The weekend is upon us and we are almost finished the second full week of the Lent season. My fast for the season has been from meat and coffee. I gave up meat because I want to be thoughtful about my consumption. Not because I am trying to lose weight, but because I want to eat and drink with justice. Justice would be a good reason to give up coffee too. Rain forests have been cleared to support my personal habit and those working on coffee plantations are often paid poorly (even with so-called fair-trade coffee). But honestly, I gave up coffee on a whim. I missed my morning cup of coffee on Ash Wednesday and when the mid-afternoon-headache settled in, I decided to make it count for something.
Of course it isn’t really heroic self discipline if you eat an entire box of Tagalongs on your lunch break. But Lent isn’t really about heroic self discipline. Or at least mine! Lent is about walking with Jesus on the road to Calvary. It is about preparing your heart for Easter and trusting God through moments of weakness. The fasting part of Lent involves us responding with your whole being to God.
But I didn’t just give up food for Lent. One of my positive disciplines has been reading through Keri Wyatt Kent’s book, Deeply Loved (Abingdon Press). Every morning of Lent I’ve begun my day by reading one of her meditations and making plans to practice her ‘Presence Practice.’ These are daily practices which help me attune my heart to God’s presence. I have not uniformly practiced these. This past Sunday I read the entry for Day 12 (“With”). The ‘presence practice’ for the day invited me to read through a gospel in its entirety and reflect on what I notice about Jesus. I worked all day that Sunday and could not make time to do it. I still haven’t. I have done this in the past, but I just didn’t make time to do it this time.
However I have tried to practice her other suggestions. One day she suggested reading John 14 meditatively, focusing on the promises of God. Another day she gave advice about dealing with the distractions which keep us from turning our hearts to Jesus through out our day. Another day she had me reading through Mark 9 and asking Jesus to show himself to me. Perhaps one of the most meaningful times for me was meditating on Psalm 42 and letting the longing of the Psalmist give words to my own hunger for God.
What I like about Kent’s practices is that they are truly ‘presence practices.’ She invites us to enter into God’s presence with a variety of spiritual disciplines. Some of these are challenging to put into practice, which is why I am an imperfect practitioner. But the goal is attentiveness to Christ. This cultivated attentiveness is part of what I have been trying to do through the practice of fasting. So I have been blessed that Kent has called me to attend to God and my spiritual health. I have been challenged to pay attention to God, to see his wonder in creation and to look to Him for direction. I am reminded to walk with my God daily and throughout my days.