As someone relatively new to the Liturgical Year, I have nothing authoritative to say about Lent, but I love this season. As a penitential season it is much easier to celebrate than Advent, which gets entangled with the secular celebration of Christmas. And Lenten disciplines have all the fun of New Year's resolutions but with a statute of limitations.Why would anyone share something as personal as Lenten disciplines with the world? Three reasons.
- People blog about all sorts of personal things. (Okay, this makes it four; it's not a legitimate reason, but it's too obvious not to mention.)
- In future years, when I wonder (because I can't remember) what I did for Lent in previous years, I'll be able to find it here.
- Publishing my disciplines makes me slightly more likely to be able to stick with them.
- Several people have asked about ideas for different ways of approaching Lent besides the traditional abstention from meat or sugar, and my disciplines are usually on the odd side, as I've written about before.
- The computer Foregoing this time-sink would, indeed, free up much time for prayer and re-orienting of my life, but the cost would be too great. The computer is my primary means of communication with far-flung loved ones, nearly my only source of news, and is required for most of the work that I do. Giving it up would plunge my life into more chaos, not less.
- Blogging Giving up blogging seems to be a popular Lenten discipline, but it's too good an exercise for my mind, as well as my way of keeping in touch with family and friends.
- Genealogy This is another tremendous time-sink, but since my current goal is to eat this dinosaur in small but steady bites, it makes no sense to fast for nearly a month and a half then be overwhelmed after Easter. The sooner I get my recent research entered, the more likely I am to be able to decipher my chicken-scratch notes.
What I finally settled on:
- The computer goes off at 9:00 every night. When I stick to a 10 p.m. bedtime, my life goes much better, but that's not always easy, especially when I'm in the middle of a project and "just one more thing" can lead to midnight or beyond. Not only are most of my projects computer-oriented, but for some reason computing is one of those areas where I blink and two hours have passed. If I get nothing else from this discipline, at least I'll be better rested.
- I'm giving up reading and/or working puzzles while I eat. Most of you will find this odd, but it is a real sacrifice for me. I agree wholeheartedly with C. S. Lewis, who said, "Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably." There's no reason not to combine them; I'm doing this because it's a great pleasure I can dispense with for 40 days as an exercise in self-denial, without troubling anyone else or falling terribly behind in my work. Exception: Porter and I sometimes do puzzles together during meals; for obvious reasons I'm not abstaining from them.
- I'll spend between a half hour and an hour reading each day. Preferably the longer time, though I haven't managed it yet. I know; that's hardly a sacrifice. But I've noticed that over the last several years my reading has become even more fractured and fragmented than it was when I had small children at home, if that were possible. I read blogs, articles, and news stories online; I listen to audio books in the car as I run errands, I skim magazines. I read books in five-minute gulps as I can throughout the day—on visits to the "reading room," while eating, while falling asleep at night. What I'm missing is concentrated time on a single, book-length topic, and I have a very large stack of quality books—many recently purchased and one overdue at the library—on which the derivative of my progress is negative. I'm hoping that a short, but consistent, dedicated time will reverse the trend.