When the righteous call for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Psalms 34:17-20
The winter sky at dawn and dusk is often the most colorful part of the landscape all day. When my daily drives take me past miles of tawny taupes and charcoals in the palette for the views, I crave a burst of color and a vivid plump flower or two.
These hues saturate parts of my life, and I see them reflected in other people's moods as we struggle with the challenges of cold-weather months. Tasks can be wearying, and we are prone to experiencing drudgery.
The imagination is the precious gift that can keep us going when we feel oppressed by our surroundings or by the nature of the work ahead of us. It seems appropriate that Lent comes when we are struggling with external issues that seem to trigger internal issues. There is often a feeling of loss at this time of year; an emptiness that indicates some kind of disconnect.
The challenges of Lent are many, but one I always try to focus on is what I can eliminate that is distancing me from God. The flip side is exploring what I can add to encourage a closer relationship with God. There is a switch in my brain that can take me from the process of letting go to the process of practicing discipline that will bring a fuller life. It becomes a cycle of cleansing and becoming involved.
What I see very clearly is that time spent in front of a screen typing ideas from inspiring things I have read fills me up; and time spent in front of a screen scrolling down through selfies and memes and videos absolutely drains me. There is a great resource in technology, and a great danger as well.
I am trying to be diligent about items on my to-do lists, but I find I really need to intersperse some moments of reading or looking at something beautiful while enjoying a cup of tea, in between digging for tax records and washing dishes and doing a load of laundry. These tasks are wearying to me because I sometimes let myself see the punitive nature of work rather than rejoicing in the sacrament of daily tasks. I need to practice remembering joy.
While scrolling down my Facebook feed today, I was entranced by this poetic prayer posted by a young pastor friend, and I know she would be happy to have it shared. I suppose this, and the photos my old friend has been posting of his trip around World War II memorials in France and Belgium, are the reasons I still look for something on Facebook. But I do think that there are more worthy distractions that actually engage the soul and mind and body, and I mean to find them.
Prayer on the road of life, attributed to Augustine of Hippo:
God of life, there are days
when the burdens we carry are heavy on our shoulders
and weigh us down,
when the road seems dreary and endless,
the skies grey and threatening,
when our lives have no music in them,
our hearts lonely,
our souls losing their courage.
Flood the path with light.
Turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise,
tune our hearts to brave music,
give us the sense of comeradeship
with heroes and saints of every age.
So quicken our spirits
that we may be able to encourage the souls of all
who journey with us on the road of life,
to your honor and glory.