When we are Real: A daily thought for Lenten reflection

Someone once said that to recognize the signs of God, pay attention to your stirrings. Look closely when you feel the swell of joy within, or the tightness as your throat closes up in sorrow. Live in that moment, poke around in its corners, and feel the texture of its walls. Sit with it for awhile, long enough to sense the presence of God sitting with you.

For many of us, this attention falls in the realm of discipline. We are so consumed with the goings-on around us that slowing down and looking inward requires a determined act of will. For Christians, Lent is a time to do exactly that.

Beginning 40 days before Easter, Lent has traditionally been a time of looking inward, a time of self-evaluation and self-examination in order to identify one’s sins and go through a process of repentance and renewal. Many Christians have fasted during portions of Lent, others have found ways to mark the days by “giving up” something that is particularly delightful to them, even if not sinful. For some it’s giving up sweets or red meat, for others cigarettes or alcohol, habits which oftentimes are picked up again when Easter rolls around.

In recent years, there has been less emphasis on giving up and more emphasis on taking on. Some will choose to go to church more often, or serve the poor, or be more disciplined in meditation.

Using this Lenten calendar is another way to observe this season with intention and presence. Each week of Lent is devoted to reflections on Lenten themes: stillness, examination, attention, prayer, suffering, hope, and new life. As you use these quotes to work through the days and weeks of the Lenten season also keep in mind three things that may help you develop interior peace:

First, live attentively. The Buddhists call this mindfulness. All it means is to be aware of life. Hear the silence of the snow. Feel the cracks in the earth. Look into one another’s eyes. Pay attention to every single moment and that moment alone. Feel it. Take it into your bones. Let it transform you.

Second, learn to let go. Start to simplify your life. Simplify your possessions, your thoughts, your desires, your expectations. When you can let go, your arms are open and ready to receive all the good things God longs to give you.

Third, develop intimacy with God. Gather in yourself a phrase or thought from the calendar. Let the thought or phrase filter through your heart and mind throughout the day. Say it when you stand in the grocery line, when you eat your lunch, when you scrape ice off your car. Let it settle deeply in your heart so that it can work from within to bring you into closer intimacy with God.

Lent need not be a time to live in guilt and shame. Instead it may be a time when we find ourselves in the place where we pay attention to our stirrings—in that place of deep stillness where the hunger of our souls and the heart of God meet.

So shall we have peace divine:
holier gladness ours shall be;
Round us, too, shall angels shine,
Such as ministered to thee.

—Hymn #150
The Hymnal 1982

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