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You Can’t Fail Lent: 5 tips learned the hard way

My Lenten post over at HuffPost Religion:

Lent is one of those seasons that always begins with the best of intentions and rapidly goes downhill, at least that’s how it usually plays out for me. I plan to pray more, eat less, and find creative ways to make my favorite time in the Church year more meaningful. Unfortunately, the ashes hardly have time to settle into the wrinkles on my forehead before I’m feeling like I’ve already failed.

But Lent is a journey, not a pass-fail test. Trust me, if it were at all possible to fail Lent, I would have long ago been expelled from this spiritual school. Fortunately, the goal here is not a perfect score at the end of 40 days. In fact, let’s throw out the word “goal” and focus instead on practice — spiritual practice.

Here are five tips for shifting your Lenten journey from total spiritual makeover to subtle interior transformation:

Read more HERE.

 

Skip resolutions. Go for ‘goals’ instead.

What new routines have you vowed to start and keep this year? A healthy eating plan? Exercise regimen? House re-organization effort? The new year offers the promise of a clean slate, a chance to begin again or try for the first time something that will improve our health, our home, our world.

I tend not to make typical resolutions, but I know plenty of people do. Every year, when the first week of January hits, our YMCA becomes a bit of a zoo. You can’t find a free treadmill or weight machine no matter what odd hour of the day you show up. I asked a trainer once, “How long will this go on?” He said, “Hang in there until the end of February and they’ll all be gone.” Read more

We are all meant to walk ‘The Way’

I rarely go to the movies and almost never with Dennis, but last weekend I decided we were going to find the time — make the time — to see The Way with Martin Sheen. In recent years, pilgrimage has become an important part of my spiritual journey. And not just because I finally got the chance to go to Rome last year. Nope. In fact, my focus on pilgrimage began long before I’d ever renewed my passport, and that, as it turns out, is as it should be. We are all on a pilgrimage, whether we walk the 800 kilometers of the famed Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or never get past our neighborhood church. Read more

Are you standing still or making ‘progress’?

I thought I’d share my latest Life Lines column. Life Lines has appeared monthly in Catholic New York for the past 10 years.

By Mary DeTurris Poust

When I began this column 10 years ago, the world was a very different place. My plan to write about the intersection of faith and everyday life was propelled into high gear by 9/11 and all that played out in the days that followed, both in our country and in our home. Suddenly my young children had questions that had no real answers. I had questions that had no real answers. I think we all did.

There was nothing we could do but move forward, slowly, shakily at first, but with more strength and confidence as the days went by. Now, looking back, I realize that as much as the outside world has changed in the past decade, so has my internal world, the landscape of my soul. Much of it has been explored and expressed in the 650-word jolts I put on paper each month; more has been poured out on the pages of my books and the posts of my blog.

It has been a challenging journey, filled with desperate lows – like the one we all experienced on that clear September morning – and joyous highs – like the birth of my third child, the publication of my four books, and the ongoing interior pilgrimage that is my spiritual journey. Someone recently asked me if I had any breakthroughs to share. At first I laughed at the prospect, but the comment caused me to pause and reflect on the changes that have taken place without my even realizing it.

I think most of us imagine we’re standing still, whether it’s in our professional lives or personal lives or spiritual lives. We look at the big picture and can feel as though we’re simply not making progress. I know I often look at my cluttered desk, cluttered kitchen counters, and equally cluttered prayer life and think: “Nothing’s happening here.” But, when I go back to September 2001 and mentally walk the path from there to here in my mind, I realize I’ve come a lot farther than it appears on the surface.

You’ve heard me talk (whine?) in this space about my struggles with prayer, struggles with motherhood, struggles with multi-tasking, struggles with everything from laundry to oatmeal. I tend to be more open about my struggles than about my strides because I never want to get too comfortable, never want to sit back and think, “I’ve arrived.” Perhaps because we never really arrive. We may have breakthroughs, we may find ourselves stepping out into the unknown with total faith, but the truth is, there’s always more work to be done, always another step to be taken.

Today my prayer life is far different than it was 10 years ago, as is my spiritual focus. Where before I was simply happy to get something out of Sunday Mass while a fussy baby clawed at my hair, today my spiritual routine includes praying parts of the Divine Office daily, slices of silence sprinkled throughout my days, regular spiritual reading and sporadic spiritual blogging, an annual retreat, and the desire for ongoing pilgrimage – whether to Rome or Auriesville or simply to the farthest reaches of my heart.

Where have you been this past decade and where do you want to go next? Chances are, if you take some quiet time to reflect on your life, you, too, will realize you’ve moved much farther toward your goal – whatever that might be.

“God is in the details,” but sometimes we don’t take the time to notice the details. We want progress to come with a thunderclap, an “aha moment” that will change us all at once. But sometimes, most times, progress comes in the still small voice, in the tiny but brilliant flashes of light that change us bit by bit and forever.

To read previous Life Lines columns, visit www.marydeturrispoust.com

Watching and waiting for God


Here’s my latest Life Lines column from the new issue of Catholic New York. (Disclaimer: I have since rejoined the YMCA. Still no resolutions though…P.S. Noah took that cool sunrise photo above):

What new routines have you vowed to start and keep this year? A healthy eating plan? Exercise regimen? House re-organization effort? The new year offers the promise of a clean slate, a chance to begin again or try for the first time something that will improve our health, our home, our world.

I tend not to make typical resolutions, but I know plenty of people do. I remember when I was still a member of our local YMCA. When that first week of January hit, you couldn’t find a free treadmill or weight machine no matter what hour of the day you showed up. I asked a trainer, “How long will this go on?” He said, “Hang in there until the end of February and they’ll all be gone.”

We spend a lifetime—or at least a lot of years—acquiring the bad habits or out-of-shape bodies or lukewarm prayer lives that compel us to make resolutions, and yet we expect dramatic results in two months or less. We forget that undoing our habits is a one-day-at-time effort. One day at a time, one year at a time, one decade at a time.

Unfortunately, our society has brainwashed us into thinking we can find a quick-fix for everything. Pop a pill, drink a potion, buy a gadget, and you, too, will look like the plastic perfection staring out from a magazine cover. Of course, body and beauty resolutions are an easy target. They bear the brunt of the new year promises (both fulfilled and broken), because physical appearance is so important in our culture. But I know from experience that spiritual exercise routines and daily doses of prayer are no easier to stick to than that weekly abs class or low-fat diet. Spiritual renewal requires hard work. Continue reading HERE…