Spring is trying to break through. Spring is a time of rebirth, or rejuvenation. In its wisdom, the Church gave us Lent to prepare for the glorious day of the Resurrection, when rebirth, the rebirth that matters, takes place. God overcomes the world, the sting of death, and grants us eternal life. Wow. Every year, we are given this gift. Every year.
We have been endeavoring to keep the fast each day. We have not been as successful this Lent as we have in the past. Things are so upside down right now, that keeping the strict fast has fallen by the wayside. And it shows. I think both my husband and myself have gained weight, eating junky meals and not paying attention to our overall health. We have decided to change that. One of the reasons is that we are feeling older than our years and we have all these new grandchildren we want to keep up with! We want to be the fun grandparents who play with their grandchildren. And we still have a teenager in the house! To that end, we have opted to eat a more raw, simple diet. Today is day #2. We got this new thing called a NutriBullet and what it does is pulverize your food to a drinkable liquid, the texture of which you choose for yourself (more water, less thick, etc). It is like a smoothie, only everything you put in there is dissolved to its molecular level, making it more “bio-available” to your body (stems, leaves, seeds, skins, etc). This morning I had (all fresh) spinach, blueberries, blackberries, banana, flax seed, and water in my “Blast.” It is filling and tastes so good!! Yesterday’s “Blast” had strawberries instead of blackberries, but I am a blackberry lover, so I changed it up! Tomorrow I might try peaches and pineapple! It is changing how I shop and what is in the cupboard and refrigerator. And it is also making our nutrition simpler, fresher, and basic. The teenager is balking a little bit, but I am sure I can win him over!! Taste and texture are everything, not to mention drinking something green goes against his better judgement! Ha-Ha! Today I added a little organic vanilla to his and he’s drinking it up.
The point of this is that I am working at overall change during Lent. I am refocusing my prayer life, my internal core of spirituality, and now the body that houses all of this. I think that it is time I took my life and how I approach it, in a different direction. I was shown so clearly through reading Elder Thaddeus, that we need to separate ourselves from the world and become more in tune with God and His plan for our lives. We are a cluttered, noisy, overweight, poorly nutritioned, hedonistic society; a culture lacking in the serenity of the peace that only God can give us. “If it feels good, do it!” I think that by cutting back, turning off, and tuning out, we can work towards the best relationship to Our Lord that we can, while still being in this world. Most of us were called to the married, family life and we are not monastics. But we can try to live as closely to it as we can. We can turn off the TV, we can back away from media influences, and we can spend more time in simple pursuits. We can read a spiritual work rather than watch some inane program where we tune out emotionally anyway! I am praying that when we move I can grow these fruits and vegetables we eat, that we can hunt and fish for the mainstay of our diets, and we can get in shape – physically, as well as spiritually. Today, I am high on the hope scale! Today my cup is a little more than half-full. Today I am optimistic for the future I can carve out for myself. Little steps, little changes, and a re-direction of priorities can make all the difference. (I am smiling).
We need to acknowledge that we are in this world….I keep reminding myself every day, that I am not special, not different, but that I can choose to live differently; I can choose to approach all things in my life in a simpler, more direct manner. Elder Thaddeus reminds us that: “A materialistic person cannot understand a spiritual person. Anything that a spiritual person says is fantasy to a materialistic person, because heavenly logic is completely different from the logic of the world. However, when one talks to a materialistic person one may bring him to the conclusion that there is, after all, something that moves the world, and that there is harmony in the universe and disharmony on the earth.” He goes on to say, “We Christians have been called to spread upon the earth the atmosphere of heaven, eternity, love, peace, truth, and stillness. But it is very difficult, since from our youth we have learned anger and disobedience; we have become accustomed to returning blows and to approaching everyone with distrust and reserve. We have accepted much evil into our hearts, and now we need to get rid of it.” Elder Thaddeus, once again, speaks to me and my life. I am so blessed to have been able to learn from his wisdom. Using his lessons, I have been able to allow others to get angry with me; I have been able to let things happen, which are outside my control, and not get upset about them. I still feel that initial pain, that hurt or that anger, but I am able to calm myself and remember that all things happen for God’s good. (“But we do know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to purpose.” Romans 8:28). I am also learning that these little hiccups in life are sent by a loving God Who wants what is best for us, and is training us for His plan in our lives. I have mentioned this before, but a priest friend used to tell me not to pray for patience, because that was when all hell would break loose….because God had to teach us patience. It is not a gift that descends upon you and you automatically become more patient; rather, it is a learned attribute or characteristic. Taking that idea and applying it to other areas of my life, I know that these little kinks in our plans, the things we think are going to happen but often do not, these are all ways the Lord is reaching out to me, trying to hone me into a better child of God. And what better time to focus on improving myself, than Lent!
“There is a constant struggle between good and evil. We wish to be good, but the spirits of wickedness do not want us to have a single good character trait, only bad ones. This is why we must fight. We cannot fight on our own, but the Lord is our Protector, for as soon as we ask Him sincerely to help us, He will immediately come to our aid.” (Elder Thaddeus). And it seems that when we focus in a strong way on improving ourselves, that is when we are beset with troubles. Because I have taken these lessons to heart and am earnestly trying to apply them daily, the hiccups seem to go away a lot quicker. They just need that “spoonful of sugar” to help them go away – they require my earnest prayer, my sincere supplication to Our Lord.
Once again, St. John of Kronstadt perfectly states what I can take 1300 words to say! I also wanted to share that this journey continues on, through and past Lent. Because in the light of the Resurrection, our heightened experience of the Risen Christ will only inspire us to a greater, stronger, truer relationship with Him. There are tones, refrains, and sayings that are reserved for the days immediately following Easter. I cannot wait to sing them, to say them, to think them. This weekend is Palm Sunday for us on the western calendar. This weekend is the weekend Our Lord was led into the city a hero, someone the crowds adored. How quickly the tone changes; how quickly the adoration faded. It is through the Church that we are given the opportunity to annually re-apply ourselves to our faith, to our personal journey, so that we are not led astray by the change in tone, by the crowds around us in this wacky world.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:10-18