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It was buy-one-get-one-free Monday at Kohl’s department store. That means you pay the highest “gouging” price for an item and you get a second for free. My mother was sitting in her wheelchair holding a Froggy beanbag pillow. I explained to her that if we wait until half-price Wednesday, we could get the pillow for a reduced price, but we would have to wait two-days. I asked her, “So, what do you think, Mom?”  She looked up at me and said, “I want two of them.”

As my mother’s illness progressed, she needed more support to hold up her body when she was in the wheelchair so the nurses used the beanbag pillows. Every time I went to see Mom at the nursing home, I would see her look up at me with a smile as she was surrounded by these two goofy pillows. At times, one would be under her head and while the other supported her arm.  Sometimes one frog would be propping up her feet and another sustaining her lower back. The aids always used the frog pillows because they thought they were cute.

When my mother died, my father took the pillows home. He had them in the living room, and when I came over, he told me to take one of them. I brought it home and put it on the edge of my bed. Every time I went to my room, I would see the Froggy pillow on the bed and flood of wonderful memories would fill my mind.

One time, my mother had to take all of us kids grocery shopping. We ran around the supermarket gathering all our favorite snack foods and hiding them in the shopping cart. One shopper noted all the youthful energy and asked my mother, “How many do you have?” My mother said, “I have five boys and no girls.” She said it in such a tone as if she was looking for sympathy. The woman responded, “You poor thing.” My mother enjoyed that moment.

Another time she was boiling corn on the cob. She got busy with another matter, and eventually the water evaporated in the pot. When we sat down, we discovered what happens when you cook corn without water. My mother announced, “It looks like we are having popcorn on the cob.” We laughed. Another time, a dog bit me. After the stitches, my mother gave me an orange lollypop for being “brave.”   Since that day, orange became my favorite flavor.

I got close to Mom over the years, and that goofy beanbag pillow was now a symbol of that friendship.

I mention this because we are now in Lent and forty-days is a kind of Froggy bean bag pillow. It is a symbol of our friendship with God. When the Israelites were in the desert for forty years, they did not have any water. They had no food, no protection, no shelter, no passports, nowhere to go. They needed God for everything. During that time they became close to God. They learned to be His children. Forty-days is also a time for us to get close to God. When I go fly fishing and catch a trout, I look at the beautiful colors along the gills and say to God, “You did a great job with this one.”  The other day I had to give a talk in Connecticut. When I left the assembly that evening, there was a snow storm which made the drive a lot more difficult. I got behind a well-lit trailer and followed it back to Boston.  It made the drive easier and safer. I thanked God for having my guardian angel get me home safely. God is in our lives. We just have to see it. When we do appreciate God, we get close. Lent is that time.

In Mark’s Gospel, there is no long discussion about devils, temptation, or starvation. There is the mention of forty-days. That is because he focuses in on why Jesus went into the desert in the first place: to get close to the Father. It is now our turn.

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