By the Rev. Richard Graves
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Lent is right around the corner, late this year, beginning Wednesday.
We associate certain words with this 40-day period that always precedes Easter: penitence, fasting, self-denial, sacrifice, sin. Not exactly a list of words to write home about. If you employ them in your active vocabulary too liberally, people are likely to think you are either a religious person (probably a fanatic) or engaged in the cruelest of diets. Either way, people may try to avoid you.
In many ways Lent has become, for me, a time devoted not to giving something up - for example, chocolate or television - or taking something on - a new prayer discipline, volunteering somewhere - but rather finding a different gear, a different speed at which to live my life.
When I have an errand, I try to walk rather than drive. A cardiologist would be quick to point out that this is good for my heart, but that is not why I walk. Walking slows me down. I get where I want to go, but it takes me longer. I'm moving, but at a different speed. Life viewed from the sidewalk rather than through the windshield of my car seems less a blur because it is. The scenery is the same, but I am able to take more of it in, see it for what it is and isn't with greater clarity, because it passes by at a more leisurely clip.
Avoiding the microwave would have similar benefits - who needs water to boil or butter to melt that fast? - or writing an actual letter with pen and paper rather than composing and sending it via e-mail, or drawing a hot bath and soaking rather than showering.
During the 60s, young people of a certain age who might be experimenting with mind-altering substances were warned, "speed kills." And lives were saved. Literally, saved.
Finding a different, slower pace at which to live our lives, during Lent or at any time, I believe, also imparts some life-saving benefits. Doubt me? Then try it out and see for yourself. Bypass your garage, lace us your sneakers and take that gentle stroll through the neighborhood. In every respect, it will benefit your heart.
Richard Graves is an Episcopal priest serving St. Mark's Parish, Fort Dodge, and the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Webster City.