Playdates with God: Sunday before Lent

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On the Sunday before the start of Lent, Bonnie and I are up before the sun to make pepperoni rolls for the Souperbowl luncheon at our church. We share this meal every year at this time—soup and sandwiches—and collect donations for the local food pantry. The day before, I forgot I had volunteered to make pepperoni rolls. So, there we are, kneading dough at six a.m. I try to rest on the couch as I wait for the dough to rise, but it’s no good. So I sit and watch through the window as dawn spreads her cloak over the meadow. The frilled tips of the grasses are laced with frost and when the sun hits them, they turn to gossamer—drops of light flashing up the brown of winter.

On Saturday, we celebrated with friends the coming of Fat Tuesday. We at shrimp creole and drank hurricanes and listened to Cajun music. On Sunday morning I think about this tradition of reveling before the forty day fast. This Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, our church will host a pancake supper. It’s a similar tradition—get rid of the rich foods in the house before Lent begins. It seems a strange beginning.

I think I understand why the Orthodox Church calls the season of Lent the Bright Sadness. Celebration and mourning take turns to stir deep places, and eyes are opened to the truth that we cannot follow Christ and remain unchanged.

During Lent I want to burrow away—hide in books and words and prayer. But I know on this journey I cannot do it alone. I need sisters and brothers, to clasp their hands tight and enter into this with strong arms holding me. For… am I not the one who—after waving palm fronds in exultation—will so quickly turn in anger? Am I not the one who will deny and betray the Lover of My Soul? John Wesley said, “Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.”

I sit and watch the sun lift herself up over my neighbor’s house and I feel the weight of those words.

Christmas still feels fresh off the table and I’m not sure I’m ready for the bright sadness just yet. Every year it is the same, Lent surprises with her timely arrival. I think this is the nature of the season. This gentle resistance in my spirit reminds me to notice life, to be very deliberate as I step through the days.

Today, I’d love to hear about how you prepare your heart for the Lenten season. Will you share in the comments any special traditions or rituals you keep? Thanks, dear ones. Wesley also said that he liked to set himself on fire so others would come to watch him burn. A flame spreads. Stand close to the fire. Let’s kindle together through this bright sadness.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess


  1. says

    Like you, I want to hunker down with my books and my thoughts about repentance and resurrection during this season. Unfortunately, my church does not recognize this as a season of preparation and acknowledgement off Christ’s sacrifice. We just all show up on Easter Sunday and say hooray together. In my home, I have tried to instill this appreciation for the rhythm of the seasons and the years in my children, but this dearth leads me to be especially appreciative of your words about honoring the observances in community. Laura, thank you for your efforts here in this space in the midst of your already full days.

    • says

      I didn’t grow up recognizing Lent either, Michele. As an adult, I’ve found these traditions enrich my spiritual life and fill me with new wonder at the mysteries of God. I think you are giving your children a gift by teaching them about the liturgical rhythms.

  2. says

    Lent always comes up as a surprise for me too. So quickly it gets here. I spent the past 3 days at a monastery in silent retreat, and it was fabulous. I wouldn’t want to live that way everyday. 🙂 But it was good preparation for the Bright Sadness ahead (I’ve not heard that phrase; lovely).

    • says

      Lisa!! That sounds amazing. What a wonderful way to prepare for the monastery near you? I hope you’ve written about the experience because I want to hear more! Praying much fruit from that time as you enter Lent.

  3. Sharon says

    Bright sadness – I really like that. It reminds me of what it feels like to follow Jesus. Trials and suffering along the way, yes, but moments of great joy as we journey toward our eternal home.


  4. says

    I have never heard it referred to as , Bright Sadness, but it so aptly describes the process, doesn’t it? I was not raised to celebrate Lent, Laura, but it has become a welcome tradition as I raise my own children. I confess I don’t hold as strictly to the dietary changes some of my friends honor in their advent to the Holy Week which Lent prepares us for, but we spend a lot of time in quiet reflection and study of scriptures. This year I am going to go through Luke and the Book of Acts with friends as a study and spend lots of time in prayer and reflection.
    I love tradition, though. I love the way it reminds us and points to God.
    Blessings friend!

