Three things never fail at the beginning of March in Texas: the Rodeo begins, it will probably be one of the worst weather weeks of the year, and it is almost always the beginning of Lent. At a time when we are supposed to be showing restraint, living penitently and focusing on Jesus, Houston is in the middle of its biggest party of the year. So how do you reconcile party season and penitence? Even I think it’s a stretch to offer up a hangover and a Lenten sacrifice.
First, the Houston Rodeo World’s Championship Bar-B-Que starts off a meat-laden season of indulgence. Fasting? Not likely. One of our barbecue team friends told me about the time he was buying supplies for the team tent at Sam’s one day and he noticed a member of another team buying a cart-full of fish filets. “What is that for?” he asked, wondering why someone would be barbecuing crusted tilapia. “Oh, that’s for our Catholic friends who come on Friday,” was the bemused response. Our friend didn’t miss a beat: “Oh, I just tell all the Catholics to come on Saturday.” Houstonians are nothing if not thoughtful.
If you survive the meat challenge of the Cook-off, next comes the wine obstacle The Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show starts each year with Rodeo Uncorked! – one of the largest wine auctions and competitions in the
country. This year the highlighted region was Tuscany, so a little closer to Rome. All the proceeds go to college scholarships. It would be impolite not to attend and sample the grand auction winners. It’s for the kids.
Speaking of kids, you have to go to the Rodeo carnival. In addition to Mutton Busting, pig races (I respect anything that runs for an Oreo), camels, and your standard thrill rides of dubious safety, there is the fried stuff. Fried Pop Tarts? Check? Fried Nutella, cinnamon rolls, and Reese’s? Check, check, and check. Think you were giving up bacon this year? Even if someone is offering you hand-dipped chocolate bacon or a deep-fried bacon-wrapped Oreo? Get behind me, Satan! There is also shopping. It’s Houston. Of course there is shopping.
While I may have started off Lent in what some perceived as a negative frame of mind, it has been impossible not to thoroughly enjoy this
season, and not just because of all the Rodeo festivities. This Lent has been flush with social media opportunities to make the most of your Lent. I have been loving my daily readings, doing my journal, and praying for difficult people. I have also gotten a kick out of all the Instagram challenges for Lent, like Busted Halo. It’s easier to really examine yourself and admit hard truths when you are relaxed and having fun.
Suddenly, Lent has become the cool thing to do. Just as well. I was never really into the Rice Bowl coin collection. I would just stuff the box full of all the coins I found in my car and under the seat cushions the day before I had to turn it in. Now, there are creative 40 Day challenges everywhere, on the radio and Internet, about what to do each day of Lent. They widen my perceptions of traditional prayer, fasting, and alms giving. Suggestions include ideas like, “fast from complaining today.” That is harder than giving up chocolate.
Initially, I was overwhelmed with Lenten opportunities and I thought I would be distracted from penitence, but a few practices have really stuck and had a surprisingly big impact. I energized by the choices and I am sure something new will speak to me next year. My sacrifices have felt sacrificial, but they haven’t felt like work.
Having fun being penitent hasn’t taken away my seriousness and sadness for Jesus’ sacrifice, either. Being given permission to see the positive in the season has given me breathing room to appreciate it. It’s just like March in Texas. Things may start out, chilly, gloomy and rainy but by the end of the month, the sun is out and summer is a heartbeat away.
Hope you enjoy the first day of Spring and the chance to renew yourself this Lenten season.
For more Lenten introspection and insight from Susan, Anne, and friends, buy Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, paperback available now on Amazon.
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