It's that time of year again! (Whoo-hoo!)
It is time to choose a Lenten discipline. (Oh.)
May I suggest that you don't wait until Ash Wednesday (March 1) and decide in a hurry? Or decide now and binge on an activity to go cold turkey in a week.
Lent, the forty days of fasting, prayer, and penitence before Easter (not counting Sundays), is a season of slowing down, thinking deeply, praying, and spiritual pruning and growth. We are in the imitation of Christ's time in the wilderness, praying, fasting, and resisting temptation between his baptism and the noted beginning of his public ministry in some of the gospel accounts.
When pondering Lenten disciplines, here are some good questions to ask yourself.
1) What does God think about me? How do I know that?
2) What gets in the way of me understanding or perceiving God's love in my life?
3) What gets in the way of me understanding or perceiving God's love in the world?
4) What is a habit that disturbs me spiritually- in that it causes me to feel separated from God's presence?
5) What do I do regularly that breaks the positive fulfillment of one or more of the 10 commandments?
6) What have I done in the past year that still bothers me, even though I have tried to let go of it?
7) What is a spiritual discipline that I want to do, but I cannot seem to make time for or do in a way that gives some consolation or peace?
8) Where is a dead spot in my life that needs prayer and work in anticipation of resurrection?
This season is more than giving up chocolate or caffeine or even trying to pray every day. It is about literally taking time to examine your life and to weigh how you treat yourself, those around you, and the world in comparison to how God desires you and them to be treated. Where do you see the need for tikkun olam- the repair of the world?
Take some time in the next week. I realize that time is a commodity and no one has as much as they want or need. Nevertheless, put your phone down when you're in the bathroom. Get a grease pencil or a dry erase marker for the shower or bathroom mirror. Put a post-it note on your steering wheel. Change your screen saver or homepage. Make new place mats with your kids- construction paper covered with contact paper. Put a sheet of butcher paper on the fridge. Set a daily alarm or timer.
There is time to think about this and to prayerfully open yourself to new thoughts and habits that God may be trying to introduce in your life in the season ahead. I am praying for you in your time of discovery- prayers for peace, renewal, strength, openness, courage, and trust.