“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

For Mother’s Day last year, I asked for a lemon tree, and my family blessed me with two tiny Meyer Lemon trees. My husband helped me plant each one in a sunny location in our garden, and at once I fancied myself a lemon farmer. However, my trees were small, a little frail and the expected crop of lemons did not come forth. Rather than gorgeous fruit, at around the six-month mark, I spotted evidence of a pest that was systematically dining on the tender leaves and blossoms. Google revealed a plan of action that involved the daily application of a particular oil to each trees’ leaves. This oil must be sprayed on both sides of every single leaf on the tree in order to cause the tiny pests to evacuate. This application must be consistent over the course of about three weeks. Then a weekly maintenance schedule would need to be kept. The Fall season of gardening for me featured many interruptions, and my attempt to eradicate the lemon tree infestation failed miserably. While I managed to beat back the tiny, annoying leaf destroying army, I never actually prevailed. I lacked consistency and focus.

In the middle of January, I attempted a second three-week campaign against the pests that intended to rob me of my Spring lemon crop. Progress was made; however, a Covid-19 diagnosis around day ten of the regimen sidelined my assault for a few days. The eve of Valentine’s Day weekend brought dire warnings from the local weatherman who gleefully predicted single digit temperatures for my tropical area of Texas, just North of Houston. Google warned me that the Meyer Lemon variety in particular do not survive temperatures below 32, so single digits for three days in a row would surely destroy my twin lemon trees. My lemon trees were facing certain peril, and I did not know what to do.

Lent is an open invitation extended to all believers, and this year it begins on Wednesday, February 17th. It’s a forty-day opportunity to draw closer to God and remove things and activities that distract me from putting Him first in my life. Lent is not only about giving up, but it can also be about embracing new disciplines or practices that might help me to grow spiritually. It is in fact a soul tending activity, requiring consistency and focus, that provides a necessary reset. All Christians continually need to renew our repentance and faith. (ACNA BCP 2019 p. 543)

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you.” This is how I must approach Lent this year. I must be intentional in preparing myself and considering what I need to take on and give up in this season. I must begin as I mean to go on. Just like my lemon trees, my soul is in need of intensive, continual care in order to grow.

If I am able to attend an Ash Wednesday service, the priest will say to me, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.I need to be reminded. The smudged cross on my forehead will be an outward and visible sign proclaiming an invitation to a Holy Lent that is extended to all of God’s people in this bleak midwinter.

As for those twin lemon trees, my husband carefully dug them up before the artic plunge, and we brought them inside planted in pots. It will be a bit of a shock for them to be moved; however, having them parked in my living room will surely help me as I try round three of eradicating those tiny leaf munchers. For these lemon trees, intentional care for them could help them survive and even thrive in the midst the polar plunge of 2021.

How will I in turn practice soul care for myself in this season? Am I willing to practice Lent and spend a time of self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving this year? (ACNA BCP 2019 p. 544) Because I need an intentionally set aside time to prepare for Resurrection Sunday, also known as Easter, on Sunday, April 4th. Just like my little lemon trees, my soul needs daily care. Perhaps, Lent could prove an ideal reset?

Update

I won’t be able to attend a traditional Ash Wednesday service today because my church has had to cancel all services due to unsafe icy road conditions. Our church will offer ash distribution on Sunday when temperatures will rise above freezing. Prayers would be so appreciated for all of us, as many are still without power and water in my area.

“The Book of Common Prayer 2019,” Anglican Church in North America

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