Wednesday, February 26, 2014

40-Days of Contemplation And A Give-Away!





Most of you probably don't know that for over twenty years, my husband was a minister. That's right-- a church minister. During that time, he served in two independent congregations as the senior pastor. I'll be honest with you, being a "pastor's wife" was never a cloak I wore with comfort or ease.

A little over a year ago, my husband had a career change and left the ministry for good and is now working at a university, thoroughly thriving in his new job. 

Not only did the last year bring about a career, and consequent life-change in terms of my husband's vocation, it also was one that tested the grit of my faith through my family's health crisis. Both events combined, churned up the soil in my soul and have caused me to dig deep within myself and rediscover what I truly believe; how I view church, religion and all that it encompasses for me.

Who Is Lent For?

Next week, March 5th, begins the season of Lent--a 40-day period of religious observance for many practicing Christians. Believe it or not, I have never practiced Lent. No church I ever attended placed much emphasis on this occasion. 

For many, Lent is simply a time where one gives up something for 40 days. I've known people who don't attend church or believe anything in particular, but who will still be giving up sugar, chocolate, or pop for the Lent season. I think their intentions are more in hopes of self-improvement, but it's interesting how the practice, if not the purpose, has permeated the culture.

For the more spiritually minded, Lent is a 40-day period of prayer, contemplation, reflection, and yes, sacrifice. As far as I know, the Bible doesn't even directly mention Lent. Rather, it's a practice of only a select few denominations within the Christian religion and an attempt to imitate and remember Christ's 40-days of fasting and prayer in the desert prior to his death.    

For those who don't follow a belief system or whose faith and beliefs lie elsewhere than Christianity, Lent can can also be a time of, as one site I looked at called it, "spring cleaning"-- a period of cleansing, rest, simplifying, sacrificing, creation, contemplation, forgiving, and giving. 

The Lent Journey

I don't often wax religious on this blog, nor in life, actually. I make no apologies or defenses for what I believe and realize each of us must choose our own direction and allow our hearts to guide us accordingly. However, in my own quest to define and deepen my spirit, I'm going to take a 40-day journey through Lent, for the first time in my life. 

What will this look like? Honestly, I'm not sure. In the continuum of scullery maid and mystic dreamer. I tend to vacillate between the two, sometimes content in focusing on the pragmatic tasks at hand, other times, losing myself in contemplation and dreaming. I'm hoping that with an intentional focus of the 40-days of Lent, I will reconcile the two a bit more-- allowing my dreamer out for prayer and play, while practicing the manifestations of my faith in the forms of self-denial, prayer, devotional reading, creation, forgiving, and giving.

No matter your beliefs or non-beliefs, I'd like to invite you to join me in this 40-day journey. It doesn't have to be rooted in faith-based beliefs, or it can be a deeply spiritual retreat, as I'm hoping it will be for me. Maybe you have been focused on tasks and work lately and desperately need a break. Maybe you've let the intentions and resolutions of the New Year fall to the wayside in the demands of everyday life. Maybe like me, you've had a rough year and need to regain your focus and energy. Or maybe you are also digging for a deeper spiritual connection. No matter your motivation, consider walking with me through the next 40 days, setting your own goals according to your heart and needs. 

And A Give-Away!

To help motivate you and give you ideas for meditation, contemplation and growth, I'd like to buy you a book. After a lot of searching, with careful consideration that we all come to this from varying places, I've selected three options. To win a book, leave me a comment about your thoughts on practicing Lent or a time period for quiet and retreat from the world. I will select one commenter, at random (random.org) and, if chosen, you can decide which book you would like. I will send a paperback or Kindle version to those within the continental US or a Kindle gift, via email, for those elsewhere.  

Give-away will close with comments left by the end of Sunday, March 2nd. 



3. Heart Steps by Julia Cameron


No matter the place you come from, we all need a time to remember we are more than earth-bound creatures running in a maze of tasks. Taking an intentional "time out" to nurture our spirits-- the birth place of our emotions, creativity, connection to nature and the world, and the dwelling place of the Divine-- is important to our complete growth. Join me for 40-days, beginning March 5th, on this journey. It's nice to travel together. 







45 comments:

  1. Last year was the first time I ever practiced lent. My faith over the last 26 years has been in churches that did not practice lent. I have been mainly in pentecostal churches throughout my journey thus far. However, in the last 18 months God has been introducing me to a contemplative expression of my faith. I am still learning, but I am looking forward to my second lent season. Last year I did daily readings as well as fasting chocolate. I am now in an Anglican church, so it will be interesting to do lent with them.

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    1. Oh Julie, I hope you let me know what you'll be doing. I'm on exactly the same path-- digging into a more contemplative practice. I hope you keep in touch here and let me know how it's going for you.

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  2. I have been all over the map with Lent during my life time. Lately, I have been impressed with not only giving something up but adding something in, a via positiva to counterbalance the via negativa. This year I am looking at adding in a practice around gratitude and contentment though I am still playing with how that might look.

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    1. Valerie, Yes! I'm so glad you wrote this comment. I read a site that offered that alternative-- of adding a positive and I love this. I think I'm going to add this as well. Thanks for the reminder.

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  3. I'm a pastor's wife, like you used to be. I also struggle with this definition of myself. I don't feel like I fit into the cookie cutter image of what a pastor's wife "should" be. My own spiritual journey has been rocky, and has ranged all over the place. Each Lent is different, but I have always felt like Good Friday is the most important day of the year. I've never been one to give something up for the season, but I'm hoping that this year's 40 days will be a time of deep, permanent purging of the things that stand between me and the person God created me to be.

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    1. Sara, that's kind of where I'm at too. I've always celebrated, yes, Good Friday with a quiet service and Easter, of course, but never the full Lent. I love the take you have on the Lent season and hope it is a time of breakthrough for you. It's not an easy position, is it? I thrashed with it the whole time he served, while trying to always stay embedded in love. Not always an easy place to be.

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  4. Welcome back, Julie! Your R&R away from blogging seems to have been really good for you. We all need time to just be ourselves, to think, and be, and do. Growing up Catholic and going to Catholic schools until I was a junior in high school, (we moved) I know all about Lent! :) As a young child, all I remember is giving up something I really liked, such as candy, or chocolate, etc. We probably said special prayers in class, too. I don't recall attending a Holy Thursday or Good Friday Mass until I was in my 30s and part of a church choir. Those Masses and the music and words that went with them were magical. Oh, and I did always love getting ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday! LOL. I really like your idea and I think I'll actually do something worthwhile this Lent. I think I could really use some quiet time, some spiritual-type time, (without being what I would call "religious") and just take a good look inside myself. Thank you so much!

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    1. Becky, I think it's just "good to look inside ourselves" too. I agree with that and is what I'm hoping this will inspire,despite beliefs or lack thereof. This year is the first year, as an adult, I will participate in an ash service.

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    2. Wish we didn't live so far apart. I'd attend the ash service with you!

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    3. Oh Becky, I would enjoy that.

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  5. Hi Julie! Don't enter me in the giveaway because I am seriously so overwhelmed with books. Just wanted to say that this sentence made me smile with recognition at many of my fellow Jews who fast on Yom Kippur and give up grains during Passover because, as you said, "it's interesting how the practice, if not the purpose, has permeated the culture."

    Interesting to know this piece of your family story. "Pastor's Wife" definitely came with lots of expectations, I'm sure!

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    1. I think the act of self-denial is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian belief system-- a way of becoming poor in "spirit". Pastor's Wife was both a privilege and a journey, for sure.

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    1. Thanks, Mac. I'm still trying to decide what, if anything, to give up. Hmmmmm.

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  7. Have been trying to determine what practices I will follow this Lent and as my "word" for the year is Explore - decided to daily be aware of what activities take me away from God and what activities bring me closer to being the person God created me to be. The Ignatian daily Examen will help me in this practice. And as I do not believe in coincidence, your invitation to join you in your first Lenten 40 Days of Practice seems like one of those invitations from God to come closer. I wish you well in your intentionality this season of accompanying Christ on His journey to Calvary.

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    1. Julett, I'm so glad you commented and are feeling led in the way you are. You know, you brought to mind something I didn't think about. I too chose a word this year (or more accurately, a phrase) "fear not". Now you have me thinking how I could incorporate that into the journey. Thank you!

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  8. Good morning Julie, I have never participated in Lent, didn't have any sort of religious background and only in the few years have contemplated life, past and present. I am a mixed vessel of spirit and soul. Much like a salt and pepper mix. Never been one much for giving up, as in the diet sense, although letting go in the not serving me anymore sense. This will be my first year participating in the 40 day journey even though I contemplative and add something different and new most everyday. Thank you for sharing and I would love to follow your journey as well.

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    1. Hi Lee, it is the first time for me, as well. Although I am coming at this from a faith-based perspective, my goal is to make it open to anyone, as you indicated, that needs a "retreat" of sorts for the spirit and soul. I love that you're joining me and know your perspective will be highly valuable. Thank you.

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  9. As a life long Catholic, lent has always been a significant part of my life. I look forward to spiritual renewal each year, whatever shape that take.

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    1. Patricia, since you've been doing this awhile, is there anything in particular you like to practice that makes the time more meaningful? I'm still learning!

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  10. Nice post. I shall meander on this 40 day journey of contemplation. It does make it easier that March weather tends to improve in Texas, and I can seek the small things - the new bud, a bright daffodil, and a bird chirping. Let's travel together indeed. Enjoy and good luck

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    1. Hi Joanne, I was thinking even as I wrote this, that my world is still covered in much frozen white stuff and probably will be clear into May. I love walking and hiking and find so much inspiration in being outside. I will have to make my frozen world due!. Glad you're coming along.

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  11. I haven't considered Lent a part of my spiritual journey, but any continuous period of 30 or 40 days could be the basis for establishing a new habit -- meditating for 15 minutes a day, daily expression of gratitude to God or the Universe, or simply re-establishing a childhood habit of daily prayer. Creating something new seems more helpful than giving up something (that we probably should be giving up anyway).

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    1. Yeah, I like that concept too, Pat, and need to think about how to incorporate that. I actually looked online for articles about how long it takes to make something a habit when I was writing this post. Most said 21 days, and so yes, a 40-day discipline could really help reinforce a practice!

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  12. I find I naturally take stock of my life when the sun starts to shine and the days become longer. It also always coincides with my birthday, which is a great time to do everything you mention.

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    1. Oh yes, birthdays are such a great opportunity to reevaluate. I do that too. Especially this year (the big 5-0).

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  13. I used to do Lent when I was younger. As a Lutheran, Lent was a big event at our church. The first time I did it, I gave up chocolate. It was so easy, I gave up all candy the next year. I gave up coffee one year and television another. I found it almost too easy to give things up when it came to spiritual beliefs so I stopped doing it for a while. When I read your post, I had the thought, maybe I'll do it this year. Then I cried because I think for a fraction of a second my brain came across the idea that if I did it I could have my cat back. It wasn't even really a conscious thought, I'm not even positive that was it, but I'm still pretty broken up about losing her just this past Sunday. I hope you're hanging in there too. Still not sure about Lent, but I find my strong emotional reaction a little jarring. Guess I'm just still sad. Oh well, weird comment over. haha

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    1. Oh the bargaining. If I do....

      Bah, Danyelle, just this morning I was putting on my workout clothes. In the past, whenever I got to the point of putting on my shoes, my dog would start hovering nearby anxiously. He knew it meant a jog or walk. He'd start to whine, and follow me so he wouldn't miss out. Boy, that hit me hard this morning when I laced up my shoes. I hear you. I'm so sorry.

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  14. I think this is FABULOUS, Julie. Very cool your husband was a pastor for all those years. My husband is a seminary teacher! :) I love all this represents. And I'm still blown away by reading your comment on my blog. Your poor son! You get it. Nothing worse than seeing a child battle cancer. Wow. And you're right, it does change you. Forever.

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    1. Morgan, I was blown away by your post. I had to Tweet it. In our situation, I was never afraid for his life-- I can't imagine that fear! It was just the utter torture of watching him get sick and not being able to do anything about it. Horrible.

      I didn't know that about your husband either! We're glad to be in a new phase in life; it was time. But it was a very good experience with a wonderful church family.

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  15. I've never done Lent, but I've always been intrigued by it. I like the idea of making a very personal sacrifice, yet not feeling that you're doing it alone. I've been planning to give up a few things--sugar, soda and possibly gluten after my birthday on Saturday. It would be nice to do that in conjunction with others. Count me in.

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    1. I'm so glad you're on board. I still have to decide what or if I'm going to give up something. We should go out for your birthday first, though. Keep me posted on your journey.

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  16. I've never practiced Lent but the idea of an inner 'spring cleaning' through meditation and introspection is appealing to me. Or maybe I should just give up chocolate. Oh who am I kidding, I could never give up chocolate for 40 days. ;)

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    1. I liked that idea too, Elise! Just a 40-day retreat to meditate and slow down a bit sounds like a perfect way to head into summer.

      Chocolate? GASP!!!!

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  17. I've observed Lent for a lot of years and a lot of reasons. Some times it's been simply to get myself to do something I'd been putting off. More recently, I've been trying a more spiritual focus. This year I plan to spend more of my time and energy serving my church and those in need. There are plenty of opportunities out there if we take the time to look for them.

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    1. Serving is really the heart of anything spiritual, I think. Great idea and yes, there are always ways to do this. Thanks. :)

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  18. Wonderful! Although I grew up in a church that practiced Lent, I didn't start practicing it until I was twenty-nine. That first year, I gave up fiction reading and focused on devotions, prayer, and the Bible. It came out of a conversation I had with a friend who noticed that I had full bookshelves of scifi and fantasy books - most of which I had read twice, and a very nice looking Bible that I hadn't read all the way through even once. She didn't really have to say much in that conversation to make me realize that maybe, just maybe, if I'm calling myself a Christ-follower, I might want to put God's word first.
    I'm planning on putting it into practice again this year - with some minor exceptions . . . I'm really glad you posted this, because I give myself very specific limits during Lent, and then see what kind of freedom I find within those limits.
    It's kind of amazing how we can find freedom in fasting (of any kind), especially when we devote the fast to our faith.

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    1. oh, and now I have a post for this week based on this - thank you!

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    2. Oh Tyrean, glad to be an inspiration and can't wait to read your post. I like the idea of focusing your reading attention. Very much, actually. I can't wait to learn how you experience Lent this year and how you grow from the experience. Please stop back and let me know.

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  19. Oooo...there were exactly 40 comments when I came in to leave this one. Coinkydink? Methinks not.

    Coming from a Catholic/Episcopalian background, I usually practice Lent, and have rid myself of many a character defect over the years. Lent, to me, is more than self-deprivation for forty days, but self-reflection, meditation, and prayer on those things which separate me from God. This year, I plan to give up smoking, come hell or high water. I'll be glad to travel alongside you on the journey.

    Many blessings, my friend. :)

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. I think that's exactly the tone I'm going for too, Mike. Ohhh I'll be praying for you and cheering you on. Smoking-- yay.. way to remember your body is a temple. I'm looking forward to seeing what the heck I come up with over the next 40 days! ;)

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    2. I quit smoking for Lent once and remained smoke-free for about eight months. Hoping this one will "take." As many times as I've taken a stab at it, the longest term was the one for Him (and me).

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  20. I am being drawn to Lent for the first time in years. I think the decision to walk a contemplative road has brought my heart closer to seasonal rhythms. I don't know where the adventure will lead me, but I like the introspection in the quiet place.

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    1. I like your equation to seasonal rhythms. I'll have to give that more consideration too. I love (too much so, probably) introspection and quiet. But I think some of this is in reaction to the year I had. I am craving a little restoration. I hope you join us in the journey. We have wonderful travellers. In today's post http://julieluek.blogspot.com/2014/03/winner-of-free-book-and-more-resources.html, I offer some helpful links to get you started and offer ideas and inspiration.

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