Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lenten Practices work better than New Years resolutions

I think that I have an idea about why New Years resolutions don’t work for me. There hasn’t been time before New Years to plan, evaluate, and anticipate the resolutions.

The penitential season of Lent begins in about one month. For several days now I have been contemplating what Lenten practices would improve my life, my spiritual life, my faith life, my physical life. What book will I read for Lent? What activities will I pick up for Lent that will improve my relationship with Life and those who are traveling with me in this life?

Yesterday I was thinking about how the house never really gets the deep cleaning that it needs. It used to “spring cleaning” but that doesn’t happen in my spring times. What if I were to add just a little bit to my usual housecleaning routine during Lent? Could I deep clean the living room one week, the bathroom the next week, the kitchen the next week, and onward for just the weeks of Lent? (Oh! The basement? The garage?)

I do not know yet whether the deep cleaning of the house will be added to my Lenten practice. I don’t have to decide yet. A month before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, I have the gift of time to contemplate what activities and actions would be best for me and my whole being, my faith, my spiritual self, and my relations with others and the environment this Lenten season. New Years resolutions come directly at the end of Advent and most of the Christmas Season when there is not time in my life to mull and contemplate resolutions that may improve my personal life. Lent works better for me than New Years for trying again to improve the actions in my life.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

For a few years I have been writing a letter weekly to my teenage granddaughter. I think that probably most teenagers need all of the emotional and spiritual help that they can get. I write. She does not reply, but I know that she reads the letters. Here is an excerpt from this week’s letter.

We really need to keep track of our past so that it informs our decisions today using are goals and plans for tomorrow so that we process our way through our lives. I think that works for grandfathers as well as teenage granddaughters. So, what do I do with thoughts about how my life would have been different had I joined the military instead of pushing on toward my college degree, or if I had married the first woman that I loved? I try to remember that life would have been different. I try to remember why I made the decisions that I did and in making those decisions what I learned about living my life today. At the same time I look forward to the future and put into practice some actions that will help me whatever the future brings. I live today so that if it is to be my last day, that I was doing the things today that I think are important to be doing today while fully expecting to be living with the consequences of today’s actions in the future.

The pathway through life is seldom clear, but we do the best that we can as we try to find the pathway. I’ve been carrying a backpack in my life that at times seemed like a struggle but I’ve grown used to carrying it and it does not seem like a struggle now. The pathway forward in my life is still unclear, but I can see the path along which I have come and that gives me courage that I can continue through the murkiness of the future.