As the churches gear up for the season of Lent, why not make a commitment to do something extra during this holy season? Some people plan to give up something. Usually what is being given up is something that has meaning to the person choosing to do without it. For example, if you give up chocolate you just might lose weight. Maybe a better approach would be to plan to exercise daily or to add something extra to your daily reading schedule.
Each year our church provides devotional material for Lent. It was passed out last Sunday so that everyone could be prepared. Sometimes that material is excellent, sometimes it is just OK.
I began thinking of what I did during my youth. I had many Roman Catholic friends who gave things up for Lent. Usually I did not give anything up, but I did attend a middle-of-the-week service with my family.
That service really made an impression on me. I do not remember what was said during the sermon or exactly what the scriptures were, but I know that they all pertained to this season called "Lent" when the Christian population prepares for the holiest time of the church calendar.
What I do remember is the closing hymn that was sung during each service. One of the ushers would put out the main portion of the lights, and the congregation joined the choir in the singing of the hymn "Abide with Me." Somehow I really took that message to heart. Shouldn't we always invite God to be part of our lives? Shouldn't we always be cognizant that He is with us? Somehow the verses of this hymn stuck with me. I knew them all by heart at the time, and they were meaningful.
I have several books about the origins of songs. I consulted one and was disappointed that "Abide with Me" was not included. When I was in church I consulted the hymnal to be sure that I remembered the author correctly. Actually, my granddaughter and I were surprised at the number of hymns that were written more than 100 years ago and still sung today.
"Abide with Me" falls into that category. Eventually, I found some information about this song. It was written by a man named Henry F. Lyte. He wrote it shortly before his death. The familiar tune was not written by Lyte. Its composer was William H. Monk who was a contemporary of Lyte. The song was never published until after Lyte's death, however, it was delivered as a parting sermon.
The scriptural reference comes from Luke 24:29. The words spoken by Jesus' disciples on the way to Emmaus were "Abide with us, for it is toward evening and the day is far spent."
Now that I know the history of the song I see why the worship committee chose it those many years ago as the closing hymn for the Lenten season services.
One source I found said, "It has since become one of the favorite hymns for Christians everywhere during times of sorrow and deep distress."
The Lenten season is filled with symbolism for the Christian population. At our church we sing a combination of the tried and true songs that have history as well as other new and more modern songs. Whatever puts you in the mood to think about the crucifixion and resurrection is appropriate.
Even in today's more secular world there are numerous opportunities to experience the Lenten season. Some services are held during the lunch hour so that those who work in town can attend. Some are held in the evening so families can take part as a group. Check the newspaper to see when the churches are planning their services this year.
A WELL-HIDDEN GEM
When I was invited to attend a dairy seminar in Clymer, I was hesitant. After all, Clymer is definitely in the snow-belt, and this is still winter. I told the farm paper that I would attend if the weather cooperated.
The day dawned sunny and milder than it had been in days. I consulted a map to be sure that I remembered how to get there and was on my way.
I arrived a little early, but that was fine. The Dutch Village Restaurant is new and improved since I was there last. I think they took over a building next door. There is now a gift shop that spans two floors. They also offer homemade bread and sweet rolls for sale at the checkout counter.
Since I was attending a program we were in the banquet room. The placemat noted that they do birthday parties, rehearsal dinners, weddings and any catered event.
Once I tasted the food I was convinced that it is a well-kept secret. The service was good - even the beverages - and the food was delicious. It tasted homemade. We had real slices of turkey and roast beef. The bulk of the meal was served family style with ample amounts of everything. We did have our own salad and our own dessert plate.
The people who sponsored the seminar asked for a show of hands of those who came because of the excellent food. Some confessed that was certainly a deciding factor.
When nice weather returns I plan to return to Clymer for more good food and a slow perusal of the gift shop. I just might stop at a bulk food store that I saw along the way, too. Clymer has a Tulip Festival in May that I attended a few years ago. Maybe it is time for another trip to see the streets being washed and the parade.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.