Tag Archives: fasting

Lent-God-spirituality

Being open to the presence of God

Sometimes my liturgical seasons seem to get their wires crossed—I experience Lenten contrition in August or Easter joy during Advent. This year, I am resonating more with Advent than with Lent.

Advent begins with the image of the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (Isaiah 9:2). That is what I am experiencing as Lent begins—walking in light. The darkness of the grief that has gripped me for the past six years seems to have lifted, and my spirit feels light and free. Instead of donning sackcloth and ashes, I feel like laughing and dancing.

Joy and gratitude have taken up residence; contentment reigns. For as long as this feeling lasts, I want to enjoy it.Lent-God-spiritualitySo, about Lent.

True confession: I am addicted to chocolate and rarely go a day without it.Lent-God-spiritualityOne year, just after college, my housemate and I gave up chocolate and alcohol for Lent. I thought giving up alcohol would be more difficult, but it was not. At the grocery store, I repeatedly noticed candy bars on the checkout conveyor belt. How did that happen? I would wonder, knowing full well that I must have put them there, even though I was completely unaware that I had done it. Giving up alcohol for Lent? No problem. But chocolate? No way.

I have a desk drawer at work designated as the snack drawer—it is stocked with chocolate in a variety of forms—granola bars with chocolate chips, chocolate covered almonds and straight-up chocolate candy. It is not a secret stash, and anyone is welcome to dip into this treasure trove of sweets.Lent-God-spiritualityOne Lent, a staff person said she wanted to give up chocolate and asked if I would be willing to join her. She wanted me to empty my snack drawer because she feared the temptation would be too great for her. I explained that I give things up for Lent to become holier—or at least more focused on God—and giving up chocolate would only make me grumpier.

My fasting for Lent tends to be more about giving up being judgmental or being critical or being impatient—more attitudes than actual things. Changing my attitudes seems to have more potential to be transformational in my spiritual journey than changing my eating habits.

My Lenten reflection book encourages making Lent “a penitential season,” and says the purpose of penitential practices (prayer, fasting and almsgiving) is “to open oneself more fully to the presence of God.”

This Lent, I want to fast from judgmentalism, scarcity, stinginess and fear—and feast on  abundance, joy, trust, generosity and gratitude. This Lent, I want to bask in light and live in freedom.Lent-God-spirituality

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Getting ready for Christmas

As I have been preparing for Advent, the word “fast” keeps coming to me. I tend to associate fasting with Lent, but I cannot seem to shake this invitation to fast.

This Advent feels different from the past few; I think because I am out of the fog of grief that shrouded this season for the last three years. This year, I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas, and I want to be fully alive and alert for opportunities to give and receive.

I have been pondering the things that keep me from being fully alive and alert, the things that occupy my time and energy without profit. Probably at the top of the list is watching television.

Although I watch less television than the national average, every time I find myself watching a mindless sitcom—or even worse, a rerun of a mindless sitcom—I know I am wasting precious time, minutes and hours I cannot get back.

My awareness of the preciousness of time keeps growing. Last week, I attended the funeral of a friend who was only twenty-six years old. Justin was healthy, and I had no expectation that his time on earth was coming to an end; but he died while out for a run.

At his funeral, I was deeply aware of how well he had used his time; although he had only been in Detroit for fifteen months, the church was full. Hundreds of people had been touched by this kind, thoughtful young man, and we came together to celebrate his life and share our grief.

Justin was serious about his spiritual journey and committed to service. He loved to read and was fond of suggesting titles that had helped him make progress on his path to God. He was passionate about God and his faith, and his commitment always challenged me to review my own spiritual life and my level of passion for sharing my faith.

Even before Justin’s death, though, I had been aware of this invitation to fast. Since my move, I have felt a bit off-kilter and only slowly have I begun to feel more myself. I have started to do things that have always been important to me like baking, knitting and sewing. But my life still looks so different from how it did four years ago.

One big difference is the amount of time I spend writing. For a number of years, I ghost-wrote reflection pieces for a priest friend—my first foray into publishing. Once I started writing down my ideas, it seems my brain kicked into overdrive, with new ideas popping into my mind almost every day.

Taking the time to write down these reflections seems to be a better use of my time than watching mindless television. Fasting from sitcoms might be a good start to help me get ready for Christmas. I can spend that time in prayer, reading books on spirituality and writing. Maybe I will even knit some Christmas gifts.