Perfect Practice (A poem about Lent)

Practicing lent

sounds slick. My gift,

heart-full-of-pride. My rituals,

my restriction, my sacrifice.

Then I throw out my arms, open-handed.

Looking up,
giving up.
Let go, let up.

Incarnate,

the One who comes
have me. I let go,

practicing lent.

Under Construction

I’m slightly impulsive sometimes.  Although I have been thinking about a new look around here @ logic and imagination and for months I have fiddled with it in my mind it was not until today had the balls to push the button and SWITCH!  I just did it and then I couldn’t switch it back even if I wanted to, so I hope you’ll forgive me while I figure out the ins and outs of this new look and format.   I can’t go back.  The old look is gone f o r e v e r.

I don’t have time to say more but look forward to change.  Already I love the white, more optimistic background.  Pictures pop.  But I will have to change the picture in the header to something of my own (of course!).

Gotta run.  But in the meantime you have to read this.

Sloth

During Lent, we will meditate together on the Seven Deadly Sins and use this list as an aid in confession as we prepare ourselves for Holy Week, Good Friday and the Easter announcement of resurrection.

Sloth is not restfulness. Sloth is escapism of the deadly sort. Sloth saps our time and emotions through a favorite sports team, a new set of shoes, or obsession over our appearance—while leaving scant energy for our marriage or kids or duties. Nothing is so clearly modern, so clearly western as is sloth. Despite our fast-moving, success-worshiping, ulcer-ridden society, we invest our energies and talents most often in what is trivial. Despite our frantic pace, our eyes are seldom focused on what is actually “good.”

At its core, sloth moves us away from everything that ultimately matters and directs us toward simple distractions, for sloth is not laziness. Sloth is indifference—indifference toward my soul, my neighbors, my world, or my God. Drug users, Netflix addicts, and excessive video gamers may be poisoned by sloth, but so are most workaholics. In fact, sloth is best expressed not by a sluggish attitude but in zeal over petty matters. Sloth, in fact, is a sorrow about goodness. It finds those things that we were made to enjoy and pursue to be useless and boring.

To those of us who struggle with sloth Jesus said, “Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for all things put right.”

(Excerpt from Seven: the Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes by Jeff Cook)

“Litany of Humility” or “from My Desires & My Fears, Jesus Help Me!”

This blew me away when I read it, aloud.  You should try it.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase & I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen
& I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised
& I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

(I will admit that I had to look up calumniated which is to “charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone.”)

Whew, that is incredible to read and let it sink into your heart, mind and soul. This prayer is counter cultural.   A couple of those made my pulse race as I faced my fear in a physical way.

  • Desiring to be consulted has been a lifelong struggle for me.
  • Wanting to increase in the opinion of the world.
  • That others may be praised & I unnoticed is only something I can hope for, pray for.

I do believe repetition and practice in prayer is effective and powerful.  I am going to pray this every day in Lent.

Will you join me?

MHH

———————————————————————————————

Read the Lenten Series:

1)  What is Lent Anyway, Besides Strange?


This prayer was composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Cardinal Secretary of State of the Holy See under Pope Saint Pius X.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

What is Lent Anyway, Besides Strange?

Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Christian o...
Image via Wikipedia

Lent is strange for those that don’t follow the tradition.  Or if followed at all it may mean giving up a vice for 40 days, an addiction to technology or caffeine or sugar, but not really knowing why.

That was true for me for many years.  If you grew up in an evangelical church like I did, you may not know that much about Lent either.

It is the period of fasting leading up to Easter to remember Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness.  Like his fast, it is to be a time of sacrifice and listening.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends right before the evening service of Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, depending on your tradition.  This year Lent begins on March 9 in the Western Church.

For the longest time I was attracted to the idea of giving up a vice that had persistently bothered me, but I had no theological understanding of the tradition.  I think evangelicals are remiss in not teaching about Lent, which can be a beautiful and profoundly meaningful tradition of growing closer to God.

I think we miss out because we give things up but don’t replace them with anything.

