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Lent is really about self-discipline of another kind: matters of spirit. The practice that benefitted me most I did a few years ago.

What use is Lent in modern times? Who needs it? I do.

In my childhood I remember giving up candy for Lent, briefly. I wasn't very good at that practice of self-discipline, which is the whole point of Lent really. Get a grip on self-discipline! Prove to yourself that you can do it! This comes close to the resolutions so many make at Christmas to "exercise more and lose weight" in the New Year. That doesn't often last more than a few days or weeks at most, and a fact to which gym owners will attest.

Lent is really about self-discipline of another kind: matters of spirit. I have tried books of meditations, silent sitting, rote prayers, daily visits to church … none of them stuck very well for the long term. The practice that benefitted me most I did a few years ago. At first, I gave up coffee, for about ten days. And then I made a deal with God. "I'm taking back the coffee!" I said aloud. But "I am giving up the noise." No TV. No radio on in the car. No news feed on my cell phone, but I could send and receive messages. I did not disconnect socially.

I discovered that I had plenty of time now! I had time to write, to draw, paint, or to do housework uninterrupted. To garden, talk to my dog, and communicate more with my family. To design and finish a small quilt, crochet, and finish those magazines or read books. This was the best kind of spring house cleaning, inside my head.

Best benefit: I felt far less personal free-floating anxiety. Yes, I still did the little daily Bible Study. I will get the reminder of my mortality marked on my forehead on Ash Wednesday. This year I have another book of meditations, a DVD about the Bible Lands, and a copy of the first season of "The Chosen." I have other creative ideas, and more will come in the quiet that I will have in my own private monastery.

Mary Jean Rivera is a member of the Jottings writing group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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