On Shrove Tuesday, I arrived home after the pancake supper, fat and happy, to discover that the heat was off in my condo. Or, more specifically, the thermostat was ON but nothing was coming out of the heat registers, and the temperature was dropping inside as it was dropping outside. Also the place had a strong, funny smell.

After messing with the thermostat for a bit (turning everything off for a little while, then trying to turn on the blower, then the emergency heat, then giving up) I decided to just pack it in. Fortunately, I have a heating pad and several blankets. So I made myself a nest upstairs (where, thanks to the often annoying - but not this time - fact that heat rises), turned on the heating pad, put it near my feet, and went to bed.

When I woke on Ash Wednesday, it was 52 inside. Fifty-two seems like a warm day this time of year, but it's not what one expects in the house. It was definitely chilly. Still, I was ok. I had stayed warm during the night thanks to that heating pad and those blankets, and I had hot water for a shower and warm and dry clothes to put on in the morning. When I arrived at the church for the 7:30 a.m. Ash Wednesday service, the church was nice and toasty.

I was also fortunate that the property management company was able to get someone out to fix the furnace so that by the time I arrived home from the children's Ash Wednesday service that night, all was back to normal.

It was an appropriate way to start Lent, though, to really think about what it must be like for those who do not have a heating pad or a property management company or a hot shower. If I went into emergency mode when the temperature was in the low 50's one night, what must it be like for those sleeping outside every night where the temperature was in the mid-twenties?

It is not enough to count my blessings. Even more, I must be aware of the lack that so many people in our world face and, further, I must know that I am called to address that lack.

In our Ash Wednesday reading from the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah relays this message from God as we begin our Lenten season of prayer, fasting, and repentance:

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?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?