Archive for the 'Intentional Spirituality' Category

Shelve the Fiction: A Fasting Story.

I love to read. I mean, I’m not one of those fanatical readers who polishes off a few books a week but a short stack a month is my style.

Usually I go for inspiration in the day-time (non-fiction) and entertainment at night with a steady stream of (mostly) historical fiction by my bedside. Reading is my TV and I am never without my bedside novel. In fact, the next one is always waiting in case I finish one before I get to the library.

But not this month.

Our church announced an opportunity to fast from “something” for 33 days to invite God to do something bigger in our national church and in our personal lives. An ancient practice, fasting has been a spiritual discipline for eons for people of all faiths. The idea is to set something you want aside for a period of time for something you want more. Usually it is food of some sort but can also be something else you are particularly attached to.

Like Facebook for some or YouTube or shopping. Or reading novels.

When the idea was first presented, I must admit I thought, “Didn’t we just do this for Lent?” By the next day, though, I was ready to jump in and began to scroll through the usual food give-up list. Frankly, it felt stale. If I am feeling deprived in some way, I want to engage with it, not feel same old/same old.

Brushing my teeth that evening, where many good ideas germinate, I felt a nudge to shelve the fiction for a month. This I knew was not from me.

The night before the fast began, I stayed up late trying to finish my current novel, but sleep took me down. I’ll have to wait until July 1 to find out what happened next. I put a hold on my requested list at the library and gathered up a pile of inspirational books I collected to read “at some point.” I’m on the second one now, it’s going kind of slowly.

Fasting works best when one substitutes prayer for the given-up thing. Sometimes I forget to do that. My long experience with God has taught me that he rarely works according to how I advise him to so I’m trying not to get too specific with an outcome for this fast. It has to be a no strings-attached deal. I’ll give up novels, but you don’t have to reveal all your plans.

Like celebrating at the end of Lent with a chocolate bar or a glass of wine, I’m looking forward to finding out what came next in my novel but I’m OK with waiting. I threw in a bit of the food thing too but find it is easier to do that part. Nine hours on my monthly train ride without a novel is a long ride.

I can say at nearly the halfway point…something’s going on. I hope to define it a little more in the days ahead.

Have you ever fasted from anything?

Hope for the best,



Lent, Back so Soon?*

Lent is not as much fun as Advent. In fact, “fun” and “lent” are rarely used in the same sentence. Lent, if you observe it, is usually stretching. In a good way you might say, like doing spiritual push ups. I don’t like doing push ups of any sort, but I do respect Lent.

Lent seemed simpler back then.  Like about every other kid in my parochial school, I gave up candy and that was it.  Since we didn’t have much access to candy anyway, it wasn’t a big sacrifice. I almost liked giving up candy, it seemed like a soft way to holiness and being holy was certainly a high held value in my small circle.

Then, when I felt I was too enlightened for all that religiosity, Lent was once again easy… to throw in with the Church towel. I didn’t need it and it didn’t need me to participate so we went our separate ways.  No one I knew “did Lent.”

We got back together, me and Jesus. He didn’t say anything about Lent in the Book but I still want to have a meet-up with it. Guess that will be tomorrow on Ash Wednesday.

By the way, Lent is making a come-back.  It doesn’t seem so easy anymore.  One friend spoke of her intention to secretly do something nice for someone everyday of Lent.  Easy for a few days but maybe not 40.

Facebook will incur a few drop-outs for Lent. Already a stream of friends showed up on the loop to say goodbye for 40 days. That wouldn’t be easy for me. Neither would foregoing fiction, bread, wine, or chocolate, some of my previous give-ups.  Still not sure for this year.

Maybe I will do an add-on instead like my “be nice” friend.  Instead of giving up something, add something else. Last year I wrote one letter a day during Lent.  I like writing letters though, so should probably add something else. Oops, I don’t like “shoulds.”

The “give-up” discomfort, hardly deprivation, keeps me focused.  In spite of what I want in the moment, I want something else more in the end. Hard to define, but it always shows up by Easter and it definitely feels holy.

So tomorrow evening, I will walk into my church and offer my forehead and my heart and await the adventure this year.  I will give-up and He will add-on.

And you?

Hope for the best,


Got kids? Lent for Kids: Five Ideas (and more) to Try

  • Originally published in a previous Lent.



Lent for Kids: Five Ideas (and more) to Try

Photo by Wesley Fryer

Photo by Wesley Fryer*

Growing up in a liturgical church, I don’t remember ever not observing Lent. All the kids I knew did, mostly by giving up candy. We didn’t have much candy at home anyway so it was no biggie. What I remember more was the solemn Good Friday services, the afternoon and evening ones that my family faithfully attended. I felt so holy sitting in the pew.

As you might recall from previous posts, Advent was and still is a very big deal at our house but I was never sure what to do with Lent for the kids. I do remember Tom fashioning a small cross which stayed around the dining room during the forty days. I think we lit a purple candle too.

We did end the season well with a Middle Eastern supper on Holy Thursday followed by a very quiet Good Friday, no TV or loud music allowed, and an annual trip to the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Like most of life, Lent flew by.

When someone asked me yesterday for ideas for how to help kids observe Lent, I had a few more now:

  1. Explain Lent as you understand it and talk about Ash Wednesday. Get ashes for yourself and your kids who are old enough to understand. If you can’t bring the kids, use some from your own forehead. These are the words “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you will return.”
  2. If you are giving up something for Lent, explain why. Introduce the concept of fasting in kid-sense. Can your family “give up” dessert or special treats for the season? Consider asking your kids if they would like to give up something like playing with a certain toy or a TV show. Don’t decide for them. Sundays are not considered Lent so you can enjoy the “give-ups” on that day.
  3. If you are adding something on for Lent, how can you do that as a family? Join a service project, collect money for a cause, pray together for the same concern.
  4. Add some type of decor to symbolize the season. A purple candle, cross, a special Lenten cloth or art of some sort.
  5. Purchase a Lenten devotion for your family or similar books for young kids. An Amazon search for “Lent Books for Kids” pulled up quite a few.Another resource is  Let Us Keep the Feast: Epiphany & Lent (part of a series).

