Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)
I’ve never really been particularly good at consistent devotions. And I’ve never really taken part in Lent much, except maybe one year in college when we all gave up some food or drink (I think I gave up soda). But I’d like to try to get better at this, and I’d like to make this Lent meaningful. So I’m going to try a few different things, like praying the Examen, reading the collects and scriptures in the Book of Common Prayer, and focusing on patience.
I’m sitting right now in my living room with Olive Oil snuggled up on my right and my favorite worship songs playing. (I’m also cutting back on TV for this season). As I finished praying the Examen, my favorite worship song, “Hungry,” started to play and I found that I was having trouble just sitting and singing along or just listening. My mind kept wandering to grocery lists or chores. My hand kept reaching for my phone. It took a lot of concentration to just sit and worship through even one song.
So for this season of reflection and discipline and penitence, I want to give up multitasking and have more patience. I want to take one thing at a time, and let that one thing have all the time it needs. I want to slow down, rest, focus.
The first part of the Examen is presence, and although this is mainly referring to reflecting on God’s presence, I know that I need to be present too– really present– to be attentive, to listen, to connect. The Examen guide I’m using reminds the reader to take the necessary time. Don’t rush. Be centered and calm. And I needed those reminders. I think I’ll need them each time.
Life moves so fast and I feel like I’m always rushing to keep up. I’m constantly checking my phone and email, doing two or three tasks at a time, interrupting my own thoughts with other ideas or reminders. So I’m going to try a few things to slow myself down:
1. Do one thing at a time– this will be hardest at work where I’m a multitasking rockstar. I’m sure I’ll still need to multitask to a certain degree, but I know I can also remind myself to focus on the task at hand, too. This also means doing nothing else while I’m talking to someone, but giving them my full attention.
2. Eat slower. It takes me like three minutes to eat dinner. It’s ridiculous. So I’m going to try putting my fork/knife down between each bite and not pick it up again until I’ve swallowed. This sounds silly, but it’s harder than you think if you’re a fast eater.
3. Write more. I find that when I’m writing, I have to think slower and focus more to get the right words and meanings. I have to be intentional. I have to organize my thoughts. I have to linger on a word or phrase for long moments to see how it feels.
4. Focus on peacefulness. I want to pray more, sit in silence, relax my mind, worry less, rest in God’s presence.
We’ll see how I do on these things, but I’m hoping they make a real difference. I hope it helps me focus during Lent and prepare for Holy Week. Right now, 40 days sounds like a long time to do all these things because, like I said, I’ve never really been very good at consistent devotions. But any moments of patience and presence and penitence that I give myself are valuable ones.
Ever-present Father, help me to meet you in the Scriptures I read and the prayers I say; in the bread I break and the meals I share; in my investments at work and my enjoyments at play; and in the neighbors and family I welcome, love, and serve, for your sake and that your love and peace may reign now and forever. Amen. (From the Examen)