lent is entirely personal. It is something I have enjoyed doing every year. I hope, if you decide to do it, that you enjoy it as well.