Any more ideas?

Hope for the Best,




“I Will Pray for You”

My Mom with her great-grandson last weekend.

My Mom with her great-grandson last weekend.

I recently led a group of hospital patients in a conversation about prayer and asked them how they felt about people saying “I will pray for you.” Each one of them, even the ones who called themselves non-believers, remarked that they felt cared for and supported and appreciated the gesture.

I wish they could meet my mother.

If you have ever spent any time with my mom, she probably told you she would pray for you. She immediately gets on first name basis with most everyone she has an encounter with: the guy pushing her wheelchair through the airport, the wait staff in any restaurant and the individuals sitting next to her in public settings. She manages to get the highlights of their story and ends each conversation ends the same, I will pray for you. And she does.

She once told me how worried she was about her ADT tech’s girlfriend’s family and put them on her prayer list. Each night the list gets covered. She says it takes a long time to get through everyone.

Sometimes I feel like maybe I should mention that perhaps some of these folks might not welcome being prayed for but I’m sure she would just pray harder for them.

When we’re together, she usually commits me to the effort as well. “We’ll pray for you” even though I haven’t been a part of the conversation and sometimes she adds, “We’re good pray-ers.” That always seems a funny thing to add but I guess it is like a personal endorsement. So I pray too once I get proxied in.

I thought of her today when “Luigi” drove me home from getting my car serviced. I got his story but didn’t add the final line, “I will pray for you.” I did anyway though.

I don’t know if I will ever take my stranger prayers to that level (Bless You (even if you haven’t sneezed) but know my life has been profoundly shaped by being near the top of that list for every one of my days.

Hope for the best,


Candle Prayers

IMG_3353When I was a girl, my mom would often tell me she would “light a candle” for whatever prayer on her lips that seemed to need a boost. Sure enough, I would watch her slip her dime into a box and light one of the red candles on the rack in the back of church.

I didn’t think much about candle prayers again until I attended a baby shower where each of the guests grabbed a votive candle as we left. We were to light it when the labor began for the mom to remember to pray for her. I loved the idea and lit it as soon as the text came in.

A few years ago, I visited the beautiful Holy Cross Chapel in Sedona, AZ. To my surprise, I found myself reaching in my wallet for a couple of bills to put in the box so I could light a candle for my urgent prayer request in that season. Just like my mom. A few months later, that answer came.


Recently when one of our daughters asked for prayer for some little boys who were missing in a forest, I pulled out one of my battery candles, sat in on the kitchen table and turned it on for the duration of the vigil. My prayer remained as steady as the burning light until they were found. Back in the drawer it went until the next urgent need.

Is the candle magic? Not at all. Does it help me pray? Absolutely,

My candle is going back on the table soon. Of course I’m already praying but the glowing flame will keep me focused on the eternal light.

Do you use candles in your prayers?

Hope for the best.


Thanks for NOT Answering my Prayer

do-not-enter-1243682I drove by the house we so desperately asked God to give us many years ago and uttered a quick prayer of thanks that He said NO. A YES would have resulted in different neighbors, school district and a whole new set of friends for the kids. Of course, that wasn’t the prayer on my lips then.

What if the job door I begged to open had flung wide instead of sealing shut? My day-to-day would have swallowed me up as I can see now how ill-suited I was for that position. Couldn’t see that then but He could. I love what I do and it was worth waiting for.

Looking way back over my shoulder, what if that long ago boy had called back and we started a relationship like I hoped at the time? Would I be with Tom now? I shudder to think of no. If I got a fat letter rather than a thin one for the college I prayed to get into? Which state would I live in and with who?

Cars, promotions, provision, even health all received a resounding NO at times. I tried so hard to twist God’s arm to avoid my one and only surgery but am so much stronger on many levels for going through with it.

Sometimes it feels like my life is just as shaped by unanswered prayers as the answered ones. I need to trust both.

Don’t worry, I’m still a big promoter of “Ask, Seek, Knock” and will continue to storm the gates with my long lists. After all, He invites us to do that. I didn’t say YES to everything my kids asked for either and though the protests were loud, I think I chose the better answer.

Hope for the best,


The Wait Is On! (again)

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

The list of things I am waiting for never seems to shorten. Sure, some items do come to pass but they are quickly replaced by new to-wait-for items. I know you live like that also as my clients and friends are always waiting for something too.

In my youth I really believed there would come a point in my later life when all things would be resolved. I hope I have a lot of “later” to go but somehow I think that is an urban myth.

Right now I am waiting for edits, a phone call, a certain resolution, an RSVP, an appointment, inspiration for a section of the book, and lunch. That’s just the practicals. On another level I’m waiting for many answered prayers, opportunities to speak and write, medical results, countless breakthroughs and in influx of good virtues.

Some waiting is fun like for a vacation or special event. A lot of it isn’t.

We lose a lot of time when we pause too long during the wait. I’m sure you’re familiar with the trail of thought…”As soon as ____ happens I will start ____ or do ___” and meanwhile a few years can slip by.

“Wait” is mentioned about 130 times in the Bible and often in reference to “Wait for the Lord” like “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 Yup, working on that.

Another place I have underlined is: So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you? Sometimes I keep waiting for my “land” when God has already given it to me. You too?

This I have learned, waiting is normal not the absence of it so best get used to it and stop resisting.

What are you waiting for?

Hope for the best,


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