Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Did you know you can celebrate Mardi Gras with a Pancake Feast?

I wanted to take the opportunity to think about Lent here. I wrote an article on my work’s blog entitled Why Lenten Discipline is a Good Thing, and it got me thinking about Lent.

I really had to live up Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) this year because I’m giving up sugar for Lent. I went to a church dessert potluck on Sunday night and came home with the leftovers of four people’s desserts! I took them all to work today and wished people a Happy Fat Tuesday. Farewell apple pie, chocolate cake, chocolate, and cookies (all of which I had today). We’ll not meet for 40 days. (The exception is, admittedly, the re-opening of Didiers on Feb. 28. If you have doubts about my choice to break my Lenten fast on this particular day, we can talk.)

As I was doing my research for my work blog article, I came across a BBC web page about English Lenten traditions that I’d never heard of before. Apparently, the English call Mardi Gras Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. Shrive (shrove) is the process of showing penitence for one’s sins, particularly before the start of the Lenten season. Pancake Day came about because some churches would encourage their parishioners to give up fatty ingredients for Lent. To use up the butter, eggs, and milk in church-goers’ pantries, they would make huge batches of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday before the start of Lent, a version of a Mardi Gras celebration.

Believe it or not, the English even inaugurated a Pancake Race in the late 1400s that is still a tradition today. (If you don’t believe me, check out River Cottage Family Cookbook from your local library.) Tradition goes that in 1445, a woman lost track of time while cooking pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. She was taken by surprise when the church bells chimed to announce confession time, so she raced to the church with the skillet in her hand and apron around her middle. Pancake races in England were (and maybe still are) often followed by a church service. How crazy is that?! I knew I loved the English.

Enough history. Now to the practicalities of Lent. I was researching Spokane-area churches at work today and came across an awesome Lenten schedule that one church is offering its congregants. Take a look at it. I’m not going to do everything on the calendar, but I will certainly enjoy doing some of it. Even if you don’t choose to participate in any of it, I found the suggestions telling of what many in today’s churches feel is lacking in their own lives: silence, intentionality in relationships, rhythm. I have been lacking these qualities in my own life recently, so I look forward to following many of the suggestions.

As great as all the things on that calendar are, I’m hoping Lent will also be an intentional time of spending time with God in prayer, Bible study, service, and just plain ol’ silence. It’s hard to take time to slow down, but I want to slow down during Lent. And I’m hoping that abstinence from sugar will expose the human weakness in me so that I cling all the more to Christ and his sufficiency. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

I’d love to hear your thoughts about Lent in general or your own plan for Lenten discipline. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Blessings to each of you this week!

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