Category Archives: lent

Listening for Lent.

[This continues a conversation started yesterday]

“That’s a great summary,” I said. “Lent is about talking and listening to God.”

“But isn’t there more?” he asked. “Why do we always hear about Lent as a time for giving things up? When I was growing up, my friend always gave up watermelon and black licorice. Of course, there wasn’t watermelon in the winter back then, but still. I thought it was about giving stuff up.”

11722319_10153487852487008_6447884506779383992_oI smiled. It was a great question.

“But isn’t talking and listening always about giving something up? In order to concentrate on conversations in the family room, don’t we have to mute the TV? Do you ever get frustrated in a conversation with a child when they keep checking their phone? Doesn’t the best brain research now suggest that we cannot multitask, we merely switch tasks?”

He looked up. He grinned and pulled his hand above the table. And laid his phone in the middle of the table. “So, for example, giving up Facebook for Lent may be just an extended version of giving up Facebook for this conversation?”

I nodded. “And when questions get deeper, I find that I need to eliminate distractions and have to work to focus. Sometimes while talking with someone I close my eyes.”

He interrupted. “Didn’t you fall asleep during a counseling session once by ‘closing your eyes to listen better’?”

I laughed. “That’s another story. Back to the challenge of focusing. When I’m listening to a traffic report on the radio, I need to have it quiet so I can turn those words into a map.”

“Okay,” he said. “So maybe the things that go into Lent–the practices giving up food or technology, the practices of prayer more often or solitude or silence, the practices of eating together, those things are clearing space in our hearts so we can listen and attend. Is that why we should celebrate Lent?”

+++

Lent for Non-Lent People is available in paperback and for Kindle
Sign up to get occasional emails during Lent: Lent Mail
And Lent starts with Ash Wednesday on February 10.

Advertisements

Are you satisfied with your relationship with God?

(Lent starts with Ash Wednesday on February 10. This was first published February 17, 2014)

We hadn’t talked for awhile. We met for coffee. We placed our orders and went to the end of the counter to wait.

“Should I celebrate Lent?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Are you satisfied with your relationship with God?”

He looked startled. I felt a little queasy.

“Who is? But what’s that got to do with Lent?”

coffee-04-doha-americanoWe got our coffee and sat down. It gave me time to think. I usually am more diplomatic. I started writing about Lent for the people who kept Lent, to give them a different way to think. I never really thought about recommending the practice of Lent to others. And my friend was one of the others. He grew up in a non-Lent home. He’s not sure why I’m so interested.

We settled down at a table in the corner.

“Will celebrating Lent make God happy?” he asked.

“Nope”

“Will it make Him like me more?”

“Nope”

“Will it build up some kind of credit or a reservoir of good will? So that when I screw up the next time, I can say ‘But I was really good during Lent?”

He was mostly joking. But I saw a way to start talking.

“Does that work with your wife?” I asked. “Does that work with any other relationship that really matters to you? That you are nice so you can get away with stuff?”

He smiled. “Well, I try it with my boss. But when I try it with my friends, they know better. They can see right through me.”

“But you try it, right? You get real nice for a couple of days? You pick up the check for lunch?”

“Sometimes. But then they look at me. And we laugh. And then they ask me what I really need help with. And I quit trying to impress them. I turn off everything else and we talk.”

I sat quietly.

“So Lent isn’t about impressing God, it’s about talking and listening?”

+++

Lent for Non-Lent People is available in paperback and for Kindle
Sign up to get occasional emails during Lent: Lent Mail

Lent as adding compassion

(Ash Wednesday is in two weeks. This reflection was first published February 16, 2015.)

“How can I be more compassionate?” she asked.

I asked her why. She didn’t seem particularly discompassionate.

“I was reading Colossians,” she said. “And I read Paul’s encouragement to clothe ourselves with compassionate hearts. And I realized that I have moments of compassion, but I don’t wear it like a jacket.”

IMG_0009I smiled at her image. I wondered what it would look like to have a compassionate jacket. It would probably have sleeves covered with hearts, that were loose-fitting enough to easily reach out. It would probably have pockets enough for tissues and candies for kids, change for Aldi grocery carts and parking meters, gift cards well suited for broken hearts.

