I need Lent more than ever this year.
My spiritual goal is to immerse myself into it with practices that clear my head, stanch the flow of negativity, and lead me to be more mindful and prepared to listen for the still, small voice of God.
For one, I have resurrected this blog to chronicle the struggles of a 21st Century pilgrim navigating all the social media and digital temptations that confront someone trying to simplify and spiritualize her approach to everyday life. So, if you are reading it, and there are very few people who actually do, by writing I am trying to hold myself accountable for my Lenten commitments. I am not trying to make my “my phylacteries broad and my fringes long” to draw attention to my piety.
My mother always joked about giving up basket-weaving for Lent. I think I gave up peanut M&Ms once as a Baptist teen-ager. Not until I became an Episcopalian in my late 40s did I even begin to understand the season of Lent. In a nutshell, I have learned that you “give up” things that distract you from God or weaken your desire to follow Jesus. And you also positively commit to practices that draw you closer to God.
- Facebook. Not only is Facebook a major time suck, it doesn’t bring out the best in me. I spend a lot of time lately expressing outrage, which is passive and not useful to anyone. I have to maintain some pages for churches and others, but I will be off my own Facebook page.
- Social media comments. This is related, but reading and responding to comments on Facebook, Huffington Post, the local newspaper, etc., are also counterproductive.
- Craft beer. The problem with all my boutique IPAs, heffenweizens, Belgians and other hopped-up brewskis is not just the calories. (Did you know Victory Golden Monkey has 295 calories in a bottle?) It is that I have been drinking them with lunch or an early dinner, and then I am semi-zonked (as their alcohol content tends to be higher) for the rest of the afternoon.
- Contemplative prayer. This is a practice that I really appreciate after I have done it. I have read way too many books on it, and now it is time to do it. Once a day. Actually, there’s an app that I find helpful offered by Contemplative Outreach – here is the iTunes link. You can set an opening and closing sound, a time limit, start with specific prayers – it helps me focus.
- Meditations/devotions. I gravitate to the Irish Jesuits at Sacred Space. They have a daily prayer online, and you can download a daily Podcast. Also they have a special book every Lent; I received mine as a Christmas present but you can download for Kindle from Amazon for $1.66 or order for $1.75. Of course, there are readings and devotionals by Richard Rohr and many others.
- Photography. Outdoor photography helps me focus, look and listen – as well as revel in the wonders of creation. I like to photograph birds with a long lens and flowers with a macro lens. Patience and observation are required.
- Music. Another creative pursuit that calls on something from within, rather than externalities. I have been taking guitar lessons for more than a year, and the occasional breakthrough – a clean bar chord, finally using the pick, playing chords up the neck – affirm that, at 60, I can still learn and enjoy new things.
- Lenten program at church. We have organized six weeks of Jim Wallis’ series, “Justice for the Poor,” during Lent.
- New skill. I am teaching myself Corel Painter 2017 with the help of tutorials on Lynda.com. It is an amazing program, and I would like to learn to create digital paintings from photographs and perhaps, eventually, original digital artwork.
- Write this blog. I hope to hold myself accountable by doing so at least once a week.
As you can see, there is still a lot of digital connection to all my Lenten practices. I am bending my digital diet towards spiritual good rather than time-wasting “evil.”
What do I hope will happen with all this intention? That I will be a better, more mindful person to all those around me, including people I love and people I don’t know or particularly like.