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Preparing for Lent

I have been sitting with what I am being called to practice more attentively during the Lenten season that begins tomorrow. There are lots of possibilities calling to me and I have held them in the space of my heart and listened as well as I can in the midst of what has been a very busy week.  In fact, as I look ahead, I see February is one of the fullest months I have had in a long while, in part because next weekend is the second part of the intensive class I stepped in to teach and later this month I am going to New Orleans for five days for some of my other adjunct work.  Add in all the prep work I need to do for several upcoming programs and the creative work that is calling to me, and I find myself unusually breathless.

I had thought about how much I enjoyed all the new art I made over Advent — and while I hope to continue to create in this season ahead — I recognize this time I need to not spell that out for myself.  In fact, I need to give myself permission to do nothing at all.

I realize that my commitment needs to be simple — I am reclaiming Sabbath time which has slowly slipped through the cracks.  I am blocking off days to rest and renew and resist the temptation to work on a few small projects during that time.  It is so easy to keep working through and think I will take a break later, but hours, days, or even weeks go by.  I will make space to just be and to listen.

The first reading for the Ash Wednesday liturgy proclaims: “Return to me with your whole heart.”  Return, again and again, we hear those words every year knowing that the invitation never ceases no matter how many times we may falter or lose sight of the journey.  Return and move into the fullness of who you are.

I also believe that we have seasons of our lives that call for different commitments and energies.  Right now is a full season for me and I embrace the gifts and opportunities it brings.  But I also breathe into it, creating a space within my heart to tend my ongoing call, knowing that when I listen closely I am invited on a journey I can’t even anticipate.

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

(Image of the hollowed out space in a rock taken at Mt Rainier National Park)

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9 Responses

  1. Thanks for all the lovely affirmation of the gift of being! All your supportive comments make me breathe deeply and smile widely. :-)

    kigen – I LOVE the quote.

    yes tess, a precious gift indeed.

    lucy, so glad we are connected in this way. can’t wait to see where we are both led.

    jules, yes, if the art pulls God further in, then that is exactly the invitation.

    SS, thanks for the image of the ocean filling the hollow spaces.

    you are welcome yolanda. :-)

  2. Christine, Your photo is a beautiful illustration of the hole we bring to this Lenten season. It is my prayer that I may be open to God’s ocean when it rushes in to fill that void. Warmest regards….

  3. I, too, have chosen to observe Lent with a day of pure Sabbath. Whether I will work on projects or not remains to be seen but I am definitely setting the day aside for nothing that distracts me from being in God’s presence. If my art pulls Him further in, then I will go with that. If not, I’ll be ready and waiting with open ears and an open heart.

  4. christine–i am so grateful for you and the gift you give me of your ability to listen. this morning i posted my “lenten practice”. the stirrings of it began (perhaps…for who knows where these things really begin :-) )with your post on imbolc. that is a word that always resonates with me (and i am pretty sure i heard it for the first time from you.)
    my “creative” post today is entitled “creating space.” it feels like we are in similar places this lenten season…being gentle with ourselves and listening for what may come next. it feels like a really good place to be.
    blessings, dear friend!!!

  5. Christine, in response to your loving and inspiring “permission to do nothing,” here’s a magical thought by Zen Master Dogen, which surprisingly unites our busy activities and letting go into a single path of giving, he says:

    “Making a living and producing things can be nothing other than giving. To leave flowers to the wind, to leave birds to the seasons, are also acts of giving.”