My late husband Bob was a devout Catholic and first generation Italian. When Lent came around each year he would take time to consider just what he was going to give up for the 40 days of Lent. Would it be meat? Chocolate? Or maybe he’d give up the extra sandwich before bed? Usually it was meat, since as a Catholic of that era, he was accustomed to giving up meat on Fridays in favor of fish.
The whole rest of the year, Bob enjoyed using Lent as an excuse for not eating things that he disliked (like vegetables.) When I asked at dinner if he’d like some broccoli, his answer was always, “No thank you. I’m lenting on broccoli.” (I got the same answer with carrots, cauliflower, and peas!)
L.E.N.T. – Let’s Eliminate Negative Thinking
Most of us are familiar with Lent as the 40 day period of preparation for Easter Sunday. It’s one of the major liturgical seasons for Christians and is traditionally a time of fasting and penitence. My favorite acronym for Lent is Let’s Eliminate Negative Thinking. It reminds me that the most powerful thing I can give up is negative thinking. And by give up, I mean to give up believing these thoughts and feelings. The thoughts of the ego (Edging God Out – another acronym!) are mostly negative, but have no power unless we add our belief to them. Taken by themselves, they are powerless and from the perspective of the Christ Mind, are like the noise of traffic. Can you imagine what our world would look like if all of us – or at least a majority of us – no longer gave the power of our belief to negative thoughts and feelings?
Last week I attended a professional conference and heard a keynote address by Rev. Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World. His book has been endorsed not only by Nobel Prize winners John Mather and Craig Mello, but also by distinguished theologians like John F. Haught, Matthew Fox, and Chris Corbally of the Vatican.
What 3 things do we need to really thrive?
During Michael’s presentation he reminded me of one helpful fact: there are 3 feeling states that humans need to thrive – not just to survive, but to have thriving lives of meaning, love and fulfillment. These are trust, gratitude, and inspiration. What does this have to do with Lent you may wonder? Just this…Negative thoughts can more easily be released and disempowered if we replace them with positive feelings. This Lenten season we invite you to join us in “eliminating negative thinking” by substituting these 3 feeling states instead.
Someone once wrote, “Raisin cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies are the main reason I have trust issues!” Cookies aside, many of us find it difficult to trust. And yet, trust is the higher way to look at Life. It is the lens through which we view God, others, and ourselves. When we trust God with our lives, as our lives, we are also given the discernment to give our trust to those who are worthy of it. But lack of trust makes us resist changes that will be good for us, keeps us apart from those who are a gift to us, and closes our hearts and minds to God’s thoughts.
So how can we feel trusting?
A trust exercise: First thing in the morning, open your heart to God and say out loud, “Welcome! I welcome into my life all the good that God has planned for me. I trust God’s plan for me and for my life.” And then go about your day, knowing, trusting, that God is bringing to you only that which will bless you. Listen for God’s guidance and keep your heart open.
Do you remember the story of Jenny’s pearls?
Jenny was five years old and she loved to wear the little strand of imitation pearls that she’d bought for a few dollars of her own money. When she wore them she felt so dressed-up and grown-up. She wore them everywhere, even to bed. One night her father asked her to give him her pearls. Finally Jenny agreed and her father placed in her hand a brand new necklace of real pearls.
God’s plan for our lives is like that. There is always a new blessing, a better idea for us, if we will let go of the lesser. Trust is welcoming into our hearts and our lives the good which God has prepared for us.
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.— I Corinthians 2: 9
After exercising our trust, it’s very natural to thank God for our lives, for all the good we have received, for our bodies, for everything and everyone. When we feel grateful we are lifted into the mind of Christ where we realize and accept the abundant gifts of God. Our daily practice of feeling grateful keeps us open to receiving more. To feel grateful is true worship.
Oprah Winfrey said about gratitude, “Be thankful for what you have; and you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!— Psalm 118: 28-29
To be inspired is the third feeling state that we need to thrive. It means to be lifted up, to be filled with Spirit, (from the Latin, “inspire,” to feel exalted.
Last month I read in the Huffington Post about a new group called the “Happiness Sprinkling Project.” These people stand on busy streets holding large inspirational signs like “You are loved” “Live your dream.” “Be You” “You Rock!” and others. Over 40 cities in the US have been “sprinkled.” The founder of the group Laura Lavigne told HuffPost, “I don’t want people to underestimate the power they have to make someone’s day by a smile, a touch on the arm, or eye contact. What I’m learning through doing this is how tender we all are and how little it takes to turn someone’s day around.”
40 Days of Lent, 40 Random Acts of Kindness. Share yours with us~!
The interesting thing about inspiration is that as we give it to others, we receive it ourselves! And here’s a great way to be inspired and stay inspired this Lent: Celebrate the 40 days of Lent by doing 40 Random Acts of Kindness. We’ve prepared a sheet with 50 different ideas, courtesy of The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. (You’ll find it on this website under Events.)
And then, share your good deeds with us by filling out the submission form on the event page. Please let us know if it’s alright to use your name and we will share these in a future article.
Dear friends, this Lenten season we invite you to join us in “eliminating negative thinking” by replacing these thoughts with feelings of trust, gratitude, and inspiration. This will be a true preparation for Easter, for we will be participating with Christ in the resurrection of our lives.