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Friday, February 15, 2013

Performance Anxiety

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  First day of Lent.  Time to reflect and take on new practices or let go of things that block us from knowing God and self.  40 days in the Wilderness.  And on and on it goes.  My Facebook wall and Twitter feed were abuzz with all sorts of ideas and practices upon which people are embarking this Lenten season.  I was intrigued and for a few hours, I was nearly trapped into pulling out of my own Lenten pledge to simply "Be" and respond in the moment this Lent.  Why is that, you may or may not ask?

I believe it is a deeply seeded anxiety I have that I must always be performing at the highest level and seeking to attain achievements that will prove my worth and justify my existence on this earth.  So, there is and was an enormous TEMPTATION for me to run out and sign up for an online Lenten retreat, make sure I have my camera with me each day to take a Lenten photograph, journal my thoughts and feelings, read everyone's online Lenten reflection, and on and on and on.  However, I caught myself in the nick of time.  My inner voice finally yelled at me to STOP!   I realize that I have a commitment and I need to stick to it.

After all, this is not about anyone else.  Lent, more than any other season, really does challenge us to say, "this is all about me!"  Me and Thee.  So, I stand by my challenge and discipline to hang with the moment, to respond to each challenge, joy, problem, defeat, victory, etc. with a thoughtful, prayerful and accepting attitude.  I am going to walk through my Lenten desert one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day.  It's really all any of us can do.  I'll let all the cool kids outdo me with their Lenten disciplines this year.  I think this attitudinal shift will be more than enough challenge for me.  Hopefully when the challenge is too great, some angels will come and attend to me. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gearing up for Lent

I am taking an opportunity to make official my plans for observing Lent this year.  Lent has never been my favorite season of the church year, as it has always seemed so dark and foreboding.  For some it hearkens to the days of fish on Fridays, regular fasting and giving up something really, really good in order to become closer to God, examine one's own earthly existence, or to spend time praying and reflecting upon the upcoming events of the life of Christ, the betrayal, the agony, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. The whole confusing and ugly lot of it.  For others, it is a time to cease singing Alleluias.  And for still others, well, with all the talk of nones and the unaffiliated believers in our communities, I guess it means very little.

This year has started out as one for me that already seems very Lenten like.  Our congregation has witnessed a preponderance of death and illness.  Our church as an institution, along with many, many others, is shivering in the cold, cruel realities of decline through aging and death, as well as the not uncommon case of inability to draw enough new membership to compensate for the losses.  All of this is enough to make any organization and its leader discouraged.  Of course, we are not facing persecution and crucifixion at the levels experienced by Jesus, but it still can bring a body down.

In my own personal life, in the past 12 months I (along with my family), have remodeled a home and staged to sell our home of 10 years, sold a=the house, bought a home, moved, remodeled (still in process) the new house, said goodbye to our family dog, mourned the death of my mother, and embarked upon a long and arduous process to reclaim a healthy and happy weight for this 53 year old body.  So, between the professional and the personal losses and sacrifices, I'm taking a stand this Lent!  I am not giving up anything more than I already am (least of all wine or dark chocolate), and although it has been popular in recent years to take on a new spiritual practice such as centering prayer, daily devotions, fasting or service, I am not going to do that either.  Instead, I have a different plan. 

My plan is simply to change my attitude.  Sounds easy, huh?  Well, a while back when things seemed particularly grim, I found this box at a gift store.  I bought it and posted a picture and it sits in my room as a reminder.  Lately, I've been bored with my glum and self-centered attitude.  So, I pray this simple proverb will be my daily guide. 



My own adaptations would be to add a few more proverbs to this.   I also want to talk less and listen more, take less and give more, laugh more and cry more, die less and live more.  And when death occurs, I will believe more and more fully the power of resurrection.  After all, our Brief Statement of Faith in the Presbyterian Church (USA) opens with these words, "In life and in death we belong to God," and Irenaeus of Lyons wrote in the 2nd Century, “Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.” Another translation says: “The glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God” (Against Heresies, Book 4, 20:7).  In all that is and all that I am and all that will be, may I behold life and God.  May it be so this Lent 2013.