The intended purpose of Lent is a season of fasting, penitence, and self-denial, but also of spiritual growth, conversion, receiving from and embracing simplicity.

“Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. Thus it is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes mixed with oil on one’s head or forehead.

However, we must remember that our Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit. Our Lenten disciplines are supposed to help us become more like Christ. Eastern Christians call this process theosis, which St. Athanasius aptly describes as “becoming by grace what God is by nature.”1

The aim in observing Lenten disciplines is to be changed as a person — body, soul and spirit!

Therefore there is more to it than giving something up, which I’ll admit for the longest time I thought was fairly impressive in and of itself.  I don’t do well without caffeine which is something I habitually gave up. Or sweets.  Yikes that one is hard.

As one endeavors to grow to be more like Christ and know him better, with the grace of God the tradition says you would be focusing on Fasting, Praying, Almsgiving (Charity or service) and Scripture.

  • Fasting: The Catholic Church requires its members age 18 to 59 “to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, unless a physical condition prevents otherwise. This means only one full meal is permitted. The Fridays of Lent are days of required abstinence, meaning meat, and soups or gravies made of meat, are not permitted.”  This traditional way of fasting I have have never observed.  Giving up meat once a week or only drinking water for the 40 days is a way to remind ourselves of our abundance and to draw our attention to Christ’s sacrifice for us all.  And to be more conscious of how much we have.
  • Prayer: Lent is a good time to develop a discipline of daily prayer if you don’t have it already. Whatever it might be, the idea is to add the discipline of listening and seeking through prayer, whatever that looks like for you.
  • Almsgiving (Charity): While giving something up you are also to put something positive in its place. They say the best way to remove a vice is to cultivate virtue.  What might you do for someone else over Lent?
  • Scripture Reading: As he faced temptation in the desert, Jesus relied on Scripture to counter the trickery of the devil.  Growing up I was encouraged to memorize scripture, but today this rarely occurs in the Church. Memorize a section of scripture like the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.   Or if you are thinking of reading a whole book of the Bible promise yourself to read two chapters a day or finish a medium-sized book of the Bible by Easter.

Also, here is a wonderful compilation of books to read, rituals and fasts to consider, and meditations to read from Rachel Held Evans.

When it comes down to it, so often we don’t take the time to ask why we do a certain thing.  Why do I need to observe Lent?

I found Evan’s ten questions helpful to ask myself as I prepare for Lent.  But I winnowed and edited them down to three simple questions.

  • Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of my loving God or loving others?

Ask God to get a hold of that habit over the next 40 days and help you have the discipline to give it to him, forever.

  • Is there anyone in my life with whom I need to pursue forgiveness or reconciliation? This is unlikely to happen in 40 days, but preparing your hearts for it — yes, that can happen if you ask!  Here is a poem that I wrote during a time of profound grieving knowing I had done and said what I thought was “unforgiveable.”  It is called Longing for Mercy.

 

Ask God to begin to work in your heart (and in the other person) to ready you both for reconciliation in God’s perfect timing.

  • What am I willing to give up to carve out extra time for daily contemplation and listening to God?  So often we allow life to press in and set our priorities and not decide for ourselves.  What is important?  Perhaps you need to get up an hour earlier during Lent to be with God? I started doing this in September and I can tell you that my life will never be the same.  I find myself craving that time and (most mornings) it is not difficult to get up.  You may need to go to bed earlier to do it.  I do!  Again a sacrifice, but well worth it in my experience.

Ask God to show you what you need to stop doing to have more time with him.

Ultimately we simply strive to live with the attitudes of humility, repentance and thankfulness.  I pray that you will be richly met as you seek to know Jesus better.

-mhh

A few things I wrote last year about Lent.

And if you’re more confused than satisfied with my post, here is a great description of Lent as described by Marcel & Sarah who have a blog named Aggie Catholics and lots of reading material.

————————————————————–

Other sources I used.

http://www.churchyear.net/lent.html

2 http://rachelheldevans.com/40-ideas-for-lent-2011

http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/5.htm