Lent usually means giving up something. Chocolate, coffee, candy often head the list.
Of course, we concentrate on prayer, sharing with those in need, fasting and cutting back in extravagances.
But when the "luxuries" are cut back, there is room.
Space becomes the motto of the 40 days. The question is room for what?
We can all remember grade school science teachers' admonition, "Nature abhors a vacuum."
It's at this point the frequent nudges I have been getting during prayer shouts out the answer. "Talents."
A wave of guilt washes over me. That is the one parable in the Bible that comes to haunt too often.
God gives us talents - each and every one of us. Yet it is the one who buried his talent that provokes the master's rage.
Remember the story from Matthew 25.14-30?
"He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow;
"So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.'
"But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
"So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the 10 talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
Remember your original vocational passion and let it live.
"And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.'"
My excuse? No talents.
Maybe it is that word "talent" that stops us from using God's gift to us.
In today's celebrity culture we associate talent with the glitz of reality and talent shows. Or winning first prize. Or being the best.
Perhaps God's gift of talents is more profound. Perhaps it is the gift of love.
That love can be expressed just in the art of listening. How many times do we throw out the easy greeting, "How are you?" and stop to really listen to the person's response? And should we hear the slightest tremble of trouble in their reply, do we ask what is happening in their life and is there some way in which we can help?
One television ad always makes tears spring to my eyes. It tells how society is so willing to invest in expected things yet turns its back on homeless youth.
My brother Blake is hidden somewhere in Toronto's underbelly. It has been 20 some years now since I have heard from him. He told me then he tells people his family was burnt in a fire except for a sister who lives out West. A too gentle soul for this world.
I won't stop searching for him. I know the city and other authorities admonish us not to give to panhandlers. But to me, they are someone's brother. And in Toronto maybe someone is passing my brother and he is asking for help.
Mentoring a child, youth or an adult learning to read takes time. But when you give this talent of caring, you give God's love to them and they heal, grow and share their talents.
It is the same when you rock a baby in a hospital nursery, sit at the hospital bedside and listen as someone comes to the end of their journey on earth, water a parched city tree, foster a homeless dog from a rescue group.
This is God's world and you are his steward.
Still scoffing that you have no talents? Look in the mirror. Think back to when you were in grade school. When the teacher asked you what you wanted to be, what did you say?
That passion is still there. Nurture it. Let it live.
These 40 days are a space given by the Church to each one of us to discern how we are serving God, how we are serving our fellow man. Weave these "new talents" into your life, and this Lent will be a blessing to you, your fellow travellers in this voyage called life and to God.
(Lasha Morningstar firstname.lastname@example.org)