I like things like Lent – that preparation time of the heart before Easter. I’m not so bothered about fasting, or giving up chocolate for forty days. Yes, it’s a challenge but with my built in brownie-point mentality it becomes something far too external and physical rather than something inner and spiritual. This year I bought a book “The Little Book of Lent: Daily Reflections from the World’s Greatest Spiritual Teachers” edited by Cannon Arthur Howells. The one contributor who I have recognised so far is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It’s like sitting with the sages and drinking in their wisdom.
Back to yesterday. I like my quiet times in the morning. I am not more alert then than at other times of the day, but I know the day ahead has challenges and I know that the best way to deal with them is to be armed with everything that God puts out on the table. I admit that many of those things are not picked up. They are left on the table and perhaps later on, after some event happens that I could have dealt with better, I rush back into the room to pick it up rather aware that the horse has left the stable and it’s too late to close the door. Yesterday I didn’t make time for my morning quiet time. I didn’t pick up the Lent book. The day would have been so different if I had,
Another contributor I didn’t know was James Catford, Group Chief Executive of the Bible Society among other things. Yesterday, he wrote about William Wilberforce and his intention to “make goodness fashionable” and about how he wanted to begin with his own heart, transforming his thinking, not just his action. James called it “making virtue possible”.
He went on to talk about spiritual disciplines and prayer. Prayer can be slotted into so many small pauses throughout the day. Waiting for the kettle to boil can be a minute or two spent in prayer. Walking up the stairs rather than taking the lift, or even standing in the lift if the walk is too demanding, can be times of prayer. He called them short prayer walks.
Like anything else, this way of praying, catching those pauses during the day, doesn’t come naturally. We don’t drag our attention away from other stuff always to focus on God. That’s why James called to discipline I suppose – because you learn to do it and make it a habit. Three months, apparently, it takes to make a habit. I am almost three months into a Scottish Slimmers diet. Can I presume that healthy eating will become a habit?
Yesterday my day was littered with prayer pauses – or, rather, the potential for prayer pauses. Because I didn’t read the book, it never occurred to me to live my day any differently to any other day. I should be praying my pauses anyway – but sometimes we need to be taught to do these things and I wasn’t taught. The day wasn’t a disaster – don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a bad day as days go. I have had bad days and I know what they are like. Yesterday was not bad but it could have been so much better.
I could have picked up the book later on in the evening but I was reading something else, some fantasy fiction adventure involving dragons. There was a nudging inside from the Spirit – “Read the Lent book! Read the Lent book” and my answer “Just the next chapter! Just the next chapter, please.” So I read the fantasy fiction adventure and not the Lent book.
I took the Lent book to bed with me. I read the chapter and I mourned for my lost day.
Today is a new day and I am praying my pauses – but yesterday is lost to me. All the distractions of the day, the usual and the unusual, robbed me of the opportunity to live a different kind of day.
I am challenging myself, and not quite succeeding, to write a Lent poem a day. This is yesterday’s poem (written today).
My foe proposes
To snatch every moment and
Fill with diversion
Wake up, dear heart, rise
Take back each and every pause
Therein look for God