Lent is supposed to be a time of reflection and meditation, where we give something up in order to grow closer to God. Last night Ali (my cousin finishing up grad school in Austin) and I googled the word “Lent” to go deeper into it’s meaning. These words stood out: mourning, repentance, abstinence and fasting.
I find that our culture focuses so much on what I consider to be the Unhealthy Voice aspect of it. I think if we look at it in a different way, we can actually go deeper into the reflection and meaning behind the season. So I’m writing this today to help you go to that place – to get a deeper meaning than what we see on the surface.
What DO we see on the surface with Lent?
“I have to give up something. What am I going to give up?” We go into restriction mode, almost like the diet. We see someone with ashes and either judge them or judge ourselves and think “I should get ashes.” We feel guilty, because we are such sinners there is nothing powerful enough to give up to make up for our sins and what Jesus has done for us. “How could giving up chocolate possibly compare?” We compare ourselves to Christ dying on the cross (seriously?) or how big our friend’s sacrifice is, how much they are giving up. We beat ourselves up for not giving up enough, “I’ve got to do this perfectly this time.” The list could probably go on and on….
So I want to tell you what I’m doing today, what I’m doing over the next forty days and finish it off with 10 Tips on what you can do this Lent.
What am I doing today?
Well, this morning I did my meditation.
I’m listening to the soundtrack from the movie The Mission as I write this. I picked it up the other day at Waterloo Records for three bucks with a few others that remind me of Dad – music is a huge part of my grief process right now.
I’m going to get ashes with Ali this afternoon. I’m not going to walk in with my head down. I’m going to walk in with my heart open because I know the spirit lives within me. He’s not just up there, He’s in my heart. I found Him there almost four years ago and he’s always there. So today I can celebrate that. I can celebrate that he meets me where I’m at and loves me no matter what has happened or what I feel or think. If I just keep turning to Him, letting him lead me, leading an honest life, walking with Him beside me – I’m taking steps in His direction. He’s not there keeping score.(Granger Community Church just did a very powerful series on this. Click here to watch the preview.). That whole keeping score thing is mine, not his. He loves me. He. Just. Loves. Me. If I Let him and if I let him, I get a relationship with him. It’s AWESOME awesome stuff. But it’s just the stuff that works for me….we’ve all got our own path.
(Oh and when I go I’m going to have this image in my head. Check out the guy in the photo on the right. Pops at St. Matthews cathedral last Ash Wednesday, apparently ended up on the cover of The Washington Times and I didn’t see it until a few months after he passed. I just about lost it. But today I have a close-up of him on my dresser back at home. It’s angelic to me. He’ll be in the pew next to me, holding my hand in spirit. I know.)
Then later this evening Ali and I are going to yoga by candlelight. I plan on opening my heart again and releasing my mind on the mat.
Over the next forty days?
I started off my day yesterday walking around Town Lake, Austin listening to a podcast by Christine Caine, a profound leader and speaker from Australia. It was called “Leadership and Ministry Pt 5″ and she spoke about the heart, mind and soul. That would be the first of three times I’d listen to the podcast that day. She blew me away (as she always does) and said something very powerful about how leaders fall (and really anyone falls). She said, “We get caught up with external behavior modification rather than internal transformation and everything flows from the inside out.” What a great thing to hear the day before Lent starts. So, I’m setting an intention this Lent. It’s really just continuing to walk in the path of the Healthy Voice. Yes – it’s taking care of my physical self – working out, eating right for me. But it’s beyond that – the transformation stuff of - keeping my heart, mind and soul strong. There is no better time than now for me to do that. I’m mourning the loss of my father. I’m more connected to God than ever. But he’s got to do the work and I’ve just got to be willing to go there with Him.
I’m also going to try to filter my Unhealthy and Healthy Voice – especially with those people in person, online and in social media who really just trigger my Unhealthy Voice. We all get triggered on Facebook. We are human. Whether they are train wrecks or we stay friends with them because we quietly compare our lives to theirs – maybe it’s time that we turn down our inner critic and give them less power, by noticing how much power we’re giving them, blocking them or doing whatever we have to do. For some of us maybe that does mean getting off Facebook all together, but there is a lot of positive stuff on Facebook and I know I’m going to focus on that – or at least that’s what Ali and I were talking about doing this morning! Maybe focusing less on someone else’s chaos will help us to go deeper within ourselves.
Meditation is a big part of my journey and connection to others. Both have to be. It’s about relationship with people on the path next to me and relationship with the spirit within that keep me strong. So the places that I find that – I’m just going to commit to connect more deeply in relationship.
So that’s what I’m up to…
10 Tips for How You can Go Within
1) Take some time today to do what helps you meditate and go within. Paint, write, go out in nature, meditate, do yoga – whatever it is – go there. Do some form of it every day, even for 10 minutes during this season. Don’t think there is some perfect way to meditate. THere is just a way that works for you…and you’ve got to find it. You may have already been doing it all your life and you just don’t know it, and it doesn’t have to be just one thing. It’s not just one thing for me!!
2) Pick something to get grounded in the physical. It will help you tap into that source within you – that light that is being muddled by whatever you are turning to that you haven’t been able to give up.
3) Go beyond abstaining from it. Go within. Don’t just abstain from it and think that the heavens are going to open up. Work it. Feel the feelings physically. How does it make you feel to be off of it? How calm do you feel in your mind? How much are your emotions coming up? Do you notice how much you’ve been using it to numb your feelings? Journal about them. Do not let them take over your life. Remember God is there to help you. That’s why you are doing this.
4) Turn to others. If you go 40 days without something, you are going to have withdrawals. When I abstained from sugar and flour, alcohol etc. it was hell. I had help. Get the help. Let the spirit meet you. Let your friends meet you. This isn’t about, “How do you not eat sugar?” It’s about, “How do I get through what feelings are coming up as I give this up?” It’s not about the SUBSTANCE, remember that.
5) Journal about it. Write down what you are feeling. If you are coming off something you’ve been using you are going to be feeling some seriously powerful emotions. Write. Them. Down. Use this as a time of reflection. It’s a better time than any and will help you stay focused when you want to go back to the substance.
6) Remember this isn’t about using lent to get perfect. My quote today says it all: “Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a far happier and more productive person.” - Dr. David M. Burns. Not only is this not about being perfect. It’s not a season of working to get good enough for God. I don’t care how much chocolate you eat, what you’ve done, how much weight you’ve got – God Loves you. Period. If you don’t believe in him – that’s fine. Just know that you do NOT have to get good enough. You are loved no matter what. Put that on your mirror for the next forty days.
9) Focus on abundance rather than lack. We tend to focus on lack during lent – what we’re “giving up”. Focus on what you are getting by going within – awesome connection to the spirit in a powerful way. Switch your mindset from Unhealthy Voice to Healthy Voice.
10) Set an intention. For me it’s making sure I’m strong within and continuing the healing work in my relationship with God I need to do. Think about how you can go within and set an intention that goes beyond whatever substance you are giving up to get clear.
Okay, I think that’s enough work for you for 40 days…. Enjoy going within…