Transfiguration Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays because there is so much great stuff to do with kids! This day provides so many ways to get ready for Lent. As individuals, we are invited to "listen" to Christ speaking in our lives. As a community, the invitation is no less for us as a group. During church today we prepared for Lent by decorating "Alleluia" signs so that we can hide them next week and keep them hidden all throughout Lent. We also burned last years palms for use this week during our Ash Wednesday service. Transfiguration Sunday sends me right into thinking about Lent. So I've started making a list of things to do (or not do) during Lent as part of making way and creating silence for listening to God. I thought that I would share some ideas with you.
*I listen to sacred music. If you are into sacred music (however you define that), listen to some every day; I find this really helpful. I have made two playlists on my ipod to help me during Lent. One is primarily gospel music with Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Clara Ward and the Clara Ward Singers, Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama, Brother Joe May, Corey Harris and Henry Butler, Alison Krauss, Gospel Dream, Bruce Springsteen, Etta James, Tapiola Choir, Sweet Honey and the Rock, and the Staple Singers. It's a great playslist. Because there's a lot of gospel on this list, don't be surprised if there are a few "Alleluias" floating around! The other playlist is sacred music composed by Eric Whitacre, including all of the music from his CD "Cloudburst."
You can buy the full gospel playlist from itunes.
*I am giving up turning on the TV during Lent. Now, I can't give up TV shows; don't get me wrong! I will watch DVDs and download from iTunes the programs that I really want to watch (I plan on cheating on Sundays in order to see the Soprano's. I'm telling myself it's my "little Easter" moment-I'm sure that's not the right idea, but...). While not a TV addict, I have been known to turn on the boob tube just to see what's on. Not this Lent. We'll see how that goes.
*I am saying grace before every meal. While many people do this all of the time, I don't, especially when I'm eating in public. I did this two years ago and found it a powerful exercise. I had to confront my reasons for my silence in public restaurants. I had to recognize the lack of gratitude and intentionality in my life. This led me to give up meat this past Lent...still don't eat it! If you have never given up meat during Lent, I recommend it if your health will bear it. When I gave up meat, I had time to reflect upon my participation in the meat industry in the US and in the industrialization of farming in general. I was reminded that all of creation is valuable and important to God. Giving up meat has been one of the most transformational journeys of my life.
*I recommend attending a weekly Taize service or other contemplative worship service. Most of our liturgies are filled with words. And while the Word is important in worship, contemplative worship invites us to listen for God. Even more than that, though, it invites us to rest in the Divine. For Protestants contemplative worship can feel a little strange, but I find my soul at home in the silence, in the chanting, and in the mystery of God.
*Go green. I know that my spiritual discipline this Lent will include an intentional act or practice to show reverence toward God as expressed in creation. I haven't determined what it will be yet. I already walk to work and have a hybrid car. I try to unplug appliances when not in use. I already recycle and compost. I'm not sure what my "green" practice will be, but I feel called to incorporate something significant into my daily habits. As we move toward the cross, I cannot help but think about the crucifixion of the earth that happens every day. I know that at the end of Holy Week we will find a resurrection. I do not know that we will find such a resurrection at the end of our actions toward the earth. I am open to suggestions on how to live more green in the world
I was so excited today about the beginning of Lent. I have just begun the process of discerning how I might prepare my spirit and my life to listen for God. Progressive Christians like me find Lent a wonderful jouney into the heart of God. If you have not had a habit of changing your life during this season, I invite you try something new, whether it be daily prayer, something for the environment, or thirty minutes of silence. Lent invites us to move from knowing about God to knowing God. I can't wait!
Update: A couple of people have sent ideas for Lent that they are doing or have done.
*Pray the Divine Hours - a fixed hour prayer practice. There are several online and book resources to help you. Explorefaith.com has a great online guide that can be set to your time zone!
*Make sure the TV stays off one night a week and that adults don't bring work home. Have a family night as part of your Lenten journey.
*Go walking every week. One person has suggested not using ipods as part of the experience of slowing down, being in the moment.
Keep the suggestions coming!
Update 2: The suggestions keep coming. Here are some ideas that have been shared with me.
*Keep thirty minutes to an hour of silence. Contemplative prayer is an invitation to quiet our minds and center our souls. It is more than not talking; it is silence. Contemplation invites us to rest in God's mystery.
*Practice the Examen. The Examen of Consciousness invites us to find the movment of the Holy Spirit as we reflect on our daily lives. This spiritual exercise takes about 10-15 minutes.
*Use labyrinths as part of your spiritual journey. In the Seattle area, Plymouth Congregational Church and Seattle First Baptist Church both have regular labyrinth walks. In the greater Seattle area, labyrinths can be found on Whidbey Island at Earth Sanctuary and the Whidbey Institute.
*Volunteer as part of your spiritual exercise. Lent invites into a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
*Take Holy Communion regularly.
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