My Lenten journey began with the remmants of the Advent season still adorning my fireplace mantel. Yes, I still had my nativity scene displayed, even on Ash Wednesday. There was just something about Advent and Christmas that I didn’t want to let go of. In all honesty, it was that the Advent and Christmas season rushes by so fast in a whirlwind that I can never seem to catch my breath. No matter how hard I try, the waiting of Advent, the celebration of Christmas Day with the birth of the Christ-child, feel like just another busy season with a lot more obligations attached.
I have been reading a lot of books about the future of the Church in this post-Christendom, post-denominational, post-everything world. Most authors talk about how Christians need to focus outward, into the community rather than focus inward, on church member concerns and needs. And there is definately a distinction between being a member of a church organization and being a disciple of Jesus. What I have come to learn and understand is that to be a disciple of Jesus, you must not only look outward into the community and serve in your community, but you also need to refocus on your spiritual practices as an individual and as a community. That’s why Advent and the Christmas season feels like just another busy season. The spiritual aspect of it is taken up by all the busyness, obligations, and giving out of duty rather than out of heart. I lost what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in the process.
So this Lenten season, I wanted to explore something different for myself and my congregation. Over the last few weeks, we have been exploring silence, fasting, and almsgiving. Our midweek Wednesday worship services have intentional times of long silence. We have also included centering prayer, the Daily Examen, and Taize-style music. It is meant to slow us down, refocus on our individual and communal relationship with the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). And we have been reading devotions from “Holy Solitude: Lenten Reflections with Saints, Hermits, Prophets, and Rebels” by Heidi Haverkamp. In this book, Haverkamp suggests ways that we can strengthen our relationship to Jesus through times of silence, fasting, and almsgiving.
I admit, I have struggled with the silence and fasting part. I tried for one Friday to not have sound, such as the television or the radio. I was surprised that I had a difficult time not turning on the car radio. I drive a lot for work, to do errands, and driving my children to activities. During that time, I listen to the radio from news to classical to the oldies. To be in a car with just myself proved to be difficult. I tried praying, drinking water, but my natural instinct was to turn on the radio. I will keep trying to find times to put silence into my life. It’s not out of a sense of obligation or bragging rights. I’m finding silence to be restorative for my soul. It gives me the time to reflect on my day, where I have seen God at work, and to work through the not so pretty stuff about life. In some ways it really was the intentional silence that I missed the most during the busyness of Advent.
I have also been intentionally giving more this Lenten season. I have been giving from my heart to organizations that I hold dear. Organizations that have supported my famly members in times of illness. Organizations that have helped me and others grow in their faith. Organizations that have helped me to cherish those times of silence. And that hasn’t been very painful. It has been beautifully joyful. It has given me the ability to reflect on my own core values and the treasures of my heart.
I have also started making prayer beads again. It helps me to have a tangible way to pray, silence included.
And with all of these things, I am refocusing on my relationship with Jesus. I am remembering why I love Him so dearly and why He has called me “child of God, uniquely created and made.” It’s a truth that we need to hear and be reminded of every day.
If you are seeking a way to get reconnected with Jesus, or maybe even to get to know him for the first time, try Centering Prayer, singing Taize music, praying through the Daily Examen, or even finding intentional time for silence, fasting, and almsgiving. I have also been posting suggestions for fasting on Fridays and almsgiving on Saturdays on the Prince of Peace Facebook page. Also, I encourage you to find a local place of worship. Warning: for any of these practices, you will need to keep trying. It will be difficult at first. Take small steps.
Peace be with you.