Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lent lessons: Filling in the gaps

This year I gave up two things for Lent: playing solitaire on my phone and getting food out of a snack machine at work.
Maybe I should say I am fasting from them, a term my minister used in his sermon this past Sunday to refer to anything given up in order to prepare ourselves for self-examination and the sacrifice of Jesus.
I am fasting from solitaire because I have days when I spend way too much time playing it. It’s like a nervous habit. When I don’t want to do anything else, or when I’m stressed, I grab the phone and start fiddling with the electronic cards.

I am fasting from the snack machine because I do too much mindless eating at work, out of stress and sometimes boredom. It’s easy to stick my dollar or coins in the machine and have instant “food comfort.” But I’m eating when I’m not hungry, and I’m turning to food rather than more healthy choices to cope with life.
Giving up the snack machine has been the easier of the two. I can always take the time to fix healthier food choices at home to eat at work, and I am trying to eat only when I’m hungry.
It has been more difficult with the phone. I’m not having trouble resisting the call of solitaire. I’m having a difficult time knowing what to do with myself without the game.
My plan was to spend the time with more useful and meaningful pursuits, like reading and writing, or, if I’m at work, with work.
That’s hard for me when I’m tired and feel anxious and I just want to avoid doing anything that takes effort.
During Sunday’s sermon, my minister talked about giving things up for Lent. He said something like, if you’re fasting from food but not praying, then it’s just a holy diet.
Therein lies my problem.
Should I be praying during at least part of the time that I could be playing solitaire? What do I do since I have such a hard time praying, and I haven’t really prayed much since I realized how compulsive I still am with the process?
I’ve written about the obsessions and compulsions I have about praying. I’m working to no longer attend to the compulsive prayer thoughts. How do I bring in real prayer?
That’s my quandary. What other ways can I reach out to the divine?
Meditation is one way, but I’m still at the 10-minutes-at-a-time stage.
I’ve tried prayers that someone else wrote, like the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Sometimes I still get lost in the words, though.
I’ve considered writing prayers.
I still think reading and writing are meaningful and have a place in my Lent practice. Prayer is not the only way to learn and grow.
But I want to do some kind of praying too.
Do you have any ideas or suggestions?


  1. I think writing a prayer is a brilliant idea! You can write a meaningful (doesn't have to be long) prayer that does not repeat anything. You don't even have to re-read it or say it out loud. I've written prayers in the past. My hand cramps so I can't write for very long, so it forces me to really think about what I want to say to God. I also believe that God knows your heart and He knows how you struggle with this. I certainly don't claim to know His thoughts, but I can't help but think that He's touched by your efforts. I think it is so precious that you are really trying to pray in spite of the tremendous difficulty it brings you. God bless!

    Oh, I love the comment about the holy diet. Too funny.

    Just so you don't think you're the only one addicted to a game, I must confess that my addiction of choice is Bejeweled Blitz. In fact, I was just playing with it before I logged on!

    1. Sunny, You are so kind! Your words mean a lot to me.

      You reminded me of something I didn't realize--I don't have to re-read it or say it out loud. I had been worrying about that.

      I liked the holy diet comment too. He also talked about the importance of almsgiving, and said if we saved money by giving up something, but saved it for ourselves, it was just a holy budget.

      Thank you again for your sweet words and encouragement!

    2. Ha ha ha Holy Budget. Your minister has a good sense of humor.

  2. I used to love Solitaire when I worked. Now I don't have time!

    No suggestions on the prayer, other than that you could give yoga a try, which is longer than meditation, but spiritual in its own way.

    I have not run the Lynchburg 10 miler. Weird thing that. Twice I have paid and signed up to run it. And once I got injured and the other time I got strep throat. Now, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm suspicious of the race, and as a result have not signed up again!

  3. I find that the only time I ever play Solitaire is AT WORK! Ha! Like Lisa said, when I am at home, I simply don't have time.

    I think you picked some really good things to "fast on" for Lent.

  4. Lisa, I've practiced yoga before, and it does have a spiritual aspect that is helpful. Maybe signing up for the Lynchburg 10 miler a third time will be the charm! :-)

    Elizabeth, I need to make sure I don't have time for solitaire. It's easy for me to pick up.

  5. What about picking up a book? Writing something on paper? Doing something you like or going outside for air?

    Lately, I have not been eating, a total change in stress reaction, but I find it hard to get out of bed. I have to physically force myself to get up. : (

  6. Jen, All good suggestions. I'm doing more of the reading. I have a hard time getting out of bed, too. I keep trying to remind myself, motivation comes AFTER actions.

    Thanks for commenting.


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