The 40 People of Lent
—Grace & Truth Linkup

In the Wilderness

It’s a wilderness season.

I wonder that for the little girl I see on the elevator.

On that day, the calendar tells me it is March 1. But something is off.

When the elevator door opens on the 7th floor and the child steps in, I immediately notice the “Happy Birthday” tiara on her head.

I tell her happy birthday.

I’m not that person who initiates lengthy conversations with strangers in elevators (see this funny insurance commercial with Dr. Rick on the elevator). I’ll do the obligatory friendly southern chit-chat—How’s your day going? Can you believe it turned cold again?—but I don’t want to be too nosy or too annoying.

But with this girl in the elevator, it feels safe. So I keep going.

How old are you today? She smiles and says, “7.”

Her grandmother says, “But she hasn’t had 7 birthdays.”

A Season for Loving

I’m puzzled. She continues, “Her true birthday is February 29.”

Oh! I’ve often lamented for February 29 babies. Having to wait every 4 years for the actual date must feel torturous, especially when you’re young.

The Lenten season feels like a season of waiting, too. A season of wilderness wanderings as Jesus walked away from life and people as he knew them to prepare himself for life and people with God in a new role.

I can’t say I totally get it, of course. But I get it enough.

It’s a wilderness season for me, too.

For awhile I’ve not been able to spend proper time with some of the people I love either, not been able to live the role I want to play in their lives. It makes me sad beyond words.

Yet others I love are still still actively involved in my life.

I don’t want to take these people for granted.

This isn’t a season for only waiting on what’s to come. It’s also a season for loving who’s here now.

40 People of Lent

So I’ve declared this Lenten season as 40 People of Lent. For each of the 40 days, I am attempting to connect with 40 different people. Preferably in person, but if not face to face, at least via video or voice.

Some days it’s easy. Every Monday, for example, I may interact with 50 different people. Pick one. But other days I may see no one but my husband. (And I already counted him as my person on Day 3.)

On those days I have to be more intentional. I have to proactively seek out another human being to connect with. (I’ve settled for an email only once, so far.)

I’m halfway there. 20 people down, 20 more to go.

The Goodness of Kinship

So for Day 7 on March 1, I counted the February 29 birthday girl as my connection, albeit a loose one.

This little wilderness child will never know that she’s part of my spiritual practice, that I’m still remembering her. And the doll she was holding that looked like her.

I asked her about the doll, and she told me the doll’s name is Maddie, a birthday present. I assume Mama spent a few extra dollars for the custom-designed doll for this year’s gift. (Next year’s gift on actual Leap Day in 2024 will have to be a knockout.)

As I look into the eyes of 40 different human beings during Lent, I spot similarities between us as well.

Yes, we each have arms, legs, ears. But the similarities go deeper.

We each are a God-designed image that connects with the other, together creating a beautiful network of goodness in this wilderness adventure we’re living in.

So thank you birthday girl on Day 7. And Phyllis on Day 11. And Bridget on Day 14.

I can’t predict who will fill the back half of the 20 slots.

But I look forward to the kinship.

Do you know someone with a February 29 birthday? Did you choose something to give up, or add, during Lent? The 40 People of Lent fits nicely with my One Word this year, Human

Share in the comments.

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Grace & Truth Featured Post

Last week Lory linked up a beautiful and insightful original poem about Lent and Advent. Read all of her poem at her blog, then link your own blog posts below.

Advent/Lent: A Poem

Review the rules here about adding your most recent Christian Living posts and how to be the Featured Post. Visit all four hosts social media here or websites here: Maree Dee, Lisa notes, Lauren Sparks, Tammy Kennington.

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Talk to a Human. Can Technology Do This?

In Love with Technology

It’s a quiet Monday evening. I’m relaxing in the recliner in my living room, typing on my laptop.

I’m grateful for how far we’ve come with technology. I remember when I used to have to stay seated at our clunky desktop computer near the modem if I needed the internet. Or else tether my laptop to the modem via a long red cord weaving its way through the house to give me portable internet access.

