I have some Lenten commitments that help me feel right in my heart and life, and right with GAWD.
Isn’t it hard to talk about our relationships with God in a way that doesn’t sound smarmy and pious? I hate being smarmy and pious so I’ll stick with irreverent, thankyouverymuch.
On my recent vacation, I had one goal: to pay attention to what I require in order to feel good in body, mind and spirit. That’s all I did. And it turned out to be extremely valuable. I got clear about the following things. I call them the “I Need This And It’s Okay.”
1. I need a lot of time to transition from being awake to being in the day.
This is huge for my mental and emotional health! When I open my eyes, I need silence and calm. This means that I need to get to bed early enough whenever possible to not require an alarm to wake up.
In the silence and calm, I think things out. I think things like,
What am I hoping to get done today?
Who most needs my time?
How is that work going?
Who’s at the very top of my ‘get back to’ or ‘pray for’ or ‘visit’ list?
How am I feeling about that meeting we had yesterday?
Is the issue resolved or do I need to do follow-up?
What’s coming up that I need to plan for?
God, can you help me with a story for my sermon?
This is just lying in bed thinking. I need this time. If I don’t get or take this time I feel out of breath, rushed and frazzled by 10 AM.
You might call this prayer. Sometimes it is prayer.
A lot of the time, actual prayer time happens later in the day or at night in bed on the other side of the day.
2. No aggravation before 10 AM.
This means that most e-mails get read later in the morning.
There is nothing so important that it can’t be postponed ’til late morning. This helps me keep my perspective on everything, and I believe it has helped my stress level and mindfulness about how to respond to challenging issues.
3. I need to take my dog for a proper walk.
Back everything up. He gets a half an hour of unrushed snorfling time, even if it takes me ten minutes to get the both of us dressed for the cold, and lately it does. Did you know that they make little doggie galoshes? They do, and my beagle wears them because if he doesn’t he gets ice stuck in his paw pads and salt burns.
4. I need to properly feed myself and my animals.
This means actual breakfast and coffee, not gulped on the run. Not a Power Bar. Not a string cheese. The animals don’t get kibble slapped into a bowl. They get a thoughtfully prepared meal, even if it’s just kibble. It’s all in the way I prepare it for them.
5. I need to read.
Even 20 minutes of reading helps me feel grounded in wisdom and sanity. It has to be something good, but it has to be concentrated reading, not clicking.
6. I need to keep food at church.
It has meant the world to me to have small containers of actual food at church. It means everything not to scarf down a Power Bar at 4pm or go home starved and light-headed.
7. I need to cook.
See how simple these things are? Feed myself and others. Rest. Wake calmly. The cooking thing is essential for me to feel connected to how I am feeding myself. It is essential. When I don’t cook for a week or even four or five days I feel like an orphan, and it doesn’t matter if I go to restaurants or get good take-out. It’s the alchemy of taking out the ingredients and patiently and creatively and gratefully transforming them into delicious food that I eat in my own home off of my own plates that nourishes me. Cooking is love, and I feel love when I cook. I also make food for others and that makes me happy.
8. I need to have something fun to look forward to in the not-too-far future.
Dinner with friends. Someone stopping over for coffee. A theatre outing. A date with a cute guy. A fresh setting that isn’t church or home, the grocery store or the snow piled sidewalks.
9. I need to stop working at the end of the day.
Just stop. If I have a night meeting, I have to work. But I try not to have too many night meetings.
10. I need to recognize that I cannot participate in and support every worthy organization that begs my loyalty and attention.
I cannot keep up with the demand as a minister on behalf of my congregation and I cannot keep up with the demand as a private citizen. I must choose a few that I can support and accept that I have to let a lot of pleas for time, talent and treasure go unanswered. It’s hard, but it’s the only way I can stay clear and not drown in requests.
It feels selfish to make a list of personal needs in the season of Lent, which calls us to deny ourselves (please, darlings, don’t give me that new-fangled thing about how Lent is now about ADDING something. That’s crap! Give me my hair shirt and my ashes!). But while my timing may not be liturgically on fleek (and I believe I am the first to use “on fleek” in that context), it is honest and authentic. I needed to get clear about my needs and try to live into them for my own good and the good of my ministry.
How about you, dumplings? What do you need? What are you becoming aware that you need? Line ’em up. Let’s look at them.