Another peek. This is my “attitude of gratitude” page. This is January-present, I’ll make another page for April-June. At the end of the year, I’ll have four pages of gratefulness, I may just write my own litany of thanksgiving in November.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Today we remember our station, that we are dust, and one day will return to dust. It’s a time of personal reflection on the passion of Christ, and the imitation of Him. It’s also a time of intentional resolve to follow the exhortation of Philippians 2, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. The sacrifices we make should be from a heart of obedience, and not for outward show. In this, we draw near to the heart of God, as obedient children, and have the opportunity to participate in His suffering and death. The practical application of this participation is denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him. We give up things, attitudes, or bad habits that may have taken a place in our hearts that is reserved only for the Lord. We put these things aside, and work on developing good habits while we nourish our souls.
If you don’t know what to give up for Lent, I’ve compiled a list of 40 ideas for you to choose from: If you’e already made your Lenten sacrifice, there’s an idea for each day of Lent for a little extra sacrifice to keep you extra focused.
I’m always on the lookout for new ideas, and would love to hear yours. Feel free to share your Lenten inspirations with me in the comments.
- Spend some time developing your prayer life this Lent. I’m still adding to and organizing my own prayer journal, and working on making better habits.
- Give up social media. So much time is wasted here. I’ve actually fasted completely in the past. This year, I’ll be partially fasting, because of work that requires me to be on social media. My goal is balance, my plan is to abstain from sun up to sun down, then prioritize the time acquired between work, familly, and ministry. I hope to be able to continue this even after Lent is over.
- Television. Turn. It. Off. Seriously! We actually are planning to disconnect cable altogether as soon as this billing cycle ends. What a waste of money and resources. It’s just a vast wasteland of mind rot.
- Replace TV time with reading a good book.
- Read Story of A Soul, or if you prefer, listen to it online.
- Give up some sleep. Wake up an hour earlier than usual, or stay up an extra hour before going to sleep.
- Replace sleep time with prayer and/or contemplation.
- Learn and pray the Divine Office. It’s online here.
- Give up your telephone. Turn it off for an hour, or an afternoon, or all day. Let your voicemail pick up important calls and you can return them later.
- Make and send a handwritten greeting card or letter. Don’t you love to get REAL mail? Give, and you will receive.
- Give up laziness. When you feel like sitting and relaxing, get up and DO something. Combat laziness with activity…go for a walk, exercise, garden….
- Offer up your hobbies. We enjoy them, but sometimes they take more time than they should, time away from necessary things, even.
- Give up worrying and fretting. Aint’ nobody got time for that! Replace it with thanksgiving, and allow His peace to fill your soul.
- Memorize Philippians 4:6,7
- Pray the Rosary. If you are a baby Catholic (like me) or are just learning the Rosary, it is helpful to listen and pray along with one of the many youtube videos available. Check it out, and pick your favorite.
- Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I prefer to sing it. This is my favorite version right now.
- Give up your pride.
- Pray the Litany of Humility
- Turn off your electricity for a day and meditate on Jesus being the Light of the World.
- Pray for those who do not have electricity for refrigeration, cooking, heating/cooling, and etc.
- Give up your favorite Alcoholic drink.
- Replace your usual alcohol beverage with water while you meditate Jesus’ first miracle.
- Give up caffeine (!) (I have to admit this one is a huge sacrifice for me, I really, really love and appreciate my morning coffee. If you can’t give it up completely, what about cutting back and limiting yourself to just one cup instead of half a pot?)
- Cut out all sugar and carbs and replace them with healthy alternatives.
- Give up one meal. Offer it up and replace the time with a Rosary for world hunger.
- Give up meat. Try some new meatless meals on another day besides the usual Friday fast.
- The ever popular “sweets”. Give up candy, sodas, desserts, etc.
- Give up that second helping. That dinner was good, and you could easily polish off another plate of it? Resist. Offer it up.
- Give up salt. Experience the absence of salt while you do a topical study on all the times salt is mentioned in the Bible. You won’t forget it.
- Visit a shut-in
- Read Thomas A’Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ
- Did you know Thomas A’Kempis has another beautiful work? I’m reading The Imitation of Mary this Lent, after finding it in our church’s bookstore. So far, I don’t see a free version online, but Amazon has them if your church bookstore doesn’t.
- Give up your inclination to anger. When you feel it rising, offer it up, and and look for an opportunity to exercise your compassion.
- Memorize Colossians 3:8-13
- Give up grumbling and complaining, replace it with thanksgiving. This requires you to think before you speak, a worthy habit to develop!
- Memorize Philippians 2:12-16
- Give up shopping for 40 days. Learn to be content and make do with what’s on hand.
- Memorize Hebrews 13:1-6
- Give up procrastinating. Whatever it is you’re putting off, do it, so you can get it done! You’re not getting any younger.
- Memorize Ephesians 5:14-17 — in fact, if you’ve got serious penance in mind, memorize the whole chapter. It is RICH, isn’t it?
The last couple years, I have participated in “Thankful Thursdays” on facebook. This is an area that I have come to firmly believe is necessary for joy, and an attribute that I want to develop into my quirky personality.
Thanksgiving is the key to a joyful and contented heart. How often I lose my key. Do you do this? Seriously, I know this works, I’ve seen it in action…yet I forget to be thankful, and am frustrated at my lack of joy. I want to have a joyful, contented heart; how easy it is to slip into envy and discontent if the door of our minds are locked to the joy that thankfulness brings.
Since I already have a naturally optimistic bent, you would expect that thankfulness would come easy for me.
