Friday, March 13, 2009

Lent... it's a winning proposition!

One of my favorite websites is Busted Halo. Produced by The Paulists, it is self-described as, "an online magazine for spiritual seekers."

For Lent, they have put together a daily calendar called "Fast, Give, Pray" to help those who wish to use this period before Easter as a time to do some spiritual housekeeping. When you click on each day in the calendar, there is an inspiring (and challenging) quote, as well as some suggested ways to use this time before Easter. In their words:

So, let’s get back to the basics…

Traditionally, Lent was intended as a time for personal conversion leading up to Easter during which Christians practiced the spiritual disciplines of Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. The belief is that our consistent participation in these practices—like exercise we do for our physical health—is a form of purification that improves our spiritual well-being by stripping away all that is unnecessary and by becoming more mindful of our ultimate dependence on God in our lives.

But instead of chocolate, alcohol or tobacco, what if people thought of fasting, prayer and almsgiving in a broader context? What if those disciplines involved practices like reducing your dependence on electronic devices for twenty four hours (fast); contemplating the 1.6 billion people in the world who have no access to electricity for a few moments (pray); and spending the extra time you’ve saved on personal interaction with someone important to you (give)? Or what if people reduced their carbon footprint for a day by using less energy (fast); then reflected for two minutes on the magnificent gift our natural environment is (pray); and finally placed $1 in a bowl they’ve set aside to collect money to be given away to a favorite charity—perhaps one that plants trees—at the end of Lent (give).

These are just two examples of the dozens of exercises in our Fast, Pray, Give Calendar that will help readers enter into the traditional spiritual disciplines of the Lenten season every day in ways that are practical, doable and relevant to their daily lives. Each day, starting Monday February 23, our Fast, Pray, Give Calendar will feature a new quote or factoid related to Lenten history and practice as well as practical suggestions for how to carry out the ancient Lenten spiritual disciplines that day.

So, I gave it a try - and was almost immediately rewarded. This past Monday, I was cleaning out the "Spam" folder of my Inbox and came across an e-mail with the subject, "A Lenten Surprise..." Since I had a hunch this was not a request to turn over personal information in exchange for $150,000,000, or an advertisement for some sort of male enhancement drug, I moved it to my Inbox and opened it. I had won! You see, the other part of the "Fast, Pray, Give" calendar is that there are prizes!

Every day we’ll give readers the chance to enter a random drawing to win a different “Lent Incentive,” including: a copy of The Green Bible; a tin can of Busted Halo M&M’s; the March issue of Magnificat with the Lenten Companion; a bag of Busted Halo Swedish Fish; and a copy of The Sacred Art of Fasting.

I had won a copy of The Green Bible. It arrived in yesterday's mail. Lent has always been a winning time for me. It was almost one year ago today that I won another drawing. I think God has a reason for that, and I think I am cooperating with His plan. As I mentioned the other day, it is my belief that Original Sin is essentially a sin of ingratitude. However, these 'winning' moments provide opportunities to give thanks, and to call to mind all the other, everyday blessings and gifts for which I should be thankful.

And so, in this time of 'giving up' I am receiving. Not just prizes in the mail, but time with my family. I spent last night cuddled next to my son on the couch watching "The Empire Strikes Back." In a time of economic distress, the company I work for has been doing well. The parking lot is full, and I can be thankful that I am not having to make decisions on who to keep and who to let go.

"Giving Up" during Lent does not just need to be about deprivation. In fact it is supposed to be about giving too. This year, I have tried something a little different. Instead of giving up time on the internet, I have decided to spend more time there - blogging. You may have noticed that the tempo of my posts has increased. It is my little way of giving - of my heart and mind. I had no idea how many people were reading this blog, until I started getting feedback from the most unlikely of places - someone whom I have not seen in years sent me a note thanking me for keeping a blog and encouraging me to write more.

And so I will, with the hope that it will continue to be of help to her and to others. With God's help, I know it will. After all, everything we have is a gift from God. By finding small ways to be thankful, we condition ourselves to participate in the ultimate act of gratitude - the source and summit of our faith - which derives its name from the Greek word for Thanksgiving. I invite you to join with me in using this Lenten season as a time to exercise our 'gratitude muscles' so that we can approcah the Easter banquet and celebrate the Eucharist in a deeper way!

No comments: