So after my "poo on you" comment, which was a joke, Rachel noted that sometimes she misses posts in my new blog format. I changed it so that six posts show at a time, which is hopefully better? Let me know if you still don't find this format easy to read/comment/stay up to date with... I like having a big space for posts but still want somewhere for links, buttons, etc at the bottom. Scrolling down forever for these is not optimal, but neither is not being able to read/stay up to date/comment! I'm always open to feedback =)
On to today's post...
I often don't write much about my religious or spiritual life on here, mainly because it's a really personal topic that I don't generally want to open up for criticism from anyone (not that you guys are critical! But someone might be, since the topic can be so intense), and also because I don't want to offend anyone. Many of you have different belief systems, or different religious beliefs from me and it would really be hard on me if someone felt offended by my expressions of faith or spiritual journey. It is so fundamentally important to me to build bridges and live peacefully that sometimes I avoid expressing myself. Recently it occurred to me that if my kids were reading my blog after I died or something, they might not realize how religious I am, or how important my spiritual journey is to me, and if that were true, they wouldn't really know me. That would be far more tragic to me than the potential for theological dissonance between me and this small community of readers (you guys, you wonderful people who care to read what I write). So hopefully you can forgive me if more religion sneaks its way onto the blog in the next while. Perhaps to stay. I would hate for self censorship to result in not being fully known.
For several years I have felt very much that I want to deepen my spiritual connection with God. I believe we are all interconnected with God already and that you can't journey 'away' from the divine any more than you can travel away from oxygen, but I do think you can be more or less mindful of Him. The more finely tuned my relationship with Him is, the more support I can draw from Him, the more strength, and the more fully I can work to relinquish desire and live in peace with Fate/God's plan/Providence/the Universe/Life. The more peace I have, the more energy and love I have to give to my family and beyond, so I feel that it is incredibly important to deepen my interconnectedness with God. I can live more fully, and peacefully, and have more to give others. In the end, I think God has this complex, flexible, ever changing, GOOD plan for the earth, and humanity, and that we further complicate and change it with our decisions and choices in life. At any rate, I want to more finely tune my spiritual connectedness with God.
I've coasted spiritually for several years, mainly because of time. Partially also because I think true relationship happens in the eating and sleeping and housework and problems of life rather than in a quiet 'devotional' full of halos and peaceful prayer. I like to pray. A lot. But I don't have time to pray in chunks, you know? So I just basically pray scraps here and there and although I think this is fine, I believe the scraps should be more of an ongoing conversation than they are currently.
In the Christian calendar there are built in opportunities for focusing on interconnectedness. One of these extra-Biblical (not commanded in the Bible but exists as a long standing church tradition) opportunities is Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Parallel to Advent, it is a season of anticipation. Lent traditionally involves fasting, and this year I decided to participate. Orthodox church tradition (I went to an Orthodox church while living in Russia as an exchange student, and then for four years while I went to University) has a long list of foods to fast from during Lent but as my Orthodox Father liked to say, the foods church founders fasted from don't always translate directly into our modern context. Like, for example, mollusks and crustaceans are a fasting food in Orthodoxy, and Father William said this was to avoid spending a long time preparing food: fasting was supposed to be a rest from the regular work of catching and preparing food in order to focus on God and prayer. It isn't really a lot of work to prepare canned clams as opposed to canned beans in modern Canada, for example, so this fasting food doesn't totally translate. Orthodox followers fast it anyways out of respect for tradition.
Protestants are wishy washy about tradition. The more ancient a church tradition, the more dispensable it is, it seems. We don't particularly like conscripted worship, liturgical prayer, or group fasting. Lent is optional. Sometimes it involves exercise, Facebook, or chocolate. There is good reason for this lukewarm attitude towards tradition: an emphasis on authenticity and individual connectedness with God are important Protestant values (although I'm rather biased towards liturgical or group exercises like prayers and fasting, as a prior Orthodox). But I don't think fasting only chocolate really quite matches traditional Lent fasting. Like I need chocolate as much as I need God. Not that the point is how holy can I be, or how much can I deprive myself in comparison to others, to which God says
HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA. You silly children.
Because we do look a little childlike, haggling over fasting choices while people go hungry and are lonely and consume large amounts of commodities we don't need and unequally distribute our resources...
ANYWAYS I'm getting off topic here.
For Lent I chose to participate this year, and I chose to give up meat. I chose meat because it is a large enough item in my diet that I will notice it, miss it, and have to go out of my way to accommodate living without it. I still prepare food for my family like normal, but make myself a vegetarian option or eat everything but the meat. Sometimes I forget. Monday I had a turkey sandwich and afterwards I slapped my hand over my mouth, remembering too late. But I'm trying. Each time I think about the fact that I am fasting from meat, I remember God. I try to pray. I try to keep up a conversation that is deeper than simple scraps of Help me or Thank you. Which are the two truest prayers on earth, closely followed by Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy (a scrap of liturgy that shoots through Orthodox worship like gold thread). I guess I just want to be more mindful of God, and to have better conversations with Him which largely involve deeper expressions of these three prayers. I hope to more closely align my stubbornness with His gentleness, and come out more peaceful and pliable on the other end.
Lent, and small steps on a long journey. Thanks for listening to me ramble about it. ♥