"Lent reminds us of all the riches of life that good things can smother if we don’t empty out the cluttered cupboards of our hearts and give the meaning of life special attention through good reading, deep prayer, a consciousness of the soul.” – Sr. Joan Chittester
Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of Lent, a Christian ritual that represents a time of reflection and spiritual rejuvenation. The Muslims have Ramadan, The Hindus have Holi, and we Christians have Lent.
Personally, I love the religious tradition and symbolism of Lent. I like the way rituals provide opportunities to take time out of my regular schedule and find ways to connect with my spirituality and the world around me. And, I don’t know about you, but from time to time I need some friendly reminders that the world does NOT revolve around me.
Last year I posted some ideas for things we can pursue during the Lenten season that will make the world around us a better place. After re-reading them, I kind of think they still have merit, so I’m going to post them again – and maybe add some stuff, too. This year, don’t just give up soda or desserts. Try and really stretch yourself and nurture your spiritual self as well as your physical self. You never know whose life you might touch if you let God do the leading for a change….
- Alms-giving. Find a local charity and provide some financial support. Find a group that provides assistance for something that is important to you: the Humane Society, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a local school, a community clinic, a local arts council. Whatever your interest, seek it out and give them a buck or two. But, and this is important, DON’T TELL ANYONE YOU DID IT. Don’t be like the hypocrites and announce your good deed to the world. Rather, better not to let the right hand know what the left is doing (or something like that….)
- Be kind. Yep, this means don’t flip off the lady who just cut you off as you were trying to park in that great spot at Wal-Mart. Don’t get angry at the neighbor who lets his dog run loose and considers your flower bed its personal toilet. Give that Negative Nelly a hug. Don’t talk badly about your spouse’s boss (or family members). Come on, even I can do this for a couple of weeks.
- Go to church (or synagogue or mosque, or whatever your culture recognizes as a sacred place). Learn about a tradition you never quite understood before. Embracing our spirituality helps us to better understand ourselves within our own cultures and communities.
- Use a talent you have neglected. If you like to sing, join the choir. If you like to paint, paint a picture. If you are a great speaker, volunteer to be a presenter or lector at church or read a book to your child’s class. If you like to play music, do it – or sign up to take lessons. Our talents, no matter how small they may seem, have the ability to enrich others’ lives. Nurture them so you may be able to utilize them in your community more effectively.
- Make a sacrifice. No, not animal or human. What this means is, be willing to forego something you like in order to give someone else the opportunity to do something they enjoy. Take your kids to see that movie they’ve been begging you to see. Husbands, take your wife out to dinner (no, carry-out doesn’t count. They still have to set the table and clean up after you guys). Wives, let your husband watch ESPN all day Saturday or Sunday (the “honey-do” list will still be there after Easter). Let your sister borrow your favorite pair of jeans for her next date. Buy your co-worker a Starbucks on your way to work. I’m not talking complete martyrdom here, people. Just do something a little thoughtful for someone else, especially if it takes you out of your comfort zone a little.
So, there you have it: Another year, another Lenten season underway, another opportunity to develop some good habits. Won’t you join me in trying to incorporate all of these ideas into our daily lives?
Fess up – what are YOU giving up this year for Lent? (Insert Pope joke here that I didn't have the courage to print. And THIS is why I don't write a humor blog...) Will you add something new to your routine? Are you reading more spiritual books? Tell me, tell me! You guys gotta keep the conversation going here! J