Saturday, March 1, 2014

Lent, Prayer, and all that Jazz

So, this will be my last post until after Easter. I suspect that the earth will keep spinning.

My plan is to "unplug" as much as possible, to go from the virtual life to real life, from the spirit to the flesh. I talked about the need to become a fleshly person, to accept the bodies God gave us, to treat our bodies with care and health, to remember that we aren't just brains-in-a-jar.

I also wanted to get back into prayer. I'm really, really terrible at praying, like, worse than you think you are. I get bored - by talking to God. How fucked up is that? And I try to read the daily office (the Episcopal liturgical daily prayers), and it goes right into the confession of sin, and I just sigh. I'm sick of my sins. I'm sick of doing the same ones over and over. I should just record a list and play it for the priest at confession (kidding). Speaking of which, my last confession was terrible: I mean, I needed to go and it was good that I went, and the priest is always wonderful, but I didn't prepare really well. By really well I mean at all. I had a particular sin hanging over me plus a semi-pervasive problem so that's what I went with, but I knew there was more and just didn't take the time to remember and think it through. I was "busy" you know, something was more important than taking the time to really heal from the sins that burden me.

With everything that's been going on lately (depression, sickness for me and my husband, a pretty intense regiment of counselors and other doctors, and just the regular work and commute and keeping our bodies fed and clothed) let's just say that it's been hard to keep my priorities straight. I commit to things without thinking them through because a call for volunteers tugs at my heart, and then I realize what a foolish mistake it was way, way too late. I feel overwhelmed with trying to keep up with a slew of relationships back home (several states away) while keeping life going up here. And in the back of mind I wonder: where will we be in 3 months? Will the diocese come through and find a position? Will we have to look elsewhere? Nick thought they'd be in South Carolina and now they're in Arizona. I'd be OK with Arizona, but please oh please Jesus not Michigan or Minnesota or North Dakota, the cold would do me in. And God don't You dare get that shifty grin on Your face. I'm onto Your tricks.

Sorry y'all, got lost in my own dialogue in my crazy head. Where was I?

Right, so, prayer. Really just my relationship with God just sucks on my part. He's done everything of course - held me in my panic attacks and gave me a surge of spiritual comfort, gave me the energy to get to Mass and Bible study on Wednesday, sent social events to me that I desperately needed but would never have sought out. God is so good.

Whenever I say God is good, I think of some homeless folks I've met. If you ask them how their days are going, 9 out of 10 they'll say "God is good, He's keeping me safe. A day with the Lord is a good day." "As long as I'm breathing I can praise God." "God sends down the rain and the sunshine, and it's no good to complain about the rain. You got to have the rain to get the green grass and trees."

Maybe I need to spend more quality time chatting. I've been avoiding the chats lately because it's cold and I'm a wimp, and because it's cold more of them are in shelters. But that's me being a pansy. If I'm going to build a relationship with God, I need to talk to the best theologians in town.

I also need to work with my strengths. It's no good fighting to stay awake on the bus before my coffee, trying to read morning prayer on my phone or going through the Rosary app. It is the epitome of a lost battle. So what can I do? What has worked for me in the past?

That was the question that our bishop asked us in study. What do you need in order to have a closer relationship with God? And the answer that popped into my mind was "retreats."

Not retreats where you go to a conference center in the woods and eat in a cafeteria and go to prayers and workshops and sit on porches with the older women. No, I need a retreat of just me and God in nature, even if it's just one of DC's natural parks, but even better if it's out in the country. Certain things feed different souls. Country, grass, walking on crunchy trees [haha just editing this and realized how tired I was when I wrote it, I meant grass], watching squirrels chase each other, fighting my way through brambles up a hill - these things nourish me. I'm starving, distracting myself from this hunger by the internet, but it burns inside me. My eyes need to look at things without written words. My body needs to deal with outdoor weather for awhile even if it's not my preference (it won't be until May). My nose needs to smell trees after the rain. My hands need to get little cuts and callouses and dirty fingernails. My legs need to walk for so long that when I climb into bed I am bone and muscle tired but my mind is refreshed and at peace. These days it's the other way around. We weren't meant to live like this: sitting all day, leaving the office after dark, sitting up late staring at glowing screens, eating in front of a laptop instead of around a table with friends.

