Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday 2016 And Lenten Commitments

Each year, on Ash Wednesday millions of Christians around the world begin a pilgrimage of sorts. Ash Wednesday begins a period of intentional reflection and deeper identification with Jesus as individuals add disciplines or fast from certain foods or activities during the weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday. For me personally, I have found Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season to be an incredible period for assessing where I am in my faith journey and for resetting or recalibrating my focus. It is so easy over the course of a year to become distracted or start a gradual or subtle slide into lethargy, complacency, or worse, and to lose sight of one's purpose or focus because of those urgent but often unimportant activities that can quickly swarm to drown out the voice of Jesus.

Today, I started Ash Wednesday in the way I have for many years, after a tradition instilled in me by my former chief. Although today was somewhat different because I did not actually make it to a gathering to receive ashes, I did carve out time in my early morning this morning, and my late evening last night to consider what I would be doing to grow in my faith and "journey with Jesus in the wilderness" during this season. Would I add to my devotional habits or practice self-denial in order to more fully connect and identify with Jesus during the weeks leading up to Easter?

Here is where I have landed. For the last eight years, I have walked through this book, Developing Intimacy With God by Alex Aronis. This book was suggested to me by a good friend of mine, JR Woodward, during the summer of 2008 as I was considering a potential shift in vocation. The book is an excellent framework for walking through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. After reading Aronis' book for the first time in 2008, I have gone through it at least once a year--usually during Lent. And, I plan on doing the same this year--that's my Lenten commitment.

Why do the same thing? I have found this book to be an incredible gift, far beyond what I would have considered when JR suggested it a few years ago. It has been a gift because it has helped me to cultivate greater simplicity and generosity in my life, and it has helped me to grow in my relationship with God. Each time I come to the book, it encourages me toward an abiding in Christ, and rather than concerning myself with what I can do for Christ, the exercises encourage me to simply spend time with Christ. In a world that is growing increasingly distracted and "busy," taking this time to reset and refocus has been transformative, and in my opinion, could be one of the best things we do for spiritual health.

What about you? Do you have any Lenten traditions you have or commitments you are making this year as you take time to identify with Jesus during his wilderness fast and journey to the cross?

May each of us who participate in this ancient tradition grow in the depth of our love for God and neighbor, and may this growth spill over into action for the good of the world.

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