Monday, March 20, 2006

Lenten Diary: Week Two

[For background on this post, read this.]

Day 8: Like so many things in life, I suppose what you get out of silence is a direct result of what you put into it: fill it with hectic thoughts, and of course time spent in silence will be no more restful or regenerative than time spent assaulted by any number of auditory stimuli.

Day 9: Habits are funny things. Some just creep in, unnoticed until we try to break them. Others stubbornly resist forming. Some are silly, things we’ve adhered to for no better reason than it seemed a good idea at the time. Some inhabit ritual, and we feel empty or incomplete without performing the familiar actions.

This exercise has got me pondering habits, and where some of mine have come from. I took (most of) my Driver’s Ed teacher’s instructions seriously (even though it was hard to take her seriously because she’d doze off when we’d watch those filmstrips in class and we all suspected she might be narcoleptic). One of her instructions was to turn off everything in the car before turning off the engine—that meant the heater or air conditioner, depending on the season, the windshield wipers, the lights, and the radio. “That might be a lot to think about now,” she told us, “but with time it will simply become a good habit.” Now, I don’t remember her presenting any compelling evidence to convince us that this practice was significantly beneficial to car or driver, other than maybe not having your wipers get stuck in mid-wipe making you look like a distracted fool, but for some reason (probably the overachiever people pleaser in me) I took that instruction to heart and to this day faithfully disengage all in-car accessories before turning the key.

And so, 9 days into my radio fast, while I no longer punch the knob at blast off, I still reach to turn the radio “off” before killing the engine, in some cases actually turning it on and startling myself.

Day 10: Though already more than a week into Lent, tonight in the quietude of a Wisconsin farmhouse I worshiped my way through an Ash Wednesday liturgy I’d found online. Like Lent, high church liturgy is largely foreign to me. I come to it inquisitive and hopeful, with a collection of second-hand criticisms and blanket statements tucked in my back pocket. Tonight the progression of passages, prayers, and affirmations imparted freshness and purposefulness to what had become stale and awkward. Funny, that’s what I’ve heard people say of liturgy. In truth anything can become stale if we disengage our hearts and dull our minds.

Day 11: Today I started reading The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Sometimes I am rather obtuse; sometimes I stubbornly disregard; sometimes God gets my attention by choosing a melody and playing it in surround sound. I hear that one tune all around me, issuing forth from numerous instruments, until the divine orchestration is undeniable, and He has my attention.

I don’t remember where I first saw an ad or a review of this book; I only remember that I read the description and heard the melody again. I am literary by nature; books are natural companions when I explore new and unfamiliar territory. And so I acquired the book, and have begun to read.

Today Chapter One began the harmony, a conscientious confirmation that the melody I heard was not merely my imagination, and that it is time to join in the chorus.

Day 12: Today I had the pleasure of sharing my drive back from Wisconsin with two dear friends: meandering, meaningful conversation punctuated by moments of comfortable silence.

Day 13: Frederick Buechner says that we are less alive as human beings when we do not allow times of silence in our lives.

Day 14: Today a heavy and anxious heart drove me to prayer as I crossed town. I miss the times when gladness and lightness of spirit drove me to prayer too.

1 comment:

Chris said...


Hi! I don't know who you are, but clicked onto your blog from Mary B.'s as I avoided reading an assignment in my last semester at college. Cool blog--good photos. And thanks for sharing your lenten journal. I think it is a private thing, but private things are nice to hear about. I appreciate your transparency. And I appreciate hearing about someone exploring a spiritual discipline like silence and then reading about Sabbath rest. It's encouraging and kind of brings rest to me. Thanks.

(oh, and I'm Mary's brother-in-law--Sarah's husband, if you've ever met her . . . and if I've met you before, please forgive my forgetfulness!)