But all that's just talk. I won't get this done without hard and fast rules and the kick in the butt that is Lent. But the rules can't be too onerous or I'll throw in the towel. That's why I'm writing this here, publically. Not to show off (I've read enough Lenten plans to know that I'm a rank beginner and that this will impress absolutely nobody), but to know that someone else knows my plans. If anyone reads this, I expect you to ask me I kept to it after Easter week.

Here are the rules:

1. No updates to the blog, and comments will be turned off Tuesday night through Pascua Sunday.
2. No reading any blogs, responding to previous comments, etc. No social media whatsoever.
3.No You Tube. That place is an evil trap of doom.
4.The websites I can use are as follows: gmail,, pandora, netflix for things my husband and I watch together, dish anywhere for the same purpose, project gutenberg, for news, my church website, and sites with prayers and devotions such as divine mercy chaplet, audio rosary, mission st clare, etc.
5. A retreat on Saturday or Sunday each weekend in which I drive to a natural park in the area, perhaps taking a sketch book, journal, Bible, and Book of Common Prayer, or maybe the devotional books I'm reading, The Imitation of Christ, Interior Castle, or No Man is an Island. And spend time doing whatever feels best - walking vigorously, drawing, praying, reading the Psalms, Lectio Divino, reading an office, doing some intercessory prayer for people, whatever.
6. Take 5 minutes (timed) every evening in silence, seated, doing nothing.
7. Commit myself to daily intercessory prayer in the evening. Please leave any intentions you have for me and I'll add them to the list.
8. Pray this short prayer from the daily devotions section of the BCP as a morning offering:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, You have brought us in safety to this new day: preserve us with Your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, or be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of Your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Hold me to it friends! Have a blessed and fruitful Lent. And I'm cheating and going ahead and posting this "Sunday" post on Saturday. I mean, it's technically Sabbath the night before, right?


  1. I would be very grateful if you would keep my kids in your prayers. (there are seven). Each one is going thorough some kind of struggle, a few that are life and soul-threatening.
    Wishing you also a fruitful, peaceful Lent. I find that grace so abounds during this time, it ls like the bubble trees on Perelandra. :)

    1. What a beautiful analogy! I need to Reread that one. I will keep you and your children in my prayers.

  2. Just found your blog and now you're going on leave for Lent. I'm sure that's more important than my blog-reading preferences, though! Your perspective is especially interesting because I know some local Anglicans who belong to churches that left the Episcopal church in recent years, or congregations spun off later from those that did. I'd pretty much have figured that Catholic-friendly Episcopalians would all have left, but apparently not. It is interesting to learn about the spiritual lives of others beyond taking a position on social or political issues. I am with the Catholic Church on all the "controversial" stuff (and I haven't looked around your blog enough yet to know where you stand on any of those), but it's sad how long it took me to realize the true primacy of Jesus in Christianity (!), even ahead of "moral teachings." An Anglican friend who's likely to become Catholic was telling me about how she'd grown up not understanding the importance of the Church, as if one could have Jesus without the Church, and I was telling her I'd lived into my thirties perilously close to the opposite mistake!

    Anyway, I'll say a prayer for you to have a fruitful Lent.

    1. Oh my there's so much to say in response, way too much for a comment :) in brief I will say that I am currently spoiled because there's an Anglo-Catholic parish I attend which is very committed to sacramental theology.

    2. Also I worded it poorly: I meant if you had any prayer requests for yourself that you'd like me to pray for lol. Also, your son may be ready for THS, but there is a good deal of sexual discussion and, in my opinion, a good deal of misogyny that I wouldn't be keen on a 12 year old boy digesting without a follow up discussion. But it all depends on the reader of course. Have a blessed Lent! I am happy to find your blog as well :)

  3. Sounds like you have a pretty good plan for Lent. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you stick to it, but remember not to give up if you happen to falter. We all do at one point or another!

    Try not to let the worries about where y'all will end up in a few months bring you down. I know it sounds trite and cliche, but God really will put you where you need to be. It might take a wiggly path to get there, but you'll get there. (Although I agree with you about the great white north. The cold would kill me. I prefer my Texas weather, thanks so much! ;) )

    I'll keep you in my prayers this Lent, that you have a spiritually fruitful time of connection with God and healing. Please keep me in your prayers, as I try to improve my relationship with God, and also for my physical health.

    Thanks, God bless, and I'll look forward to your first Easter-season post!

  4. I'm going to miss you, too. Please be sure and come back after Lent! Obviously we can use prayer here, you know details of what is going on. . . thanks so much! And I'll likely e-mail you at some point since you will still use e-mail! :)