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I just spent the most boring hour of my life at Jiffy Lube, waiting for an oil change and car inspection. There were no magazines or pictures to look at, so I was stuck with my own thoughts. All around me, people were absorbed in their phones. Not even the three-year-old twins beside me offered a diversion, as they had their own screen to look at. My smartphone kept calling from my pocket—don’t forget me!—but I was determined not to fill the time with Instagram or Spider Solitaire.
What do you do when there’s nothing to do? I’m about to find out (about myself, at least). This Lent I’m going to create my own desert. I can’t head off to the Sahara, but after this morning, I figure it’ll be just as effective to turn off social media and use my phone as though it’s a flip phone. The first time I saw the desert where Jesus spent 40 days, I was struck by how very barren it is. Not a thing to look at that doesn’t look the same as what’s beside it. No water if you’re thirsty, no distraction, no nothing. All you can do is look up and yearn for God.
I want to turn to God in my longing, and that’s the whole point of the desert. If I’m hungry and my refrigerator is humming close by, I can grab something to eat. If I’m lonely and at home, I can talk to my husband or kids or call a friend. If I’m bored at Jiffy Lube, I can pick up my phone . . . .
Put me where there are no distractions, Lord, and help me turn to you!
There’s one consequence of this I hadn’t thought of: in the desert I’m creating, there’s no connection to Catholic on-line Lenten chats. The virtual book club I’d planned to start is off limits. I will not be able to talk on Facebook with any of you (sorry!). I will be forced to be alone with the Lord and my Bible.
After getting over the initial shock of that idea, I look forward to the simplicity.
So what will I do for Lent?
Prayer, fasting, almsgiving. And Scripture. I’m going to home in on the Sunday readings, spend 40 days in the Word listening to the Lord. I will blog about the readings, for those who’d like to follow along. And if you’d like to use my 40-day plan, there’s a downloadable checklist here:
Every Sunday, the Church chooses the First Reading to go with the Gospel. Then the Psalm provides a bridge and our response. Sometimes (but not always) the Second Reading ties in as well. The connections are more obvious in Lent and Advent and on feast days, but they always are there. Lent is a good time to meditate on all the readings together.
Perhaps you are used to reflecting ahead of time on the Gospel. In my Lenten reading plan, you carry the Word with you into the following week. You can do this by meditating for as little as ten minutes a day. Take one reading at a time each day, then on Friday spend a little more time with the Lord. Review the Scriptures all together and ask Jesus, the Living Word, to speak through them into your life.
The checklist will help you keep on track. Feel free to make copies for friends you think would like to do it, too.
Some other ideas . . .
If you’d rather focus on a gospel, I created a daily Lenten reading plan for Luke (the gospel we’re going through in Year C) that takes you through Jesus’s life and ministry and into his passion, death, and resurrection just as we are celebrating those things as a Church. To journal as you go, record the date and passage read along with your observations, questions, what it means to your life and how you respond to God. You can download the Reading Checklist here: 40 Days thru Luke’s Gospel.
Or, you might want to follow the tried-and-true practice of reading the seven Penitential Psalms:
My Lenten journal, Create in Me a Clean Heart: Ten Minutes a Day in the Penitential Psalms, will guide you through a daily prayerful meditation on one of these psalms a week from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Available here.
Whatever you choose to do, I’d love to hear how it goes! If you want an answer, comment on this post or email me at email@example.com. I’ll be staying away from Facebook for a while.
Blessings on you as you read His word and draw closer to the Lord during Lent!
© 2019 Sarah Christmyer