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I can’t believe that next Wednesday, we will be gathering at 7:00 p.m. on Valentine's Day to say, “I love you, but remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Trust me, there’s nothing like those words to get people to attend an Ash Wednesday service, let alone it being Valentine's Day. Now, that said, our theme as I have been saying for the last couple of weeks is: “What r u up 2?” To introduce us to our theme, here are some words from Dr. Marcia McFee, the creator of our theme:


As I began to study the lectionary readings, I kept seeing the word “up” show up (see how easy that happens… turns out our vocabulary is full of “ups!”). And the phrase “what are you up to?” popped into my head several times. It felt like a juxtaposition to what we usually do in Lent — give something up! So I began to read the scriptures from this viewpoint. What is Jesus encouraging us to be up to? There was a lot there for us to consider. So the series was born out of my love of word-play, the desire to see Lent in a different way, and also acknowledge that spiritual practice is also about active participation in the world, for the sake of the world.

Being “up to something” doesn’t have to be anything big, or life-changing, or unnecessarily piled onto an already-busy schedule. Finding “practices” that elevate our spirit can sometimes simply be a more intentional minute of reflection about something that shows up already in our lives. To be “up to something” may be simply raising up our awareness of what is important, what is precious, what is necessary for a life that feels gratifying. It can also mean raising our awareness of those things that don’t feel life-giving and giving them up “for good.”

We ask our friends, “what are you up to these days?” It is a playful question when we ask it this way. “Up to” sounds a little sneaky. “They are up to something!” Like orchestrating a surprise or creating something wonderful without making it a big deal. It is like having a project that only you know about. Lent is a little like that. It is a time when we go inward to assess “what’s up” in there so that the outward-facing life we lead is fueled and supported by a deep inner spiritual well. And sometimes what we are up to out in the world has positive or negative effects on that inner world. Being up to assessing those dynamics is also a key component to a Lenten journey.

Of course, the snarky response to the question “what are you up to” is “oh, about 5’5”!” We are a measuring kind of species. How tall? How accomplished? How important? How popular? But in this Lent season, being “up to something” isn’t about “measuring up.” It is quite the opposite. When we get up to something, it is because we ourselves have deemed that this “something” is worth our heightened attention — not that we are trying to reach some height that someone else set for us.

“Are you up to it?” There are times when we just don’t feel up to much. Life’s circumstances can take a toll. Here is another distinction about our Lenten journey. Sometimes what we are “up for” is saying “no” as the best answer for us in this time. A trend in the healthcare sector is for doctors to run “micro-practices” in which they reduce their overhead and staff and patient load so that they can have more quality and quantity of time with each patient. What if we think about “micro-practicing” our lives? What would you prune in your life to spend more quality and quantity of time with the most important people and activities?