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During the forty days of Lent, you are invited to take better care of your soul. Here is a list of some traditional and not so traditional spiritual disciplines that may help you to grow in the knowledge and love of God.
- Call old friends to catch up, and thank them for being in your life
- Listen to music that moves you
- Refrain from gossiping and saying unkind things about others
- Go on a news/media fast for a period of time to lesson your anxiety
- Take more naps
- Volunteer at a local soup kitchen
- Clean out your closets and get rid of the unwanted stuff in your life
- Write a letter to a person who has wronged you, and then throw it away
- Participate in worship
- Give up drinking alcohol for Lent
- Set aside time each day to sit quietly with God, praying
- Read a book on spirituality by Henri Nouwen or Anne Lamott
- Give up eating out as much and donate that money to feed the hungry
- Make a list of five year, ten year, and twenty year goals for your life
- Spend more quality time with family and friends
- Participate in a class or retreat at your church
- Consider taking a break from people who are a toxic influence in your life
- Exercise daily, breathing deeply, and giving thanks to God for your body
- Make a list of those whom you may have hurt
- Consider taking responsibility and making apologies
- Work to mend broken relationships
- At the end of each day, create a gratitude list
- Read the New Testament
- Cook and eat more consciously, making healthier choices, to be truly nourished
- Take stock of your finances and create a plan that reflects your values
- Tour a museum to enjoy looking at art
- Watch movies that make you laugh and cry
- Write a list of the things for which you feel sorry, your sins, and then ask God to forgive you, burning the list afterwards
- Spend time in nature noticing God’s hand at work in creation
- Go to the doctor or dentist, to care of your body
- Practice Breath Prayer while driving and waiting in lines, inhaling and exhaling and saying a mantra like, “God in me. Me in God.”
- Pick out a person you are worried about and do something thoughtful for them
- Choose a justice issue that worries you and talk with a friend about it
- Go to Starbucks less often and send the money you saved to your favorite charity
- Write a little every day, perhaps in a journal, even if it is just lists of things that are on your mind
- Take a road trip with a friend
- Consider how your work can be more like a ministry, day in and day out
- Make a list of the hymns and readings that you want to have at your own funeral
- Do less or do more, to achieve better balance in your life
- Resolve to spend time with people who may help you to become the person God intends you to be
—The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley
“The cross that comes at Ash Wednesday is a reminder that you are dust and to dust we shall return, that we share that dust with every other human being who has ever walked this planet, that we share that dust with the stars and the planets, that we share that dust with all that has been created. We are made for relationship with creator and creation.”
Lent has long held special meaning for me, even if I haven’t always treated it with the respect it deserves. For me, Lent serves as a reminder of the tremendous mysteriousness of my creator and of just how small I am in the vastness of God’s work, of the universe’s many galaxies, planets, peoples, and creatures. Bishop Jefferts Schori captures this sentiment so well: the cross that comes at Ash Wednesday is a reminder … that we share that dust with all that has been created. It’s a
truly humbling thought, an amazing thought, and it’s one that I plan to remind myself of every day throughout this Lenten season both through the practice of my own art as well as in the appreciation and exploration of the art of others. Art and the practice of art often helps me feel better attuned to my world and my soul, knowing that I am using the tools my creator has blessed me with to try my hand at the act of creation as well. It feels like a sort of daily communion with God, a daily devotion that helps keep me on a healthy, reflective track. One way I’m hoping to achieve this and keep myself mindful and meditative this winter, is by following the online project, “Intent: A Daily Digital Devotion.” It’s something that anyone with an email address can sign up for, and it sounds like it’s going to be a terrific way to help keep myself focused this Lent. “Intent” is a project created by “young adults from several worshiping communities in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts … inviting one another into Lent this year with a daily dose of their own art, poetry, stories, photography, music and maybe even a cartoon or two” (Episcopal News Service, Tracy J. Sukraw). For more information on this effort and how to sign up for it yourself, just click here.
Pablo Picasso is credited with saying, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” And while I understand this sentiment, I’ve come to think that the opposite might be true: Art illuminates the mysteriousness and beauty of the dust of everyday life. The dust that connects us all. Art can help us to carry this dust, to acknowledge it and accept it without being hindered by its weight or our fear of it.
What do you think? Do you have any quirky methods or ideas in mind for how to keep yourself mindful and reflective this Lent? What arts do you most enjoy experiencing, seeing, or practicing?
Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes other people make mistakes, and sometimes we both make mistakes. A lot of communication is required in order for us to sort out what the mistakes are, and where the misunderstandings are, and to get to the point where authentic apologies are made. Now, that’s a tough process to go through, so I’d rather avoid it as long as possible.
Some issues get swept under the rug because it would be more trouble than it’s worth to deal with them openly. Some problems are so pressing that one simply has to deal with them right away. There’s a sorting process where we have to decide which problems are worth delving into, and which ones are minor enough to drop.
The word ‘sorting’ reminds me that I need to clean out my attic and go through some old stuff so I can decide what to get rid of, what to keep, and what to recycle. I’ve been putting it off. I’m sure there are old issues built up in my life that I need to sort through as well. In the attic of my mind, there is junk stored away, old hurts, patterns, and feelings, that I have not wanted to address.
That’s why the beginning of Lent, this Wednesday, comes as such a relief. I can’t wait to set aside time to deal with my old issues because in the past I’ve felt so much better afterwards. Lent is a forty-day season set aside by the Church each year for the purpose of preparing for Easter, taking responsibility for things we have done and left undone, and for reconciliation with those whom we have hurt. Lent is a time for reassessing priorities, and for repentance; turning around and going in a different direction.
Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday when we acknowledge before God that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are mortal beings with a limited number of days to live. We recognize that God wants us to orient our lives around loving others, rather than hurting people and carrying around the burden of shame.
I’m already thinking about how I might live a holy Lent. I’ll set aside some extra quiet time to think and pray, and I’ll make lists of those things that are bothering me, about myself, in my relationships, and in the world. As I try to die to my old ways, I have hope that God will show me the path to live a new and resurrected life, renewed by Christ, and empowered for ministry.
—The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley