Updated: Mar 10, 2020
The three traditional pillars of Lent in the Christian tradition are; prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Mirroring Jesus' 40 days in the desert before his traditional ministry began, we are invited to take stock of our life, stop and pare down a bit, and think about how we might give to others. Good intentions. Even though we may or may not believe in the traditional Christian experience of lent, we may find something useful in the suggested practices.
Prayer - I have written elsewhere in this website about my own take on prayer. And just this morning in some reading I was doing the writer Mark Nepo said that instead of asking for something in prayer, "listen your way closer to life." In his book 7000 Ways to Listen, he suggests sitting still and begin praying whatever that means to you. As soon as you find yourself asking for something, stop. Inhale and begin again. sink below your problem, your fear, your want to be rescued, and simply pray by listening. "Just listen your way closer to life."
Fasting - I have experimented with fasting (a long time ago!) and it does have the power to clear out your thinking and doing. So, if you feel up to it, I recommend a brief fasting from food - which at the very least will bring some compassion about those who hunger all the time. But, you might also consider fasting from social media, from the computer, from repeating gossip, from habitual negativity, from anything that gets in the way of living the life you wish to be living.
Almsgiving. You can, of course give to the poor, to political candidates, to climate change, to research or Public TV, or your church. But, you might also consider giving in a less tangible way. You may decide to be intentional abut giving your attention to someone who needs it, to smile and make eye contact with everyone you meet during the day, to write notes to those in your life that you treasure and tell them so. Last year I decided to send an affirming email to two friends every day during Lent. It fed me too.
During this season, may you find time in your life for what matters most to you. As light increases in the world, may it increase in your heart too. May you begin again to live the life you intend to live.
Missing the Boat
It is not so much that the boat passed and you failed to notice it. It is more like the boat stopping directly outside your bedroom window, the captain blowing the signal-horn, the band playing a rousing march.
The boat shouted, waving bright flags, its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.
But you had this idea you were going by train.
You kept checking the time-table, digging for tracks.
And the boat got tired of you, so tired it pulled up the anchor and raised the ramp.
The boat bobbed into the distance, shrinking like a toy— at which point you probably realized you had always loved the sea.
~Naomi shihab Nye