Tag Archives: Lent

Extraordinary Time

Some-Thoughts-On-FailureSo…blogging for Lent. That went well, huh?  :)

I’m not sure what happened. I woke up on day 3 with a clear plan to write here about shopping for a new car and realizing that I am more of a “satisficer” than a “maximizer” when it comes to adding new things to my life. (I like to find the car – or sweater or coffee mug, etc. –  that meets my needs, buy it, and then get on with life. I don’t need to see and evaluate all of the possibilities before I can make a choice. For more on this distinction, see this from Gretchen Rubin.)

Perhaps my satisficer ways caught up with me, because by the end of the day, I was quite content with not having blogged. The same the next day, and the day after that. As it turns out, the shift in my brain–from living life in tiny scenes suitable for writing to just living life–has been rather complete. More so than I planned, at least.

This has been exacerbated by one big failure on my part: I denied the part of me that has known since childhood that I am not liturgically designed, and tried for the past year to live by the liturgical calendar. I worked hard to care about the seasons of the church.  But Good Lord (and I mean that in a prayerful way, not as blasphemy) I do not care. Try as I might, I cannot sync my attitude toward God with this worldwide timeframe. I am neither sorrowful on schedule nor anticipatory on demand. My gratitude for Jesus’ birth never happens in late December. It pops up all throughout the year like dandelions – pretty, but not the stuff of a well-groomed lawn.  I can’t describe how grateful I was this year when our church finally put away the manger scenes and announced the return to Ordinary Time. I love Ordinary Time!  This is (at least in my experience) when miracles happen today.  To maintain some sort of spiritual equilibrium, I need at least 2/3 of my attention focused on what God is doing today. I can’t live on a diet of just remembering things from the past.

Then Lent came early this year and simply did me in.

So I’m stopping now with the liturgical calendar, and committing to live in Ordinary Time. Only I believe that’s a bit of a misnomer. Extraordinary Time is where we really live. We just have to be brave enough to look for it.

And as God does stuff, I’ll show up here to talk about it. It’s not much of a promise, but I suspect I’ll have a better time of keeping it. Thanks for your patience as God reorganizes me. He seems surprisingly unconcerned with the metrics of social media :)

Lent Day 2: Sorting, Stretching & Overpriced Hairspray

Yesterday I almost bought $27 hairspray. I liked the way it smelled as the stylist finished my hair, so I grabbed it off the shelf next to the counter as I checked out.

Then the receptionist gave me a bill that was A LOT more than what I usually pay, and I quickly put the hairspray back. I was so stunned, there wasn’t even time for embarrassment to kick in–you know, the kind that happens when you feel awkward about not being willing to pay what someone is asking? Nope, there was none of that. Just a firm conviction that no hairstyle I’ll ever come up with will warrant shellacking it in gold.

(This has nothing to do with Lent. It’s just the funniest thing that’s happened to me this week, so I thought I’d share.)

Here’s my thought re: Lent – Sorting and Stretching.

Lent is a season to sort out questions of who we are and who we want to be. Ostensibly, we’re preparing for Easter–resurrection, new life, proof of miracles we can touch and see and experience firsthand. imagesWe’ll need to be different to receive these things. We just will. We’re not the most excellent miracle receivers in the midst of our daily lives. We tend to fumble the ball.

Easter inspires (indeed, requires) us to stretch, grow, reach for things that are beyond us. The question is, how?

Usually, my default way to deal with this question is to:

1. Look at the people around me,

2. Make a list of all the ways you’re better than I am, and

3. Set to work closing the gap.

Self Improvement PlanI mean, who better to chronicle my weaknesses than me? I can fill A LOT OF TIME trying to be less like me and more like you. It’s painful, so that means I’m stretching, right? It must be good for me if it hurts!  Why involve God in the process at all? I ask. Surely He has better things to do… 

Only my faith tells me there’s nothing He’d rather be doing than helping me with this question, and that He has a much different vision for my optimal growth trajectory than my little list suggests.

Today as you observe Lent, drop your list of things you should be and do to be a better person, and put your trust in God instead. He can do stuff. It’s easier for Him to work when we’re not scrambling around like wounded chickens.

Here’s what I’ve found:

-If God wants me to be nicer, He prompts me to be nicer. I end up doing nice things, even despite myself.

-If He wants me not to swear, something feels weird inside me whenever I’m about to use a colorful expression, and I find a different word.

-If He wants me to do something, He knows how to get my attention. He’s a pretty compelling God, after all. It’s not like He’s easy to ignore.

Instead of initiating your own growth program, ask God for His instead. It probably won’t come with plans and goals and a checklist. You’ll have no idea what’s going on. But when Easter comes, you’ll look back on this season and see in a new way what God has been up to. And that’s inspiring stuff.

 

 

Almost Late for Lent

UnknownI want to blog for Lent. I hope it works out. I’m learning that my grandiose declarations don’t always pan out as I envision, so no promises. But I thought I’d show up and say that I’d LIKE to do some regular blogging about this season that has been so important in my spiritual life.

Twelve years ago, I spent my first Lent as a Christian asking God to bring me a husband. After what felt to me like the world’s longest delay, God came through. You’d think that would have made me a devotee forevermore, but it didn’t.

This morning I was thinking back to another Lent, the one the year after my fervent matrimonial prayers. I was dating Steve and still kind of in awe over how well things were going. I was curious how it would feel to share such an intense spiritual practice with him–would it be as weird as I suspected, or would it, like so many other things with him, just sort of work out better than I had the capacity to imagine?  As it turns out, neither.

The week before Lent, our church pastors announced the theme for the upcoming season. I don’t remember the specifics, only that the phrase “I dream of being a martyr” was stated more than once, with great enthusiasm.

I did not dream of being a martyr. God had just sent me my first real Christian boyfriend, there was the possibility that marriage was on the horizon, and there was just no way I was interested in going to heaven–even via the express lane–just as things were starting to get better here on earth.

So I skipped the whole thing. I didn’t read the book about the guy who’d been persecuted and jailed for his faith. I didn’t do the exercises about imagining Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross in great detail. I didn’t read the Bible study. Now to be fair, I also didn’t ask God to do anything for me. I laid low across the board, still waiting to see how the prayers from year #1 would pan out.  Some years are just like that.

I’m grateful to have had these two experiences–diving in to participate on year, then backing away slowly, muttering, “I don’t think martyrdom’s for me…” the next–so early in my faith life. It taught me this important truth: God is the same, regardless of my enthusiasm level at any given time. His feelings aren’t hurt if I’m “in” some years more than others. He created life, He knows how things go down here. And He understands that what we need to grow can be different from one year to the next.  That first year, I needed to learn to dive in without wondering if I was crazy to believe in this audacious Jesus stuff. The second year, I needed to learn that sometimes all God asks of us is to stand back and watch Him work.

This year is a sort of combination of the two, I guess. I still don’t want to be a martyr, although recent world events make that question feel 100x more real to me than it did years ago. I’m more aware of how many people are suffering out there, and so I’m fasting and praying and asking God, “What can I do? What do you want me to do?”  I’m hoping for specific direction, not just vague ideas about random volunteerism. It’s my experience than God can be VERY specific when He wants to. Here’s hoping this is one of the years when He wants to.

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