Welcome to Lent, a time of fasting, almsgiving and prayer. For those of you who participate in this mystery, you’ll probably relate to some of my thoughts. For those of you who are not as familiar, hopefully you’ll learn something of interest today.
The forty days of Lent offer time to prepare for Easter, and springtime. It is representative of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert prior to his earthly ministry. Before he could go out and do the work, he had to go within. What a great lesson. How many times do we seek important answers to life outside ourselves, when the answers lie deep within the silence of our hearts?
When I think of fasting, I think of giving up ice cream or chocolate or meat on Fridays. I remember as a kid I’d give up green beans because I hated them. That never went over well. I’d get the “mom eye-roll” and was told that I could do better. Of course, I was missing the point entirely. Sometimes I still do.
I like to follow Matthew Kelly’s advice for Lent. He says we shouldn’t give up chocolate. Sweet! Instead, he suggests doing something that is life-changing; something that leads us to follow our dreams and become “the-very-best-version-of-ourselves.” This is awesome whether you are a Lent participant or not. Figure out what you could do between now and Easter that helps you be better than you are today. Boom!
Here are some ideas that may lead to your own unique plan. Oh, and like I suggest when you are practicing healthier food and fitness habits, choose only ONE thing in each category that will truly make a difference. Too many things distract us and don’t stick long term.
- Most people I talk with have way more than they need. I’ve seen this idea presented in a number of ways and I’m jumping on board here. Choose one item a day. At the end of our desert time, you’ll have forty clothing items, books, household goods, food pantry donations, dollars, whatever, to give to your favorite organization that needs it more than you. Creative almsgiving. When we give, we open ourselves up to receive—and I don’t mean more stuff!
- Instead of fasting from chocolate, would it do you good to stay off social media and have meaningful conversations with your friends and family face-to-face? We’re planning to connect with friends (in person!) we haven’t seen for a time because “life gets in the way.” If the news makes you crazy, what if you spend some time in quiet solitude each morning? Is mindless TV taking you away from reading a book of interest or pursuing your dream to learn a new skill? Fast in a way that serves your soul, and it will benefit your entire being.
- Since our bodies are made to move, what if you used your exercise time to pray or mediate or feel gratitude, simultaneously? The time you spend on the treadmill or track gives you a bigger bang for your buck when you use it in a special way. I often think about my friends who are battling illness and offer up any physical discomfort I feel, for them. I know it’s not even close to what they are going through, yet it’s a form of prayer. How many people do you know that would LOVE to be able to go for a walk, but they are too ill to get out of bed? (I’m grateful I overcame the flu bug and feel alive again!)
Living in a way that leads to fulfilling our dreams is what God, our Creator, Spirit, a Higher Power, calls us to do. What can YOU do for the next forty days that will be life-changing in some way?
“We can become so preoccupied with what we have and what we do that we lose sight of who we are and who we are becoming.” –Matthew Kelly, “Perfectly Yourself”