Friday, February 13, 2015

Preparing for Lent: Giving it up to the LORD

I can't believe how long it has taken me to write this post, nor how soon it is until Ash Wednesday. We all know that it is customary to give something up for Lent, but before we choose what that is this year, I wanted to share some different perspectives on "giving up" that will bring us closer to the LORD. Here they are in seven quick takes.

Look beyond chocolate and soda. Give up those bad habits. We all have them. Lent is the perfect time to refocus our lives off of our selves and onto God. Nail biting and chewing on pen caps aren't sins, but they are bad habits that are controlling you instead of the other way around.  Practicing self denial not only reigns in your impulses and ground you in more conscious behavior. While it may seem woeful to live without ice cream for forty days, finally kicking that habit will be harder but more fulfilling. Being conscious of your every behavior affords the ability to put God first in all things because you die to self and look to Him.

Once you have that bothersome habit on your list of self improvement projects, choose a virtue to grow in. We all have one that is hardest to practice.  Choose one to practice this Lent.  If you do not know where to start, I recommend "Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues" by Father Robert Barron. It is available for less than $5 from Lighthouse Catholic Media.  We are currently doing the group study with our Teams of Our Lady group and it is excellent!

Give of yourself. Find a charity to serve in someway, go out of your way to be kind to a difficult person in your life, or take the time to do your least favorite chore for someone who is unable to do it for themselves.  In short, love like Christ did. Love with your whole heart and whole body. Do onto others who cannot do for you.

Make up a reading list.  Take out and dust off those books that you have been meaning to read, the ones that fuel the soul.  Lent is not just about emptying yourself and mortification, it is about filling yourself up with beauty and truth.This is your chance for some "extreme make-over: the soul edition"  Set your sights high and overland. Shut off the TV, close down Facebook, hang up the phone, stop surfing the web.  Carve out even just ten minutes a day to nourish your mind,heart, and soul.

Choose a new devotion to test drive.  Every year I try to choose anew prayer habit or other devotion to add into my life.  Try to keep it simple. Planning to pray twenty decades of the Rosary each day when you pray none presently is putting a lot of undue pressure on yourself.  The purpose is to find a new way to get closer to God, it should lead to joy not resentment. Weekly adoration, a decade a day, saying the Angelis at noon, reading scripture for fifteen minutes a day, these are all possibilities.  Another choice is to do something that you feel God has been calling you to, but you have resisted. Many women experiment with veiling during Lent. Commit to do whatever you choose, just until Easter. You may decide to keep the devotion permanently, or keep it only as a Lenten observance.  Either way, you will walk away richer and more at peace.

Offer up all that goes wrong and bothers you.  It is a fallen world, nothing is perfect.  It is easy to become discouraged, aggravated, and impatient.  Instead of gritting your teeth or complaining(even in your head) give the uncomfortable, the unpleasant, the interruptions, the aggravations to God as penance and bear them quietly.

Give away all that you can and be satisfied with what's left. Purge your home not just of garbage but of excess. Then take it a step further, and give away something that it hurts you to give.  Not only will your home be more organized and orderly, your heart will be less burdened by thoughts of all you don't have. Looking the bonds of stuff is liberating and a true exercise in following the narrow road in a consumer society.  I highly suggest The program 40 bags in 40 days that has been posted on several blogs. I completed in a few years ago and it has become a way of life, not just a 40 day organization program. Having less, really is more!   Try it and see!

What plans do you have for Lent? No matter how simple or elaborate they are, see them through and your Easter will be most joyous!  Please come back for my list of favorite Lenten reading and resources. God bless.
I'm linking up with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes Friday.

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