Incorporating Four Wholistic Lenten Habits
April 23, 2014
The Easter celebrations are over; the songs that so stirred our hearts and souls are fading. Lent has come to an end. The various disciplines that we chose have been completed—or possibly abandoned. We now look forward to the weeks and months ahead.
One of the questions that I think we should ask ourselves at this time of transition is, “Is there anything from my Lenten experience that I can carry with me into the days and months ahead?” You might recall that at the beginning of Lent I questioned whether or not we should pack any traditional Lenten practices for our journey toward a sane faith. If we don’t have anything to carry with us in the days ahead, then it is a good bet that we can toss the Lenten stuff out of our backpacks. It simply isn’t doing us any good. Perhaps there is something that we can take in its place.
I think, however, that I can answer my question in the affirmative. How about you? I started out with four wholistic Lenten habits that I wanted to not only be my Lenten disciplines, but I also wanted to incorporate them into my life. These habits were:
1. Developing an attitude of gratitude,
2. Expressing my appreciation of people around me,
3. Building better eating habits—specifically consuming more fruits and vegetables, and
4. Practicing a time of sitting silently in God’s presence.
It is all too easy to slide into the complaining mode. It is so popular in our culture today. Nothing seems to be right. We crave perfection and it is not to be found. Rather than be thankful for the good we often prefer to focus on the bad. Developing an attitude of gratitude is an act of one’s will. It is a choice. I found that the baby step of expressing thanks for three items in the morning and three items at night was effective in helping me refocus my attention and begin to develop a more thankful attitude. I’ve got a long way to go before I receive the trophy for “The Most Thankful Guy on Earth,” but I’ve at least started along that path.
How about you? Are you able to carry a greater attitude of gratitude with you into the days ahead?
The second habit that I wanted to incorporate into my life was one of appreciating people. My goal was to express my appreciation to at least one person every day. I discovered two things:
1. It wasn’t that hard to do!
2. There are a lot of people who do a lot, but who hear very few words of appreciation.
Valuing and appreciating people are fundamental to building strong relationships. God created us to be social beings—even the introverts. Relationships are vital and enable us to experience the fullness of life that God longs for us to have.
What was your experience? Have you become more aware of the people in your lives?
Better eating was my third wholistic Lenten habit. Of the habits I sought to incorporate into my life, this one proved to be the most elusive. I found it to be more difficult to get out of the chocolate/sweet mode, than I did the complaining mode. I made a little progress, but I still am more drawn to the dessert table than I am to the fresh fruit. I will still pursue this habit, but for the time being, it is easier for me to walk/run an extra two or three miles than it is to say “No,” to chocolate.
Where you able to make any progress in this area? Do you think that physical and mental health are part of the abundant life that Jesus says he came to give us?
My final wholistic Lenten habit was sitting silently with God. I have developed the ability to sick silently and still (without wiggling too much) for five minutes. I realize that this will not allow me to be known as the meditative or contemplative champion, but it has made a difference in my life. Silence is under rated by our society!
I know that I appreciate the times when my wife, Faye, and I can sit quietly together. I value those times of simply being aware of her presence and of communicating on a deeper level than words. That deeper level of communication has been present in my silent times.
Don’t get me wrong. I have not had any angelic visions. There have been no extraordinary, supernatural miracles experienced by me. I have, however, felt God’s calming presences and sensed God’s loving embrace. This happened more regularly than when I babbled on about my various wants, desires, and needs. Silence is a practice that I want to continue in the days ahead, and one that I hope to expand upon, also.
I’m not going to throw all of the Lenten practices out of my backpack; I’ll keep a few. How about you? Was Lent nothing? Was it simply a meaningless ritual, or are you able to take something from it and keep it with you in the days ahead?
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