While I am naturally optimistic by nature, I also am terribly idealistic, and I expect things to work out like I envision they should.
Yup. One of those.
Much of the time, with effort on my part, I can make things happen. But obviously, not all the time. I am bitterly disappointed when things fall short of my ideal, and I tend to fall (as Anne of Green Gables would say) into the depths of despair. How easy it is to slip into the devil’s trap of comparison, envy and discontent when the door of my mind is locked to joy.
There is a reason that I choose thankfulness to follow contrition and confession in my quiet time routine. After the confession portion of my prayer time, I tend to still be a little bit raw. Really, this should not be surprising, after all, I’ve just examined myself, and admitted my sinful thoughts, actions, intentions and omissions; that is, those things I’ve done and failed to do that have offended my Father. I’ve brought it all to Him, offered it up, and asked him to forgive me, and now…well…like I said; I feel a little bit raw. So, as I remind myself of His precious promises of forgiveness and restoration, and experience the grace that He pours through my broken heart, I begin to praise Him for:
- Answered Prayer – Those petitions I have brought before His throne, favors granted, and His provision, including those things that He has withheld from me, or things for which He has chosen to make me wait while continuing to ask. This part of my prayer time is a real hurdle while I’m suffering with my disappointment and impatience, but it is so necessary, for me, in developing the ability to follow Ephesians 5:20.
- His mercy that is new every morning – that is, His sparing me from the ultimate penalty of sin, and His faithful, steadfast love through the years. (Ps 25:6, Lam 3:23).
- Who He is – going back to adoration, and incorporating thankfulness…reminding myself again of the attributes of God, and thanking Him for all that He is to me, for me, and with me. (1 Cor 16:29, Ps. 34:7)
- My loved ones – family, friends, spiritual leaders, etc. (Eph 1:6)
- His grace and the indwelling of His Spirit that frees me from sin’s bondage. Because of His grace, I am not enslaved to sin. I have the choice to do what is right, and experience victory through Jesus Christ, my Lord. (1 Cor 15:57)
- The presence of His Spirit with me. I know He is with me when I experience the fruit of His Spirit in my life. I continue to pray that my life produces the fruit, evidencing that I am His child, and He lives and reigns in me…by faith…so that everything I do can be done in His Name and for His glory. (Col 3:17)
Thanksgiving does not come naturally, it has to be cultivated! Because I need frequent reminders of the importance of being thankful, the back of my divider is filled with Scripture reminders of the importance of developing thankfulness with an acronym of sorts of the word “gratitude”. I have tried to keep these verses at the top of my memory, as I work on this attribute…or rather, as I allow the Lord to develop this attribute in my life. I don’t have them all memorized, but reading through them in my quiet time has cemented their truths into my routine, and I like to think they are there for when I need them. As I’m giving thanks, I try to write something down in this section, so that on my down days, when it’s difficult to think of something to be thankful for (I can be a big baby, did I tell you that already?), there is a list of things that I can remember and thank God again. This is an act of obedience for me, so sometimes I need a little prompt….this totally works!
I’m working on a prayer journal system that will hopefully be a tool in keeping me organized and on task in my quiet time. Right now, it’s a tool, but also a project, as I am in the process of tweaking it to make it function for me. You might remember that last year, I began putting a little prayer journal together for the sake of memorizing the creed and rosary. I did a series on prayer that included some of the insights the Lord gave me while putting it together, and I’m thinking this is going to be a similar series by the time we finish with it.
Last year, a dear friend sent me a little journal, which had remained empty and unused until last week. I’ve put it to use as my Beta version, and when I pick it up, I remember her in my prayers. (She is one that I thank God for in my Thanksgiving…as well as one I intercede for in my supplication) …but I’m getting ahead of myself. By the way, I LOVE how God made this journal with sunflowers! It’s like my prayer life has a theme…and seeing sunflowers reminds me to pray. How great is He!?
I started putting my journal together by following the ACTS model of prayer, that is, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. As I continued it kind of morphed into what I call ACT before you ASK. I don’t know about you, but if I’m don’t deliberately make myself focus, my prayer time can sound whiny, and childish. I do not want my prayer life to be marked by this. I want my prayer time to be intentional, where I focus on the Lord and my heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude and praise for Him, and marked by faith and trust.
I divided my journal into six sections as such:
Adoration – Where I record the names and attributes of God that I collect as I go.
Contrition/Confession- Where I spend time in self-examination and confess the sins that the Holy Spirit reveals to my spirit.
Thanksgiving – Where I remember to thank the Lord for what He is accomplishing in my life.
Application – Where I record my God whispers…times when the rubber meets the road…those little (or big) things that jump out at me in my daily Bible reading, prayer, or personal interactions with others.
Supplication – Where I keep a record of people that I pray for on a regular basis.
Knowledge – Where I keep a record of portions of Scripture and Bible truths that I have committed to memory and know by heart.
My daily quiet time follows this model pretty closely, with my daily Bible reading fitting right between the two acronyms. I think I’ll make a separate post for each of my sections so I can show you better how I put this system to work for me. I haven’t completely made up my mind whether I will prefer a bound journal, like the one I’m using right now, or if I will eventually move to a 3 ring binder system. I can see benefits and downsides to both, and I may eventually use a combination of both. It is providing me with more opportunity to create, and draw, and color. For now, my dividers are homemade, laminated bookmarks that fit the book. Each divider has prompts that keep me on track, and the cool thing about them is, if I don’t want to take my whole journal with me, but need the prompts, I can remove them from the journal, put them in my Bible, or purse, or whatever I’m carrying, and tote them along with me to use as needed.
More to come…