  5. says

    I am not sure why but every year it surprises me with its arrival. Growing up in Puerto Rico as Catholic (which I no longer are), Lent is a very solemn time, especially the last week before Easter Sunday. We cover of all of our mirrors with black cloth and we do not eat meat except for fish. 13 Catholic churches around town open their doors all day representing the 13 tribes. On Good Friday, there is a procession around town, with these beautiful iconic statues all the way to the church where a mass is held. I miss that solemn celebration of the passion and resurrection of Jesus.

    • says

      Maria, that is fascinating! Isn’t it interesting how the traditions of our childhoods seem to mean more as we grow? Maybe that’s part of growing more into his likeness–tendering the heart to feel the holy intentions all these traditions began with.

  6. says

    Wow, Laura, I love that Wesley quote! Thanks for sharing it with us. I love that you are pointing us back to community during Lent. I do believe Christ prayed for us to do life together in John 17 (just read that this morning!).

    I grew up going to a Presbyterian church, which was very Liturgical, so we had readings and followed sacred traditions as we got our hearts ready for Easter. The week before, I always remember going mid-week to hear the pastor preach a sermon on the 7 sayings of the cross.

    As a adult, I moved away from liturgical worship, but the last few years, I have really enjoyed either doing some sort of Lenten devotional or reading through the Gospels as we look toward Easter. I also try to read a book on the life of Christ (or at least part of a book!). I will probably keep things simple this year and just follow along with the girls at, who will be doing a Lent series starting Wednesday.

    Blessings to you as you remember. xo

    • says

      Simple sounds perfect to me, Lyli. I’ve found that the simpler my plan is, the more in tune I am to the plans of the Spirit! I attend a Presbyterian church now, and though I wouldn’t call it “high church” I enjoy the special services we have during Lent. Hugs to you, friend.

  7. Lynn D. Morrissey says

    Laura, a beautiful and brightly sad sharing. I begin this almost-near Lenten journey with the sadness of the (to me) untimely death of a fifteen-year-old friend and the brightness of his ushering into God’s very presence. His parents have entered the house of mourning quite literally during this mournful season of Lent. It is nearly impossible to fathom the reality of Easter resurrection with his grave so freshly dug. I love what John Wesley says here: ““Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.” Surely as the Body of Christ came to animated life around this grieving family, as His hands and feet and eyes and mouth and ears, they engulfed his grieving family and siblings in social holiness. I don’t think they could survive without this tangible extension of Christ in the horrific here and now.

    And how do I observe Lent to prepare my heart? I’m Presbyterian, and so I will go to a nearby Episcopal church for recitations of Holy Scripture, singing and chanting of doleful music, and the imposition of ashes on my forehead in a smudged rendition of the Cross of Christ. One day I will return to dust, from whence I’ve come. And this boy? He is already becoming ash. That’s that holy (and horrific) sadness of his Lenten journey. But oh . . . oh! he is that much closer to his own resurrection, and he is closer than ever to the brightness of Jesus. My fifteen-year-old friend beholds his Savior face to face!

    • says

      I’m so sorry for this tender loss, Lynne. I love how you point out that it is in these kinds of terrible losses that our presence as the body of Christ can be a balm. Much love to you, friend and prayers offered up on behalf of the loved ones of your young friend.

  8. says

    I don’t subtract, cut
    Things out – He finished it for
    Me in Calvary.

    (I appreciate the Lent traditions, but for me, the best way to recognize these 40 days is the same way I ought to recognize all the others: listen, obey, walk narrow, and love wide.)

    • says

      I hear you, Friend! Those two key words for me are “ought to.” The rhythms of the church calendar give me something tangible to cue my frail mind. I need those special seasons to remind me to notice. I don’t get all legalistic about it, though. To me, the beauty is not in the tradition of “giving something up,” but in the deeper meaning of the season. Much love to you!

  9. says

    I decided to do a 5 week Lenten study this year on my blog Word of God Speak with introduction this Thursday. I am joining with you to check into certain passages and see how God’s Word speaks to me. I would love you to share this on Word of God Speak.


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