Dear Friends,

Late last Saturday afternoon, I drove from Columbus to Toledo following the Ordination & Consecration of the 10th Bishop of Southern Ohio. After two very full days – one of them converting the Short North Ballroom of the Greater Columbus Convention Center into a church, the other serving as the Minister of Ceremonies for the service – I was grateful for time alone in the car. If I answered one question during the time I was in Columbus, I answered a hundred. So, I thoroughly enjoyed what the old hymn calls, “blessed quietness, holy quietness.” No radio, no CDs, no Spotify.

When I arrived at my office early the next morning, I found my desk covered with papers, files, books, and empty coffee cups. What a mess! I don’t claim to be the neatest person when it comes to my office, but I’d clearly let things get out of control in the days before the consecration. I’m still clearing the clutter as a write this – still digging out of the pile.

Albert Einstein famously pointed out that “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Thomas Edison, who had a famously messy desk, must have agreed. And Steve Jobs. While our cluttered desks may not prove we are brilliant, they do show that we might be geniuses. . . or that the desks need some attention!!

Lent is the season of the church year to clear off our desks, to do some holy housekeeping – some spring cleaning – to open the windows of our souls enough for the strong breeze of God’s Holy Spirit to clear out the clutter that’s piled up over the winter. Our resentments, our uncharitable thoughts about others, and our sins all keep piling up on the flat surfaces of our lives.

Repentance is the word traditionally used to describe what Christians need to do to clear off those surfaces – to create enough space for there to be room for God. The famous preacher, Barbara Brown Taylor, writes that repentance “calls individuals to take responsibility for what is wrong with the world – beginning with what is wrong with them – and to join with other people who are dedicated to turning things around.”

What does the top of your spiritual “desk” look like? Take a few moments now to see the clutter that is crowding God out, ask God’s help to clear some space, and then join with others who are dedicated to turning things around. The invitation to a Holy Lent awaits your RSVP.


Stephen Applegate

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