Tag Archives: lent

Gospel Reflection for April 13, 2014, Palm/Passion Sunday

7 Apr

About three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud tone, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”  This means, “My God, my God.  Why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27.46


The events of the passion test and manifest Jesus’ love for God, for the world, for his friends, and for the community that still gathers in his name.  Jesus endures not only the pain and shame of crucifixion but one friend’s betrayal, another’s denial, and God’s seeming abandonment.

When have you found Jesus with you in times of betrayal or suffering or seeming abandonment?

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Stations of the Cross

3 Apr
via flickr user MIKECNY

via flickr user MIKECNY

Over the past few weeks, I have been writing about central pillars of Catholic practice during Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This week I consider Stations of the Cross, which, while not a pillar of Lenten practice, is a popular devotional practice among many Catholics. Admittedly, growing up, I was not a big fan of the Stations of the Cross. On a practical level, it seemed long and boring. As I got older, I also objected to the focus on the suffering and death of Jesus. It seemed a bit too macabre for my taste; I preferred to hear about the angry Jesus who overturned tables in the temple, the compassionate Jesus who healed and helped those on the margins of the society, and the resurrected Jesus who appeared to his followers to shore up their strength and commission them to spread his message.

So in the spirit of renewal this Lent, I am trying to think about the Stations of the Cross in a different way. What is a station for? A station is place where you wait, like a train station. So Stations of the Cross are places where we wait, where we take time to reflect on the path of Jesus as he went to the cross. Like other practices of Lent, praying the Stations of the Cross causes us to use our time differently—to slow down and to reflect on distinct moments of Jesus’ journey to the cross—and to think about ourselves and our place in the world differently. What does it mean for my life that Jesus endured suffering, in order that he might die and be resurrected? What does it mean for my life that living as he did resulted in Jesus being crucified on a cross like a common criminal? These are not easy questions to answer, but they are necessary ones as we strive to learn from the mystery of Jesus Christ. In our considering of them, we may find that, like Lazarus in this week’s Gospel, knowing Jesus results in the burial clothes that tie our bodies and shield our eyes as we live in the death of this world are removed so that we can live a new life with Christ.

Stations of the Cross also can be called the Way of the Cross. It is one of the ways that we can fulfill the injunction by Jesus in the Gospels to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him (Mark 8:34, Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23). Walking and praying the Stations of the Cross gives us a chance to go on a pilgrimage without leaving home, as we follow in the steps of Jesus. And while it is not helpful to focus only on the suffering and death of Jesus, neither is it good to completely gloss over the crucifixion and the events that led to it. We all know that there is a dark side in the world (and in ourselves, if we are honest); odd as it may sound, attending to Jesus’ passion can give us hope as we face the darkness in our lives and in our world. It also teaches us lessons about courage, patience, and trusting in a God who promises to deliver us from all evil.

To participate in the Stations of the Cross, individuals or groups remember fourteen scenes from the passion of Christ, that is, the suffering of Christ that ended in his death on the cross. Frequently, these scenes are depicted artistically—carved in stone, painted on wood—and arranged at intervals around a church building. Those praying the stations walk in the steps of Jesus, stopping at each scene to remember what happened to Christ and to say a prayer. There are also various online resources for individuals to use if they want to reflect on the Stations at home; click here for one I really like.

There are three things to remember if you are going to pray the Stations on your own. First, it is important to include a time of meditation at each Station, a time during which you reflect on what happened to Christ. Second, it is important to try to see ourselves mirrored in Christ and to consider how each Station may have application in our own lives. Ask yourself, what might this Station have to teach me today? What is it saying to me? What is it helping me to see or do differently? And finally, there are no set prayers that must be said at each Station. You can use prayers that you are familiar with (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be), prayers someone else has written for reflection on the Stations, or prayers you come up with yourself. This gives you the freedom to interact with the Stations, to make them part of your own prayer practice.

How To Claim Jesus Today

2 Apr

John 18: 1-27 tells the story of Judas betraying Jesus followed by Peter denying Jesus. Three time over, Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and disciples denies that he knows Jesus. It was an intense scene that was escalating – Jesus was being questioned by the high priest and started being beaten by the police. To claim to know Jesus was to welcome trouble. Peter decided to avoid conflict by distancing himself from Jesus, the one in the center of the storm. “Nope, I don’t know him.”

I looked at this passage with a group of high school students. The young people identified with Peter.

“It’s way cooler to be an atheist than to believe in Jesus at my school,” one young man admitted. “A lot of the kids who say they are atheist don’t really know what that means. They just don’t want people to think they are religious and go to church.”

Another added, “Yeah, the vocal Christians at our school are homophobic, and that just isn’t cool. I don’t want to be grouped with those kids. It’s easier to pretend to not believe in Jesus at all.” (“Nope, I don’t know him.”)

Our context was public high schools in Minneapolis, but they also saw themes reflected on the national stage.

On March 20, Fred Phelps died. Phelps founded Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, in 1955. The church is most famous for picketing more than 53,000 events with signs that say things like, “God Hates Fags.” Phelps rose to national notoriety in 1998, when Westboro members picketed at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming man who was tortured and murdered because he was gay. He claimed natural and human-made disasters are God’s punishment for the acceptance of gay people and thought homosexuals should be put to death. His recent death brought his legacy back into the media. People responses were polarizing: silence, anger, sadness and joy.

On March 24th, World Vision announced it would begin to hire people in same-sex marriages. The announcement caused a backlash among conservative donors. On March 26th, World Vision reversed its decision. Richard Stearns asked donors who had pulled their funding to “forgive our poor judgment in the original decision. We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.” The initial decision and the decision to reverse the policy was polarizing. Who is right? Who loses? What would Jesus say? The name calling, divisions and anger from all sides on social media were deafening.

In a recent post, Jon Huckins writes, “I’m not against healthy dialog, disagreement or even conflict. I’m actually quite for it. The mission of God is reconciliation and the vocation of God’s people, the Church. When we spend more time attacking each other rather than attacking the areas of brokenness in our world, we become a reflection of anti-kingdom.”

Today, Christianity is getting press for publicly fighting about gay marriage maybe more than any other thing. The high schoolers feel it. I feel it. And we were all a little sympathetic to Peter, who just wanted to side step the controversy through denying his love for Jesus altogether. What I heard from the students is a desire to exist in a world beyond black and white, beyond right and wrong, bigger than this one issue. They wanted to be able to claim their faith without being put in a constricting box. They want to change the discourse and ask a whole new set of questions that reflect the ministry of Jesus. Where some of their friends have given up, they are hanging on, but often in secret. Our work continues to be creating space for people to read the gospel together and form subversive community that are committed to the truth. To be brave, claim Jesus, and address the areas of brokenness in our world. To seek to know Jesus and be able to say, “Yep, I know him.” For Peter and for us, it’s hard work, it’s a little scary, but it’s also good.

 

Seeing Anew in Lent

27 Mar

In this week’s Gospel from John 9, we hear the story of the man blind since birth who Jesus heals. Using earthy language that helps us to feel like eyewitnesses to the scene, the gospel writer tells us that Jesus “spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes,” then told the man to go wash his eyes in a pool. Once he had done so, the man was able to see for the first time in his life. In the aftermath of this miracle, the man’s neighbors do not believe it is him, and then Pharisees throw him out of the temple, insisting that he still is a sinner (since in Jesus’ time physical impairments like blindness were thought to be the result of sin). Hearing that this has happened to the man, Jesus seeks him out and reveals to him that he is the Son of Man, and the formerly blind man declares his belief in Jesus as Lord.

Art by Sister Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

Art by Sister Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

In the past two weeks, I have written about two of the three traditional Catholic Lenten practices: fasting and abstinence and almsgiving. As I read this week’s Gospel in light of my attempt to better embrace the season of Lent, I have a new image for the work that engaging in Lenten practices does for our spiritual lives. These practices of fasting and abstinence, almsgiving, and prayer (the third practice of the triad) are like the dirt and saliva mix that enable the blind man to see. Applied to our lives this Lent, these practices help us see anew and continue to support our ability and desire to profess our belief in God our Creator, Jesus our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit our sanctifier.

Here is a simple example: Last Friday, our family was traveling to Iowa to visit relatives. As we prepared to stop for lunch at the place we always stop along our route, a restaurant that specializes in meat, we remembered it was Lent. This led us to ask Siri where we could order a fish sandwich close by. Certainly, this small decision about lunch did not change our lives. However, even this relatively simple process of breaking our normal habit did get me thinking about the easy access to food I usually enjoy and the wide variety of food that I eat. While I was choosing among a plethora of decent options for lunch that day, millions of people in the United States and around the world were going hungry. For people living in poverty, fasting may not be a choice, but rather a forced option. For those living in food deserts, an area in which there is little or no access to affordable, fresh, and healthy food, they may be forced to eat fast food or food from convenience stores (two options that are a treat for me on a road trip, not a necessity) that do not provide proper nutrition. When I voluntarily fast or abstain from meat, it helps me recognize the hunger and suffering of others in a new way and inspires me to search for ways to demonstrate Christ’s love in the world—from donating food to food shelves to writing letters to politicians to support just economic and political structures that enable people to provide food for their families.

Similarly, the practices of almsgiving and prayer also help us see our lives anew in Lent. As we make decisions about where to give our money and how much to give, we may have occasion to examine our finances, to see what heart of our family life is revealed by where our treasure goes. When we give away some of our money, we may better remember that the treasure we accumulate on earth is not what will bring us happiness today, nor what will bring us salvation at the end of our days. When we pray, we recognize that we are not the gods of our own lives and put our trust in the ways in which God cares for us, for all human beings, and the whole of creation. When we pray, we honor God as God and allow ourselves to be open to God’s vision for our lives and for our world.

May it be that this Lent we are willing to get our eyes dirty, as we apply the muddy practices of fasting and abstinence, almsgiving, and prayer to our lives. May it be that when we wash our eyes in the pool of Easter joy, we will realize we have already begun to see anew.

Gospel Reflection for March 30, 2014, 4th Sunday of Lent

24 Mar
Jesus gave sight to a man born blind. The Pharisees questioned the man as to who could perform this miracle. The man said he did not know, but the person capable of such things must come from God. This outraged the Pharisees. Jesus heard about this and went to the man born blind.

Jesus said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
The man answered, “Tell me who he is, so I can believe in him.”
Jesus responded, “You have already seen him. He is speaking to you now.”
“I believe, Jesus,” said the man.


John 9.35-38

Sunday’s gospel begins as a miracle but continues as a faith drama, a series of scenes in which a man born blind explains to neighbors and teachers how he got his sight and who this person is who gave him his sight. As the man tells his story, he sees with increasing clarity who Jesus is.

How have your eyes been opened? How did you receive your sight?

 

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Almsgiving

21 Mar

Last week I wrote about the idea of giving ourselves over to God in fulfillment of our baptismal promises in relation to the Lenten practice of fasting and abstinence. Along with fasting and abstinence, there are two other traditional pillars of Lenten practice for Catholics: prayer and almsgiving. This week I write about almsgiving, an ancient sounding word that may seem far removed from our current social lives.

“Alms” is a word from Old English that refers to something, like food or money, given to the poor. As a practice, almsgiving can include many things, such as making a donation to a charitable organization or tithing to a religious institution (that is, giving one-tenth a part of something). Almsgiving is part of our baptismal calling, as it is one way to take care of our brothers and sisters, both locally and globally, and to provide for the needs of the “least of these.” Small acts of almsgiving help us to grow in charity, leading toward recognition of Jesus Christ in the poor of our world. Almsgiving takes us beyond an attitude of “it’s just me and God,” as we respond to the needs of others, to those who participate in the Body of Christ with us. If Lent is about giving ourselves over to God, almsgiving is one way that we can offer a material sign of our commitment to follow in the steps of Jesus. We put our money where our faith is, giving some of our fortune over to God by giving it to serve the needs of God’s children.

Almsgiving is not just for the rich. In fact, in Mark 12:41-44, Jesus praises a widow who donates two small coins. He even goes so far as to say that she gave more than the rich people, because she gave out of what she needed not out of what she had left over. You do not need to have a lot of money to make a big difference, and you can also get creative and think about how you can give alms and tithe in ways that do not involve money. Might you be able to donate 10% of the clothes you currently have in your closet to a worthy cause? Might you be able to reduce your energy usage by 10% by being more conscious about turning off lights, unplugging unused electronics and appliances, and adjusting your thermostat?

Almsgiving certainly promotes charity, that is, giving to those most in need. Yet reading this Sunday’s gospel from John 4 got me thinking about whether we are called this Lent to match our charity with work for justice. In this gospel, we hear the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. As the woman herself reminds Jesus, these two people should not even be having an encounter, since both her gender and religious identity separate her from Jesus. When she questions whether she can even draw water for him from the well, Jesus mentions “living water,” which causes the woman to ask where a person can get such a thing. Jesus is clear that one who drinks from the well will be thirsty again, but one who drinks the living water Jesus offers will never thirst.

It may be our first tendency to read Jesus’ reply to this woman in a spiritual light, and we would not be wrong to do so. He is telling her in no uncertain terms that the way for a person to be fulfilled, to be satisfied, to have eternal life is through faith in God. But I think we may find here, too, a lesson about charity and justice. We have all likely heard the saying that if you give a person a fish, it feeds them for one day; if you teach that person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. With our charity, we quench people’s thirst in the short-term, which is not an unworthy thing to do. People in crisis need their basic human needs met, and charity helps to insure that this is so. But with our justice, we can help quench people’s thirst for their lifetime. People in crisis also need help dealing with the systemic causes of their suffering. It is worth thinking about how, in addition to our almsgiving this Lent, we can also work for justice in the world.

Giving Ourselves over to God

13 Mar

Last week, the priest who was presiding at the Ash Wednesday service at my son’s Catholic elementary school opened mass by asking, “Who thinks that Lent is about giving something up?” A majority of the children, as well as a good portion of the teachers and parents present, raised their hands.

Many of us who were raised Catholics are in the habit of giving something up during Lent, without really understanding why. Fasting, along with abstinence, is one of the three traditional pillars of Lenten practice for Catholics (prayer and almsgiving are the other two). Fasting usually means partaking of only one full meal in a day, something that is required of adult Catholics on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence means refraining from something, usually the eating of meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays during Lent, but it is also linked to the idea of giving something up during Lent.

Traditionally, fasting and abstinence are understood as a form of penance. When we give up meat on Fridays, for instance, each Friday becomes a mini Good Friday, as we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Practicing self-denial is part of the transformation of our lives to more fully live our baptismal calling. Fasting and abstinence also can serve our prayer lives, as our physical hunger becomes a physical sign of our hunger for God.

Yet following his question at the beginning of the Ash Wednesday service, the priest told us that Lent really is not about giving something up, but rather is about giving ourselves over to God. Giving something up usually only lasts for the six weeks of Lent, the priest told us, after which we tend to go back to our regular patterns or habits. In contrast, when we focus on giving ourselves over to God, we take steps on our spiritual journeys that stay with us for a lifetime.

As I reflected on what the priest had said throughout the mass, it slowly dawned on me that the way in which I gone about giving something up during Lent in the past did not assist me in living my baptismal calling or giving myself over to God. Many years, I gave up chocolate or candy, but not for spiritual reasons. I used this Lenten abstinence in the service of a greater goal of getting in better shape, of losing ten pounds, of finally getting back to the weight I was before I had my children. Other years, I gave up television, not in order to spend more time focusing on my spiritual life but so that I could prove to myself that I could do it. No matter what it was that I gave up, I simply willed myself to get through the six weeks. I gutted it out and then held up my accomplishment to God, internally saying to God, “Look what I have accomplished on my own. Look what I did to be worthy of your love.” And then having crossed the finish line at Easter somewhat exhausted by the will power it took to abstain for six weeks, I would promptly binge on Easter candy or the next season of The Wire (carefully requested from the library at the right time so as to be in my possession at Easter).

Dance of the Spirit

Dance of the Spirit

So this year, I decided that I still wanted to give something up (old habits die hard!), but to choose something of a different order and to do it in different way. In her wonderful book The Dance of the Spirit, feminist Catholic theologian Maria Harris writes about how the spiritual journeys of women begin with the step of Awakening, and that Awakening often begins with awakening our senses and coming home to our bodies. As someone working toward recovery from an eating disorder, I need to come home to my body in a radical way. Through my journey thus far, I have come to see that my treating my body as a project always to be worked on and viewing my happiness as always ten lost pounds away is a great detriment to my spiritual life. And I do not think that I am alone in this. Many people live disconnected from their bodies, either because they believe spirituality means leaving the body behind or because we live in a society that supports such unhealthy attitudes toward our bodies.

So for Lent this year, I am “giving up” two things that have kept me from appreciating and being at home in my body. First, I am giving up getting on the scale every day. I put the scale away so that I am not tempted to peak at my weight and have been surprised at how freeing it has been to not measure the success of my days by a number on the scale. Second, I am giving up my disconnection from and negative attitude toward my body, or to put it more accurately, I am taking one small step toward this vision of the future. Each morning as I get ready for the day, I take time to cherish one small part of my body, for now my forearms, and I pray that God will help me see and celebrate my body as part of God’s good creation. For the first time, I am not undertaking my Lenten abstinence on my own, but rather am inviting God into the process, praying to be empowered by God’s love and acceptance.

Gospel Reflection for March 16, 2014, 2nd Sunday of Lent

10 Mar
via flickr user Horia Varlan

via flickr user Horia Varlan

Jesus was transfigured in front of his disciples.
Out of the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests.  Listen to him.”

Matthew 17.5

 His transfiguration takes place just after Jesus tells his disciples for the first time he will suffer, die, and rise on the third day.  This awakening to Jesus’ suffering moves the disciples from ordinary to sacred time.

In his transfiguration the disciples see Jesus as both divine and vulnerable, belonging to both heaven and earth, residing in both ordinary and extraordinary worlds.  His transfiguration terrifies his followers, but Jesus touches them gently and tells them not to fear.

This vision disturbs their lives.  The solid ground on which they stand shifts.  They move from ordinary space to sacred space, from mundane to mystery.

When has an awakening transformed your past and future?

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A New Lent

6 Mar

At my grandparents’ house, yellowed palm leaves were seemingly ever-present behind the silver-framed mirror that hung on the wall near their front door. Immediately after Palm Sunday, the palms would add a splash of green to the mauves and light blues of the room. Yet as the church year wore on, the palms would fade to better match my grandma’s decorating taste. We always knew Lent was approaching when the palms disappeared, returned to my grandparents’ church to be burned into the ashes that would be distributed on Ash Wednesday.

via flickr user Stephen Cummings

via flickr user Stephen Cummings

Seeing the empty space behind my grandparents’ mirror always hit me in the pit of my stomach. I have always loved Advent, the season of joyful preparation for and grateful anticipation of the coming of Christ’s birth. Advent is a season I can nestle into, my excitement for Christmas mounting as the days grow shorter. But if Advent is my favorite church season, Lent is the polar opposite. Rather than a cozy winter’s night, Lent feels more like the desert into which the Spirit drives Jesus in this week’s Gospel—long, barren, desolate, and drab. It is not that I mind abstaining from meat on Fridays; it’s a great excuse to drive through McDonalds for fish fillets and fries. It is more that I do not like the feeling of Lent—the feeling of being down in the mouth, the attitude of being hard on yourself, and the undertone of punishing yourself for your sinful ways.

Lent is a season of conversion, and this year what I want to convert is my attitude toward Lent. I figure that Lent has been around a lot longer than I have, so maybe I just need to learn a little more about it in order to find a new way to approach this season. That is what I am going to do over the next six weeks in this blog. Each week I will consider a topic related to Lent, presenting some information about it as well as some ideas about how that aspect of Lent makes sense in our modern lives.

Recently I read something that already is renewing my attitude toward Lent. The key to understanding the Lenten season is Baptism. On a practical level, Lent is the time when catechumens, that is, those wishing to become part of the Church, prepare for the Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation—that will be celebrated at the Easter Vigil. For the rest of us, that is, those who already have been baptized into the Church, Lent is a time to renew our baptismal commitments. When I think about Lent as a time to focus intensely on living my baptismal vows, it sounds like something I might be capable of doing.

As you begin the season of Lent, take a minute to think with me about our baptismal vows. How are you living them in your life right now? In what ways are you falling short?

  • Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises?
  • Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
  • Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
  • Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

If you answered no to some of these questions, or had questions about the questions (Do people still believe in Satan? Is there really a resurrection of the body?), that might be the place to begin your Lenten journey. Write down the questions you have; find someone you trust to talk to about your questions. Questions are a part of faith; we do not need to be afraid to bring our questions to God in prayer.

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, then there is another question: are you living these beliefs? If you are anything like me, this is where your Lenten journey begins. I might be able to say I believe all of these things, but…

  • Do I really live as if evil has no power or do I live in fear of evil?
  • Do I put my trust in God the Creator or do I trust in myself more?
  • Do I treat the world and everyone in it as part of God’s good creation?
  • Do I follow the example of Jesus Christ in how I treat others?
  • Do I really live as if Jesus died and was resurrected, ushering the new kingdom of God and releasing a well spring of hope?
  • Do I trust that the Spirit empowers me to follow in Christ’s footsteps?
  • Do I participate in the community of the Church, which includes all the faithful who have lived before us?
  • Do I treat myself as a sinner or as someone whose sins have been and will continue to be forgiven by God?

Spiritual Through Physical

5 Mar
via flickr user jamiesrabbits

via flickr user jamiesrabbits

“As you may know,” my friend wrote me, “it can be challenging to remember the holy and divine.”

I do know. It can be challenging, indeed. She said this in a conversation about remaining kosher. She continued, “Kosher is a way for us to be challenged on a daily mundane scale to give literal food for thought regarding how to obtain some of the holy into our very being. Using the physical to obtain a spiritual goal is something I find fascinating and something shared by both of our religions.”

My belief in getting at the spiritual through the physical is what attracts me to my Jewish brothers and sisters. I am curious about their rituals and chosen restrictions. It is what fascinated me about walking the streets of Nepal– Hindus and Buddhists publicly weaving physical practice into their daily lives. It is what worries me about my young students who walk away from the church without walking toward anything in particular. My faith in practice is also why I love Lent.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. For me, since I was very little, Lent has been a treasured time of reflection and refinement. How have I strayed from my best self? How have I given into the default settings of being human– being greedy and thinking I am the center of the universe? How have I given up on the good news? What adjustments can I make to my physical life to be made new spiritually?

This Lent, I am committing to three physical goals that I believe will welcome reflection and refinement. First, I will consume less alcohol, sugar and caffeine. I believe there is a connection between what we put into our bodies and what our bodies are capable of exuding back into the world. My spouse and I make very good, healthy choices about food. But alcohol, sugar and caffeine are three things I do take in that are not nutritious in and of themselves. I am using Lent as a time to check in and make sure I’m not leaning too much on these three items that people can become addicted to. I know my body will feel better, stronger, and more alive with less alcohol, sugar and caffeine to process. I’m interested to see what the spiritual implications of this cleanse will prove to be.

Secondly, I will use my phone as a phone. Ever since I got a smart phone, I have noticed the slippery slope of my dependence to it. My personal ethics around cell phone use has gotten more and more lax. Am I addicted to my phone? I don’t think so, but I want to make sure. Over Lent, I am going to push myself to use my phone to make and receive calls. Period. This means not checking my email on my phone throughout the day. It means leaving it in the next room and not carrying it around with me like it is an extension of myself. It means less screen time and less distraction. It means not having a social crutch to lean on when I am waiting for a friend by myself and admitting that I don’t need to be available to everyone at every moment of the day. I think I will learn a lot about how we use our phones to hide from our own humanity.

Finally, I will keep a gratitude journal. Habits are powerful, and it is just as important to eliminate what takes life away as it is to incorporate what offers life. I’ve noticed that I’ve become a little more bitter and negative. I complain a little bit more than I used to. I believe in acting the way you want to feel. I want to feel more generous and grateful. So each day, I will take a few moments to write down what I am grateful for. Forty days of shifting my focus to gratitude, I hope, will invite renewal and a more permanent shift in focus.

My hope is that these three minor adjustments to what has become my routine will change my daily, mundane reality enough to remind me of the holy and divine right in front of me. The effort and intention it takes to change these practices, I hope, will bring about something new in me. This Lent, how will you get at your spiritual life through your physical life?

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