Now I just flip open my laptop or tap on my phone, and voilà.

Tonight I’m signing up my friend for her own internet service. My friend isn’t techy and can’t do it herself.

But thanks to the internet itself, I don’t even have to talk to a person to do it for her.

Just me and the friendly internet bots will get it done tonight, no other humans required.

The Dreaded Dropdown Menu

I have my friend’s information handy, so I easily navigate the first set of questions with her new internet provider. No problem. Type, submit, type, submit.

Until they ask a question I can’t answer. I explain my situation as a representative go-between for my friend.

But the bot doesn’t understand.

It offers me a dropdown menu to solve our problem. But none of the options fit. We’re caught in an endless, hopeless cycle.

I feel the heat rising. I’m now talking out loud to the bot, who of course can’t hear me.

I can no longer sit. I stand up and pace the room as I wait for the internet chat helper to actually help.

Option 1 or 2?

The bot returns, offering a phone number to connect me with their support team. I’m happy.

I dial the number on my phone. But it only gives me a phone tree of options to choose from, none of which are applicable.

I push # to return to the home menu. But the automated voice only repeats the same limited options.

I’m really getting angry now. When I’m offered “For option 1 say yes,” or “For option 2 say no,” instead I say, “I want to talk to a human.”

But no representative comes.

So I say it again, “Talk to a human.” Louder, each time. “Talk to a human! Talk to a human!!!

I’m stuck. This is insanity.

Technology Is Changing Us

Then the miracle happens. A human magically appears on the line with a friendly, “How can I help you?”

The accent is difficult for my southern ear to understand, but that’s okay. It’s another human being, a flesh and blood person who can listen to my situation and who can think beyond an automated messaging script.

I’m thrilled.

We solve the problem. My friend’s internet service will go live in five days.

I click off the phone. I sit back down in my recliner and reflect on my mad behavior over the past hour.

I started as a person who only wanted to type with an internet chatbot; it’d be quicker, less intimidating, more efficient, I had thought.

But now I’m a person who loved nothing more than talking to another person. A person like me.

Technology can do a lot of things for us, thankfully. Maybe technology can even push us closer to other humans.

As a person, I really do like people best.

Talk to a human. Yes. I’m learning. Human is my One Word of the Year, after all. And I’m understanding why—more and more—as the year goes on.

I close my laptop. I put it under my nightstand. We’re disconnecting for the night.

I start a conversation with my husband instead.

Do you prefer texting or calling? Chatbots or in-person?

Share in the comments.

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sharing at these linkups

Platinum Rule or Golden Rule?
—Grace & Truth Linkup

The noise. The poop. The trampled grass.

It’s that time of year again.

The Canada geese are all here and all mating.

Canada geese

From my perspective on the shore, it looks and sounds quite violent on the lake outside my window. The geese honk and hiss and fight in the spring as they begin pairing up.

It doesn’t sound like fun or look like love to me.

Maybe the geese don’t know about the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would want done to them.”

The Platinum Rule is tweaked from the Golden Rule, which we all know is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The only problem with the Golden Rule is that sometimes we can give bad gifts when others don’t prefer what we prefer. And vice versa.

To best love each other, maybe we need to ask more questions—What do YOU desire? What feels like love to you? In what ways can I really help you?—instead of just doing what we like better.

Back in the lake, I wonder if the female goose would prefer the male goose follow the Platinum Rule instead of the Golden Rule when he practically drowns her in the name of procreation. 

Irregardless, once they choose each other (actually it’s the female who makes that decision), it’s til death do them part for a goose couple. If they’re ever separated for even a short amount of time, they greet each other again with an elaborate display of honks and head rolling.

Over the next few months, I look forward to seeing baby geese on the lake.

But that will come with more loud honking as the parents fend off other geese (or humans) from coming too close to their babies. And there will be more poop in our driveway (a goose can defecate over a pound per day).

I guess this goose love works for them, whichever rules they instinctually follow.

May we find what works for us, too.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Grace & Truth Featured Post

“Maybe I’m not trying hard enough.”

