#1 daughter got to go to court yesterday. At a strategic moment, they sent her out for a file. Or of course they might have just forgotten it, but if it had been me, with a minion sitting there looking like a cross between Audrey Hepburn and Ueto Aya (actually, I stole that from her Celebrity Lookalike widget. I have no idea who Ueto Aya is), I would have an apparent sudden realization and whisper to her with an air of quiet triumph. She would waft out, looking dangerously efficient, and come back with a completely irrelevant file. I would glance into it, smile slightly, make eye contact with my opponent, and sit back in my chair.

The file could be take out menus. It wouldn’t matter.

I bet real lawyers don’t do that.

Anyway, #1 daughter took the opportunity, as she went for the file, to call and tell me how much fun she was having. She might get to sit in on a murder today! The exclamation point is to show the girlish enthusiasm with which she said it. She didn’t squeal or anything, because she’s not that kind of girl, but in the movie version she definitely would have.

What Lenten sacrifice are you planning? Ash Wednesday is just over a week away, which is quite early, so we’re having to think of this earlier than usual.

The point of a Lenten sacrifice is that you should give up something that you want, or are tempted by, frequently. #2 daughter’s whole church is giving up complaining, and it can be good to give up something that you want to give up permanently. That is how I got over being critical of people (or reduced it, at least). That year, my friend Fine Soprano and I both gave it up. It is easy to quit saying critical things, but it is very hard to quit thinking them. However, after 40 days of calling yourself on it every time, it happens far less frequently, and you don’t go back to it easily.

If you give up tea, even though tea is good for you, it still gives you the opportunity to think. Lent, like Advent, is for thinking. People who celebrate Easter and Christmas but do not observe Lent and Advent are, it seems to me, missing out on a good opportunity for spiritual growth.

Not that everyone is in the market for spiritual growth.

I knew a woman once who disapproved of Lent because she thought it was bad for people’s self-esteem to think about their sins. I am not too concerned about self-esteem, myself. When I see waves of excessive selflessness and dangerously low levels of self-regard sweeping the nation, I’ll worry about it. Until then, I don’t care much. But it seems to me that having 40 days set aside to think about sin and grace is not the same as obsessing about all the things you think are wrong with you.

Many people do that all the time. I doubt that they are usually thinking about their sins, though. I think they are generally thinking about why they don’t look like a model or have as much money as the people on TV or how people don’t like them as much as they want to be liked. Not the same thing at all. Psychologists call that “rumination,” and it is not the same as meditation or contemplation.

Most of us probably go through our days without contemplating much. Just planning to contemplate the sacrifice of Jesus, or our responsibility toward the oppressed, or your sins, or whatever, often doesn’t work. You get up and rush off to work, and are busy all day, and then have fun in the evenings, and go to bed having scarcely so much as taken time to pray, let alone meditate. If you give up sodas, then every time you reach for a soda and have to stop, you are reminded to think about grace, or whatever you have chosen to contemplate.

Christians who do not observe the liturgical year in their churches (and since we aren’t instructed to do so in the Bible, there are plenty who don’t) sometimes choose times of fasting for themselves, or times of “fasting from” something, much like the Lenten sacrifice. Doing this during Lent, however, provides solidarity and fellowship in the sacrifice. We support one another in our sacrifices, and share the learning from our contemplation.

The past couple of years, I have done Lenten studies that had specific sacrifices for particular days or weeks. These were supposed to be educational. I gave up all pre-made foods, to get a clear image of how easy it was for us in Hamburger-a-go-go-land to get food, while children die of malnutrition in other countries. Stuff like that. It was convicting, as they say.

But I am thinking that this year, I may make a traditional sacrifice.

My friend Partygirl, who is Catholic, is provided with a list of stuff to give up. She has to give up way more than I do. I was thinking about how she gives up novels and worldly books. I could perhaps do that for 40 days. That’s a month and a half of Booksfree gone to waste, though.

My birthday always falls during Lent, and I always hope for a birthday cake, so I don’t give up sugar. I rarely actually get a cake, but still. I don’t want to give up the hope. What if this is one of the years my husband makes me a cake, and I have to say, “No, thanks. I gave up sugar for Lent”? Sad, I am sure you’ll agree.

Giving up meat would just mean having to cook twice for every meal, since my menfolks wouldn’t contemplate it. I fear that in that case I would find irritation with them interfering with contemplation.

The church bulletin was showing that Lent was coming up, in an unintentionally humorous way. In the youth calendar, there were listed not only the Ash Wednesday service, the WOW dinner, and “Differing Perspectives,” but also “Sin” and “Temptation.” On successive Wednesdays. How often are you offered that in church?