The Ash Wednesday worship service was a haven of calm in the middle of a busy week. It seems the Common Household does not slow down much for celebrations of penitence. Most of my activity was good, but not particularly penitent:
aerobics class two days in a row (oof!);
cooking a casserole for the local men’s shelter;
taking the car for state inspection (it passed!);
meeting friends from out of town for lunch;
taking the kids to music lessons and other activities.
And yet in the midst of these good things, and the outrageously wonderful blessing of being able to have the time and energy to contemplate penitence at all, I felt angry and unsettled this week.
Angry at our state’s governor, who announced his budget proposal this week. He proposes to cut state funding for K-12 education by 10%. This just makes me sick in my soul. With a change like that, even if state taxes don’t go up, local taxes will. Poorer school districts will be less able to raise funds. Teachers and other staff will lose their jobs.
Unsettled about the future. The governor proposes to cut funding for state universities and colleges in half. Not a gradual decline over several years but a precipitous drop in one year. This hits the Common Household where it lives, since one of us works for one of those universities, and we have a student getting ready to depart for college in the fall. I can live with being unsettled, but what about the students who have to drop out of college after the universities are forced to raise tuition? Where is the hope for their future?
Angry that the governor proposes cutting funds for the state Department of Environmental Protection. And yet he can’t see past the hefty campaign contributions he received from industry, not enough to impose a tax on that industry, so that money will be available for oversight and for the inevitable environmental cleanups resulting from that industry.
[New state slogan: We don’t give a damn about public education or the environment!]
Unsettled about earthquakes, tsunamis, uprisings, wars, and this heavy snow, which is making ominous rumbling noises on the roof right above me.
Feeling the need to be penitent, not for my angry or unsettled feelings, but for the general state of the world, I have decided to try to pay more attention to Lent this year. For me, this began with a Presbyterian fast (salad for lunch, skip dinner, eat sumptuous breakfast the following morning) on Ash Wednesday. Daily scripture reading and prayer is part of the package. I made a vow to clean out some closets, but I’ve made that vow in the past, so we’ll see if it happens. That’s pretty minimal compared to how other people celebrate Lent, but I think it’s the best I can do right now.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within me; ...sustain in me a generous spirit. Psalm 51
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
- Isaiah 58: 6