I was hyper-focusing today about how busy my life has been since Brian left 13 days ago. It is uncanny how many meetings, classes, appointments, visits, travel and studies I have been a part of in the past two weeks. Today was going to be full also. All of this captured my attention completely so that my mind zeroed in on my to-do list the minute I woke up. Brian is my stabilizer. There is something about his steady, methodical way of approaching life that is settling for me. Just a word from him, a point of view, some common sense bit of advice and I am happily on my way. On my own, I have a tendency to zoom in on things that would normally settle down after chatting with him. Sigh...I need the guy I guess. I'm so happy he is coming back...in 12 days.
Today sped by. Bible study at 9:30, short planning meeting at 11:00, lunch with a friend at 11:30 and then home. Get out the paper, make a list. Get out the vacuum cleaner, dust the floors. Get out the computer, answer emails. Then it hit me:
Today is Ash Wednesday! It is the first day of Lent and I was skimming right through it with nary a thought toward what it means and how I plan to observe the next 40 days.
Lent is a time in our year that we are invited into a deeper awareness of Christ's death and suffering. There are many ways to remember him and to commemorate his actions which will allow us to experience humility, awareness and deep thanksgiving during this short season. I have found an interesting website called 40 Ideas for Lent where many, from a variety of traditions, have shared ideas about how they have observed Lent. Tonight I'm formulating my own forty day plan. Here are a few of my thoughts:
- I plan to write, on the following questions, taken from 40 Ideas for Lent 2015:
- When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different? What am I preparing for?
- Is there something in my life—a habit, a sin, a grudge, a fear, a prejudice, an addiction, an emotional barrier, a form of excess—that keeps me from loving God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving my neighbor as myself? How might I address that over the next 40 days?
- Lent is a time to listen to God, but sometimes God speaks through others, particularly the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and suffering. To whom should I be listening this season? How can I cultivate a listening posture toward others whose perspective and experiences might differ from my own?
- Is there a spiritual discipline—praying the hours, lectio divina, the examen—that I’ve always wanted to try? How might I alter my daily routine to include one of these disciplines?
- The cycle of death and resurrection is central to the Christian faith. In what ways is that cycle present in my life right now? Where might there be necessary change, suffering, death and decay, and how might new life emerge from those experiences?
- I am reading Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett, a tale about a young woman who realizes she has lost prayer after the birth of their first child. Here she tells about her determined journey back.
- Every morning I will open the scriptures with She Reads Truth to join in their Lenten study. From the scripture and commentary, I will write to pray and process the truths I have encountered.
- Inviting God to join me while I remain silent for 15-20 minutes each day will be a new practice as I move through these 40 days of reflection. What does God want to say? How can I know unless I am still enough to hear? What might these moments of rest in his presence reveal to me?
- At breakfast time, Brian and I will read through a book edited by Nancy Guthrie, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, a compilation of meditations by classic and contemporary writers and teachers that "will draw us into an experience of the passion of the cross and the power of the resurrection." After reading and thoroughly enjoying her anthology of Advent writings, we decided to read this Lenten collection.
- In the next few days I might decide on a few other ways to observe this season.
What might you be doing for Lent this year? Have you found a way to more fully focus on the cross of Christ? Just think how joyful Easter could be after spending forty days in preparation. I would love to know your thoughts or plans for making this a special set-aside season.
Perhaps choosing to focus on Christ and his suffering, I will be less prone to hyper-focus on my own schedule, to slow down and grow in my wonder and amazement over what Christ's death truly meant for me and our world.
Won't you join me?