Lent is here. It begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1st and ends with Maundy Thursday on April 13th. Last week I updated all our Lent, Holy Week and Easter resource lists, reread posts from previous Lenten seasons and started to think about what I want to do this year.
Lent is often seen as a time of giving up; we focus on the negative rather than the positive. I am convinced, however, that giving up is not meant to be an exercise in self-denial. Rather, it is about transformation. We give up so that something new can be birthed.
In The Book of Joy, written by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, in conjunction with Douglas Abrams, the authors say,
the three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous.
What a great place to start as we shape our Lenten practices. How can we focus on the positive and not the negative? How do we express gratitude, and how does that overflow in kind and generous actions?
Steps to a Positive Lent
Step 1: Spend the first week of Lent reflecting on what new, positive things you want to see birthed in you by Easter this year. Make a list of two or three attitudes or habits you would like to see transformed this year. I decided on these for myself: Fear into love; despair into hope; mourning into joy.
Step 2: Get or make a Lenten journal to record your journey over these weeks. This year I made a special journal for my journey through Lent, complete with coloring pages, reflection exercises and scriptures. I used it to shape a Lenten practice that provides one activity each day to help me move closer to God.
Step 3: Create a schedule for your reflection time during Lent. I am finding that the practice of tracking what I do every day is an incredibly helpful tool in providing work/life balance. It helps me avoid overload and burnout. It is a great discipline to establish during Lent. (Make sure your schedule incorporates all the daily and weekly commitments you already have.)
The Lenten Season Challenge
Here is the process that I am using for the season. Care to join me in this challenge? It will probably change as I walk through Lent, but I feel it is a good start.
- Sunday – Reflect on my word for the week. Linger in silence, savouring it and listening for a sense of God’s presence.
- Monday – Do a word search on Biblegateway.com on what I want to see birthed – love, hope, joy. Write down the descriptive words and phrases that most resonate with me.
- Tuesday – Reread the words and phrases I have written down. Linger once more in the silence and allow God to speak to me about this word. What images, prayers or poetry bubbles up from my heart? Start shaping a picture in images or words, or begin shaping a poetic prayer from them.
- Wednesday – Reread what I wrote on Tuesday. Sit once more in the presence of God and allow the prayer/poem/image to more fully take shape.
- Thursday – Time to take action. Love, hope and joy are not just feelings, they are actions. Today, what is one way I can be more loving, hope-filling and joy-providing to those who live in our household?
- Friday – Time to take action in my community. Today, what is one way I can be more loving, hope-filling and joy-providing to those who live in my neighbourhood?
- Saturday – Time to take action in our world. Today, what is one way I can be more loving, hope-filling and joy-providing to those who live in our global community?
Create Your Own Unique Process
This is not about following a process that I have put together. The rebirthing of God’s presence within us comes not primarily from the instructions of others, but from our own unveiling of that presence already hidden deep within us. So as you put your own Lenten process together, consider some of this very good advice I received from my life coach:
- Follow your heart. Create a process that is unique for you, uses your God-inspired talents, and reflects where you are in your faith journey.
- Have some fun. Create an enjoyable process that inspires you each day with a desire to draw close to God. Plan some fun things to do in relationship to your themes – colouring, doodling, gardening, walking labyrinths, and playing with your kids can stir your creativity and inspire you to move into a more intimate place with God and out into the world that God loves.
- Take away the pressure of performance. This is not about who can be the most transformed or do the most good deeds during Lent. It is about allowing God to move us at God’s pace into newness and wholeness.
- Let your shoulds become coulds. Many of us live with the guilt of “I should have done this…” and lay unnecessary burdens on ourselves. By doing so, we miss the sense of satisfaction in what we did do: “I am grateful I could do… .“
Will You Join Me?
So, will you join me on this journey towards the rebirthing of Easter?
Prayerfully consider ways in which God would like to see you transformed during this Lenten season. Take time to develop your own process. Allow God to change you.