Sometimes we throw that accusation on ourselves. But willpower alone isn’t always enough. We need God’s help. Yet even then, we can’t hand over our own responsibilities.

Read all of Helen’s post about more than willpower here at her blog, then link up your own blog posts below.

Strength Is More Than Just Willpower

Thanks for sharing, Helen! Here’s a button for your blog.

Review the rules here about adding your most recent Christian Living posts and how to be the Featured Post. Visit all four hosts social media here or websites here: Maree Dee, Lisa notes, Lauren Sparks, Tammy Kennington.

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Go Barefoot: The Practice of Walking on Earth


Most of us spend so much time thinking about where we have been or where we are supposed to be going that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are.

The trail was listed as 2 miles. But it felt much longer.

It’s been a few years now since we walked this trail. In one of the last remaining virgin forests in North Carolina—the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest—the view was grand.

But the terrain was touchy. You had to go slow. Not only because of the incline, but because of tree roots and rocks and stumps.

You had to pay attention to where each foot landed.

You had to notice.

You had to stay grounded.

It’s a spiritual discipline to stay grounded. To remember how to walk on the earth as we live in the Spirit.

To remember that where our feet are now is also where our heart needs to be. In this moment is where I AM resides.

Sometimes we do not know what we know until it comes to us through the soles of our feet, the embrace of a tender lover, or the kindness of a stranger.

Touching the truth with our minds alone is not enough.

We are made to touch it with our bodies.

Back home, the walk is easier. I leave my shoes unlaced in the closet. I walk barefoot outside, stepping quickly over the hot pavement to cool my toes in the grass. Ever watchful for thorny weeds or ant resorts, I still enjoy the sensation of nothing under my feet but earth.

It’s when feet are uncovered they’re most aware of the ground.

To go barefoot is to live raw.
To notice each step.
To track the refined nuances of pain and pleasure.

To watch for prints of love around you to match its stride and pace your journey to its walking speed, slow enough to pay attention but fast enough to keep moving.

So I walk.

With shoes off. On holy ground. Here and now.

When we stepped off the mountain trail after the supposed two miles had ended, our feet were tired.

But our souls were grounded.

* * *

revised from the archives

What holy ground have you stepped on lately? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The Practice of Walking on Earth is #4 of 12 spiritual disciplines from Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderful book, An Altar in the World.

Read more here about each discipline.

  1. The practice of waking up to God
  2. The practice of paying attention
  3. The practice of wearing skin
  4. The practice of walking on the earth
  5. The practice of getting lost
  6. The practice of encountering others
  7. The practice of living with purpose
  8. The practice of saying no
  9. The practice of carrying water
    (Physical labor)
  10. The practice of feeling pain
  11. The practice of being present to God
  12. The practice of pronouncing blessings

How to Read a Book (i.e., Live a Life) by Pausing on the Page

It is 30 minutes before lights out on Saturday night. I’m lying in bed, casually reading the poetry book with the green cover that was loaned to me a few weeks ago. Maybe it will lull me to sleep.

There was no struggle tonight whether to read books or watch TV at bedtime. My once-the-non-reader husband is now deep into his own book beside me. I guess lying beside a wife with a book in her hand for 30 years can do that to a person.

But I’m suddenly wide awake! The words in my book have reached fingers out for my neck and hold me by the throat. What is this book doing to me?

  • Some books I read, but I don’t retain.
  • Some books I enjoy, but I’m not touched.
  • Some books I think through, but I don’t share.

And that’s okay.

As with life, not every book is meant to be a thriller or a life-changer. We don’t need to be emotionally shocked around every corner in our daily life. We aren’t meant to remember every sandwich we’ve ever eaten for lunch. And honestly, most moments in an average day just aren’t worth talking about with another person.

But overall, our lives are meant to be experienced with purpose and priority.

And pauses.

I sit straight up and interrupt Jeff. You’ve got to hear this, I tell him. This is happening to me right now!

