Preparing for Lent

For so much of our lives, we have heard the message that we need to be active in order to be successful-- productivity being the key to a life worth living. While we know in our heads that all lives are worth living and that our ability to produce is not the measure of our value-- somehow, this message does not always drive our decisions. Quite possibly, our misunderstanding of the true meaning of "success" is the source of our over-full calendars and over-stuffed lives. When we are full to brimming with activity and appointments, it is easy to dismiss the quiet aching of our desire for something more.  

This "something more" that will give us the strength to face our next step, our new hardship, our present joy. This "something more" which will help us to move the mountains that are quietly, yet firmly standing between us and the relationship with God that we so want to embrace. 

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Before we can get to moving the mountains, we need to allow God to infuse us with His grace and His strength. It is with His strength that we are able to chip away at everything in our life that keeps us separated from Him. 

The Catholic Church recommends that we observe the 3 pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. This forty day season is a time that can draw us into a deeper understanding of the tender love of our Father. It is easy to focus on ourselves and the "what are you giving up?" portion of the season. What if we reframed our focus and tried, instead, to go deeper in our relationship with God and others?

This Lent, I want to "waste" time with God so that I can become more sensitive to His voice. I want not only to hear which direction He wants me to go, but I also want to be filled with His strength so that I will respond quickly to His call. How easy it is for us to push Him off for a few minutes while we check our emails, and then a few hours while we run our errands? When I shush His nudges often enough, I find it is harder to hear them at all. Thankfully, God continues to call out and we need only return to sitting still long enough to listen. 

Of course, there is really no such thing as "wasting time with God", but it is so easy to fall into the trap believing that stillness and silence are not productive. I want to set aside those things that are distracting me from Him and preventing me from recognizing the "me" that He created me to be. 

So, as I prepare for Ash Wednesday/Valentine's Day, the official start of our Lenten season, I have been asking myself several questions that you might want to ponder as well: 

1. What do I do for 30 or more minutes each day that is purely entertainment? Something that is not necessary for work, family responsibilities, etc. For me, Social Media is appealing. For others it might be a TV show or Netflix. Could I give some of this time to God in stillness and prayer?

2. Would it be helpful for me to gather all of the supplies I need to "waste time with God" in one place so that I look forward to our time together? What does this look like with what I already own? Where in the house are the things I need? Can I "waste time" watercoloring and talking to God? 

3. What Lenten "sacrifices" have allowed me to hear from God in the past? How have I exercised Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving before? 

4. What if I tried something new each week to see what is feasible for my season of life? Should I give "my sacrifices" more than one week?

5. Who is God calling me to grow closer to during Lent? Is she a person of a different community or background? Is she a neighbor I don't often see? Could it be a friend I have not spoken to in years or someone that you need to forgive?

If you have any ideas about any of these questions, please feel free to let me know in the Comments section below.