February 28, 2006
Most of my posts are about family life: homeschool adventures, what the kids are up to, birthdays, celebrations etc... This post is not like that. As I write this I am finishing off a box of ice cream left over from the birthday party on Saturday. I am eating this ice cream inspite of trying to recover from a pretty bad cold that I got hit with this weekend. So I sit here abusing myself by eating something that will cause more mucus production, coughing, hacking etc...Not too mention the high fat content will cause me to further break out in more acne (after eating that cake on Sat. a couple pimples predictably broke out). Yikes, so why am I doing this? Other than the fact that I generally lack self control I am trying to make the most of Mardi Gras. Because tomorrow is the start of Lent.
I didn't grow up observing Lent. I think in my later teen years I heard about Lent. The church Damien and I attended in our early marriage was more observant of the lenten season and I began to familarize myself with it. I haven't observed Lent every year but this year I have been preparing myself to be more mindful of this season. Part of the soul searching and repentive nature of Lent can involve fasting. I have fasted maybe 4 times (including those 30 hour World Vision fasts done as teenager) and am not attempting to do any complete fasts during this season of Lent. But, I am going to give up chocolate, ice cream, cookies and cake indulgences.
A couple things I'd like to say about this "sacrifice" 1. This is not really a huge sacrifice as we don't regularily eat this stuff. But, it's amazing how much of it creeps in. I don't plan to give up healthy desserts and treats such as smoothies, dates etc.. 2. I'm not giving this up because I feel like I'm a "better" Christian for doing so. I simply think Lent is a good opportunity to practice self-denial - something I am sorely lacking in. I admire people - from all faith traditions - that can live a life of discipline and sacrifice.
Historically & generally envangelical churches have not observed Lent or the liturgical traditions. As much as I love and identify with evangelical theology and worship I feel a desire to explore these traditions. For those of you who don't know much about the Vineyard, it's not a traditional church at all and this suits the non-conformist part of me very well! Not to mention the get up and dance part of me! But I also like the sense of grounding and purpose that comes in observing seasons. I love celebrating and marking the natural seasons - spring, summer, winter and fall. I'd like to extend that into my spiritual life as well. Fueled by that desire I have started observing an ancient Christian tradition known as praying the hours. I actually came across this idea in a Vineyard (I love the Vineyard!) publication. Very simply you set aside 4 times during the day to read scripture and pray. Morning, afternoon, after supper and before bed. The prayers are scripted and the bible passages (with an emphasis on the psalms) are chosen for you. I am using an excellent & modern resource by Phyllis Tickle . This hasn't replaced my bible reading time, as I like to read a chapter at a time and read through the books of the bible. Also our family has a bible reading, prayer and worship time before the kid's go to bed so I don't do the after supper readings. In a good day I'll do 2 of the different readings - morning and bedtime or afternoon and bedtime.
I love the contemplative nature of The Divine Hours. I love that early morning snuggle on the couch with Brienne - who inevitably gets up when I do, as I read the psalms. I love sitting in my chair by the window after lunch, when the kids are resting, cup of tea in hand, praying for God's guidance and wisdom for the rest of my day. I love sitting snug in bed, reading lamps casting a warm glow, reflecting on and thanking God for the day (and that it's almost over!)
Reading through this prayer manual, which details prayers and bible readings for each day has energized me spiritually and provided a much needed focus during my quiet times. I'm hoping it's also building discipline as I strive to set aside a few times each day to meditate on God's word and pray.
I leave you with a morning and evening prayer:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen
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