I read the words aloud to him from Marla Taviano on page 281 in jaded:

“be right back”

my favorite books are the
ones I have to put down to

google a question or look
up a vocabulary word or

write furiously on my laptop
or in a notebook because the

thoughts/ideas the author’s
words have unleashed won’t

stop coming/flowing and I
not-so-secretly hope you have

to put this book down a time
or two to create something

You’re getting your wish, Marla. I’m doing this in the moment, pausing the book to create something as a result of it.

Would I have gotten this much enjoyment if we’d chosen to just watch another episode of Parks and Recreation tonight (our latest series after recently finishing The Office)?

Even though the words in this book, jaded, were likely written at least two years ago, the flat symbols on paper are still alive today. The Word lives. It breathes and connects and moves alongside us, inside us, as we allow Love to recreate us more in its image.

when you can't say it all -marla taviano

I close the book. I open my laptop. I type in a few thoughts sparked by the words. I don’t know where they’ll take me, but we’re engaged now.

This is how I want to read books, i.e., how I want to experience life.

  • Slow down for the good parts.
  • Pause for the aha tingles.
  • Capture the awe to share and connect.

I fold up my laptop and tuck it under my nightstand.

But I pick up the book again. I turn to the next page. And slowly resume reading.

Do books do this to you, too? How do you slow down and experience life more fully? Share in the comments.

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Do I Belong With These Old People?
—Grace & Truth Linkup

I drive into the parking lot of my doctor’s office on Monday morning. I’m disturbed there are so many cars already here.

I thought I’d be first. Or close to it anyway.

But at 6:52 a.m., I’m already 5th in line to get bloodwork done.

I take my place in line outside the door that won’t open until 7 a.m. sharp.

Why is everyone here so old? I look at the four people in front of me. One older woman is sharply dressed with her picture-perfect wig. She chats with the other older woman about her neighborhood. The first man in line, also older, keeps checking his watch, obviously in a hurry. The second man looks more like me, dressed in sweatpants and flip flops, caring little about his morning outfit.

The nurse opens the door at 7 and we all sign in, all here for fasting bloodwork, getting it over with early so we can go home and eat breakfast by 8.

Yes, these older people had my same idea.

As we wait our turn in the waiting room, more older people file in. The extras have to sit in the overflow pediatric waiting room. I smile as they sit around the toys, noticing the juxtaposition of their age with their surroundings.

I remember back to when I was much younger. As the third of four children, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t always surrounded by other people, waiting my turn for the next thing to happen.

In one of the few photos I have as a child, I’m surprised to find a picture of just me. I was maybe 8 years old in this photo (I think there are 8 candles here?). My sweet mother must have hung the balloons on the ceiling, baked and decorated my birthday cake.

The next birthday photo I have is at age 10 (judging by the calendar on the wall). My next door neighbors Anita and Julie are here to celebrate with me.

My thoughts are interrupted when the nurse calls my name. It’s finally my turn for the blood draw.

I hope she’ll be quick. I need to get home to babysit two little boys ages 1 and 4 coming to my house this morning. Their mom has her own doctor’s appointment today.

Because life is always birthing itself. Once I was young. Once I had young children.

But now I’m older.

I suppose I do belong in this crowd of older people after all. I’ve earned my spot. I’ve put in my time. We may all be in a waiting room, but we’re not just waiting to die. And neither are we waiting to live.

We’re doing both, all the time, living and dying, caught somewhere between young and old, yet still finding our place in the circle of life.

Are you still finding your place secure in the circle of life, whether young or old?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Grace & Truth Featured Post

This post by Lois is what prompted me to look back to old photos of my own. Lois writes about reframing a few memories after an older photo resurfaces that she has never seen.

“Getting older—or losing loved ones who have been around our entire lives—hands us the opportunity to look at life from perspectives other than our own. To reframe a few memories, like I did after I found the picture of me and my dad.”

Read all of Lois’s post here at her blog, then add your own blog posts below. 

The Unexpected Blessing of a Newly Surfaced Photo

Review the rules here about adding your most recent Christian Living posts and how to be the Featured Post. Visit all four hosts social media here or websites here: Maree Dee, Lisa notes, Lauren Sparks, Tammy Kennington.

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