Logging off for Lent

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Yesterday I logged off for Lent. Logged off social media, that is. Not so much a grand gesture, nor a spiritual exercise in denial, more a timely experiment in Digital Detoxing. 

Lent is the 6 week period leading up to Easter and is often associated with ‘giving up’  things.. chocolate, coffee, crisps etc. This is a token nod to the period being an ancient one in the church of prayer, fasting and self examination. Self denial, and resisting temptation being good for the soul. (The 40 days echo Jesus time in the wilderness, facing his own challenges and temptations- see my blog post If , for more on that story.) Not having grown up within a culture that made much of the Lenten period, its austerity and self imposed gloominess seemed at first like over spiritual self-flagellation to me, minus the hair shirts and birch twigs. I have since learned to treasure this season – more as journey than anything else. Often a journey into the wilderness in a spiritual sense. A time apart. A time of intentionality. I still prefer to do something for Lent in the socially active sense, and there are many charity led schemes to help with that. However this year I was challenged by an article that I read in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday about the benefits of Digital Detoxing. The challenge to our 24/7 world where we are ‘on call’ and bombarded with media on a constant basis. Without realising it we are glued to our screens and if not careful, miss out on the real world.

I will hold my hand up and confess to being glued. I read voraciously, am wildly curious about the world, and enjoy the stimulation of being able to find out about anything, instantly. Social media connects me world wide with scattered friends and family and I love keeping up with their news and photos and sharing mine. Twitter keeps me in touch with what is happening in the world, and brings me news from the church, politics, social action etc, etc and often brings a smile or a chuckle. I love being able to enjoy a book, and be able to be directly in touch with the author to share my enjoyment.

I also enjoy the wind in my face and the great outdoors. Having two dogs means I am out in all weathers and the fields, paths and waysides of the beautiful rural setting in which I live provide me with an endless sense of quiet wonder, as the season turn. Having my phone always in my pocket, it is my habit to stop and capture some of the beauty I see in a photograph. I am interested to see how not being able to share that photograph affects my joy in photography.

I hadn’t intended to log off, but I was curious and challenged simultaneously and Lent seemed an excellent time to start. How addicted would I prove to be?  How would it feel to be ‘out of touch’? What effects might this have physically, spiritually and emotionally? I am only 24 hrs in and it is far too soon to tell. The irony of blogging about logging off is not lost on me either, and my blog auto posts to my twitter account. I may blog again post- Easter on how this experiment has gone.. watch this space.. or try it yourself? The website www.itstimetologoff.com suggests a whole raft of ways of approaching it – not least a 5:2 digital diet. (Five days on and weekends or two other days off).

I am enjoying the companionship of two writers in this journey through Lent ’17             One familiar to me, and one brand new.  I can highly recommend both!

The familiar author is Paula Gooder, and the last of her series of books reflecting on key seasons in the Christian year – Let Me Go There  The Spirit of Lent.

 

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The new-to-me author is strangely enough, another Paula. Paula Huston and her delightfully grounded and practical book

Simplifying THE SOUL Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit. 

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Each leads you through Lent on a daily basis, giving rich spiritual food for thought and contemplation.

However you choose to journey in Lent this year, if you journey at all – many blessings from a fellow traveller on The Way.

(Clicking on the titles will take you to a site where you can find out more, and see other reviews. Clicking on the author’s names takes you to their websites)

 

Set fire to the rain

Someone at the weekend, recommended that I needed a ‘hard hat’ as I started this new venture in ministry .. good advice, although I prefer to think of it as ducking behind God when the flack starts flying.  Yesterday was a tough one. Nothing earth shattering, – just bone- weary tiredness from too many long days in a row, distorting my perspectives. Having my knuckles rapped by someone I respect, for in effect, colouring outside the lines  ( a particular failing of mine, I admit)  The pressures of an essay due, and no time to write it in, at least not to the standard my ‘recovering perfectionist’ nature  requires. The world can feel very small on days like those, or perhaps it is just me?  My horizons close down and I can only see my feet, or the step or two immediately ahead.

The season of Lent starts tomorrow – six weeks running up to Easter.  A sermon I heard this morning, by our Principal got me thinking. He was talking about how people traditionally give something up for Lent- meat, alcohol or even turnips – which one enterprising parishioner of his,  chose to miss out on for 40 days. Can’t say I’d miss turnips, myself  (and I am not sure he would either).  He also spoke of the more recent development of taking up something – a new discipline of prayer, charitable giving etc.  His point was that perhaps neither of those is most suitable, and suggested a powerful alternative.

Handing over.

Handing over to God those parts of ourselves that we haven’t thus far surrendered. Relationships, hopes, ambitions or whatever we keep discreetly out of the way of God’s searchlight.  It brought to mind a life verse that became very meaningful for me about 5/6 years ago and ever since. It comes from Psalm 5.

” Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar, and wait for the fire to descend.”   The Message.

Pieces, because that is all I ever have. I never know whether the fire will fall and burn to ashes the precious things I lay there, or whether they will be set alight in a purification process for His glory. I can only offer, trust and wait.

Sometimes however, the pieces are doused in cold water. Perhaps by the world and circumstances, or perhaps by me. Like the altar laid by Elijah on the top of Mount Carmel in a ‘whose God is real’ contest, my offerings are on occasions, damp and soggy. Not very ignitable, to say the least.  But Elijah knew a secret he wasn’t letting on to the prophets of Baal.

His God could set fire to the rain.

Three times he had huge jars of water poured over that altar until it was sodden right through.  “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” 1 Kings 18:38

His God could set fire to the rain.

So as I approach this season of Lent, I will be asking Him what He wants me to lay on the altar, things I may have been holding back. And it doesn’t matter if they come a bit sodden with cold water, because my God can set fire to the rain, and I will be asking Him to do just that.

Come to the Quiet

An invitation to the Quiet. At the end of a busy weekend,  and at the start to the season of Lent, it is an invitation that draws me.  The need to quieten our souls  in God’s gentle Presence is an ever present one.

I have had this in the ‘drafts’ category all weekend,  looking for a link to the music that inspired the following poem.  The poem was written half a life time ago, but is one that seems to re- surface from time to time.

Come to the Quiet

A proffered hand

outstretched in plea of love

a silent empathy of prayer.

I can see

the child inside

that hides behind the man.

Fear stalks behind a laugh

and pain beyond a smile,

for in some deeper place

the child cries

and cries alone.

The bright facade

shown to the world

boasts confidence and strength-

but where I stand, beside your heart,

I cannot see your mask

I only feel your pain.

Speaking at length, in cheerful note

I could not hear your words,

your spirit’s orison of tears

touched a silent place within

and brought my own soul to my knees.

Hush then, and let the silence speak

His balm of Peace awaits us here.

If you will – then take my hand

and let us come

come to the Quiet.

The song ‘Come to the Quiet‘ is by John Michael Talbot, a Franciscan monk, and is based on Psalm 131.  I will add or make a link in the next day or two.

Psalm 131

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 LORD, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

2 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.