Turner was a minister at University Congregational Church in Seattle from 1958 to 1982.
"Christians are now in the season of Lent, the 40-day period - not counting Sundays - before Easter. Easter is set by the moon as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal or spring equinox." (Author's note: This year, the spring equinox is March 20th and the first full moon after the equinox is April 6th. That determines that the current Lenten season will culminate with the beauty and triumph of Easter on April 8th).
Rev. Turner's column continued: "Lent commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism. In the wilderness Jesus pondered the course his life would take. His experience at baptism convinced him that he was called of God in a special way. He determined that his message would be to call people to repentance and to challenge them to enlarge their concept of God - to conceive of God as a God of all-inclusive love."
"During Lent, we are called to clarify our goals, to place our lives in proper focus and to ask what our response will be to the problems of our time. For some, Lent becomes a period of renunciation - of abstinence from certain foods and pleasure in order to gain a more disciplined life. But Lent should not only be a time for abstinence but also for adding positive qualities to our lives."
Some of the simple yet positive Lenten practices that Rev. Turner suggested at the close of his article are:
- Do something each day for someone else at some cost to yourself
- Pray daily for family and friends and for those who are ill, homeless, or in need
- Write a letter to a friend or family member or someone who doesn't expect a letter
- If you see someone without a smile give that person one of yours
- Never miss an opportunity to compliment or say something encouraging to another
- You can never do a kindness too soon for you never know how soon it will be too late
An exemplary model for me, personally, of someone who exhibited many positive, loving practices was my mother. Her selflessness, thoughtfulness, and generosity were evident every day. She wrote notes to others to share her appreciation or praise for something that they had done. She sent birthday cards religiously to everyone in her large, extended family. She found positive things to share about others, even when she may have been annoyed with them. She uplifted others with her humor, laughter, and good spirits every day of her life.
On the day she died there was a good-bye celebration at her church for her minister, who had received a call to the new church. She was sad to see him leave, but she wanted to wish him well with a note and a small gift. I spoke with her the evening before the celebration and she asked me to help her to recall the words to the Irish Blessing, which she wanted to include in her note. The familiar Blessing says:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.
Little did I realize at the time how much I would treasure spending that time with my mother, helping her with the words for the Blessing. It was enjoyable because The Irish Blessing has always been a favorite of mine and it was a pleasure to recall the words with Mom. Our St. Andrew choir has sung at various times an anthem with the words from the Blessing and it has been a meaningful way to end a worship service. As I recited the words over the phone for my mom, she jotted down the words and then copied them into the note she was writing for her minister.
I treasure that phone time with my mom, because she died the next day, 6 hours after collapsing from an aneurysm. The day after she died, my aunt, who was with my mother when she died, went to mom's home to see if all was OK there, and she found the Irish Blessing in my mom's handwriting on her kitchen table. My aunt said that she felt as though my mom had written the words, just for her, as a note of loving comfort and reassurance.
In addition to this being the Lenten time of year for us, this month also brings the day when the Irish, especially, celebrate St. Patrick's Day, and I'd like to leave you with another Irish Blessing. As we are reminded to place our lives in proper focus during Lent and respond to others with positive expressions of love and care, the words in this Irish Blessing might inspire us in our daily lives during Lent and even beyond Easter:
May the blessing of light be on you,
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine upon you
and warm your heart
till it glows like a great fire
and strangers may warm themselves
as well as friends.
And may the light shine out of the eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer to come in
out of the storm.
May the blessing of rain be on you;
the soft, sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit
so that little flowers may spring up
and shed their sweetness on the air.
And may the blessing of the great rains be on you,
to beat upon your spirit and wash it fair and clean;
and leave there many a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.
May the blessing of the earth be on you,
the great, round earth;
may you ever have a kindly greeting for people
as you're going along the roads.
And now may the Lord bless you
and bless you kindly.