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Dear Friends in Christ:

     When I attend the Elder High School Basketball games (I am a member of the school’s faculty) I am always amazed that the young men who shoot free throws can ignore the crowd behind the basket or on the sidelines yelling and waving their arms to try to break their concentration.  Some times it works, but most of the time, the young men bear down and concentrate harder.
     I know, whenever I go to the store for my wife, she always writes out a list for me. 

I wander through the store and am easily distracted looking a new products or wondering if I should try a different brand.  Talk about lists, my wife also has a honey do list for jobs around the house.  I can be so easily distracted, it’s hard for me to stay focused on the important things.  Many times I postpone them for the things I like to do.  I only so much time and unless I have a schedule or a list, the important things get neglected.  Much to my chagrin, her list helps me to keep focused on what the important tasks are, although I will never admit that to her.
     A sign of the times. My wife and I attended the ballot at the Center and the announcement was made to switch off all pagers and cell phones so the people could focus on the dance.  Also, speaking of cell phones, how many times have you spotted someone whose driving was distracted by a cell phone?  I’ve almost been wiped out several times by someone driving and using the telephone.
     What does this have to do with Lent?  Besides, what in the heck is Lent?  Try to find it in a bible dictionary or concordance.  You won’t find it. I was forced to go to Webster’s Universal Dictionary which stated that Lent was a Church season celebrated by Christians the forty days before Easter.   Not to definitive, is it?
     I do know that our Catholic Brothers and Sisters seem to make a great deal of Lent. They have several fast days (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and they also abstain from meat on the fridays of Lent.  Fish is not considered a meat so it is the main substitute.  They also have the practice of “giving up something for Lent.  “ Generally it is supposed to be something they enjoy eating or doing as a symbolic sacrifice.
     Not all Christians follow these rules. Many of the Protestants do not abstain from meat or fast. Nor do they give something up for Lent.

     So what is Lent? Why is it important?
It is a time for us to refocus upon our relationship with God through Christ, our Savior.
     With all of the practical tasks and things needed to just maintain the quality of our lives, relationships, jobs and health, we let one of the most import relationships slide.  Oh, we do celebrate Christ’s birthday, and His resurrection at Easter, but those are only two days out of the year.  Many of us don’t even attend church on a regular basis.
We should take the Lenten season very seriously in order to focus on what is important in life: our relationship with God.  Fine you say, but how do I do this?  I recommend what I call my Four Step Program.
       The first step to stay focused is to reconnect with your Christian support group; your church. Attend every Sunday and/or Wednesday
The second way is to read your scripture.  How? Most of the churches have Lenten devotionals which have daily readings and some meditations.  A neat way is to share the devotion as a family and take five minutes before dinner.  You can involve the kids as they read the scripture, or pray.
The third way is to make Lent a special season by either fasting, or abstaining from something you like (ie dessert) and giving the expense you would normally occur for these items to the poor or church.  This minor sacrifice tends to keep your mind on the purpose of Lent.   My wife and I, when we were dating, did not want to abstain from a food item.  We figured it wouldn’t be any great sacrifice.  What we took on was a Lenten project.  We gave up our dates to the movies and other entertainment (money was put in a jar and given to the Church).   What we did was sit on the living room floor and hook a wool rug.  A large rug (six by four feet).  When we finished, we had quite a contribution to give to the Church and a beautiful rug to enjoy.  We sacrificed our entertainment and took the time to talk and know each other.  We always consider that Lent one of the most special time of our lives.
The Forth thing you can do is pray.  What to pray for? J ust look around.  Friends and family suffering from illness, bad relationships, economic hardships, divorce, death and who knows what.  When you pray for others, you reconnect with our Savior who lived in service of others.  Also during prayer, ask forgiveness and reflect on ways you can be a better Christian.

    When the forty days are over, you will be doubly glad that Easter has arrived.  Not only for the beautiful message, but your sacrificing time is over.   I guarantee you, that it will be a Lent you will never forget and you will somehow feel reconnected and closer to God.

After all, it all a matter of focus.

Fraternally yours in Christ,

Sam Witherup

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