Back from the ashes

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To say I have not written in a while would be understating things. I wrote two articles for this blog in all of 2017. No wonder my mind is so cluttered.

A few years ago, I committed to write an article a day for each day of Lent. Some of them were posted here, some in other locations. This year, I did not commit to anything for Lent and I didn’t even attend an ash service.

Ash Wednesday is a tradition but not a requirement. Some churches do not participate at all. To me, it is a personal thing I have enjoyed for the last few years. It can be helpful when done properly. Discipline is an important part of growth.

Honestly, I have to commit to being a better person. I don’t know what that looks like in a 40 day process. There was nothing I wanted to give up that I could give up. I thought of social media, like many of my friends from church, but that is part of my job in the real world. You can’t refuse to do your job for 40 days without causing yourself a few problems. I also thought about giving up YouTube watching. However, since I do write a lesson every week and often research my material there, that made no sense.

In the past, I have given up burgers, coffee and other things I enjoy. Those were difficult but I made it. I have also committed to taking on things in the past. One year, I made it a point to get up at 5am every day and spend time in prayer and meditation and exercise. I made it most days, except for the exercise part. I did make that most days too. Lent is about developing good habits as much as anything and it is never about perfection, self loathing or setting goals so high that they set you back instead of helping.

In January, I resumed an old habit of writing my daily prayers in a journal. I am doing pretty good with that but I have missed a few mornings. Even when I get up at 5am—and I do that most days—the time slips away so fast. None of the tasks I can take on or the pleasures I give up can make me a better person. They are just disciplines. They can help but the real progress is a heart issue.

The better person waiting to burst forth is a person who shows gratitude.

I am a grateful person but there are days when I get so tired that I just sit and stare. Saying “thanks” is an afterthought and so is the simple act appreciation. Whether it is smiling when I get a moment to relax, being happy to hear from a great friend, or spending time with my music or a book, I find that I neglect the things that are good.

I do good things too. I give a regular percentage of my money to charity every month, I enjoy my job, I do work for friends who need my help and I run errands for friends and family. I do volunteer work in the community and through different ministries. All of that is uplifting but something is still missing.

I was sad about missing Lent this year but I am sadder still that I cannot take a few minutes to sit and give thanks. That is a discipline that should come natural to an optimist and it is the missing element, I think.

So, thank you. Whoever is reading this, thank you. If we are friends and we talk regularly or rarely, thanks for being you. Thanks for your patience and your grace. Gratitude is part of my spiritual formation and I pledge to show more of it.

Everything in life is spiritual. Everything.

***

I found an old book of poems I wrote in college and the few years thereafter. To be honest, reading them is akin to hearing my own voice when I am on tv or radio. It is cringe-worthy. I read them anyway.

After so many years, I struggled to remember each circumstance. Some of them are lost to time, alcohol and attitude. Some of them reflected some of the same themes, though much less developed, that I still ponder today.

While I certainly have no plans to launch a poetry blog in the near future, or ever, I do want to find better outlets for my words. Whether that means blogging, paid content, publishing one of the many books I have started and never finished, or writing in my journal, I will do it.

Words mean things.

Maybe part of my formation is to be found in the simple, or not so simple, act of using the words I have to write more. I will but it may require some pushing.

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