I asked her what she was thinking it would mean to be more compassionate.

“So, I’m guessing that it might mean being more like Jesus? I mean, he seemed pretty compassionate,” she said. “But that’s why I’m asking you. That and I’m guessing that I could connect compassion and Lent.”

I understood. She was thinking about Lent as choosing something to pursue.

I wrote out a list of verses from the Bible, several places where Jesus was identified as having compassion: Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34. Mark 1:41; 6:34, 8:2; Luke 9:13, 10:33, 15:20. I asked her to read them and to identify how they point to Jesus showing compassion.

“Do you want them now?” she asked.

I told her to take some time and think about it. To look for any patterns that she saw.  I told her that after she identified how Jesus lived out compassion, she could look at moments in her day where she intersected with the kind of people that Jesus met and felt compassion for. And then, I said, she could develop a practice for Lent of responding in those moments as Jesus had.

“Or, maybe at least, ask him to help?” she smiled.

+++

I put my 33 things to give up for Lent in a video.

and

Lent for Non-Lent People is available in paperback and for Kindle

 

Is it bad luck to tell someone what you are giving up for Lent?

Is it bad luck to tell someone what you are giving up for Lent? 

No. Luck is mostly not involved at all. On the other hand, there is some research suggesting that telling people your goals can keep you from accomplishing them. And the commitments we make are often a kind of goals.

Did Jesus practice Lent? 

Nope. He did fast for 40 days at least once, as did several other people inside the Bible and out.

Do drag racers and sprinters have an advantage in fasting? 

Not necessarily. It’s true that they are fast, but often fasting – giving up food (or something) for a period of time – actually invites us to slow down. So while fast people often have great focus which can help with fasting, physical speed isn’t a requirement.

Do you have to be Catholic to practice Lent?

Nope. Many of you who have been around Lent your whole life have more practice than those of us who didn’t grow up with Lent. But often, practice makes frustrated more than perfect. I think that the idea of routine lets us all start fresh:  a ritual is something we do hoping to influence God. A routine is something we do to work on us. A routine like daily prayer or weekly Sabbath or a season of fasting can bring our minds back to the story of God’s work.

Are you going to tell us about your Lenten practices for this year?

I shot some video where I asked myself that question. My quick answer was that I’m giving up insecurity. Which then made me think about what that could mean in practice. And that discussion I’m not ready to share. I am, however, giving up the North American continent for two weeks during Lent, so that’s something.

+++

I’ll give up mentioning Lent For Non-Lent People after today.

 

Adding compassion for Lent

“How can I be more compassionate?” she asked.

I asked her why. She didn’t seem particularly discompassionate.

“I was reading Colossians,” she said. “And I read Paul’s encouragement to clothe ourselves with compassionate hearts. And I realized that I have moments of compassion, but I don’t wear it like a jacket.”

I smiled at her image. I wondered what it would look like to have a compassionate jacket. It would probably have sleeves covered with hearts, that were loose-fitting enough to easily reach out. It would probably have pockets enough for tissues and candies for kids, change for Aldi grocery carts and parking meters, gift cards well suited for broken hearts.

I asked her what she was thinking it would mean to be more compassionate.

“So, I’m guessing that it might mean being more like Jesus? I mean, he seemed pretty compassionate,” she said. “But that’s why I’m asking you. That and I’m guessing that I could connect compassion and Lent.”

I understood. She was thinking about Lent as choosing something to pursue.

I wrote out a list of verses from the Bible, several places where Jesus was identified as having compassion: Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34. Mark 1:41; 6:34, 8:2; Luke 9:13, 10:33, 15:20. I asked her to read them and to identify how they point to Jesus showing compassion.

“Do you want them now?” she asked.

I told her to take some time and think about it. To look for any patterns that she saw.  I told her that after she identified how Jesus lived out compassion, she could look at moments in her day where she intersected with the kind of people that Jesus met and felt compassion for. And then, I said, she could develop a practice for Lent of responding in those moments as Jesus had.

“Or maybe at least ask him to help?” she smiled.

+++

I put my 33 things to give up for Lent in a video.